Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Do they still care about that?

Succession? Does it matter? The BBC has a "Royal correspondent?"

Why the monarchy discriminates

By Nicholas Witchell
Royal correspondent, BBC News

"A BBC poll shows overwhelming public support for changes to the rules of succession to the British throne.

"Meanwhile Downing St confirms that it has discussed plans to change the rule of succession with Buckingham Palace.

"But why does the current law discriminate against women and Roman Catholics?

"The monarchy in Britain is an ancient institution which, for more than a thousand years, has been dominated by men.

"Yet few would disagree that three of the country's most successful monarchs have been women...

"The Liberal Democrat MP Dr Evan Harris believes Britain is ready to accept changes to these ancient provisions.

"He is introducing a Private Member's Bill to parliament to reverse what he regards as centuries of discrimination against women and Roman Catholics.

"Under his bill, men and women would be granted equal rights of succession to the throne, and the ban on the heir to the throne marrying a Roman Catholic would be ended...

"Absurd though these antique rules may seem, the task of correcting them would be an inordinately complicated one, requiring not merely legislation at Westminster, but in the 15 other countries of which the British monarch is also head of state..."

See also:

What You Need to Know -- a study guide for AP Comparative Government and Politics

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Earmarks without accountability

What if money was appropriated and spent for "bridges to nowhere," and no one ever checked to see if the "bridges to nowhere" (i.e. "constituency projects") were even built? Is that what it's like in Nigeria? (Thanks to Imnakoya for bringing this up.)

Legislators get 60bil naira for constituency projects…

"What are constituency projects? And how did they come about?...

"The answers to my questions are best answered by Senator Femi Okurounmu [left] in his Patriotic Punches column on Nigeria Tribune. He reveals the idea of constituency projects of legislators first surfaced during the 1999 - 2003 National Assembly while he was in the national assembly. He goes on to explain further:
[Constituency projects were created] to ensure a minimum presence of government in every constituency by having some grass-roots projects sited in each one, during the budgeting process… Legislators were merely required to identify projects which they wished to be sited in their constituencies for inclusion in the budget, with a financial ceiling for the budgetary provisions for such projects in each constituency.

The award of contracts for, and the supervision and payments for such contracts were left completely in the hands of the appropriate executive agencies of government. For example as a senator, my constituency borehole projects were put under the projects of Ogun-Oshun River Basin Development Authority, and the contracts for them were awarded and paid for by that agency.

"I’m curious to know how the 60 billion naira for this year will be spent and projects monitored…"

What You Need to Know -- a study guide for AP Comparative Government and Politics

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tories stay ahead

Angus Reid Global Monitor reports that the British Conservative Party maintains its lead over Labour and the Lib Dems.

Conservatives Keep Upper Hand in Britain

"The opposition Conservative party remains ahead in Britain, according to a poll by YouGov. 41 per cent of respondents would support the Tories in the next election to the House of Commons.

"The governing Labour party remains in second place with 31 per cent, followed by the Liberal Democrats with 17 per cent. 11 per cent of respondents would vote for other parties...

"The next election to the House of Commons must be held on or before Jun. 3, 2010. Sitting prime ministers can dissolve Parliament and call an early ballot at their discretion."

See also: Poll results from the UK

What You Need to Know -- a study guide for AP Comparative Government and Politics

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Religion in Mexican politics

Iran is not the only country in which religion plays a political role. In Mexico, the relationship between politics and religion has been contentious.

There's a long history behind religious criticism of PRI politicians in Mexico, like that reported below. It was the revolution that barred the Catholic Church from direct political involvement. Calderon's PAN party has promoted more church-friendly policies, especially in education.

Mexican church: Ex-ruling party blocks drug fight

"Mexico's Roman Catholic Church launched an unusually harsh criticism of the former ruling party on Sunday, suggesting the group may be blocking anti-drug efforts.

An editorial posted on the Archdiocese of Mexico's Web site did not mention the Institutional Revolutionary Party by its full name, but cited legislators describing the 'revolutionary party as an obstacle to taking stronger measures to combat drug cartels.'...

"The editorial suggested the PRI opposes reforms currently before Congress to enable the seizure of drug traffickers' property.

"'The question arises automatically, is it because of financial interests or base political concerns?' the unsigned piece read. 'In either case, the answer is alarming.'...

"Restricted by law from becoming directly involved in party politics, the Catholic Church has long avoided any direct reference to political parties..."

See also: Mexico Inches Toward Closer Church Ties

What You Need to Know -- a study guide for AP Comparative Government and Politics

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

EU growth

Instead of or in addition to reading the textbook about what comes up in discussion about new members joining the EU, this op-ed piece could involve students in identifying the issues involved.

Viewpoint: EU enlargement woes

"The economic crisis is fuelling opposition to further EU enlargement. Yet the price of delay could be instability and deepening poverty, Katinka Barysch, Deputy Director of the Centre for European Reform argues...

"The queue for EU membership keeps getting longer. The 27-nation EU has accepted Turkey, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Croatia, Serbia and other Balkan countries as potential candidates. Recession-battered Iceland may follow.

"Former Soviet countries such as Ukraine and Georgia have been told that they need to improve a lot before the EU will consider them as candidates...

"There are well-known reasons why enlargement is now proceeding slowly. Many of the current applicants are poor and backward; some, such as Bosnia, have yet to build a functioning state; Kosovo has not even been recognised by all current EU countries...

"Various existing EU members have been holding the enlargement process hostage to bilateral spats they are having with some applicant or other...

"EU governments need some vision here. They should conclude a "gentlemen's agreement" about not vetoing accessions because of bilateral grievances. They need to find a way of keeping Turkey's accession process alive, even if no breakthrough is achieved in Cyprus this year. And they should allow the applications of the Balkan countries to proceed.

"The alternative could be a region full of political instability, economic turmoil and disgruntled people dreaming."

What You Need to Know -- a study guide for AP Comparative Government and Politics

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Monday, March 23, 2009


hi·a·tus /haɪˈeɪtəs/ Pronunciation[hahy-ey-tuhs]
–noun, plural -tus·es, -tus.

  1. a break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series, action, etc.

  2. a missing part; gap or lacuna: Scholars attempted to account for the hiatus in the medieval manuscript.

  3. any gap or opening.

  4. Grammar, Prosody. the coming together, with or without break or slight pause, and without contraction, of two vowels in successive words or syllables, as in see easily.

  5. Anatomy. a natural fissure, cleft, or foramen in a bone or other structure.

  6. a period of a couple days during which the primary contributor to this blog hits the road for River Grove and Rockford, Illinois.

[Origin: 1555–65; < L hiātus opening, gap, equiv. to hiā(re) to gape, open + -tus suffix of v. action]

Source: hiatus. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved July 15, 2008, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hiatus

While I'm gone feel free to offer comments and suggest better content for the blog.

Thanks to all of you, too.

What You Need to Know -- a study guide for AP Comparative Government and Politics


Learning details from current events

The Economist has a good review of presidential politics in Iran. Along the way, the reporters offer some clues about the regime and the political system.

Iran's presidential choice: It could make a big difference

"[T]he democratic elements of Iran’s peculiar system, which seeks to represent both God and man, are tightly constrained. Candidates must be vetted by a Council of Guardians, made up of senior clerics, which is empowered to reject anyone who doubts the revolution’s Islamic tenets. One of these is velayet el-faqih, a controversial doctrine, unique to Iran, that exalts the power of the supreme leader, or rahbar, an anointed cleric, over the people’s elected representatives. This makes Iran’s presidents in effect subservient, particularly in foreign policy and specifically on the nuclear issue, to the will of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has held the rahbar’s office since the death of his predecessor, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in 1989.

"Such restraints are not the only ones that will curb the powers of Iran’s next president. A potentially severe economic crisis also looms. This comes as a direct result of the collapse in prices for Iran’s main export, crude oil, but has been worsened both by four years of Mr Ahmadinejad’s recklessly spendthrift policies and by UN and other sanctions, intended to punish Iran for seeking a potentially offensive nuclear capability, which have throttled trade and stunted foreign investment...

"Wary of the ever-vigilant supreme leader and chastened by past failures to overcome conservatives, who now control the elected legislature as well as such pillars of Iran’s “deep state” as the security services, courts and state broadcasting monopoly, a reformist president would probably shy away from any bold departures in foreign policy. Yet even changes in tone could have a dramatic effect..."

What You Need to Know -- a study guide for AP Comparative Government and Politics

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Comparative advantage

The Economist reports that Chinese leaders are feeling this is the time to press its advantage on the world stage. The writers also offer some insight into the politics of China.

China and the West: A time for muscle-flexing

"The government, however, does not want China to be roiled by the same debate that is plaguing Western governments over how to handle the crisis. This month’s annual session of the National People’s Congress, China’s parliament, was convened for only nine days instead of the usual two weeks. Although even the official media wanted more details of spending plans, the government-set agenda was strikingly sparse. The parliamentary chairman, Wu Bangguo, used the occasion to launch a lengthy tirade against Western-style democracy. “Leadership by the Party can only be strengthened and in no way weakened,” he told the delegates. For Mr Wu to get so worked up, serious voices must have been suggesting otherwise.

"But few new details of the stimulus measures were revealed at the congress. The government airily said that details of a separate massive spending programme on health-care reform (850 billion yuan over three years) would be finalised only after the parliamentary session...

"On March 13th, at the end of the parliamentary session, Mr Wen said that to counter the crisis China “would rather speed up reforms”. He said it should “give full play to market forces in allocating resources” and encourage the development of the private sector. It must also, he said, carry on with political reforms in order to “guarantee people’s freedom and rights”. But the economic crisis will not have increased officials’ appetite for change. Many will be all the more convinced that the government’s big role in the economy (not least its ownership of the banks) and the country’s one-party system (where else could a government announce such big spending plans without time-wasting debate?) are a help, not a hindrance.

"It is more likely that, as the crisis deepens, the government will become increasingly cautious in its approach to domestic policy..."

What You Need to Know -- a study guide for AP Comparative Government and Politics

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Preventing transparency

Imnakoya, writing in his blog, Grandiose Parlor, describes what happens in Nigeria when attempts are made to unearth corruption. Remember what happened to the last effective head of the government's anti-corruption unit? Can you guess which party was in power when the huge and expensive electrification project was started? Do you know how much money was spent on the project? (You know the one that has yet to produce any electricity.)

Legislators refused to debate power probe report!

"Many were elated when the Nigerian House of Representatives decided to investigate the stalled power multi-billion dollar project initiated by former president Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007. The House did its investigation — many of the sessions were broadcast live to Nigerian homes, the investigators even visited the sites for the projects to see things with their eyes. The House closed its investigation and worked on its report.

"The report — several months after it was finished and submitted to the House leadership — was up for debate earlier this week. It didn’t go well, unfortunately.

"234next reported what happened, here are some excerpts:

The report of the committee, which it presented to the House in October last year, came up for debate for two days last week after numerous postponements.

During the debate, most members spoke against the consideration of the report amid rowdiness. While some members wanted the debate halted, others said events had overtaken the recommendations of the report.

It was, however, gathered that members, particularly those of the Peoples Democratic Party wanted the report rejected following the intervention of the party leadership.

"If any is in doubt who the supposed representatives of the people serve, the answer should be clear now.

"Rather than settling down to examine the contents of the report, the House decided to elect another committee to examine the report written by another committee!..."

See also:

What You Need to Know -- a study guide for AP Comparative Government and Politics

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Happy New Year, again

The Bahá'í calendar, also called the Badí‘ calendar, used by the Bahá'í Faith, is a solar calendar with regular years of 365 days, and leap years of 366 days. Years are composed of 19 months of 19 days each, (361 days) plus an extra period of "Intercalary Days" (4 in regular and 5 in leap years). Years in the calendar begin at the vernal equinox, and are counted with the date notation of BE (Bahá'í Era), with March 21, 1844 CE being the first day of the first year.[1] The period from March 21, 2008 to March 20, 2009 is the year 165 BE.

From the Bahai website: "Throughout history, God has revealed Himself to humanity through a series of divine Messengers, whose teachings guide and educate us and provide the basis for the advancement of human society. These Messengers have included Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad. Their religions come from the same Source and are in essence successive chapters of one religion from God.

"Bahá’u’lláh, the latest of these Messengers, brought new spiritual and social teachings for our time. His essential message is of unity. He taught the oneness of God, the oneness of the human family, and the oneness of religion..."

Because Muslims believe Muhammad was the final prophet, Bahai believers, who follow the teachings of a later prophet, are not considered people of the book and in Iran are subject to official persecution under sharia and secular laws.

What You Need to Know -- a study guide for AP Comparative Government and Poltiics

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Happy New Year, Persia

Today is the beginning of the Persian new year. (Tomorrow is another, but that's tomorrow.)

The U.S. President issued a 3-minute new year greeting to the Iranian people (and their leaders) today. The video (with optional Persian, probably Farsi subtitles) is available at the White House web site linked below.

A New Year, A New Beginning
President Obama released a special video message for all those celebrating Nowruz. Translated "New Day," Nowruz marks the arrival of spring and the beginning of the New Year for millions in Iran and other communities around the world. This year, the President wanted to send a special message to the people and government of Iran on Nowruz, acknowledging the strain in our relations over the last few decades. "But at this holiday we are reminded of the common humanity that binds us together," he says...

What You Need to Know -- a study guide for AP Comparative Government and Poliitcs

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Socialism with Chinese characteristics

Socialism with Chinese characteristics (they called it Communism in the past) used to have a very different meaning.

You see, I still remember that in the '60s the only way to identify officers in the PLA was that they often had retractable ball point pens in their pockets. And powerful Party leaders, if you didn't know their faces, could be spotted wearing wrist watches. Everyone was wearing uniforms or Mao jackets and riding a standard model bicycle that was made in factories all over the county. Not so much today.

The Chinese characteristics of socialism today look very different. It seems there's a new duty during the NPC meetings: shopping.

Chinese Grease the Wheels of Power With Luxury Gifts

"Last week, a finely dressed Chinese man walked into Louis Vuitton’s flagship store here, seeking the perfect gift for that special someone: a senior government official.

"'I tell you, he is at the top,' the man told the sales clerk, as his bodyguard stood nearby. 'So what kind of handbag do you think is suitable for him?'

"Purchases like this one are part of a two-week shopping spree every March, when up to 5,000 Communist Party delegates from China’s provinces and regions gather in the capital for two annual meetings: the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. Their mission is to assess the nation’s progress and debate public policy.

"But while here, the delegates also seek to curry favor with their superiors, the nation’s top leaders, often by showering them with expensive gifts: Gucci handbags, Hermès scarves, Montblanc pens and $30,000 diamond-studded Swiss watches.

"Though sales spike in March during the national congresses, executives of luxury goods companies say that lavishing government officials with such products is a year-round practice that reflects China’s culture of gift-giving and tradition of basing business decisions on personal relationships. They admit to having special accounts for government officials, their relatives and even their mistresses, often with code names like Dr. No and Miss K...

"When lower level government officials are the gift-givers, the purchases are usually made with state money, or are paid for by private entrepreneurs..."

What You Need to Know -- a study guide for AP Comparative Government and Politics

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

China's rule of law

Commercial law in China might be entering the 21st century in some ways, but criminal law resembles the 19th century version.

Two Chinese Dissidents Freed After Years in Prison

"Two Chinese intellectuals jailed after their political discussion group drew the attention of public security officials were released from prison on Thursday, just one day short of completing their eight-year sentences.

"Yang Zili, 37 [at left], an Internet entrepreneur, and Zhang Honghai, 36, a freelance writer, were arrested in 2001 along with two friends whose informal study group sought to tackle such topics as government corruption, democracy and the unrelenting poverty of rural China. The group, which they named New Youth Society, rarely drew more than four or five participants and met sporadically over the course of a few months before its membership was detained...

"The defendants, who came to be known as the “Four Gentleman of Beijing,” were convicted of subversion during a trial that relied on their Internet postings advocating political liberalization and the written testimony of three friends who later recanted their accounts...

"Sitting in a McDonald’s and clutching a cup of Sprite, Mr. Yang seemed dazed by his new freedom, the occasional smile quickly subsumed by melancholy...

"Before heading out to the street, Yang said he was not bitter about what happened to him, just sad that the group he helped start had indirectly destroyed the lives of so many friends. “I couldn’t have imagined that spreading ideas such as freedom and democracy would lead to something so horrible,” he said."

What You Need to Know -- a study guide for AP Comparative Government and Politics

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Re-branding Nigeria

I would have missed this new public relations campaign if not for the discussions on a couple blogs written by Nigerians.

Treating a country like a product is an interesting idea. The skeptical bloggers are asking whose relatives are being hired by the government to run the campaign. Others are asking how the Nigerian populace will respond in the face of poverty, hunger, and corruption.

It turns out that this is the second rebranding campaign. The previous administration had its own campaign which is now being replaced.

This is a version of exercising soft power. How does it compare to the soft power campaigns of the other countries your students are studying?

Yar’Adua unveils re-branding Nigeria logo, slogan tomorrow

"President Umaru Yar’Adua, will, [March 17] in Abuja, unveil the re-branding Nigeria logo and slogan, as his administration pushes to give the nation a more positive image.

"Former Nigerian Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon would be chairman of the occasion which is expected to attract a cream of top government functionaries, business moguls, the diplomatic corps and media executives.

"According to the Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili, the launch would be a major step towards changing the negative perception of Nigeria and her people both locally and internationally.

"The Minister said the campaign would also target 're-orienting Nigerians, changing the negative attitudes of Nigerians, making Nigerians to believe in themselves, inculcating optimal spirit of patriotism in Nigerians and at the same time, celebrating our very best before the international community'.

"The minister said the core of this campaign would be a return to the cultural values of Nigerians as a people, as well as, how Nigerians see the nation...

"She noted that the mass media had a key role to play by emphasising positive story about Nigeria and responsible report of what could be considered as the negative, for the campaign to succeed.."

Leave it to the foreign press to point out a negative amid the positive roll out of Nigerian's new image.

Theft mars Nigerian 're-branding'

"Thieves stole a mobile phone belonging to a member of a new team campaigning to improve Nigeria's image as a country riddled by crime and chaos.

"Isawa Elaigwu told the launch of the 'rebrand Nigeria' campaign he noticed the phone was gone minutes before he was due to address the event...

"'This is just the sort of thing we need to fight against'.

"Nigeria is often seen abroad as a violent and chaotic place, full of people who use e-mail scams to cheat money out of unwitting victims...

"On Tuesday the ministry unveiled a new slogan "Nigeria: Good people, great country", and a logo..."

What You Need to Know -- a study guide for AP Comparative Government and Politics

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Supreme Courts

So how does the make up of Nigeria's Supreme Court compare to the make up of the top courts in other nations? What cleavages are reflected in courts' make ups? What cleavages are neglected?

Kutigi Swears in New Female Supreme Court Justice

"The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Idris Legho Kutigi, yesterday swore in two new justices of the Supreme Court, among them a woman, Olufunmilola Adekeye...

"She thus became the second female justice of the court...

"The apex court now has 17 justices as Adekeye and Fabiyi replaced Justices Sylvester Onu (North-central) and Akin Akintan (South-west) who retired a few months ago...

"The appointments of the new justices, according to President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, in a letter dated January 7, 2009, through which he sent their nominations to the Senate, were based on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC)..."

The Nigerian Supreme Court: What can you learn about the Nigerian Supreme Court by looking at this photograph?

What You Need to Know -- a study guide for AP Comparative Government and Politics

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Another aspect of danger to Mexico's regime

If drug gangs become part of the normal political process in Mexico, can the regime survive?

Mexico drug cartels buying public support

"The small houses of the Independencia neighborhood climb a hill that rises from the bone-dry Santa Catarina riverbed. Gang graffiti proliferate the higher you go, until they completely cover the cinder-block walls with slogans, threats and declarations...

"It is here that Mexico's biggest drug traffickers find an easy following of collaborators and pliable disciples.

"This is the traffickers' so-called social base: people loyal out of economics more than anything else, people who peddle the drugs and eagerly turn out when the traffickers want to mount street demonstrations against the government and the army...

"Those traffickers demonstrated their pull in this neighborhood last month when they paid residents to block Monterrey's major thoroughfares with hours-long demonstrations, day after day for two weeks...

"They go, Alanis said, because of the pay. It's a time-honored tradition in Mexico, where political parties, unions and other organizations reward people for showing up at rallies. There's even a word for it here, acarrear, which in Spanish means to transport but in Mexican slang adds the elements of payoffs and gifts..."

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Iran's presidential campaign

Iran's Khatami withdraws from presidential vote

"Iran's moderate former president Muhammad Khatami on Monday withdrew his candidacy from the country's June presidential election, a close ally said.

"'He has decided to withdraw ... but he will back another moderate candidate who will be announced shortly in a statement by Khatami,' the ally, who declined to be named, said..."

See also: Electoral Politics in Iran

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Fun with censors

Weapons of the weak.

A Dirty Pun Tweaks China’s Online Censorsl

"Since its first unheralded appearance in January on a Chinese Web page, the grass-mud horse has become nothing less than a phenomenon.

A grass-mud horse

"A YouTube children’s song about the beast has drawn nearly 1.4 million viewers. A grass-mud horse cartoon has logged a quarter million more views. A nature documentary on its habits attracted 180,000 more. Stores are selling grass-mud horse dolls. Chinese intellectuals are writing treatises on the grass-mud horse’s social importance. The story of the grass-mud horse’s struggle against the evil river crab has spread far and wide across the Chinese online community.

"Not bad for a mythical creature whose name, in Chinese, sounds very much like an especially vile obscenity. Which is precisely the point...

"Conceived as an impish protest against censorship, the foul-named little horse has not merely made government censors look ridiculous, although it has surely done that.

It has also raised real questions about China’s ability to stanch the flow of information over the Internet — a project on which the Chinese government already has expended untold riches, and written countless software algorithms to weed deviant thought from the world’s largest cyber-community...

"China’s online population has always endured censorship, but the oversight increased markedly in December, after a pro-democracy movement led by highly regarded intellectuals, Charter 08, released an online petition calling for an end to the Communist Party’s monopoly on power.

"Shortly afterward, government censors began a campaign, ostensibly against Internet pornography and other forms of deviance...

"So while 'grass-mud horse' sounds like a nasty curse in Chinese, its written Chinese characters are completely different, and its meaning —taken literally — is benign. Thus the beast not only has dodged censors’ computers, but has also eluded the government’s own ban on so-called offensive behavior...

"The horses are “courageous, tenacious and overcome the difficult environment,” a YouTube song about them says.

"But they face a problem: invading 'river crabs' that are devouring their grassland. In spoken Chinese, 'river crab' sounds very much like 'harmony,' which in China’s cyberspace has become a synonym for censorship. Censored bloggers often say their posts have been 'harmonized' — a term directly derived from President Hu Jintao’s regular exhortations for Chinese citizens to create a harmonious society...

"Tsinghua University sociologist Guo Yuhua, called the grass-mud horse allusions 'weapons of the weak' — the title of a book by the Yale political scientist James Scott describing how powerless peasants resisted dictatorial regimes...

"Shanghai blogger Uln already has an idea. Blogging tongue in cheek — or perhaps not — he recently suggested that online democracy advocates stop referring to Charter 08 by its name, and instead choose a different moniker. 'Wang,' perhaps. Wang is a ubiquitous surname, and weeding out the subversive Wangs from the harmless ones might melt circuits in even the censors’ most powerful computer."

See also:

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Sunday, March 15, 2009


Iran is not an Arab nation.

Iran not welcomed at Doha Arab summit: Gulf States to reduce summit presence over Iran

"Three Gulf countries warned Qatar that they will reduce their level of representation to its minimum at the coming Doha summit if Iran is invited to attend...

"Qatar invited Iran to attend the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in December 2007 and... in January 2009...

"'Gulf countries are clear on that matter,' said the source. 'Iran's presence means their consent to its continuous interference in Arab affairs.'..."

What You Need to Know


Saturday, March 14, 2009

G7? G8? G20?

Who are these people and what are they doing? Does this have anything to do with comparative government and politics?

G20 ministers meet amid rift

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Electoral politics in Iran

I have no clue on the significance of these events, even though the reporters seem to have theories. It seems to me that the supreme leader has so much power, that his decisions matter more than anything else. However, I'm so far removed from the realities of Iranian politics and from the curtain behind which the supreme leader moves the levers of power, that I can only wait to see what happens.

Political setbacks suggest vulnerability of Iran president

"Bad news hammered Iran's hard-line president yesterday as a restless parliament rejected major elements of his proposed budget, a powerful cleric defeated his ally for a key post, and a former prime minister announced that he was gunning for his job in upcoming elections.

"Bad news hammered Iran's hard-line president yesterday as a restless parliament rejected major elements of his proposed budget, a powerful cleric defeated his ally for a key post, and a former prime minister announced that he was gunning for his job in upcoming elections...

"Iran's election season has gotten off to an unusually early and contentious start, underscoring the critical nature of the June vote. Analysts say the election will hinge on bread-and-butter economic issues and might be more hotly contested and unpredictable than any in Iranian history, in part because Ahmadinejad's populism has changed Iran's political landscape...

"An Ahmadinejad ally, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, lost his bid to unseat the powerful Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as chair of the Council of Experts...

"Ahmadinejad also faced a new challenge yesterday from the left when former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi announced he would run for the presidency on a platform of restoring faith in public policy..."

Iran's president blames West for economic crisis

"Iran's president blamed the West on Wednesday for the global economic meltdown, saying capitalism has failed and U.S. efforts to bail out companies prove its collapse.

"Hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly lashed out at the West for the current financial crisis, a tactic that many analysts say is meant to deflect criticism from the president's mismanagement of Iran's economy.

"But his rhetoric has also gotten him in trouble back home from those who believe he has spent too much time slamming the West and not enough trying to fix Iran's domestic problems...

"During Wednesday's summit, Ahmadinejad called for a new global economic system that is based on respecting human rights. He did not provide details. He also called for greater regional economic integration and urged member states to begin discussing the establishment of a single currency and a bank that would promote trade..."

See also:

Prepare for the AP exam: What You Need to Know

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Rentier state

Thanks to Imnakoya at Grandiose Parlor for pointing out this story from Vanguard. I'd missed the meaning of the headline.

What's a nation-state to do if nearly all of its revenue comes from one source, and that source dries up? Nigeria will have to figure that one out.

Under the current system, the national government hands out monthly oil revenue checks to state governors. Overall, more than 80% of government revenue comes from that oil revenue. In some states, the percentage is higher.

And what is the price of oil today?

Meltdown Depletes Govts' Monthly Allocations

"As the global economic recession bites harder and the future of oil prices remain uncertain, the excess crude account has dried up as there was nothing in the account to share based on what the three tiers of government agreed on earlier.

"Yesterday... Minister of State for Finance, Mr. Remi Babalola, urged states to explore sources of revenue other than allocations from the central pool as a means of coping with the current financial meltdown, and advised the states to review their various policies in order to boost their internally generated revenue (IGR) to uplift the living standards of the people...

"For the first time in several months, the meeting of the Federation Account Allocation Committee of February 2009 did not share any revenue from the Excess Crude Account...

"It will be recalled that last year, the CBN Governor Professor Chukwuma Soludo... warned Nigerians, saying that the amount saved from oil windfall in the country's excess crude revenue account has been depleted and what is left will not tide the country over any financial downturn should oil price fall below the budget bench mark of $62 per barrel..."

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A new EU treaty

Here's a way to consider the EU's Lisbon Treaty. These position statements and a little more research, some at the BBC web site, would be the basis for a debate or a writing assignment.

Viewpoints: Lisbon Treaty impact

"All but a few of the EU's 27 member states have ratified the Lisbon Treaty, which is aimed at streamlining EU institutions.

"But the reform treaty will not come into force unless all of them do so - and it still has to run the gauntlet of a second Irish referendum later this year. Irish voters rejected it last June. No other country put the treaty to a referendum.

"Here, as part of a series of viewpoints on EU issues, two European think-tank experts argue for and against the treaty.

"For -- Jean-Dminique Giuliani

"'The Lisbon Treaty will give Europe more democracy, more capacity to decide and act and more international prominence.

"'It will give national parliaments control over the European Commission. The commission will not be able to act in areas not expressly set out in the treaties...'

"Against -- Lorraine Mullally

"'The Lisbon Treaty represents a huge transfer of powers away from EU member states and is bad news for Europe.

"'In more than 60 areas of policy, countries lose the right to veto legislation they disagree with - on everything from transport to the rights of criminal suspects and aspects of foreign policy...'"

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Desperation is not a good thing

Fears of unrest in China are probably not misplaced, at least according to this reporter.

In China, Despair Mounting Among Migrant Workers

"Six months into what economists and labor experts say is China's worst job crisis since it began market reforms 30 years ago, many among the most vulnerable -- an estimated 20 million workers who lost their jobs after migrating from the countryside to cities -- are becoming desperate.

"As tens of thousands of manufacturing companies have collapsed amid slowing demand due to the global economic crisis, the laid-off workers can no longer find jobs in the cities. For many, returning to their rural roots is not a possibility because their families' farmland has been sold off to make room for shopping malls, office high-rises and apartment complexes -- leaving them with no safety net. Even those lucky enough to have kept their farming plots have been hit hard by a drought -- the country's worst in 50 years, according to the government -- which has affected up to 80 percent of the land for winter crops...

"The challenge for China's leaders is to ensure that no one goes hungry, without moving the country back to the iron-rice-bowl era, when the state guaranteed cradle-to-grave employment...

"Meanwhile, China's social welfare system is a work in progress and will be one of the main items on the agenda this week at the annual meeting of the National People's Congress in Beijing. A proposal to create a universal safety net that includes unemployment insurance for all citizens was released for public comment in December, but it is yet to be implemented..."

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Monday, March 09, 2009

More analysis of factionalism in China

Following up on Cheng Li's analysis of factionalism among the power elite in China, comes the report of this speech by Wu Bangguo at the National Peoples Congress in Beijing. Western and non-Chinese news sources picked up on Wu's comments about democracy.

Which faction does Wu represent? Do his views fit into the system described (hypothesized?) by Cheng Li?

China 'will not have democracy'

"China will never adopt Western-style democracy with a multi-party system, its top legislator has said.

"Parliament chief [Chairman of the NPC Standing Committee] Wu Bangguo said that China would draw on the achievements of all cultures but would not 'simply copy' the West.

"Communist Party leadership should be strengthened and "the correct political orientation" maintained, he said.

"Mr Wu made the comments in a speech to the National People's Congress, China's annual parliament session.

"He ranks second only to President Hu Jintao in the Communist Party hierarchy..."

The report from China's official Xinhua news agency didn't see the governance issue as an especially important part of Wu's report. There were a dozen topics of Wu's speech listed (earthquake relief, economic development, protecting public health, etc.).

"Party Leadership" was the next to last item. Here's what Xinhua reported.


" Through the work of the NPC, The NPC Standing Committee must ensure that the stands of the Party become the will of the state through legally stipulated procedures and that the personnel recommended by Party organizations become the leaders of the organs of state power through legally stipulated procedures.

"The NPC Standing Committee must draw on the achievements of all cultures, including their political achievements, but will never simply copy the system of Western countries or introduce a system of multiple parties holding office in rotation, a system with the separation of the three powers or a bicameral system."

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Inside baseball of Chinese politics

Karen Coston's reminder to me of the value of Foreign Policy is once again demonstrated by a fourth article in the current issue.

This one is a good demonstration of elite politics in China and the kind of politics that take place in authoritarian regimes.

By the way, "Pekinologists" is a play on the word "Kremlinologists" describing those experts who tried in Soviet times to discern the politics behind the Kremlin walls. I assume that the spelling, referring to the old-style name for China's capital, is either a reference to the archaic nature of Chinese politics or to the Nationalists in Taiwan who still (at least privately) refer to the capital as Peking. (Maybe someone could explain that to me. Why not Beijingologists?) The author, Cheng Li, is a director of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations for the Brookings Institution. According to their web site, "he focuses on the transformation of political leaders, generational change and technological development in China."

Cheng Li's analysis reminds me of the analysis I did in a lecture about PRC politics from 1949-79 in which I identified the factions as idealists and pragmatists.

How well could your students identify the factions contending for power and influence? You could use the letter that follows Cheng Li's article as a test of whether students understood a couple of his main ideas.

China’s Team of Rivals

"A financial meltdown in China promises to test the Communist Party’s power in ways not seen since Tiananmen. But theirs is a house divided, as princelings take on populists and Pekinologists try to make sense of it all. Will this team built for economic success implode once the money dries up? An insider’s guide to the leaders at China’s controls.

"The two dozen senior politicians who walk the halls of Zhongnanhai, the compound of the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership in Beijing, are worried. What was inconceivable a year ago now threatens their rule: an economy in freefall...

"Since Deng Xiaoping initiated economic reforms three decades ago, the party’s legitimacy has relied upon its ability to keep the economy running at breakneck pace...

"[T]he Politburo and its Standing Committee... are run by two informal coalitions that compete against each other for power, influence, and control over policy... To borrow a phrase popular in Washington these days, post-Deng China has been run by a team of rivals (zhengdi tuandui)...

"The team of rivals arrangement is not a choice, but a new necessity for the Chinese leadership... [because] of the different constituencies each represents and the belief that only consensus-building will successfully forestall serious political upheaval in the so-called fifth generation of leaders...

"The two groups can be identified as the “populists” and the “elitists.” The populists... are known as tuanpai... Most tuanpai... served as local and provincial leaders, often in poor inland provinces, and many have expertise in propaganda and legal affairs...

"The elitist coalition... are known as princelings because they are the children of former high-ranking officials... Most princelings grew up in the richer coastal regions and pursued careers in finance, trade, foreign affairs, and technology...

"To a great extent, their differences reflect the country’s competing socioeconomic forces: Princelings aim to advance the interests of entrepreneurs and the emerging middle class, while the tuanpai often call for building a harmonious society, with more attention to vulnerable social groups such as farmers, migrant workers, and the urban poor...

"Despite their many differences, the fifth generation of tuanpai and princelings share a common trauma: They are part of China’s 'lost generation.' Born after the founding of the People’s Republic, they were teenagers when the Cultural Revolution broke out in 1966. They lost the opportunity for formal schooling as a result of the political turmoil, and many of them were the “sent-down youths,” young men and women who were moved from cities to rural areas and who worked for many years as farmers...

"If there is another event that approaches the importance of the Cultural Revolution in the lives of these men, it is undoubtedly the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989...t they are a generation older than many of the protesters, and at the time, several were municipal leaders or chiefs of the youth league...

"These events taught the fifth generation two lessons: First, they must maintain political stability at all costs, and second, they should not reveal their fissures to the public..."

So, which faction was behind the letter obtained by the New York Times?

Party Elders Press for Checks on China’s Stimulus Plan

"As China’s government doles out $584 billion to stimulate its ailing economy, critics inside and outside the Communist Party have pressed for details about the murky spending plan and demanded the right to follow the money...

"'We very much endorse the central authorities’ investment of 4 trillion renminbi' — $584 billion — 'to drive the economy,' they explained in the letter, dated Jan. 20, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.

"'At the same time, we are extremely worried that the privileged and the corrupt will seize this opportunity to fatten themselves, damage the relationship between the party and the people, and intensify social conflict.'

"They pressed for checks and balances on the recovery program. More sweepingly, they urged that state media be freed from censorship and that courts allowed to operate without interference from the ruling party, reforms the party has repeatedly rejected in the past..."

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Passing it on

Kevin James, who teaches at Albany High School, pointed (in his blog AHS Comparative Government) to a report from al Jazeera about a old guy familiar to lots of us old people, Mikhail Gorbachev.

Thank you, Kevin.

Gorbachev criticises Putin's party

"Mikhail Gorbachev, the former president of the Soviet Union, has likened United Russia, the party of Vladimir Putin, Russia's prime minister, to the worst of the Soviet-era communists...

"Gorbachev said: 'It is a party of bureaucrats and the worst version of the CPSU (the Communist Party of the Soviet Union)'...

"[T]he former president, who was 78 on Monday, said that the global economic crisis, which has hit Russia hard, was proof that capitalism should be moderated by elements of socialism...

"The last leader of the Soviet Union, forced to step down on December 25 1991, following the collapse of communism, revealed that he had sought to fix the regime, not facilitate its downfall.

"'I was a resolute opponent of the breakup of the union,' Gorbachev said...

"'But anyway, we have gone far, and there's no return.'"

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Friday, March 06, 2009

Globalization's end?

Karen Coston's reminder to me about Foreign Policy also pointed me at this article about globalization. If you're asking your students to read things about globalization, this would be a good addition to the syllabus.

Think Again: Globalization

"Forget the premature obituaries. To its critics, globalization is the cause of today’s financial collapse, growing inequality, unfair trade, and insecurity. To its boosters, it’s the solution to these problems. What’s not debatable is that it is here to stay.

"'Globalization Is a Casualty of the Economic Crisis.'

"No. That is, not unless you believe that globalization is mainly about international trade and investment. But it is much more than that...

"'Globalization Is Nothing New.'

"Yes it is...

"[T]he current wave of globalization has many unprecedented characteristics. As Internet access penetrates the most remote corners of the globe, it is transforming the lives of more people, in more places, more cheaply than ever before—and the pace of change is accelerating faster than we can hope to chronicle it...

"'Globalization No Longer Means Americanization.'

"It never did...

"'Great Power Politics Are Back.'

"They never went away. We only thought they did...

"'Globalization Is by and for Rich People.'

"Go tell the Indians. Or, for that matter, the Chinese, or the emerging middle classes in Brazil, Turkey, Vietnam, and countless other countries that owe their recent success to trade and investment booms facilitated by globalization...

"'Globalization Has Made the World a Safer Place.'

"Not really...

"'The Financial Crisis Is a Symptom of Globalization Run Amok.'

"No, you just think it is. Longtime antiglobalization activists... may feel vindicated by the present state of affairs... Yes, globalization has multiplied the number of problems that no organization or country can solve on its own... The need to collaborate in solving collective problems is as obvious as the difficulties in achieving solutions...."

See also: Globalization and the state

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

What's a failed state?

Karen Coston, who teaches at Blacksburg High School in Virginia, reminded me of a valuable resource I should add to my regular list of sources: Foreign Policy magazine.

I have often used articles from Foreign Policy. They tend to be a good length for supplementary student readings and they require enough analysis to make reading a valuable exercise.

She pointed out two articles in the current issue that present the question: Are Russia and Mexico on the verge of becoming failed states?

I've asked that question about Mexico several times in the past year, but I've not asked it about Russia the way Arkady Ostrovsky does.

Assign half the class to read each article. Add some other readings to the mix. Get groups to explain to their classmates what they've read. Ask the students to defend or contradict the failed state prognosis. Ask them to come to some agreements.

Reversal of Fortune

"Vladimir Putin’s social contract has been premised on an authoritarian state delivering rising incomes and resurgent power. But the economic crisis is unraveling all that. And what comes next in Russia might be even worse...

"Today’s Russia is not the Soviet Union, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is not Joseph Stalin. But just as historians view 1929 as the end of the revolutionary period of Soviet history, scholars will (and already do) define Putin’s rule as a restoration that followed a revolution. Restoration—of lost geopolitical influence, of Soviet symbols, of fear, of even Stalin’s reputation—has been the main narrative of the past decade. But as history shows, periods of restoration do not restore the old order; they create new threats. This is what Russia is today—a new, much more nationalistic and aggressive country that bears as much (or as little) resemblance to the Soviet Union as it does to the free and colorful, though poor and chaotic, Russia of the 1990s...

"Confidence in the rule of a wealthy, heavy-handed Russian state has been shaken, and it is now a real possibility that the global economic crisis, as it persists and even intensifies, could cause Putin’s social contract to unravel. What is not clear, however, is what would take its place—and whether it would be any improvement. The nationalist passions and paranoia that Putin has stirred up have poisoned Russian society in lasting ways. Now, 2009 could be a new “Great Break” [1929] for Russia, but the result might just be a country in upheaval—broken..."

State of War

"Mexico’s hillbilly drug smugglers have morphed into a raging insurgency. Violence claimed more lives there last year alone than all the Americans killed in the war in Iraq. And there’s no end in sight...

"Mexico’s surge in gang violence has been accompanied by a similar spike in kidnapping...

"All of this is taking a toll on Mexicans who had been insulated from the country’s drug violence. Elites are retreating to bunkered lives behind video cameras and security gates. Others are fleeing for places like San Antonio and McAllen, Texas...

"Mexico’s gangs had the means and motive to create upheaval, and in Mexico’s failure to reform into a modern state, especially at local levels, the cartels found their opportunity. Mexico has traditionally starved its cities. They have weak taxing power. Their mayors can’t be reelected. Constant turnover breeds incompetence, improvisation, and corruption. Local cops are poorly paid, trained, and equipped...

"In addition to fighting each other, the cartels are now increasingly fighting the Mexican state as well, and the killing shows no sign of slowing. The Mexican Army is outgunned, even with U.S. support..."

See also:

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Chinese government in action

And tomorrow the annual session of the National People's Congress begins.

China opens political advisory session

"The Second Session of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country's top advisory body, started in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing...

"A total of 2,160 CPPCC National Committee members coming [from] throughout the country attended the opening meeting...

"The political consultants raised 5,056 proposals on politics, economy, science, ecological conservation and other issues into file over the past year, of which 99.03 percent had received due consideration or had been handled in line with China's laws and regulations...

"As an open forum where the CPC, non-Communist parties and people without party affiliation discuss state affairs freely and on an equal footing, the CPPCC has been the manifestation of China's socialist democracy...

Highlights of Jia Qinglin's work report of China's top political advisory body

"Top Chinese political advisor Jia Qinglin delivered a report on the work of the country's top political advisory body at the opening meeting of its annual full session...

"Following are the highlights of the Report on the Work of the Standing Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference...

" -- The CPPCC organized a variety of study and implementation activities...

" -- The CPPCC respected and safeguarded the democratic rights of the democratic parties

" -- The central committees of the democratic parties and the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce submitted 226 proposals and 3,966 reports on social conditions and popular sentiment.

" -- Over the past year, the CPPCC kept a close eye on and made a follow-up analysis of economic trends...

" -- The CPPCC conducted investigations and studies of 55 special topics...

" -- The CPPCC kept focus on issues having an immediate impact on the people's well-being..."

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Power in Mexico

The question bears repeating: Who holds power in Mexico? Authority? Legitimacy?

With Force, Mexican Drug Cartels Get Their Way

"Mayor José Reyes Ferriz is supposed to be the one to hire and fire the police chief in this gritty border city that is at the center of Mexico’s drug war. It turns out, though, that real life in Ciudad Juárez does not follow the municipal code.

"It was drug traffickers who decided that Chief Roberto Orduña Cruz, a retired army major who had been on the job since May, should go. To make clear their insistence, they vowed to kill a police officer every 48 hours until he resigned.

"... Mr. Orduña eventually did as the traffickers had demanded, resigning his post on Feb. 20 and fleeing the city.

"Replacing Mr. Orduña will also fall outside the mayor’s purview, although this time the criminals will not have a say. With Ciudad Juárez and the surrounding state of Chihuahua under siege by heavily armed drug lords, the federal government last week ordered the deployment of 5,000 soldiers to take over the Juárez Police Department. With the embattled mayor’s full support, the country’s defense secretary will pick the next chief.

"Chihuahua, which already has about 2,500 soldiers and federal police on patrol, had almost half the 6,000 drug-related killings in all of Mexico in 2008 and is on pace for an even bloodier 2009. Juárez’s strategic location at the busy El Paso border crossing and its large population of local drug users have prompted a fierce battle among rival cartels for control of the city...

"Nothing is surprising in Chihuahua anymore. Gunmen recently shot at one of three cars in Gov. José Reyes Baeza’s motorcade, killing a bodyguard and wounding two agents. The drug cartels routinely collect taxes from business owners, shooting those who refuse to pay up. As for the Juárez mayor, who has made cleaning up the notoriously corrupt police department his focal point, the cartel recently threatened to decapitate him and his family unless he backed off..."

Mexican Troops Reinforce Besieged Border City

"CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (Reuters) - Nearly 2,000 Mexican soldiers poured into Ciudad Juarez on Saturday to restore law and order to the country's most violent city, which has been ravaged by drug gangs...

"President Felipe Calderon's military operation is supported by the United States, which is concerned the violence could destabilize Mexico, a key trading partner, and spill over the border..."

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

When private businesses make foreign policy

Is this a demonstration of the weakness of the state in the US or in Mexico or both?

U.S. Is Arms Bazaar for Mexican Cartels

"PHOENIX —The Mexican agents who moved in on a safe house full of drug dealers last May were not prepared for the fire power that greeted them.

"When the shooting was over, eight agents were dead. Among the guns the police recovered was an assault rifle traced back across the border to a dingy gun store here called X-Caliber Guns...

"Mexican authorities have long complained that American gun dealers are arming the cartels. This case is the most prominent prosecution of an American gun dealer since the United States promised Mexico two years ago it would clamp down on the smuggling of weapons across the border. It also offers a rare glimpse of how weapons delivered to American gun dealers are being moved into Mexico and wielded in horrific crimes...

"The gun laws in the United States allow the sale of multiple military-style rifles to American citizens without reporting the sales to the government, and the Mexicans search relatively few cars and trucks going south across their border.

"What is more, the sheer volume of licensed dealers — more than 6,600 along the border alone, many of them operating out of their houses — makes policing them a tall order. Currently the A.T.F. has about 200 agents assigned to the task...

"The authorities in the United States say they do not know how many firearms are transported across the border each year, in part because the federal government does not track gun sales and traces only weapons used in crimes. But A.T.F. officials estimate 90 percent of the weapons recovered in Mexico come from dealers north of the border..."

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Economy 3.0

This essay by Dani Rodrik, Professor of Political Economy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, might be a good way to help students understand the connections between government and market economies. Those relationships are usually oversimplified in journalistic reporting and almost always oversimplified in political discourse (although the new American president might be an exception).

I'd ask my students to read this and make note of the connections between government and economies posited by Rodrik and to make a timeline of changes in those relationships. Then we might have a debate or a practice FRQ based on this essay.

Coming Soon: Capitalism 3.0

"Capitalism is in the throes of its most severe crisis in many decades. A combination of deep recession, global economic dislocations, and effective nationalization of large swathes of the financial sector in the world’s advanced economies has deeply unsettled the balance between markets and states. Where the new balance will be struck is anybody’s guess.

"Those who predict capitalism’s demise have to contend with one important historical fact: capitalism has an almost unlimited capacity to reinvent itself. Indeed, its malleability is the reason it has overcome periodic crises over the centuries and outlived critics from Karl Marx on. The real question is not whether capitalism can survive – it can – but whether world leaders will demonstrate the leadership needed to take it to its next phase as we emerge from our current predicament.

"Capitalism has no equal when it comes to unleashing the collective economic energies of human societies... The catch is that neither property rights nor markets can function on their own. They require other social institutions to support them.

"So property rights rely on courts and legal enforcement, and markets depend on regulators to rein in abuse and fix market failures. At the political level, capitalism requires compensation and transfer mechanisms to render its outcomes acceptable. As the current crisis has demonstrated yet again, capitalism needs stabilizing arrangements such as a lender of last resort and counter-cyclical fiscal policy. In other words, capitalism is not self-creating, self-sustaining, self-regulating, or self-stabilizing.

"The history of capitalism has been a process of learning and re-learning these lessons. Adam Smith’s idealized market society required little more than a 'night-watchman state.'...

"Through the early part of the twentieth century, capitalism was governed by a narrow vision of the public institutions needed to uphold it...

"This began to change as societies became more democratic and labor unions and other groups mobilized against capitalism’s perceived abuses. Anti-trust policies were spearheaded in the Unites States. The usefulness of activist monetary and fiscal policies became widely accepted in the aftermath of the Great Depression...

"The postwar mixed economy was built for and operated at the level of nation-states, and required keeping the international economy at bay...

"The current crisis shows how far we have come from that model. Financial globalization, in particular, played havoc with the old rules...

"The lesson is not that capitalism is dead. It is that we need to reinvent it for a new century in which the forces of economic globalization are much more powerful than before. Just as Smith’s minimal capitalism was transformed into Keynes’ mixed economy, we need to contemplate a transition from the national version of the mixed economy to its global counterpart..."

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

Local elections in Russia

Watch for the results. (The results will eventually be added as a comment.)

Kremlin Faces Vote Test

"Millions of Russians voted in local elections on Sunday in the first test of the Kremlin's popularity since an economic crisis triggered mass unemployment.

"Opponents accused the United Russia party, headed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, of using dirty tricks in campaigning for some town councils, regional parliaments and mayors to cover up a fall in its popularity.

"United Russia officials, though, dismissed this as political opportunism in the vote which involves about a fifth of all eligible voters in Russia.

"Early reports showed a fall in voter turnout -- one way people can express dissatisfaction -- with Russian news agencies reporting a 10 percentage point drop in two completed city mayoral elections in Russia's Far East...

"A senior official at the regional Communist Party said about 60 to 65 percent of the population supported his party but he said United Russia would try and fix the results.

"Golos, an independent monitoring group, said it had seen people handing out pancakes, lottery tickets and small gifts...

"Neither Putin nor the ally to whom he yielded the presidency last year, Dmitry Medvedev, are directly involved in the polls...

"Opinion polls show support for Putin and Medvedev has fallen since the financial crisis gripped Russia last October, but analysts expect only a small dip in support at the polls...

"United Russia, which dominates the national parliament and holds sway over much of the media, is expected to retain control of the nine regional parliaments, the mayors of the major towns and cities voting and the great bulk of the town and village councils which are up for election in 3,600 separate campaigns.

"There is no voting in Moscow or St Petersburg or in Vladivostok in the Far East which recently saw protests over tariffs on imported Japanese cars that hit the local economy."

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