Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Materialist politics in China

And in China, a young, upwardly mobile couple adapts to conditions there. Unlike the entrepreneurs who are featured in most Western reporting, they're cautious. It's a reminder that economic choices, like political opinions, come in great variety.

In China, a State Job Still Brings Benefits And Bragging Rights

"Tian Bing received his master's degree last month, which instantly made the law and computer science graduate a hot prospect in China's booming economy. Yet he has already rejected job offers from an aerospace company, a bank and the computer division of a prestigious foreign company.

"Instead, Tian started a new job this week reviewing patent applications in the state intellectual property office. He doesn't know his salary yet but expects it will be less than half what the bank would have paid.

"'Lots of people around me say that being a civil servant can have better benefits than private companies,' said Tian, 26. 'Each time my parents and I talk about jobs, they always ask me to find a government job, because being a civil servant means a safe job, good medical welfare and a good retirement pension.'

China may be rushing headlong into capitalism, with unfettered private development and a runaway stock market, but many people here are still chasing after state jobs...

"Since the Communist takeover in 1949, the government has provided cradle-to-grave jobs for much of the Chinese population, with benefits ranging from apartments and subsidized hospital stays to shampoo and toilet paper.

"Leaders began dismantling the mostly bankrupt state-owned factory system beginning in the 1990s...

"But many people still lack the courage to "jump into the sea" of private entrepreneurship, as the Chinese saying goes, preferring instead the dependability of lower-paying jobs in schools, police stations, post offices and the civil service...

"In addition to material goods, state-run companies also traditionally provided emotional support. Citizens were encouraged to report their problems so that the leaders of their work units could help. Employees were told to treat each other like brothers and sisters, a form of solidarity aimed at enabling people to work harder...

"The danwei used to control its workers' marriages and divorces, but no longer. Employees no longer have to seek approval for hotel reservations and airline tickets, so bosses no longer determine who is allowed to travel..."

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Prosperity and democracy

If post-materialism has appeared in Western Europe and the US, perhaps materialism has appeared in Russia and China. (Is it too Marxist to suggest that these are stages of history and that materialism in a prerequisite to post-materialism?)

This BBC report is about the upwardly mobile in Russia. Tomorrow, a report on the upwardly mobile Chinese.

Russians face up to prosperous reality

"In the first of three special reports, Bridget Kendall, the BBC's diplomatic correspondent, reports from Russia on life and attitudes in the provincial city of Nizhny Novgorod...

"On the outskirts there is further evidence of the consumer boom that is now transforming not just Moscow, but many bigger Russian cities.

"A new shopping mall includes a gigantic blue and yellow Ikea furniture store, offering all the same goods and even fast food Swedish meat balls as everywhere else in Europe - except that the signs are in Russian...

"At the lower end of the scale, less well-off Russians also admit they live better.

"In a shabby park... I meet an elderly couple, members of Russia's old middle class, the so-called 'intelligentsia' which enjoyed a special status in Soviet times.

"They agree that there is more stability today than in the 1990s, when wages were not paid and savings were wiped out.

"But they are bitter at changes that have left them, they say, impoverished...

"We go into the local supermarket, stocked to the brim with local and foreign goods...

"We both remember the empty shelves of the Soviet era. But Lyudmilla is not impressed by this new bounty.

"'I can't afford most of it, except for a special treat,' she says...

"Peel back the veneer of new prosperity and you very quickly realise the levels of stress today in Russia are astronomical.

"Even [a young prosperous couple] admit they are obsessed with the worry of how to afford a new apartment when property prices have doubled in the past year, mortgage deals are hard to negotiate, and every price tag comes with an extra hefty bribe attached to it...

"Yes, by and large Russians do feel more prosperous. But that doesn't mean their lives are much easier.

"And despite the high opinion poll ratings for President Putin, when it came to politics, what I found everywhere in Nizhny Novogorod was apathy and disillusionment.

"Neither couple were planning to vote in Russia's upcoming elections.

"'I've lost all interest in elections. Any change would only be for the worse,' said [the young woman].

"'There'll be no real choice, so what's the point of voting?' said [her husband], 'Everything is decided for us in this country.'"

See "Post-materialism and democracy"

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Transition in Nigeria

Two BBC reports provide pictures of Ya'Adua's inauguration and one of the taks he faces.

New Nigerian president sworn in

"Umaru Yar'Adua has been sworn in as Nigeria's new president at a colourful ceremony in the capital, Abuja.

"The inauguration of Mr Yar'Adua marks the first time in Nigeria's history that one civilian leader has taken over from another..."

Challenges for Nigeria's leader

"When Umaru Yar'Adua is sworn in as Nigeria's next president...

"He replaces Olusegun Obasanjo, who plucked him from relative obscurity as a quiet northern state governor to be his successor.

"And that has raised questions as to just how independent the new leader can be, given how much he owes to the old guard.

"Mr Obasanjo is not making it easy - he will remain head of the governing People's Democratic Party.

"And in his last few weeks in power, Mr Obasanjo has sold off a large number of state assets to his allies in the private sector..."

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A new consequence of non-reelection in Mexico

When presidents cannot be reelected, as in Mexico, they have tended to fade away once their terms are over (sometimes after stuffing their pockets with available cash). The Washington Post reports that Vicente Fox does not intend to fade away.

What changes in Mexican politics might result if this becomes a trend? If former presidents are around to influence politics during their successors' governments, will things be different?

Mexican Takes Page From Carter, Clinton

"Mexican presidents, by long-standing tradition, not only fade away after leaving office. They go away...

"But Vicente Fox, the former Coca-Cola executive whose election in 2000 ended seven decades of one-party rule, has set out to create the most high-profile former presidency in modern Mexican history...

"Since leaving office in December, Fox has roved across Mexico and the world, giving speeches at motivational seminars run by The Power Within group, raising money, generating headlines and trying mightily to counter the perception that his tenure was a failure...

"Fox has created a foundation to promote democracy and combat poverty. He is also at work on two books...

"But Fox's biggest post-presidency venture is taking shape in San Cristobal, where he is building a democracy center and presidential library -- the first in Mexican history...

"'He's trying to rewrite his time in office, so it won't be remembered as chaotic and a failure,' Juan Pardinas, a Mexico City-based political analyst, said in an interview..."

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Monday, May 28, 2007

A footnote or a tipping point?

A footnote to history or a political tipping point?

From the Washington Post

A Dubious Diplomat

"The single-engine Cessna aircraft, flying just 10 yards off the ground, buzzed Red Square three times as the pilot looked for a place to land. But too many people were on the square that May evening. So the plane pulled up and circled the Kremlin walls before setting down on the nearby Moskvoretsky Bridge...

"Twenty years ago, Mathias Rust, a 19-year-old dreamer from West Germany, pierced the Soviet Union's air defenses on what seemed like a delusional mission to unite East and West. But in one of the Cold War's most iconic footnotes, he handed Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev an excuse to purge his defense minister and other military hard-liners opposed to his glasnost reforms, an important step toward the fall of communism..."

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

The problem is real. Is the effort to resolve it?

If there's a pressing political problem in Nigeria, assign it to a study group. (Don't be misled by the BBC headline.) This makes Nigeria's political system sound more and more like a large corporation or an authoritarian bureaucracy.

Yar'Adua 'to make poll reforms'

"Nigeria's president-elect has said he will reform the election process, which observers strongly criticised during last month's poll.

"Umaru Yar'Adua said he would review April's elections, which he controversially won...

"Mr Yar'Adua said he would set up a committee of eminent Nigerians to recommend changes to the electoral law..."

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

It's not over in Mexico until...

The Economist reported on the election in the Mexican state of Yucatan and a possible trend in politics.

Youthful in Yucatán

"[I]n the end the election for state governor in Yucatán was notable for what is changing in Mexico rather than what remains the same. First Felipe Calderón [called]... Ivonne Ortega of the formerly ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to congratulate her on her victory. Second, Ms Ortega [celebrating below at right] seems to stand for what the PRI would like to be rather than what it once was...

"Having governed Mexico for seven decades until 2000, the PRI came a poor third in last year's presidential election. It holds the balance of power in Congress and has the largest number of state governorships. But its future depends on its ability to shed its previous corporatist habits and to reinvent itself as a modern centrist party...

"The signs are that the PRI will win the next election for state governor, in August in Baja California—another state governed by the PAN..."

See Aventaja Ivonne a Xavier en Yucatán from Mileneo Politica.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Ready for editing the textbook?

Keep your textbook correcting erasers and pens handy.

This report came from The Guardian (UK).

Chancellor will consider written constitution

"Gordon Brown will try to restore public trust in British politics by proposing an all-party convention that could pave the way for a written constitution.

"In an attempt to draw a line under damaging perceptions over sleaze and spin in the Blair era, the chancellor will seek consensus for the historic move to enshrine certain values and rights.

"The convention will also look at new powers for parliament and a rebalancing of powers between Whitehall and local government, similar to those laid out in the US constitution of 1787 which has a central place in American law and culture..."

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Media control in Russia

The saga of media control in Russia continues according to an article in the Guardian (UK).

8 Russian Reporters Resign in Protest

"Eight correspondents have resigned from a Russian broadcast news agency to protest the pro-Kremlin management's decision to withhold stories in line with a new policy that half its coverage must portray the government in a 'positive' light, journalists said...

"In another case highlighting the concerns, the Russian Union of Journalists is protesting an order that it vacate its offices in a building that houses state media operations...

"Analytical programs on Russia's main TV channels are increasingly infrequent and less likely to express criticism of the Kremlin. The state runs one of the country's three major TV networks and has a direct controlling stake in another, along with owning the two of the largest radio networks.

"NTV television, the third major TV network once noted for its criticism of the Kremlin and independent reporting on the war in Chechnya, has been taken over by the state-controlled natural gas monopoly Gazprom, which also owns the newspaper Izvestia..."

A report in the Christian Science Monitory reemphasizes the changing face of reporting in Russia and once again mentions radio Echo in Moscow as one of the last bits of independent media.

In Russia, 'space for journalism is narrow'

"Viktor Shenderovich is a cheerful but sharp critic of President Vladimir Putin. He savages the Kremlin on his political-satire show at the independent radio station Ekho Moskvi... 'The space for journalism is narrow, and growing smaller all the time,' he says...

"Lately, state control has moved further, as 'loyal' tycoons have bought key print-media properties...

"'No one is claiming that things are heavenlike in Russia,' says Gleb Pavlovsky, a Kremlin adviser. 'We have never lived in an absolutely free country, but we have never had as much press freedom as we have today.'..."

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

When history is meaningful

Bloggers are such an incestuous lot. Are we the only readers of what we write?

("Google CEO Eric Schmidt told a recent gathering of U.K. politicians that the average blog has just one reader: the blogger.")

During the school year, this blog averages about 100 readers a day. The average is down to about 90 now, but today (Wednesday, 23 May), 150 people looked at the blog. Did someone give an assignment based on the blog?

A historian writes a blog from China called Jottings from the Granite Studio. Last week he mentioned that Dan Harris, who writes the China Law Blog, referred to an entry in the East-West Station blog written by a Brit teaching English in Dalian, China.

Now, I'm referring you to that "delightful -- and frightening -- story," The Three Taboo T's. (sic)

It's a reminder that the past is not always irrelevant to understanding in the present.

"...my part time job the contract states that we are not to bring up or (if brought up) talk about the three T’s of Taiwan, Tibet, and Tiananmen with our students...

"Last summer, apparently, an English traveller on her year out (makes her 18/19) came knocking and was snapped up for a month’s duties..."

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New politics in Britain

A change in prime ministers in the UK might mean a change in politics as well.

John Kampfner wrote an op-ed piece in the Telegraph (UK) that "A new battleground emerges in British politics"

"So Gordon Brown is Labour's new leader...

"Brown has managed to push the agenda on to the issue of 'aspiration'. This is a nebulous term, but in short it means: 'I will be the true defender of the struggling middle classes of Middle Britain.' In so doing, Brown is seeking to distance himself not just from the Left but also from the Blairite obsession with the rich.

"He is talking about families earning anything from £25,000 to £50,000, mortgaged to the hilt, worried about their choice of school and annoyed that they can't see their GP when they want to. They are not in any way poor, but nor do they consider themselves in any way pampered.

"They are politically aware, but not necessarily engaged; increasingly worried by global warming, but not necessarily prepared to make personal sacrifices. These people are more than the floating voter. They are, according to strategists in all the parties, the voter...

"Previously, Blair and Brown shied away from talking about inequality, fearing that anything they said would be construed as the old politics of grievance. A new battleground is emerging in British politics. It is shifting, not static, and is potentially open to all comers...

"These are early days for both sides, and normal confrontational service will soon resume. We cannot predict who will win the battle, but we have a much better idea of the territory on which the two men will fight."

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Violence and governance in Mexico

How do lawlessness and disorder fit into the governmental and political systems in Mexico? It's a question that may have to be answered soon. The urgency of finding a solution is heightened because the unrest is taking place primarily in President Calderon's area of greatest popularity.

Reuters reported, Police shootout with Mexican drug gang kills 22

"Mexico sent federal police reinforcements to a northern border state on Thursday after the bloodiest gunfight in a 5-month-old offensive against drug gangs killed 22 people, including five policemen.

"Members of the infamous Gulf Cartel fought a running battle on Wednesday with Sonora state police and troops supported by helicopters, ending at a mountainous ranch where officers killed 15 drug hitmen...

"Public Security Minister Genaro Garcia said more police had been sent to Sonora, a state of desert and mountains just south of Arizona, to patrol roads and towns...

"President Felipe Calderon has been unable to contain rampant violence despite sending thousands of troops to fight drug gangs in mostly northern and western Mexican states after taking office in December..."

On Monday, Prensa Latina reported, "Nuevo Leon a War Zone"

"The execution of a traffic policeman in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon on Monday was another in the several days of escalating violence in the area, considered in a state of war.

"Police reported the death of Officer Enrique Buentello... bringing to 67 the deaths attributed to organized crime in Nuevo Leon this year...

"Monterrey, adjacent to Santa Catarina, is a combat zone, said local press, referring to hired killers who murdered six members of the security corps in the last four days...

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Economic restructuring

An al Jazeera article brought a new film to my attention. When it's released in the US, it might be appropriate for students considering the issue of economic restructuring. Since the 2007 exam reminded us that political economy is part of the curriculum (like the 2006 exam reminded us that the EU is included), this film might be a good way to begin examining some of the economic issues. If you see this film before I do, write and tell us all about your impressions.

Spread of privatisation questioned

"Florian Opitz, a German filmmaker whose latest work takes a critical look at the impact of privatisation on people's lives, says the selling off of state holdings has become an 'unchallenged ideology'.
"The Big Sellout... explores the effects of privatisation on rail, healthcare and other public services... [It] will be released shortly in the United States...

"While insisting he is anything but a fan of Michael Moore, the US filmmaker, and his confrontational approach, Opitz's English-language film Der Grosse Ausverkauf - as it is titled in German - is similar in style..."

The film's web site describes the film.

"THE BIG SELLOUT is a political film. In various episodes the abstract phenomenon of privatisation is depicted in stories about very concrete human destinies around the globe. The documentary tells tragic, tragicomic but also encouraging stories of the everyday life of people, who day by day have to deal with the effects of privatisation politics, dictated by anonymous international financial institutions in Washington D.C. and Geneva, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation (WTO)...

"FLORIAN OPITZ talks to the architects of the new economic world order, as well as to ordinary people who have to deal with the politics of the former...

"In the documentary, Joseph Stiglitz, one of the world's best known economists and Nobel Prize winner for economy makes the viewer understand where the dogma of privatisation came from, who profits from it, and what societies lose, when following it blindly. As refined former director of the World Bank, he comes from the world of financial institutions, but today he is fighting for the losers of the privatisation process, triggered by these same organizations..."

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Sunday, May 20, 2007


If the geographic, religious, ethnic, and economic cleavages in Nigeria aren't graphic enough for students to grasp the basic ideas about coinciding and cross-cutting cleavages and permeability of barriers, Pakistan provides even more.

As a comparative case study, this article in The Guardian (UK) offers a valuable example. Pakistan might not be part of the AP6, but an exercise or writing assignment built around this example might ensure learning. The article might be the spark to begin a comparative study of politically-relevant cleavages in other countries or it might provide the basic elements of a sample FRQ following up on an examination of cleavages in Nigeria, Mexico, Iran, and Russia (for example).

Pakistan bloodshed opens new fault lines

"When Dr Khaled Massoud commutes... through Benares' Chowk area... [to] the teeming slums of Orangi... he crosses the front line...

"To the untrained eye and ear, there is little to distinguish the two areas. Orangi, where more than three million people live in desperate poverty, shares Benares' equally poor crowds, its chaos, its cholera, typhoid, dysentery and its daily dose of violence. Yet there is a difference. In the former they speak Urdu; in the latter Pashto, the language of the tribes from Pakistan's North West Frontier Province. It may not seem much, but last week it was enough to spark political and inter-communal violence in which 47 died and hundreds were injured.

"The linguistic divide marks an ethnic and a political fault line too...

"The population of Orangi are Mohajir, descendants of immigrants who fled from India to Pakistan when the state was founded as a Muslim nation 60 years ago. Yet the vast slum is surrounded by communities dominated by other ethnicities -- Pashtuns, Sindhis from the city's rural hinterland, Punjabis from the north east, Baluchis from the west. The communities, as on a national scale, coexist uneasily, all armed, all mindful of decades of past conflict, all sweltering in the 40-degree heat and the frequent power cuts, all aware that civil war could be just around the corner..."

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

A place of my own (to park my car)

If hiring a journalist is a way around censorship to reach a political goal, maybe we shouldn't be surprised if finding a parking place in China leads to ownership reform and more democracy. This report is from The Economist.

Counter-revolution in the car park -- Local disputes speed the growth of Chinese civil society

"CAR owners the world over fret about parking, but in China the competition for spaces can be especially fierce... New housing complexes have sprung up in the suburb... Rows frequently erupt over control of parking spaces within them. These and other local confrontations signify a huge change in the balance of power in Chinese cities.

"Until the 1990s the state owned almost all urban housing. Most residents lived close to their state-assigned workplaces. They had no bargaining power. Neighbourhood committees were controlled by Communist Party...

"In recent years, along with the sweeping privatisation of almost all urban housing, a new force has emerged: landlord committees, many of them formed spontaneously by home-owners to protect their new assets.

"These committees, often democratically elected with little party interference, have become increasingly powerful in asserting the rights of home-owners against encroachment by the state... The fight for control of parking spaces is one of the many modest causes that have brought a change in the urban mentality—beyond a consciousness of limited legal rights, to a growing awareness of the need for a more active “civil society” as a balance against arbitrary officialdom...

"[A] new law makes clear that parking spaces occupying what the law considers to be land owned collectively by the home-owners, such as roads within estates, are also collectively owned. It obliges developers to give priority to the parking needs of estate residents. It is vaguer on the subject of how home-owners and developers are supposed to cooperate...

"Party leaders say that a top priority in the development of a harmonious society is strengthening democracy and the rule of law. They reject any idea of a multi-party system, but they have begun to talk more about a need for greater 'public participation' in policymaking... But developers remain an obstacle. Faren magazine, a legal journal, said this month that out of 3,000 residential estates in Beijing, only 500 had set up landlord committees. It quoted legal experts as saying this was because developers and property management companies often refused to cooperate with them. When it comes to developing democracy, China’s new capitalists can be as obstructive as old-style communists."

As for that last sentence, "...China’s new capitalists can be as obstructive as old-style communists," could it be that China's new capitalists and its old-style communists are the same people?

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Evaluating the evaluation

What do these words have in common?

  • contrast
  • define
  • describe
  • explain
  • identify
  • provide

If you guessed that these were the verbs from this year's FRQs on the AP Comparative exam, you'd be right. (The questions have been released and are available at AP Central.)

These words and the tasks they indicate are exactly what you and your students should have expected from the sample questions and last year's exam.

Contrast was used once; define, three times; describe, eight times; explain, twice; identify, seven times, and provide once. The context for the use of provide indicated that it meant "explain."

In addition, in one question students were asked to describe two things. And students were asked to identify 3 things in two questions and 2 things in another.

So we might consider that identify was used a dozen times and describe four times.

As I noted in earlier posts (here and here), there's not a lot of intellectual or academic "heavy lifting" in these questions. Contrast and explain just barely rise above the most basic of Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives.

If students were asked to do 28 "things" in the FRQs, 24 of those "things" were basically recall.

There were comparisons in the questions, but they weren't the high level comparisons students often fear. The comparisons asked students to identify common functions, similarities, and differences. One comparision asked students to recall details about two systems without explicitly comparing them. The contrast question - the most comparative one - asked for an explicit comparison about political economies.

There's a problem with a global exam written by a committee (well, probably more than one). What I'm thinking of is that questions that make perfect sense in the context of a particular class are not particularly appropriate in other contexts.

I think it would have been "nice" if the question about economic systems had asked more specifically about power and decision making. Those topics were implied and the rubric will probably require responses about those topics, but they weren't explicitly required by the question. And, I think the question about "cultural revolutions" is pretty historical -- very appropriate for a course that emphasizes history and not terribly appropriate for a course focusing on political science and contemporary government and politics.

The message I take from these exam questions is
  • that learning about the governments and politics of the AP 6 (the countries required in the AP curriculum) is still the most important task for students
  • that textbooks organized around country-specific chapters are still the most appropriate for the AP course
  • that while substantive comparative studies are probably more interesting (and, I would argue, most likely to help students learn the factual material), students don't need much more than to be aware of similarities and differences about the AP 6

I'm looking for disagreement, nuances, or just different perspectives.

Use the "comment" link at the bottom of the blog entry here and add your voice to the topic.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Bridging cleavages in Nigeria

As a northerner, the president elect in Nigeria has to make overtures to the people in the south south (Niger delta) who have so long felt left out and betrayed by the rest of the nation. Whether his overtures will be more than symbolic remains to be seen, but This Day (Lagos) reported on what may be the first proposal.

How would your students evaluate this proposal now? What standards would they suggest for evaluating it a year from now?

Yar'Adua - Niger Delta to Get New Development Plan

"President-elect, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar'Adua has intimated of his administration's plan to introduce a new development plan to solve the problems of underdevelopment facing the Niger Delta states in Nigeria.

"He also stated that henceforth the Niger Delta problem should be seen as a Nigerian problem.

"He... said his administration will introduce a new Marshall Plan of development that would tackle the underdevelopment problems of the Niger Delta within the first 100 days of his administration.

"Yar'Adua, who gave an insight of the new comprehensive Marshal Plan of Development on Niger Delta said 'what we intend to do in the Niger Delta in view of the new Marshall Plan shall be self- financing, sustaining and it shall be clear on the timing with the goal in focus.'...

"The president-elect further explained that within three months of his administration that he will empanel a stakeholder's meeting to dialogue and come out with a comprehensive solution to the problems of the region, stating that nothing is impossible, even as his administration would dialogue even with the leaders of the militants..."

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Creating a government in Abuja

This report was published in Vanguard (Lagos). It offers a glimpse of the difficulties of forming a cabinet for the president elect.

Amid Anxiety Over New Cabinet

"...sources spoke [last] weekend on how the in-coming federal ministers will emerge...

"The sources... told Sunday Vanguard that the party leadership would concede to Yar'Adua the right to play a major role in the selection of the ministers to work with him.

"A meeting of the PDP leadership to discuss the modalities for the nomination of people for ministerial appointments into the Yar'Adua cabinet holds this week in Abuja...

"The meeting was scheduled to have been held last Tuesday but for the on-going tour of African countries by the president-elect...

"Another important person who ought to attend the meeting is Chief Ahmadu Ali, the PDP national chairman, who, reportedly was away to the United Kingdom...

"PDP sources... acknowledged that as the outgoing president and somebody who has been in office and knows the challenges therein, Obasanjo will have input in the formation of the cabinet...

"During Obasanjo's first term, the governors elected on the platform of the PDP played a major role in whom got nominated as ministers from their states in line with the quota of one minister from each state...

"'The constitution of the Yar'Adua cabinet will be a joint work with all the important segments of the Nigerian society because the president-elect will end up not being the PDP president but the president of the entire country. Alhaji Yar'Adua has made this clear', one of the sources told Sunday Vanguard..."

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Evaluating sources again

Would you like to provide your students with a graphic example of their need to evaluate and analyze news sources?

Michael Harvey, who teaches in Abu Dhabi opened his morning paper (the Gulf News) and saw this headline:

UAE and Iran cement ties

The article, which included a photo of Iranian President Ahmadinejad shaking hands with the UAE's Shaikh Khalifa, reported that, "The first visit ever by an Iranian head of state to the UAE yesterday resulted in the setting up of a joint committee...

"The landmark visit is the first by an Iranian leader in the history of the UAE and comes at a critical time in the region...

"The leaders also discussed current affairs in the Middle East, especially the situation in Iraq and Palestine...

"Meanwhile, Iran's Mehr news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying 'with each other's help, we can turn the [Arabian] Gulf to the gulf of peace and friendship.'

"The Iranian President was later received by Shaikh Mohammad in Dubai. Ahmadinejad later addressed Iranian businessmen and expats at the Iranian Club."

Well, imagine Michael's surprise when he read, in the Boston Globe, this account of the address to "Iranian businessmen and expats at the Iranian Club":

Ahmadinejad blames U.S. for Mideast ills

"Iran's president led a raucous anti-American rally on Sunday in this tightly controlled U.S. ally in the Persian Gulf...

"Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a cheering crowd that America was to blame for creating instability and robbing the region of its wealth...

"The crowd, many of them expatriate Iranians, cheered Ahmadinejad and waved Iranian flags. One group carried a black banner bearing a yellow symbol seen on nuclear fallout shelters. Chants of 'Down with the USA!' and 'Nuclear energy is our right!' frequently interrupted the speech...

"Dubai, one of the world's fastest-growing cities and home to most of the 500,000-strong Iranian expatriate community."

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Translating English into American

An article in the Guardian (UK) today is mildly interesting in that it deals with a topic relevant to any country holding elections.

Ex-UN observer to lead Scottish elections inquiry

"A former United Nations elections observer has been appointed to head the investigation into the chaotic Scottish elections, which saw nearly 140,000 spoilt ballot papers...

"He will report back by the summer on the debacle which saw spoilt papers outnumber the winning majority in several constituencies in the tightest race in the history of the Scottish parliament..."

But the really good lines in the article came at the very end. Could your students translate what Matthew Tempest, the Guardian political correspondent was writing about? Why would one of the rare Conservatives in the Scottish Parliament be the only candidate for speaker? Why might he get elected as speaker?

"Meanwhile MSPs will today select their new 'presiding officer', or Speaker, in a secret ballot.

"So far the only declared candidate is the Tory MSP Alex Fergusson [pictured at right]. Since the presiding officer must withdraw the party whip, Labour and the SNP and Liberal Democrats are believed to be reluctant to lose an MSP."

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Branching out for comparisons

Comparative case studies are all around us. We are, of course, limited by resources and curriculum limits.

Unfortunately you might not get to teach about Indian government and politics anymore, but perhaps you can use an Indian example to get at a broader concept. (Why do so many working class Brits vote for the Tories? Why do entrepreneurs join the Party in China? Why do peasant farmers in northern Mexico vote for PAN?)

The New York Times headline drew my attention to this development, but the comments in the Indian press helped fill in the details. The ideas I recognized here have to do with cleavages and their permeability, and how people analyze their own self-interests when choosing how to vote.

Here's what got me thinking.

The New York Times headline was, "Brahmin Vote Helps Party of Low Caste Win in India"

"The elections in Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state and traditionally a bellwether of national politics, delivered victory on Friday to a party that champions the interests of low-caste Dalits, led by a schoolteacher-turned-politician who goes by one name: Mayawati.

"Ms. Mayawati’s triumph lay not only in rallying the state’s Dalits around her party, but also in astutely fusing its traditional low-caste base with people from the other end of the social ladder — upper-caste Brahmins, whom she aggressively wooed...

"The ascendance of caste-based parties has transformed Indian politics in recent decades, but Ms. Mayawati’s victory is the first time a Dalit-led party has won a state election single-handedly. It is also the first time a Dalit party has so deliberately embraced Brahmins into its political fold.

"Surveys of voters leaving the polls this week, conducted by the Center for the Study of Developing Societies, indicated that the Bahujan Samaj Party secured the vast majority of the Dalit vote, along with substantial shares of lower-caste groups that call themselves “backwards” and of upper-caste voters..."

An article in The Hindu Mayawati decimates opponents, becomes CM for fourth time noted, "The 51-year-old daughter of a humble government employee from western Uttar Pradesh, however, stitched a coalition of Dalits, Upper castes, Muslims and Backwards in a bold new experiment to get an absolute majority in the elections..."

The Times of India was skeptical about the prospects for the new state government.

Mayawati hard-pressed to please upper caste

"In a step closer to becoming the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh for the fourth time, Mayawati will be formally elected as the leader of the BSP legislature party which will be meeting in Lucknow later on Saturday.

"The newly elected BSP legislators have started gathering in the state Capital since early morning after being directed by the leadership. The BSP scored a thumping victory winning 206 out of 402 seats to usher in single party rule after 14 years...

"Mayawati and her senior advisors have started the process of selection of possible ministers which is going to prove an arduous task especially keeping in view the victory of a large number of upper caste candidates.

"As many as 34 Brahmins and 19 Thakurs have emerged victorious on BSP ticket this time around and Mayawati would be hard pressed to accommodate them in her ministry, sources said."

The Times of India also noted that class/caste cleavages were not the only ones the BSP overcame.

BSP fare well in Muslim dominated areas

"One in two Muslim candidates fielded by the BSP won in the UP Assembly elections...

"Assiduously wooing Muslims to expand her base beyond the Dalits, Brahmins and upper castes, BSP chief Mayawati saw her strategy work...

"BSP won at several Muslim dominated Assembly seats much to the surprise of political observers...

"The results, however, proved the pundits wrong as BSP nominees registered impressive victories in Muslim dominated constituencies of Afzalgarh, Bijnore, Chandpur, Kanth, Hasanpur, Bahjoi, Kundarki and Bhojipura in the central region..."

NDTV noted that Mayawati will now have a political role to play in national politics as well as UP government.

Presidential polls: All eyes on Mayawati

"Mayawati will not only form the next government in Uttar Pradesh but perhaps she will also play one of the most decisive role in deciding who will be the next president of India..."

Oh, and CNN-IBN noted:

Mad scramble for Mayawati ringtone

"...what's with that ringtone that almost every follower of the Dalit messiah of the state have downloaded?

"The ringtone is called Behen Kumari Mayawati Zindabad (long live Mayawati) and has become pretty much a must for all staunch supporters of Mayawati."

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Friday, May 11, 2007

A change of chief executives without an election

Here's a case to present to students at the beginning of a comparative course to get them thinking about how regimes differ. This report is from the Washington Post.

Britain's Brown Formally Announces Candidacy: Chancellor Receives Blair's Endorsement in Run for Prime Minister Post

"Gordon Brown formally announced his candidacy Friday to succeed Tony Blair as head of the Labor Party and British prime minister, and for the first time received Blair's official endorsement...

"Brown, a shoo-in to win a party leadership race in the coming weeks, prepares to take over a party facing a vigorous challenge from Conservative Party leader David Cameron..."

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Define a moderate in Iranian politics

Two reports on the reelection of Tehran's mayor provide hints about the political environment. I'd like my students to define "political moderate" in the Iranian context and compare it to political moderates in the UK, China, Nigeria, Mexico, or Russia.

This election might be related to the arrest of Haleh Esfandiari (see previous blog entry). Can your students make the connections?

From the Guardian (UK)
Moderate's re-election a warning for Ahmadinejad

"The mayor of Tehran has been re-elected in a vote seen as a victory for moderate conservatives in Iran and a sign of waning support for the country's hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"Mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf is considered a likely rival to Mr Ahmadinejad in the 2009 presidential election.

"'This is an important event. It shows that conservatives are distancing themselves from radicals headed by Ahmadinejad,' said Saeed Laylaz, an Iranian political analyst and columnist, yesterday..."

From the Peninsula (Qatar)

Ahmadinejad’s rival re-elected Tehran mayor

"A political rival of Iran's president was yesterday re-elected mayor of Tehran, a position which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used as a springboard for his successful presidential bid in 2005.

"Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, who analysts say may still be eyeing the presidency after his defeat two years ago...

"Qalibaf is considered to represent a traditional conservative camp whose members have increasingly voiced concern at what they see as Ahmadinejad's confrontational policies and anti-Western speeches, which they blame for isolating Iran...

"Qalibaf, who like Ahmadinejad is a former Revolutionary Guards commander..."

Intersection of comparative politics and international relations

The New York Times and the Washington Post reported on the arrest of a scholar in Iran that exemplifies the interface between politics, foreign relations, academics, and advocacy.

Prominent Iranian-American Academic Is Jailed in Tehran

"Haleh Esfandiari, an Iranian-American academic who is prominent in Washington, was imprisoned yesterday in the Iranian capital of Tehran after being barred from leaving the country four months ago, said the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars...

"Ms. Esfandiari, who left Iran at the time of the 1979 Islamic revolution, had returned twice annually over the past decade to visit her mother, an ailing 93-year-old widow...

"Iranian-American academics said there were two possible reasons for Ms. Esfandiari’s predicament.

"First, they say, the Iranian government has grown increasingly suspicious of academic institutions as possible driving forces behind efforts to change the government in Iran...

'Second, the academics say, Ms. Esfandiari might be a pawn in the increasingly nasty rivalry that has erupted in the fractious Iranian government between supporters of the hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the more moderate former president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

"A Rafsanjani ally, Mohammad Moussavian, was arrested on April 30 and accused of aiding the enemy. Ms. Esfandiari is known for being close to Faizah Hashemi, Mr. Rafsanjani’s daughter, also a politician...

"Ms. Esfandiari’s ordeal began on Dec. 30, when she was en route to the airport to return to Washington, according to the Wilson Center. Three masked gunmen waylaid her taxi and stole her luggage, including her Iranian and American passports.

"The Intelligence Ministry is notorious for staging such crimes..."

Tehran Jails Iranian American Scholar After Long House Arrest

"Iran yesterday detained prominent American academic Haleh Esfandiari, director of th e Middle East Program at the Smithsonian Institution's Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars...

"Esfandiari... has been under virtual house arrest since December... Since then, she has been summoned repeatedly for interrogations by intelligence officials about U.S. programs on Iran. In particular, she was questioned about Iran programs at the Wilson Center, one of Washington's most prominent foreign policy think tanks...

"Esfandiari is one of three 'soft hostages,' all dual U.S.-Iranian nationals, whose passports have been confiscated by the Iranian government, rendering them unable to leave the country.

"Esfandiari and the other soft hostages appear caught up in an Iranian reaction to the Bush administration's $75 million program to promote democracy in Iran...

"Esfandiari has brought in many scholars and analysts from Tehran to speak at the Wilson Center, one of the few places in Washington to offer a robust range of opinions on Iran. 'The irony is, in Washington she faced criticism for bringing in people who were sympathetic to the Iranian government,' said Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 'By detaining her the Iranian government only eliminates an advocate for diplomacy and strengthens the voices of those in Washington who say the regime is cruel and should not be engaged.'"

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Blog readers

When I looked at the statistics for this blog for the past week, I wasn't really surprised.

Date: Pages Viewed
May 09: 6
May 08: 28
May 07: 52
May 06: 184
May 05: 74
May 04: 105
May 03: 118

Average: 81

There are more than just teachers looking at these pages.

When I think about the audience as I add things to the blog, I'm thinking about teachers. But students find useful information here as well.

And, I expect there will be few readers between now and next September.

I will still post things here as I find what I think are relevant and interesting ideas.

Stay interested and pass on ideas you find.


Economics and politics

Edward Cody wrote in the Washington Post about an entrepreneurial way to evade Chinese censors and reduce corruption. Who says that opening up the economy won't create political change? Hu Jintao, that's who. "We'll see." say the free market capitalists.

China's Muckrakers for Hire Deliver Exposés With Impact

"Xu Xiang, a 37-year-old reporter, showed up in [Qinglong, a] Sichuan province town in December, tasked with investigating allegations that officials had forced residents off their farmland. Over two days, he interviewed farmers and local authorities, taking time to view the gleaming white chemical factory and the long rows of unoccupied stores that have replaced many of Qinglong's rich green rice paddies.

"In January, Xu posted an article on his Web site, China's Famous Reporter Online Investigations, alleging corruption. By March, according to delighted farmers and less delighted local officials, the former Communist Party secretary for the surrounding county, the local land administration chief and several other Qinglong officials had been arrested in an investigation by the party's Discipline Inspection Commission that is still underway.

"'Of course, we were very happy to hear the news,' said Shuai Changqing, one of the farmers who led the fight against local officials.

"The farmers, it turned out, had more than a small role in making the news. One of their own had hired Xu as a reporter, for a negotiated fee of $265.

"What happened here in Qinglong was typical of a new kind of journalism that is emerging in response to the Chinese Communist Party's suffocating censorship... With no more investment than a computer and a taste for taking risks, several dozen Web-based investigative journalists have set up sites and started advertising their willingness -- for a price -- to look into scandals that traditional reporters cannot touch...

"Party censorship also extends to the Internet, which is policed by an elaborate computer system and an army of snoops who monitor what Chinese people read and say online. But that censorship comes after the fact..."

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Again with the PowerPoint

David Pogue writes articles and a blog for the technology section of the New York Times and produces occasional reports for CBS Sunday Morning. He also writes the "missing manual" series of books for people "disappointed" with the instructions that come with software they buy.

A recent blog entry brought up one of my pet topics: clumsy use of presentation technology and software.

I quote from Pogue's recent blog to satisfy my own need to make the point again.

However, if you search blogs at Google, you’ll find that hundreds of people have cited and elaborated on Guy Kawasaki’s “10/20/30” rule for using PowerPoint. To me that says the message is not widespread enough yet.

Stop reading PowerPoint slides to people!
Stop using type too small to read easily from the back of the room!
Stop using so many slides!

Using PowerPoint With Discretion

“It’s trendy these days to make fun of PowerPoint pitches. ‘Death by PowerPoint’ is a hilarious buzzword that refers to truly awful boardroom pitches in which the speaker dully reads the bullet points off PowerPoint slides...

"The trick is to use PowerPoint well, not just to throw it out altogether. Yes, of course, don’t just read off the slide. Use the slide to illustrate what you’re saying, to provide a visual or to summarize your point. Don’t think that you need a slide every second, either; hit the B key (for a black screen) when there’s no particular purpose to having a slide up at this moment.”

And I refer back to my earlier attempts to make the same point:

Want some help and advice? Try these (especially the last one).


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Chinese golf as a metaphor

Many years ago, I used a news article about the opening of Beijing's first golf course as an illustration of the changes going on in China. In 1989, I used a news report about Zhao Ziyang's golf game as an example of how purged leaders were no longer "sent down."

Today, the Washington Post published a new article about golf in China. It's another sign of change. (Somebody want to write a history of the last 25 years focusing on golf and politics in China?)

Once-Banned Pastime Now Par for the Course

"It's 10 a.m. on a weekday, and most of Beijing's movers and shakers are in their offices. And yet, here is golf legend Jack Nicklaus, teaching a children's clinic on the driving range...

"It wasn't always like this. In fact, golf was once banned by Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong, who saw it as a decadent and elitist game. But golf has become the latest fashion among wealthy Chinese -- a way to exercise and, more important, a way to affirm one's status.

"In the past 20 years, more than 200 courses have sprung up in China...

"Membership... can cost a penny or two. The one-time fee for individuals at Pine Valley is $200,000, plus $1,200 in dues each year. Guests fork out $100 green fees on weekdays and $160 on weekends.

"Those kinds of prices have prompted critics to label the game "green opium," addictive but also a drain on natural resources. Last year Chinese officials, worried that the amount of arable land was shrinking, announced a ban on new construction of villas, golf courses and racetracks..."

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Elections and devolution

Election irregularities in Nigeria. Are we surprised? How about election irregularities in Scotland? Or election irregularities in Florida? Elections are difficult events even in places with lots of experience with them.

Two stories from the BBC:

Review under way on voting chaos

"The Electoral Commission said it had begun "with immediate effect" an investigation into the Holyrood election voting chaos.

"The polls have been hit by major problems with seven counts suspended and up to 100,000 ballot papers spoilt.

"Technical failures, confusion about how to fill in ballot papers and problems with postal votes have all been blamed...

SNP beats Labour in Scottish poll

"The SNP has surged to historic victory over Labour and become the Scottish Parliament's largest party on a gloomy final election day for Tony Blair.

"The Scottish election, marred by huge problems with voting systems, showed "that the wind of change is blowing", according to SNP leader Alex Salmond...

"Mr Blair said the results were better than "the rout" that had been expected...

"In the Scottish Parliament, the SNP won 47 of the 129 seats, compared with Labour's 46.

"The Tories won 17, the Lib Dems 16, the Greens two, with independent Margo MacDonald also re-elected..."

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Final times

Good luck on Monday.

[Image from Despair, Inc.]

And remember, no matter how much it might feel like it, no one is out to crush your dreams or cause you to fail. You have an opportunity to demonstrate you knowledge and skills. Make the best of it.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Nigerian political culture, again

Lydia Polgreen's analysis of the Nigerian political system goes beyond the crisis and takes a a longer-term view of system as a whole.

She suggests that while the electoral system may be dangerously flawed, rule of law may yet surivive.

The South African report of passive acceptance of the election's results and Patrick Jackson's analysis at the BBC news site suggesting that Nigeria's political culture lacks important elements that have led to democratic "revolutions" elsewhere, describe similar factors.

Does this mean the journalistic consensus is right? No, and only time and further investigation will tell. Check back on events in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano, Kaduna, and Sokoto in six months or a year. Ask your students then to look at these reports and evaluate the analyses. It will be a good learning experience.

NOTE: If you want to use this article from the New York Times and don't subscribe to the "TimesSelect" service, you'll want to save a copy of this article now. A couple weeks from now it will be expensive to buy a copy.

Democracy in Nigeria Falters but Is Far From Dead

"Measured one way, Nigeria’s democracy took a giant step backward in April...

"But judged another way, the test is only beginning: will Nigeria navigate the legal and political challenges to the election peacefully, in a way that cements rather than undermines its young democracy?

"There are reasons to expect that it is better prepared to withstand the weeks ahead than analysts might think...

"[B]uilding a functioning democracy is a very different task. Congo and Liberia, for example, are shattered nations with few meaningful institutions. Only time will tell if they will become true democracies in which the will of the people can be carried out.

"Nigeria is much further along that road. Eight years into civilian government after a long spell of military dominance, Nigeria’s institutions are blossoming despite the recent electoral chaos...

"Nigeria’s robust civic and religious groups, driven underground by military rule, have blossomed into watchdogs, freely criticizing and even condemning the government’s handling of the election.

"The country’s cacophonous news media deployed armies of correspondents across 36 states to bring back reports of stuffed ballot boxes, intimidated voters and phony results.

"And a cellphone explosion allowed for text messages among poll observers, voters and political parties, making instances of rigging and intimidation in far-flung polling places almost impossible to hide...

"It has become apparent that the governing People’s Democratic Party simply seized the apparatus of democracy — ballots, boxes, ink and tally sheets — and rigged its way to victory in a number of places. But the sweeping victories will be challenged in the courts of law and the court of public opinion...

"'What this election has resulted in, ironically, is a significant deflation in the P.D.P.’s ability to lead,' said J. Stephen Morrison, director of the Africa Program at the Center for International and Strategic Studies in Washington. 'They are coming out of this more vulnerable to crisis and less able to govern.'...

"The real problem, analysts say, is that most Nigerians have lost faith in democracy just as it begins to take root within the mechanisms of state. Last year the Afrobarometer public opinion survey showed that satisfaction with democracy in Nigeria plummeted to just 25 percent in 2005, from more than 80 percent in 2000...

"Nnaama Idemili, an unemployed accountant, gave another reason, in the form of a Nigerian proverb. It reflected the feeling that allowing the institutions of democracy to do their work would do more good than violent protest, which might prompt the military to intervene and seize power in the name of order.

"'A man who breaks a coconut with his head will never eat that coconut with his mouth,' he said.

"'I want Nigeria to change,' Mr. Idemili explained. 'But we can’t destroy the country in the process. Things are moving. We only pray they keep moving in the right direction.'"

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Boris Yeltsin's place in Russia's political history

For next year:

An analysis of Boris Yeltsin's political career might be a good introduction to a study of Russia. At the very least, enough basic concepts are mentioned here to provide a good chance to evaluate students' understanding of things like political culture, legitimacy, rule of law, and authoritarianism.

The Hero of His Time by Nina L. Khrushcheva

Nina Khrushcheva teaches international affairs at the New School in New York City and is the great-grand daughter of Soviet Premier (1958-64) Nikita Khrushchev.

"Boris Yeltsin was utterly unique. Russia’s first democratically elected leader, he was also the first Russian leader to give up power voluntarily, and constitutionally, to a successor. But he was also profoundly characteristic of Russian leaders...

"Yeltsin aimed for the same goal. But he stands out from them in this respect: he understood that empire was incompatible with democracy, and so was willing to abandon the Soviet Union in order to try to build a democratic order at home.

"At the height of Yeltsin’s career, many Russians identified with his bluntness, impulsiveness, sensitivity to personal slight, even with his weakness for alcohol. And yet in the final years of his rule, his reputation plunged...

"The tasks that faced Yeltsin when he attained power in 1991 were monumental. At several crucial moments, he established himself as the only person who could rise to the challenges of transforming Russia from a dictatorship into a democracy, from a planned economy into a free market, and from an empire into a medium-ranked power...

"Yeltsin was quintessentially a product of the Soviet system, which makes his turn to democracy and the free market, though imperfect, even more miraculous...

"But Yeltsin himself never succeeded in fully throwing off the intellectual shackles of the past. As president, he talked of economic performance as if it could be improved by decree. Like most Russians, he wanted the material advantages of capitalism, but had little respect or understanding for the rule of law and dispersion of power, which makes capitalist institutions work...

"Yeltsin’s tragedy, and Russia’s, was that, when the country needed a leader with vision and determination, it found an agile political operator instead. By not permitting Russia to disintegrate into anarchy or leading it back to authoritarianism, Yeltsin kept the way open for such a leader to one day emerge. Unfortunately, that man is not his handpicked successor, Vladimir Putin, who has only perpetuated the vicious cycles of Russian history."

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Evolution of Chinese courts

Dan Harris posted the following assertions (and evidence) on The China Law Blog. It offers some good ideas that your students could, with a bit of research, support or contradict.

This is part of a series, and it seems to me that you could give each of the entries to a different small group to consider. Then the class could compare conclusions about the accuracy of Harris' contentions. (There are links to the other entries embedded in this article.) Then everyone should discuss whether these trends in the courts reflect changes in the political system.

China Law Evolving -- Businesses Take Note

"China's globalization is influencing its laws and its law enforcement. What this means for business... is that China's laws and law enforcement are evolving towards the West. 

"In previous posts in this series... I talked about cases where Chinese courts have issued rulings that would not be at all unusual in California, but were groundbreaking for China...

"This post focuses on a recent case... [that] involved a China Southern Airlines passenger who sued China Southern for not allowing him to board an overbooked flight for which he had bought a ticket...

"The People's Court of Chaoyang District ruled in favor of the plaintiff and against China Southern, holding that the airline should refund the 1,300 yuan the passenger spent on his ticket for having failed to inform him that he might not be allowed to fly as planned.  The court also ruled that thethe airline had not cheated the passenger...

"This probably was the first time a passenger successfully sued an airline in China for having failed to inform passengers of the potential for overbooking, but it certainly is not the first successful China consumer misrepresentation case... there has in the last few years been a decided shift in Chinese courts toward the consumer in misrepresentation claims."

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Revolution and democracy

The headline from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty promises some interesting political theory. The interview with George Soros lacks substance, but there may be enough of an intriguing idea to promote useful discussion. And the discussion might be helpful as a review.

Soros Says Revolutions Don't Build Democracies

"Billionaire financier George Soros hardly needs an introduction, especially in Eastern Europe and the CIS. Through his Open Society Institute and national Soros Foundations, he has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to fund philanthropic projects in the region, aimed at promoting the rebirth of civil society. RFE/RL correspondent Jeremy Bransten spoke with Soros..."

"'I'm not a particular fan of revolutions because revolutions occur when there is a democratic deficit. They then create space for building democracy, but they don't assure that you make the jump from a repressive regime to a democracy.'" -Soros

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This can be a review tool

A student added a comment to Monday's entry here, saying he'd found the blog while looking for online review material and thought the blog would be helpful.

Give your students the blog's URL (http://compgovpol.blogspot.com/) or the index's URL (http://del.icio.us/CompGovPol) when they leave for the weekend and suggest they look over the archives as a review activity.

Maybe it will work for some students.

Good luck to everyone.


Reaction to Nigerian election

The press was full of dreadful predictions about the Nigerian election. Many of them, it seems, were accurate. The procedures were "sketchy," the fraud visible to observers, and the results far from legitimate.

But the predictions about public reaction and rejection of the results?

News 24, a South African online service, suggests that acceptance of a flawed electoral system in Nigeria is the theme of public reaction to the presidential election.

Nigeria largely calm after poll

"A women's group demanded the arrest of Nigeria's top electoral official, while the country's labour union head denounced rigging and violence in last month's polls, but plans by politicians to turn May Day celebrations into opposition rallies were largely ignored...

"[T]he opposition heads said they hoped to capitalise on the traditional worker's marches held on the first of May and spark widespread protests.

"Yet although many of the thousands of workers gathered in Lagos expressed dissatisfaction with the vote, few were willing to brave the police and army gathered outside the stadium to make their voice heard.

"'The election has been done already, we can't change it,' said 23-year-old Bukky Sanusi, a transport worker. She had registered but decided not to vote because she was worried about rigging and safety.

"'They already decide who wins. Why should I risk myself?' she shouted over the music of a nearby police band..."

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