Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, September 30, 2011

To tweet or not to tweet...

The Mexican government is very wary (as wary as the Chinese leaders?) of social media. But, many people regard it as necessary.

Mexico Turns to Social Media for Information and Survival
Before the police or news reporters had even arrived at the underpass outside Veracruz where gunmen held up traffic and dumped 35 bodies at rush hour last week, Twitter was already buzzing with fear and valuable information…

These witness accounts have become common in Mexico over the past year, especially in violent cities where the news media have been compromised by corruption or killings. But the flurry of Twitter messages about the bodies arrived at a telling moment — on the same day that Veracruz’s State Assembly made it a crime to use Twitter and other social networks to undermine public order…

Panic is the fear: Two people in Veracruz were charged last month with terrorism and sabotage after their Twitter messages — spreading a false rumor that schools were under attack — seemed to cause traffic accidents as parents flooded the roads…

In many ways, the explosion of electronic crime-sharing is the product of trends that both create and destroy communities: Mexico today is both highly connected and highly dangerous. Around 40,000 people have been killed in the ramped-up drug war of the past five years, while the middle class is growing, scared and increasingly networked…

“Social media is filling the gap left by the press,” said Andrés Monroy-Hernández, a doctoral candidate from Mexico at the M.I.T. Media Lab. “In different regions of Mexico, both the state and the press are weak, while organized crime is becoming stronger and, in some places, replacing the state.”…

Two weeks ago, a man and a woman in their early 20s were found hanging from a bridge in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, with a sign near their mangled bodies that read: “This will happen to all the Internet snitches.” A third person was found dead on Saturday with a sign declaring she was killed for social media postings.

These are grisly warnings to the new media faithful. “Social media is no longer for fun and socializing in Mexico,” said a contributor to Borderland Beat from the state of Tamaulipas, who goes by @OVEMEX.

The killings highlighted the growing power of the so-called cyber guardians, whose Twitter accounts sometimes carry avatars depicting Pancho Villa and other heroes of the Mexican Revolution. The drug cartels, which have often successfully enforced information blackouts at the local level by intimidating the police and reporters, are clearly threatened by the decentralized distribution of the Web…

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Thursday, September 29, 2011


Pronunciation: \-ˈmi-tənt\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin intermittent-, intermittens, present participle of intermittere
Date: 1601
: coming and going at intervals : not continuous ; also : occasional
— in·ter·mit·tent·ly adverb
Source: Mirriam-Webster Online Dictionary
Retrieved 2 December 2010

I will be on the road for the next several days. I don't know if I'll have time or access to post anything new here.

If you find a bit of information that might be useful for teaching comparative politics, post it at Sharing Comparative or send me a note with the information. I will be back online soon.

Remember, nearly all the 2,339 entries here are indexed at the delicio.us index. There are 78 categories and you can use more than one category at a time to find something appropriate to your needs.

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All is not well in the PRC

Civic unrest may be growing, but it certainly is becoming more visible to outsiders. I wonder how well the Politburo can see it.

Land Dispute Stirs Riots in Southern China
Rioters in southern Guangdong Province have besieged government buildings, attacked police officers and overturned SWAT team vehicles during protests this week against the seizure of farmland, said officials in Shanwei, a city not far from Hong Kong that skirts the South China Sea.

According to the Web site of the Shanwei municipal government, hundreds of people on Wednesday blocked an important highway while others mobbed the local headquarters of the Communist Party and a police station in the city of Lufeng, injuring a dozen officers. Some witnesses, posting anonymous accounts online, put the number of rioters at more than a thousand…

The violence was the latest outbreak of civil unrest in China fueled by popular discontent over industrial pollution, police misconduct or illegal land grabs that leave peasants with little or no compensation. Such “mass incidents,” as the government calls them, have been steadily increasing in recent years, providing party leaders with worrisome proof that official malfeasance combined with a dysfunctional judiciary often has combustible results.

According to a recent study by two scholars at Nankai University, there were 90,000 such incidents in 2009, a figure that includes melees as well as mass petition campaigns by people seeking justice. Government censors often work hard to make sure such incidents stay off the Internet and out of newspapers.

Last week, hundreds of residents protesting environmental contamination by a solar panel factory in eastern Zhejiang Province stormed the factory and destroyed office equipment and vehicles. Weeks earlier, 12,000 people peacefully gathered in the northeastern city of Dalian to demand the closure of a chemical factory…

Municipal governments, which own all land in China, largely depend on property sales to fill their operating budgets. In many cases, private real-estate companies collude with local officials to clear and develop the land as quickly as possible. The central government in Beijing has tried to stem such abuses with strictures on rural development but like many laws in China, their impact has so far been limited…

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Democratization is so last century

Nicholas Kulish, writing in The New York Times, wonders if the fad of democracy is ending. Are liberal democracies losing their legitimacy? What would your students make of the analysis?

As Scorn for Vote Grows, Protests Surge Around Globe
Hundreds of thousands of disillusioned Indians cheer a rural activist on a hunger strike. Israel reels before the largest street demonstrations in its history. Enraged young people in Spain and Greece take over public squares across their countries.

Their complaints range from corruption to lack of affordable housing and joblessness, common grievances the world over. But from South Asia to the heartland of Europe and now even to Wall Street, these protesters share something else: wariness, even contempt, toward traditional politicians and the democratic political process they preside over…

Economics have been one driving force, with growing income inequality, high unemployment and recession-driven cuts in social spending breeding widespread malaise. Alienation runs especially deep in Europe, with boycotts and strikes that, in London and Athens, erupted into violence.

But even in India and Israel, where growth remains robust, protesters say they so distrust their country’s political class and its pandering to established interest groups that they feel only an assault on the system itself can bring about real change…

Increasingly, citizens of all ages, but particularly the young, are rejecting conventional structures like parties and trade unions in favor of a less hierarchical, more participatory system modeled in many ways on the culture of the Web.

In that sense, the protest movements in democracies are not altogether unlike those that have rocked authoritarian governments this year…

The rising disillusionment comes 20 years after what was celebrated as democratic capitalism’s final victory over communism and dictatorship…

Frustrated voters are not agitating for a dictator to take over. But they say they do not know where to turn at a time when political choices of the cold war era seem hollow. “Even when capitalism fell into its worst crisis since the 1920s there was no viable alternative vision,” said the British left-wing author Owen Jones…

Responding to shifts in voter needs is supposed to be democracy’s strength. These emerging movements, like many in the past, could end up being absorbed by traditional political parties, just as the Republican Party in the United States is seeking to benefit from the anti-establishment sentiment of Tea Party loyalists. Yet purists involved in many of the movements say they intend to avoid the old political channels.

The political left, which might seem the natural destination for the nascent movements now emerging around the globe, is compromised in the eyes of activists by the neoliberal centrism of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. The old left remains wedded to trade unions even as they represent a smaller and smaller share of the work force. More recently, center-left participation in bailouts for financial institutions alienated former supporters who say the money should have gone to people instead of banks…

“The biggest crisis is a crisis of legitimacy,” Ms. Marta Solanas [an unemployed online journalist in Spain] said. “We don’t think they are doing anything for us.”…

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Chinese Capitalist Party?

Mao would be appalled. Even Deng would have doubts. But capitalism is coming to Chinese Communism.

China's richest man Liang Wengen may join ruling elite
China's richest man is set to join the ruling Communist Party's Central Committee, media reports say.

If Liang Wengen, 55, is chosen by the party's 2012 congress, he will be the first entrepreneur to join the body, which in effect rules the country…

The media reports said he had completed a vetting procedure for the 300-strong body and was on track for approval by the congress in October next year.

Our correspondent says China's wealthy are increasingly being courted by the party, which only started allowing businessmen into its ranks a decade ago...

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Reinvigorating Labour (and other parties)

Labour leader Miliband proposes changes to encourage more people to get involved in party politics. Other parties are interested in that goal as well.

Labour considers allowing non-members to choose leader
Labour's ruling National Executive Committee is meeting to discuss plans to open up the party's leadership elections to non-members…

The plans are part of a project by Ed Miliband - "Refounding Labour" - aimed at breathing new life into what he claims is a moribund party…

At present, only MPs, MEPs, party members and members of an affiliated group, such as a trade union, can vote in leadership contests - although anyone who falls into more than one of those categories is allowed to vote several times.

Mr Miliband wants members of the public to be allowed to register as individual party supporters and to be given a vote as well…

Political party membership has been in decline across Europe for decades and the UK now has one of the lowest rates of membership among other established democracies with 1.5% saying they belonged to a party in 2001.

The Conservatives and Lib Dems have also been experimenting with ways of boosting support by opening their doors to non-members.

These include open primaries to select candidates, similar to those used in the United States, and cut-price membership schemes…

A Labour source told the Press Association: "The aim is to show that Labour is outward-facing, talking to the public, trying to recruit members of the public, in contrast to the old image of decisions taken behind closed doors and in smoke-filled rooms…

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Speculation about Russian politics

Three academic experts offer analyses of the politics of leadership in Russia at The Monkey Cage blog. There are links to other speculations as well.
Sufian Zhemukhov, Visiting Scholar at George Washington University’s Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies: "Why so fast and so simple? That is the question... Both the speed and simplicity of the decision suggest that the situation inside the Russian elite has been becoming more and more unstable because of the uncertainty of who will be the next president..."

Georgi Derluguian, Northwestern University: "Still more unknown is what could be the ideologies and mobilization resources of the opposition in the eventuality of catastrophic crisis with such daily-life occurrences as electrical shutdowns and industrial accidents...."

Regina Smyth, University of Indiana and currently a Fullbright Scholar in Moscow: "The most surprising aspect of President Medvedev’s coronation of Prime Minister Putin at the United Russia party conference on September 24 was that it happened at all. Until this point, Mr. Putin’s political strategy has been to deploy uncertainty to keep his political opposition off guard. Both in terms of parliamentary and presidential elections, the Putin team has waited until the last moment to reveal its intentions. This strategy placed considerable burdens on the political opposition, forcing them to organize to face a number of different contingencies or risk being unprepared for the eventual reality of the eventual contest...."

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Shaky agreement?

John F. Burns, writing in The New York Times, offers evidence that coalition government in the UK is even more difficult than it looks.

A Governing Coalition, Increasingly, of the Unwilling
With the leaders of both parties in the governing coalition pledged to uphold their pact until a new election in 2015, Britain, at least on the face of it, has the basis for political stability…

But as it approaches the 18th-month mark, Britain’s first peacetime coalition government in nearly 70 years has come to resemble a leaky boat in heaving seas. A groundswell of unease in both parties, the Conservatives under Prime Minister David Cameron and the Liberal Democrats under the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, has heightened the underlying political tensions and raised new doubts about how long the pact will last.

If most political analysts believe that the coalition will endure, their judgment rests less on inherent strength in the partnership than in the reluctance of all three major parties… to agree to an early election….

Each fall, their annual conferences provide a showcase for the parties… [and] can present hazards for the party leaders, especially when powerful blocs are close to open revolt, or at least in vigorous dissent.

That is the case for all three parties this year, with the touchstones being the economy and the government’s harsh program of public spending cuts, averaging close to 20 percent across the board…

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An early favorite

Enrique Pena Nieto is the early favorite to become Mexico's next president. The BBC offers a brief profile.

Mexico's Enrique Pena Nieto confirms election ambitions
There are still 10 months to go before Mexico's presidential election but if the opinion polls are correct, the man to beat is Enrique Pena Nieto.

Mr Pena Nieto, until last week the governor of the State of Mexico, put an end to months of speculation on Monday by announcing on Mexico's main television network, Televisa, that he wanted to be his party's candidate.

If he succeeds, it would mark a return to power after a gap of 12 years for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which had governed Mexico for more than 70 years and became a byword for corruption and cronyism…

Speaking to the BBC earlier this month at the governor's mansion in Toluca, the capital of the State of Mexico, Mr Pena Nieto insisted his party had changed.

"The PRI has gone from being a party with a bad reputation... to one that has a creditable reputation today," Mr Pena Nieto said.

He said the PRI had recovered because it had learned to compete against other political actors, unlike the long years of its rule when the next president would be hand-picked by the incumbent - a practice known as the "dedazo" or "pointing of the finger"…

"The PRI has in Pena Nieto a handsome candidate, fresh-faced, who doesn't look like the vintage dinosaur of the PRI's past," says political analyst Denise Dresser.

But in many ways Mr Pena Nieto is just a front, she says.

"Behind him are the old groups, the old factions within the PRI that are poised to govern the country as they always did."…

ncreasing popular frustration and anger over the rising levels of violence have dented the popularity of current President Felipe Calderon and his National Action Party (PAN).

And that could be in the PRI's favour, says Ms Dresser.

"People seem to have a certain nostalgia for the past, to believe that a firm hand is needed to re-establish order in a country best by violence, crime and chaos."…

If - and it is still an if - Mr Pena Nieto is the PRI's choice, he will face a candidate from the PAN, possibly Josefina Vazquez Mota, who is bidding to be Mexico's first woman president, or Ernesto Cordero, until recently the finance minister.

For the left are two possible contenders: Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard and former presidential contender Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador…

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Monday, September 26, 2011

The old guard then and soon

Josh Tucker posted the Putin illustration at The Monkey Cage blog. I found the Brezhnev picture at The History of the Cold War: A Comparative Perspective.

Who says history doesn't repeat itself? Or who said it does?

Putin at the end of his 4th term as president.

Brezhnev near the end of his rule.

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Stop all this voting!

Here's an interesting set of ideas to present for debate.

You need to be a subscriber to The New Republic to access the whole essay by Peter Orszag.

Too Much of a Good Thing
In an 1814 letter to John Taylor, John Adams wrote that “there never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” That may read today like an overstatement, but it is certainly true that our democracy finds itself facing a deep challenge… If you need confirmation of this, look no further than the recent debt-limit debacle, which clearly showed that we are becoming two nations governed by a single Congress—and that paralyzing gridlock is the result.

So what to do? To solve the serious problems facing our country, we need to minimize the harm from legislative inertia by relying more on automatic policies and depoliticized commissions for certain policy decisions. In other words, radical as it sounds, we need to counter the gridlock of our political institutions by making them a bit less democratic…

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The answer is: Putin

In case you, like me, were offline this weekend, you probably learned this morning that the suspense in the Russian presidential race is over. Will the election hold enough interest to get people to vote?

It's interesting that the New York Times reporters linked Putin to both Soviet and Tsarist predecessors.

Putin Once More Moves to Assume Top Job in Russia
Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin, who transformed post-Soviet Russia by imposing Kremlin control over most aspects of public life, moved on Saturday to return to the presidency and could remain until 2024, giving him a rule comparable in length with that of Brezhnev or Stalin.

President Dmitri A. Medvedev announced at a party convention in Moscow that he would step aside for Mr. Putin, who served as president from 2000 to 2008 but was limited by the Constitution to two consecutive terms. Mr. Medvedev is to take his place as prime minister after presidential elections in March that Mr. Putin is assured of winning…

There is little evidence that the change will portend dramatic policy shifts.

Mr. Medvedev has called for political and judicial reforms that would decentralize power away from the Kremlin, and his rhetoric won him the backing of many in the West and in progressive circles. But he was widely viewed as a weak executive whose initiatives were subject to veto by Mr. Putin. Mr. Putin, meanwhile, has signaled in recent months that he may restyle himself as an economic reformer, wrapping himself in the mantle of the tsarist Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin…

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Enthusiastic nonconformity unwelcome

Like any civic organization that seems independent of Party control, anything that smacks of uncontrolled populism and democracy is decidedly unwelcome in the Peoples Republic.

Popularity May Have Doomed Chinese TV Talent Show
In the end, it was not the overabundance of sequins or the cringe-worthy ballads that doomed “Super Girl,” one of China’s most popular televised talent extravaganzas…

[T]he ban issued by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television is a bracing reminder of the heavy hand guiding popular culture in China…

Although government officials did not elaborate on the reasons behind the cancellation of “Super Girl,” television executives and cultural critics suggested that the ruling Communist Party was unnerved by the runaway success of the show, whose producers have created a string of American-style reality shows that are more popular than the turgid fare of the state-run broadcaster, CCTV.

Others suggested that the show’s reliance on voting by audience members was dangerously democratic. Such conjecture is not far-fetched: regulators banned text-message voting from viewers in 2007, forcing the show to largely limit audience participation to those inside the cavernous television studio.

Zhan Jiang, a journalism professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said the ban reflected the growing chasm between Chinese youths and the conservative bureaucrats who keep a tight leash on the production and dissemination of popular culture. “The old guard still has a very different notion of morality from the younger generation,” Professor Zhan said…

Despite its immense popularity, “Super Girl” went on a three-year hiatus in 2006 after a previous controversy fanned by Liu Zhongde, a former culture minister who led a campaign against the show. In a string of interviews in the state media, Mr. Liu lambasted the program as a threat to traditional Chinese culture and a blight on the nation. “What the market chooses is not necessarily a good thing,” he said at the time. “ ‘Super Girl’ is certainly the choice of the market, but we can’t have working people reveling all day in low culture.”…

But at a time when the Communist Party has been avidly reviving revolutionary mass culture from the Maoist era, some critics say the sassy and startlingly individualistic performers who scored well on “Super Girl” represented something of a threat…

In an online essay published Saturday, one of the show’s judges, Song Shinan, suggested that China’s cultural authorities were unhappy about being cut out of the selection process and threatened by the kind of women who rose to the top. “One thing that has progressed is that ‘idols’ are no longer the product of political needs but of commercial needs,” Mr. Song wrote. “The promotion of ‘role models’ from above is dying. These girls truly represent the voices of our times and are the idols of the people.”…

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

No government; no problem

On a theoretical level, how is it possible that a country has no government for over a year? How does the country function? survive?

Belgium edges closer toward new government
Dutch- and French-speaking parties in Belgium have achieved a second breakthrough in as many weeks in the world's longest negotiations to form a new governing coalition.

A record 15 1/2 months after elections were held, the eight parties announced Saturday that they agreed on how the linguistic regions and the bilingual capital Brussels would be funded in future…

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Unreported topic no more

Lisa Schalla, who teaches in Mexico, found the article I couldn't when I linked to the Xinhua article on Premier Wen's speech yesterday. As she points out, Wen's political remarks were covered in a separate article. Thank you, Lisa.

Chinese premier specifies five tasks for political reform
Premier Wen Jiabao on Wednesday specified five areas that must be addressed by the government in order to boost the reform of the country's political system.

The premier specified running the country according to the law, promoting social fairness and justice, safeguarding judicial justice, ensuring people's democratic rights and combating corruption as the five tasks that must be undertaken in order to promote political reform.

"Of the five tasks, the most important and challenging ones are to expand democracy, promote social fairness and justice and fight against corruption," Wen said…

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Crowd at the top

After Mao and Deng, the Politburo guys decided there should be a fixed retirement age and term limits for the top people. Now they have to contend with the politics of succession within the Politburo.

And, it seems, they have a new power group to accommodate: retired leaders. The Chinese leadership has long been older than that in most countries, and the retired leaders don't fade into the woodwork. Instead they seem to hang out in Beijing and try to influence what their successors are doing.

Not fade away
A REMARKABLE recent improvement in the way China’s murky politics is conducted is mostly to do with the succession process at the highest levels of the Chinese Communist Party. In decades past, vanquished political foes tended to end up purged, imprisoned or dead. The victors, meanwhile, hung on to power long into their dotage. Now the holders of many high party and state posts face age limits on service, while those at the very top of the heap, notably the president and prime minister, are restricted to two five-year terms. To outsiders, the process of choosing party successors remains as opaquely Byzantine as ever. But it is undoubtedly more orderly—and less brutal—than it used to be.

Yet China must now reckon with a potentially destabilising consequence of this new, improved process. It is that the cohort of retired leaders is burgeoning. And before they go to meet their Marx, most are keen both to continue exerting political influence and to go on protecting the (business or less often political) interests of family members, along with their vast networks of protégés…

When former leaders have kept a hand in things, they have usually done so from behind the scenes…

But this month saw a rare public return to the fray. Mr Zhu, who… had a reputation as a blunt, honest reformer… has now released a multi-volume collection of speeches and letters from his years in power… Among these were his contention that a government full of yes-men ill serves the needs of the people. Chinese leaders, he also railed, should devote less time to lavish banquets and pointless meetings, and more time to solving problems…

Cheng Li of the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, says he is surprised that Mr Zhu is now being so forthright, but predicts that public interventions by former leaders—“old-man politics”—could well increase. Not only is the number of ex-leaders growing. A rise in factional politics and greater differences of opinion among a new (and weaker) generation of leaders might also undermine unity at the centre. China’s old men will no doubt want to say something about it all.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

The unreported topic

According to the BBC report, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao repeated his call for expanded democracy in local governments and in the Communist Party. However, if you look at the official Chinese report, you won't find that topic mentioned. Hmmm...

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao calls for more democracy
China's Premier Wen Jiabao says China must change its system of absolute power and introduce more democracy.

He made the comments at the World Economic Forum meeting of business leaders in the Chinese city of Dalian…

In the past year or so, Mr Wen, number three in the Communist hierarchy, has spoken several times, to carefully chosen audiences, about the need to reform China politically.

This call appears to go further. “If people can rule a village well, they can manage a county well, even rule a town well.”

He told business leaders that reforming the party and the country's leadership system were "urgent tasks".

Wen Jiabao said the most important task for a ruling party was to act in accordance with the constitution and the law.

"To do this the party must not represent the government, and change the phenomenon of absolute power and excessive concentration of power," he said.

"Thus, the party's and the country's leadership system must be reformed."…

The report of the speech from the Chinese news agency Xinhua featured these topics:
Chinese Premier Wen delivers keynote speech in opening ceremony of 2011 Summer Davos Forum
  • Premier Wen stresses domestic demand to drive economic growth…
  • Premier Wen urges developed economies to adopt responsible economic policy…
  • China to continue prudent monetary policy, says premier…
  • Premier Wen says China willing to help debt-ridden Europe…
  • Wen urges fiscal, financial stability in U.S….
  • Wen says confident in China's economic growth…
  • Premier Wen says China remains clear-headed, firm in confidence…
  • Premier Wen says China now a fully open market economy… Premier Wen says China's opening-up a long-term commitment…
  • Premier Wen calls for sound, sustainable and quality growth…

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Unrest in the government

One of the problems of a coalition government occurs when an issue arises that was not part of the coalition agreement. Recent riots in the UK are a good example. The coalition members are certainly not of one mind when it comes to a government response. Here's an example.

Thanks to Alan Carter, who pointed out the article I missed.

Nick Clegg keynote speech to propose summer school in response to riots
Nick Clegg will unveil a compassionate response to the riots in his keynote speech to Liberal Democrats on Wednesday by proposing that as many as 100,000 children at risk of going off the rails be offered a chance to attend two-week summer school prior to starting secondary studies…

The £50m scheme will start next year, offering catch-up classes to help young people who he says have lost touch with their future. His response is markedly different to the punitive one offered by David Cameron in the immediate wake of the summer unrest. Rather than attacking a general collapse in morality, Clegg argues the generation that rioted appeared to have lost any stake in society…

The point of transition from primary to secondary education at age 11 has often been seen by educationists as a critical moment when disadvantaged children fall behind…

A wider dispute is raging between Clegg's party and the Conservatives on how to respond to the riots. The Lib Dem justice minister, Lord McNally, revealed that No 10 wanted the word "punishment" inserted into the legal aid and sentencing bill. He said the "little elves that work in No 10 helping the prime minister" had been at work…

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Domestic migrations

China has to deal with millions of internal migrants, mostly illegal. Nigeria's largest city, Lagos, attracts hundreds of thousands of rural Nigerians, and in Jos violence between "natives" and "migrants" seems to be endemic. Mexican cities lure rural people hoping for better lives. The southern edges of Tehran are shanty towns full of poor Iranians. And Moscow, too, faces the problem of internal migrations. Complicating all of these are cleavages between the national groups that migrate and those who stay put.

How do governments and political systems deal with the people and the issues that surround them?

Kathy Lally reported the following for The Washington Post.

Poor Central Asians migrate to Moscow
Twenty years after independence, a flood of Central Asians looking for work washes over Moscow, turning it into a city of migrants…

Moscow, a city of 11.5 million according to last year’s census, has as many as 5 million migrants, more than half of them undocumented. The migrants, many of them from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, exist on the fringes of society, harassed by police, victimized by employers and disliked by Russians, once their fellow Soviet citizens. The flawed policies of the old system, where the two countries were turned into cotton fields for the empire and dependent on Moscow, haunt the new nations still, long after the old ideology was discarded.

In Moscow, deep-seated prejudice against Central Asians (and people from Russia’s Caucasian mountains) gives restive young nationalists a target for their anger…

The migrants come anyway, driven by desperation. Despite all obstacles, they have created an important economy of their own. There are more Uzbeks here than Tajiks: Uzbekistan has a population of nearly 28 million. But Tajikistan is one of the world’s poorest countries, and close to a million of its 7 million people are working in Russia. Last year they sent home $2.3 billion, about 45 percent of that country’s GDP, according to the National Bank of Tajikistan…

Citizens of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan can enter without visas, but encounter three sets of daunting problems, said Anastasia Denisova, an advocate for migrants at the nongovernmental Committee for Civil Assistance.

Residency and work permits are required, but limited by quota and the difficulties of traversing a hard-to-navigate bureaucracy. A whole industry has arisen, Denisova said, selling fake documents — $375 to $450 for a residency permit, about $630 for a work permit. “Even those who try hard to get legal papers are pushed out of the legal system and made to feel like criminals,” she said.

Once they get work, employers may abuse workers and fail to pay them, leaving the migrants little recourse. Without contracts, a boss could simply say he has never seen the complainant before…

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Politics in a one-party state

Even in a political state with only one real party, not all politics is personal. Even so, guanxi plays a role.

Secret Bid to Arm Qaddafi Sheds Light on Tensions in China Government
At a United Nations conference in Indonesia this summer, an official of the agency that oversees China’s weapons industry ticked off the hurdles that any proposal to sell Chinese weapons abroad must clear. Among them: arms sales must not alter another nation’s internal security. They must not violate United Nations arms embargoes. And they must win government approval…

That was on June 11, or roughly a month before three of China’s biggest state-owned arms companies secretly offered to sell Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s army $200 million in weapons to put down the rebellion. The offer, discovered by a Canadian journalist in documents tossed into a Tripoli trash heap, flouted a United Nations embargo on weapons sales to the Qaddafi government — an embargo that China itself had voted for in February…

China’s leaders have never liked international sanctions, calling them interference in other nations’ affairs. But the disclosure of the Libyan negotiations underscores a divide many analysts say has long existed between the Defense Ministry and the Foreign Ministry — which both have a say in approving arms sales.

Some believe that big state-run weapons companies, with their close ties to the military, easily make end runs around the diplomats in the Foreign Ministry, which negotiates China’s position on international sanctions.

“It’s possible, and has been the case in the past, that Chinese arms companies push their own agenda,” Mathieu Duchatel, a senior researcher in Beijing with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said in an interview. “There are informal relationships between the different actors, and the logical decision-making process can be bypassed in certain cases.”

The military alliance may gain an added edge when the diplomats are themselves embattled. Since the rebels mounted their revolt last February, China’s policy toward Libya has been up for grabs, with the government apparently torn between economic interest in Colonel Qaddafi’s continued rule and a desire to be on the winning side should his opponents take control…

In theory, the violations should never occur to begin with. A government agency issues arms-export licenses in consultation with China’s Defense Ministry and its Foreign Affairs Ministry. The Defense Ministry is supposed to advise whether a weapon or technology is suited to sell to others. The Foreign Affairs Ministry advises whether they should be sold at all.

But in the Chinese government, as in Chinese life, personal relationships carry huge weight. And it is widely believed by outside experts that the fraternal ties between arms makers and the military, which owned many of them before weapons-making was hived off in the 1990s, overwhelm the diplomats’ say in the process…

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Monday, September 19, 2011

And now for a little gerrymandering

If we needed a reminder of a couple ways in which the British regime differs dramatically from the one in the US, this case offers great examples. Change the size of the legislature? No big deal, just pass a law. If your legislative constituency is eliminated, just find a new one. There's no residency requirement. The problem is that the constituency you want may be a plum for one of your colleagues.

The BBC article includes a link to a video report.

Top MPs at risk in shake-up of English constituencies
Some of the most high-profile MPs in Parliament face seeing their seats disappear as part of a far-reaching shake-up of the Commons map in 2015…

The proposals are part of a move to cut the number of MPs by 50 to 600 by the next general election…

Under plans approved by Parliament in February, England, Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland will all see their parliamentary representation reduced after the next election, due in May 2015.

The government believes a smaller Commons will lower the cost of politics, saving £12m a year, while the system will be fairer as the electorate in each constituency will be more uniform.

But some Labour MPs have accused the coalition of gerrymandering while some Lib Dems are reported to be unhappy about the prospect of losing seats in the shake-up…

The government said the plan to shrink the Commons was "right" and had been spelled out in the coalition agreement between the Conservatives and Lib Dems.

"The constituencies that were used in the 2010 general election vary widely in size and this process will make them more equal and ensure that everyone's vote has a more equal weight," a No 10 spokesman said…

One election expert said the political outcome of the shake-up would be to reduce but not eliminate the existing "bias" in the electoral map against the Conservatives, created by population shifts and the number of constituencies in England compared to Scotland and Wales.

Professor John Curtice, from the University of Strathclyde, said Conservative seats tended to be larger and turnout higher, meaning their MPs needed to gain more votes to get elected than their Labour counterparts and the party achieve a higher share of the vote to secure a majority.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Who needs a party? Who need THE party?

It seems that this story has caught the attention of Western reporters when ever local elections take place in China. I noted it in a posting in June, Independent politics in China. Maybe not. and a couple years ago, China's multi-party politics. This time the independent candidates have been spotted by Keith Richburg and Zhang Jie, writing for The Washington Post.

There's little evidence that these iconoclasts are part of a growing trend or any kind of movement, in spite of reports that there are many of them. If they were a movement, the Party in China wouldn't put up with them.

China sees surge of independent candidates
All across China, scores of ordinary citizens are challenging the Communist Party’s ironclad grip on political life, launching full-blown campaigns outside its grasp for local “people’s congresses.”

The local congresses — the lowest rung in China’s government structure, equivalent to neighborhood commissions — are relatively powerless bodies in the complex system that the party maintains as a formal display of grass-roots participation. Until now, they have been filled almost entirely with candidates from the party, or people endorsed by it.

But the unprecedented number of candidates stepping forward without the party’s backing for elections that begin this fall marks a potential watershed in China’s political evolution, testing the leadership’s professed commitment to allowing democracy to develop from the bottom up…

A few candidates who were not affiliated with the Communist Party have run in past elections for local congresses, but they received virtually no media coverage and few votes. This time around, however, the independent candidates — academics, students, journalists, bloggers, lawyers and farmers — are attracting widespread publicity and mounting serious campaigns, using social media and live Internet broadcasts…

The party has reacted harshly to some independent candidates. Some have been harassed by security officials and placed under house arrest. Others report receiving pressure to drop their candidacies…

The independents have a powerful new tool on their side: weibo, the hugely popular Twitter-like Chinese microblogging sites that have allowed candidates to announce their intentions, lay out their positions on issues in their neighborhoods and reach potential supporters…

China’s law allows citizens to stand in their districts if they are nominated by a party or social group, or receive the signatures of 10 people in the district supporting their candidacy. But the law also says all candidates must be “confirmed” by the local election committee, which publishes the final list of candidates, sets rules for campaigning and even determines the shape of the districts. The local election committee in each district is controlled by the Communist Party…

The last round of local elections, in 2006-07, produced a handful of independent winners, but they have had no apparent impact on livening the debate or altering the system and have been rarely heard from since they won their seats...

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Theater or conspiracy?

I was going to save this for posting next week, but I might lose track of what's going on by then. The news stories are good examples of the intricacies of Russian politics and the attempts journalists make to explain things. The first article is from 14 September, the second one is from the 15th.

First the Kremlin leadership gets a compliant rich guy to run an "opposition" party. Then they make it look like they're trying to oust him. Does that make him an independent actor? Then he quits.

Signs of Faux Foul Play in Russian Politics
In a Russian political campaigning season known for monochrome and monotony, a spectacle of sorts unfolded Wednesday when the businessman Mikhail D. Prokhorov announced a scramble to stop what he called a Kremlin-orchestrated takeover of his party.

The assertion met with a good deal of skepticism in Moscow, since his party is already generally pro-Kremlin, while he is considered beholden to the government for the success of his business ventures.

Mr. Prokhorov, the Russian oligarch… said he had to expel from the party a number of members who had been conspiring with a political adviser to Russia’s president…

[Prokhorov's] accounts seemed to counter one of the signal objections to his candidacy: that people tend to see him and his party as a simulation of competition and pluralism rather than the real thing. Mr. Prokhorov has acknowledged that he consulted with the government before deciding to lead the party…

“Too many rumors went around that Prokhorov is a Kremlin project,” Konstantin Remchukov, the editor of the newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta and a former member of Parliament, said in an interview.

“But now he will be in conflict with the Kremlin,” Mr. Remchukov said. “It is about improving his legitimacy.”…

After the accusations were made public on Wednesday, [Konstantin Remchukov, the editor of the newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta] said, “Everybody will say, ‘The Kremlin attacked and he didn’t surrender. Prokhorov is a real muzhik,’ ” the Russian word for a tough guy.

“When people ask, are you a Kremlin project? He will say, ‘Didn’t you see that big fight we had?’ ”

Russian tycoon Prokhorov abandons leadership of Kremlin-backed party, claiming interference
One of Russia’s richest tycoons abandoned his efforts Thursday to build up a political party and enter parliament, saying he was unwilling to tolerate interference from the Kremlin.

Right Cause, a tacitly Kremlin-sponsored party headed by… Mikhail Prokhorov, had been expected to draw on the support of opposition-minded and pro-business voters…

Right Cause, which has been led by Prokhorov since earlier this year, was created in 2008 as the result of a merger between three center-right parties. Its mission was to draw in middle-class, business-oriented voters and to prevent them from going over to the political opposition.

The party currently has no deputies in parliament. It had been expected to make a healthy showing in the December election, but without the benefit of Prokhorov’s profile and financial resources, the future of the party now looks bleak…

The Kremlin appears to be irked at Prokhorov’s aggressive efforts to broaden his message and appeal to potential voters as an alternative to Putin’s overwhelmingly dominant United Russia party. Prokhorov also has displayed considerable political ambition, expressing an interest in being named prime minister and saying he might consider running for president…

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Politics spill into banking

The integrated elite in Iran often makes it difficult to distinguish between politics and banking. Is this, as suggested by the Associated Press article, politics spilling over into banking and law enforcement? Might it be that the accused "mega-tycoon" was in competition with somebody's "favorite" bonyad (religious foundation)?

Iran Probes 'Unpredcedented' Bank Fraud Network
Iranian regulators have blocked the assets of a mega-tycoon accused of masterminding a $2.6 billion bank fraud described as the biggest financial corruption scam in Iran's history, state media reported Monday.

The probe also could spill over into Iran's internal power struggles between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the ruling clerics. The suspect — identified by the hard-line Kayhan newspaper as billionaire mogul Amir-Mansour Aria — is seen as linked to the so-called "deviant current" of Ahmadinejad allies who are facing arrests and crackdowns by Iran's leadership…

Aria's business empire includes more than 35 companies from mineral water production to a football club and meat imports from Brazil. Calls to his office for comment were not immediately returned Monday.

The newspaper Kayhan, which often reflects the views of Iran's ruling clerics, said Aria had links with Ahmadinejad's top ally, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei. Conservatives accuse Mashaei and others of trying to challenge the authority of Iran's theocracy…

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Explanation please

If you've been paying attention to politics in Iran and you understand the structure of the regime, this development should not be a surprise.

In 500 words or fewer, explain this to someone who doesn't understand.

Iran’s Judiciary Clouds Fate of American Hikers
The Iranian judiciary on Wednesday contradicted an assurance by Iran‘s president that two Americans arrested two years ago while hiking the Iran-Iraq frontier and imprisoned on espionage charges would be freed within two days as a humanitarian gesture, state media reported…

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Election coming? Reorganize the government

Mexican cabinet members freed to run for office.

Mexico Cabinet shuffled with eye on election season aspirations
Mexican President Felipe Calderon announced a Cabinet shuffle Friday that allows two departing members to run for office as the 2012 campaign shifts into higher gear.

Finance Minister Ernesto Cordero, a longtime Calderon ally, is leaving to pursue the presidential nomination of their conservative National Action Party, or PAN.

Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova, who was the face of Mexico's government during the H1N1 flu crisis two years ago, plans to run for governor in the central state of Guanajuato…

[P]olls show Cordero far behind other contenders. A survey published this week in the daily Milenio newspaper put him 30 percentage points behind Josefina Vazquez Mota, a congresswoman, and close to 20 percentage points behind Santiago Creel, a senator who lost the party's nomination to Calderon during the 2006 campaign. The governor of the western state of Jalisco, Emilio Gonzalez, was in fourth place.

The winner will have an uphill battle. Polls consistently put Mexico state Gov. Enrique Pena Nieto, of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, as the early favorite for president. The leftist Democratic Revolution Party also faces a potentially divisive internal contest between Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who narrowly lost to Calderon in 2006, and Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard…

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Types of Chinese capitalism

Any time you're offered a list of things, it's a good idea to pay attention. The list is usually a helpful bit of description. And if you're a student, you should know that teachers often use lists as the basis for exam questions.

Privatisation with Chinese characteristics
[It's] hard to judge China’s state-led economic model. The government’s actions lie hidden beneath hundreds of tonnes of secrecy, and beyond easy measurement. But as our briefing this week makes clear, China’s semi-privatised companies are both more varied and less admirable than is popularly understood.

Under Mao, it was simple. The government controlled everything… Since 1993 Beijing has encouraged gaizhi for state-owned enterprises, which means “changing the system”… [which] has also created a variety of public-private hybrids.

At one end of the spectrum are the giant state-controlled enterprises in industries which the government considers “strategic”, such as banking, telecoms or transport. Such firms… operate more or less like government ministries…

Next come the joint ventures between private (often foreign) companies and Chinese state-backed entities…

A third group of firms appears to be fully private… But they are still subject to frequent meddling. If they are favoured, state-controlled banks will provide them with cheap loans and bureaucrats will nobble their foreign competitors…

A fourth flavour of Chinese firm is fuelled by investment by local government, often through municipally owned venture-capital or private-equity funds…

These firms with their various sorts of state influence have several strengths. They invest patiently, unruffled by the short-term demands of the stockmarket. They help the government pursue its long-term goals, such as finding alternatives to fossil fuels. They build the roads, bridges, dams, ports and railways that China needs to sustain its rapid economic growth.

But statism has big costs, too. The first is corruption… The second problem is that big state-backed enterprises crowd out small entrepreneurial ones…

[A second article in the September 3 edition of The Economist is longer and includes more details on the types of "private" enterprise operating in China.]
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Monday, September 12, 2011

Lobbying in China or Who's in charge here?

It's no surprise that industry takes orders from the Chinese government, but they lobby it too? Who does the lobbying? Where do they do this lobbying? To whom do they speak?

China Aims to Rein In Car Sales
After a decade of nurturing China’s auto industry to become the largest in the world, this country’s leaders are having second thoughts.

A succession of government officials at a weekend conference called for China’s automakers to shift their focus from making ever more cars and toward producing more fuel-efficient and more advanced models, including gasoline-electric hybrids and all-electric cars.

“The government must take the leading role in controlling unrealistic growth” of the auto industry, Jiang Kejun, the influential director of the Energy Research Institute at the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic planning agency, said Sunday during a speech at the conference…

The officials’ remarks strongly suggested that the Chinese auto industry’s lobbying for the reinstatement of the incentives would fail…

Much slower sales growth this year has prompted strong lobbying by the auto industry for a renewal of government incentives. But if anything, policy makers seem to be leaning toward more limits to address China’s steeply rising dependence on imported oil and its traffic jams, air pollution and shortages of land in many areas for more road construction…

Many Chinese automakers are partly or entirely owned by municipal or provincial governments, however, and these lower tiers of government have pushed their manufacturers to expand as fast as possible to maximize jobs and economic output.

But limits on car sales in big cities may pressure Chinese automakers to slow down…

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Medvedev drops out?

Ellen Barry, writing in The New York Times, seems to think that Medvedev is no longer a challenge to Putin.

In Russian Crisis, Medvedev Doesn’t Seize the Moment
When President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia took the lectern here at his annual political forum last week, the circles under his eyes suggested he had barely slept.

The audience was waiting to find out who would be ruling Russia next spring, Mr. Medvedev or Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin — a question that has gripped this country for months. Meanwhile, a plane crash had killed this city’s elite hockey team, sending thousands of people, weeping, into the streets.

What would Mr. Medvedev do? Put aside his prepared remarks and speak about the tragedy? Address the year’s devastating series of transport disasters?

His choice mattered. As the more liberal partner of Russia’s ruling tandem, Mr. Medvedev still has power to guide Russia between authoritarianism and reform, though it is ebbing. When the moment came, Mr. Medvedev decided to go ahead with his script, a 30-minute discourse on the state’s approach to diversity.

By the time he took his seat, the implication seemed clear: Mr. Medvedev was not prepared to fight for his job.

“In any other country he would have used this as an opportunity to mobilize people,” said Alexander Rahr, a Russia expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations. “Either he is not allowed to do this, or he does not want to.” …

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Friday, September 09, 2011

Verrry interesting...

So, David Cameron wants to blame organized gangs for the rioting in the UK. Could his allegations be based on personal experience? (Where is the Monty Python crew when we need it?)

Thanks to Alan Carter for pointing this one out.

Cameron struggles with the Bullingdon question
David Cameron was his usual assured self on this morning's Today programme until Evan Davis asked him the "Bullingdon question". Wasn't the infamous Oxford club (whose idea of a good night out was characterised by Evelyn Waugh as beating a fox to death with champagne bottles) just like the gangs that rioted? An audibly uncomfortable Cameron replied: "we all do stupid things when we're young - and we should learn the lessons."…

Photograph of the Bullingdon Club taken in 1987 at Brasenose College, Oxford. The Buller usually made its presence known by throwing exclusive yet rambunctious parties. [Alan Carter adds, "I was in Oxford at this time and the Bullingdon 'Club' was certainly active, the twist being that they always paid (often large sums in cash) for any property damaged."]
David Cameron is #2 above. Boris Johnson, Lord Mayor of London, is n#8.

But Cameron refused to accept that there was any comparison to be made between the behaviour of the club's members and the rioters. The riots, he said, were "very well organised", which rather invites the response: is disorganised violence acceptable?…

As Cameron said, we learn with age. Why then hand down the most draconian sentences possible? Cameron was in danger of appearing to suggest that it was one rule for the Oxford elite and another for the rest of the society…

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Nigeria's middle belt turmoil again

The city of Jos is once again the center of conflict and violence centered on religious, cultural, economic, and ethnic cleavages.

The article comes from This Day.

In Jos, 11 Killed As the Bloodbath Continues
Residents of Mararaban-Jama'a village, the entry point into Jos city, Plateau State, from Abuja, yesterday morning resorted to violent demonstration following an attack on the neighbouring Kuru on Sunday night in which four persons were brutally killed and several others injured.

This is even as an otherwise peaceful Zakaleo, near Babale in Targon District of Jos North Local Government Area of the state, was attacked same night, leaving another seven dead, three injured and five houses burnt by suspected Fulani herdsmen…

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Thursday, September 08, 2011

The state of the Mexican union

The Mexican president gives his last state of the union speech.

Calderon gives state of union address
In his annual State of the Union address last Friday, Mexican President Felipe Calderon pledged to press the fight against organized crime and police corruption during his final year in office…

Calderon also announced the creation of an Office for Victim’s Assistance, an acknowledgment that many of the 40,000 people killed the U.S.-backed drug war were not criminals but innocents caught in a cross fire…

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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Party or government control of media?

The article says that the "Beijing propaganda bureau" took control of two newspapers. Was that the government or the Party? Does it matter which?

Propaganda bureau takes control of two Beijing newspapers
The Beijing propaganda bureau has taken control of two influential newspapers in the Chinese capital, prompting fears that they will be more strictly censored.

Officials announced the move to reporters on the Beijing Times and the Beijing News – known for its bold reporting – at meetings on Friday afternoon.

Some journalists blamed the development on official anger at the reporting of the fatal high-speed train crash in Wenzhou in July, although others believe it reflects a broader struggle over control of the media…

Previously, the papers were overseen by state level propaganda authorities…

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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Another thought about the cause of riots in the UK

While PM Cameron is taking swipes at parents, schools, and unemployed young men, there's another view about the cause of rioting in the UK.

Alan Carter from Oxford sent me this link almost two weeks ago and it got lost in the mess in my inbox. (Thanks and sorry, Alan.)

The two week lapse does offer a reminder of how quickly some things, even important things, can get lost in our rush to "keep up" with events. The riots in the UK are still fodder for debate about government policies and the roles government should play.

BTW, the picture from The Guardian is especially painful to me because the burning car looks like a Miata of the same vintage (early '90s) as mine.

UK riots were product of consumerism and will hit economy, says City broker
The recent riots in London and other big cities were the product of an "out-of-control consumerist ethos" which will have profound impacts for the UK economy, a leading City broker has said.

A masked man in Hackney during the early August riots. The report by Tim Morgan, of Tullett Prebon, says our country's consumerist ethos has 'extremely damaging consequences. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

The report by the global head of research at Tullett Prebon, Tim Morgan, is part of a series in which the brokerage analyses bigger issues for the UK…

The note pinpoints the philosophy behind the riots as consumerism…

[Morgan's report says,] "The dominant ethos of 'I buy, therefore I am' needs to be challenged by a shift of emphasis from material to non-material values…"

And, if there is a shift to "non-material values," where will that leave a brokerage like Tullett Prebon?
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Quality products as soft power

As China seeks to improve its trading relationships with Brazil, it's using new cars to send a message to Brazilians.

China tries to win over Brazilian consumers
Here in Latin America’s economic giant, the prevailing image of China has been that of an unquenchable consumer and the manufacturer of all things cheap.

But the opening of 55 glitzy JAC Motors dealerships in Brazil, all selling sleekly designed cars built in China, has helped Chinese officials and businessmen present a different image of their country, as modern and dynamic…

“The Brazilian image of Chinese products – it’s changing very fast,” said Sergio Habib, 52, a Brazilian businessman who has imported Jaguars and Aston Martins and now runs the JAC dealerships. “We are helping that with JAC cars.”

All over the world, China is using its powers of persuasion — through its products, its potent economy, an increasingly sophisticated diplomatic service and the appeal of its culture — to win over consumers and make it easier for Chinese companies to enter vital markets and secure raw materials.

Analysts call it soft power, and it is wielded differently in Asia, where China is trying to placate neighbors jittery about its military, than in the United States, where concerns often center on Chinese authoritarianism and unfair trade practices…

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Thursday, September 01, 2011

Holiday and learning

It's a holiday (almost), as we celebrate (in a very non-communist way) the working people of the USA.

No more posts until next week.

And, Blogger is changing its interface with those of us who post things online, so I will have to spend some time figuring out how to do things in new ways.

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Ken Wedding

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Let's have an election

Jeff Silva-Brown, who teaches at Ukiah High School in California, pointed out this article. It's valuable for the photo if not for the information it contains. Thanks, Jeff.

President Medvedev officially scheduled the Duma election in Russia for December 4. That will set the stage for the presidential election in March 2012.

Who will the candidate(s) be? Putin acts like he's already running (still).

Russia's Putin revs up vote campaign astride a bike
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin kicked off an election campaign… revving up his three-wheeled Harley Davidson at the head of a bikers motorcade -- the latest in a series of macho stunts that have punctuated his political career…

Putin's United Russia party is hoping to secure a two-thirds majority in December's vote for the Duma lower house of parliament -- a margin that would give it the power to change the constitution…

Putin's testosterone-fueled appearances have earned him the nickname "alpha-dog" in U.S. diplomatic cables. In the past he has been pictured sparring with his judo coach, flying a fighter jet and hunting Siberian tigers.

In Novorossiysk on Monday, he rode along as the hard-rock anthem of the "Night Wolves" biker club blared in the background…

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