Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, February 28, 2014

Power centers in Iran

Dismantling the wall: Hassan Rohani has changed the mood in Iran. But he faces opposition

Hopes that an economy long hampered by international sanctions may soon grow again have been rising ever since the election last June of President Hassan Rohani...

Hassan Rohani
“At last we have reason to be cheerful,” grins one Tehran resident. Few deny that the fractious atmosphere that prevailed under Mr Rohani’s predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has changed. The new president has a co-operative touch, working with parliament, for instance, to pass his first budget in record time... After years of steady devaluation, Iran’s currency has stabilised. The IMF reckons inflation fell over the last six months of 2013 from 45% to under 30%...

Yet big obstacles remain to lasting improvement in the daily lives of Iranians. Opponents of the country’s current diplomatic initiatives abound...

Mr Rohani is acknowledged to be a canny operator with strong public support, but he faces powerful opposition in the form of revolutionary ideologues and militarists. For them, detente would be anathema...

Iran’s conservatives are used to baiting moderate presidents... They have moved against one of Mr Rohani’s allies, Sadegh Zibakalam, a political scientist, who dared recently to ask what Iran’s nuclear effort has achieved for a country whose development indicators rival those of African countries. More than 5m Iranians are unemployed, Mr Zibakalam said, and the country is ravaged by drought. He has since been charged with “weakening the system”.

But Mr Rohani is made of sterner stuff than former leaders. On February 4th he called critics of the nuclear deal “barely literate”. A day later he successfully browbeat hardliners who control the state broadcasting monopoly into reversing a sudden decision not to air a scheduled interview with him...

Mr Rohani’s ability to prosper also lies in the ayatollah’s hands, which control many of the levers of Iran’s “deep state”. Mr Khamenei’s attitude towards the diplomatic process has been calculatedly ambiguous. In a speech on February 17th, the eve of the Vienna talks, he said Iran “would not breach what it had started”. Yet he also admitted he was not optimistic...

Still, for all their bravado, Iran’s long-triumphant conservatives have weaknesses of their own. Public backing for the nuclear programme, which by some estimates has cost upwards of $400 billion when outlays and losses from sanctions are combined, may be weaker than regime supporters assume. Conservatives cannot fail to take note of economic realities, either...

Just the ticket. What You Need to Know is a thorough review of comparative government and politics.

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Just the right tool for teachers. What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, v2.0 is full of helpful ideas.

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Better, better, better

Life appears to be getting better. Slowly.

The Second Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fifth Edition of What You Need to Know is also available from the publisher.

Need less? The First Edition of Just The Facts! is a guide to concepts and examples vital to the study of comparative government and politics.

Friday, February 21, 2014


There will be an interruption of postings on this blog in order to deal with a family emergency.

Check the index for useful links.

The Second Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fifth Edition of What You Need to Know is also available from the publisher.

The First Edition of Just The Facts! is a succinct guide to concepts and examples that are important on the AP exam.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Ms Jackson-Pettine, who teaches at West Springfield High School in Springfield, VA, asked these good questions:

 "I have been reading some contradictory information about changes (again) to Duma elections.

"I have read the following from credible sources:
"1) there is a proposed law to change back to a mixed PR/SMD system that Putin asked for back in the beginning of 2013 (did this pass?), and

"2) a 2011 law did pass that moved the threshold for party list PR back down to 5% from the previous 7% threshold (did this pass?)."

Here was my response:

On questions like this, I refer to the CIA World Factbook. It's updated regularly, although it's not without error. Here's what it says today, "the State Duma or Gosudarstvennaya Duma (450 seats; as of 2007, all members elected by proportional representation from party lists winning at least 7% of the vote; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)..."

 I also found this UPI story 

Electoral reforms approved by Russian Parliament
Feb. 14, 2014 at 4:27 PM MOSCOW, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Russian lawmakers in Moscow approved a bill Friday to introduce voting for individual candidates in the next parliamentary elections.

Russia's State Duma
The bill brings back direct voting for candidates in elections for half the 450-member Parliament, and eliminates the closed-list proportional system involving party lists, used in the last two elections, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported Friday.

The rules could encourage victories by opposition candidates in single constituencies, but opponents say the bill's real aim is to ensure the ruling United Russia party wins as many seats as possible, RIA Novosti said.

The bill in the Duma, or lower house, is expected to be approved in the upper house and by President Vladimir Putin.

Putin submitted the bill to Parliament last year.

The bill also includes the guarantee of free broadcast air time to all registered candidates, with a maximum budget set at 700 million rubles ($3.3 million) for political parties and 15 million rubles ($500,000) for independent candidates. ===== 
end quote

Then there's the original report from RIA Novosti

Sweeping Electoral Reforms Approved by Russia's Parliament

Vladimir Fedorenko
20:54 14/02/2014

 MOSCOW, February 14 (RIA Novosti) – Russian lawmakers approved a bill Friday to create a mixed electoral system that will reintroduce single-mandate elections in the next parliamentary vote.

The bill submitted to parliament by President Vladimir Putin last year reintroduces voting for individual candidates for half the seats in the 450-member parliament, scrapping the fully closed-list proportional system used in the last two elections.

While the rules could open the way for opposition candidates to win in single constituencies, opponents of the law argue its real aim is to ensure the ruling United Russia wins as many seats as possible.

Candidates running for direct election to the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, rather than through party lists, would be required to present signatures in support of their bid from 3 percent of potential voters in their electoral district. Candidates will be allowed to run simultaneously in direct elections and via the party list.

The bill was passed in three readings by the Duma and its progress through the upper house and approval from Putin are expected to be a formality.

In one detail of the legislation that will serve as a blow to smaller parties lacking the resources to ensure nationwide representation at votes, electoral blocs are to be banned.

All registered candidates will be entitled to free air time for electoral campaigning. The maximum elections budget is set at 700 million rubles ($3.3 million) for a political party and 15 million rubles ($500,000) for an independent candidate.

Electoral reforms introduced by Putin in 2003 and 2004 scrapped voting for individual candidates, as well as direct elections for regional governors, leaving the president as the only individual elected directly by voters on a federal level.

Dubbed the “party of swindlers and thieves” by well-known blogger and anti-graft activist Alexei Navalny in 2011 over suspicions of corruption among its higher echelons, United Russia suffered a dramatic slump in popularity ahead of disputed parliamentary polls in December 2011. The party garnered less than 50 percent of the vote in those elections.
end quote 

Given that this change is just happening and won't take effect until 2015's election, I'd go with the old info for this year's exam.

The Second Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fifth Edition of What You Need to Know is also available from the publisher.

Need less? Just The Facts! is a succinct and direct guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that are important in the AP *Comparative Government and Politics course.

*AP is the registered trademark of the College Entrance Examination Board, which was not involved with the production of and does not endorse any of these publications.

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Money, money, money

The Android Sisters
An interesting feature of introductory economic courses is a consideration of the nature of money. The Android Sisters insist that money is just paper blessed by the treasury wizards. Economists usually say money is "is any object or record that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts…" (-Wikipedia). Others argue that money is inherent in any transaction between people or that it's a method for storing wealth or facilitating specialization.

The question of money is part of a study of comparative politics as well. The UK has preserved its own currency and refused to join the European Monetary Union. Meanwhile, the German mark, the Italian lira, and 16 other national currencies have disappeared.

Recently, the British government has warned the Scots that if they vote for independence, they will not be able to continue to use the pound as their currency.

Why this powerful allegiance to a currency? BBC News offers a little history as partial explanation.

A short history of the pound
With a credible claim to be the oldest living currency in the world, the pound has accompanied Britons through much of their march through history. But is Scotland soon to end its use of the unit?

Despite its full-throated associations with Britishness, the pound traces its origins back to continental Europe.

Its name derives from the Latin word Libra for weight or balance, via the construction Libra Pondo, meaning a pound weight. While the word Libra has long since been discarded, it makes its presence felt in… the £ symbol, an ornate L…

[I]ts value originally equated to the price of a pound of silver.

In an echo of the ancient Roman system of libra, solidus and denarius, a pound was divided into 20 shillings and 240 silver pennies…

Coins from the 8th century kindgom of King Offa. They show signs of "penny pinching" as people pinched off bits of the edge for making change or cheating the next recipient.

Banknotes began to circulate in England soon after the establishment of the Bank of England in 1694. They were initially hand-written.

Gold coins emerged in 1560, and by 1672 some were made of copper.

The pound bestrode its complex system of shillings and pence until decimalisation in 1971…

Use of the word "sterling" did not arise until after the Norman Conquest, and it originally referred to pennies not pounds, but its origins are mysterious, deriving perhaps from esterlin, a Norman word for little star, or lesterling, an Arab word for money…

[W]ith a keen eye on the Royal Mint's bottom line Henry VIII drastically reduced the silver content of coins minted in his reign in what became known as the Great Debasement.

It was left to Elizabeth I in 1560 to restore the value of the coinage, which would remain relatively stable into the 19th Century…

There have since been numerous grand attempts to manage the value of sterling, including the Gold Standard, the Bretton Woods system and the European Exchange Rate Mechanism - but prevailing western economic orthodoxy now favours floating exchange rates, and the value of the pound is largely determined by supply and demand.

The pound has also survived as an independent currency when most of the rest of Europe adopted a single currency, the euro, something that at one stage in the early 21st Century seemed the likely fate of sterling too…

An alternative currency, the Scots pound, continued until the 1707 Act of Union created a currency union based on a pound's value south of the border.

The Bank of Scotland had been created in 1695, a year after the Bank of England, and survives today…

It retains the right to print its own banknotes, but these have been equivalent in value to their southern counterparts since unification…

Now, the SNP is keen to assure voters that the country's 300-year-old adoption of a 1,200-year-old currency would not end if they vote in favour of independence in the forthcoming referendum.

The British political establishment has joined forces to warn that it most certainly would…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The Second Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Quick quiz on UK elections

You will probably have to read the whole BBC post for this quiz.

  1. What the heck is a by-election? Do other countries have them?
  2. Most comparative textbooks make a point that turnout in British elections is generally higher than turnout in US elections. Is the 28% turnout in this election an anomaly?
  3. Where is Wythenshawe and Sale East?
  4. Is the Labour victory a sign of change in British politics? Why or why not?
  5. Is the second-place finish of UKIP a sign of change in British politics? Why or why not?
  6. What does it mean that "the Liberal Democrats lost their deposit"?
  7. So, what are BNP and "Monster Raving Loony"?

Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election: Labour wins
Labour has held on to its seat in the Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election with a comfortable majority while UKIP beat the Tories to second place.
Campaigner Kane
Michael Kane won with 13,261 votes, beating UKIP's John Bickley, with 4,301, in second.

Rev Daniel Critchlow, for the Tories, came third on 3,479 votes, and Lib Dem Mary Di Mauro, came fourth on 1,176…

Mr Kane said: "The people of Wythenshawe and Sale East have sent a very clear message they want a government to stand up for us all - a one-nation Labour government…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The Second Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fifth Edition of What You Need to Know is also available from the publisher.

The first edition of Just The Facts! can help you prepare for the big exam in May.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Time to think about registering for exams

If you're in an AP course, you'll probably be bombarded with notices and reminders that it's time to register for the exams you're going to take.

Respond appropriately.

If you're not in a formal AP course, here's where to find out about registration.

Registering for Exams
What if I’m Homeschooled or at a School That Doesn’t Offer AP?
You may be able to take the AP Exam you want by arranging to test at a participating school. Here’s how:

Contact AP Services no later than March 3 to get the names and telephone numbers of local, participating AP Coordinators willing to test outside students. Prepare a list of the AP Exams you are interested in taking before you call.

Call the AP Coordinators identified by AP Services no later than March 17.

When calling Coordinators to arrange testing, make sure to tell them:
  • You are trying to locate a school willing to administer exams to homeschooled students or students from schools that do not offer AP Exams.
  • The exams you plan to take.
  • If you have a documented disability that will require testing accommodations at the exam, and if you have been approved by the College Board to test with accommodations.
Once you locate an agreeable school, that school's AP Coordinator is responsible for ordering your exam materials, telling you when and where to report for the exams, and collecting your fees, which may be higher to cover the school’s additional proctoring or administration costs. That school must administer the exams for you; the school cannot forward them to you or your school for handling.

On exam day:
  • You must bring a valid government- or school-issued photo ID with you to the exam.
  • If you have approval from the College Board to test with accommodations, you must also bring your Student Accommodation Letter.
  • If you attend a school that doesn’t offer AP, you should not use the school code for the school where you are testing. Instead, make sure to use your own school’s code so your exam score(s) will be reported to your school. This means you need to get your school’s six-digit code from your principal or school counselor before exam day.
  • If you are home-schooled, use the state or international home-school/self-study code that will be given to you on the day of the exam.
International Students
If you are registering for AP Exams outside the United States, check the College Board international students page which gives information on AP Exam registration and test administration for additional registration and test administration details and deadlines that might apply to your exams.

Fees and Fee Reductions
The fee for each AP Exam is $89.

The fee for exams administered at schools outside of the United States, U.S. territories and commonwealths, and Canada, with the exception of U.S. Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS), is $119 per exam.

Fees for exams taken at authorized test centers outside the United States vary.

Please note:
  • Your school may require you to pay a higher fee to cover proctoring and administration costs.
  • If you are approved to take an alternate exam during the late-testing period, you may be required to pay an additional $45 per exam late-testing fee.
  • If you paid for an AP Exam but then decided not to take it, you may ask your AP Coordinator for a refund. Local school policy determines the amount of the refund. You will probably be required to pay the $15 fee the school is charged for each unused exam. However, once you begin an exam — that is, write on an exam booklet or answer sheet or play an exam CD — you cannot receive a refund.

AP Calendar
May 5-9 and May 12-16, 2014 (AP Comparative Government and Politics exam is on Friday morning, 16 May 2014.)

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The Fifth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from College City Publications.. It's a thorough review guide to the course.

The First Edition of Just the Facts! is a brief guide to concepts, terminology, and examples important in the course.

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Televised musical performance in Iran

Philip Kantaros, who teaches at Mercersburg Academy in Mercersburg, PA, sent along a link to a Wall Street Journal article that offers some insight in Iranian cultural politics. You must subscribe to the Journal to get access to the whole article, but here's a bit of the essence and a link to The Iran Project's reposting of the WSJ article.

Something New on Iranian Television: Music: New President Seen Trying to Ease Most Zealous Enforcement of Islamic Codes
When Iranians tuned into state television for a day of special holiday programming recently, they were treated to a remarkable sight—for the Islamic Republic, anyway.

There, for all to see, was a performance by Avaye Parsian, a traditional Persian music band. It was the first time a full band had played instruments on state TV since 1979, when the Iranian revolution ushered in an arch-conservative regime that deemed such displays too irreverent for television.

Before the day was out there was more: The Pallett, a popular contemporary music band, appeared on a late-night show called Radio 7 in an equally daring way for a jazz or rock band.

They didn't actually play instruments, but they did exuberantly pretend to—air band style…
The Pallett pretending to play their music

Saman Alipour, the 25-year-old founder of Avaye Parsian, said the band wasn't even aware they would be shown on television until their live performance was over. Mr. Alipour… said they had assumed it would be the usual television appearance where they played in the studio while nature photos and abstract designs are shown on TV…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The First Edition of Just The Facts! will help you review for the exam in May.

The Second Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fifth Edition of What You Need to Know is also available from the publisher.

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Mass Line campaign

"Mass line" is part of the revolutionary vocabulary in China. Since the new president has made it a priority, it might be helpful to understand it. (Of course, you might want to check sources besides the official Chinese news agency for other perspectives.)

Liu Yunshan stresses "mass line" campaign at grassroots
Senior Chinese leader Liu Yunshan on Sunday stressed that the "mass line" campaign should reach the country's grassroots Communist Party of China (CPC) and governmental units.

Liu Yunshan
Liu, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, made the remarks at a meeting of the leading group of the campaign.

The "mass line" initiative was launched in June 2013 by China's leaders to boost ties between CPC officials, members and the people, while cleaning up four undesirable work styles -- formalism, bureaucracy, hedonism and extravagance…

He told local Party organizations to take vigorous efforts to implement the requirements in the campaign to ensure the "mass line" education and practices reach grassroots units…

"Mass line" campaign shows CPC's determination
The "mass line," a guideline introduced by the revolutionary forerunners of the CPC, champions close Party-people relations that helped the Party come to the national power.

The CPC followed the line and grew stronger by aligning with the public during the the Agrarian Revolutionary War (1927-1937), the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-1945) and the War of Liberation (1945-1949)…

CPC officials at or above county level are required to reflect on their own practices and correct any misbehavior.

Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, said in June that the campaign will be a "thorough cleanup" of undesirable work styles such as formalism, bureaucratism, hedonism and extravagance among officials…

Upon starting the campaign, the CPC leadership has realized that making officials stay close to the people and refine their work style is as important as "locking their power in a cage."…

It is the temptation of power abuse and huge bribes that the current CPC officials must fight against this time rather than enemy soldiers their revolutionary forerunners had to eliminate decades ago.

After six decades in power, the CPC has elevated China to its place as the world's second-largest economy. The country's growing prosperity has provided Party officials with opportunities to corruption…

The "mass line," which is considered by the CPC as its "lifeline" and a "fundamental route of work," will never be old-fashioned and remain as a traditional advantage, only if it is implemented well.

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The Second Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fifth Edition of What You Need to Know is also available from the publisher.

Just The Facts! is now available from Amazon.com as well as from College City Publications.

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Friday, February 14, 2014

Ethnic change in England

One of the reasons for the rise of immigration politics in the UK (see UKIP), is the rise in non-white and Eastern European populations. However, given experiences in the USA, the Economist editors seem blindly optimistic in their conclusion.

Into the melting pot
The 2011 census revealed a country that is decreasingly white and British: England’s ethnic-minority population grew from 9% of the total in 2001 to 14%. But the biggest single increase was in the number of people claiming a mixed-ethnic background…

Rob Ford of Manchester University points out that Caribbean folk are following an Irish pattern of integration, in that their partners are often working-class. The Irish parallel also suggests they will eventually be fully absorbed into the British population. Polls show that adults who are a mixture of white and black Caribbean tend to see themselves not so much as black, Caribbean or even as British, but rather as English—the identity of the comfortably assimilated.

Indians, who began arriving in large numbers in the 1960s, were slower to mix. They are now doing so—but along Jewish, rather than Irish, lines. For them, assimilation follows education: according to research by Raya Muttarak and Anthony Heath, Indians with degrees are far more likely to marry whites. Indians are not so much marrying into the white majority as into its suburban middle class, says Shamit Saggar at the University of Essex.

Their children are quietly transforming Britain’s suburbs and commuter towns. Whereas Asians are still concentrated in cities such as Leicester and in London boroughs like Tower Hamlets and Harrow, mixed Asian and white children are widespread…

Pakistanis and Bangladeshis mostly remain in cities, and are mixing more slowly…

As race becomes less clear-cut, schools, hospitals and police forces, which record people’s ethnic identity at almost every opportunity, will have to deal with more fragmented definitions. So too will researchers trying to measure racial injustices. Confusingly, police officers now record the ethnicity of the people they stop and search according to two separate systems: observed ethnic appearance (which does not include a mixed-race category) and self-identified ethnicity (which does).

Politicians in the habit of treating Britain’s ethnic groups as distinct “communities” will also have to adapt. The shrewder black and Asian politicians have already built power bases that do not depend on ethnic block votes. Speeches such as the one made by Tony Blair in 2007 about the culture of black youth violence will look silly when so many black teenagers have white parents too. Crude racist politics, thankfully now rare in Britain, ought to become almost impossible as more white families acquire non-white members. Englishness, which has remained distinctly a white identity for many, may become less exclusive.

Most of all, the rise of mixed-race Britain shows that Britain is capable of absorbing even large numbers of newcomers. For the young, who are used to having people of all backgrounds in their midst, race already matters far less than it did for their parents. In a generation or two more of the melting pot, it may not matter at all.

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The Second Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fifth Edition of What You Need to Know is also available from the publisher.

And don't forget to get your copy of Just The Facts! to help you prepare for the exam.

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

New Newspeak

Parroting stock phrases from the Central Committee is no longer adequate. Even in China, public relations and politics are merging.

Learning to spin
[T]he media landscape has changed completely [in China]. Consumer programmes, investigative reporters and a noisy mix of microbloggers and middle-class NIMBYs are holding the party more to account. The classes at the China Executive Leadership Academy Pudong (CELAP) in Shanghai demonstrate that the leadership has understood what is at stake, even if it is still learning how to deal with it. Some of the party’s biggest recent problems have come from mishandling the newly probing media.

The message of the classes is clear: officials must be more responsive to the press and the public even as they toe the party line…

“In the past we could avoid the press…we could remain silent, but now we can no longer avoid it,” Tan Wenzhu, a lecturer, told a group of 40 officials from Heilongjiang province…

Of the party’s 85m members, many of whom are officials and civil servants, fewer than 100,000 have so far received training from the Shanghai academy… The party’s powerful organisation department arranges classes for senior officials, who must attend 110 hours of training a year at one of the national schools. Local governments also send their officials on courses…

In class, turgid canonical teachings of the party must all be represented: Marx, Mao and “Deng Xiaoping Theory”. But CELAP has a light attachment to doctrine compared with other party schools. Students are taught to “de-politicise” their language in times of crisis, at least in dealing with the public. Charged ideological phrases like “hostile Western forces” will not be helpful at the scene of a domestic disaster. Government jargon should be dropped, too. Liu Ning, a television presenter for Shanghai Media Group, helps coach the officials, telling them to speak in plain language, use humour to deflect tough questions, and refrain from boasting about how good a job the government is doing. That will only invite ridicule, she says…

Instructors repeatedly stressed the importance of watching not just words, but also appearance. Women should wear skin-coloured stockings, not black, and definitely no fishnets. For men, Mr Li said, red ties are acceptable on happy occasions. “But if your boss is wearing a red tie, you should not. Don’t steal the show.”

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

Want a course outline with lots of definitions and examples? Get Just The Facts! now.

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Nigeria's emirs, kings, and chiefs

Their roles in Nigerian politics are mostly in the background. But traditional authorities maintain a lot of legitimacy and authority. Sometimes you'll read about an elected official identified with the title "Chief," but most traditional leaders refrain from direct political action.

Nigeria's emirs: Power behind the throne
In its turbulent half-century of independence, Nigeria has experienced not only a brutal civil war, but also a succession of military coups.

Only in the last decade has it enjoyed relatively stable civilian government.

Throughout this period, one institution that has played an important stabilising role has been that of the traditional rulers of kingdoms large and small across the country.

While traditional leaders hold few constitutional powers, no politician is wise to seek office without his blessing…

Today, despite attempts by successive governments to marginalise them from the political process, traditional leaders continue to exert significant influence.

"They continue to yield so much power in who gets what political appointments, although most of this influence remains behind the scenes," explains Kabiru Sufi, a political scientist…

In one of Kano's largest markets it was difficult to find shoppers who disagreed with that sentiment.

"I trust my traditional rulers because they don't loot our money," one man told us, reflecting a widely held disillusionment with the elected political class in Nigeria.

Another says: "I trust them because they choose quality politicians who will help the people, and I'm happy to vote for the candidates they advise." …

When independence came to Nigeria, Shehu Idris was a school headmaster…

For more than three decades, he has been the emir of a kingdom with its palace in the town of Zaria, and influence over a much larger region known as Zazzau.

We have been granted a special audience, and approach the royal throne…

What role does he see for traditional rulers in today's Nigeria?

"It is for us to intervene in disputes to bring peace to communities," he says.

When it comes to elections, "we don't give support to politicians. We give them blessing, that they should have respect and be ready to serve the people who have elected them."…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The Second Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fifth Edition of What You Need to Know is also available from the publisher.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sound like desperation?

The latest move by President Jonathan's supporters sounds like a move motivated by apprehension.

Nigeria Senate leader blocks defections
The leader of Nigeria's upper chamber of parliament on Tuesday blocked 11 lawmakers from defecting, saying their break from the ruling party to the main opposition would not go through until a court challenge was resolved.

Senate leader David Mark, a heavyweight in President Goodluck Jonathan's Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has been lobbying the group to reverse its decision to defect announced in a letter on January 29…

The PDP has challenged the Senate defections in a federal court by seeking to have the seats declared vacant on the grounds that party-switches violate the will of voters…

Analysts say Jonathan's dwindling support is tied to elections scheduled for February next year.

The president has come under mounting pressure from within his own party not to run and instead throw his support behind a Muslim candidate from the north…

All but two of the 11 senators seeking to defect are northern Muslims…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

Don't forget to order your copy of Just The Facts! now.

The Second Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fifth Edition of What You Need to Know is also available from the publisher.

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Ceding Sovereignty

Why would a nation state voluntarily give up some of its sovereignty? Is this the beginning of the obsolescence of sovereignty in a global world?

Government-to-government trade
Unbundling the nation state: Countries have started to outsource public services to each other

Today [a] scenario may appear... unlikely: a Norwegian government agency managing Algeria’s sovereign-wealth fund [or] German police overseeing security in the streets of Mumbai… Ever more governments are trading with each other, from advising lawmakers to managing entire services. They are following businesses, which have long outsourced much of what they do. Is this the dawn of the government-to-government era?

Such “G2G” trade is not new, though the name may be…

One reason G2G trade is growing is that it is a natural extension of the trend for governments to pinch policies from each other. “Policymaking now routinely occurs in comparative terms,” says Jamie Peck of the University of British Columbia…

When China realised in the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics that it needed to improve its air-safety regulations, it could just have looked around for the best examples and come up with its own version. Instead it asked America’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to write a new rule book and to train Chinese pilots. The FAA now has full-time offices in Beijing and Shanghai…

Dispute resolution is a particularly lively part of the G2G market. Britain will soon play host to an arbitration court for Saudi Arabian disputes, helping to allay investors’ concerns about the Gulf state’s legal system…

The most radical form of G2G is the delegation agreement: the government of one country providing a public service in another, which in effect cedes part of its sovereignty. In 2003 the government of the Solomon Islands, concerned at rising violence and falling tax revenues caused by corruption, asked the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) to take over law enforcement. RAMSI brought in more than 2,000 soldiers and other personnel and succeeded in establishing the rule of law.

No one knows the size of the G2G market. Governments rarely publicise deals, not least because they fear looking weak. And there are formidable barriers to trade. The biggest is the “Westphalian” view of sovereignty, says Stephen Krasner of Stanford University: that states should run their own affairs without foreign interference….

Local governments, however, both have greater incentives to trade and face fewer barriers. Rapid urbanisation creates urgent practical problems for cities: in 2009 the urban population in developing countries stood at 2.5 billion, a number expected to double by 2050. And, unlike countries, cities are not hobbled by issues of sovereignty…

Weak government services are the main reason poor countries fail to catch up with rich ones, says  Paul Romer of New York University (NYU)… In a recent paper with Brandon Fuller, also of NYU, Mr Romer argues [for]… further lowering the barriers to trade in privately provided goods and services. Firms have long outsourced activities, even core ones, to others that do them better. It is time governments followed suit.

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The Second Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fifth Edition of What You Need to Know is also available from the publisher.

Just The Facts! is a succinct review guide for the Comparative Government and Politics exam.

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Teaching "unit" for comparative politics

Almost a decade ago I wrote 40 teaching lessons for comparative government and politics. It was published by The Center for Learning. (They only publish material written by active teachers.)

I thought the lessons were good. The book is still in print, even as The Center for Learning moves toward publishing online materials. The organization of the lessons is not optimal because my original editor died while the project was underway, the curriculum changed in '06, and the new editor wasn't aware of the changes.

Some of the lessons are out of date but can be updated.

In the past, I have tried to recruit someone or a small group of people to propose a new "unit" to The Center for Learning, and now I'm doing it again.

The Center for Learning, once non-profit, is now owned by Social Studies School Service, so some things have changed. But I expect they're still open to people writing good teaching materials. In the old days, a unit like this consisted of 40 teaching plans.

If you and perhaps a colleague or two are interested in the project, contact The Center for Learning.

Here are some of the details of the current book:
Advanced Placement Comparative Government & Politics (Teacher Guide)
Grade Level: 11 - 12
40 Lesson Plans / 45 Handouts / 235 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-56077-812-7

Advanced Placement Comparative Government & Politics provides the tools necessary to develop an understanding of some of the world’s diverse political structures and practices.
It is divided into eight parts and follows the course outline suggested by the College Board in publications and workshops.
Part 1 covers systems theory, comparative concepts, and case study methodology.
Part 2 features lessons on governmental structure and deals with the powers of government and the limits on these powers. Various types of legislative and party models are also discussed.
Part 3 presents a study of recent British political history, focusing on various political parties, their political positions, and British constitutionalism.
Part 4 features the new Europe, with an analysis of the European Union and various European parties.
Part 5 covers the evolving situation in Russia, including a study of the political culture, leadership, and political elite. Recent revolutions in Russia are also discussed.
Part 6 covers Chinese politics, focusing on the vocabulary of politics in China, Chinese political leadership, the mass line and ideology, and finally the idea of democratic centralism.
Part 7 examines the political structures of Mexico, Nigeria, and Iran.
Part 8 presents a research project that can be completed after students take the Advanced Placement Comparative Government and Politics exam.

You can purchase What You Need to Know, 5th edition and The Center for Learning Comparative Government and Politics unit at Social Studies School Service.

The Second Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fifth Edition of What You Need to Know is also available from the publisher.

So far, you can only purchase Just The Facts! from the publisher.

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Mapping the cleavages

Here is the BBC description of some of the divisions in Nigerian political culture (from last March).

Guide to Nigeria's trouble spots

North-western Nigeria, where two foreign hostages have been killed in a failed rescue bid, is not known for kidnappings. It is a relatively peaceful region, but other areas of Africa's most populous country can be more dangerous…

North-east: Islamist militancy: In the last 18 months, Islamist militants have terrorised the north-east of the country and killed hundreds of people.

The Boko Haram group - whose name means "Western education is forbidden" - wants to establish Islamic law in Nigeria…

North-central: Ethno-religious clashes, some kidnapping

Plateau and Kaduna states - on the fault line between the mainly Muslim north and Christian and animist south - have witnessed bloody ethnic and religious clashes over the years.

The violence between rival communities often has a political dimension too - and when trouble flares, even one's surname or dress can prove fatal…

Niger Delta: Oil theft, kidnapping, piracy

It is the oil-rich south of Nigeria that is renowned for its kidnappings for ransom - especially of expatriate oil workers.

But since the 2009 amnesty for militants - those behind much of the extortion - there has been a dramatic decline in abductions.

Correspondents say this may also be because there are fewer foreigners prepared to brave it to the lawless and under-developed region - and those that do have bodyguards…

South-east: Kidnapping

Abia state used to be known as the kidnapping capital of Nigeria - families of politicians and businessmen were targeted on what seemed like an industrial scale.

But since the military killed the man thought to the head of the kidnappers in December 2010 the incidents have fallen - though anyone of any strategic importance now has bodyguards…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

Order your copy of Just The Facts! to begin organizing your thoughts for the big exam.

The Second Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fifth Edition of What You Need to Know is also available from the publisher.

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Friday, February 07, 2014

Danger, Vald Putin! Danger!

Are the Olympic Games a Potemkin Village?

As Olympics Arrive, Russia Experiences a Downturn
[T]he Games have for Mr. Putin and his allies become a self-evident triumph of Russia’s will…

“Its realization is already a huge win for our country,” Dmitri N. Kozak, a deputy prime minister and one of Mr. Putin’s longest-standing aides… He went on to use a phrase attributed to Catherine the Great when she intervened to halt the court-martial of a general who had stormed an Ottoman fortress without orders in the 18th century: “Victors are not judged.”…

With Russia’s natural-resource dependent economy slowing as commodities prices fall, and with foreign investments drying up, the Kremlin has already signaled that it would have to cut spending. The $50 billion or so lavished on Sochi is becoming a political liability…

The stalling of the economy, despite the stimulus of Olympic spending, has raised worries about popular unrest directed at the Kremlin and a tightening of political freedoms in response once the Games are over.

Growth last year slowed to 1.3 percent, the lowest in a decade…

“Structural reforms to improve the business climate are key to raising potential growth and economic resilience,” the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development wrote in its survey of Russia’s economy last month. “As energy prices stagnate and labor and capital become fully utilized, growth is falling behind pre-crisis rates. Making the economy stronger, more balanced, and less dependent on rents from national resource extraction is therefore a key challenge.”…

Russia is not about to collapse. Nor does Mr. Putin’s rule face any foreseeable challenge… Mr. Putin’s approval rating, bolstered by lavishly positive coverage on state television, remains as high as when he first came to office…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The Second Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fifth Edition of What You Need to Know is also available from the publisher.

The first edition of Just The Facts! can be yours.

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Government claims that international sanctions have not had effects on their actions seem to be contradicted by some of their actions. Social welfare programs were used to win political support throughout the 20th century. There seems to be no big change for the 21st century. (Does that remind anyone of PRI practices in Mexico?)

Iran Giving Food Away to Millions for Relief
The Iranian government has started handing out food packages for millions of its citizens both to help those with low income and to try to lower inflation on food, local news media reported on Monday.

Across the capital, Tehran, and in the rest of the country, long lines of people waited in government-owned department stores, where the food is being distributed. President Hassan Rouhani has said the handouts are intended to “ease the pressure” on Iranians and demonstrate some of the immediate benefits from the recent interim nuclear agreement with world powers.

All government employees and citizens making less than 5 million rials, or $170, a month are eligible to receive the food package, which contains more than 20 pounds of rice from India, two frozen chickens from Turkey, three dozen eggs, more than two quarts of vegetable oil and two packs of processed cheese.

Over 15 million families will receive the free food, the reformist newspaper Shargh wrote on Monday. Both the rice and most of the chickens have been imported as part of barter trades for oil and gas, said a government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals…

Most Iranian governments have handed out food. In 2009, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad handed out bags of free potatoes and discounted chickens during campaign trips in the provinces…

Most Iranians already receive cash each month from the government, to ease the pain that ensued after the government canceled subsidies for energy, food staples and utilities in 2007. Under Mr. Rouhani, those payments are being phased out because of a cash squeeze that officials attribute to international economic sanctions and mismanagement under Mr. Ahmadinejad…

Iran Parliament Backs Rouhani Plan for Subsidy Cuts
Iran's parliament has approved politically sensitive plans to slash subsidies on fuel and food, but delayed implementation for several months while authorities try to soften the blow to consumers by handing out food packages…

The clause [in the budget bill] was passed by members of parliament on Tuesday, Iranian media reported, marking a political victory for President Hassan Rouhani, who took power last August after elections and has vowed to reform Iran's chaotic finances.

Rouhani's predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, began a programme of cutting subsidies but was forced to suspend plans for further reductions in 2012 because of strong opposition in parliament.

Iran's finances have been under heavy pressure because of international economic sanctions imposed over its disputed nuclear programme and also, Ahmadinejad's critics say, because of his erratic management…

To soften the blow, the government has started handing out food packages - including two frozen chickens, 36 eggs and two packs of processed cheese - to over 15 million families earning less than five million rials a month, Iranian media reported this week…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

Just The Facts! is a new concise guide to reviewing for comparative government and politics exam.

The Second Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fifth Edition of What You Need to Know is also available from the publisher.

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Thursday, February 06, 2014

Military spending in China

Jane's has been around for over 100 years and it's regarded as one of the most authoritative sources for information about military spending and weapons. But even Jane's has to rely on information and sources from less than transparent systems like China's. So, we have to take the following information with "a grain of salt."

China to Ramp Up Military Spending
China already spends more on its military than any country in the world except the United States. Now, as defense budgets at the Pentagon and in many NATO countries shrink, China’s People’s Liberation Army is gearing up for a surge in new funding, according to a new report.

PLA sailors on a new aircraft carrier
China will spend $148 billion on its military this year, up from $139.2 billion in 2013, according to IHS Jane’s, a defense industry consulting and analysis company. The United States spends far more – a forecast $574.9 billion this year…

The surge in weapons spending by Beijing – military outlays this year are set to be a third higher than in 2009 – has come in tandem with an escalation in tensions with its neighbors over longstanding territorial disputes…

Yet the Chinese military – controlled by the ruling Communist Party, not the government – has been plagued by corruption scandals that may sap its fighting effectiveness… Last month the Chinese magazine Caixin detailed allegations about the extravagant lifestyle of Lt. Gen. Gu Junshan, a deputy head of the People’s Liberation Army’s General Logistics Department. Among the items confiscated from his villa complex were a gold washbasin and a gold statue of Mao Zedong, Caixin reported. General Gu also allegedly owned 10 homes in central Beijing, where apartment prices regularly top $1 million…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The first edition of Just the Facts! is ready. Are you?

The Second Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fifth Edition of What You Need to Know is also available from the publisher.

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Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Demonstrating capacity and projecting power

China's military continues its efforts to demonstrate what it can do and to portray China as an actor on the world (or at least Asian) stage.

China Navy starts West Pacific drill
A flotilla with China's Nanhai Fleet entered the West Pacific Ocean on Monday to start a drill there after exercises in the Indian Ocean.

The three-ship flotilla consists of amphibious landing craft Changbaishan and destroyers Wuhan and Haikou, according to military sources.

After reaching the Indian Ocean on Jan. 29, the ships conducted 10 exercises including anti-pirate, joint search and rescue as well as damage control drills…

China says it has the right to establish Air Defense ID Zones
China’s Foreign Ministry says China has the right to establish air defense identification zones, and take all necessary measures to maintain national security.

The comments by the ministry follow a Japanese newspaper report that claimed China is planning to establish another air defense identification zone, this time in the South China Sea.

The Foreign Ministry says China is positive about its relations with ASEAN countries. China has accused Japan of trying to divert international attention, while it revises its pacifist constitution to expand its military.

China continues Diaoyu Islands patrol
Three China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels continued their patrol Sunday in the territorial waters surrounding the Diaoyu Islands, the State Oceanic Administration said.

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

The brand new Just the Facts! is now available.

The Second Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fifth Edition of What You Need to Know is also available from the publisher.

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Tuesday, February 04, 2014

First the governors, then the representatives, then the senators, and then...

The APC in Nigeria looks to have momentum, but the changes continue.

Nigerian PDP senators in mass defection to APC
At least 11 senators from Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's party have quit to join the opposition, the latest in a series of defections.

The senators signed a letter that cited "factionalisation" in the governing People's Democratic Party (PDP), without specifying further.

The PDP still has a Senate majority but needs opposition help to pass bills.

Analysts say many in the PDP are upset because they believe Mr Jonathan intends to stand for a second term…

[S]ome 37 members of the house of representatives defected last year, wiping out the party's majority in the lower house.

Several state governors have also defected to the APC, and the BBC's Sola Odunfa in Lagos says that many more may be waiting to do so.

The senators and the representatives joined the All Progressives Congress (APC), which now has 33 senators in the 109-member chamber.

The APC has called on its members to block all legislation, including the 2014 budget…

The defections are the latest in a long list of problems confronting Mr Jonathan, whose leadership has recently come in for high-profile criticism from within the PDP…

PDP Reclaims House of Reps Majority
The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday reclaimed its majority position in the House of Representatives following another defection of a member from Nassarawa state from the All Progressive Congress (APC)...

With this latest defection, the PDP now has 174 members against the 172 of the APC which restored it back as the majority party in the House.

Tuesday's defection of another member from Nassarawa state Rep Joseph Haruna Kigbo from APC to PDP tied the two parties on a short-lived equal numbers of 173...

Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar defects to APC
Former Nigeria’s Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has formally announced his defection to the All Progressives Congress, APC, from the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP...

Atiku urged his “political associates and friends to register andjoin the APC once the registration exercise commences, so that together we can change this country for the better.”...

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

Tomorrow, look for details on the publication of a new, succinct review guide for Comparative Government and Politics, Just the Facts!.

The Second Edition of What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools is now available from the publisher

The Fifth Edition of What You Need to Know is also available from the publisher.

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