Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, July 17, 2008


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

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

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

  3. any gap or opening.

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

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

  6. a period of a couple weeks during which the primary contributor to this blog hits the road for the mountains of Wyoming and Montana. (See you in Yellowstone, Jackson Hole, or next month!)

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

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

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It's not just in Nigeria and China

Taking On Russia's Ubiquitous Bribery

"From birth to death, corruption courses through the lives of Russians -- a phenomenon that newly elected President Dmitry Medvedev recently said has become 'a way of life for a huge number of people.'

"'Those who take bribes feel it involves no risks or consider such risks to be negligible,' Medvedev told lawmakers. 'It mustn't be so.'

"In the Russian education system alone, about $1 billion is paid each year in bribes to secure entry and pass exams, according to Mark Levin, a professor at Moscow's Higher School of Economics who has studied the phenomenon...

"Medvedev has pledged to introduce new anti-corruption legislation by October as part of a broad campaign to reduce bribery. In the early weeks of his presidency, he made the centerpiece of his administration the establishment of the rule of law...

"But Russia has a history of half-hearted or failed attempts at combating corruption... The country's staggering new wealth, largely flowing from oil and natural gas revenues, has led to an explosion in graft, which is now measured in the tens of billions of dollars.

"In a survey of corruption levels in 180 countries, Transparency International, a watchdog organization based in Berlin, ranked Russia 143rd, with 180th as the worst...

"The Institute for Public Projects and the Institute for Comparative Social Research, two Moscow research organizations, recently compiled a price list of big-ticket bribes after interviewing businessmen, politicians, civil servants and other experts who were granted anonymity.

"The think tanks suggested that a place on a political party's list of candidates for parliament could be acquired for $2 million to $5 million..."

Labels: , , ,

"I'm not dead yet."

Sometimes the necessities of real life remind me of the absurdities of a Monty Python sketch.

I was away for the weekend and not paying attention to the news, so I did a double take at the Guardian headline, State funeral planned for Lady Thatcher. No, the iron lady had not died. The government and the state were "only" making policy and plans. It's a reminder of the important role Margaret Thatcher played in modern British politics.

A state funeral is a big deal and it requires not only grand planning, but also widespread approval. It is, after all, partly a policy decision.

Michael White wrote in the Guardian, "Lady Thatcher is expected to be granted the rare honour of a state funeral when she dies.

"The first since Sir Winston Churchill's in 1965, the funeral would acknowledge the exceptional impact of her 11-year premiership in reversing the decline in Britain's postwar fortunes.

"As such, it would be certain to prove controversial among the many people who lost their jobs during the 'Thatcher revolution' which reintroduced market forces into many fields of activity and for which she has not been forgiven by some.

"Yesterday, when the consent of Buckingham Palace and No 10 was reported by the Mail on Sunday...

"State funerals are routinely accorded only to monarchs, and Buckingham Palace was forced into a compromise after being wrongfooted over the sudden death of Princess Diana in 1997, the most memorable public funeral in Britain since Queen Victoria's..."

Labels: ,

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Well, let's not have elections, just polls

Could your students explain how this idea complements the ideas of democratic centralism?

Public poll to help judge work of officials

"The central government is using a public poll for the first time to help assess the performance of officials and give people a greater say in deciding their promotions.

"The National Bureau of Statistics, authorized by the Organization Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, began the popularity poll a few days ago.

"The move comes amid intensified government efforts to root out corruption in officials' promotions.

"About 80,000 employees of government departments, State units and enterprises, and ordinary people will be asked to comment on the performance of officials. The interviewees will have to judge the fairness in promotions.

"The central leadership put the popularity index of governments and their officials in its recent blueprint on anti-corruption drive.

"An Organization Department official told Xinhua that the survey was designed to feel the pulse of the public. The department notice makes it clear that the survey must be free of local governments' intervention...

"'Officials used to be bothered only about their superiors. But now the survey will force them to pay more attention to the public,' Wang Yukai, an expert with the National School of Administration, said.

"The popularity poll comes at a time when tensions between officials and the public have intensified, he said..."

Labels: , ,

Chinese technology

The Chinese meteorologists may be on to something big, according to this Xinhua report.

China may artificially change unfavorable weather for Olympics

"If bad weather threatens the August 8 opening of Beijing's Olympic Games, then meteorologists may change the weather, according to a Chinese meteorology official...

"Meteorological departments will consult with the Beijing municipal government whether or not to change the city's weather, should there be any unfavorable weather on August 8, Chen Zhenlin, a vice director with the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) said.

"He said meteorologists have made preparations for artificial weather modification since 2003, especially on reducing rainfall, but admitted that the technology still has limitations..."


Preservice training

Here's more evidence of the recognition by the Party and the government that local officials need better training for the rule of law to work. It reminds me of the statistic I read 30 years ago, just after the Cultural Revolution, that on average, cadres had an 8th grade education. I wonder if it's better now?

Of course, if the citizens don't know what the rules, regulations, and proper procedures are, better-educated cadres can still skim graft off the top, demand bribes for official services, and throw people in jail for publicly complaining.

It also reminds me that this is centuries-old problem. Have you heard the old Chinese saying, "The mountains are high and the emperor is far away"?

This report comes from Xinhua, the Chinese news agency.

Cadres to be gauged by grasp of law

"Potential government hires will be required to demonstrate a greater understanding of the legal system to improve administration by law, especially at the city and county levels, a senior official said Thursday.

"'Government employees are expected to carry out statutory governmental functions, so they must be familiar with the relevant restrictions, regulations and procedures,' Zhao Zhenhua, deputy director of the government legal institution research center under the State Council's Legislative Affairs Office, said in an online interview with www.gov.cn.

"Being accountable for the examinations would also expand their legal awareness, he said...

"In 2004, the State Council issued an implementation guideline and announced the goal of achieving a government ruled by law within a decade.

"'However, the goal of administrating according to law in China will be a long-term and complicated one because of a variety of difficulties arising from the management mentality cultivated by decades of operating under a planned economy,' Zhao said.

"And problems are progressively magnified toward the base of the pyramid of power.

"'Research has suggested the strength of administration according to law diminishes from the level of central government to provincial, municipal and county governments,' Zhao said.

"For example, some cadres have never really fused administration according to law with economic development and practical work.

"'Some grassroots law enforcement staff are of low quality, and they are barbarous and violent in their work, sometimes creating difficulties for common people and disturbing the public,' the official said."

See also Martin Wolf's commentary on China's bureaucratic regime from The Financial Times (London).

And here's the latest crop of well-trained CPC cadres.

CPC Party school holds ceremony for graduates

"A total of 633 officials of the Communist Party of China (CPC) graduated from the Party School of the CPC Central Committee on Thursday.

"Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, also president of the Party School, attended the ceremony and awarded certificates to the graduates..."

Photo caption: Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (L front), also president of the Party School of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, shakes hands with the graduates prior to the graduation ceremony of the Party School in Beijing July 10, 2008. Xi attended the ceremony and awarded certificates to the graduates here on Thursday.

Labels: , , ,

Meeting of two presidents

China, Mexico establish strategic dialogue mechanism

"China and Mexico announced the estab- lishment of a strategic dialogue mechanism on Friday during talks between Chinese President Hu Jintao and his Mexican counterpart Felipe Calderon Hinojosa.

"They agreed to strengthen strategic dialogue and expand reciprocal cooperation to further stable and healthy long-term relations.

"The two heads of states have just met in Sapporo of Japan when attending the Group of Eight summit's outreach session..."

Labels: , ,

Monday, July 14, 2008

Threats to the Mexican state

As far as Mexican politics is concerned, the BBC reporter noted that Valdes' agency will receive only $20 million of the $400 million in US aid to fight drug trafficking. Maybe he's hoping that more money will come to his agency by inflating the threat.

Mexican cartels 'threaten state'

"The head of Mexico's intelligence service has said that drug cartels are threatening the country's democratic institutions, including Congress.

"Guillermo Valdes told the Financial Times newspaper that drug traffickers were trying to take over the power of the state.

"Gangs have infiltrated police forces, justice departments and government bodies, he said.

Mexico has seen a sharp increase in drug-related violence this year.

"Mr Valdes, who is the head of Cisen, the government's intelligence agency, said he could not rule out the possibility that drug money was involved in the campaigns of some members of the national Congress...

"Mexico has seen a surge in drug-related violence and killings during 2008..."

See also:

Labels: , , , ,

Do reformers have to take themselves seriously?

[Thanks to Ted Cory, pharmacist and former comparative student who pointed out the first of these articles to me.]

The Last Laugh of the Monster Raving Loonies

"'Politics are too serious a matter to be left to politicians. When Charles de Gaulle made this observation, the general-turned- President of France couldn't possibly have envisaged quite how many of the candidates competing in a July 10 by-election in a remote corner of northeastern England would be amateurs heeding his call to wrest the business of government from the political classes. Fourteen of the 26 hopefuls for the parliamentary seat of Haltemprice and Howden are not affiliated to any party... There's also a rich array of joke candidates pounding the streets on behalf of organizations such as Make Politicians History, the Church of the Militant Elvis and — the elder statesman of all joke parties — the Official Monster Raving Loony Party (OMRLP), which for decades has been poking not-so-subtle fun at the poor saps who take British politics seriously...

"Labour didn't bother to field a candidate. The third-biggest party, the Liberal Democrats, have also abstained...

"Though the OMRLP owes its inspiration to comedy (a founder Loony contested a 1981 by-election as Tarquin Fin-tim-lin-bin- whin-bim-lim-bus- stop-F'tang-F'tang-Ole-Biscuitbarrel, the name of the Silly Party candidate in a 1970 Monty Python sketch), the party has sometimes argued for policies that later became law...

"The last laugh may be on the likely winner, David Davis [a Conservative who served as Member of Parliament for Haltemprice and Howden from 1987 and also as Shadow Home Secretary from 2003 until he resigned from both positions on June 12], and on the rest of Westminster's sober-suited professional politicians.

"Amid declining trust in politicians and diminishing voter turnout at elections, the OMRLP's greatest triumph may reside in the fact that growing numbers of Britons may have come to treat the country's political mainstream as something of a joke."

And, to bring this story to its official and respectable end:

David Davis claims 'stunning' byelection victory

"David Davis claimed a "stunning victory" in his campaign to defend civil liberties after he was re-elected to parliament this morning and vowed to continue his campaign from the backbenches.

"David Cameron, the Tory leader, described his former shadow home secretary as a "brave and courageous" man, but made clear that Davis's surprise decision to quit Westminster to fight on the issue of 42 days' detention was a personal one.

"Davis swept back to Westminster with a 15,355 majority over 25 mostly fringe candidates in yesterday's vote.

"The turnout was 34.5%, not as low as some had expected, but still lower than the 58% who turned out to vote in the Crewe and Nantwich byelection in May..."

Click here to see the video of Davis' victory speech.
At the Guardian site, you'll also see the vote counting, and interviews with the OMRLP candidate, Mad Cow-Girl and Gemma Dawn Garrett representing the Miss Great Britain party.

Labels: , ,

Friday, July 11, 2008

Teaching about sovereignty

Blessing-Miles Tendi's op-ed piece from The Guardian on the politics of Zimbabwe and Africa would be a great tool for teaching about sovereignty.

Yes, you might have to add an explanatory introduction about British imperialism, diamonds, Cecil Rhodes, Rhodesia, ancient Zimbabwe, ZANU, Mugabe, and racism, but those are good things for students to learn about as well.

There's also a lesson about applying standards from one place (Europe) to another place (Africa). That might raise interesting questions about the universality of ideas like "human rights."

Why Africans keep quiet on Mugabe

"Western countries continue to express frustration at the reluctance of African states to present a united front against Robert Mugabe's undemocratic re-election as president of Zimbabwe.

"At the heart of this disappointment is a failure to appreciate that, in spite of Africa's elegantly worded declarations about espousing human rights and democracy, these ideals continue to be trumped by the principle of sovereignty.

"Modern African and European conceptions of sovereignty are influenced by different historical experiences. The determining historical experience of the former is external conquest, domination and exploitation at the hands of colonial forces. The formative experience of the latter is the second world war, in which untold destruction, along with the Holocaust, instigated grave shock and revulsion in the European psyche...

"For Africa, a lesson of the colonial experience is that if states do not safeguard their sovereignty, they risk falling prey to external forces of domination and exploitation...

"In addition to history, a key impediment to this evolution is western double standards. America ignores Uzbekistan's poor human rights record and Russia's atrocities in Chechnya because they are allies in its "war on terror", but imposes targeted sanctions on Zimbabwe..."

Labels: , ,

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Rewarding honesty

A political outsider and newspaper publisher offers hope for Nigeria. Publicity won't solve the problem of corruption, but honoring good work might help. And, we should remember that Mashood Abiola, the winner of the 1993 presidential election, was also a media mogul who got into politics after making his millions.

Using Star Power to Repair Nigeria’s Image

"It’s hard to rehabilitate a country — especially Nigeria, best known these days for violence in the oil-producing Niger Delta.

"But Nduka Obaigbena is used to long odds. The Nigerian media mogul... has been challenging his country’s often brutal kleptocracy for decades...

Nduka Obaigbena, right with Delta State governor, Dr. Uduaghan, left, and the governor's deputy, Professor Utuama.

"Every year since 2000, Mr. Obaigbena has honored Nigerians who fight graft or injustice, in particular government officials and corporate executives who exemplify good governance through financial transparency, accountability and respect for the law.

"But he celebrates them by hosting... star-filled events, including the ThisDay Awards, named for his media empire and the influential independent newspaper at its center...

"Though no one is saying Mr. Obaigbena is responsible for those changes... his optimism is not completely unwarranted. To be sure, half of Nigeria’s population lacks access to potable water, and the infant mortality rate is 1 in 10 births. But foreign investment nearly quadrupled from 2000 to 2006, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Because of a financial restructuring and swelling oil prices, Nigeria has almost no foreign debt, almost $50 billion in foreign reserves and a growing trade surplus...

"Crucial to that interest is the progression of Nigeria’s anticorruption efforts, which began in 2002 with the establishment of the Economic and Federal Crimes Commission.

"With $380 billion looted from the government treasury since independence in 1960, Nigeria has become synonymous with graft...

"Last year, ThisDay honored Nuhu Ribadu, the [recently replaced] anticorruption chief who oversaw 200 convictions in Nigeria since 2003...

"At the next... awards, Mr. Obaigbena plans to sound the drum for microfinance as the way to empower Nigeria’s 146 million people. As he sees it, if the sleeping giant that is this consumer market, the largest in Africa, were to rouse, 'African superpower' would no longer be a contradiction..."

BTW, if you're in Washington D.C., another ThisDay "Africa Rising" concert is scheduled for the Kennedy Center on August 1. Headliners are Beyoncé and Seal.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A judicial system FRQ?

Quiz time to follow up on the passage of a constitutional amendment that will change Mexico's judicial system from inquisitorial to adversarial.

(For those of you not familiar with the AP exam, an FRQ is a "free response question" that requires students to display their knowledge and understanding with a statement explaining something like this.)

Could your students adequately explain why Mexico City's chief prosecutor resigned over the "botched police raid?" It makes sense that the police chief would resign, but the prosecutor? (Remember, the judicial system there is still an inquisitorial one.)

Mexico: Mayor Lets Chief Resign

"Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, left, of Mexico City sought to defuse an escalating crisis over a botched police raid on a nightclub by accepting the resignations of the city’s police chief and its chief prosecutor. When officers converged on a disco last month, hundreds of patrons tried to flee. The police pushed back at the only exit, creating a bottleneck that left nine young people and three officers asphyxiated. Mr. Ebrard initially defended Joel Ortega, the city’s public security director, and Rodolfo Felix Cardenas, the chief prosecutor. After first resisting, he finally accepted both of their resignations."

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Democratic and conceptual deficits

The Polish president says he won't sign the new EU treaty since the Irish voted it down. The French foreign minister suggests that the real problem is that Europeans don't understand the EU.

Poland Won’t Sign European Treaty

"As France assumed the rotating presidency of the European Union on Tuesday, the bloc’s wounded plans for reform took another hit , this time from Poland whose president said he would not sign into law the so-called Lisbon Treaty...

"In a surprisingly frank admission, the French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, said the no vote in Ireland illustrated how the European Union had alienated its citizens by conducting politics in a manner they find incomprehensible.

"'They understand nothing,' Mr. Kouchner said in comments to journalists in Paris 'The institutions interest no one.'

"He argued that, in contrast, voters did appreciate that Europe 'was not able to respond to the rise in the price of petrol.' As for the jargon in which business in Brussels is conducted, Mr. Kouchner said, 'no one understands — including me.'"

[Click on the map to see it full size.]

Labels: , ,

Monday, July 07, 2008

Conflicts in the south-south

Frank Franz, who teaches at James Madison High School in Vienna, Virginia, recommended One Reason Gas Is Emptying Your Wallet: Nigeria to the AP Electronic Discussion Group.

The New York Times article does a good job of describing the conflict in the Niger Delta.

"Nigeria’s vast reserves of oil are being held hostage by a conflict that at best is little understood in the West. It is a three-way struggle, involving a government charged with negligence and corruption, oil companies blamed for terrible environmental damage that afflicts the region and an impoverished people.

"Some of these people are acting on genuine grievances that they are not getting their fair share of the billions in oil wealth pouring into the country. But others are little more than violent thugs who see a lucrative opportunity among the rusting pipes and plants that dot the creeks and swamps of southern Nigeria not only to steal oil and smuggle it out of the country, but to kidnap foreign oil workers for ransom...

"How does Nigeria — and the world, facing a $140 barrel of oil — get out of this mess?...

"According to J. Stephen Morrison, director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, the government led by Nigeria’s new president, Umaru Yar’Adua, must break with decades of neglect and pay attention to the troubles of the southern delta region by promoting development but also cracking down on the rebels and 'demonstrating that these guys cannot operate with impunity.'

"He’s not very optimistic, however. 'When you look at the delta, the overwhelming picture is that the situation has very little promise of being fixed,' he said.

"The government controls oil revenues and it gives only a fraction back to the desperately poor regions that produce the oil. Even then, according to Chris Albin-Lackey of Human Rights Watch in Nairobi, most of the money is “squandered on white elephant projects...

"But the problem, said John van Schaik, an oil analyst for Energy Intelligence, a publisher of industry newsletters, is that as long as oil prices remain high, the rebels recognize the power they have and are not likely to give it up. And the rebels are one reason prices are likely to remain high."

Labels: , ,

Friday, July 04, 2008


Pioneering Chinese City Offers a Peek at Political Ferment

"Local Communist Party leaders [in Shenzhen] have drafted a reform plan that would soften key aspects of China's Leninist political system, authorizing expanded powers for the local legislature, direct elections for some local officials, a more independent judiciary, and greater openness and accountability within the party.

"The changes advocated by Shenzhen's municipal party committee, published last Tuesday in its official newspaper, show that beneath the ice cap of Communist rule in China, debate about democratization is quietly bubbling...

"Some officials and political scientists suggested Shenzhen should be made into a "special political zone," just as Deng had made it a special economic zone...

"The plan... said... that the local People's Congress, or legislature, should be given expanded powers to supervise the executive and that its members should be more directly tied to the people they are supposed to represent...

"The judiciary, according to the plan, should 'independently exercise its rights to judge and supervise.' That would mark a radical departure if put into effect; despite frequent calls for rule by law, the party has retained tight control over the courts.

"Within the party, the plan said, there should be more than one candidate for each office, nominated by the city party committee and voted on by the select standing committee, in contested elections. Traditionally, officials have been named by senior officials and acclaimed by party committees...

"Zhao Dagong, a political commentator who is frequently at odds with the authorities... expressed doubt that the plan would go into effect anytime soon. On the one hand, he said, party officials are unwilling to submit to voters' judgments. On the other, he added, party corruption is so widespread that officials cannot afford to allow public or judicial scrutiny of their actions...
"'Do you think anyone in the party really wants to reform?' a local retired official said. 'Of course not. They are making a lot of money. They don't want to change.'"

Labels: ,

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Nigeria's anti-corruption campaign

The arrests of two former high-level government officials make headlines in Nigeria. It's a complicated story of one parastatal guaranteeing a loan for another; of grossly inflated costs of unbuilt airport radar systems, of who actually authorized the spending that was done even though the construction was not. We'll have to follow the story and see what comes of the arrests.

The Nigerian Senate is unhappy that the EFCC used the Senate as a venue for arrests.

From This Day in Lagos: Aviation Fund - EFCC Arrests Borishade, Fani-Kayode

"Two former Ministers of Aviation... were yesterday arrested by officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over the controversy trailing the disbursement of the N19.5 billion Aviation Intervention Fund..."

From Daily Trust in Abuja: EFCC Nabs Fani-Kayode, Borishade

"Agents of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday swooped at the National Assembly Complex and arrested two former ministers of aviation in the last administration, Prof. Babalola Borishade and Chief Femi Fani-Kayode over alleged misapplication of the N19.5 billion aviation intervention fund..."

From Vanguard (Lagos): Senate Rebukes EFCC

"THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) drew flak, yesterday, from the Senate for Monday's arrest of two former Aviation Ministers... within the National Assembly premises.

"It called the action of the EFCC a desecration of parliament...

"Briefing newsmen at the end of the Senate session, Senate spokesman, Senator Ayogu Eze said: 'What happened today (yesterday) was an effort by the National Assembly to strengthen our democracy. The issue of arrest of official guests of the National Assembly is totally condemned by the National Assembly and is totally un-agreeable with legislative practice all over the world.'..."

From Daily Trust (Abuja): Don't Arrest Anyone Here Senate Tells EFCC

"The Senate yesterday passed a resolution barring security agents, especially operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), from arresting any suspects within the premises of the National Assembly.

"The Senate also frowned at the arrest of two former Ministers of Aviation... within the premises of the National Assembly shortly after they testified before the Senate Aviation Committee...

"Apparently angered by the arrests, the Senate said the EFCC and other security agents must henceforth stop the arrest of persons who appeared to testify before its committees, saying, 'We cannot be used as a dragnet for the EFCC.'..."

From Daily Trust (Abuja): Fani-Kayode, Borishade Charged to Court

"Former Ministers of Aviation Professor Babatunde Borishade and Chief Femi Fani-Kayode were yesterday arraigned before an Abuja Magistrate's Court on charges that they misappropriated N19.5billion belonging to the Federal Government.

"Former Director General of the Nigeria Air-space Management Agency (NAMA) Mr Raymond Iyaye was arraigned alongside the former ministers.

"The court ordered that all three men be remanded in custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC] until their application for bail is considered..."

Labels: , ,

Comparative economics

Perhaps you've seen this.

It's a map of the US that shows how the GDP of countries compare with the "GDPs" of states. (Click on the image to see it full size.) So we see that Norway's 4.5 million people produce as much as the 5 million people of Minnesota. And the 12.5 million people of Illinois produce about as much as the 100 million people who live in Mexico. If you or your students do the math, you can see not only the productivity per capita, but a rough indication of income per capita.

Here are updated statistics for the AP6:
  • Mexico has the equivalent GDP ($1.2 trillion) of Texas
  • Iran has the GDP ($600 billion) equivalent of Illinois
  • the UK's GDP ($1.9 trillion) and Russia's GDP ($1.8 trillion) are about the same as that of California
  • China produces $10.2 trillion of goods and services -- about the same as the 18 most-productive states in the USA (CA, TX, NY, FL, IL, PA, OH, NJ, NC, GA, VA, MI, MA, WA, MD, MN, AZ, and IN)
  • Nigeria's GDP ($191 billion) is about the same as Louisiana's

If you or your students look up the populations of those equivalents, you (or they) can figure out the per capita GDPs, and that's interesting in other ways.

There's also an interesting "GDP Density Map" at one of my favorite web sites, Visualizing Economics.

And, if you go to Econbrowser, the site where Visualizing Economics found the GDP Density Map, you'll find that map paired with a night time satellite picture of the earth from space.

It turns out that the pattern of lights on earth pretty much matches the pattern of GDP density.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Comparative perceptions

Americans who have not forgotten about Russia casually dismiss the legitimacy of recent Russian elections. Russians, according to journalist David Schultz, return the favor and assume that McCain is assured of election victory in November because he represents the Washington establishment.

In Russia, they're watching the US elections with great interest--and fatalism

"Americans may have largely forgotten about Russia in the years since the collapse of the Soviet Union... [but] political observers [in Russia] are watching the 2008 US elections with avid interest and abundant dread. 'It was very clear they would love to see Barack Obama elected,' [David Schultz says]...

"'But they're also convinced that the United States will not elect Barack Obama this fall. They're convinced we'll never elect a mixed-race candidate. So they're fully prepared at this point for John McCain to be elected. They think he will be. And they view McCain as no different from George Bush in terms of approach to foreign policy and the use of military means as opposed to diplomacy.'..."

Labels: ,

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Teaching with cinema

Lisa Van Gemert who teaches at Lamar High School in Texas was one of the people whose suggestions led me to set up the sharing comparative group (see the link on the right of the blog web page).

She teaches English as well as comparative government, and brings a helpful perspective to the political science course. Here are three of her video suggestions. I doubt that I would have thought of The Painted Veil as an analogy of Sino-British relations, but teachers of literature learn to spot symbolism like that.

Thanks, Lisa.

"I have three suggestions for DVDs that go with the course.

"First, The Painted Veil with Edward Norton and Naomi Watts. It is the video version of Somerset Maugham's novel about a British infectious disease specialist in China in 1925 with his faithless wife.

"There is some good treatment of the nationalist movement. I used this in class to show the relationship between the two characters as a metaphor for Chinese/British relations. In the movie, the two people should never have married, but manage to forge something out of a relationship begun badly. Students can write very good analysis of the implications of what this means for modern Sino-British relations. This was very successful.

"Secondly, the documentary Guests of the Ayatollah is riveting. It is based on the book by the man who wrote Blackhawk Down. It is available through Wild Eyes Productions (contact: jody@wildeyesproductions.com). It is $39.95 plus $5 shipping. It is a four-part documentary. The part "Takeover" includes a lot of background on the US/Iran issues of the 1950s. The book is also excellent, though too long probably to assign.

"Lastly, the movie Amazing Grace about the ending of the British slave trade (based on a true story) covers the functioning of the British government in an interesting way. You can pause at points in the movie, asking students to make suggestions to the characters based on what they know of British politics. They enjoy seeing if the politicians follow their advice!"

Labels: , , ,