Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Unreality TV

What are television journalists to do if the news they identify isn't the news they can report? Or, to paraphrase (update?) Orwell, if you don't have firm control of the past, perhaps you can control reporting of the present.


Russian TV veers back to familiar ground
As thousands of protesters pushed toward Bolotnaya Square, crews from mainstream Russian television fanned out. Satellite trucks were ranged curbside, their engines running.

For six days after the Duma elections last month, TV had ignored the street protests that were starting to shake the nation. Now the reporters and cameramen were ready. But still, not a peep.

Finally, at 3 p.m. on Dec. 10, say those who know, the word came down: You can put this on the air.

The news reports that followed were neutral, and factual, and it seemed that TV, a central instrument of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s hold on power, was at last giving way under the strain. But the dalliance with straight reporting was short-lived. In January, the leash was pulled up tight again.

Putin has an election to win — he’s running for president, and the vote is in March — and after weeks of ambivalence and uncertainty, the state-controlled TV has returned to its old and familiar ways…

The men who run television got their start in Soviet TV in the late 1980s, and they understood… that they had “to open the pipe” to some extent, or else protesters — and their own journalist employees — would be dangerously provoked.

There was a fever in the body politic, said Roman Badanin, the online editor-in-chief for Forbes here, and the coverage was like an aspirin.

But Putin expects to be elected, and since mid-January there’s been little aspirin. The main news programs now don’t ignore the opposition, as they did for a decade, but hammer away at it…

In Putin’s Russia, where few things are clear-cut, Kremlin strategists don’t, as a rule, dictate stories. They have “discussions” with media managers, said Maxim Kovalsky, who in December was fired as the editor of Kommersant Vlast magazine. The prevailing mode is self-censorship…

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Drug gangs as political parties

If the drug cartels are political forces, perhaps as comparativists, we ought to watch them as we watch political parties.

Zetas are Mexico's 'largest drug gang', study says
The Zetas cartel has become the biggest drug gang in Mexico, overtaking its bitter rival, the Sinaloa cartel, a new report suggests.

The report by US security firm Stratfor says the Zetas now operate in more than half of all Mexican states.

Stratfor says the Zetas' brutal violence seems to have given the gang an advantage over the Sinaloa cartel, which prefers to bribe people…

According to the study, most smaller drug gangs have been subsumed by either the Zetas or the Sinaloa cartel, turning the two groups into the predominant criminal forces in Mexico.

The Zetas control much of eastern Mexico, while the Sinaloa cartel has its stronghold in the west of the country.

The authors also… say that the Zetas whose leadership is composed of ex-special operations soldiers, resort to extreme violence.

The Sinaloa cartel, although also ruthless, prefers to bribe and corrupt people, as well as providing intelligence on rivals to the authorities…


Mexico strikes Sinaloa cartel as Cabrera Sarabria shot
The Mexican security forces have arrested 11 alleged members of the country's most powerful drug gang, the Sinaloa cartel…

They were arrested during a helicopter raid on a ranch in the north-western state of Durango on Friday.

During the raid, elite troops killed the regional leader of the gang, Luis Alberto Cabrera Sarabia…

The Sinaloa cartel controls much of the flow of cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamines into the United States via air, land and sea, and is believed to have links in as many as 50 countries…

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Gridlock Mexican style

The political environment in Mexico appears, in this Economist analysis, to create a more dysfunctional legislature than the one in the USA.

The siesta congress
AFTER a fortnight of Christmas fiestas, Mexicans groggily returned to work two weeks ago. Or rather, most of them did. For the 500 deputies and 128 senators of the national Congress, the holidays roll on until February. Mexico’s lawmakers sit for only 195 days a year, the fewest among Latin America’s bigger countries. (Their $11,200-a-month pay, however, is the highest after Brazil’s.) When they do stir themselves to vote, it is more often to block rivals’ bills than to pass reforms.

Gridlock in the palace of San Lázaro partly explains why Felipe Calderón’s presidency, which ends in December, now looks like a six-year damp squib. Mr Calderón has identified many of Mexico’s bottlenecks. But most of his big proposals have floundered in Congress…

Co-operation has been especially rocky since 2009, when the PAN attacked the PRI in mid-term elections. The mood soured further when the PAN formed a brief electoral alliance with its ideological opposites, the PRD, to push the PRI out of some governorships. With this deal, “the president cancelled the possibility of working according to agreement and consensus,” says Heliodoro Díaz, a PRI congressman.

Such rivalries exist in any democracy. Yet “in Latin America, [Mexico’s Congress] stands out as a bad performer,” says Víctor Lapuente, a political scientist at Gothenburg University in Sweden. Unsurprisingly, there has been more conflict since one-party rule ended in 1997…

Building coalitions is harder in Mexico, where congressmen are wedded to their parties and hard to buy off. No politician, from president to mayor, may stand for consecutive re-election. This quirk means that politicians depend on party bosses, not voters, for their next job, making it essential to toe the party line…

The July 1st elections will completely renew both houses of Congress as well as the presidency. Mr Peña’s boosters say that if the PRI wins all three—it already has most state governors—the deadlock will end at last…

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Party school (No, not that kind of party school)

A perceptive 2-minute video report from al Jazeera on the Beijing Communist Party school for up and coming cadres. Not a lot of depth, but it does make that point that "defying stereotypes, it appears that one of the freest places in China is at the heart of the Communist Party…" How does that match your students' images of what a Communist Party school is like?

And a follow-up to the video, reporter Melissa Chan blogs about her experience at the Party school.

Inside a Chinese Communist Party school
China's ruling Communist Party's 80 million members attend special schools to learn party ideology at facilities that serve as a training ground for the next generation of Chinese leaders…

The schools offer a safe space for officials to throw out ideas, talk about sensitive issues, and try to come up with solutions to some of the country's problems.



Chinese lessons in leadership
There are 80 million members of the Communist Party and more than half of them work in the government in some way - whether directly in a ministry or in a state-owned corporation. Training them in management and administration requires what is probably the biggest human resources department in the world: the Communist Party School system, with some 2,000 satellite campuses.

The mission of these schools is not only to teach cadres the tools of governance, but also to reinforce ideology and the party line. Our visit was at one of the most important campuses: the Beijing Party School where 300 faculty members teach courses in nine different departments, ferrying through thousands of officials a year - some who turn up for short week-long modules, and others who move into the dormitories for three-month terms…

The Party School is an open forum, Professor Liu Changlong went on to explain, because it has to be. Officials can't afford to avoid problems that could directly threaten their governance. The Propaganda Department may present news to the public, selecting facts and fabrication for inclusion. But on the closed campus of the Party School, officials must consider the real issues of income inequality, protests, and what direction the country should be headed, both politically and economically.

In a separate class, cadres separated into small groups for discussions, this time about Marx's Communist Manifesto. Their task was to discuss some of the challenges facing the party today through Marx's writings…

It is a great opportunity for cadres from different ministries and departments to network, and the development of friendships from time spent on campus probably equal the utility of studying Marx. For some party officials, attendance is a prelude to promotion, depending on the ministry or department.

As we left campus, we had a surprise: we passed by an old stone grave, gated off and surrounded by old trees.  It was the grave of Matteo Ricci, the 16th-century Jesuit missionary and one of the first Western scholars of Chinese language and customs. He would not have been surprised at the disciplined management style employed by China's Communist Party today...

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Exercising the muscles of the peers

There are two issues to be alert for here. The most prominent is the argument about the tolerable level of public assistance. That's mostly a policy issue for Brits. The other topic, more for non-Brits to heed, is the role of Lords in shaping policy.

Lords is often overlooked as a player in policy making. It does offer a debating forum for considering policy alternatives, and, as in this case, a force to change policy.

Welfare reform: Lords bid for benefits cap concessions
Peers will press for changes to plans for a £26,000 cap on the benefits families can receive when the measure is debated in the House of Lords later.

Church of England bishops and some Liberal Democrats will push for child benefit to be excluded from the cap - so as not to penalise large families.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith says there are exemptions for some disabled people and those in work…

Former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown has said he will vote against the plans, unless there are measures to cushion the impact on those affected…

The changes would affect England, Wales and Scotland. Northern Ireland has its own social security legislation, but it is expected that what is approved at Westminster would be introduced there too.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Back in the USSR

Putin may be in charge, but there's another group hoping to regain power and glory.

Russia’s Communist Party finds itself at a familiar crossroads
Russia’s restless electorate bestowed a big bouquet of votes on the country’s Communists last month, putting the party of Lenin in position to either rally a new generation behind its red banners or stay reliably on the sidelines, repeating the old slogans and mourning the past.

The Communist Party took 19.19 percent of the vote to come in second in the Dec. 4 parliamentary election, an unexpected windfall for the party and a surprise to the rest of the country.

Though it has offices in small towns and cities around Russia, with portraits of Stalin on the wall and hammer-and-sickle flags in the corner, ready to unfurl, its message has remained unchanged as its members have aged over the past 20 years: The glorious achievements of the Soviet Union are being systematically destroyed and only it can save Russia from moral degradation…

Communist theory has always maintained that history is on its side, however…

The December election set off a paroxysm of anger among Russians who called it rigged, refusing to believe that Putin’s party had gotten even close to half the votes…

The Communists rely on a small but cohesive core of members, who number 154,244, according to the Ministry of Justice, compared with United Russia’s 2,073,722 members. Many party members are in their 50s or 60s and dwell psychologically in the Soviet Union, said Boris Makarenko, deputy director of the Center for Political Technologies. The protest voters make less than ideal fellow travelers, concentrated as they are in the big cities among the urban middle class. It will not be easy to profit from the windfall, he said…

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Election high

Nick Miroff and William Booth, writing in the Washington Post suggest that drug gangs could destroy Mexican democracy.

Mexico’s 2012 vote is vulnerable to narco threat
With Mexico’s presidential vote and other key elections less than six months away, both the government and its watchdogs fear that the black hand of organized crime will manipulate the process to install puppet candidates as servants of the drug cartels…

Political analysts say that the drug lords could corrupt the presidential race even without having to meddle directly in those campaigns and that their attempts to boost local candidates or suppress votes could contaminate the process at every level.

Such threats appear to put Mexican democracy at a critical juncture, as the country struggles to escape from the decades-long shadow of corrupt, one-party rule…

Despite concerns that drug gangsters will bankroll some candidates while intimidating — or assassinating — others, a package of new laws targeting election-related crimes has stalled in Mexico's National Congress since April…

Mexico's 2012 vote is even more at risk from pernicious influences than the last presidential election in 2006, Vargas said, because the country's mafias have honed their methods of corruption, opting to finance campaigns rather than buy off officials after they are in power…

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Comparative political cultures

Jeremy Weate, writing in Naija Blog offers a lesson in comparative political cultures (even though his title focuses on the Nigerian constitution).

The blog entry is followed by a thoughtful comment.

Decolonising the Nigerian Constitution
In the past two weeks, the Occupy Nigeria movement has developed far beyond a demand to return the price of fuel to N65 per litre, with calls for the government to reduce its own bloated costs and investigate the obviously rampant corruption in the oil sector. Already, the government has responded, with the Minister of Petroleum’s statement this evening to invite the EFCC to investigate fuel subsidy payments and for an independent auditor to follow-up on the KPMG report. Whether or not this belated action is sufficient to counter a cynical response, deeper issues still have been raised to the surface. Nigerians are beginning to ask fundamental questions about the kind of country they would like to live in. A new sense of what Nigerian citizenship might provide is floating up into the air.

I invite you to compare and contrast for a moment the role the US Constitution plays in the lives of Americans with that of the Nigerian Constitution in Nigeria… At this stage, I’m simply asking you to dwell on the impact and effects of both constitutions on everyday life, and nothing more.

As we know all too readily from US media and discourse, Americans are raised to understand their constitution and the definition of the rights of the citizen enshrined within the all-important Amendments. Laws in the US are grounded in the constitution and must be formulated in accord with how the rights of the citizen are set in balance against the tripartite powers of the state (the executive, the legislature and the judiciary) in the context of a secular federation. Above all, thanks to the constitution, the rights of the individual run deep in American discourse. No matter the myriad and profound historical errors of the United States (originating in the twin horrors of an erasure of indigenous peoples and African slave labour), Americans are justifiably proud of the constitutional and legal instruments that guide their lives…

In Nigeria, we often experience almost the diametric opposite to the statutory privileges of the US Constitution. Many Nigerians have little idea of the contents of their constitution and are not taught the document at school. Nigerians are therefore not educated to be citizens of their own country; they are not made aware of their rights or brought to understand the role government should play in their lives since they are used to performing the roles themselves i.e. providing security, education, health etc…

Nigerians are also scarcely aware what powers the state is given, and what rights Nigerian citizens have in response…

It is therefore little surprise that the 1999 Nigerian constitution is often ignored in the current institutional arrangements of the state… The practice of creating institutions which have no grounding in the constitution effectively licenses an ‘anything goes’ approach to governance, whereby the revenues from oil can be frittered away by quasi-legal quick-fixes without any accountability checks and balances. Billions of dollars can, and have disappeared in the process, with little to show for the money…

Given the collective passion of Nigerians in the past few weeks for a new consensus, the time has never been more ripe for a complete rethinking of the Nigerian constitutional DNA, finally wiping the slate clean the legacy of British colonial rule and its post-Independence military offshoot. The place of beginning should lie in the definition of the core powers of the State (the legislature, the executive and the judiciary) vis-à-vis the rights and obligations of the citizen… The simple truth is that under the current constitutional framework, the president has far too much power in Nigerian governance… There should be many more autonomous counterbalancing powers built into the system and institutions created whose remit is to provide checks and balances on Presidential prerogative…

There are many more aspects of the 1999 Constitution which need to be amended. However, my humble suggestion is this: not to attempt to renovate a house in which people have lived uncomfortably for so long. Why not start again, modelling a new Nigerian Constitution on a paradigm template (from the US, or from South Africa for example), which empowers citizens regardless of region, gender, sexuality or creed and reduces the overwhelming power of the “Commander in Chief”, recalibrating what it means to be a Nigerian citizen, facing the 3rd millennium in a changing world…

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Skeptic seems on the mark to me

I haven't looked carefully at the "revolution" in textbooks promised by Apple last week, but I wasn't overwhelmed. A teacher from New Zealand is even less impressed.

iBooks Textbooks: Not Exactly Innovation in Education
Absent, so far, are any programming tools, even simple ones, that can allow any form of data-storing scripting, which is a shame, since programs such as FileMaker Pro, SuperCard, even HyperCard (of sainted memory) allow solutions to be created that allow a degree of decision-based scripting. Had Apple incorporated such elements into iBooks Author, a whole new level of interactivity and personalised learning could have been generated: “Steve, I see you’re spending a lot of time on simple harmonic motion, but you’re not doing very well on the end-of-topic quiz. Would you like some extra help with this topic?” But while the student can interact with the content, the content remains unable to interact with the student, and this seems to be an opportunity badly missed; I can only hope that scripting will feature strongly in a future version of iBooks Author.

As it stands, iBooks textbooks offers very little that hasn’t been on offer for nearly twenty years. Far from reinventing the textbook, Apple have simply taken an existing concept and applied it to a new medium, with, it appears, relatively little in the way of points of difference due to the particular nature of the iPad platform. And so, instead of static text and static images on a page, we are now presented with static text and some moving images on a page. This is a small step forward in terms of paper textbooks, but, in terms of the state of the art with regard to multimedia presentation, it is, absent scripting, possibly even a retrograde step…

Had iBooks 2 and iBooks Author been released back in 1996, when CD-ROMs were still a pretty neat idea, I would be writing a very different article. But today, when Apple are trying to claim that twenty-year-old ideas represent a “reinvention” of the textbook, I am less impressed. Schiller, see me after school. Grade: C-. Really must try harder.

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Can Labour find a successor to Cameron?

Some people think that the reason Labour hasn't reached a position of really challenging the coalition government is because of the leader.

Many thanks to Rebecca Small who teaches at Oakton High School in Virginia for pointing out the Washington Post article.

In Britain, opposition party leader struggles to find voice
For the opposition Labor Party, this should be a shining moment. Under Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, unemployment is up, budget cuts are biting British wallets and the government’s veto of a new European Union economic treaty has left the country increasingly isolated from its neighbors.

And yet rather than Cameron, it is Labor’s chief, Ed Miliband, who is confronting a profound crisis of popularity. Only 16 months after he defeated his brother to win the crown of opposition leader, Miliband’s approval ratings have sunk to record lows. Suddenly, not only his rivals on the other side of the aisle but also influential power brokers within his own party are openly questioning his leadership.

Miliband confronted his critics this week, outlining a new direction for the Labor Party in an effort to revitalize his tenure and hold on long enough to challenge Cameron in elections still three years away…

Yet the problem, analysts say, is not Labor’s message, but the messenger. Miliband, fairly or not, is being pelted with criticism…

Miliband has seemed a round short in the intellectual blood sport of British politics, played out weekly on the floor of Parliament where Cameron and Miliband set their wits against each other in terse, often-biting oral combat.

“I think the simplest way of saying it is that most people don’t see him as a prime minister,” said Peter Kellner, president of YouGov, one of Britain’s largest polling firms. “It’s to do with his manner, his lack of experience, the fact that people don’t see a toughness of character in him. People on some level think being prime minister is a man’s job, and in Ed Miliband, they see a boy.”…

Miliband’s situation looks worse when compared with Cameron’s success. In many ways, the prime minister has defied the odds, maintaining a relatively buoyant approval rating despite his relentless and, according to the polls, largely unpopular crusade against government spending…

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Why such competition?

Compared to the mayor of New York, the mayor of London is remarkably powerless. So, the question is why do the major parties make such a big deal of competition for the job? Or is it just the British media (all headquartered in London) that pays attention and publishes or broadcasts the contests?

Thanks to Rebecca Small who teaches at Oakton High School in Virginia for pointing out the Economist article.


Back into the fray
AT TIMES, it can seem as though London is stuck in 2008. The property market is still buoyant and, at the top end, still hotly contested by the global rich. Costly projects, such as the city-traversing Crossrail and the Olympic games, have not fallen victim to austerity. And, in May, voters will be asked to choose between the same two mayoral candidates who were on the ballot four years ago: Boris Johnson, the Conservative incumbent, and Ken Livingstone, his Labour predecessor.

Mr Johnson is the current favourite. An opinion poll last November gave him a lead of 48% to 40%…

There is a pervasive assumption, even in the Labour Party, that the mayoral race is a foregone conclusion. It is not. London leans left—as big, diverse cities tend to. Mr Livingstone, knowing that voters often punish governments between general elections, aims to paint his rival as just another Tory. And although the polls suggest that Londoners prefer Mr Johnson on policing, the economy and the Olympics, he trails on the vital issue of transport…

The mayoral election has implications for national politics. Victory for Mr Johnson would be another blow to Ed Miliband, whose performance as Labour Party leader is attracting criticism. Defeat for the incumbent would only be a passing nuisance for David Cameron, the Tory prime minister, but the effect on the future of his party could be profound. Mr Cameron predicts privately that he will be succeeded by either the mayor or George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer…

The challenges facing the next mayor are immense. There are new threats to the City from domestic and European regulation, as well as severe housing shortages and social problems of the kind exposed by the riots of last summer. But the prize is even greater: the chance to run Europe’s biggest city and preside over a high-profile sporting event in the summer…

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Suggestions for teaching materials

Here's what I would be able to offer you as suggestions for teaching materials if the so-called "anti-internet-piracy" bills are passed in their current form.

No evidence would be required. No due process allowed. Mere assertions of ownership would lead to shutdowns of web sites and larger parts of the Internet. Mere assertions of ownership would lead to seizure of web sites, computers, and Internet servers.


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Iran Barbie ban

Ah, the dangers of soft (or plastic) power.

Iran’s morality police crack down on sale of Barbie and Ken
Iran’s morality police are cracking down on the sale of Barbie dolls to protect the public from what they see as pernicious western culture eroding Islamic values, shopkeepers said on Monday…

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A declaration of referendum

According to some Scottish politicians, devolution was just the first step. Now that the Scottish National Party has a majority in the Scottish Parliament, it's making plans for a referendum on independence. Cameron's government is negotiating. There's good information here about the extent of devolution now.

Thanks to Rebecca Small who teaches at Oakton High School in Virginia for pointing out the Washington Post article.

Will Britain break up? UK government to offer Scotland powers for binding independence vote
Breaking up is supposed to be hard to do — but Britain’s government confirmed Tuesday it would happily offer Scotland the powers it needs to sever centuries-old ties to England.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s government said it would sweep away legal hurdles to allow the Scots a vote on whether their country should become independent for the first time since the 18th Century Act of Union, which united Scotland with England to create Great Britain.

But in return, Cameron — who opposes any breakup of the United Kingdom… is urging Scotland to make its intentions clear “sooner rather than later.”…

Since Scotland voted in favor of a domestic legislative body in 1997, its parliament has had autonomy over education, health and justice and can make minor alterations to income tax. For now, London retains primacy on all matters relating to Britain as a whole — including defense, energy and foreign relations…

Recent opinion polls indicate rising support for independence, after surveys showed backing for the separation hovering at about 30 percent for several decades…

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Easing one set of tensions

Nigeria is facing a number of serious political and economic crises. The government has moved to try to relieve one of them.

FG Offers N110, N120 Per Litre
ORGANISED Labour was last night considering the latest offer from President Goodluck Jonathan to scale down the price of petrol to between N110 and N120.

The President also directed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to immediately commence a probe of the utilization of the more than N1.3 trillion subsidy fund.

President Jonathan in meetings with a select team of labour leaders was understood to have made the offer with a proviso that full deregulation of the sector would commence in April…

Protests Suspended As FG Cuts Petrol Price to N97
President Goodluck Jonathan, in a nationwide TV address Monday morning, announced a cut in petrol price from around N141 to N97 after prolonged street demonstrations over the deregulation policy.

Also, the labour unions told the media early Monday morning that they were suspending street protests because of the political dimension it had taken but insisted that the strike would go on.

In the broadcast, Jonathan said he had to review the pump price in response to the outcry over the hardship caused by the total subsidy removal and vowed to investigate the subsidy account with a view to punishing those who fraudulently bled the country and nearly destroyed the economy.

He also promised a detailed study of the forensic audit of the account of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, (NNPC) with a view to curbing corruption in the oil and gas sector of the economy so as to rid it of corruption…

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Why comparative?

American beginners in comparative politics often start by trying to study non-American political systems in the same way they studied the USA. It doesn't always work.

Henry Farrell, professor at George Washington University points to an example of why both the "Americanist" and "Comparativist" perspectives are important.

Why Is Inequality Higher in America?
[A] Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan article… suggests that we need to look to comparative politics rather than Americanist political science in order to understand the sources of American inequality.

"… the preoccupation of many Americanists with America’s distinctive governmental institutions—Congress, the presidency, the Supreme Court—obscures this inequality and what it means for the US political system. It thus seems to us that Americanists’ ability to analyze American politics would be enhanced by locating these problems in a larger, comparative context."

To bolster this broad argument, they argue that the unusually large number of veto players in the US political system is a major cause of inequality.

"A question thus arises, one both simple and surprisingly understudied by scholars of American politics: From a comparative perspective, does the United States have more “majority constraining” and “inequality inducing” political structures and veto players than other democracies? When we examine our set of 23 long-standing democracies in advanced economies, we find that slightly more than half of these countries (12.5) actually have only one electorally generated veto player… There are 7.5 countries with two veto players, two countries (Switzerland and Australia) with three veto players, and only one country, the United States of America, with four electorally generated veto players… In addition to having the highest number of veto players, there are four more constitutionally embedded features of the US political system that, taken together, make that system even more majority constraining and, we believe, inequality inducing, than any other democracy in our set… "

As a comparativist by training, I find the idea that Americanists should think about the US more in a comparative perspective highly attractive. I also think that the veto player perspective is a very helpful lens onto the ways in which the US resembles or differs from other advanced industrialized democracies… Equally, comparativists need to pay more attention to the Americanists whose way of thinking about the world is less immediately congenial than that of those with comparativist training or sympathies if we are to move to the next stage of the debate that Linz and Stepan would (rightly) like to see taking place.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Quiet to protest SOPA

On January 18, Teaching Comparative will join Boing Boing, Reddit, and other sites around the Internet in opposing SOPA and PIPA, the pending US legislation that creates a punishing Internet censorship regime and exports it to the rest of the world. Teaching Comparative could never co-exist with a SOPA world.

There will be no blog entry on Wednesday.

If the proposed legislation passed in anything like its current form, I could never quote the contents of another site or even link to another website unless I was sure that no links to anything that infringes copyright appeared on that site. In order to link to a URL on any web site, I'd have to first confirm that no one had ever made an infringing link, anywhere on that site. That would require checking millions (even tens of millions) of pages. Even for an old guy like me with lots of time, that would be impossible. I'd be unable to tell you about potentially valuable teaching material.

If I failed to take those precautions, my finances could be frozen and depending on which version of the bill goes to the vote, my domains confiscated.


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Friday, January 13, 2012

This is not the entertainment you want

Chinese President Hu warns his country about the phony attractions of the west and the government cuts popular programming on satellite television. Is this a reversion to the Maoist xenophobia?

China campaign cuts entertainment TV by two-thirds
Satellite broadcasters in China have cut entertainment TV by two-thirds following a government campaign, state news agency Xinhua has reported.

An order by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) to curb ''excessive entertainment'' came into effect on 1 January…

The news came as the president warned of the influence of Western culture.

In the piece published in a Communist Party magazine, President Hu Jintao also urged efforts to boost the country's own soft power, said Xinhua…

"Satellite channels have started to broadcast programmes that promote traditional virtues and socialist core values," SARFT said in a statement.

Talent shows and reality TV are among the biggest casualties of the cuts. The list of restricted programmes also included talk shows and emotional stories that were deemed to be of "low taste", said the Xinhua news report…

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Analysis of Russia

Joshua Tucker, a political scientist at New York University, points us to an article by Stephen Holmes of the NYU School of Law, that suggests that common (and journalistic) analyses of Putin's Russia are on the wrong track.

Tucker wrote, "In this piece, Holmes is directly responding to a recent book by Luke Harding, the former Guardian correspondent in Russia, but he is also addressing a more general conception that Putin’s Russia has turned into a reprise of the late Soviet period: a relatively stable soft-authoritarian regime, where some individual freedoms are permitted but in general the state… remains firmly in control."

Holmes' analysis is in the London Review of Books and is well worth the time for teacher background material.

Fragments of a Defunct State
Putin’s clumsily announced but not unexpected decision to have himself re-elected to the presidency provides a clue about the way the system works, or rather doesn’t. If you take it that a credible succession formula is one of the key components of any political system, Putin’s stage-managed self-coronation makes it clear that Russia doesn’t have one. To leave the decision about one’s successor to the unpredictable outcome of a genuinely competitive election is acceptable only when incumbents don’t expect to lose too much if they lose. In established democracies, soft landings await electorally ousted politicians. In non-democratic systems, former rulers can sidestep unwelcome surprises if the succession process is managed by a core group within a ruling party, as in the Soviet Union after Stalin and in China today. But this alternative is not available in Russia. For one thing, the increasingly unpopular Yedinaya Rossiya is not an organised governing party but a ramshackle vote-rigging machine run by Putin loyalists and opportunists whom no one, least of all Putin, would trust to choose the country’s next ruler…

Putin’s remaining supporters constantly trumpet the ‘stability’ he has brought to Russia. But no system… can be stable if it depends on the well-being and survival of one man… The most striking illustration of the negligible role they play in Russian political life is not the rubber-stamp Duma but the presidency itself. Assigned nearly unchecked powers by the 1993 Yeltsin constitution, the office lost both its authority over foreign policy and the power to dismiss the prime minister when its shell was rented out for four years to Medvedev, whose inability to hold on to the job makes it clear that the presidency itself is not a source of power…

Escaping the draft, registering a company, buying an apartment, getting into school, passing an exam, being acquitted of criminal charges, trumped up or valid, receiving medical treatment may all require the bribery of public officials. The kickback plague is endemic, inflating by as much as 50 per cent the cost to the state of everything from weapons to highway construction. That the principal players in ‘the greatest corruption story in human history’, as the economist Anders Aslund puts it, include the fabled siloviki – the ‘heavies’: the army, the intelligence agencies etc – is the strongest sign of the absence of a hierarchy. In a hierarchy, local officials would answer to their Moscow superiors: but they don’t…

the historically unprecedented nature of the Putin system comes into focus only when we remember, as Harding himself urges us to, that ‘the Soviet-era KGB was subordinate to the political will of the Communist Party.’ When the CPSU collapsed, it left behind not only the FSB and its associated agencies but a constellation of other ‘orphans’, highly developed and now essentially autonomous fragments of a defunct state. In a desperate but ultimately successful endeavour to survive in an unforgiving environment, various former subsidiaries went in search of new sponsors. Soviet psychiatric facilities, for example, that were once used to torment dissidents, now receive cash-filled envelopes from younger Russians eager to dislodge elderly in-laws from desirable apartments…

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Teaching Tools


$44.95

Each of the 110 items is an individual document.
Student materials are MS Word documents published under a Creative Commons License, which allows you to modify, distribute, and even sell the student documents.

Commentaries, teaching suggestions, and rubrics are Adobe Reader (PDF) documents and are copyrighted.

Table of Contents
Title Page
Correlation Chart
Creative Commons License

Comparative Theory
1. Comparative Theory: Empirical and Normative
2. Comparative Theory: Systems Analysis
3. Comparative Theory: Rational Choice Analysis
4. Comparative Theory: Summary

Regimes
5. UK: Regime
6. Russia: Regime
7. China: Regime
8. Nigeria: Regime
9. Mexico: Regime
10. Iran: Regime
11. EU: Regime

Legislatures
12. UK: Legislature
13. Russia: Legislature
14. China: Legislature
15. Nigeria: Legislature
16. Mexico: Legislature
17. Iran: Legislature
18. EU: Legislature

Governments
19. UK: Government
20. Russia: Government
21. China: Government
22. Nigeria: Government
23. Mexico: Government
24. Iran: Government
25. EU: Government

Civil Societies and Political Cultures
26. UK: Civil Society and Political Culture
27. Russia: Civil Society and Political Culture
28. China: Civil Society and Political Culture
29. Nigeria: Civil Society and Political Culture
30. Mexico: Civil Society and Political Culture
31. Iran: Civil Society and Political Culture
32. EU: Civil Society and Political Culture

Basic Concepts
33. Basic Concepts: The European Union
34. Basic Concepts: Democratization 1
35. Basic Concepts: Democratization 2
36. Basic Concepts: Nations
37. Basic Concepts: Political Culture
38. Basic Concepts: Transparency
39. Basic Concepts: Rights and Liberties
40. Basic Concepts: Legitimacy
41. Basic Concepts: Political Economics
42. Basic Concepts: State Capacity
43. Basic Concepts: Federal and Unitary Systems 1
44. Basic Concepts: Federal and Unitary Systems 2
45. Basic Concepts: Participation
46. Basic Concepts: Recruitment
47. Basic Concepts: Socialization
48. Basic Concepts: Economic Development1
49. Basic Concepts: Economic Development2

FRQs
50. Answering FRQs
51. FRQs on Theory
52. FRQs on Regimes
53. FRQs on Legislatures
54. FRQs on Governments
55. FRQs on Civil Society and Political Culture

Each of these student materials is accompanied by a Commentary that includes rubrics and teaching ideas.

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Personalized issue-politics

Without recognizable political parties, politics in Iran becomes personalized.

Establishment factions to face off in Iranian elections
Iran has begun gearing up for elections that will represent a showdown between two factions that just three years ago formed a united establishment against the opposition Green Movement.

In parliamentary elections March 2, supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will face off against an alliance of hard-line clerics, Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders and bazaar merchants who had been instrumental in keeping Ahmadinejad in power before they turned against him.

Both groups are striving for a majority in a parliament that can either obstruct or speed up initiatives by Ahmadinejad’s government… [C]lerics and commanders are accusing Ahmadinejad’s advisers of plotting to push them from power and to reduce the role of Islam in the country…

The two sides have lately been engaged in bitter, public disputes, calling each other “tumors,” “sorcerers” and “thieves.” Some of Ahmadinejad’s advisers have been arrested by the judiciary — which is linked to his opponents — and influential religious leaders have called for the death of the president’s closest aide.

While both factions claim ownership of the 1979 Islamic revolution and its ideals, Ahmadinejad supporters say they are a new generation that wants to root out corruption caused by the old. “People power” is an important theme in their public statements…

While discontent has seemingly grown among those who protested in 2009, Iran’s Green Movement has largely remained silent throughout the Arab uprisings of the past year. The movement’s cause has been overshadowed by the fighting within the Iranian establishment, and because its leaders are in jail, under house arrest or barred from competing in the elections, the movement’s backers have no one to support in March…

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pre-Independence Nigeria

A Nigerian who now lives in the US, wrote in his blog, Bombastic Element about a web site collecting film and video from the British Empire.

Colonial Film: Moving Images of the British Empire holds detailed information on over 6000 films showing images of life in the British colonies. Over 150 films are available for viewing online.

The film he particularly points to is Three Roads to Tomorrow, a 1958 film made by British Petroleum which illustrates the modernizations BP promoted and the hopes for Nigeria's future as an independent nation. It purports to tell the stories of 3 young men who go off to the university from each of the 3 major ethnic groups.

It's 22 minutes long and in 1950's Technicolor. There are glimpses of the modern, pre-independence Nigeria. There's little or no commentary to provide context about things like how widespread or widely available the modernity is. The three students were extraordinarily fortunate and rich Nigerians. The father of one was an emir and owned a 1955 Chevrolet and flew his son and his friends to the northern city where he ruled a small territory.

I'd like to recommend this because it does offer an interesting introduction to Nigeria. But the modernity that British Petroleum was anxious to show off is all that's in evidence. And the pacing of the story telling is much slower than what we expect in story telling or advertisements today.

Still, it might fit well with your plans for teaching about Nigeria.

Others available online at the Colonial Film site are:
  • Nigerian Independence Celebrations, 01/10/1960
  • Giant in the Sun: A study of Northern Nigeria as it prepares for self-government, 1959
  • Spotlight on the Colonies (a brief survey of progress made by the British Government in helping forty separate colonial territories to raise their standards and increase their wealth), 1950
  • Nigeria's First Women Police, 1956

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Monday, January 09, 2012

Imagine there's no public sector, but it's expensive

Jeremy Wheate, writing in Naijablog offers a graphic image of living in urban Nigeria as a motive for striking against the end of fuel subsidies. In effect, he suggests that the fuel subsidy was one of the few ways that government spending directly benefited most people in a rentier state.

The Fuel Subsidy Removal Protests for Dummies
On the first day of the indefinite general strike organised by a coalition between two of the largest unions in Nigeria… some external observers have expressed surprise at the intensity of resistance…

The lived reality of citizens of the Nigerian state is that it provides little or no security, no infrastructure, no education and no employment opportunities (apart from mostly McJobs in the civil service). Everywhere in Nigeria, the basic elements of civilised existence have to be taken care of house-by-house, compound-by-compound. You must sink your own borehole for water, buy, install and fuel a generator for power, hire security guards to keep the wolves from the door, pay school fees to ensure your kids get a half-decent education because the public school system is in perpetual meltdown.

The breakdown of a standard tax and political representation based social contract between citizens and the state in Nigeria is almost entirely a result of the past few decades of the so-called ‘resource curse’. Earning billions of dollars each year from crude exports, the Nigerian government has no need to rely on tax from individuals or local companies; tax and royalty payments from the international oil companies (as well as historically, loans from international financial institutions) have been sufficient to fund the annual budget at all levels of government. For the past few decades, cheap fuel has therefore been the only form of social contract between ordinary Nigerians and the state and the principle lever to control inflation during times of rising oil prices. With most Nigerians subsisting on US$2 or less, subsidised fuel has also been a survival mechanism, making life only just bearable…

[I]f savings are urgently required from the annual government budget, most Nigerians would argue that the first place to cut costs is that of the price of running government itself. As the Governor of the Central Bank pointed out last year, the National Assembly consumes 25% of the Federal overheads budget…

As it is, most Nigerians are poor, and will simply not be able to survive with any comfort on US$2 a day and a doubling of living costs. That the government of Nigeria didn’t foresee the massive level of resistance happening today is quite bewildering. It shows a complete disconnect and disregard for Nigerians. However, where there is greatest danger, there is greatest hope. Nigerians have never been so united in years – in the newly unofficially renamed Liberation Square, Christians guarded the space as their Muslim co-protestors prayed. In return, last Sunday, Muslims guarded Churches as others prayed inside. What we are witnessing with Occupy Nigeria is a generational shift, as young, social-media enabled activists gradually take over the baton from unionist stalwarts…

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Strike against structural reform

In the face of judicial disapproval and executive threats, unions in Nigeria called a general strike to protest the end of fuel subsidies.

Nigerians Strike, Protest Over Fuel Subsidy Cut
Thousands of Nigerians took to the streets across Africa's top oil producing nation on Monday, launching an indefinite nationwide strike to protest against the axing of fuel subsidies.

Shops, banks and petrol stations were shut and the highways into the main commercial city of Lagos, usually clogged with rush-hour traffic, were empty.

Production of Nigeria's average two million barrels of crude oil a day carried on as normal despite the strike, sources at two international oil companies and the state firm told Reuters…

Jonathan has said he will not back down and the strikes will test his resolve. Strikes have forced previous governments into u-turns on fuel subsidy cuts…

Economists say the subsidy filled the fuel tanks of the rich and middle classes at the expense of a poor majority living on less than $2 per day, fed corruption and siphoned off billions of dollars of public funds to a cartel of fuel importers…

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Would be legislators in Iran

There are major obstacles for anyone who wants to be a candidate for the Iranian Majlis. This report from al Arabiya describes them.

Nearly 5,4000 would-be MPs sign up for Iran poll
A total 5,395 people, including 428 women, have registered as would-be candidates for Iran’s parliamentary elections scheduled for March 2, the interior ministry said on Saturday in a final tally.

Iran’s Guardian Council, a panel of conservative clerics and jurists, is to vet each of those registered to see if they meet the criteria to fill one of the 290 seats in parliament.

Each candidate must be an Iranian citizen aged 30 to 75 who will uphold the constitution, which notably stipulates that absolute authority is invested in the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He or she must also have a university master's degree or equivalent…

There are also some 60 reformers, but the main reformist parties -- some of which are banned -- will not be participating in the elections.

Nevertheless, some candidates from the reformist camp have registered, according to Iranian media.

The March poll will be the first since the disputed 2009 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose declared victory triggered claims of fraud and widespread protests that were brutally put down.

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Friday, January 06, 2012

Look at my words, not my actions

Maybe thinking of Russian politics as a magician's performance would help. Or you could think of the promises of reform as Potemkin promises.

Political Promotions in Russia Appear to Belie President’s Promise of Reform
President Dmitri A. Medvedev has responded to the street protests in Moscow with proposals for political reform, but his recent personnel appointments seem to tell a different story: top posts went to former officers in the K.G.B. and long-serving loyalists of his political mentor, Vladimir V. Putin…

The highest position went to Sergei B. Ivanov, a former colleague of Mr. Putin’s from the Leningrad office of the K.G.B….

In another change, Russia’s envoy to NATO, Dmitri O. Rogozin, who is known as irascible and an outspoken nationalist and who once hung a poster of Stalin in his office in Brussels, was appointed a deputy prime minister overseeing the military-industrial complex.

Finally, the Kremlin’s deputy chief of staff, Vladislav Y. Surkov… moved to a deputy prime minister’s position in the cabinet. He was replaced by Mr. Putin’s former chief of staff in the prime minister’s office, Vyacheslav Volodin, a loyalist who helped form a pro-Putin national political movement this year called the People’s Front…

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Thursday, January 05, 2012

Who is happy?

Critics of the upcoming Iranian elections seem to come from everywhere. Does that mean that only those politicians not complaining are confident of victory? How can they be confident?

Opposition leader calls upcoming Iran election bogus
An Iranian opposition leader who has been under house arrest since February has accused the Islamic establishment of intending to hold a “rubber-stamp” parliamentary election in March, his website Sahamnews…

Candidates began registering... for the March 2 vote, which will be the first litmus test of the clerical leadership's public standing since a disputed 2009 presidential vote that precipitated months of unrest…

Candidate registration will last one week and then entrants will be screened for their political and Islamic qualifications by the hard-line Guardian Council electoral watchdog.

The Council has stopped hundreds of reformist candidates in the past from participating in elections…

Leading reformist politicians said pro-reform groups would not submit a separate list of candidates because the basic needs of a “free and fair” vote have not been fulfilled.

Authorities are concerned that a low turnout would question the establishment’s legitimacy, and so hard-line conservative rulers have urged voters to participate in the March elections.

Parliamentary Elections in Iran: Who and How will Participate
Parliamentary election campaign in Iran is traditionally launched with the start of the Election Organization's activity, formed under the Interior Ministry, and ends with the start of activity of the newly elected parliament. This process continues within a year.

Elections in Iran are held under the control of the Guardian Council…

[C]andidates must be Iranian citizens, confess Islam and believe in the Islamic Republic and show their faith in action.

They must be true to Iran's Constitution and the country's Supreme Leader. In addition, they should be authoritative leaders in their circles (those with shadowy past are not allowed), should be physically healthy (not to be blind, deaf and dumb) and have a Master's degree. A candidate must be at least 30 and no older than 75 years…

The parliamentary elections in Iran (the Iranian Islamic Consultative Council - Majlis) are held every four years. The parliamentary elections of the VIII convocation were held on March 14, 2008. At the moment, there are 290 MPs.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Moscow winter?

Following the example of the Arab Spring, will there be a Moscow Winter?

Young and Connected, ‘Office Plankton’ Protesters Surprise Russia
A mystery has been unfolding [in Moscow] over the past month, and office plankton [young professionals] are in the middle of it. A critical mass of young Russians decided this month that they had the power to alter the course of political events. They organized outside the channels of mainstream politics and took the country’s leadership by surprise, as other crowds have done this year in Israel, India, Spain and the United States.

No one can say how strong this burst of citizen activism will prove to be — whether it can recreate the crowd of 50,000 that gathered Dec. 10 in Moscow, let alone serve as the foundation of a permanent political force. But an impulse was released after December’s parliamentary elections, which were widely discredited as fraudulent. It has rippled out through Russia’s emerging middle class — wired, sophisticated urbanites like Mr. Terekhov’s employees — many of whom have decided, quite suddenly, that a political system they have long tolerated is intolerable…

A signal change has occurred already: Russia’s opposition movement is the realm of the young. Planning meetings, once held in the musty domain of perestroika-era dissidents, are now convened at Moscow’s most fashionable addresses, like the rehabilitated Red October chocolate factory. In a city obsessed with style, protest has become stylish...

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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Protests over higher fuel prices begin

Unions and other civil society groups have begun protesting the removal of fuel subsidies by Nigeria's government. Will the government be able to resist the popular pressure to restore the subsidy? Will civil society be able to achieve its demands?

Nigerians protest at removal of fuel subsidy
Thousands of Nigerians are taking part in protests around the country following the removal of a fuel subsidy, which has doubled petrol prices and transport fares.

Trade unionists have marched in the biggest city, Lagos. They are to meet on Wednesday to decide on strike plans…

Nigeria is Africa's biggest oil producer, but imports refined petrol.

Years of mismanagement and corruption mean it does not have the capacity to refine oil into into petrol and other fuels.

Analysts say many Nigerians regard cheap fuel as the only benefit they get from the nation's oil wealth.

Several previous governments have tried to remove the subsidy but have backed down in the face of widespread public protests and reduced it instead…

Prices have increased from 65 naira ($0.40; £0.26) per litre to at least 140 naira in filling stations and from 100 naira to at least 200 on the black market, where many Nigerians buy their fuel.

There are reports that petrol prices have tripled in some remote areas, while commuters have complained that motorcycle and minibus taxi fares have already doubled or tripled.

Many Nigerians expect the prices of other goods to rise as well.

The government has said it will spend the money saved by removing the subsidy on improving the country's erratic electricity supply, as well as health and education.

However, analysts say that many Nigerians have little faith that the money will be well spent and fear it will instead be stolen by corrupt officials…

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Two paths diverged. Or did they merge?

An illustration of a couple of the "parties" within the Communist Party in China.

Remember These two candidates for the Politburo Standing Committee:
  • Bo Xilai = a "princeling" who inherited his position; client of VP (soon to be president and party general secretary) Xi Jinping; critic of economic reforms - advocate of reducing income inequalities;
  • Wang Yang = working class "hero;" client of Hu Jintao; an economic reformer; compromised with Wukan village protesters.
Watch to see who gets appointed to the standing committee in 2012.

Guangdong protests could impact China’s leadership shuffle
An uprising over land seizures in a fishing hamlet in southern Guangdong province has been defused, but Chinese analysts and others are watching to see whether the unrest could have a wider impact, perhaps on the future of a provincial chief who had been seen as a rising star in the Communist Party.

Wang Yang, the provincial party chief since 2007… is considered a top candidate for one of the seven slots opening in 2012 on the all-powerful nine-member Politburo Standing Committee…

Bo Xilai, a rival to Wang who is the party chief in Chongqing, has been critical of the liberal approach.

For months, Wang and Bo have been engaged in a rare public debate over whose methods and models were best for China…

For his part, Bo has championed an approach that emphasizes efforts to reverse income inequality. “Some people in China have indeed become rich first, so we must seek the realization of common prosperity,” Bo was quoted as saying in July. A week later, Wang said in Guangdong that “division of the cake is not a priority right now. The priority is to make the cake bigger.”…

Also, although Wang has experimented with allowing a relatively open media and reforms, Bo has shifted to a “new left” stance, encouraging a “Red Culture” campaign that includes the singing of Communist “red songs” and operas, launching a “Red Twitter” microblogging site to promote Mao-era slogans, and ordering Chongqing’s television stations to broadcast patriotically themed programs. Wang replied by saying people’s’ everyday problems could not be solved through political campaigns...

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Monday, January 02, 2012

Another test

As if the threat of terrorism wasn't enough, there's another threat to the capacity of the state in Nigeria. Economists, economic development experts, and some politicians have long argued for an end to fuel subsidies in Nigeria. President Jonathan's government has done that. Can it survive the ensuing unhappiness and protest? The political fight will also test the capacity of the unions.

New Year Shocker! Fuel Now to Sell At N141 Per Litre
A litre of petrol jumped by 116% yesterday to N141 after the Federal Government sanctioned the removal of the controversial subsidy on the price of petrol.

The removal of the subsidy was conveyed by the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency, PPPRA in a statement issued on New Year day.

The hike immediately provoked strong criticisms from labour, civil society groups and opposition political parties…

No More Petrol Subsidy From Today - PPPRA
The Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) today announced the full withdrawal of subsidies from Petrol (Premium Motor Spirit).

According to a statement signed by the agency's executive secretary, Reginald Stanley, the removal takes effect from today, January 1, 2012.

It said in part that the agency "...wishes to inform all stakeholders of the commencement of formal removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), in accordance with the powers conferred on the agency by the law establishing it, in compliance with Section 7 of PPPRA Act, 2004.

"By this announcement, the downstream sub-sector of the petroleum industry is hereby deregulated for PMS. Service providers in the sector are now to procure products and sell same in accordance with the indicative benchmark price to be published fortnightly and posted on the PPPRA website…

UK news agency REUTERS on Thursday claimed the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was behind the push by governments across West Africa to remove petrol subsidies. Ghana officially ended hers on Thursday December 29, 2011. Other countries which the report said were under similar pressure are Cameroon, Guinea and Chad…

Labour Threatens Mass Protests
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) have declared a showdown with the Federal Government through mass protests and strikes until the price of petrol is reversed to N65 per litre.

The leadership of the labour movements in a joint statement issued yesterday directed their state councils to take steps to resist any price above N65 per litre of PMS, and await a date for the commencement of general strikes and mass protests across the country…

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Sunday, January 01, 2012

Government action against terror

The Nigerian government has essentially declared war on the terrorist group Boko Haram. This is a test of the government's capacity and may be a test of civilian government.

The BBC report includes a link to a video of President Jonathan declaring the state of emergency.

Boko Haram attacks prompt Nigeria state of emergency
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has declared a state of emergency in parts of the country following attacks from the Islamist group Boko Haram.

The measure is in force is areas of the Yobe and Borno states in the north-east, Plateau state in central Nigeria and Niger state in the west.


International borders in the affected areas have been temporarily closed…

Mr Jonathan vowed to "crush" Boko Haram, which killed dozens in attacks across the country on Christmas Day.

Announcing the state of emergency in a live televised address, Mr Jonathan said: "The temporary closure of our borders in the affected areas is only an interim measure designed to address the current security challenges."…

The president added that his chief of defence staff had been instructed to take other "appropriate" measures, including setting up a special counter-terrorism force…

Boko Haram, which originated in Maiduguri, wants to impose strict Sharia law across Nigeria…

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