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Supreme Court roundup

Thursday, June 30, 2011

When students write about the US Supreme Court, any responses offering high order analysis of the significance of recent cases, or the subtle shifts of voting blocs on the court really stand out.

At the end of each annual session, court watchers offer their insight into how judges have acted and they are a must for any student folder.

Here is the Washington Post’s summary of the most recent docket, detailing in particular how the Obama appointments have settled in to life in the world’s most powerful judicial body.

A solution to Obama’s gay problem?

A good update on my posting about where camp Obama is on gay marriage.

In the Post, here

Obama’s gay confusion

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How are relations between the Obama camp, and a key constitutency within the Democrat Party?

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Lords: time for a change?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Former government minister, and current member of the House of Lords, Lord Adonis has co-written an article this weekend arguing for politicians to get behind reform of the second chamber.

How do his points stand up against the usual arguments in favour of leaving things as they are, as outlined below?

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global Issues: politics of International Aid

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Politics Home and YouGov have just compiled a report on the ‘Politics of International Aid’  - a few useful grahics and stats.  Click here.

Global Issues: Terrorism ~ Is Al Qaeda on the run?

Useful article in the Telegraph entitled ‘Is Al Qaeda on the run?’  - US experts now believe that they have fatally wounded the global terrorist organisation.  Useful for considering the issue of how significant is the threat of terrorism to global security. A brief exerpt is:

‘“Basically, we are winning dramatically,” says Marc Sageman, a terrorism specialist and researcher. “You have an organisation which is a shadow of its former self. We have got to the point where the real danger is from lone wolves who decide by themselves to turn violent.” But those lone wolves can, of course, kill. Nidal Hasan, a Muslim US army psychiatrist, shot dead 13 people at Fort Hood in Texas on the pretext of disgust with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.’

The article also focuses on the activities and potential threat of othe rterrorist organisation such as AQAP:
US intelligence agencies have identified the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as the greatest threat to Western interests. It has shown the sort of creativity that has often left our finest spooks and detectives a step behind. The plot to detonate bombs in printer cartridges – which made it through transit in London – in US cargo planes almost worked.

The radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a dual Yemeni and US citizen, has pioneered using the English language as a new medium to reach the diaspora of potential terrorists. Through his online sermons and magazine Inspire, “he is trying to make terrorism cool”, according to an authoritative Washington source working in counter-terrorism.

“AQAP’s menace derives in part from the fact that it hatches its plots relatively quickly, making them harder to track. “It has a much shorter decision-making cycle than the traditional al-Qaeda leadership, and Awlaki isn’t the same kind of perfectionist freak as bin Laden,” says the source.  As Yemen begins to unravel, Awlaki and his cohorts could benefit from friendly tribes seeking to wrest control of swathes of the country from the unpopular government in Sana’a.  That could provide the sort of sanctuary that bin Laden enjoyed first in Sudan and later in Afghanistan, before the 2001 US invasion put him to flight.

“There will be losers in the Arab Spring who will be fodder for terrorists, and uncertainty is an environment terrorists thrive in,” says Bruce Hoffman, an expert at Georgetown University steeped in al-Qaeda and a self-confessed pessimist.”



Follow me on Twitter

Thursday, June 23, 2011


On Twitter I have been posting links to news stories that are an essential daily read for students of Politics that I have come across as part of my personal reading on the web.

This type of heads up on what is in the news is not a substitute for students doing their own reading, but I know that for many students it is the case that there is so much information freely available on the web that it is not always easy to discriminate between items in terms of their direct relevance to the syllabus. This is where the posts are supposed to fill the gap. Just a couple of links each day, and if students have time to read more then they can use these stories as a starting point for further browsing.

My students have already said they find it useful, and I hope more can.

Follow me on @bgsmacca

President Cameron

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I’ve just penned an article auditing Cameron’s style of premiership, and hope you will see it in the next edition of FPTP.

Here are the background articles I used.

Useful perhaps if you want students to carry out an exhibition on the power of the PM, or the Tory Party at the beginning of AS. Some, not many, require entry to the Times online via the paywall.

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Interested in criminology?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Or if you are interested in American Studies, or more generally the politics and society of the USA.

Great article on the BBC website laying out possible reasons for falling crime across America.

See it here.

Politics reading list update

I have made a couple of additions to my Politics reading list, which should be of interest to anyone looking to support their UCAS application with evidence of some depth to their interest of politics.
The following can also be useful as a guide for those who want to read around the subject. 
Those titles below marked with a double asterisk were highlighted as being helpful by successful applicants for PPE.

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Primaries are heating up

Monday, June 20, 2011

A great introductory exercise for students new to US politics is to keep a close eye on the primaries, perhaps by setting aside a regular time each week for discussion. Doing so provides a number of insights into key syllabus areas, and stimulates thought, for instance, on questions such as why the US electorate has tended to favour Washington outsiders as nominees.

It’s also fascinating to see what a quite different beast the United States is, and how different the politics of the nation is compared to the UK.

For instance, here is a summary from yesterday’s Observer of the politics of Michele Bachmann:

‘Bachmann’s criticism of homosexuality is open and brutal. She has led the charge against gay marriage, even at the cost of a once-close relationship with a lesbian stepsister. In 2004 Bachmann said of gay people: “It’s a very sad life. It’s part of Satan, I think, to say that this is gay. It’s anything but gay.”

She is on record as viewing homosexuality as a “disorder” or a “sexual dysfunction” and is a staunchly anti-abortion Christian conservative. She believes Obama is “the final leap to socialism” in America, and has accused him of wanting to set up youth indoctrination camps for teenagers.

She has called for investigations into fellow congressional politicians to see if they are “anti-American”. She once claimed to know of a plan to give up half of Iraq to Iran. She is against raising America’s debt ceiling for running up its deficit, and wants to repeal healthcare reform in its entirety.

She is a firm sceptic on the dangers of global warming. She once introduced a resolution seeking to prevent the dollar being replaced by a foreign currency, despite the fact that such a move is already illegal. She has called the Environmental Protection Agency a “job-killing” organisation.’

Can you imagine a politician in the UK being taken seriously with that kind of profile?!

For full coverage check out the Washington Post 2012 page.

Why a legislator needs to be seen betting on an armadillo race

Friday, June 17, 2011

Gerrymandering during the process of redistricting that takes place every ten years has been criticised for decreasing the responsiveness of legislatures to the needs and wants of America as a whole, and instead reinforcing partisanship, and clogging up democracy.
The state of California has just enacted a new proposal whereby an independent body redraws district boundaries rather than the politicians themselves. This could open up elections to genuine competition and act as a template for other states in the US.

Read the article here.
Here is a link to a short clip on the significance of gerrymandering - and the armadillo race

US federalism

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A good example here of how the US Constitution allows for the defence of rights and liberties.

OK, many states in the US have passed amendments or penned legislation banning same sex marriage, but it remains the case as Andrew Sullivan once pointed out in a column comparing the UK and US, that in certain states gays can do things that those in the UK can’t, i.e. tie the knot.

New York state may soon join Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia in allowing same sex marriage. Mass was first off the mark, allowing same sex unions in 2004.

Thus states act as laboratories of democracy (Justice Brandeis) experimenting by pioneering different laws in a way that a unitary state such as the UK cannot.

You can see video coverage of the issue from the NYT here.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A good example of pressure groups in action.

Guardian story is here

Their website is here

The Euro courts

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

If you are doing OCR’s comparative paper, answers on the role of judges in different political systems can be developed impressively with reference to the ECJ and ECHR. These are frequently confused and assessment of their role can lack depth.

The Charlemagne column in the Economist provides a handy overview of their place in Europe, with excellent examples and analysis.

Here is the link

Evaluating the presidential candidate selection system

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

This is a reposting of a blog entry I put up in January of 2008. The basic framework still applies, and maybe as a revision exercise students could update the arguments with a more recent example or two!

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American Politics exam hall strategies

Monday, June 06, 2011


At this time of year, this reminder goes to the A2 sets.  It may be of some wider use.

Some hints and tips with approaching the forthcoming US Politics exams, (particularly for route C with Edexcel)...

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The clash between Parliament and Judges

Saturday, June 04, 2011

The clash between Parliament and the Judiciary in recent weeks has raised important questions about the independence and neutrality of the judiciary.

It is important to recognise that the twin issues of independence and neutrality are distinct, but they do overlap when we consider who it is that should be making the law.

This debate is also a useful one to consider in terms of constitutional reform issues.

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Arab spring - The Path to Protest

Friday, June 03, 2011

Fantastic interactive from Wednesday`s Guardian here and below. A very impressive and informative graphic with loads of links to more detailed articles and information.

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