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A2 Students - It’s Crunch Time

Sunday, March 17, 2013

You've had results day from January. You should by now know how many points you are going to need to get the grades you want to move on from College or Sixth Form. However this last push doesn't need to be you on your own! I've complied a list of websites and sources you may want to take a look at, as well as some tricks that you can do to not only help you live the subject but also help you achieve the grades you need and deserve. This is a golden opportunity in which you can evaluate what went wrong last time or what you can do better and do it!

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Presidential primaries: study note update

Thursday, October 20, 2011

With the GOP contest dangerously close to descending into what can only be desribed as a slanging match - e.g. see this story from the CNN website if you have not being watching the goings on closely - I have taken the opportunity to fully update my arguments for and against the primaries process.

It is important to note that these points are predicated on considerations of both their existence compared to a process of party elder selection, and ways in which the system of primaries per se could be subject to improvement.

With that caveat emptor aside, here is my updated version…

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AS parties: divide over energy prices

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A quick update to my ongoing study note about policy divides between the Conservatives and Labour.

This is taken from the Guardian:

“The government has persuaded energy suppliers to write to 8 million customers to tell them how to switch payment methods, find lower tariffs and insulate their homes to save energy.

The prime minister pledged the big six companies would be “permanently watched” and should put their shoulders to the wheel in what he called a “winter call to action”.

However, Labour said the government should have used the “bully pulpit” of government to insist the big six energy companies kept costs down.

Caroline Flint, Labour’s shadow energy and climate change secretary, said: “For the big six to agree with David Cameron to hold their price increases over the winter, when wholesale energy prices have been falling in recent weeks, is a complete betrayal of the public.”

Labour believes the government had a series of options, including “pressurising” the energy companies to cut prices this winter, extracting a promise of fewer, simple tariffs and giving the regulator immediate powers to open the books of energy companies.”

 

 

Cat fight over Human Rights Act?

Monday, October 10, 2011

The recent ‘cat fight’ over the Human Rights Act sparked by Teresa May at the recent Tory conference and then fuelled by Ken Clarke’s response [referring to May’s assertion as “laughable child-like”] has caused something of a storm in a tea cup.  However, it does raise the issue of how well protected are our rights?  Will we see the HRA be swept aside in a simple swipe of Tory pique and excercise of parliamentary sovereignty?  Hence, the debate of whether we in fact need an entrenched Bill of Rights is again relevant. 

The most amusing reporting of the ‘cat-atrophic’ fur fetched’ tale comes from Guido Fawke’s:

Claws For Moment: It never goes well when a politician utters the words “I am not making this up”. Often it turns out they are and Theresa May’s anecdote about a man not being deported because he had a cat is no exception. Larry the Cat may have been left at No. 10, but conference suddenly went cat-tastic. It’s the purrfect story for a subdued conference, and the tabby-loids are all over this fur-fetched tail. Cameron will be fur-ious, but Guido reckons she’ll get away with it, by a whisker and she can claw back her reputation . We will now take a paws from the cat puns.

Today’s Huffington Post has an interesting follow up article “ Human Rights and Cat Fights - The Calls for Reform Must not be Silenced”, which asserts

It would be, to coin a phrase, child-like to summate the debate around the Human Rights Act as one between those in favour of protecting human rights in law, and those against doing so.

Click here for the full article.

Obama and the economy

Politics students may not always be avid readers of the Economist so a heads up on a feature in this week’s edition that may be of interest:

“WILL the next presidential election see Barack Obama return triumphantly to the White House for a second term as president of the world’s biggest economy? Or will a sluggish economic recovery, which has left over 14m Americans out of work, doom him to defeat in November 2012?

Models of the way economic factors affect presidential elections already exist. The best known was developed in the late 1970s by Ray Fair, an economist at Yale, who used macroeconomic indicators (such as inflation and the growth rate of income per person) to predict the vote share of the two main parties in subsequent elections. Mr Fair most recently updated his estimates at the end of July, when his model predicted a victory for Mr Obama in 2012 with 53.4% of the vote. In releasing his predictions, however, he noted that “a strong rebound results in a fairly solid Obama victory…and a double-dip recession…results in a fairly solid Republican victory.” Democratic hearts will have skipped a beat or two on hearing Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, say on October 4th that the recovery was “close to faltering”.

But is it right to focus exclusively on macroeconomic indicators?”

Interested? Read more here.

Should Dr Fox resign?

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Dr Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, has come under increased pressure this weekend regarding the behaviour of his close friend Adam Werritty.

This is an opportunity to revisit the politics of ministerial resignations, a very common Unit 2 topic. I include a study note on ministerial responsibility with this story .

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Bush shoe incident

Thursday, October 06, 2011

With all that’s going on at the minute, I hope these clips brings some light relief…

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Global Issues: Changing Nature of Warfare: Could the Taliban return?

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The ‘10 year anniversary’ of the war in Afghanistan has put the Taliban into the spotlight oncemore, not least given recent events such as the breakdown in possible talks with the Taliban, the recent assination of a former Aghan president and the activities of the Haqqani network.  The Taliban are of interest in relation to the Global Issues course both in terms of how the character of modern conflict has changed in terms of ‘new’ wars in terms of being a non-state internal actor and the nature of insurgency itself; however, they are also of interest in terms of the rise identity politics in terms of their stress on Pushtun identity and adherence to a fundamentalist view of Islam.

Here are a few useful resources:
1. Podcaste of an interesting BBC Radio interview with Ahmed Rashid (Pakistani journalist and author of the excellent ‘Descent into Chaos’ addressing the issue of ‘Can the Taliban return?’
2. BBC - Success of the Taliban - looks at how a rag tag militia have turned into a .successful guerilla army mounting an intractable insurgency.
3.  BBC: Who are the Taliban?

Global Issues: Terrorism ~ Killing of Anwar al-Awlaki

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Of interest to Global Issues students will be the ‘targeted killing’ of the radical Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in a drone strike.  Such measures are a part of counterterrorism strategy and operations; however, while US policy makers may tout this as a victory in the ‘war on terror’, the episode highlights controversial aspects of the expanding targeted killing policy. 

The CFR has the following comment:

‘The targeted killing of al-Awlaki eliminates an inspirational and charismatic voice of al-Qaeda, as well as someone who U.S. officials asserted was playing an increasing operational role. However, like most targeted killings, it probably will not make much difference in reducing the ability of al-Qaeda or affiliated groups in mobilizing, recruiting, and planning terrorist operations.  In addition, it calls to mind a similar targeted killing that occurred almost nine years ago, which is illustrative to remember as U.S. officials—anonymously of course—condone al-Alwaki’s death.’

Of interest may be an earlier blog post which coincided with the Yemen ‘Christmas Cargo Bombplot’:
Global Issues: Terrorism ~ Bomb Plots, Yemen and AQAP

For more on the story here are a few BBC links:
Obama: Anwar Al-Awlaki death is major blow for al-Qaeda
Obituary: Anwar al-Awlaki
Profile: Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

The foreign policy think tank has a useful backrounder on the controversial and seemingly more common practice of ‘targeted killings - click here.

Obama’s political history told through YouTube

Thursday, September 22, 2011

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This is not intended to be an exhaustive journey through Barack Obama’s career, but instead to end the series on Politics via YouTube by bringing blog readers access to a step by step tour of some key points in the story of an individual with the kind of charisma and oratorical skill that comes around perhaps only once in several generations.

I have tried wherever possible to link to versions with the best combination of audio visual quality.

Put some time aside, and enjoy…

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Top US Politics YouTube clips

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

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Having covered a fair amount of UK highlights, I thought I’d link to some top clips I use in US politics teaching.

These are all pre-Obama. I’m working on bringing video material on the current POTUS together for a future posting.

Happy viewing!

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West Lothian Question Redux

Monday, September 12, 2011

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Issues such as free university tuition for Scots have made devolution a controversial topic

A potential ban on non-English MPs being able to vote on matters Westminster considers English only is back on the agenda. This is a chance to revisit the old chestnut that is the West Lothian Question - for this special occasion I have also dug out a set of arguments for and against whether the issue is of any real significance.

According to the Telegraph:

“Mark Harper, the constitutional reform minister, announced yesterday that a group of non-partisan independent experts would look at how parliamentary procedures at Westminster work and whether they needed reforming to reflect the changed constitutional make-up of the United Kingdom.

He said: “The Government is clear that the commission’s primary task should be to examine how this House, and Parliament as a whole, can deal most effectively with business that affects England wholly or primarily, when at the same time similar matters in some or all of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are lawfully and democratically the responsibility of the separate parliament or assemblies.”

He said that the commission would be made up of a small group of non-partisan experts with constitutional, legal and parliamentary expertise.”

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US political parties: introductory exercise

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

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Can images like these offer us real insight into US politics?

US parties share some characteristics with their British counterparts in the A level Politics course. Neither are very popular, but they do tend to attract a disproportionate number of high end responses.

I came across this article and thought it would act as a starting point for students to engage with the GOP primary race as a way of deepening their understanding of the fabric that holds the American political system together.

At CNN, Julian E. Zelizer a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, contends in this editorial that the Republicans should learn from history and track to the centre.

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Documentary heads up

Sunday, September 04, 2011

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With the 10th anniversary of 9/11 coming soon we can expect a raft of related features and documentaries, but Shoot to Kill on Channel 4 is highlighted by a number of Sunday papers as the documentary of the week…

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White House 2012

Voter perceptions of economic performance and the link with the White House incumbent are a large driver of elections.
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And a new poll by CNN says that just one in three Americans think Obama is doing a good job of handling the economy, suggesting that it is going to take a miracle between now and next November if Obama is not going to be a one term president.
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American elections: running mates

Thursday, August 25, 2011

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As I said recently, following the US presidential nomination and election race is a great way in for those new to American politics. There is acres of coverage on the US news sites, with reporters already getting towards fever pitch on the GOP race. The latest buzz inside the beltway is that Rick Perry has nudged ahead of Mitt Romney in a series of opinion polls.

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American Politics: the Republican nomination

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

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The race for the nomination to become the challenger to Obama next year is crystallising around three main candidates in the pre-primary phase. The Ames straw poll took place recently, and the first official ballots will be cast by party supporters early next year.

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Students new to American politics will find it fun and informative to keep up with the race and update examples to support arguments for and against the presidential candidate selection system. Briefly, if you are unsure how the system operates, those wishing to head the ticket for one of the American parties must first seek nomination by their party. This used to take place in smoke filled rooms by party bosses at quadrennial national party conventions, but now registered supporters (not party members as such) cast ballots for their chosen candidate with the first placed in each state taking all those votes. There are also caucuses, and sometimes a mixture of the two, but you can get to that later.

The important thing to note is that the contest for the White House 2012, i.e. well over a year away, has resulted already in some reasonably well qualified candidates dropping out due to lack of support. This can be seen as a good or a bad thing depending on the context.

Anyway, below are some links, and some basic arguments for and against the primary system…

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Getting going on A2 American

Monday, August 22, 2011

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This is essentially a posting about the virtues of the CNN app for US Politics students

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A Level Politics eBook - Representative Processes in the USA - US Parties

Friday, July 15, 2011

The second in a new series of A Level Politics eBooks by Andrew Ellams examines the core specification topics related to US political parties.

Download sample pages from the US Parties eBook

Order this and other A Level Politics resources from tutor2u (download order form)

Order online from our ecommerce resource store

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A Level Politics eBook - Representative Processes in the USA - US Elections

This superb new eBook by Andrew Ellams, available now from tutor2u, provides comprehensive coverage of the key exam topics on US`elections.  Details of the content is provided further below.

Download sample pages from the US`Elections eBook

Order this and other A Level Politics resources from tutor2u (download order form)

Order online from our ecommerce resource store

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President Twitter

Thursday, July 07, 2011

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It often surprises people that America, a country with arguably the most dynamic market economy, possesses a political system that lends itself towards stasis. Opposing forces push and pull at each other and this is down to the numerous checks and balances the framers designed into the constitution. As one of them said, the plan was that ambition must be made to counter ambition. Constitutionally the president is granted only limited powers, but since the 1930s especially he is burdened with enormous expectations. The de jure limits on the president’s powers can only be overcome with adroit use of informal powers. As one constitutional scholar put it, the president has only the power to persuade.

One way a President can do this is by appealing directly to the people, and Obama in an hour long town hall session via Twitter is an ideal example of this. Previous incumbents of the White House have used the media to appeal directly to the people, such as FDR with his fireside chats via radio, and Reagan was known as the Great Communicator for his easy manner during television addresses to the American people. So how significant was Obama’s use of the social media service?

According to the Associated Press:

“He made little news over the course of about an hour, but that wasn’t his point.

Obama wanted to get in touch with people outside Washington, promote his agenda, prod Congress and embrace the fast-moving online conversation site that is increasingly seen as a home of national buzz.”

In other words, it’s yet another demonstration of how the President seeks to use his informal powers as the communicator in chief in his continuing battle with political opponents on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue.

 

Affirmative Action in the USA

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

There’s a really good article here on Affirmative Action that would be of interest to any edexcel American students with respect to the race in America topic.
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Affirmative Action has been shaped by the courts more than any other branch in recent decades, and this case highlights how this is still true. Opinion on AA is usually viewed through a left/right prism, with liberals arguing it is still necessary, and those on the right advocating a dismantling of the system on the basis that it is un-American and possibly should have never been introduced in the first place. There are of course neutrals who share these views, or take the stance that some sort of AA is necessary but should perhaps focus on class rather than race.

Anyway, the article is here and provides a good summary of how the courts have interpreted AA in colleges.

A deepening democratic deficit?

Monday, July 04, 2011

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Here’s a really well written comment piece by Gary Younge. It doesn’t say much about the power of big business as the byline would suggest, but does rather convincingly argue that national politicians are fairly powerless in the face of overriding global economic conditions.

Supreme Court roundup

Thursday, June 30, 2011

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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

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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

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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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Follow me on Twitter

Thursday, June 23, 2011

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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

Primaries are heating up

Monday, June 20, 2011

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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.
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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

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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.

The Euro courts

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

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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

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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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Osama, Obama, and the power to persuade

Thursday, May 05, 2011

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I have been asked a number of times if Osama’s capture increases the prospects of Obama being re-elected in 2012. Of far more relevance to students looking to support their answers in American Politics is what impact Osama’s death will have on Obama’s relations with Congress, and his ability to pursue his policy/legislative agenda in the short term. It was Neustadt of course who said that the power of the president is the power to persuade. It would make sense therefore for Obama to use this short term boost to his popularity (I haven’t seen any poll numbers yet, but there is likely to be a second honeymoon effect) to boost his negotiating power with those working at the other end of the avenue. Popularity, as commentators have said this week, is not something you can bank for later. On this we should remember back to the presidency of George Bush senior. At a similar stage in the electoral cycle he was boosted in the opinion polls by defeating Saddam Hussain in Gulf War One. And what happened to his second term?! There’s a good feature on this with quotes by the likes of Mann and Sabato here.

Labour and Conservative battle lines update

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

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Hardly a week goes by without the two main parties having a go at each other. Yes, they might be arguing about minute policy differences more than ideological themes, but nevertheless we can see how broad differences about how society should be shaped serve to underpin policy options in most cases.

Following a quick sweep of stories over the last month or so I have made some updates to policy divisions previously identified on these pages. These are highlighted in bold and links to original sources are included for reference.

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One for the Gipper

Monday, February 14, 2011

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A great doc on Reagan is still avaliable on iplayer. The second half is strong on the strategies employed by Reagan as President in an attempt to fulfil the expectations that American people have of the POTUS.

Here is the link.

The economy and demography of the USA

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Californina sized hat tip to Ben on the Economics blog for highlighting the existence of this excellent graphic which compares US states to nations in terms of the size of their economies and populations.

I know this is thinking ahead, but after the AS exams any potential A2 American Politics groups I have are offered the chance to enter the post AS competition on America’s geography, demography and population - regular readers may have read about this exercise in previous postings.

Anyway, here is the link.

Gun crime USA

Friday, January 14, 2011

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I’m sure the Arizona shootings have provoked fierce debate about the rights and wrongs of gun ownership in the USA in classes this week, as they have mine.

Here is some data on gun laws internationally.

And in case you haven’t seen it, or want to watch it again, here is Obama’s speech at a memorial in Tuscon. Arguably this is Obama’s best oration since he was inaugurated.

Both items are taken from the Guardian’s excellent US gun crime page.

Excellent EU 2011 overview

Thursday, January 06, 2011

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BBC Parliament broadcasted an excellent “The Record Europe” programme over the Christmas period. It is something of s shame that the EU has been trimmed from the AS course since I think it is a fascinating political project and in the UK there is a great deal of myth and propaganda about it.

This recording is on iplayer and features the normally controversial Nigel Farage.

If there isn’t time to squeeze it into lesson delivery then I think it is worth considering as an off syllabus project as part of a Politics Society feature. It might also interest Route D followers.

Watch it here.

A real alternative?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

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As a follow up to Owen’s earlier post, here are another couple of links to the AV issue.

I have been surprised by how many people are unaware of the referendums coming up later in the year. All the more surprising considering large numbers are (a) Politics students (b) eligible to vote in either of the polls (c) both!

Guardian overview of the IPPR report.

John Kampfner arguing the case for reform of fptp

So that’s the AV vote, but what’s the other one? The clue is in the picture on this posting.  See here.

Obama and gay rights

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

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I penned an article for t2u’s digital Politics magazine FPTP on this topic some months back, but events in Congress this week merit revisiting the issue.

The Senate’s decision this week to overturn the 1993 “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy which operates in the military whereby gay soldiers are allowed to serve so long as they are not explicit about their sexuality has come as a relief to a group which was once one of the most ardent set of supporters of Barack Obama.

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US Congress: allocating seats in the House

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Reapportionment and redistricting takes place after each decennial census. Figures for the 2010 census are due to be released shortly, and this USA Today video gives a short and helpful explanation of the reapportionment process.

For more on the reapportionment and redistricting process, see here.

Pressure groups and democracy

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The best and worst of pressure group behaviour cropped up recently in two contrasting stories. The first is about the human rights group Equal Love. the second is about the UK’s biggest union, Unite.

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AS Politics update: internal Tory divisions

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

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News of a possible rift between two of the Conservative Party’s big hitters as emerged recently, with Theresa May, the Home Sec, apparently at odds with Ken Clarke’s Justice Department and plans to cut prison numbers.

See more here

AS (and UK Issues) Politics update: Labour opposition to Tory education policy

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Political parties is often one of the most challenging parts of the UK Politics course, and with the first coalition for 70 years, a new government and opposition leader combined for the first time in 13 years parties are certainly in a state of flux (and a topic which therefore what John Reid would call “permament revisionism”).

One of the most high profile areas where the main parties are split is over education. This is a policy area which students have an obvious interest in and could form a significant chunk of material in parties answers given its especially high profile over recent times. This entry signposts some articles on policy differences between the Con-Libs and Labour.

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Essential update: differences between Labour and the Conservatives

Thursday, November 25, 2010

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Can’t put a cigarette paper between them?

Whilst we are awaiting the outcome of series of Labour internal policy reviews by their new leader, Ed Miliband, we can still identify post election differences between the parties on issues from the economy to civil liberties

Here is an overview of some of those I have identified in recent months.

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It’s not all about race

Monday, November 22, 2010

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In the race relations element of Route C with Edexcel we talk a lot about synopticity and how it is important to approach questions from different perspectives. Often these are left/liberal versus right/conservative with shades of centrism in between.

So it makes good sense to argue in essays that “Those on the left would suggest race is a barrier in the USA because…”, or “Those on the right would say that affirmative action is not necessary because…” before going on to explain the competing arguments.

But it is important to note that sometimes there is overlap between the two sides on reasons why something is the way it is. And we should bear in mind that both sides accept that there may be other contributory factors. Essentially it is a question about the extent both sides agree in something, and often opponents are not completely dismissive of arguments proposed by the other side. For instance, those on the right may accept that some racism still exists in the United States, but that this does not mean that it is an insurmountable barrier. Equally, those on the left may accept that welfare dependence is a problem to a degree but that the long term effects deeply entrenched divides in US society outweigh its importance in explaining inequalities between whites and blacks in modern US society.

This brings me to an excellent article in today’s Guardian by Gary Younge. Read it and I hope that you will never be tempted to write that all Tea Partyists are motivated by race.

New Orleans and race relations

Sunday, November 21, 2010

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You may have thought that George W Bush’s comments, following publication of his autobiography Decision Points, about being called a racist by Kanye West being the low point of his presidency would be the last we would hear of the New Orleans saga with regards to race. Not so. There is an ongoing trial of five officers into their involvement in the killing of a suspected looter.

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WWOD?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

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What will Obama do?

Given the hammering the President’s party received at the 2010 midterms, the following months will provide an excellent case study in executive leadership.

Part of me wants to point students to putting half an eye on questions about the presidency in next summer’s exams. The other parts simply wants students of Politics to take note of what will surely be a fascinating period of presidential politics. Either way, what should crop up is a rich vein of material relating to the following:

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How did they vote?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

There’s a good interactive graphic section on WSJ site, showing the demographic breakdown for 2010 according to exit polls.

You can find it here

Which groups of voters vote for either the Democrats or Republicans and why has been a common short answer in the past. This site provides some useful data and analysis.

Should murderers have the right to vote?

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Students often state that one of the reasons Britain is not a true democracy is because prisoners don’t have the right to vote. This is true in the majority of cases, though convicts imprisoned for non-payment of fines do retain their voting rights.

The question of giving prisoners voting rights is an old debating chestnut. See here.

Yesterday the DPM, Nick Ckegg, went to the high court to lift the ban on prisoners, but as the Guardian reported he was looking for a way to avoid giving murderers, rapists, and other serious offenders voting rights. This has all come about as a result of a ruling by the ECHR in Strasbourg in 2005 which stated that Britain’s blanket ban was unlawful. So I guess this also serves as a good example of judges protecting civil liberties also.

This is a far cry from the USA of course, where a large number of states ban ex-felons for a period following their release. And in the state of Virginia, those convicted of a felony are banned for life! Many in the US see these types of policies as racist given the disproportionately large number of black prisoners, a significant number of whom are incarcerated as a result of the ramping up of drugs laws from the 1970s onwards. There’s a good webiste on the American debate called procon.org if readers want to pursue their interest in the debate further.

And in no way am I endorsing this, but Melanie Phillips has let go on the issue too.

What does Cabinet do?

Monday, November 01, 2010

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It seems fair to argue that the PM dominates the central executive territory at the heart of the British political system. The PM has in recent years been accused of presidentialism, making less use of Cabinet, with important decisions been made elsewhere such as in bilaterals (the classic case is “Sofa government” under Blair), increasing the power and status of special advisers, and so forth. These are all ideas that students are familiar with, they sound fairly exciting, and invite easy discussion

And therefore it takes longer to get to grips with what Cabinet does since it is less in the public eye. But Cabinet, and yes this does depend to some extent on how the PM chooses to use the body as collective organ, does still perform some important functions, such as co-ordinating the government’s legislative timetable, dealing with political strategy, keeping ministers up-to-date with latest developments from arenas such as the UN and so on.

Another function of Cabinet is to deal with emergencies, with senior Cabinet members and relevant members of outside bodies (such as the military) in attendance. These special meetings are organised under the term “Cobra”, and one such example happened today. When I first heard about Cobra I imagined high pressured meetings taking place with a giant Cobra symbol on the wall behind the PM. Then I discovered what the acronym stood for. Very disappointing. (That’s a little bit of research for readers who don’t know.)

So, there you go, a very up-to-date example: today’s meeting on dodgy packages in cargo.  If you missed the story I am referring to, see here.

Great background reading for typical US politics exam questions

Saturday, October 30, 2010

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This week’s edition of the Economist has a load of material that is ideal for inclusion in answers to some of the most common exam questions. These should be read now, and stored in files or folders for use later when preparing for essays or short answers.

This one on Obama covers a load of ground on presidential success and failure. Why are some presidents more successful than others? Why are second term presidencies less successful? etc. It covers Obama’s legislative and policy accomplishments and gives an objective view of why he could and should have done better. This is it here.

How important are midterms? Well, some are more important than others, and 2010 is one of the more signifcant contests. This article clearly explains why.

Why do blacks vote Democratic? Some good quotes and analysis here.

Which groups of voters vote Democratic is a common short answer question or forms part of a longer essay on voting behaviour. Groups that sway Democrat can be identified by gender, demography, race, geography, income, and age. This article looks at the importance of the youth vote.

Initiatives and propositions November 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

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A heads up on a great site for checking up on the ballot measures at next week’s polls (what one commentator is calling indecision day).

Interesting stuff. You probably know Californians will decide on marijuana use, but what about states considering a ban on affirmative action?

The political compass

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

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I think I blogged on this previously, but here is a reminder of a neat little exercise for teachers and students. It doesn’t take long, and proved highly popular with my students last year.

Here is the link.

Half Term reading

Monday, October 25, 2010

Here is a collection of some of the most interesting and/or thought provoking material I have come across over the past few days. The autumn break is always a good time to recharge the batteries, but it is also a good opportunity for students to expose themeselves to quality writing. I have become increasingly convinced that a regular diet of good article reading is fundamental to developing a proper understanding of politics.

First off, Martin Kettle argues that the Chancellor is a One Nation Tory. Some may argue the opposite, but Kettle produces some solid evidence.

A portrait of the First Lady.

From the Economist, a good piece on the importance of states. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it sometimes comes as a surprise to students that the single individual politician who most impacts on the day to day life of US citizens in policy terms is the state governor. I wish the US Politics syllabus would acknowledge this in some way, with more attention paid to state politics. Perhaps a case study on the politics of an indvidual state, varying from exam to exam?? Anyway, here is the link.

Lexington offers a feature on Obama and blue collar whites which suggests that while overt racism in the US is pretty much a thing of the past, the country is still divided by the issue.

A heads up on Will Hutton’s latest on fairness in the UK.

Weekend selection

Monday, October 18, 2010

Here are my choices of the best articles for class discussion from the papers on Saturday and Sunday

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Accessible article on US midterms, with questions

Thursday, October 07, 2010

I came across this article in the Guardian this week. Lots of fodder for class discussion or as a homework exercise

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US Supreme Court 2010 style

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Here is a good article for introducing the court, with some questions for discussion.

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What’s up with Obama?

Sunday, October 03, 2010

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Students of US politics should be keeping a close eye on the Obama presidency as a case study on leadership stretch and the constitutional limits of the office.

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The Labour years: out of the wilderness

Saturday, September 25, 2010

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If you are studying UK issues or want an overview of what the Labaour government delivered in policy terms in their 13 years of power if you are new to UK political parties, then this excellent piece from today’s Guardian should fill that gap.

With Labour leaderless at least until later today, it is an extremely useful starting point when tackling party politics. Can help support answers to questions such as:

Is New Labour different from Old Labour?
To what extent is Labour still committed socialism?
Does Labour maintain its traditional goals, but look to secure them via different means?
To what extent are labour and the Tories different?
What was the Labour government’s approach to education/health/the economy/tackling poverty?

See it here - I’ll say it again, it is one to file for future reference.

UK welfare policy: new directions?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

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If you are studying UK issues, there is an interesting feature that should prompt some class debate on a cross-party attmept to tackle Britain’s long term unemployment problem. According to the Sunday Times the government is looking to the City of London to pump investment into blighted communities as a way of relieving the burden on the state and breaking the cycle of poverty of aspiration that has blighted households across generations in some of the poorest parts of the country.

See the story here. And before you think that the Sunday Times has suddenly found a heart, note the accompanying story of an extreme case of the absent father who apparently costs UK taxpayers millions. It seems that this part of the Murdoch empire is nearly as “fair and balanced” as its Fox News counterpart in the US.

Tea Party round-up

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The US media is in a frenzy at the moment over the meaning and potential long term impact of the Tea Party movement. The UK papers this weekend have reacted to this as well and this is a development well worth discussing in a review of the latest news from the US in lesson time this week.

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American inequality

Saturday, September 18, 2010

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What might students of politics make of the latest economic data from the USA which points to a widening gap between rich and poor?

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A more ideologically cohesive GOP?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

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What conclusions, if any, can we draw from the Tea Party surge within the Republican Party?

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Top venues for learning about US politics

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

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If you are a student of American politics, then this post early in the academic year could well be my most important…

These are the sites I most frequently plunder when trying to keep abreast of developments in US politics. These are also the places therefore that I suggest students of the subject try to access as much as possible when trying to get to grips with the politics of the USA. In the same way as linguists recommend immersion learning when studying a new language, getting stuck into some of the US sites really does help.

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Commander in Chief 2012 doesn’t like teachers

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

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This video is strange on so many levels.
See the CNN report with subtitles (not really necessary given the depth and extent of the Palin vocab) here.
Helpful to see, though, the Sarah for Prez support team gesticulate as to how the US is bigger than Alaska. Well, I guess that’s progress.
Hail to the chief?

US politics: courts and civil rights

Friday, August 06, 2010

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It is rare that a court case at a lower level than the US Supreme Court hits the headlines in America, but in a landmark ruling the California district of the US federal courts overturned Proposition 8, an initiative which banned California’s gay marriage law.

It is uncertain whether the ruling in Perry v. Schwarzenegger will trigger any new marriages between same sex couples in the state, but it is likely that campaigners in favour of defending traditional marriage will appeal and that the case will wind its way to the US Supreme Court.

This is the first time that federal judges have ruled on a same sex marriage case, and the outcome only affects the state of California, not the many other states that have constitutional or legal bans on gay marriage. Gay rights activists feared defeat would set back their cause for a generation, and stakes remain high on both sides of the debate, as a final ruling by judges in Washington could fundamentally alter the social topography of the United States. In the more immediate term, the issue is something of a hot potato for the November elections, with politicians from both parties expected to take sides on this issue.

More detail on the story from the washingtonpost.com website here.

Not all it’s cracked up to be?

Friday, July 30, 2010

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Students tackling race relations on edexcel 3c frequently cite the asymmetric treatment afforded to blacks in the judicial-legal system as ongoing evidence of racism and/or racial inequality.

In particular, common reference is made to the much tougher punishment for possession/dealing crack as opposed to powdered cocaine. From a personal perspective it is a shame that often what’s missing from this discourse is the argument that black community leaders and politicians trigerred a ramping up of the crack laws since the drug was devastating housing project areas with a large concentration of black residents.

Anyway, I received this email update from the NAACP. This is a useful way of keeping up-to-date with race issues, since I often don’t come across them in a normal day’s reading of washingtonpost.com.

Read on…

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Federalism in action

Monday, July 26, 2010

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There are a couple of interesting social policy issues getting a lot of attention in the US at the moment, and they act as a useful way of introducing the concept of federal-state relations.

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Midterms 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

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There’s a great piece in this week’s Economist which looks ahead to the 2010 election.

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Palin - the first ever?

Monday, July 12, 2010

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When conducting research for my previous posting I came across this.  It seems that I can’t include three youtube clips in one posting, and it is a shame not to share this if you haven’t already seen it.

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Sarah Palin for 2012?

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Down the left hand side of this page, often newsmax ask you to vote on whether Sarah Palin would get your vote in 2012.  She is the theme of this posting.

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US books

Thursday, July 01, 2010

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Further to my earlier posting on resources for the UK syllabus, listed below are the US books I have as desk copies.

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Racial equality in Obama’s America

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Guardian reports that:

“A huge wealth gap has opened up between black and white people in the US over the past quarter of a century – a difference sufficient to put two children through university – because of racial discrimination and economic policies that favour the affluent.

A typical white family is now five times richer than its African-American counterpart of the same class, according to a report released today by Brandeis University in Massachusetts.

White families typically have assets worth $100,000 (£69,000), up from $22,000 in the mid-1980s. African-American families’ assets stand at just $5,000, up from around $2,000.

A quarter of black families have no assets at all. The study monitored more than 2,000 families since 1984.”

See the full story here.

Twin documentaries heads up - Storyville Vietnam

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Advance notice of a couple of Vietnam related documentaries this week as part of the excellent Storyville series.  Vietnam is a war that has left deep scars on the American psyche and heavily shaped US foreign policy through to the 9/11 era.  Monday 15 February, BBC4 10pm.

The Daily Show does Palin

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

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I’m sure teachers of American Politics won’t need reminding about the virtues of watching the Daily Show, but students may need a gentle reminder.

The episode broadcast in the UK last night contained a hilarious analysis of Sarah Palin’s major speech at the Tea Party conference in Nashville.  Palin is a phenomenon and never quite manages to steer herself away from unintended controversy.  If you’re not sure what I’m on about watch a replay from the Channel 4 website.  Of course, Jon Stewart is presenting from a left wing perspective and I share many of his personal biases, so it may not be to everyone’s taste!!

Watch by clicking here.

Two halves of a bank note

Friday, February 05, 2010

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How successful has Obama been in delaing with Congress?

Listen to this audio clip from national public radio to find out!

Obama and the State of the Union

Monday, February 01, 2010
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Obama’s first State of the Union

Thursday, January 28, 2010

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I’ve just started the power of the presidency, and intend to use Obama’s address to Congress as part of delivery.  Here’s the link to the video

Still more Obama - and ideas for a webquest

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

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There’s a useful two page spread on Obama’s presidency one year on in today’s Independent—here is the link to the web version.

The BBC devotes a special section to the one year anniversary.

And see how you get on with the one year quiz!!!

I’m definitely going to use all the abundant material for students to do a webquest presentation on his first year.  A nice way to start Unit 4C having just completed the 3C exam.  Andy Lawrence has posted details of a similar exercise on Cameron the t2u Pol teachers forum.

More useful Obama article and video links

Monday, January 18, 2010

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More interesting stuff on Obama for teaching and learning.  A great article on Obama and race here.  Younge is a corking journalist who has written two very readable books on the US, which are suggested reading for students of America.  He has also made a documentary for the World Service entitled “Opposing Obama”, first airing scheduled for the 1st of Feb. List of times is here.

Andrew Sullivan casts a cool eye over Obama in an article on his first year.  Newsnight’s Gavin Esler, a man who spent a few years in the US for the BBC, should be worth watching on Wednesday.

Obama and me on BBC Two might not offer great academic insight, but may give you a slice of insight into modern America.

Obama links

Friday, January 15, 2010

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There’s a raft of material out there on Obama at the moment to coincide with the President’s first year in office.  This seems like the second anniversary in recent months since the media sought to celebrate his “first year” back in Nobvember when, of course, this marked 12 months since he was elected, not when he was sworn in.

See the Financial Times for an overview and analysis.

The Economist has a lengthy feature

For the next few days you can see the second part of Simon Schama’s BBC documentary on Obama.

Schama on Obama

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

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Another documentary heads up

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Divides in American party politics

Monday, January 11, 2010

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Two great articles for prompting discussion on intra and inter party rivalry in American politics.

First, Andrew Sullivan looks at the rabid right wing nativist nature of the Republicans here.  This suggests therefore that there are deep partisan divides in America at present.  But closer analysis of the parties also reveals divisions within the Democrats.  As far as some within the party are concerned, Obama’s first year has been a let down.  Read about how Obama has come under attack from the left here.

Greed is good?: Corporate lobbying and US society

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Useful US pressure groups example
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Questions about the corrosive effects of big business in the US has tended to focus on the political damage they cause.  But a new study by the IMF (of all groups!) strongly suggests that the sector of the financial industry that spends the biggest bucks on lobbying is also the most underpeforming and therefore is costing the American public.  Thus there is a strong argument to suggest that they are damaging to US society as well.

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Schools: did things only get better?

Monday, January 04, 2010

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Sometimes when looking for information relating to education policy with a view to route A for edexcel it’s a case of what to ignore rather than what to read.  This is a good overview from a Guardian editorial, covering the pros and cons of Labour reform post 1997.

From a personal perspective I just can’t see how massive investment in education can’t have a positive long term supply side effect.  Perhaps it will only be visible in five or ten years when the earliest cohort to benefit from the spending increases works through.

Get the link here

The president and the American political system

Thursday, December 31, 2009

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It often surprises people that America, a country with arguably the most dynamic market economy, possesses a politcal system that lends itself towards stasis.  Opposing forces push and pull at each other and this is down to the numerous checks and balances the framers designed into the constitution.  As one of them said, ambition must be made to counter ambition.  Constitutionally the president is granted only limited powers, must since the 1930s especially he is burdened with enormous expectations.  The de jure limits on the president’s powers can only be overcome with adroit use of informal powers.  As one constitutional scholar put it, the president has only the power to persuade. 

With Obama’s stock in the USA declining it is worth bearing in mind what the 44th incumbent of the White House has achieved.

Andrew Sullivan, writing in the Sunday Times, argues that Obama is achieving large change on an incremental basis.  This is a useful article to consider when looking at the powers of the president, separation of powers, checks and balances, and the extent to which the constitution is a barrier to good government.

Here is the link.

Disadvantages of direct democracy

Monday, December 28, 2009

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There’s a great article in the xmas double issue of the Economist on the perils of direct democracy.  A useful source of arguments and examples for those covering the UK and US participation in politics modules.

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The logic of communities segregated by race?

Monday, November 30, 2009

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I wonder if this clip by Tim Harford will provoke debate among students about race, whether in the UK or the USA.

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Glenn Beck: the renegade running the opposition to Obama

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Want to get a flavour of the degree of partisanship in modern American politics?

Say the Observer:

“Glenn Beck is a TV host, bestselling author and the most influential voice on the rightwing Fox channel. Now, even some Republicans worry that the extreme and maverick views of Beck and his supporters will make their party unelectable. Is the TV tail wagging the political dog?”

Read the rest of the article and listen to this classic five minute radio rant by the man himself.  It takes a little time to load up, but it is hilarious.  And just a little bit scary!

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American Politics revision: seven exam tips

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I’ve just sent this to my upper sixth sets.  It may be of some wider use.

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Don’t mess with Texas?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

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For reasons that are possibly too mundane to go into I have just read the special report on Texas from a summer edition of the Economist.

It is absolutely fascinating as a means of gaining a deeper insight into a rapidly changing state, and is a treasure trove of Americana.  Did you know for instance that Texas is one of four states where whites are a minority, or that tequila was invented there?

I recommend:

Lone Star rising
The best and worst of Texas
The red and the blue
The new face of America

A Republican revival?

Once a week my students are expected to contribute something to our media sessions.  A useful way to break a double, to be sure, but these are designed to supplement learning.  I usually keep something up my sleave just in case discussion doesn’t flow—though thus far it has yet to be a problem.

Here was last week’s from the Independent’s Big Question series.

The geography of US jobs

Monday, November 09, 2009

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One of my colleagues at school sent me this link at the weekend which displays a fascinating graphic of job creation and loss in the USA over the last few years.  It gives the lie to the idea that there is such a thing as a national economy, even if there is a national picture.

It also serves to explain why despite a recent upsurge in gdp, many Americans are unhappy about the state of the economy—jobs are the pain that communities feel and make sense of.  Though a note of caution here since it only gives data to July 2009.

The link is here.

Useful Politics online resources on the BBC

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

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The BBC has launched a new online service that should make tracking politics on film easier. 

There’s also a very useful section on the various governing institutions, what powers they have, and so forth.

I also came across a section on the online archives on Mrs Thatcher.  Lots of clips and Panorama interviews that I once stored on VHS tapes.

Media Monday Motown

Monday, November 02, 2009

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This week for our American Politics media sessions we have been looking at a quite fascinating article about industrial decline in the USA. This tells us a lot about where power lies in America and is a useful basis for considering the extent to which America does really live up to the ideals it proclaims to stand for.

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Who’s that guy?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

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Only the 33rd most powerful man in Washington DC who is not called Obama or Biden.

So says GQ magazine (of all places) in their much anticipated DC power 50.  Believe it or not this was one of the buzz topics in the American capital when I was over there recently.  Hardly surprising in the most power obsessed city on earth. To paraphrase Michael Heseltine who was commenting on the ranking order of seats in Cabinet, everyone says it doesn’t matter to them, but of course it does.  Terribly.

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Gun crime debate

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

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It’s not so much the graphic and the info on the decline in support for gun control in America, it’s the readers’ comments that are worth looking at.  I particularly like the British v American stuff, as if that had anything to do with it: why does a comment on American society and politics by a non-native invite criticism of that person’s country?  Touchy!

Global Issues and Anarchism

Monday, October 12, 2009

For those of you studying A2 Political Theory and A2 Global Issues there is a potentially interesting programme called ‘The Enemy Within’ being screened this evening at 8pm on Channel 4 which draws comparisons between ‘modern’ British jihadists and 19th Century ‘Victorian’ anarchists.  The idea is obviously controversial and has attracted comment in a number of today’s papers.

The Independent carries an excellent article entitled ‘Blood, Rage and history - The World’s First Terrorists’ and explores the issue of whether this anarchism bears any relationship to the jihadists who bob the very same targets today.


The Guardian has the following to say:

Federalism: advantages and disadvantages

Sunday, October 04, 2009

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Readers may be aware that America operates a federal system where national and state governments are theoretically sovereign in certain spheres.  In practical terms this vertical separation of power is much more blurred, but it does mean that individual states have much more individual responsibility for policy within their territories than do the devolved regions in the UK.  The consequences of allowing states to essentially go it alone are mixed.  A magazine article in today’s Observer looks at the current crisis in California.  It is interesting, well written and contains lots of good examples for someone wishing to assess the pros and cons of America’s federal arrangements.

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Blank Palin

Saturday, October 03, 2009

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Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s (ghostwritten) autobiography is due for release next month, and has already shot to the top of the bestseller charts.

Say the Guardian:
“News of the autobiography’s release has already prompted a string of jokes by the late night talkshow hosts reminding the wider public about Palin’s shortcomings.

“Critics say that it starts out okay, it gets really exciting and then confusing, and then the last 100 pages are blank,” said comedian Jimmy Fallon.”

USA: who runs government?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

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I’ve been like a child with a new toy today, spending hours browsing on the Washington Post’s “Who runs gov?” pages.

The site contains up to date and interesting to read profiles of the people pulling the strings of American government.  A great resource for students and teachers of American Politics.

I’ve come up with a list of 10 of the most influential politicians in the USA, some of which you will have heard of and some you won’t.

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Book review value

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A quick posting to say that the book review pages are often a good source of political info, even for cash and time poor students with no intention of making a purchase.  Details of a new publication on Clinton were in the Sunday Times at the weekend and contained some fascinating nuggets.

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A degree of choice?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

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The CBI’s report on funding of higher education throws up an array of possibilities as a teaching tool

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Pick of the papers

Sunday, September 20, 2009

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On the UK front the papers seem to be dominated by analysis of the party political debate on tax and spending.  For instance the Observer carries a front page story suggesting that the Tory attacks on Labour spending plans may backfire.

Here a Sunday Times editorial welcomes the development of a more open debate on the issue.

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When it comes to American politics, coverage of the debate about Obama and racism dominates with acres of newsprint given over to this story.

Here Paul Harris reports from South Carolina, a state at the heart of the race row.

Keith Richburg, in an editorial piece, argues that Obama’s election victory is not proof of a post racial America.

Andrew Sullivan takes an in depth look at the race debate and outlines its significance for the Republicans.

Is opposition to Obama racist?

Friday, September 18, 2009

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Former President (1977-1981) Jimmy Carter is the most senior Democrat to comment publicly that the venomous nature of the opposition to Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms can only be explained by racist undertones.

Racism continues to be the most divisive social problem in the United States, an issue that is never far beneath the surface when African Americans are the subject of political discourse.  This is partly explained by the legacy of slavery and segregation - both of which were outlawed much later in the USA than other comparable democracies.  You may recall, for instance, Muhammed Ali’s visit to the UK recently when the TV news channels broadcasted mini biographies of the boxer’s life, including Ali discussing how he was refised service at a lunch counter despite having won his country the gold medal in heavyweight boxing at the previous Olympics.  This was, of course, as recently as the 1960s.

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Obama health care speech reaction

Thursday, September 10, 2009

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An energised and passionate President Obama delivered his speech to a joint session of Congress.  Will it be enough?

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Focus on US health care

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Watch this report by Lyndsey Hilsum from Wednesday’s Channel 4 news.

Hope for health care

The President needs Congress

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The significance of the separation of powers is to be highlighted in perfect Technicolor later today when President Obama appears before a joint session of Congress to make a speech that he hopes will save his healthcare reform proposals (well, promises since he hasn’t actually been very specific about what he wants).

Most people expect Obama to be happy with some sort of healthcare package passing, even if it doesn’t include a government backed plan to insure Americans currently without coverage.

Bronwen Maddox in the Times takes up the story:

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Obama’s Waterloo?

Saturday, September 05, 2009

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This year is a great one to be studying American politics (ditto on this side of the Atlantic given that we have a general election on the horizon that looks odds on to deliver a change in government), as we watch Obama try to transfer the electricity and excitement he generated during his election campaign into doemstic polciy success.  Now that the congressional recess is over after the summer, Obama must seek to win approval from sufficient numbers of the House and Senate to bring insurance coverage to over 40 million American citizens currently without it.

There’s a very good piece here outlining the challange Obama faces in trying to reconcile differences between Democrats and Republicans.  As the adviser to his predecessor as President points out, failure on healthcare reform could be Obama’s Waterloo.  This is why Obama is placing all his cards on the table by making a speech to Congress on Wednesday.  Watch out for that!!

After Ted: more Kennedys for Massachusetts?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

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The Big Question runs a feature on the rather complex dynamics of choosing a replacement for his vacant Senate seat, which has been controlled by his family for over 50 years.

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A level Politics on the up?

Friday, August 21, 2009

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Details of national A level figures in today’s Telegraph suggest a recent surge of interest in study of Politics.

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Obama and racism

Monday, August 17, 2009

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Do you think that the Obama presidency means that race is no longer a problem in America?

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Media Monday in absentia

Saturday, August 01, 2009

There are obviously no lessons at the minute since we are bang in the middle of the summer break, but I thought I’d draw your attention to a piece that would be surefire favourite for the Media Monday sessions.  It is packed full of detail and analysis on the factors that determine the success of a presidency.  I intend to put it to one side until it comes to teaching this topic later in the year.

Keeping up with Obama

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I’m posting a couple of details for those who are looking to keep up tp date with the Obama presidency.

There’s a good feature on Obama’s diplomatic efforts in the Middle East in the Guardian.

But Lexington argues that Obama is only likely to disappoint his supporters.

Obama and the race row

Saturday, July 25, 2009

That race relations continues to be America’s most intractable social problem was brought to the surface again this week.

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Less advice and consent?

Sometimes when assesing the US Constitution we should be careful that we are addressing the contents of the document and not actions by politicians who claim to be acting out their constitutional role.  One such example is the process by which federal judges are confirmed.

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Obama effect?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Politics in the US continus to be dominated by health care and the Sotomayor nomination.  But I came across this little cut and keep nugget on voter turnout.

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Can Obama meet the health care challenge?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I know there seems to be a lot of emphasis on the blog at the moment on the Obama Presidency, but a new White House incumbent gives us the chance to analyse the intricate workings of politics inside the beltway.

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Obama health check

Monday, July 20, 2009

President Obama’s campaign pledge to widen health coverage to as many of the non insured as possible is stumbling amid partisan wrangling

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Whither support for war on terror?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

There’s a fine piece of writing by Tim Garton Ash in Thursday’s Guardian on how the war on the faltering economy has put thoughts about the so called war on terror to the back of many peoples’ minds.

“The first thing I see every time I come to New York is something that is not there. That soaring absence of the twin towers on the skyline of Manhattan remains this city’s most haunting presence. A landmark of air. But the shadow cast by the absent twin towers is no longer the defining feature of world politics in the way that the shadow cast by the Berlin Wall was for nearly 30 years. Most people don’t any more feel that we live in a “war on terror” in the way that we did feel that we lived in a cold war. Not across the world. Not in America. Not even in New York.”

Sotomayor and being sleepless in Seattle

A combination of reverse jetlag and too many visits to Seattle’s many and varied coffeehouses has resulted in being glued to the late night news shows.  The consensus amongst the talking heads, even those on Fox’s far right broadcasts, is that the hearings for Sonia Sotomayor have been a straightforward proces, lacking any real controversy.

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Obama and race

The discussion about Barack Obama’s African heritage has obviously moved on from discussion about whether the USA was ready for a black President.  This week Obama shifted the debate onto discussion about how black America could write its own destiny.

This should provide a good point of discussion for students examining racial politics in the USA.

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Obama lacking leadership?

So claims one of the leading commentators on US politics in a recent column in Time Magazine.

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Obama and Africa

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

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As if Barack Obama didn’t have enough on his plate as American President, he has taken time to forge a new direction in US foreign policy on Africa. Last week he made a bold speech where he argued that the continent could no longer apportion the blame on the effects of colonialism.

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Did you know?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sometimes the process of examining means that you learn new things.  According to one candidate it is illegal to eat chicken with a fork in Gainesville, Georgia.

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Checking out?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

What do a couple of the most powerful men in the world get up to at international summits?

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Who’s Roe in Roe v Wade?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

There’s a great feature on the woman who was at the centre in one of the most famous and controversial Supreme Court judgments in American history.  Quite how did this woman switch from being the poster girl of the pro-choice movement to fulfilling the same role for the anti-abortionists?  Those readers possessing the vaguest familiarity with American politics and society will not be shocked when they discover the answer.

Read the article here.

Obama and Russia

Monday, July 06, 2009

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As if the 44th President didn’t have enough on his plate, he is expected to reset the relationship between the USA and Russia.  Rupert Cornwell brings you up to speed.

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“American Dream” or “American nightmare”?

An interesting piece of Americana in today’s Independent: “The American Dream was fading almost before it began, says a study which shows a quarter of all pilgrims gave up on the New World to return to Britain.

The harsh realities of life in 17th-century Massachusetts, where disease was rife, the climate unforgiving and the economy stagnant for long periods, forced thousands to make the treacherous three-month voyage back across the Atlantic within a few years of arriving.”

Report prize winner

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Further to an earlier posting, I have details of the report I set for my post AS groups entitled “A political introduction to America”.  Participation was voluntary and the quality of entries was high.

Congratulations to Rebecca Salkeld, who in 2,000 words produced an excellent piece that is as good as could be expected from a candidate who has only been studying US Politics for a couple of weeks.

Rebecca’s submission is posted below, and the Amazon vouchers will be winging their way to her email account soon.

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Palin’s greatest hits

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Why some people were concerned back in the autumn that this individual would be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

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Palin for President?

Saturday, July 04, 2009

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Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate dropped a bizarre bombshell on the eve of Independence Day by announcing that she was stepping down as Alaksa’s governor.

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Can America get out of its economic crisis?

Friday, July 03, 2009

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A twin set of stories from today’s Independent on America’s economic troubles.

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Obama and the magic of 60

This week we have been discussing the implications of the news that Al Franken will become the 60th Senator to vote with the Democrats.

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US foreign policy milestone

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

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Today marks one of the most significant points in recent US history, and an event that has largely been overlooked due to the current economic crisis.

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US politics: pick of the UK papers

Monday, June 29, 2009

There were a number of great features on Obama’s successes and failures in yesterday’s paper.  Here are details.

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Heads up: lecture on America

Friday, June 26, 2009

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As part of the LSE’s public lecture series, there is a great even coming up soon on geopolitics and, in particular, the changing role of the USA.  Without meaning to prejudice any students university application in the social sciences field, but it would seem to me that participating in events such as these would be the kind of things that would be interpreted as a genuine and active interest in a subject beyond a classroom context.  You could say this is purely utilitarian, but, equally, one could consider it as an extra incentive to attend. 

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“Gay exorcism” in the USA

Thursday, June 25, 2009

For fans of the classic comedy series “The Day Today”, you may think that this is the work of another set of comedians of a similarly twisted disposition.

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Opposition is no laughing matter.  Or is it?

I have been holed up in various less than salubrious locations in London this week on examining duties, but light relief has been provided by a number of stories emanating from across the Atlantic.

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Book for the beach

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

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I picked up a copy of Justin Webb’s “Have a Nice Day” at the weekend, which lays out a forceful and intense case for what can be considered positives about the modern USA.

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Change to come in America?

Friday, June 19, 2009

I have come across a useful page on the BBC containing a series of short videos on the challenges facing Obama as President.

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US revision: comparing civil liberties

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Anyone looking at synoptic questions about the ability of the UK and US political systems to uphold civil liberties may wish to consider this story.

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US revision: Obama’s health care reform

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

In an echo of the MPs’ expenses scandal I have been swamped with requests by students about how reports about Obama’s health care plans can be rolled into US politics exam answers.
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Useful Obama links

I’ve put together a list of resources on President Obama.  This could be accessed by students or teachers for a host of purposes.

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Developments in devolution

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Donald Dewar, the chief architect of Scottish devolution, is reported to have said that devoution is a process, not an event.  News emerging this week serves only to confirm this.

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US revision: Obama’s executive office

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It is well known that the executive office of the president (EOP or EXOP) is more important and powerful than the Cabinet.  What evidence is there of this being the case in the current administration?

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American starter: US quick quiz

Friday, June 12, 2009

A few quick questions to work on for students starting a US Politics course

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25 years behind bars for stealing a pizza?

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This week our students have been given a general introduction to its people and politics.  During discussion I mentioned the use of three strikes laws in some US states.  As chance would have it there is a feature on this in this week’s Economist.

Useful for discussion of the use of direct democracy, how laws vary by state due to the federal structure, what such tough law and order measures might say about where we could place American parties on the political spectrum compared to UK parties.

The article is here.

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