Here's another blog entry from Oliver Larcombe, A2 Government and Politics student from Barnard School, giving some insightful background to the current Greek political situation:
Like a lot of keen politicians, I took an interest in the Greek general election and wasn’t surprised that Mr Samaras was shown the door, given the level of government debt (Nearly $0.5 Trillion) and the Greeks generally poor economic situation. Now the left wing Syriza party have taken control of Greece. In the last few days the outcome of the election has caused a stir in the EU and the newspapers. In this article I hope to show budding politicians how deep the economic link is to politics.read more...»
For more than fifty years Colombia has suffered an armed conflict involving the FARC guerrillas. As this video profile from The Economist explains, sustained strong cash flows from drug dealing and other illegal activities is the key reason why FARC has been able to sustain its activities for so long.read more...»
Many years after a brutal conflict between China and Taiwan, it seems that relationships between the two countries may be improving. China and Taiwan have been ruled by separate governments since the Chinese civil war 1949.read more...»
Happy New Year to all politics students and teachers! 2014 is a big political year with it not only being the last full year before the General Election but it is also a year of elections, referendums, ideological battlegrounds and the start of the 2015 Election campaign. By the time the year is out we will know the future of Scotland, the hopes for Obama's last two years, and we shall all be well and truly getting in gear for the Election 2015! Read on for the political excitement that awaits this year!read more...»
One day after initiating the start of a potential peace process, Pakistan Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud was killed by a drone strike. This BBC video looks at the potential implications of the killing of Mehsud for the prospects of peace in Pakistan.read more...»
It seems inconceivable that we might see the return of military conflict between China and Japan. However, as this video from the FT explains, there is increasing tension between China and Japan focused on a disputed island chain known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
With China displaying its increasing military muscle both on land and at sea, and Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe seeking to loosen the terms of the country's anti-war constitution, the FT's Dmetri Sevastopulo says that the chance of an accidental confrontation escalating is increasing.read more...»
Parliament’s rejection of airstrikes on Syria last reopened the debate over whether Britain should be intervening at all in Syria’s ongoing conflict – and if so, how?read more...»
David Cameron's Speech on Europe at The Bloomberg building, promises an In Out Referendum (BBC coverage here), but firstly can he keep his Coalition together, avoid more splits in The Conservative Party then win a General Election, all of which are big assumptions. Labour have to work out if their General Election campaign can really oppose a popular vote on Europe. Does it kill the UKIP fox, wait and see. If Labour won The next General Election, would Ed Miliband make sure that there is no return to Bloomberg and bust?
Nick Graham explains the background to moves towards independence by the Catalan region. During a period when easy credit, generous government subsidies and seemingly endless growth made Spain the economic dynamo of Europe, Spain’s highly decentralised system of government was an envied and admired way of organising a country with what historically had often been troublesome and destabilising centrifugal forces.read more...»
A quick update to my ongoing study note about policy divides between the Conservatives and Labour.
“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.”
Gay marriage is always a great classroom topic. Here we can consider pressure group success, rights and liberties, and the role of the judiciary. In a comparative sense it also brings into view the extent to which rights are better advanced in the UK or the USA.
Recent stories emanating from Whitehall put this issue firmly back on the agenda.
“The government has indicated it is committed to changing the law to allow gay marriage by 2015.
Ministers are to launch a consultation next spring on how to open up civil marriage to same-sex couples ahead of the next general election.”
Below I put this debate in the context of a study note on the extent to which Britain can be considered democratic.read more...»
The EU topic has been slimmed down since new AS specs came in a few years ago. Opinion was divided among teachers on whether this was desirable. In the edexcel course for instance it is subsumed within discussion of the extent to which the UK Parliament is sovereign.
But comments today from the Commission President are sure to reopen serious debate. According to today’s Indy:
“The economic crisis has turned into a “fight for European integration”, the president of the European Commission warned today.
Jose Manuel Barroso insisted that the answer to the growing threat to the euro was a more, and not less, integrated European Union.”
Essentially the question is whether we want to move to something closer to the USA, where Washington DC exerts far greater power as a central authority than most people can imagine Brussels doing.
I have included some notes below that go far beyond the demands of the current AS level (since they were written with the old one in mind, though I have tried to update them) but should provide some help in supporting your arguments about what future direction the EU should takeread more...»
If you didn’t watch Osama: Shoot to Kill on Ch4, it is worth catching on 4OD over the next month or so.
Like most TV documentaries it is takes slightly too long to get the information over, but what I found especially fascinating as part of the film was how those at the top echelons of what is an almost incestuous inside the beltway culture kept the manoeuvre secret .
Shame there hasn’t been an accompanying film looking at the significance of 9/11 and subsequent events in geo-political terms.
I don’t know how many blog users access the site for PSHE related stuff, but here are details of something I did with my 3rd form today.
I try to make the subjects topical to what is going on at the the time and the 10th anniversary of 9/11 was pretty obvious.
With access to a projector, most questions on the worksheet can be covered.read more...»
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…
The third in the superb new series of eBook by Andrew Ellams focuses on environmental politics. Key topic coverage is listed further below.read more...»
The fourth in a series of new eBooks for A Level Politics by Andrew Ellams is dedicated to the subject of International Development. Contents covered by this new study guide are listed further below.read more...»
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.
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
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.
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.
This BBC graphic kills a whole multitude of birds with one stone. The split in Sudan as shown by the interactive map can be viewed in several ways: by geography, ethnicity, education, food security and others. All this means that it could come in useful when teaching about culture as a cause of conflict, the clash of civilisations, the difficulty of making seeping assumptions about poverty & development and a whole load more.
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.
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.
Tbe latest in our new series of classroom posters for politics, written by Rachel Fairhead, looks at Europe:
- The Role of The EU
- The Developmentof the EU
- Main Institutions of the EU
- Main Treaties of the EU
- The UK and the EU
- Impact of Membership on the UK
- The Future of the EU
As if recent cases by judges on civil liberties weren’t enough to convince students that the judiciary is far from the most boring topic on the AS syllabus (see my earlier posting on this), the Supreme Court yesterday did us a big favour in making one of the most controversial rulings by UK judges in recent history.
Indeed, were it not for the perfect storm that Nick Clegg seems to have found himself in I am sure this would have been much higher up the news agenda.read more...»
Lots of developments recently regarding arms treaties and the control of nuclear weapons. This neat interactive graphic summarises which nation states currently have nuclear weapons, and also provides a summary timeline of the Arms Race
There are increasing signs of Western diplomatic engagement with the Taleban and the sense that it will be ‘jaw jaw’ rather than ‘war war’ that will bring somekind of resolution to the conflict. For an idea of how the deal might work take a look at this BBC report.
Climate-related controversies and the outcome of the Copenhagen summit widely regarded as a failure have left a sense of hopelessness in climate policy, says Lord Chris Smith in an article on the BBC.
A couple of stories in the news over the last few days emphasise the prominence of cultural conflict:
1) China says it expects new attacks by separatists seeking independence for the traditionally Turkic Muslim region of Xinjiang after deadly ethnic violence there last year.
2) Some 500 people, including many women and children, are now reported to have died in a weekend religious clash near Nigeria’s city of Jos, officials say.
...and an excellent pictorial overview of current day conflict
Millions of dollars earmarked for victims of the Ethiopian famine of 1984-85 went on buying weapons, according to a BBC investigation. A neat contribution to the ‘does aid work’ debate in Global Issues.
This BBC report relates neatly to the elements of the Global Issues course dealing with cultural conflict, the Clash of Civilisations and terrorism. An influential Muslim scholar is to issue in London a global ruling against terrorism and suicide bombing. Dr Tahir ul-Qadri, from Pakistan, says his 600-page judgement, known as a fatwa, completely dismantles al-Qaeda’s violent ideology.
General Musharraf said terrorism and extremism are the main challenges currently faced by Pakistan. His talk touched on:
- Security challenges ranging from an insurgency in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, to a spate of bomb blasts that appear to be growing in intensity.
- Do these bomb attacks suggest that the militant groups are on the back foot in the tribal areas, or that they are growing in confidence?
- The current state of Pakistan’s relations with India, and with Afghanistan.
You can download a transcript of the talk and also watch a video of it on Chatham Houses’ website. Here is the link.read more...»
“Don’t know your Sunnis from your Shias? You are not alone, but their conflict will shape the future of the world” writes Mehdi Hasan in an article entitled ‘The Great Divide’ in the New Statesman. For those studying Global Issues it should make fascinating reading given the rise of identity politics and also given Huntingdon’s ‘clash of civilizations’ debate which has been severely critiqued for assuming Islam to be a monolithic bloc.read more...»
Iran, our favourite ‘rogue state, has just announced that it now the capabilty to produce weapons grade uranium and has plans for 10 new nuclear sites. As Iran is a key case in point of how the international community aims to limit nuclear proliferation and curb ‘rogue’ states this story is worth tracking with all its twists and turns.
‘Hundreds of thousands of government supporters massed in central Tehran to mark the anniversary of the revolution that created Iran’s Islamic republic - while president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad chose the day to proclaim his nation is now a “nuclear state”’. The Independent carries the story. Also an earlier article entitled ‘Iran condemned as it reveals nuclear plans’ assesses Iran’s ability to pose a nuclear threat.
A recommended article which appeared a few months ago in the Newstatesman entitled ‘How Iran went nuclear’ tells the remarkable story of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme, which began as an expression of western modernity but has now hardened into a statement of reaction, isolation and rage.
For a really rado pinko lefty slant John Pilger argues that the Iranian nuclear threat is a lie! He argues that Obama’s “showdown” with Iran has another agenda. The media have been tasked with preparing the public for endless war. Read here for the conspiracy!
Also, here is some general stuff on what is a ‘rogue state’...read more...»
The bombs that stopped the happy talk: It was too soon to say that Osama bin Laden’s followers were on the wane—but pessimism should not be overdone.
“ONLY a few months ago, intelligence experts were saying that al-Qaeda and its allies were in decline, both militarily and ideologically. But two bombs less than a week apart, one failed and the other successful, have put an end to such optimism.”
This from a brilliant article in The Economist which outlines the current threat posed by al-Qaeda, but also gives a very good insight into the nature of the organisation. There is also an interesting graph entitled ‘a deadly calculus’
which plots the fatalities in al-Qaeda attacks. Read more here.
This is an excerpt from an excellent article in the Financial Times – it is a must read.read more...»
The current ‘military surge’ underway in Afghanistan puts the conflict back in the spotlight not least in terms of questions of strategy and what type of war is being waged in countering the Taliban insurgency. ‘Clear, hold, build’ has been the holy trinity of counter-insurgency operations, but what exactly does this entail and what chance does it have of succeeding?read more...»
An excellent interactive graphic here on the WSJ which provides a historical guide to the growth of Israeli settlements in the disputed West Bank area.
It seems that the main weapon used by the Taliban against NATO forces in Afghanistan is the IED - hardly a day goes by without a news report about a British soldier being killed or wounded by such a device. In response the western forces using drones in Afghanistan to provide intelligence and firepower. They use sophisticated cameras to spot suspicious activity and attack the Taliban as they plant the IEDs.
All this highlights the differing tactics used by the opposing sides and the lengths that NATO forces go to avoid casualties. The idea of British personnel piloting drones from a portacabin in their base and using machinery rather than manpower to carry out operations fits into the idea of ‘virtual warfare’. This concept is part of the debate about the ‘revolution in military affairs’, ‘new wars’ and the James Der Derian book ‘Virtuous War: Mapping the Military-Industrial-Media-Entertainment Network’.
Dr Farzana Shaikh, Associate Fellow at Chatham House gives an excellent summary of the current situation in Pakistan. The three minute clip covers the key problems that the Zardari adminstration is currently facing.
After going through the theory of Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations theory using a webquest to allow students to decide for themselves how credible his thesis is can be useful. By using links to various news stories a group can both arrive at a judgement and also get to grips with a few case studies in modern conflicts that they might otherwise be unaware of. The list does not contain links to summaries of the Iraq War and Afghanistan - which will be tackled in a more direct focus later.
The next part of the jigsaw is to look at the various criticisms that have been levelled at Huntington and to ask how valid these are.
Many thanks to Andy Lawrence for producing this revision quiz on Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations:
Launch quiz on Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations
Peter Taylor’s new offering, this time investigating the terrorist threat from young British Muslim extremists radicalised on the internet, is on tonight at 9pm. Further details on the programme can be found here
It is always good to start a new module with an overview of topics that are going to be studied. Even better to get students to introduce themselves to the subject matter and work out what key issues they’ll be tackling. Using a simple map of Afghanistan and Pakistan (along with some carefully placed questions) allowed a group to essentially extract from their own knowledge the nature of the course.
The conversation started with the war (‘New wars’, insurgency, the clash of cultures and the role of religion, differing views of human rights), navigated its way to terrorism (both in the region and domestically), managed to venture into WMDs (the starting point being the situation in Pakistan) and looked at possible solutions to the problem (poverty & development, nation building, international financial mechanisms etc). We didn’t quite manage to work environmental issues into the mix but three out of four wasn’t bad.
Peter Taylor’s documentary ‘Attack on the West’ is a hugely useful resource for the Terrorism topic in the Global Issues course. The entire Age of Terror series is relevant but, in the interests of time, the episode detailing the truck bombing on the US Embassy in Nairobi is possibly the most useful. It does contain some pretty graphic images but does provide some real insight into the pre-9/11 nature, methods and outlook of Bin Laden’s war on the west. The other programmes feature the story of the Entebbe hostage drama, a huge cache of arms being sent to the IRA by Colonel Gaddafi, a 1994 Islamist plot to fly a hijacked Air France jet into buildings in Paris and the attack on a school in Breslan.
As an accompaniment the BBC’s Age of Terror webpages are similarly excellent. In addition Peter Taylor’s more recent investigations into Al-Qaeda (‘The New Al-Qaeda: jihad.com’ ‘Investigating al-Qaeda’ ) are summarised on the BBC website. I can’t find these programmes themselves online - it would be great if anyone could flag up where they can be found.
UC Berkeley’s ‘Conversations With History’ provides an excellent opportunity for higher level students to gain an in-depth insight into some of the issues under the spotlight in the Global Issues course. This one, an interview with Professor John Harte, doesn’t really get going for about twenty minutes but is worth persevering with.
India has firmly backed climate change chief Rajendra Pachauri - who has been under attack over recent scientific errors - at UN-led talks in Delhi. See more here
A couple of useful articles published in recent days give students evidence on the extent to which the British Army is adapting to fighting in different kinds of conflicts.
The BBC report on Operation Moshtarak mentions that the Army are conducting ‘shaping operations’ in that they warn the local population of the impending offensive and work with tribal elders in order to win ‘hearts and minds’. By doing so, of course, the British lose the element of surprise but, it is hoped, some Taliban will see the writing on the wall and lay down their weapons. That is the theory.
The Daily Telegraph published an article yesterday on the ‘toxic cocktail’ of state-sponsored terrorists, extremist groups and criminal ganags that will form new enemies in the decades to come. The publication of the MOD’s assessment of future conflict now opens up the debate about what our armed forces shoudl look like and the role they should play in the future.
A stunning online slideshow here from Reuters tells the story of a decade of global terror and violence. Many of the images are hard-hitting. All are thought-provoking. An amazing resource to use as stimulus material for Politics units covering global issues.
A super interactive timeline from the Washington Post brings up bang up to date on the history of the war in Afghanistan.
Many thanks to Andy Lawrence for putting together this Auction House starter activity / quiz on Anarchism…read more...»
It seems that terrorists are getting younger, according to an interesting piece of analysis from the Economist. A good graphic here too for use in lessons.
The 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index has this interesting interactive graphic which attempts to paint a picture of the varying nature of political and other corruption around the globe…read more...»
Ricahrd Black, the BBC News website’s environment correspondent, regularly writes on the political moves surrounding the approach of the UN Climate summit. Essential reading for all those studying Global Political Issues. Take a look here
A neat pdf download from the Times which illustrates the current portfolios of nuclear warheads around the world.
If World Order is now settling into Multi-polarity, as some commentators are predicting, then are we facing a period of brinksmanship of the worst realist kind; for as Professor Waltz claims, “multi-polarity creates instability between states”. And no longer do states simply seek power through military superiority, the new name of the game is survival, in a world rapidly becoming conscious of the importance of scarce resources, such as water, grain, arable land, minerals as well as energy products.read more...»
Political scientists use a number of tools to ascertain key issues as well as make predictions about developments on the world stage. In the light of China’s reluctance to pursue sanctions against Iran for its nuclear development program, we learn a great deal about the World Order.read more...»
The Institute of International Studies at UC Berkeley has put together a series of interviews with prominent thinkers on a whole range of international issues. Recommended viewing for Global Politics students.
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.”
According to a feature in the T2 section of today’s Times, key to understanding the conflict in the caucuses is the existence of 155 miles of pipeline snaking through Georgia. The authors argue that the conflict between Russia and its neighbour is not solely due to oil (true also of America’s invasion or Iraq, remember), but the geo-political relationships in the region are heavily influenced by black goldread more...»