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Comparative Government

Sounds unlikely.  Did Twitter? Nobody really seems to claim so, though Evgeny Morozov erroneously claims that Andrew Sullivan claims so, though Sullivan actually only raised the question and linked to Ethan Zuckerman, who … wait, back to the fax machine. I met Marc Plattner yesterday, who edits the Journal of Democracy and is a veteran of both academic and policy discussions around issues of democracy and democratization. He told me about how some people used to claim the fax machine “caused” (or at least played a large part in) the collapse of the Soviet Union. You can imagine all the arguments that could be marshalled. (“Between them, television, the fax machine and word of mouth have banished fear,” writes John …

Two seemingly unrelated events from last Sunday night: the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords and Derren Brown’s The Heist was on TV in the UK. Let me tie them together. First, for those who aren’t familiar with Derren Brown, he is a brilliant magician, illusionist, hypnotist, and “mind reader”. If you watch his shows, you’ll see that he is a master of psychological techniques. On The Heist, the show that I watched last night, he did something quite extraordinary: he got three middle-class professionals to commit armed robbery– voluntarily. Well, a simulation of an armed robbery anyway. If you haven’t seen Derren Brown, you’re probably thinking that he used actors or accomplices. I don’t think that this was the case. They were …

The People’s Charter of 1848 contained six demands, then considered dangerously radical by both Whig and Tory governments. One of the six was: EQUAL CONSTITUENCIES, securing the same amount of representation for the same number of electors, instead of allowing small constituencies to swamp the votes of larger ones. The Chartists might have been surprised to find that it was a Conservative-dominated government which first tried to enact equal representation, in the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill 2010 (PVSCB in civil servantese). As I write, the controversial bill has passed the Commons, and is being considered by Their (unelected) Lordships, who have no scruples about amending bills on how to elect another house.  Oh well, that’s politics. Some political …

Following the ICJ ruling about the legality of Kosovo independence on July 22nd, Italy, Austria and Slovakia have argued that Serbia’s accession process should be accelerated to support pro European Serbian President Boris Tadic. On July 27th Iceland initiated its official negotiations, despite the erosion in the pro-EU camp in the aftermath of the Icesave case. Among the other candidate countries, Croatia is set to join in 2011, while Macedonia has not yet started the negotiations. Turkey, having several negotiating chapters blocked or vetoed,  has still no accession date, but the UK seems to strongly back its candidature, as PM David Cameron claimed in its visit to Ankara on July 27th.