понедельник, 9 декабря 2013 г.

Courses on coursera.org. 21st Century American Foreign Policy

21st Century American Foreign Policy

The course   21st Century American Foreign Policy is given by  Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at Duke University Bruce Jentleson. The goal of the course is to gain more understanding of what U.S. foreign policy is, who makes it, why is it the way it is, and how it affects the rest of the world. It includes combining video lectures, background readings and quizzes to delve deeper into the issues, the history, the broader context and debates concerning the strategy of U.S. foreign policy towards different countries, regions and the world as a whole. Each part of the course is structured as a unit on one of the topics. From the beginning, an overview, an analytic framework and the process of making U.S. foreign policy are provided. Then the next 5 blocks of the course are dedicated to U.S. foreign policy in different regions: Asia, the Middle East, Western Europe, Russia, Latin America, Canada, and Africa. Thereby, this course just doesn’t concern major and accurate issues in U.S. foreign policy, but also gives an opportunity to discuss it and to share its own opinions with people from all over the world. In addition,  it’s useful for further studying the theme within the seminar session.
The syllabus of the course consists of 6 weeks studying of the proposed topics. It includes:

1.Course Overview, Analytic Framework and the Making of U.S. Foreign Policy
2.Asia’s Rising Strategic Importance: U.S. Relations with China and in the Asia-Pacific Region
3.War, Peace, Terrorism, Democracy:  Old and New Challenges in the Middle East
4.Old Friends, Old Enemy: 21st Century Relations with Europe and Russia
5.The Americas: Relations with Latin America and Canada
6.Africa: Persisting Old Issues, Pressing Newer Ones

Suggested Readings
The course draws extensively on book Professor Bruce Jentleson’s book American Foreign Policy: The Dynamics of Choice in the 21st Century (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 5th edition 2013).  Among the other reading sources there are lots of articles, surveys and interviews that are important for making more careful analysis of a particular issue of U.S. foreign policy.

Unit 1: Welcome, Course Overview and Analytic Framework
·          Pew Research Global Attitudes Project, “American International Engagement on the Rocks” (July 2013)                                                                      
Unit 2: Asia's Rising Strategic Importance: U.S. Relations with China and in the Asia-Pacific Region
Unit 3: War, Peace, Terrorism, Democracy: Old and New Challenges in the Middle East
Unit 4: Old Friends, Old Enemy: 21st Century Relations with Europe and Russia
John Lewis Gaddis, The Cold War: A New History  (London: Penguin Books, 2005) 
Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007) 
Unit 5: The Americas: Relations with Latin America and Canada
Unit 6: Africa: Persisting Old Issues, Pressing Newer Ones

воскресенье, 24 ноября 2013 г.

Democratic Theory Test

  1. 2: Arguments to support the idea that the U.S. does not have an elitist government include all of the following except:
    1. The U.S. has many different minorities, not just one.
    2. The U.S. has a government where minorities rule.
    3. The U.S. government is decentralized.
    4. In the U.S., all groups have equal influence on government decisions.


  1. 2: This 1787 plan for the new Constitution of the United States, which would replace the failed Articles of Confederation, was directly opposed to the Virginia Plan:
    1. Connecticut Compromise
    2. New Jersey Plan
    3. Delaware Conclusion
    4. Great Compromise


  1. 2: Which of the following does not distinguish pluralism from majoritarianism?
    1. Pluralism does not demand much knowledge from citizens in general.
    2. Pluralism seeks to limit majority action.
    3. Pluralism suggests that a small group make all decisions.
    4. Pluralism relies on a decentralized government structure.


  1. 2: The difference between a pluralist democracy and elite theory is:
    1. elite theory is based on the idea of interest groups
    2. Pluralist theory is based on the idea that a small group of people makes most of the important government decisions
    3. elite theory describes a government that operates in an undemocratic fashion
    4. pluralist theory defines government conflict in terms of a minority versus the majority


  1. 2: The Procedural View of Democracy includes all of the following except:
    1. Majority Rule
    2. Universal Participation
    3. Government responsiveness to public opinion
    4. Decentralization of Power


  1. 2: Which of the following is not part of the democratic theory of democracy?
    1. All citizens participate
    2. Each citizen has one vote
    3. Each citizen is represented by a group
    4. The total group's opinion is represented


  1. 2: During the founding days of the United States, government was marked by a loose confederation of states. The failure of this system, which brought about the development of our federalist system, was related to the fact that
    1. no outline was given as to how many votes were needed to approve of important issues like war and taxation
    2. the national government consistently overstepped its boundaries in regards to power and the states
    3. there was a lack of emphatic support for a government that lacked a strong, centralized national government
    4. no power was given to the national government to tax which made the national government dependent on the states


  1. 2: Which is not one of the four political principles embodied in the Constitution of the United States?
    1. Socialism
    2. Republicanism
    3. Federalism
    4. Separation of powers


  1. 2: What was the turning point in american cold-war foreign policy
    1. the spanish-american war
    2. the korean war
    3. the cuba missile crisis
    4. the vietnam conflict


  1. 2: What are the principles of procedural democracy
    1. universal participation and political equality
    2. majority rule.
    3. social equality
    4. A and B


  1. 2: Richard Nixon resigned before what branch of government was going to vote for impeachment?
    1. The House of Representatives
    2. The Senate
    3. The Department of Justice
    4. The Supreme Court


  1. 2: Which of the following is NOT a principle of the procedural democratic theory?
    1. universal participation
    2. majority rule
    3. minority rights
    4. political equality


  1. 2: Which of the following does not support the pluralist model of government?
    1. filibuster
    2. judicial review
    3. referendum
    4. interest groups


  1. 2: The type of democracy most compatible with minority rule is
    1. pluralist
    2. procedural
    3. constitutional
    4. direct


  1. 2: Which of the following is not a principle of procedural democracy?
    1. Universal Participation
    2. Political Equality
    3. Minority Rule
    4. Government Responsiveness to Public Opinion

Interest groups as service providers

Three of the largest and most significant interest groups in the United States are the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the National Rifle Association (NRA), and the Sierra Club. While they engage in significant political activities, all three of these organizations do other things as well. Go to the web sites of these groups (
http://www.aarp.org/, http://www.nra.org/, http://www.sierraclub.org/). For each group, identify three activities that the group engages in or sponsors that you would characterize as "non-political." Make a list of the activities that you have identified. How might these non-political activities actually help to serve the political interests of the organization and its members?



суббота, 23 ноября 2013 г.

Talks on TED. Bill Gates: How state budgets are breaking US schools 


   The video is a lecture by well-known programmer, investor and philanthropist Bill Gates and it is devoted , devoted to the problem of state budget allocation. The lecture is a great example of interaction between Federal and state government. Bill Gates says that not many citizens of the United States do not really understand how serious the issue is. The fact of state budgets being big money with 
little scrutiny proves the statement. 

    Big Government programs always weigh heavily on state and local budgets. That is the reason why state authorities try to find the money no matter what. They make people pay more in withholding in order to help their cash flow out, which means that they borrow from taxpayers by withholding 110%
 of taxes due. They also sell their assets and,which is even more important,defer the school payments requiring local schools to borrow in credit. All this proves there is a serious issue of budget deficit in states. California is an example of it in the speech, but all but 4 states: Alaska, Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming are running deficits.
        According to the given statistics, nowadays the revenue is less than spending. In order to solve the problem the government is thinking of lowering expenses in some spheres. One of these is education.

    Most the money for educational purposes is coming out of the state budgets.  With education cut, there will be consequences for the country. These are many laid-off teachers, raised class sizes, increased community college tuition. 
    Bill thinks that it should be avoided, because the future of the country depends on how educate the young generation is. Society should be aware of the situation,so they can understand where the money really goes. First of all better tools or to put it another way good sites must be created to put up some things that will give the basic picture. To understand how the system works people can also read the proper books. Secondly, the politician should listen to the ideas of the problem being solvable and try to solve it. Some good programs were proposed by Alan Simpson, Erskine Bowles, Pete Domenici and Alice Rivlin, but those were pushed off. In order to give such projects a chance, people must be drawn in.

воскресенье, 17 ноября 2013 г.

Courses on coursera.org. Democratic development

The course Democratic Development is a survey by professor of Stanford University of political science and sociology Larry Diamond that implies combining video lectures watching with essential reading to find out political, social, cultural, economic, institutional, and international factors that foster or obstruct the development and consolidation of democracy. The course is crucial for understanding of the world situation in terms of democratic transitions, history of its development, and existing liberal democracies. The theoretical part of the course is mixing with the practical picture of allocating democracies around the world. Professor Diamond deals with various countries investigating into its political situation, civil society, liberalization and maintenance of the civil rights. It is the course illustrating why nowadays Russia cannot be referred to as a democracy and explaining the reasons according to which it is a worthy model of political order. it reveals the modern problems that democracy faces while establishing in this or that state. Therefore, it is an acute course that also offers an opportunity to talk to people from all over the world about the real environment in their countries. Moreover, it lists the sources useful for investigating the democratic issues what is helpful for further studying within the seminar session.

The syllabus of the course consists of 11 weeks studying of the proposed topics. It includes:

Week 1        Introduction to the Course. Why Democracy? 
                     What Is Democracy? Regime Types
Week 2        'The Third Wave' of Democratization and its Ebb 
                     Legitimacy, Authority and Effectiveness
Week 3        Political Culture
                     Democratic Consolidation 
                     Are Democratic Values Universal?
Week 4        Economic Development 
                     Class Structure and Inequality 
                     Civil Society
Week 5        Democratic Transition (Historical)
                     Democratic Transition (Contemporary)
Week 6        Constitutional Design 
                     Presidential vs. Parliamentary Government 
                     Parties and Party Systems
Week 7        Electoral Systems 
                     Choosing between Different Systems
Week 8        Ethnicity and Ethnic Conflict 
                     Managing Ethnic Conflict 
Week 9        Horizontal Accountability and the Rule of Law 
                     Controlling Corruption 
                     Democratic Breakdowns
Week 10      International Factors
                     Promoting Democracy
Week 11      Improving American Democracy
                     The Future of Democracy
Among the reading sources two books are mentioned. They are "The Spirit of Democracy: The Struggle to Build Free Societies Throughout the World" by Larry Diamond and "The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century" by Samuel P. Huntington. In addition, a number of articles and books, journals that are important for understanding a particular issue of democracy, for example legitimacy or party systems, are listed on the site.
To receive a Statement of Accomplishment, students must watch the lectures and complete the quiz each week, receiving an average grade of 75% or higher. Students must also pass the final exam. If students complete optional assignments and pass an additional portion of the final exam that draws on the readings, they will achieve a Statement of Accomplishment with Distinction.

The course unifies the world community interested in democracy promoting and makes the discussions on forums among the members of the course possible. Besides that, the course is presented in social networks, such as Twitter or Facebook to make the communication and the accomplishment of quizzes easier. It is also possible to contact Pr. Diamond on the debated subject.

Talks on TED. David Bismark: E-voting without fraud


The video E-voting without fraud is a lecture of David Bismark, a consultor, entrepreneur, and technologist, devoted to his invention of a new system of voting. The topic of the lecture is crucial within the boundaries of the course aimed to deal with democratic issues as our democracies rely on elections. Fair elections mean the system of delegating powers to the politicians works properly. The problem lies in the point that the majority of the countries strives to become democracies, but the majority of the countries faces the challenge of conducting transparent elections. The voice of every citizen of the country should be accounted in the right way. There should be no place for a fraud. It is the acute problem of Russia that mobilized the citizens to protest against the existing regime, against ballot-stuffing and the total unfairness. Moreover, understanding by the citizens that their votes will be calculated adequately will increase the voter turnout on the Election Day along with the involvement of the population in the election process from its beginning.

David Bismark proposes to introduce the system under which only few things go wrong during the elections and cheating is minimized. Such a model implies the introduction of the ballot forms of a new kind.
First of all, the candidate lists enumerates the candidates in a different order. As a result, if the candidate list is removed from the remaining bit with the election choices, it is impossible to tell how a person voted.
The second point of the ballot form is the 2D barcode with complicated cryptography that makes the election process transparent so that every citizen could trace his or her vote was counted properly and that makes the process of changing the voter’s choice impossible.
The third peculiarity of the system is its simplicity. A voter has to take a ballot form, mark his or her own choice, tear along the perforation line to separate the candidate list and the remaining bit with his or her vote. Then a voter has to shred the candidate list, let a worker scan his or her remaining bit, take the original remaining bit and check the vote through the Internet when all the votes are counted. The most complicated part of the procedure is done by computers.
Nobody except the voter can find out how he or she voted due to the existing cryptography, but news media, international observers, and anyone who wants can download the election data and count all the statistics themselves.

That is the mechanism of the E-voting proposed by David Bismark to avoid fraud.

пятница, 1 ноября 2013 г.

Required books and links

  1.  The Challenge of Democracy / К. Джанда, Дж. Берри, Дж. Голдман, В. Хула http://college.cengage.com/polisci/janda/chall_dem/9e/assets/study_guide/janda_sg.pdf
  2. Закария Ф. Будущее свободы: нелиберальные демократии в США и за их пределами. М.: 2004.
  3.  Паренти М. Демократия для избранных. М.: Поколение, 2006 http://www.michaelparenti.org/
  4.  Престовиц К. Страна-изгой. СПб.: 2005 http://prestowitz.foreignpolicy.com/blog/12503

Problem task on dual vs cooperative federalism

Statistical Abstract of the US, State Rankings The U.S. Census Bureau maintains one of the largest collections of data about social and economic conditions in the United States as a whole, and all of the nation's 50 states. Each year the Bureau publishes a summary of this information in the Statistical Abstract of the United States. You can link to an electronic version of this publication at the Bureau's web site, http://www.census.gov/. Go the U.S. Census Bureau's web site and locate the Statistical Abstract. From there, identify the collection of what the Bureau calls "State Rankings," and study in particular the following three measures: (1) Infant mortality rate, (2) Violent crime rate, and (3) Persons below the poverty level.
How might a conservative use this information to argue for a system of "dual federalism"? How might a liberal use this information to argue for a system of "cooperative federalism"?

Problem Task on Majoritarian vs Pluralist Democracy

League of Women Voters "Charting the Health of American Democracy" The League of Women Voters, founded in 1920 as an outgrowth of the suffragist movement, is one of the nation's premier political education and advocacy groups. The League is non-partisan and neither supports nor opposes candidates for office at any level of government.
  1. Go to the League's home page, located at http://www.lwv.org/, and find the online version of The 2012-2014 edition of the guide to the League's public policy positions http://www.lwv.org/content/impact-issues-online-edition ,
  2. read it
  3. and answer the question:  Does the League appear to be focusing its attention and efforts on concerns about the state of majoritarian or pluralist democracy in the U.S.?
Useful sources:
The Challenge of Democracy - chapters 1,5
M. Parenti's - chapter 3, 11