Random Musings

For those who read my blog, you know I’ve gone a week without posting.   We soon leave for South Dakota and between grading summer experience journals, starting a web based Foreign Policy course, and watching the kids, I’ve been busy!  Since I’m teaching an on line course I will bring my computer along on the trip, so I may blog from South Dakota.

A few random musings:

* the Supreme Court decision affirming gun rights was expected, and though it weakens the ability of state and local governments to have leeway in how the 2nd amendment is interpreted (it again is a federal standard), it’s not a surprising or very consequential decision.   In fact, it probably helps Democrats by de-politicizing the issue.

* Elena Kagan is being attacked by Republicans for having liberal views, especially ones like those of former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.  Yet Marshall was a respected and historic justice.  Agree or disagree with him, sharing his views cannot be seen as making one ineligible for the Court.   If Kagan does not get swift and overwhelming approval, the process has been poisoned by politics.

* Economic stats in recent weeks suggest the recovery may not yet be real.  If things continue to slow down, the possibility of a global depression is very real.   The problem is that a sustainable economy will have to balance production and consumption in a manner that reduces debt.   Right now production is focused in China and the third world, while consumption is in the debt ridden first world.   The first world cannot increase debt and consume at levels reached in the last decade, so a rebalancing requires more production in the first world and more consumption in China and third world states producing for export.   That is a major shift, and probably requires a long term slow down to force a change.  If so, we’re still in for considerable pain.

* The BP oil spill continues to dramatically show the cost of our addiction to oil.    The good news is that this example of our need to shift to cleaner energy sources corresponds to an economic slow down that keeps oil prices reasonably low.   That still creates an opportunity to use energy as a means of rebooting the economy.   The US has to focus on producing clean/alternative energy equipment, thus increasing productive capacity in products that will have global demand.  That could be a key for rebalancing the economy.   Alas, the long term consequences of the sea bed gusher are still unknown and certain to cause extreme hardship for tens of thousands on the Gulf coast.   BP and the US government are powerless to stop it with any speed; this is a problem no one was ready for.   It remains very depressing.

* My foreign policy course has started with some good discussion, especially about America’s role in the world.  The upcoming generation has not been raised with the illusion that the US is the undisputed world power; indeed, today’s first year students were in their formative years as the US war in Iraq went south.  If anything, there is skepticism of the US projecting power and trying to “run the world.”  That’s good — we need a very different foreign policy in the new century.  Globalization has changed the world scene and relative US power has declined.   Yet the US is still wealthy and powerful, and can play a positive role in world politics.   Figuring out how to do so is not an easy issue, and is a motivating question for the course.

* Driving home from a union meeting in Bangor I listened briefly to talk radio.  Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh sounded Goebbelesque as they claimed Obama was purposefully destroying America.   Disgusting.  Then I listened to a bit on NPR about the WestVirginia “text book war” of 1974 when people protested against new textbooks in school.   The fundamentalist crowd claimed it was a Satanic left wing effort to indoctrinate children.   When the extremes of that movement turned violent, the movement  failed — Americans reject violence as a means to promote a political movement, even if they agree with the goals.   In many ways, I think the so called “tea party” movement reflects that segment of society.   It is a minority view that is nostalgic for the America they think existed in the past.   Those days are over, forever.    But that’s not the end of freedom or the American way, as the nostalgics believe.   Rather, as always, our values become applied to a new generation and a new context.  The point is to make sure those values are retained, not to try avoid the inevitable change progress and history bring.

  1. #1 by Mike Lovell on June 30, 2010 - 16:40

    You know, on your way to or from South Dakota, there is this little hamlet called Des Moines, Iowa. You should stop on down. Or visit my old hometown of Sac City which is home to the world’s largest popcorn ball AND Iowa’s best hamburger! Sadly, I doubt these two things will return us to the hay days when we had a population there of over 3000!

    On Kagan, one thing I heard last night while driving around was the comparison to that of Harriet Meiers appointment and subsequent rejection to the Supreme Court under W. That outside of political ideology, they are essentially the same. So if this is true, what’s different now? Also, Kagan once wrote about how appointees should be very transparent about their positions and answer all questions forthrightly. I’m hearing she isn’t adhering to her own standards completely. Maybe I’m getting slanted information?

    The BP oil spill is complex and I believe reveals not only a weakness towards our oil ‘addiction’, but also a weakness in the government being able to suspend certain rules to hasten disaster response (i.e. Merchant Marine Act of 1920). The one problem with our ‘rule of law’ adherence is that once its there, its there and if anyone tinkers with it, we throw a fit. No matter how much tinkering may need to be done to save more than just the gulf area environment, residents, animal life, etc., but we’ll invent new rules and laws to legally subvert current laws, just so long as its the government doing so (i.e. the Patriot Act)

    “When the extremes of that movement turned violent, the movement failed — Americans reject violence as a means to promote a political movement, even if they agree with the goals. In many ways, I think the so called “tea party” movement reflects that segment of society.”

    I’m not sure which segment you’re grouping them in here. I wouldn’t say I’m for or against tea partiers. I think to some degree they have valid complaints (nevermind the hypocrites who want less spending but expect the continuation of THEIR social security benefits-including cost of living increases that sometimes occur), but so far offer no real direction in the way of solutions and the action behind it; other than, of course, to get together, march, verbally protest, etc. So far, the majority of documented violence has come members of the American left, caught on camera all over the country often by ordinary citizens. It is mainly overlooked while we hear mass calls for preparation for and the quelling of the violent nature of the ‘teabaggers’. So far the right, with a few exceptions from the left, seem to have managed only to have cornered the market on extra-marital affairs. Sadly from the “family values” guys mostly.

    • #2 by Scott Erb on June 30, 2010 - 17:02

      Quick reply for now: I thought Harriet Meiers was a good choice by Bush, I think she should have been approved. I agree there is a lot people can and should be concerned about (across the political spectrum). I just don’t like it when politicians are demonized. The left did it to Bush, the right does it to Obama…heck, they both tackled the toughest political job in the world, and in very difficult times. I guess it’s like how people always blame the QB when the team has problems…though the claims Obama is purposefully weakening America seem too much! I mean, that’s like saying Favre threw that interception against the Saints because he secretly is loyal to Green Bay and…hmmmm…I wonder…..

    • #3 by Scott Erb on July 1, 2010 - 04:15

      By the way, I think you should’ve been chosen to replace McChrystal.

      And sometime I’ll win the argument and we’ll drive, not fly, to South Dakota. And when we do, I’ll stop and say “hello”! This year, however, we fly to MPLS and then drive to Sioux Falls.

      • #4 by Mike Lovell on July 1, 2010 - 14:22

        Thats the professor in you, allowing for open debate of differing points of view. At some point you need to act like a grumpy old principal and just say, “Hey! Take the bags, throw them in the trunk, we’re driving!”
        Oh and let me know how THAT works out for you!

        As for me replacing McChrystal, I appreciate the sentiments, but I have neither the operational experience and rank, nor the wherewithal to navigate the delicate personnel issues. Eventually I’d probably end up nuking not only the enemy, but some of my support staff!

  2. #5 by renaissanceguy on July 11, 2010 - 06:15


    The Second Amendment should not be “interpreted;” it should be followed. This isn’t really about federal power versus state power. It is really about a right recognized in the Constitution that neither the federal government nor state and local governments should abridge.

    I’m not sure why other people oppose Elena Kagan. I do because she thinks it is okay to pull a fetus out of the uterus by its feet and then jab its head with scissors to suck out its brain.

    Concerning the oil leak, it seems that the one productive and helpful thing that the government could have done was to require all oil companies to have contingency plans in plays for such a problem. That seems to be the one thing that they did not do.

    I don’t think that the radio guys are trying to say that there will be no more United States of America thanks to President Obama. What they mean is that he is attempting to transform America in such a way that it will be essentially different from what it has been. And they believe that he is doing so intentionally–that he wants America to be essentially different from what it has been.

    • #6 by Scott Erb on July 11, 2010 - 06:46

      All texts have to be interpreted. What does a “well regulated militia” mean? (I think that’s the wording, but correct me if I’m wrong.)

      But having supported just about every Supreme Court nomination (including Bork’s — and even Harriet Meier), I think really the Senate should not look at the positions taken, but rather on the basic qualifications. I bemoan the politicization of the process. And, though I am pro-choice, from a judicial standpoint, I disagree with Roe v. Wade. And I would look at such cases purely from a judicial standpoint, not a political or moral one. The problem nowadays is that the courts impose political and moral opinions (both left and right) rather than trying to simply interpret the Constitution as well as they can.

      PS – Hey, RG, glad to hear from you again!

  3. #7 by renaissanceguy on July 11, 2010 - 14:16

    Thanks, Scott. I know that texts need to be interpreted, but interpret can be such a fuzzy word. It can be used by unscrupulous people to support rulings that are almost diametrically opposed to the wording and intent of a text. I’ve seen that in the fields of literature, theology, and government.

    To determine what a “well regulated militia” is, just look at what it meant to the people who wrote it. It meant an unorganized group of private citizens who were armed and who could be called up if needed. A further aid to interpreting the text would be to see what gun restrictions existed at the time of the ratification of the First Amendment and the time just after.

    Scott, as much as your approach to Supreme Court nominations appeals to me, I would find it personally difficult as a Senator to vote yes on somebody whose views were particularly egregious to me. I also think that if the Supreme Court had not taken so much power to itself, the appointment process would not have become so politicized. You cannot expect political parties to ignore the process, when those nine people can dictate laws from the bench.

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