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.