Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Raising Standards for our Teachers

During our last class, we discussed supply and demand, and the value the businesses and consumers place on that free-market theory. Education is a business in itself and should that not uphold the same thought of supply and demand? Are our students getting left behind though? Before we can truly look at the education we are receiving, we need to look to those who are giving us an education.

Is it possible to raise our standards for teachers and still have enough teachers for the incoming students? The creation of new standards for teachers is one sign of progress. These standards make sure teachers will know the subjects they teach and how to teach them to children. These values include those of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS or National Board), which has developed challenging examinations to document and make out accomplished teaching among veteran teachers, and related values of the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC), a group of more than 30 states that has lined together to make more tough licensing values and tests for beginning teachers. The national accrediting body for teacher education, NCATE (the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education), has included standards into its outline for evaluating teacher education programs. This means that accredited programs must now show that they set up teachers with understanding of the content areas they teach and with an perceptive of learning, teaching, curriculum, assessment, and the uses of technology, among other things.

What can we do to ensue that our students are going to be achieving the best education they can achieve? We need to work on achieving a more constant look at education and not by a state-to-state problem. When one state struggles, our whole country will struggle. In Wisconsin or Minnesota, a future high school teacher must have done a bachelor's degree that includes a major in the subject area to be taught, also assignments covering learning theory, development of a youth, teaching methods, curriculum design, teaching strategies, uses of technology, behavior and motivation, human relations, and the education of students with special needs. The potential teacher must also complete at least 18 weeks of student teaching under a cooperating teacher who meets minimum standards. In Minnesota, this must include work in a setting with special needs students. On the other side, in Louisiana, a possible high school teacher could be licensed without even a minor in the field she was going to teach. The state would not require her to have studied the curriculum, classroom organization, uses of technology, or the needs of special students, and the teacher could receive a license with only six weeks of student teaching.

These are issues that we need to investigate in concerns to our own country. In my third and fourth blog, I will further investigate the issues of education in the U.S. and discuss more in-depth issues surrounding our financial backing from our government.

Education in the U.S.

I was completely prepared to turn in my first and second blog on Somalia and the issues that plaque that country, but during tonight’s class, I felt very convicted to look at the issues that plagued our own country. It is late in the evening and many questions begin to fill my head. The whys and why-nots, the hows and the whats, but these questions just seemed to be a philosophic look at our country. I then had to look at how I can utilize my passions to make sure my blog speaks compassion, understanding, and a yearning to know more. I then realized that all of these questions I have are due to the level of education I have received. I have lived a fortunate life moving from one school to another. I grew up going to very good educational institutions since it was funded by your tax dollars (Thank you). I received my education from military schools. I have also been very fortunate to receive a college education from a highly respected institution, Augsburg College. My educational background is what has caused me to investigate the issue of education in the United States of America.

Tonight’s class caused me to question why big businesses run our country, why middle-class America is struggling, why homelessness occurs, and what is terrorism within the U.S. These questions, many of them, are very philosophical. We need to understand that we need to be in a constant state of questioning our actions and the actions of our world especially that of our own country. Through the course of the next three blogs, I will take a closer look at the United States and our “value” for education. I will do some compare and contrasting of different countries, more focused on the United States. I will look at where our tax dollars are going, test practices, and other theories concerning education.

Rising temeratures and Rising Risks

It is no secret that the earth's temperature has risen over the past 100 years. The cause is almost certainly the carbon emissions and greenhouse gases that we put into the air everyday of the week. "The world's 17 biggest polluters agreed to work together to limit world temperature increases to no more than two degrees celcius above pre-industrial levels."(Bradford Plumer, New Republic). I have become aware that the earth is currently eight-tenths of a degree celcius above the pre industrial level and with the carbon pollution that we have put up into the air we are most likely locked in for another six-tenths of a degree, which means we only have another six-tenths of a degree left before reaching the the dreaded two degree mark. "Temperature rises above two degrees celcius will be difficult for contemporary societies to cope with, and are likely to cause major societal and environmental disruptions through the rest of the century and beyond."(Bradford Plumer, New Republic). If Global Warming rises to two degrees celcius it would leave the world warmer than it has ever been in millions of years, this seems like a problem considering the earth has been the same temperature since the beginning of human agriculture.
With all of the droughts across the globe including the drought in Australia, and the melting of the polar caps, along with the increase of storm damage like the size and abundance of hurricanes it seems pretty safe to say if the temperature rises past two degrees the problems could and most likely will be catastrophic. "But the long-delayed decision to list the bear as a threatened species may prove less of an impediment to oil and gas industries along the Alaskan coast than many environmentalists had hoped. Mr. Kempthorne also made it clear that it would be "wholly inapropriate" to use the listing as a tool to reduce greenhouse gases, as environmentalists had intended to do."(Felicity Barringer, New York Times).
Many conservatives seem to be willing to now acknowledge the fact that global warming is indeed real, but still feel we should do little or nothing about it. "It might be the case that we could go slightly above two degrees celcius and muddle through. Most conservatives are ready to gamble on this-a habit they've become awfully fond of."(Bradford Plumer, New Republic). It seems to me like pretty much everyone can realize that global warming is taking place, but they are not ready to lose the money and efficiency that can be made from oil and greenhouse gases. When we are talking about the potential lives of many animals and eventually the lives of many humans being lost because of ignorance it doesn't seem right in any way. We are talking about the earth that people have lived on for thousands of years with no altercations, and then to go throw away the beauty and cleanliness for a hundred or two years of burning oil and fuel?
The fate of the earth could very well rest in this generations hands and what we do between now and the next fifty years could decide what will happen to the earth forever.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

China a Threat or Not?

This is an article mainly questioning whether China will overtake U.S and other western countries by its amazing high speed of development both in economics and politics in the world today. I chose this topic to talk about because firstly I am a Chinese, and this is what related to my own country and its future, which I am definitely interested in. Secondly, this is never the first time for me to hear about this kind of “theory” which we also call it in China the “China threat theory” and I wanted to think more about this that whether China will be a true threat to the western countries some day later or not.
According to Ikenberry, G. John, China’s size of economy has doubled and doubled so far from late 1970s when China reformed its market. And it is said that the size of economy will double again in the coming ten years. At the same time, China is spending more and more money on military construction, which is considered an action of preparing to step a foot into global politics order. If so, as a result of China’s being a competitor to U.S, the global position of U.S may go down. Simultaneity a new order of the world’s politics will be built. But G. John stated that it was not that easy for the order which was so far built by western countries changed by a single China.
I agree with G. John at some points. I think that China will never be what it is explained in China threat theory that it will once become “something”. Assuming that China continues to grow fast in economics, generating huge amount of wealth, you should at the same time look at the average level and also the problems involved like environmental issues. I mean that China has not come far away enough, not even enough when decades of years later. The foundation of western economy is so strong compared to China’s. The average people in China are still living a poor life. The total figures only have little meaning. There are too many problems existing in Chinese development. The environment is getting worse. The efficiency and effectiveness are still not high in most cases. We do produce a lot of wealth but at last we only can own little part of it because of property rights and some other critical items. For example, the Nike shoes are mostly signed as made in China today. But by making each pair of shoes, Chinese only get about $2, while the other tens of dollars will go to Nike owner’s pockets. This may be some kind of inequality in economics. But anyway, this is the case. So why do you guys think that China is able to make a big change in the world, only because China has a fabulous revenue? It is ironic that it is a fact that tens of thousands of starving people in western China are dying when Chinese communist party is holding a meeting talking about their glorious socialism. I mean China had better focus more on its citizens’ life rather than this boring competition in military with such strong countries like America. Because we people care nothing about what you mark it as socialist thing, but the current situation and also the future, about whether we can have a better life.
After all, I also don’t think China will have the desire to rule. Look back at the history of China. See what we Chinese people are. We had had so many chances to rule the world in the past thousand years, but we didn’t. If you know China, but I suppose most westerners don’t, you will find Chinese people in most cases not as aggressive as what westerners think. G, John mentioned in his article that Japanese “behaved better” than Chinese in this case. I think G, John misunderstood. Personally, I think the reason why Japanese has not challenged the current international order yet is that they are still seeking for the opportunity. America is not already weakened, right? And so will not it be weakened so easily in the coming decades of years. Who know what Japanese are planning to do? May be another war, I suppose. Why do people only keep an eye on China and show so much mercy to Japan? Is it just because people have common issues in ideology with Japanese but not Chinese? I think still many people are afraid of Chinese.
But I have to say, we are the same. Let’s talk about identity. According to Annick T.R. Wibben (n.d.), “identities are seen to be constructed in a process of social, cultural and political struggle, rather than given by nature.” I, as most Chinese people will also do, identify us as a group of peaceful people nurtured on the yellow earth of China by our proud thousands of years’ wisdom. Please excuse us if one day China becomes such a country that is eager to rule in the world. It will be the communist party to blame, but not Chinese peaceful people.
Anyway, the world needs China. See, the first Strategic and Economic Dialogue between China and America has just begun. “Washington, July 27 (PTI) US President Barack Obama today said the relationship between America and China will shape the 21st century as their ability to partner is a "prerequisite for progress" on many of the most pressing global challenges.” ( And no matter what China will be in the future, the only thing we know for sure is that it is very important for China to participate in the world’s stage, helping to form a better order of the world.

Source: Ikenberry, G. John, Foreign Affairs, The Rise of China and the Future of the West. 00157120, Jan/Feb2008, Vol. 87, Issue 1
1. Annick T.R. Wibben, (n.d.). Static and dynamic approaches to identity. Global Politics. P84.
2. STAFF WRITER 20:37 HRS IST, retrieved from

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Issue in Iraq over the election.

What is the issue in Iran over the 2009 election? Well depending on whom you ask this question varies. If you ask President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the election was not fixed. Although, if you ask Mir-Hossein Mousavi, and all of the demonstrators the election was fixed. Many of those who oppose Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claim he to be a radical, who oppresses the people of Iran. While his opponent in the election Mir- Hossein Mousavi is considered to be that of liberal, to those in Iran.

“ According to the official election results, the incumbent president Ahmadinejad won the election by a margin of 63 percent to 34 percent for his main competitor, Mir Hossein Mousavi. This is a difference of approximately 11.4 million votes. Any claim of victory for Mousavi must therefore contain some logically coherent story of how at least 5.65 million votes (one half of the 11.3 million margin) might have been stolen.” (Weisbrot. 2009)

This quote from Mark Weisbrot of the Washington Post is telling in if the election was fixed, that it would very apparent if it were. In my understanding Ahmadinejad won the election of almost 30 percent of the votes. That is a pretty lopsided election. Claiming that 5 million votes were “stolen” is a very drastic statement to make. You would think that if all of these votes were stolen that it would be obvious to the world, and that the person responsible would be punished.

Though the statistics show that the possibility of the election being stolen, not being very plausible. What about those on Mousavi’s side? Who were in the streets of Iran demonstrating, many of them whom were arrested. Some even being injured and killed in the demonstrations. Some Mousavi’s supports will go ahead and compare Ahmadinejad regime as a dictatorship.

“People are tired of dictatorship," she told Reuters. "People are tired of not having freedom of expression, of high inflation, and adventurism in foreign relations. That is why they wanted to change Ahmadinejad." (Black, Dehghan, Siddique. 2009)

According to this the demonstrators and people of Iran are tired of Ahmadinejad’s oppression of their rights. The main issue in the election is Ahmadinejad’s regime who is considered to be a dictator, and oppressor. Then, there is the side of Mousavi’s who are considered the reformists. Who are being persecutated, and not being giving freedom of expression.

World's Changing Climate

Like most everyone on this blog I know very little about my topic of climate change. I don't watch very many channels like CNN and I don't read The NY times or The Wall Street Journal, I don't even hardly watch any local news for that matter. I am really interested in the climate change because I want to know the facts. I want to know if global warming is truly real, and if it is I want to know why we are doing so little to stop it or even slow it down.
One of the biggest reasons why I am interested in the climate change is because I am a really big fan/lover of animals. I think that the polar bear is one of the most amazing animals on the planet today. I have heard figures where within forty or fifty years our polar ice shelf will be decreased to half of what it originally was. In turn it would wiped out over two-thirds of the world's polar bear population and put them well on their way to extinction. I happened to be watching a show on the History channel called MonsterQuest (where they try to locate unknown/fictitious animals in the wild) and they were searching for bears of ungodly size. While they did not locate a monster bear, what they did find in the upper part of Alaska was a dead carcass of young bear which was half polar bear and half grizzly bear. This was quite a discovery because the two types of bears are not known to coexist in the same regions. Scientists had figured that the polar bear had stepped onto Alaskan terrain when the ice caps had reached the state, then when they receded the bear was trapped. As for the grizzly bear they assumed that maybe human influence scared the bear up further north. It is not only polar bears that are on the chopping block, there are several other animals which could and will go extinct if nothing is done to prevent climate change on the earth.
I visted Los Angeles earlier this year in march, and although it is a beautiful city there is a thick cloud like cover of smog that hangs above(sometimes so thick you can hardly see a mile or two through it). This makes me realize that it doesn't take a genius to figure out the pollutants we emitt are taking a toll on the ozone which in turn takes a toll on the earth. Climate change is very apparent to be linked to the carbon from all the different types of fuel that we burn. I really believe that climate change is real and maybe what we do on this earth at the moment won't have any effect on us, but I think it is very selfish to not think about future generations to come. It seems unfair that even kids born today could be at serious risk with the climate change. I feel like they should not have to inheret the mistakes that everyone on the world has made. The world is an ongoing cycle and with the discovery of fossil fuels it seems like we have been dissrupting the cycle. There is no telling what exactly will happen in the future, but I think it is pretty safe to say if we continue to burn the same fuels there will be consequences.
I think that we should start putting an end to the global warming by having the governments of the world accept that our fossil fuels are not the answer to a clean earth. Until we have figured out a solution to burning a clean fuel everyone should do their part to try to burn less fossil fuels and make sure to do little things like recycle instead of throwing everything in the garbage.

North Korea a Threat or Not?

It is difficult to know what a countries real intentions are when they become a high risk of potential danger to others. Others around them or that could be affected by the dangerous country have to pay attention. North Korea is one of those potential dangerous countries. It is in question what North Korea’s military intentions as it relates to nuclear bombs.

In 2006 North Korea became another player in the game of having nuclear weapons (New York Times). Soon after they had been the next country to have nuclear weapons, North Korea half attempted to conduct their first launch of a nuclear device. However, in February 2007, North Korea had said they would in time stop their nuclear program (New York Times). This agreement that North Korea would shut down their nuclear program in the area of Pyongyang. They put their nuclear devices under an inspection by the Atomic Energy Agency within 60 days (Snyder, Washington Quarterly). By doing this North Korea received 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil (Snyder, Washington Quarterly).

After this agreement, in June 2008, the Bush administration had removed North Korea from their list of potential terrorist countries (New York Times). It has seemed that progress was being made with North Korea. However, in December of 2008 the nuclear base in Pyongyang disagreed to accept terms by the U.S. about Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

As the progress had seemed to fail with North Korea it got a little worse when in April 2009 they did a test with a ballistic missile (New York Times). Then on May 25th 2009 North Korea did their second nuclear test, which was successful. Even though they had been warned by other countries to not go forth with their nuclear testing’s (New York Times). The United Nations Security Council reacted to this second test by setting up a more strict way of monitoring this issue on June 12th 2009 (New York Times). With this they told United Nations members to check out North Korea cargo vessels and airplanes that could be holding weapons. The U.S., Japan, and South Korea have now frozen Pyongyang’s overseas bank accounts. They had done this in the past and it had seemed to work because it had hurt the regime in the past (New York Times).

North Korea has seemed to be playing this “catch me if you can” game by starting out with nuclear testing then stopping and then starting again. An author of an article in the Aviation Week & Space Technology has suggested a similar method. David Fulghum whom wrote the article Testing Testing in AW&SP said that North Korea is afraid that because they are turning into third-world country they would have no influence over anything (Fulghum, Aviation Week & Space Technology). In this same article Fulghum reported a statement by a senior Pacific based Air Force official saying that North Korea does not want to be ignored. This official also said that North Korea has seen that the U.S. reacts to them, so they keep acting out.

Now leading up to where things are at, president Obama is faced with this challenge of North Korea. During the second nuclear test that North Korea did, president Obama declared that the U.S. and its allies will stand up to them. There is now a ship that has taken off from North Korea that the U.S. is concerned about. They are not sure what is on it and Obama has requested the U.S. Navy to inspect the ship but will not step aboard it. North Korea has said if the U.S. does then it will make it known of war. This is currently where the issue is at with North Korea and there is still the concern about North Korea’s nuclear activity.

Iranian Presidential Election

The current state of chaos in Iran is the result of the conflicting political viewpoints. The current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is considered to be a very hardcore conservative candidate while others like Mir Hossein Mousavi are considered pro-reformists. Ahmadinejad has very strong believes in a Palestinian state replacing Israel and very anti-Western ideas that have angered many individuals globally since his election in 2005. He also supports Iran’s nuclear power program, which has gained much support in the country, but concerns other countries like the U.S. and UK. Mir Hossein Mousavi the pro-reformist candidate if heavily favored by the youth of Iran because of several political ideals; Mousavi insists that the Iranian people are entitled to more individual freedom from the government, social justice and freedom of expression, less discrimination against women, and also supports anti-government corruption policies (Council on Foreign Relations).The interesting intersection that is made in this sort of election is that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Supreme Leader of Iran, and the current president are friendly allies and share very similar political and religious believes. It is believed that the recent election was rigged so that conservative power can remain in the top branches of government in Iran (CNN).

What has caused for more turmoil in the country is historically Iran has been a nation with very strong religious governmental ties. The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is one of the most powerful and influential members of the government that overseas the military, appoints military and judicial members, supervises the constitution, and sets general state policy. The Supreme Leader of Iran has more political power than the President(Council on Foreign Relations). So, with this type of dynamic in the country of Iran, having a very strong religiously based government, the debates of the current presidential election have caused a breakdown in the structure of the current Iranian government. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, has sided with the re-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and believes that the current election was done fairly. On the other hand, other clerical members do not believe that the election was done fairly and support the pro-reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. Some members of the cleric have gone as far as to insult the Council of Guardians, a twelve member clerical group that is in charge of reviewing legislation and electing candidates, of tampering with the voting ballots so that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be elected president for another term (BBC).

All of this turmoil in what is best for the future of Iran; whether to remain a religiously conservative based government or adopt more Westernized views of secularism and modernization has resulted in chaos. Thousands of protestors have moved to the streets insisting that the election was fixed and are unpleased with the current state of government in Iran. The death toll of civilians is rising each day that the protests continue, despite the nationwide ban of protesting by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. More recent reports suggest that the Iranian government is deceiving the public about the actual death count of protestors and other reports suggest that police are brutally harming peaceful protestors. All the while, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has announced that the Iranian government is not the result of the public’s oppression and recent national uprise, but Western influence is to blame for the state of unrest (New York Times).

Is North Korea a Major Concern for the U.S.?

I will have to admit that I do not know very much about what is going on with world political issues. I have paid attention to the news and kept up with some of the stories that have been going on. One of the issues that I have learned a little bit about and am interested in is about North Korea. I am concerned about North Korea’s nuclear weapons.

The initial reason why I chose this issue is because of my fear of it. There have been other political issues that have also made me worried. For example, I was worried about the attack of September 11th and the start of the Iraq war. At first the U.S. was told that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Soon after we entered Iraq we found out that they did not have weapons of mass destruction. I was confused as to whom to believe. This confusion on the war with Iraq has made me question if I should play into the fear of what is going on in the world or learn about it. I chose to learn. With learning about what is going on with these serious issues in the world I will know better which issues I should be concerned about.

This led me to my fear of North Korea and wanting to know more about it. I am looking more into this issue regarding North Korea’s having nuclear weapons. Could they be a threat to the U.S?

One the major concerns is if North Korea attacks South Korea. How could this threaten the U.S? If North Korea did this, then the U.S. would have to come to South Korea’s defense. We signed an agreement with South Korea and Japan promising if they get attacked we would defend them militarily. If North Korea attacks either of them then U.S. soldiers would have to go over there to fight. This would stretch our military as our soldiers are already fully employed over in Iraq and elsewhere.

Another reason why I am interested in this issue is because as North Korea does have nuclear weapons and if they use them could this is a trigger of something bigger? It could be a trigger into other countries who have nuclear weapons to pull them out and we could have an outbreak of a global nuclear war. This is an obvious serious issue that the U.S. needs to pay attention to and take action on.

I will continue to learn about the issue I chose about North Korea and find out how big of a concern it is to the U.S. I will study what the U.S. should be doing and has been doing on handling this issue. I will be searching for information that will help me better deal with fear and draw a bigger conclusion on what the U.S. should do next with North Korea.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

World Police Issues

After researching some material there are a few issues that I believe to be evident in the topic of America being the world police. The first one that comes to mind is the issue of fundamentalism. Our text book (Mandaville, 2009)makes reference to Tariq Ali and his reference to the fundamentalist relationship between George W. Bush Jr. and Osama Bin Laden. Another issue is a matter of ability. I'm referring to military power and economic ability to support that military in the endeavor to police the world. Also the people in charge of the world police is something that should also be considered.

It seems evident that countries want to live their lives in different ways. whether it be different religions, different national identities, or on how to run their existing economies. It seems as this will not be changing any time in the near future. So how can a country whose fundamental beliefs are religious freedom, democracy, and capitalism be in charge of policing other countries who may not value those ideals as we do? In some societies it is these values that are seen as evil traits that should be done away with. Our book discusses the idea of power. Edkins (2009) quotes Michel Foucault. His quotes suggest to say that power is a relationship between people, and obedience to that power will be accepted only if it is seen as a non-oppressive force that doesn't exist simply to say no to things. That power needs to also produce things, or introduce pleasures as well as new forms of knowledge. How can two societies with different fundamental ideologies agree with what forms of pleasure are acceptable, or what knowledge should be passed on? Can we really believe that the people that we are trying to police are going to respect our power and authority to keep the peace between different nations? Are they going to let us play the role of arbitrator when they don't trust us. It's even been suggested (Davidson, 2009) that the foreign policies with regard to the middle east have direct relationships to the strengthening and radicalizing of Islamic fundamentalist groups throughout the area. It seems unlikely that we can police the world due to very different fundamental beliefs. For that to happen I would think we would have to base our policing efforts on the fundamentals of the given nation in dispute. World view of the U.S. would also have to be very high to respect the power that we would be trying to wield.

Still, there will always be people around the world that need to defend themselves but don't have the means to do so. It's obvious that even in a bad economy the U.S. is still far better off then some of the third world countries across the globe. According to Shah (2009) the United States was responsible for 48% of the world's military spending. He also projects that 44.4% of our tax dollars will be spent on our military. There's no question that we have the resources to at least lead a military whose responsibility would be to police the world. Since we have the ability the question here is do we help those that can't help themselves, or do we focus on the problems that we have at home?

Another concern that I have would be the motives of those who would be in charge of this world police force. There are always whispers that politicians are only out for their careers and not really the public interest. There are politicians that say that they won't raise taxes and then they do after they get elected. I'm just not sure that we could trust just one government to run an institution whose job it is to police the world. I'm not sure what they would be but I think there would have to be some sort of checks and balances to ensure that those in power do not abuse that power.

Iranian Presidential Election

I must admit with some reluctance that I know very little about politics. I grew-up in a home where my mother and father were on different ends of the political spectrum, with my father claiming a republican identity and my mother a democratic, but political issues were never talked about in great length. My father was the most opinionated about his political beliefs, claiming that all democratic leaders are liars and thieves, so with little else to go on I began identifying myself as a republican too. Politics are so complicated which is why I believe that I have never had a desire to take an interest in political issues. Reading political news is like trying to read a book written in a different language. I have no knowledge of past events pertaining to the current global issues which makes it extremely difficult to fully understand why the event is occurring and then form an educated opinion about the matter. I do not understand why the Middle East is a “threat to national security,” why some nations are allied with the United States and others are not, or anything else of this sort.
When asked to select a topic about global politics and then write about it for this course I was very apprehensive because of my lack of knowledge about politics, but I was immediately intrigued by the current events surrounding the Iranian presidential election. I had no knowledge of the presidential candidates viewpoints, no idea that religion and government are closely related in this country, or any concept of the oppressive state the country of Iran has been in (this is an opinion) since the country’s revolution in the 1970’s, but what struck me was the images of peaceful protestors being attacked by police officers armed with tear gas, weaponry, and night sticks. And I began to think of the idea of media being a sort of narrative, a way for one to express his or her own opinions and beliefs with or without being fully aware of this fact. I have read of the brutal treatment of protestors by the Iranian Police. News stories that the government has falsified the number of individuals who have been harmed or killed during the protests. I have read of the allegations made by some that the government has purposely caused the death of these innocent protestors, but then read conflicting accounts that these peaceful protestors are not the victims but instead, have attacked the Iranian Police and physical force was used in self-defense. So it are these narratives, the current accounts of the events that have followed the Iranian presidential election that can be reflected on, analyzed, or even portray two very different stories of the actual events occurring in this country that I am so fascinated with. How it is that such an event of protesting after a presidential election can lead to two very different accounts of what actually happened? Were and are these peaceful protestors being attacked by the Iranian government as a way to instill political order and fear to the Iranian citizens? Are protestors attacking the police officers as a sign of the opposition of the current Iranian government? Or, do both accounts hold some truth? But these ideas of political narratives are not confined to the protests that are occurring after the presidential election, but are ultimately a fact of all politics. And I wonder what stories have the Iranian presidential candidates told to the individuals of this country? Why do some individuals believe that change is needed in the Iranian government while others would favor the re-election of the current president?
The current dynamics in Iran are also interesting because there appears to be this movement for change in a country that has very traditionally religious government ties and it will be fascinating to see how this influences the future for Iran. While some Iranian citizens support the re-election of the current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it appears that many more individuals are in favor of a more democratic style of government. That perhaps some form of Westernized views of secularism and democracy have penetrated the traditionally religiously led government of Iran. And I wonder how the clergy, who have such a powerful presence in Iranian politics, will influence the current state of chaos in Iran. Some clerical members support Mir Hossein Mousavi, the democratic candidate who lost and claims that the election was rigged, while other religious members believe that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fairly won the recent election. What is certain however that is the current state of the Iranian government is being tested by a new movement for more Westernized views and this is a monumental time in the country’s history. It will take more time and informed knowledge for me to paint a broader picture of the dynamics that have lead to the chaotic state of Iran.

Iranian Election 2009

Iranian Election 2009 Fixed or Not?

The topic I am interested in is the Iranian election, and if it was fixed or not? The first reason that attracted me to this topic was how the rest of the World’s relations with Iran is not the greatest. Especially when it comes to the United States and Iran. Through the last few years the media has portraying Iran as a potential threat to national security for the U.S. Especially with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who to me is presented as some radical dictator trying to take over the world by some of the media. The fact that thousands of demonstraters took to the streets after the election, shows some reason for concern about the election. Thus resulting, in the Iranian government striking down in brute force. Killing several of the demonstraters and injuring even more.
What really draws me to this topic is growing up in an academic family; where my mom and dad are on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Also being related to a few of are founding fathings like John Marshall and Thomas Jefferson. I feel that a political viewpoint runs in my bloodline. My parents always taught me to form my own opinion on political matters going on in the matter. It also led to some very interesting family conversations during election times. These conversations taught me to think independently, especially in matters like the 2009 Iran election.
In watching and reading about the Iranian election, and the demonstrations a lot came to mind. The fact that their were demonstrations about the election says a lot, but having demonstrators doesn’t mean that the election was fixed. What really interests mean is how the government struck with brute force on the demonstrators then tried to hide it from the world. Though through the internet videos leaked of the incident. Watching some of the videos made me sick. The protestors didn’t have any weapons or anything they were just demonstrating peacefully. Showing how they felt about the election. I thought that if you lived in a country where there is election don’t you have the right to have peacefully rallies; without having to worry about being killed. To mean this is a sign of a government who is abusing their power, and also in a state of panic of some sort.
Another aspect of this topic that interests me is how some of the Religious clerics in Iran are taking the side of Mir-Hossein Mousavi who lost the election. This is extremly interesting , considering that Iran’s Religious leaders have a lot of say and push in the country. Like the above paragraph this shows how the election is causing Irans political leaders to panic. Having some of the different clerics fighting about the election is not good for the countries morale.
For me this topic is one of many different aspects, and varies on who you talk to rather the election was fixed. In my opinion, if it was fixed I will think that we will find out eventually about it. Though through my upbrining what I see is a country in turmoil, with different religious leaders, and political leaders fighting. To me this can be dangerous maybe even resulting in cival war, or even another country having to come in and take matters in their hand( which I am sure some people in the U.S. want this). Through further research on the matter I’ll form a more elaborate opinion, and how it affects world politics.

Friday, July 24, 2009

World Police = U.S.A.???

The topic I'm interested in is whether or not the U.S. should be the world police. There are a few main driving forces behind my interest in this issue. I'm not sure how political they actually are. I think the first reason why I am pulled to this particular topic is an article I recently read about a North Korean ship called the Kang Nam. The article was in the New York Times and it stated that the ship was suspected of carrying weaponry, missile parts or nuclear materials. The U.N. had recently placed sanctions against North Korea forbidding them to proceed with such actions due to a missile test that they fired out into the pacific. Our navy was following it. According to international policy our navy would have to ask permission to board the vessel for inspection. This was not something that the North Korean government would give. They also threatened retaliation if the U.S. chose to forcibly board the ship. My first thought was why is it up to the U.S. to board this ship? This ship isn't even in U.S. waters. It seemed like we were going out of our way to "police" the matter.

There are other reasons why I chose this topic but they may relate more to my own history over any political views. My own personal story on the topic begins in growing up in a middle class suburban home in Minnesota. My father was Hispanic, and my mother was Irish. Neither one of them had anything to do with politics. Neither one had any college education. However, they both were very hard working and very family oriented. They taught me and my siblings that we were all we had in this world. As a result, my family is very close. When we get together we stay up all night laughing and having a good time. I'm not sure if they were active voters. They told us on more then one occasion that all politicians are crooks and cannot be trusted. I grew up playing hockey and I love the sport. More often then not, I was the smallest one on the ice. I had to rely on my speed, low center of gravity, and above all to always keep my head up to survive in that sport.

I think I'm attracted to the topic because I've seen how hard my parents had to work to get to where they are now. This reminds me of other people around the world and how hard some have to work just to survive. My family closeness reminds me that there are other families out there who don't get to laugh and joke but have to flee their country from violent groups looking to take over land for a multitude of reasons. Also, being the smallest one on the ice means I was often pushed and knocked around. Fortunately, I had a lot of padding and spunk to help me get right back up when it happened. But there are people around the world who don't have "padding" to protect themselves. It would be like playing with out pads. That's a scary thought. So who is to protect all these people that don't have the means to protect themselves? It's these thoughts that make me feel we need to help those who cannot help themselves. We should be out there policing international bullies and deviants. We should be keeping not just our own citizens safe but others as well.

However, having been told that all politicians are evil makes me take a step back and think. The gulf war, and the on going war in Iraq were plagued with rumors that we were simply over there protecting our oil interests overseas. Is that really worth dying over? oil? Now I'm not sure how valid the stories are but it makes you wonder if we're out protecting human rights, or are we just protecting the ability for me to drive my car. I'd like to think that our actions are more humanitarian then that. Maybe by doing a little research with this topic I can try to make an educated decision for myself. Ultimately, I'll be trying to ascertain whether or not the U.S. has the ability and the honesty to be in a position to police the world.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Living in Interesting Times

What am I looking for in your first blog entry? Well, we’re working here on telling a story about an issue of interest to you in world politics, and a place to begin that story is with how and why you’re interested in this issue. I’m interested in how we create stories about politics and create narratives that either empower or disempower us in relation to the pressing political issues of the day. Why do we get involved? Why not?

These narratives have to start with some account of why we care in the first place. In order for anyone to be engaged in politics you have to have some level of concern and/or interest in things like global poverty, climate change, genocide, or fair trade. Where does this come from, and what kind of stories do we tell about this kind of concern?

To give you a sense of what I might like to see, I’ll sketch a bit of my own story about my current interest in climate change and international environmental issues. This isn’t any easy question to answer. There are all sorts of things that might explain why I was drawn in that direction: my mother and older sister were interested in political issues (the Vietnam War, the plight of Native Americans), my Dad read me stories about knights who actions were governed by a strict moral code, and I had experienced injustice myself a few times as a child. But, for whatever reason, from an early age I felt the need to help, to do the right thing, and to be engaged politically. Part of this seems to relate to one’s willingness to empathize with others—to feel their pain, as they say--and this was part of my experience growing up as well.

I was also interested in big political issues from the time I first read about the holocaust, and later when I learned about the nuclear arms race and the huge arsenal of weapons the U.S. had accumulated over the years. These were huge, potentially apocalyptic events, and they frightened me as well. The huge stockpiles of nuclear weapons struck me as just insane, and I worked for a few years on trying to understand why we had these horrible things, and what we might be able to do to reduce the chances of them being used.

More recently I’ve become interested in environmental issues, in part because of living and working near to the Mississippi River (as a really cool river that needs a lot of cleaning up), and in part from what I’ve learned about climate change, and in part from my long-standing love of the natural world. Growing up, I loved being outdoors, and often went camping, traveling, and at times living out in the wilderness, experiencing the wonder and amazement of “nature.” I valued the preservation of the parts of the world that were relatively unaffected by humans and also found many aspects of modern, industrial society very unpleasant and destructive.

And climate change now appears to be an issue that has the potential to really shake up our world, and I find that prospect both intriguing and disturbing. I would argue that we are in the midst of the end of the fossil-fuel age, and becoming increasing aware of the impact of that age on the health of our ecosystems. The scientific evidence appears to telling us that we are in the midst of dramatically changing our environment. To avoid some really pretty bleak consequences, we will have to change our whole way of life. Either that or the scientists are really, really wrong (and I don’t think they are). Probably what we’ll get is a mix of the two: not the worst of the environmental changes that people are predicting and not the total transformation of our economy, but I’m guessing we will be seeing some big changes in each. We’ll make some very large changes in how we run our economy, but it is very unlikely that we will make them in time to avert fairly dramatic changes in the earth’s climate. Some pretty dramatic shifts—in things like temperature, rainfall, rising sea levels, species extinctions, crop failures, severe storms, tropical diseases that will have a disproportionate impact on the world’s poorest people—will likely happen. The more we do now to reduce our global ecological footprint, the less severe the future damage, but it’s an open question as to how much will do. That’s part of why I’m interested in understanding this question of why people get involved in these large political issues.

To get a sense of the scope of this, take two facts that are fairly certain—First, according to the vast majority of the scientific community (the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC), if our global temperature rises more than 2 degrees Celsius, we will suffer “massive and irreversible damage” that will cost the world millions of lives and many trillions of dollars in damages. Second, that in order to avoid this outcome, by 2050 (forty years from now) we need to reduce our carbon emissions down to 20% of the amount we were emitting in 1990. Now try to get your head around a world in which we burn 20% or less of what we did in 1990. Right now, our fuel consumption is increasing, not decreasing at all. To cut out 80% of our current fossil-fuel consumption will require nothing short of an eco-energetic revolution (a fundamental shift in how we power our economic activity).

On top of that, this means that in effect almost all the oil, gas, and coal we burn between now and then needs to go into creating the post-fossil fuel economy (renewable energy infrastructure), which means that all the things we use fossil fuel for now will need to be given lower priority than this process of transitioning.

And is that going to happen without a fight? Just ask GM, Ford, the coal companies, the aluminum industry (that require huge amounts of cheap electricity), the chemical companies (that need lots of energy and hydrocarbons to create their plastic), the lumber companies, and all the people that like huge homes, huge cars, air travel, and who think that global warming is just a weird left-wing conspiracy cooked up by people who want to raise taxes. We are in for a big fight, and the stakes and transformations at hand could hardly be larger.

For those who say they want to live in interesting times, you got your wish.

So, what sort of issues do you find interesting? Is there anything from your life experience so far that draws you to that issue? What about the issue interests you? What questions do you have about it? What would you like to find out that you might be able to use in your own life?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


This is where you will be posting your blog entries for our class on global politics at Augsburg College. You'll each need to write four entries by the end of the term, and the basic guidelines for the assignment are as follows:

The assignment is to construct a narrative on a topic that interests you in international politics. A narrative is a way to tell a story that makes sense of the issue for you, and places you in the story as well (narratives are discussed more in the text book in the beginning of Ch. 4).

Topics should be drawn from some current event in international politics—something you would read about in the papers these days that deals with peace & conflict, trade or economics, the global environment, international organizations, diplomacy, immigration, poverty, human rights, or other such topics.

Cite your sources using at least 6 citations from the text book and 6 citations from the newspapers and journal articles. Use parenthetical or APA format and include a bibliography.

There are four separate parts, each of which should be entered as a separate blog entry. The length of each entry can vary, but the total for the 4 entries should be between 1,800 and 3,000 words (equivalent to between 6 and 10 pages, double spaced, 12 pt. font, one inch margins). The first two entries are due by Mon., July 27 and the final entries by Mon. Aug. 10, but can be posted anytime before then.

I. What brings you to this topic. Why are you interested in it?

II. What is the issue? Describe the basic facts of the situation, working within the space limits of the assignment (in other words, you will need to be succinct).

III. Analysis of the issue: what theories help explain what is driving the issue or problem? Which theory do you find most persuasive?

IV. A discussion of your role in relation to this issue. Based on your analysis, what role do you see for yourself in regard to this? Can you tell a story or construct a narrative in which you play a meaningful role in relationship to this issue?

You are all encouraged to post comments on the blog entries (I will comment as well).

These will be graded on the amount of work that goes into them, how carefully and thoughtfully they are written, and on the degree to which they are able to synthesize your interests, the facts of the issue, and the concepts and ideas from the text into a coherent narrative.