Sunday, May 13, 2012

Chen Guangcheng; Same-Sex Marriage; An Ailing Economy

Chen Guangcheng

Some of the major stories of the past few weeks:

1. After appearing to gain momentum from January through March, the direction of the economy is again unclear.  The stock market has fallen during the past month or so, and jobs are not being created on a sufficient scale. Paul Krugman continues to advocate for pumping money into the economy, while David Brooks says the problems are structural and require a longer-term re-think. I tend to side with Brooks, and I remain doubtful that the American economy will rebound completely anytime soon.

2. The Greeks voted out their unity government last week. As far as I can tell, there's not a functioning majority at the moment, which cannot be good for stability there.

3. Spain is getting lots of attention as the next European economy to require a bailout. I gather that their real estate bubble was the biggest of all: Florida on a countrywide scale.

4. Chen Guangcheng is a blind Chinese lawyer/activist who escaped house imprisonment a couple of weeks ago and has been the center of diplomatic intrigue. The US and China have been debating whether he should/may leave the country.  It sounds like the face-saving solution (for China) is that he and his family will be given a student visa to study in the US. I am unclear as to whether Chen wants to leave China; I think that he does (for his safety), but some articles imply that he'll have less ability to influence the course of events if he is no longer living there.

5. President Obama came out in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage in an interview with Robin Roberts, after Joe Biden did the same on Meet the Press last weekend. The pundit-debate of the week is whether Obama's decision demonstrates courage -- or, in the analysis of Ross Douthat this morning, is merely an attempt to change the national discussion away from the economy. The Post had a much-read long-form article about Mitt Romney's prep school days. The article focused on an episode where Romeny led a group of classmates in pinning to the ground a believed-to-be-gay student and forcibly cutting his long hair.

538. How important should political leaders' adolescent and young adult deeds/misdeeds be to voters, for purposes of evaluating their ability to lead and govern?

539. Are Krugman and Brooks friendly with each other in the Times' offices? Do liberal academic economists admire Krugman for his constant advocacy, or is he kind of the equivalent of a popular historian (Doris Kearns Goodwin, for instance) who some academics begrudge?

540. Mitt Romney spoke at Liberty University's commencement yesterday. How was he received?  Will Obama's change-of-position on same-sex marriage energize the religious right to support Romney more vigorously?

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