Paul Kurtz’s essay, Is America a Post-democratic Society? in the latest issue of Free Inquiry is an especially cogent and concise analysis of the current state of our society. It’s fairly long, perhaps 6,000 words, but says an amazing amount in that space. There is nothing surprising or new in it, but it brings together a number of facts in interesting ways.
These links all via James Gosling’s weblog:
I guess at least I don’t have to spend the next four years defending a philandering husband with “Hey, that has nothing to do with being President,” and can instead invoke heartfelt righteous indignation about an Administration dedicated to kissing the asses of megacorporation CEOs. Maybe there’s a little consolation there. Maybe.
The Washington Post reports that Secretary of State Colin Powell claims that Iran is working to adapt missiles to deliver nuclear weapons.
Sorry, Mr. Secretary, I’m not convinced.
I’ve held great respect for you as a sane voice in the Bush Administration; I think you are well-reasoned and temperate, that you practice statesmanship like few in my generation. Although a liberal Democrat, I sincerely hope you decide to run for president. (I’m not promising my vote, but I would love to have the choice.) I can do no better than to quote John Brady Kiesling:
Mr. Secretary, I have enormous respect for your character and ability. You have preserved more international credibility for us than our policy deserves, and salvaged something positive from the excesses of an ideological and self-serving administration
But on this issue, you have no credibility left. That was burned up after your presentation on Iraq to the United Nations helped send our country to war under false pretenses. I do not know whether you can do anything to restore my trust.
During your tenure, the United States has discarded the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and started work on new nuclear weapons. We have insisted on exemptions to the rules of the International Criminal Court. We have emasculated the United Nations. I’m willing to believe that you did not agree with any of these decisions, and went along with them rather than resign because you could do more good inside the administration than outside it. But we are now in a situation where the United States has no credibility in the world. And the Administration has no credibility — not even domestically — on potential nuclear threats. Your stature, even enhanced by the fact that you’ve resigned and have little to gain by toeing President Bush’s line, is not enough to sell me on this.
The funny thing is that I wouldn’t be surprised to find that what you say is true. But your saying so adds no more weight to these claims.
I’m glad for your sake that you’ve decided to leave the administration, although it is sad for the nation.
- Have we really finished the war in Iraq? And by that I mean, is it safe for Iraqis and reconstruction workers to drive even from the Baghdad airport into town, and for Iraqi politicians to hold campaign rallies and have a national dialogue about their country’s future?
- Do we have enough soldiers in Iraq to really provide a minimum level of security? Up to now President Bush has applied what I call the Rumsfeld Doctrine in Iraq: just enough troops to protect ourselves, but not Iraqis, and just enough troops to be blamed for everything that goes wrong in Iraq, but not enough to make things go right.
Ah, Friedman, what do you know about troop levels? Actually, not much. Never shot a gun. But I’m not a chef either, and I know a good meal when I eat one. I know chaos when I see it, and my guess is that we are still at least two divisions short in Iraq.
- Can Iraqis agree on constitutional power-sharing? Is there a political entity called Iraq? Or is there just a bunch of disparate tribes and ethnic and religious communities? Is Iraq the way Iraq is because Saddam was the way Saddam was, or was Saddam the way Saddam was because Iraqis are the way they are - congenitally divided? We still don’t know the answer to this fundamental question because there has not been enough security for Iraqis to have a real horizontal dialogue.
- If Iraqis are able to make the leap from the despotism of Saddam Hussein to free elections and representative government, can we live with whomever they elect - which will be mostly politicians from Islamist parties? I take a very expansive view of this since it took Europe several hundred years to work out the culture, habits and institutions of constitutional politics. What you are seeing in Iraq today are the necessary first steps. If Iraqis elect Islamist politicians, so be it. But is our president ready for that group shot?
- Can we make a serious effort to achieve a psychological breakthrough with Iraqis and the wider Arab world? U.S. diplomacy in this regard has been pathetic. “It is sad to say this, but after 18 months the U.S. still hasn’t convinced Iraqis that it means well,” said Yitzhak Nakash, the Brandeis University expert on Iraq. “We have never been able to persuade Iraqis that we aren’t there for the oil. There still isn’t a basis for mutual trust.”
- Can the Bush team mend fences with Iran, and forge an understanding with Saudi Arabia and Syria to control the flow of Sunni militants into Iraq, so the situation there can be stabilized and the jihadists killed in Falluja are not replaced by a new bunch?
This time, let no one claim victory, or defeat, in Iraq until we have the answers to these six questions.
I’m half-way there!
When I was diagnosed with diabetes (nearly six months ago, wow!) the doctor told me that I would really need to lose some weight. She set a target weight that was 75 pounds below where I started. (For my vast horde of international readers, 1 kg = 2.2 pounds.)
I lost quickly at first, losing 35 pounds in eighteen weeks. And sat there. And sat there. And sat there for five weeks, bouncing around between 31 and 35 pounds down. But this week, I seem to be heading in the right direction again. And today I’m down 37 ½ pounds!
Of course that is just the doctor’s target. I’m aiming lower. I want to shoot for my high school weight, which is 90 pounds below my starting weight. But it feels really good to reach this point.
And although I had to resume the medicine that I tried to stop at the fourteen week mark, I have now cut the dosage in half, while still keeping the sugars under tight control. So I’m feeling pretty good about that. The exercise is going well again now that Daily Savings Time is over and I have some daylight to walk in before I have to get ready for work. (The alternative is the gym, which I hate, although I’m sure it’s good for me.) The only number which doesn’t make me happy now is blood pressure. I’ve been doing pretty well, I thought, but today it was 135/82, slightly above the 130/80 recommendation and my usual 125/75 numbers. I assume it was just a fluke. I’m feeling too good to think it’s anything more.
Just in case…
There are a great number of other countries where English is the official language or is widely spoken:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Cayman Islands
- Papua New Guinea
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- Sri Lanka
- Trinidad and Tobago
Or maybe we can just discuss a New England / New York secession (New Jersey, I suppose you’re welcome too, but California is on its own.)