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December 19, 2003
Some more stuff

If you like "pictures from space" (I keep hearing, "Pigs In Space!" echoing in my brain) then you need to see this.

Does the rest of the world have a better understanding of what it means to be "American" than this country possesses?

By the way, courtesy of NPR this morning, I found out why Bush's stated policy of a "strong dollar" doesn't mean his Administration is interested in, you know, keeping the dollar strong.

For those of you who, like myself, are mystified by the intrincacies of high finance, the weakening dollar means that USofA multinationals sell more in the international market. So letting the "free market" create a "strong dollar" means the dollar goes lower and big corporations make more money. (And this country becomes progressively less popular with the countries of the companies who are making lower profits because their consumers are buying USofA products, of course.)

I like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt but I'm frustrated by the way the paper trail of results for everything this Administration does leads directly to increased profits for big corporations.

I'm actually torn on the idea of how much we should do to stay "popular" with other countries, but I'll get to that later.

Freedom of the press is disappearing in Africa. Yes, you should care.

If I weren't at work, I'd hit the Reuters site and take a look at the footage of a USofA tanker being attacked, but I am, so I can't.

Gated communities, a concept imported from the estates of drug barons in South America (but hardly originated by them) and what they symbolize.

WaPo offers a report on K Street's influence on the government but, again, I can't play the video while I'm at the office.

From Krugman today:

The war's more idealistic supporters do, I think, feel queasy about all this. That's why they lay so much stress on their hopes for democracy in Iraq. They're not just looking for a happy ending; they're looking for moral redemption for a war fought on false pretenses.

As a practical matter, I suspect that they'll be disappointed: the only leaders in Iraq with genuine popular followings seem to be Shiite clerics. I also wonder how much real commitment to democracy lies behind the administration's stirring rhetoric.

This brings up a point I've been pondering in my daily commute. Just exactly what is our commitment to democracy around the world? And does our commitment differ from the commitment of our government?

I think our history shows that our government defines "democracy" as a country offering regular elections (for the PR value, one assumes) and a government that's friendly to the USofA. (See: Iran, overthrow of democratically elected anti-American government and replacement by religiously conservative, repressive, nominally pro-American "Shah".)*

Do USofA citizens demand that governments around the world be approved or disapproved largely by whether or not said governments are friendly to the USofA? Do they, as the government seems to do, consider being "pro-American" as being more important than things like a reasonably free market, a functioning legal system, and human rights protections?

Do the citizens of this country consider personal "freedoms" of more importance when defining democracy than bureaucratic policies regarding maintaining trade balances (or imbalances) with the USofA, or do they not?

I don't have any answers on this one. (I'm pretty arrogant, but I stop short of positioning myself as the Mouth of America.) Personally, I think democracy is more important than being pro-American. I love this country but there are days when I'd like to kick us in the shins, so I certainly don't blame other people for not loving us unreservedly. Nor, quite frankly, do I think the world would be improved in the long-term if some kind of global America-worship existed. Inside of this country, our legal system has checks and balances. I think of the international community and the shifting goals and loyalties of all countries as a system of checks and balances on each individual country.

Besides, no one is better able to point out where you're going wrong than your enemies so if nothing else, we need detractors to help keep us on the right track.

Of course, that's a long way from saying I don't think democratic institutions should prevail world-wide. I think any and every country that wants a democratic government should have one. I think every person who wants to live in a democratic society should be able to. At the same time, my worldview is large enough to encompass the concept of a society or culture that chooses not to implement a democratic rule. I wouldn't care to live there myself, but I have no issues around other people making that choice.

Just when you think you've already heard the latest in stupidity, you're proven wrong.

"Go on, throw that ballthrough this here tire" From Dave Barry, who's concerned about his incipient Rig Envy.

( * Yeah, I know, that's a pretty sweeping statement, but I'm all about crass generalizations today.)

Posted by AnneZook at 12:25 PM