In the New York Post, John Poderetz writes that "opinion leaders" are using the tsunami disaster as "little more than cheap debate fodder about the nature and character
of the United States, its president and its citizens."
I haven't seen any criticism of the character of the citizens of the
United States, who by all accounts are responding generously. Come to think of it, I haven't seen any criticism of the nation
of the United States, although I'm sure there's some of that floating around somewhere, because there always is.
All of the criticism I have seen has been aimed squarely at President
Bush. Mr. Poderetz should keep that straight.
The righties have their panties in a twist because some of us had
the nerve to criticize Bush's reaction to the tsunami disaster. But we are criticizing Bush because he is behaving
badly. Were he to behave well, we would not criticize him.
Seems simple enough to me.
On the other side of the blogosphere the righties are tripping all over themselves
making excuses for the Preznit. I mean, we liberated Iraq and all (aside: as if), and nobody gives us credit
for that, huh? And the UN is corrupt, and Kofi Annan is a poopy head. You get the picture.
The Los Angeles Times points out that yesterday's pledge of $350 million "marked the fourth consecutive day in which the Bush administration has widened its
response to the Asian catastrophe amid criticism that the U.S. reacted to the burgeoning humanitarian crisis with too little
and too late."
This matters. As Kos wrote, "While better late than never, we lost a golden opportunity to score a huge PR victory in the world stage, and, with the
largest muslim nation in the world (Indonesia)."
The New York Timesnoticed that Bush didn't show up for his customary New Year's Eve visit with reporters at the Crawford coffee shop.
The most recent news story I've seen says the tsunami killed 123,171 people in 11 countries
in southern Asia and East Africa, but of course the real number will never be known. Massive relief efforts are underway,
but it seems some areas are still hard to reach.
I hope 2005 brings you good health, good fortune, and many bright and
Last night I performed the official Mahablog I Ching reading for 2005, for
the United States. I got Hexagram 3, Retrenchment. The judgment: Nothing should be undertaken. Get help. I didn't need the I Ching to know that.
Let's start the blog day off with a little bit of good news, or at least
less terrible news than other terrible news. This Slate article says that many animals of Sri Lanka were able to save themselves from death in the tsunami. They sensed the disaster before the humans did. Many
had already fled to high ground before the waves hit.
I just brought Tara O'Brien home from the vet hospital! She's very happy
and says thank you for all good wishes sent her way.
We are still waiting on the results of a biopsy to find out if she has cancer,
so we don't know what her prognosis is. But at least she is stable and seems bright and alert. Right now she
is poking around the house, making sure everything is where it's supposed to be.
She has a tube inserted into her stomach, and I will have to feed her high-calorie
cat food through the tube for the next week, along with medicines and vitamin/mineral tonic. She is not out of the woods.
But she seems ready to resume her job, which is bossing me around. And napping. And maybe some snacking if she feels up to
Peter Wallsten and Edwin Chen write in today's Los Angeles Times:
Wednesday's appearance by the president was his first since the tsunami
struck Sunday. Bush spoke out a day after a White House spokesman deflected repeated questions about why the vacationing president,
devoting much of his time to bicycling and clearing brush, had not been more assertive in the wake of such a massive tragedy.
and critics of Bush said Wednesday that the administration had bungled its response to the tragedy, missing a chance to display
good will at a time that the United States is facing opposition abroad to the war in Iraq. Much of that opposition comes from
the Muslim world, and several of the countries affected by the tsunami have large Muslim populations.
"This was a golden
opportunity for President Bush to speak to the victims of the tsunami and the Muslim world by showing care and compassion,"
said David Phillips, a former senior adviser to the State Department under Bush and President Clinton and now a senior fellow
at the Council on Foreign Relations. "Instead the U.S. is on the defensive, trying to explain its approach."
Republican Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas offered
the excuse that the administration is in transition, with Colin Powell preparing to hand off State Department duties
to Condi Rice, and also lots of officials are on vacation.
In other words, Our President can't be bothered to think for himself.
Really, how many officials do you need to understand that the initial offering
of $15 million was an embarrassment, and that a disaster impacting Muslim nations might affect our little Muslim
Lots of bloggers connected those dots all by themselves. We bloggers must
be bleeping geniuses.
One of those bloggers, Juan Cole, explains why even the new $35 million number isn't impressing anybody.
Bush is an MBA, so he knows very well the difference between absolute
numbers and per capita ones. Let's see, Australia offered US $27 million in aid for victims of the tsunami. Australia's population is about 20 million. Its
gross domestic product is about $500 billion per year. Surely anyone can see that Australia's $27 million is far more per
person than Bush's $35 million. Australia's works out to $1.35 per person. The US contribution as it now stands is about 9
cents per person.
And it's not as if Bush isn't used to big numbers. Jim VandeHei
and Robin Wright write in today's Washington Post:
... critics noted that the U.S. aid so far is about the equivalent
of what the United States spends in seven hours for its military operations in Iraq. "We spend $35 million before breakfast
every day in Iraq," said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Further, say VandeHei and Wright,
The usual U.S. contribution during major disasters is 25 to 33 percent
of total international aid, according to J. Brian Atwood, a former USAID administrator. So far, the U.S. contribution is 13
percent of the $270 million in international aid that has been pledged, the United Nations said Wednesday.
Spain has pledged $68 million, almost twice what the United
States has contributed so far. Japan has pledged $30 million, Britain $29 million, Australia $27.6 million, Germany $27 million,
France $20.5 million and Denmark $15.5 million, the United Nations reported.
In his remarks yesterday, President Bush said that his administration had established a "regional core group with India, Japan and Australia to help coordinate
relief efforts. I'm confident more nations will join this core group in short order." However, it appears the Bush administration
did not bother to consult with the UN or anyone else already working to provide disaster relief about this core group, now
being called a "coalition," before making this announcement. One suspects this group was an idea hatched while Bush's
speech was being written so that he could claim a leadership role.
Update: Be sure to read this editorial in today's New York Times. Note in particular --
Fuming at the charge of stinginess, Mr. Powell pointed to disaster
relief and said the United States "has given more aid in the last four years than any other nation or combination of nations
in the world." But for development aid, America gave $16.2 billion in 2003; the European Union gave $37.1 billion. In 2002,
those numbers were $13.2 billion for America, and $29.9 billion for Europe.
Making things worse, we often pledge more money than we actually deliver.
Victims of the earthquake in Bam, Iran, a year ago are still living in tents because aid, including ours, has not materialized
in the amounts pledged. And back in 2002, Mr. Bush announced his Millennium Challenge account to give African countries development
assistance of up to $5 billion a year, but the account has yet to disperse a single dollar.
Alterman gets to the heart of the matter. I like this quote so much I'm going to add it to the "Voids" post below so that the righties
trickling in from Wizbang see it, too.
Is this president interested only in killing
people, but can’t be bothered when given the chance to help save them? His morally callous parsimony in the face of this, the greatest natural disaster in modern history, seems determined to give the rest of that world
exactly that impression. George W. Bush shames our nation with large talk and small deeds; with his want of character
and smallness of spirit. To help, go here.
The President just appeared on television to state how concerned
he was about the tsunami disaster. A couple of points -- one, he said that this morning he called some heads
of state of affected nations to express his concern. In other words, it took him four days to get around to this.
And two, he said that he would encourage other nations to get involved in the disaster relief -- as if the rest of the world
hadn't already charged ahead without him. What a joke.
Update and note: I'm updating the post just
The death toll from the tsunami continues to climb. Reuters UK is reporting 63,000 dead. The World Health Organization estimates that as many people could die of infectious disease in
the aftermath of the disaster.
A prominent reinsurer estimates the economic cost at $15 billion, which
seems low to me considering the vast area impacted.
President Bush has shamed our nation by pledging only $15 million for disaster aid. His upcoming coronation is expected to cost more than twice that. So, as want and disease and famine and grief spread over much of the earth, the Boy King will be whooping it up in grandly
austentatious style. A statesman, a person with any class at all, would be scaling back the pomp and re-directing
some of the inauguration money to Asia.
As I keyboard, I hear someone on television saying that survivors are digging graves
with their bare hands.
The impact of this disaster is beyond calculation. The earth
was knocked off its axis. Islands have changed locations. Entire families, probably some entire communities, are lost. Surely
this is a time for humans to pull together as a species, as fellow inhabitants of our planet, and do whatever we
can. It's not the time to throw a big party.
Clink here for links to organizations accepting money for disaster relief.
As the death toll surpassed 50,000 with no sign of abating, the U.S. Agency
for International Development added $20 million to an earlier pledge of $15 million to provide relief, and the Pentagon dispatched
an aircraft carrier and other military assets to the region. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, in morning television appearances,
chafed at a top U.N. aid official's comment on Monday that wealthy countries were being stingy with aid. "The United States
is not stingy," Powell said on CNN.
Although U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland yesterday withdrew
his earlier comment, domestic criticism of Bush continued to rise. Skeptics said the initial aid
sums -- as well as Bush's decision at first to remain cloistered on his Texas ranch for the Christmas holiday rather than
speak in person about the tragedy -- showed scant appreciation for the magnitude of suffering and for the rescue and rebuilding
work facing such nations as Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and Indonesia. [emphasis added]
Having been clued in that he's supposed to at least pretend he cares, His
Majesty has ordered ses courtiers to orchestrate some caring-type activities.
After a day of repeated inquiries from reporters about his public absence,
Bush late yesterday afternoon announced plans to hold a National Security Council meeting by teleconference to discuss several
issues, including the tsunami, followed by a short public statement.
But if you keep reading, it becomes clear that what really bit his royal
butt is the fact that our most recent actual President, Bill Clinton, talked about the tsunami disaster during a BBC
interview and had the nerve to offer an opinion about it -- apparently, that it was real awful -- while His Brattiness in
Texas was blowing it off. And the the Court of Bush II was royally pissed.
Many Bush aides believe Clinton was too quick to head for the cameras to
hold forth on tragedies with his trademark empathy. "Actions speak louder than words," a top Bush aide said, describing the
president's view of his appropriate role.
(Actions like pledging, initially, a paltry $15 billion
million while the celebration the Boy King is planning for himself will cost more than twice that? What "action" does he plan
to take, other than offering money and words? Is he going to go to Asia himself and actually, dare I say it, soil the royal
hands by getting involved? Of course not. If actions speak louder than words, The Brat has been awfully quiet.)
In other words, there was a leadership void, and by offering a comment on the
disaster Bill Clinton couldn't help but step into it. So now The Brat is pissed, and now he's going to start going through
the motions of being an actual leader.
This, of course, is just part of a pattern. After September 11 The Brat had to hide
out on Air Force One for several hours before he could pull himself together (or sober up?) and act like a president. More than a year ago he had to be coaxed into addressing the nation after a particularly bloody day in Iraq (not as bloody as the days have
been since, of course). And do you remember The Blackout of August 2003? I wrote at the time
It took him four hours to bring himself to speak to the nation after
the Blackout began, and then he could do so only on tape. (Drunk or stupid? We report -- you decide.) After this week's bombing
that killed at least 20 UN workers, Bush's keepers managed to get him off the golf course, into a suit and tie, and in front
of cameras a bit faster. The keepers are learning, it seems.
Of course, he would have been a lot quicker if he'd been able to wear a quasi-military costume and prance around in front
of a few thousand screaming groupies.
Anyway, it wasn't just peasants grumbling. Says the WaPo article --
Some foreign policy specialists said Bush's actions and words both
communicated a lack of urgency about an event that will loom as large in the collective memories of several countries as the
Sept. 11, 2001, attacks do in the United States. "When that many human beings die -- at the hands of terrorists or nature
-- you've got to show that this matters to you, that you care," said Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on
There was an international outpouring of support after the attacks on
the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and even some administration officials familiar with relief efforts said they were
surprised that Bush had not appeared personally to comment on the tsunami tragedy. "It's kind of freaky," a senior career
"It's kind of freaky" -- pretty much the entire history of King George II.
Gelb said what appears to be a grudging increase in effort sends the wrong
message, at a time when dollar totals matter less than a clear statement about U.S. intentions. Noting that the disaster occurred
at a time when large numbers of people in many nations -- especially Muslim ones such as Indonesia -- object to U.S. policies
in Iraq, he said Bush was missing an opportunity to demonstrate American benevolence.
"People do watch and see what we do," he said. "Here's an opportunity
to remind people of the good we do, and he [Bush] can do it without changing his policy on Iraq or terrorism."
Yes, obviously, and the fact that Bush didn't immediately realize
that is proof, once again, that he doesn't give a shit about anything but himself. Finally,
Among the world's two dozen wealthiest countries, the United States often
is among the lowest in donors per capita for official development assistance worldwide, even though the totals are larger.
According to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development of 30 wealthy nations, the United States
gives the least -- at 0.14 percent of its gross national product, compared with Norway, which gives the most at 0.92 percent.
Another Update: Quoting Juan Cole (emphasis added):
As John F. Harris and Robin Wright of the Washington Post cannily note, US President George W. Bush has missed an important opportunity to reach out to the
Muslims of Indonesia. The Bush administration at first pledged a paltry $15 million, a mysteriously chintzy response to what
was obviously an enormous calamity. Bush himself remained on vacation, and now has reluctantly agreed to a meeting of the
National Security Council by video conference. If Bush were a statesman, he would have flown to Jakarta and announced
his solidarity with the Muslims of Indonesia (which has suffered at least 40,000 dead and rising).
the worst-hit area of Indonesia is Aceh, the center of a Muslim separatist movement, and a gesture to Aceh from the US at this moment might have meant a lot in US-Muslim
public relations. Bin Laden and Zawahiri sniffed around Aceh in hopes of recruiting operatives there, being experts in fishing in troubled
waters. Doesn't the US want to outflank al-Qaeda? As it is, the president of the United States is invisible and on vacation
(unlike several European heads of state), and could think of nothing better to do than announce a paltry pledge. As Harris
and Wright rightly say, the rest of the world treated the US much better than this after September 11.
Update Update Update: Great quote from
Is this president interested only in killing people,
but can’t be bothered when given the chance to help save them? His morally callous parsimony in the face of this, the greatest natural disaster in modern history, seems determined to give the rest of that world
exactly that impression. George W. Bush shames our nation with large talk and small deeds; with his want of character
and smallness of spirit. To help, go here.
According to the Center for Disease Control, Mississippi has the highest infant mortality rate among all states. In 2002, in Mississippi 10.5 infants per 1,000
live births died before their first birthday. The lowest rate was in Massachusetts, where 4.8 infants per 1,000 live births
I mention this because Mississippi is proud of another accomplishment -- it is the
most populous of a handful of states with only one abortion clinic. Yes, there's only one abortion clinic in Mississippi;
there used to be seven. And in the past decade, the number of legal abortions performed in Mississippi have been cut in half.
The abortion rate in Mississippi is about one third lower than the national average.
Many hard-to-measure factors may have contributed to the drop, such as more
effective use of birth control or an upsurge of Mississippi women getting abortions in other states. But activists on both
sides believe the strict laws and community pressure have had a significant impact, along with the efforts by anti-abortion
groups to publicize the checkered legal backgrounds of some abortion providers.
Though many states have laws restricting abortion, Mississippi has striven
to lead the pack. For example, it recently enacted the nation's most sweeping "conscience clause," allowing any health-care
provider to refuse to provide any abortion-related service, including emergency referrals.
Mississippi is one of only two states, along with North Dakota, requiring
consent of both parents before a minor can get an abortion. It is one of two states, along with Texas, requiring that women
seeking abortions be told, in contradiction of National Cancer Institute findings, that abortion might increase their risk
of breast cancer. [Associated Press]
(Here is a link to the National Cancer Institute report on abortion and breast cancer, which clearly states
In February 2003, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) convened a workshop of over 100 of the world’s leading experts who study pregnancy and breast cancer risk. Workshop
participants reviewed existing population-based, clinical, and animal studies on the relationship between pregnancy and breast cancer risk, including studies of induced and spontaneous
abortions. They concluded that having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a woman’s subsequent risk of developing
breast cancer. A summary of their findings, titled Summary Report: Early Reproductive Events and Breast Cancer Workshop,
can be found at http://www.cancer.gov/cancerinfo/ere-workshop-report .
You wouldn't know
this from reading anti-choice propaganda, of course. I'm actually surprised to find this document on a government web site;
it must be that Lynn Cheney doesn't know about it yet.)
Anti-choice activists have been so successful in Mississippi that the executive
director of Pro-Life Mississippi says she's no longer working to change state abortion laws. All the legislation she wanted
has been enacted. Now the anti-choicers are targeting the remaining clinic, in Jackson, by asserting that one of the three
doctors working there has vision problems.
Here's another accomplishment: According to the Children's Defense Fund, 27 percent of the children of Mississippi live in poverty. This is the highest child poverty rate of all the 50 states.
I take it the Mississippi state legislature hasn't had time to get to this problem yet.
Although fewer abortions are performed in Mississippi, it
is not necessarily true that the women of Mississippi are getting fewer abortions.
"Some Mississippi women drive across the state line to get abortions, but
the poorest of the poor are either having the kids or getting a back-alley abortion," said Larry Rodick, who heads Planned
Parenthood's Alabama office. "Some of those women probably end up getting sick and dying, though we'll never know because
they don't put it on the death certificate." [AP, ibid.]
On the other hand, according to Alan Guttmacher (see Table 2), Mississippi leads the nation in the
rate of babies born to teenagers, age 15-19. Number one! From this I infer that the abortion clinic picketers have
been successful in intimidating lots of unmarried 15-year-olds to carry their pregnancies to term.
(The evil, liberal, un-American Massachusetts, home of the lowest
divorce rates in the nation, is way down the ranking list of teen birth rates, at number 47, followed by Vermont
and North Dakota at 48 and 49. New Hampshire was number 50.)
Remarkable state, Mississippi. It stands as a shining beacon of regression,
showing us where the values voters want to take us. However, I'd prefer to go somewhere else, thanks.
President Bush exchanged gifts with his family at Camp David yesterday,
posed for photographs with Marines, and issued a Christmas day radio address urging Americans to care for the sick, the elderly
and the poor. ...
"Many of our fellow Americans still suffer from the effects of illness or
poverty, others fight cruel addictions, or cope with division in their families, or grieve the loss of a loved one," he said
in his weekly radio address.
"Christmastime reminds each of us that we have a duty to our fellow
citizens, that we are called to love our neighbor just as we would like to be loved ourselves," he added. "By volunteering
our time and talents where they are needed most, we help heal the sick, comfort those who suffer, and bring hope to those
who despair, one heart and one soul at a time." [Washington Post]
Translation: You people are on your own.
Now, I could follow up this quote with links to no end
of articles on how wages are going down and the cost of health care is going up; on the increasing numbers of Americans
without health insurance; on the destruction of Social Security; on the tax burden Bush is dumping on young people;
The rightie philosophy of government seems to be that government
is bad and wasteful, so people should not look to government for help, and instead look to the private sector or charity.
To which I ask, why is there government at all?
The Bushies think that government exists to protect the wealth
and power of the wealthy and powerful. The rest of us are just pawns to be manipulated to that end.
When Bush cronies -- Big Pharma, Big Oil, cattle barons, whatever -- want something from government, they get it next day. The rest of us get lectures
So, I ask again, why is there government? I guess it depends on the form of
government. For example, a monarchy exists to secure the wealth and power of the monarch, right?
In the case of a democratic republic, here's a clue --
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union,
establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the
Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
This seems to say that our
government was established to benefit We, the People. It is a means by which We, the People enact policies to provide
ourselves with economic and social stability. Having economic and social stability means that we can earn a living, save
money, be secure in our homes, enjoy the benefits of infrastructure (bridges, electricity, postal services, etc.) , etc. etc.
We Americans are so used to stability that we think it's a given, like
air. But in fact, the stability we enjoy was created by the hard work of our ancestors and the (mostly wise) policies
and programs they established by means of government.
Most of the domestic policies and programs the righties oppose
--from workplace safety regulations, food and drug regulations, anti-trust laws, Social Security and Medicare, public schools, etc.
-- were created not out of some sense of "do-goodism" but in response to situations that were causing instability. It benefits
all of us to live in a literate and vaccinated society, to be able to buy food and medications that are (nearly always) safe
to consume, that savings accounts are insured, and that the value of our money is reasonabily constant, just for a few examples.
The Bush Administration
is all about taking risk. It's about creating a riskier, less stabilized society on the chance that at
least some of us will strike it rich. What happens to those who don't ... well, we don't want to think about that.
If you want to know
where the Bushies are leading us, read this article by Condi's smarter sister cousin, Constance Rice:
In Brazil's favelas, murder is the
leading cause of death for 10-year-olds. In these urban hyper-barrios, police patrol in helicopter gunships. Any delusion
of crime prevention gave way to containment and suppression long ago. At night, black children hide from both rogue cops and
gang members; the rich venture from their fortress homes nearby only in armored vehicles or private planes. In the midst of
Rio de Janeiro's splendor, favelas are at a tipping point — on the way to joining Mogadishu as wholly failed "feral"
cities, engulfed by gangs, black markets, rapacious crime and dysfunction.
It's a fine thing to volunteer to help the sick
and poor, but I'd rather live in a country where everyone has access to health care and the poor can find jobs that pay a
living wage. And if Bush's destablizing policies are allowed to go forward, the day will come when we'll have more sick
and poor than we have volunteers.
"To announce that there must be no criticism of the
president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is
morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918
The War Prayer
I come from the Throne -- bearing
a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be
your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like
unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.
"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has
he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of
Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....
"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered
part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you
in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these
words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into
those pregnant words.
"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also
the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!
"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our
hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved
firesides to smite the foe.
"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody
shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown
the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire;
help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their
little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the
sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of
the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter
pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded
feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset,
& seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor
& glory now & ever, Amen."
(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire
it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."
· · · · · ·
It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic,
because there was no sense in what he said.