Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Haven't posted much lately--Lots of reasons, non sinister.

Prior to the election I was on a mission. I just simply could not countenance the thought of Kerry presidency, so I was energized. I'm as pleased as I can be with the election results, but I've lost that pre-election energy.

And too, the "holiday season" becomes a consuming event in itself. Preparing for the holidays and remaining functional through them (including a visit from six nephews and nieces who had been traveling in a van for most of the week...) could turn a steel I-beam into a limp noodle.

I'd comment on the tragedy in Indonesia, but its scope defies my puny ability to place an event into words. I did go on a bit of a verbal tirade this morning re. The UN moron's comment that we're "stingy". As it turns out, we're ponying up $35 million in aid, which doesn't take into account the cost of getting that aid there. The actual cost of the effort far exceeds $35 million and as always includes the possibility that one of the aircraft we send there could go down in the effort. The loss of an aircraft and its crew would certainly be infinitesimal in a tragedy that seems destined to claim in excess of 100,000 lives, but it adds to it nonetheless. And bear in mind that the $35 million figure is only for what we are sending this week. As time goes on we most certainly will continue to provide aid far in excess of the initial $35 million. And, as it turns out, our $35 million initial package far exceeds that offered by two of our biggest critics--The UN and France-- as well as that offered by the oil-rich United Arab Emirates. All three have pledged relief efforts in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. In fact, the combined amount of all three's pledges barely breaks the $1 million dollar mark. One Socialist (among many) in the UN disagrees with our reluctance to tax ourselves to death and uses a tragedy of incredible scope as his bully pulpet. What a jerk.


Patrick ASD said...

I am going to jump in here on the side of the United Arab Emirates, France and the UN are big enough to look after themselves.

I disagree with your position that the fact that other nations have given less dollars to the disaster relief effort than the U.S. is particularly meaningful. The way I understand charity is that it means more coming from those who have less to give, I'm pretty sure that Jesus preached something along those lines but can't locate it right now.

According to Reuters UAE have in fact pledged $2 million in aid. Now using Gross Domestic Product from the CIA Factbook (estimated 2004, PPP method calculations) I calculate that the pledge of $35 million from the U.S. makes up 0.00032% of GDP while the the UAE pledge represents 0.00347% of GDP.

Notice the extra zero on the wrong side of the U.S. number there. What that means is that, as a proportion of GDP, the UAE aid is an order of magnitude greater than the U.S. aid. To put it another way the U.S. 'has' 190 times as much but has only 'given' 18 times as much as the UAE. I don't think that pure dollar amounts are neccesarily a good indicator of value either, it all depends on how the money is delivered and spent. But neither do I think that your scoring childish points off nations you have a grudge with is very appropriate at this time.

As I understood the comments of UN undersecretary-general Jan Egeland they were that the West was being stingy in its response. I think that he had a point and if his comments helped spur more generous pledges of aid from the international community then good, that is his job after all.

Snake Eater said...

I was following you right up to the point where you accused me of scoring childish points on nations I have a grudge with.
I have no grudge against the UAE whatsoever.
My beef is with a high-ranking UN official engaging in name calling when we're demonstrably jumping into the relief effort with both feet.
I'll leave the scoring of childish points to others...

Patrick ASD said...

S.E.: My comment about point scoring was in reference to your statement 'our...initial package far exceeds that offered by two of our biggest critics--The UN and France-- as well as that offered by the oil-rich United Arab Emirates'. My reading of that was that you were saying something to the effect of "well we are giving more that those cheapskates". Which seemed to me like point scoring, if it was not you have my apologies.

As for the behaviour of the high ranking UN official, his comments were certainly undiplomatic, although as I understood it the 'stingy' comment was directed against Western nations as a whole and didn't specifically target anyone. But it is his job to spur the world to meet the needs for dealing with this awful distaster, so if this is what works then I hope we see more of these comments.

But here is the bigger point, and the genuinely important one. It seems to me that many governments have given much less that they could easily afford and then been shamed into increasing the dollars by public and NGO pressure. I know it has happened in the UK, where the government tripled (I think) their pledge once it was obvious that the amount given by the public in just a few days was going to be greater than the initial government contribution. And similar patterns can be seen all over, so I don't resent anyone - public or private - saying what they need to about my government, my country or even me personally to prompt the huge response that is needed to deal with this already terrible and potentially much worse disaster.