Friday, December 31, 2004

Who writes this stuff?

This AP report, carried on ABC's website, adopts the Bush administration spin entirely as to its reaction to the damage caused by the tsunami in Asia. It leads with Colin Powell's imminent visit to the area, accompanied by Jeb Bush (supposedly because of his familiarity with relief efforts), and touts the administration's "broadening of its effort" at relief, quoting exclusively Republicans' concerns for the needy and displaced. Buried at the end of the story are the tallies of other nations' financial commitments to the effort and the aside that they "far outdistance" the US contribution. Not a mention of the obvious: That Jeb Bush's involvement is an early step in advertising him for a White House bid in 2008; and that five days have passed since the disaster and only now is there any official response by the administration (other than a Bush's earlier reaction that the US is not "stingy" with its foreign assistance).

The AP dispatch isn't a news item, it's a Republican "talking points" memo.

The end of war

There was a time, about fifteen years ago, when I felt as does the author of this fine essay, that humankind possessed the capacity for peace, that the prospect of world peace was at hand. Walls had crumbled, dictatorships had ended, new alliances were being formed in place of decades of hostilities. There was talk among economists of a "peace dividend," the reversion of massive sums of money and effort that could be turned to humanitarian goals now that major enmities had ended.

I wish I shared the author's view--it's more of a hope, really--that humans can know peace, but while I acknowledge her perspective, I find little comfort in it. True, we now embrace wider notions of justice and include more humans within our concept of entitlement to decency. But as we've done so, we've also expanded our capacity to kill and exploit. Our race may indeed be more sensitive to suffering, but it is also more able to inflict it, creating, in my mind, a race much closer to the finish than ever before.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Molly Ivins has a point

The reason she doesn't write fiction, she tells us, is that truth is so much more interesting and odd and, actually, unbelievable than anything a writer could make up. The examples she gives are amusing, to which I would add a few that are so astounding as to be too far out to make it into even a Tom Clancy novel. (1) The largest ocean liner in history, carrying titans of industry on its maiden voyage, sinks in the Atlantic less than a day from its destination, New York City. (2) An odd-looking, uneducated Austrian, fresh from prison, becomes the leader of a German nationalist party and goes on to cause world devastation. (3) A second-rate Texan, loser in his only solo business ventures, is made president of the US without winning a majority of votes and goes on to wreak havoc and misery on the world's populace.

Yeah, Molly's got a point. You couldn't make any of those stories up.


How can you call the Bush administration stingy when it comes to monetary relief for the victims of the tsunami in the Indian Ocean? Why, with the addition of $20 million, the US has pledged a total of $35 million to the effort--almost as much as the Republicans are going to spend on the inauguration ceremonies for their president!

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Worth reading, activist or not

Rebecca Solnit's essay, Hope at Midnight, found after scrolling down a bit in this TomDispatch post, is worth reading for anybody who's despairing over the course of our nation's politics. It does its best to paint hopeful signs for the planet and almost persuades me to overcome my abiding pessimism. Almost.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

These people are monsters

Bush has already, before his second term begins, cut back on environmental regulations in the national parks, vowed to make his weathy-favoring tax cuts permanent and determined to cut back on "discretionary spending" in the budget because (largely on account of his war in Iraq and the loss of income from his tax reductions) the US is mired in debt. Guess who's the first to lose out on funding for the upcoming year: Save the Children.

Well, now, isn't this interesting?

Venezuela, whose president Chavez is no fan of Bush, has just made a deal with China, granting them access to large quantities of its oil and natural gas. Venezuela recognizes China's increasing need for oil and wants to reduce its dependence on exports to the US; China wants to reduce its dependence on Middle East oil; and together the two nations are telling the US this: go fuck yourself.