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December 31, 2004 [LINK]

Tsunami: 9/11 times 50?

The scale of destruction and death around the rim of the Indian Ocean is simply incomprehensible. The death toll has risen to 117,000 and will probably climb much higher. Even if relief workers manage get a handle on the situation, it will probably be weeks before an accurate assessment of the damage to property is made. Whole islands have been obliterated. Writing a measly check seems so hopelessly inadequate in this situation, but like voting, it's the sort of tiny gesture that yields huge effects when done en masse.

American Red Cross
Disaster Relief Fund
P.O. Box 37243
Washington, D.C. 20013

It is times like these that the term international community has some real meaning. Sadly, however, it only took two days for this disaster to become politicized. U.N. official Jan Egeland accused the U.S. and some other Western countries of being "stingy," even before the magnitude of the calamity was fully grasped by most people. What was most annoying about his remarks was the suggestion that how much tax revenue a government collects is an indicator of the people's commitment to good causes. Well, of course, if you're a socialist. The Washington Post had virtually nothing on Mr. Egeland's words, but did print some stories that push the notion that Bush was not paying attention to the crisis for the first couple days. Daniel Drezner provides plenty of evidence to refute the "stingy" charg. The United States gives 2.34 cents per capita per day in relief aid, much less than the altruistic Scandinavian countries, but nosing out France and Canada by a whisker. In any event, the early pledges of money mean very little, as much more will be donated to South Asian countries in one form or another in coming months. Colin Powell spoke very effectively about the active role the United States is playing, and it makes me very sad that someone with his high stature and ability is leaving the State Department. Finally, Josh Marshall heaped scorn on President Bush for allegedly "badmouthing" Bill Clinton. What really happened was that a White House spokesman defended President Bush's low profile by making a tart reference to the previous president's compassion-mongering, with that ubiquitous four-word cliche.

December 31, 2004 [LINK]

Susan Sontag

One of the Left's leading voices passed away this week. Ms. Sontag offended many people by her sharp denunciations of U.S. policies, and for rejecting the notion that the 9/11 attacks were a barbarian atrocity. In her view, it is arrogant and erroneous to assume that we belong to the civilized world and those who attacked us are savages. Generally, speaking, there is some truth in such a relativistic view of global conflict, but she picked an inappropriate case to make the argument. It's like when Michael Dukakis reacted so coldly to the hypothetical question of what if his wife were raped and murdered in 1988. For an American not to get angry about 9/11 reflects a certain lack of humanity. The superb literary critic Henry Allen had a good piece on her in Wednesday's Washington Post:

Sontag, who died Tuesday at the age of 71, had the gift of fame, which is to say she possessed charisma, which may be why she ended up being called overrated, the fate of charismatic people. I had read more about her than by her.

Even so, she was always the center of attention, one of the world's most quoted figures. I remember well the uproar the followed a comment she made back in 1982, as quoted by Allen:

Imagine, if you will, someone who read only the Reader's Digest between 1950 and 1970, and someone in the same period who read only the Nation or the New Statesman. Which reader would have been better informed about the realities of communism? The answer, I think, should give us pause. Can it be that our enemies were right?

Indeed so. Ms. Sontag must be given credit for her intellectual honesty, if not for good judgment.

December 31, 2004 [LINK]

Radical utopians, here and there

Cathy Seipp, writing in the National Review notes that a group blog in Los Angeles called Martini Republic that the pro-democracy blog Iraq the Model is just a front operation of the CIA. It's not true, but such a belief typifies the conspiracy mongering on that side of the political spectrum these days. Which reminds me, many if not most Americans would probably say the religious fascists in the Muslim world have more in common with the Religous Right in the United States than with the Secular Left. So why does it so often seem that the Left is rationalizing atrocities committed by the Islamo-fascists? Anyway, Seipp goes on,

I did come across a good explanation in David Horowitz's new book Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left. Horowitz's theory is "the utopian future that embodies the idea of 'social justice'" connects radical Islam and its sympathizers with yesterday's Marxists: "It is this utopian vision that provides radicals with the standard of judgment that condemns the actually existing world, no matter how decent it may be." So therefore America and its friends, like Iraq the Model, are automatically suspect.

I like what Horowitz has to say, though he's often a bit too harsh. His previous book Radical Son exposes from a first-hand perspective the descent into hypocrisy and bitterness of the post-1960s American Left. My lifelong political journey has paralleled his in many ways.

December 31, 2004 [LINK]

More recounts!

As expected, Viktor was the victor in the recent "do-over" elections in Ukraine -- Viktor Yushchenko, that is. Oddly, however, Viktor was also the loser -- Viktor Yanukovych, that is. Perhaps inspired by Al Gore, the latter is pursuing a challenge to the election, and both sides are mobilizing for a possible mass confrontation in the streets. This would seem to be a humiliating setback in prestige for Vladimir Putin; might some other hardliner wannabe rulers in Moscow start contemplating pushing him aside?

In Washington state, the Democratic candidate Christine Gregoire won in the second recount after several hundred "missing" ballots were discovered in heavily Democratic King County. As the Church Lady would say, "How convenient!" Republican Dino Rossi asked for a new election, like they did in Ukraine, but it's not going to happen.

In Ohio, the recount narrowed President Bush's margin of victory slightly, but it's still a difference of over 112,000 votes, validating John Kerry's wise decision to accept reality and avoid a slow descent toward a second American civil war. Many of Kerry's more zealous supporters refuse to accept the election outcome, however, and are planning to disrupt the inauguration ceremonies on January 20.

Finally, in Puerto Rico, the pro-status quo (commonwealth) candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila defeated by a tiny fraction the pro-statehood candidate for governor, Pedro Rossello, who was governor from 1993-2001. The margin was about 3,600 votes, or 0.18 percent of all votes cast. The pro-independence candidate Ruben Berrios received only 2.74 percent of the votes.

Posted (or last updated or commented upon): 31 Dec 2004, 2: 56 AM

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