Thought for Today

I just about went through the roof when I heard them bragging about $35 million--we spend $35 million before breakfast in Iraq.
--Senator Patrick J. Leahy, (Vermont, Democrat), a persistent critic of the American rebuilding operation in Iraq

Why George Bush Can't Catch This Wave

Loose Canon, channeling the Washington Times as usual, kicks a hapless Norwegian around, because he-- correctly, as it turned out--dared to mention that rich Western countries give humanitarian aid well below their capabilities. Just a few weeks ago, when you and I were riled up about unarmored Humvees in Iraq, LC followed Rev. Moon's paper's lead and kicked a reporter because he allegedly helped a soldier ask Rummy a real question. It's nice to know, in a soul-searching moment of global proportion, that someone can still focus on fractional issues--like how big a drag it is that the United Nations is at the center of the relief effort.

LC will, no doubt, continue to wave the flag for the least generous administration since Louis XVI. If she would supplement her beloved hometown rag for a Manhattan paper--and it's not local arrogance which makes me suggest that the New York Times, for all its jaw-dropping flaws, is still America's "paper of record"--she might have to adjust her views. From today's Times editorial:

$35 million remains a miserly drop in the bucket, and is in keeping with the pitiful amount of the United States budget that we allocate for nonmilitary foreign aid. According to a poll, most Americans believe the United States spends 24 percent of its budget on aid to poor countries; it actually spends well under a quarter of 1 percent.

Bush administration officials help create that perception gap. 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.As I write, 71,000 people have donated $4,260,000 to the Red Cross via Amazon.com. A reader comments on that outpouring:

I'm consistently amazed at how generous people (and I assume that the Amazon donors are primarily American) can be as individuals yet our government obscures these individual efforts. How is it that in a matter of a few days private citizens can donate 10% of the total the U.S. Government has pledged so far? The stunning disconnect between our own indvidual actions and the decisions made by the people we choose to represent us continues to grow. But hasn't this been the strategy in this country all along: "privatize" relief efforts by encouraging charities, faith-based and otherwise, to do the hard work of raising money and helping the needy? In many ways, our being hard-wired to help takes our own government off the hook.
My thoughts?

Dear Reader: These are pitiless men who, long ago, lost the roadmap to love and connection. While I'm the first to say that you don't know anything about relationships unless you're in the room, I would venture to say that their marriages are bound by "loyalty" and "habit" and by that lowest of reasons, "shared values"--not passion and joy and, yes, a hearty lust. Their children are accessories. Their friendships are photo ops.