Along the Tracks

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Back from hiatus

Has it really been a couple months since I posted? Yikes!

Nevertheless, here I am, back from vacationland - no, not my vacation ... filling in for everyone else's vacations. Now I need one, but it will have to wait.

Regular readers know my crazy schedule - irregular readers don't want to know.

Let's kick things off with some thoughts on the tsunami, and relief efforts, from this week's Leader:

The terrible tragedy in the countries circling the Indian Ocean is cause for reflection on a number of issues.
  • Natural tragedies hit at times and in areas we cannot yet predict; they follow cycles we have not yet learned. The Indonesian islands have been formed by the twisting, grinding action of at least four of the earth’s crustal plates. Look on a map; the archipelago even appears stretched and smeared in a swath between Australia and South Asia. Yet, type of disaster hits shorelines around the world with painful regularity, although measured in decades or centuries. Iceland and the mid-Atlantic ridge have created tsunamis in Europe, North America, Africa and South America. The volatile Aluetian Islands created an enormous tsunami which destroyed coastal Alaska and killed people in Japan just half a century ago. Evidence of previous tsunamis can be found on practically every coastline.

    That’s just an overview of tremor-induced waves. Think about all the volcanoes, earthquakes and landslides. Look into space, and notice and comets and meteors whizzing by, and occasionally striking, the earth. Consider the cycles of heat and cold across time which by comparison dwarf the slight rise in atmospheric temperatures noted in the past century.

    Rush Limbaugh, on his radio program Monday, was going through some of these natural events to point out how little humans really can do to affect the earth, and how great is our arrogance to think otherwise.
  • Disasters inevitably take the lives of those with the least resources to combat them. Why the horrific death toll from this particular tsunami? Yes, it was large and powerful. Unfortunately, the reasons this wave was so fatal have only a little to do with the energy of the wave, and much to do with the economic standing of the people affected. Most were poor coastal dwellers, eking out a living by fishing and raising rice in the river deltas. They lived not more than a few feet above sea level. Their houses were generally simple wood structures or even thatch. They had no electricity, so even if there had been a substantial amount of warning prior to the wave (many areas were hit within an hour of the initiating earthquake), few would have learned of the danger across radio or television. Emergency crews, police, troops - these are scarce and ill-equipped. The exceptions are all negative - areas where troops battle rebels, insurgents, gangsters, pirates, etc. They are fighters, not first-responders.
    Economic advancement and good government, democratically-based, create a system of protection and warning for all their citizens. The areas most affected range from war-torn Somalia, Sri Lanka and the Indonesian island of Ache to those struggling out of Third World poverty like India and Thailand.

    Make no mistake: A similar tsunami hitting the U.S. or Europe would have killed many people. But many, many more potentially at risk would have survived.

    Advancing freedom and prosperity has a very tangible effect for the poorest in our world.
  • America leads the way, as always. Any who wonder why a majority of Americans have serious doubts about United Nations “leadership” need only look at this disaster. While Secretary-General Kofi Annan was expressing “sorrow,” America was ordering ships to the areas hardest hit. While one U.N. bureaucrat was calling the U.S. initial response “cheap,” America aid was reaching those who needed it. While liberal elitists griped the U.S. government was “spending enough” on the disaster (before hardly any money had been “spent” by anyone besides the U.S.), American leadership was organizing the relief and preparing a drive for private donation which will undoubtedly dwarf contributions from any other country or group of countries - donations going straight to the charities providing the relief and rebuilding.

    The chief complaint from U.N. officials had nothing to do with how much the U.S. was contributing; it had to do with how much the U.N. would control the money. After scandals like the Oil for Food Program, the Congo sex scandal, Darfur, the Palestinian camps, Rwanda, Kosovo, Bosnia, etc., is there any reason U.N. officials should be trusted? Give the money to those who will use it properly, and allow the U.N. bureaucracy to sulk all it wants.

    It is, however, a little disappointing to see a few in the mainstream media give encouragement to people who so despicably use a terrible disaster as a power grab.

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