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Friday, March 18, 2005

Typical USA arrogance... 

I found this article illuminating. The "average American believes that the United States spends 24 percent of its budget on assistance to developing nations". The actual value is 0.15% -- yes, that is 160 times smaller.

Here are some salient statistics:

In the aftermath of World War II, the US government gave as much as 2 percent of its total gross national product to help countries rebuild. That figure dropped to about 0.5 percent of GNP during most of the 1960s and 1970s, and it fell precipitously during the Reagan administration to its current level of about 0.15 percent of GNP, according to figures compiled by Sachs and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development based in Paris.
While the United States gives the most foreign development aid in terms of dollars, it ranks lowest among wealthy countries in terms of official development assistance as a percentage of gross national income.


According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States gave $16.2 billion in development aid in 2003, or an amount equal to 0.15 percent of the US gross national income. Norway, with official development assistance of $2 billion, ranked highest, giving 0.92 percent of its 2003 gross national income. France allotted 0.41 percent of its gross national income to development aid in 2003, according to the organization's figures.
At a global development conference in Monterrey, Mexico, in 2002, the world's 22 wealthiest countries, including the United States, were instructed by the General Assembly to provide 0.7 percent of GNP. But the target of the so-called Monterrey Protocol has been met by only five countries. They are Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands.


I stand in awe. The average American overestimates what we are really doing for the world by a factor of 160. Not content to be off by 100% or 200% or even an order of magnitude--16000%. Truly remarkable.

I would guess, then, that the average American overestimates what we have done for "democracy", apple pie, peace and love, etc., in Iraq. (This isn't far-fetched: I would be willing to wager that many Americans "think" at least 80% of the Iraqis are ecstatic that we have brought our way of life to them, when less than 0.5% of them are in fact ecstatic).

One thing this data doesn't show is how America ranks in being off in its estimate. But I think it's safe to say the US is number 1. For example, for France to be off by 16000%, the average French person would need to estimate that 65.6% of their GNP went this route. They surely know their own bureaucracy better than that.

So, see....we're number 1! We're number 1! We're number 1!

-Vulf

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Anwar assassinated again... 

23+ years ago, Anwar Sadat was assassinated by his own countrymen. Today, ANWR, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, was assassinated by its own countrymen.

I know, I should look at the positives. All the new holes drilled will provide second homes for the arctic foxes. The new roads will save wear and tear on the caribou's paws. And the extra fires will warm many a wolf on a cold winter hunt.

The fact that the victory today, like the November election, was only a knife-edge margin, however, may be a good sign. As is the ostensible lack of interest in drilling in the ANWR by BP and Conoco Phillips:

Last month, Conoco Phillips acknowledged that it had dropped its membership in Arctic Power in mid-2004, making it the second major North Slope oil producer to pull out of the lobbying group. BP PLC pulled out years before.

A Conoco Phillips spokeswoman said at the time that the company pulled out because its attention in Alaska was focused on developing North Slope satellite fields and a proposed natural gas pipeline. A BP official said his company's business plan was to get more oil out of existing fields rather than looking to ANWR.

Still, it would have been really nice to see this fail. After all, drilling the ANWR is the whole reason the Iraq war is being fought. And not for the normal reasons, i.e. the Bush family ties to the Nazis, bin Ladens and the Taliban. It's far simpler. If oil prices aren't at $56/barrel, then drilling in the ANWR isn't as profitable, if at all. Bush starts a war, based on lies. He says the war will end quickly. Another lie. There is no intention for troops to ever leave the Middle East...US or Israeli troops are permanent features to destabilize the region and keep oil prices high.

And for what? A few extra bucks on ANWR oil? Yes, that's a good reason. Ensuring long-term control of Iraqi, Caspian Sea, and other oil would be nice, too, but not as certain. But it is certain several large corporations--ExxonMobil, Halliburton and ChevronTexaco for starters--will benefit highly from the ANWR.

It's called corporatism, folks. And in case you haven't heard that term before, guess who popularized it? Yep, Mussolini, the first fascist.

"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." - Benito Mussolini.

So, we have a fascist (not a Fascist) state in the US. Which brings me to a serious problem I have with any "religious" person who voted for Bush. Those of you who voted for Bush and claim to be religious, for shame. Who would Jesus bomb? Whose nature reserve would Jesus stain for profit? Who would Jesus lie to in order to amass more money?

And if you voted for Bush because of abortion, please read the Bible instead of misquoting it:

Nowhere in either the Old or New Testaments is "abortion" forbidden. All sorts of horrible acts are explicitly condemned and/or proscribed, but not abortion. During the times when both the Old and New Testaments were written, the Jewish community did not forbid abortion. Anti-choice Christians simply make up an entire Biblical justification for their anti-choice position based on the inferences they read into a few Biblical passages.

I don't say here that they're right, and I don't say here they're wrong about abortion. What I do say is, it is strange indeed that right-wing pseudo-Christians expend extraordinary amounts of time and energy to ensure the forbidding of an act not explicitly forbidden in the Bible, yet they spend comparably little time fostering the actions that again and again they are explicitly commanded to undertake: to save the hungry, naked, thirsty, and sick as
Matthew 25:31-46 enjoins us, as well as to more generally ensure that the poor are not oppressed, economic justice is established, and immigrants are welcomed and treated well, as the Old Testament repeatedly commands us. This is so even though the Matthew 25 injunctions are matters of life and death to millions, if not tens of millions of already-born, unquestionably human beings every year.

Bush is not religious. He uses religion to remove his actions from the realm of the rational, where they would be rightly excoriated. Bush is not the moral choice. He is the most immoral president since Millard Fillmore (and that only because of Mallard Fillmore).

Mallard Fillmore is the worst of the worst. He lies like Rush and he's got Hannity's pettiness - and he's never funny. He MUST have been hired as "The anti-Doonesbury," but he's a terrible comedy writer.

If you vote for Bush, in fact, Jesus doesn't like you. He may love you, that's His way, but He doesn't like you.

-Vulf

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Can you feel it, buster 

With the Senate and its f-bomb hurling, tie-breaking, Star Wars emperor unmasked, walking myocardial infarction Cheneyobl calling for the end of the filibuster, it might be worth reminding some folks that checks and balances were supposed to be the crux of the American political system (at least as Madison largely designed it). When there are no longer checks and balances, indeed the Republic ends and Empire/Caesership begins. No more "Emperor" jokes, for this blog at least.

But when one party has all the power, and makes all the decisions, it will also take all the blame. Given the way the environment, economy, and military Middle East ventures are going, the Republicans might want to hedge their bet just a bit. This probably is going to be remembered as a decade with a surfeit of blame to go around, and they may wish to share.

-Vulf

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Bush is winning the war... 

Unfortunately, his nemesis is the American public. Has it ever occurred to anyone that unrest in the Middle East ensures an inflated price on oil? How does an extra $20 a barrel sound? With US oil usage at 20 million barrels/day, this means the US is paying an extra $400 million/day every day the Iraq insanity continues. $12 billion/month, more if you believe $20/barrel is a better estimate of what oil would otherwise go for. I guess small potatoes when the US trade deficit is $55 billion/month. Still, we all know what industry allows Bush and his family and friends to generate their wealth.

However, when you consider the US imports 60% of its oil, this comes to $55/barrel x 12 million barrels/day x 30 days a month, or $20 billion/month. Now, that's more than 35% of our trade deficit, and undoubtedly the reason for the current record deficits.

-Vulf

Ukraine, You saw, You left 

The Ukraine becomes the newest member of the Coalition of the No Longer Willing. Seems like Yushchenko can be poisoned, but he can't be subordinated.

Gunmen shot to death three police officers and wounded a fourth Saturday at a funeral procession in the northern city of Mosul, police said. Meanwhile, Ukraine withdrew 150 soldiers from Iraq, starting a gradual pullout that officials have said will be completed by October.

Can you blame them?

Seventeen Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in Iraq, and the deployment is deeply unpopular among people in the former Soviet republic.

That's over 1% of their 1650 person contingent. Pretty high death rate for non-combat. Meanwhile, the coalition gets smaller every week.

-Vulf

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