Category Archives: politics

Economy Shmeconomy

This website is a ranking of the world’s economies by GDP. It’s a useful resource for keeping the world in perspective. The next time you hear a news report about the “faltering” US economy, for example, remember that the American economy (ranked top in the world at over $10 trillion) is bigger than the next four combined (Japan, Germany, UK and France). What’s really interesting is that both Luxembourg and Norway have larger per capita GDPs than the USA!

Also interesting is that poor little Tuvalu, with a GDP worth a mere $14 million, is actually poorer than the Vatican!

Canada, meanwhile, has the world’s 8th largest economy, but in terms of per capita GDP is barely richer than either Qatar or the Vatican.

What does all this mean? Who the fuck knows.

Iraqi Elections and the Asses of Dogs

“Let’s not forget that for all the president’s soaring

rhetoric about spreading freedom and democracy, free

elections were the administration’s fallback position.

More Plan D than guiding principle. We were initially

going to install Ahmed Chalabi as our man in Baghdad,

remember? Then that shifted to the abruptly

foreshortened reign of ‘Bremer of Arabia.’ The White

House only consented to holding open elections after

Grand Ayatollah Sistani sent his followers into the

streets to demand them — and even then Bush refused

to allow the elections until after our presidential

campaign was done, just in case more suicide bombers

than voters turned up at Iraqi polling places.”

Arianna Huffington

Iraqi elections. Big freakin’ deal. Sure, it’s great that Saddam is gone and it’s great that Iraqis finally have a say (or at least so it seems) in who governs them. But at what price? If one more flipflopping talking head mutters, “maybe Bush was right,” I’m going to slap someone hard. Let me break it down for you: if tomorrow US rangers start handing out bricks of gold and all the goats start shitting hummus and pissing vodka, none of it would be worth what this war has cost: 100,000 corpses. Nothing short of the dead rising from their graves can possibly make Bush “right.” (Ironically, as a believer in the rapture, that’s exactly what he expects to happen.)

This past week I was lucky to attend the 2nd regional meeting of the Canada-USA Clinical Epidemiology Network in Montebello, Quebec. I somehow managed to squeeze in regular gym workouts, swims, hikes, cross-country skiing, broomball and –best of all– dogsledding! This is a photo of the the pooches’ asses, taken on my trusty Treo 600:

Here’s some interesting news. I was recently contacted by Thomson-Gale Publishing regarding one of my very old wrestling columns. It seems they want to republish the article in a textbook on “alternative views.” The question that I, ever the mercenary, must ask myself: what do I charge them?

Elections in a US-occupied Country

Thanks to Mischa for drawing my attention to the following. From the New York Times archives:

U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote:

Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror

by Peter Grose, Special to the New York Times — Sept. 4, 1967

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3– United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam’s presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.

According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.

The size of the popular vote and the inability of the Vietcong to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the nation election based on the incomplete returns reaching here.

A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson’s policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam.

The purpose of the voting was to give legitimacy to the Saigon Government.

Why Tsunami Relief Matters

The unavoidable tsunami relief backlash has arrived. Commentators, such as this guy, are echoing the Rand Institute’s position that government money should not be spent on aid; and at many social gatherings I’m hearing frustrated mutterings complaining about tsunami aid overkill and overexposure. I myself no longer watch images of devastation on the news, and indeed my latest column explores assertions that tsunami aid is taking attention away from equally needy causes, such as HIV/AIDS and malaria control.

But let’s put things back into perspective, shall we? While it is true that the Asian tsunami has “only” killed 160,000 people (small compared to annual death tolls from war, hunger, malaria and AIDS), loss of life is not the only issue here. At least 5 million people remain homeless and suffering in refugee camps on the beaches of stricken countries. And yes, there are homeless in our own country, too, but our homeless problem can’t be solved with a few million dollars investment in reconstructed infratructure; ours is a much more economically and medically complicated phenomenon. The Asian case, however, is one than can be dramatically improved with sufficient initial investment in this brief window of time. These are peoples with skills and jobs, but no longer any industry infrastructure, such as a pier from which to fish. And unlike our situation, there is no social safety net large enough to absorb so many people for a prolonged period.

Additionally, it’s not just about loss of life and homelessness. The stricken nations are among the fastest recovering of Southern economies. The Indian economy was projected to grow by 8% this year, Thailand’s by 6% and Indonesia’s by 4%. (No figure for Sri Lanka, sorry, though the country was on its way to recovering from 20 years of civil war.) These nations are ripe markets for our exports and thriving environments for Northern/Western manufacturing —for better or worse. My point is that devastation in SE Asia means potential economic shrinkage in other parts of the world. And unlike malaria or HIV/AIDS, which at this point require sustained global efforts, sufficient and focused tsunami reconstruction/relief investment now might just head off calamnity later. Just imagine if we’d had the wherewithal to address the AIDS epidemic in the early days, well before it became a pandemic.

To be clear, I’m not advocating for the movement of HIV/AIDS funds to tsunami relief. Heck no– I consider myself a rabid AIDS fighter! Rather, I want you to understand that the tsunami affair is not overblown by the media. It’s a gosh darned honest to goodness catastrophe and a potential global nightmare.