Monday, September 05, 2005

Random Katrina Thoughts

  • Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) says, "[T]he $10.5 billion being approved by Congress to aid the hurricane victims so far won't rebuild "one corner, one block."
I'd heard about New Orlean's corruption problem, but I had no idea it was this bad! Much, much worse than even the United Nations!

  • From Reuters (of course): Sri Lankan Sajeewa Chinthaka, on post-Katrina looting and disorder: "I am absolutely disgusted. After the tsunami our people, even the ones who lost everything, wanted to help the others who were suffering. Not a single tourist caught in the tsunami was mugged. Now with all this happening in the U.S. we can easily see where the civilized part of the world's population is."
Hmm. Didn't I recently read that much of the tsunami aid to Sri Lanka was still sitting on the docks pending bribes to Sri Lankan customs officials? Yep, here's yet another report from just a few weeks ago:

To some it is scandalous (to others inevitable) that Oxfam had to pay close to $1 million to Sri Lankan customs officials before their four-wheel drive vehicles were allowed in the country to deliver relief.

While these vehicles stood in port, Oxfam was charged around $5,000 a day -- all for the privilege of helping victims.

It is reminiscent of Col. Mengistu's regime charging duty on aid coming into Ethiopia during the 1984 famine, then diverting food aid to the army.

It gets worse. A dozen UNICEF ambulances sent to Indonesia spent two months idle on the dock.

Huge containers of drinking water sent by the Red Cross in January, are reported to still be in the port because their documentation can't be found.

Some 25% of the aid sent to Sri Lanka since the tsunami still sits in containers in Colombo, and a thousand large containers of aid are sit unopened and unprocessed, in the port of Medan.

  • From the same Reuters piece: Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, in a veiled criticism of U.S. political thought, said the disaster showed the need for a strong state that could help poor people.
On the left is Lake Pontchartrain. On the right (same scale), the entire country of Luxembourg. Need I say more?


  • Finally, many newspapers have gone overboard in their criticisms of the government response to Katrina, calling the effort worthy of a third-rate nation. Sure, some New Orleans, Lousiana, and FEMA officials appear to have made major mistakes. But let's be realistic: If the United States was actually a third-rate (or third-world if that's the implication) nation we would be looking at a tsunami-size death toll in the tens of thousands. So let's be thankful, as we mourn, that we do have the tremendous resources and wealth to save so many lives that would otherwise have been lost.

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