American Diplomacy, Smart Power, US AID, and Haiti

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Last night, I had a good chat with Rachel Maddow on the mechanics of smart power in the context of the Haiti disaster. A lot of our conversation focused on the role of the U.S. Agency for International Development, or US AID, which plays a vital role coordinating not only the combined US government response in a crisis playing out now on this Caribbean island but also coordinates with other governments.
I am hoping the US is smart enough in this case to get over its Cold War-fashioned anachronistic Cuba allergy and actually begins to work with Cuba’s well-trained, natural disaster-focused medical corps which are going to be in Haiti helping as well.
One thing I tried to emphasize with Rachel Maddow is that US AID, which was under extreme attack by former Senator Jesse Helms and House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the 1990s, is one of America’s most vital yet under-resourced federal agencies that everyone respects in a time of crisis and neglects when things calm down. This isn’t smart strategically — and trying to change this boom and bust approach to international development and aid is a key priority of the Obama administration — one I support.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

67 comments on “American Diplomacy, Smart Power, US AID, and Haiti

  1. questions says:

    I never denied a “loss of human life” — remember the heap problem I discussed above? Sad as those 63 deaths from Loma Prieta are, they are not anywhere near the devastation that Haiti is facing. There is a huge difference between the loss of 63 people and the loss of 50,000 (current estimates have been lowered a bit.)
    So, is it a “disaster” if 50,000 die? Yes. 63? A tragedy, yes. A disaster? Not in my book. San Francisco didn’t need international aid to feed and shelter and clothe its people. San Francisco’s loss didn’t collapse the US economy. San Francisco didn’t lose access to potable water, an airport, or most other basic infrastructure.
    There is a difference in magnitude that really ought to be recognized.
    You don’t have every building fall and 50,000 people die when buildings are built relatively sturdily. The engineering for tall buildings in earthquake zones is really something. And there are many things that can be done in smaller buildings and homes to cut down on the severity of structural failure.
    You don’t have 50,000 deaths when communications allow people to exit after reasonable warning. New Orleans had lots of warning, but the US did a lousy job with the transportation of low-resourced people. And of course, the engineering corruption caused problems with the levees in the first place.
    You don’t have 50,000 deaths when human beings build systems that function.
    That’s the political side of this. And the political side is far greater than the earth-moving side in its impact.
    And note that rock slides and mud slides and the like come because of stupid land use. Blizzards don’t generally kill 50,000 people. So J’s list of massive events isn’t really to the point, as many are not linked to “disaster” at the level that Haiti is experiencing.
    Maybe the real distinction here is in the definition of “disaster.” Maybe it’s in the definition of “nature.” I don’t really know. Maybe people need to believe in acts of God?
    But, again, in my view, disasters happen because people don’t set up institutions to deal with earth-shattering events, even though we are quite capable of doing so. The earth will still shatter, but the loss of life is not likely to reach 50,000 from a single even if we build and inform and transport in quite doable, quite known, often-practiced ways.

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  2. Paul Norheim says:

    Questions said: “And still I don’t know if POA or JamesL agrees with Paul’s more modest
    version of the point.”
    Ok, here is something JamesL said – addressed to you – above on this thread:
    “Nothing less than the total absence of people will prevent loss of human life from a
    tsunami, avalanche, volcano, rock slide, mud slide, blizzard and and on (…) But you are
    absolutely correct about political impacts increasing, not decreasing the human death and
    misery toll.”
    I think this isn`t far from my “modest version”.

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  3. questions says:

    “Some experts say that the answer is a rice revival. Until the 1980s, Haiti grew almost all the rice that it ate. But in 1986, under pressure from foreign governments, including the United States, Haiti removed its tariff on imported rice. By 2007, 75 percent of the rice eaten in Haiti came from the United States, according to Robert Maguire, a professor at Trinity Washington University. Haitians took to calling the product “Miami Rice.”
    The switch to importing rice was driven by U.S. subsidies for its own growers, said Fritz Gutwein, co-director of the social justice organization Quixote Center and coordinator of its Haiti Reborn project. The result in Haiti was a neglect of domestic agriculture that left many of the country’s farmers, still the majority of its population, unable to support themselves, fueling waves of urban migration and environmental degradation. ”
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/16/AR2010011601848_2.html?hpid=topnews&sid=ST2010011603460
    Seriously “natural”???????????

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  4. questions says:

    Necessary, but insufficient. And the point of putting “natural” into scare quotes is to point out the insufficiency. It’s not “natural” if it requires gross negligence, class-based economics, hegemony, slave labor or the like. It’s political. And if it needs a little shaking of the earth to get going, still that very shaking is insufficient to kill 50,000 people.
    And JamesL, my qualifications for anything are not the issue. I don’t ask about your certifications and I don’t claim any for myself. You don’t like what I post, fine. But I promise you I’m not going to talk about certifications.
    I posted a range of links and excerpts above that backed up my basic point. Engineers, writers and cultural critics tend to see the world this way. It isn’t Mother Earth that causes our biggest problems, it’s our (mal)distribution of wealth. Can’t even see why this point is controversial around here.
    And to be honest, if you really really must have that whole thing about the need for the earth to shake, the winds to rise, the rain to fall, the ground to split open in your explanatory mechanism in order to feel better, then go ahead and put in a whole blame-scheme about how foolish people are for being alive. For all that death is only possible if there is already life. Why, life is a necessary condition for the existence of death.
    So start your narrative with the sad fact of living creatures. Add in the Earth’s crazed spasms. And then in a corner, note that, gee, the distribution of wealth might maybe contribute to something like all the death. But the REAL cause, honest, is birth in the first place.
    In this example, you can see how silly it is. Duh, of course you need birth to have death. But that doesn’t tell us anything. You also need to have Earth-based spasms for these mass earth-spasm-based deaths. But that doesn’t tell us anything. Finally, you need to have a mal-distribution of wealth — and that’s the one thing we actually can deal with — an act of man, not an act of God.
    It doesn’t take a certificate to know this. Every engineer whose words on Haiti I’ve read or heard has agreed that the lack of structural support in construction is central in the death toll. POA’s chimney fell. But 50,000 people didn’t die in their homes and schools. And I’m guessing that POA didn’t die, and his house didn’t collapse completely along with all the houses on his street and all the houses in the downtown area where he lives, and all the schools, and the baseball stadium and the town hall and the mayor’s house and the entire water system…. Clearly, none of that had to do with building standards????????
    And still I don’t know if POA or JamesL agrees with Paul’s more modest version of the point.

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  5. JamesL says:

    Questions: “Huh? I remain mystified.”
    Yes you do. And please, for the love of God, don’t rejoin pleading you are a certificated professional in construction, planning, architecture, or structural design. There are enough problems there now. Rocketry, maybe.

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  6. Paul Norheim says:

    Questions said: “I would be interested to find out if P and J would agree with even your
    modest version of my more thoroughgoing statement.”
    I really shouldn’t speak for James and POA, but yes, I’m absolutely sure they do agree.
    Why am I so sure? Because I didn’t formulate a “version” of your statement, but a more
    common sense ALTERNATIVE statement that most people could agree on. (And from that
    platform, the discussion could perhaps go somewhere.) But perhaps they`ll answer you.
    And if I’m right, and you all agree on my take, perhaps you could go from there instead
    of discussing whether natural disasters occur or not?
    “What I am arguing is that the devastating scale of Haiti can indeed be avoided.”
    I am absolutely sure we all agree on that. It seems like you have a communication
    problem, if that`s what you really meant… We may also go from there, and discuss
    America`s (And France`s) role in creating the circumstances that made this disaster so
    disastrous.
    “And I’d be interested to know your take on when a disaster is merely an act of nature,
    if ever? And even when a disaster is really a disaster and not a tragic loss of life or
    an irritating loss of chimney.”
    Unless you want to discuss Hume here (cause and effect —- and I don`t want to discuss
    Hume or Kant in this context), nature plays a huge role in disasters of the kind we’re
    discussing. We influence some of them, and it`s almost impossible to determine to which
    degree – even in singular cases – but sure, nature is of course a crucial factor under
    any circumstances. (Even in wars, nature is a crucial factor; their rhythm in the war in
    Afghanistan is determined by natural seasons – as was the deadline of the invasion of
    Iraq in 2003…)
    “Merely” an act of nature? “Pure natural” disasters? Nope. I know you, and don’t intend
    to fall into that trap. So let`s say that there is a mix, where sometimes nature may play
    the main role, sometimes human actions.
    And of course you have to separate between disasters happening, and our struggle to
    A) find out to which degree our actions cause them to happen, or influence them, and
    B) our (somehow limited) ability to predict within a timeframe when they may happen, and
    C) how we make priorities in our efforts to decrease the damage, and in some cases even
    prevent them from happening.
    Sorry to express so many plain obvious and boring facts in one single post…
    But yeah, Questions, Mother Nature is a crucial factor on our planet. Visit a graveyard,
    or try to navigate a sailboat on the ocean, and you`ll see what I mean.

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  7. questions says:

    And finally, the quotation should be, “There are no ‘natural’ disasters.” I think I made note of that before.

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  8. questions says:

    And by the way, I haven’t argued at all that we can avoid all loss of life, In fact, I made the opposite argument up there somewhere. What I am arguing is that the devastating scale of Haiti can indeed be avoided.
    50,000-200,000 deaths is not something that needs to happen.
    And even with the 63 deaths from Loma Prieta, there was some serious soul-searching about how the Bay Bridge could have been re-done. (Weren’t most of the deaths on the upper span of the bridge? I’m a little hazy on the details at this point.)

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  9. questions says:

    “Ever since Voltaire wrote “Candide”(1759), referring to the Lisbon earthquake (1755),
    it’s been known that more poor people die in earthquakes, tsunamis, and other
    disasters due to infrastructure and location, than rich people. We tend to forget this
    simple fact, so it’s useful to be reminded. I think everybody at TWN agree on this.
    Better infrastructure and location means less damage and loss of human lives. Poor
    people are much more vulnerable on almost all levels. ”
    How the person who could write that paragraph start arguing that the culprit is at all “nature” is beyond me.
    If we leave “nature” in as a causal element, we get things like “act of God” clauses in our insurance policies, “no one could have predicted” statements from our politicians. Forget acts of deities and no predictability. We know how to deal with many many mass death situations, and we refuse because we’d have to upend political structures.
    So, yes, disasters are political, not natural.
    I will give in on the meteor issue, and I will give in on some alteration in the rotation of the earth or like cosmic events. I won’t give in on the Haiti quake. And the meteor issue may well be a temporary truce if it turns out that there are ways to blast potentially devastating meteors out of the heavens and instead we put our resources into building the next world’s tallest building or whatever.
    I would be interested to find out if P and J would agree with even your modest version of my more thoroughgoing statement.
    And I’d be interested to know your take on when a disaster is merely an act of nature, if ever? And even when a disaster is really a disaster and not a tragic loss of life or an irritating loss of chimney.

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  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Ever hear of not building under a volcano?”
    Well, in the case of a super volcanoe, such as exists under Yellowstone, that would mean moving to Mars.
    But whatever, questions. You wanna stick to your argument that “there are no natural disasters”, fine. Who am I to spoil your chance to make a jackass of yourself?
    As someone who has experienced a major quake first hand, and been inside a building that was destroyed DESPITE stringent building codes, I can attest to the fact there ARE natural disasters, and there are some that no amount of human ingenuity can protect ourselves against.
    To be quite honest, I find your argument extremely pompous when viewed through the overall scheme of things that makes this galaxy tick. You bring to mind a gnat scoffing at the power of the wind.

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  11. Paul Norheim says:

    Maybe it’s me who have “the IQ of a spent Q-tip” (Outraged`s expression), and this may
    explain why I don`t understand a shit about this discussion.
    What’s the real issue here? Do you really disagree on the basic level, or is this just
    a discussion for the sake of disagreeing?
    Ever since Voltaire wrote “Candide”(1759), referring to the Lisbon earthquake (1755),
    it’s been known that more poor people die in earthquakes, tsunamis, and other
    disasters due to infrastructure and location, than rich people. We tend to forget this
    simple fact, so it’s useful to be reminded. I think everybody at TWN agree on this.
    Better infrastructure and location means less damage and loss of human lives. Poor
    people are much more vulnerable on almost all levels.
    I would also assume that most people agree that our behavior influences disasters to
    some extent. But from there to claiming that there are “no natural disasters”, as
    Questions claims, is pretty extreme. Are you saying this just to be provocative? Or is
    this sincerely meant?
    No nature; only “culture”?
    And that earthquakes will or would be almost a non-issue in cities like San Francisco,
    Tokyo, or London, due to excellent infrastructure – do you sincerely believe this,
    Questions? Everybody agree, as said, that the damage is much bigger in Haiti and
    similar places (some areas of Turkey and Iran are good examples). But a non-issue if
    the infrastructure is reasonably good?
    Sincerely meant – or just intended as provocations on a lazy Saturday?

    Reply

  12. ... says:

    maybe steve can do a thread on ”questions” in overdrive, at which point the comments will be on topic!

    Reply

  13. questions says:

    Droughts and land use are related. Read up on the Dust Bowl and desertification. And overuse of water and the lowering of water tables.
    How many forest fires are caused by human intervention and by people’s settling near wilderness areas?
    There are things that can be done and there are ways to mitigate events so that we don’t lose 50,000-200,000 people (that’s the current range for Haiti.)
    Will there be fire deaths and tornado deaths and rain and wind deaths? Of course. But we don’t need to be losing 50,000-200,000 people in these events. The human dimension is immense, and humans can mitigate the worst.

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  14. questions says:

    Ever hear of not building under a volcano? Ever wonder how many very poor people are shoved onto the crappiest land and given the worst materials to build with and the fewest resources to escape from impending disaster? What do you think happened in New Orleans? Poor people get hit with this stuff.
    And remember, the phrase should be written: There are no “natural” disasters — with scare quotes around the word “natural” to highlight the very human dimension in mass death after major events of weather and earth.
    Oh, and weather severity may well increase with climate change, so I’d toss in some of that too. There’s a lot we do to ourselves, or rather, to our poor.
    And the idea that properly designed buildings have nothing to do with saving lives in quakes is beyond my understanding, but certainly seems to be what you’re suggesting.
    And while I’m at it, why are there so many people living in CA along fault lines? Could there be anything, ummm, human in land use and settlement patterns? Guess not. Just a freak of nature (like zoning is a freak of nature)…..
    I’m glad you know what killed off the dinosaurs. I thought there were still numerous competing theories. Silly me. So send a link that has the answer and then I’ll understand why it’s pointless to have any building codes at all. I guess the ice age really does mean we shouldn’t bother. Unless it was a comet. Or some other kind of disruption of the food chain. Definitely shouldn’t bother with building codes.

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  15. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Ah, once again, questions misrepresents a person’s comment. How fun it must be to shovel straw non-stop because you can’t argue on the merits of your idiotic spew.
    You heard it from questions, folks, there ARE NO natural disasters. Building codes will save ya. Got Volcanoes??? No problem, Dudley Do-Right will draw ya up some plans, those nasty ‘ol pyroclasmic flows are no match for mankind’s expansive genius. Got Tornadoes??? Worry not, questions has a solution. Remember folks, there ARE NO natural disasters. And hey baby, you wanna survive an 8.5??? Just move yourself to Californy, where modern man has mastered the fine art of building codes, trumping ‘ol Mother Earth’s feckless attempts at geological evolution.
    Remember now, (and sleep soundly in the comfort of your officially sanctioned disaster repelling technologically advanced and proffessionaly inspected modern marvel), THERE ARE NO NATURAL DISASTERS.
    Whew. Thank God, I thought droughts were a real issue. We all can sleep soundly now, in our drought-proof fire-resistant flood-free tornado-repelling earthquake-tolerant volcanoe-friendly hurricane shelters.
    All we gotta worry about is the Al Kady boogey man and the genetic threat of Ethiopian jews despoiling the purity of the Master Race.
    Oh, and, uh, flabby abs.
    “Ummm, the dinosaurs died before there were building codes”
    Gee, no kidding? Man, thats too bad. You’d think they coulda at least required glacier resistant nesting habits.

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  16. questions says:

    Ummm, the dinosaurs died before there were building codes. And umm, there was still life on earth afterwards. And umm, despite all the theories of the die off, no one really knows what happened.
    So, in the end, the dinosaur point it excellent proof of something.
    I guess.
    What’s it proof of?

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  17. questions says:

    Now I understand! Since building inspectors are corrupt, there’s no hope of building anything well. Engineering doesn’t help since the inspectors can never ever be competent. And besides the Chinese will screw it up anyway. So let’s give up on engineering for earthquakes and all sit around til we diiiiiie.
    Oh, and let’s also wait for whatever killed the dinosaurs to kill us. It might take a while, but since it WILL happen, there’s no point in designing any buildings anywhere to tolerate ground shake. No point at all.
    And since we’re going to diiiie anyway, let’s just not bother staying alive.
    So I say:
    No more engineers — it’s a failed profession. Design can’t be made to do anything ever. There are just some forces to potent to be challenged and since those forces are everywhere all the time, there’s no point in trying to battle even somewhat smaller forces.
    No more building standards — they’re not enforced and we’ll die anyway. Rebar? Like, WTF.
    Haiti happened because it did and all those people would have died in the earthquake no matter what. So let’s all have a die-in!!!!!!
    Got it!!!
    Doesn’t really make any sense at all, but I got it!

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  18. PissedOffAmerican says:

    James brings up an excellent point. It is an economic issue as much as it is a structural issue.
    There are tons of factors involved. We could even get into the inferior and substandard quality of modern fastener, bracketry, and construction hardware, thanks to the Chinese’ willingness to fuck us over any and every chance they get by selling us absolute garbage masquerading as usable merchandise. The codes might specify certain diameter lag bolts, but if those lag bolts aren’t worth a shit, neither is the code.
    As well, anyone familiar with the construction industry knows the more than usual ineptitude and ignorance of a great number of the building inspectors, who will nit-pic trivial issues and completely miss major structural flaws. I once rebuilt a second level deck in Bayview Idaho that was cliffside, and the joist hangers were all UPSIDE DOWN, so the asshole that built it, I assume, could feed the joists up from a scaffold he had set up to side the bottom story of the dwelling. (I guess, thats the only explanation that made sense. Its the worst example of inspected and permitted workmanship I have ever seen.)

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  19. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I’m sure since something “engineered to the hilt” failed, that all things engineered at all must fail”
    Someday, questions, if you’re not careful, you’re going to choke to death on your own straw. No one can shovel so much of it without smothering.
    To state that “there are no natural disasters” is just plain fuckin’ stupid.
    I wonder, what lax building codes do you attribute to the demise of the dinosaurs?
    And its a real shame those poor folks at Spirit Lake weren’t up to code when Saint Helens blew, eh? Its nice knowing that if the super volcanoe under Yellowstone goes, California’s modern codes will protect me from the fate of the rest of the planet.

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  20. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Cuba is Missing…From US Reports on the International Response to Haiti’s Earthquake
    Dave Lindorff
    There are only two US media outlets that have reported on Cuba’s response to the deadly 7.0 earthquake that hit Haiti. One was Fox News, which claimed, wrongly, that the Cubans were absent from the list of neighboring Caribbean countries providing aid. The other was the Christian Science Monitor (a respected news organization that recently shut down its print edition), which reported correctly that Cuba had dispatched 30 doctors to the stricken nation.
    The Christian Science Monitor, in a second article, quoted Laurence Korb, former assistant secretary of defense and now based at the Center for American Progress, as saying that the US, which is leading the relief efforts in Haiti, should “consider tapping the expertise of neighboring Cuba,” which he noted, “has some of the best doctors in the world–we should see about flying them in.”
    As for the rest of the US media, they have simply ignored Cuba.
    In fact, left unmentioned is the reality that Cuba already had over 400 doctors posted to Haiti to help with the day-to-day health needs of this poorest nation in the Americas, and that those doctors were the first to respond to the disaster, setting up a hospital right next to the main hospital in Port-au-Prince which collapsed in the earthquake.
    Far from “doing nothing” about the disaster as the right-wing propagandists at Fox-TV were claiming, Cuba has been one of the most effective and critical responders to the crisis, because it had set up a medical infrastructure before the quake, which was able to mobilize quickly and start treating the victims.
    The American emergency response, predictably, has focussed primarily, at least in terms of personnel and money, on sending the hugely costly and inefficient US military–a fleet of aircraft and an aircraft carrier–a factor that should be considered when examining that $100 million figure the Obama administration claims is being allocated to emergency aid to Haiti. Considering that the cost of operating an aircraft carrier, including crew, is roughly $2 million a day, just sending a carrier to Port-au-Prince for two weeks accounts for a quarter of the announced American aid effort, and while many of the military personnel sent there will certainly be doing actual aid work, delivering supplies and guarding supplies, many, given America’s long history of brutal military/colonial control of Haiti, will inevitably be spending their time ensuring continued survival and control of the parasitic pro-US political elite in Haiti.
    Otherwise, the US has basically ignored the ongoing day-to-day human crisis in Haiti, while Cuba has been doing the yeoman work of providing basic health care.
    But that’s not a story that the American corporate media want to tell.
    http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/26095

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  21. questions says:

    Huh? I remain mystified.
    The engineers recommend rebar.
    Engineers after Loma Prieta recommended attaching roofs to walls.
    Engineers in this round recommend standardized concrete rather than adulterated concrete.
    This isn’t “engineering to the hilt”.
    And it’s tragic if anyone ever dies from anything ever. We all want immortality, JamesL. But it’s a disaster when huge numbers of people are killed in utterly unnecessary fashion.
    There’s something called a “heap problem” — we all recognize what a “heap” of sand is. Take away one grain, it’s still a “heap.” Take away another and another…. Eventually, it isn’t a heap anymore. We can’t specify when its essence changes from “heap” to “pile” to “pittance” of sand, but it does at some point. Continuous quantity of discrete items leads to this paradox. “Disaster” works the same way. If one person dies, we don’t call it a disaster for the world or for humanity, even if it’s tragic for a family or for the dead person. At some point, regular death becomes disaster. The death in Haiti meets the subjective standard for disaster. The deaths from Loma Prieta, probably not. San Francisco was affected for sure. Families suffered tragedy and loss for sure. But “disaster” seems to require something more, just as “heap” is something more than 63 grains of sand or 15o grains of sand. There aren’t precise numbers, just as there isn’t a precise moment at which tragedy becomes disaster. But Haiti is overwhelming in a way that San Fran was just awful and scary.
    But JamesL, since you have been convinced at one time that I lack a soul, whateveh.
    I’m sure since something “engineered to the hilt” failed, that all things engineered at all must fail. And I bet this isn’t even a category error of some sort. Just the plain old truth. There’s no way those engineers know more than you!
    By the way, I once used a toaster oven that didn’t work. It was engineered and it failed. Wow.

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  22. JamesL says:

    I was involved in building a house once, engineered to the hilt. An early “green” house, over which some people who appreciate aquafer recharge and subsurface hydrology would swoon, before there was a market to be cornered and dominated, like “green”, as in “green” military sales. Stuctural steel, buried concrete four times the mass of the house, rebar and wire mesh, straps, ties, gussets, fittings, bolts. The plans glowed at night with their specialness. It was the emotional/architectural embodiment of erectile tissue. Could withstand simultaneous 8.0 earthquake and a 100 year/100 mph wind. And probably a nuke overpressure wave double that of any other structure around. A few problems came up. It cost over $325 per square foot, thus is out of reach for most NGO’s except those involved in green military sales. And, dspite the structure, it would have been uninhabitable both during and after a minor windstorm because the north half was window and just because the structure remained standing wouldn’t mean the windows remained intact. Yes, the north half, to maximize heat loss, forever. And, because it was designed by FAF (famous architectural firm) the window package was custom, costing four times that of off the shelf items, meaning ten times as much when replacment was required. And the main structural beams had a habit of not quite meeting from page to page on the impressively engineered architect’s drawings. A minor problem, we were assured. Its physical footprint was dainty, its carbon footprint enormous. And its lifespan, why just about like the house down the street.
    Questions tries to prove that a diaster isn’t really a diaster unless a lot of people, thousands at least, are killed. A variation on the silent tree falling in the forest. Thus Loma Linda wasn’t a diaster. Nor probably San Fran 1908. Questions would promote well engineered housing in a 500 year flood plain, and point to the recent Midwestern floods that ravaged American agriculturer as a non-disaster, or a disaster where people should have known better, and if they had known better, it wouldn’t have been a diaster. Tornadoes are not disasters because they are too small and don’t kill enough people.
    Questions’ obvious solution is for people to just go away, somewhere, like the Palestinians. Just go away. Then: no more disasters! No more war!
    Hybridize the elements of carbon footprint, disaster relief, sustainable building, safety, and liveability, and for much of the earth’s land surface the winner is probably a yurt. But then, there’s no market to be cornered in yurts, thus the yurt has no place in America.

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  23. Outraged American says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather be under a tarp than concrete
    when a quake strikes. Bring on the shanty towns.
    Maybe this quake (Haiti) was reverse natural selection because a
    lot of the NGO types, who swan around pretending to help the
    natives, are now dead under the concrete rubble, while the
    natives, many living underneath garbage bags, are alive
    In my defense, I have a friend who makes her living conning
    indigenous people and heinous orgs. like the International
    Monetary Fund and the World Bank into thinking she cares.
    Being corrupt to the core herself, she can recognize a grifter and
    she has told me over and over that most of these NGOs are
    complete shysters.
    I did have a friend who did a doco on the Sudan and worked
    with Doctors Without Borders. He was full of praise for them.

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  24. questions says:

    And on and on and on….
    “Cameron Sinclair, executive director of Architecture for Humanity, a nonprofit design group based in San Francisco, said he was “horrified” when he visited Port-au-Prince and Gonaïves last October to assess the quality of construction there.
    Mr. Sinclair said that design and construction were far worse than in other developing countries he had visited. “In Haiti, most if not all of the buildings have major engineering flaws,” he said.
    Most houses and other structures are built of poured concrete or block, there being very little lumber available due to mass deforestation, said Alan Dooley, a Nashville architect who designed a medical clinic, built of reinforced concrete, in Petite Rivière de Nippes, a fishing village 50 miles west of Port-au-Prince.
    Concrete is very expensive — much of the cement for it comes from the United States, Mr. Dooley said — so some contractors cut corners by adding more sand to the mix. The result is a structurally weaker material that deteriorates rapidly, he said. Steel reinforcing bar is also expensive, he said, so there is a tendency to use less of it with the concrete.”
    “Concrete blocks are often substandard too, said Peter Haas, executive director of Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group, a nonprofit organization that is working on several projects in Haiti. Many of them are made in small batches at people’s homes, and the quality can vary. “When you’re buying blocks at the store you really have no idea of where they’re from,” Mr. Haas said. “And all it takes is for the block that was made at home to collapse.”
    When builders in Haiti do take disasters into account in their designs, their most recent experience has been with hurricanes, the last major earthquake having occurred two centuries ago. “Newer construction has been developed to withstand hurricanes, not earthquakes,” said John McAslan, a London architect who has studied Haitian buildings, working with the Clinton Global Initiative. “If you engineer for one you’re not necessarily covering the other.”
    Mr. Dooley said that his original design for the medical clinic called for a steel roof, but that was changed to a reinforced concrete one to better withstand hurricane-force winds. The building survived the earthquake with apparently little damage, he said.
    But many other concrete roofs presumably collapsed, adding to the loss of life. Mr. Sinclair said he had seen houses where builders put concrete roofs on top of low-grade blocks. “Then it just pancakes,” he said.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/14/world/americas/14construction.html

    Reply

  25. questions says:

    A little more spam from me….
    “Depth is also important, as the source of the Haiti quake was 6.2 miles below the Earth’s surface.
    “The depth of this earthquake in Haiti was very shallow, meaning that the energy that was released is very close to the surface, which can also be another characteristic that causes some violent ground shaking,” Bedwell said. “An earthquake that’s very deep – that energy has a chance to go through the Earth’s crust before reaching the Earth’s surface and possibly not causing as much shaking of the ground.”
    “All of these effects get magnified when the infrastructure is shoddy and not built to withstand shaking. “Unfortunately, Haiti has a rather poor economy and not a wonderful building style for earthquake resistance, so we would expect that we would see quite severe and widespread damage from this earthquake,” Michael Blanpeid, associate coordinator for the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program, said in a podcast released today.
    ….
    A potentially similar effect was seen when a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck China’s Sichuan province, taking tens of thousands of lives. Earthquake engineers speculated the adobe and masonry buildings and homes, many of which were probably not reinforced with steel as building codes dictate, added to the earthquake damage, especially in more rural areas.”
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34842469/ns/technology_and_science-science/

    Reply

  26. questions says:

    C and L, Naomi Klein:
    “But the point is, we need to make sure that the aid that goes to Haiti is, one, grants, not loans. This is absolutely crucial. This is an already heavily indebted country. This is a disaster that, as Amy said, on the one hand is nature, is, you know, an earthquake; on the other hand is the creation, is worsened by the poverty that our governments have been so complicit in deepening. Crises—natural disasters are so much worse in countries like Haiti, because you have soil erosion because the poverty means people are building in very, very precarious ways, so houses just slide down because they are built in places where they shouldn’t be built. All of this is interconnected. But we have to be absolutely clear that this tragedy, which is part natural, part unnatural, must, under no circumstances, be used to, one, further indebt Haiti, and, two, to push through unpopular corporatist policies in the interests of our corporations. And this is not a conspiracy theory. They have done it again and again.”

    Reply

  27. questions says:

    http://www.codeattorney.com/2010/01/the-cycle-of-tragedy-and-lack-of-building-codes-continues-haiti/
    “Obviously the U.S. will send aid and relief workers, but we should do more than that: For a small fraction of what the United States is spending to bail out banks and auto firms we could help Haiti rebuild with reinforced concrete. Because that’s what I keep thinking when I look at these awful pictures coming from Haiti: Where’s the rebar? It’s like the lack of mosquito nets in malarial Africa: Such a simple thing, and it would save so many lives. This is the 21st century — and yet people around the world are living and working in buildings that are certain to crumble when the earth moves.”
    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/achenblog/2010/01/haiti_earthquake_predicted.html
    *************
    Note that the link at the top of this post goes to the previous post. One of those “held for inspection” notes got in the way….

    Reply

  28. questions says:

    “The earthquake tragedy in Haiti is a reminder of what can happen when there are no building codes or the existing ones aren’t enforced, when there are no building inspectors or a lack of oversight. The sight of collapsed schools, government buildings and residences is heartbreaking. I recently had a call from an inspector who said that his local jurisdiction was considering writing its own code instead of following the IBC because contractors were complaining that it cost too much to build following the IBC. Given the economic circumstances, they wanted a “less strict” code. Every time we sacrifice safety for monetary gain we are hoping that disaster doesn’t strike and reveal the dark side of less restrictive enforcement. Poorer countries lack the luxury of regulation and we can understand how things like this happen but we shouldn’t forget our homegrown tragedies like the collapse of the Hyatt walkway in Kansas City. We keep making the same mistakes because we forget what history teaches us. What happened in Hait is not a surprise. Newspapers recounted the collapse of schools in Haiti in 2008 due to poor construction. In 2007 the Department of Sustainable Development of the Organization of American States was approached about working to bring about a national building code in Haiti. You can read more about this problem at http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/americas/01/12/haiti.earthquake.infrastructure/index.html or watch Earthquake in Haiti.”

    Reply

  29. questions says:

    “While the causes of individual disasters are natural, more than anything what makes Haiti a constant site of catastrophe is its heart-tugging social ills, disaster experts say. It starts with poverty, includes deforestation, unstable governments, poor building standards, low literacy rates and then comes back to poverty.”
    http://www.startribune.com/science/81366347.html?elr=KArks:DCiUo3PD:3D_V_qD3L:c7cQKUiacyKUUr
    “Citing that World Bank assessment, the Organization of American States said in a report on its Web site, “Among the numerous factors explaining the extent of the loss of lives and goods are the absence of land use zoning and building guidelines, and comprehensive enforcement mechanisms.” The OAS report added Haiti has no national building codes.
    Former U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Timothy M. Carney told CNN that Port-au-Prince was particularly at risk because it grew rapidly from a population of about 250,000 in the mid-1950s to more than 2 million today, all with little oversight.
    City planners had called for the surrounding hills to remain undeveloped in order to protect an aquifer. “That didn’t happen,” Carney said. “People started building up those hillsides.”
    Instead of building concrete structures, they built shanties, he said. “My fear is that they all fell down.”
    http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/americas/01/12/haiti.earthquake.infrastructure/index.html

    Reply

  30. Outraged American says:

    Anyone who has been through a major quake knows the sheer
    TERROR (“Terror’ being our fave word in UsRael) of going
    through it & the months of aftershocks.
    We should give Questions a break on that one, because a 7.0
    earthquake and aftershocks in the 6.0 range are nothing
    compared to an underwear bomber.
    OK- Questions, your five second break is up.
    Questions, the next big quake that hits California could mean
    the end of UsRael as we know it.
    * OUTRAGED AMERICAN AND THE WORLD SIGHS IN RELIEF*
    Living in California means living on the edge. Of two plates.
    With the constant threat of dying. Yet some scrawny, Richie Rich
    from Nigeria has now destroyed the shreds left of the Bill of
    Rights and allowed perverts all over the world to get jobs as
    airport screeners, as UsRael, or rather, Israel takes on her next
    target, Yemen.

    Reply

  31. easy e says:

    The following links are worthwhile reading. As noted by a commenter “the colonial past and continued rape and negligence of the superpowers du jour is to blame for the excessive death-toll” and devastation. Unfortunately, there are many reasons the U.S. corporate mainstream media keeps their public dumbed down.
    HAITI: MEDIA PROVIDES SANITIZED HISTORY FOR AMERICAN AUDIENCES
    http://harpers.org/archive/2010/01/hbc-90006353
    WHY IS HAITI SO POOR? – – – UPDATE
    http://anthropologyworks.com/?p=1070

    Reply

  32. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “The Loma Prieta earthquake (San Francisco, during the baseball game…) measured 7 on the Richter Scale. 63 people died”
    A totally DIFFERENT KIND OF QUAKE, at a TOTALLY DIFFERENT DEPTH. You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

    Reply

  33. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “The death toll from an earthquake in a city with good building standards is not likely to be 50,000 people”
    BULLSHIT.
    You have never been through a major quake, have you, questions? I have. I had a house, built to modern California codes, total itself in just under one minute. Both chimneys, built BEYOND code specs, were laying on the ground, the house was off its foundation, and the main gas line was ruptured. Don’t lecture us about stuff YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT.
    Fact is, there is NO building code that can protect a building from life threatening failure during a major quake. Yes, they might protect you to a degree, but a severe enough quake, close enough to the surface, would l;ay waste to Los Angeles, and if you think the death toll wouldn’t reach over fifty thousand, you’re out of your mind.

    Reply

  34. easy e says:

    There’s more to Haiti’s dilemma than what’s stated in following article, but certainly an interesting perspective.
    HAITIAN EARTHQUAKE: MADE IN THE USA
    Why the Blood Is on Our Hands
    by Ted Rall
    As grim accounts of the earthquake in Haiti came in, the accounts in U.S.-controlled state media all carried the same descriptive sentence: “Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere…”
    Entire article here http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/01/14-13

    Reply

  35. Outraged American says:

    The Loma Prieta was not centered underneath SF like a Hayward
    quake would be.
    There’s also a huge difference between a thrust fault
    (Northridge) and a strike slip fault (the San Andreas). And
    there’s an enormous difference between how far the slippage of
    the San Andreas was as compared to how much it is expected to
    be when the two continental plates really move.
    Plus all the building are weakened every time an earthquake
    goes through them, so there’s a cumulative effect on a structure
    from withstanding many earthquakes. If another 7.0 strikes the
    San Francisco area, especially not at such a “good” time, it will
    kill thousands more.
    If the Northridge quake had not happened at approx.4:30 AM (I
    should remember because I was there – 4:32 AM? I was a bit
    rattled at the time) on a national holiday, the casualties could
    have numbered in the tens of thousands at least.
    During the Northridge quake I-10 collapsed near my house. I
    lived near the intersection of I-10 and the 405, which has been
    said to be the busiest intersection in the world. Had it not been
    a national holiday, and not that early in the morning, that
    collapse alone would have killed hundreds if not many, many
    more.
    Bottom line: America needs to use her smart power on herself,
    cut imperialism and cut foreign entanglements. Israel *cough*
    I”m looking at you, girlfriend.

    Reply

  36. questions says:

    JamesL,
    The Loma Prieta earthquake (San Francisco, during the baseball game…) measured 7 on the Richter Scale. 63 people died.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1989_Loma_Prieta_earthquake
    See the difference?
    There’s no such thing as a “natural” disaster.

    Reply

  37. Tocquevillager says:

    Is it not at least plausible that by tapping Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama is not merely recognizing that the emerging role is particularly suited to ex-presidents, but especially this one whose image would benefit greatly by leading an humanitarian effort as great as this? I think it is. As a reminder that despite our deep divisions on other issues, in a crisis we are united as Americans, I find the decision understated, excellent and completely worthy of the man who made it.

    Reply

  38. questions says:

    Carroll,
    Not sure reforestation would work if the trees needed to be cut down again for firewood for cooking.
    The problems in Haiti are systemic, and they will need a systemic solution, not any one single fix. If we give too much, local industry doesn’t develop. This is a huge problem with structuring international aid. If we give too little, of course, the crisis mode merely continues. We need all that “smart” aid stuff….

    Reply

  39. questions says:

    The death toll from an earthquake in a city with good building standards is not likely to be 50,000 people.
    Healthy people can withstand hardship far longer than weakened and ill people.
    People with resources can escape from disasters.
    Mud slides kill people because poor people are forced to build where the land can give out.
    Tsunamis kill because of inadequate warning systems and poor housing of poor people.
    Blizzards don’t kill 50,000 people to the best of my knowledge. If that has happened, please post some evidence.
    And so on.
    There are some naturally occurring weather and land form events (massive erosion is not natural, it’s land-use based for the most part), but they are not disasters unless large numbers of people die in them. The deaths can be avoided. Really.
    There are no “natural” disasters. Loss of life can be mitigated through more even economic distribution, through reasonable planning, through careful stewardship of the land, through caring about all lives, not just the lives of the banksters.

    Reply

  40. Carroll says:

    Refering back to Steve’s post in which he talked about the denuding of Haiti’s forest, how the trees were cut and sold to help pay for their independence, which of course eroded the soil of the island.
    That itself points out how the US has paid no attention to Haiti at all….a reforesting progam should have been done a long time ago.

    Reply

  41. JamesL says:

    Questions: “Mother Earth didn’t kill anyone. There’s no such thing as a “natural disaster.”….It is utterly a political disaster, utterly man-made, utterly “Made in America.””
    Questions I’m amazed that you can be so utterly wrong and absolutely correct in just a few sentences. Yes there are natural disasters and Mother Earth does absolutelty kill people without prejudice. Nothing less than the total absence of people will prevent loss of human life from a tsunami, avalanche, volcano, rock slide, mud slide, blizzard and and on ….geez questions, you been in an apartment all your life?
    But you are absolutely correct about political impacts increasing, not decreasing the human death and misery toll. See here:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-quigley/what-the-mainstream-media_b_424126.html
    But a lot of Ameicans think: THEY didn’t do and what WE would do. Wrong, see the Yahoo story: “Scientists warned Haiti officials of quake in ’08” with the unbelievable web address of:
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100115/ap_on_re_us/us_haiti_earthquake_warning;_ylt=AkiLlh_2HnKWmLvjkIlhA6BbbBAF;_ylu=X3oDMTNnY2xsbDBuBGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTAwMTE1L3VzX2hhaXRpX2VhcnRocXVha2Vfd2FybmluZwRjY29kZQNtb3N0cG9wdWxhcgRjcG9zAzIEcG9zAzIEc2VjA3luX3RvcF9zdG9yaWVzBHNsawNzY2llbnRpc3Rzd2E-
    They could have been talking about Los Angeles or Seattle. No nation adequately prepares for disasters that are predicted by scientists. If the big one hits either of those places, you’re going to see a lot of dead people.

    Reply

  42. PissedOffAmerican says:

    And by the way, 100 million in aid is paltry, and will barely build a modern hospital of any capacity. Its pretty amazing how someone like Zakhiem can discover over two TRILLION simply missing from the coffers, or some fat cat CEO can get 50 million in bonuses, yet our leaders act as if we are saints for coughing up 100 million bucks. Lets see, with a conservative 2 million displaced, thats what, fifty bucks per human? How far is that going to go?? Two days? A week?
    What, our government just discovered that the Haitians were starving even BEFORE the earthquake? What, we were ignorant of the weak infrastructure? Gosh, these fuckers in Washington don’t seem to have any problem throwing billions at Israel, whose finance minister claims THEY DON’T NEED THE MONEY, (in response to Mitchell’s comments on Charlie Rose). And they are certainly willing to throw a coupla trillion at seeing how many Muslims we can kill. So now we are going to throw paltry alms at the Haitians, who were NOTHING to us as long as they died quietly, impoverished, one by one, outside the eye of our media.
    And yes, for us to shove the Goldstone Report under the rug, or to lay waste to Iraqi society with great numbers of civilian casualties, while being all bloated about our “charity” to the Haitians is an obscene display of self righteous double standards and false humanity.
    And only in your self righteous pious assholish mind is “passion reserved for I/P”. A huge percentage of the debate here is on topics that touch on Israel’s role in the scheme of things, and events in the middle east. Don’t you ever get tired of shoveling straw?

    Reply

  43. questions says:

    Where did I say give and shut up anyway?
    I believe what I said is that rather than seek retribution against Bush, it seems to be a good idea to let him do what he can to help. Even if he is deeply problematic as a political figure, a fact I admitted.
    And I think I hinted that I/P is one of many many humanitarian, human-caused disasters. And Haiti deserves some serious passion, too. And some 300 post threads.
    I think that’s what I said, at any rate.

    Reply

  44. questions says:

    Mother Earth didn’t kill anyone. There’s no such thing as a “natural disaster.”
    Building standards, poverty, building standards, corruption, many many successive US administrations and interventions in Haiti have killed somewhere around 50,000 people unless the estimates rise. And I think the French get some credit here too. And did I mention building standards?
    There’s nothing “natural” about this at all. It is utterly a political disaster, utterly man-made, utterly “Made in America.”
    And that was actually the point of my point. It’s not about moral competition or anything else. It’s about what seems to be a very one-dimensional on-going non-debate here. So where are the diatribes about US perfidy in Haiti? The screams about the CIA/US involvement in Haitian politics? The links and copy/pastes about how the US is responsible and Bush is responsible and Clinton is responsible and so on? Where are the 300 postings about this one?
    Haiti is a mess in part because of US policy. And no one here is screaming. 50,000 dead Hatians are mourned so much more quietly. Again, it’s not “moral competition”. Just a sad noting that the passion that is reserved for I/P is, well, reserved for I/P.
    By the way, the Shelter Box people are associated with the Rotarians, or run by the Rotarians, not sure which. Kos is up to around 22 boxes paid for, which is about 22 thousand dollars in 2 days or so of fundraising.

    Reply

  45. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I don`t think it was very smart of Obama to ask Bush to spearhead this”
    Well, its pretty amazing that Mother Earth can shift the massive bulk of a coupla tectonic plates, and kill a hundred thousand or so, while a couple of criminal pieces of shit like George Bush and Dick Cheney can shift the truth, and kill over a million.
    If he can help, great, but the truth is, if this nation was what it purported itself to be, he’d be helping from the confines of a federal prison.

    Reply

  46. Paul Norheim says:

    TWN is a blog where we discuss the topics at hand, and it was unfortunate that Questions degraded this
    thread into a moral competition. Questions has one convincing argument: that W may reach people on the
    right that, say, Clinton would not reach. But that argument is part of the discussion, and contradicts
    Questions` “Give-and-shut-up” ethos – which of course was established to give the commenter an
    opportunity to slap his/her opponents on the Israel/Palestine issue.
    Enough said about that. Personally, I think it’s nice that people like Questions and Carroll provide
    references and links to organizations in an emergency like this one. But the discussion should continue.
    Among the topics: “smart power”. I don`t think it was very smart of Obama to ask Bush to spearhead this.
    On the other hand, it may have created more debate and controversy if he hadn’t asked him.

    Reply

  47. Carroll says:

    Wanted to suggest this also for anyone who wants to help organizations operating in Haiti.
    http://doctorswithoutborders.org/
    There is a donate button on their page.
    We have a friend who has volunteered with them for many years so I can vouch for this organization.

    Reply

  48. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “For all those people who post day and night about how they care about more than just the Palestinians even if they’re not currently posting about these other people, this is the time to show that the good of others means more than the desire for retribution”
    Don’t be a pious ass. It constantly amazes me the jackasses that use tragedy for condenscension and an opportunity to make themselves feel righteous. You have idea how ANY of us respond to disasters of this kind, or what other “causes” we may support or focus our activism towards, including were we focus our charitable endeavors.
    Reread your comment, and ponder what a condescendingly assholish comment it was.
    Perhaps you should think before you type out such unmitigated pious self righteous crap, questions.

    Reply

  49. Ashley St.Claire says:

    Haiti’s earthquake
    January 14, 2010 by politicalsnapshots.wordpress.com
    Haiti’s earthquake.
    Haiti was hit by a massive earthquake yesterday. The news and pictures of this awful natural disaster has been plastered all over our television sets. It is hard to see without being emotionally affected. According to news reports, Haiti’s capital city of Port-au-Prince has sustained a serious damage. Power is out. In the aftermath of this destruction, it is obvious the needs of the Haitian people will be enormous.
    For the sake of humanity, our government as well as each and every one of us should stand with the Haitian people in this dire time. We should all participate in any way possible to collect and send donations of medicines, blankets, food, etc.
    I am pleased with president Obama’s engagement with Haiti’s relief effort. He is taking a wonderful leadership role in making the whole world focus on Haiti’s catastrophe. The president should be highly commended for his promise of an” all-out relief effort in Haiti”.
    Good Afternoon,
    The reports and images from Haiti of collapsed hospitals, crumbled homes, and men and women carrying their injured neighbors through the streets are truly heart-wrenching. As we learn more about the extent of the devastation, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Haiti and Haitian Americans around our country who do not yet know the fate of their families and loved ones back home.
    I have directed my Administration to respond with a swift, coordinated and aggressive effort to save lives. The people of Haiti will have the full support of the United States Government in the urgent effort to rescue those trapped beneath the rubble and to deliver the humanitarian relief — the food, water and medicine — that Haitians will need in the coming days.
    This is also a time when we are reminded of the common humanity that we all share, and Americans have always responded to these situations with generosity of spirit. If you would like to support the urgent humanitarian effort in Haiti, I encourage you to visit our website where you can learn more about how to contribute:
    http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/HaitiEarthquake
    Americans trying to locate family members in Haiti are encouraged to contact the State Department at (888) 407-4747.
    We will continue to stand with the people of Haiti and keep them in our thoughts and prayers.
    Sincerely,
    Barack Obama
    With a broken heart,
    Professor Mekonen Haddis

    Reply

  50. Ajaz says:

    HAITI & PAT ROBERTSON
    A ‘Deal with the Devil’ is what the insensitive Pat Robertson has to say about Haiti’s earthquake. He has said similar thigs in the past after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. Do these ‘God’s agents’ have no shame. People are dying in Haiti and need help from the world community and all he can think of is a deal with the devil? Who has given this man the right to malign other human beings? Another evalengical preacher claimed recently that “God hates a lot of people”. I guess God came down to give that information to him personally!
    If one looks closely, there many similarities between the extreme right wing preachers and the Afghan Taliban. They want to impose their will on majority, so do the Taliban. They believe they are right and everyone else is wrong, so do the Taliban. They believe they are the only ones who will go to heaven, so do the Taliban. They believe it is their moral duty to set all erring people straight, so do the Taliban. They believe God has given them a mission to root out sin from the world, so do the Taliban.

    Reply

  51. ... says:

    bush has first hand experience in ‘disaster relief experience’.. it began the first day he left office…

    Reply

  52. questions says:

    Not to proselytize or anything, but a daily kos diarist “TexMex” is doing a collection for Shelter Boxes. $1000 a box — tent for 10 people, supplies that seem useful. Have been used in disasters for the decade. Might be worth a look. Link in recommended diaries section over at dkos. You can donate for a part of a box and for today only, there’s a small matching program that Tex Mex is putting together.
    Again, sorry to post this kind of thing here, but it seems to the point.
    Feel free to remove this Steve if you think it goes beyond what you want here.
    Thanks.

    Reply

  53. DonS says:

    Questions, your ruminations are exactly the sort of counterpoint I was considering in broaching the subject of Bush at all.
    And I am definitely in the “he who is without sin let him cast the first . . . etc” turn of mind generally.
    And, I hope Bush does much good, though for the life of me I have a hard time believing he can shake that many more trees than other well placed “important people”.
    Yet I am aware of the ways in which Bush represents and has acted the antithesis of humanitarian concern in his public life, except for the Orwellian version peddled by his promoters and handlers.
    That said, I do care for more than the Palestinians and, in fact, will probably demonstrate more material support for the Haitians than any other recent ’cause’.
    And that said, from my own little corner of the world, it would be dishonest not to admit to the revulsion, not wish for retribution, that I continue to experience at the thought of all things Bush. Taints my thinking process don’t you know.

    Reply

  54. Carroll says:

    Bush Jr. is a weird choice. I have never thought Georgie was the devil but a clueless,messed up egotisical little fellow not up to the job and led around by his VP and advisors.
    But if Bush can help it’s fine with me, maybe he can raise some money from people that otherwise would ignore Haiti’s plight.
    But why would Obama pick him is the question?
    What does that tell us about Obama?
    Is Obama using Haiti as a political opportunity?
    Another gesture to bipartianship?
    Or did he ask Bush Sr. and Sr ask him to appoint Jr….that is something Sr. would do for Jr..
    The former prez with the best qualifications for this and who would really give a shit on a level beside political would be Carter, but of course the dems hate Carter.

    Reply

  55. JamesL says:

    Smart power: The ability to describe an increase in Afghan civilian deaths in 2009, and (only) 25% of all Afghan civilian war deaths resulting from NATO military action, as being an improvement.
    “The United Nations said 2,412 civilians were killed in 2009 — a 14 percent increase over the 2,118 who died in 2008. Nearly 70 percent of civilian deaths last year, or 1,630, were caused by the insurgents, the report found. NATO and allied Afghan forces were responsible for 25 percent of the deaths, or 596, the U.N. report said, down from 39 percent, or 828, in 2008.
    http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10014/1028116-82.stm?cmpid=nationworld.xml

    Reply

  56. Josh Meah says:

    US AID is good, but the Clinton and Gates
    foundations tend to be more effective (et al?)
    Maybe the money should just go straight to the
    managers of those organizations?…
    I’ve seen some critics of US AID tear the
    organization apart quite effectively…
    Alternatively, I’d advocate a type of “Savior
    Strategy” where the U.S. creates a particular fund
    and sets aside needed resources to respond to
    international disasters around the world. It’s
    those responses that get the best response
    strategically and tend to be the most effective.
    These disasters are also imminent and seemingly
    constant these days.
    Maybe I side too much with Easterly and Collier
    these days, but still…

    Reply

  57. questions says:

    What GWB could do — maybe raise money, maybe, while not having Cheney breathing the same air, be vaguely human, maybe gesture to his supporters on the right that it’s ok to care about Haiti (and counteract the Robertson/Limbaugh take on this), maybe show that ex-presidents still have something to contribute, maybe show that forgiveness is THE dominant issue in Christianity.
    Not sure Bush has much in the way of disaster relief experience…but he can probably make some phone calls, and those phone calls ought not to be left unmade given what the people in Haiti are facing.
    A news story I just read said that when people die while waiting for treatment outside a hospital, their bodies are just dragged next door to the morgue. There’s the image for the day. If GWB can move something in the world to help with this, let him.
    Haiti is going to take the commitment of both parties, more than one generation, a real sense of mission. That sense needs to be deeply embedded in our political consciousness. So if Obama loses the next election, we still need Republicans to be committed. If GWB can help with this, let him.
    One can still judge him to be wicked, to have unclean hands, unwashable hands, but though he is perhaps wicked, he might still do something good. Let him.
    For all those people who post day and night about how they care about more than just the Palestinians even if they’re not currently posting about these other people, this is the time to show that the good of others means more than the desire for retribution. So, yeah, Bush is deeply problematic. But if he can help, let him.

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  58. JamesL says:

    Thanks for the link Don, I guess. It is difficult to comprehend the insensitivity of Obama in bringing Bungler Bush aka Clueless George aka Uncurious George into a relief effort. Bush never headed anything that didn’t turn out to be a disaster. I don’t know what you get when you put a disaster facilitator in charge of a disaster. Probably a recommendation to bomb someone as a pretext for controlling mineral rights.
    In these times it is not abnormal to find two news stories occupying the same page, one being a excessively funded federal GWOT bureaucracy unable to purge even an 8 year old Cub Scout from a secret terrorist no-fly list, and the other where the head of Goldman Sachs “delivers testimony in which he admitted it was “improper” for his firm to make financial bets against securities it was selling to investors as safe”. It is also sadly taken for granted by most that the bureaucracy will continue to ineffectively fumble, the little boy will continue to be patted down like a criminal, and Goldman Sachs will continue to break ethical and legal laws and suffer no impediment, no re-balancing of the injustice it has created at the expense of a great many citizens. Soft or smart power cannot become effective when a moral vacuum exists in the restricted halls of the privileged.
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34855425/ns/us_news-the_new_york_times/
    http://www.sacbee.com/business/story/2460458.html#mi_rss=Business

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  59. DonS says:

    It’s not of course that there aren’t precedents for such “honarary”, fund raising gigs. But in the case of bringing Bush back on stage, it shows such incredible poor judgment, especially re his history with Haiti. I’m sure this will fuel additional divisive opinions on the subject, as a surrogate for many other things. . .

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  60. Paul Norheim says:

    Or Brzezinski if it had struck Kabul, or Wolfowitz if Baghdad, or Negroponte
    if Tegucigalpa, or…or…the list is too long.

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  61. Paul Norheim says:

    I wasn`t aware of that, Don. I agree. It`s almost
    like sending Henry Kissinger to spearhead US efforts
    if an earthquake had struck Santiago.

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  62. DonS says:

    ” . . . Barack Obama has done more for Haiti
    during the first 48 hours after the earthquake than the total efforts of
    George W. Bush after Katrina destroyed New Orleans “. . .
    Somehow I would not include tapping Bush to spearhead Haiti relief as doing more for Haiti. But if the Heritage Foundation proposes, Obama disposes. Maybe that’s a bit too cynical. Maybe it’s about thanking Bush for not being publically/i> on his case. Or maybe Obama has forgotten how reviled Bush is in the world, not the least in Haiti. I’m sure BHO has some really splendid rationale. I can hardly wait for the speech.
    http://thinkprogress.org/2010/01/14/obama-haiti-bush-relief/

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  63. JamesL says:

    Both “soft” and smart” are healthy national intentions. But neither can be effective when feckless greed is also a protected national priority. America has an unchecked, self regulated greed class where millions, hundreds of millions, or billions of dollars of personal income per annum are defended as reasonable or even insufficient. Such wealth effectively functions with no national boundaries or restraints and constitutes a class war that has no end point of satisfaction, where more is never enough and conversely, and where the casually accepted source of those dollars is all other income classes. As authors and facilitators of repeated boom and bust cycles this legalized and ensconced class now controls the direction of the nation by its ability to control media and influence voters to believe such wealth imbalances are patriotic, and to believe that the holders of such personal wealth hordes are patriotic and working for the best interests of the nation, when they are anything but.

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  64. Paul Norheim says:

    You may like him or hate him, but Barack Obama has done more for Haiti
    during the first 48 hours after the earthquake than the total efforts of
    George W. Bush after Katrina destroyed New Orleans. That`s an element of
    “change” that goes beyond the optics, and will be noticed all over the
    world.

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  65. Outraged American says:

    Seeing Haiti reminds me of the Northridge quake:there but for
    the grace of goddess & CA building codes would have been LA.
    We have to stop these insane misadventures in imperialism and
    concentrate on this country’s infrastructure among so many of
    our other problems. Whose you callin’ a banana republic now?
    There will be a huge earthquake in Cali within the next 30 years,
    guaranteed. Again, part of my major was geophysics. The San
    Andreas will go off, but other faults, like Hayward under SF are
    predicted to go off too.
    And then there are unknown faults like the one that caused
    Northridge.
    The magnitude of any of these quakes could be much larger
    than a 7.0 and CA’s building codes can only do so much.
    No matter what, the impact on the world’s economy could be
    immeasurable, given that the state of California is ranked
    usually around fifth or sixth among the world’s largest
    economies.
    UsRael will go to hell because the pack she made with the devil
    (TM Pat Robertson — Robertson’s a cutie, ain’t he? The spitting
    likeness of Christ)

    Reply

  66. Mr.Murder says:

    OAS = Org.of American States
    OAU = Org. of African unity
    …apologies…

    Reply

  67. Mr.Murder says:

    Premptive trade instead of premptive war. President John Kennedy elevated America’s profile through aid and development of other countries, ever since that time, USAID should be a priority.
    Perhaps a suggestion that could include some OAS members(Org. of African States) could also pattern future cooperative work dealing with items such as climate change response, and the development of security buffer zones to stay ahead of terrorism.
    Using greater cooperation among American/Carribean states also can fast track regional development. Done well, this can help with job creation. Has anyone looked at the impact of war deployments on the national guard and its impact on disaster response recently? Can you activate some guard members(perhaps those on a less work basis at this time) and spike some employment by combining partial units to working experienced tasks?

    Reply

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