Saturday, January 08, 2005

Tsunami quotes: back with a vengeance 

The outpouring of international solidarity and assistance to the victims of tsunami continues. So does outpouring of words. Strange words. Disturbing words.

I've been much castigated by some readers of my previous round-up for deeming a libertarian condemnation of foreign aid a "stupid" quote. I still think that "stupid" is a subjective judgment to which I'm entitled (just as my readers are entitled to disagree with me), but let's ditch the "stupid" tag and just say, here is another collection of strange, unfortunate, or just plain batty statement and opinion from around the world (many thanks to all the readers who suggested links):

1. Helicopters yes, hookers no: Hilmy Bakar, spokesman of Indonesia's Islamic Defender Front, which is conducting its own aid mission in the devastated areas:
"It's OK that aid from the United States is here... If they open bars, sell alcohol or open prostitution centers, then we will fight them."
Little does Bakar know that a second American aircraft carrier is now on the way to the region, bringing in field bars and demountable brothels to set up around Aceh.

2. Setting the priorities right: From a press release, United Nations, "UN Response To Tsunami Focuses On Large And Small" Saturday, 1 January 2005:
"[In Sri Lanka] UNFPA is carrying out reproductive health assessments."
The assessment will conclude that dead people can't reproduce. An international conference will be called to deal with the problem. A permanent commission will be established.

3. Media alert: In a now notorious case of "foot in the mouth" disease, CNN's Jonathan Klein boasting about his channel's preparedness to cover the disaster said that with producers and correspondents already stationed around the globe, CNN was
"able to flood the zone immediately"
CNN staff is expected to breeze in the next time a hurricane strikes.

Along the same lines, an unfortunate headline from the "Times of Malta":
"Indonesia tsunami victims hunt food, flood hospital"
And speaking of inane headlines, News Ltd discovers a previously unknown South-East Asian country:
"Tsunami devastates Dicaprio"
The United Nations is currently sending an assessment team to Beverly Hills.

4. Let them eat icecream: Greek playboy and jetsetter Taki Theodoracopulos, one of the regulars at Gstaad, Switzerland, is not happy about the arrival of a certain American celebrity:
"Poor Phuket got a tsunami, and we got Paris Hilton."
The uncharitable might wish Taki to now experience a tsunami to help better compare and contrast.

5. US bankers flood Asia: Australian conspiracy nutcase Joe Villas dares to ask the question we've all been dying to ask (or not) - "Did New York Orchestrate The Asian Tsunami?" (and he's not talking about "a butterfly flapping its wings in New York causing a hurricane in Asia" either):
"With Afghanistan and Iraq already lost, the Wall Street bankers were all desperately looking for other ways to control our world, when suddenly and very conveniently, the Sumatran Trench exploded. Trick or Treat?... It is beyond any doubt that a giant tidal wave (tsunami) smashed its way through South and South East Asia, and still had enough legs to continue all the way across the Indian Ocean to Africa, where it killed and injured a few hundred more. So the only question we must ask, is whether this tsunami was a natural or man-made catastrophe? A natural event would be horrifying enough, but if the tsunami was man-made, then we are unquestionably looking at the biggest single war crime in global history."
And if the moon was made of cheese we would be looking at the greatest pizza topping in the universe.

6. "Kill the all and let God sort out his own": Centerpiece blog doesn't seem to realize there are better ways of fighting the war on terror:
"When a story appears describing what has happened to a citizen of Sumatra, we don't know whether to cheer (another Islamofascist that will not now be able to fly to American and attack us) or to mourn (another blameless fellow human is gone)."
Forgetting for a moment that it's Indonesia's Aceh and not Saudi Arabia (with its 15 out of 19 of September 11 hijackers) which has been hit by the tsunami, thank God the war against terrorism is not in the hands of people who would "destroy the country in order to save it".

7. Wasn't like that in my family: Sheikh Fawzan Al-Fawzan, a professor at the Al-Imam University in Saudi Arabia confuses Christmas with season's holidays:
"These great tragedies and collective punishments that are wiping out villages, towns, cities, and even entire countries, are Allah's punishments of the people of these countries, even if they are Muslims.

"Some of our forefathers said that if there is usury and fornication in a certain village, Allah permits its destruction. We know that at these resorts, which unfortunately exist in Islamic and other countries in South Asia, and especially at Christmas, fornication and sexual perversion of all kinds are rampant. The fact that it happened at this particular time is a sign from Allah. It happened at Christmas, when fornicators and corrupt people from all over the world come to commit fornication and sexual perversion."
It came as a shock to me, having been brought up as Polish Roman Catholic that it was really supposed to be all about fornication and perversion. Thanks to Sheik Al Fawzan, at least I now know the true meaning of Christmas.

8. Every publicity is bad publicity: Robert Kuttner writing in the "Boston Globe" (hat tip: James Taranto) doesn't see any role for private initiative:
"The US government ranks near the bottom of tsunami aid givers when national income is measured against assistance. So President Bush, in line with his general view of privatization as panacea, is enlisting private charity to fill the gap. A parade of corporations has lined up to reap some easy publicity."
Even if true, it's called "the invisible hand", self-interest translated into public benefit. But it's a free market thing; Kuttner wouldn't understand. Somehow I don't think the victims really care - pious indignation has always been the privilege of the safe and well off.

9. This is a stick-up: Jonathan Freedland in the "Guardian" wants to force compassion:
"Today's British companies enjoy some of the lowest tax rates outside America. Now they have the best of both worlds: low tax and no guilty expectation of philanthropy. They can keep almost all their money to themselves... Maybe we ought to turn to the big companies and say: you can no longer have it both ways. Either you give as generously as we do - or we will take it off you in tax. Either way, it's time to start paying."
The theologically inclined might observe that charity, if forced, is no longer charity and certainly not a virtue.

10. Moral equivalence alert: Kurt Nimmo at The Progressive Trail:
"Imagine millions of people driving around with magnetic car ribbons declaring support for the tsunami that ravaged south and Southeast Asia, killing upward to a hundred thousand people. You’d probably think those people are sadistic mental cases in need of treatment and medication. And yet millions of Americans display 'support our troops' ribbons on their cars, even though 'our' troops are daily killing and torturing innocent Iraqis—at checkpoints, in their homes, on the street, at demonstrations, and in Bush’s gulags such as Abu Ghraib—upward to a hundred thousand of them have died to date, possibly more."
Even I am left speechless sometimes.

11. More butter, please: Egbert F. Bhatty in the "Washington Dispatch" finds the bright side of the catastrophe:
"Every dollar that goes to tsunami relief is a dollar that cannot be sent to bomb Iraq. There is no money in the national kitty. Bush has given it all away to his rich friends. So he has to make a choice: bombs for Iraq or butter for the Asian poor."
That's probably a fair arguments for more natural disasters.

12. Another artificial tsunami: John Pilger can always be relied to say something stupid, and he doesn't disappoint this time either:
"This other tsunami is worldwide, causing 24,000 deaths every day from poverty and debt and division that are the products of a supercult called neoliberalism."
In the next Pilger dispatch: North Korea - the breadbasket of the world.

13. Going for the Pulitzer: The Egyptian nationalist weekly Al-Usbu' has publishes an investigation by correspondent Mahmoud Bakri, titled "Humanity in Danger":
"Was [the earthquake] caused by American, Israeli, and Indian nuclear testing on 'the day of horror?' Why did the 'Ring of Fire' explode?... The three most recent [nuclear] tests appeared to be genuine American and Israeli preparations to act together with India to test a way to liquidate humanity."
Damn those Hindu Zionist.

14. The dumbest rhetorical question of the year: goes to Kofi Annan touring Aceh:
"You wonder where are the people? What has happened to them?"
As soon as the UN realizes what happened to all the people, I'm sure they'll be sending an assessment team. Emergency aid will follow in six months' time.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?