Fri, Apr. 21st, 2006, 01:28 pm
Recently, I was startled by some of the weird memories I have floating around my head. For example, I remember an episode of the Alvin and the Chipmunks cartoon. Somehow, they go back in time or something and George Washington is brought into the present day. I forget what all happens, but, George is a little down. He's not sure the Revolution is worth fighting for.
Alvin, who I think has not been doing much in this episode so far (as, I think, the primary trouble has been getting GW back home), tells George the fashion items that are in style and those that are not. He then proceeds to tell George, "that's what you're fighting for." Somehow, inexplicably, George is heartened by this and agrees to go back in time and fight the good fight.
Except that, when they look at a picture of him, he is wearing some twentieth century item of clothing. What the hell kind of drug trip brought this episode into existence and why, why, do I remember it? Of all the episodes?
Also, I remember an episode of the Rambo cartoon. Kids have been taken hostage and Rambo is climbing the wall of a skyscraper to come get them. One of the kids, an animated six-year-old girl, sees animated Sylvester Stallone and exclaims, "Hey!"
Animated Sly then puts a finger to his lips. The little girl then starts to do a little dance. The idiotic terrorist thinks that the animated girl said "Hey!" so that he would watch her dance. He goes back to staring off into space holding his AK-47.
Again, why do I remember this episode? I don't think I even watched animated Rambo more than once or twice. But, it's in there. And for years, Jon and I would say, "Hey!" and then dance. Years.
Fri, Apr. 21st, 2006, 09:03 am
I think the 8th season of the Simpsons is the best Simpsons season ever.
Fri, Apr. 7th, 2006, 09:18 am
In response to recent discussion I have been having with a person on Xanga, I thought I would post my beliefs about poverty. Obviously, this is an issue I am fairly passionate about, if you know me. My comments are primarily directed toward Africa, though they are also applicable to Latin America and Asia. This is the abbreviated version, but I think it will be enough to explain my position.
A) Why Africa Is Poor
There are a lot of reasons for the extreme poverty you see in places like Africa. First, there is colonialization. In the late 1800s, the European powers seized most of Africa in a land grab. They chopped up the continent based on European political lines and without regard to the cultures, languages, tribal divisions, or religions in existence at the time. Europe had a deep and, generally, negative impact on Africa. Resources were exported at discounted prices. Atrocities were committed (Belgian Congo) that have left a scar on the people of Africa. Indeed, we see some of the same acts committed in modern times. Depending on the colonial power, some development occurred in some countries. By and large, however, colonialization was always for the benefit of Europe, and the policies generally carried out that philosophy in practice. Later, Europe withdrew as the cost of occupying these territories was too expensive. Europe's exit was often abrupt and without provision for a peaceful transition to stable rule. Thus, Africa has experienced instability and a culture that gravitates toward rule through force and power.
It is difficult to discuss Africa generally, as it is such a diverse continent. However, some general observations: The mosquitoes found in Africa create a particularly powerful strain of Malaria not present anywhere else in the world. This strain of Malaria is significantly more infectious. Thus, Malaria affects a larger percentage of the population in Africa than in other parts of the world. Africa also has unstable weather conditions. Africa's weather varies more extremely than either the weather of the US or the weather of Europe. This leaves Africa vulnerable to heavy rains and droughts, which destroy crops. Finally, Africa is a continent with a lot of countries that are landlocked. Statistically, countries that lack a navigable port, and therefore, the opportunity to trade, have a lower standard of living than those with port access.
3) Subsidies and Trade Rules
One of my personal favorites. Subsidies, and Western governments give billions more dollars in subsidies than they give in foreign aid, depress the market prices for commodities. Sugar, rice, cotton, corn, beans, etc. With depressed prices, farmers can't sell enough to make a living. We also restrict market access to developing countries by charging tariffs on their goods or using quotas to limit the amount of goods that can be imported. For the past 50 or so years, the West has repeatedly pushed developing countries to open their markets to manufacturing goods, where the West has an advantage. Numerous agreements have been signed. Yet, over the same period of time, only one attempt has been made to open Western markets to agricultural goods from the developing world. That didn't happen until 1994. And most of the goals of that agreement have never been reached. The problem with all this is that, while only about 2-3% of Americans rely on farming for their livelihoods, about 50%-80% of the developing world relies on agriculture for theirs. Limiting trade in this way greatly harms the people of the developing world. It keeps them extremely poor.
4) Other issues
There are a myriad of other reasons for poverty. Those things often picked out by critics of foreign aid: heavy government regulation, corruption, lack of open markets, etc. certainly play a role. Depending on the country, they may play a substantial role. But, they do not prevent development. And, there are many countries where these factors are not much of a problem. Moreover, as I will discuss below, it is in everyone's interest to see the world develop.
B) What We Should Do
So, my solution, simply put, is a mixture of things. Wealth is partly about natural resources, but even more so about human capital. Our collective knowledge and skill. If I were in charge, I would set out a comprehensive program that would eliminate subsidies, quotas, and tariffs over a fixed amount of time, allowing for re-training for Western farmers. I would simultaneously boost Western foreign aid to at least .7 percent of GDP. Personally, I would not give any of this money to governments. Rather, I would require an independent assessment of a country's particular needs. How many schools, teachers, hospitals, doctors, power plants, etc. Then, I would hire firms to do the work directly. Build hospitals, medical schools, primary schools, etc. Build the buildings, train the workers. Overly simplistic? Yes. But, that is the general idea.
But, the money would flow from Western governments to private workers; no money in the hands of any foreign government, no matter how good the government or how low the level of corruption. I would also establish small, low interest loans for anyone in the world who wants one (there would be some obvious disqualifiers). If you want to start a business, lack of capital should not stand in the way. The goal of all this would be to strengthen the developing world, develop the economies of developing countries, and gradually reduce the foreign aid until these countries were entirely self-sufficient.
C) Why We Should Do This
So, why should we spend billions of dollars on foreign aid and open our farmers to increased competition?
1) It is the morally right thing to do. Beating someone in a fair competition in the marketplace is one thing. Beating someone because your government spends billions of dollars to help you is another. It's not fair. It's not right. And it results in death through poverty. Consequently, the morally correct thing to do is to end unfair trade practices. As for foreign aid, a relatively small tax would save thousands of lives in the developing world. A few dollars out of our pockets for their lives. Seems a simple choice to me.
2) It would benefit the West in the long run - especially America. The Marshall Plan was one of America' greatest foreign policy triumphs. At the time we executed the Marshall Plan America was revered and respected by Europe. A similar plan should now be conducted for the developing world. A nation as rich as the US can afford to give so much more than we are giving. And the world knows it. If America really gave to the developing world, you would have a whole generation of people, with increasing clout and influence, who thought America was truly committed to freedom. Secondly, in our "War on Terror" we not only need allies, which we would have more of if we devoted ourselves to foreign aid, but we need to prevent terrorism from spreading to the developing world. Africa has harbored terrorists in recent times. Often, this is because their law enforcement is not strong enough to detect and take on terrorists. Weakened states are breeding grounds for terrorists. States that are stable, and have a strong middle class, are far less likely to foster, promote, or support terrorism. Finally, imagine the developing world, literally billions of people, able to buy our goods and services. Imagine people now subsisting on $1 or $2 a day able to purchase our goods and services. In the long run, this isn't charity at all. It is the best investment we can make. Economists will tell you that the world economy isn't a zero sum game - everyone can share in the wealth. The more people who share in pie, the bigger the pie gets.
Ok, that's it. I admit it is overly-simplified; it is as succinct as I can make it. One more thing. For those who think the developing world is inept. The developing world is growing. It is gaining more affluence. In fact, if you look at the entire history of human development, Africa and the developing world is growing at a very good rate. The question is do we wait for the natural development, or do we step in and use our resources to help expedite the process? My opinion is, clearly, that we should not wait. With great power comes great responsibility. We have great power. Each one of us, as an America citizen, has the power to ask our government to use its great power responsibly.
I know not everyone is as interested in this issue as I am. I understand that. I'm not asking everyone to go get signatures. But, I am asking you, if your compassion is not bounded by political borders; if you think that a world with so much wealth should not have children starving or dying of diseases that could be prevented with a quarter; if you think "All You Need Is Love;" sign the One Campaign. And support the effort to reduce extreme poverty when the opportunity arises.
Thu, Apr. 6th, 2006, 08:57 am
|At times you are self-centered
but you have many friends.
You love many women, but the right
woman could get you to settle down.