Clearing the Fog
in the
War of Words


  logomachy--1. A dispute about words. 2. A dispute carried on in words only; a battle of words.
logomachon--1. One who argues about words. 2. A word warrior.



Tsunami Pharisees

J'accuse Ass is an irregular department. It recognizes a public accusation, complaint, insinuation, alarm, or whining notable for its arrogance, irrelevance, spite, stridency, obtuseness, or mendacity.
President Bush announced yesterday a tenfold increase in emergency aid to stricken areas of Asia, bringing the federal government's commitment to $350 million, and he said the United States would probably add more resources as the scope of what he called an "epic disaster" became clearer.

The action came after mounting criticism that Bush, who stayed at his ranch all week and spoke publicly about the disaster once, had reacted too slowly.--Phila. Inquirer 1 Jan 05
See UPDATE on private donations at the bottom of post.
At my Jesuit high school, we learned Ignatius Loyola’s prayer for generosity, which includes the line to give and not to count the cost. But some people are so eager to find fault with other’s generosity that they forget to count anything.

They are the ones baying (“Outraged”) about President Bush’s response to the tsunamis around the Indian Ocean: he didn’t express his sympathy soon enough; the US didn’t offer enough aid; the US is “stingy” compared with other countries (if you use comparisons that exclude more than half of what the US spends).

This is the carping politics of the empty gesture. Even less attractive is the assumption of wickedness, or at least moral sloth, on the part of others, in contrast to one’s own fervor.

When the first estimates of a mind-numbing 20,000 dead, soon increased to 40,00, came in, the administration made an initial commitment of $15 million. As later reports revealed even greater devastation, the commitments increased, open-endedly, to $35 million by Wednesday, and to $350 million by Saturday.

A “visibly annoyed” Colin Powell made clear (see the NYT/Inquirer story above) that the disaster area is remote and isolated, Back-of-the-Beyond-by-the-Sea. Powell said “what we have to do
is make a needs assessment and not just grasp at numbers or think we're in some kind of an auction house where every day somebody has to top someone else. . .

It's not just a matter of money; it's a matter of being able to distribute supplies.
As another article puts it, “Aid pours in, but delivering it is difficult “.

But the carpers of the self-styled reality-based community cannot grant good will to their chosen whipping boys. Bush didn’t promise aid for a disaster that killed 150,000 when the toll was 20,000, so he doesn’t care. The carpers want to claim credit for badgering him into increasing the US estimate of aid,

Do they suppose that a facile sound bite of womanly blubbering by the President would have saved a life, would have gotten so much as a clean sock to a disaster area one second sooner? As for the money, do they suppose that $350 million promised on Monday rather than Friday would have increased “pressure” on the relief “pipeline” so aid would have arrived sooner?

The word for this kind of criticism is Pharisaical. And it has a nasty, post-modern twist. The Pharisees were a privileged Jewish sect who were notorious for burdening the common people with strict interpretations of the letter of the Law without regard to the Law’s spirit. The post-modern Pharisees set exalted standards for others, also, but they make up the rules as they go along, so the bar is always raised above whatever has been done.

Like some international guardians of The Pose of the High-Toned, when post-modern Pharisees measure generosity, they ignore private contributions. Fortunately, private giving still counts for the relief of the victims.

UPDATE: Captain's Quarters is sponsoring a blogsphere World Relief Day. He has set up a link to a dedicated page at World Vision. The target date is 12 January, but donations are already rolling in.



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