New Years Greetings From Bintan

by John Holbo on January 2, 2005

Belle and I just got back from a weekend on Bintan (A little getaway we had planned before all this happened.) It was a bit strange to be in a completely disaster-free corner of a disaster-stricken country. Tourists. If you didn’t turn on the news you wouldn’t have had a clue anything unusual was going on. It rained. I reread Hermann Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game, about which I am meaning to post something. Belle has started sewing this quilt thingy. (You can ask her about it.) The Filipino band at the New Years party was pretty good. They played “Achy Breaky Heart”, etc. I am always amazed to see all the latest movies for sale right there in the lobby of the hotel. I do mean ‘latest’: “National Treasure” on DVD. “The Incredibles” was playing on the big screen TV in the hotel pub. Not a very good quality pirate version, but watchable.

After three days, my Amazon fundraiser has worked modestly. Tomorrow I’m writing a $250 check to the Singapore Red Cross. (That’s $100 from me, $150 from you, guestimating a bit. Special thanks to the proud owner of a new and expensive camera lens.) Please feel free to continue buying. If there is something you were going to buy anyway, it makes good sense to do so in a way that helps.

I have seen the Red Cross praised as exemplary and criticized as burdened with inefficient, overpaid bureaucrats. (No doubt there are good discussions going on out there about this very issue. I just haven’t been reading the blogs for a few days.) I figure the Singaporean branch is as likely as any to have useful local knowledge and connections. Not to mention we live here. Feel free to critique my choice of charities, as I haven’t signed the check yet.

UPDATE: Thanks, whoever ordered four spanking new LaCie terabyte drives! (I’m assuming one person bought all four. What do you need that space for, mystery reader?) Thanks also to the new owners of various moderately pricey DVD collections. I had a busy day. By the time I actually wrote the check to the Singapore Red Cross tonight it was for S$850.00 (US $518.) I’m sort of hoping at this rate I can write another check that big by Feb 1. Give generously. Buy generously.

Democracy and natural disaster

by Chris Bertram on January 2, 2005

Nick Cohen has “a very good column in today’s Observer”:,6903,1382153,00.html about the way in which natural disasters play very differently depending on whether or not governments are genuinely responsive to their peoples via democratic institutions. There’s much to think about in what he writes. He rightly gives due credit to Amartya Sen for this key insight and excoriates Mao Zedong — who inexplicably still continues to be admired in some quarters — as the vicious Stalinist butcher that he was.