Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

January 30, 2005

Iraqis Vote for Democracy (2)

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:58 pm

Check out the view from Iraq! The following Iraqi blogs (in English) have accounts of their writers’ personal experiences with the election. I’m just quoting some brief excerpts; read the whole posts!

Omar at Iraq the Model:

We would love to share what we did this morning with the whole world, we can’t describe the feelings we’ve been through but we’ll try to share as much as we can with you.

We woke up this morning one hour before the alarm clock was supposed to ring. As a matter of fact, we barely slept at all last night out of excitement and anxiety.

The first thing we saw this morning on our way to the voting center was a convoy of the Iraqi army vehicles patrolling the street, the soldiers were cheering the people marching towards their voting centers then one of the soldiers chanted “vote for Allawi” less than a hundred meters, the convoy stopped and the captain in charge yelled at the soldier who did that and said:

“You’re a member of the military institution and you have absolutely no right to support any political entity or interfere with the people’s choice. This is Iraq’s army, not Allawi’s.”

This was a good sign indeed and the young officer’s statement was met by applause from the people on the street.

How can I describe it!? Take my eyes and look through them my friends, you have supported the day of Iraq’s freedom and today, Iraqis have proven that they’re not going to disappoint their country or their friends.

Is there a bigger victory than this? I believe not.

Ali at Free Iraqi, who uses the tagline, “I was not living before the 9th of April and now I am, so let me speak!”

[J]ust as I care about the outcome of this election and that democracy would work in Iraq, I cared no less about voting on a personal level. This was my way to stand against those who humiliated me, my family and my friends. It was my way of saying,” You’re history and you don’t scare me anymore.” It was my way to scream in the face of all tyrants, not just Saddam and his Ba’athists and tell them, “I don’t want to be your, or anyone’s slave. You have kept me in your jail all my life but you never owned my soul.” It was my way of finally facing my fears and finding my courage and my humanity again.

I saw no one on the streets but as I got near to the voting center I started seeing people in groups heading the same way. Most of them were women. I saw a crippled man and my old neighbor and his older wife leaning on their walking sticks going to vote. An old woman cleaning her door step stopped me, “Say son, can I go and vote?” She asked after she saw many people going to vote. “Sure Khala (aunt)! Everyone can.” She thanked me and went inside apparently to change and get her IDs.

The voting center that was chosen in our district is a high school in the middle of the Neighborhood . This was the same place I went in 1996 to cast my vote in a poll asking if we wanted to have Saddam as a president for life or not. I had to go at that time. The threats for anyone who refused to take that poll were no less than the death penalty.

I’m stil[l] overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions that I don’t know what to say more. The only things I can feel so strongly now are hope, excitement, pride and a strange internal peace. I have won my battle and I’m watching the whole Iraqis winning their battle too. I’ll try to write to you later my friends.

A’ash Al Iraq, A’ashat America, A’ash Al Tahaluf. (Long live Iraq, long live America and long live the coalition)

Alaa at The Messopotamian:

I bow in respect and awe to the men and women of our people who, armed only with faith and hope are going to the polls under the very real threats of being blown to pieces. These are the real braves; not the miserable creatures of hate who are attacking one of the noblest things that has ever happened to us. Have you ever seen anything like this? Iraq will be O.K. with so many brave people, it will certainly O.K.; I can say no more just now; I am just filled with pride and moved beyond words. People are turning up not only under the present threat to polling stations but also under future threats to themselves and their families; yet they are coming, and keep coming. Behold the Iraqi people; now you know their true metal.

My condolences to the Great American people for the tragic recent losses of soldiers. The blood of Iraqis and Americans is being shed on the soil of Mesopotamia; a baptism with blood. A baptism of a lasting friendship and alliance, for many years to come, through thick and thin, we shall never forget the brave soldiers fallen while defending our freedom and future.

This is a very hurried message, while we are witnessing something quite extraordinary. I myself have voted and so did members of my family. Thank God for giving us the chance.

Iraqis Vote for Democracy

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:30 pm

Anyone who thought that the U.S. was imposing Democracy on Iraqis without their consent (and I’ve received several e-mails to that effect) should be convinced now that Iraqi people want Democracy, even in the face of all sorts of terrorist threats to kill them if they voted. I haven’t heard any results yet, but early reports show voter turnout at 60-72% — and every vote for any candidate is a vote for Democracy.

Note that that’s higher than the turnout in a typical U.S. presidential election; if the correct number is 72%, it’s much higher. And in the U.S. we normally don’t have lots of terrorists threatening to kill us for the “crime” or “heresy” of voting. According to Zarqawi, anyone who votes is an infidel, and al-Jazeera reports that bin Laden agrees.

Let’s not forget, however, the ultimate sacrifice made by 28 voters who were killed by suicide bombers at polling stations.

More at PowerLine.

No more AIDS babies

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:12 pm

Well, almost. The New York Times reports that the number of AIDS babies born in the U.S. is down 90% from the where it was in 1990. From about 2000 a year to 200 a year.

Michael Newdow, We have a job for you!

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:52 am

A man was arrested on December 17, 2004. For refusing to stand during the playing of the national anthem. On August 1, 1972. In Akola, Maharashtra, India.

The story is here.

Michael Newdow, I’m sure you’ll want to defend this guy. And not just on statute of limitations arguments.

Hat tip: Ashish’s Niti.

EU Spurns Dissidents

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:35 am

The following three items epitomize the difference in world-view between the United States and Europe. They also shows how certain European countries like the Czech Republic (part of what Donald Rumsfeld call “New Europe”) are more like America in their world-view than the elites of the EU bureacracy and the “traditional” countries of Western Europe (Rumsfeld’s “Old Europe”).

President Bush made a specific statement of support for unspecified dissidents in his inaugural address: “America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains.” And last month, James Cason, the top U.S. diplomat in Cuba put up a huge display supporting dissidents at the U.S. mission in Havana. It must have been good, because the Castro regime ordered Cason to take it down. Cason has also been holding reception and events for Cuban dissidents, designed to show support for them and call attention to Castro’s treatment of people with opinions.

On the other hand, the EU has just decided to stop inviting Cuban dissidents to their embassies. Only four EU countries objected: the Netherlands, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Three of these are “new Europe” — they know what communism is like because they lived through it.

As usual, former Czech president Vaclav Havel got it right. According to Czech radio,

Former Czech president Vaclav Havel has sharply criticised the European Union for deciding to no longer invite Cuban dissidents to receptions at EU states’ embassies in Havana. The EU has reportedly adopted this position so as to facilitate increased dialogue with the Cuban authorities. However, in an article in France’s Le Figaro newspaper Mr. Havel described the EU’s stance as “diplomatic apartheid.” He said the Union could not have found a better way of tarnishing the ideals of freedom and respect for human rights.

Hat tip: Gongol for the Havel link.

India is Improving

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:16 am

Ashish Hanwadikar reports from a recent visit to India that many practical aspects of daily life have improved substantially in the last two and a half years.

Perhaps the most interesting thing (to us health economists anyway) is that he had to get some medical treatment, and found the quality of physicians and their equipment to be on par with that in the U.S. — but the process of getting treatement was much faster than in the U.S. This is particularly interesting, because treatment in the U.S. is much faster than in most (rich) countries, which have nationalized health care and formal waiting lists for services.

Still, in the U.S. it often takes from a few days to a few weeks to get an appointment with a specialist, particularly if you want to see a particular individual. In a moderately large city in Maharashtra (Akola, 1991 population 328,000) Ashish was able to see a primary care doctor, a specialist, and get a sonogram and treatment in a single day. In the U.S., this would probably have taken a week to a month, unless the problem were considered urgent enough to get the coveted “OK, I can fit you in at the end of the day” appointment(s).

This suggests that doctors in India are working at less than full capacity, which probably means that lots of people can’t afford to see them. It could also mean there are too many doctors, but I really doubt that, since India has only one-fifth as many doctors per 100,000 population as the U.S.

Still, it is better to have a service for people who can afford it, than not to have it at all — and the rest of Ashish’s post suggests that more people can afford more things than before. If a service is affordable and easily available to the middle class, this provides increased incentives to work, save, and invest to enter the middle class — if it seems possible to do so. If something is only available to people much richer than oneself, and/or the system makes it unlikely that hard work, savings, and investment will be rewarded, then people won’t find it worth the trouble to do those things. So often in developing countries, the difference between stagnation and a virtuous circle is whether or not economic policy allows upward mobility. The issue is not just how well the poor live, but how hard or easy the system makes it to join the middle class.

This certainly speaks well of India’s economic reforms in the last 10-15 years.

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