The Donkey Is Sleeping Today

Let Them Have Wi-Fi

In Bill Clinton, Haiti, Politics on July 13, 2010 at 11:46 am

Did he really say that?

To mark the 6 month anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, the latest edition of Esquire hits newsstands this week featuring the new, self-proclaimed Haitian CEO, Bill Clinton, in full puffery. Doing his best impersonation of an infamous Queen of France, the interview has a couple lines that have a particular je na se qua that shouldn’t be missed:

“I want them (Haitians, e.d.) to consider all their big alternatives. I want them to consider becoming a wireless country, consider becoming an energy-independent country. I want them to close their landfills, recycle everything, and use the rest for energy. Wouldn’t it be great if they became the first wireless nation in the world? They could, I’m telling you, they really could.”

Now, I’m a sucker for a good “send a man to the moon” speech. I know I’m not the only one who desperately wanted Obama’s Oval Office speech last month on the BP Oil Spill and the future of clean energy to orbit the sun. (Unfortunately, that flight was grounded.) But this quote seems like an outtake from “Capricorn Two: Electric Boogaloo.”

Haiti: the first wireless nation? I’ve recently put together a top-10 list of things I’d really like Haiti to have this decade and put “first wireless nation” in the 11,349th spot, just below winning an Olympic gold medal in curling.

We’re talking about the poorest country in the Western hemisphere before the most devastating earthquake in a generation.

Instead of being able to surf PerezHilton with a venti chai latte at the Port-au-Prince Starbucks, I think the people living in squalor for six months (and most of them long before that) would like potable water. And, oh I don’t know, food. Frankly, this makes Monsanto’s donation of maybe-it-is-or-maybe-it-isn’t genetically modified terminator seed look borderline honorable. (It isn’t. They’re evil.)

But since we’re doing the Haitians thinking for them – and thinking “big” – let’s shoot for the moon and try to do something completely insane. Let’s clean up the shit that fell down first. We have some data on this. The timetable to accomplish rubble-removal from Port-au-Prince alone is estimated at two and a half years minimum if shifts are run 24-hours a day, 7-days a week.

Fuck that. Way too hard. Let’s just get Verizon in here.

I don’t want to be too cynical because going wireless does have it’s advantages. Perhaps better communication will help Haitian relief organizations actually get the money promised to them. Maybe. Hold on, this could take a while – the router is down. According to Isabel Macdonald on Huffington Post yesterday, of the $5.3 billion dollars that were pledged for Haiti’s reconstruction, the percentage that has been paid is 1.9%. The rest of her eye-opening article is here.

So, less than 2% is in the kitty, and the new CEO is talking about Haiti becoming energy-independent?

Staring two and a half years of cleanup (at minimum) in the face and he’s talking about closing landfills?

They have 1.5 million homeless, and it’s time to go solar? Great idea, but let’s address that after they have roofs to put the panels on.

But his heart is in the right place, if the right place for one’s heart to be is in beating other countries to the profiteering smorgasbord.

I know. You think I’m being harsh, and you’re correct. I’m being way too hard on Marie Antoinette. According to the best-selling English-language biographer, Lady Antonia Frasier (2002), who wrote Marie Antoinette: The Journey, the queen didn’t say the line she is infamous for:

“[Let them eat cake] was said 100 years before her by Marie-Therese, the wife of Louis XIV. It was a callous and ignorant statement and she, Marie Antoinette, was neither.”

But Bill did say this. It’s in this week’s Esquire. And it is both callous and ignorant.

– SH

7/14 UPDATE: I just found this on the Washington Post here (emphasis mine):

In the aftermath of Haiti’s killer earthquake in January, U.S. officials estimated that 18 percent of Haiti’s civil servants had died.

It turns out the toll is much worse.

As Haitians marked the quake’s six-month anniversary Monday, a State Department official said the latest figures showed “upwards of 30%” of the country’s government workers had perished. That is complicating efforts to get the bureaucracy up and running again.

“They have lost a lot of people,” Cheryl Mills, chief of staff for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, told reporters. She said the United States was loaning technical experts to Haiti to help out, and donors were establishing “coordination centers” in Haitian ministries to train workers.

But rebuilding the government, she said, would be a “long haul.”

The words speak for themselves.

7/15 UPDATE: On the 2% of money pledged to Haiti that has actually been delivered upon, CNN reports this morning that:

The United States pledged $1.15 billion. It has paid nothing, with the money tied up in the congressional appropriations process.

Never fear. The CEO is here:

“I’m going to call all those governments and say, the ones who said they’ll give money to support the Haitian government, I want to try to get them to give the money, and I’m trying to get the others to give me a schedule for when they’ll release it,” Clinton told CNN’s Anderson Cooper earlier this week.

Before you pick up the phone and arm-twist Brazil, Norway, Estonia and Australia, you should start with the US Congress.

  1. Don’t forget to send VP Cheney a get well card. He is recovering in an ICU in ole fairfax virginny with a new LVAD that he needed. How would Dubya survive on a daily basis without the Dick to guide him?

    Poor Slick Willy – no Hilliary or Monica to comfort him on his many missions. Barack wants him to stump for the party in Ar-matey-kansas to keep Blanche from getting the boot. Maybe Al Gore can help with the internet installation in Haiti – and give Bill a little breather from the hi-tech hi-jinks? Al was the inventor of the Information Superhighway – the one downside is that Haiti may become roadkill on that highway. ouch.

    Take care and keep bloggin’ while Mugabe is floggin’.

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