Friday, June 30

Helping Mexico deal with their government corruption: no rose garden anywhere

[Re June 27 post Corruption in Mexican politics]
. . . How did Mexico's government get so corrupt, how has it stayed so corrupt, and how can America change it while still respecting Mexico's sovereignty?

I've always wondered why Mexicans allowed the rampant political corruption I always hear about - much like the government of the city of Chicago, IL is (supposedly) perpetually corrupt.
Art Lueck

Dear Mr. Lueck:
Thank you for your questions, which allow me to dredge up a few Pundita Golden Oldie essays and expound on themes near to my heart. As we head for the July 4th holiday I can’t think of a more fitting time to discuss the matters at hand.

More than a year ago Dave Schuler forwarded me the substance of an interchange that took place years ago between Suharto and Paul Wolfowitz. After hearing Wolfowitz’s complaints about endemic corruption in Indonesia's government, Suharto replied that what seemed to be corruption to Westerners was taking care of family to the Indonesians.

Of course that excuse is a crock -- Indonesia's bureaucrats were Westernized enough to skin the World Bank for uncounted millions -- so my reply to Dave was that I would do a post about the comment "when my blood pressure returns to normal."

So here we are today, with Pundia's blood pressure still elevated every time I recall Suharto's comment. This said, when looking at countries where paying graft is the only way to get anything done with relation to public works, it helps to think in pre-democracy terms. "Anything" points to the difference between Chicago-style corruption and government in countries such as Mexico, Indonesia, Russia and India. You don't have to bribe a Chicago official (plus pay the license fee) to get a driver's license in Chicago. But in countries such as Mexico, there is what is called 'vertical' corruption -- graft permeating the entire government structure from the 'federal' down to the local level, and in every department of government.

When Americans ask how corruption could be verticalized in a government that is even nominally democratic, we need to look at pre-democracy forms of government in those countries. I took a swipe at the issue in a 2004 blog titled To the Ramparts fellow billionaires! Save Russian democracy!
And Russia has something called verticalization of corruption. That kind of corruption is distinct from the corruption represented by the financial clout of the Oligarchs, although both kinds of corruption intersect. But the Oligarchs had so much power when Putin came into office that it's misleading to think of it as corruption. It was an oligarchic government, which formed the woof of the tapestry of governments in Eurasia. That government is not gone yet, and the remnants are fighting tooth and nail to retain power.
Mexico's history of government is more patriarchal than oligarchic, but the same concept applies: you're not engaging in graft, you're paying tribute to dignitaries who have complete control over dispensation of favors toward you. In places such as India (and Iran, if I am not mistaken) the system is simply called 'baksheesh.' Whatever name it goes by, it is a time-honored protocol of paying tribute to the ruler you petition for help.

Why cling to the protocol in a democratic nation, which is ruled by laws and not men? Because if democracy crashes, you'd best stay on the good side of powerful clans, which will snatch the crown and scepter out of chaos.

It's pulling teeth to overcome that mindset, even for those who are well-informed about the situation. Why is it so hard? Because the weight of history is on the side of that mindset, and so -- as happened in Sicily when the villagers contemplated fighting the Mafia bosses -- it takes realizing that uncertainty is the handmaiden to genuine democracy. That much uncertainty is a hard thing for peoples who can only remember depending on the governing decisions of clan patriarchs, kings and emperors to give them the illusion of certainty.

So while it certainly takes courage to protest in the streets against a repressive regime and cast one's vote in opposition to hired goons, it takes another kind of courage to live with the thought that if City Hall screws up in a democracy the buck stops at your desk.

I believe that once newly democratized peoples get very clear on just how much work a democracy entails, many prefer the tradeoffs to freedom under authoritarian government.

However, the wheel has turned for humanity. Now there are just too damn many of us clamoring for basics such as decent public education, functioning highway systems, and safe drinking water. And only a tiny minority among us can afford to pay baksheesh for every little thing that needs to be done in a modern society.

So that is enlightenment at the point of a gun: democracy is no longer a choice. Democratic government is the only way to accomplish the galactic-sized task of accommodating the basic living needs of megapopulations.

That is the stance we take in Punditaland, at any rate. I leave it to others to defend democracy in moral terms. I say there is no way to get good government in a modern, heavily populated, highly complex society unless the governing decision-making is spread among a majority of the adult population. Dependence on oligarchs and patriarchs to haul the burden of decision-making for us is a luxury the human race can no longer afford.

The most powerful counterargument is that the world's poorest cannot afford the time it takes to participate in even a representative democracy, so they must continue to accept the tradeoff of authoritarian government -- even though it's a suicidal decision.

I set off a small firestorm of protest when I made that point in Democracy Stage Show Kit. The essay’s critics were Westerners who clearly were not very familiar with the issues for global development and aid; one pointed out that the early American settlers were also greatly overworked but still found time to engage in participatory government in their region.

True, but the settlers did not have to walk 15 miles a day every day through civil war carrying just enough firewood on their head to cook the day's meal. There is no question that time management is a huge factor in a people's ability to sustain their participation in a democracy -- as any American carrying two jobs and commuting 20 miles a day through gridlock can attest.

The counter- counterargument was made by Muammar al-Gaddafi, of all people, who pointed out that democracy is not a Western invention and that it's basically the people in a tribe sitting around talking and making group decisions.

That is why Pundita was shocked speechless -- a very rare occurrence -- when I read that Bill Gates had sneered at the work to develop a $100 laptop computer for Third World peoples. He said that people wouldn't want to work with such a small computer screen. Has this man never heard of a Blackberry?

Third World peoples are already working on tiny screens as soon as they can get their hands on a cell phone. They’re text messaging in order to do business and discuss problems in their region.

Low wattage talk radio stations, firing up the cell phones -- by any which way that people in the harshest parts of the world can participate in the government, that is where US aid can do exponential good.

But now we arrive at the brass tacks of your questions because only a small number among Mexico’s population faces the kind of development problems that are rife in say, regions of sub-Saharan Africa. Whatever the pre-democratic model for Mexico government, the stage show that has passed for democracy in Mexico is propped not by ruling families but by something called crony capitalism -- and in Mexico’s case, that brand of capitalism has been promoted largely by the US government and the large US companies that lobby them.

Yet if non-democratic government can no longer be considered a time-saver, crony capitalism is an absolute albatross. Modern society can no longer support crony capitalism, which, for starters, created entrenched anti-Americanism in many parts of the globe and worked at every turn against American democratic ideals. It has done this by propping up more corrupt elites than you can shake a stick at. That is certainly the case for Mexico.

Crony capitalism will be the topic of my next blog but for now the term is the polite way that development professionals refer to neocolonialism. The problem for Americans is that if we pressure our government into suspending the practice as much as possible, another government – China, EU, etc. -- will be happy to take up the slack in Mexico and elsewhere.

The best I can say is that President Bush never promised the world a rose garden; all he said was that this is going to be liberty’s century and that we’d have to engage in a sustained struggle to bring it about.

Either we recognize that genuine democracy is the best security policy for the US or we don’t. We need to face that some Americans are not ready for the realization because -- in the short term – genuine democracy in the up-and-coming nations can work against increasingly globalized American jobs, companies, and investments.

To gain a little sympathy or at least understanding for this viewpoint: Are you willing to have your penion fund yank investment in Starbucks because the company does business in Saudi Arabia -- a country that treats women like brain-damaged children?

If you're a newspaper editor, are you willing to have one of your employees spend the rest of his life in a China jail if you push hard for stories that greatly embarrass China's ruling party?

And what about Mexico? If the US government fights crony capitalism there, can they deal with the flack if Mexico re-channels the bulk of their oil sales to China and the EU?

There is no easy answer – and the answers get harder when posed for less advanced countries. Years ago, during South Africa’s apartheid regime, a man with ties to the highest level of India’s government was asked to advise on whether India should yank their support for the regime. He bumped the question to me.

Pointing to a gruesome BBC TV report on tribal bloodshed in South Africa, he asked, “Do you really think these people are ready for democracy?”

I remember closing my eyes, closing out the images of butchered humans, but images of equally horrific civil strife in other heavily tribalized parts of the world rose before my mind’s eye. Yet there was no agony of indecision. It was as if I’d had my answer ready for ten thousand years.

I snapped, “We’ll never know whether they’re ready, will we, unless they’re given the chance.”

Many, many times since I have anguished over my reply. After seeing what happened in post-apartheid South Africa, I thought, ‘There must have been some way to have done the transition more easily.’

Then, no. Today, yes; now there are ways that First World governments could have helped the new government avert the worst. But the ways emerged just because so much horror ensued in the wake of such painful transitions.

There is simply no way to bring about liberty’s century without almost everybody getting hurt, one way or another. And the longer governments resist democratic reforms, the rougher the transition has been -- even with intervention by the First World governments.

Right now, the best way Americans can help the Mexicans is to first help ourselves by getting educated about the worst effects of Americans practicing crony capitalism in Mexico. Then we can set up a howl about the practice and enlist the aid of the many American businesspeople who look with distaste at that brand of capitalism.

The second way is to do whatever we can to support genuine pro-democracy organizations connected with Mexico that ask for Americans for help. (‘Genuine’ meaning organizations that are not a front for American corporate interests.)

Thirdly, we can breathe down the neck of USAID and State Department officials and World Bank project and program managers. And we can lean on US congressionals who sit on foreign relations committees.

State, USAID and the World Bank’s president are very clear on the need to put verticalized corruption out of business the world over. Against this are American corporate officers who ask, “Are you nuts or just born without a brain? How’re we supposed to compete in that country without making payoffs to officials?”

So here’s a tip: The more support Paul Wolfowitz receives from the general public for his anti-corruption drive, the more progress he can make at the Bank in that area.

The same holds true for giving support to crusading congressionals on both sides of the political aisle. The more well-reasoned arguments they receive from the public, the easier it is for them to fight for legislation that supports pro-democracy programs in the other parts of the world. (Just make sure the congressionals are not huffing and puffing on behalf of a foreign or US lobbying organization.)

Fourth, Americans who want to help in Mexico need more education on the nuts and bolts of democracy – how it works in practice and how to develop it in a country that doesn’t have our mature legislative infrastructure in place.

To paraphrase an Ayn Rand quote, before we can help others make democracy work, we need to learn just exactly how it works. I think many educated Mexicans leave Americans in the dust when it comes to understanding the technical issues, just because they are so involved in the process of making democracy work.

Imagine someone handed you a few million dollars and said, “Go to Mexico and help those people get more democracy.”

Just exactly how would you go about it? If you have workable ideas by all means send them to the World Bank, USAID or your favorite congressionals.

And speaking of education -- before we growl at USAID, State and the World Bank, we need to be informed about what they’re already doing to foster democracy in Mexico.

I tell you nothing is more embarrassing than to dash off an outraged email to USAID or the World Bank then receive a smug reply directing the outraged citizen to the programs they’ve already gotten underway.

Fifth, we can keep tabs on companies that work with USAID and the Bank to carry out technical assistance programs. Write them letters and take a general interest in their ideas and how the TA projects are coming along. Such companies are also a good place to find contacts in Mexico that might be interested in receiving help from individual Americans. One place to start is by reading about the contract that Casals and Associates received from USAID
Strengthening Democracy and Governance in Mexico
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission to Mexico awarded C&A a $22.5 million contract to assist Mexico in strengthening democracy and governance. The five-year award folds together several smaller USAID/Mexico democracy and governance contracts, including Project Atlatl, a two-year transparency and anti-corruption contract C&A was awarded in June 2001.

Under the new contract, C&A’s technical assistance to Mexico is focusing on enhancing public management and service delivery; improving institutional frameworks; developing incentives to increase public revenues; enhancing intra-government and citizen oversight; promoting participatory and responsive political processes to address policy priorities; and adopting state-of-the-art financial-management procedures to improve government performance and increase transparency and accountability.

A Regional Forum on Good Government, bringing together more than 250 Mexican government officials from 24 Mexican states and delegates from 11 countries in Central America and the Caribbean, was one of the project’s recent successes.
This mention of C&A should not be considered an endorsement. Pundita has no connection whatsoever with the website, the company or any of the associates and I won’t vouch for the company’s work. However, the website helps educate Americans who don’t work in technical assistance fields connected with global development.

Finally, we can muster more humility and patience than Americans are known for. Every time I become frustrated with the situation in Mexico I force myself to remember New Orleans two days after Hurricane Katrina struck.

Pundita was so shocked that I yelled at the TV screen, “Why do I bother finding examples in Russia and India? We’ve got the 14th century right here in the USA!”

Yes indeed; right here in America was oligarchic government and the feudal serf mentality –- the effects of which exposed for the world to see on satellite TV. I was so ashamed for my country that I wanted to crawl under the couch.

Yet the shame is money in the bank while trying to help people in other countries deal with their remnants of earlier centuries. It helps to quote liberally from America’s rocky history so that the people know we’ve been there, done that too.

Tuesday, June 27

Corruption in Mexican politics

"Millions of poor Mexicans have been threatened with exclusion from health care and social assistance programs if they do not vote for various [political] candidates ... Others, mostly in rural areas, have been given cash payoffs of $40 to $60 for their votes, a tidy sum in a country where the poorest families subsist on less than $4 a day," writes Manuel Roig-Franzia in yesterday’s Washington Post ( Dirty Politics 'Ingrained' in Mexico)

Roig-Franzia reports that coercion is so pervasive in Mexican politics that it could swing the outcome of the July 2 election. Yet the article also cites informed opinion that corruption is slowly being rolled back in Mexico; many Mexicans are fighting hard for genuine democratic elections and they intend to keep up the fight.

One of the Mexicans interviewed by Roig-Franzia observed, "In a democracy you have to fight for democracy every day."

That Mexican gets it; why don’t more Americans get it with regard to their southern neighbor?

Pundita believes that the most effective solution to illegal Mexican immigration is for the US government to use all available means to encourage genuine democracy in Mexico. That’s because I am looking at what is best for Mexico and for America’s long-term interests. Yet too many Americans are only concerned about obtaining dirt-cheap labor. So they throw their energy into debates about which immigration bill is ‘fairest’ for Mexicans.

Hello, what’s fairest is that Mexicans live in a prosperous democratic nation -- one that doesn’t have to send its citizens to perform menial labor in another country for coolie wages. But Mexico can’t prosper until grossly corrupt government and election practices have been stopped.

Much of the battle simply revolves around getting information to more Mexicans about how corruption works against their best interests. So I’d like to see more of America’s concerned citizens do the right thing, the fair thing, by channeling their concern for Mexico’s downtrodden into programs that are actually best for Mexicans. That’s what it means to be good neighbor.

Monday, June 26

Don't be shy

Al Kamen's In the Loop reports today that DOS has launched a new feature called Ask the Ambassador. You can now put questions directly to ambassadors around the the world via State's Ask the State Department webpage.

The site doesn't mention how frequently ambassadors will be available for a Q&A session, and it doesn't seem you get to pick the ambassador you'd like to question.

But to get the ball rolling, William R. Timken, Jr., former head of a family run roller-bearing company and "Bush campaign mega-contributor" and ambassador to Germany is fielding questions from the public.

Maybe some good opening questions for Mr. Timken are whether he speaks German; how he got to be an honorary citizen of Colmar, France; and if he has any previous foreign service work that would qualify him for a sensitive diplomatic post.

Sunday, June 25

North Korea and the zen of interpreting satellite photo images

Pundita has a long-standing tradition of paying little attention to the news during the month running up to the G8 summit. That's because most international headlines during that period fall into the category of Mau-Mauing the G8.

I mention this quirk of mine because I assumed from the size of the diplomatic flap that North Korea had announced they were going to test launch a long-range missile. Finally I decided to actually read the news reports.

It turns out North Korea's government has said nothing, according to a news item in today's Washington Post.
". . . the government in Pyongyang has given no hint whether it will fire a missile," said Jane Coombs, New Zealand's ambassador to the Koreas, who met with top North Korean officials.

"They did not confirm that such a test was imminent ... nor did they deny that such a test was imminent," Coombs said Saturday in Beijing after a four-day trip to Pyongyang.
Meanwhile, according to the same article:
"Intelligence reports say fuel tanks have been seen around a missile at the North's launch site on the northeastern coast, but officials say it is difficult to determine from satellite photos if the rocket is actually being fueled."
Readers who recall last summer at this blog might join me in feeling a China Mystery Pig Disease moment coming on. So all we've got by way of hard evidence of a missile launch is that satellite images show something going on in North Korea around a missile site.

And by interesting coincidence, what might be fuel trucks were hauled to the missile site -- in full view of the spy satellites -- during the runup to the G8 Summit.

If I were Kim Jong-il, I'd want my issues to be dominating the summit, not dumb stuff like African debt relief, squabbles with Russia about energy, and the saber rattling toward Iran.

No, if I were Kimmie my major issue would be trying to convince the US that I need some protection, if I am going to act like a state leader and not the governor of a province in China.

In any case, an implied or real threat of a North Korea long-range test missile launch would be a shot across Japan's bow. And it would be a warning from China to the US not to keep encouraging Japan to take up nuclear arms.

But Pundita prefers not to meditate on the meaning of unclear satellite photo images. I prefer to focus on clear, unequivocal threats to US national security, such as the US Department of State.

Speaking of which, did you see Richard Perle's rag on State in The Washington Post Outlook section today? Here's one Perle salvo from the piece titled Why Did Bush Blink on Iran? (Ask Condi):
"Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) tried two days ago to pass the Iran Freedom Support Act, which would have increased the administration's too-little-too-late support for democracy and human rights in Iran. But the State Department opposed it, arguing that it "runs counter to our efforts. . .it would limit our diplomatic flexibility."*
Say, I have an idea. Why not give State their own patch of land; let them start their own country somewhere, like on the dark side of Pluto?

* For those who have been residing in a cave, Perle is an American Enterprise Institute Fellow and former assistant secretary of defense in the Ronald Reagan adminstration.

Saturday, June 24

On the importance of never fully growing up

Someone just sent me this beautifully written piece by John Batchelor, which was published in last week's New York Sun newspaper (subscription only). The writing reminds me that it's not only American history John teaches on his radio show.

Pundita is a very grownup person, which means I am encrusted with cynicism. Yet sometimes I muster a grain of compassion for the young at heart, who tend to rail at homicide on a grand scale. The objective answer to John's angry question is that of course nothing has changed since World War One; it can't change because rationality and moral behavior are a never-ending process, not a sum.

But to toss a crumb of kindness, we're going to muddle through this century somehow, and the next and next.... As to how we're going to do this, in the same way humanity has gotten as far as we have: the genuinely tenacious ones among us never quit trying.
John Batchelor puts the World Cup in context

Observing these weeks of passion at the World Cup Championship in the German Republic is both a pleasure and a challenge.

The poet reminds us, "What was, is now."

When I read the exuberance of the cup wags who assure us that England is doomed, that Germany has cast aside its dogged dullness for a street game, that France is aged and Mexico is fresh and Brazil is magical and Italy is a starlet, I stare the harder and see these same judgments redirected nine decades from the green pitches of Germany to the forever haunted Flanders fields of Belgium.

It was the spring of 1915, and the British Empire and German Empire were digging in on the soggy farmland outside of the provincial town of Ypres. The war had ignited the previous summer amid charges of treachery and conspiracy between royal families who had spent the previous century kissing up to each other. The bloodletting of the early contest around Paris and in East Prussia had left both sides short of professionals and firepower, and now was the springtime of reinforcements.

The English called upon their colonials from South Asia, the South Pacific, the New World and Africa; and they were abetted by the polyglot French, Italian and Russian Empires. Meanwhile the Kaiser's staff drew upon the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the vast Ottoman Empire. Truly it was a world united by homicide. By late April a rainbow of hands was at work constructing the rudimentary trench lines from the North Sea. Near Ypres, the 1/5 battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment, West Riding Division, hacked into the Argile de Flandres -- the impervious Flanders clay that caused the ridge-rippled terrain to turn into liquid mud in the rains. And
yet the spirits of the men who were actually under enemy fire remained strangely cocky and even World Cup jaunty.

"It is very exciting sport shooting at the Germans," wrote Company C to the folks back home at Barnsley, "but not very interesting when their snipers, who are deadly shots, send bullets whistling past our heads in rapid succession."

Most striking about this report is that it was written within days of the first-ever use of poison gas in a world war. On April 22, German artillery opposite Ypres fired 5730 cylinders of green-yellow chlorine gas that became a blue-white fog as it wafted westward over fire trenches where the unprotected French territorials fled in panic, vomiting and drowning in the discharge of their lungs. The Germans poured through and flanked the Canadian Division by nightfall. Irrationally brave, the English and Canadian regiments used rags soaked in urine as masks and counterattacked to hold the line.

The weapon of choice in the 20th century, WMD, changed nothing. Two years later, the frontlines were less than two kilometers away. The Flanders fields had been transformed by guns, gas, and blood into a planet of flooded craters and mud that moved with the vermin feeding on the remains.

And yet after the destruction of an entire generation of schoolboys, neither side had gained any advantage from Ypres to the Somme to Verdun --a worldwide scoreless draw that darkened the century.

Today, what presses me about the scenes of ecstatic Europeans and Asians and Africans and South Americans in the German stadiums is that these are the great-grandchildren of the men who survived Flanders fields and yet there is no guarantee anywhere in their faces that lessons have been learned. What gamely poured into the trenches now chants vulgarities as it pours into the stands. What sliced up the world with alliances now entangles it with associations and coalitions. The superstition, cultishness, sadism, and blind faith in revenge of the trenches have not vanished. Are they in hiding?

Where? At Baghdad? At Darfur? At Ituri? At Pyongyang?

"What was, is now."

If you shrug and say, it can't happen here, then you have already forgotten how heartbreakingly fast the glorious confidence of European civilization in 1914 was crushed into Siegfried Sassoon's awful epitaph of the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917 that was named for the tiny Valley of the Passion in Flanders, Passchendaele.

"I died in Hell. (They called it Passchendaele.)"

SWIFT justice

"Dear Pundita:
Does SWIFT fall within your area of expertise? The oddest things make front page news these days.
Dave Schuler"
The Glittering Eye

Dear Dave:
Dan Riehl at Riehl World View has links to interesting opinion on the SWIFT controversy and the ACLU stand with regard to laws specifically related to US national security issues.

For now I've sworn off reporting on GWOT issues so I won't add my comments.

However, Pundita notes while rolling on the floor with laughter that there are uses for SWIFT surveillance other than fighting terrorists. Give us a moment to wipe the mirth from our eyes and clamber back on our chair....

The uses include catching US companies creating undocumented offshore shell corporations, international crime syndicates doing money laundering, and rogue regimes purchasing stuff for nukes.

Yes indeed, it’s not only the terrorists and the ACLU who are huffy about US surveillance of SWIFT.

The controversy is part of the wider picture about the limits of globalization and democracy. So I dunno, Dave; it’s a question for the majority of US voters. What's certain is that when it comes to globalized money laundering the bad guys are always way ahead of the good guys. The question is how much civil liberty the citizen in a democracy is willing to sacrifice in order to level the playing field.

With regard to the odd headlines – I think they’ve been terribly odd since Bush first signaled the US intention to invade Iraq. Since 2002 much GWOT-related reporting has really been a window on the Beltway Wars: factions at State going after factions at the Pentagon, factions at CIA trying to run Bush out of the White House and run Rumsfeld out of the Pentagon, factions at the Pentagon going after State, factions at the DoD fighting with other DoD factions and trying to run Rummy out of the Pentagon. And everybody doing the CYA jig.

Maybe the Dewey Decimal System should be expanded to include a “CIA-State-Pentagon CYA” category.

That would be a big help to historians digging through the mountains of "We hate to tell you this" books published in the decade following 9/11.

Friday, June 23

An incredible ride

Well, I guess we're coming up on that time of year again: steeling myself for John Batchelor to go on summer vacation. No one deserves a vacation more, and he gets fine people to sub for him. I’m remembering Trooper Monica (Crowley) and Guy in Truck (Eric Shawn) sitting in, and last year the redoubtable ‘Chief Inspector’ John Terrett. And Larry Kudlow, who was still recovering from hip surgery during his week of subbing.

But I look back with nostalgia to a time when John simply ran repeats of some radio shows while he was away. And what shows they were. I think I probably speak for many Americans when I observe that I learned and rediscovered much about American history from John Batchelor segments.

And I don’t know how I would have managed to stay immersed in the War on Terror if not for John’s show. There are so many convergent situations, so many branches of the war, and so much bad news in the headlines that I think I would have tuned out after a year of it.

None of that ever fazed John Batchelor and his roster of regular guests. He turned war reporting and analysis into an incredible ride. He pointed out what was important and what was chaff and wrested order out of the chaos of conflicting reports and propaganda. The ride took the listeners to a hilltop and showed us the terrain below, in the way a general and his aides took to the highest ground in olden days to watch the battle unfold.

Bon voyage, John Batchelor – and thanks for your radio show!

Wednesday, June 21

Catching Up

After being greatly out of touch with the blogosphere for almost half a year I have a lot of catching up to do!

Readers who have been with this blog for a time might remember that Pundita is a huge fan of Dave Schuler’s Samoyeds. For those who share my infatuation there is a beautiful picture of Tally strutting her stuff for a competition.

Also from visiting The Glittering Eye I found that Dymphna at Gates of Vienna decided to take a look at UNICEF’s Day of the African Child. What she sees makes a good companion piece to the Michael Duffy book review of William Easterly’s The White Man’s Burden (See Pundita Monday entry.)

But the reason I visited GE was to catch up on Dave’s views on immigration at the US southern border. He's written a lot since my last visit, so that will be my weekend blog reading. I’ll be starting with Assessing the threat at our border and following the links to other essays on the topic.

Over at another eclectic blog, Riehl World View, I’m learning about the
contradictions surrounding Ron Suskind’s The One Percent Solution, which is getting a lot of media buzz. There’s just something about the way Dan Riehl puts things that often elicits a bitter laugh from me. Dan's look at Suskind is another one of those essays.

After laying out Suskind’s portrayal of Abu Zubaydah as a moron incapable of hatching a terrorist plot, Dan pulls up other sets of data that call into question the portrayal. Suskind’s target, it seems, is not Zubaydah or al Qaeda but the Bush administration.

Speaking of al Qaeda, one of the decisions I made when returning to the blogosphere was that Pundita would no longer file occasional reports on the war. That was a hard decision because I want to show my continued support for GWOT and the Iraq Campaign. But for now, the GWOT blogs/websites I list on blogroll will have to suffice.

Pundita notes that Dan Riehl and Dave Schuler’s blogs are listed on the blogroll under the Eclectic category, but both also do useful analysis on war-related news and Dan snaps up war articles that might not get much play in the MSM.

I should also note that although I’ve listed Gates of Vienna blog under GWOT, the above link shows that the blog deals with other topics as well.

Now for some good news: Moscow-based blogger and UPS reporter Peter Lavelle has become a TV star! Pundita readers will recall that Peter is one of the winners of Pundita’s 2005 Weblog Awards (for Russia analysis). Peter wrote in May about the launching of his new show:
[…]IMHO (In my humble opinion) will start airing this weekend at Russia Today television. It is slated as a weekly program. I hope readers will drop by to catch the show - running Sunday during the second half hour of each hour.

The station's website is being updated [in May], but the web cast can be accessed at: mms:// […]
If you tune in, BE WARNED that Peter has not struck me as a GWOT supporter or a fan of the Bush administration. Yet his reports, analysis, and roundtable discussions about Russian political events are very valuable. The analyses are a counterweight to strongly biased views in the US mainstream media about Putin’s government. And Peter's news reports and panel discussions correct the skewed picture of Russia that American (and often, European!) reporting tends to present.

I think I’ve noted before that the only Russia commentator I trust aside from Peter Lavelle is Dr. Stephen Cohen, who guests regularly on John Batchelor’s radio show. Between listening to Steve’s reports and regular visits to Peter’s Untimely Thoughts blog, Pundita readers can be reasonably well informed about big political issues in Russia and Russia-US relations.

I’d like to catch up with all the blogs on the Pundita blogroll and some that aren’t but that’s as much as I can manage today.

Tuesday, June 20

Moo Goo Gai Pan school of diplomacy

"Pundita! I think Vladimir Putin must be a Pundita reader because he followed your advice to hire a public relations firm to improve his image in West. That helped a little but the US media are still trying to make him look like another Stalin. Do you have any more advice for him (I mean Putin) as he heads for the G8 summit?
Sleepless in St. Louis”

Dear Sleepless:
If I recall the summit is only four weeks away so drastic action is required. Pundita would advise that President Putin hold a press conference for American reporters and answer questions in Chinese-style Pidgin English.

If he has trouble with the syntax he can spend an hour dialing Chinese take-out restaurants in New York City and trying to order in English five dishes that are not on the menu.

I warn this is not so much advice as dangerous knowledge. It explains how China’s government has been able to get away with murder for decades with no more than a few taps on the wrist from the American press and government.

Stop and think: have you and your co-workers ever ordered borscht to go while pulling an all-nighter?

Monday, June 19

Foreign Aid Follies

Thanks to Beth Mauldin for this piece about William Easterly’s blistering attack on the West’s foreign aid failures in the Third World. Easterly knows what he’s talking about. Those who believe that Bill and Melinda Gates and Jeffrey Sachs should at least be lauded for ‘trying’ to help the world’s poorest need to realize that the West has been trying for a long time, and to the tune of USD trillions.
June 17
Michael Duffy
Sydney Morning Herald
Exposing the myth of Third World aid
PERHAPS the most important question of our time is why the West's efforts to help the world's poorest people have been so disappointing and even counterproductive. In the past 50 years, we have spent $US2.3 trillion on foreign aid, to disturbingly little effect. An important new book suggests this has had a lot to do with the arrogance of the "big push" approach favoured by many development economists and organisations such as the World Bank and the United Nations.

William Easterly is a professor of economics at New York University. He used to be a believer: for 16 years he was a research economist at the World Bank and worked extensively in Africa, Latin America and Russia. What changed his attitude was the growing amount of research showing the failures of aid, described in his book The White Man's Burden […]

Easterly says the $US2.3 trillion hasn't achieved what it should have. This is because much of it has been given as part of a never-ending series of internationally planned and co-ordinated "big plans". He believes the alternative would be to encourage more market-oriented activities among the poor themselves.

Those, such as Bono, Bob Geldof and the economist Jeffrey Sachs, who still advocate the traditional approach, he calls Planners, while those looking for a bottom-up alternative are Searchers.

According to Easterly: "In foreign aid, Planners announce good intentions but don't motivate anyone to carry them out; Searchers find things that work and get some reward. Planners raise expectations but take no responsibility for meeting them; Searchers accept responsibility for their actions … Planners at the top lack knowledge of the bottom; Searchers find out what the reality is at the bottom."

In effect he's saying that much foreign aid is delivered using a Soviet approach that Westerners would never dream of applying to their own economies. This might sound like a right-wing rant, but Easterly's book is full of data in support of his claims.

We often hear that the poorest nations are stuck in a "poverty trap" which prevents them from improving their standards of living. In fact, in the 50 years to 2001, the poorest 20 per cent of countries (excluding communist and Persian Gulf oil nations as special cases) on average increased their income by about the same amount as all other nations. Perhaps the most surprising finding in the book is that foreign aid appears to have had nothing to do with this: those nations that received below average aid improved as much as those that got above average.

The United Nations' Millennium Project to fight poverty argues strenuously that corrupt government in the Third World is not a major cause of poverty. Whether this is true is a growing debate in the aid industry. Drawing on the Polity IV research project on democracy, Easterly says there is actually a significant correlation between democracy and long-term growth, and that "poor countries grow faster than rich countries if they have good government". Why then do Planners deny this? Because their big plans rely on the co-operation of Third World governments, and would not be feasible if those governments are dysfunctional.

Easterly goes further, arguing that aid can actually prop up undemocratic governments. He draws a comparison between aid and the so-called "oil curse", where countries in which natural resources contribute a large proportion of wealth are more likely to be corrupt. The reason is that access to such resources is controlled by the government. Insiders grab most of the resulting revenue and resist any move towards democracy or a free market because this would endanger their income. The political structure of the country and its economy become frozen.

Easterly says aid can have the same effect: "High aid revenues going to the national government [for example, the dictatorship of Cameroon gets 41 per cent of its revenue from aid] benefit political insiders, often corrupt insiders, who will vigorously oppose democracy that would lead to more equal distribution of aid. Systematic evidence in a couple of recent studies suggests that aid actually decreases democracy and makes government worse."

One study found that aid was even more harmful to democracy than oil.

It's interesting to see how many of the things Easterly says are reflected in the experience of supporting Aboriginal communities with welfare. There, too, aid has often failed to achieve its major goals, and has propped up leaders who have siphoned off a lot of it to their own families and governed poorly, resisting any change that threatens their control.

They, like the dictators of the Third World, have been supported by the policies of white Planners, who are not responsible for the dismal failures of their plans and, on the rare occasions they're confronted with them, call for more of the same.

Easterly believes the time has come to abandon big plans and adopt a more humble range of approaches that involve much more feedback from aid recipients. We need to look at small things that work locally and see if they can be replicated elsewhere. One idea is for "development vouchers" as a way for the poor to tell us what they want most. But Easterly has no big plan of his own: he just thinks it's time for the post-colonial West to stop believing it still knows what's best for the Rest.
About the Author:
William Easterly is a professor of economics at New York University and a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. He was a senior research economist at the World Bank for more than sixteen years. In addition to his academic work, he has written widely in recent years for The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Forbes, and Foreign Policy, among others. He is the author of the acclaimed book The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics. He has worked in many areas of the developing world, most extensively in Africa, Latin America, and Russia.

Saturday, June 17

"None of us are prophets in our own times"

"Pundita, re your 'Perdition' essays:
Your cautions re Bill Gates et al's ‘programs’ are well taken. In any complex system -- and human societies are among the more complex ones around -- there are always emergent phenomena which are evident only under the correct conditions. Ergo, change the conditions and new, previously unsuspected, phenomena emerge. Sometimes it's a pleasant surprise....

One thing we always do (or, ahem, always ought to do) in networking is have a plan in place -- in advance -- on how we're going to roll back the changes we just made if things don't go quite as well as expected. We find it necessary more often than we'd like, because none of us are prophets in our own times.

How do you roll back the eradication of a disease which held populations to a level that could barely be supported by the local conditions? Make way for at least one of the Four Horsemen: War, Famine, Pestilence, Death.

It all comes down to being very, very careful what you wish for. And thinking really hard about what things will be like if you get it.
Annlee Hines"

Friday, June 16

Repeat after me: The US Department of State is not a triage desk, the US military is not the maid

REDMOND, Washington (June 15 - Reuters) - Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates said Thursday he will gradually give up his day-to-day duties at the company to concentrate on the charitable work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Pundita opened the comment section for On the Road to Perdition with Bill Gates, Dean Kamen and Jeffrey Sachs. I did so with the intention of saving myself time but it cost more time than my usual routine of answering/publishing emails in response to posts.

Now that I have registered my grumbles about the comment section, which I will continue to leave open for the time being, here are some reader observations that didn’t make it into the comment section and two that did but which I want to highlight in this post:

“Okay, I'll buy that disease-eradicating, profit-generating businesses won't eliminate poverty or reform government. But, won't they at least reduce disease and spur business investment, thus improving people's lives? And, if nothing else, if Gates fails spectacularly, won't he at least learn his lesson so that people realize wisdom, not money or technology, is what we really need?”
Dr. Ernie

Pundita replies:
A reminder: Pundita strays, but this is supposed to be a foreign policy blog; I look at development and foreign aid issues from that angle. But yes, Dean Kamen’s entrepreneurial approach, which I discussed in the March 29 post, will spur business investment. As to whether solutions posed by Gates, Kamen, and Sachs will “reduce” diseases such as malaria remains to be seen.

Yet this is a situation where success can be far worse than failure unless there is massive coordination between many international agencies and governments, massive infusions of aid money, and possibly military intervention. Here’s why:

Imagine Bill Gates gets his wish and a successful malaria vaccine is developed. Then Gates’ foundation teams with other transnational charities and WHO to launch a massive vaccination program across Africa. Success: malaria eradicated in wide swaths of Africa.

Here we come to a snag. Eradicating the disease means a spike in the inoculated population. Now overlay that situation on regions in Africa where there is water scarcity, food scarcity, and firewood (cooking fuel) scarcity.

Then project 3-5 years when the spike in population will place strains on health care and social systems already breaking or broken: sewage and water treatment facilities, hospitals, police forces, etc.

From the viewpoint of foreign policy (and US national security) the issue is one of accountability. As with George Soros, Bill Gates is carrying out foreign aid on a large scale. Yet he is a private citizen acting 'without portfolio' in areas that impact US foreign policy in many directions. When he screws up he can't be hauled before a military tribunal, a congressional inquiry, or an internal review at State.

Are Mr. Gates’ foundation and the United Nations able to deal with the situations that would arise from the scenario I’ve sketched? If not, First World governments would find themselves under pressure to avert calamity. Even if military action could be avoided you don’t want to think about the triage decisions that would have to be made. So it’s not for nothing that I titled the essay under discussion “On the road to perdition…”

Not surprisingly, Andrew Mwenda, the Ugandan journalist that Dave Schuler links to in his comment, also alludes to the hellish aspect of brainless foreign aid schemes applied to Africa. I have published Mwenda’s comments at the end of this post.(1)

And here is a link to a Wikipedia article about Mwenda; the Ugandan government’s attacks on him are a good introduction to his comments about foreign aid follies.

Now for Dymphna’s comments, which were also languishing in the comment section:

“Isn't it an interesting aspect of human nature that just because we do one thing extremely, fantastically well -- like, say, build a computer empire or perhaps act in films -- it somehow makes us a global expert?

Malarial countries need DDT and they've needed it for years. Now that we've eradicated *our* problem, we can safely ban it. Unless, of course, the Nile virus becomes endemic here. Then maybe everyone will once again be entitled to DDT.

How come these financial geniuses haven't studied success stories like Grameen? I'd love to see you explain favorite foreign charity. Actually, my only one.”

Pundita replies:
I haven’t studied Grameen’s charities. But for readers who are not familiar with the microinvesting concept pioneered by Grameen Bank, I mentioned it in the March 29 post (“Dean Kamen vs. the World Bank…”) and provided a link to the bank’s website:

Your comment about DDT is on target. There are sound approaches to fighting malaria-carrying mosquitoes that the vaccine approach ignores. Amazingly, one approach is a cell phone signal that repels mosquitos! – See the July 12 Pundita essay, Fire up the cell phone, gather round the radio: Not by any one way does democracy come to the rural developing world.

Yet as I noted in my reply to Dr. Ernie it’s actually success that is the greatest threat with disease eradication among impoverished populations. From this viewpoint the quality of the solution is not as important as the context in which it arises.

Whether good or bad, actions that impact millions of people within a short time have profound consequences. That’s a lesson the World Bank learned the hard way.

If Gates and his ‘New Giving’ circle think they can make a dent where the World Bank and USAID have failed, Pundita has no objection to honest efforts. Yet I strenuously object to plans that don’t deal with the starkest consequences of disease eradication in regions where critical resources are already strained to the breaking point.

Now for comments from Beth:

”I've often wished I had the brain and education to tackle "global" problems. I don't think that I do. But I also don't think these men do either.

"Disease leads to poverty, and poverty deepens disease. But the good news is that where health takes hold, women choose to have fewer children; and literacy, equality, the environment, and economic opportunity all improve. When health improves, life improves – by all measures." [1]

What's cause and effect in all of that mess? Does [Bill Gates] have any idea? Is he really saying that lowering birth rates will solve all the problems? If health and poverty and fewer children are all tied together – then isn't the simplest solution to start paying all those poor women to not have children just like we've paid all the farmers to not grow crops?
Beth Mauldin

Pundita replies:
Bill Gates applied a secularized, monogamous, First World behavior model to women in Third World African nations (Christian and Muslim) who are in a polygamous marriage. From that he somehow concluded such women would choose to have fewer children once infectious killer diseases are eradicated.

But in Africa the Christians and Muslim leaders are in a numbers battle and so both promote multiple births in families. Both have shown cowardice when it comes to standing up to demands by practitioners who want to take multiple wives. The leaders, if they can be called that, pander to males who are serial divorcers as the means to circumvent the four-wife limit in Islam and the call for monogamy in Christianity.

Let us hope Mr. Gates’ reasoning will improve once he turns more of his attention to his charitable enterprises. Correction: Let us pray.

1) "The road to hell is always paved with good intentions. The calls by Sachs, Bono and Geldof fall into that category. First, their calls for more aid assume -- and wrongly so – that the primary problem in Africa is lack of a resource base to generate revenue to invest in what the World Bank prefers to call 'poverty reducing expenditure areas' – free primary education, basic health care and infrastructure like roads. Of course these are good for the poor, but they are not poverty reducing. At best, they can be welfare improving. The primary problem for Africa is one of governance. The poor in Africa do not have basic social services because they are ruled by repressive, corrupt and incompetent governments. These governments spend millions of dollars annually on their corrupt and ineffective militaries, on ostentatious consumption by the political class, and on obese, profligate and highly incompetent bureaucracies. The institutions are very corrupt and incompetent that they stifle both domestic entrepreneurial initiative and frustrate foreign direct investment. These actions are not sustainable in the long term, of course, as these governments eat away the very economic foundation of their political survival. Foreign aid is the subsidy governments in Africa employ to avoid facing the consequences of their own folly. Without aid, many governments in Africa would stare regime collapse in the eye. Some would be stupid, retain the old ways and collapse. But many would be forced to reform their monetary and fiscal policies, to be frugal and prudent, to put in place public policies and political institutions that favor rapid economic growth and capital accumulation. They would have to listen more to their own people and foreign investors in policy making and policy orientation. In short, they would be forced to establish good, effective, accountable and democratic governments. Good and accountable government is not a product of altruism, but enlightened self-interest. Sachs, Bono, Geldof, Tony Blair – and all the many good but naive people of the West – need to learn that simple, commonsense logic."Andrew Mwenda, Ugandan libertarian radio and print journalist

2) Quote from Gates’ 2002 UN luncheon speech.

Sunday, June 11

Bill Gates 2002 lunch speech at the United Nations

May 9, 2002
U.N. Secretary General's Luncheon
United Nations - New York, New York
Prepared remarks by Bill Gates, Co-chair

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you for this invitation to speak. It's an honor to address so many heads of state. And it's a particular honor to do so alongside Secretary General Annan and President Mandela, whose contributions to humanity make them two of the most admired men in the world. I'd also like to thank Carol Bellamy and UNICEF for their commitment to children and for sponsoring this meeting of world leaders.

Is the world going to take care of its children? That is the question we came here to answer.

While many important issues will be discussed at this historic Special Session, it's my belief that improving health is the best way to start improving the future for our children.

Today, one in 12 children dies before the age of 5 mostly from preventable diseases - from measles, malaria, diarrhea. One in 12.

Disease leads to poverty, and poverty deepens disease. But the good news is that where health takes hold, women choose to have fewer children; and literacy, equality, the environment, and economic opportunity all improve. When health improves, life improves – by all measures.

My personal commitment to improving global health started when I learned about health inequities. I remember reading the 1993 World Development Report. Every page screamed out that human life was not being as valued in the world at large as it should be.

My wife Melinda and I were stunned to learn that 11 million children die every year from preventable causes. That is when we decided to make improving health the focus of our philanthropy.

The leaders here who face public health challenges know personally the inequities in global health:
· 95% of all new HIV infections occur in developing countries
· 99% of TB and malaria sufferers live in developing countries
Yet where demand for health spending is greatest, supply is lowest.

Rich governments are not fighting these diseases because the rich world doesn't have them. The private sector generally is not developing vaccines for poor countries because poor countries can't buy them. Of the $70 billion spent globally on health every year, only 10% is devoted to research on diseases that make up 90% of the total disease burden.

Market-based capitalism works well for the developed world, but our human values and compassion are needed to save these children. Markets alone won't do this.

What will happen if we do nothing?

On current trends, a hundred million people will have been infected with HIV by 2005. Without a decisive intervention, China could soon have 20 million cases. India also is at a tipping point – it can act aggressively and keep prevalence below one percent as Brazil has done, or see infection rates skyrocket as they have in parts of Africa.

Without an aggressive global effort to reverse the course of the AIDS epidemic, the impact on our children will be catastrophic:
· Half of all 15-year olds in South Africa and Zimbabwe will lose their lives to AIDS.
· 44 million children in Africa will have lost one or both parents to AIDS by 2010.
We can't change the past. But we can change the future, as long as we start now. The challenge is daunting, but I am optimistic.

I believe we have never been in a better position to make dramatic improvements in global health.

Today, we have several unique opportunities:

The first opportunity is to learn from our successes. Thirty-five years ago the United Nations launched a successful campaign to eradicate small pox. Looking back, that campaign has prevented 350 million people from contracting smallpox and 40 million from dying of it.

It has also shown that eradicating disease is a good investment. The total twelve-year cost of the smallpox eradication effort was $300 million – the same as a single-year cost of small pox vaccination, quarantine and treatment the year the campaign began. In other words, we didn't spend any more, we just spent it more wisely, and now we're saving $300 million every year because we eradicated small pox.

The same principles that led to that success are now being put to work to eradicate other diseases, including polio.

The second opportunity comes from proven models of collaboration. One of our earliest grants was to establish the Vaccine Fund, a fundraising arm for the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, or GAVI, whose goal is to fully vaccinate every child in the world, which would save the lives of 3 million children every year.

GAVI is a collaboration of our foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, our host UNICEF, the vaccine industry and governments in both developed and developing countries. This is a phenomenal range of talent, resources, and experience.

One recent example of the work of GAVI and the Vaccine Fund is a $40 million grant, which will be matched by the government of China, to dramatically increase the use of hepatitis B vaccine in China.

Just before this luncheon, I helped announce another example of a promising global collaboration, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, or GAIN. GAIN is a coalition of national governments, multilateral organizations, foundations, and private companies that are fortifying foods to address micronutrient deficiencies in low-income countries.

It costs relatively little to fortify foods with Vitamin A, iron, iodine and other micronutrients, and by doing so it will save lives, reduce health care costs, improve productivity, and help children reach their potential.

These are the kinds of initiatives that break new ground in collaboration and prove that it is possible to launch global responses to global health challenges.

The third opportunity comes from the increased attention being given to global health. Take the last year alone:
· The United Nations, under the leadership of Kofi Annan, held a Special Session on AIDS.
· The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria was established and it has just announced its first round of grants.
· Global health was a central topic at the World Economic Forum.
· The President of the United States pledged to increase development assistance by $5 billion a year.
These things were not happening three or four years ago. They represent new opportunities. These opportunities can all work in our favor. But to build on them, we have to do three things:

First, we must increase the visibility of what is happening to our children. Health inequities continue to worsen. I believe this is because people who see the worst of it don't have the resources to defeat it, and the people who have the resources to defeat it don't see the worst of it.

I believe that if you took the world and you randomly re-sorted it so that rich people lived next door to poor people – so, for example, people in the United States saw millions of mothers burying babies who had died from measles or malnutrition or pneumonia – they would insist something be done.

And they would be willing to pay for it.

Second, we can't just tell people about the problems. We have to tell them about effective, affordable solutions - about how little money it takes to save a life.
· If people knew that the measles vaccine costs only a quarter…
· If they knew we could prevent children from dying of malaria with a bednet that costs just $4…
· If they knew we could prevent a child's death from diarrhea for 33 cents using Oral Rehydration Therapy…
If they knew these facts, more and more people would provide the resources needed to solve these problems.

The third critical element is political leadership. This is something that only the distinguished guests in this room can provide. Foreign aid and foundation giving can achieve important advances, but the big examples of national success have all required political leadership.

This is especially important on the issue of AIDS. Many of you have been willing to speak out about AIDS and its impact. That has been part of every national success story, including Uganda – which brought its HIV prevalence from above 30% to below 10%; and Thailand – which cut infection rates of high-risk groups by two-thirds.

Another important act of political leadership is to increase health budgets. A strong commitment from you will inspire a stronger commitment from your partners. These partners look to you for clear results and transparent accounting.

Leaders in the developed world have said they will increase their support as you increase success. I believe you should take them at their word – and hold them to their word.

We are in a better position than ever before to make dramatic improvements in global health. We have models of success. We have breakthrough interventions for childhood diseases. We have global collaborative efforts. We have rising demand for action and the political will to tackle these issues.

With more visibility and more resources and more political leadership, we can eradicate diseases like polio. For fifty years children have suffered from a disease we know how to prevent. Let's end it. Let's eradicate Guinea worm. Let's get vaccines to every child and save 3 million lives every year. Let's recommit ourselves to developing and deploying vaccines against AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. If we do this, we will change the world's view of what's possible.

It all depends on our answer to the fundamental question: Is the world going to take care of its children?

It's our choice. But we must choose now. Personally, I hadn't planned on getting involved in philanthropy until later in life; when I was in my sixties; when I could devote full time to it. But the more I learned, the more I realized there is no time. Disease won't wait. So I committed myself to this cause, and I will keep that commitment for the rest of my life. And I am thrilled to be a part of this effort.

I believe together we will take care of our children. We can do it – and nothing on earth is more important.

Thank you all very much.