Tuesday, January 19, 2010 - Haiti and Special Election

posted Jan 19, 2010, 2:10 PM by Jeremy Poehnert   [ updated Jan 19, 2010, 4:01 PM ]
Two current event issues today.

First, an update on the Earthquake in Haiti.  I saw an updated estimate of 200,000 people killed and 1.5 million displaced, out of a total population of 9 million.  If that's accurate that would mean 1 in 50 people in Haiti died, and 1 in 6 are displaced.  To put the scale of devastation into perspective, if the US experienced a disaster with that ratio of deaths and displacement there would be 6 million dead and 50 million displaced; that's roughly the population of the West Coast.

There is an effort to get international aid onto the island, but the logistics are daunting, and the need is both overwhelming and urgent.  If I heard correctly, there is only one airport in Haiti.  Even once aid gets to the island it has to be transported through the devastation safely and in some sort of coordinated way.

Survivors are apparently desperate for food, water, medical treatment and shelter, not to mention some sense of order.  The desperation means there's real potential for violence, as people struggle to meet their basic needs.

It's really sad.  Of course, no matter how bad a situation is, there's always room for nasty politics.  One US religious leader implied that Haiti is cursed because "they" made a deal with the devil years ago, and the country has suffered since.  What a wonderfully compassionate response...

In other political news, today was a special election in Massachusetts.  We are electing the replacement for Ted Kennedy's Senate seat, and the election has been intense.  It was supposed to be an easy win for the Democratic candidate (MA traditionally sends Democrats to national office), but the two candidates ended up in a dead heat; no one knows who is going to win.

Commentators are suggesting the tight race is because the Republican candidate is surprisingly strong and the Democrat ran a bad campaign.

It's a big deal because a Republican win would change the numbers in the Senate to 41/59, Republicans and Democrats, respectively, giving the Republicans enough votes to filibuster, essentially shutting down any Democratic initiatives.  Presumably that would stop health care reform and potentially the entire Democratic political agenda.

So everyone is watching the election very closely.  

Whether or not he wins this actual election, the tight race is good for the Republican candidate; there is an expectation that if he doesn't win the Senate seat he'll become a very formidable candidate for governor.  This is especially true, since Massachusetts, although generally considered liberal, has elected a number of Republican governors.

What bothers me most is how negative a lot of campaigning is, and how little it has to do with the actual issues.  That applies to both parties.  Rather than focus on meaningful discussion we resort to name calling and viscous characterizations, which makes having a true dialogue all but impossible.