September 01, 2005

Leveraging the power of bloggers.

Bloggers can do more than just spread the news and comment on events. We can use our voices to raise relief donations. Today is "Blog For Relief" day, when hundreds of bloggers are publicizing opportunities to donate to the relief effort. If you have a blog, read about the effort here at The Truth Laid Bear and add your voice to the call for aid. Instapundit is also providing publicity to the effort.

The relief charity I would like to call your attention to is Episcopal Relief and Development.

Episcopal ReliefEpiscopal Relief and Development is mobilizing immediate relief aid to the hurricane effected areas. This organization makes use of the existing church infrastructure in the area. Episcopalians provide aid and support to the whole community, not just to the members of this church, and the churches in the area provide ready points of distribution and coordination. The people who live in the community, even though they themselves are effected, can do a lot to help their neighbors if they have the resources. That's where you and I come in.

Here is a report on how the organization is responding right now.

Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) responded immediately by sending emergency funds to the Dioceses of Central Gulf Coast, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Western Louisiana to support immediate needs such as food, shelter and medical supplies.

Robert Radtke, president of ERD, described the hurricane's devastation as "tsunami-like."

"Authorities are locating people, rescuing them from houses, from rooftops," he said. "But our main concern is taking care of those persons who have been displaced or have lost their homes and everything they have."

The people most affected in any natural disaster are the poor, Radtke explained. "The people who have resources can get out of harm's way," he said. "Our priority is people living in poverty -- we're looking after the people who've been most drastically affected by this."

Here is their page for donations. They take the major credit cards and you don't need to be Episcopalian.

One way to speed relief to these areas is to mobilize the people who are already there. The churches of Mississippi. Alabama and Louisiana are already moving to provide relief to their own communities. You can help.



Posted by Jay on September 1, 2005 at 01:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 31, 2005

Opportunities for everyone to get it wrong.

The hurricane story has driven politics out of the news and out of my attention, so I have little to blog about over at this blog, but you cannot keep politics out of our lives for long, it seems. While the water is still draining from Mississippi and filling New Orleans, the single-minded political junkies are trying to spin this weather event for political gain. The wonderful thing about being a centrist is that I'm not compelled to defend or endorse either of the completely flawed arguments being tossed about.

It started with a predictable claim from the "left", that the unusually strong storm was a symptom of Global Warming. I've been very concerned about global climate change since I studied climate as a student in the '70's (it was not a political issue then, but was recognised and discussed in scientific circles.) As frustrated as I am with this administration's ideological blindness to this critical issue, this is a bum rap, and not helpful to the cause.

A single hurricane, no matter how large and powerful, is an aspect of "weather", not "climate". They are related but not the same thing, much the way that stock prices and national economic health are related but not the same. Just as a large daily spike or dip in stock prices is not "caused by" the state of the national economy, a hurricane is not caused by a climate trend.

The people making this claim don't know what they are talking about. They are going to bring discredit to an issue that can be defended based on the facts without resorting to bad science and easily deflected claims. They are also confusing the public, who don't really understand the climate issue well and are not going to understand it better after this flurry of nonsense.

A special award to Robert Kennedy Jr. for publishing a spectacularly asinine variation on this "meme" at the Huffington Post (a site I prefer not to link to.) He blames the destruction in Mississippi on Haley Barber, now the Governor of the state, because as a powerful Republican in the years before he ran for Governor, he campaigned against the Kyoto accord. This is breathtakingly bad logic, bad science, and bad taste. I've mentioned it because I was so stunned to read it, but don't want to add traffic or readership if I can help it. If by some accident you come across this column, as I did, take my advice and leave it quickly. Otherwise, forget it ever happened, you have better things to do with your mind.

There is some thought that as the energy in the atmosphere increases, the number of hurricanes or the percentage of storms that become powerful might increase, but this is nowhere near being certain. (The detailed effects of a global warming are much less certain among climate scientists than the fact that the warming is occurring.) Climate trends effect weather in very complex and poorly understood ways, which brings me to the other side of the political sparring this week. I heard Brit Hume put the question of a link between warming and Katrina to his regular panel, and Fred Barnes took the bait and chuckled a response that the warming "advocates" tend to see the impact of warming in every weather story (arguably true) claiming that warming is behind every heat wave and even every blizzard! They all had a good laugh over that.

These are smart fellows and I suspect that they are feigning a simple-minded thinking for the benefit of effect. They have no trouble appreciating complex interactions in the economy, or in global politics, so this "If the earth is warming then why is my weather not hot today" posturing is probably a bit of political theater. Its a bit like asking how the "Big Bang" at the birth of the universe could have made the sound of a "bang" in the vacuums of space. I don't believe that they are really that dense.

They are playing, of course, on the more genuinely dense skulls of some in the audience, or, to be fair to the viewers, reinforcing public misconceptions because they happen to be politically useful. The Left plays a similar game in talking about Iraq. They like to reduce things to mindless simplifications that feed their public's bad thinking. This is a cowardly tactic, but sadly it seems to work.

This tactic is only effective for so long, however, because the atmosphere is not influenced by political spin; Nature does not respect poll results (or even election results.) You can laugh away the issue and heap scorn on the scientists doing the modeling and forecasting. Do it enough and you can stop the issue in the political world, but you cannot stop the change in the climate with punditry. The climate will go on doing its thing regardless, and sooner or later not even the most skilled political posturer and wit will be able to hide it; or hide from it. Sometime down the road people will realize how thoroughly they have been mislead and I don't expect them to be pleased.


Posted by Jay on August 31, 2005 at 12:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Opportunities for everyone to get it wrong.

The hurricane story has driven politics out of the news and out of my attention, so I have little to blog about over at this blog, but you cannot keep politics out of our lives for long, it seems. While the water is still draining from Mississippi and filling New Orleans, the single-minded political junkies are trying to spin this weather event for political gain. The wonderful thing about being a centrist is that I'm not compelled to defend or endorse either of the completely flawed arguments being tossed about.

It started with a predictable claim from the "left", that the unusually strong storm was a symptom of Global Warming. I've been very concerned about global climate change since I studied climate as a student in the '70's (it was not a political issue then, but was recognised and discussed in scientific circles.) As frustrated as I am with this administration's ideological blindness to this critical issue, this is a bum rap, and not helpful to the cause.

A single hurricane, no matter how large and powerful, is an aspect of "weather", not "climate". They are related but not the same thing, much the way that stock prices and national economic health are related but not the same. Just as a large daily spike or dip in stock prices is not "caused by" the state of the national economy, a hurricane is not caused by a climate trend.

The people making this claim don't know what they are talking about. They are going to bring discredit to an issue that can be defended based on the facts without resorting to bad science and easily deflected claims. They are also confusing the public, who don't really understand the climate issue well and are not going to understand it better after this flurry of nonsense.

A special award to Robert Kennedy Jr. for publishing a spectacularly asinine variation on this "meme" at the Huffington Post (a site I prefer not to link to.) He blames the destruction in Mississippi on Haley Barber, now the Governor of the state, because as a powerful Republican in the years before he ran for Governor, he campaigned against the Kyoto accord. This is breathtakingly bad logic, bad science, and bad taste. I've mentioned it because I was so stunned to read it, but don't want to add traffic or readership if I can help it. If by some accident you come across this column, as I did, take my advice and leave it quickly. Otherwise, forget it ever happened, you have better things to do with your mind.

There is some thought that as the energy in the atmosphere increases, the number of hurricanes or the percentage of storms that become powerful might increase, but this is nowhere near being certain. (The detailed effects of a global warming are much less certain among climate scientists than the fact that the warming is occurring.) Climate trends effect weather in very complex and poorly understood ways, which brings me to the other side of the political sparring this week. I heard Brit Hume put the question of a link between warming and Katrina to his regular panel, and Fred Barnes took the bait and chuckled a response that the warming "advocates" tend to see the impact of warming in every weather story (arguably true) claiming that warming is behind every heat wave and even every blizzard! They all had a good laugh over that.

These are smart fellows and I suspect that they are feigning a simple-minded thinking for the benefit of effect. They have no trouble appreciating complex interactions in the economy, or in global politics, so this "If the earth is warming then why is my weather not hot today" posturing is probably a bit of political theater. Its a bit like asking how the "Big Bang" at the birth of the universe could have made the sound of a "bang" in the vacuums of space. I don't believe that they are really that dense.

They are playing, of course, on the more genuinely dense skulls of some in the audience, or, to be fair to the viewers, reinforcing public misconceptions because they happen to be politically useful. The Left plays a similar game in talking about Iraq. They like to reduce things to mindless simplifications that feed their public's bad thinking. This is a cowardly tactic, but sadly it seems to work.

This tactic is only effective for so long, however, because the atmosphere is not influenced by political spin; Nature does not respect poll results (or even election results.) You can laugh away the issue and heap scorn on the scientists doing the modeling and forecasting. Do it enough and you can stop the issue in the political world, but you cannot stop the change in the climate with punditry. The climate will go on doing its thing regardless, and sooner or later not even the most skilled political posturer and wit will be able to hide it; or hide from it. Sometime down the road people will realize how thoroughly they have been mislead and I don't expect them to be pleased.


Posted by Jay on August 31, 2005 at 12:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 11, 2005

Less afraid, more in danger?

I wrote a bit ago about the new centrist blog, "Donklephant" (still can't quite get over either the name or the mascot). Marcus Cicero has contributed another well thought out essay, this time on the question of whether we are safer now that we are post-Cold-War but mid-GWOT, or were we really safer back when the Soviets were the perceived threat. (tip to Michael Totten again, subbing at Instapundit)

I'm traveling and do not have the occasion to comment as I would like to. I'll just suggest you read the essay and add that I strongly suspect that we are less likely to see global Armageddon, but much more likely to see a regional sort of annihilation. Sobering....

Posted by Jay on August 11, 2005 at 09:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 16, 2005

The GWOT is the perfect excuse

I caught this news item via Arthur Chrenkoff, who terms it "the news we have been waiting for." The US has announced a redeployment of troops that will reduce our presence in Germany by two-thirds. The rationale is to better position them for the war on terror. It makes a lot a sense to get them out of the now unified Germany.

President George W. Bush in August announced plans to bring home as many as 70,000 members of the U.S. military from Europe and Asia. He said the American redeployment, the largest since the Korean War, would enable the military to respond more quickly to terrorist threats.

The article is not specific where in "Asia" troops will be withdrawn. Could well be Korea, where the threat is more real than Germany. Aurthur feels that some of these troops could be redeployed further east into Poland or Romania, which makes political sense, and perhaps military sense as well. Some of them could well be placed in new bases in Afghanistan. In any case, it's well past time to be out of Germany.

Posted by Jay on April 16, 2005 at 12:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 28, 2005

Geo or "Neo"-Greening

I normally would write about environmental issues over at Birds Eye View, but this seems like a good place to discuss the political alignment of environmental issues. The impetus is this column from Thomas Friedman on what he calls "Geo-Greening", a marriage of geopolitics and environmental thinking. I don't quite agree that the administrations focus on Social Security is a misplaced priority, but I am in full agreement that the Bush team has completely missed the boat on energy and environmental policy. Let's first take a look at Friedman's idea.

By doing nothing to lower U.S. oil consumption, we are financing both sides in the war on terrorism and strengthening the worst governments in the world. That is, we are financing the U.S. military with our tax dollars and we are financing the jihadists - and the Saudi, Sudanese and Iranian mosques and charities that support them - through our gasoline purchases. The oil boom is also entrenching the autocrats in Russia and Venezuela, which is becoming Castro's Cuba with oil. By doing nothing to reduce U.S. oil consumption we are also setting up a global competition with China for energy resources, including right on our doorstep in Canada and Venezuela. Don't kid yourself: China's foreign policy today is very simple - holding on to Taiwan and looking for oil.

Much like our seemingly insatiable demand for illegal drugs, America's thirst for oil is the root source of much trouble, and will be even more so in the coming decades. I'm not convinced that this country cannot change its ways without terrible disruption. Sooner or later we'll be forced to get our act together, and I predict we'll be surprised at how easily we will accomplish it. There are some folks out there who feel that the efficient and sustainable society will be achieved by moving aggressively forward into a future of new technologies. Hybrid automobiles are just the first step. The "Neo-Green" movement, if it can be described as a "movement" at this stage, has a different political mix than the old-line environmental efforts. Visualize fewer Birkenstocks and more cool tech. One of the better sites to check out is World Changing, which collects a lot of the news in this area.

In this essay from last week, Alan AtKisson reveals his vision for a new environmentalism, and this story comments on the Christian groups that are voicing environmental concerns. At some point soon we'll read the same of business groups. One nice benefit of the new sustainable vision is that it often cheaper by virtue of being highly efficient. New industries are going to bloom, and the smart entrepreneurs will be on board.

Here's a tidbit, a story that popped up on World Changing about a novel approach to finding a fusion energy source. "Sonofusion" is a long-shot horse that would return a phenomenal payoff it is comes through a winner, but there is a long way to go. As the author, Jamais Cascio, observes...

what this discovery does do right now is provide us with a friendly reminder that we can't assume that all the tools we'll have for fighting global problems have already been invented. New discoveries, new technological or social innovations add to our response capabilities. While we certainly shouldn't assume that a deus ex machina is going to save us all, neither should we despair that our current abilities are insufficient for the task at hand.

One final treat. The folks who are thinking about 21st Century economics and 21st Century Environmentalism are also thinking about 21st Century politics. This essay by Jon Lebkowsky from last month considers the "new technology-mediated politics" and where it goes from here. As bloggers and blog readers, you're a part of it.

Posted by Jay on March 28, 2005 at 06:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 10, 2005

Afganistan "enters the 'sphere"

Arthur Chrenkoff alerts us to the first blog by an Afghan citizen. It's called "the Afghan Warrior" and is published by Waheed, who works for the US Army as an interpreter. This is another great step and a point worth noting. I wanted to post on it just to have a link on record to the first post from an Afghani. Arthur also coins a phrase that one of his commenters picks up on, "enter the 'sphere." It's the biggest of the big tents and everybody is welcome. I'm sure that other Afghanis will follow, and we'll have a chance to learn their story in their own words. This is a great medium, no?

Posted by Jay on March 10, 2005 at 12:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 06, 2005

Ominous sounds out of Syria.

The house I grew up in was on a heavily wooded lot. My dad, no fool he, would occasionally hand me an axe and point out a tree he deemed superfluous, saving himself the work and giving me a way to "build character". When a tree is "ready" to go it starts to emit cracking and snapping sounds, and occasionally an eerily animal scream. It's your signal to back away (and shout "timber!" as loud as you can. Great fun!) Micheal Totten thinks we may be getting the same sort of signals out of Syria.

I want to say something encouraging, but it’s hard. These are dangerous days in Syria. Nothing good will happen there while the Baath regime is in charge. It’s an obstacle that absolutely must be cleared out of the way. So the fact that Ammar detects the odor of fear coming off the regime is at least some reason to hope. There are always reasons to hope. And there are some that Ammar seems to forget about.

Totalitarian regimes almost always disintegrate rapidly and seemingly out of the blue. I’m a bit surprised to find myself writing about the possible implosion of the Middle East’s other Baath Party state at all. I knew it would happen at some point, but in early February there was no way to say it would happen in early March.

If it really is the beginning of the end of the Assad regime (do keep in mind that it might not be) events on the ground one month from now will be just as astonishing and hard to predict. Ammar Abdulamid may have little hope at this moment, but history is swinging on its hinges again. In a few weeks he may find that he lives in a different and barely recognizable country.

Micheal has found (via Marc Cooper) a Syrian blogger, Ammar Abdulhamid, providing gripping reports from inside the tottering totalitarian state. (Go to Michael's and Ammar's blogs to read it all.)

Totten is concerned that Syria will be an "emergency room case" if once the regime falls, but that seems like a solvable problem. He does suggest that the western powers should be thinking about how to handle the vacuum created by the departing Baathists. I suspect that the experience of post-collapse Iraq is still fresh on some minds and plans are being developed, at least I hope so. It would be nice if this was more of an international effort, including some of the Muslim nations perhaps.

The Syrian leadership must be thinking about the fates of their old friends to the east. Most of the Iraqi Baathists are either rotting in a grave, awaiting imminent trial, cowering in Syria, or fighting a losing insurgency. Not a happy prospect for the Syrians. We could probably speed things along by providing the regime with an exit option. The perfect way, perhaps, for our European and moderate Arab friends to get involved. They can fly the leaders out and move in to do peacekeeping. Should be good PR for them and we (the US) get an end to the supply-line feeding the Iraq insurgency.

Posted by Jay on March 6, 2005 at 11:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 04, 2005

Getting on Board the Cedar Express

The mysteriously named "Cicero" at Winds of Change posts a lengthy discussion of the democracy movement in Lebanon and the Left's response to it, or lack of response. He (she?) begins with a wonderful restatement of our global objectives, renaming the "War on Terror" the "War on Tyranny."

Lebanon's growing democracy movement offers the Western left the opportunity to become relevant in the War on Terror -- a war that might be more accurately described as a War on Tyranny. Tyranny endures when free people do nothing to stop it; and it prospers when they cut deals with tyrants. Strategic collusion with autocrats had its place in the context of Cold War realpolitik -- but doing so in the Global War on Terror undermines the free world's main line of defense against terrorists, by giving oxygen to the tyrannical regimes that support them.

This was the message of the president's State of the Union Address, at least as I heard it. As we well know from our experience of the 20th century, "wars" of this sort can be "Hot" or "Cold", and the War on Tyranny will likely be both, at times. At the moment we are winding down one of the "hot" phases of the war, and opening a "cold" phase on multiple fronts. This is not a time, as I said in a post yesterday, for any of our leadership to be sitting on the sidelines. Cicero points out that there is an opportunity in present events for the American Left to become reengaged on important and relevant issues without giving up its core philosophy. It requires only that they get over their pathological hatred for President Bush.

If liberals reclaim progressivism by embracing democratic activism in Lebanon, the result will be a stronger front against tyranny -- because in the end, that's what we're all fighting. And liberals would have more traction when arguing their differences with the Bush administration for promoting liberty. For example, the Bush administration has gotten cozy with the dictatorship of Islom Karimov in Uzbekistan. Certainly, there's a strategic reality to the relationship required to defeat the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan; but Karimov's murderous, tyrannical regime is gaining strength from American support, at the expense of Uzbek liberty. Liberals who actively support and promote democracy in Lebanon (and hopefully, Iraq too) could claim a higher moral ground than they currently occupy as mere Bush naysayers.

Senator Hillary Clinton, ever the shrewd presidential hopeful, has been polishing her pro-democracy stand against Syria. Say what you want about Senator Clinton, but she's not stupid. Her growing hawkishness is pragmatic -- she's demonstrating that there's something liberals can learn from neoconservatives, and apply it to liberalism. She's moving on.

Cicero has done a much better job than I could explaining the point I was getting at in yesterday's post. It's time for the leaders on the left to emulate Senator Clinton and "move on" to the important issues and opportunities in front of us. By agreeing that "in the end, that's what we're all fighting" we can have a healthy debate on the best tactics, unify the country behind a plan of action, and present, as Cicero says, "a stronger front against tyranny." The potential payoff from victory here is much too great to risk it in petulant rehashing of last year's issues.

Posted by Jay on March 4, 2005 at 11:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 25, 2005

Why Not Here?

David Brooks in the New York Times watches people in various parts of the world ask a simple question. Simple but loaded with implications. A very nice little essay that you need to read. Here's a taste...

Thomas Kuhn famously argued that science advances not gradually but in jolts, through a series of raw and jagged paradigm shifts. Somebody sees a problem differently, and suddenly everybody's vantage point changes.

"Why not here?" is a Kuhnian question, and as you open the newspaper these days, you see it flitting around the world like a thought contagion. Wherever it is asked, people seem to feel that the rules have changed. New possibilities have opened up.

The question is being asked now in Lebanon. Walid Jumblatt made his much circulated observation to David Ignatius of The Washington Post: "It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world."

Let's hope. I remember watching incredulous as the old eastern bloc fell bit by bit. It was unthinkable (or at least "unthought") but then it happened. "Why not here?" someone asked and there turned out to be no answer. "Why not now" is the partner question, equally unanswered. I'm not much of an incrementalist. That's why I shy away from the label, "Moderate" (one reason, at least.) My version of Radical Centrism is impatient, and ready to overturn the out-of-balance world in order to wrench it into alignment. The middle-east is a world of extremes, and extremists. The Iraqi election looks to me like a centrist revolution. A rejection of the extreme and one-sided, in favor of a "radical" shift toward balanced consensus and stability. In a mad world like Iraq, sane people will be revolutionary. Simple, ordinary folks waking up from a nightmare and asking a simple questions like "why not here? why not now?"

Posted by Jay on February 25, 2005 at 11:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack