Featured Photos


Baseball Hall of Fame - 8/23/11

Featured Video


Avery's QuEST Project - It's Healthy!

House Construction


The Completed Home Renovation


Home Renovation - Complete!


Our House Construction Photoblog

RSS Feed


« | Main | »

Odds & Ends

By Brian | August 22, 2006 | Share on Facebook

I was reading Instapundit on the train home yesterday (as I often do – Glenn has a PDA version that’s perfect for Blackberry browsing), and came across a few interesting items:

First Bill Clinton is praising George W. Bush for his work on AIDS in Africa, and now this – more praise from doctors and relief workers on the ground:

The major reason for [AIDS treatment] success is the Bush administration’s AIDS program, which in the last three years has sent billions of dollars to Africa and helped save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. When I moved to Africa three years ago, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, was just getting off the ground. As I return to Washington this month, the $15 billion program is just hitting its stride, and many Africans believe it has become the single most effective initiative in fighting the deadly scourge.

“The greatest impact in HIV prevention and treatment in Africa is PEPFAR-there’s nothing that compares,” [Dr. John Idoko] said.

When this program was first proposed, it drew criticism for channeling funding to faith-based organizations and for requiring abstinence education. Turns out, only 7 percent of the funding goes to programs that advocate abstinence until after marriage. And here’s how the faith-based initiatives are working:

Two years ago in the southwestern African nation of Namibia, Lucy Steinitz, a Jewish Brandeis graduate who was then the head of Catholic AIDS Action, told me that US officials sought out faith-based groups because of common sense: Churches were running many of the country’s hospitals and clinics already. The same is the case in many African countries. “Civil society is only just beginning to emerge in Namibia. So what’s left? Church is it. I have a lot of skeptical friends back in the US about the funding of faith-based groups, but it works here,” she said.

And yet, despite the success, Washington politics continue. A group called Search for Common Ground acted as an independent mediator for a series of meetings in DC last September. More than 30 private groups participated, some common ground was reached, but not enough to issue a recommendation. Last month, after ten months of trying, the mediation effort was abandoned. And all the while, the program they’re arguing about is saving lives…

Next, an update on Global Warming: Despite various predictions back in May of a busy hurricane season, this year has been below average. And why? You’re not going to believe this:

Part of the reason for the slow season is that tropical western Atlantic sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are running about normal, if not slightly below normal.

The cooler SSTs in the Atlantic are not an isolated anomaly. In a research paper being published next month in Geophysical Research Letters, scientists will show that between 2003 and 2005, globally averaged temperatures in the upper ocean cooled rather dramatically, effectively erasing 20% of the warming that occurred over the previous 48 years.

Huh? What? Talk about your inconvenient truths

To be fair, the hurricane season is far from over, and some seasons start later than others. Last year, there were eleven storms by this point; this year, we’ve had three. But in 1992, Hurricane Andrew (the costliest storm on record before Katrina) was the first storm of the season, and didn’t strike Miami until August 24th of that year. So we’re not out of the woods yet, but it seems clear that those who were ominously warning that the record-setting 2005 season was a base from which future years would build were either fear-mongering or clueless.

The trick now, I think, is to keep up the pressure to rebuild the New Orleans levees, even if the rest of 2006 remains calm.

Finally, there’s this from Kevin Drum:

I [should] be more vocal in denouncing Iran. . . It’s a repressive, misogynistic, theocratic, terrorist-sponsoring state that stands for everything I stand against. . . .And yet, I know perfectly well that criticism of Iran is not just criticism of Iran. Whether I want it to or not, it also provides support for the Bush administration’s determined and deliberate effort to whip up enthusiasm for a military strike. . . . So what to do? For the most part, I end up saying very little. . . . because like it or not, my words – and those of other liberals – would end up being used to advance George Bush’s distinctly illiberal ends. And I’m simply not willing to be a pawn in the Bush administration’s latest marketing campaign.

The commentary Instapundit linked to points out that Drum is greatly over-estimating his own importance. I think that’s right. But there’s also this basic logic flaw: if he’s afraid his words will provide support for his opponent’s actions, then isn’t there at least the possibility that he and his opponent agree on this issue? And if not, shouldn’t he choose his words carefully to highlight where he and the president overlap and where they differ? Isn’t this how useful debate forms? The (rather lengthy) comments section on Drum’s site debates this back and forth. If you can sift through the “BUSHISEVIL, BUSHISEVIL, BUSHISEVIL” crowd, it makes for a pretty interesting discussion…

Topics: Political Rantings | 4 Comments »

4 Responses to “Odds & Ends”

  1. Jeff Porten says at August 22nd, 2006 at 9:51 pm :
    Man, Brian. I just don’t understand why you’re so quick to buy the storyline.

    1) Ten seconds on Google: the 7% figure is Bush’s own numbers from the State Department. Clearly, since Bill Clinton quoted it, it must be true, since you believe everything Bill Clinton says. Call me more interested in http://avert.org/pepfar.htm, which states that 20-30% of partner organizations are faith-based — joining that with other information I’ve seen that the vast majority of Bush-funded faith-based institutions are Catholic or evangelical, yeah, sorry, that 7% number doesn’t fly without more backing.

    You might also want to review http://www.pepfarwatch.org/, unless you believe everything the government tells you. That was the *2nd* link on Google that was NGO.

    2) Dude. Surface ocean temperatures are vitally important for global heat convection. A 50-year fluctuation is a bad thing. You don’t want chaotic variables in the system that prevents Europe from looking like Greenland. Besides, unless you believe in the Gaian Heat Fairies, all of that heat is going somewhere, so we might be catching a break this year in return for a truly catastrophic 2010. See the movie, it explains all this.

    3) Kevin Drum gets wide readership among people like me. No, there is not the least possibility that Drum agrees with Bush’s position on Iran. All he’s saying here is that, yes, the Iranians are not exactly the mother lode of human rights and other beliefs that liberals hold dear. Since this was reason #348 for the War in Iraq (collect the whole series!), damn straight he’s not going to give ammunition to the warmongers.

  2. Brian says at August 23rd, 2006 at 12:39 pm :
    1) Read the article I linked to before you jump into Google. You misread just about every fact I quoted. The 7% figure is for abstinence training, not faith-based organizations (they are not the same thing). The quotes about PEPFAR are not from government officials, they’re from doctors and volunteers on the ground in Africa, who are praising the program, including the use of faith-based organizations.

    NONE of the quotes I included came from government officials. As for avert.org or pepfarwatch.org, these are much more akin to the organizations that spent 10 months trying to “fix” the program that everyone involved is praising, and then gave up because they couldn’t get their shit together…

    2) I don’t understand what you said, but I’m happy to believe that it’s true, if only for the sake of argument. My only question is where was that logic a year ago when Al Gore and others were speaking from flood sites and telling us that the oceans were only going to get warmer from here, and that hurricane seasons were only going to get worse and worse?

    NOTE: I’m not claiming that Global Warming isn’t happening, or that it’s not a bad thing (see post), but I am calling out those who leap immediately to the unavoidable doomseday scenarios. They only destroy their own credibility when the disasters fail to occur, and desensitize people in the process. How many do you think will read about the cooling oceans and the below-average storm seasons and conclude that Manhattan isn’t really going to submerge in 50 years? Can’t we agree that this is a bad thing?

    3) To paraphrase one of the commenters, what you’re saying is that Drum freely admits that his opinion on Iran changes based on who is currently in the White House. And if that’s the case, why should we listen to anything he has to say about the War on Terror in the first place? He either believes what he believes or he doesn’t. If he changes with the political winds, he’s just a political tool and his opinion is worth no more than Al Franken’s or Rush Limbaugh’s.

  3. Jeff Porten says at August 26th, 2006 at 1:14 pm :
    1) Brian, I think you’re just coming into this story a day late and a dollar short, and perhaps too eager to find good news for Bush. That article contradicts everything else I’ve seen about Bush administration policies for six years, and for that matter just about everything I’ve seen about Republican AIDS policies since 1981. Take the blurb about distributing condoms — the administration is frequently on record as cutting funding for international programs of that type (abortion and birth control being two places where they’ve regularly attacked women’s health initiatives). I’m going to want to see a hell of a lot more reporting before the anecdotal experiences reported here change my view of what I’ve read about the policy of the Bush administration.

    Please note, for the record: these same people who are critical of Bush, were also critical of Clinton when he dropped the ball. There’s any number of people out there who’ll tell you that the AIDS pandemic in Africa could have been stopped in the 1990s, but wasn’t — and will mostly blame local leaders, but with a soupcon of criticism here as well. These same people are saying history is repeating itself in Asia.

    Second, note that when Gates was booed for supporting PEPFAR, that’s a keynote speech at the major AIDS conference, to an audience consisting of doctors, scientists, and an international coalition of people who devote their lives to this topic. You’re effectively taking the reporter’s word for it over the collective wisdom of that audience. Based on our conversations about the stock market, I always thought you were pretty big on collective wisdom.

    My thinking: hey, if PEPFAR does any good whatsoever, I’m not going to knock it. On the other hand, I’m aware of many areas where lots of good that could be done is not being attempted due to American sex politics. (You might have read this week that Republicans want children under 18 to have more abortions.)

    2) Again, you’re just being (deliberately?) ignorant about how climate works. It’s a large, chaotic system, and it’s not perfectly modeled. Pointing to outlier data this year — aside from the fact that any research on current climate has to come after the fact, so you don’t know the full story for this year either — is the equivalent of being a creationist because there are gaps in the fossil record. The “unavoidable doomsday scenarios” are based on trend analysis over decades, centuries, or hundreds of thousands of years, not on whether a storm happened to make the front page of the news this week.

    If we’re debating AIDS politics, there’s room for disagreement — if we’re debating science, I’m not going to let you get away with being ignorant. One of the interesting points made in AIT is that the newspapers report a completely different story than the scientific journals, and the scientific journals say that if you get your information from the newspapers, you’re likely to be ignorant. My information comes from the journals (usually second-hand). Go to the source, then let’s pick up this debate.

    3) Man. You just love telling me how everything’s changed since 9/11, but then you accuse Drum of changing his policies based on who’s in the White House. Hell, back when another guy was in the White House, I was one of only 10,000 people with a blog, and Washington Monthly wasn’t. Likewise, any “opinion on Iran” back in 2000 was prior to several wars and when Iranian moderates were in stronger force. If your opinion on Iran hasn’t changed since 2000, you’re clearly not paying attention.

    Finally, since I keep on telling you this, and you keep on refusing to listen, Franken and Drum’s opinions are worth a hell of a lot more than Limbaugh’s, because they have this habit of backing up their statements with references than actually correlate to actual reality. That used to count for something.

  4. Brian says at September 1st, 2006 at 1:56 pm :
    Note that when Gates was booed for supporting PEPFAR, that’s a keynote speech at the major AIDS conference, to an audience consisting of doctors, scientists, and an international coalition of people who devote their lives to this topic. You’re effectively taking the reporter’s word for it over the collective wisdom of that audience. Based on our conversations about the stock market, I always thought you were pretty big on collective wisdom.

    Collective wisdom yes, but from trusted sources. In this case, the reporter has been to Africa, yes, but the feedback I’m talking about comes from Clinton, Gates, and doctors at clinics that went from serving 700 people 3 years ago to 6,000 people today. One assumes that Clinton and Gates would be fairly well informed by their own people before making statements like this (neither can conceivably be called a Bush administration shill), and no matter how you slice it, the results from the clinics have got to be seen as at least a good start.

    As to the booing, this doesn’t strike me as the response of serious doctors and scientists. It strikes me as the “people who devote their lives to this topic” that you speak of, who are trying to make a political statement (either against the president, just because he’s, you know…yuck!) or because they have serious hangups about condom distribution, abstinence education, or the involvement of faith-based groups. Doctors and scientists are, IMHO, more likely to ask tough questions and offer counter-arguments than to shout “Boo!” at a guy who can (and does) help their cause with billions of dollars and tremendous publicity. Those who are serious about solving the AIDS problem need guys like Gates, and have no reason to boo him. Those who boo are aware of the TV cameras and reporters in the room, and are more interested in making the political statement than in solving the AIDS problem.

    [Accusation that I'm being ignorant re: Global Warming deleted]

    Oh, man. Too much to say about this for comments. See this post: Global Warming: Either You’re WIth Us, or You’re Ignorant.

    You just love telling me how everything’s changed since 9/11, but then you accuse Drum of changing his policies based on who’s in the White House.

    No, no, no. I’m not accusing him of changing his policies based on who’s in the White House, he’s admitting to doing exactly that. He’s explictly saying that he won’t speak out against a regime he despises because George W. Bush is President. I’m just wondering what else he thinks that’s different what what he says, that’s all…

    Franken and Drum’s opinions are worth a hell of a lot more than Limbaugh’s, because they have this habit of backing up their statements with references than actually correlate to actual reality. That used to count for something.

    Well, I don’t read Drum or Limbaugh with any regularity, but I did buy Franken’s book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them (under the mistaken impression that it was going to be at least somewhat funny), and I can say with conviction that while he has references, they often have little to no correlation with actual reality. In fact, throughout the book, he refers to the team of college students he recruited to dig up supporting evidence for his (foregone) conclusions, as opposed to doing any actual research to determine what the truth was. By the time the book was published, many of his “facts” had been disproven, and several are disproven within the book itself. One need only have a memory that lasts for more than one chapter…

Comments

Comments will be sent to the moderation queue.