Friday, September 30, 2005


Marine Corps Role Playing Game

The Marine Corps Gazette publishes a tactical decision game as a regular feature. They describe some tactical military situation and the reader is encouraged to write in with a solution. The best solutions are printed in the next issue. Usually the game focuses on testing the reader's knowldge of small unit tactics. September's game, however, is as much of a test in ethics as it is martial skill. What would you do?

If you don't like that, they have an interesting article on Mongolian warfare. Neither Russian winters nor asian land wars were a problem for the "children of the blue-gray wolf."


Tough Guy Awards 3

Darwin works both ways, and man didn’t get to the top of the food chain by accident. The “Tough Guy Award” is the opposite of the Darwin Award.

This week's Tough Guy is Cpl. Samuel Toloza of El Salvador. While serving in Iraq last year as part of El Salvador's distinguished contribution to the multi-national forces protecting the Iraqi's emerging democracy Cpl. Toloza's unit was attacked by insurgents. After 13 of his 17-man unit were killed or wounded and out of ammunition Cpl. Toloza continued to carry the fight to the enemy by whipping out his pocket knife, rushing the enemy gunmen, and stabbing them until reinforcements arrived. He later explained his actions by saying, "We never considered surrender. I was trained to fight until the end." Cpl. Toloza, I'm glad you're on our side.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Online Movie Recommendation 7

This week's recommendation is a helpful three part do-it-yourself video on how to get rid of those unsightly and dangerous area denial munitions, brought to you by the nice folks at the U.S. Humanitarian Demining R&D Program.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

"Corrective action should only be undertaken by the person who placed the charge."
Translation: "Be careful, because if you screw up the first time then you'll be the person who has to risk his neck to fix it. " And that's a good policy for a lot of other types of work, too.

Kids, remember that being a sapper may look like fun but it is for adults only.


Carnival of Tomorrow #10

Welcome to the Carnival of Tomorrow 10.0, I’m J. Random American and I’ll be your guest host this week. In an attempt to make your Carnival experience go smoothly, I have divided the entries into categories and highlighted the blog post hyperlinks in bold text. Now let’s dip into the future…


“For I dipped into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;
Saw the heavens fill with commerce. Argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales”
-Alfred Lord Tennyson

Last week NASA rolled out its new moonshot plan. Space enthusiasts and sci-fi aficionados began complaining immediately that they could have done better. One of the axioms of technical work is that the less someone knows about a job the easier they think it is. So where can we go for good, informed analysis on the near future of space exploration? Rand Simberg (who knows quite a bit about the space launch business himself) of Transterrestrial Musings has the answer in his post “Apollo 2.0”.

Mark Whittington of Curmudgeon’s Corner (author of the book _Children_of_Apollo_) and Jonathon Goff (yet another space launch industry insider) of Selenian Boondocks also have been debating the merits of NASA’s latest plan in a series of posts on their respective blogs starting here.

The “Apollo 2.0” description is being thrown around a lot. Personally, I think the new plan should be called “Gemini to the Moon 2.0”, but I seem to be alone in that opinion. I had incorrectly predicted here at Ideas in Progress that NASA Administrator Mike Griffin would use the new lunar plan rollout event to promote a "Lagrange point marshalling yard" for storing supplies between the Earth and the Moon that would be partially serviced by contracts with private space launchers. I'm still expecting him to push that idea, even though it didn't show up in the latest press conference.

Semi-Random Ramblings chooses to get his analysis of aerospace engineering from a lawyer. At least it’s not kitty porn. :)

The Encyclopedia Astronautica Blog takes a light-hearted view of the new lunar program with a parody entitled Apollo 18 is GO!

If you can’t get enough of NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, Aerospace America has an in depth interview with him this month on the politics and business of space launch.

Lastly, if all this chemical propulsion stuff is too near term then the Liftport Staff Blog reports (complete with pictures and video) in the post Photos & More from 1,000-ft Robot Test that their space elevator climbing robot tests are going well. There hasn’t been any news this month on large clusters of micro-engines, skyhook tethers, or beamed propulsion to report but DARPA still seems to be funding micro-engine work and any materials developments that would allow space elevator construction would likely enable a skyhook first.


“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there” -L. P. Hartly

Another big futurist news item is the publication of Ray Kurzweil’s new book The Singularity is Near. Fighting Aging! already has a review of it in the post Reading "The Singularity is Near" along with analysis that suggests some very interesting developments in the business of biotechnology are near at hand.

Evelyn Rodriguez of Future Salon blogs Kurzweil’s keynote speech at the Accelerating Change 2005 conference in the post Kurweil Keynote: When Humans Transcend Biology.

The usual home of the Carnival of Tomorrow, The Speculist, has more on the conference in the post Between the Lines by Phil Bowermaster. I hope they post more information from the Accelerating Change conference in the future.

There are singularity doubters, however. Al Fin at AlFin2100 points out in the post Right Ascension that the if the singularity is the moment when the future can no longer be understood by previous experience then it may be like a mathematician’s girlfriend, something that we can get arbitrarily close to but never quite reach.

Amet Patel of Amet’s Thoughts points out in his post The Singularity is Near? that describing the singularity as the “knee” in the curve of exponential technological growth where progress seems to “go vertical” doesn’t work either because exponential curves don’t actually have “knees”, they are illusions whose location keeps moving as you change the scale of the graph.

In the post “Michael Flynn does not think the singularity is near” Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolutions gives an excerpt from an email he got with an elegantly simple bit of evidence about our current lack of proximity to The Singularity.


"If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." -Henry Ford

Of course the biggest technology news story of last week is that one of the fundamental six simple machines has finally been improved upon by the Illinois Tool Works. Geek Press has more here.

With hurricanes and flood control in the news, Future Feeder has a timely post entitled Smart Concrete for Levees.


“Keep on the lookout for novel ideas that others have used successfully. Your idea has to be original only in its adaptation to the problem you're working on.” - Thomas Edison

Technological development isn’t just about far out topics like visiting other planets, uploading minds electronically and threaded fasteners. Virginia Postrel covers upholstery advancements on her Dynamist Blog in the post Reinventing Upholstery Fabric. It may not seem like an interesting topic at first but give it a chance; it is exactly these sorts of “mundane” developments that add up to a better standard of living for all of us. If you have trouble accessing the NY Times link in her post, try using this service to bypass web registration.

Another example of brilliant but mundane developments that will make the world a slightly better place is the solar handbag profiled in the accurately titled Slashdot entry Solar-Powered Handbag. I can’t wait for the solar powered saddle bag.


“The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny...'” – Isaac Asimov

Dominic Vella and Dr. Mahadevan have released an exciting new paper on why Cheerios stick to each other in the bowl.

Hypotheses Non Fingo points out in his post Stupid "International Astronomical Union" that one of the biggest problems with discovering new things is naming them. If Kurzveil is right about the coming wave of new discoveries, we’re going to need to address this problem soon.

Meanwhile, the Make Blog introduces O'Reilly's new science and technology podcast entitled Distributing the Future.


“Scientists have always been pawns of the military!” -Star Trek II

While the US Army and Marines have been making headlines revolutionizing small wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the USAF has been in the news for its high-tech, big-budget efforts to maintain a credible deterrence against the People’s Republic of China, the Navy has been quietly engaged in its own revolution in military affairs. The Winds of Change post by Joe Katzman US Navy Preparing for Littoral Warfare summarizes the Navy’s developments in support of its coastal and littoral waters doctrine.

Dr. Pournelle at Chaos Manor has information and links on the state-of-the-industry Navy cargo ship the HSV-2 Swift from his son Phillip at the bottom of yesterday’s entry.

Matt at BlackbeltJones points out an Edward Castranova quote in his post Terra Castronova which suggests we wage memetic warfare on Islamic radicals by making an online video game that would let Islamic youths play at living in a democracy. That’s not unlikely, considering that we are already working a video game to teach oppressed people how to stage their own velvet revolution.

Nate at Project Nothing! points out that the United States isn’t the only nation trying to revolutionize warfare in the post Seoul to Build Combat Robot.


Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present. -Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

Chris Phoenix at Responsible Nanotechnology reviews an article on nanotechnology and in the process provides a good nano primer in the post Nanoparticles, Nanodevices, Nanofactories.

The Instapundit points to a promising medical use in his post on cancer seeking nanotechnology.


“In times of rapid change, experience is your worst enemy.” - J. Paul Getty

Capitalist economists assured the “peak oil” Chick-Littles that the invisible hand would naturally encourage alternative fuels once oil prices became high. Well, oil prices are now high and here come the alternative fuels. The Green Car Congress post Chattanooga Corp. Successfully Converts Shale to Oil with Lower Impact Process and the Montana's Energy Future Symposium scheduled for next month hint that the most economical next generation fuel might be synthetic hydrocarbons made from coal, instead of the hard-to-store hydrogen that Greens and gov’t central planners would have picked.

This may be bad news for the Future Pundit who hopes that Tony Blair might be coming around to his own position on the future of energy, productivity, technology, and carbon emissions in his post Tony Blair Wants Technological Advances To Reduce CO2 Emissions. Well, if it turns out that carbon emissions really are causing global warming then there’s always carbon sequestration.

The End.

The next Carnival of Tomorrow will be back at The Speculist. If you would like to contribute to it, email them at:

mrstg87 {@ symbol} yahoo {dot} com


bowermaster {@ symbol} gmail {dot} com.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


Rita Evacuation Traffic Cams in Houston

I-10 Katy
I-45 North
US-290 Northwest
US-59 Eastex

Assuming 2 million vehicles and 20 ft. of road per vehicle that's about 7500 linear miles of traffic jam. Assuming that 75% of that is spread over about 36 lanes of outbound traffic that's 156 mile traffic jams, which corresponds roughly to the "100 mile traffic jams" the news is reporting. At 3 mph, that will take 50 hours to get out of the traffic. Most cars (but not hybrids) won't be able to idle for 50 hours. Rita will likely make landfall in less than 40 hours, so a lot of people are going to be riding out Rita (which will hopefully have weakened to only tropical storm strength by the time it gets that far inland) in traffic.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Light Posting Ahead

I may be too busy over the next few days to post regularly.

I will make it up by guest hosting the Carnival of Tommorow #10 early next week.

In the meantime, I encourage everyone to look through my blogroll on the left side of the screen. In addition to other blogs (in the "periodicals" section), there are some really good essays, papers, and other monographs in the aptly named "monographs" section. If you haven't looked though them yet, now would be a good time. Paul Graham has a new essay that's good. _LEO_On_the_Cheap_ is very timely in light of NASA's rollout of their lunar plan. The global warming panic over recent hurricanes (though I have yet to figure out how global warming makes hurricanes home in on American cities instead of less photogenic foreign ones) makes _Fallen_Angles_ seem more relevant than ever. Anyone who likes wealth can unlock many powerful truths (that are now often considered too impolitic to teach the general public) about how it is made by reading _My_Life_and_Work_, _The_Principles_of_Scientific_Management_, _Who_Gains_By_Innovation_, and (of course) anything by Adam Smith. These mostly older monographs provide a hard nosed and plain English analysis uncontaminated by the truth-obscuring politically-correct mythologies* that are so often required by modern discussions. The rest of the monographs in my blogroll, especially "The Industrial Revolution:Past and Future" and _The_Road_to_Serfdom_in_Cartoons_ are just simply fun reading.

*Which is not to say that all modern political attitudes are mythologies who obscure older truths. My friend Henry's unfortunate (though he claims well intended) concerns over Orientalism, lack of assimilation, and bigotry amoung a particular immigrant community in early 20th Century America may be a good counterexample. Still a publication does not have to be Gospel in order to be enlightening, and examining even (or perhaps especially!) flawed original sources first-hand instead of trusting "Cliff Notes" summations from present authority figures usually provides shocking insights that make you wonder what other crucial information has been glossed over or gone unrecognized by the mediocre minds that write our school textbooks. For example, many decendents of the very same immigrant community that Henry worried (in Chapter 17 of _My_Life_and_Work_) was unwilling to assimilate into American society can now be found publishing the exact same complaints of tribalism, subversion, and bigotry about newer Muslim immigrants and demanding that the moderate Muslim community leaders should, in Henry's words, "remove their protection from the more flagrant violators of American hospitality." Even if this tells us nothing about the accuracy of either's complaints, it tells us a great deal about human nature and puts our present problems in a useful (and in a way comforting) historical perspective that is missing from almost all modern news reporting or history classes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Public Affairs Problems When Only Defeat is Victory

There is an interesting article in the current Air and Space Power Journal on public affairs and information operations that includes the quote:

“…saying that public communication cannot succeed without credibility puts us up against the hard facts that our enemies have had good media success without being particularly truthful, and that modern media are often more concerned with framing ideological conflict than with judging which version of the truth is right.”

The article also claims that highlighting good news from military operations is not being partisan; it is simply “part of a strategy for mission success.” The problem with that logic is that there is an unfortunately large movement in America whose political goal is for the United States to be defeated militarily. To them, any effort on the part of the military to do their job well, any activity that brings "mission success", will necessarily be viewed as a partisan attempt to undermine their political goal of an embarrassing defeat and humiliating retreat from our present global “War on Terror” military operations. They resent all the partisan soldiers, sailors, and airmen who are trying so hard to win Bush’s war. Non-partisan troops would put in no more work or creativity into winning than, for example, civilian bureaucrats, apathetic union workers, or better yet, apathetic unionized bureaucrats; they would just put in their eight hours a day (minus breaks), do the minimum work they could get away with, and collect their paycheck. That’s non-partisan troops. What would the Western civilization hating “loyal opposition” really like to see American soldiers, sailors, and airmen do? Stop fighting America’s enemies, and start murdering Americans. But only the bourgeois, I’m sure.

Monday, September 19, 2005


Online Movie Recommendations 6

This week’s recommendation is the trailer for the full length documentary One Six Right: The Romance of Flying:

Yes, it is only a trailer… but it is a great one. I can't wait for the DVD to come out.

After you’ve finished watching it you’ll probably want to either head to the airport if you're a pilot, or if you aren't go here to fix that and then watch this important pre-flight information.

Hat tip: Uncommon Sense

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Griffin you magnificent b@$^@&#, I read your presentation slides!

NASA is set to unveil its near term lunar exploration plan this Monday.

Those wanting a sneak preview should take a look at this PDF file. It is the slides from a presentation Mike Griffin made in 2001 as a guest lecturer at the University of Wisconsin about how NASA might return to the moon in the near future. Expect to hear the term "Lagrange point marshalling yard" as a potential market for private launchers to contribute to cislunar infrastructure development, but perhaps not as part of the initial lunar return flight.

If you still haven't had enough NASA handicapping this prepared statment of his from 2003 is worth a look as well.


Tough Guy Awards 2

Darwin works both ways, and man didn’t get to the top of the food chain by accident. The “Tough Guy Award” is the opposite of the Darwin Award.

Since I didn’t post a Tough Guy Award last week, I’ll do a double award this week. It is said that coyotes are so tough that they will gnaw their own leg off to escape from a trap. Coyotes don’t have anything on Coloradans when it comes to toughness. This weeks double “Tough Guy Award” goes to Aron Ralston and William Jeracki, both from Colorado. Mr. Ralston was trapped alone when a shifting boulder pinned his arm and after five days without rescue he had to cut off his own arm to escape. Mr. Jeracki was trapped alone when another shifting boulder fell on his leg. With a snowstorm blowing in he had to cut off his leg to escape.

Besides demonstrating extreme toughness, both of these incidents are good lessons on the dangers of traveling in the wilderness alone. Yes, plenty of mountain men were solitary but they also tended to die in unpleasant ways. If you are going to be in the wilderness alone, tell someone where you are going and/or invest in one of the new personal locator beacons.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Fan Films Foreshadow Future

My last 3 movie recommendations have focused on fan films. I had intended to write a post commenting on how technological developments have made it so much easier to make and distribute reasonable quality movies that groups of fans can now do for fun what was once the domain of multimillion dollar studios, and that soon local movie productions will be as common as local theater groups. Unfortunately the Instapundit beat me to many of the points I was going to make; but not all of them. I will, therefore, take my post on fan film trends in a different direction.

I think that fan films like the ones I have recommended demonstrate not only a trend in the democratization of filmmaking, but also a trend in avocations.

One desire people have that is often overlooked is the desire to experience things. In his book The Next 200 Years thinker Herman Kahn predicted that an increasingly wealthy population of the First World would make tourism a much larger industry. Smart people in the tourist trade have already figured out that tourism isn’t about selling travel, it is about selling experiences. People don’t just want to look at a pretty landscape as a passive observer. They want to go on their own safari, or sift the dirt for fossils of early man. They want to play at being Hemmingway or Leakey. This desire is not limited to brief vacations and I think fan films are part of the hobby trend resulting from that. As productivity increases from technological development and capital investment allows ever higher income for the average person, we will have more time and resources to spend on just having interesting experiences.

In Roman times, all the average person could do is listen to stories and daydream about what other times, places, or occupations might be like. By the time of the Late Unpleasantness, printing presses and widespread literacy at least allowed the average person to read* history, fiction, or travelogues in what free time they had. But now the common man has enough free time and disposable income that groups of ordinary men who are fascinated by these previous times can afford to equip, train, and spend their weekends “living the life” of their Roman or 19th Century predecessors. It is a tremendous extravagance that we take for granted. I think this trend is fortunate, since without the hobbyist desire to experience the past we would lose some of our ability to understand our own history as technological development separates us ever faster from a past driven by the cycles of nature and the speed of a horse.

It is more than just the spread of wealth and leisure time that rising productivity gives us that will likely drive the spread of experience-oriented hobbies. Technological innovation also reduces the difficulty and cost of what were once extravagant undertakings available only to a few. It took backing by a superpower to send Columbus across the Atlantic, but now a very large percentage** of American adults could probably arrange their own transcontinental sailing expedition if they wanted it badly enough. It is not just that we are richer than Queen Isabella, but that building, sailing, and navigating boats has become much easier. Very soon the same will be true for a trip to outer space. Making your own movies is one of those areas where technology has lowered the difficulty by introducing relatively cheap digital cameras and computer f/x & movie editing software. Do you wish that you could have been the actor cast to play a Federation starship captain, comic book hero, or Jedi? Well, now you can be. In the future you can be a space explorer or just play one on TV, all without quitting your day job.

If you want to know what people in the future will do for fun, just ask yourself:

What do people wish they could be?

So, you wanna be a rock and roll star? A crusading journalist? A crusader? A pistolero? A race car driver? You can be, in your spare time. Even things that are too dangerous or too impossible for hobbyists to really do can be simulated with increasing sophistication. You can dabble a little in many fields to get just a taste of a lot of experiences, or you can immerse yourself in one favorite. You probably (though not certainly) won’t be the first or the best at something that you only do as a hobby, but still there’s a lot to be said for talented amateurs. Just ask an astronomer.

Making and distributing high quality fan films are one part of a much larger trend of new experiences which technological innovation and improved productivity are just now opening the doors to for the common man. Now, can anyone name a hobby that is getting harder to experience instead of easier?

*The technology (and motive) for role playing games seems to have existed for a long time before they were popularized. I wonder why they weren’t developed sooner.

**Some blogger in the recent past had a post about this. If anyone remember who, I’d appreciate the link to it.

Update: Welcome carnival goers. If you like this post, I encourage you to look around at the rest of the blog. If you haven't already done so, take my Transporter poll; I need more data points.

Update 2: Yes, you could consider being a "brave revolutionary" to be a modern experience-oriented hobby.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Online Movie Recommendation 5

I didn’t post a recommendation (or much else) last week. I’ll make up for it by doing a triple recommendation this week! All are science fiction fan films again. The first is Chapter 1 of IMPS:The Relentless:

It is by the same group that made Troops. I can’t wait for the rest of the series.

The second is Batman:Dead End:

There is an interview with the director on ifilm. Apparently Kevin Smith called it the “the best Batman film ever made.”

The last ends my fan film phase with Star Wars:Revelations:

Its speakeasy is the best Star Wars bar scene since the Mos Eisley Cantina.


Two Birds with One Stone

"A German inventor says he's found a way to make cheap diesel fuel out of dead cats."

Why do they have to be dead?

Thursday, September 08, 2005


Lileks Tempts the Fates

James Lileks reports today that he:

1. Managed to not only avoid a demotion in his paper's reorganization, but has landed a new and more frequent collumn.
2. Sent Gnat off to her first day of kindergarten and he anticipates all the future bus-stop mornings.
3. Got an Apple Nano-Ipod, which is so new even the Instapundit can't get one yet.


4. He made PERFECT hamburgers for dinner.

If I have learned anything from a lifetime of watching war movies it is this:

James Lileks is about to be killed by an enemy sniper.

It's really a shame, too; I liked his books.

Sunday, September 04, 2005


Are we donating money to pay for disaster relief operations or to give as gifts to the hurricane Katrina victims?

They are not the same thing, and it is a question that I think deserves some consideration.

Right now all over the country, people are donating money to help the victims of hurricane Katrina. Everyone donating needs to put a few moments thought into where their donation is going. Obviously, they should make sure that they are donating to a real charity and not to a confidence scam; there are non-comprehensive lists of legitimate charities involved in the disaster response at Instapundit, and FEMA’s website. But we need to go beyond just that and consider where we want the money to ultimately end up. The donations that are given this week cannot be sent backwards in time to buy relief supplies last week when they were most needed. It is non unlikely, therefore, that after this is all over there will have been more money donated to these legitimate charities than they have spent on both disaster relief and normal post-disaster recovery assistance. I want to warn everyone that these charities may not divide up all the money they have left and give it as payments to the victims of this high-profile disaster or provide Katrina’s victims with more elaborate forms of post-disaster aid than is normally given to the survivors of less publicized disasters like building fires or tornadoes. Instead the charities may keep the extra money for themselves to spend on either preparing for the next large disaster or helping victims of ongoing smaller disasters that might not receive any national news coverage at all! Shocking, I know, that charities might divert money this way to needy people we haven’t even seen on TV but it is a reality that donors should be prepared for when deciding who to trust with their donations.

Personally, I think that donations to disaster relief charities being made right now should go into their general budget and that if the charities have any surplus still left after providing their normal level of assistance to hurricane Katrina’s victims then that money should be used for helping victims of and preparing for other disasters around the country. I think that disaster victims should be helped with the same enthusiasm regardless of how dramatic or publicized the disaster was. Up until 2001 I thought that was a fairly typical attitude and that only a sick solipsist would feel that people who he saw suffering should be helped more than people he didn't, but apparently a lot of other people disagree with me.

I donated to the Red Cross immediately after the 9-11 insurgent attacks that year, like a lot of other people. I assumed that if they had any money left after providing help to the victims and feeding the other emergency crews, that they would use the extra to prepare for the next disaster or the next attack in what I assumed would be a long terrorist war. Imagine my surprise when prominent news media figures began attacking charities for doing exactly what I expected (and assumed everyone else expected) instead of dividing up the loot and cutting big checks to the families of 9-11 victims! At first, the idea that the 9-11 victims and their families should get gifts of so much more money than we give anonymous victims of an apartment building arson or other “mundane” disaster seemed so bizarre and illogical that I naturally assumed that something nefarious was going on and that the extortionists or scam artists pushing the story would soon be exposed. Instead more and more seemingly respectable news outlets, who assured me that they spoke on behalf of hordes of howling donors, demanded that every penny of the over $1 billion raised for disaster relief charities in the wake of the attacks to go to the 9-11 victims families “to guarantee security for everyone who’s suffered a loss in the attacks.” Congressmen beat their chests in outrage, the head of the Red Cross resigned, and a special fund was set up just for the 9-11 families that victims of less photogenic disasters would not have access to. No one, at least no one on TV, echoed my concern over turning disaster relief into a sympathy contest with six figure prizes for the unlucky winners.

So if you are one of those many donors who believe in the disaster relief lottery, then you should to heed my warning and be careful about who you donate to or you might be outraged to discover that part of your hurricane Katrina donation winds up helping Wisconsin tornado victims or some other non-Katrina sufferers. I’m sure that if you look hard enough there are charitable funds being set up exclusively for Katrina victims, perhaps even some for just New Orleanean victims. A little care now in researching the proper charity will keep you from feeling betrayed later.

If, on the other hand, you are like me and think that any hurricane Katrina donation surpluses should be used by the charities for other relief and preparation efforts then you should also be careful about who you donate to. Once I would have suggested that a cash donation to the Red Cross is a good place to donate for general disaster relief. Unfortunately that may not be true in this case. There are a lot of dishonest New Orleaneans, from the politicians who sent their cronies around to extort bribes from businesses on the excuse of them not having enough horse hitching posts down to the modern-day Fagins who have children bet gullible tourists that they can tell them where they got their shoes*, that suddenly don’t have anything to do (or at least they won’t after all the good looting is done) but sit around their new host communities listening to the huge amounts of money that are being raised for disaster relief charities and scheme about how they can get control of some of it. I certainly hope I am wrong, but I expect that before the streets are dry in Orleans Parish we will see self-appointed community leaders and well dressed lawyers making television appearances to decry how unfair it is that the money donated “to them” is being stolen by greedy charities for use in other disasters instead of being put in a special fund “to rebuild New Orleans” that they can more easily skim money out of or take kickbacks on the contracts from. Since so many of the high profile donations are for the Red Cross and the special “Liberty Disaster Fund” set aside just for 9-11 victims showed that the Red Cross can be bullied into giving preferential treatment, I fear that any surplus donations to the Red Cross will be an obvious target for victims who want more than their “fair share” of the generous gifts its donors make. Anyone wanting to make sure that their disaster relief donations are really only used for disaster relief in a needs-based (as opposed to a publicity-based) manner might want to consider spreading their donations around to some of the lower profile, but equally effective, disaster relief groups like Southern Baptist Convention -- Disaster Relief and Mennonite Disaster Service. Perhaps the best way to have control over how your donations are used is to donate your time by volunteering for one of your local disaster relief organizations.

I think it is a shame that people will use the opportunity of a disaster to get things at the expense of others, but it is a reality that we should not be blind to even in our scramble to help the truly needy. A little forethought now in the mad rush to give assistance can help insure that fairness trumps media pressure and the dark side of human nature when the huge amount of money in the hurricane Katrina disaster relief funds inevitably becomes a temptation.

* The answer, btw, is “You gots dem on yo feets,” and suddenly a group of thugs materialize to insure that you pay the boy for his correct answer.

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