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September 30, 2005

Normalized Polygamy in the Netherlands

Behold, the slippery slope in action. (Hat tip to The Brussels Journal.)

The Netherlands and Belgium were the first countries to give full marriage rights to homosexuals. In the United States some politicians propose “civil unions” that give homosexual couples the full benefits and responsibilities of marriage. These civil unions differ from marriage only in name.

Meanwhile in the Netherlands polygamy has been legalised in all but name. Last Friday the first civil union of three partners was registered. Victor de Bruijn (46) from Roosendaal “married” both Bianca (31) and Mirjam (35) in a ceremony before a notary who duly registered their civil union.

Yes, I understand that "slippery slope" arguments can be ... slippery. It's easy to make them, but harder to prove that they're happening. Well, this story is that proof. First same-sex marriage, then civil unions, and from civil unions you can go literally anywhere. Quoth the groom:
Victor: “A marriage between three persons is not possible in the Netherlands, but a civil union is. We went to the notary in our marriage costume and exchanged rings. We consider this to be just an ordinary marriage.”

Next stop, normalized polygamy. That's not some dire prediction. That's what is happening and will happen if we don't hold the line somewhere. I've heard those who suggest that they're for same-sex marriage but not anything further. But this story proves that, having opened the door a crack to let in just one person, a whole multitude stands ready to take advantage of the breach. You can call those who wanted the door to stay closed all sorts of names--prudish, intolerant, homophobic, narrow-minded--but regardless of how accurate or inaccurate those names are, when it comes down to what was predicted would happen, you can also call them "correct".

Will that change the minds of those pushing for civil unions here? For most, I have my doubts, although I have no doubt that they'll be shocked--SHOCKED--when the first trio get married here. "I had no idea" will be no excuse.

Posted by Doug at 08:22 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

September 29, 2005

Roberts Confirmed as Chief Justice

Judge John Roberts has been confirmed as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The final vote count was 78-22 with all Republicans, independent Jim Jeffords, and half the Democratic senators voting to confirm.

Now the more difficult task begins: the nomination and confirmation of another conservative justice to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. But the real challenge is for Democrats who must decide how much to oppose the President's nominee. They may find that there's not much they can do to stop the President's nominee from being confirmed. Especially if it's another judge with superior qualifications like Judge Roberts.

Posted by Tom at 01:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Media Collapse

Via RedState.org's RedHot comes a pointer to a Hugh Hewitt blog post. Hugh first notes the LA Times article on the awful coverage filled with rumor and unsubstantiated report (which we at SCO have covered here and here). Then comes the knockout punch:

Given this failure to capture the true story in New Orleans even with all of the combined resources of all the MSM working around the clock, why would anyone believe that American media is accurately reporting on the events in Iraq from the Green Zone, in the course of a bloody insurgency fought in a language they don't understand? If the combined forces of old media couldn't get one accurate story out of the convention center, why for a moment believe it can get a story out of Mosul or Najaf?

Good question.

Posted by Doug at 11:13 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 28, 2005

Big Promise from Adult Stem Cells

Remember the ad showing a walking Christopher Reeve? Remember John Edwards saying that someday folks in wheelchairs would be able to get up and walk? Both were extolling the virtues of embryonic stem cell research. Turns out that adult stem cell research, which doesn't require the destruction of embryos and has none of the ethical issues, is on its way to fulfilling that promise.

In an apparent major breakthrough, scientists in Korea report using umbilical cord blood stem cells to restore feeling and mobility to a spinal-cord injury patient.

The research, published in the peer-reviewed journal Cythotherapy, centered on a woman who had been a paraplegic 19 years due to an accident.

After an infusion of umbilical cord blood stem cells, stunning results were recorded:

"The patient could move her hips and feel her hip skin on day 15 after transplantation. On day 25 after transplantation her feet responded to stimulation."

Umbilical cord cells are considered "adult stem cells," in contrast to embryonic stem cells, which have raised ethical concerns because a human embryo must be destroyed in order to harvest them.

The report said motor activity was noticed on day 7, and the woman was able to maintain an upright position on day 13. Fifteen days after surgery, she began to elevate both lower legs about one centimeter.

The study's abstract says not only did the patient regain feeling, but 41 days after stem cell transplantation, testing "also showed regeneration of the spinal cord at the injured cite" and below it.

The scientists conclude the transplantation "could be a good treatment method" for paraplegic patients.

The article notes that this is still very preliminary ("one patient does not a treatment make" cautions a bioethicist), but this is very exciting.

Well, to me it is, at least. A search for just the journal name on Google New today returns only this article and the article it refers to. If this had been done with embryonic stem cells, the media would be all over this, with quotes from John Edwards and Ron Reagan for starters (the latter of which just needs to open his mouth on the subject to get major coverage). Let's hope they come around, but hold not thy breath.

Posted by Doug at 12:56 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Derb on Dylan

John Derbyshire has a great piece on the new Martin Scorsese documentary about Bob Dylan.

Posted by Matt at 11:02 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Act Now

Note: This is no way intending to sound preachy; just some thoughts I've had.

I'm learning how to handle this delicate balance, to believe passionately in something and yet to accep that others believe in a different manner, though I may be vehemently convinced that they are wrong. Completely, objectively wrong. As a Christian, I believe in sovereignty but surely that doesn't mean that I don't care and believe that truth - objective truth - has a place in history, economics and the arts. And yet all around I see those with their heads in the clouds - blinders on the sides of their faces - pretending that nothing in this world is wrong. I can't accept that. I won't accept that.

I had a friend once who sang for a punk band. He was an agnostic to the best of my knowledge, though he may be an atheist. (Nick, do you know?) The band always played this one particular song about my friend's uneasy relationship with some Christian believers in his own life and before each time, he would say the song was about people "whose eyes are on the heavens while the world around them is burning like a hell." I thought then, as I do now, that such an analysis was unfair in a general sense, but all too often it was accurate in many specific cases. I, however, won't apologize for looking to Heaven. For when I see Heaven, I see the Cross. And though I see, ultimately, the most significant portrayal of love imaginable in the Cross of Christ, I believe, like Bonhoffer, that the call to believe in this Love is a call to follow, a call to die. This love is not merely sappy or sentimental. The call to come and die is a call to sacrifice and sometimes even, as Bonhoffer sorrowfully demonstrated, a call to fight.

I can't be silent about moral decay in my culture. I don't mean MTV. I don't mean Desperate Housewives or Sex and the City. I mean the state of moral apathy that crassly suggests that this nothing worth dying for, that there is nothing worth sacrifice, that every system of values - whether religious, cultural, social or economic - is valid, equal and good. That doesn't mean we should ever hate or disdain others. But it does mean that even in my desire as a believer to be humble and merciful, I should not feel guilty for believing in a sense of truth and justice, knowing that standards do in fact exist, and the defense of objective truth is a worthy pursuit.

As an example, and I say this as one who loves living in a college town, I suppose I am simply tired of seeing college students (even believers) live as though nothing matters outside their own world. There is suffering in this world. There is injustice in this world. Slavery still exists. There are ways in which we can demonstrate mercy to all kinds of people (first and foremost) and yes, in some cases, other living things. Religious freedom is endangered around the world. There is ample injustice in America, as well, though I would caution that trying to fix any economic problems in America or around the world, in, say, I don't know...Africa?, by tax and spend programs is like trying to fill a round hole with a square peg.

Posted by Matt at 10:56 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Superdome Reporting: Fair, Balanced, and False

Many journalists put themselves in potentially dangerous situations and worked beyond their physical limits to provide round-the-clock coverage of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. But now it is becoming clear that courage, tousled hair, breathlessness, and good work ethic are no substitutes for journalistic standards. It is also clear that rumor posing as fact resulted in egregious charges and vastly sensationalized reports throughout the media.

As Doug reported below, The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that the serious and most alarming reports from the Superdome and the Convention Center—of bodies piled high, mass rapes, children with slit throats—were simply not true. They were rumors that initially broadcast media, and then without further investigation, print media reported as fact.

As further evidence that Mayor Nagin and other Louisiana officials are criminally incompetent, one media excuse is that the mayor and others were making public statements about the horrendous—-but evidently fictional—-abuses. The public officials may have picked up some of their information from media reports; some media outlets took courage in reporting on the conditions because of what officials said.

The Associated Press said today:

The ugliest reports — children with slit throats, women dragged off and raped, corpses piling up in the basement — soon became a searing image of post-Katrina New Orleans.

The stories were told by residents trapped inside the Superdome and convention center and were repeated by public officials. Many news organizations, including The Associated Press, carried the witness accounts and official pronouncements, and in some cases later repeated the claims as fact, without attribution.

But now, a month after the chaos subsided, police are re-examining the reports and finding that many of them have little or no basis in fact.

They have no official reports of rape and no eyewitnesses to sexual assault. The state Department of Health and Hospitals counted 10 dead at the Superdome and four at the convention center. Only two of those are believed to have been murdered.

So there is mutual culpability. However, it is the responsibility of journalists to ferret out the truth; those who failed to do so bear primary responsibility in the reporting of terrible atrocities that did not occur; reporting that damaged the international image of the United States, that prompted FEMA’s refusal to send its volunteers with aid into what was being reported as a war zone, and that began the slanders against the President.

It is a great example of the importance in modern society of accurate and independent reporting. I teach college journalism classes and I have a wonderful example for tonight’s classes of why we drill the importance of fundamentals in reporting—multiple sources, constant attribution of unsubstantiated statements, remaining personally uninvolved in the stories. These and many other principles were ignored by overly tired, alarmed, and emotionally distraught reporters who were fed bad information and broadcast it to the world.

Posted by Jim at 07:44 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 27, 2005

Oh, Atlanta!

The Atlanta Braves just won their fourteenth straight division title.


Here's a great piece about the best manager in baseball, Bobby Cox.

Go Braves!

Posted by Matt at 10:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

SCO Must Reads

Over at the BHT, Michael Spencer is speaking the plain truth about FEMA.

He also refers to this post by Tim Challies concerning the Ashley Smith/Brian Nichols/Purpose-Driven Life saga.

In the days after the Smith story broke, I was listening to a sports talk show that is very popular in the Deep South. Lots of callers were talking about their experience with the book. I heard a lot about purpose. I didn't hear much at all about the Gospel.

Just saying.

Posted by Matt at 04:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Have the Hurricanes Helped Guliani's Presidential Hopes?

Lorie Byrd contends in her column today over at Townhall that Hurricane Katrina (and the government's failures in response) have helped Rudy Guliani's presidential hopes:

Thanks to the blame-Bush media, it seems the public now believes that the first and ultimate responder to any kind of disaster, whether natural or man-made, should be the federal government, or more specifically, the President. Giuliani is the only potential 2008 candidate that has shown himself capable of handling a challenge of such historic proportions. Because issues of national security and war and peace in the Middle East will outlive the Bush presidency, the nation will be looking for a leader able to perform in a crisis.

Even more than his proven ability to perform under pressure, however, one thing that Giuliani may be able to do, that some other Republicans might not, is unite the country. If Bush, as amiable as he is, and with a reputation as a uniter as governor of Texas, could be painted as an extremist divider, it is reasonable to believe the same will be attempted with the next Republican candidate. Giuliani achieved giant stature in my eyes, and those of most other Americans, with his actions following 9/11. Because he is already known as a uniter and a strong leader, he will be resistant to attempts to portray him otherwise. He can also claim to have received a large number of votes from Democrats in past elections. Not many, if any, of the other potential Republican presidential candidates can say that.

One of the key questions that any presidential candidate must face is how he or she would respond in a crisis. Most candidates are untested on this question until after they are elected. Guliani is in a unique position in that the public has already seen the kind of leader he is when things are tough. Although social conservatives (myself included) would have a hard time reconciling themselves with Guliani's position on issues such as abortion it's difficult to argue against him if national security and/or crisis management is one of the key issues in 2008.

By the way, Patrick Ruffini has his latest straw poll of Republican candidates posted so you can stop by and vote for your favorite. It will be interesting to see what effect, if any, Hurricane Katrina will have on the poll results.

Posted by Tom at 02:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Playing the Rumor Game

Ever play the Rumor game, where you whisper one thing to someone, and by the time it gets around the room it's quite different? Well, looks like politicians and news organizations have been playing it in New Orleans.

Maj. Ed Bush recalled how he stood in the bed of a pickup truck in the days after Hurricane Katrina, struggling to help the crowd outside the Louisiana Superdome separate fact from fiction. Armed only with a megaphone and scant information, he might have been shouting into, well, a hurricane.

The National Guard spokesman's accounts about rescue efforts, water supplies and first aid all but disappeared amid the roar of a 24-hour rumor mill at New Orleans' main evacuation shelter. Then a frenzied media recycled and amplified many of the unverified reports.

"It just morphed into this mythical place where the most unthinkable deeds were being done," Bush said Monday of the Superdome.

It started in New Orleans proper, and then, via the magic of modern communications, went worldwide.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune on Monday described inflated body counts, unverified "rapes," and unconfirmed sniper attacks as among examples of "scores of myths about the dome and Convention Center treated as fact by evacuees, the media and even some of New Orleans' top officials."

Indeed, Mayor C. Ray Nagin told a national television audience on "Oprah" three weeks ago of people "in that frickin' Superdome for five days watching dead bodies, watching hooligans killing people, raping people."

The article mentions Fox and the NY & LA Times in the US, then the Ottawa Sun in Canada and the Evening Standard in England. These are but examples of a news cycle that continued to feed on itself. Some believe race may have played a factor.

Times-Picayune Editor Jim Amoss cited telephone breakdowns as a primary cause of reporting errors, but said the fact that most evacuees were poor African Americans also played a part.

"If the dome and Convention Center had harbored large numbers of middle class white people," Amoss said, "it would not have been a fertile ground for this kind of rumor-mongering."

While the media shares in the blame, it certainly didn't help that politicians were feeding the machine.
Some of the hesitation that journalists might have had about using the more sordid reports from the evacuation centers probably fell away when New Orleans' top officials seemed to confirm the accounts.

Nagin and Police Chief Eddie Compass appeared on "Oprah" a few days after trouble at the Superdome had peaked.

Compass told of "the little babies getting raped" at the Superdome. And Nagin made his claim about hooligans raping and killing.

All of these folks--politician and reporter alike--are supposed to be a bit more sober and careful about this. In this day of the 24-hour news cycle, getting this hour's scoop is making the media sound more and more like the National Enquirer as they try to outdo each other. But what are the politicians' excuses? Are they bucking for more money, or just looking for sympathy? It may sound like you care when you complain about how children are mistreated, but when you're just passing around unsubstantiated rumors, that's not compassionate; it's irresponsible. The actual facts were less sensational.
State officials this week said their counts of the dead at the city's two largest evacuation points fell far short of early rumors and news reports. Ten bodies were recovered from the Superdome and four from the Convention Center, said Bob Johannessen, spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.

(National Guard officials put the body count at the Superdome at six, saying the other four bodies came from the area around the stadium.)

Of the 841 recorded hurricane-related deaths in Louisiana, four are identified as gunshot victims, Johannessen said. One victim was found in the Superdome but was believed to have been brought there, and one was found at the Convention Center, he added.

And frankly, there's plenty of actual suffering resulting from Katrina that doesn't require embellishing, while also unreported was much of the good news and good work going on.
Relief workers said that while the media hyped criminal activity, plenty of real suffering did occur at the Katrina relief centers.

"The hurricane had just passed, you had massive trauma to the city," said Lt. Col. Pete Schneider of the Louisiana National Guard.

"No air conditioning, no sewage … it was not a nice place to be. All those people just in there, they were frustrated, they were hot. Out of all that chaos, all of these rumors start flying."

Louisiana National Guard Col. Thomas Beron, who headed security at the Superdome, said that for every complaint, "49 other people said, 'Thank you, God bless you.' "

All this hype and frenzy took its toll on the rescue effort as well. Irresponsible words have consequences.
Bush, of the National Guard, said that reports of corpses at the Superdome filtered back to the facility via AM radio, undermining his struggle to keep morale up and maintain order.

"We had to convince people this was still the best place to be," Bush said. "What I saw in the Superdome was just tremendous amounts of people helping people."

But, Bush said, those stories received scant attention in newspapers or on television.

I understand that news is, by one definition, that which is unusual, not the ordinary day-to-day events. However, in a disaster area, everything is unusual and extraordinary. This goes for the good news as well as the bad. Does the good news draw viewers as much as the bad? Perhaps not. However, a balance needs to be struck that was missing from the Katrina coverage. And if indeed more people will listen to bad news than good, then it's as much our collective problem as it is that of the media and the politicians specifically.

Posted by Doug at 12:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Foursquare Kingdom Building

One of the interesting characters in American church history of the last century was Aimee Semple McPherson, founder of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, the first prominent Pentecostal denomination.

McPherson was reportedly the first woman in America to be granted a radio license by the FCC. The station she began in 1924, operated by the church ever since, was sold earlier this year for a whopping $200 million. Foursquare has used these funds primarily as the corpus of a grant-making foundation. The most interesting aspect of the foundation’s policies, which I reported on in Christianity Today, is that at least 10 percent of the annual grants will be given to causes outside of the denomination.

That’s Kingdom thinking that is not commonly found in denominational decision-making. A hat tip to the spiritual heirs of McPherson.

Posted by Jim at 10:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Snow Daze

President Bush singled out Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue for praise yesterday because the chief executive of our state called on all of the public schools in the state to use two of its snow days, Monday and Tuesday, in order to conserve diesel fuel.

This decision was communicated to the schools at 3:45 p.m. on Friday, so the kids came home for the weekend with a slip of paper announcing their great news and an unexpected two-day vacation.

There weren’t many people in Georgia singing Perdue’s praises, however, except the school children. Although the governor was no doubt trying to exert leadership and preempt shortages, when Rita failed to destroy as it was expected to, the snow days looked silly. And for parents who had to miss work because there wasn’t time to make other arrangements, the decision was maddening.

The irony is even greater when you know that Georgia’s public schools are routinely ranked #49 or #50 in the country (sometimes the state can brag: We beat Alabama!) What does it say about education priorities when sending the kids home is the first line of conservation.

Perdue gained some political capital earlier in the month when he lifted the state gasoline tax, to bring post-Katrina gasoline price back below $3 a gallon. He’s mismanaged that good will away.

This is all an exercise in controlling perceptions and panics. Two days off school or the Governor carpooling to the State House are not going to make a significant difference. The President suggested a number of similar “band-aid” measures yesterday.

We need more leadership to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, on all fossil fuels, and on one region of the country for refining oil. We need more refineries. And we need to fast track the moribund nuclear power industry.

In the meantime, just calm down. And let the kids go back to school.

Posted by Jim at 08:37 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 26, 2005

Contrasting Views

Here's an editorial in last week's Crimson White, the student newspaper at the University of Alabama, my alma mater and current school. The piece was written by a Christian.

Here's a response in today's paper written by someone who is not a believer.

Discuss among yourselves.

Posted by Matt at 05:31 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 24, 2005

Hillary's well-played hand

A well-played hand must be noted.

Hillary Clinton has been working hard to win over the NYC First Responders ever since the Cops and Firefighters of 9/11 booed her at Madison Square Garden. Say what you will about her, she is patient, and she will do what it takes - over time - to achieve her goals.

With this pronouncement, she has made a significant and lasting inroad with them.

The only politician who can say he is now chummier with the First Responders, not just in NYC, but in the nation, is Rudy Giuliani.

Very smart move. Coming right on the heels of her meeting with Mother Sheehan and declaring no on John Roberts, to appease the whackadoo base, she comes back and goes "centrist" where it can't hurt her (the whackadoos don't much care about the IFC), and scoops up the Responders on the way.

I will never vote for her myself. Not ever. I voted for a Clinton once and that will be the first and last time. But...that was well-played.

Posted by Thecla at 12:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Market: Why Worship It?

(Jim, this isn't directed at you - just a related rant.)

There are so many non-"Oh my! Gas is $4/gallon!" reasons to demand alternative energy sources.

If we know that our petroleum consumption is not sustainable, causes environmental damage, and supports terrorist nations, then our government should take steps to push the market to supply alternatives.

"Market" theory, when dealing with anything other than rivalrous/excludable goods, often fails, or only works itself out in the "long run." Well, in the long run: a) we're all dead; or b) irreversible long-term damage is done before the market kicks in.

Like lemmings, we design our regions so that the car is for most people the only feasible mode of travel. We fill tank after tank of petrol but know that we contribute marginally to the cumulative problem, so the free rider effect wins and we keep sucking the petrol.

Poisonous air, polluted runoff, acid rain, terrorist attacks - all products of our reliance on oil - are examples of externalities not adequately considered by our idol, the market.

My idea of a good Republican is one who understands economics well enough to know that markets are rarely perfect, and the only time they work well is when dealing with a certain type of good (pure private goods). A good Republican realizes that government can prime markets or push them to move in certain directions through taxation, regulation, and prohibition. A good Republican believes that government can be a good compliment to the market, not an enemy. A good Republican would have supported higher gas taxes to fund R&D of alternative fuels a long time ago. If this Republican isn't considered a "conservative" for her worldview, so be it.

Unfortunately, most Republicans I know continue to worship their idol, the market, ignorant of its theoretical and practical limitations. Markets aren't perfect. The government isn't perfect. Why worship either?

The river of truth flows through the valley of two extremes. Market economics is not the answer. Socialism is not the answer. But moderate government intervention of markets can be a very good thing.

Posted by Rick at 01:27 AM | Comments (30) | TrackBack

September 23, 2005

Vegetable Power: An Alternative to Gasoline Guzzling

With reports that the price of gasoline will hit $4.00 a gallon if the Texas refineries are closed very long because of Rita, I found this article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution quite interesting.

With very little modification, a local Gwinnett County fellow has converted his VW Jetta diesel to run on vegetable oil. Nothing fancy, just vegetable oil that is being discarded by an area Thai restaurant.

We certainly need to be heading this way, to far greater use of renewable fuels to run our engines.

The article is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but the story is real. And it really does make one hopeful that there are alternatives to our dependence on fossil fuels.

Posted by Jim at 09:46 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Game Theory

Game theory meant something else when I was an undergrad.

Posted by Rick at 05:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The New New Deal

Conservative, small-government types are getting run over by the latest spending spree by the Republican-controlled Congress. This Cox & Forkum cartoon on the subject points to this OpinionJournal article by Stephen Moore called "The GOP's New New Deal". He opines:

Conspicuously missing from the post-Katrina spending debate is a question for some brave soul in Congress to ask, What is the appropriate and constitutional role here for the federal government? Before the New Deal taught us that the federal government is the solution to every malady, most congresses and presidents would have concluded that the federal government's role was minimal. One of our greatest presidents, Democrat Grover Cleveland, vetoed an appropriation for drought victims because there was no constitutional authority to spend for such purposes. Today he would be ridiculed by Ted Kennedy as "incompassionate."

We all want to see New Orleans rebuilt, but it does not follow that this requires more than $100 billion in federal aid. Chicago was burned to the ground in 1871; San Francisco was leveled by an earthquake in 1906; and in 1900 Galveston, Texas, was razed by a hurricane even more ferocious than Katrina. In each instance, these proud cities were rebuilt rapidly and to even greater glory--with hardly any federal money.

That's so hard to do in today's world because, as Moore points out, the culture has already been conditioned, by the New Deal and its reinforcements since then, to expect this from the federal government. Here's a paragraph from Grover Cleveland's biography at whitehouse.gov:
Cleveland vigorously pursued a policy barring special favors to any economic group. Vetoing a bill to appropriate $10,000 to distribute seed grain among drought-stricken farmers in Texas, he wrote: "Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character. . . . "

Indeed, President Cleveland was right; we now live in the age of that expectation. And the sturdiness of character that rebuilt 3 cities on its own within 35 years seems to have been dealt a serious, self-inflicted blow, first by Cleveland's own Democratic party, but now we see that too many Republicans have had a hand in it. Much of this can be laid at the feet of those who think that the Constitution is a thing of rubber to be twisted into whatever shape is desired at the moment rather than a firm foundation. As government has seeped out of the bounds created for it, and voters have elected more and more people willing to encourage such seepage, the money taken in increased, and with the money came power, and with that power came arrogance. And the descent along this slippery slope continues because each time we slid farther, "it seemed like a good/compassionate idea at the time".

Now it's city mayors and state governors looking first to Washington to bail them out of a crisis, rather than teaming up with local businesses and charities. We are a much, much wealthier nation than we were in 1871, but in the current culture, self-sufficiency and community effort seem to be things of the past.

Yet almost as soon as the embers had cooled, Chicago business leaders deployed to New York to persuade investors that this was the time to put more of their money into Chicago, not less. Peter Alter, curator of the Chicago Historical Society, recounts the story of William D. Kerfoot, a real-estate speculator whose offices had burned. The day after the fire was extinguished, Mr. Kerfoot erected a crudely made painted sign: "All Gone But Wife, Children and Energy."

That article goes on to describe the response to three other cities that fell to disaster, and shows, in spite of some cases of man's tendency to take advantage of a situation, people and organizations did have the energy to deal with the situation, rather than immediately look to Washington, DC. Do we still have that personal energy, or are we content to not even try? Private individuals, private charities and private organizations were able to rebuild in times past; why do we automatically think that could never happen now?

Well, not all of us think that.

Posted by Doug at 10:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 22, 2005

DC Bound

Sunday I fly to DC for 9 days of FEMA training. Following training, I will be deployed immediately to the field for at least 3 months - location to be determined. It looks like I will be supporting FEMA with damage assessment, debris removal, site preparation, site planning, and reconstruction. That covers just about everything, so it doesn't tell me much. Whatever. I just want to serve.

Pray for my wife and kids that they will be strong while I'm gone.

Posted by Rick at 03:22 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

A Better Lie Detector

I remember seeing a short movie on something like this when I was in high school. The idea was fanciful then, but it's becoming more of a reality.

BRAIN-SCANNING techniques that test whether people are telling the truth could soon be sufficiently reliable to be used to interrogate criminals.

Neuroscientists developing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as a tool for detecting lies believe the technology is nearly ready for use beyond the laboratory.

A team at the University of Pennsylvania has developed a way of reading fMRI scans that is claimed to be capable of telling lies from the truth with 99 per cent accuracy.

The question in the movie was, would this run afoul of the 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination? It's possible. The main question is; what was the purpose of a such a protection? As such, would a device like this protect us from the abuses that the 5th Amendment does? It's a very interesting idea, being able to get the truth for sure, but could it be abused and manipulated, giving bad information the credentials of good information because "the machine said so"?

Tough questions.

Posted by Doug at 03:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More on Worldviews

There's been a lot of said over the last few years about the Christian worldview, its positives and its excesses. Let me offer this piece as a means of detailing where I agree and where I disagree with the prevailing worldview and its implications. The catalyst for this was this piece by the Internet Monk, Michael Spencer. I'm not in total opposition to Spencer's viewpoint, but I want to offer my own slant on the topic.

To begin, let me offer this much: A great deal of the worldview thinking has gone overboard. I think the Worldview Weekend is lame. It goes to ridiculous lengths to endorse the GOP as God's Party. I'm not on board with that. I think Nancy Pearcey takes some absurd leaps when she tries to suggest that rock music is inappropriate for the Christian believer. While I respect Francis Schaeffer's work, I also think he drew some unnecessary philosophical lines that labeled lots of things as "dangerous" when they needn't be, i.e. anything influenced by Kirkegaard or Barth. I didn't say we had to agree with it, mind you, I'm just saying that those ideas aren't immediately dangerous in the way that Sartre or Camus are.

Having said that, and I hope to revisit my criticism of Pearcey soon enough, let me detail where I am on board with the notion that Biblical orthodoxy can lead to certain social, economic and political beliefs. It's true enough that there is no Scripture arguing for the creation of a capitalist state, but I can look at the Bible and see a basic endorsement of personal freedom, the right to private property, and the freedom to ply one's craft without any sort of major interference from an oppressive government. Scripture suggests that we should maintain communal bonds, caring for one another and those who cannot care for themselves. The New Testament doesn't go a long way in suggesting that we care for others by taxing ourselves and then practicing a generic redistribution of wealth. My point here is to suggest that some degree of free-market economics can easily be justified by Scripture. Can free market economics be abused? Absolutely, and I reject any idea that says the market rules above all. Christians in business and government must be fair and euitable in all their dealings.

Now as it relates to specific government proposals, of course the Bible doesn't offer an opinion on health care. But I can look at the problem of socialized health care and see that it leads to ridiculously high taxes, a lack of choice for the individial and, typically, a decrease in the quality of health care. That may not be explicitly Biblical, but it sure is common sense. We might call it natural law, no? And like Aquinas, I believe that natural law was instituted by God, and any government program that consistenly tries to kick against natural law and first principles just isn't going to work. And yes, we're fallen humans, so nothing is going to flourish forever, but there's a significant difference between an idea that has problems and an idea that is an unmitigated disaster.

So what then does the Christian think about tax policy and welfare? Specifically, I don't know that a believer could argue for the Reagan tax policy as opposed to the Bush policy. But given the intentions of the government, I do think one could make a case that the Reagan policy was better than the LBJ policy or that Margaret Thatcher's ideas were better than Tony Blair's. Why? Well, not to sound too pragmatic, but they worked. And I don't mean that God's on the side of the winner, but I mean that Thatcher and Reagan worked (while LBJ and Blair haven't) because they've adhered to first principles of natural law when developing their economic policies, believing that individuals and communities know best, that government should stay out of the way and that private charity is most effective. Is that the Christian position? I don't know. I don't want a sermon on it this Sunday, but at the same time, I don't want us to pretend that God hasn't laid down certain natural precepts that will lead to a smoother (not necessarily perfect - totally depravity and all that) flow in the economy. To suggest that a Christian can be for any old party is to suggest that those parties don't take a stance on these matters and that perhaps God doesn't either. That's just plain false.

If what I've endorsed sounds an awful lot like conservatism, well, so be it. The simple truth is that the major American conservatives of the last fifty years have, on the whole, been both orthodox Christians and Jews (with a few agnostic exceptions), meaning that they held to certains understandings of natural law that are easily extrapolated from Scripture. Likewise, a brief perusal of the Conservative Reader shows a fair number of Christians, Lewis, Eliot and Muggeridge included, within its ranks. If that makes some people uncomfortable, then so be it. I don't want the church to wave the banner for the Republican party, but on this aspect of politics, I'm generally persuaded that the traditionally conservative position is the more defensible one for the Christian tradition.

Consider this part one of a series. I will return, hopefully tonight or tomorrow, with my thoughts on where the Christian worldview is perhaps off on matters of art and where, despite some terrible Evangelical public relations, is still pretty much right on matters of family and marriage.

Posted by Matt at 12:42 PM | Comments (31) | TrackBack

Democrats Dazed and Confused on Roberts

The transparent duplicity of the Senate's Democratic leadership emasculates whatever strategy they had in mind regarding their verdict on Chief Justice nominee John Roberts.

Do they expect anyone to believe that the liberal warhorse Patrick Leahy measured John Roberts and found him worthy, while Harry Reid, the anti-abortion Democratic Leader from a conservative-leaning state, found the judge wanting?

Strange indeed.

I understand the eagerness of the Democrats to look reasonable regarding Roberts, now that their opposition is doomed. If they can look thoughtful now, perhaps Americans will remember their thoughtfulness when they become rapid in their attacks on the next nominee.

But is Reid, and by proxy the Democratic Party itself, so weak and beholden to the liberal interests groups of the left that have marched through his office that he had to become the designated symbol of opposition to the impressive but conservative jurist.

And with the first signals from these two leading Democratic senators, with others making far less news as they lined up for or against Roberts, the Democrats botched their message.

Reid looks pathetic, and the Democrats look dazed and confused.

Wait, that’s not news, is it?

Posted by Jim at 07:21 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 21, 2005

Smart Growth: Let the Market Decide

I just finished reading a 2001 interview of New Urbanist Andres Duany for my urban design class.

Q: Where do you think the Bush administration will go with smart growth?

A: Smart growth, thanks to Al Gore's backing, has been positioned as a movement of he left, and so the right is reflexively attacking it. But smart growth could be repositioned: It shouldn't be imposed, but is should be legal everywhere.

Right now, when you want to build a compact, diverse, walkable, and transit-friendly community, it's illegal. You need variance after variance after variance. Let's suggest instead that every single jurisdiction should have a smart growth code so that the market can decide - because right now the market has only sprawl as a choice. This idea can be presented to the Republicans as choice.

He's so right...

Take a moment to view Peter Calthorpe's photo simulations and project portfolio. Like Duany's, Calthorpe's master planning and urban design business is booming as developers realize that there is a great deal of profit to be made from transforming extremely dull, inefficient, and often decaying suburban nowhereplaces into vibrant, walkable, and mixed-use communities.

Unfortunately, like a square peg in a round hole, most of their projects are forced to comply with sprawl perpetuating development standards. The product is too often a Disneyland version of the original vision.

The market wants to supply new urbanist communities - government regulation is holding the market back. And new urbanism is paradoxically championed by the left and frustrated by the right. Odd, don't you think?

Posted by Rick at 10:04 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

LSU - Overrated?

With all due respect to Josh Britton, let me offer a suggestion:

LSU is, currently, the most overrated team in college football. Why? It's got a little something to do with the asinine preseason rankings. The poll voters have a tendency to keep preseason rankings in place until a top team loses. For example, the number one and two teams, USC and Texas, respectively, have not lost. Therefore they remain in their position. LSU had a preseason ranking of number three, thus they remain in that position.

There's just one problem. They've played one game. One. Yes, I know there was a hurricane, but they've only missed one game. Florida, Georgia, Florida State and Virginia Tech all have records of 3-0 with wins against quality opponents, but they won't move up the ranks until LSU loses. All this because of a lame preseason polling system.


Posted by Matt at 12:30 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

September 20, 2005

Red-Staters for Increased Spending?

OK, I read the article at Redstate.org called "I, Heretic" as well as a number of the (very numerous) comments.

And now my brain hurts.

I'll admit my knowledge of economics isn't what I'd like it to be; most of my opinion comes from how certain policies have worked in the far or recent past. However, "Nick Danger" posts about why, to get the smaller government conservatives would like, we need to spend more money now. The Katrina recovery, he says, is the perfect opportunity to show how an enterprise solution to this socio-economic problem works better than an entitlement-based one.

It's a well-thought-out analysis. I guess. >grin<

If the choice is more federal government spending by Republicans vs. giving the money to the 3rd most indicted city government in the country, well... Rock, meet Hard Place. Hard Place, this is Rock.

Feel free to educate me in the comments, especially as related to the ideas in the article. Some of what Nick writes, especially about the benefits of China holding our bonds, and explored more in the article's comments, run counter to some of the thoughts previously expressed by commenters on our site. What I find interesting is that Nick sees this as a way to ultimately decrease the size of government, by getting the public to see how well it could work and actually want it.

Pigs flyings? Upside-down logic? Perhaps, but Nick can be persuasive. Give it a read and tell me what you think.

Posted by Doug at 09:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Pat Robertson

Interesting stuff from Mere Comments.

I say let's give him the boot and be done with it.

Posted by Matt at 07:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Consumer Confidence and Katrina?

As another large hurricane grows in the Gulf of Mexico, threatening American oil production once again, perhaps it's a good a time as any to talk about how Katrina has affected the American economy - or more so, how some people think Katrina has affected it.

Last week there was talk that consumer sentiment is slumping because of Hurricane Katrina and now the Fed raises interest rates. But what does this talk about consumer sentiment really mean and is it even valid? Reading about why the Fed is raising rates, it's good to know there isn't much talk about "consume sentiment" which is good, cause I think it's bunk. I'll grant that the economy is in shock, just like many people are in shock. I'll even grant that less people have been shopping in the last few weeks - or rather, that they are spending less money on those trips. But, is the reason for these tighter purse strings necessarily worry over the economy?

Could it be that they are saving money to donate it to the relief work?

Could people have been home watching the 24/7 news coverage instead of shopping?

Could they be spending their time volunteering instead of shopping?

Or...I wonder if this economic analysis of the economy takes into account the fact that one of the major cities in the US is no longer spending any money. But ok, I'll assume they considered that.

The result was similar to trends in other consumer surveys as well as a string of major polls showing waning support for the Bush administration's economic policies.

"I think there's probably also a degree of loss of confidence in the government," said David Sloan, economist at 4CAST Ltd. in New York.

Loss of confidence in government? I don't know, I appreciate the Mr. Sloan is crediting the average American shopper with such complex thought processes. As Jim chronicled yesterday, some American shoppers are just tired of thinking about Katrina, so it's not stopping them from hanging out at the mall or anything.

For me personally, I know I've been spending less money in the stores, both because I am unemployed (which I was before Katrina) and because I wanted to be able to contribute to organizations like the Salvation Army and the Red Cross. I also look at a lot of things differently now. For example, the way I treat water is different. I'm not so quick to dump out fresh water just because it sat on the counter for a while. It's true that I'm being more efficient about my driving since the gas prices went so high. But they've dropped over 50 cents in my area and I'm still being efficient...because really, I should have been all along right? So often in times of crisis we are awoken to things about our behavior that should have been changed long ago. Perhaps those of us whose actions are changing because of Katrina are only benefiting from better focus and awareness - not because we are so worried about the economy or because we trust the government any more or less than we did before - or more or less than we should have in the first place.

Posted by Abigail at 06:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sitting It Out

Rick's going to love this one.

I'm pretty sick of the spending and all this cronyism on the part of W is eight kinds of lame. So in next fall's national elections, I'm thinking very seriously of sitting out. Alabama has a Senator up for reelection; Jeff Sessions is a good man, but he may have to win without my vote. I've got a Democrat Congressman; I won't be voting for him, but I may not be voting for the GOP candidate, either.

If I sit one out, I'll be back on the team in 2008, but this nonsense has to end.

See Rod Dreher and the Michelle Malkin link that Rick referenced earlier.

Posted by Matt at 06:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bravo Michelle!

Michelle Malkin exposes another Bush crony appointee. Conservatives shouldn't be afraid to confront the President when he deserves it. Bravo Michelle!

Posted by Rick at 03:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Pope Speaks Out on Homosexual Priests

When I first started blogging, the topic I posted mostly on was the Catholic church's pedophile priest problem, and how the media completely ignored the fact that >90% of the instances were between priests and boys, thus making this as much a homosexual priest problem. Well, today the Pope has reaffirmed the church's stance on the issue.

Pope Benedict XVI has given his approval to a new Vatican policy document that bans men with homosexual tendencies from being ordained as priests, reports Catholic World News.

The policy statement is a direct result of the pope's concern about the pedophilia scandal in the church – especially in the U.S.

The new document, prepared by the Congregation for Catholic Education in response to a request made by the late Pope John Paul II in 1994, will be published soon. It will take the form of an "Instruction," signed by the prefect and secretary of the congregation: Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski and Archbishop Michael Miller, according to the report.

This is not a change in policy. It's meant most likely for the North American churches that have been ignoring it.
The "Instruction" does not represent a change in church teaching or policy, according to the Vatican.

Catholic leaders have consistently taught that homosexual men should not be ordained to the priesthood. Pope John XXIII approved a formal policy to that effect, which still remains in effect. However, during the 1970s and 1980s, that policy was widely ignored, particularly in North America.

Posted by Doug at 01:37 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Revelation Upon Us?

Tens of thousands dead from an earthquake in Iran. Tens of thousands more dead from a heat wave in Europe. Hundreds of thousands dead from a tsunami in Asia. 90,000 square miles ravaged by a hurricane. What do they have in common? All very recent natural disasters of "Biblical proportion."

Now come doomsday predictions from the World Health Organization of a potential plague or pestilence of Biblical proportion - the Avian Bird Flu (ABF).

Keep your eye on FluWiki for details on National ABF Awareness Week sometime in October.

A non-Christian dentist friend of mine told me not to worry about global pandemics. With a heavy dose of snark, he exhorted me to "Trust in the Lord." Well, duh... But just as I trust in the Lord for the safety of my family, I still lock the door.

I have to wonder...Is Revelation upon us?

Posted by Rick at 12:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Worldview Pros and Cons

A few nights ago at Matt Crash!, I linked to a post by Dr. Al Mohler on the topic of adults choosing to delay children. In a post today at the Boars Head Tavern, Michael Spencer took issue with the piece, saying:

"Finally, The topics that relate to the Christian worldview never cease to amaze me. I mean, I get it, but where we are going here? If you don't get married and have babies quick...what? God is offended? The culture goes to the dogs? I'm just unclear."

I'll have more to say about Spencer's most recent critique of the current issues at work within the dogmatic framework of the "Christian worldview," but I'm at a loss to see why he has a problem here. Let me begin by saying I share his concern that Mohler's blogging and online commentary is often too political. Frankly, there are many more commentators doing a much better job at dealing with cultural issues. On top of that, Mohler's "blog" is often little more than a collection of links or summaries of other articles. Likewise I share the feeling with other bloggers that Mohler does lots of scolding with little understanding. So my point here is not in defending Mohler, though like Spencer, I have a lot of respect for his work at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and within the theological community.

I've taken issue with Mohler before, most notably concerning the topic of delayed marriage. Yet I was not stating disagreement with Mohler's concern in this post and this one. I was then and am now bothered by his inability to understand the circumstances faced by my generation. To date, he has not yet shown a proper understanding. This might have something to do with always speaking at seminaries and Christian colleges, instead of talking to students at, for lack of a better term, secular institutions.

Having said that, I think Mohler is basically right about the dangers in delaying both marriage and childbirth. Yes, I know there are plenty of good Christian twentysomethings delaying both of these things for purposes of ministry. There are also lots of good Christian twentysomethings having fun being single and living like a nineteen year old. I know plenty of them; up until about a year ago, I was really looking forward to being one of them. I guess my question for folks like Spencer is this: even if "early" marriage isn't a biblical position (like, say, tithing) it is certainly a practice that nearly every society in human history has decided to undertake. If we decide that it's a point that we can adhere to at our own whim, we are conceding to drastic cultural change. Mohler would likely suggest, as I do, that Christians should be slow to accept such change. This change is the result of technological and industrial advances; should the Church give up this ground?

A secondary point I would emphasize is that Mohler's position on this matter is by no means limited to evangelical Christians. Conservative Catholics often hold this position in places like National Review and First Things. Nonevangelicals take up the argument in the Weekly Standard and Touchstone. Orthodox believers like John Mark Reynolds and Frederica Matthewes-Green do, as well. Stanley Kurtz has been making an essentially secular argument that says delaying marriage and children will ultimately be detrimental to our social order. So while folks like Al Mohler and James Dobson make an evangelical push - and again, I'm not entirely comfortable with their premises - there are many, many others who come to the same conclusions with slightly different arguments. These arguments are often more persuasive, in my opinion, but I worry that Spencer and others like him are ignoring important cultural matters because of an understandable problem with the way many evangelicals present the issue.

Posted by Matt at 12:34 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Simon Wiesenthal, 1908-2005

From Fox News:

Simon Wiesenthal, the Holocaust survivor who helped track down Nazi war criminals following World War II, then spent the later decades of his life fighting anti-Semitism and prejudice against all people, died Tuesday. He was 96.

Wiesenthal, who helped find one-time SS leader Adolf Eichmann and the policeman who arrested Anne Frank, died in his sleep at his home in Vienna, said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.

"I think he'll be remembered as the conscience of the Holocaust. In a way he became the permanent representative of the victims of the Holocaust, determined to bring the perpetrators of the greatest crime to justice," Hier told The Associated Press.

A survivor of five Nazi death camps, Wiesenthal changed his life's mission after the war, dedicating himself to tracking down Nazi war criminals and to being a voice for the 6 million Jews who died during the onslaught. He himself lost 89 relatives in the Holocaust.

Wiesenthal spent more than 50 years hunting Nazi war criminals, speaking out against neo-Nazism and racism, and remembering the Jewish experience as a lesson for humanity. Through his work, he said, some 1,100 Nazi war criminals were brought to justice.

Posted by Tom at 09:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Punish Executive Crooks Without Punishing Ourselves

In what is becoming common treatment of senior executives who abuse the public trust, the ex-Tyco leaders were given long prison sentences of 8-25 years. What is different about these convictions is that they are state cases, not federal, and because of the length of the sentences, prison time is likely to be served at the terrible Attica prison in western New York.

There is a tendency to relish the harsh punishment of arrogant leaders who have hurt many people financially; who thought they were above the law, and who had no regard for the damage they were causing others.

But as I have explained before, prisons should be used to punish violent and dangerous offenders, not people we dislike. There is a range of severe and appropriate punishments that do not use expensive prison space, and do not mix non-violent lawbreakers with murderers and other thugs.

Community-based punishments would be appropriate for the Tyco rascals. Sending them to a maximum-security prison is cruel and unusual punishment.

There a biblical sense of justice, however, that points to the need to be merciful, as God has been merciful to us, with an ironic twist not unlike a reverse reading of Matthew 18:21-32:

In perhaps the most dramatic moment of the hearing, [the prosecutor] read aloud from a letter [Tyco executive] Kozlowski had written in 1995 to a Houston judge overseeing the sentencing of a Tyco employee who had been convicted of stealing from the company; Mr. Kozlowski urged that a maximum sentence be imposed.

[The prosecutor] said of Mr. Kozlowski, "What the defendant said on that occasion applies on this occasion."


Posted by Jim at 07:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Gays in the Military

Ed Brayton of ITA links to a piece in Positive Liberty highlighting the contradiction in the military's policy on gay service.

On the one hand, they adamantly claim that allowing gays to serve in the military undermines morale and unit cohesion (the same exact arguments they made 60 years ago against allowing blacks to serve in "white" units, incidentally), but on the other hand when wartime comes around they suddenly stop discharging those who admit to being gay.
I'm sure that the military's policy, if accurately described here, is an attempt to limit use of the "gay card" to avoid deployment in a war zone, but that makes me wonder why the military would want to deploy cowards in the first place. That point aside, the contradiction is glaring given that the miliary's rationale for their policy is that allowing gays to serve openly would harm morale and unit cohesion in battle.

Ed ended his post by taking a stand against discrimination: "Gay soldiers can serve their country just as bravely as straight ones."

Josh Clayborn questioned Ed and others who agree with him in comments: "Should women also be permitted to serve in all capacities of the military?"

Ed responded: "If an individual is qualified to perform a given duty, I do not think that traits unrelated to the performance of that duty should prevent them from being allowed to do so. That would include their skin color, gender, sexual orientation and perhaps other factors; I would also include the potential reaction of other soldiers to those unrelated traits as an unrelated trait in and of itself."

My two cents: In high school, I studied the case of a woman who served in Panama as an MP during the invasion in 1989. While on patrol, her unit came under fire. Although she had the same training as the men in her unit, the men instinctively surrounded her and would not let her engage the enemy. Due to "traits unrelated to her performance" she became a liability on that mission, although on paper she was supposed to be an asset. Her story provoked a very heated discussion for an 11th grade history class, but the I have always remembered the exercise.

Sure the MP case at was 16 years ago, but I think the point has some contemporary relevance.

The question about gays in the military is not one of the capability of the gay man or woman. It is about the tolerance of the men and women with whom they would serve. The military should not be a social experiment, although I agree that is the same terrible argument used against integration with blacks decades ago.

The issue is tough to approach from a policy standpoint and perhaps best resolved through incrementalism. President Clinton's "Dont' Ask, Don' Tell" policy was a good incremental step. The current policy limiting discharging of gays during war time is another incremental step. The more exposure the brass and grunts get to the gays within their ranks, the more tolerant they will become and the lower the threat they will pose to morale and unit cohesion.

Posted by Rick at 01:42 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

September 19, 2005

Katrina and Global Warming

My friend Jeff from Shermblog debunks the Global-Warming-and-President-Bush's-failure-to-push-the-Kyoto-Treaty-caused-Hurricane-Katrina argument. There's charts and statistics and everything that a geek like Rick would want to see.

Posted by Mark at 10:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Highlights from the SCO Blogroll

  • Captain's Quarters - Angela Merkel may not be the only casualty of the latest round of German elections. German journalists and pollsters who proclaimed the inevitability of her win at the expense of Gerhard Schroeder now wonder how they missed the story so badly.
  • Dynamist - In short, think tanks are well into their decadent phase. They're giving their donors what they want--simple sound bites--but they aren't producing many new ideas.
  • the evangelical outpost - A few weeks ago I argued that parents who oppose the teaching of neo-Darwinism in public schools were following the wrong tactic. Instead of “Teaching the Controversy” I claimed that they should simply teach students how to think critically and logically and then have them read the claims made by “evolutionists” (people who have an almost religious faith in the ability of the theory to provide "scientific" explanations). At the top of such a reading list would be the complete works of Richard Dawkins.
  • In the Agora - I had lunch on Saturday with my friend Dan Ray, a con law teacher, and we had an interesting discussion about John Roberts and the issue of the level of abstraction at which you view a given claim when it comes before the court. This was an issue during his confirmation hearings, though I'm sure a lot of people missed the significance of it.
  • Mark D. Roberts - In my last post in this series I suggested, somewhat irreverently, that the Jesus Seminar was like a circle dance in the way it dealt with evidence. Even before the Seminar examined the purported sayings of Jesus, it had already assumed much of what it would eventually conclude. That's called arguing in a circle. But if it's done as artfully as the Jesus Seminar did it, it deserves to be called circle dancing.
  • Power Line - In recent years, the Democrats have violated many of the tacit conventions of civility that have enabled our political system to work for more than two centuries. Yesterday another barrier fell, and once again, we entered uncharted waters: former President Bill Clinton launched a vicious attack on President Bush on ABC's "This Week" program.
  • Mere Comments - Are Pat Robertson’s days numbered? Of course they are, just like the rest of us. But I mean, is he about to get the “left hand of fellowship” from a number of Christians who are increasingly embarrassed by his public comments?

Posted by Doug at 02:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Trailer Park King

In comments, Fran (bless her heart) wrote that I should give thought and prayer to entering the political arena. Ha! If only I could speak!

Radioblogger dubbed me "King of the Trailer Park" following a call into the Hugh Hewitt show about the fed plans to construct mini-trailer park cities to house evacuees until their communities are rebuilt (See transcript). I can't bring myself to link to the soundbite because it's as unnerving as nails on a chalk board. I'm a bumbling idiot. Sure I was trying to navigate an interstate interchange during the call, but c'mon!

I'll leave politics to the former car salesmen like Tom Campbell. Bumbling idiots don't sell many good cars and a good politician has to sell many lemons.

A note of clarification: The plans I wrote for FEMA involved the construction of 50,000 mobile home units for approximately 150,000 evacuees. In the interview I said, erroneously, that the plans involved 150,000 mobile home units. But, the beauty of the plans (IMHO) is that they are scalable. If the mission is 300,000 units, then all you have to do is replicate my plans 6 times. Also, FEMA told us not to consider the cost because our plans were a first cut at solving the problem. Cost would certainly factor into deciding between alternatives. But FEMA needed alternatives to consider and giving them one was my assignment. Hugh is against the plans and has a few good ideas. Perhaps if I find time I can point out where Hugh is blowing it and where he has it right.

Posted by Rick at 08:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Great Speech Moment

While we’ve debated in this space the merits of President Bush’s recovery proposals, and how they should be funded, I can’t let the time pass without noting a great moment of speechmaking.

The closing of the President’s speech in New Orleans last week was brilliant, and it illuminated the crisis with imagery well known to the New Orleans community, and to many of us who are familiar only with the caricatures of the city and its culture:

In this place, there is a custom for the funerals of jazz musicians. The funeral procession parades slowly through the streets, followed by a band playing a mournful dirge as it moves to the cemetery. Once the casket has been laid in place, the band breaks into a joyful "second line" -- symbolizing the triumph of the spirit over death. Tonight the Gulf Coast is still coming through the dirge, yet we will live to see the second line.


Posted by Jim at 07:20 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Reality Check

I spend a few hours a week sitting at a table in the student union at Kennesaw State University, preparing for two news writing courses I teach at the Atlanta-area school. Overhearing conversations around the table gives me raw exposure to the thoughts and passions of the next generation, as frightening as that may be.

Last week I picked up from the gaggle of students next to me the following sentiment: “I am sooooo tired of hearing about this hurricane stuff that is, like, on all the time.”

The adult response, of course, is that the only thing more tiring would be to be living in a Red Cross shelter hundreds of miles away from home for weeks, then piecing together a life in an apartment nowhere near any of your friends and family, attending a school where you don’t know anyone, and trying to figure out how to stretch the food you picked up at The Salvation Army recovery center.

But, yes, these are college students. It takes people with real life experiences to connect them to reality. I guess that’s why I’m there.

Posted by Jim at 07:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 18, 2005


porkbusterssm.jpgWe've discussed the government's funding of Katrina and DeLay's ludicrous comments at lenght at SCO (see posts and comments here, here, and here). But we're not alone. The topic has been broached many times across the blogosphere this week.

Instapundit and NZ Bear have kicked off a Porkbusters project.

Glenn writes:

Identify some wasteful spending in your state or (even better) Congressional District. Put up a blog post on it. Go to N.Z. Bear's new PorkBusters page and list the pork, and add a link to your post.

Then call your Senators and Representative and ask them if they're willing to support having that program cut or -- failing that -- what else they're willing to cut in order to fund Katrina relief. (Be polite, identify yourself as a local blogger and let them know you're going to post the response on your blog). Post the results. Then go back to NZ Bear's page and post a link to your followup blog post.

Sounds like a good idea.


Posted by Rick at 07:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Sunset from Space


Posted by Rick at 10:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

We Combat Natural Disasters with Acts of God.

Yesterday, my wife and business partner, Debbie, read me the best headline for the recovery from Hurricane Katrina, from her work with a client who is responding to the tragedy: We Combat Natural Disasters with Acts of God.

The hands and feet and smiles and heart of God are seen everywhere, as the acts of God’s people bring life, food, shelter, reunion, and hope to the victims of wind, water, and folly. Fundraising for hurricane relief is ubiquitous—in nearly every store, every club, and every church. Everywhere you turn.

Americans are caring for their own, just as they care for the victims of disasters and tragedies around the world. Why?

While it perturbs those of other faiths and no faith when I point this out, it is our Judeo-Christian heritage that prompts the faith and heart of modern-day believers, and that informs, inspires, and compels this pluralistic nation to reach out to others--out of bounty, or for some, with great sacrifice.

It was the God of Abraham who told his people “not to reap all the way to the edge of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor” (Lev. 23:22)

He promised them that “if you offer yourself [a] to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted one, then your light will shine in the darkness, and your night will be like noonday” (Isaiah 58:10).

Jesus equated caring for the sick, hungry, thirsty, and imprisoned to caring for Him, (Matthew 25:31-46), and from the early days of the Christian church goods were “distributed to anyone as he had need” (Acts 4:35).

History demonstrates that it was the followers of God, the God of the Jews and Christians, who were the first demonstrate generosity and philanthropy as a part of their philosophy and practice.

The American culture, steeped in the Judeo-Christian tradition, is the most generous in the world. The Christian churches have led the way in giving to not only Katrina victims, but also to the victims of famine, war, earthquake, and pestilence around the world.

In many of its expressions, beliefs, and practices, America “has forgotten God” (to quote an old Russian saying). But the teachings of the Scriptures and the words and practices of generations still inspire us to give to others in need.

There are Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, secular humanists, and atheists in our midst who have joined in reaching out to hurricane victims. But they do so as part of an American culture whose roots are still drawing from the wellspring of historic Judaism and Christianity.

Last winter, Debbie and I traveled to northern Mongolia to observe the work of LifeQwest rescuing the street and sewer children of a nation still suffering from some 80 years under the Soviet boot and centuries in godless misery. I wrote about this in Christianity Today.

It is one of the colder spots on earth, and during our January stay we took a day trip to a small village about an hour from Darkhan--I believe it was called Orhan--a gathering of round teepees call “ger’s” and small shacks.

We took food and supplies to a family headed by a widowed grandmother of about 70 (she looked 90), her widowed daughter, and four or five small children. We crowded into their home, happy to be out of the below-zero cold.

As we walked in, we noticed that there was ice on the inside walls, and all of the children were still in their jackets. A very small fire was burning in the oven/stove/firebox, but it could not keep the home warm. “Why don’t you have a larger fire,” LifeQwest’s Jerry Smith asked. “Didn’t we bring you firewood?”

Yes, there was firewood, but no one in the home was strong enough to split it, so it could fit in the firebox.

Soon, members of our team were chopping wood. But as we worked and visited, we noticed a man at the next house, hearty and healthy, bringing his wood into his home.

His home was no more than 30 feet away, but he hadn’t lifted a finger to help two widows and their children stay warm during the coldest time of the winter.

We were furious about this uncaring neighbor. Jerry shared our disgust, but explained that it was not just this man, but the culture. Everyone looked out for himself and his family. There was no culture of giving and caring. No history of helping neighbors.

Religious heritage and cultural foundations do make a difference. And acts of God can help us recover from the very worst disasters.

Posted by Jim at 08:59 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Pope's Envoy Struck by "shameful" poverty in "rich America."

It would be easy for Americans, particularly those of us who approach the public square from a more conservative perspective, to shrug off, explain away, or otherwise ignore the comments from Pope Benedict XVI's envoy to the US with respect to Hurricane Katrina, Archbishop Paul Cordes. Me, I think I'll let his words reverberate in my mind and consider what Jesus would say under similar circumstances. Here are the words. Reflect on them as you will. No need to worry about them unless you have an ultimate judgment awaiting you:

"Many were struck by ... poverty, at times shameful, in rich America," Cordes told Vatican Radio.
"I do not want to hide my personal fear -- that the superpower isolates itself and remains isolated even in dealing with the disaster," Cordes said. "In this dramatic emergency, the United States must not be abandoned."

Cordes spent four days touring Baton Rouge and New Orleans in Louisiana, and Biloxi, Mississippi.

"The weakness experienced by the United States faced with this catastrophe" serves to "destroy all of our beliefs about self-sufficiency," the Vatican official said. "Thus, for me, in the bad part of this event there is also the hope, for many citizens, of seeing that the world is greater than the United States," Cordes said.

Humility is perhaps not the worst reaction that could come out of Katrina and these words. From our knees, we may very well see a better way. Indeed, it is my understanding that some even consider humility a virtue. Something to ponder.

Posted by Mark at 01:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 17, 2005


Check out Danny Carlton’s post “Stupid people wearing stupid shirts
Carlton opines:

I'm sorry, while I'm the first to argue that cries of racism are tossed out way, way too quickly in this country—how in the heck is that not racist?!? And furthermore, do we really need morons like this in the Marines?!? I always thought the Marines had higher standards that that.
Hear! Hear!

Posted by Rick at 11:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Some People Just Need to Chill Out

A couple of months ago, World Vision circulated a notice to its child sponsors that due to rising costs, the monthly contribution would be increased by $4. The notices explained that the increase was not compulsory and sponsors could opt out by returning a self addressed stamped envelope for their convenience. I didn't think anything of it, as it was only the second time in nearly seven years that they were requesting a modest increase.

Today I got a letter from President Richard Sterns apologizing almost to the point of embarassment for their insensitivity and that they should have asked sponsors rather than requesting objecting sponsors to opt out of the increase. From the letter, it is clear that a fair number of people registered strong dissatisfaction with World Vision.

What a waste of a good organization's time and resources. If you don't want to pay an extra $4 per month to help support your child, then all you had to do was fill out the card and opt out. Some people just need to chill out and not be so darn selfish.

Posted by Rick at 01:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 16, 2005

And Justice For All

I happened to catch some of CourtTV this afternoon when they were showing a clip of Chai Vang testifying. His description of the way he took out his gun to shoot Jessica Willers, one of many he killed that day, was amazingly matter of fact. He explained that the hunters were attacking him with racial slurs and didn't seem to understand that racial slur isn't something worthy of lethal self defense. Thankfully, the jury agreed.

Hmong Man Found Guilty in Hunter Deaths

Additionally, the article cites someone playing the race card:

Outside court, one of Vang's friends questioned the all-white jury's makeup and maintained Vang was innocent.

"All Caucasian, all American. Why can't there be one Hmong? Why can't there be one minority in there?" Pofwmyeh Yang said. "I believe only one person can judge, and that's God. But God didn't judge today."

Now, admittedly I'm Caucasian, but looking at the case, if I weren't white I would be somewhat offended at this implication that non-whites should be on a jury to secure freedom for a murderer. And "All Americans"? Yes, they have to all be Americans in order to be on a jury, right?

Additionally, as a Christian I agree that God is the final judge of us all, but in a civilized society we must have laws and the breaking of those laws must have consequences. That is what we saw today.

Posted by Abigail at 08:50 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Feds Plan Temporary Cities for Evacuees

That's the headline of this AP story posted at Drudge. The AP's article begins with this mental exercise:

Imagine building a city from scratch. Now, imagine doing it in just a few months - dozens of times over.
The solution is mind-boggling in its scope and complexity: Build dozens of temporary cities of up to 25,000 homes from the ground up. The ambitious resettlement plan is unprecedented in U.S. history, experts say, and raises huge logistical questions that, in most cases, have yet to be answered - or even anticipated.
The settlements would range from 2,000 to 25,000 units - mostly prefabricated houses and mobile homes - arranged in loose street grids. They will ideally be placed within a short drive of pre- existing shopping centers, grocery stores and gas stations to make life easier for evacuees.
Last fall, I developed group site housing plans for FEMA which basically amounted to the construction of temporary cities with the full range of services for up to 150,000 people.

In one of my first blog posts over a year ago, I discussed my work as Hurricane Ivan approached the Gulf Coast. I wrote:

Ivan the Terrible is heading somewhere; where exactly, only God knows. Pray it doesn't hit New Orleans.
The initial plan was to construct the homes in 30-45 days of a catastrophic event, but we quickly realized this schedule was not realistic. The plans were revised to allow 60-90 days for construction. The plans were put to the test by FEMA with Hurricane Pam - a simulated Cat V hurricane directly hitting New Orleans.

FEMA called earlier this week. They requested my cell phone number and told me I'm on standby - ready to deploy with 48 hours notice for a minimum 3 month assingment. They asked for my resume so they would know how to best place me. I'm a little nervous. I didn't imagine last summer when writing the plans that a year later I might have a hand in implementing them.

Posted by Rick at 05:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

How to pay for the Katrina programs

Rick and I had a bit of a back-and-forth about raising taxes vs reducing spending to deal with the budget deficit in general and paying for the Katrina rebuilding specifically. Last night, Bush proposed a number of programs, and today he's said how he wants to pay for them:

President Bush on Friday ruled out raising taxes to pay for Gulf Coast reconstruction, saying other government spending must be cut. "You bet it will cost money, but I'm confident we can handle it," he said.

"It's going to cost whatever it's going to cost, and we're going to be wise about the money we spend," Bush said a day after laying out an expensive plan for rebuilding New Orleans and the Gulf Coast without spelling out how he would pay for it.


Also Friday, White House officials said taxpayers at home will pay the bill for the massive reconstruction program and that this will mean a deeper budget deficit.

Bush said it's important that government quickly fix the region's infrastructure to give people hope. Asked who would pay for the work and how it would impact the nation's rising debt, Bush said he was confident the United States could pay for reconstruction "and our other priorities."

He said that means "cutting unnecessary spending" and maintaining economic growth, "which means we should not raise taxes."

Deficits are (or should be) for emergencies, and this is certainly one. However, I think Dubya should take this opportunity to both avoid increasing it by too much and at the same time cut the waste and making some departments actually look for ways to cut back. Now is the opportunity to cut the fat (and prove DeLay wrong).

And let's make these cuts permanent. It would be the smallest of starts, but a start it would be.

Posted by Doug at 04:41 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack


Hugh Hewitt is talking bird flu and presidential accountability.

The buck will again stop on the president's desk, though, and he knows it. I hope he has communicated to all involved that he wants a plan on his desk on the hour by hour response once (Avian Bird Flu) reaches the US.
Agreed. FluWiki is an interesting experiment in on-line collaboration to prepare for ABF. However, private sector for-profit and collaborative responses to ABF amount to nothing politically. When it strikes and if we aren't prepared, the President will be blamed. If you think the Katrina blame game was bad, just wait...

UPDATE: This ABC News article makes discussion of the political implications of a bird flu pandemic look awefully petty (HT: Drudge).

It could kill a billion people worldwide, make ghost towns out of parts of major cities, and there is not enough medicine to fight it.
"Right now in human beings, it kills 55 percent of the people it infects," says Laurie Garrett, a senior fellow on global health policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. "That makes it the most lethal flu we know of that has ever been on planet Earth affecting human beings."
"The lack of advanced planning up until the moment in the United States, in the sense of not having a huge stockpile I think your citizens deserve, has surprised me and has dismayed me," [professor John Oxford of the Royal London Hospital] admits.
Politics aside - the President must make this the nation's top priority. When the ABF mutates to allow human-to-human transmission, it will bring a ~50% mortality rate. The potential threat to this country is far far greater than any act of terrorism I can imagine.

Posted by Rick at 10:50 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

An Alternative "New Orleans" Speech

Scott Ott's "ScrappleFace" blog is a place where he posts quick and quite funny news satire items. The main purpose is to editorialize, but in such a way as to give you a good laugh, too, whether or not you agree with him.

His item today, however, is quite astounding. With a wink, he's suggesting that the speech Bush gave last night from New Orleans was really a rejected draft. However, his version of what Bush should have said is a masterpiece. An excerpt:

"But as reconstruction begins, rest assured that we're not merely going to re-establish the conditions that led to such deep pockets of poverty in the midst of affluence. We're not going to continue the enslavement of the poor at the hands of seemingly-benevolent politicians who fail to understand the power of faith, freedom and personal responsibility to build vibrant communities on a foundation of strong families."

"In the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it's time to "let freedom ring." It's time to let this area of the south rise up and live out the true meaning of our creed."

Keep reading for a speech I wish I'd heard. Someone draft this guy for President.

Posted by Doug at 10:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 15, 2005

Humility: An Essential Leadership Quality

Matt wrote recently:

The buck stops with [the President], but if there's no apology from the city leadership in NOLA (which has been corrupt for generations), none from the state leadership in LA (which has likewise been corrupt), none from the congressional delegation, and if said apology would be further damage to his administration and his party, then W should under no circumstances take responsibility.
I took issue with Matt's position and wrote in comments:
If I waited for my wife to apologize every time something broke down in our relationship, we wouldn't have much of a relationship. Humility is a great thing in a leader. Not to mention a Christian.
To my great pleasure, President Bush took full responsibility for the failures of the federal government on Tuesday. The President’s act of humility was followed by a statement from Governor Blanco. (HT: Josh Britton)
“We all know that there were failures at every level of government: state, federal and local. At the state level, we must take a careful look at what went wrong and make sure it never happens again. The buck stops here, and as your governor, I take full responsibility,” Blanco told lawmakers in a special meeting of the Louisiana Legislature.
I know that politics is too often more about perception than reality and that the President’s words have been twisted in headlines to suggest that he took full responsibility for everything that went wrong, but that shouldn’t stop people, especially Christians, from doing the right thing.

I'm proud of you Mr. President.

Posted by Rick at 10:50 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 14, 2005

Federal Judge Rules Pledge Unconstitutional

The Pledge of Allegiance was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge today.

Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools was ruled unconstitutional Wednesday by a federal judge who granted legal standing to two families represented by an atheist who lost his previous battle before the U.S. Supreme Court.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that the pledge's reference to one nation "under God" violates school children's right to be "free from a coercive requirement to affirm God."

I'm wondering what federal law enumerates that particular right. Google can't seem to find anything. I'm not saying unequivocally that children ought to be required to do that. I just would like to know the law this judge is citing.

Hold not thy breath.

Karlton said he was bound by precedent of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which in 2002 ruled in favor of Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow that the pledge is unconstitutional when recited in public schools.

You mean the most overturned court in the country has suddenly become unassailable? Here's what one web page notes:
It is often called "the most overturned appeals court in the United States", but the court has a higher caseload than most other circuit courts. From 1992 to 2003, the lowest percentage of overturned appeals by the ninth circuit was 68 percent. The highest was 95 percent. The average percentage of Ninth Circuit Court decisions overturned by the Supreme Court during this time was 73.5 percent as compared to an average of 61 percent by the all the other circuit courts of appeal combined.

(By the way, a higher caseload, with a larger number of decisions, should tend to lower this percentage. The more samples, the more those samples tend to congregate around the average. Thus the higher percentage speaks more to their out-of-mainstream judicial views rather than to their workload. I'm no stats expert (Rick?), but I'm pretty sure I'm right.)

This is a judicial cop-out. "Golly gee, I can't overturn anything by the 9th Circuit!" Hogwash. Overturning the 9th Circuit has become the rule rather than the exception. And if he simply can never break their precedent, Judge Karlton needs to be removed. He's just a walking, talking rubber stamp.

I've talked about the "under God" thing on my personal blog here, and the Supreme Court's view on it here, and I don't think this is going to get ultimately set in stone. For now, this is a case of a judge unwilling to take on a hot-button topic, and instead saying (doing my best Flip Wilson impersonation), "The 9th Circuit made me do it!"

UPDATE: My bad, and I apologize. Judge Karlton is not above the 9th Circuit in the appeals process; he's below it, and thus needs to abide by the precedent set by the 9th Circuit until such time as it's overruled by the Supreme Court. According to this updated news item, the 9th Circuit Court is the next stop for this case:

The Becket Fund, a religious rights group that is a party to the case, said it would immediately appeal the case to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. If the court does not change its precedent, the group would go to the Supreme Court.

I do believe, however, that the 9th Circuit will continue it's stellar performance of being overturned on appeal in this decision as well. Again, my apologies to the readers and to Judge Karlton.

UPDATE PART DEUX: Rick noted (see the comments) that, according to "The Smart Guys" (a couple of regular lawyer guests to the Hugh Hewitt show, Judge Karlton wasn't bound by the 9th Circuit's precedent because the Supreme Court annulled it (they ruled that Newdow had no standing in the case). Thus the precedent cited by Karlton, legally, doesn't exist. Well, now I'm inclined to take back my apology, but I won't. Obviously, my own knowledge of the situation isn't good enough to pass an informed judgement on it. The "Smart Guys", however, are another story.

Posted by Doug at 03:03 PM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

Judge Roberts and the Importance of Precedent

In the opening round of questioning at his confirmation hearing yesterday, Judge John Roberts was asked some specific questions about Roe vs. Wade by Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA). Here is how the Washington Post characterized the exchange:

Specter, who supports abortion rights, and several Democrats challenged Roberts especially hard on his views of Roe , the 1973 decision establishing that women have a constitutional right to privacy that includes the right to an abortion. Because Roe has stood for 32 years, much of the discussion centered on when and why a settled ruling should be overturned.

Roberts told Specter that he respected the doctrine of stare decisis -- letting decided issues stand -- adding, "I do think it is a jolt to the legal system when you overrule a precedent." But some long-standing cases deserve to be overturned, he said, such as those that legalized slavery in the 19th century and racial segregation in the 20th century.

Roberts set forth criteria that he said judges and justices should use to determine whether to "revisit" a precedent, saying they include "settled expectations," the court's legitimacy and whether a precedent is workable or has been "eroded by subsequent developments."

"It is not enough that you may think the prior decision was wrongly decided," said Roberts, who during the 1980s signed a memo saying that Roe was "wrongly decided" and should be overturned.

When Specter asked whether the decision's legal legs have been eroded, Roberts replied: "I feel the need to stay away from a discussion of particular cases."

Although Judge Roberts revealed very little in his testimony about his opinion of Roe vs. Wade (he stayed away from specifics on that case as well as many others since the issues would likely come before the Supreme Court) he has at least revealed a very important asepct of his judicial philosophy: respect for precedents.

Although many pro-life advocates (including myself) would like to see Roe vs. Wade overturned, it's not that simple. Deference to prior court decisions is a bedrock prinicple of the law. If cases can be reversed on a whim then prior court decisions have no relevance.

Conservatives should be very encouraged by yesterday's hearings. Although Judge Roberts didn't stake out a specific position on Roe he left no doubt that he intends to be a modest judge employing a conservative judicial philosophy and holds high regard for the rule of law. That's exactly the sort of Supreme Court Justice we need.

Posted by Tom at 12:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

DeLay Jumps the Shark

I'm duplicating a topic Rick just hit, but I just had to get my 2 cents in as well.

What in the ever-luvin' world???

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said yesterday that Republicans have done so well in cutting spending that he declared an "ongoing victory," and said there is simply no fat left to cut in the federal budget.

Mr. DeLay was defending Republicans' choice to borrow money and add to this year's expected $331 billion deficit to pay for Hurricane Katrina relief. Some Republicans have said Congress should make cuts in other areas, but Mr. DeLay said that doesn't seem possible.

"My answer to those that want to offset the spending is sure, bring me the offsets, I'll be glad to do it. But nobody has been able to come up with any yet," the Texas Republican told reporters at his weekly briefing.

Asked if that meant the government was running at peak efficiency, Mr. DeLay said, "Yes, after 11 years of Republican majority we've pared it down pretty good."

I would really hope this has been taken out of context, but it's hard to see what larger context he might be talking about. There are entire departments many conservatives would like to see gone (e.g. Education Department, NEA). If DeLay's that tone deaf to the folks who put him in office, it's time for a change.

Fortunately, not everyone's that out of touch.

"This is hardly a well-oiled machine," said Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican. "There's a lot of fat to trim. ... I wonder if we've been serving in the same Congress."

American Conservative Union Chairman David A. Keene said federal spending already was "spiraling out of control" before Katrina, and conservatives are "increasingly losing faith in the president and the Republican leadership in Congress."

"Excluding military and homeland security, American taxpayers have witnessed the largest spending increase under any preceding president and Congress since the Great Depression," he said.

And here's someone else with their own list of things that could be cut.
Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), said if Mr. DeLay wants to know where to cut, "there are plenty of places to reduce."

His group soon will release a list of $2 trillion in suggested spending cuts over the next five years, and he said Congress also could cut the estimated $20 billion to $25 billion in pet projects that make their way into must-pass spending bills each year.

Now, I will say that Democrats, even in light of unfettered and un-vetoed spending by Republicans, still argue that we're not spending enough on this or that program, so I think we probably doing better financially vs. a Kerry presidency & Democrat Congress. However, to claim victory at this point in time is simply irresponsible.

OK, and outright nuts.

Posted by Doug at 11:40 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Time to Raise Taxes!

In response to comments that the government should cut spending to pay for Huricane Katrina relief, Tom DeLay declared that the feds were running at maximum efficiency.

My answer to those that want to offset the spending is sure, bring me the offsets, I'll be glad to do it. But nobody has been able to come up with any yet...after 11 years of Republican majority we've pared it down pretty good.
How about starting with the "6,371 pet projects" in the Transportation Bill, Congressman?

How long will conservatives tolerate deficits, especially when their leader in the House says there isn't anything left to cut? Looks like it is time to start raising taxes.

Posted by Rick at 07:34 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

September 13, 2005

The Roberts Hearing: Day One

I didn't tune into John Roberts' confirmation hearing yesterday because, frankly, I didn't expect to hear much that was newsworthy. I expected to hear a lot of senators drawing attention to themselves through their opening statements. At the end of the day, however, Judge Roberts did have a chance to make an opening statement and gave us a glimpse into his judicial philosophy (hat tip: Carol Platt Liebau):

Judges and justices are servants of the law, not the other way around. Judges are like umpires. Umpires don't make the rules; they apply them.

The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules.

But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ball game to see the umpire.

Judges have to have the humility to recognize that they operate within a system of precedent, shaped by other judges equally striving to live up to the judicial oath.

And judges have to have the modesty to be open in the decisional process to the considered views of their colleagues on the bench.

Although he will likely be peppered with questions today about specific cases and issues, I expect Judge Roberts to politely decline to answer many of those questions as it would not be appropriate for him to address any issue that could potentially come before the Court. That's the way it should be.

Posted by Tom at 08:55 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Eagles - Falcons

What a great game in Atlanta. The remarch of the NFC Championship was just a fantastic contest; a great start to the swan song of ABC's Monday Night Football. Michael Vick played great. Atlanta's defense was brutal. DeAngelo Hall is becoming a phenom at cornerback. Just awesome.

I'm not much of an Eagles fan, by the way. Go Falcons.

Posted by Matt at 12:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

College Football Talk

Saturday was a fun day of college football. This piece on ESPN.com discusses a busy day full of exciting football. As a graduate of the University of Alabama, and a strong fan of traditional football powerhouses, I particularly enjoyed this quip by former coach Lou Holtz:

"Notre Dame improves to 2-0, along with Alabama, Nebraska and Penn State -- four programs steeped in tradition that are trying to regain their places among college football's elite."

College football would be a much better place with such schools returning to glory, as opposed to johnny-come-latelys like Louisville.

Posted by Matt at 12:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 12, 2005

Katrina and Judgment

In relation to Tom's post citing the post at Theologica, I would refer readers to this portion:

"If it wasn't God's judgment, then what was it? It was a disaster - an unnatural disaster - caused by the fallen condition of the world. People, animals, and nature are other than they might have been because of the Fall. It is profitable to distinguish between "Sin" - a state or condition of people, nations, and nature - and "sins," which are specific manifestations of the reality of Sin. Hurricane Katrina was the result of Sin, but it was not a judgment on sins."

I'm willing, on a basic level, to believe that God stills lays out specific judgements on places, people or institutions. In a way, I'm open to the idea that God could use someone to warn about the destruction. That said, given New Orleans' location, it's an easy prediction to make, and I would be cautious of such a claim, especially if the words "tv preacher" are anywhere on the person's resume.

Yet even if we choose to believe that God specifically sent the hurricane as a judgement against Mississippi's casinos and New Orleans' voodoo, strip clubs, drug trade and gambling, it serves absolutely no purpose at this stage to make such commentary. There are people who are homeless, starving, thirsty and naked. These folks do not need armchair theologians suggesting that God leveled their home because He was angry about the Gold Room's presence in the French Quarter. Maybe that's why it happened. I don't know. God's ways are not my ways and there are a lot of things I don't understand. And it's precisely because I don't understand that I'm going to keep my mouth closed, and do nothing but help. Offer food or clothes or money or time or housing or something. Certainly I'll offer my prayers. And yes, we should remind the hurting that God is real. He is not silent, even in the midst of such tragedy. We might even, at a point in the future, suggest that however much fun New Orleans can be (and it can be very fun), the city would be better off without the rampant hedonism. Change will come to Tuscaloosa or San Francisco or New Orleans as the Holy Spirit changes hearts. We can open doors by our service and love; suggesting that God left thousands homeless doesn't help anyone, neither the suffering nor the church.

Posted by Matt at 09:21 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack


Not really... FEMA Chief Brown resigns "in the best interest of the agency and best interest of the president..."

Posted by Rick at 03:06 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

More Good Katrina News

A million dinars may not be a whole lot ($680) relative to the amount required for the Katrina cleanup, but this donation, collected by the Iraqi military from soldiers, is both heartwarming and a good barometer of how much they actually do love us over there.

"I am Colonel Abbas Fadhil; Tadji Military Base Commander,” Abbas wrote. “On behalf of myself and all the People of Tadji Military Base; I would like to console the American People and Government for getting this horrible disaster. So we would like to donate 1.000.000 Iraqi Dinars to help the government and the People also I would like to console all the ASTs who helped us rebuilding our country and our Army. We appreciate the American's help and support. Thank you."

I think these folks deserved to be liberated, just for this kind of spirit and compassion alone. Our troops' efforts have not been wasted.

Posted by Doug at 02:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Was Katrina God's Judgement?

It's a question I have been mulling over for the last several days. Was Hurricane Katirna God's way of judging a thoroughly decadent New Orleans? A friend of mine had posed this question to me shortly after the hurricane had made landfall. Since I had visited New Orleans last fall on a business trip and had observed some of the city's infamous culture firsthand the question seemed to be a sensible one. But the more I reflect on the issue I have to wonder whether it was or not. This post by Michael Russell at Theologica (a new World Magazine blog) leads me to believe that it wasn't based on the pattern of God's judgements revealed in the Bible. What do you think?

Posted by Tom at 12:32 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Katrina response was slow...compared to what?

Jack Kelly makes some good points. He has some facts, figures and choice words for those who say that the relief response to hurricane Katrina was slow. Try comparing it to previous response times.

For instance, it took five days for National Guard troops to arrive in strength on the scene in Homestead, Fla. after Hurricane Andrew hit in 2002. But after Katrina, there was a significant National Guard presence in the afflicted region in three.

Journalists who are long on opinions and short on knowledge have no idea what is involved in moving hundreds of tons of relief supplies into an area the size of England in which power lines are down, telecommunications are out, no gasoline is available, bridges are damaged, roads and airports are covered with debris, and apparently have little interest in finding out.

So they libel as a "national disgrace" the most monumental and successful disaster relief operation in world history.

He also points out that National Guardsmen can't be instantly transported to the scene of the disaster. A massive operation like this takes time, but even given that, they did exceptionally well.
Guardsmen need to receive mobilization orders; report to their armories; draw equipment; receive orders and convoy to the disaster area. Guardsmen driving down from Pennsylvania or Navy ships sailing from Norfolk can't be on the scene immediately.

Relief efforts must be planned. Other than prepositioning supplies near the area likely to be afflicted (which was done quite efficiently), this cannot be done until the hurricane has struck and a damage assessment can be made. There must be a route reconnaissance to determine if roads are open, and bridges along the way can bear the weight of heavily laden trucks.

And federal troops and Guardsmen from other states cannot be sent to a disaster area until their presence has been requested by the governors of the afflicted states.

Exhibit A on the bill of indictment of federal sluggishness is that it took four days before most people were evacuated from the Louisiana Superdome.

The levee broke Tuesday morning. Buses had to be rounded up and driven from Houston to New Orleans across debris-strewn roads. The first ones arrived Wednesday evening. That seems pretty fast to me.

The article also includes a response from a former Air Force logistics officer who explains the hardships and obstacles that had to be overcome in order to deal with such devastation done to such a huge area. "Read the whole thing"(TM).

Posted by Doug at 12:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 11, 2005

A Busy September 11

It's September 11. That means three things.

First, it my mother's birthday. She is an incredible woman. Sweet, kind, gentle. She loves Jesus and taught me to do the same. She works hard and loves her family fiercely. She is also a terrific cook. I love you, Mom.

Second, it is the birthday of the greatest coach in college football history. He was the best and no one will ever be better. Here's a good Coach Bryant quote:

"I'm just a simple plow hand from Arkansas, but I have learned over the years how to hold a team together. How to lift some men up, how to calm others down, until finally they've got one heartbeat, together, a team." Bryant, when asked why he was so successful as a coach."

Today is also the anniversary of September 11. I don't know that I could ever discuss the tragedy and outrage of that day better than Christopher Hitchens. Read this essay here. Try this quote:

"This steely injunction is diluted by Ground Zero kitsch or by yellow-ribbon type events, which make the huge mistake of marking the event as a "tribute" of some sort to those who happened to die that day. One must be firm in insisting that these unfortunates, or rather their survivors, have no claim to ownership. They stand symbolically, as making the point that theocratic terrorism murders without distinction. But that's it. The time to commemorate the fallen is, or always has been, after the war is over. This war has barely begun. The printing of crayon daubs by upset schoolchildren and the tussle over who gets what from the compensation slush fund are strictly irrelevant and possibly distracting. Dry your eyes, sister. You, too, brother. Stiffen up."

I want to be careful here. I am not a warmonger, and I do not encourage wanton violence. I want to always maintain a Christ-like sense of charity and goodwill to my neighbors. And yet I hope with all sincerity that 9/11 never leaves our national conscience. It must always remain in our minds, not so that we harrass our neighbors, but so that we forever remain aware that there is evil in this world. Sometimes that evil must be defeated by strength of arms. Our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq are not in vain. The fight for freedom against religious hatred in Iran is not in vain. These struggles, if made successful, will bear fruit - freedom for the citizens of those beleagured nations and security for our own. We must defend ourselves and we must, as much as we can, strive to provide freedom to millions who cannot defend themselves in nations like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, North Korea and the former Soviet states. I pray that our leaders exercise our power judiciously, but I pray that have the courage to use it when necessary. And I will always pray that the Church remain vigilant in spreading the Gospel, making known the glory of Christ and His supremacy in all things, demonstrating kindness and mercy to all men.

Posted by Matt at 10:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 10, 2005


The New York Times isn't exactly known for its objective reporting, but this piece is truly shameful (HT: Drudge). The article begins:

The governor of Louisiana was "blistering mad." It was the third night after Hurricane Katrina drowned New Orleans, and Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco needed buses to rescue thousands of people from the fetid Superdome and convention center. But only a fraction of the 500 vehicles promised by federal authorities had arrived.

Ms. Blanco burst into the state's emergency center in Baton Rouge. "Does anybody in this building know anything about buses?" she recalled crying out.

Well gee. You mean these buses Governor?

That's just one quibble with the first few sentences in this shameful article.

Posted by Rick at 04:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stafford Act: Presidential Has Unilateral Power to "Take Charge"?

As a member of the American Association of Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), I have access to the AAPORnet list serv that includes members of all the major polling organizations. My argument to the polling community was that interpretation of the recent polls showing 60-70% of Americans unhappy with the President's handling of Katrina may be aided if future polls also probed the public's understanding of the President's power (Constitutional or other) to "take charge" of domestic relief/recovery efforts.

One member directed me to this Department of Homeland Security National Response Plan dated December 2004. On page 7, the Plan lays out the authority of the President as granted by the Stafford Act and "applicable regulations":

If the President determines that an emergency exists where the primary responsibility for response rests with the Government of the United States, or because the emergency involves an area or facility for which the Federal Government exercises exclusive or preeminent primary responsibility and authority, the President may unilaterally direct the provision of assistance under the act and will, if practicable, consult with the Governor of the State.
Many will argue that response to Katrina was not a "primary responsibility" of the federal government, but that is a different argument than the one I am exploring here. I am trying to understand if the President had the *power* to intervene more forcefully than he did, and if so, what power did he have that he chose not to exercise. Now is not the time for the President to answer these questions, but when the time does come, I will be interested to hear his response.

Am I missing something?

Posted by Rick at 01:09 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 09, 2005

The Conservative Voice

Mr. Buckley speaks on Katrina.

Posted by Matt at 11:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Some Thoughts on FEMA

Over at the Corner, Rod Dreher says this and this.

I really don't know what to say. The cronyism can't be excused. I'll hold the administration responsible, but put in context, I don't expect much more from any politician. Speaking to Rick's main concern, Christian or not, the President is in charge of a bureaucracy. I don't care who is in charge ,bureaucracies always have problems. I've got to believe that we can develop ways of dealing with disasters without giving the federal government more power.

Speaking to Rick's concerns about conservatives being out of touch, well, despite this recent surge of Dobson-esque conservatism, conservatives have always aimed to stand athwart history. We yell stop, remember? If that phrase is foreign to any of our readers, then read nothing political that isn't named National Review. There are ways to help disaster relief without subverting the Constitution and setting precedent that will surely be abused in future years. The President did the right thing, and the blame game can wait.

And the truth of it all is that until the clean up is over, there's no sense in dishing out blame. We'll have plenty of time to do that. No matter how inept FEMA may (or may not) have been, it's important for any friend of the President to realize that Democrats in Congress, liberal activists and their media allies who will use any tragedy (natural or otherwise) to attack the President. If blame is to be assigned, let's find the culprits quietly and quickly. Let's have their heads and be done with it, but do it in a clean manner that doesn't shoot the GOP in the foot next fall.

Sound callous? I don't intend for it to be, but I also want to ensure that while justice is done, the Democrats don't find themselves back in power in 2006 and 2008. Nor do I want the Constitution unravelled to suit sketchy public opinion.

Posted by Matt at 07:15 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

FEMA Chief Relieved of Katrina Command

Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff has relieved FEMA Director Michael Brown of command of the federal government's hurricane response team:

Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown is being relieved of his command of the Bush administration's Hurricane Katrina onsite relief efforts, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced Friday.

He will be replaced by Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, who was overseeing New Orleans relief and rescue efforts, Chertoff said.

Earlier, Brown confirmed the switch. Asked if he was being made a scapegoat for a federal relief effort that has drawn widespread and sharp criticism, Brown told The Associated Press after a long pause: "By the press, yes. By the president, No."

"Michael Brown has done everything he possibly could to coordinate the federal response to this unprecedented challenge," Chertoff told reporters in Baton Rouge, La. Chertoff sidestepped a question on whether the move was the first step toward Brown's leaving FEMA.

But a source close to Brown, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the FEMA director had been considering leaving after the hurricane season ended in November and that Friday's action virtually assures his departure.

Just two days ago, our colleague Jim Jewell had stated that Brown should resign. Today's move appears to be the first step in that direction.

Posted by Tom at 03:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Conservatives out of Touch with Middle America?

The New York Times has a fascinating piece this morning highlighting federalism's role in the sluggish response to Katrina. At one point the Bush administration considered seizing control of the relief effort via the “Insurrection Act.”

Best quote of the article:

Can you imagine how it would have been perceived if a president of the United States of one party had pre-emptively taken from the female governor of another party the command and control of her forces, unless the security situation made it completely clear that she was unable to effectively execute her command authority and that lawlessness was the inevitable result?
Wouldn't that have been most ironic? Democrats arguing against federal intervention?I’m with Mickey Kaus on this one.
Why should there be any doubt that the President can take command of a relief effort within our own country?

When things screw up, these days, we hold the president and the federal government responsible. It follows that the president and the federal government should have the power to stop things from screwing up.
Sort of what I was getting at with this post. I believe that Mickey's point of view is shared by a vast majority of Americans. No doubt many conservatives, ensconced in their nuanced ideological positions, will dismiss my comments in defense of federalism. But I urge them to consider Mickey's very simple question, "Why should there be any doubt...?"

A slew of recent polling shows that a majority of Americans think the President has done a poor job in responding to Katrina. When many respected polling firms report similar numbers on highly similar questions, you can bet that they reflect the "true" opinion of the population. Visit Mystery Pollster and keep scrolling. It's all there.

On many issues - partial birth abortion, gay marriage, the role of church and state, etc - Democrats are clearly out of touch with middle America. The worst part is that they seem blind to their disconnect. I fear that on the very important question of federalism and emergency response, Conservatives are equally out of touch and equally blind.

Posted by Rick at 10:17 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

The Debate on How to Fix Governmental Failure

In a comment on a previous post, 'dem' made a good point with respect to the timeliness of talking about responsibility for the response, or slowness thereof, to Katrina.

In a previous post I deferred to you and other conservatives when you said that a discussion of the topic of responsibility and accountability should wait. But at some point our country needs to have that discussion. When do you think an appropriate time should be? Because the longer conservatives say "now is not the time", the more it looks like conservatives are planning to say "we need to move on" when the topic is forced to the forefront of discussions about the catastrophe at a later date. I hope that is not the case. We need to learn from the shameful mistakes that were made during this crisis to prevent people from suffering again in the future.

I think we're approaching that time. The histrionics began on the Left with RFK Jr.'s "Reap the Whirlwind" screed that blamed Katrina in general, and the Mississippi devastation in particular, on global warming brought on personally by Haley Barbour. Today, however, not falling into the "let's move on" trap, the Right weighs in with a much more even-handed look by Charles Krauthammer. He notes plenty of blame to pass around, and in a spirit of non-partisanship, pulls no punches from anyone. His list, with reasons, includes:
  • Nature (or Nature's God)
  • The Mayor of New Orleans
  • The Governor
  • The head of FEMA
  • The President
  • Congress
  • The American people

I think he missed the head of HomeSec, to whom the head of FEMA currently reports, but aside from that, this is a good list to start with.

One of the questions to come out of this would be, does this indicate that we need more government or less? Our own Rick Brady has asked the question, does this indicate that we need stronger federal government?

As to the bigger/smaller government question, I noted here (and now it's confirmed) that the Red Cross was asked not to come in to New Orleans with food, water and supplies. Instead, the LA National Guard was tasked with providing it, rather than putting those forces into rescuing survivors. While the Mayor was pleading for those provisions, his own state HomeSec CEO was turning it away. This is a bureaucracy out of control. The same charge can be leveled at FEMA. I watched from an airport TV as Paula Zahn reacted with shock when Mike Brown said they'd just found out about the people in the convention center. Some of this may be poor decision-making and/or incompetence, but some of it is wrapped in governmental red tape. And read this story about a guy who ignored the restrictions and just did the right thing.

Should the government be a part of disaster recovery? I believe so (although read this commentary for an interesting counterpoint, from one man's legal and Christian point of view). But would the government respond better if it were smaller and more streamlined? I think that's a definite "Yes". And this applies to all strata of government. When Rudi took charge on 9/11, that was a great example of streamlined (and local) government in action. It's the red tape that's holding things back.

How about the idea that the federal government should take a stronger role in this, overriding at will the wishes of the states when it determines it needs to? My main problem with this is that we're simply substituting the judgement of one group of people (further away from the potential problem) for another group. Is this necessarily any better? If the feds have better intelligence, and thus think they should go in, instead of going in, this intel should be given to those affected and let them decide. Conservatives generally believe that local solutions to local problems are better than one-size-fits-all boondoggles. How, then, is a stronger, more intrusive federal government better in this instance? Greater resources? Sure. But they're already available to states if they ask for them. Now, the governor didn't want to do that until Tuesday, which was a bit late, and was unwilling to do that beforehand. However, I don't think that the failure of a single governor to act should mean that we now give the feds the power to second-guess the other 49 as well. Just like the meaning of the Interstate Commerce Clause has been expanded beyond recognition, the same fate could await the Insurrection Act if we go down this path. Do you think the federal government, under any party, will reign itself in? (Hint: The guys who wrote the Constitution said "No".)

Katrina has brought this debate to the fore, and it's a good debate to have. But keep an eye on the lessons of history.

UPDATE: Congressman Bobby Jindal of Louisiana has some similar thoughts (and examples).

Posted by Doug at 09:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 08, 2005

Kids Need Moms

I just saw a commercial for ITT Technical Institute. The commercial was something of a testimonial, though it's anyone's guess about whether or not the story is real. The commercial revolves around a woman stating that she was a stay-at-home mom who wanted to give her kids everything they needed.

Let that sink in. She was a mother, at home for her children every day of the week, and she felt that her kids needed more. Now I understand that sometimes mothers need to work. My mom always has, and I still believe she's done a magnificent job raising me and my siblings. But let's not kid ourselves; there's an attitude in society that says kids need more gadgets, bells and whistles to be successful. But we don't. Not at all. We need our parents; moms and dads. We need extrended family. We need a neighborhood where we are safe and welcome. We don't have to have iPods and month-long vacations. I don't mean to sound harsh about this at all; families experience different things and I've grown up with my mom working. She has still been a wonderful mother and I love her very much. I'm just saying this idea in our society that kids need so much that both parents need to be out of the home...well, it's not healthy.

Posted by Matt at 08:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Giving Culture

Jim's earlier post and Josh Britton’s yesterday, among many others, touch on the recent meme that racism is at the heart of the government's failure to adequately respond to Katrina. Unfortunately, I have little doubt that the number of master’s theses and PhD dissertations analyzing this pre-conceived notion will far outweigh those that analyze the generous nature of Americans and its corporations.

But there is hope!

Driving with my mother in-law and the kids to enjoy a dip in the pool on Monday, I came across friends from church who were assisting their children's effort to sell snow cones for Katrina victims. Kids aged 4 to 10 manned street the street corners armed with hand-painted signs and a healthy amount of energy.

These kids clearly weren’t alone. Doug highlighted youth efforts in Houston and the San Diego Union Tribune reported of other youngsters raising funds in another part of my home town. I’m sure there are many more untold stories of youth philanthropy.

These gestures mark our nation's giving culture.

Kids don’t conjure up the idea to raise money to help others own their own; instead, these ideas spawn from an upbringing that values service and self-sacrifice - values taught and exemplified by parents, friends, and neighbors.

These values, instilled in most of us from youth, are also responsible for the 587 million dollars donated thus far on behalf of Katrina victims, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Academics, politicians, and activists will use Katrina to decry perceived or real social injustices. I pray only that they also take the time emphasize to their kids the importance of giving to others. Investing in our giving culture will reap more societal rewards than any thesis, dissertation, speech or protest rally.

NZ Bear has a list of charities and their web-sites. Please continue to give and expand the influence of American’s giving culture.

Posted by Rick at 02:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Planned Parenthood Exploits Katrina

Oh, now this is rich. Planned Parenthood, after offering to give Katrina victims free "morning after" pills, is now using the disaster to raise money...for itself.

Pro-life advocates say Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion business, continues to exploit victims of Hurricane Katrina. The organization previously said it would provide morning after pills to victims, instead of food or shelter, and is now raising money off of the hurricane for its local abortion centers.

On its national web site, Planned Parenthood solicits funds for Hurricane Katrina support efforts. In fine print, the abortion advocacy group explains that all of the money raised will be used to support its local abortion businesses.

Under a headline "Help Those Affected by the Hurricane," Planned Parenthood admits that "100% of your tax-deductible contribution will go directly to helping Planned Parenthood affiliates."

"Your support is particularly important right now because Planned Parenthood is facing a truly tremendous number of challenges in the courtrooms, in Washington, D.C., and in our clinics," the abortion business says on the hurricane donation page.

I guess PP considers itself "affected by the hurricane". Some folks may chuckle (or get outraged) over handing out Bibles to victims, but I think it's far better than offering to kill your unborn baby for free. And whatever money isn't spent on Katrina victims will just go into the PP general coffers. How considerate of them.

UPDATE: The page in question is here. As one comment to this post notes, the section about "courtroom" donations, while on the same page as the Katrina request, is separated from it by a line that, hopefully, would visually indicate that the information below it does not relate to the Katrina donations.

Posted by Doug at 02:08 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Good News on the Katrina Front

Here's a great story coming out of the Katrina aftermath.

Proving virtually no one is too young to help Katrina survivors, three boys set up a lemonade in the Houston area that raised $1,005.20 in just two days.

Twins Christopher and Joshua Gohlke, age 9, and their friend, Jordan Todes, 6, started selling their lemonade and cookies Saturday for 50 cents each at the corner of Southwyck and County Road 94 in Pearland, Texas, reports a special hurricane weblog run by the Houston Chronicle.

"We were amazed," said Christopher and Joshua's mother, Nancy Gohlke.

"People just started stopping and giving them $5 bills and not wanting the change," she said. "People from Louisiana would stop and tell them how much they appreciated what they were doing."

A little self-reliance, a little entrepreneurship, and a lotta' heart can multiply our efforts.

Posted by Doug at 01:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Where was the food & water?

Major Garrett of Fox News, talking to Hugh Hewitt:

"At the very moment that Ray Nagin, the Mayor of New Orleans, was screaming where's the food, where's the water, it was over the overpass [nearby], and state officials were saying you can't come in," Garrett said.

Click here for the full transcript from Radio Blogger.

Posted by Doug at 01:39 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 07, 2005

No Excuse for Feeding Racial Hatred

It is fair and appropriate to debate the competence and conduct of public officials in the response to the hurricane, broken levees, and urban anarchy. But there is no excuse for contentions by politicians, celebrities, and some journalists that delays and malfeasance were in any way related to the race of hurricane victims. These claims have absolutely no basis in fact, and they dreg up stereotypes and prejudices that have been steadily declined in American public life. Worse, they feed racial hatred and put us on a dangerous path to the assent of racial warfare.

This political cartoon by Mike Luckovich in today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution represents this irresponsible public discourse. It is beyond the pale; although playing the race card is a common political ploy, even today, to advance the charge that the federal government is purposefully allowing black victims of a natural disaster to die is beyond irresponsible. It is morally reprehensible.

luckovich back of the bus.gif

Many of the bodies floating in the New Orleans sludge are there because the mayor of the city--a black man--did not forcefully and effectively evacuate his majority-black city. An anti-black policy? Of course not.

Critique the efficacy of the response, but stop questioning the morality of federal officials. They are fighting words, and there is no place for them in 21st Century America.

Posted by Jim at 11:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

ESPN Makes a Mistake

ESPN has fired Trev Alberts. What a boneheaded move. Trev has consistenly been one of the more entertaining components of the network's college football programming. Far more entertaining than the crazy Lee Corso.

Paul Finebaum has more.

Posted by Matt at 07:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Still a Time to Give

Sometimes bureaucracy hinders even the best of intentions.

ATLANTA - Several local ministers and activists on Monday criticized a Red Cross they say has been unresponsive, unconnected and unhelpful to the hundreds of Hurricane Katrina evacuees adrift in the city more than a week after the disaster.

Even as they begged the agency to ease the bureaucracy and stress for the weary transplants, some seemed resolved to rely on the efforts of their churches and individuals in the community to offer immediate assistance to desperate victims.

"Churches have resources, but they're not getting millions," said the Rev. Darryl Winston, president of the Greater America Ministerial Association and pastor of The Church of Greater Works in southwest Atlanta.

"With the Red Cross, the money is coming in, but nothing is coming out," he said.

For more than an hour on Labor Day, metro Atlanta Red Cross representative Stephanie Wright defended her team's efforts, but admitted the agency simply did not have the grassroots contacts established with many faith-based organizations.

"We've never come together, for whatever reason," Wright said. "We're not perfect, but we're doing the best we can with what we have."

I'm not trying to disparage the Red Cross--they do good work, no doubt about it--but one of the reason we at Stones Cry Out chose The Salvation Army as our storm charity was because they do have the grassroots contacts. Even in some towns where there is no Salvation Army building, Service Units have been established to make and keep those contacts so that the Army can serve beyond its reach.

It ain't over. If you haven't had a chance to give, there's still time. And need.

Posted by Doug at 02:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Continuing Air America Scandal

Michelle Malkin now has the documents to show that Al Franken, in particular, has been lying since day 1 about the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club cash for Air America. He' s not some innocent bystander by any stretch of the imagination.

Ironic for a guy who wrote the book "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them".

I predicted, when Air America first started, that they wouldn't last 2 years. They're now 7 months from that milestone. I thought they'd fold due to bad ratings, and frankly, almost any other network with their ratings wouldn't last long. Their big buck$ backer$, however, have seen to it that they continue an artificial growth, but without that constant infusion from backers (and Boys & Girls Clubs), they wouldn't last. And it's not because the market is saturated, either. Bill Bennett's "Morning in America" radio show started at the same time as Franken's did. At the one-year mark, Bennett's show was broadcast in 116 markets (including 18 of the top 20) while Franken was heard in only 50.

The conservative Salem Radio Network, which has Bennett as well as Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager and others, didn't have nearly the fanfare from the MSM that Air America had, and yet folks are tuning in to it in numbers that far exceed AA's. The question of "why" is a topic for its own post, but SRN has quietly expanded, bringing in the ratings, which is how a network stays alive and relevant. Infusions of cash from fat wallets and kids' programs may keep it alive, but not relevant. It's the content that counts.

Of course, ethics matter, too. AA may fail for that reason. So many to choose from.

Posted by Doug at 01:23 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

A Dozen Thoughts on the Katrina Crisis Thus Far

The commentary on the hurricane here at SCO has been excellent; although I’ve been paying attention, I have been too busy to write much, partially because I have clients that are responding to the Katrina devastation.

Here are 12 thoughts on the hurricane-force disaster, responses, and politics.

1. Recognize Personal Responsibility: Perhaps the most important lesson of the last week is that we are all responsible for ourselves and for our families, and in a society that works people take care of their neighbors. We should not expect the government to come to our rescue; although it may be able to, it is by nature a slow-moving bureaucracy.

It will be years before people ignore hurricane warnings again. The people in New Orleans who were the greatest victims were those who chose not to act responsibly, and those who were unable to leave. The fact that friends and relatives did not help the old and disabled-—and that there were more looters than good neighbors--reflects the utter failure of community.

2. Make Changes at FEMA: FEMA chief Mike Brown must resign because he is now a symbol of a bureaucracy caught acting like one. I’m sure he’s a fine guy and that he didn’t intend to harm anyone, but he is in now as politically toxic as the New Orleans sludge. Politics is largely perception. The foot-dragging at FEMA costs lives--this reality is heartbreaking and the political perception is even worse. Brown’s resignation should be on Bush’s desk shortly; and Bush should accept it with all the right regrets. There is no reasonable alternative.

3. Look to the Private Sector. Salvation for the victims of Katrina will come from the good people of the nation driven by a moral impulse to help those in need, and from the private institutions they support—-from local churches to large agencies such as The Salvation Army and Samaritan’s Purse. These private groups can pull together the “little platoons” of compassion and head to the gulf for a weekend of building or a decade of support.

4. Don’t Forget Mississippi: The most old-fashioned hurricane devastation is not in Louisiana, but the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Biloxi and Gulfport are virtually destroyed and need massive assistance.

5. Impeach the Governor: Although the electoral process has a way of taking care of incompetence, it would be good for the Governor of Louisiana to resign in the next few weeks. Her delays and political turf games are probably the closest to criminal negligence of any public official involved in this crisis. It may be that the Mayor of New Orleans should do likewise. His failure to call for a general evacuation on Saturday, and his mysterious refusal to follow the city’s own crisis plan are mind boggling, at least in hindsight.

6. Call for Leadership: With the Governor and Mayor paralyzed by the crisis and FEMA contemplating its collective belly button, there was no one who stood tall and acted “Guilianian.” There needed to be a figure of grass roots leadership in the first hours and days of the crisis. There wasn’t then, but the recovery and rebuilding is going to take years, and it isn’t too late for someone to step forward and lead. The President will have a role, but there needs to be someone focused just on this problem.

7. A Regional New Deal: The aftermath of Katrina may be more akin to a regional version of the Depression than a southern 9/11. We may need to establish work corps similar to Roosevelt’s—-to rebuild an entire region and to put thousands of people to work.

8. Lay Off President Bush: Despite the political opportunism of Bush opponents, Bush has done fine, although he has to take responsibility for incompetence anywhere in his Administration. He has done that--his recognition of the slow response and his strong efforts to fix it changed everything. He couldn’t go back and fix the slow response, but he’s rallied the troops since then (and still needs to accept Mike Brown’s resignation). Bush is a naturally genuine and compassionate man, and that comes through when he addresses the suffering of others.

9. Put the Reporters to Bed: Television reporters got a kick out of using their broadcasts to direct the relief and military efforts, which was OK at times, but it went beyond the confines of journalism and got out of hand. Also, a lot of reporters became “Geraldo-like” (including Geraldo), with histrionics that did little to inform the public and made the reporters look like they needed a nap (most did).

10. Condemn Irresponsible Rhetoric: While the politicizing of everything has become commonplace, the most damaging rhetoric of the week was the charge of racial prejudice in the slow response to the crisis. That was irresponsible and terribly dangerous--also obviously false. Are we trying to promote tribalism, where the whites and blacks of America become the Tutsi and the Hutus? Also the remarks by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. were as insensitive as Jerry Falwell’s after 9/11.

11. Unpredictable Predictability: There’s a lot of coulda, shoulda, and woulda going around—-but seriously, on Monday afternoon the word was that New Orleans had averted the bullet and the hurricane’s fury had turned to Mississippi. No one was sending National Guardsmen to New Orleans at that time. The levee's breach wasn’t a surprise in an emergency scenario-planning sort of a way, but it was a “late breaking” surprise on Monday. Second, who could have predicted that the inmates would gain control of the asylum; that thugs would create an atmosphere of total anarchy, requiring troops to protect relief workers. What is this, the Democratic Republic of Congo? (international relief workers have faced menacing rebels and marauding bands in that nation).

12. Les Miserables: New Orleans is a miserable city. I’m sure there are a lot of great people there, but it is not a great city. It’s not just the decadence of Bourbon Street; it’s the broad absence of moral strength and civic vision. New Orleans was such a depressed and dysfunctional city that it did not have strength to rise above the challenges of the week. We wouldn’t be having a debate about when the federal government should use its force if there was any semblance of competence in the New Orleans or Louisiana government.

Posted by Jim at 10:49 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Gay Marriage Bill Passes in CA

In 2000, 61 percent of California voters pass Proposition 22, which defined marriage as being between one man and one woman. Yesterday, California Democrats overturned Proposition 22, narrowly approving AB 849.

Read the San Francisco Chronicle and San Diego Union Tribune articles. If you are a CA resident register your voice with the Governor Schwarzeneger and let him know where you stand.

Posted by Rick at 08:47 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 06, 2005

School Starts in One Year

I’m not a ConLaw expert, but I hope that someone who is will consider the following hypothetical and answer some questions.

Hypothetical: The President has specific and credible information 72 hours in advance that there a terrorist attack will occur in a major port city. All indications are that the attack will destroy the city and its fallout will affect communities in three states. When confronted with the prospect of catastrophe, the governors and local officials in the affected area do not take the threat as seriously as the President thinks that they should and these local officials fail to protect their constituents.

What does the President have the power to do?

We are a nation of inter-dependent regions. Regions, not cities or states, are the economic muscle of our economy. This event devastated an entire region, which cross-cuts three states and has clear national - even global implications.

If the Constitution does not vest the Executive with the power to overrule decisions of governors or local officials when a major population center and economic hub in our country faces immediate threat, then the Constitution is antiquated.

If you read me regularly, you'll know that I’m not a traditional “state’s rights-limited government” conservative. In fact, I’m fairly “liberal” on many issues, but choose the Republican Party because it most closely aligns with me on issues of life, family, and national security. But the Republican Party must get this one right if it is to keep many well intentioned Christians (not necessarily “Christian Conservatives”) in the Party. I’m willing to bet that the majority of Americans do not care much about the answer to the questions: “What is police power?” and “Where does it reside?”

If there isn’t a federal police power to handle situations of national significance when the local officials are incompetent and perhaps even criminally negligent, then I’m willing to bet that most Americans believe there ought to be.

Republicans will learn this lesson - one way or another. School starts in about a year.

Posted by Rick at 04:20 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Federal Accountability

Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security Secretary, on how prepared they were for Katrina:

Defending the U.S. government's response to Hurricane Katrina, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff argued Saturday that government planners did not predict such a disaster ever could occur.

Ever? It was beyond all possible planning that something like this could happen?
Chertoff, fielding questions from reporters, said government officials did not expect both a powerful hurricane and a breach of levees that would flood the city of New Orleans.

If you are fully aware that levees protecting the city are designed for a Category 3 hurricane, and a Category 4+ one develops in the Gulf of Mexico, what do you expect the levees will do; hold anyway? You can't possibly be taken by surprise when they fail, especially when the director if FEMA (which is part of Homeland Security) planned and "war gamed" just such a scenario.

Last week, Michael Brown, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told CNN his agency had recently planned for a Category 5 hurricane hitting New Orleans.

Speaking to "Larry King Live" on August 31, in the wake of Katrina, Brown said, "That Category 4 hurricane caused the same kind of damage that we anticipated. So we planned for it two years ago. Last year, we exercised it. And unfortunately this year, we're implementing it."

Mr. Chertoff sounds like he's in full kiester-covering mode at this point. He sounds like he's trying to parse words and phrases. Here's his explanation of how the plan differed so drastically from the reality.
Chertoff argued that authorities actually had assumed that "there would be overflow from the levee, maybe a small break in the levee. The collapse of a significant portion of the levee leading to the very fast flooding of the city was not envisioned."

He added: "There will be plenty of time to go back and say we should hypothesize evermore apocalyptic combinations of catastrophes. Be that as it may, I'm telling you this is what the planners had in front of them.

However, Brendan Loy points out, this explanation doesn't hold water (so to speak).
For those who would defend Chertoff on the basis of the fact that "all the doomsday predictions were based on the levees being topped, not failing," that's true, but it doesn't help Chertoff's case, because if the levees had been topped by the storm surge (which they would have, if Katrina had moved 20 or 30 miles west of where it did), the flooding in New Orleans would have been even worse! It doesn't make much sense to say that the government was prepared for the worst-case scenario, but was unprepared for a less-bad scenario!

FEMA Director Mike Brown isn't entirely without culpability, either. His protestations of surprise sounded like this:
"Saturday and Sunday, we thought it was a typical hurricane situation -- not to say it wasn't going to be bad, but that the water would drain away fairly quickly," Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Brown said today. "Then the levees broke and (we had) this lawlessness. That almost stopped our efforts."

First of all, Katrina was a Cat 3 hurricane on Saturday, meaning it was going to tax the levees' upper bound anyway. Sunday morning around 1am, it was upgraded to a Cat 4, so no, this was no typical hurricane, especially for a city with levees not designed to withstand it, and they had time to realize that. Second, if they "war gamed" this scenario, why would the very scenario almost stop your efforts?

In fact, these "war games" have been specifically designed with Category 5 hurricanes in mind, including one in September, 2002 and one just last July.

Aside from all the questions about fault or the appropriateness of this or that decision, we have a clear question of whether these guys were lying to the American people, and, in addition, how appropriate is it for President Bush to be backing these guys 100%. Bush is a loyal guy, but it may be that in this case the "to a fault" suffix is necessary. And it's also quite possible that Bush's support is meant to avoid undermining the authority of HomeSec and FEMA in the middle of a major crisis. However, once the winds have died down, the further employment of these two directors needs to be given serious scrutiny. Hopefully, in the coming investigations, this will be a top priority.

Posted by Doug at 02:35 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

President Bush to Investigate "What Went Wrong" In Relief Efforts

From the BBC:

US President George W Bush says he will lead an investigation into how the Hurricane Katrina disaster was handled. "I'm going to find out over time what went right and what went wrong," he said in reply to criticism that the authorities were too slow to respond.

His focus, he added, was on helping the victims but there would be "ample time" for an investigation.

Officials in New Orleans have urged its last residents to leave the swamped city, saying it is now uninhabitable.

In an open letter, the city's Times-Picayune newspaper has demanded the sacking of top emergency service officials.

Ex-President Bill Clinton, and his wife, Senator Hillary Clinton, have been among those to call for an inquiry.

'No blame game'

How the different levels of government had reacted to Katrina would be examined, Mr Bush said, but he refused to "play the blame game".

"We got to solve problems - there will be ample time to figure out what went right and what went wrong," he said in Washington.

America, he added, had to be sure it could respond properly to another disaster, whether natural or an attack with weapons of mass destruction.

Stressing his focus on victims, Mr Bush also pledged not to allow "bureaucracy... to get in the way of getting the job done for the people".

He also announced that Vice President Dick Cheney would visit Gulf Coast region on Thursday to help assess the government's work.

Posted by Tom at 12:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Roberts Nomination

President Bush, who has taken a lot of heat for the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, again proved yesterday that he is a very shrewd politician by nominating Justince John Roberts to succeed the late William Rehnquist as Chief Justice.

By elevating Roberts to the Chief Justice seat, President Bush has changed the dynamics of the debate and has cleared the way for an easier confirmation.

Two silly arguments had been floated through the media during the debate over Roberts' nomination to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. First, there was the argument that since O'Connor was a moderate that President Bush should replace her with another moderate. Last time I checked President Bush was a conservative. He has the right to nominate anyone he wants. Why wouldn't a conservative president nominate a conservative justice?

The second arguement was that O'Connor's replacement needed to be a woman. The President's job is to nominate the best person for the job regardless of race, sex or any other demographic. Although there were a number of qualified women Bush could have nominated it's clear he picked the best judge available in Roberts. Bush may still nominate a woman to replace O'Conner. As Captain Ed points out, both Janice Rogers Brown and Edith Hollan Jones are considered leading candidates to fill the Court's remaining vacancy.

Although Democrats are inclined to reflexively oppose this President at every turn they would be better served to allow Roberts to be confirmed and save what little political capital they have for the next Supreme Court nominee. The Hill is already reporting that 25 Democratic Senators could vote to confirm Roberts. (Hat tip: Confirm Them)

It's safe to assume that Schumer, Kennedy, and other prominent Senate Democrats will use the confirmation hearings to try to make as much trouble for Roberts as they can. In the end, he should be confirmed easily. Then the real battle will begin.

Posted by Tom at 09:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 05, 2005

Blog for Relief

This entry is post-dated to appear at the top of the site until Labor Day evening.

Our hearts continue to break as we learn of the devastation left wrought by Hurricane Katrina. The toll in terms of lives and property is staggering. Hundreds if not thousands are dead across the Gulf Coast and upwards to a million more may be homeless for months to come.

Blog for Relief was organized by Hugh Hewitt, Instapundit and N.Z. Bear to raise support for charities providing immediate and long-term relief to victims of this great tragedy.

Stones Cry Out urges our readers to give freely today and in weeks to come to the Salvation Army's Katrina Relief Fund.

Salvation Army Donate Now

Click on the button above to give now, or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY. To donate by mail, send checks, earmarked 'disaster relief,' to PO BOX 4857 JACKSON, MS 39296-4857. You can also give at your local Wal-Mart or Sam's Club.

Our readers may wonder why we selected the Salvation Army over all the other great charities providing relief in the Gulf Coast region. To borrow their slogan, we feel they can do the most good with the Lord's money in this situation. The Salvation Army is set up to respond to domestic disasters; it is one of their distinct abilities. They also have an incarnational ministry in the gritty parts of cities such as New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast. For these reasons, we believe that the Salvation Army will be serving victims long after many other relief agencies leave. In addition, the Army has always understood the importance of meeting both deeply spiritual and urgently temporal human needs, and they will do so in the aftermath of this tragedy. This article describes the Army's response to Katrina and capability for further service.

Instapundit has a running list of bloggers participating in Blog for Relief and recommended charities. If you are a blogger and want to participate, visit Truth Laid Bear to sign up.

Also, please log your contribution here - and please note you can do so anonymously - giving neither your name nor blog site. Either way, this will allow us to see what a unified blogosphere can do to make a difference in the lives of so many.

As lights in this world, Christians ought to lead in giving of time, money, and prayer. Please. Prayerfully consider a gift to the Salvation Army today. Then drop to your knees and ask God what else He can have you do to serve in a time of great need.

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:17-18
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Posted by Rick at 11:59 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Should W Apologize?

In a post below, I said that the President should not bear responsibility for all that has taken place in New Orleans. In the comment section, my colleague Rick took issue. I posted a response, and I repost it here:

"Not buying it. Not for a minute. The buck stops with him, but if there's no apology from the city leadership in NOLA (which has been corrupt for generations), none from the state leadership in LA (which has likewise been corrupt), none from the congressional delegation, and if said apology would be further damage to his administration and his party, then W should under no circumstances take responsibility."
What do my colleagues and our readers think?

Posted by Matt at 09:50 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

It Ain't W's Fault

Next time you hear a talking (empty)head blather on about how the federal government is to blame for everything wrong in New Orleans, remember this post from Rich Lowry at the Corner. Here's a few highlights:

--“The mayor and the governor are negligent and incompetent. The administration has tried to smooth out the chain of command, but she won't do it. The constitution says that the governor is in charge of the Guard.” (The Washington Post wrote about this on Saturday--and KJL excerpted the relevant bit in here.)

--“None of those poor people were moved prior to the storm. They were told to go to the Superdome, but they had to walk there. Whose responsibility is that?”

-- “General Honore in one day got 20,000 people evacuated from the convention center with a ground and air evacuation. Have you heard about that in the media?”

and more:
--“There are no law enforcement problems in Mississippi. They have been acting there with the cooperation of the governor. In New Orleans, they don't have the same kind of cooperation from the governor or the mayor. It's not as stream-lined or as effective as it could be.”

--“The New Orleans police disintegrated. The national response plan calls for state and local to be the first on the scene. But the catastrophe wiped out the whole local infrastructure and the emergency communications. 80% of the police disintegrated and they are just not beginning to re-constitute.”

note: DHS = Department of Homeland Security

Posted by Matt at 05:37 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

God-bloggers on Katrina

For a really amazing interview concerning the Christan response to the disaster in New Orleans, go toRadioblogger and scroll down to the post entitled "God-bloggersr reaction to Katrina." I think a lot of people want to blame the hurricane on a lot of things, and I won't really disagree, but here's some wise words from Dr. Al Mohler:

"Oh, absolutely. It went both ways. Job's wife wanted him to curse God, and Job's friends wanted to curse Job. And in reality...you know, Hugh, we're facing some pretty difficult issues here, but there are a couple of things I would want to warn us against. I hear out there in talk land, and in the community, and even among some Christians, some of them are ready to say I know exactly why this storm hit New Orleans. It was because of A or B or C. You know, that's exactly what God told Job's friends not to speculate about. And at the same time, I hear other people saying look. God's not even involved in this. God couldn't prevent this. And so, let's just curse God. Well, we know that that's not right, either. God is right in the midst of this. He is the soveriegn God, Creator of the universe, and He is the one right now who is holding the world together by the power of His word."

Mohler also had this to say about the proper Christian response:

"Well, I think the first thing we have to do is to weep with those who weep. And this is not a tragedy that is over. It continues to unfold. And so right now, there are people who do not know where their wives and husbands and children are. They have no idea what their future might be. They have no idea if there's even a home to which they can return. Some of them already know they have lost loved ones, and some of them have not even been recovered, in terms of bodies. So there's an appropriate Christian response to weep with those who weep. And then we have to be there to do what we possibly can do. To feed the hungry and to clothe those who are naked, and to give water, and all these things, by the way, are not just metaphorical needs. These are dramatic, physical needs of the present. And then we as Christians have to be there to speak, not so much on behalf of God like Job's friends, but to speak as Christians. To speak of the hope that is within us, and to speak to those who right now have no hope."

I haven't done much to help, really. A little money to the North American Mission Board and Samaritan's Purse. Some clothes to the Red Cross. I'll probably drop off some food at some point. But I've got friends who've spent time working hand in hand with those that are hurting. I'm so thankful for their contribution, and immeasurably proud that those I count as friends are working to help those in need. It's something that warms my heart in a particular way; my loved ones dedicating their lives to the aid of others.

Posted by Matt at 01:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Was Katrina a Judgment from God?

The following has been kicking around in my head for a few days. During Jim Munson's sermon at Christ Church today, Pastor Munson spoke on several of the topics below. So, in the interest of intellectual honesty, I want to give Jim credit for this post as well, although this is not an attempt at paraphrasing or re-stating his thoughts, which were quite eloquent. If you click on the Christ Church link above in a few days, you should be able to get a download of his sermon. It's worth the click.]

In checking the referring sites for this blog the past few days, I have noticed that a substantial number of referrals are from Google and other search engines with some variant of "Katrina God Judgment" as the search text. I suspect there three different types of people entering this request: First, those who may not be sympathetic to conservative Christians and want to see if conservative Christians are saying this--presumably to attack the insensitivity of such a statement. Second, Christians who are wondering about what other Christians are saying on this topic. Third, the questions of genuine seekers.

To all of you, I will provide my answer/opinion, which is "no," Katrina's devastation is not the result of God punishing those who were hurt, killed, or lost property. It is not God judging whatever sin may have been present in New Orleans. It is not God's judgment on the casinos of Mississippi. It was a natural catastrophe that sometimes occurs in God's world and God weeps along with us. In my opinion, He is also there comforting the survivors, but God was not judging them by the disaster visited on them.

My basis for saying this comes from a review of the models for Biblical punishment that come from the Bible. If you look at cases in which the Bible reports on a specific punishment from God, it was preceded by a very specific prophesy of the impending judgment. The doom of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19) was foretold by the three visitors in Genesis 18. The eventual destruction of the Davidic kingdom and the banishment of the Jews from Israel were foretold by a number of different, and specific, prophecies. A number of prophets also foretold specific prophecies against cities like Tyre, Sidon and Nineveh. Some argue that Jesus specifically foretold the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD--allowing the Christians of the city to escape before the carnage.

The point is that the Biblical model of God's judgment on a town or nation is one in which the destruction is foretold by a specific prophecy, often allowing those in danger a second chance (think Nineveh and Jonah), so, if you are looking for a Biblical warrant for the destruction of not only New Orleans, but also Mississippi, other parts of Louisiana and Alabama, then you need to point to a specific prophecy and show how this wide-spread destruction specifically fulfilled that prophecy. Allow me to suggest that you likely will not find such prophecy. Barring that, I do not believe that the destruction from Katrina fits within the model from the Bible of how God judges and punishes a people or town.

Do Katrina and the subsequent events fit within God's overall plan for the earth? Of course they do. But, then again, so will the death of a poor starving child in Africa tomorrow. Shall we suggest that God is punishing that child as well?

For Christians, I think, rather than wondering about whether God is punishing New Orleans, or anybody else for that matter, we should, instead, focus on what we should be doing now, which is helping the least of our brothers and sisters in their time of need. Now is not the time for us to put words into God's mouth. It is time to offer a cup of water to someone less fortunate than us. Perhaps if we Christians did that more often, and judged less often, we might just point more people to Christ who are in danger if missing Him at the moment.

Posted by Mark at 01:08 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

September 04, 2005

Micro-Relief: The San Diego Church's Effort

Pastors from my home church Horizon Christian Fellowship will be greeting 170+ evacuees at Lindbergh Field San Diego this afternoon. The Red Cross has requested the use of our buses to transport them to shelters and we have been asked to organize a children's ministry. Other San Diego churches such as The Rock, Maranatha Chapel, North Coast Calvary Chapel, and I'm sure many others by now have been assigned other responsibilities.

My pastors Mike Macintosh and Mickey Stonier are trained and certified in Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) and certified teachers for Critical Incident Law Enforcement Enhancement. They are attached to the American Red Cross Spiritual Care Aviation Incident Response and have served in Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center.

As chaplains for the San Diego Police Department (Mike) and Fire Department (Mickey), our congregation actively supports chaplaincy ministries and will continue to do so in response to Katrina. Horizon will be sending teams to the disaster area to minister to the first responders as adjunct chaplains. Although trained professionals, first responders aren't super human, but people under a tremendous amount of stress and need to be served. Horizon's teams will attend primarily to the spiritual and other needs of the brave members of local police and fire departments who have been working grueling hours and are experiencing great suffering since last weekend.

To support this micro-relief effort please contact Horizon Christian Fellowship and donate to the Chaplain's Fund.

Posted by Rick at 04:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 03, 2005

Chief Justice Rhenquist Has Died

A great American servant has passed. Article here.

Posted by Rick at 11:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Role of the President

Hurricane Katrina has brought back to our minds an important question: What exactly is the job of the President in the middle of a national catastrophe?

During 9/11, the President was an encourager and a symbol of the strength of America - of a strong response and a strong spirit.

However, what was his practical role? I don't know that I could, off the top of my head, quantify what exactly the President did to relieve the crisis at Ground Zero, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania. I'm sure there was a lot of delegation but if it had gone horribly, it would have been on his head. As it worked out, it was a high-moment of his presidency. It must be said though, that part of that high moment came from the fact that we as a nation were banded together against a common enemy - we don't have that now. There is no "evil" against which to direct our anger and frustration and since I would guess that the people in New Orleans (and many people nationwide, for that matter) don't know the name "Mike Brown" or "Lt. Gen. Honore" or maybe even "Gov. Blanco," the President takes the fall.

And, for the most part, he should be held responsible and I would guess that he would not shirk that responsibility. However, the President (and all American citizens) must be able to depend on our individual states' first responders. We cannot count on the federal government for the easement of all our pain and suffering. All states must consider their disaster relief plans on an individual basis. Though I would say it may indeed be the President's job to urge the states to do so.

So, I think Mark was on the right track earlier - unfortunate as it may be for the President. This Rich Lowry article runs along the same lines:

Law enforcement, of course, is primarily a state and local responsibility, but in the age of the 24-hour news cycle, people look to the federal government and the president to solve any problem on their TV screens. Already the question is being asked if the feds could have jumped in sooner (the National Guard is now arriving in force).

But...could there be other things to consider? As pertains to the pre-hurricane preparation, Powerline reports thatthe answer is yes:

The mayor called the order unprecedented and said anyone who could leave the city should.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco, standing beside the mayor at a news conference, said President Bush called and personally appealed for a mandatory evacuation for the low-lying city, which is prone to flooding.

So, for all the criticism about the President's preparedness efforts he did at least two things: asking for mandatory evacuation of New Orleans and declaring diaster areas ahead of time. The first stressed the seriousness of the storm to those who otherwise may have tried to ride it out. The second allowed the process of calling up troops and allocating funds to begin earlier than it would have.

The President has saved lives. Himself. I of course don't know who actually is to blame for the fact that all that has not gone as well as it should. I know the President will deservedly take some of the blame. But I also know that he himself acted in such a way as to save thousands of lives and alleviate the current crisis in New Orleans.

Posted by Abigail at 05:25 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Long-Term Housing

The MSNBC article is up. The question posed to me was regarding long-term housing for 500,000. Looking at the numbers this morning, I'm not sure that it will reach that level, but 150,000 as mentioned in my earlier post seems appropriate.

The feds retained the services of Carnival Cruise Lines to provide three ships for temporary housing. Sounds like a good plan, but how long can these ships be tied up? I doubt for six months or longer. Again, if you have a hotel room, sit tight...

Update: Some are buying homes elsewhere, an early indication that many will relocate permanently.

A week ago there were between 3,400 and 3,700 homes listed for sale in the area, he said. By the end of next week, he figures, there will be around only 500 still available -- ones that are either "extremely overpriced or uninhabitable.
Ortego's office is getting 200 calls an hour for people looking for rental property.
"As of yesterday, everything has been rented out," she said. "Now people are turning to buying because there is nothing left to rent."
At the end of the day, I still predict there will some thousands, perhaps up to 150,000, will need alternative interim housing (up to 3 years). The market will go a long way to meeting the need, but I remain skeptical that it can meet all the housing needs of displaced persons.

Posted by Rick at 11:27 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 02, 2005

The Clueless Andrew Sullivan

This may be about the stupidest thing I've heard in a long, long time. Here's the crucial part:

"After four years, they are still incompetent, unprepared, unable to have made the real changes that we need to have made. In the case of New Orleans, criminally negligent. People have died because of their inability to plan, to spend wisely, to set real priorities, to respond quickly. That goes for New Orleans. And it also applies to Iraq."

What a pathetic and ignorant statement. The city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana have had corrupt and incompetent governments for decades, and yet it's George W. Bush's fault that this happened. Say what you like about the administration's response - it could have been better but it hasn't been awful - but to suggest that the disaster itself is the fault of this administration is remarkably foolish. Sullivan should know better, but apparently he doesn't.

Now is not the time for analysis, whether from pundits or victims. Pundits don't know what they're talking about, and most evacuees aren't in a place of enough clarity to provide a serious opinion.

So Andrew, do us all a favor. Keep quiet.

Posted by Matt at 11:37 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Quick Hit Thoughts on Katrina

A few random thoughts on Katrina (really the response to Katrina):

First, Dennis Hastert, really, could you be any more lacking in common sense? I mean, really. Words fail here. Assuming, just for the sake of argument, that you might have a logical point (and I don't think you do), do you really, really think that this was a good time to make it? The gulf (perceived or real) between politicians and those they represent could not have been better represented than by your asinine statements. This is hardly a time for subtlety. If you don't have the judgment to speak appropriately during a time like this, then keep your mouth shut. (And, quite frankly, I'm really holding back here.)

Second, the federal response. Let's be honest here. In a time like this, just as during September 11, people look to the Chief Executive to get the job done. He gets praise for doing it well, and he gets blame if it appears to go badly. I am a big supporter of President Bush. I wrote many favorable posts regarding him during the election. Fair or not, however, this incident has tarnished his presidency--perhaps irreparably. I understand the complexity of this operation. I understand the magnitude of the disaster. I understand that these things take a certain amount of time.

I think, though, that I also understand the American people. Here's what I think the American people think: Pictures of people stranded, starving, suffering and dying from natural disasters come from third-world countries like Bangladesh(Myanmar, whatever). Pictures of bands of armed thugs roaming the streets causing disorder come from places with names like Mogadishu. They do not come from the United States. Americans see pictures like we have seen during the past few days and think one thought: There has been a colossal failure (a major CF for those with a military background). Things like this do not happen in the United States in 2005.

This may be unfair. It may be simplistic. It may be knee-jerk. However, with respect to politics and leadership, perception is reality. Fairness is irrelevant. Americans largely believe that there has been a major screw-up here and it would be a mistake of extreme proportions to underestimate that.

A 100% effort is no longer sufficient. You are behind and the world, and more importantly, the country, is watching. You must turn this around and get people the help they need, and bring order, regardless of whatever red tape and other barriers are in your way. History awaits. You answered the call before. You need to answer it again.

Third, please continue to donate. At this point, relief organizations need cash more than in-kind donations or your labor. Please give freely.

God Bless Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, and God Bless America.

Note: I originally neglected to give my friend Brian credit for passing the Hastert story to me. Thanks Brian.

Posted by Mark at 10:58 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Maps of the Declared Disaster Areas




Also, this FEMA statement estimates that there are only 91,000 Hurricane victims requiring shelter. If 91,000 is an accurate figure (the only sourced estimate I’ve seen so far), I suspect that many who evacuated prior to Katrina are holed up with family, friends, and in hotels all over the south waiting to hear about the status of their property.

I just received an e-mail from a team my company sent to help with relief/reconstruction efforts. The e-mail said:

Lodging is a huge issue. To say that rooms are in short supply is the understatement of the century. The construction of a MASH-style temporary accommodations is underway and the reality is that some of our folks will likely wind up having to stay there for some period of time.
We're expecting to send 300 or so engineers and planners (mostly engineers) in the next few weeks.

My advice to those who have hotel/motel rooms. Don’t give up your room until you know about the condition of your home or have made other arrangements!

Posted by Rick at 06:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Housing Needs of Katrina Victims

Earlier this morning, MSNBC Washington DC Bureau Chief Brock Meeks interviewed me regarding temporary and interim housing planning in response to catastrophic events. After the interview, I read Hugh Hewitt’s post, “What is to be done?

Hugh offers several great ideas, including the following observation and suggestion (forgive the choppiness of the quote, but I think it conveys his idea well):

We don't neeed American refugee camps…the president…needs to send a few dozen of its best colonels (with) authority to determine…level of need…decide a plan for them…then assign a trooper to carry it out...
While I’m not sure that the military is the best choice for determining the need level of evacuees and I doubt that completely avoiding “refugee camps” is possible, Hugh is on the right track.

(Full Disclosure: I’ve provided group site planning consulting services to FEMA in the past. What is written in this post should not be construed as the opinion of FEMA or my employer. These are my thoughts and opinions as a professional city planner with experience in catastrophic housing planning).

Draining New Orleans could take a month. Removing the mud and debris could take another couple of weeks, during which time inspection and “red tagging” of buildings for demolition could begin. As such, officials may not have a solid estimate of the scope of work required to rebuild devastated areas for six to eight weeks.

Each evacuee should be assigned a FEMA case manager. Evacuees and those residing in shelters should be interviewed within a week to determine their individual immediate and near-term needs. The following information should be collected:

• Full medical history and needs
• Number of people in family/group and a list of loved ones still unaccounted for
• Home address and status of property/possessions (if known)
• Place of employment
• Relatives or friends in unaffected parts of the country that might be able to house them for a time

The data gathered by these case managers should be loaded into a Geographic Information System (GIS) relational database that will facilitate determination needs by evacuee household or group. Information on evacuees could be joined with other data on damaged areas and complemented with data collected by field inspectors as it comes in. Satellite imagery should provide a “first cut” at identifying people who are likely to require “temporary” accommodations versus those who will need “interim” housing. By “temporary” I mean accommodations for folks who may be able to move back into their homes within 60-90 days. “Interim” housing refers to accommodations for up to 3 years.

Within a day of the interview, a report could be generated for each case, perhaps with images of the evacuee’s property and surrounding area, that will help case managers and evacuees decide how best to meet the immediate housing needs.

FEMA should already have people surveying rental housing markets in surrounding unaffected areas and placing deposits vacant apartment and home units. As units are held for victims, these data should be loaded into the GIS and an inventory compiled. The database should also include information on citizens who have expressed a willingness to share their home for some period.

Part of the housing determination should be based on a survey of evacuee skills. The ideal situation would be to involve evacuees, most of whom are likely unemployed (due to events), in the reconstruction efforts. That would require placing these people nearby affected communities, ideally their own. Again, a task easily handled with the GIS.

As noted by Hugh, we don’t need "refugee camps," although I’m not sure it is possible to rule out temporary encampments for some of the displaced evacuees. Based on the initial interviews and evaluation by FEMA case managers, victims can be placed in one of the following categories.

No Temporary or Interim Housing Need: Suitable long-term housing can be found within a couple of weeks

• Those whose homes sustained minimal damage and can return
• Those with the means and willingness to relocate out of the region permanently

Temporary Housing Need: Cannot move back into homes or onto lots for 60-90 days

• Those who can stay with relatives or friends
• Those who can relocate to a mobile home on their existing property while their homes are rebuilt
• For all others – assignment to a FEMA temporary encampment.

Interim Housing Need: Communities cannot be rebuilt within 90 days

• Those who can stay with relatives or friends
• Those who can be assigned vacant rental apartments or homes within the vicinity of the devastated areas.
• For all others – assignment to a FEMA temporary encampment until group sites can be constructed for interim accommodations.

Hugh’s suggestion may work well for evacuees who fall into most of the above categories. For “all others,” FEMA will likely develop temporary and interim group sites, which no doubt will be labeled by the media “refugee camps.” Temporary housing encampments are FEMA’s bread and butter. I’m sure that there are many very experienced people at FEMA who are likely gearing up to meet this need as we speak. Remember, these will be temporary and the accommodations will be tolerable as they will be air conditioned, offer a semblance of privacy, and evacuees will have access to clean water, food, and showers. Think about the temporary facilities constructed in Iraq for our soldiers and you get the picture. Do our soldiers live in "refugee camps"?

The interim group site planning will be the real challenge.

Let’s assume that we have upwards of 1,000,000 people who have been evacuated or are homeless. Now assume that 15% are not able to relocate permanently, live with relatives or friends, or find housing in the existing vacant housing stock. We’re talking about constructing interim housing for approximately 150,000 very quickly.

To accomplish a disaster housing mission for 150,000 people, sites must be identified, acquired, cleared, graded, and developed as soon as feasible. That means that land will likely be condemned, an action that may require special legislation from Congress (any comment from eminent domain and NEPA experts?).

Manufactured structures will be required. Lots of them. Assume an average household size of roughly 2.8 (should be refined for regional considerations) and the mission would require over 50,000 mobile homes!

In addition to mobile homes, these mini-communities will require services and facilities. How much land would this require? Based on some research that I did last summer, I calculated that a neighborhood of over 2,200 units, complete with an elementary school (average is one elementary school per 7,000 people) and modest commercial and office/administrative space, would require approximately 400 acres of land. A community of roughly 50,000 people, which could be comprised of 8 neighborhoods (about the size required to support a new high school), would require over 3,500 acres. A single settlement for 150,000 people would require more than 11,000 acres.

But why would we create a single mini-city to meet the need for 150,000 evacuees? In my opinion, that isn’t a viable or even the best option. What would 150,000 people do in a temporary mini-city developed on 11,000 acres of raw land in some rural area? Think of the social implications and morale of people living in such a community. It just doesn’t seem to make sense in this instance.

Instead of creating a single group site, FEMA surveyors should consider appending smaller group sites to existing communities nearby the devastated areas. These smaller, but more numerous group sites could feasibly tie into existing utility backbone systems and residents (no longer evacuees) could gradually become part of social fabric of their host communities. To house roughly 150,000 people, FEMA planners would only need to locate approximately 20-40 group sites for 2,000-8,000 people each to disperse the local impacts as well as disperse a potential labor pool for local reconstruction efforts throughout the gulf coast. Also, 20-40 group sites are very manageable from an organizational and construction stand point.

The Biggest Challenge

How many mobile homes and structures are currently available? How much treated lumber will be required? Aggregate for concrete? Glass for windows? Roofing materials? How much labor will be required to rebuild the devastated areas? How many engineers and inspectors will be required to review and approve all the redevelopment applications? The government cannot simply allow a “free for all” by developers. Projects must be reviewed. The reconstruction must be regulated to ensure the health, safety and welfare of future occupants. Review time will be a function of available human capital with particular expertise (engineers and planning technicians in particular). I suspect that solving these logistical and human capital problems will be the biggest challenge to reconstruction efforts.

Update: See my latest post for additional thoughts on housing Katrina evacuees, which includes a link to the MSNBC article mentioned above.

Posted by Rick at 03:12 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Critics trying to have it both ways

The President is taking heat for responding too slowly to the Katrina disaster. James Taranto covers how angry folks on the left have been reacting in general ("It's global warming!", "It's because Mississippi has a Republican governor!"), but the speed issue is one that keeps coming up.

The NY Times calls Bush's response too little, too late.

George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end.

One of the criticisms I have of many pundits and news reporters on the Left is that, no matter at all what Bush does, they'll find some way to criticize it. It doesn't matter how objectively good his action may be, it simply must be shot down. Don't believe me? Well Sherman, set the Way Back Machine to August 15, 2004, a little over a year ago. CBS reports on what folks are saying to Bush's response to Hurricane Charley.
Even before the storm hit, the president declared four counties disaster areas to speed federal money to victims. But that quick response fueled suspicion that he is using disaster politics to help his campaign in one of the most critical battleground states, a notion the president dismissed Sunday.

"Yeah, and if I didn't come they'd have said he should have been here more rapidly," Mr. Bush said.

Just like they are saying now. And precisely what they said to Dubya's father.
The president is trying not to repeat his father's mistakes. After Hurricane Andrew flattened parts of south Florida in 1992, state officials blamed the first President Bush for not answering their calls for help quickly enough, and trying to make up that by overcompensating later.

It's a lesson the current president and political analysts have not forgotten.

"President Bush Sr. put so much money into the state after Hurricane Andrew that he was accused of buying votes in that election. So there is potential that the president could float so much money into Florida that people would say that's political opportunism," says political analyst Craig Crawford.

So a Republican President, by the definition of the Left, can only respond either too quickly or too slowly, and will spend either too much or too little money. This is what playing politics with human suffering looks like. Independents, take note.

Posted by Doug at 02:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

A Distraction from Tragedy

The best sports-talk show host in the South now has a blog.

Posted by Matt at 02:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Digging Deep

Powerful words about sports and tragedy from one of the best sportswriters in the South. Money quote to Alabama fans and to anyone else who has ears to ear:

"Alabama fans, and Alabamians at large, don’t need to be lectured. They don’t need to be reminded to help. I haven’t spoken with anyone this week without hearing expressions of concern and a willingness to contribute. Donations to the American Red Cross, which will be collecting on campus today, will be high.

My only suggestion would be this: When you see those images of Barry Krauss and George Teague and their Sugar Bowl heroics, remember where they were, and then emulate what they did, which was to dig deep, not for individual glory but for the good of an entire team."

Posted by Matt at 01:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Very Best and the Very Worst

The destruction of a hurricane that transformed over the gulf from another summer storm into a category 5 murderer has sucked the life from thousands of people, destroyed countless homes, rendered a major American city uninhabitable for the foreseeable future, and unleashed immense suffering, utter despair and absolutely putrid evil. And as the generosity and compassion of the American spirit flourish and produce responses from every corner of the nation, there’s an outcry because the pipeline of help can’t move fast enough through the destruction and flood waters to produce the pictures of healing that we so desperately long to see.

Disasters are terribly inconvenient, and many people seek only to name the perpetrators, cast blame, write a few checks, and expect the government to fix the problems. We want to see happy images on our televisions, and we want to see them quickly.

But instead, with the civil structures of New Orleans flooded away, it is a heart of darkness in the longtime troubled city that has filled the vacuum and produced the environment of a prison riot, with the inmates in control of major sectors. The collapse of civil authority has exposed the dark depravity of the city’s underside.

And yet, goodness will prevail. The void of hope has touched our hearts, and there will be help for the thousands upon thousands of families who find themselves homeless and with no idea how they will rebuild their lives. Massive amounts of aid are streaming to the areas of need, even as the coastal refugees are making their way to Houston and Dallas, Birmingham and Memphis, even to Atlanta and beyond.

It is a dizzying conflict of good-hearted generosity and positive action seeking to replace the pictures of devastation and sheer evil.

Posted by Jim at 07:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 01, 2005

The Magic City

After reading this, I've never been more proud of my hometown of Birmingham.

Posted by Matt at 10:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Planned Parenthood's Outrage

What a horrendous thing to do.

Posted by Matt at 10:39 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Dr. Moore to RFK Jr. - Apologize

Russell Moore has a message for RFK Jr.

Posted by Matt at 08:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Al Sharpton is out of Control

He was just bloviating on Countdown on MSNBC - big time. He says things like "We can rebuild Iraq but we can't get food and water into New Orleans." and "We're acting like it's hundreds of thousands of people."

Ahhh! No, it's not that many, but it not an easy ride in or out. Think about the situation, please. Consider what you are saying, Mr. Sharpton, and how atrocious it sounds.

He said things about "right wing rising up around" other things, but not doing anything now. That if it wasn't New Orleans but if it was somewhere "near Crawford, FEMA would have gotten there a lot quicker."
All of this is insulting to how hard the Coast Guard, the New Orleans' police, the National Guard have been working there. I know it has been difficult and things haven't gone perfectly at all, but people are working so hard we cannot even imagine.

And so...Sharpton's reaction? Unbelievable.

And then Olberman closes it all up by thanking Sharpton for his "insight."
So...does insight now mean "political hay-making"?

UPDATE: As a response to Rev. Sharpton, here are Radioblogger's words to Jack Cafferty's earlier today after Cafferty lost his mind on CNN:

All righty then. You feel better now, Jack? You creep. While you are complaining about how inactive the government's been, The Coast Guard has saved hundreds of people. While you think Bush is a day late and a dollar short, the federal government was mobilizing before the storm ever hit. Disaster areas were declared before the storm ever got there.

If you think Bush landing in New Orleans the day after is a good idea, you simply are a buffoon. That's right. Resources are already stretched to over-capacity, and let's plan security and logistics for a presidential vist while people are stranded. That's a real good idea, Jack.

If you want to have had troops on site as the storm hit, so they'd be ready to immediately respond, you'd have dead troops now as well.

I don't care a whit if the whole world is watching. I'd rather the whole world chipped in and helped, like we've done for them every time something bad happened in their neck of the woods.

By the way, Jack? How have you pitched in to help? How much encouragement are you providing to the people that are actually on the ground making a difference right now? You are saying their effort is bungled, badly managed, and a world-wide disgrace and an embarrassment. Very nice, Jack. If you want to see an example of a world-wide disgrace and an embarrassment, look in the mirror.

Don't be a Jack, America. Don't be part of the kick-em-while-they're-down crowd. Make a difference.

Yes, Make a difference. Give.

Posted by Abigail at 08:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Heartbreak and Hope.

And a map. Very interesting.

HT: The Corner

Posted by Matt at 08:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Struggles continue in New Orleans

...And they will for many days to come.

I saw a lady interviewed last night who said she thought she could go to her home in New Orleans on Monday and survey the damage. Monday?? No. I'm sorry. I don't think so.

I don't know who the red haired lady was on CNN this afternoon, but she was hard to take. Yes, it is a bad bad situation at the convention center, but contradicting CNN's own military analyst as well as everyone else she interviewed. That military guy said that food and water were coming into the city, but it wasn't being filmed by the cameras. This is certainly true, but it is also true that people are in dire circumstances. But again, it doesn't even look like America. It's very unbelievably sad.

And an example of this is a man my dad saw on the news this morning. This older man was sitting on his porch and a boat came by to pick home up and the man said he wasn't going to go and the rescuer said "Well, you need some water." The man said "I have water. I'll be ok." He stayed right there. Whoever was anchoring the broadcast at the time expressed shock and disbelief that the man didn't want to leave. As my dad and I talked about it, we weren't that shocked. Where was the man going to go if he went into the boat? The boat would have taken him to a dry section of interstate and dropped him off and he would have had to walk somewhere and sit and wait to get on the bus. It's true that it may not be safe for him to stay in his house, especially if it continues to rain and the water somehow manages to rise more, but in the meantime, staying at his house where he has water and clothes and probably some canned or dry goods - he's safer and probably more sanitary than waiting on the street outside of the convention center or the Superdome.

It's a devastating situation, but the military and the aid workers are doing the best they can under ridiculously bad circumstances.

I urge you again to donate to the relief effort.

This is a long term effort and we cannot allow the aide money to run out.

Additionally, if you are willing to donate living space for Gulf Coast victims, you can go to this New Orleans site that is supporting message boards for available housing around the country. There are also housing listings nationwide at the New Orleans' Craigs List. As there is computer access at the Astrodome and probably at other shelters, this could be very helpful in the longer term recovery.

Please continue to pray about what you can do to help.

Posted by Abigail at 07:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thoughts on New Orleans

I was supposed to go to New Orleans this weekend. It was supposed to be a fun Labor Day weekend; lots of book and record shopping. Spicy food. Jazz. Coffee and chicory. Beignets. We opted not to go a few weeks back, as the costs of graduate school and the reality of brutal New Orleans weather sunk in. We would wait. We would visit New Orleans when the heat had slightly subsided, sometime in November. The wind would be crisp off the river, and we’d sit at Café DuMonde and sip café au lait like there was no tomorrow.

Right now, in New Orleans, there is no tomorrow.

New Orleans is not my home, but I was born there. My father was born there. His parents were born there. When my paternal grandmother’s grandparents arrived in America from Sicily, they settled in the Crescent City. My roots there run deep. My immediate family has not lived in the city for over twenty years, but my father can still show me around the Quarter, the Garden District and the outskirts in Metarie, all the places he knew as a youngster, walking to the movies with his cousins and rummaging through Grandpa’s grocery store.

Where are these places now? What filth and rubbish has washed through Grandma’s house? Is it even standing? Has some looter - pathetic despite his sorrowful lot in life - ransacked that home? I pray not. I don’t often speak or hear from my family in New Orleans; they’re distant relatives and it’s hard to stay in touch. I trust that they are safe. A good friend’s brother was out of town when Katrina laid out her wrath. He knows that his apartment was not flooded, but he wonders when he can return home and what will remain when he returns.

But what of the others? The countless men and women and children wandering the streets knee deep in a vile stew of waste and water, hungry, thirsty, dehydrated. The depraved thugs looting not for survival but for pleasure. The bullies parading the city with AK-47s and sawed-off shotguns. The city can be unforgiving at times, brutally violent and overwhelming dangerous in certain areas. Bourbon Street can be filthy enough in the heat and humidity. It can reek of booze and fried food and grease and sex and every possible form of human waste. I can only imagine the awful stench when those elements float around in circles for days on end.

And yet New Orleans is full of decent, kind people. Every city has its vices, to be sure, and some more than others, but I cannot believe that there are not still men of good will who will return to rebuild the Crescent City from this ruin. Still the problems here are deep. The government of the state of Louisiana has been incompetent and corrupt for decades. The city government in New Orleans is no better. Race relations are abysmal by all accounts and while each man is culpable for his own sin, surely the leadership of the region could have done something to alleviate the suffering in the eastern wards of the city. I don’t ascribe to the naive liberal notion that the wrong thing is better than nothing, but surely in all this time something could be done to fix the mess that New Orleans has often been.

Well, we can point fingers later. We can assign blame and hope to see a change somewhere down the line. Right now we can open our wallets and fall to our knees, trusting - somehow - in the sovereignty of God. I can’t explain it, but I can trust in it, knowing that our Lord will work through this mess for His purposes. The sun will shine the clearer. Not today, not tomorrow, perhaps not even six months from now. But we shall see New Orleans again. We shall hear her music. We shall drink her dark coffee and soak in her oppressive heat. She will rise again, and we shall greet her with a happy face.

Posted by Matt at 05:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack