Tuesday, September 20, 2005

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 Red Cross and the Salvation Army. I also look at a lot of things differently now. 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.

(Cross-posted at StonesCryOut)

Friday, 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.

(Cross-posted at StonesCryOut)

Monday, September 05, 2005

Hurricane Relief Weekend Sept 1 - Sept 5

Note: This post will be on top all weekend. Scroll down for new posts

The Blogs Across America Hurricane Relief Day has been expanded to a Hurricane Relief weekend because of the tremendous response. As of late Friday morning, over $300,000 in contributions have been logged. And so we continue on. I've moved the relevant information from my previous post to this one. Please continue to pray about more ways you can help. I've linked more charities here. But there are even more here. As the days wear on, we begin to see the depth of the need along the Gulf Coast and how massive the relief efforts will be.

Hugh Hewitt and Glenn Reynolds put out the call and the bloggers are answering. NZ Bear is providing a complete list of the charities that bloggers are recommending.

The charity I recommend is the Red Cross. I choose it because it was the first place I thought to donate and the first organization I heard about bringing supplies and support to the Gulf region.

To donate by phone:

My friends and I at Stones Cry Out have chosen the Salvation Army.

Additionally, while surveying the complete list, I discovered the Soldiers' Angels is organizing an effort as well. I continue to urge donations to Soldiers Angels in all forms, as they will focus on Soldiers who will soon be returning to the region, only to find their familes scattered and their homes destroyed. Please pray for them as they deal with the news of this disaster while also serving so bravely around the world.

Prayer and donations are needed. See how you can work to provide both.
May God bless our efforts and may the money be used in the best and most efficient ways possible.

Also, you can log your donation here to help know how much we have all been able to help. And you can do so anonymously. You don't have to give your name or blog site in order to log your contribution.

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Saturday, September 03, 2005

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.

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out)

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Friday, September 02, 2005

Fifteen Minutes of News Coverage

Just now on Fox news, Dr. Kristen Dascomp called in from University Hospital of New Orleans. She said that patients were now being evacuated as the helicopters could finally land on the roof of the building and take some of the patients and staff. Apparently the first helicopter was only thinking he had to take 20 people, but now the correct information has been relayed and more helicopters are coming. The news anchor asked the doctor, "How many people are there with you needing to be evacuated?"
"Eleven hundred."

Yeah, that's a big difference.

Meanwhile, the anchor asked about a jail set up in the hospital. Dr. Dascomp said, "Well, it's not so much a jail..." She said there were some people wandering into the hospital during the hurricane who were neither patients nor staff, so they set up a place for them on the first floor and tried to get them accommodations as much as they could (because remember, they were still taking care of patients). Eventually, those people ran out of food and water and with no money they became restless and aggressive towards the hospital staff that were also living on that floor. So to protect to the staff and the patients, those individuals were quarantined in their own area.

Amazing. The hospital tries to take care of them instead of kicking them to the street and they react by asking for more and more from the hospital staff to the point where they are making threats and need to be "quarantined."

Also, the doctor said that she has no idea where the evacuated patients are going, that there is no communication in the hospital and the only way to spread information is to run through the halls and shout out announcements.

And also in the area of unbelievable, the congressional black caucus is remarking on Katrina right now and saying that the difference between those who got out and those who had to stay is poverty, age and race.

Sigh. I agree that some people are poor and I agree that going to the super dome before the storm turned out to be not to good. But anyone who died in the storm could have done that and survived the storm. However, my real problem is that I keep hearing about the people who didn't have the "means" to escape. Well, maybe. Except I keep seeing people interviewed on TV saying "I lost my car, I lost everything."

He also said, "It would be unconscionable to stand by and do nothing."
WHO?? is standing by and doing nothing? What??
sigh. The President said it today, We can both thank the workers there for their efforts and acknowledge that the results are not enough - and we can do it without being offensive.

And then the Black Caucus speaker alludes to the Bible about giving people food when they are hungry. And as that is happening, a huge convoy of hundreds of trucks, boats and busses is flowing into New Orleans. In fact, Fox News cut away from Jesse Jackson to show the convoy arriving in the city.

Let's be unified to get this done. Please.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hurricane Relief Day

Today bloggers around the world join in a coordinated effort to raise support for the victims of Hurrican Katrina. I encourage you to pray and donate as your are led. And even if you cannot donate, prayer is free...it only costs our time.

NOTE: I've moved the rest of the information in this post to the Hurricane Relief Weekend post. Please do what you can to help.

Recovery, evacuation, looting

Best of the Web today has a roundup with a lot of informative quotes. It would take me longer to post all of it than for you to read it. It's not a pretty picture.

Again, Donate. The cost of this relief effort is in excess of 1/2 billion dollars a day.

A day.

Chavez makes an offer

...to export some of his communist soldiers to "help" in the Gulf Coast:
CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez is offering planeloads of soldiers and aid workers to help American victims of Hurricane Katrina...

Please tell me that someone else is also suspicious about this. I can't imagine that bringing "planeloads" of Venezuelan soldiers is any kind of good idea.

Al Sharpton is out of control

He's bloviating on Countdown on MSNBC right now - 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.

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.

All of this could be said to Sharpton, who apparently hasn't stopped to think of any of it.

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out)

Do you feel it?

Back during the '04 campaign, I remember Hugh Hewitt noting various senetorial campaigns that needed all the money they could get. I remember he said "give till it hurts." We all said similiar things during the weeks of Tsumani relief. And now, Hugh Hewitt leads the charge again saying:
Please dig deep and give. Then give again. Then give until you really feel it.

So, do you feel it? Does the giving hurt?
You have so many choices:
American Red Cross
Salvation Army
Feed the Children
Soldiers' Angels
Catholic Charities
Samaritan's Purse

...to name a few.

Please. Give. And trust that if the giving hurts now, then when you need it, someone will be there to help you.

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 alleviating the numbers of people who will need to be housing in long term recovery.

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

(Cross-posted at StonesCryOut)

One year ago

In all of this it almost -- it did -- slip my mind that yesterday was the birthday of my blog. Abigail Brayden is 1 year old. The blog. Not me :)

August 31, 2004, I started this blog to help explain some of the positions of the President and how he was representing more than just republicans. Of course, that is well known now and the blog has taken on a wider scope. I'm just happy to still be here - 350+ posts later. One year ago, I never thought I would be part of such a great group blog like Stones Cry Out or participating in a massive relief effort to help Americans. God is good and I am blessed and thankful. I pray that those suffering now along the Gulf Coast can see His goodness very soon.