Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Katrina Takes a Toll on Truth

After hurricane Katrina, I wrote about how biased the media coverage was here.

The LA Times now has a piece about how bad the media coverage was here.

Selected excerpts:

"His assessment is one of several in recent days to conclude that newspapers and television exaggerated criminal behavior in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, particularly at the overcrowded Superdome and Convention Center."

"Journalists and officials who have reviewed the Katrina disaster blamed the inaccurate reporting in large measure on the breakdown of telephone service, which prevented dissemination of accurate reports to those most in need of the information. Race may have also played a factor."

"Hyperbolic reporting spread through much of the media."

"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."

"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."

"The media inaccuracies had consequences in the disaster zone.

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."

There is an old saying that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't true. Likewise, if something sounds to bad to be true, it probably isn't true.

Friday, September 23, 2005


A part of the mental game of golf is to visualize a shot prior to striking the ball. A mental picture of the perfect shot does not guarantee a perfect shot, but it does help the golfer focus on the aspects of the shot that are needed to hit the best possible shot.

A part of the mental game of life should be to visualize holiness and resistance to sin prior to being in a situation that may become sinful. Likewise, the visualization of sinful behavior should be avoided. Daydreams and fantasies are often visualizations of sinful behavior. It is more difficult, and sometimes even impossible, to live a holy life when our thoughts are pursuing a sinful life.

The sins of envy and lust are primarily sins that originate in the mind prior to corroding the heart. Instead of visualizing a newer car, a bigger house, or a more attractive spouse, the visualization of the same car, the same house, and the same spouse well into the future will increase holiness and contentment and decrease envy and lust.

The sins of gluttony, sloth, and wrath, are sins of discipline. Instead of visualizing a feast, a vacation, or revenge, the visualization of a simple meal, a repetitive task, and an expression of forgiveness will increase holiness and contentment and decrease gluttony, slothfulness, and wrath.

The sins of pride and greed are sins of selfishness. Instead of visualizing success and wealth, the visualization of sacrifice will increase holiness and contentment and decrease pride and greed.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Two Questions

Is it hypocritical to criticize someone else for being too critical?

Is encouragement criticism with a positive spin?

Monday, September 19, 2005

My Goal

Contentment and satisfaction are vastly different feelings.

The pursuit of satisfaction rarely leads to contentment. It is pure folly to believe that once a desire gets satisfied, the feeling of contentment will follow. Satisfaction is, at best, a fleeting feeling of accomplishment. Yet, most people will continually sacrifice contentment in order to pursue the feeling of temporary satisfaction. Some people are never satisfied or happy regardless of how many goals they achieve.

Contentment is a state of being that is not dependent upon accomplishments, possessions, recognition, immediate circumstances, future expectations, or even past failures. Contentment is a decision to be content in all circumstances. It is an acceptance that God always has me exactly where he wants me. It is trusting God completely.

I don’t know how a non-believer could ever feel content. Apart from God, I would need to be constantly measuring my stuff. With God, the things that are important are immeasurable. Integrity doesn’t have a size or a weight or a volume. Integrity isn’t something I can achieve if I work hard enough or long enough or smart enough. I can’t buy integrity with my vast amounts of wealth. I either have integrity or I don’t.

There is nothing wrong with setting and trying to achieve goals. Part of my contentment is knowing that I am moving in a certain direction; a hopefully better direction. However, I’ve learned throughout my life that I will never reach of point in this life where I have gotten where I’m going.

Contentment is my goal in life. Satisfaction isn’t worth the bother.

Friday, September 16, 2005

A big hit

Self reliance and personal responsibility took a big hit last night in the speech of President Bush from New Orleans. I admire the boldness of our President. However, I strongly disagree with where the recovery plan is almost certain to lead. A lesser President would have said the right things without making any commitments. This President made a commitment that he will keep.

The size of the Katrina disaster requires a Federal government response. The people who have been displaced need to be replaced and the city of New Orleans needs to be rebuilt in a way that will prevent or at least lessen future Hurricane damage. However, the recovery plan sounds like one big never-ending welfare plan.

Reasonable people always make plans based on reasonable expectations. If there is a reasonable expectation that there is some risk associated with a decision, reasonable people are less likely to make the risky decision. If there is no risk, or if the insurance policy is provided without charge by the government, the dynamics of the decision process change. No-Go decisions become Go decisions.

In planning for the future, it has now become reasonable to expect the Federal government to restore any losses in a natural disaster. This expectation will cause more people to take a risk in Hurricane zones and increase the size of future disasters. It also means that those of us who don’t take the risk will be paying for those who do. How fair is that?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Priority of Vocation

Imagine my surprise when I came across The Priority of Vocation post today!

"It's always nice when you find an author that agrees with you and this has been one of my pet projects for a while. Without attempting to rigorously document it, I will assert that there seems to have been a decided shift among Evangelicals in the past, say, 50 years attempting to replace the priority of vocation with the idea of relationship."

There IS someone besides me who has a sense that relationships have been over-emphasized.

Tension and Cooperation

For the American system of government to work, there has to be some tension and some cooperation between the different levels of government. Local decisions based on local circumstances, local expectations, and local capabilities tend to produce the best results for the local citizens.

However, Americans are not just citizens of a City without also being citizens of a County or Parish, State, and Country. Citizens of a State can force the citizens of a City within a State to conform to State standards and citizens of a America can force citizens of a State to conform to the standards of America as a whole.

Tension between the different levels of government is needed to prevent one level of government from becoming too powerful and the other levels of government from becoming too weak. Cooperation between the different levels of government is needed to maintain an orderly society.

During the Katrina disaster, neither the tension, nor the cooperation, between the City, State, and Federal government was what it should have been. It is interesting to me that the person probably least responsible for the problems in New Orleans is the person who has taken the most blame and has ended up accepting the most responsibility.

As usual, President Bush has risen above all of the partisan rhetoric. I do think he deserves some blame and should take some responsibility. I admire him for the way he admitted the Federal government made mistakes, but I also think he has established a bad precedent by taking all of the responsibility.

It is usually wrong to base a policy on extreme circumstances. The best policies are based on typical circumstances. In the future, States and Cities will both be less prepared to deal with disasters because the leaders and citizens of the states will expect more of a federal response. I think this is wrong and dangerous.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


When Teresa at Restoration Station started visiting my site and leaving comments, I thought I had found a kindred spirit. We were both a little dissatisfied with traditional Church and we were trying to express our dissatisfaction along with some possible changes.

As so often happens, my first impression of Teresa was a little off the mark. However, she has proven to be much more important to me and my blog than I ever could have imagined. Instead of marching down the same path as me, Teresa has been a very good spokesperson and representative of some of the concepts and beliefs I have challenged. I started blogging as a way to improve my communications skills. Teresa’s challenges have helped me to realize when I could and should have written something differently and better.

Teresa has developed quite a following on her site mainly because of her warm heart and her infectious passion for Christ. However, she is also one of the few bloggers who I think has really grown as a thinker and writer since starting to blog.

I’m sure most of my readers already know about Teresa, but if not, let me encourage you to visit her site. Today’s post is one of her best.

Thanks Teresa; you make me smile.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


The mayor of New Orleans blames the Governor of Louisiana and the President of the United States for everything that went wrong in his city during hurricane Katrina, but he insists that the rebuilding effort should be done by the citizens of New Orleans under his control.

Most liberals and many conservatives who have been staunchly opposed to the Patriot Act because someone from the government might find out what books someone is reading are now insisting the Federal government must have complete and absolute control over the citizens of a state during a natural disaster.

Every Tom, Dick, and Harry who predicted the flooding in New Orleans have been on television bragging about how accurate they predicted the disaster and how FEMA and the Federal government ignored all of their warnings. Conveniently though, not a word is mentioned about how these predictions were wrong about the number of deaths caused by Katrina. Either God intervened, or the Federal government response was incredible, or their predictions were completely wrong.

One thing is for certain; disasters sure expose the blabber and the blabberers!

Friday, September 09, 2005

What is important?

It is almost impossible to know whether or not someone is rich or poor or in between by observing what they do for a living, where they live, or what they own. Credit cards and lines of credit make many people appear to be much more prosperous than they actually are. Owners of large savings and investments sometimes appear to be of modest means disguising their actual net worth. Some people live beyond their means, some people live within their means, and some people live below their means.

I am unable to determine anything important about a person based on their appearance. I do make some judgments about people based on how neat they appear, but neatness is more of a personal preference of mine than it is an attribute of real importance. I don’t care about the real net worth of other people because the real net worth of a person also tells me nothing important about that person.

People have a right in this country to be poor as well as rich. Everyone has a right to decide how much stuff they want and what they are willing to do to get what they want. There is no shame, and there should be no shame, in not wanting as much as others want or not being willing to do what others do to acquire stuff.

The people who should feel shame are the people who treat the poor different than they treat others. Almost nothing makes me madder than to hear someone referred to as a burger flipper or to hear a customer in a restaurant fuss at one of the workers. Every person who does a job well, regardless of the job, as long as it is a legal job, deserves respect. Those who look down on the poor, those who mistreat the poor, and those who advocate for the poor, are all equally contemptible because all of these groups consider the poor to be lesser than they are.

It is important for a person to get up and go to work five days a week, it is important for a person to keep his or her word, it is important for a person to be honest, it is important for a person to take care of his or her family, and it is important for a person to be kind.

I wonder how many people in Church this weekend feel the same as me.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Katrina Coverage

Conservative leaning thinkers are convinced the mainstream media has a liberal bias that is evidenced by what news gets reported and also how the news is reported. However, most of the conventional wisdom since 911 is that the mainstream media does a pretty good job covering disasters. Conventional wisdom just bit the dust again with the coverage of Katrina.

Hurricane Katrina may have been the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States. The number of lives lost my not be the greatest, but the number of lives affected, most certainly will be the greatest. Even those of us thousands of miles from the disaster will have our lives changed by the government regulations and spending that will be the eventual result of the political process in the aftermath of Katrina. However, the major affect of Katrina will be the continuation and expansion of the trend of government interference and government care, not a complete change of government direction.

The news coverage of Katrina, however, will go down in history as a complete turning point; a seminal moment; a paradigm shift. Last year during the California special election, the Los Angeles Times unabashedly ran a hit piece on Arnold Schwarzenegger the day of the election. In addition to running the piece accusing Gov. Schwarzenegger of being a sexual predator, the Times also printed and delivered hundreds of thousands of free newspapers to neighborhoods considered to be leaning towards Gov. Schwarzenegger. The Los Angeles Times clearly crossed a line from having a bias in its reporting to being an advocate in its reporting. The result for the Times has been a loss of subscriptions, a loss of readership, and a complete loss of respect. I have no way of knowing what the results of the special election would have been if the piece had not been printed and distributed, but my guess is that the Times helped Gov. Schwarzenegger more than it hurt him.

With their coverage of hurricane Katrina, ABCCBSNBCCNNNEWYORKTIMES have all just repeated the Los Angeles Times mistake. The mainstream media has now crossed the line from having an obvious bias to being advocates of anything that will make our President look incompetent and unprepared. As so often happens though, not knowing when to back off has unintended consequences. The majority of Americans have seen through all of the negative coverage and have not changed their opinion of President Bush. The mainstream media though, has lost the last chunk of what little credibility they had left. News consumers now have even more of a reason to look for alternate sources of information.

In a perfect world, we would have two strong political parties and an independent media. The Democrat’s and the media have both really been hurt by the media coverage of Katrina. I don’t know where this is going to lead. I find myself longing for heaven again today.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Point of Reference

Human beings would have very little ability to reason or be reasonable without a point of reference. The Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov even demonstrated that animals can be conditioned to respond in certain ways based on a point of reference. By always ringing a bell prior to feeding his dog, Pavlov was able to condition his dog to start salivating from the time the bell rang in anticipation of being fed. The association between the bell and the food was a point of reference for the dog.

I have been playing golf for almost 40 years. My initial goal in golf was to break 100 because I had read somewhere that serious golfers should break 100. My goal was based on the point of reference of someone else. I didn’t have my own point of reference because I had never played a round of golf before. Breaking 100 turned out to be much more difficult than I had ever imagined, but the more I played, the more I was able to learn about how to manage my game in ways that would reduce my score.

I was eventually able to break 100, so then I set my goal to break 90. After I broke 90, I changed my goal to breaking 80, and that’s where I’ve been stuck for just about as long as I can remember. I want to break 80, I think I can break 80, I plan to someday break 80, but I have no reasonable expectation that I will break 80 anytime soon because my point of reference is 40 years and countless rounds of never playing well enough for 18 holes to break 80. Wanting to break 80 is a reasonable goal, but expecting to break 80 is an unreasonable expectation for me.

Just as I have a history of golf scores, the United States Federal government and all of the private relief agencies have a history of responding to natural disasters. There has always been a lag between the end of the disaster and any type of large scale relief. From what I know, there never has been a natural disaster in the Untied States where the Federal government and the major relief agencies were able to make a significant difference any sooner than 72 hours.

I can understand the emotional desire of most people to want a quicker response from the leaders of our country. Anyone who watched the scope of the disaster on television naturally wanted the victims to be relieved of their suffering quickly. However, the size of the disaster made immediate relief impossible. A quicker response than 72 hours to Katrina would have been like me breaking 80 for the first time on the most difficult course I have ever played.

It is reasonable to want a faster response from our government and relief agencies to Katrina, but it is totally and completely unreasonable to expect a faster response because we have history as a point of reference. From my perspective, the United States Federal government and relief agencies just broke 85 at Pebble Beach. Maybe not the best ever, but pretty darn close.

Sunday, September 04, 2005


Whenever one of my daughters, 6 and 8 years old, ask me to do something for them, most of the time I will respond by asking her if she really needs me to do what she requested or if it is something she can do herself. I am still waiting for the day when one of them will react to my question by deciding to go it alone, but my lack of success in raising independent children so far has not deterred me. I know we will get there someday. I almost always make them at least start doing what they need on their own and then I only help when they are ready to give up. I figure that if they aren’t willing to at least start on their own, then they don’t really need what they requested. I am confident that I am raising two daughters who will learn and grow to be independent.

Independent people are an asset to their family, Church, community, and society as a whole. Dependent people are a burden to all of these institutions. Those who foster dependence by creating and enabling dependence have in effect weakened our society.

A lot went wrong in New Orleans last week. Some of what went wrong could have been avoided with better planning and preparation and some of what went wrong could have been mitigated with a quicker response. Government officials, at all levels, could and should have done better, both before and after the disaster. However, government officials did not cause the disaster. The disaster was an act of nature that was made infinitely worse by the larger number of people who should have been more responsible for their own welfare and who ended up creating a much greater burden for all of the government officials trying to respond to the disaster.

I don’t know how many of the survivors of Katrina were disabled. It appears that there were many people who legitimately needed help in order to survive. However, there were many, many, more who had no problem getting on and off of busses and who had no problem getting in front of a microphone and complaining who should have evacuated the affected area when they were told to leave instead of staying and then requiring government resources and government help in order to survive.

The government response would have been much more effective if government officials only had to respond to the thousands of people who really needed help instead of the hundreds of thousands who insisted on the government to provide the help that never should have been needed. I have nothing but contempt for those who unnecessarily burden others.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Katrina Blame

There is a fine line between criticism and blame. Every cell in my body is awash with the DNA of a critic. I can’t look at a computer program without seeing ways it could have been coded better. I can’t look at my lawn without seeing the weeds and the brown spots even when there is only one weed in the entire lawn. I can’t look at my family, my community, my employer, my Church, your Church, your community, your family, or even myself without seeing areas and aspects that need improvement. I am always harder on myself and my immediate circle than I am on those further from my immediate circle. The critic in me is different from most of the people I know, but I know there are many others who also have this particular gene in their DNA.

I try to avoid placing blame when I express criticism. Sometimes blame is appropriate. People who give their word and people who are paid to perform a well defined job function deserve blame when they fail do what they are supposed to do and expected to do. An umpire who makes a bad call in an important baseball game is rightly blamed for the bad call by the losing baseball team. Most of the time, however, blame is inappropriate. People who are doing the best they can and the best they know how to do deserve constructive criticism in order to get better, not condemnation for failing to meet the expectations of the person or group placing the blame.

Most of the media coverage, most of the statements by politicians, most of the comments by the people affected, most of the discussions on talk radio, and most of the blogs have spent more time and effort pointing a finger of blame than honestly and fairly analyzing the Katrina disaster. I plan on spending the next few posts discussing and analyzing Katrina as well as pointing out where the blame should be properly placed.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Rethinking Libertarianism & Socialism

The situation in New Orleans is forcing me to rethink my libertarian tendencies.

It’s always wrong to use events with special situations to form broad based beliefs and principles, but acts of nature with the tragic results like what is happening in New Orleans is a glimpse of an extreme situation that reveals the expected results of an extreme ideology.

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina demonstrates the futility of complete dependence on government for care by the citizens of a society and also the unreasonableness of pure and complete freedom.

Anyone else longing for heaven today?