Sunday, September 04, 2005

metablogging Katrina

From the right end of the spectrum, Annika has done a very good job of blogging the aftermath of Katrina.

Skippy, our resident right-leaning Canuck, takes a much darker view in this post. Both Annika and Skippy are simply calling it as they see it; I find their perspectives useful. Skippy's post provides a partial answer to my remarks on gun ownership. In a section of his post dealing with what he thinks should be done in New Orleans, Skippy embraces martial law and writes:

But, and this is a very important but, if the military sees anyone with a firearm of any kind, [those people should have] their heads blown off. Period. If you're not in a uniform and you have a gun, your head comes off. If you're going to suspend the [Constitution] - which [is] what I'm suggesting [you do] - the Second Amendment goes with it. In this case, I care a whole lot more about getting cancer patients out of the hospital safely than I do about your precious "gun rights."

Skippy spends a couple column-inches opining about snipers taking potshots at people trying to evacuate a charity hospital; his ire at the snipers-- who are indeed human filth-- is understandable. But he raises larger issues.

Do guns increase your chances of survival? I'm beginning to wonder whether the question has been phrased correctly. It seems to me that, as long as we look at any gun-related situation in terms of survivability, we're never going to arrive at universally acceptable conclusions. You might argue that universally acceptable conclusions are impossible in a contentious, debate-loving country like the US; fair enough. But right now, pro-gun and anti-gun lobbies too easily read exactly the same evidence in exactly opposite ways, which makes me suspect that the wrong questions are being asked. Political ideology seems to be the strongest filter through which evidence is interpreted. I consider myself somewhat scientifically minded, so that situation doesn't sit well with me. I want a clearer framework and a more objective metric.

Anyone with a new, creative angle of approach to the gun problem, please leave a comment.

On the left side of the spectrum, Kevin Drum posts about fundraising.

Also on the left: Daily Kos, to which I have no link because I find his blog as obnoxious as Michelle Malkin's blog, has this to say:

We have two competing world views in American politics. The first says that government cannot help people. That government must be as small as possible, and exists only to provide security from external enemies. The other says that government can be a force for good and can help make people's lives better.

This week, we are seeing the effects of the lack of government. The American people are seeing what happens when the GOP worldview is dominant. We've talked about the two disasters -- the hurricane itself, which was unavoidable, and the response to the hurricane and lack of leadership, which was.

We are seeing a third disaster -- the conservative world view itself, crashing and burning as reality meets ideology. Where government programs are slashed in the name of Norquist's drownable government, only to see an entire major city wiped off the face of the map as a result.

I'd be interested in reading some right-wing responses to the above. I can anticipate howls of denial about Kos's last paragraph: the disaster is no indicator of a larger decline in rightism's influence. I'd agree with that denial. It's not as though the entire country has been plunged into chaos. Wishful thinking, Kos, the same wishful thinking that lost you the election and might lose you another one. Perhaps there are many on the right who don't see reality, but you're not in a position to critique those people, my man.

I do, however, wonder how people on the right would respond to Kos's first paragraph. Many conservatives do indeed characterize government as either inherently bad or as something that should be kept to the barest minimum. Here, too, I actually agree: generally speaking, government involvement in large-scale efforts usually leads to crushing mediocrity (though the same could be said for what large corporations do to products and ideas: look at Windows and Big Macs, neither of which can be said to represent anyone's ideal software product or hamburger). Localized responsibility and private efforts are, on the whole, the best way to go.

But does this maxim hold when a community is hit by a disaster? Not being a political absolutist, I think a political philosophy is useful only to the extent that it matches a situation. When the situation itself changes radically, the philosophy must either be modified or abandoned in favor of something more suitable to the new situation. Martial law-- which Skippy favors-- is an example of such a shift. In normal times, it's well and good to talk about rights, freedoms, privileges, rule of law, justice, etc., but in times of emergency, how appropriate is this? If Skippy is representative of other conservatives, then perhaps we can venture that many conservatives would agree to such a shift.

[NB: My understanding of the typical conservative viewpoint-- correct me if I'm wrong, Dear Reader-- is that government should be kept to a minimum, not eliminated entirely. The latter view is anarchism, not conservatism. Kos may be confusing one with the other, especially in his second paragraph, which slyly moves from talk of a government that is "as small as possible" (first paragraph) to "lack of government" (second paragraph).]

Assuming that a significant number of rightists do advocate the imposition of martial law, Kos's argument makes little sense. If anything, Kos and (perhaps some of) the right seem to be in agreement that some sort of large-scale, top-down imposition of order is necessary to get things done. I get the impression that Kos has manufactured a straw man here. Having seen plenty of straw men erected by the right, I'm not going to claim that straw men are the sole province of the left. But as far as this argument by Kos goes... it addresses nothing. Almost everyone, I daresay, wants the restoration of order in New Orleans, by force if necessary.

Your thoughts re: Katrina, guns, Kos, conservatives, etc.?

(Keep it civil.)

UPDATE: I was curious to know what was up with vampire novelist Anne Rice, one of New Orleans's most famous residents. This blog entry offers hints but little else.


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