A conservatory of Ldotter blogs.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

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Where I call home

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Friday, September 16, 2005

There once was a time. . .

. . .when I was an avid reader of Andrew Sullivan's. While I disagreed with him roughly half the time, I always found his writing provocative and his thinking to be clear and well-reasoned. While I took issue with many of his positions (gay marriage, John Kerry, Rumsfeld), I made his blog a near-daily read for years. That ended with Hurricane Katrina.

When Katrina had finally passed, leaving so much destruction and suffering in her wake, the pictures of the aftermath flooded television screens around the world. The Europeans laced their coverage with schadenfreude, while the American media sought out every image of human tragedy it could find. It was only a matter of minutes before media figures started rending their garments, bewailing the misery of the people of New Orleans, and looking for someone to blame it on. In the case of Andrew Sullivan, there was only one man to blame, and it was the same man who seems to get blamed for just about everything else that doesn't look good on television.

It seems the excitable journalist was driven to apoplexy at the magnitude of the disaster and the apparent sloth of the President's reaction to it. Never stopping to question whether there was much that the President could have done in the early stages to have prevented the "as many as 10,000 deaths," Andrew immediately set about ticking off a list of complaints, using each as a demonstration of the supposed incompetence he's witnessed in the administration since roughly two hours after John Kerry clinched the Democratic nomination. While it was always a mystery to me just where he found any competence in John Kerry, I always assumed he was an honest broker of opinion, acting on principle, conscience and reason (however skewed).

I don't know whether Andrew's stance has changed with the falling death toll and the emergence of new facts from New Orleans, since I've been actively avoiding his blog since September 4. But, whether or not he has modified his position is of little importance. After all, if he has taken some of the edge off his unremitting criticism, it means he's demonstrated the excitability that others have noted in him by leaping at the first opportunity to lambaste the administration for the worst possible sin -- allowing thousands to die unnecessarily. If he hasn't moderated his tone, well, that's just an indication of intransigence -- something that was hinted at in his continued support for John Kerry and hostility toward the Swift Boat Vets despite all the evidence pointing toward the Swifties' veracity. (To date, Kerry has produced absolutely nothing that would indicate that they're lying.)

I'm not the sort of conservative who likes to go around calling for boycotts on anything that bears a whiff of liberalism or hostility toward the President and his administration. I can make up my own mind on whether or not to buy a Dixie Chicks CD without being organized, given a picket sign and told where to stand for maximum effect. Outward expressions of indignation have always struck me as pretty hollow at best, and duplicitous at worst, in cases where there's a completely different agenda afoot. I tend to prefer one-man boycotts, without all the fanfare and accessories. I simply say to myself, "You know, as much as I used to like the Dixie Chicks, I just can't see myself handing over my cash to them after they've insulted me." I wouldn't tip an insulting bartender, so why should I tip an insulting band?

So, I'm not going to try and make the case that conservatives who still read and support Andrew Sullivan's blog are somehow selling out the conservative cause. His opinions probably still hold some value with a lot of conservatives of good conscience, and not a few libertarians (to the extent that there are more than a few). It's just that I can't reconcile spending the time it takes each day to read opnions that are so obviously formed in seething contempt, and shaped by the emotion of the moment.

Of course, that's one of the hazards of blogging. In the urgency to provide content, sometimes deliberation gets prioritized downward. It's understandable, and perfectly human. But, when I hear and think of the division in our country, I can't help thinking that Andrew's Hurricane Katrina analysis was a fine example of just why that division is so stark and persistent. And, much like people who organize boycotts and demonstrate in the streets, there's not much reason to listen to Andrew when you know what he's going to say before you even click the link. Why does it seem that it's always the people creating the divisions who decry them most loudly?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A couple of favorite. . .

. . .tunes playing on rock radio these days:

1. "Another White Dash," by Butterfly Boucher.

2. "Sugar, We're Going Down," by Fall Out Boy.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Four years ago this morning. . .

. . .was one of the most fateful days in the history of our republic. It brought together a nation of people still bitterly divided over an election that many insist to this day was stolen by its President. We all came together in the days following the terrorist atrocity because we knew we would need one another to get through a time of terrible trauma and loss. But for a few notable exceptions, most public figures held back from levelling criticism against one another, choosing instead to rally around the people of New York, their mayor, and our national leaders.

So much for those days. Here on the marking of the fourth year since that deadly attack at the hands of religious fanatics, we find ourselves in a situation where the people have reacted in precisely the opposite way to a time of crisis that is of considerably greater magnitude and will have a deeper impact on the nation as a whole, where one of our major metropolitan cities is in a state of complete destruction. At first, it appeared that the death toll would be of a magnitude that would boggle our minds and leave us grasping for a sense of perspective as the final numbers came in. Fortunately, and by the grace of God, it appears that the number won't be nearly as high as originally predicted.

And, just as the original estimates of deaths were extremely high, so was the degree of urgency to affix the blame for them on the president and his administration. The detractors were quick to make the case that, had FEMA properly managed this disaster, the loss of life could have been avoided. But, since federal agencies weren't as quick to respond, they asked, how many thousands died unnecessarily? Well, if the figures come out as low as the trend seems to indicate, it appears that not very many, if any at all, died as a result of anything not done at the federal level. One assumes that the majority of deaths occurred in the early stages of the flooding, before people could reach higher ground. At that point, there hadn't been time to deploy troops or FEMA into the area, no matter how well-oiled a machine the bureaucracy might have been.

Those who were so quick to seek recrimination against the administration for its response are about to get an object lesson in just why it is that people are supposed to band together in the aftermath of disaster, and wait for cooler heads to come to the fore prior to kicking ass and taking names. Those who were so angry with the president for his supposed culpability in the deaths of untold thousands will likely now find themselves without the untold thousands of deaths to hang around his neck. In fact, there's a good chance that they will at some point be forced to dine on a rather healthy serving of crow, as the truth of what could have been done, and by whom it should have been done, becomes more evident. It appears to me that, in the coming months, there will be much talk among the Democrats of a classic overreach. The Democratic party in Louisiana might well want to prepare for some very lean days in the future, when the breathtaking ineptitude of its leadership in the state becomes more apparent.

While this may appear to be good news in a purely partisan sense, it certainly is nothing to cheer in terms of what it says about the discourse among our nation's leadership at every level. The utter unwillingness to accept responsibility for poor decisions, combined with the craven urgency to find fault at the level furthest removed from the one that is ultimately responsible for the safety of citizens, bodes ill for our nation when the next crisis inevitably comes along. When the Big One finally hits California, we could very well see a repeat of what we've witnessed over the past two weeks -- only on a much larger scale. That is, assuming state and local officials perform as abysmally as those of Louisiana when faced with disaster. One thing's for sure: The low watermark has been established. Californians would have to struggle mightily to foul things up to the extent that Louisiana and her leaders have. And, even if they manage to do that, one wonders if people will be in as big of a rush to stack the bodies on the front lawn of the White House.

For all that hasn't gone well at the federal level in the wake of this disaster, the president can be thankful for one thing. That is, when the water recedes and the cleanup begins, he will not have to answer the question, "Why didn't the buses run?" Nagin and Blanco won't have that luxury, however.

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