Monthly Archives: September 2005

What kind of libertarian are you, anyway?

In a comment on my thread on the O’Reilly-Donahue deathmatch, rishi gajria says:

What surprises me the most however is Andrew Sullivan’s (I came via his website) assertion that you are a liberatarian. I have yet to get a sense of that in your posts.

Andrew, who very kindly mentioned my blog at, does call me a libertarian. And I do have libertarian affiliations, with Reason magazine and with the Cato Institute. It’s a label that fits me better than “conservative” or “liberal.” But what do labels mean, anyway? Here’s what I say in the intro to my website:

One of my goals in my writing is to cut through left/right stereotypes and focus
on the issues from an independent perspective. My politics can be described as libertarian/conservative — leaning more libertarian on some issues and more conservative on others.

I am a strong believer in individual rights and limited government. I believe in judging people as individuals, not on the basis of membership in a group. I believe that reality trumps ideology, left or right. I believe Western democracy, flawed through it is, is worth defending. Perhaps most important, I believe that it should
be possible for honest and intelligent people to disagree on political issues and respect each other.

What does this mean with regard to specific political issues? I believe that generally, more markets and less government interference is good, though I’m willing to be persuaded by evidence that this is not so in specific cases. (I still believe that the failure to reform Social Security and to move toward partial privatization is going to bite us in the butt someday, perhaps sooner rather than later.) I believe in a safety net, but I also think that government programs have a way of degenerating all too easily into morale- and responsibility-sapping entitlements. I dislike corporate welfare as much as any other kind. I believe the government should stay out of adult men and women’s consensual sexual relationships, reading and viewing choices, and end-of-life care decisions. I oppose race and sex discrimination even when it comes in the guise of “affirmative action,” and attempts to regulate speech in the academy in the name of protecting “the oppressed.” I dislike right-moralism about sex and left-wing moralism about greed (though I don’t think that either unbridled sexuality or unbridled greed is a good thing). I don’t believe that the government should impose religious values on citizens, or offiically favor religion over irreligion. I think this principle should also extend to secular left-wing religions such as “Earth first” environmentalism or radical feminism.

As for foreign policy: unlike many libertarians, I was a strong proponent of U.S. military strength during the Cold War, and today I strongly believe in the importance of the War on Terror. I think the Islamofascists are not a movement with legitimate grievances but the enemy of modern democracy and civilization. As for the war in Iraq: I have very mixed feelings about it. I believe we were drawn into the war through misinformation; I think it has been badly conducted, and has been a true disaster in some respects (the credible reports of torture condoned by superiors are particularly distressing). But I cannot, in good faith, say at this point that it was wrong to topple one of the most brutal entrenched dictatorships in the Middle East, and create at least the possibility of a democracy (however imperfect by our standards). I think we must hold the administration accountable for the conduct of this war, and I would like to see an exit strategy that would allow us to withdraw without letting Iraq fall into the terrorists’ hands. But I reject many of the arguments of the antiwar movement — for instance, that freedom cannot be exported by means of war. (Tell that to the Germans and the Japanese. Or to African-Americans.)

So, what does all this make me? A libertarian? A classical liberal? A libertarian-conservative? A maverick? I’m not sure. To tell the truth, I haven’t yet found a label I’d be fully comfortable wearing. And maybe that’s just as well, because to me, ideas matter far more than labels.


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10 years of Xena: from an unabashed fan

It’s the 10th anniversary of Xena: Warrior Princess. My article, What We Owe Xena, appeared last week in (If you have trouble accessing the content as a non-subscriber — Salon requires you to watch an ad — you can also read it here.)

I suppose I could have prefaced this with a disclaimer like “A little frivolity to cap the weekend,” or “we all have our guilty pleasures.” (In linking the article, ms. musings calls yours truly “an unabashed fan,” and Tim Cavanaugh at Hit & Run an “out-of-the closet Xenaholic.”) But I have no apologies. It was a great show — campy, yes, but also smart, funny, well-written, well-acted, feminist in the best sense of the word (women on Xena were simply human, no better or worse than men, and the show never beat the viewer over the head with a female-empowerment message), and at times capable of greater depth and complexity than critical favorites like, say, The West Wing.

In related news, Xena is No. 12 on’s list of Top 50 sci-fi shows (a definition that obviously includes fantasy as well as sci-fi). A few of my other favorites rank high as well: The Outer Limits, No. 13; Sliders, No. 10; The Twilight Zone, No. 7; Stargate SG-1, No. 6 (though I lost interest after the first three seasons); and the original Star Trek, for which I have a quaint affection, No. 1. No Prisoner or Farscape, though, which is a shame. But nice to see Xena get her due.


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Scholarship, pederasty and moral panic

Over on Reason’s Hit & Run blog (where I myself have posted occasionally), my friend Julian Sanchez writes:

WorldNetDaily is crowing about having pressured a publisher to drop a book on same-sex relationships in ancient Greece and Rome with this hysterical reaction to, as far as I can tell, nothing more than the abstract of this chapter. …. WND apparently regarded the chapter in question as propaganda for pedophiles because it suggested that hybrid lover/mentor relationships between ancient Greek adults and adolescents might not have been horrifically scarring to the latter.

Julian believes that WND is whipping up hysteria about child sex abuse in order to suppress legitimate discussion (and throw red meat to its base). I don’t particularly like publishers being intimidated into dropping books, even objectionable books. I also think WND is a right-wing hack site of the worst kind (the “makes Ann Coulter look like George Will” kind). And I agree that there’s been too much hysteria in our culture about child sexual abuse, often with disastrous consequences (from the sex-abuse witch-hunts of the 1980s to teachers being afraid to hug a crying child). But, having read the abstract of the controversial chapter, penned by Dr. Bruce Rind, I have to say that it makes me rather queasy. Here it is:

Pederasty, or sexual relations between men and adolescent boys, is condemned in our society as an unqualified evil that maims and destroys. In ancient Greece, samurai Japan, and numerous other cultures, pederasty was seen as the noblest of human relations, conducive if not essential to nurturing the adolescent’s successful intellectual and physical maturation.

Current psychological and psychiatric theorizing have pronounced and promoted the former view, while ignoring the vast array of cross-cultural data related to the latter view. Mental health opinion has also ignored a wealth of cross-species data with important parallels. Instead, this opinion is based on feminist models of rape and incest, which are backed up by clinical research on child sexual abuse.

The current article examines empirical rather than clinical data on pederasty, and supplements this with cross-cultural and cross-species perspectives. The empirical data show that pederasty is not only not predestined to injure, but can benefit the adolescent when practiced according to the ancient Greek form. Cross-cultural and cross-species data show the extensiveness of pederasty in the natural world, as well as its functional rather than pathological nature in these societies and species.

An evolutionary model that synthesizes the empirical, cross-cultural, and cross-species data is proposed as an alternative to the highly inadequate feminist and psychiatric models. The animal data suggest that the seeds for pederasty were planted at the dawn of humanity. The human data suggest that pederasty came to serve a mentoring function.

For me at least, the summary sets off certain alarm bells. I have no problem with an objective examination of man/boy relationships in ancient Greece, and I’m not saying that any such examination has to be accompanied by self-righteous hand-wringing and tongue-clucking. (A good summary of available information on the subject can be found at Wikipedia. From some of the things I’ve read, the reality was often less idyllic than the ideal; it’s also worth noting that in some societies that encouraged mentoring pederastic relationships — notably Sparta and Samurai Japan — they were a way of inducting the younger partner into an extremely militaristic, hierarchical male culture.) However, as outlined here, the article sounds like advocacy more than scholarship. (What are “cross-species data” doing in an essay on ancient Greece and Rome, anyway?)

You really don’t need to be a right-wing moralist to have misgivings about attempts to normalize sexual relations between adult men and underage boys. And I do think that Haworth Press (the publisher) used poor judgment in approving this particular essay, as outlined, for inclusion in the book.

Julian Sanchez points out that in many societies, sex between adult men and young girls was condoned too, as long as it was legalized in marriage. Quite true; but today, in civilized societies, such marriages are rightly viewed as exploitative. This shouldn’t be a gay vs straight issue: I doubt that an essay drawing on the history of marriages between adult men and nubile girls to argue that adult male/adolscent girl sex needn’t be damaging would find a very welcoming reception. Needless to say, I am not suggesting that such literature be suppressed by the government, or even by intimidation from morally outraged mobs. But better editorial judgment, it seems to me, is in order.


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Comments policy

Yesterday, I disabled word verification for comments after a couple of people complained that they weren’t able to post even after typing in the letters. After my last post was hit with four spam comments within two minutes of going up, I decided to turn word verification back on. Sorry for the incovenience, everyone, but I’d rather not spend a lot of time deleting spam.


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O’Reilly vs Donahue: The Deathmatch

So did anyone see this clash of the titans (originally broadcast on The O’Reilly Factor on September 21, then interrupted by breaking news and re-broadcast on September 22)? O’Reilly invited Donahue to talk about his support for Cindy Sheehan and his opposition to the war in Iraq.

I have my issues with Bill O’Reilly. But on this occasion, I think he wiped the floor with Donahue.

Take their discussion of Sheehan:

DONAHUE: And FOX is in the business of saying that this woman is somehow saying un-American things. Hyperbole.

O’REILLY: No, no, no, no.

DONAHUE: Listen to what she’s saying.

O’REILLY: Nobody said she said anything un-American. We say that her positions are radical. And they are radical.

DONAHUE: Let me tell you what’s radical. What’s radical is to send more Americans to die in this war, which is a monumental blunder…

O’REILLY: All right.

So Donahue completely evades the issue of what Cindy Sheehan actually stands for (and why it’s a seriously bad idea for the anti-war movement to make her its spokeswoman).

Then there’s this:

DONAHUE: You want to stay the course, don’t you? You don’t…

O’REILLY: Look, here’s what I want to do. I want to give the Iraqis a chance to train their army so they can defeat these people who are trying to turn it into a terrorist


O’REILLY: That’s what I want to do.



DONAHUE: Iraq was not a terrorist state.

O’REILLY: Oh, no.


DONAHUE: I hope I don’t patronize you for thinking that.

O’REILLY: He was a swell guy. He was…

DONAHUE: Saddam — Saddam was a bastard. But he was our bastard.

O’REILLY: He wasn’t anybody’s…

DONAHUE: Donald Rumsfeld shook his hand in the ’80s.

I have big issues with how the war in Iraq was sold to the public and how it was conducted, but I think O’Reilly is right: an immediate withdrawal from Iraq would virtually guarantee that it would turn into a murderous terrorist state, with terrible consequences both for Iraqis and for the rest of the world. Whether Iraq under Saddam Hussein was a terrorist state is not very relevant to this question (my own take on this: terrorist, yes; implicated in the September 11 attacks, almost certainly not). Whether Saddam was “our bastard” at one point is even more irrelevant (yes, we sided with Iraq in its war with Iran, but the United States’ role in arming Saddam in the 1970s and 1980s was negligible compared to Russia and France). Donahue is clearly evading the question.

Then, Donahue resorts to the Michael Moore-ish low blow of “you wouldn’t send your children to this war.” (Has anyone told Donahue, Moore, et al. that parents in America do not “send their children to war” — people enlist voluntarily?) O’Reilly, it turns out, has something to parry with: “My nephew just enlisted in the Army. You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.” There follows some ridiculous macho bluster by O’Reilly (“Yes, and he’s a patriot, so don’t denigrate his service or I’ll boot you right off the set”), but on the basic point, O’Reilly’s got Donahue pretty good:

O’REILLY: Don’t tell me I wouldn’t send my kids.

DONAHUE: Loud doesn’t mean right.

O’REILLY: My nephew just enlisted. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

DONAHUE: All right. You — your nephew is not your kid. You are…

O’REILLY: He’s my blood.

So O’Reilly’s nephew his not his “kid.” (Why does anti-war rhetoric consistently infantilize our fighting men and women?) But the fact remains that O’Reilly has someone very closely related to him serving (or about to serve) in Iraq, and this particular rhetorical stunt won’t work.

In the end, O’Reilly hits the right note. He acknowledges that this was an “optional war” and possibly “a tactical error,” a war badly conducted to boot. But he also stresses that if we leave, we abandon Iraq to the terrorists. And in respose to this, Donahue has nothing to offer but his own brand of bluster and references to Halliburton stock.

Winner: O’Reilly.


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God and man at Dartmouth

In recent years, there’s been a lot of talk on the right about secularist intolerance toward Christians, and particularly toward Christian images and speech in public places. I agree that such a problem exists; in fact, I’ve written about it myself. But I also think there has been a lot of specious conservative whining on this issue (as I have previously argued, the complaint of “religious bigotry” is the right-wing version of politically correct victimology).

On National Review Online’s The Corner today, Peter Robinson posts an item titled “‘Tolerance’ at Dartmouth,” which at first glance does smack of secularist intolerance. It has to do with a brouhaha surrounding one Noah Riner, a senior at Dartmouth College and the president of the College’s Student Assembly.

According to Robinson:

This past Tuesday at Convocation, the formal event marking the beginning of the Dartmouth academic year, Riner gave a speech on the importance of character. In the course of this speech Riner mentioned–brace yourself–Jesus. An excerpt:

Character has a lot to do with sacrifice, laying our personal interests down for something bigger. The best example of this is Jesus. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just hours before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” He knew the right thing to do. He knew the cost would be agonizing torture and death. He did it anyway. That’s character.

The result of these remarks? Young Mr. Riner has spent the balance of this week finding himself roundly (and pompously) denounced. A vice president of the Student Assembly resigned, calling Riner’s remarks “reprehensible.” A petition protesting Riner’s remarks was circulated. And The Dartmouth, one of the student newspapers, editorialized against him.

Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it?

So I checked out the link supplied by Robinson, to a post on a website called The Dartblog. The author of the post, a conservative and a self-styled “athiest” (sic), says he did not find Riner’s speech offensive and that the hullabaloo about it is ridiculous and intolerant. He quotes the same passage as Robinson, and expresses surprise that Riner’s dectractors characterized this as a “fire and brimstone speech” likely to make freshmen feel unwelcome.

Then I clicked on the link to the actual speech, and read this passage that follows the one quoted above:

Jesus is a good example of character, but He’s also much more than that. He is the solution to flawed people like corrupt Dartmouth alums, looters, and me.

It’s so easy to focus on the defects of others and ignore my own. But I need saving as much as they do.

Jesus’ message of redemption is simple. People are imperfect, and there are consequences for our actions. He gave His life for our sin so that we wouldn’t have to bear the penalty of the law; so we could see love. The problem is me; the solution is God’s love: Jesus on the cross, for us.

In the words of Bono:

[I]f only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. …When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s— and everybody else’s. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that’s the question.

Now that’s a bit different, isn’t it? (The reference to corrupt Dartmouth alums has to do with an earlier part of Riner’s speech in which he said that a Dartmouth education in and of itself was not a sufficient condition for being a good person, and cited the examples of three alumni who had committed, respectively, espionage for the Soviet Union, murder, and sexual assault.) Okay, so maybe it’s not “fire and brimstone,” as guest columnist and fellow student Brian Martin editorialized in The Dartmouth. But Martin was certainly correct when he wrote that Riner had chosen to “turn Convocation into a religious pulpit” and an occasion to proselytize, and that this was neither appropriate nor respectful to the freshmen.

Note that Riner did not merely invoke Jesus as his own personal solution. His message was quite clear: Jesus is the only solution for everyone.

Did Riner’s come-to-Jesus speech violate the Establishment clause? No, certainly not, since Dartmouth is a private college. Did officials and students at a multifaith school have a right to consider it inappropriate and offensive? You betcha. (Of course, I think it would have been equally inappropriate for a student body president to use a convocation to proselytize for any other belief system or cause, be it feminism, vegetarianism, opposition to abortion, or righteous outrage against the war in Iraq. And I do wonder if most of the liberal secularists who were appalled by Riner’s sermon would agree with that.)

And by the way, folks, if we’re going to talk about character … isn’t it, well, a tad disingeuous to complain about intolerant liberal secularists who object to a speech that merely mentions Jesus, and quoting only the non-objectionable parts of the speech?


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Word games

Neal, Neal, Neal.

I like Neal Boortz. And I’m generally not on the same political wavelength as But here I am looking at a recent spat between them, and I’m thinking Boortz is wrong and MediaMatters is right.

On September 19, Boortz was involved in the following exchange on Hannity & Colmes:

COLMES: So they should not have — are you in favor of tax cuts? You want to have more tax cuts at a time — you want to cut the state taxes at a time when they’re still struggling to pay for it and help the rich? Is that what you want to do?

SEAN HANNITY (co-host): Absolutely.

BOORTZ: As much — as much as it disturbs the followers of Karl Marx, yes, I want the death tax over with.

COLMES: I’m a Marxist now, I see. OK.

BOORTZ: As a matter of fact, Alan, glad you mentioned that. I want it all gone, OK?

MediaMatters then ran an item titled, “Boortz referred to estate tax proponents as ‘followers of Karl Marx.'”

Boortz thinks this is unfair:

Not that it really matters to Media Matters, but here we have them cold engaging in a bit of rhetorical dishonesty. I most certainly did not say that those who supported the death tax were followers of Karl Marx. What I did allude to was the fact that followers of Karl Marx would also support the death tax and that Marxists would most certainly be upset if the death tax were to be repealed. Evidently the difference between the two statements is just a bit much for the brilliant progressives at Media Matters to absorb.

Sorry, but the “rhetorical dishonesty” here is Boortz’s.

His statement on the show certainly implied that the repeal of the “death tax” would be mainly upsetting to Marxists. By singling them out, Boortz was rhetorically lumping all proponents of the estate tax together with Marxists.

Let’s put the shoe on the other foot. Suppose a liberal who was being interviewed on a TV show was asked by a conservative host if he believed there should be affirmative action favoring minorities in college admissions. Suppose he replied, “As much as it disturbs the Ku Klux Klan, I think we need affirmative action.” Would conservatives cry foul and accuse him of equating affirmative action opponents of the Ku Klux Klan? Sure they would, and rightly so.

Fascists, Marxists, libs, racists … can we have a little less name-calling all around, please?

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And speaking of Mother Earth…

In my previous post about the gender politics of hurricanes, I mentioned some feminist professors’ suggestion that “feminist” thinking on natural disasters involves reverence for “mother earth.”

That brings me to an intriguing question.

Natural disasters (and unnatural ones as well, such as the September 11 terrorist attacks) are often followed by a lot of religious soul-searching, with people wondering how a good, merciful, all-powerful God could allow such terrible things to happen. (Not so much post-Katrina, perhaps because everyone was too busy pointing fingers at human culprits to blame God.)

The question is: how come the radical environmentalists — the ones for whom environementalism is not merely a commitment to securing a livable environment for human beings, but a nature religion — never ask these kinds of questions? Why doesn’t the “nature good, humans bad” crowd ever wonder how a good, benevolent, harmonious Nature can allow tens of thousands of her children to die horrible deaths? Think about it: if Mother Earth were really a mother, she’d have to be hauled in for child abuse.

Of course, some on the left root for destruction. As Vanity Fair‘s James Wolcott opined in a now-infamous post about a year ago:

I root for hurricanes. When, courtesy of the Weather Channel, I see one forming in the ocean off the coast of Africa, I find myself longing for it to become big and strong–Mother Nature’s fist of fury, Gaia’s stern rebuke. Considering the havoc mankind has wreaked upon nature with deforesting, stripmining, and the destruction of animal habitat, it only seems fair that nature get some of its own back and teach us that there are forces greater than our own. … So there’s something disappointing when a hurricane doesn’t make landfall, or peters out into a puny Category One.

(This post, by the way, is now prefaced by Wolcott’s snarky invitation to “right-wing bloggers” — which presumably includes everyone who doesn’t subscribe to his own brand of bien-pensant leftism — to go ahead and use this post as his “gift to them.” Thanks, Mr. Wolcott.)

The lady on the Women’s Studies List who thinks that the feminine principle is sadly out of balance in our world isn’t quite as eloquent as Mr. Wolcott, but she does think that “perhaps in its own way nature is trying to balance itself through the hurricane.” Sweet.

Tell me how this brand of hateful religious zealotry is different from the right-wing kind which holds that hurricanes are God’s punishment for assorted human sins?


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Hurricanes and feminism?

No, this is not a joke (at least, not an intentional one). Hurricanes and feminism. If you thought the racial politics of Katrina were absurd, wait till you see the gender spin.

In the days after the disaster, there was a rather animated discussion of Hurricane Katrina on the Women’s Studies List, an email forum/subscription list for women’s studies professors and instructors. There, along with standard rhetoric about racism and the awfulness of Bush (“The silver lining is that the Bush administration is completely under fire right now”), there was a lot talk about how to analyze the tragedy in class as a feminist issue.

Funny, I thought that hurricanes and natural disasters in general are pretty gender-neutral (at least now that hurricanes are given both male and female names). But no: “Please,” wrote one professor, “let us recognize that the most vulnerable people that were impacted by this disaster were women, such as the disabled, the mothers with infants, the elderly woman in her wheelchair who was left to die, while her rotting corpse was covered over in a white sheet.” I will concede that due to high rates of single motherhood in poor urban neighborhoods, there were undboutedly more women in New Orleans who were sole caretakers of small children. But disability is now a female condition? Elderly men in wheelchairs didn’t die?

If there was a “women’s issue” here, it was the fact that in the lawless atmosphere that followed the flood, women in general were almost certainly more vulnerable to crime and to sex crimes in particular (though men were probably under greater pressure to act as protectors of women and children; and there are media accounts of female perpetrators of violence, as well). But interestingly, the women’s studies list discussion glossed over that, since to condemn violence and lawlessness would be racially un-PC, and women’s studies is rigidly bound by the leftist orthodoxy of identity politics of all kinds. (For a great analysis of the topic, see Professing Feminism: Education and Indoctrination in Women’s Studies by former Women’s Studies professors Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge.) The same prof whose comment is cited above went on to say, “And, with regards to GENDER, please let’s not forget how black MEN and BOYS were cast in a most familiar trope of criminality through images of ‘looting’ and ‘lawlessness.'”

Others on the list speculated that the federal government ignored Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco’s plea for help because, heck, she’s just a woman (though Blanco failed the sisterhood test for being so insensitive as to criticize the people who didn’t evacuate and for endorsing a shoot-to-kill policy on looters). Then there was this observation:

Another aspect of the disaster that could be construed as a feminist issue is the ridiculous misuse of our country’s resources and tax-dollars which have been poured into a pointless war by a male dominated “war-mongering” government. On a spiritual level the feminine principle has been thrown seriously out of balance by a government which never had any intention of nurturing, protecting, or supporting its own people.

War is male, nurturing is female; gotta love the clichés. (Condoleeza Rice, of course, is not a “real woman” on this list.)

Someone also brought up a class discussion of “ecofeminism,” “Mother Earth,” and “the Goddess.”

So, in asking students to think how urban planning, development, and responses to natural disasters would be conceived differently if we viewed our planet as a living Terra Madre (Mother Earth), they began to add a different dimension to feminist analysis of this tragedy.

Many imagined that everything, from saving the wetlands of New Orleans, to placing emphasis on redesigning a city for safety with housing and levees that were built to guard against the wrath of hurricanes, would have been in place.

It has also allowed us to “think globally” in terms of the global warming that will increase the frequency of hurricanes like Katrina and the ways in which even Nature enters into the realm of politics…

Bet you didn’t know that building levees to guard against hurricanes required particularly feminist thinking.

Luckily, unlike the race-baiting of the Al Sharptons and the Randall Robinsons, the rhetoric of the feminist wing of the looney left rarely seeps into the mainstream, largely staying confined to the nutty professors and their students. Sadly, however, this is a stark example of feminism marginalizing itself. Is there any wonder that most young women in college today regard it as an “F-word”?


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The politics of Katrina

“May you live in interesting times,” says the old Chinese curse. Well, I’m starting to blog in interesting times, freshly in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

For some people, the Katrina debacle has been the tipping point in going over to the anti-Bush camp. My reaction, strangely, has been almost the opposite. By the way, I did not vote for Bush in the last election, and my readers may recall I have been highly critical of Republicans on a number of issues, from anti-gay bigotry to Terri Schiavo. But the post-Katrina combination of hysteria and glee from the Bush-haters has been so revolting, it’s pushing me in the other direction. (For examples see the links here and here; see also this thread and this one, where a poster inquires, “Louisiana voted for Bush, twice. Is Katrina a form of divine retribution?”) When it was widely believed there were 10,000 dead in New Orleans alone, some people could think of nothing better than to gloat that Chimpy BusHitler had been taken down a peg. How compassionate. Yes, Bush deserves plenty of criticism, for everything from the cronyism and cluelessness at FEMA to an initially nonchalant response to the disaster (strumming the guitar while New Orleans drowned) to that amazingly stupid comment about Trent Lott’s house rising from the rubble. And yes, I know that to some extent the buck stops with the president. But a lot of the charges leveled at Bush have been so absurdly unfair that it only makes me more sympathetic.

And no, I’m not excusing the weaselly and sometimes downright dishonest attempts of some pro-Bush spinners to push off all responsibility on state and local officials (including the claim, which made its way to Fox News Special Report with Brit Hume, that New Orleans mayor C. Ray Nagin only ordered a mandatory evacuation after Bush “pleaded” with him to do so). But why is it any better for so many the left to pin all the blame on Bush and dismiss all talk of the responsibility (or lack thereof) of the state and local authorities as so much pro-Bush spin? Read this Knight-Ridder investigative report and tell me that the primary blame lies in Washington. Everyone was clueless. Everyone was shamefully unprepared. Perhaps the most amazing revelation in this story is this:

Though several government agencies were certain by 6 p.m. on Monday that New Orleans’ levee system had given way, no official screamed for urgent help when daylight hours might still have permitted a rescue effort.

By that time, water had been pouring from the damaged 17th Street Canal for perhaps as long as 15 hours. A National Guard Bureau timeline places the breach at 3 a.m. Monday and an Army Corps of Engineers official said a civilian phoned him about the problem at 5 a.m., saying he had heard about it from a state policeman.

But officials sounded no alarm until Tuesday morning, after the city had been flooding for at least 24 hours.

I’m sure someone, somewhere will come up with an explanation of how that’s Bush’s fault, too.

By the way, in case you haven’t heard, Bush cutting funding for flood control projects in Louisiana was not the problem. And neither was global warming.

To all this, add the stoking of racial divisions with the charge that federal aid to the victims in New Orleans was slow because they were black (thank you, Harry Shearer at the Huffington Post, for putting that to rest with a post about Katrina’s neglected white victims). The race-baiting reached its nadir when two Air America hosts, appearing on MSNBC’s “The Situation with Tucker Carlson“, refused to condemn the Rev. Louis Farrakhan’s demented suggestion that white people had deliberately blown up the levees in New Orleans in order to flood the black neighborhoods. (Chuck D.: “You cannot blame people for coming up with conspiracy theories when they look on television and see that the government is four days late in saving people that are supposed its citizens.” Rachel Maddow: “Conspiracy theories don‘t necessarily help but you have to understand where they come from. They come from people feeling like this disaster had a real racial component. I mean it was a majority black city that was absolutely abandoned by the country where people went through stuff they never should have gone through.”)

Add to that the bizarre charge that complaints about looting in New Orleans were “racist” — a pretty racist claim it itself, since it implies that looting is a “black thing.” (And please, let’s drop the B.S. about how the looters were just desperate people in need of food and other basic necessities. Yes, some people broke into stores to get basic necessities. But see this account by a British tourists who says that “looters … tried to sell the stranded guests [at his hotel] mobile phones, radios and clothes.”) Add to this cries of “ethnic cleansing against starved, tired, half dead black Americans” when the military arrived in New Orleans on September 2 for the rescue, evacuation and crime control.

Sure, some on the right have made stupid and callous statement in Katrina’s aftermath (see Sen. Rick Santorum blaming the victims who didn’t evacuate even though many didn’t have the means, or American Spectator editor George Neumayr blaming rap music and affirmative action, or the Hoover Institution’s Victor Davis Hanson claiming that the Katrina response hadn’t been a miserable failure after all). But on the whole, the Hate Week on the left has been far worse. The left on Katrina has been much like the right on Terri Schiavo: hysterical, paranoid, shrill, hate-filled, and not exactly reality-based.

It’s enough to make me want to be on the other side.


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