Tuli Can't Stop Talking

These are just my thoughts on contemporary issues and an attempt to open up a dialogue.

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Location: New York City

A citizen who cares deeply about the United States Constitution and the Rule of Law.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Apparently Not Enough People Died!

Seriously folks, I cannot believe that all of the Right-Wing pundits could come up with this stuff (shit) by themselves. They all seem to have the same talking points. The current “Save George W. Bush and the GOP Ass” version of the PR disaster that is Katrina, we aren’t talking dead, displaced folks or the annihilation of a city of course, is that actuarially speaking the number of dead aren’t all that disastrous. Needless to say of course the drowning of a city, ala Grover Norquist’s desire to drown the Federal Government in the bathtub does not enter the equation. These comments have been heard all over the MSM and Faux News, so I can only assume that Karl Rove and Roger Ailes have phoned or faxed this message to everyone that is even slightly willing to carry this administration’s water.

Mr. Wolcott, the brilliant, has a wonderfully edifying post on this subject. I defy him to sue me for copyright reasons as I put up the entire post.

From Blame Game to Numbers Game

Posted by James Wolcott

The mayor of New Orleans predicted the death toll from Hurricane Katrina could reach 10,000. Officials at the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team--DMORT, an apt acronym--guesstimated the death toll at 40,000. Splitting the difference somewhat, authorities reportedly sent 25,000 body bags into the stricken region to accommodate human remains. But a recent sweep of New Orleans turned up fewer fatalities than feared, "suggesting that Hurricane Katrina's death toll may not be the catastrophic 10,000 feared."

Casualty figures are often high-ranged at the outset, dropping as the smoke and water clears. But any number substantially higher than 3,000 dead presents a political and symbolic dilemma for the most avid advocates of the War on Terror (or World War IV, if you're a Norman Podhoretz devotee). It may seem cold and inhuman to apply a political calculus to casualty figures. Every death is an individual tragedy with a radius sorrow extending to friends, family, and coworkers--no one's life should be reduced to a digit. But it foolhardy to ignore how the death toll (high or low) will be spun by conservatives, who have already begun twirling their tops.

Here's why they're in spin mode. Since 9/11, "3000" has been elevated to a sacred, symbolic number in political discourse. It has been the solemn chord struck again and again by Donald Rumsfeld at his press briefings and public addresses--"It's important to keep in mind that the civilized world passed the 1,000th casualty mark at the hands of extremists long ago; I mean, 3,000 on September 11th alone"--and a recurring talking point to justify the invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam Hussein. It has provided the grim refrain Victor Davis Hanson has gonged in column after column to lend greater reverberation to his preachings from the ramparts:

"Right after 9/11, some of us thought it was impossible for leftist critics to undermine a war against fascists who were sexist, fundamentalist, homophobic, racist, ethnocentric, intolerant of diversity, mass murderers of Kurds and Arabs, and who had the blood of 3,000 Americans on their hands. We were dead wrong. In fact, they did just that. Abu Ghraib is on the front pages daily. Stories of thousands of American soldiers in combat against terrorist killers from the Hindu Kush to Fallujah do not merit the D section. Senator Kennedy's two years of insane outbursts should have earned him formal censure rather than a commemoration from the Democratic establishment."

When one of those leftist critics, Norman Mailer, deplored the bloated vanity of American self-involvement post-9/11 and pointed out that 3000 dead was statistically small in a population our size--"By such heartless means of calculation, the 3000 deaths in the Twin Towers came approximately to one mortality for every 90,000 Americans. Your chances of dying if you drive a car are one in 7,000 each year. We seem perfectly ready to put up with automobile statistics. I fear I am ready to say there is a tolerable level to terror..."--conservatives rushed out to renew their distemper shots, they were so spitting mad.

But now that the death toll from Katrina is threatening the inviolable aura of "3000 dead," rightwingers are playing their own form of hopscotch to put things in "proper perspective." They recognize they're in danger of losing a mass grave marker on the high moral ground.

Today, James S. Robbins pulled a Mailer on NRO, using not automobile accidents but a household item found in every medicine cabinet as his point of comparison.

"Of course, the parallels between 9/11 and Katrina are at best inexact. Hurricanes are more frequent than terrorist attacks. They are more predictable. And they are often more devastating. Katrina is a case in point — the number of deaths may go well beyond those incurred on 9/11. But that will not in itself make the hurricane a more significant event. One cannot gauge the magnitude of events simply from body counts. Aspirin abuse accounted for about twice the number of American deaths in 2001 than the September 11 attacks, but who noticed?"

Robbins did. You can't put anything past this guy.

A more vulgar effort to shrink Katrina's impact as a national tragedy was made by Jack Burkman, a member in good standing of the vile order of Republican strategists, who said on MSNBC, "I understand there are 10,000 people dead. It's terrible. It's tragic. But in a democracy of 300 million people, over years and years and years, these things happen."

When political whores take the long view, you know they're running scared. But I would advise conservative hacks like Robbins and Burkman that it's unwise to get philosophical on us at this late date, and not just because they're lacking the proper intellectual equipment and stoic temperament (Epictetus, they're not). For, pace Burkman, if 10,000 deaths amount to but a drop of blood in the abattoir of time, 3000 is an even smaller drop, and once you begin to shrug off large numbers of dead to the caprices of fate, striking a militant pose over a smaller number becomes even harder.

Nor will it do to argue, in effect, Hey, our dead don't stack up as high as those decadent Euroweenies' do, as Jonah Goldberg just did from his potty throne at NRO's "The Corner."

"HEAT WAVES [Jonah Goldberg]
Rich - Let's also not forget that in 2003 more than 11,000 people died from a heat wave in Europe (3,000 in France alone) and we all know how enlightened their policies are.
Posted at 04:50 PM"

I suppose these guys have to reach for any rationale lying around handy. For Hurricane Katrina has broken the post 9/11 spell that held everyone in thrall to terrorism and terrorism alone as the paramount menace on the horizon. (Compare the lyrical emoting Peggy Noonan has done since 9/11 with her dry, chapped response to Katrina.) Whatever the final numbers are from Hurricane Katrina, it will be harder for the WOT propagandists to ritualistically invoke the "3000 dead" to the same sonorous effect. Those deaths have reached their expiration date, not for mourning, but for political, cultural, and military exploitation. Here we are coming up to the 4th anniversary of that horrible day, and Ground Zero still lacks a memorial or even a palatable design, Osama Bin Laden is unapprehended, Iraq is a vale of tears, and a dorky "Freedom March" is being staged in Washington. One can only hope that the dead of New Orleans receive a more decent and deserving memorialization than the dead of 9/11 have gotten.

My question is why do we let them get away with this?

How many people have to die before this administration’s priorities will be questioned?

America, add up 9/11, Iraq and Katrina! Isn’t that enough?


Blogger Andros said...

The Gulf Coast catastrophe made it OK (read: appropriate) for the national press to start asking questions (not that they got spine all of a sudden). The majority of Americans don't think the Bush administration reacted with proper care.... and Shrub's ratings are below Nixon's before he resigned.

On the other hand, why do we have so many bigots, idiots, liars, buffoons, etc, in this country? The sad truth is that they have a following! When Pat Robertson spews his hate, he comes with several million people behind him--people who don't abandon him (and Falwell) even after he blathers all sorts of absurdities...

Today, the other gas bag, Rush Limbaugh said that the "Left feels excited" and "happy" with Karina's devastation!... I don't know of any progressive that hasn't felt the pain of those people who lost life & property and were abandoned by their own government....

In order to understand the big picture, NYT's columnist, Paul Krugman,put it nicely when he recently wrote that the Bush's gov. ineptitude was,

"a consequence of ideological hostility to the very idea of using government to serve the public good."

PS>Hope you had a great time up in Saratoga. Back to the salt mines now? I'm having a great time teaching, though the younger generation knows very little about politics & American history.

5:55 PM  
Blogger Tuli said...

Dear Andros:

Yes, great time at the spa, and back to the grindstone. And, if anyone can enlighten our youngsters it is you. Let me know if you need some help.

Thank you for being there.


8:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Optimism comes from people seeing the best in others or in a situation. Pessimism comes from seeing the worst possible scenario. If you can see the worst possibility and trace it backward to the sources you might be able to find the elements to turn the tide toward the best possible scenario. We must act. Taking the appropriate action is paramount to changing the tide. It may mean simply starting a converation...or a blog. It may mean laying down your life.


10:21 PM  

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