Friday, September 09, 2005

Krauthammer Plays The "Blame Game"


Today, Charles Krauthammer tells us who we should blame for the post-hurricane fiasco in New Orleans. I can't argue too much with his essential points, as I've posted similar sentiments here - Blame Bush all you want, but state and local authorities bear responsibility, and the federal disaster management "professionals" who displayed astonishing incompetence bear responsibility and Bush, though bearing responsibility for the appointment of those incompetents (both at DHS and FEMA) and for not kicking them in their butts after their initial fumbles, can appropriately delegate responsibility for this type of disaster. But he loses me with his last two points - blaming Congress for making DHS too bureaucratic? Blaming the American people for not supporting good energy policy?

That last point in fact seems inconsistent with his earlier claims.
This kind of stupidity merits no attention whatsoever, but I'll give it a paragraph. There is no relationship between global warming and the frequency and intensity of Atlantic hurricanes. Period. The problem with the evacuation of New Orleans is not that National Guardsmen in Iraq could not get to New Orleans but that National Guardsmen in Louisiana did not get to New Orleans. As for the Bush tax cuts, administration budget requests for New Orleans flood control during the five Bush years exceed those of the five preceding Clinton years. The notion that the allegedly missing revenue would have been spent wisely by Congress, targeted precisely to the levees of New Orleans, and that the reconstruction would have been completed in time, is a threefold fallacy. The argument ends when you realize that, as The Post noted, "the levees that failed were already completed projects."
(That's a great initial straight line, but I'll resist the temptation.)

It would be more correct to assert that the consensus view of scientists and climatologists is that there is insufficient evidence to suggest that recent Atlantic hurricanes represent anything but part of a climatic cycle. There is a scientific consensus that global warming has not changed Atlantic wind patterns so as to affect Hurricane formation or strength. There are, however, scientists who look at sea surface temperatures, known to contribute to hurricane strength, and suggest that those temperatures are increasing as a result of global warming with a resulting increase in the severity of hurricanes. Time will tell - either the recent pattern will subside and the Krauthammer group will say "I told you so", or the pattern will continue to a point where it becomes statistically impossible to attribute the hurricanes to normal weather cycles, and other hypotheses will take the fore.

It is also reasonable to assume that the proposed projects which might have prevented this type of disaster, even if given the full backing of the Bush Administration, would have been far from completion and probably would not have made any difference.

But how do I reconcile the claim, "There is no relationship between global warming and the frequency and intensity of Atlantic hurricanes" with the blame, "The American people ... have made it impossible for any politician to make any responsible energy policy over the past 30 years"? Once you remove climate change from the equation, what does energy policy have to do with the disaster in New Orleans? (Also, did I overlook Krauthammer's columns where he took on the Bush Administration's energy policy, and its permitting energy interests to effectively write its energy bills? Perhaps he's describing himself as a microcosm of the "American people"?)

And what of his introduction?
In less enlightened times there was no catastrophe independent of human agency. When the plague or some other natural disaster struck, witches were burned, Jews were massacred and all felt better (except the witches and Jews).

A few centuries later, our progressive thinkers have progressed not an inch. No fall of a sparrow on this planet is not attributed to sin and human perfidy. The three current favorites are: (1) global warming, (2) the war in Iraq and (3) tax cuts. Katrina hits and the unholy trinity is immediately invoked to damn sinner-in-chief George W. Bush.
As much fun as Krauthammer has pretending otherwise, the heirs to the "less enlightened times" he describes are not political progressives. They are "religious leaders" like Pat Robertson, who pray for the death of Supreme Court Justices, and blame gays, wiccans, and Planned Parenthood for disasters (natural and man-made). I know Krauthammer is an ideologue, but is he too closely aligned politically with the "religious right" to even notice what its more extreme elements are actually saying about this disaster (or 9/11)?

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