The Katechism of Katrinism

Are there too many opinions right now? Yesterday I was told there are -- by someone who does not care to hear another opinion about Katrina or The Government or politics. While this makes me think I should stick to comedy, the problem with that is that there's nothing at all funny about human suffering -- although it still makes me laugh when, for example, people claim the hurricane is God's punishment for homosexuality (which God inflicted, of course, on Alabama, Mississippi, and poor urban blacks living in New Orleans, while sparing the sodomitic French Quarter).

It is a depressing time to be blogging, for several reasons. One, because I'd like to help but there's little I can do (short of sending in money). The other is that I cannot stand illogical moralistic arguments based on emotion, and I cannot stand scolding. And in terms of sheer quantity and scope of illogical arguments and moralistic emotion, I've never seen anything quite like this in my life. It's certainly worse than 9/11, because at least there were human enemies to be blamed. Here, an act of nature is the culprit. Clearly, the reasonable and logical thing to do is to blame the hurricane, and focus on assisting its victims. But it's not that easy -- not for those who have an agenda. They -- the Katrinistas -- are in a mad scramble to occupy the moral high ground, and when they think they've gotten there, they take their favorite issues and plug in Katrina. It's as endless as it is tedious, and I share my friend's utter exasperation over the idiocy of much of what passes as human opinion right now.

What, for example, does the nomination of John Roberts have to do with Hurricane Katrina? Everything, according to the Katrinists. From today's Philadelphia Inquirer:

WASHINGTON - By opening questions about poverty, race and government policies, Hurricane Katrina has imposed itself on Washington's deliberations over Supreme Court vacancies and threatens to make John G. Roberts Jr.'s confirmation hearings for chief justice a contentious test of conservative thought.

Democrats and liberal groups say Roberts' past opposition to expanded affirmative action and voting-rights laws should get extra scrutiny, especially in light of the disproportionate suffering by poor black residents of New Orleans.

Democrats have long advocated a more activist government, while conservatives have pressed for a smaller federal bureaucracy that gives more power to the states. Democrats believe that Katrina has focused attention on a broader function of the federal government - not only in rescue, relief and rebuilding but also in setting policies that protect the most vulnerable.

In that vein, the questions Roberts will face will be part of a larger Democratic strategy designed to confront conservative orthodoxy head on.

Ralph Neas, president of the liberal People for the American Way, said: "The events of the past week have only underscored that we need Supreme Court justices who value the role of the courts in protecting individuals' rights and freedoms, who understand the nature of discrimination and its continuing impact on our country, and who will uphold the role of the federal government in preserving those rights and acting to protect the common good."

I'm all for protecting individual rights and freedoms, and I earlier expressed my concerns. But I can't think of anything less related to the Roberts nomination than individual freedoms in the context of hurricane relief.

I am intrigued, though, by the assertion that Roberts' "opposition to expanded affirmative action and voting-rights laws" is connected to the "disproportionate suffering" by black citizens of New Orleans, as I don't see what voting or affirmative action have to do with death and destruction from a hurricane. Had more blacks voted, would they have elected a different mayor than Roy Nagin? I doubt it. Considering the failure to evacuate the city, the 250 buses left sitting to be wrecked by the flood, I don't think the voting argument holds water. Well, there is the issue of the postponed levee repairs, but I've seen no argument connecting that to voting rights or affirmative action. (Well, I suppose you could squeeze in the awarding of government contracts to minorities.)

Having a "disproportionate impact" on minorities, it is true, raises a legal presumption of discrimination. But is Katrina a federally-regulated employer, lender, insurance company, or provider of housing? Just because a giant institution could be held liable under the "disproportionate impact" theory, are we really expected to abandon all logic and apply the doctrine to a hurricane?

Furthermore, New Orleans was two-thirds black. While it's true that 80 percent of the city did evacuate and the 20 percent staying behind tended to be more heavily poor and black, even if no one had evacuated, the hurricane still would have had a disparate impact on minorities because of the percentages.

Suppose a nuclear device had been detonated without any warning. Two thirds of the victims would have been black. Does that mean the nuke would have been racist? Would Osama bin Laden be chargeable? Is that an argument that Roberts is "soft on terrorism"?

Attempting to analyze these things drive me to despair, as I'm trying to be serious, but the complete lack of logic is so overwhelming that it seems like comedy.

And I haven't had time to address the unsubstantiated allegations involving the racist feeding habits of alligators.



(Should I have said alligations?)

The future of logic is not looking good. But I will venture that it's about as logical to attribute racism to a hurricane as it is to attribute an anti "sodomy" animus, and I'm sure there will be much more.

MORE: The Reverend Bill Shanks (self appointed prophet of Katrinism), is claiming that God was discriminating against sin:

Rev. Bill Shanks, pastor of New Covenant Fellowship of New Orleans, also sees God's mercy in the aftermath of Katrina -- but in a different way. Shanks says the hurricane has wiped out much of the rampant sin common to the city.

The pastor explains that for years he has warned people that unless Christians in New Orleans took a strong stand against such things as local abortion clinics, the yearly Mardi Gras celebrations, and the annual event known as "Southern Decadence" -- an annual six-day "gay pride" event scheduled to be hosted by the city this week -- God's judgment would be felt.

“New Orleans now is abortion free. New Orleans now is Mardi Gras free. New Orleans now is free of Southern Decadence and the sodomites, the witchcraft workers, false religion -- it's free of all of those things now," Shanks says. "God simply, I believe, in His mercy purged all of that stuff out of there -- and now we're going to start over again."

God hates Mardi Gras? I hadn't seen that one before. In any event, today's WorldNetDaily would seem to disagree that the hurricane freed New Orleans of Southern Decadence:
"The shocking callousness of New Orleans' gay activists towards the severe suffering of its fellow citizens cannot be adequately articulated in a news report," says James Hartline, a former homosexual, who describes the "Southern Decadence" festival as being "replete with tens of thousands of men and women engaged in public nudity, prostitution, illegal drug use and destructive public S & M sex."

"The idea that human beings are continuing to party while hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens are starving, dying and suffering from a multitude of sicknesses brings into focus the real lack of judgment that these constant advocates of special gay rights demonstrate in a time of crisis."

Yes, the gays are callused. Almost as callused as Condoleeza Rice watching a Broadway play and buying shoes in New York.

AFTERTHOUGHT: I know things are really getting bad when blogging fails to provide relief. In the normal course of things, I try to write about what I perceive as defects in human thinking as a way to help me think my way out. But this nonsense is so maddening that writing about it, instead of helping me think my way out of it, only upsets me. That's because it's nothing new, and I like to think that the collective human mind might learn over time. Instead, when disaster strikes, primitive illogical thinking takes over. It's tough to see crass stupidity and grotesque groupthink having such sway over so many people, and tougher to realize that they're just getting warmed up. Toughest of all is to see it coming.

MORE: Eugene Volokh weighs in on the "God's punishment" fallacy by considering the Katrina damage and asking whether God hates the poor:

....wouldn't it follow that God must really dislike poor people? After all, poor people generally bear the brunt of most natural disasters: It's harder for them to evacuate; they are less likely to have insurance; their assets are less likely to be diversified, so the economic damage is more likely to be severe for them; they are closer to the poverty line, so even small losses may harm them more than larger losses harm rich people; and so on. If you live in a poor country, you're much more likely to suffer from disasters than if you live in a rich country. If you're poor in any country, you're much more likely to suffer from disasters than if you're rich.

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Well, if we follow the "God's punishment" logic to its conclusions, yes, the poor are being punished. And the rich are God's "elect" (once a carefully considered theological conclusion).

I very much enjoyed Professor Volokh's "disclaimer for those who tend to read into posts things that the author hasn't written into them" as I hate it when people argue with themselves while claiming they're arguing with me.

May the Lord spare us from Katrinatarianism!

(And I am too exhausted to blog further today.)

posted by Eric on 09.06.05 at 07:56 AM


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Tracked on September 7, 2005 11:51 AM


I see that the economic collectivists of the lower Left quadrant of my spectrum, the egalitarians, are trying to make this hurricane their 9/11. They are too uninteresting for me waste my valuable time arguing against. I prefer to argue against my preferred enemies, the moral collectivists of the the lower Right quadrant of my spectrum.

I totally oppose this Rev. Shanks, I'm for all the things he's against, minus one. His equating abortion clinics with the Mardis Gras festival ("Fat Tuesday", a traditional Catholic festival just before Lent) and all these other "decadent" things does a disservice to the cause of protecting pre-born human life, just as his false theodicy does a disservice to Christianity. Every Christian should read Robert Farrar Capon's excellent The Third Peacock. God is not "off the hook" for a messed-up universe, but is instead literally on the hook, i.e., on the Cross, suffering with us.

If this hurricane is punishment for homosexuality, then why did it hit Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, all of which had "sodomy" laws until 6/26/2003? If God hates "sodomites" (including Sapphists? -- what did the patriarchs of the Old Testament have to say about those women?) so much, then He would have hit Illinois, which legalized homosexuality in 1961, and then states like Oregon, which legalized homosexuality in 1971. Yes, yes, I know, we Oregonians did get the Columbus Day Storm in 1962, but that was some 10 years before we committed that evil sin.

October 12, 1962: the Columbus Day Storm. I was there. In Monmouth, Oregon, in our house on 548 N. High Street. We were in our Dad's den watching cartoons when suddenly all the electricity went out. We came out and asked our Mama about it and she pointed to some trees that were blowing wildly in the wind. Our Dad was in his office in Campbell Hall when the top of the tower blew off. No, it didn't hurt him any, but it created quite a spectacular photo in our local papers which we clipped and kept to this day.

We roasted marshmallows in the fireplace during that storm. We were all glad when that storm was finally over, but those were the days. 548 N. High Street, Monmouth, Oregon, in the 1960s. I often have dreams taking place in that house, that Ur-house if you will. The den, the bedrooms, etc.. In 1965, we added a larger den and TV room, and our Dad's old den became Dave's bedroom while I stayed in our old bedroom (our parent's bedroom was right across from that, and the bathroom, too). And then we moved to the big house on 733 Caroline Way N. in 1971, when we started Central High School.

You know what? When we visited Monmouth this July for our 50 year High School Reunion, we found that the current owners of 548 N. High St. have vacated it, left it in a shambles, and are now renting it to whoever will pay to fix it back up. Dave almost took them up on that offer.

50 year High School Reunion? I must clarify that: We graduated in 1973, but most of us have reached 50 now, so we had a reunion, a sort of mass Birthday Party, to celebrate that. We celebrated in a bar and restaurant in Albany (near Salem) owned by our old friend and classmate Jim Jones. After that, we celebrated Independence Day watching the parade and then the fireworks, and we spent a few days visiting some of our old friends.

As they say, disaster, like war, brings out the best and worst in people. Mr Shanks is not worth further mention.

If any blame is to be attached, it should go directly where it belongs: the mayor and city government of New Orleans, who did nothing in the face of the disaster.

And maybe it wasn't such a good idea to fold FEMA and Homeland Security into one large behemoth organization. Disasters require quick responses, large organizations don't do all that well there.

Mike   ·  September 6, 2005 1:14 PM

Hmmm.... I gave you the addresses of the homes in which I grew up in Monmouth, Oregon, but I didn't give you the zip code. Here it is, just in case you ever want to send a letter to somebody in Monmouth, Oregon: 97361

Yes, I know, I did have an existence on this Earth between January 25, 1955, when I was born in Kennewick*, Washington, and the time we moved to Monmouth, Oregon, sometime in early 1960 or 1959, but I must confess that that period is a sort of "pre-history" to me, of which I have only dim memories. We lived in Pullman, Washington, and played with a big kid named "H. R.". Later, we used to eat Kellogg's OK's for breakfast. "H. R." -- Howard Roark? Hank Rearden? Kellogg's OK's -- Owen Kellogg? Floyd Ferris + Eugene Lawson = ?

For a little while in Monmouth, we lived in "Vet's Village" on the O.C.E. campus, as our Dad was a veteran of World War II. Then we moved into the house on High St., and it was there that my history, as I think of it, began. The best cereal I ever ate was "Stax". I can't remember now who put that out, I think it was General Mills (and, yes, I did think of it as a General** at the time).

*Yes, Kennewick, Washington, was the site of the controversial "Kennewick Man". It was Pagans vs. Pagans: the Native Americans/Indians wanted to claim him as one of their own, while Stephen A. McNallen of the Asatru Folk Assembly tried to claim him as a European, sort of a proto-Viking.

**Generals, Generals, Generals.... I've got the military on my mind as General and Mrs. General Kendall's son Norman, Norma's little brother, has now already risen to the rank of Colonel through his battles against the Communists. "He takes after his father," his superiors have said of him. "No higher praise is possible...." "Young muscular fascist youth...."? His mother is now fixing him up with a suitable wife.

Now back to moping about this damned hurricane, I suppose....

I'm definitely reaching the point of SHUT UP! It's a relief to go to work and not see the endless-back-and-forth about the issue. (Eric, your comment threads are temperate and usually literate and thoughtful; it is a sorry state of affairs that otherwise well-written blogs often develop massive troll infestations.)

B. Durbin   ·  September 6, 2005 10:05 PM

Steven you have a way of preventing moping! I was busy with unpleasant things all day in New Jersey only to return and find your charming autobiographical essay which cheered me greatly. (Had no idea you were related to Kennewick Man....)

Mike, your analysis is pretty close to the mark. (I'm trying not to spend too much time placing blame right now, but total idiotarianism of the sort I've been seeing is tough to ignore.)

Eric Scheie   ·  September 6, 2005 10:06 PM

Thanks for the last comment BD! I do appreciate it.

Eric Scheie   ·  September 6, 2005 10:34 PM

Dear Eric:

Thank you!

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