I think the disaster coverage of the world's media has become
a little too efficient. It is a mixed blessing, progressing by
small increments into a curse. The good it does, is to get relief
supplies moving faster and more copiously. The evil is that it
gives a skewed impression that disasters are becoming more frequent,
when really they are just being more prominently reported.
Why is this
an evil? Because it feeds public demand for obnoxious and intrusive
legislation, to "do something" to obviate risks that
are, in the main, beyond human power to avoid. Our media have,
both wittingly and unwittingly, bought into a "Kyoto syndrome",
that feeds on junk science, and exploits paranoia.
increasingly necessary to explain the obvious, when the obvious
is overlooked -- that hurricanes, earthquakes, great fires, torrential
rains and floods, tsunamis, plague and pestilence, and even the
occasional meteor impact, have been part of the background condition
for life on this planet since life first emerged. We can build
better and stronger, improve hygiene and medicine, and keep up
our rescue institutions -- among which the greatest have always
been well-equipped military forces, and the industrious, enthusiastic
soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines they employ. Beyond this,
we can only roll with the punches.
in technology have allowed us to measure and track the effects
of natural disasters with a precision never before available,
leaving the false impression that various "world records"
betoken unprecedented events. Whereas, a glance through the annals
of disasters past, using the more comparable standard of casualty
estimates, is the quick cure for apocalyptic thoughts.
We will all
die; but by the end of days, only a tiny fraction of us in natural
catastrophes. Let us live with that.
of my usual two cents' worth, the reader gets two single-penny
columns. I wanted to subtract from what I said last week, on President
Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the week
since, much dust has settled, and it has become clear that Ms
Miers is acceptable to the broad rightwing Republican constituency,
and to not a few Democrats. She is despised, chiefly, by the rightwing
intellectuals (people like me), who were heartbroken that Mr Bush
would pass over the long list of brilliant, strict-constructionist
legal scholars that have arisen in response to the challenge presented
by two generations of often deconstructionist rulings by the same
Supreme Court. Especially, that he should do so to appoint some
woman who was his own personal lawyer, and who looks at first
glance as if she could be -- on the grand constitutional issues,
outside her own territory of corporate law -- a ditz.
"constructionist" is an interpreter who reads the U.S.
Constitution as if it were written in plain English, which it
was. A "deconstructionist" is my cute attempt to label
judges who prefer to rewrite the Constitution as they go along
-- in the American case, mostly by riffing on the 14th Amendment.)
not sure we rightwing elitists were wrong, I hope we were, and
without speaking for anyone else, I'm beginning to think I was
wrong. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating. If Ms Miers
clears the U.S. Senate, we will see what sort of judge she'll
But for now,
President Bush's apparently weak argument, "Trust me,"
is beginning to look much sounder. Perhaps the great Texas jurisprude,
Lino Graglia, put this best, in an interview with Hugh Hewitt.
To paraphrase: the Supremes are in the habit of arrogating to
themselves decisions that should really be made by the people
(on everything from abortion, pornography, and school prayer,
to all-male military academies in the State of Virginia). Power
naturally flows to their heads. Yet the Constitution had nothing
to say about such things, and explicitly left what it had nothing
to say about, to the people. It is this trust in the people that
has made America the beacon she is.
Miers may be exactly the sort of real-world type who can understand
that. And George Bush, from knowing her well over a long time,
is in a good position to know she knows. She doesn't need bells,
whistles, and law degrees from Harvard and Yale. It might even
be helpful not to have them.