Reader Mail

Rebuild It and They Will Come

The president comes back too. Or is it all a crony capitalist con? Plus much more on Katrina, New Orleans, corruption, Ben Stein's super-famous column and many other matters.

9.19.05

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GOING PRIVATE
Re: Paul Beston's The Day That Requires No Reminder:

A very good article on the 9/11 grief marathons. I thought for a while that I was the only one who thought, "Enough already!" I was in Oxford, England, the day Princess Diana died and people were going about their important business, like an education (something the princess was lacking) and barely noticed the nutty response in London. What is this penchant for public displays of grief (the OWS -- Oprah Winfrey Syndrome)? Can't we do things privately anymore (and that would also include sex)? Wouldn't it be nice if everyone just minded their manners and played things a little closer to the vest? Thanks for the good thoughts.
-- Marlene Buchhalter

PRESIDENTIAL GIVING
Peter Hannaford's All Is Forgiven (Almost) and John Tabin's Back in Top Form :

Thanks to both of you for pointing out the obvious. Mr. Bush is so transparently generous, and incapable of being the caricature that his hate-filled opponents claim, that he inevitably rises above situations such as this. The more the truth comes out, the less "fault" can be laid at his feet. The poor, black evacuees in the Astrodome who were interviewed by ABC News understand what Mr. Dean and Ms. Landrieu seem not to, that Mr. Bush wants very much to help, and will do what he can to do so, regardless of color or political affiliation.
-- Tim Jones
Cordova, Tennessee

WE KNOW WHERE WE STAND
Re: John Tabin's Back in Top Form:

John Tabin's article was a nice departure from some of the other rhetoric I've been reading on the TAS site. (NewsMax was dissing the President's speech some on their site which is nothing new anyway. They DO call themselves conservative.) Yes, Bush is going to survive this latest onslaught, the same as New Orleans will survive the hurricane. Both have been changed over this but New Orleans will rebuild into a better city (hopefully), while Bush will have weathered yet another onslaught by the America haters, but also knowing who his real friends are now.

Some observations on my part. Bush's speech last night was filled with some very expensive wording, yet I am hoping out of this money and effort, we will get those most responsible for this tragedy and that is the left wing eco-nuts who have blocked what was needed to protect places like New Orleans from natural disasters. Another thing we saw was how the media could only focus on attacking the President and how the Democrats' only concern was how much political mileage this would give them. Herr Dean, of course, was true to form and able to garner a little comedy time. The rest of the nut cases each had their moment in the sun (water). Recovery will be going forward, people will rebuild their lives (as always happens) and some will be better off because of this, in spite of the tragic events. The one important thing I am seeing however, is that we now know who our friends are, who we can count on when something happens. This event has separated the children from the adults (men from the boys). If nothing else, at least we know where we all stand.
-- Pete Chagnon

So it was a great political speech. Big deal. The speech will be forgotten by next week.

The far bigger deal, which will be impossible to forget to decades to come, is that the president has committed us to spend literally tons of money in rebuilding a dysfunctional city situated in a place where the Lord himself could hardly be more clear that the particular geographic and atmospheric conditions are, duh, not exactly propitious.

And hey, what a wonderful precedent! Under that precedent, when San Francisco or Los Angeles falls apart when The Big One hits, we will have little choice but to start erecting the house of cards all over again.

Hello. Is anybody out there? What about the notion of not building, or rebuilding, on hurricane paths or seismic fault lines (or river flood plains or barrier islands) is so bloody hard to understand?

Why must common sense and incalculable tax dollars always take a back seat to personal vanities and short-term political imperatives? Go ahead, punch me again. I'm already loopy from the looniness of it all.
-- Charles R. Vail

INTO THE LOUISIANA DRAIN
Re: George Neumayr's Artless Graft:

If Representative Jefferson keeps dollar bills in his freezer, is that what they mean by "frozen assets"?
-- John Lockwood
Washington, D.C.

Would that George Bush had seen your most serious article before he had, without caveat or consultation, thrown my family's finances -- along with those of millions of other U.S. taxpayers -- into the dog's breakfast of restoring New Orleans, Louisiana; the entire restoration enterprise to be overseen by one of the most ineffectual organizations on the planet: the U.S. government. As America's own Third World Country, New Orleans and the state (for it is a state indeed) of Louisiana are manifestly the most corrupt and ineptly-managed governmental entities in the U.S.

As 9/11 defined Rudy Giuliani, so has Katrina defined the aptly-named Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin, but not in a light for which they might wish. With a crime rate 10 times the national average and where figures like Huey Long appear heroic in light of succeeding generations of sloths, thieves, and bungling con artists, this is an area whose plight and human suffering is desperately real; but it also resembles one's drunken brother-in-law, who can't exactly be trusted with one's credit cards. Katrina presents us with an immense challenge, to which Americans are already standing up strongly. But it has also sternly demonstrated our shortcomings, particularly in terms of government limitations and human weaknesses.

To add to the uncertainties in all this, George Bush has chosen to re-open the War on Poverty. That war having long ago been lost, at a cost of literally trillions of dollars, while having stood both our laws and common sense on their heads, the Bush speech in light of all this is most curious. By speaking out as gratuitously as he has, pandering to Jesse Jackson's and Al Sharpton's America while appealing to the Better FDR Spirits of our Inner Liberal Selves, Bush has inadvertently revealed that about which few dare to speak: His presidency now hangs by a thread. The War on Poverty was an immense fraud upon our common sense and our purses. The War on Drugs is likewise a goner while the War on Terror pursues dubious results and the War in Iraq, begun for reasons the truth of which are not at all clear, is on the cusp of bestowing victory upon Iranian Shiites. In this context the President has mortgaged the full faith and security of this country into directions the outcomes of which seem to lack both serious reason and adult supervision.

Yes, we must repair the damage. We must comfort and care for our fellow citizens who have suffered loss and pain. But reviving Woodrow Wilson or Lyndon Johnson is not the answer. I am very much afraid that George Bush's presidency could end up like Andrew Johnson's, or Bill Clinton's, only with the Congress going the full distance. The liberals will never love him, no matter how he imitates them; and he has lost so many of us who once thought he was a more mature, abler alternative to The American Democratic Socialist Party. Wrong. He is just another politician, clinging to office. But, regrettably for so many who hoped for better, quite possibly not for long.
-- Gene Wright
Laguna Niguel, California

Mr. Neumayr's article brings to mind similarities to another crook Yasser Arafat who took lots of money under the pretext of helping his 'PEOPLE" WHEN HE REALLY HELPED HIMSELF.
-- unsigned

Well done! My late father used to say that Louisiana in general, and New Orleans in particular, had never recovered from the French occupation.
-- Mary McLemore
Pike Road, Alabama

I would imagine that New Orleans will have to be put in receivership. I am thinking that would be the best thing to have happen and the sooner the better. That way the judge could appoint an administrator to run the city to clean it up by getting rid of all the low life's there. I know -- I lived there six years.
-- John

CAN YOU DIG IT?
Re: Bill Whalen's Tunnel Vision:

As a California resident, I'd second most of what Bill Whalen wrote about the lunacy of the proposed "TriTunnel Express," but I think Whalen was too hard on the "fatal flaws" in the California psyche.

If dreaming big and ignoring reality were necessarily stupid, rather than shorthand for "determination and calculated risk," B-list actor Ronald Reagan would never have jumped from the Screen Actors Guild to a successful political career, and Father Junipero Serra would not have been able to found 21 missions that brought Christianity and large-scale agriculture where neither had been before.

Certainly the Donner Party and the "Spruce Goose" would count as failures, but big dreams aren't symptoms of mental illness; they're prerequisites for big accomplishments. Maybe Mr. Whalen needs a trip to Disneyland or another reading of "The Grapes of Wrath" to jog his memory.
-- Patrick O'Hannigan

Since the Eisenhower Administration, Economic Development has been used to lower the resistance to any kind of road building. Today, the Federal Highway Administration employs economists to give the impression that road making decisions are decided on the basis of getting the biggest bang for the buck. Ike had to borrow economist from the Commerce Department.

The cost over run is no problem because the formula for economic benefit only predicts more and more jobs and other benefits as the price tag goes higher. Encouraged by lax federal supervision plus federal faith in computer models using multipliers that barely predict inflation, there is less and less reliance on traditional accounting methods to filter out the better road projects among all that are proposed. Traditional accounting demands that the money going in must equal the money going out over the service life of the infrastructure. Since the government is too big to fail, such accounting discipline is no longer needed.

There is so much money available and so many projects on hold for non-transportation related causes that traditional accounting has been discarded so that something can get built somewhere regardless of the economic consequences. Economic Development is an infection to both Liberal and Conservative mind.

Demand that the project be a toll road. It won't happen but when you run the numbers, it will get more attention. It will probably be cheaper to rent a helicopter.
-- Danny L. Newton
Cookeville, Tennessee

If California wants to blow big bucks on a big dig, that's fine with me...

As long as only California and its "beneficiaries" of this "vision" pay for it (unlike the "Boston Big Dig sometimes known as "Kennedy's Kavern and Jobs Trough").
-- Bill Toutz
Appleton, Wisconsin

My favorite question: Who gets stuck with the excavated earth? (Boston's "Big Dig," though only 3.5 miles in length, produced 541,000 truckloads of dirt.)

Answer: New Orleans.
-- Don Herion

THE CUP OF COMPASSION RUNNETH OUT
Re: James Bowman's review of An Unfinished Life:

Having read him for years, I'm afraid that Mr. James Bowman is showing some little bit of disconnect…

…from himself. Early in his review he says that "the gentle, non-threatening, non-judgmental, Morgan-Freeman-god with his easy indulgence of human failings and feelings goes down so easily that you hardly even know he's a god."

Then, perhaps echoing the vain hope that many of us self-indulgent folk have, he desires that "when it comes to the final judgment, we all must hope that God will turn out to be a liberal and give precedence to compassion over justice."

I know that Mr. Bowman must be aware that this is another liberal fallacy, that of assuming that God might forgive and forget, even though we've generally ignored Him, His Son, and His laws, for our entire lives. The God of life is One of infinite compassion, as well as mercy and patience. Einar or Mitch, or even Gary, can count on those qualities for as long as they live. That God begs us all earnestly to come to Him for forgiveness, giving us chance after chance to do so, and will allow us that forgiveness at almost any point during our entire lives.

But the God of justice would be turning His back on the sacrifice of His Son, who gave his life for us, were He to give into liberal compassion on the day of final judgment. Because God is just and holy, and never lies, He will remember on that day what His Son said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man cometh unto the Father except by Me." The time for taking advantage of compassion is now. On the day of judgment justice will be rendered, and compassion will no longer be available.

I know I'm preaching to the choir. Love your magazine.
-- Tim Jones
Cordova, Tennessee

Thanks for such an insightful article about the movie, "An Unfinished Life." I love to read your columns, especially your movie reviews.

Your columns are not only well-written, but insightful, and go straight to the heart and essence of what the film is about. I usually read them twice to let your writing sink in.

Thanks for doing what you do.
-- Regis Dansdill
Wheaton, Illinois

ANCIENT POLLUTION
Re: Michael Fumento's Hot Air:

Just to add a little addendum to Michael Fumento's article on the attempts to attribute the hurricanes to global warming. A little research on the National Weather Service web site shows:

1. From 1900 to 1997 there were 178 hurricanes that made landfall.

2. 101 of them occurred in the first half of the century; 78 in the second half.

3. In the first half of the century there were eleven category 4/5s; in the second half there were 7

So we must have been destroying the earth all through the 18th century.
-- Thomas Bryan
Austin, Texas

M. Fumento's "Hot Air" article is well referenced and he is to be commended for this piece. As a research scientist (just retired in June after 29 years with a major pharmaceutical company) I would wholly agree with his excellent summary and conclusions.
-- R. Dennin

There was a time in the '70s when a new ice age was predicted because scientists noted a slight drop in world temperatures for that decade. Lots of government grant money went into studying the possibility of this new ice age.

I experienced this phenomenon firsthand, although on a much smaller scale. Wanting to explore the possibility of designing a neural network to support a government program, I went to a presentation on one already being developed for another program. About 2/3 of the way through the presentation, I wasn't clear on a technical detail and asked a question. Turns out, I knew just enough to be dangerous: the presenter's answer was, "Well, to be honest, this isn't really a neural network. We had to call it that to get funding."

Like the new ice age and neural networks, global warming is just the latest "sexy" fad that gets funding, mainly to satisfy a constituency who wants it to be true. In fact, one must ask if they are really using the money to study global warming at all.
-- Gordon Paravano
Sedona, Arizona

THE GALS PILE ON
Re: Jay D. Homnick's In the Eye of the Storm:

I enjoyed reading the following article and agree with the author's praise of the U.S. Coast Guard. However there is one correction that needs to be made. In his article, Mr. Homnick repeatedly refers to the "boys of the Coast Guard." As the proud mother of a female CG officer, I think Mr. Homnick overlooked the fact that 30% of the CG is female. His article should have begun with, "The men and women of the Coast Guard were there on Monday morning."
-- unsigned

SPEEDING FOR FUNDRAISING
Re: Eric Peters's Safe At Any Speed:

I have just finished Eric Peters's article and am delighted to see a skeptical point of view on traffic enforcement. No one wants to see more deaths or accidents but Mr. Peters's implication that traffic laws are being used by local government as an alternate income source is way overdue -- particularly here in California with our Prop. 13 restrictions on real estate taxes.

Could it be that:

1. The Federal Government is coordinating this effort with national drives to ticket folks not wearing seat belts?

2. Police departments now get a significant portion of their income from traffic enforcement?

3. This moves income functions from oversight by the community at large to decisions by the law enforcement professionals with the concomitant conflicts of interest.

Could Mr. Peters comment on the overall use of traffic and other law enforcement actions as revenue sources for the various levels of government?
-- Irv Tjomsland

HOMESCHOOL BOOKS
Re: John R. Dunlap's Home Sweet Homeschool:

Whether or not you fully homeschool, or use public or parochial schools and/or tutors, the key is that as parents we recognize and accept that we are primarily responsible for our children's education. No one else knows our children as well, what they need, or how they learn.

I would recommend an article, The Lost Tools of Learning, by Dorothy L. Sayers. I found it in a good book called Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning: An Approach to Distinctively Christian Education by Douglas Wilson (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 1991).
-- Chris Fletcher
St Ives, Cambridgeshire
UK

CHRISTIAN FAILURE
Re: J.P. Koch's letter ("Mind Field") in Reader Mail's Things Are Looking Up and Patrick O'Hannigan's Reading the Mind of John Roberts:

Reader J.P. Koch's response to Patrick O'Hannigan's recent article on John Roberts illustrates what Mr. O'Hannigan calls "a tacit admission of Christian failure." To say that a judge is not responsible for enforcing a statutory death sentence on an unborn child is to ignore Our Lord's admonition to Pontius Pilate: "he that delivered me to thee, hath the greater sin" (John 19:11). Regarding this passage St. Augustine makes the following observation: "And therefore the truth-speaking Teacher saith not, 'He that delivered me to thee,' he only hath sin, as if the other had none; but He saith, 'hath the greater sin,' letting him understand that he himself [i.e. Pilate] was not exempt from blame. For that of the latter is not reduced to nothing because the other is greater" (Tractate 116 on the Gospel of John).
-- Kevin O'Neill
London, England

NO END IN OUT OF SIGHT
Re: Ben Stein's More on Katrina and Get Off His Back:

Someone forwarded Ben Stein's 9/2/05 and 9/4/05 article "Get Off His Back." Great stuff! I've heard others say it, but of course Mr. Stein was one of the best.
-- Janet

OUTSTANDING! I will give Ben my greatest praise: YA DONE GOOD KID!
-- Pat

I became a fan of yours watching "Win Ben Stein's Money." Since "discovering" your intelligence and charm, I've enjoyed your essays and books. My family and I heard you speak at Hope College in Holland, Michigan a couple years ago. I'm planning to hear you again at the United Jewish Council General Assembly in Toronto in November. As you speak, please know there is one other conservative in the room that day. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, I am a minority as a Jew. As a Jew, I am a minority as a Republican.

I look forward to listening to your wisdom and wit…hit it outa da ballpark (I'm sure you will)!

Thank you for the entertainment and level headedness.
-- Cathy Winick
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Mr. Ben Stein: Dear Sir, I sent you an angry message about the criticism of events here on the coast. I also sent you a message from a friend of a volunteer in Houston which pointed out that the vast majority of the evacuees from New Orleans were black -- which I am sure you were aware. I live in this devastated area of Mississippi and am a bit "stressed out." I read the part of the message in which you talked about it not being a racist item, which, in New Orleans especially, it definitely plays a part. Regrettably, opportunity to better oneself exists for all of us and those living in New Orleans elect to live as they do. I "flew off the handle" and let my bulldog mouth bite my butterfly butt when I blasted your commentary. After proper reflection and review I am totally wrong in my comments. Please accept my apology. I had just reviewed a "cartoon" by "Stantis," of the Jewish World Review, in which he was critical of FEMA and the government and I fired off a comment to him about it. Living here in Mississippi I have seen the terrific help FEMA has provided and in a remarkable time frame. I was still seething over that cartoon and it fuzzed my brain when I was reading your commentary that a friend has sent to me. Again, I apologize for my former message.
-- J. Erickson

Ben Stein's articles need to get to the mayor of New Orleans and the Governor of Louisiana. There has been nothing written that "hits the nail on the head" more than his articles. It's just a shame that the very people who need to read them might not.
-- unsigned

Why are you apologizing for our "CEO President"? George W. Bush would have been fired for incompetence if he worked for private industry. He's broken the bank. He's destroyed our image on a global scale. His problem-solving skills are nil. Think about it. Time for damage control. Time to give him his severance package and start the head-hunters looking for a replacement.
-- Jill Carpenter
Sewanee, Tennessee

I agree with most of the "truths" you propound. Where we differ significantly is that George W. Bush, as President of the United States, has the overwhelming responsibility to provide immediate and intelligent leadership in each of the instances you list.

He has not.
-- Arlyn Ende
Sewanee, Tennessee

Ben Stein's article is fantastic. I only wish that it were published in the New York Times, Washington Post and all the other "so called elitist" newspapers who mission in life is to try to destroy George Bush's reputation. Bottom line: Americans do not blame the President for this tragedy. They have much more sense than the print and electronic media. The only real help the people in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi is from the President.

Thanks so much for this positive article about my beloved President.
-- Mary Lou Arangio

Ben Stein's article was fantastic! All twelve points need to be sent out to those who think otherwise!
-- Meg

... I am so tired of blame in our government and it was very refreshing to read this great piece in defense of our President. Thanks.
-- Maryellen R. Soell
Oakmont, Pennsylvania

I have spent the last week with friends and neighbors preparing an older home for an evacuee of Katrina. I wonder what you have been doing? Why are you so hateful and defensive? You must be afraid that you won't receive your tax cut. We live in an isolated and segregated world as exemplified by your article from Malibu.

How are we going to pay for what must be done in New Orleans, when we are involved in a war of our own choice?
-- L. Campaigne

To Ben Stein,
From a true Republican (Goldwater type)

Hog wash!...

G.W. has never attempted to stop looting anywhere (Iraq, N.O.), but he is willing to throw other people's money at the problems caused by his failure to take control in a timely manner -- very much like another Texas oilman President (Johnson) in an effort to make friends.
-- Larry Severson
Fountain Valley, California

GRADUATE STUDENT VALUES
Re: TAS's Reader Mail:

After reading your current crop of Letters to the Editor, I was struck by the singularity of their viewpoints. Do you publish letters that criticize any of the points your articles make?

I'm just curious because many of the facts that are cited by your authors appear to lack footnotes and evidence. Being an informed, thinking person with access to many research tools, I would love to be able to read some of the source material for your articles.

It seems to me that there are many sides to a story which would naturally be exposed by "independent journalism" due to the fact that you are not necessarily beholden to corporate or government sponsors. But how independent can you be if you are merely towing the conservative line? Surely you readership must entertain some critical notions of the ruling party, right? It can't be that everything is always double-plus good for conservatives and their party members.

In any case, as independent journalists, it is incumbent upon you to cite your research when something is noted as an "incontrovertible fact" by your author. Often the source materials make for good reading. Of course, if you can't cite your sources, then you might want to refrain from printing these claims lest you become as much of a laughing stock as the LiberalMedia(tm) you so frequently lampoon.

Sincerely and factually yours,
-- Gregg Le Blanc
Oakland, California

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