Reader Mail

Ben Stein Held Over

Plus tons and tons of other New Orleans mail, and much else.

9.9.05

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DELIVERANCE
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.'s Not So Fast:

In your "Not So Fast" article you stated that if the New Orleans's tragedy had taken place in the Appalachians, then one would have seen poor white people responding to a period of crisis in the same manner that the poor blacks of New Orleans have been in the camera's eye these few days. Having grown up in the Appalachian region of east Tennessee, I would say that the nation would have been pleasantly surprised to find that looters, gang-rapists and other nefarious types that plagued the recent disaster in New Orleans would have short life spans in an Appalachian scenario. Additionally, there lives a spirit of independence and self-government in those hills that would quell anarchy in short order. The only similarity likely to be seen between the two regions would be the extreme reluctance to leave one's home and place. In that, the authorities would find resistance.
-- John David McPeak

This piece was very well put. In this world of "it's everybody's fault but mine," it is refreshing to read the words in this piece. I am from South Central Louisiana and we feel very deeply for the people in those areas. I support Mr. Bush and I hate to think what would have happened should it have been someone else in that office. I feel he is, by the grace of God, in the place that he is destined to be. As far as our State government, it definitely needs better leadership and many of us from this area have been trying to change that. Maybe, as tragic as this is, it may open many eyes to the truth and put Louisiana in a different direction. I love my State and I wouldn't trade it for the world. If, as you said, all the negative energy wasted on finger-pointing could be channeled into to positive ideas and work, we certainly could and will rise above this challenge.

Again, thanks for the piece...
-- Brenda Bahr
A Cajun from South Central Louisiana

Katrina has brought out the best in many and the worst in many. Unfortunately, the worst were in front of the cameras. The Bush-bashing in the MSM is second-to-none, astonishing given the feculence coming out of MoveOn.org. RET's column points to yet another talent that the MSM faults Bush for not having: psychic abilities. He should have sensed that Louisiana's state and local authorities were not up to the task, and commandeered their resources. Since we know that Bush is not clairvoyant, we need to come up with some tips for when he should ignore the law and assume authority in times of crisis. Let's see, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and California seem to experience natural disasters on a regular basis and come through them fine. Having lived through a few floods in Texas, I can attest to the effectiveness of local and state authorities there. New York experienced 9/11 and they made us proud. What do all these things have in common? Oh, yeah. Republican governors. Therefore, if a natural disaster hits a state with a DemocRAT governor, Bush should expect the worst, ignore local authorities, and immediately send in the feds to take over. No sense risking the rest of his presidency on the competency of New Jersey government.
-- Andrew J. Macfadyen, M.D.
Omaha, Nebraska

I couldn't have said it better. While visiting New Orleans numerous times on business, I always felt that it was but a tick away from falling into chaos. Visits to the French Quarter were always in broad daylight, never at night. Let's hope that a rebuilt New Orleans will also see a rebuilt governing structure.
-- K. Cunn

IT BEGINS WITH ONE
Re: George Neumayr's A Civilization Vacuum, as well as Neumayr's Masques of Death and this week's Reader Mail postings:

I agree, somewhat!

First, how many people did the state fail by not providing public transportation out of New Orleans. After, we live in a society that worships the auto but not all have a working one. Therefore, when a government official orders an evacuation from an area due to natural activities, he/she needs to be able to provide all those unable to leave under their own power the means to do so!

Second, if as good citizens with more than usual common sense, people prepare themselves and their abode to ride out emergencies for an extended period, then they should be able to thumb their noses at government officials ordering a forced evacuation. If Joe Citizen, et al., has taken the time to locate his house on an accessible hill that is above most conceivable flood zones, built an abode that can withstand high winds, provision it to supply them for several months, without any assistance from outside sources -- to include solar power, generators, water supply and treatment, sewage disposal (composting toilets) and pest control, then he is right to be very reluctant to believe or follow any order the politicians may give concerning his remaining there. In fact this self-reliant individual is more uniquely qualified to provide for himself than his elected leader and deserves to be let alone. If government can't leave him alone, then **** the government, forcefully.

Third, if the media spent more time examining the real issues and reporting them in a manner that most of the constituents can understand, then the precursors that contributed to severity the present problem could have possibly be prevented.
-- Tom Pendleton

Thank you for your article, and for speaking the "obvious" truth of things. Of course for those of us steeped in the Christian faith, this is nothing new. When God held Adam responsible for his own sin, his response was, "The woman you gave to me, she gave me fruit from the tree and I ate." Owning responsibility is a sign of tremendous personal and moral courage. It is also a constant struggle. As John Calvin said, "Man's capacity to deceive himself knows no bounds." We too often look to someone else to blame rather that taking responsibility for ourselves and of our own situation. At the same time I am amazed at our ability to simply endure an unacceptable situation in life. Far too often it is easier just to trudge along, often in mediocrity, or worse, rather than take the effort to dig deep, see ourselves honestly, face the apathy we have acquiesced to, and to do the work that is need to make a better life for ourselves. That is the crime of the welfare state. With the honorable goal of "helping the poor," the state removes the incentive of "bottoming out" as a spur to personal renewal and change while providing a perfect target at which to point our fingers, the government. How tragic that much of the culture of a whole city had descended into aecidia. How tragic that finger pointing, name calling and politicking has replaced concupiscence.
-- Rev. Steve Baarda
Simcoe, Ontario, Canada

Mr. Neumayr's take on who is really culpable in the Katrina tragedy is absolutely correct. Everything is always someone else's fault. I take exception, however, to his statement that the media's "appetite for blame appears utterly capricious." Capriciousness would be welcome relief.

Most mainstream media coverage has an obvious and single-minded agenda: to elevate blame to the federal level, then subtly or overtly transfer it to Mr. Bush. This is only another stanza of a five-year-old song.
-- R. Jones
Cleveland, Tennessee

I cannot challenge the facts presented in your editorial.. With our many trips per year there, we just have never seen that side of the Big Easy.

To us, losing New Orleans is like losing a good friend. Joanne and I are there at least three or four times per year, as tourists, staying in the JW Marriott on the edge of the French Quarter and diagonally across the street from Harrah's. Hardly the existence of the refugees you see on television daily. However, we have walked the Quarter for years, at all hours, and it is a magical place for music, food, conviviality, friendship, and romance. We have spent day after day at the Fairgrounds at the Jazz Festival listening to the best of the best, sitting in with some, even having a great gospel group from Baton Rouge sing to me when I was in the wheelchair that "Jesus goin' to fix it." He did. We have walked from Louis Armstrong Center Auditorium on the special Jazz Festival nights, all the way back to our hotel, and have greeted the people of New Orleans, predominantly black, with friendship and love, and that has been returned. One time a very large man, who used to play for the Saints, came up to us and said "Missus, let me push that chair for a while." Bill took us all the way back to the hotel. Bill Jackson is his name, and we have been trying to reach him during all of this. Another time on the fairgrounds, a stranger came up to me behind my wheels and offered to push me to my destination. I never did get a glance at his face though we talked, and joked, and wallowed in the joy that is New Orleans jazz.

William Jenkins is the head bellman at JW and has done so many things for us over the years, chair and no chair, that I cannot recount them. George Washington is our cabdriver from ramp to ramp, and has always touched our hearts with his friendship. We have tried desperately to reach them both, plus a half dozen others we know so well, and of course the commo lines are down.

All of this is in the French Quarter except for the Festival at the Race Track Fair Grounds. Maybe the characterization of the Big Easy outside of that district is correct, but I think you have exaggerated that situation. Is NO poor, yes, but there is family there, using the big F, and we are part of it. We are searching for our friends now, and when we find them we are going to get them and bring them home here with their Florida family.

New Orleans has its bad actors, just like the rest of us, but never underestimate the traditions that exist there that have brought it to be the greatest center for joy and comfort in the U.S. In my secular days as a U.S. Navy fighter pilot, I marched in the Bourbon Street parades playing my accordion. In the days when I came to Jesus, I found Him in St. Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square where, behind the main altar, I saw "Ego sum Via, et Veritas, et Vita." I found Jesus in that marvelous church at a mass being said in commemoration of all the first responders that had lost their lives for New Orleans. We have many of those in the current tragedy.

So, while you have some interesting facts, which I do not dispute, I believe you have no insight into the spirit that is New Orleans and rest assured, the Big Easy, with all of its diversity, its tradition, its music, its food, and yes, its problems and decadence, which find their way into all of our spas of greatness, all will be superceded by its love. I assure you that New Orleans will be resurrected and, in fact ,sooner than all of the experts can even imagine. When a society is built on love, it heals at warp speeds. Just watch.
-- Dave Halloran
Altamonte Springs, Florida

Neumayr, you are one sick bigot. Sieg-Heil.
-- Gary Brill

Judging by the venomous reaction by leftists to Mr. Neumayr's previous piece this week, I'm expecting a full onslaught of weepy letters to the Spectator condemning him because he dares to say that people are responsible for their own welfare. But I say bravo, sir, bravo. These things must be said. It is deplorable that in this country, known for its optimism, can-do attitude, and rugged individualism, we have people today that completely ignored the dire warnings to flee the city of New Orleans, and then have the gall to complain because they were left on their own.

Is this the same country that sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on a journey through unknown lands for scientific purposes? The country that tamed the Great Plains, and now grows enough food there to feed half the world? The country that helped to put an end to Hitler, stared down the Japanese empire, and then gave them a hand to rebuild into the dynamic societies they are today? That is the country I know, not the country of able-bodied men who abandon their women and children, only to shoot at those trying to help, and then scream that they have been ignored and left in something that Dante would recognize.

Sometimes I fear that this grand country is slipping into the moral cesspool that the Left gleefully pronounces as the future of mankind, but then I realize that the vast majority of Americans are still very much like Messrs. Lewis and Clark, or the Minutemen who answered Paul Revere's call to fight the Redcoats at Lexington and Concord. The fact that Americans alone have given over $400 million for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, that her citizen soldiers are placing themselves in harms way to rescue their fellow citizens, and that most Americans see the tragedy not as the fault of some political entity, but a completely natural happening that defies all that man can do to stop it, and that is enough to restore my faith in this wonderful place we call home.
-- Joel Natzke
Kansas City, Missouri

I couldn't agree with you more. If nothing else the media and radio are nonstop telling you what to do when a storm is approaching. I am from Florida so we get a lot of practice on this subject. Also when they tell you it's a mandatory evacuation. They will either remove you physically or you understand you are on your own. No one is coming after you. You are also told that if you are unable to leave they will come and get you. Why didn't they use their school buses and city transportation to load people up and move them out of there? Did New Orleans not see what category two's and three's did to Florida last year? Did the mayor and governor think they were invincible? If a category four or five were heading here the state would evacuate -- we know that it is no joking matter.

Yes I think it's sad what is happened to the people in New Orleans. But the people they elected dropped the ball, not the government. Also the race card they are using is ridiculous. What color are the people that are taking them into their homes and donating millions of dollars? A lot of us are white!!! I donated as all other Americans are doing. The U.S. has never let anyone down.
-- Tammy Swain

HEALTH OVER HYPE
Re: Pia de Solenni's The Mourning After:

Congratulations are in order for de Solenni's insightful analysis of the difference between the truth about morning after abortion pill, Plan B, and the hype. We hope and pray that those who really need to read the fact she presents do so.
-- Judie Brown, President, American Life League Inc.

ALL TOO TRUE
Re: James G. Poulos's No Orleans:

A shuddering perspective of the behavioral spectacle we've seen, but have been unable to explain. A certain clarity is given to the idea that catastrophes will continue to display our societal disease's reaction when the organism is disturbed. The description of continuing problems from public indifference and civilization's gradual breakdown accelerating in our rotting "sinkholes"(a particularly vivid adjective) scares me with visions of the U.S. unable to recognize the ghetto as a virus that mutates, with its host becoming less human with each generation. The relatively recent social phenomena of romanticizing the ghetto through music, movies, celebrity, even clothing makes it a particularly youthful, vigorous, and resistant strain. Mr. Poulos has permanently haunted me with an unromantic science fiction that's all too real. I would be very interested in Mr. Poulos writing a book on the subject, providing he continues the Joseph Conrad/Stephen King/Robert Heinlein/social historian template.
-- Scott Horn
Akron, Ohio

Great article by Poulos. This corruption in our cities and America's total inability to discuss it honestly is most profound issue. It seems obvious to me that collecting all the most dysfunctional people together in one place at the heart of our cities does not make sense. Maybe we need to give those people financial assistance and counseling to move somewhere else and get a fresh start. There are thousands of small towns across America that could use new people. The current approach of the Democratic Party is to make these people wards of the state. This approach is not working.
-- unsigned

I will pray for this man. Anyone who places the blanket categories of: "The social dregs too stupid, too wasted, or too vicious to flee the city with nearly a week's worth of advance warning" on all the lower economic class residents of New Orleans has some serious moral issues. If you didn't have the money for a motel or relatives to stay with you're automatically stupid, wasted or vicious? It's sad that the same folks who want to take money from urban public schools with "vouchers" are the same ones who decry the decline of our cities' remaining residents "morals." And by the way, 72 hours notice isn't "nearly a week." Sickening and saddening.
-- unsigned

I've seen no indication that immigrants are to blame for New Orleans lawlessness. Instead it is American citizens. The immigrants may be our hope, not our nemesis.
-- Bryan Dilts

THE FIGHTING SLUGS
Re: Ashby M. Foote III's Are You Ready For Some Hogwash?:

As an Australian, I can't help but chuckle that a U.S. university sports team calls itself the "Fighting Koalas."

Koalas are sedentary tree creatures that sleep for about 20 hours per day, waking only long enough to feed and fornicate -- they don't even drink, because they get their fluids through eating leaves.

They move slowly, fight rarely and are possibly the most inapplicable animal sporting mascot I could think of, barring three-toed sloths.

However, they are cute.
-- Peter Phelps
Canberra, Australia

Quick! Someone call PETA! People pushing this agenda need to go back to school and learn a little cultural anthropology because Indians have been guilty of the same crime(?) FOR MILLENNIA!

Anthropologists have a term (that escapes me) for naming yourself after some observable entity. An Indian might call himself "Standing Bear" to tell the world he has all the desirable attributes (courage, strength, etc.) of a "standing bear." Today, we have lost sight of the importance of a name. A name had a function in antiquity: it MADE PRESENT the reality of what that individual stood for, what he WAS. So a name was very important -- an individual will BECOME what his name means. I don't think any Indian, unlike whites, ever took a name that meant nothing.

For an athletic team, the taking of a mascot name is the same: simply the use of a METAPHOR, a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one entity or idea (e.g., Indians, animals) is applied to another (i.e., teams), thereby suggesting A LIKENESS or ANALOGY between them. Note that this is actually the REVERSE (so what else is new?) of what the PC police CLAIM is happening (insults, discrimination, etc.). Since the custom of taking a mascot name is an attempt to suggest a likeness between the team and its mascot, you will never encounter a team that calls itself the "Hamsters" or the "Butterflies."

Unless there are third parties with big bucks driving the NCAA agenda (always a possibility), the inescapable conclusion is that those who would deny a team its name would deny the team its identity. Why would they want to do that? Simple. Because they can, and since all aspects of life, to the leftists, is a class struggle, they must exert their power over whomever they can, in this case, innocuous athletic teams. And since the left lost the election, there is no one remaining but the dog to go home and wage jihad against. Pretty small, wouldn't you think?

And so, may the next Trail of Tears be for leftist liberals.
-- Gordon Paravano
Sedona, Arizona
P.S. Any sports team that wants to has my permission to call itself "The Pugnacious Paravanos."

I must respectfully point out the Pfc. Ira Hayes was never subject to U.S. Army regulations, serving, of course, in our beloved United States Marine Corps.
-- unsigned

GRATEFULLY YOURS
Re: Anthony DiPentima's letter in Reader Mail's Beaming at Ben:

To my guardian angels at TAS, I am always grateful for the help you have given me when my skills have gone awry. You have corrected my punctuation and grammar, corrected my spelling when spell-check failed me and have neatly paragraphed my missives, whereas I am completely incapable of doing this for myself. I am ashamed to admit that I have fired off more than one letter only to review same later in the day to find errors that I did not want to see in the a.m. and was joyous beyond words to find you bailed me out and made me look less incompetent than I am. However, as to my response to Mr. Shutkin's letter; not only is this pompous fool ignorant of the origins of the "Willie Horton" ad, but he also misspelled his name, hence my "Willy," which you corrected for me. That's OK, as I am not an ungrateful liberal, please feel free to assist me any time you see the need. Best,
-- Tony DiPentima

BEN STEIN'S BENEVOLENCE
Re: Ben Stein's Get Off His Back and Reader Mail's The Hurricane Continues, Ben Stein, Bush, and Katrina and Beaming Over Ben:

Motto of the Republican Party: WaaaahhhhHHHH -- it's not Bush's fault!
-- unsigned

May I just say after reading this "article," I am so sorry that people like Ben Stein exist on this planet. Maybe they should really read the Bible they hold so close to their hearts.
-- Darren Fendley
Dallas, Texas

You know that Ben Stein scored a direct hit when the deluge of anti-Ben mail had not one letter contradicting his points. ... I guess that when you are totally devoid of ideas hate is the next best thing. Keep it up Ben!
-- Scotty Uhrich
Glyndon, Minnesota

Oh, and one more thing to the Hunter College adjunct instructor: there is no defense against any act of nature. What did he expect Bush to do, shoot at the storm? Send in the B-2s in a counter-rotating pattern and break up the storm? Drop of few nukes? There is no defense; we can only respond and/or hope that our preparations are sufficient to help us survive. Perhaps this lack of understanding explains the adjunct status.
-- Karl F. Auerbach
Eden, Utah

Ben says George Bush did not cause gangsters to shoot at rescue helicopters taking people from rooftops, etc., but he doesn't ask why the National Guard wasn't deployed in a timely matter. Where were the National Guard troops? They should have been massed and ready for deployment in advance. The disaster came with an advanced warning; the government response came after an unnecessary delay. Were too many of them in Iraq?

Ben Stein is a good comedian, and he should stay with his strengths. If he's going to do political commentary it would serve him well to find out the facts first.
-- Jack Gilder
San Francisco, California

President Bush took the unprecedented step of getting the mayor and governor together to help them find a way to get rolling, while he brought the resources of the nation to their state line; he sorely pressed -- wanting to go in, yet respecting the rule of law set out by the United States Constitution. Most serious minds would say that the President humbled himself to come to those two people to plead a case for saving the lives of the weakest and poor in New Orleans. Most Presidents of most countries would have ordered the governor and mayor to come to them, not the other way around. The discipline that President Bush has showed through this is incredible. Few people have that fine a quality. Thank you Ben Stein for defending such a fine man and leader.
-- Cameron Gressly

Ben is an idiot. George Bush appointed his crony Brown to lead FEMA. That idiot should still be playing with horses and not people's lives. Brown didn't know about the people floundering in the NO convention center despite every TV station in America reporting about them for at least a day. GW did then go on to praise Brown as "doing a heckuva job." GW's administration did slash funding to the levee improvement projects. GW did claim that nobody expected the levees to overflow. That comment is almost too asinine to comment on. GW did spend the first few days of the hurricane's aftermath gallivanting around the country. At least he didn't spend the first few days reading children's books like 9/11 (at least that we know of). While GW might not have caused the hurricane, he certainly had much to do with the incompetence which followed.

Perhaps Ben should stop smoking whatever it is that requires him to pitch Visine commercials and take good look at what's really going on.

I feel a tiny bit better now thank you.
-- Dan Mayer

There is NO denying the fact that the person Bush put in charge of FEMA has absolutely ZERO experience in disaster relief; just someone that bush owed a favor to for God only knows what kind of cover up. They should have had relief on stand by, not FOUR DAYS LATER!

Bash Hillary Clinton if you must, but if she were in office there would be no WAR FOR OIL and our resources would have been HERE where they belong! And at least Hillary TRIED to do something about healthcare in this country which is more than I can say for bush.

There is NO DENYING that people are PISSED OFF and many of them are REPUBLICANS! For many this is the last straw! I agree with Mr. Stein, we need to "get off of Bush's back" and GET ON WITH HIS IMPEACHMENT!!!
-- Donna Mowles

In response to Ben Stein's article defending President Bush's response to the Hurricane Katrina crisis, I agree that state and local agencies are indeed responsible for forming and executing individual crisis response plans created specifically for their areas. I'm not sure anyone is disputing that.

However, as soon as those levees broke, it became a federal emergency -- and George Bush dropped the ball by (what?) going on more hand-shaking press conferences in places like sunny San Diego rather than calling the FEMA to arms. This was an enormous error and showed (yet again) the inattentive manner in which Bush conducts his domestic policy. Placing unqualified bureaucrats in offices that are responsible for the lives of millions of people is another story...
-- Molly Waters
Salt Lake City, Utah

Thank you for writing something that seems to reflect the truth about this disaster. If the people who keep shouting about what George Bush is doing wrong would just use a little common sense, things might be a little better.
-- Billie Adams

I am glad that the real truth is put out even in the times we souls are concentrating on helping the immediate need of the victims.
-- Charles C. Smith

Perhaps if Mr. Bush really was the evil fascist dictator so many on the lunatic fringe accuse him of being, he would have been able to act unilaterally and sent in an occupation force without waiting in vain for the state and local authorities to do their jobs. Oh, wait, but that would mean....
-- Daniel Frater
Kew Gardens, New York

While I am fully aware of Mr. Stein's credentials in politics and government, I find it necessary, after reading "Get Off His Back" to make him aware of certain things he seems not to understand about same.

The Buck stops with the POTUS. On everything. Period.

Yes, certain things are the purview of the states and their agencies. Certain responsibilities are left, in our Constitution, to the states. But, at the top of it ALL is the POTUS.

He is, at the end of our day, the ENTIRE NATION'S caretaker, lest we forget.
-- Barry P. Cook
Providence, Rhode Island

I concur wholeheartedly! Thanks for saying it out loud!
-- Lorilee
Dallas, Texas

No way! I'm not going to get off his back! Bush is the most incompetent Dictator we've ever had! A talented fascist tyrant would have arrested Blanco and Nagin, shot looters on sight, and signed $100 billion contracts over to Halliburton to rebuild the city by now. If we had a real Hitler in charge, we could have suppressed negative New York Times coverage, and made sure only positive reporting of our Dear Leader's efforts to rebuild the city was making the airwaves. And I thought Bush was crafty. What a disappointment. Where's Cheney to pull the strings when we need him, eh? I'm not getting off Bush's back until he starts acting like the real Fuehrer we've always dreamed of.
-- Paul Doolittle

I just read the remarks you made about the President. I agree with every statement you made. Glad you wrote the remarks.
-- Paula

Thank you for the words of truth by Ben Stein. It is very disturbing to see the negative power the media is able to exert on the American people and the world.
-- Donnie R. Parker, SGM, ILARNG, Operations SGM, 129th Regiment (RTI)
Springfield, Illinois

I'm weary of hearing the George Bush bashing over this horrible act of nature. I haven't heard any of these liberals mention FEMA's slow response to Hurricane Floyd in North Carolina back in 1999. I believe that was during Bill Clinton's administration.
-- Caroline Bishop

Thank you for this article, I have sent it out to all my email buddies, and they are responding to this breath of fresh air.
-- Carole Cormany

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