THE LONG HANGOVER
Re: Quin Hillyer’s Memories of a City:
Now THAT was a superb piece on New Orleans by my colleague Quin Hillyer. In 1986 it fell to me (oh woe was me — it was part of my job) to accompany the site selection committee of the RNC to cities wanting to host the 1988 convention. This meant a trip to New Orleans. I’d already passed through once, long enough for a quick dinner, and was enchanted. This second visit sealed it. We were feted by the town fathers, and under the astute tutelage of my then-colleague (and current Governor of Mississippi), drank and danced the night away at some Bourbon Street place of interest. I barely made the flight out the next morning, as I recall, as Haley Barbour’s teaching seminar did not end until somewhere south of five a.m. I get a hangover every time I think of it.
Inspired by discussing serious issues in a decidedly wonderful city, I secured election as a member of the Pennsylvania delegation to the ’88 Republican convention and proceeded to enjoy myself thoroughly again between the serious stuff, rewarded this time with a bag of goodies that included a New Orleans cookbook that I still use. It would be a crime against American culture and history if we don’t restore this real jewel so it can move on, better than ever.
Conservatives are right, however, to raise serious policy issues as the rebuilding of New Orleans proceeds. The failure laid bare in New Orleans with Katrina was not, and is not, limited to, much less unique to, New Orleans. Decades of liberal policy proscriptions for America’s cities — cities run almost exclusively by Democrats — have categorically proved themselves to be failures. Much is made, by Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards and many others, of the post-Katrina problems of New Orleans’ 9th Ward.
The conservative question should be: Where were these people like Mr. Edwards BEFORE Katrina? And why was the 9th Ward in such bad shape to begin with? The answer to these questions can be found in other cities in America — like Barack Obama’s Chicago or here in my own state of Pennsylvania in sections of Philadelphia or any number of other urban areas, including the city of Washington, D.C., outside the sections dominated by the federal government and the monuments. Millions were squandered on so-called “housing developments” that became squalid infestations of crime and drug addiction. The public education system was/is held hostage to greedy unions and mediocrity, millions of taxpayer dollars producing badly educated kids. Corruption among bureaucratic officials, occasionally reaching right into various city halls, was/is rampant. And always the answer is to raise taxes higher, the money getting wasted on more bad policy almost as soon as it arrives in the coffers of big city X.
Although I’ve made no endorsement of any GOP presidential nominee, it’s easy to see why former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani is doing so well in the run-up to 2008 for just his pre-9/11 New York record alone. He rarely flinched in challenging the liberal conventional wisdom of how to govern a city, and the results are now remarkably clear. Anyone who was familiar with, to take one famous example, the condition of Times Square pre-Giuliani and post-Giuliani can see a difference as stark as used to be seen between what was once East Berlin and West Berlin. And for precisely the same reasons.
So here’s a cheer for Mr. Hillyer and a city that is, as he eloquently illustrates, a true American treasure. The challenge facing the restoration of New Orleans is, in a very real sense, a challenge to a lot of American cities. One hopes that a serious-minded fan of New Orleans like historian Douglas Brinkley, an ardent Bush-Katrina critic, takes note.
— Jeffrey Lord
“New Orleans still needs help. We cannot afford to let it die.” Really?
Mr. Hillyer seems to have illusions that New Orleans was some sort of a cultural Mecca. But no, the facts are: New Orleans is one of, if not the most, corrupt city in the nation. The police were quasi-criminals; the schools were out-and-out failures; the city government, when it was not run by thieves, was always incompetent; crime was rampant.
By any objective measure, New Orleans was (and is) a city that cannot govern itself. As for the culture of New Orleans, it was that of a sewer. Although he doesn’t explicitly say it, you can just sense that a big part of the city’s charm for Mr. Hillyer is its blatant corruption.
Even now, so much of the money — both private and from the government — that is being funneled down there is stolen and/or squandered. But all that money is not enough. It never will be. But why pour billions, maybe even a trillion plus dollars, into New Orleans, especially given the fact that the city itself is below sea level and is still sinking deeper?
If anything, the New Orleans recovery money should go to protect the area’s port facilities and oil refineries which serve a national purpose, not to rebuild ghettos and reestablish its “culture.”
— Peter Skurkiss
While I sympathize with Louisiana, Quin Hillyer, I truly don’t understand how we can rebuild New Orleans. When people with houses on Long Beach, North Carolina, were not allowed to rebuild after a hurricane a few years back, I thought it sad, but the risk they took for living so close to the sea.
When you have a city that resides in a bowl below sea level, it seems a rather risky proposition to rebuild it. Apparently no one wanted to spend the money there over the years to maintain those improperly built levies. What makes you think that money will be spent wisely this time in a corrupt city in a corrupt state?
Don’t get me wrong. I agree that New Orleans has been a treasure, and if I could be assured that that city of murder and mayhem could actually be resurrected from the mud and controlled by some adults rather than those fun-loving, irresponsible, money-grubbers that have run New Orleans (also known as: “colorful eccentrics”), then I’d be first to grab a hammer and send some money.
Someone needs to take charge of that, but I don’t see anyone stepping up. Maybe Bobby Jindal if he can get past the corruption of the state that houses that doomed city.
— Deborah Durkee
As a nation with looming long-term financial obligations to deal with, we cannot afford to “sink” a nation’s treasure into an unviable location in this country that not only is mostly below sea level already but is still sinking in the Delta mud. One breach is all it will take to flood the entire below sea level area again and cost hundreds of billions to rebuild again. The cost to fortify into smaller compartments for containment to limit the impact of a single breach is enormous compared to what the existing levee system cost and that wasn’t cheap.
I understand the romantic appeal of New Orleans, but the economic reality is that Nature is going to win eventually. We can, at great cost, prolong the agony but the ground on which much of New Orleans sits today has already voted to surrender. In the scheme of things, it is just one city and there are more pressing needs in the next couple of decades in my humble opinion.
— Thom Bateman
Newport News, Virginia
HANDS OFF MY FORK
Re: Michael Fumento’s Fat Chance:
Michael Fumento needs to stick to his war reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan. He is becoming, like some other conservatives that should know better, a nag. Millions of Americans have obviously decided that the elite and the nags cost them their cigarettes, cigars, and pipes, but they are not going to do the same thing with their food. Oh, and heaven help you if you should sample an adult beverage or two. Nag, nag, nag!
I have noticed that thin people are ever so quick to take offense, to take umbrage, to find things to complain about, and to generally walk around with a chip on their shoulders constantly. I have pretty much decided that it is because they are hungry all the time. Laura Ingraham becomes a complete shrew when the subject turns to people that are not as thin as she thinks the population ought to be. I think she should put on 20 lbs to look healthy.
Now, I am not defending folks that are morbidly obese and who stuff their faces with high fat junk food at the drop of a hat. I do, however, insist that there are some relatively smaller number of folks that have physical problems that cause them to put on the pounds. Those who take several of the medications for diabetes find that said medications cause weight gain, the very thing that a diabetic is constantly fighting. My own workout schedule should have slimmed me down to a more societally acceptable size a long time ago. My diabetes medication, however, makes shedding the pounds almost impossible, and unfortunately, my genetic history for many generations is heavily populated with diabetics. I call it my family disease.
While folks like Michael Fumento and Laura Ingraham are reciting their statistics and studies in support of thinness, I keep thinking of the pictures of the wonderfully thin folks that were liberated from the German concentration camps, and who managed to survive the death marches and internment by the Japanese. I think of the movement afoot to save our modern society’s young girls by banning or restricting the “zero” sized fashion models.
Speaking of fashion, isn’t it odd that it is no longer fashionable to make note of the folks that are anorexic or bulimic? It is no longer fashionable in the entertainment world to look anything but severely undernourished. My heavens, but Rita Hayworth, Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe, and many more would be considered overweight today.
I would rather that I and most in society would die at 75 to 85 and have enjoyed a relatively happy life, then to see folks live until 100 as dried up, unpleasant, prunes that are a complete chore to have to be around. My medical/genetic condition may have caused me to significantly alter my diet, but I still remember what comfort food is and what it tastes like, and I still remember how to be pleasant around folks and not be a nag, unless of course you are a liberal, in which case I don’t need to be around you anyway. I would suggest that the health/weight nags among us spend a little more time looking in the mirror and correcting what they see there, and leave me to try correcting what is not optimum in my own life.
No one likes a nag, and there are a whole bunch of once married but now single elderly men and women that can attest to that idiom.
— Ken Shreve
P.S. My dogs don’t mind my weight, and I trust their judgment about people.
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