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May 21, 2013

Governments Stop Errol Joseph from Repairing His House



JosephErrolNewOrleansHouseFixer2013-05-04.jpg "Errol Joseph and his wife, Esther, at their Forstall Street property in New Orleans. Mr. Joseph, 62, had spent his life fixing houses." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A1) NEW ORLEANS -- Errol Joseph has the doorknobs. He has the doors, too, as well as a bathtub and a couple of sinks, stacks of drywall, a hot water heater, pipes, an air-conditioner compressor, and big pink rolls of insulation. They are sitting in a shed.

A few blocks up the street sits the gaunt frame of a house, the skeleton in which all these insides are supposed to fit. They have sat apart for years. The gap between: permits, procedures, policies, rules and the capricious demands of bureaucracy.

As people in the Northeast set off on the road back from Hurricane Sandy, there are those here, like Mr. Joseph, who are keen to offer warnings that recovery can be far more difficult than they imagine. Mr. Joseph sees his own story as a cautionary tale, though he admits he is unsure what he would have, or should have, done differently.

"Do the right thing and fall further behind," said Mr. Joseph, a big man with a soft voice.


. . .


(p. A4) But Mr. Joseph, who had spent his life repairing houses, figured he could do it himself, and would be back at home by that summer. He spent most of his rebuilding grant buying materials, including windows, shingles and everything else in the shed. In the spring of 2009, he elevated the frame of the house, leaving it propped on wooden cribbing.

Before he took any further steps, he contacted the state for an inspection, as he had been instructed.

Then the inspectors showed up.

" 'Do not do anything to this house until you get a letter of continuance,' " he recalled one inspector saying. "He said that three times. He said you would lose your money."

So Mr. Joseph did not do anything to the house. Months went by. No letter arrived. The inspector disappeared. Officials denied that anyone had ever said anything about a letter, said Mr. Joseph, who in his regular visits to state offices would then ask for written permission to move forward anyway.

In 2010, told that he would not be allowed to do the work himself, he drew up a contract with an elevation specialist. But permission from the state to move forward was still elusive. "Your paperwork is in the system," Mr. Joseph was told.

Though Mr. Joseph did not know it, his paperwork was blocked for months in the federal clearance process, but for reasons that remain a mystery.

The drywall rotted in the shed. The frame sat in the elements. The city, unaware of Mr. Joseph's travails, warned of demolition.



For the full story, see:

CAMPBELL ROBERTSON. "Katrina Rebuilder Can't Rise Above Red Tape." The New York Times (Thurs., February 21, 2012): A1 & A4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date February 20, 2012, and has the title "Routed by Katrina, Stuck in Quagmire of Rules.")


JosephErroBlockAfterKatrina2013-05-04.jpg "A photograph of Mr. Joseph's block taken shortly after Hurricane Katrina. It took years to prove his house was salvageable." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.






December 12, 2012

"Planning Is Crap"



WeShallNotBeMovedBK2012-12-01.jpg
















Source of book image: http://images.indiebound.com/636/044/9780807044636.jpg



(p. C8) As Mr. Wooten recounts, obstacles abounded from a municipality bent on redesigning New Orleans while the city was still in crisis. Neighborhoods from middle-class Lakeview to the devastated Lower Ninth Ward began to fear that the city they loved didn't love them back.

"Planning is crap," said Martin Landrieu, a member of a prominent local political family, at a meeting of Lakeview residents. "What you really need is the cleaning up of houses . . . . Where are the hammers and nails?" Yet five months after Katrina, a city commission called Bring New Orleans Back presented an ambitious plan to restore the city that included converting neighborhoods that had heavy flooding into green space. The commission also imposed a temporary moratorium on rebuilding there. Residents would have to show that their communities were viable or risk being planned out of existence; they were given four months.



For the full review, see:

CARLA MAIN. "After the Waters Receded." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., August 4, 2012): C8.

(Note: ellipsis in original.)

(Note: the online version of the article was dated August 3, 2012.)






July 14, 2011

Katrina Was Less a Natural Disaster, and More an Artificial One Caused by Government



ShearerHarry2011-06-05.jpg

"Harry Shearer in the documentary "The Big Uneasy."" Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. B6) . . . Mr. Shearer is serious about his reasons for adding to a Katrina genre that includes two documentaries by Spike Lee ("When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts" and "If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise"), another about custody battles over pets lost in the storm ("Mine"), and Werner Herzog's reinterpretation of "Bad Lieutenant" ("Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans").

"What they are missing is why it happened, why people suffered," said Mr. Shearer, who spoke last week from his home in New Orleans.

At one-day screenings in about 160 theaters around the country on Monday, "The Big Uneasy" will fill in the blanks with a feature-length description of what it sees as failings by the Army Corps of Engineers and others.

Mr. Shearer said he was inspired to make the film last year, after hearing President Obama refer to the hurricane as a "natural disaster." Mr. Shearer argues there was nothing natural about the breakdown of systems that were supposed to protect the city.



For the full story, see:

MICHAEL CIEPLY. "Katrina Film Takes Aim at Army Corps of Engineers." The New York Times (Mon., August 30, 2010): B6.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story is dated August 29, 2010.)





August 10, 2010

We're from the Government, and We Are Here to Help



In February, I heard a wonderful presentation by Emily Chamlee-Wright on the recovery process from Hurricane Katrina. One of my favorite parts of her presentation was an account of how the federal bureaucracy hindered those whose entrepreneurship was needed for recovery. The account is included in her book The Cultural and Political Economy of Recovery, that documents her research on Katrina:


(p. 142) . . . , the bureaucratic structure governing disaster relief can stifle, or at the very least frustrate local leadership driving community redevelopment. Doris Voitier's efforts to re-open the public school system in St. Bernard Parish illustrate this point. Voitier had initially assumed that FEMA's newly created task force on education would lend the support and expertise she needed. But she quickly learned that FEMA's role was not so much to lend support as it was to regulate the decisions coming out of her office.

VOITIER: [W]e had our kickoff meeting in September. We didn't even know what a kickoff meeting was nor did we know we were in one until after it was over . . . . In their little book, which I read later, they tell them, "meet in the person's home territory," basically. Now . . . we were operating out of Baton Rouge, and so were all of the people who attended this meeting. We all got rental cars and drove down [to St. Bernard Parish] and met on the third floor of the building over by Chalmette Refining at 2 o'clock in the afternoon in 100 degree heat with no air conditioning or anything. [M]y assistant superintendent and I walk into this meeting and there were 27 people in this meeting are sitting around this table . . . and we were going through the introductions. And the first two people said, "We're so and so. We are the FEMA historical restoration team" I said, okay, tell me what you do. "Well, we make sure any buildings that are 40 years old or more, they're designated a historical building, we make sure all of the rules and regulations are followed for that or if there are any historical documents, paintings, or whatever, that they're preserved properly, and that you do (p. 143) everything you're supposed to do . . . ." Now here we are just trying to, you know, trying to recover, not worrying too much about that sort of stuff, but . . . thank you very much. So the next two introduced themselves and I said, "Well who are you?" "We are the FEMA environmental protection team." I said, "Tell me what you do." Well, same thing. "We make sure all of the environmental laws are followed, that if there are any endangered species that they're protected," you know, yadda, yadda, yadda. Okay. The next two, "We are the FEMA 404 mitigation team." I'm looking at them and I'm thinking, what in the heck is 404 mitigation? Because the next two were the FEMA 406 . . . . So I'm looking at them, I'm thinking, I don't know what 404 was and I certainly don't know what 406 is . . . . And you know. . . [I'm thinking] can't somebody help me get a school started and clean my schools . . . ?


Source:

Chamlee-Wright, Emily. The Cultural and Political Economy of Recovery: Social Learning in a Post-Disaster Environment, Routledge Advances in Heterodox Economics. London: Routledge, 2010.

(Note: first ellipsis added; other ellipses in original.)





April 28, 2009

"Public Money Was Being Used to Rehab a House, and Later to Demolish It"



GadboisKarenNewOrleansGadfly.jpg "Karen Gadbois,a New Orleans activist, has helped expose corruption within a federally funded program designed to help rebuild the city." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A13) But Ms. Gadbois has a dangerous affection for the city's shotgun houses and Creole cottages in a place where so much is falling down. She is the daughter of a plaster lather -- a textile artist herself, and wife of a painter -- and she cannot let the sagging porches and ragged cornices go. They have turned her into a full-time activist.

Lists of homes to which things are going to be done -- there are many in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, where nearly 60 percent of the dwellings were damaged in the storm -- are red meat for Ms. Gadbois. But this time she did not even need to leave her own house, a rambling, cheerfully messy raised green cottage in the Carrollton section (it took on four feet of water in the hurricane) to know something was terribly wrong with the list of houses NOAH claimed to work on.

"It wasn't even that the house didn't exist; the whole block didn't exist," Ms. Gadbois recalled. "Something's not right here. We saw properties that had supposedly been remediated by NOAH coming up to be declared imminent health threats, and then demolished."

It galled her, she said, that public money was being used to rehab a house, and later to demolish it, often by agencies sharing the same office space.



For the full story, see:

ADAM NOSSITER. "Amid Ruined New Orleans Neighborhoods, a Gadfly Buzzes." The New York Times (Weds., August 13, 2008): A14.





April 5, 2009

New Orleans Was and Will Be: "Disorganized, Impoverished, Violent, Screwed Up, Corrupt"


Dan Baum's book has received some positive reviews, and sounds appealing. He admits to being a "partisan" of New Orleans, but note that even he knows that New Orleans' problems are primarily due to the people and institutions of New Orleans, and not primarily due to the weather or to George W. Bush.


Widely celebrated as one of those outsiders who gets New Orleans, the writer Dan Baum appeared at Octavia Books Tuesday night and found himself having to account for disparaging remarks he'd made about the city days before.

The crowd was at the bookstore to celebrate Baum's book, "Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans," a book drawing lots of attention for its compassionate portrayal of New Orleans through the lives of nine residents chosen by the author.

But before much could be said about the book, Baum was asked about an interview that had been broadcast on NPR Marketplace. He had said so many good things about the city that host Kai Ryssdal asked him, "Do you worry that maybe you've been too captivated by New Orleans to see the destruction?"

Baum answered, "I'm a partisan. I'll admit it. I love the city. People ask me, 'What's going to happen to New Orleans?' And I say, look, you know I think that in 10 or 15 years New Orleans will be the disorganized, impoverished, violent, screwed up, corrupt city it was before the storm and that's really the way they want it."



Source is online version of:

"Author's gaffe hurts the ones he loves." Posted by Jarvis DeBerry, Columnist, The Times-Picayune February 22, 2009 1:00AM




March 22, 2008

Former New Orleanians Do Not Miss the Crime and Chaos


ReeseCarlaWithDaughterAndDog.jpg "Carla Reese, left, with her daughter Renee Roussell, who said that "there is nothing to go back to" in New Orleans." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A1) LAKE CHARLES, La. -- With resignation, anger or stoicism, thousands of former New Orleanians forced out by Hurricane Katrina are settling in across the Gulf Coast, breaking their ties with the damaged city for which they still yearn.

They now cast their votes in small Louisiana towns and in big cities of neighboring states. They have found new jobs and bought new houses. They have forsaken their favorite foods and cherished pastors. But they do not for a moment miss the crime, the chaos and the bad memories they left behind in New Orleans.

This vast diaspora -- largely black, often poor, sometimes struggling -- stretches across the country but is concentrated in cities near the coast, like this one, or Atlanta or Baton Rouge or Houston, places where the newcomers are still reaching for accommodation.

The break came fairly recently. Sometime between the New Orleans mayor's race in spring 2006, when thousands of displaced citizens voted absentee or drove in to cast a ballot, and the city election this fall, when thousands did not -- resulting in a sharply diminished electorate and a white-majority City Council -- the decision was made: there was no going back. Life in New Orleans was over.



For the full story, see:

ADAM NOSSITER. "With Regrets, New Orleans Is Left Behind." The New York Times (Tues., December 18, 2007): A1 & A29.


JonesHurstWilliamsChurchWarehouse.jpg "Cynthia Jones, left, her sister, Pauline Hurst, and their mother, Evelyn Williams, at the church warehouse where they now work." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.




January 28, 2008

New Orleans City Hall Tramples Property Rights by Demolishing Repaired Homes

 

NewOrleansDeboseHome1.jpg    "City officials in New Orleans put this house, which flooded up to the floorboards when Hurricane Katrina hit and has undergone $90,000 in repairs, on a list of properties to be demolished because it supposedly was "in imminent danger of collapse.""  Source of caption and photo:  online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

 

(p. A1)  NEW ORLEANS -- IdaBelle Joshua worked hard to take care of her two-story house in the Lower Ninth Ward, even after Hurricane Katrina flooded it up to the roof and exiled her 150 miles away.

She spent $5,000 to have the brick house gutted, $275 to clean it and then went to City Hall on July 5 to make sure 2611 Forstall St. wasn't on a list of derelict properties here facing demolition because of storm damage. Two city employees assured her that the house was safe, she says.

Two days later, her nephew called. He had gone by to mow the lawn. But the house where Ms. Joshua and her late husband had raised three children was gone. It had been knocked down by the city. Since then, she has been trying to get an explanation, but with no luck.

"I'm a 79-year-old senior citizen, crippled and can't travel, and I can't pay anybody," she says. "I will be dead and gone by the time I get any recourse from the city. It's a travesty."

. . .

(p. A10)  For many, though, getting off the demolition list is an exercise in futility. Owners are told to object in writing, but the city hasn't spelled out its rules for granting a reprieve -- or proof a house is safe from bulldozers. Ms. Breaux says the city is about to put more information on its Web site, including a search engine so owners can keep track of their property's status. Officials also plan to increase staffing in the City Hall department in charge of demolitions.

After $90,000 in post-Katrina repairs, the granite kitchen countertops at Chanel Debose's house at 3519 Washington Ave. are gleaming again. Workers just scraped the front porch for a new coat of paint. But her house also wound up on the demolition list.

When the storm hit, Ms. Debose and her husband rescued about 25 people in his fishing boat before giving it away and trudging out of the city on foot. She is angry that anyone trying to save New Orleans could have so much trouble fighting city hall.

"There's no due process here," she says. "It's their process."

 

For the full story, see: 

RICK BROOKS.  "Katrina Survivors Face New Threat: City Demolition Some Salvaged Homes End Up on Condemned List; Ms. Debose's Due Process."  The Wall Street Journal  (Thurs., August 9, 2007):  A1 & A10.

(Note:  ellipsis added.)

 

NewOrleansDeboseHome2.jpg    "Mrs. Debose, a 36-year-old lawyer, used to dream about living here when she was growing up in a housing project nearby. "Ooh, when I get rich, I'm going to buy that house someday," she recalls thinking. She and her husband, Stanley, rescued about 25 people in his boat after Katrina inundated the neighborhood."  Source of caption and photo:  online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.

 




March 30, 2007

For New Orleans "a Dwindling Chance at Redemption"

   Dylan Langlois (facing camera) and his fiancé Kasandra Larsen telling a friend goodbye before they leave New Orleans.  Source of photo:  online version of the NYT article cited below.

  

NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 15 — After nearly a decade in the city of their dreams, Kasandra Larsen and her fiancé, Dylan Langlois, climbed into a rented moving truck on Marais Street last Sunday, pointed it toward New Hampshire, and said goodbye.

Not because of some great betrayal — they had, after all, come back after losing everything in Hurricane Katrina — but a series of escalating indignities: the attempted carjacking of a pregnant friend; the announced move to Nashville by Ms. Larsen’s employer; the human feces deposited on their roof by, they suspect, the contractors next door; the two burglaries in the space of a week; and, not least, the overnight wait for the police to respond.

A year ago, Ms. Larsen, 36, and Mr. Langlois, 37, were hopeful New Orleanians eager to rebuild and improve the city they adored. But now they have joined hundreds of the city’s best and brightest who, as if finally acknowledging a lover’s destructive impulses, have made the wrenching decision to leave at a time when the population is supposed to be rebounding.

Their reasons include high crime, high rents, soaring insurance premiums and what many call a lack of leadership, competence, money and progress. In other words: yes, it is still bad down here. But more damning is what many of them describe as a dissipating sense of possibility, a dwindling chance at redemption for a great city that, even before the storm, cried out for great improvement.

 

For the full story, see: 

SHAILA DEWAN.  "Fed-Up New Orleans Residents Are Giving Up."  The New York Times (Fri., February 16, 2007):  A1 & A17.

      Kasandra Larsen cleans up before she and Dylan Langlois depart New Orleans.  Source of photo:  online version of the NYT article cited above.

 




February 27, 2007

Guns Deter Crime

 

Knoxville, Tenn.

IT’S a phenomenon that gives the term “gun control” a whole new meaning: community ordinances that encourage citizens to own guns.

Last month, Greenleaf, Idaho, adopted Ordinance 208, calling for its citizens to own guns and keep them ready in their homes in case of emergency. It’s not a response to high crime rates. As The Associated Press reported, “Greenleaf doesn’t really have crime ... the most violent offense reported in the past two years was a fist fight.” Rather, it’s a statement about preparedness in the event of an emergency, and an effort to promote a culture of self-reliance.

. . .  

Criminals, unsurprisingly, would rather break into a house where they aren’t at risk of being shot. As David Kopel noted in a 2001 article in The Arizona Law Review, burglars report that they try to avoid homes where armed residents are likely to be present. We see this phenomenon internationally, too, with the United States having a lower proportion of “hot” burglaries — break-ins where the burglars know the home to be occupied — than countries with restrictive gun laws.

Likewise, in the event of disasters that leave law enforcement overwhelmed, armed citizens can play an important role in stanching crime. Armed neighborhood watches deterred looting in parts of Houston and New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

 

For the full commentary, see:

GLENN REYNOLDS.  "A Rifle in Every Pot."  The New York Times  (Tues., January 16, 2007):  A31.

 

Glenn Reynolds is a professor of law at the University of Tennessee, and is the blogger of Instapundit.com.  In 2006, he published:

Reynolds, Glenn. An Army of Davids: How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths. Nashville, TN: Nelson Current, 2006.

 

    Source of book image:  http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/P/1595550542.01._SS500_SCLZZZZZZZ_V1136930360_.jpg

 




September 7, 2006

Needed to Save New Orleans: Less Local Government Corruption and More Local Capitalism

HurricaneKatrinaSpending.gif  Source of graphic:  online version of the WSJ editorial cited below.

 

New Orleans' plight is not the result of federal underspending.  Uncle Sam has spent some five times more on Katrina relief than any other natural disaster in the past 50 years.  Both parties in Congress and the White House opted for the status quo by relying on federal bureaucracies to oversee the rebuilding effort.  If Uncle Sam were deliberately trying to waste these funds, it is hard to imagine a better way than to funnel the money through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Small Business Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  Both HUD and the SBA have been on the chopping block back to the early Reagan years.

The post-Katrina spend-fest in Louisiana will be remembered as one of the greatest taxpayer wastes in U.S. history.  First came the FEMA $2,000 debit-cards fiasco intended to pay for necessities that were used for things like flat-panel TVs and tattoos.  Then came the purchase of thousands of mobile homes that cost as much as $400,000 per family housed; the $200 million for renting the Carnival Cruise Ship  millions more in payments that went for season football tickets, luxury vacation resorts, even divorce lawyers.  Federal flood insurance policies surely will encourage many to rebuild in the same flood plains and at the same height as before.

. . .

After the hurricane, newspapers around the world showed photos of New Orleans under headlines that shouted:  "America's shame."  In truth, New Orleans was America's shame long before Katrina.  In large part the residents of the Big Easy were victims of the predatory behavior of their own politicians.  Louisiana already ranked among the bottom five of all the states in crime, poverty, health care and school performance; the murder rate in New Orleans today is 10 times the national average.

For all the finger-pointing this week, Congress hasn't spent much more than a dime to clear away the debris of corruption, patronage, welfare dependency, high taxes and racial division of decimated neighborhoods.  What is still lacking in the life of New Orleans is the vital architecture of local capitalism.

 

For the full editorial, see: 

"The Tragedy of New Orleans."  The Wall Street Journal  (Tues., August 29, 2006):  A14.

 




August 7, 2006

Audacity and Scale of Hurricane Katrina Waste and Fraud Are Amazing

Photo scanned in from my paper copy of the NYT issue cited below.  Compare the version above to the cropped version that appeared in to online version below--whether deliverate or innocent, the effect of the cropping is to reduce the visual magnitude of the scene (and hence reduce the evidence of the magnitude of the waste).

 

(p. A1)  WASHINGTON, June 26 — Among the many superlatives associated with Hurricane Katrina can now be added this one:  it produced one of the most extraordinary displays of scams, schemes and stupefying bureaucratic bungles in modern history, costing taxpayers up to $2 billion.

A hotel owner in Sugar Land, Tex., has been charged with submitting $232,000 in bills for phantom victims.  And roughly 1,100 prison inmates across the Gulf Coast apparently collected more than $10 million in rental and disaster-relief assistance.

There are the bureaucrats who ordered nearly half a billion dollars worth of mobile homes that are still empty, and renovations for a shelter at a former Alabama Army base that cost about $416,000 per evacuee.

And there is the Illinois woman who tried to collect federal benefits by claiming she watched her two daughters drown in the rising New Orleans waters.  In fact, prosecutors say, the children did not exist.

The tally of ignoble acts linked to Hurricane Katrina, pulled together by The New York Times from government audits, criminal prosecutions and Congressional investigations, could rise because the inquiries are under way.  Even in Washington, a city accustomed to government bloat, the numbers are generating amazement.

"The blatant fraud, the audacity of the schemes, the scale of the waste — it is just breathtaking," said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, and chairwoman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

 

For the full story, see:

ERIC LIPTON.  "'Breathtaking' Waste and Fraud in Hurricane Aid."  The New York Times  (Tues., June 27, 2006):  A1 & A13. 

 

  Cropped version of the photo run in the online version of the NYT article cited above.

Source of the graphic:  the online version of the NYT article cited above.



July 24, 2006

"a jobs program for people who couldn't make it in the private sector"

Source of book image:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1400065526/sr=8-1/qid=1153368329/ref=sr_1_1/104-2835260-2878345?ie=UTF8

 

The levees are built by the Army Corps of Engineers, with the Orleans Levee District enjoying local control.  It is instructive to learn that the former president of the levee district bought himself an inflatable rubber craft a decade ago.  As Mr. Horne writes, some levees gave way "even before water reached the heights the walls were meant to contain and, in some cases, after it had begun to ebb."

Beset by outsourcing, brain drains and budget cuts, the Army Corps has been skimping for years.  This spring, its commanding officer conceded that there had been problems with flood-wall engineering.  But the government hardly has a monopoly on blame.  As Mr. Horne notes, the corps had intended to build a flood barrier at the mouth of Lake Pontchartrain on the city's northern border ("an idea that would, after Katrina, suddenly seem like the highest sort of wisdom"), but the plan was scrapped when environmentalists sued.

By the mid-1970s, "the completion date for the upgraded flood defense that Congress had mandated for New Orleans had already been pushed back thirteen years," Mr. Horne writes, and one section was still unfinished as Katrina hit.  Apathy and indifference "turned government work into a jobs program for people who couldn't make it in the private sector or who couldn't be bothered to try."

Government handouts of a different sort followed the hurricane:  After a slow start with its relief effort, FEMA helped countless hurricane victims who were truly in need, but the agency also began cutting checks for almost anyone who asked.  "An initial $2000 would turn up in the mail within a few days of registering online or placing a call," Mr. Horne writes.  In fact, the agency "rolled over for millions in fraudulent or duplicate claims without checking to see that the applicant had offered a vacant lot or a nonexistent address as his or her residence."  Perhaps that was easier than risking further accusations of bias.

 

For the full review, see:

TOM BETHELL. "Books; Levying the Blame; Nearly a year after a hurricane ravaged a city and the finger-pointing began, two books dissect the destruction and the government's response."  The Wall Street Journal (Sat., July 15, 2006):  P8.

 

The citation for the Horne book is:

Horne, Jed.  Breach of Faith.  Random House, 2006.  (412 pages, $25.95)

 




February 5, 2006

Free-Market 'Chaos' Versus Planning, in New Orleans

The rebirth of New Orleans does, . . . , require a leap into the unknown. It can't be meticulously planned. Preserve the old buildings. Rope off the lowlands. But then let imagination takes its course. Unfortunately, Mr. Nagin's Bring Back New Orleans group is loaded with central planners prescribing a dream city built around such highlights as light-rail transport, a "jazz district" and a neuroscience center. Typical is Michael Cowan, head of the city's Human Relations Commission, who warned that "the alternative to a 'good-enough' plan for the future of our city is free-market chaos, also known . . . as every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost."

Actually, it was precisely this chaos that made New Orleans a great city in the first place. It was planning -- specifically, the horrifying housing projects, largely destroyed in Katrina; the stultifying school system; the Superdome and other wasteful public-works projects -- that held the city back.


For the full commentary, see:

JAMES K. GLASSMAN. "CROSS COUNTRY; Back to the Future." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., January 12, 2006): A13.




December 5, 2005

Never Say Die: Milton Friedman on Vouchers, Again

From an opinion-piece by Milton Friedman, at age 93, in today's Wall Street Journal:

Whatever the promise of vouchers for the education of New Orleans children, the reform will be opposed by the teachers unions and the educational administrators. They now control a monopoly school system. They are determined to preserve that control, and will go to almost any lengths to do so.

Unions to the contrary, the reform would achieve the purposes of Louisiana far better than the present system. The state's objective is the education of its children, not the construction of buildings or the running of schools. Those are means not ends. The state's objective would be better served by a competitive educational market than by a government monopoly. Producers of educational services would compete to attract students. Parents, empowered by the voucher, would have a wide range to choose from. As in other industries, such a competitive free market would lead to improvements in quality and reductions in cost.

If, by a political miracle, Louisiana could overcome the opposition of the unions and enact universal vouchers, it would not only serve itself, it would also render a service to the rest of the country by providing a large scale example of what the market can do for education when permitted to operate.

MILTON FRIEDMAN. "The Promise of Vouchers." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., December 5, 2005): A20.





September 10, 2005

"Treat Me with Benign Neglect."


Source: Screen capture from CNN "Refusing to Leave" report by Dan Simon on the morning of 9-9-05.

"This is America. Has your neighborhood ever been invaded by state troopers from another state?" "I will leave when I am dead." Ashton O'Dwyer can't understand why he is being forced to leave his dry, intact home in New Orleans. He asks the city: "Treat me with benign neglect." The 9-9-05 report was followed up by Drew Griffin on 9-10-05 with the "Staying Put" report that presented businesses, and Afro-Americans, expressing sentiments similar to O'Dwyer's.

Dr. Michael Baden on the "On the Record" Fox News show, hosted by Greta Van Susteren at about 9:47 PM central time on 9-9-05, stated that there was little danger from the "toxic" water unless people drink it. (Toxic water is the main reason given for the current, post-hurricane, forced evacuations.) Baden claims if the city wants to help people, they would be much more effective if they sprayed the water against mosquitoes.

(Dr. Michael Baden is the Chief Forensic Pathologist of the New York State Police, and was formerly the Chief Medical Examiner of New York City.)

Watch the CNN report: "Refusing to Leave":

Watch the CNN report: "Staying Put":

For more on O'Dwyer, see also:

CHRISTOPHER COOPER. "Old-Line Families Escape Worst of Flood and Plot the Future." THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (September 8, 2005): A1.




September 4, 2005

Looting New Orleans


"In downtown New Orleans, where looters are floating garbage cans filled with clothing and jewelry down the street." From an online slideshow of looting at Wal-Mart and Walgreens in New Orleans. Caption for photo, and photo itself, from: http://www.nbc10.com/slideshow/news/4917518/detail.html?qs=;s=4;p=news;dm=ss;w=400 (POSTED: 9:45 pm EDT August 30, 2005; UPDATED: 10:53 am EDT August 31, 2005; Downloaded Sept. 5, 2005)


Harold Andersen reports on the observations of his wife's cousin, Michael Ross, a member of the faculty of the history department of Loyola University in New Orleans:

When the levees broke and put the major share of New Orleans under water, a substantial portion of the city was still dry because it was on higher ground, above sea level. Included were the French Quarter, some attractive residential neighborhoods and the land on which Loyola University is located.

There was some wind damage in the higher-ground areas of the city, but those areas were basically preserved and could have served as a base from which the city could be rebuilt.

"But they're gone now, as a result of looting," Ross told us.

The looting wasn't random. Organized street gangs, armed with weapons stolen from looted stores, went about looting quickly and systematically, Ross said. In residential areas, they went down streets kicking in the doors of house after house after house, leaving the residences in shambles.

One unforgettable scene, Ross said, was the telecast showing five pickup trucks of gang members leaving a looted Wal-Mart store with dozens of weapons they had stolen.

Ross is pessimistic about the chances that Loyola and Tulane Universities will reopen this fall, even if their campuses are intact. Students, particularly new students, are most likely to be discouraged from attending school in a nearly destroyed city.

On a personal note, Ross expects that the house in which he has been living will be a victim of looting and his computer files are likely to have been destroyed.

Andersen, Harold W. "If New Orleans is Dead Forever, Looters Delivered the Fatal Blow." Omaha World-Herald (Sunday, September 4, 2005): 13B. Also online at: http://www.omaha.com/index.php?u_pg=609&u_sid=2006986

New Orleans is the opposite of America, and we must hold onto places that are the opposite of us. New Orleans is not fast or energetic or efficient, not a go-get-'em Calvinist well-ordered city. It's slow, lazy, sleepy, sweaty, hot, wet, lazy and exotic. (p. 9)

Childress, Mark. "Tribute: What It Means to Miss New Orleans." New York Times, Section 9 (September 4, 2005): 9 & 11.


OK, so then why is it that all us fast, energetic, efficient, go-get-'em Calvinists are responsible for coughing up billions to save a lifestyle we don't much get to enjoy?




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