TIA Daily -- September 6, 2005
New Orleans and the Broken Window
The welfare-state premise that the individual has no responsibility for his own life leads naturally to the view of the criminal as a victim of society. But when a city fails to punish its criminals in normal times, it faces an even greater threat in times of emergency.
Top News Stories
1. The Roberts Court
2. Remember the War?
3. New Orleans and the Broken Window
4. Lord of the Barflies
5. The Mayor of Starnesville
6. Commentary: Mark Steyn Gets It
7. Human Achievements: "If"
8. Things of Beauty: Water Reeds in Light
Top News Stories:
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Commentary by Robert Tracinski
1. The Roberts Court
Chief Justice Rehnquist passed away over the weekend, giving President Bush the opportunity for a second appointment to the Supreme Court. Bush immediately chose to nominate John Roberts, not only to the Supreme Court, but to the Chief Justice position. Justice O'Connor will probably remain on the court for another term, so that Judge Roberts will be replacing a solid conservative, not a "swing" vote.
I chose the article below because it captures the political calculations of the Bush administration--which has had the whole past month to test the waters and make sure that Judge Roberts will face no serious opposition--and the calculations of the left, who are hoping to cash in on their demagoguery over New Orleans to gain political traction against Bush--a typically desperate, range-of-the-moment strategy.
I'll be commenting more on Rehnquist's legacy and Roberts's views in the coming week. For now, I'll note that I'm not an active supporter of Judge Roberts, on the grounds that he admits to having "no consistent judicial philosophy." But I'll accept him--based on what I know so far--because the more likely alternative is a judge with a consistently bad judicial philosophy.
"President Names Roberts as Choice for Chief Justice," Richard W. Stevenson, New York Times September 6
"President Bush said on Monday that he would nominate Judge John G. Roberts Jr., who had been his choice to fill the Supreme Court seat being vacated by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, to succeed William H. Rehnquist as chief justice of the United States.... Saying that the Senate and the American people 'like what they see' in Judge Roberts, Mr. Bush hailed what he called 'his striking ability as a lawyer and his natural gifts as a leader.' The quick decision reflected the White House's conclusion that Judge Roberts, despite opposition to his conservative views from liberal groups and many Democrats in Congress, had withstood intense scrutiny since being nominated to replace Justice O'Connor and could be confirmed comfortably.... With the White House on the defensive over Mr. Bush's performance in dealing with the hurricane, Democrats pressed their advantage on Monday, pledging to subject Judge Roberts to more intensive scrutiny than they had so far."
2. Remember the War?
Hey, did anyone remember that there is still a war going on in Iraq? No, for most of the press, the War in Iraq has been just a sound bite, invoked to explain why disaster relief didn't get to New Orleans faster. (This canard is debunked in an otherwise carping article by Ralph Peters at http://tinyurl.com/cn977.)
Meanwhile, the Army has launched a massive new offensive against terrorist strongholds in Western Iraq, covered in the article below--about the only press report to cover it. There is also a newer battle update from today, at http://tinyurl.com/78fsx.
"5,000 US and Iraqi Troops Sweep into City of Tall Afar," Jonathan Finer, Washington Post, September 3
"In the largest urban assault since the siege of Fallujah last November, more than 5,000 US and Iraqi troops entered this northern city before dawn Friday. But the 45-minute firefight at day's end suggested that the insurgents who have controlled much of Tall Afar for almost a year would not relinquish it easily.... During the course of the day, at least 30 insurgents were killed as US troops conducted house-to-house searches in the baking sun. Apache attack helicopters that circled the city of 250,000 all day killed 27 people, including eight who were attempting to conceal roadside bombs in old tires, commanders said. No American or Iraqi army casualties were reported. Set on an old smuggling trail that winds though pastoral plains about 40 miles from the Syrian border, Tall Afar is a key logistics hub for insurgents operating across northern Iraq, military officials say."
3. New Orleans and the Broken Window
In last Friday's article on how the welfare state laid the groundwork for the looting and mayhem in New Orleans, I mentioned an early cable news report that New Orleans police let criminals out of the jails. Unfortunately, I have not been able to confirm this, so it may have been an inaccurate report--and if so, I apologize for unwittingly passing it on.
But I have found numerous reports (see http://tinyurl.com/b3pf4 and http://tinyurl.com/bq2g3) about the total collapse of the corrupt and incompetent New Orleans Police Department. More details are provided by City Journal's Nicole Gelinas in the article linked to below, which indicates that the criminals didn't have to be released from prison--because they were never put in jail to begin with.
It was City Journal that famously introduced the "broken window" theory: the idea that failing to police minor crimes--like failing to repair a broken window--sends a signal to criminals that they own the streets. That theory encouraged the aggressive policing used so successfully by Rudy Giuliani to cut crime in New York City. But "broken window" policing never reached New Orleans, and the city paid for it last week.
"A Perfect Storm of Lawlessness," Nicole Gelinas, City Journal, September 1
"The final PC version of the story is likely to go like this: the desperate people left behind in New Orleans, nearly all black, had justification in brutally attacking their city because the help they frantically sought didn't come. In truth, the looters, rapists, and murderers who have terrorized New Orleans since Monday began their post-Katrina reign of terror a full day before the situation grew truly desperate--and it was their increasingly lawless behavior that kept willing but unarmed professional and volunteer rescue workers away from the city and from the poor people who needed saving.... Katrina didn't turn innocent citizens into desperate criminals. This week's looters...are the same depraved individuals who have pushed New Orleans' murder rate to several multiples above the national average in normal times.... This week, this entrenched criminal class has freely roamed the streets--and terrorized everyone.... Failure to put violent criminals behind bars in peacet!
ime has led to chaos in disaster."
4. Lord of the Barflies
The looters and passive welfare-state types in downtown New Orleans received most of the press late last week. But it's important to remember that they are not typical of America. Today's New York Post has a good article, at http://tinyurl.com/7chca, about the heroism of the rescue workers in New Orleans.
But I was also struck by the article below, about a group of civilians who stayed behind in the French Quarter and spontaneously banded together, forming "tribes" (I suspect they have been watching too many re-runs of "Survivor") to provide security, wash their clothing, and take care of their own needs. This is the America I know: a nation of self-reliant problem solvers.
A number of people responded to my article last Friday--which got a fair bit of publicity on the Web--by saying that the cause of the violence and looting was not the welfare state, but just human nature. In this cynical outlook, civilization is a "thin veneer," under which the savage still lurks in us all, waiting to emerge during any disaster, just as in the classic novel "Lord of the Flies" (see http://tinyurl.com/7nybg.
Reports like this disprove that cynical view of man. Note that many of these people seem to be the kind who hang out in bars and hold menial jobs--people you might not normally expect much from in everyday circumstances. Yet, as one of them put it: "Some people became animals. We became more civilized." That is what is possible to human beings--when they choose to take moral responsibility for themselves.
" 'Tribes' Find Way to Survive in French Quarter," AP via MSNBC, September 4
"In the absence of information and outside assistance, groups of rich and poor banded together in the French Quarter, forming 'tribes' and dividing up the labor. As some went down to the river to do the wash, others remained behind to protect property. In a bar, a bartender put near-perfect stitches into the torn ear of a robbery victim.... 'Some people became animals,' Vasilioas Tryphonas said Sunday morning as he sipped a hot beer in Johnny White's Sports Bar on Bourbon Street. 'We became more civilized.'... Tired of waiting for trucks to come with food and water, residents turned to each other. Johnny White's is famous for never closing, even during a hurricane. The doors don't even have locks. Since the storm, it has become more than a bar.... 'It's our community center,' said Marcie Ramsey, 33, whom Katrina promoted from graveyard shift bartender to acting manager."
5. The Mayor of Starnesville
Speaking of classic novels, readers of "Atlas Shrugged" will remember Ayn Rand's depiction of Starnesville--the village left behind after a once-thriving industrial firm collapses and the only people who remain are those who don't mind living in squalor. I couldn't help thinking of Starnesville while reading a report, at http://tinyurl.com/9qjlf, on some of the people who have remain in New Orleans.
But these people are perfectly represented by their mayor, Ray Nagin, who has spent the whole crisis pointing fingers at everyone but himself and hatching odd conspiracy theories that the CIA is out to get him (see http://tinyurl.com/7fbst). The radio interview linked to below demonstrates that the welfare-state mentality in New Orleans went all the way to the top.
Note that throughout the interview, Nagin always talks in terms of "they" and "them"--the other people who he expected to "be creative" and save his city--and never to "I," that is, never to what he and his citizens might do to save themselves. It is a perfect expression of the anti-individualist outlook that always pushes responsibility upward, to society at large, and never down to one's own individual thinking and action.
"Foul-Mouthed Tirade by New Orleans Mayor," WorldNetDaily, September 2
"NAGIN: And they don't have a clue what's going on down here. They flew down here one time two days after the doggone event was over with TV cameras, AP reporters, all kind of g--damn--excuse my French everybody in America, but I am pissed.... I have no idea what they're doing. But I will tell you this: you know, God is looking down on all this, and if they are not doing everything in their power to save people, they are going to pay the price.... We told everybody the importance of the 17th Street Canal issue. We said, 'Please, please take care of this. We don't care what you do. Figure it out.... They said it was some pulleys that they had to manufacture. But, you know, in a state of emergency, man, you are creative, you figure out ways to get stuff done."
6. Commentary: Mark Steyn Gets It
While the New York Post picks up another extravagant story about welfare-state looting (see http://tinyurl.com/8lou7), Mark Steyn picks up on the welfare-state theme in this column for London's Daily Telegraph. This is particular relevant to Britain--which is struggling with its own replay of America in the 1970s, as the cumulative effect of an even larger and longer-lived welfare state.
"Big Easy Rocked, but Didn't Roll," Mark Steyn, Daily Telegraph, September 6
"My mistake was to think that the citizenry of the Big Easy would rise to the great rallying cry of Todd Beamer: 'Are you ready, guys? Let's roll!' Instead, the spirit of the week was summed up by a gentleman called Mike Franklin, taking time out of his hectic schedule of looting to speak to the Associated Press: 'People who are oppressed all their lives, man, it's an opportunity to get back at society.' Unlike 9/11, when the cult of victimhood was temporarily suspended in honor of the many real, actual victims under the rubble, in New Orleans everyone claimed the mantle of victim, from the incompetent mayor to the 'oppressed' guys wading through the water with new DVD players under each arm. Welfare culture is bad not just because, as in Europe, it's bankrupting the state, but because it enfeebles the citizenry, it erodes self-reliance and resourcefulness."
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7. Human Achievements
If, by Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies, Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream--and not make dreams your master;
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss; If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch; If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much; If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run--Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man my son!
-- selection by Shrikant Rangnekar
8. Things of Beauty
Photo: Water Reeds in Light
All it takes is the one slightly chilly late summer evening and I'm ready for autumn--my favorite season of all. So though I may be jumping the gun a bit with my celebration of the coming of autumn, I just couldn't let this image wait any longer.
This photograph of reeds and grasses at the edge of a lake, brightly lit up by the warm fall sunshine, is a perfect example of why I love Fall. The vibrantly colored summer flowers have given way to still-vibrant but slightly richer and deeper colors like the rich orange and olive-green hues of these grasses. I love the way the light sparkles off of these grasses, making them look like they are covered with little specks of golden light. And notice how the spiky vertical grasses contrast with the horizontal lines of their reflection on the water, as the gentle ripple of the lake breaks up their reflections into a beautiful smudge of rich hues. I can almost hear the water quietly passing the canoe and the mournful cry of the loon.
-- Sherri Tracinski
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