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City Journal Summer 2006.
Summer 2006
Table of Contents
  L etters

Imperial Iran?

To the editor:
Mark Steyn’s “Facing Down Iran” [Spring 2006] eloquently articulates what I have long felt about the Iranian regime and our country’s weak responses. I also appreciate that Steyn seems to acknowledge that our failures have been bipartisan. I only depart from him when he seems to credit Iran for creating Islamic imperialism. Islam has always been imperialistic. It also has always been contemptuous of the rights of non-Islamic nations. Thomas Jefferson was frankly told by an ambassador of the Barbary States that the seizure of U.S. shipping was commanded by the Prophet. That arrogance is alive and well across the Islamic world today.

Edward Wayland
Via e-mail

To the editor:
Mark Steyn makes no mention of the internal contradictions within Iran. In this respect, his argument replicates the remarkable failure of Western intelligence analysts to see the signs of the impending collapse of Communism in the 1980s.

Iran has a kind of democracy. Certainly no one would mistake it for Western democracy, but it has an elected political leadership, not a dictatorship, and a noisy, if filtered, political discourse. Ahmadinejad was elected in a close election. Many people opposed him, and most of those people are not being thrown in jail. If he doesn’t deliver the goods on his promises for material progress, he may be thrown aside fairly quickly.

The radical mullahs have an ideological commitment, and a political advantage, in making their constituents feel threatened by the Great Satan. A military strike will simply strengthen their hand. If, instead, the United States responds with firm but patient resolve and multilateral pressure, the moderates may yet prevail. The demographics are in their favor.

Paul Ingmundson
Via e-mail

To the editor:
I am reminded of two sentences a Palestinian Muslim in Jerusalem told me: “We just want a little peace. And when we get a little piece, we want another little piece.” Steyn makes it clear that the West doesn’t hear the second sentence, while that’s all that Iran hears.

Patrick Meagher
Via e-mail

Good for the Michigander

To the editor:
Thanks to Harry Stein for a fair analysis of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative [“A Preemptive Surrender,” Spring 2006]. It’s indeed a sad betrayal of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that an almost identical initiative is being targeted by big labor, big business, and big government, led by scores of blacks and liberal whites who think that they own civil rights as an ideal. Read the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and you’ll see that its language is almost identical to the MCRI’s, stopping the government from discriminating for or against anyone on the basis of race, gender, skin color, ethnicity, or nationality. The biggest “coalition” is still for it, not against it—Michigan’s citizens who have seen that 40 years of race-based affirmative action have divided us and need to end.

Diane Carey
Owosso, MI

Houston, They Have a Problem

To the editor:
Nicole Gelinas’s article about Katrina evacuees in Houston [“Houston’s Noble Experiment,” Spring 2006] raises the question of how the government of New Orleans became so dysfunctional as to permit the development of an intractable underclass. Unlike Houston, cities in Louisiana do not have the power of annexation, especially across parish lines. As middle-class residents fled crime and nonperforming public schools, the majority of voters in Orleans Parish came to be those for whom the stalled criminal-justice system and failed educational system were just fine.

Efforts to elect judges who were hard on criminals, and to elect school board officials who would require students to pass achievement tests before being promoted, were met with cries of unfairness and racism.

Perhaps if, as my husband and I did, other middle-class families had determined to stay in the city to solve its problems, much misery could have been avoided. Instead, local politics allowed economically and socially functioning families to believe that they could escape the problems of the city by moving across the parish line. We have paid the price of that parochialism over the last three decades, as first our friends, and now our children, fled the intransigent poverty of the city, which spilled over to the entire metropolitan area.

The national news media do not understand that under Ray Nagin, New Orleans had been poised to become a functional city, and an economic resurgence was within grasp. Nagin, elected mayor two years ago by a coalition of black and white middle-class New Orleanians, filled potholes and created online access to many city forms and services, as promised. He was coasting to reelection when the disaster of Katrina created the ultimate no-win situation.

As a temporary evacuee housed by cousins in Houston, I sincerely thank Houstonians for all the kindness and goodwill that they extended to us. Perhaps the sheer size of Houston’s population will help it assimilate the remaining Katrina evacuees, and change the self-defeating lifestyle that Gelinas describes.

Janice Barry
New Orleans, LA

Nicole Gelinas responds:
Although Houston has partly alleviated the effects of middle-class flight through annexation, it has not been a cure-all. In fact, it is politically impossible for Houston to annex its wealthiest suburbs and exurbs, such as The Woodlands.

As for New Orleans’s pre-Katrina dysfunction: beginning in the early 1960s, the city’s traumatic experience with public school desegregation, which sent thousands of white residents from neighborhoods like the Ninth Ward across the parish border to St. Bernard, exacerbated the familiar urban story of middle-class exodus. As Ms. Barry notes, this sudden destabilization helped create an intractable underclass culture in New Orleans that continued to grow over the decades, as fewer and fewer middle-class residents were left to advocate for real changes in the city’s failing school and criminal-justice systems.

Ms. Barry argues that if middle-class residents hadn’t left New Orleans, its situation would not have grown so desperate. But thousands of New Orleanians, black and white, continued to leave in the seventies, eighties, and nineties because of the city’s desperate situation. One cannot blame them for fleeing instead of staying to fight. If governments try to stop their flight from high taxes and social disintegration through annexation, most will just move further away.

Further, I disagree that New Orleans was “poised to become a functional city” before Katrina. While Mayor Nagin deserves credit for his pre-Katrina initiatives, including trying to change the city’s climate of corruption, he has made no progress before or after the storm in solving the city’s real problem: violent crime. Indeed, in the months before Katrina, New Orleans was grappling with a sudden spike in its already unacceptable homicide rate.

Jersey Blues

To the editor:
I’ve spent a lifetime involved in Republican politics in New Jersey. My only criticism of Steven Malanga’s “The Mob That Whacked Jersey” [Spring 2006] is that it gives my party, and particularly former governor Christie Whitman, a free pass. It’s true that she cut taxes modestly. But it’s also true that she increased state spending by 50 percent and nearly quadrupled state borrowing, and she did so with the eager cooperation of an entirely Republican legislature.

A truly conservative Republican party would be a formidable opponent for the unions and public-employee mafia. Sadly, we have none.

Jack Mozloom
Hamilton, NJ

To the editor:
My wife and I are both 60, and moved to our present house in Princeton in 1997. Our property taxes have gone from $7,000 to over $24,000 per year. At this rate (almost 400 percent over eight years), when we are aged 80, our taxes will be over $500,000 per year. No one at any stage of life, much less old age, can save for that kind of meltdown, and increased property values, which have merely doubled, not quadrupled, offer no comfort unless you sell out.

Just this week, we decided to sell our house and downsize (we’d rather lose our shirts on a condo than on a five-bedroom). And we’ve decided to give Corzine until, at the latest, the third year of his term to do something about this, or we’ll have to leave New Jersey in a desperate act of self-preservation. But we’re afraid that if we wait until 2009 to cash out, the property values in this state will be in utter collapse, as millions of others realize they have no choice but to leave. Will the last public employee please turn out the lights?

Owen Leach
Princeton, NJ

Steven Malanga responds:
In the long story of New Jersey’s decline, many public officials haven’t measured up. Governor Whitman cut taxes and then, when a buoyant economy produced budget surpluses, she and the state legislature spent them. Jersey would certainly be better off if she hadn’t, but her fiscal fecklessness pales in comparison with Governor Jim McGreevey’s, who hiked taxes more than any other governor in the nation during the last recession—and then went even further and borrowed nearly $2 billion to finance Jersey’s operating budget, a move that violated every basic rule of state fiscal management. Whitman failed to use the good times to cut taxes further and improve Jersey’s competitive environment; McGreevey severely worsened the state’s competitive position.

The Naked Truth

To the editor:
David Schoenbrod’s “Toxic Regulation” [Spring 2006] stated that Naked Juice was a unit of Chiquita Brands. In fact, Chiquita sold Naked Juice in June 2000 to California Day-Fresh Foods, Inc., and has had no ownership interest in Naked Juice since the sale.

Mike Mitchell
Director, Corporate Communications
Chiquita Brands International

 


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