In reference to "History & Ray Nagin" (April 10), Jason Berry once again, in his own inimitable way, captures the essence of why New Orleans is still struggling. The situation is complex, but his focus on the failed politics of Louisiana leaders is important. I have watched in amazement at Ray Nagin's incomprehensible and often glib responses in media interviews. He acts like a booster for the Chamber of Commerce, instead of a leader trying to face problems and deal with them as they emerge.
However, Berry's discussion of Nagin being of a post-Civil Rights generation explains a lot about Nagin's seeming disinterest in the poor, homeless, and in general the African-American population who want to come home to New Orleans, but have no place to go.
I applaud Jason Berry for continuing to shine a spotlight on New Orleans, and this article has helped me to understand a little better why recovery is so slow.
Elizabeth Rickey Santa Fe, N.M.
Practice What You Preach
The very idea that Mayor Nagin would ask for the resignation of anyone for anything ("Bouquets & Brickbats" Dr. Ralph Lupin, April 3) is unreal to me. He has done absolutely nothing to make the city better. The crime rate is just one example of his inability to run the city. He's an outrage, and I'm so sick of making excuses for the people who voted him back in office. That's something else I can't figure out. Did the people who voted C. Ray Nagin back in office see his inability during Katrina? I guess you get what you settle for.
D. Crochet Las Vegas, Nev.
(formerly of New Orleans)
FYI to all those crying about the white man arming himself ("Reload," Letters, March 27), you may want to attend one of the courses required to obtain a handgun license. You might be surprised to find many African Americans. Yes that's right, black people, except these are the ones you never hear about in the news. They are middle class, own businesses, and have the same fears as white people. That is my experience. I am not sure what the racial breakdown of permit holders is, but everyone may be surprised.
Michael Schwartz President, American Tradeshow Services
Lack of Trust
In "Commentary" (April 3) you wrote in support of an 8/29 Commission to investigate the failure of flood protection in New Orleans: "The good news is that the federal government already has an excellent model for the proposed Levee Commission: the bi-partisan 9/11 Commission, which took a fresh, unbiased look at all the data and studies conducted after the terrorist attacks of 2001 and issued an independent array of conclusions and recommendations."
Families of the deceased have criticized the commission's membership, noting that an appointment by George W. Bush assured bias, since his appointees would do whatever was necessary to protect him and his administration. The families' fears are clearly well founded, given the readiness of this administration to lie to us about Iraq's involvement in terrorism. If the administration lies about war, how can we believe it or its appointees about anything else? A Wikipedia article gives instant references and links to connections between commission appointees and people who would benefit from concealment of government lapses prior to Sept. 11.
Then there are the famous conditions under which George Bush agreed to testify before the commission. He refused to testify without Dick Cheney present, he did not want the testimony recorded, he did not want to take an oath and he wanted a private testimony. The commission's report is weakened by his refusal to be candid.
Most people I know do not accept the commission's legitmacy, and many believe that the videos of the collapse of the buildings, especially of Building No. 7, demonstrate planned demolition by someone within government who was planning a Pearl Harbor-like event to enhance the political power of the Bush administration. If that was the plan, it has succeeded.
So I fail to see any advantage to an 8/29 Commission. Once again, no doubt, it would be over 1,000 pages and countless hours dedicated to white-washing the reputation of the powerful. I would doubt the conclusions offered by any prominent U.S. political figure at the present time, Democrats and Republicans alike.
Robert Desmarais Sullivan
We Can Do It
Regarding your recent commentary "So ... where's the transformation?" (Jan. 30), as a life-long resident of this city, I have long been tired of the often-expressed myth that you can't change things in New Orleans. That is self-defeating and just wrong. There are two things that have happened recently in New Orleans that are positive: the Saints and how clean the French Quarter is these days. Both show what can happen when the right people with the right attitude are in charge. Now if we just get the right people with the right attitude to run the state, city, police department, DA's office and schools, we will once again be a great city.
We should demand better leaders, and we need to start saying that we can do it.