On top of all the shameful and outrageous things we’ve seen this week, comes « this »:

‘House Speaker Dennis Hastert dropped a bombshell on flood-ravaged New Orleans on Thursday by suggesting that it isn’t sensible to rebuild the city. “It doesn’t make sense to me,” Hastert told the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago in editions published today. “And it’s a question that certainly we should ask.” … The Illinois Republican’s comments drew an immediate rebuke from Louisiana officials. “That’s like saying we should shut down Los Angeles because it’s built in an earthquake zone,” former Sen. John Breaux, D-La., said. “Or like saying that after the Great Chicago fire of 1871, the U.S. government should have just abandoned the city.” … Hastert questioned the wisdom of rebuilding a city below sea level that will continue to be in the path of powerful hurricanes. “You know we build Los Angeles and San Francisco on top of earthquake issures and they rebuild, too. Stubbornness,” he said.’

And then somebody else chimes in from the cheap seats:

‘Hastert wasn’t the only one questioning the rebuilding of New Orleans. The Waterbury, Conn., Republican-American newspaper wrote an editorial Wednesday entitled, “Is New Orleans worth reclaiming?” “Americans’ hearts go out to the people in Katrina’s path,” it said. “But if the people of New Orleans and other low-lying areas insist on living in harm’s way, they ought to accept responsibility for what happens to them and their property.”’
New Orleans Times-Picayune

Good god.

So I sent a little letter to the editor to the following e-mail addresses (and encourage my faithful readers to do the same): [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]:

Letter to the Editor:
RE your editorial of 31-Aug-05, specifically this quote: ‘But if the people of New Orleans and other low-lying areas insist on living in harm’s way, they ought to accept responsibility for what happens to them and their property. … And if the government insists on rebuilding ravaged homes and businesses along Gulf Coasts, it should stipulate that the next time a hurricane blows through, it will be up to the people living there to make themselves whole.’
People who live in glass houses really shouldn’t throw stones, dear Waterbury, CT. I haven’t ever been to Connecticut, but I wasn’t aware it was high and dry. Let’s review Connecticut’s hurricane history since you apparently haven’t, shall we?
Great Atlantic Hurricane, 14-Sep-1944 ($100 million in damages to the state). Hurricane Carol, 31-Aug-1954. Hurricane Edna, 11-Sep-1954. Hurricane Diane, 18-Aug-1955. Hurricane Donna, 14-Sep-1960 (3 dead and large crop losses). Hurricane Gloria, 27-Sep-1985. Hurricane Bob, 19-Aug-1991.
Or how about we talk about the Great New England Hurricane of 21-Sep-1938 which brought to Connecticut winds of 120 miles an hour and a storm surge of 12-16 feet. Whole beach communities in the state were washed away without a trace. A week after the storm, Connecticut reported 97 people killed, over 1000 injured, and several dozen missing. The 1938 hurricane did more damage than the San Francisco earthquake in 1906. According to several publications, ‘the total property damage was the greatest of any natural disaster ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere up to that time.’
I see that the City of Waterbury has been a member of FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program since 1-Nov-1979, according to FEMA’s website. You take government assistance provided by taxpayers like us in the rest of the country but write pompous and judgmental editorials like this? Wow. You guys are showing some chutzpah while working that Federal Gravy Train!
Sounds as if New Orleans is not the only place where people shouldn’t be living. I propose that we rewrite your snide, compassionless and self-absorbed editorial thusly: ‘But if the people of hurricane-prone Connecticut (particularly Waterbury) and other low-lying areas insist on living in harm’s way, they ought to accept responsibility for what happens to them and their property. … And if the government insists on rebuilding ravaged homes and businesses in Connecticut (particularly Waterbury), it should stipulate that the next time a hurricane blows through, it will be up to the people living there to make themselves whole.’ Wonder how your neighbors would feel about that if it you dared to publish that?
And be sure and cancel your National Flood Insurance participation and write FEMA, the National Guard, the Red Cross and the United States Army that, after the next devastating Connecticut hurricane hits, that you, the Waterbury Republican-American, won’t be needing the rescue assistance, policing, tax dollars or donations of the rest of us Americans to rebuild your newspaper … and your flood- and hurricane-prone city and state.
Meanwhile, I encourage you, the editors and publishers of the Republican-American, to stop being ridiculous and join me in turning off the self-centered political rhetoric and sending whatever we can afford to help rebuild the hundreds of thousands of shattered human lives on the Gulf Coast of our country. It’s the humane (and American) thing to do.
With all due respect,
Steve Pollock
Ann Arbor, MI

And thoughts and prayers to the people of the Gulf Coast. Our friend Steve, who lived in downtown New Orleans, was able to escape through a sea of floating bodies to a shelter in Jackson, MS, and is now on his way (hopefully) to his parents’ house in Alabama. He’ll be looking for a job in North Carolina, but won’t be able to return for his belongs for at least four months. Still, we’re extremely grateful he, his roommate and his dog, Gibson, are safe and well. More on this stuff by Frank is on « Asquared AirBeagle ».

UPDATE:

I received the following reply from William J. Pape of the Waterbury Republican-American:

‘Our rational realistic thinking got out of hand with the New Orleans editorial, and we have been chastised in spades for it, justifiably so. It is unfortunate that some thought we were blaming the present citizens for the terrible calamity which has befallen them. Not so. My younger son is a graduate of Tulane and visiting New Orleans was always a pleasure. The food was the best I’ve even had without question. WJPape’

Well, that’s something … except it’s still deeply disturbing to think that he thinks the editorial reflected ‘rational and realistic’ thinking.