But first . . .

NEW ORLEANS

Charles and I went to see Harry Connick, Jr. in one of five final benefit performances of ‘The Pajama Game.’ It was as good in 2006 as it was in 1954. Better! You should hear Harry Connick, Jr. play the piano.

(I didn’t see it in 1954 but my parents brought home the original cast recording and I could soon multiply anything by seven and a half cents.)

The benefits were for three charities, one of which is the The New Orleans Habitat Musicians’ Village. At the end of our performance – ‘I . . . can hardly wait / to wake and get / to work at eight / NOTHING’s quite like the pa . . . / ja . . . ma . . . game’ – after a long standing ovation, Harry came back out on stage to auction off a limited edition Longines watch, retail value $9,000, which had gone the night before for $17,500 [note to the winner, if he happens to be a reader of this column: you can only deduct the $8,500 by which your donation exceeded the retail value, so it’s best just to give it to another charity and buy a $45 Swatch] and he said that if our audience beat that mark, he’d treat us to some great down home New Orleans jazz.

So the bidding started at $1,000 and settled at $36,000 (sold to a New York financier whose grandfather had grown up in New Orleans) and we got to hear some great down home jazz.

The $36,000 was enough to build about half a house in New Orleans. Harry Connick, Jr’s project has already built more than 30.

Meanwhile, plans have been announced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development – HUD – to tear down 5,000 units of New Orleans public housing. According to this article:

. . . HUD’s demolition plans leave thousands of families with no hope of returning to New Orleans, where rental housing is scarce and costly. In New Orleans, public housing was occupied by women, mostly working, their children, as well as the elderly and disabled. . . .

. . . Demolition of public housing in New Orleans is not a new idea. When Katrina displaced New Orleans public housing residents, the Wall Street Journal reported US Congressman Richard Baker, a 10-term Republican from Baton Rouge, telling lobbyists: “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did.” . . .

☞ So why are Republicans so bad at things like FEMA and HUD? The answer may lie in caffeine-free Diet Coke.

CAFFEINE-FREE DIET COKE

It must have been invented by the same guy who invented the salt-free potato chip and the guilt-free guilty pleasure. I mean, what is the point?

This came to mind with only a modest synaptic leap when I read the following formulation:

Conservatives cannot govern well for the same reason that vegetarians cannot prepare a world-class boeuf bourguignon: If you believe that what you are called upon to do is wrong, you are not likely to do it very well.

Just a bit more from Alan Wolfe’s Washington Monthly essay, Why Conservatives Can’t Govern:

Contemporary conservatism is first and foremost about shrinking the size and reach of the federal government. This mission, let us be clear, is an ideological one. It does not emerge out of an attempt to solve real-world problems, such as managing increasing deficits or finding revenue to pay for entitlements built into the structure of federal legislation. It stems, rather, from the libertarian conviction, repeated endlessly by George W. Bush, that the money government collects in order to carry out its business properly belongs to the people themselves. One thought, and one thought only, guided Bush and his Republican allies since they assumed power . . . taxes must be cut, and the more they are cut–especially in ways benefiting the rich–the better.

But like all politicians, conservatives, once in office, find themselves under constant pressure from constituents to use government to improve their lives. This puts conservatives in the awkward position of managing government agencies whose missions–indeed, whose very existence–they believe to be illegitimate. Contemporary conservatism is a walking contradiction. Unable to shrink government but unwilling to improve it, conservatives attempt to split the difference, expanding government for political gain, but always in ways that validate their disregard for the very thing they are expanding. The end result is not just bigger government, but more incompetent government.

‘THEY DIDN’T SIGN UP FOR THIS’

Finally, while we’re warmly welcoming fiscally prudent, fair-minded Republicans and conservatives to reconsider their party affiliation, consider this section of a recent Hillary Clinton speech:

I’m encouraged by the number of the people who come to my events who say they didn’t support me last time and tell me that they are Republican, and I always say, “We’re glad you’re here. Welcome.” And I also ask them, “Well, why are you here?” And they always say something like, “I didn’t sign up for all of this.”

They didn’t sign up for a government that interferes with personal, private, intimate relations.

They didn’t sign up to be the largest debtors in the history of the world where we have to borrow $60 billion a month from China, Japan, and others.

They didn’t sign up for Terry Schiavo to be turned into a tragic, political problem.

They didn’t sign up for the United States government who totally dismantled the Federal Emergency Management Agency and battled with colleagues and didn’t know what to do.

They didn’t sign up for the mean-spirited divisiveness against gays and lesbians and tried to make it somehow a political issue as to the life you lead and who you are.

They didn’t sign up for the politicization of science; they didn’t sign up for the Environmental Protection Agency – which has turned into a misnomer – to tell people mercury in the air and arsenic in water won’t hurt you.

They didn’t sign up for an FDA that refuses to make a decision about the emergency contraception known as Plan B.

They didn’t sign up for a president who denies global climate changes and refuses to deal with reality of what is happening in our world that has far-reaching consequences for our children and our children’s children.

There’s a long list why people are suddenly saying, “We didn’t sign up for this.” . . .

SO? HAVE YOU SEEN THE MOVIE?

The most conservative thing we can do is conserve the human ecosphere. This transcends party politics.

In 39 years, I have never written these words in a movie review, but here they are: You owe it to yourself to see this film. If you do not, and you have grandchildren, you should explain to them why you decided not to. – Roger Ebert

 

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