- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Doubtful forecast

“Disasters rarely interrupt growth in a thriving city, while disaster reconstruction rarely prevents decay in a stagnant one. According to George Horwich, an economist at Purdue University who studied the aftermath of the Kobe [Japan] earthquake, manufacturing in greater Kobe was back to 98 percent of pre-earthquake levels within just 15 months. Seventeen-thousand buildings in Chicago’s central business district were utterly destroyed by fire in October 1871, but the city’s recovery was astonishing, and its population trebled in 20 years. Chicago was on the way up, and the fire simply cleared the way for a more modern city assembled chiefly by the chaotic genius of individual entrepreneurs.

“For New Orleans, a charming place for tourists but a desperate clump of poverty and poor schooling, the question is not whether the current reconstruction plans will create a thriving city — they will not. It is whether there are any that could.”

— Tim Harford, writing on “Why New Orleans Won’t Recover,” Saturday in Slate at www.slate.com

They never learn

“It is conceivable that sometime next year, the [Fox] television show ‘COPS’ could show the arrest of an adult whose mother was arrested while pregnant with him in the series’ first season 18 years ago. That’s ‘COPS.’ And that’s a remarkably long TV run. …

“Oh, the things you can learn from ‘COPS.’ Like, for instance:

• “Young men think they can simplify their lives by leading police on a 30-mile chase that ends with the death of a perfectly innocent telephone pole. …

• “And, by the way, that crack pipe don’t never belong to nobody! …

• “People who load up their car with things like burglary tools and bales of marijuana can be reliably depended upon to have a busted tail light.

• “All prostitutes have a touching faith that police will accept the guy picking her up is a friend, even though she doesn’t know his name, and he happens to have no pants on. …

“Apparently, crooks do not watch ‘COPS.’ Either that or their minds do not retain much of what they learn during their television studies.”

— James Lileks, writing on “The Show That Made Us Street Savvy,” in the April issue of the American Enterprise

Beamer’s last words

“My wife and I sat riveted the other night, watching Larry King Live as he showed clips from A&E;’s made-for-TV version of the events of September 11th on board flight No. 93. Among King’s guests was Lisa Jefferson, the Verizon operator who stayed on the phone with one of the flight’s heroes, Todd Beamer. It was Jefferson who documented Beamer’s last words, which, depending on the account, included either ‘Help me God, help me Jesus,’ or ‘Help me Jesus.’

“The actors on the show made a point of telling King how accurate and true to the transcripts this movie was, so I was curious to hear how they handled Beamer’s last moments. As I suspected would happen, Beamer’s final prayer to his God was excised. …

“The question is, why did A&E; skip over those last words? Were the producers afraid of inflaming religious tensions by allowing the battle to be cast as Allah vs. Jesus? Was it just another example of the discomfort that many secularists have with faith-based public displays of affection? Or was it merely a reflection of their lack of understanding that, for millions of Americans, Beamer’s appeal to God and the strength he derived from it was central to the actions he took?”

— Mark Joseph, writing on “A&E;’s Faith Problem,” Feb. 22 at www.townhall.com

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