NEW ORLEANS -- They say if you're young and a conservative that have no heart -- and that if you're old and liberal you have no brain. Can the two worlds blend?
My latest Good Times column (available here) is due out this week, and it examines the challenges from two schools of thought -- supporters of big government and supporters of market-driven forces. Often, I come down on the side of the free-marketers. But not always.
A tour around the Lower Ninth Ward here in New Orleans can open the heart of anyone. Of course, it's the non-profits and the foundations that are making a difference -- not to mention superstar Brad Pitt, whose Make It Right foundation is taking on the almost hopeless task of rebuilding. Tipitina's Foundation has helped immensely -- and rebuilt Fats Domino's house, pictured at left. Then there's the Musician's Village, another non-profit that has provided free houses to displaced New Orleans musicians. (The Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, also pictured here, is also being built.
Which makes it all sound like the Lower Ninth Ward is springing back to life. It's not. Fully 80 percent of the homes are either gone -- washed away, knocked down or uninhabitable. Even if you're lucky enough to have a foundation build you a home, you wouldn't want to live there. No neighbors. No stores -- not even a convenience store. It has a Rod Serling, post-apocolypse feel to it. You can hear the wind blow.
Answers? Maybe some, but not enough. Parts of New Orleans carry on, and you can't feel too guilty about visiting here. The just-completed French Quarter Jazz Festival carried on as if there had never been a Hurricane Katrina. And visitors are welcome -- maybe like never before.
The New Orleans food, fun and music carry on. But not far away lies the Lower Ninth Ward, low-lying next to Lake Pontchartrain. Once the center of poverty, drugs and crime, it's now something wholly different -- a vast expanse with no stores, few houses and maybe one school. And that's what it'll remain for many years to come.