The One

To the editor:
Powerful essay [Michael Knox Beran, “Obama, Shaman,” Summer 2008], insightful, pertinent, and accurately defines Obama as the biggest swindler in American history. References from literature and history identify Obama as a false prophet.

Bud Brooks, Sr.
Dallas, TX

To the editor:
Obama was anticipated by John Jay in Article 64 of the Federalist Papers, confirming yet again the practical wisdom of the Founding Fathers. Jay, in a discussion of “the select assemblies for choosing the President,” refers to “men of whom the people have had time to form a judgment, and with respect to whom they will not be liable to be deceived by those brilliant appearances of genius and patriotism which, like transient meteors, sometimes mislead as well as dazzle.”

Donald P. Speer
Flagstaff, AZ

To the editor:
Mr. Beran describes what has bothered me about Obama from the beginning. He is full of pithy phrases that suggest everything but offer nothing.

Marie O’Leary
Morton, PA

To the editor:
Why not suspend common sense this once and believe in the possibilities? It couldn’t hurt.

Joe Lindeman
Chicago, IL

The Dismal Truth

To the editor:
Mr. Sorman, your article [Guy Sorman, “Economics Does Not Lie,” Summer 2008] could easily replace my entire economics curriculum in college. Thank you very much.

Charles E. Kinney
Tampa, FL

To the editor:
The hallmark of any “science” is the ability to predict. In this area, economics falls flat on its face. The use of advanced mathematics and algorithms is not sufficient to render a field of study a “science.” Economists “predict” a recession only after the data have shown that a recession is extant. Economists cannot predict interest rates six months hence. Witness the Wall Street Journal’s survey of 100 prominent economists in predicting interest rates. The answers are all over the map.

Alex Custin
Bethlehem, PA

To the editor:
Maybe not, but economists sure do!

I. Macias, Jr.
Chicago, IL

The Right Books

To the editor:
I’m a librarian and I review books for WashYARG, the oldest and largest professional review organization for teen materials in the U.S. I realize that this is a specialized niche, but if conservative publishing houses [Harry Stein, “The Future of Conservative Books,” Summer 2008] have materials that fit my reviewing profile (appropriate for ages 11–19), I will certainly give them a fair reading. Viz., The O’Reilly Factor for Kids: I was actually quite charmed by a celebrity book in which the content was largely created by a specialist expert, but the writing was done by the celebrity. I also field-tested it with a teen reviewer—my Catholic niece.

We librarians who truly believe in intellectual freedom and professional integrity are not locked into the New York City/Beltway/chattering classes mind-set. And while we may be a minority in our profession, we do exist.

Kirsten Edwards
Duvall, WA

Marshaling Phonics

To the editor:
Nobel? Pulitzer? Templeton? Name a prestigious award—this article [Sol Stern, “A Marshall Plan for Reading,” Summer 2008] should receive it. Sol Stern has cut through all the claptrap, progressive nonsense, and ostrich-like avoidance and gotten to the heart of the chief social issue of our time: the permanency of the black underclass. Reading is the key to transforming that behavior. It is the basis of all learning. Middle-class children are born into an environment where intense language immersion and reading are the norm. If lower-class children don’t get that kind of enrichment at home, society must provide it, for the sake of the children in need and for our collective sake. Mr. Stern’s prescription for the kind of curriculum necessary to teach reading is dead-on. Phonics works. Use it. And if the educated idiots who set the curriculum for the city schools don’t get it, maybe their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren should be sentenced to endure the dead-end approach that the mandarins have imposed on the less fortunate.

Evan Cooper
Great Neck, NY

To the editor:
Where are the parents of these children who are not being properly taught to read? Why aren’t they in the forefront of the fight to have a workable system for teaching their children to read? And don’t tell me it’s poverty; being poor doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t care about your children’s education. If anything, it means that education is more important than ever so that your children don’t have to struggle as hard as you have. So good luck, but if you don’t have the parents actively involved, you aren’t going to get anywhere. As to how to reach them, I haven’t a clue.

B. S. Davis
Morristown, NJ

Will Code for Food

To the editor:
I’m sure I’ve never been the lead in anyone else’s story before [Steven Malanga, “The Professional Panhandling Plague,” Summer 2008]. But I enjoyed the story very much. I can’t believe that there are websites to help panhandlers hone their shake-down techniques. I wish some of the misguided bleeding hearts who wrote letters, and a few who left nasty messages on my phone, would read your article. They’d never admit they were wrong. But they might think twice about feeding sidewalk parasites.

Barbara Bradley
Memphis, TN

To the editor:
Thanks so much for the timely article on a subject of great interest to this San Francisco resident. I have a question, though: Why is panhandling prevalent in such a widely divergent array of cities? While it’s entirely predictable that aggressive panhandling will be present in a liberal city like San Francisco, with its lax law enforcement and generous social services, why would it be present in cities like Albuquerque, Orlando, and Memphis? What are the common threads among these cities that make panhandling so prevalent there?

Neil Koris
San Francisco, CA

Steven Malanga responds:
Panhandling arises wherever there is new opportunity, regardless of the political culture. And so, though Memphis and San Francisco are very different cities, the revival of Memphis’s downtown area has produced the kind of environment that attracts a new generation of panhandlers. This is true of many cities that witnessed revivals of their downtown districts in the 1990s.

In many cases, moreover, these cities don’t have much experience combating panhandling. In some cases, for example, their police forces haven’t been reformed to emphasize street-level, quality-of-life enforcement. Local cops still largely reconnoiter in patrol cars, not on the beat, and so these cities struggle to find the right formula to minimize panhandling.

The few cities that are successfully combating panhandling have experience with it, have the political will to confront it, and have previously enacted the kinds of reforms that prove effective against it—from new laws to new methods of policing.

Little-Town Blues

To the editor:
I understand that the point of your article [Edward L. Glaeser, “Houston, New York Has a Problem,” Summer 2008] is that New York and other cities need to learn from places like Houston, but Houston is a lousy place to live. It stinks, literally, it’s too hot, there’s too much pollution, and there are too many mosquitoes to let kids play outside. The houses may be newer, but they’re poorly built. Sure, you may not spend as much money as in New York, but you don’t have time to enjoy your extra cash, because in Houston you are stuck in traffic all the time. Plus, Houston has virtually no zoning. Never have I seen a place make as many poor decisions in housing and commercial mixes. Suburban sprawl is causing serious problems and will continue to do so. Think: “Reverse Ghetto Theory.” The cost of all this development is far too great. And this comment is coming from a conservative, not a wild-eyed liberal.

Joy Jackson
Staunton, VA

To the editor:
I don’t dispute Edward Glaeser’s arguments, which I think are entirely spot-on regarding cost-of-living differences and the challenges facing middle-class residents. Yet I find his essay full of disturbing and misguided implications.

New Yorkers (and Americans as a whole) must ask themselves: do we really want New York to turn into another Houston? Yes, the Big Apple is highly challenging and difficult for those aspiring to American middle-class standards. But it is one of the few cities offering something different from culs-de-sac and strip malls. It’s a city full of cultural complexity. The type of suburbia that Glaeser champions is omnipresent throughout the U.S. The Houston lifestyle—cheap housing, short commutes, and affordable big-box stores—can be found all over the country, from Omaha to Jacksonville. Do we need to transform every American city into the same suburban mono-culture?

New York, for all its flaws, is a welcome alternative for those seeking something different. Let Mr. Glaeser and his ilk move to Houston. Suburban sprawl is not the only goal.

Earl Zaromb
Brooklyn, NY

Edward L. Glaeser responds:
My Houston article aimed at encouraging debate on land use and development. I am deeply gratified by the number of readers and bloggers who have written on the piece. Some writers have thought that I was boosting Houston and bashing New York. My business is not to be an urban critic who rates urban areas on some abstract notion of quality. It is a great thing that America has different types of urban environments and that different people can choose cities that match their needs.

My article attempted to explain why greater Houston has attracted more than 900,000 new residents since the last census. Those readers who responded by venting about all of Houston’s alleged flaws do not address this growth. It’s impossible to explain Houston’s outsize growth without recognizing that there is something attractive about the city.

I concluded that Houston’s appeal comes, in part, from its abundant, affordable housing. The combination of affordable housing and abundant new construction can only reflect abundant supply. Houston’s housing supply, in turn, reflects abundant land availability and a pro-growth regulatory environment. It’s absurd to suggest that New York should slavishly copy Houston. However, by easing regulations on new construction, New York could become more accessible to ordinary Americans.

A Nomination

To the editor:
When is Ms. Mac Donald going to win a long-deserved Pulitzer Prize for reporting [Heather Mac Donald, “The NYPD Diaspora,” Summer 2008]? She has no equal in the accuracy and relevance of what she does.

Leonard Feingold
Philadelphia, PA


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