Reader J. C. has this to say about our sold-out, all-star Katrina and Poverty panel at our Washington, D.C., headquarters on Sept. 27 (click here for a complete live-blog):

“Ms. [Star] Parker comments that sexual immorality is a root cause of poverty, and Ms. [Nicole] Gelinas points out that the a culture of civic poverty had become THE dominant civic culture in New Orleans. Other panelists made reference to stats on young able men not joining the work force and trends in poor decision-making (i.e. babies born out of wedlock).

“How could this have happened in New Orleans, a city so well-known as a place to which people flock to make good, responsible decisions?

“Wrong! New Orleans is a place where anything goes–this is an image which the city embraces and on which the city was/is dependent. Now I’m not talking about God sending a great flood to destroy a city of sinners. That’s ridiculous Pat Robertson-esque rhetoric that has no place in serious discussion about Katrina. What I’m asking is whether or not it’s possible that a city built around an image telling you, ‘Hey, it’s OK to come here and make poor decisions and not take any responsibility for them,’ and the notion that one can only bring themselves out of poverty by making very personal, deliberate steps towards full responsibility for oneself and one’s actions may be connected in some way as an explanation or at least a contributing factor to the widespread poverty in New Orleans.

“There is a correlation here that is begging to be made, yet I don’t feel comfortable making it. This is mostly because I think that other ‘good-time’ cities like Vegas (also founded by thieves, gamblers, drunks, etc… and having pervasive civic corruption like N.O.) and Amsterdam in the Netherlands don’t produce the staggering crime and poverty rates that New Orleans does. What’s different about New Orleans? So, the question I pose to the panel and IWF readers and bloggers is this: Is New Orleans as a self-styled ‘good-time’ city more susceptible to a widespread culture of civic poverty, exacerbated in this case by a natural disaster?”

You raise a most interesting point, J.C., and I’ll throw in a few thoughts: The good times certainly roll in Las Vegas, but the city also has a huge Mormon population, and those folks are known for their strong families, strict sexual morality, and low crime rate. And even the Mafiosi who made Vegas what it is today, carefully segregated their families from their dubious business activities. As for Amsterdam, it’s more problematic, and there’s concern even among the Dutch about the anything-goes culture of freely available drugs and prostitution that characterizes parts of the city. Still, drugs and prostitution aren’t Amsterdam’s economic base. The business-based Dutch economy remains strong and solid, so it could be said that Amsterdam residents can afford their vices.

The same can’t be said for New Orleans, which (as Nicole pointed out at the panel) has systematically emptied itself of its tax base by refusing to control crime and fostering the welfare culture that incubates crime. In New Orleans, gambling and tourism are (or were before Katrina) the city’s sole sources of revenue. I can testify to that myself. I visited New Orleans the summer before Katrina, and what I saw was (even in Mardi Gras off-season) all-night drunk-and-barf revelry on Bourbon Street, omnipresent gambling (at least one slot machine in every shop), block after block of housing projects, and signs of persistent depopulation, including blocks of shuttered stores in what used to be New Orleans’s downtown. Mind you, this was a year before Katrina. New Orleans had only the thinnest of middle classes in 2004. Now, I suspect, it has almost none.

And our blogstress friend Bookworm comments on Candace‘s review of Ann Coulter’s book “Godless: The Church of Liberalism,” with its indictment of the incompetent, often quasi-illiterate teachers who currently staff large parts of our public-school system:

“There is one unsolveable element to the education woes: women’s liberation.

“By saying that, I’m not commenting on the fact that children are being indoctrinated in radical feminist ideology (although that’s probably true for a lot of our schools). Instead, I’m addressing the paucity of qualified teachers. Beginning in about the 1920s, the best and brightest female college students really had only one career option–teaching. That meant that, for a halcyon 50-year period from about 1920 through 1970, American students were benefitting from classes taught by top (women) scholars. With women’s lib, women’s career options expanded dramatically. Teaching, instead of being the only option, became one of many options.

“Heck, in the old days, you gals, Ann Coulter and I would all have been teachers–and pretty damn good ones. Nowadays, the people who teach do include a genuinely gifted souls, but they also include many people who just need a job, despite the fact that they lack brains, knowledge, or communication skills.”

Such a good point. All of us who are over 40 can remember some brilliant, dedicated–and genuinely underpaid–women who used to staff our classrooms. And I think there would still be quite a few of those women in public schools–wives going back to work, for example–if it weren’t for the culture of mediocrity surrounding teaching (the pointless ed-school courses, the NEA bureaucracy, the tenured time-servers who are your fellow teachers), and the widespread breakdown of classroom discipline at many schools that makes teaching torture instead of rewarding. Teaching, alas, has become a career of choice for people seeking cushy civil-service jobs with long vacations and virtual guarantees of lifetime employment no matter how poorly they perform. And that in itself is a turnoff to the bright and talented.