We sometimes wonder why successful professional journalists would want to become bloggers. One reason, I think, is that some journalists have more to say than can be squeezed into a couple of columns a week and an occasional book.
Michael Barone is clearly in this category. His blog is brand new, but already a favorite of ours. Today he wrote an essay on the history of New Orleans and a commentary on a recent report on Vladimir Putin’s Russia. On New Orleans:
Thomas Jefferson, as Christopher Hitchens reminds us in his splendid short biography, as early as 1786 wrote, “The navigation of the Mississippi we must have.” In 1803 he wrote to his negotiators in Paris a passage he intended them to show Napoleon and Talleyrand: “There is on the globe one single spot, the possessor of which is our natural and habitual enemy. It is New Orleans, through which the produce of three-eighths of our territory must pass to market, and from its fertility it will ere long yield more than half of our whole produce and contain more than half our inhabitants.” The French, unable to defend New Orleans after they were driven out of Haiti, took the hint.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, New Orleans was our sixth-largest city, behind New York, Philadelphia, Brooklyn (until 1898 a separate city), Baltimore, and Boston, and far larger, at 168,000, than any other city in the Confederate South; Charleston had 40,000 and Richmond 37,000. Today metro New Orleans, with 1,274,000, ranks much lower in population. But it’s still economically vital because of oil.
I have made three trips to Russia, in October 1989, July 1996, and March 2000. In October 1989 there was a feeling of great hope, as the somewhat freely elected Supreme Soviet convened and the old system was being challenged. Ordinary Russians for the first time in years felt comfortable sharing their hopes and views with American reporters. In July 1996, there was more guarded hope, as Boris Yeltsin ran against Communist Genadi Zhuganov and, with the help of the newly rich oligarchs who controlled the media, won. Voters were more guarded now, and there were signs that economic reforms had been botched; but things seemed headed in a good direction.
In March 2000, as Vladimir Putin ran for president with no serious opposition, voters were more guarded. They were supporting Putin mostly, but with the resigned air; they seemed to be saying, “I hope the new czar is a good czar.”
You can access Michael’s site via Power Line News, but you have to scroll all the way to the bottom–no slight intended, as no one writes interesting stuff more consistently.