I’ve just attended the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)’s “Solutions for the States” Annual Conference in New Orleans, following my book signing at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. This was my first visit to the legendary “Big Easy”, and an opportunity to try its signature dishes — crawfish pie, jambalaya and filet gumbo. I’ve already written about one aspect of the Conference — the ALEC motion condemning the EU’s egregious political interference in the States. But some of the day-to-day sights are worth a mention too.
The city is flat. Absolutely flat. The only high ground is the freeway over-passes. From the air, you can see the innumerable waterways that criss-cross the city.
Driving in from the airport, I noticed that the freeway bridges carried signs “Warning: Bridge freezes before road”. The ambient temperature was around 100 F. I asked the driver if he thought the bridge would be frozen. No, he said. I asked if it ever froze. No again — at least not within living memory. It’s sub-tropical down there. It occurred to me that Al Gore should organise a climate conference in New Orleans. Whenever Gore organises a climate conference, the temperature falls a good ten degrees. I like to think, with no disrespect, that God has a sense of humour.
Later, I was wandering through a shop on Bourbon Street (in the French Quarter, and named, I think, for the dynasty, not the whiskey), when I caught sight of a T-Shirt slogan (in fact I caught sight of many T-Shirt slogans, not all suitable for family reading around the fireside). This particular on was worn by a fit young man who looked like, and probably was, a soldier. The slogan read:
“If you can read this, thank your teacher. If you’re reading it in English, thank a marine”.
The Americans do these slogans so well. On the Saturday, after the conclusion of the conference agenda, the National Rifle Association (NRA) invited legislators for a morning’s shooting. Clay pigeons, not ducks. In fact we were briefed to be careful not to hit the herons, which were abundant. I had never used a shot-gun in my life — indeed I hadn’t fired any gun for decades. So I was keen to have a try.
The shooting ground was extensive, with fifteen shooting stations set in well-maintained parkland, with mown areas of grass interspersed with trees, spinneys, swamp, and areas of shrubbery. We fired off half a dozen or more shots at each station, and of course the trajectories of the clays were different at each. A key point in the safety briefing which preceded the shoot: please don’t stray off the mown areas. This was to avoid the alligators, which infest the swamps. You may think that men with shotguns would be well-placed to face down an alligator, but of course we walked between shooting stations with guns broken and no cartridges. For once I was happy to follow the safety advice.
Our hosts had provided T-Shirts with the slogan:
“The Second Amendment: America’s Original Homeland Security”.
I just happen to have an NRA tie, which I wear with pride, and which carries the second amendment printed on it, so in case you can’t just recall it, it reads: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”.
Considering that I was a total neophyte with a shotgun, and that it was my first time out shooting, I thought that my score for the day of twenty-one out of a hundred clays was not too bad. But after a hundred shots and a hundred recoils, I now have a fairly sore right shoulder.