Sunday, December 25, 2005

Don’t Talk About Leaders, I want to Hear About Lenders

President George has reawakened to the reality of New Orleans once again. It must have to do with his going to the ranch for Christmas. Memories there on the high chaparral of past ranching holidays. One in particular when there was a storm, a few trees down and a major coastal city all but disappeared.


BushatranchSo, before taking off to console himself over recent party desertions and back-stabbings, he doubled the money down for NO relief. Like doubling down on two dealt Jacks at Vegas, hoping to get lucky.


He announced the added dough as a ‘leadership’ thing. Our Prez is high on leadership, if sometimes a little slow on reasoning. Anyway, Donald Powell, the latest of the confused guys running the New Orleans relief efforts, agreed to step in and increase the levee spending from $1.6 billion to three thousand, one hundred millions of dollars.


That’s a lot of thousands of millions for a city whose viability as a long-term survivor is still in doubt.


The idea is to get something going down there, anything to get the taste out of the President’s mouth from that giveaway speech he made in front of Saint Louis Cathedral. Man, you tell people you care about them, promise you’ll help and the first thing you know they start showing up on the front steps of the White House, wondering when it’s going to start happening.


But you have to have levees, even the President can understand that. The squeeze is on to see if the lumbering behemoth in charge of levees, the United States Army Corps of Engineers, can get anything stuck on that will hold by the start of next year’s hurricane season.


A further problem lies in our federal sticking-our-head-in-the-sand over the global warming issue, because that’s of primo concern in the case of New Orleans. No one’s allowed to talk about it for fear of waking the ostrich. Hurricanes are generated by warm water in the southern oceans. Keep this very much under your hat, because it’s classified information, but the southern oceans are getting warmer.


George can’t be told this because he gets testy, starts throwing things, swearing and ultimately stomping out of meetings. Various staff members, declining to give their names, say it’s just not worth it, adding with a shrug, “how much can the oceans really heat up in the remaining three years of this administration?”


Good point. But temper tantrums aside, someone has to lend the money for whatever is done in the surviving shell of what was once an historic city. Pompeii didn’t get rebuilt, not for lack of available contractors in Rome and Naples, but because the Medici brothers in Florence wouldn’t guarantee the loans.


And the fact that no one can bear to tell George is that, although the number of hurricanes coming ashore on the Gulf Coast isn’t going to increase (whew), the severity is expected to increase (drat) and keep on increasing to category 5, 6 and 7 intensity (damn). So, two things better happen really, really quickly:


  1. The Corps of Engineers better figure out how to do twenty-five years of levee rebuilding in ten months, and

  2. Someone outside ordinary run-of-the-mill commercial investment sources better be found to guarantee the Crescent City’s development loans.

DonaldepowellIf the feds (you and me) decide to cover this base, there will be a huge public outcry and I will be at the head of the pack, outcrying with the best of them. Which brings up another strange and wonderful coincidence. Donald E. Powell, the guy overseeing the spending of the Katrina money is Bush’s head of the FDIC. The FDIC insures bank accounts in case of a financial disaster or an individual bank failure.


Could the administration, in their wildest dreams, be thinking of allowing the FDIC to underwrite Katrina rebuilding loans?


Nah! Couldn’t happen!
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A bunch more environmental issues muddying the waters on my personal web site.