Another Perspective

Looters?

Let the good times roll with the tides.

By 9.1.05

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"So this Frenchy, Jean Baptiste le Moyne, got an idea in 1718. 'Let's build a town here, in this hole between the big lake to the north and the River to the south. Never mind that the lake (Pontchartrain) is a 40 by 25 mile of brackish salt water that obeys the Gulf tides coming in from the east or that the river, the Mississippi, drains half the country and is subject to flooding. That'll all get taken care of later.'"

Uncle Pundit's sense of consolidated history is running full steam.

"Well, it's later. And that big hole below sea level is getting filled up, like a toilet in the Superdome."

But, Uncle, who'd know the levees would break?

"That's what levees do. They are designed to frustrate nature's flow, and someday nature gets her way."

You're saying it could happen again?

"I'm saying we fill in that hole before rebuilding the place -- put it above sea level -- and stop defying a tidal lake and a major river."

But how can we afford it? We can barely afford to gas up these days.

"Glad you asked. You hear gas was selling for five dollars and 57 cents in Atlanta today? And they think they got a looting problem in New Orleans?"

But the gas station guys say they are told what prices to post by ...

"By who? Whom if your teacher asks. Take a look at the pump prices today. Up in the morning, then word the Strategic Oil Reserve will be tapped, and down come the posted prices. Then the full impact of the hurricane gets trumpeted about and up go the prices again -- past three bucks a gallon for regular in a lot of places. The gas station guy must be going crazy -- on the phone one minute with Mr. Exxon, or Mr. Chevron, or Mr. Shell telling him what to charge, and out in the yard the next minute posting the new prices. But what about this --?" [a pause for effect]

This what, Uncle?

"The gas we are talking about. It is not coming in by pipeline from Mr. Exxon, Chevron or whomever. It has been in there for days -- down in the storage tanks below the pumps, right in the filling station."

So?

"So, it had a price once, a value when it arrived. And that didn't change. It is the same gas that was there last week. How come it is more valuable -- that same gas -- today than it was when the truck brought it in last week? Why more today? Is it like whiskey, getting better with age?"

'Cause its replacement is gonna cost the service station guy more.

"Okay. Then raise the price of the replacement gas, when it arrives with its higher tag. It's like the looters in New Orleans. They say they need the stuff, desperate times that have changed the game. But they go for the guns and ammo at the Wal-Mart, and TV sets, as well as chow. Ever try to munch on a 30-ought-6 shell -- or watch TV in a city without electricity?"

I saw a guy on Fox TV today ask the police chief of Miami why he figured the cops in New Orleans weren't stopping the looting -- shooting the looters. And he said the days of shooting looters are now far behind us.

"That may be a small comfort for Miamians. But at least they built the place above sea level."

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About the Author

Reid Collins is a former CBS and CNN news correspondent.