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Web Letter

There are at least two problems with this proposal. The most important is that these enterprises are structured and staffed to generate fee income and margins for politically-connected bond-lawyers and paper-hangers. These range from the usual suspects on the right to a claque of "affirmative action" front-men and apologists who have been very helpful in targeting racial minorities for predatory lenders.

So who would purge these firms or, for that matter, replace the old creeps with something other than new flakes? Do we have and can we even tolerate patriotic and professional bureaucrats, who can create and adhere to standards rather than advance careers through sycophancy or protect them through indulgence of the least moral member of their peer group, "compassionate cronyism"?

Then, there is the problem of green building standards. These will be hard to come up with. They represent multi-disciplinary engineering that involves a lot of trial and error, testing and monitoring, and blending things such as mortgage instruments and insurance policies, natural gas and electical power, alternating and direct current, base-load and peak-load power, stored thermal, kinetic, and electical energy, as well as many, many materials with universes of, for instance, hydrophilic and hydrophobic, properties.

Where in the entire US government do engineers prevail over lawyer-lobbyists or just fluff-girls (and boys) for sitting legislators? Since the Apollo program wound down and Admirals Rickover and Hopper were forced out of the Navy, I have not noticed any scientific or technical rigor in any federal program.

The "greenwashing" of Freddy and Fannie is not a very attractive prospect relative to, say, just abolishing an entity that used the ambiguity of its "public/private" charter and multiple social and economic objectives to become just another example of crony capitalism. Even more ambiguity and unctious, cornpone--"Jes' He'p Ever'body"--and "Hold Harmless" incompetence would be attractive to Speaker Hoyer and Majority Leader Lieberman, but not to me.

John Robert Behrman

Houston, TX

Jul 27 2008 - 9:36am

Web Letter

There seems to be a real trend in the media for writers to fill space without any homework. Two tricks are either to force an interviewer to answer public misconceptions that ironically the media are responsible for sustaining, or--as in this case--to think of a clever idea that no seemingly balanced person could have a problem with, but without any investigation. It's the philosophy of 90 percent inspiration and 10 percent perspiration. This invariably reinforces the misconceptions that plague these debates.

Basically my issue is with our concept of housing, which is largely a result of the funding structures like Fanny and Freddy, the suburban dream. Any discussion with those involved in housing, urbanity and sustainability would bring up the central issue that sustainability cannot be resolved by the design of a clever house but in the relationships between all the types of accommodation. Where we live, trade, learn and teach, play, vote, farm and manufacture.

What is at issue here is how we build our cities and their relationship with other cities, agricultural land and rural land. This is something Fanny and Freddy are unable to resolve, and the idea of painting them green to resolve the issue is either lazy or cynical.

Gray Robertson

Cape Town, South Africa

Jul 27 2008 - 6:31am

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