Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bush Won't Leave Well Enough Alone, Insists On Wall Street Welfare

"If we ever pass out as a great nation we ought to put on our tombstone, 'America died from a delusion that she has moral leadership'." — Will Rogers

As we all know, the Bailout Bill concocted by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and President George W. Bush went down to defeat on Monday. To this, I must say I’m pleased! Hooray for clear heads (although many of the GOPer folks who voted against it couldn’t care about protecting the little guys, they were hedging for something with more forgiveness for the big boys looking to opportunize on this American tragedy).

I was hoping this would go onto the scrap heap and they’d restart this process in earnest, the right way. But then, I was forgetting … Bush-baby doesn’t ever leave well enough alone.

“I'm disappointed by the outcome, but I assure our citizens and citizens around the world that this is not the end of the legislative process,” began the WPE (Worst President Ever). “[W]e need legislation that decisively address the troubled assets now clogging the financial system.” We already know the “we” means the President, Veep, and all their cronies and base (the haves and have mores), not the rest of us now besought to foot the bill for the excesses of the greedy rich.

“And if our nation continues on this course, the economic damage will be painful and lasting.” Mister President, this “economic recovery” has been painful and has lasted for seven years now. When you took over, I had outstanding credit, was making in the upper 40’s range with paid medical, and prices were very low. Those were the golden years. Since then, my credit tanked thanks to 26 months of virtual unemployment, I’ve only now clawed back to near 75% of my former wage, no medical (I’ve given up on doctors or prescriptions) and prices are doubled and tripled in some cases (especially staples like gasoline, insurance or utilities). That’s actually been painful.

“We're facing a choice between action and the real prospect of economic hardship for millions of Americans. And for the financial security of every American, Congress must act,” bleated the Bush-baby.

Yes, I realize it can be worse. The way the trends have been going, with jobs disappearing to India and other nations with low-cost labor around the world, and companies moving their offices offshore to avoid paying taxes, we were going to end there anyway! When there are no jobs left for this “productive, innovative workforce” as John McCain refers to us, then what? Retrain? With what money, now that you’ve cut funding to states so much that states have had to exponentially raise tuition rates, pricing most folks out of educating themselves. And even if you have the degree, what prevents this job from also following the others overseas? Who cares that this pain has gone on with virtually zero notice for seven years … it’s only an emergency when it hits the wealthy folks in their million-dollar mansions. How kind of you to finally notice the pain!

"Things in our country run in spite of the government, not by the aid of it." — Will Rogers

What incenses me is the audacity and utter apathy this Administration has shown all along for anyone who was not a Kool-Aid drinking, Power Ranger for Bush and the RNC. Only those top tier folks enjoy the spoils of all America has to offer, while everyone else pays through the nose. Now, only once they’ve run low on their Big American Wealth Generatin’ Machine do these modern day Marie Antoinettes turn to us and beg for our help paying for their excesses, after years of “let ‘em eat crap!”

These people are out of their sick minds!

And don’t give me this well-meaning ploy either! Carefully read the following paragraph from ol’ Georgie boy’s speech this morning:

“Furthermore, both the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and the Office of Management and Budget expect that the legislation considered would ultimately cost the taxpayer far less than the $700 billion. Because the government would be purchasing troubled assets and selling them once the market recovers, it is likely that many of the assets would go up in value over time. Ultimately, we expect that much -- if not all -- of the tax dollars we invest will be paid back.
This coming from the very same president who told us the Iraq War would pay for itself. Yeah right, we’re buying those lies again, oh great pathological one!

Bush-baby and these neo-con pieces of elitist trash demonstrably have no intention of making this a risk-free situation for the taxpayers. They intend to submit yet another piece of garbage bill that commits the taxpayers to pay for the contracted salaries, the severances, the pensions and the golden parachutes of the very people who helped create such income disparities in America in the first place. These are the very people who scrutinize very counted bean and decide they can cut 1200 American jobs, hire that many overseas and making even more profit which will go right back into their fat pockets!

Here’s a plan for you: how about treating these executives and fat-payrolled management types the same way the regular American is when one corporation buys another. When that happens, the pensions disappear – their assets belonging to their new owner (in this case, the Government). Then give these greed heads their final regular paycheck, no severance, no pension and encourage them to do like the rest of us who get the same thing upon receiving the pink slip: file for unemployment benefits and survive off of that! And if they can’t hack it, lump it! It’s compassionate conservatism turned right back at them. Tough love!

They need to understand everything they’ve done over the years to the average American worker, from the factory line worker, to the accounts payable clerk, to the textile worker, to the computer programmer and website designer. If we give them a free pass, they will understand nothing but “greed pays.” And they already know that!

Right now, I’m not happy with most anyone in Washington. Even both candidates have disappointed. Barack Obama is at least consistent and has been avoiding the grandstanding on it, but John McCain has come across as a meddlesome, blithering idiot who doesn’t even know what the hell he wants to do. Note to McCain: we just got done with eight years of a blithering idiot in the White House … why the hell would we want more?

Bush-baby finished with this gem: “The sooner we address the problem, the sooner we can get back on the path of growth and job creation. This is what elected leaders owe the American people, and I am confident that we'll deliver.”

Number one: which country is going to see the growth and job creation? Not America, that’s pretty evident! Number two: I wouldn’t be so damn certain about this “delivering” thing, Mr. Lame Duck! They actually sense what’s going on down here in the bowels of the country, and they realize if they have any shred of hope of re-election, the last thing they want to do is be one of those responsible for the shit-storm that’ll ensue. That was the most empty cream-puff statement one could deliver, Georgie. What is truly flabbergasting is this WPE actually believes that the entire American populace (save for his close friends) is stupid enough to fall for that!

In fact, I would predict that if Bush-baby throws enough tantrums and gets his way on this, he’s going to learn about real wrath. The American public (not those upper two-percenters) need to grab the pitchforks and torches, sharpen the axes and get ready to roll.

Mr. Bush, this taxpayer giveaway to the rich will not stand!

"I´ve never took food from the widows and orphans
And never a hard working man I oppressed
So take your pace easy, for home soon like lightening
We soon will be riding, my shiny Black Bess" — The Unwelcomed Guest, Woody Guthrie

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fundies Gone Wild!

GOPers are getting desperate. We’re now seeing outright defiance of “the rule of law” as per the constitution by none other than mainstream evangelical churches, and their libel Email campaign of painting yet another Democrat as “the antichrist” is working up the food chain, with even a South Carolina mayor passing along the slime! It’s true – I can’t make this stuff up!

In South Carolina, Fort Mill Mayor Danny (Fundie) Funderburk says he was “just curious” when he forwarded a chain e-mail suggesting Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama is the biblical antichrist. “I was just curious if there was any validity to it,” Funderburk said in a telephone interview. “I was trying to get documentation if there was any scripture to back it up.”

Apparently he’s never heard of search engines on the internet (even though he’s obviously got access to Email). But even lacking that net knowledge, has he never heard of opening and actually reading the scripture himself?

In the wake of McCain’s TV ad months ago slamming Obama as “The One,” letters and Emails started pouring in to evangelists around the country wondering about the advertisement’s coded wording to evangelicals. Since then, it’s fanned the flames of fanatical urban legend from folks too uneducated, too lazy or too titillated by the salacious gossip to seek facts. Score one for Rovian political marketing.

The Email, which has circulated in the last six months, claims the biblical book of Revelations says the antichrist will be in his 40’s and of Muslim ancestry. Not only is Obama not Muslim, but there is absolutely no such scripture in Revelations. Unless they were quoting from a version of the Bible which took enormous liberties with their revisions, it is impossible for that “urban passage” to be scripture as the Muslim faith wouldn’t even exist for another 600 years after Christ!

“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” — 9th commandment, Exodus 20:16, King James version

It’s allowed a number of evangelists to additionally debunk the claim in their own snidely, backhanded way.

“I can see by the language he uses why people think he could be the antichrist,” said Tim LaHaye, co-founder of Concerned Women For America and the Left Behind movie series. Other than an opportunity for getting free political digs in there, I wonder if LaHaye can point to specific “language he uses” that confuse his with antichrist’s speech? “But from my reading of scripture, he doesn’t meet the criteria. There is no indication in the Bible that the antichrist will be an American,” LaHaye added. That sounds positive, huh?

Even Glenn Beck from CNN had John McCain’s former endorser, John Hagee, on his show to give him a chance to repeat the question: what are the odds that Obama is the antichrist? Hagee answered “not a chance,” and ended it with a quick plug for McCain.

If I were Hagee, I wouldn’t be so quick now. Religiopoliticos and neo-conservatives alike all know that if you repeat something long enough and loudly enough that it becomes fact! Haven’t they ever heard of self-fulfilling prophecy? Maybe they’re just giving up too quickly, hmm? What happened to faith?

Seriously though, this type of fear-mongering hyperbole is childish. Worse, it paints all people of faith as well as political TV pundits with the same “wacko” brush that the crackpots alone deserve. Not a boon for building credibility in these crazy times.

It’s not the first time this has happened. Media people, like Don Imus and Glenn Beck have previously proffered that Hillary Clinton was the Anti-Christ. On his June 6, 2006 show Beck remarked: "I think we may have found our antichrist and our next president."

Even before Hillary, Bill Clinton was also being called the antichrist by conservative pundits during his presidency.

If you’re detecting a pattern, you’re correct. Indeed it’s long been a fact that if you are Republican, you can steal, lie, commit adultery, do drugs, dodge the draft or go AWOL, defy the Constitution, declare an elective war under false pretenses resulting in the murder of thousands of innocents and even cause the next Great Depression, and still be a man of God! You’ve got the crucial “R” designation next to your name – that’s all that’s needed.

If you’re a Democrat, regardless of what you do short of repenting your sins and supporting Republican ideals and candidates a la Zell Miller, you will always be the antichrist.

Amazing how many antichrists we’ve got running around here, isn’t it? Here’s a comforting thought: by the time the real antichrist shows up, anyone’s warning to point him out will meet with a great yawn of apathy because we’ve become deafened to our religiopolitical Chicken Littles thanks to all the false alarms.

“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” — Jesus Christ, Matthew 22:39, King James version

And finally, the last sign of true religiopolitical desperation is decision on the churches’ part (at least the conservative Christian aka: Republican ones) to defy the I.R.S. and the government’s constitutional laws on not mixing church and state. They’re going out of their way to openly urge voters not to vote for Obama, with many offering McCain as a good choice.

On Sunday, the Rev. Wiley Drake, pastor of the First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, California was one of many to openly defy the law, and preach from the pulpit for the flock not to vote for “Barack Husein Obama,” in defiance of the law. “Well I'm doing what I'm doing because I'm angry, I'm mad,” said Drake about his actions, knowing the I.R.S. was in the audience noting everything.

According to Fox News (http://elections.foxnews.com/2008/09/29/pub-pastors-participate-pulpit-freedom-sunday/), some 32 other pastors decided to do likewise, and challenge that last barrier between church and state, and between their tax-exempt and taxable status as well. They say “the 2008 presidential election is too important to remain publicly impartial, and they are openly breaking the ban.”

An interesting concept: if the issue is important enough to you, even churches subscribe to openly breaking the rule of law (something their current GOP president Bush-baby would likely be surprised to learn, considering his frequent reminder that America is a nation of laws!)

“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” — Hebrews 13:17, King James version

"Pastors have a right to speak about Biblical truths from the pulpit without fear of punishment. No one should be able to use the government to intimidate pastors into giving up their constitutional rights," said Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. ADF has been urging these maverick churches to challenge this law, based upon the Constitution’s freedom of religion.

If they win their challenge, I’m sure these same folks might have some qualms down the road about other religions using their same precedent to do likewise. What if America were to take in enough Iraqi refugees who helped America during the war who were Islamic, and what if they someday outnumbered these same evangelicals? Would they be willing to support this “majority rules” domination of politics then? Or majority Catholic, or majority Mormon, or majority Hindi?

Nevertheless, they’re pressing forwarding to ensure they don’t elect a Christian who doesn’t look like them, who they insist is Muslim (even though that’s bearing false witness in defiance of a commandment) and will stop at nothing, even defying the laws of the land (there’s scripture about that too) if that’s what it takes to win.

It’s crazy days. And rather than helping stabilize the already jangled nerves of an edgy nation, our religiopolitical folks think it better to instead help rattle the cages even more. I don’t think they realize what we’ve got waiting for us on the other side.

And today, we see the stock market dropped in its largest point drop ever after Congress defeated the Bailout bill. Hey! More fuel for the bonfire for our opportunist brethren!

All I can say is “Maranatha to ya, good buddy! And don’t pay attention to me … I’m just moving a safe distance away ….”

“So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.” — Romans 14:12 & 13, King James version

McCain Removes Short Leash From Palin, Attaches Shorter Leash.


It was interesting to watch tonight’s interview with Sarah Palin on CBS’ Evening News with Katie Couric. Mere days after CNN’s Campbell Brown blasted McCain’s own campaign for “sexism” charges, noting how they treat Palin as a fragile flower, tonight’s Couric interview saw both John McCain and Palin, with McCain issuing his spin on Palin’s words to a voter (recorded by media video) where she stated she’d be willing to “do whatever it takes” to get to Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda in Pakistan.

Clearly that’s Barack Obama’s position, contrary to McCain’s counter-charges on Obama. So he sat as the paternal figure, explaining what young Palin was attempting to mean and spinning it as “gotcha!” media questions (even though the question came from non-media, a Temple University grad student). The entire interview he sat, adding gentle prompts and sitting stern watch over his running mate to ensure any “tough” questions by Couric were deflected per the McCain agenda. No more vulnerable openings.

Meanwhile, Palin played the role of the eager progeny, “ready, willing and able” to win approval from voters (McCain) that she was up to the task.

It was a very awkward performance, mostly by McCain. Apparently he’s frightened by Sarah Palin’s candor when allowed to speak on her own, and he’s reeling in the short leash. Even the cameras cut away from Palin while she was in the midst of a response, panning to a shot of grim-faced McCain staring at Couric, before panning back to Palin once they realized he wasn’t cutting in on the answer.

For a campaign that was quick to portray itself as progressive on an issue such as sexist treatment, belitting both the Obama campaign and the media on it, the irony and hyprocrisy of this is astonishing. Here’s the candidate, not able to trust his young, female running mate to adequately hold her own. She needed his guidance.

McCain’s displaying blunt paternalistic sexism of his own, and he could care less who sees. He’ll just spin it away later, saying it never happened.

It’s clear that McCain’s upset with the attention that Palin is getting. Yet it was he himself (or at worst, his campaign with his approval) who approved a running mate that would draw this level of attention. Then after they introduce her to much fanfare, they then turn and teasingly hide her away from the rest of the world.

The McCain has been very aloof with media for some time, causing a lot of consternation from the same folks expected to then get out the GOP message. As a result, the RNC, Karl “Turdblossom” Rove or the McCain Campaign have not only hamstrung themselves, but created the same environment that existed as George W. Bush took presidency: an adversarial approach to the media that demands fealty before they’re allowed to do their job of reporting facts as per their litmus test.

Even worse, they’ve now done likewise with the very person they’ve anointed to draw attention back to their previously anemic campaign.

It’s incredible that the McCain camp seems to be doing everything possible to shoot themselves in the foot. They better be on their knees praying every night that the Democrats don’t wake up and decide to super-glue a flip-flop to that freshly shot foot. We know how Republicans feel about flip-flops.

"Some boys take a beautiful girl and
Hide her away from the rest of the world.
I want to be the one to walk in the sun." — Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Cyndi Lauper

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Southern Comfort? No ....

As I’ve already had a couple ask, requiring explanation, I figured I’d just make it a uniform notification: No Southern Comfort for me this year. Comfort may be what some folks feel there, but personally I don’t.

As we’ve noted in the trans community over the past six years or so, there’s developed a notable philosophical bifurcation in the transgender community: those who support and have faith in the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), and those who cannot trust them. For sake of disclosure, since the late 90’s I have been solidly in the latter group.

It was just over a year ago this week that the last Southern Comfort Conference was going on, prominently featuring HRC. Being a member of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC), and knowing HRC as I have over the years, I wasn’t going to allow this to go without notice. While I’m not into what many of my activist predecessors were into – yelling confrontations, loud protestations and the like – it protest needed to be shown, even if not in-your-face. I brought along my Un-Equal and displayed it openly.

Over the years I’d been to the conference, I’d never such prominent featuring of HRC. They sponsored a mini job fair with a number of corporations (including Hewlett-Packard Company – who for the record changed their EEO policy for gender identity due to NTAC’s efforts, not HRC). HRC’s Joe Solmonese even gave a prominent keynote luncheon speech, flanked by Lisa Mottet of NGLTF and Mara Keisling of NCTE. The speeches were mostly self-congratulatory and reassuringly supportive to the transgender audience.

JoeSo, as we all know now, uttered the now infamous phrase promising to support only (transgender) inclusive legislation. It was a hero’s welcome. The crowd overwhelmingly ate it up – with few exceptions (mostly those few of us who knew better from our visits to Congress four months prior).

Sure, both Ethan St. Pierre and I were there, and more than willing to speak with folks about the truth on what we’d heard on HRC’s “supportive” efforts. Then again, who was going to listen to us? We’re trannies. Not only that, NTAC! HRC non-supporters!

I didn’t push the issue with folks, only wore the sticker and answered fully when those few asked. One girl who walked up to the IFGE booth while I was there and questioned me on it, noted pithily that she “believed them” and that I “didn’t hear Joe’s speech,” informed me she had already written a check to HRC and after speaking with me said she was going to “go in and write him another check.” Ethan spoke with her afterwards, and noted that she’d kept his contact and admitted she was duped.

Even a good friend, Ken Dollarhide, long one of the biggest critics of gay and lesbian activist leaders and their agendas which never seemed to remember transgenders, mentioned he believed the speech. He thought they were going to come around and support us finally. I attempted to tell him what happened in May, but it wasn’t to be.

Others, close friends, old friends, prominent community members most all seemed to share the same reactions: big smiles and hugs, the eyes would drop down to spot the Un-Equal sticker, then quickly dart away while they nervously struck up conversations with others and politely moved on. As Denise LeClair of IFGE noted on one of the list-serves, I was “about as welcome as a skunk at a garden party.”

Nobody wanted to hear it. This was HRC’s day in the sun, Mara Keisling’s day in the sun, and time for all the collected to celebrate. When reality’s successfully hidden under wraps, it’s easy to ignore (unless you’re like those of us troublemakers who don’t trust, and look under the wraps).

As for we NTACers, we were always the ugly, red-headed step-kids there. It was clear to me that was not our community any more. This was the pro-HRC set and anyone not on board, such as NTAC, were to be isolated in a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy (or as Mara would phrase it: “the cheese stands alone” strategy.) Ironically, when I explained to Mara about NTAC’s ‘divide and conquer’ approach, I was told that was “adversarial.” I guess we shouldn’t have listened to her.

Well as we now know, it didn’t take long before reality reared its head. Ken wrote sometime back apologizing (I don’t seek those things out). Ethan had spoken with the other transwoman who’d spoken with me (the check-writer), and she’d apparently admitted to him she was wrong.

Maybe we wouldn’t be so ostracized if we returned … but then again, maybe so. Southern Comfort folks have not been much inclined to listen to us before, and I don’t know that that would change.

They will listen to HRC, or at least it’s more likely them than us. They’ll listen to Mara Keisling or Lisa Mottet. And there’s always the chance, like in 2004, that HRC might come back and pull another marketing coup de grace and speak to the conferees of their support and the pending victory, and hopes and dreams ….

And frankly I just can’t watch that stuff again. It’s like viewing a train wreck in slow motion on an endless tape loop. If our community would take the time (and yes, expense) learn to lobby and develop contacts on the Hill, they would know what we discover and how to read the patterns. Then they wouldn’t have to hear it from us. Short of that, though, they’ll have to learn on their own in time.

Ultimately, HRC and others have played our community as fools for years, but it’s become much more blatant now. They talk down to us, feed us what lines they want us to swallow, cleverly set the scenery, enlist a few of our own to help sell it, then raise their money off us and go on their merry way. If we find out later, who cares? What are we gonna do about it? They got their money, they’re keeping it, and they’ll come back later for more.

HRC’s fully aware that a year or two later, those of us who know or remember this will either burnout in utter outrage and frustration, or end up being marginalized and tuned out by the other, newer folks who don’t want to hear about stuff that occurred B.T.O. (before they were out).

And the pattern repeats.

HRC realizes they have money (trannies love money). HRC realizes they know a lot of stars (trannies are easily bedazzled, and many have star-lust). And HRC realizes that while we tend to be skeptical of our own, we tend to believe others outside of the trans community (cumulative low socialized self-worth makes trannies skeptical of trannies). And if they stay low for a while and come back again, even if it takes a new shill to front for them, they can. They’ll pull in some funding – not much in their world, a gold-strike for cash-starved trans organizations.

And they can raise the money and end up not even having to do a damn thing for transgenders!

In short, to HRC these events are a promenade of fools. We’re “easy pickings.” On top of it all, after they make their speech and reap their money, they may just get a standing O as icing on the cake!

I can’t relate, nor do I want to. Standing true or standing on principle can often make one a pariah, and I become furious when I get fed a line of bullshit when it comes to our rights. Others may have the luxury of being or not being concerned over whether we have rights or ability to land employment. I don’t, nor do many others in the community – those typically not at Southern Comfort either.

So, I suppose a pariah I must be. But at least I didn’t lie or deceive! Let’s see these heroes swear that!

“Back on the bottom line
Diggin’ for a lousy dime
If I hit a mother lode
I’d cover anything that showed
Oh-h-h, I don’t care
What you do
I wouldn’t want to be like you!” — I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You, Alan Parsons Project

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Bails Get a Second Look, The Fails Take Another Bank

Yesterday and this morning I’ve been finding myself siding with the House Republicans. Now I’m finding myself agreeing with Rep. Barney Frank. And in the end, I really don’t know that I want the proposals on Wall Street’s bailout from either of them!

I want to gouge my eyes out.

“Doctor, my eyes have seen the years
And the slow parade of fears without crying
Now I want to understand.” — Doctor My Eyes, Jackson Browne

The more I thought about Bush and Paulson’s big bailout blowout in Congress, I grew far too uneasy. This was waxing the taxpayers to save a bunch of rich, over-pampered, arrogant and apathetic executives and their heartlessly, greedy companies.

Recently I’d blasted a response to Glenn Beck for his thoughts on what ailed the economy: a GOP-style, get government off business' backs and give business more tax breaks. Then yesterday I was amazed at the stunning reversal, where Beck was sounding all of the socialist he’d always railed against, and joining the president and at least Senate Republicans in calling for a quick passage to this debacle! What a two-faced weasel!

To me, Republicans are finally seeing the fruits of this tax-breaks-for-business, trickle-down, deregulation, let-the-free-market-police-itself culture. Far from the GDP and American workers' innovation and productivity pulling us out of this mess, now we find our nation about to take a nosedive in spite of their precious principles!

Not that I’m a fan of give-the-rich-all-the-breaks-and-corporate-welfare approach to Free Market principles. But I’m for something well between Maoist, nationalize-all-companies, and Reaganomics II and the Bush/Cheney good-ol-boy crony giveaways in this Marie Antoinette / ‘let them eat crap’ society. But to see these former Louis XVI elitism throwbacks suddenly saluting the government takeover of business, and to do so with taxpayers’ money, is hypocrisy to cartoonish extreme.

Apparently I wasn’t the only depressed and furious citizen on this latest Bush scheme. Just when John McCain “suspended his campaign” and flew up to Washington to “save the day and Bush’s bill,” enough citizens – conservative ones – called up their neo-con folk officing on Independence Avenue and lambasted them! They were emboldened by McCain’s presence and decided to pull the rug out from their President and the rest of Congress and say “Hell No!”

For once, I agreed with House Republicans. Let the damn banks and Wall Street fail. Everything sucks, this whole economy has become a rotting corpse of greed, and it’s time for what they call “compassionate conservatism” – more commonly known as “tough love” – applied back to these very same conservatives who’ve profited from this greed-feed. You can’t begin to push off and swim to the top until you’ve reached the bottom.

It’s time for the wealthy, corporate-class folks who’ve outsourced, offshored, automated and streamlined the American workforce to feel what it’s really like being in the lower-90’s and truly feeling this “economic recovery” (as in recovering from a disaster.) So what if everything tanks? The majority of us are already feeling and facing certain disaster. It’s Bush and the Reagan Neo-Conservatives’ legacy. Let it crash and burn.

When the GOPer House folks stood their ground and demanded a rework, I was relieved.

“I have done all that I could
To see the evil and the good without hiding
You must help me if you can.” — Doctor My Eyes, Jackson Browne

Then on the Lehrer Report, we had Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) who’s defacto leader of this “conservative revolt” discussing the impasse. Pence said he wanted a plan that did not put taxpayers on the hook for this – fantastic!

Then Pence explained how he wanted to do it, by freeing up “money already trapped in the economy” that could buy up the assets without need for taxpayer infusions. Hmm … this is sounding shady. Voodoo economics anyone?

Finally Pence elaborated: if you reduce corporate capital gains tax, then all the corporations who make and have the money overseas will bring their overseas profit back into the country and then buy up the bad credit. So basically, while corporate America could help us now if they had reported the profits stateside, they’d prefer offshoring their profits where they don’t have to pay taxes and let America tank. And to induce them to “help America out,” Pence suggests we give them extra incentive (beyond the current profiteering by moving profits offshore) to come back to the American table and help out.

To which Barney Frank piped up with his observation: Republicans want to fix corporate America’s Wall Street disaster by giving corporate America a bigger break than they already get. “You’re way too hard on them, Mike!” Gotta say, Barney is excellent with the zingers and I agree with him for once (though can’t stand his politics of a social variety or much else.)

My confidence that the Democrats are attempting to push for the little folks has been restored. But frankly, I don’t think any of these bailouts have done anything to elicit the desired behavior change. The only lesson that corporations and industries taking these handouts have learned is that it works to their benefit. Once they return to the black, it’s still all about profit, baby – screw everyone else!

This may sound horribly hard-hearted. But keep in mind who we’re talking about helping. Companies, corporations and industries have no heart. Unlike humans, they exist solely to make money. The more money they make, the more their top level executives make and the better they like it. If that means the American worker or consumer gets burned, the only thing they concern themselves with is the bottom line.

Even today, we get yet another bank wanting to get in on the action: Washington Mutual – the largest bank failure in American history – just went under in very convenient timing.

In this era of offshoring labor, offshoring headquarters a la Cheney’s Halliburton, or outright finding ways to move funds offshore, or underwrite their bottom line or just outright not paying their corporate taxes at all and daring the IRS to come get it, they already affect the taxpayers bottom line.

It’s time the taxpayers attend to our bottom line for once. Let them suffer and hopefully it’s a hard enough fall and hurts enough so that they learn.

“Doctor, my eyes …
Tell me what you see.
I hear their cries
Just sayin’ it’s too late for me.” — Doctor My Eyes, Jackson Browne

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bank Bailout Bill Echoes Iraq War and Patriot Act

[American Goths: Fork Over The Money -- Or You're Doomed!]

This past week’s economic hangover has really stunned me. I can’t determine yet whether it was better that we in Houston were unaware of it the first days, or whether it would’ve been better to know immediately. The one thing that has struck me is that this doesn’t seem right. There’s a strange, unreal feel to it – not much unlike after 9/11 and the attacks.

Slowly, as the fog has cleared my mind gradually, I’m starting to determine the lay of the land. Watching the President’s speech just now, and earlier the Katie Couric interviews with both John McCain and Sarah Palin, it’s become clear: they’re pushing this new order, and they’re pushing it on us with urgency. This is not only abnormal, it distinctly smacks of what happened immediately after 9/11 – the rapid push, heavy pressure and comprehensive change to Americans’ civil liberties vis a vis the Patriot Act, and presidential powers a la Iraq.

We’re revisiting the Patriot Act and the case for Iraq all over again!

“There was a time I would have cried.
But those days have all gone by.
You always walked a crooked line.” — It Only Hurts When I Breathe, Cop Shoot Cop

This time, the sugar bullet will make sweeping changes to business, our economy and possibly expose our tax base in the same way Patriot Act did with our privacy, our country’s conduct in that brand new war on terror and Iraq did on powers and accountability. They came to Congress and scared the bejesus out of them – both parties (save for whatever few they kept “in the loop,” as McCain now is). Then they went on TV news, and now on prime time for a speech to drive home the same fear to us.

I’ve seen this movie plot before. It didn’t turn out like we thought the first times either, but by the time we figured it out, we’d already given them the go-ahead and all the artillery they needed.

None of this stuff makes logical sense. Republicans are all about free market, keep government from restricting business, no giveaways, etc. But think back: Republicans used to also be against creating and giving blank checks for endless wars … before Iraq. Republicans also used to be against big brother restricting their liberties and snooping into their lives … before 9/11.

Afterwards, they were cool on it. They just gave them tax breaks and that kept them quiet. (Besides, anyone who didn’t salute their GOP leader even after the tax break was just downright unpatriotic!)

“You read my thoughts, you knew my fears.
You weren't as old as you appeared,
But so much wiser than your years
And I was blind.” — It Only Hurts When I Breathe, Cop Shoot Cop

Don’t get me wrong: we need some major comprehensive changes on Wall Street and vigilant oversight over all corporate America. I’m certainly in favor of tamping out these wildly overstretched income disparities, most especially from CEO’s who produce nothing but losses for investors. Transparency is imperative after what we’ve just witnessed from Wall Street and from our government and the financial wing of this administration’s cabinet!

But writing a check for $700 billion dollars – more than we’ve spent to date on the Iraq War – in one fell swoop? And doing this when we have the largest budget deficit in American history? And to bail out failed banks, who just a few years ago were the ones pushing through changes to bankruptcy laws to make it difficult for individuals financially going under to file and recover? And to do this with no guarantee that we taxpayers will be able to recoup the cash outlay in full? And to have this request come from self-described fiscal conservatives like George W. Bush (and it seems likely John McCain) who want to make permanent the Bush tax cuts and even increase tax cuts for corporate America?
And to have this plan pushed so zealously and so urgently?

Something stinks to high heaven.

“All you little kids seem to think you know just where it's at.
Oh, I think I smell a rat!” — I Smell A Rat, the White Stripes

The day Wall Street dropped 500 points and Henry Paulson address the President and Congress, Sen. John McCain was initially trumpeting the old Bush chestnut: “the economy is fundamentally strong.” Apparently Bush-baby didn’t get the talking point out to him quick enough, and McCain later that day began the new repeating point: “the economy is at risk.” (He attempted to cover with the bullshit excuse that the fundamentals meant our workforce, worker’s innovation and productivity – which means absolutely zero when their jobs are so streamlined that they offshore or automate themselves out of jobs!)

Now this proposal goes through Congress and both parties’ critters are angry, demanding transparency in the dealings, severe restrictions on these executives’ pay, guarantees for taxpayers, additional money to help imperiled individual homeowners and oversight of this new “czar” position that the Treasury Secretary will suddenly be granted. Meanwhile, the Bush mantra, and in the echo chamber, the Paulson mantra, the Ben Bernanke mantra and the John McCain mantra are: “we are in economic crisis, we need a simple bill, and it needs to be passed as it is immediately!”

This is all we’re going to hear from the architects and backers of this bill from now until they wear down Congress into acquiescence: “The economy is in danger, we need a simple bill, and it needs to be passed as it is immediately!”

There’s a bigger plan with this than what we’re seeing on the surface. Something is amiss, and we’ll pay the price for not ferreting out and cleansing this proposal of this before enacting it. Yet in typical Bush/Cheney fashion, the proposal is foisted as a fully completed work on Congress critters’ laps and they have mere days to “pass it or else (have the Bush Crime family foist blame on them and ruin their careers)! This is exactly what they did with the Patriot Act, remember?

And like the Patriot Act and even the Iraq War which were designed and fully written well before they were submitted to Congress, this proposed bail out was as well. This proposal began when Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac were announced insolvent and in need of bailouts. Rather than alerting the country to the rest of the reality of our banking system, Paulson and the Bush Administration chose to keep it under wraps and spend the time writing up what we see now – the biggest new deal since, well, the New Deal.

It’s depressing that we’ve come to this: staring into the abyss of what Sarah Palin admitted in her Couric interview was possibly another Depression. (Palin’s interview was precious, worthy of it’s own column!)

If Congress and the American public is not vigilant and ensures there are very conservative restraints put on this Bush plan, and that we have absolute fidelity and forthrightness from both the Treasury and this new government banking behemoth with all due checks and balances, we’re buying another round of Patriot Act and the case for war in Iraq. We gave this President, and his party, trust once before. Just keep in mind how that turned out.

Beware of the Trojan Horse ....

“You left a trail of rubber checks
And broken hearts and busted necks.
What the fuck did I expect?
I don't know.” — It Only Hurts When I Breathe, Cop Shoot Cop

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Song: Pledge Your Allegiance -- New American Century

This is an admittedly strange blog post for me. On the side (when the mood strikes) I will sit and write poetry, even songs. While I play very little guitar, I couldn't tell you one note from another -- I don't read music. I wrote these as two pieces -- the first a march-like intro, the second more an emotive ballad-rocker suited for a duet (think Bruce Springsteen / Patti Scialfa typed pairing).

These were things I'd written in the summer of 2006 and just squirreled away with all the others, but drug these two out as they seem appropriate today. With what we just witnessed with the major bank failures, and now a $700 billion dollar bailout pending -- and with no guarantee that won't bankrupt the tax fund if other countries decide they want out of our little Wall Street / Get-Rich-Quick scheme. What happened to their preciously guarded "free market economy" and "no welfare state"?

What really depresses me (now after getting online and seeing news, post Hurricane Ike) is how after all this economic disaster, the geopolitical morass, and the cumulative erosion of sustaining our previous "strong middle class" economy, the Republican candidate is actually tied or slightly ahead of the Democrat!
Even though it's been Republican leaders and Republican Social Experiments vis a vis laws that make business irreproachable and unlimited, Democrats are doing no better than a tie. People are so afraid of Obama's color or name or whatever urban legend they try to affix to him that they will vote in another four years of what we've just suffered through for the last eight.

I just don't get it.

Hell, the McCain campaign and RNC in general is so "values-oriented" they misappropriate other people's voices (like Katie Couric, and some Faux News guy's voice for a commercial), and even steal songs from artists for their speeches or news bites when they come on stage (e.g. Heart's Barracuda for Sarah Palin, or John Mellencamp's Little Pink Houses for McCain). I still recall hearing "Running on Empty" as background for one of McCain's "Drill, Baby, Drill" speeches and was depressed as hell that Jackson Browne had turned and supported conservative philosophy! Thankfully, I found out different a few weeks later when he filed suit to have them "cease and desist."

No, McCain didn't start it. President Reagan did when he misappropriated Bruce Springsteen's Born In The U.S.A. for his re-election speeches.

So these are songs that I know wouldn't be appropriated by Republicans -- they're not into self-deprecation. Who knows, maybe the Springsteens would pick it up and record it? (I highly doubt it) If they do, I'll donate my proceeds (until the cut-off time) to the Democratic Election Fund, or 527's to ensure they are elected.

This is partisan, I'll admit. When have they ever not been? Ultimately, I just can't sit idly by and take this crap any more. At least this is a release.

Pledge Your Allegiance

I Pledge ... Allegiance
To ... the Flag
Of the United States
of Corporate America,
And to the Republicans
For which we vote.
One corporation,
Equal ... to God,
With Liberties ... and Profits
For all the top execs!

The New American Century

Remember liberty?
Remember freedom of speech?
Remember those innocent days of our youth
Back when teachers would teach,
Before the pastors
Took their jobs away?
Remember De-mo-cra-cy
Before it became … “Pay to Play”?
Elections weren’t suspect –
No shill partisan mobs.
Remember Dads going to work in the morning?
They all could find jobs!
Now there’s outsourcing, onshoring, productivity
And the race to the bottom.
And nothing’s domestically owned here anymore –
Foreign countries all have bought ‘em.

Now we build K Street Projects,
Tear down housing projects,
Hedge low on stock futures,
Indebt grandkids’ futures,
Find time in our homes less,
Rid cities of homeless,
Insure companies' health,
Choose between food or health.
Welcome to … the New … American Century

Recall summer vacations?
Kids had twelve weeks to play …
Before global competition made those
Days of leisure passé?
And before censorship,
Profit, greed and control
Killed innovation, the challenge and
Spirit of ... Rock & Roll?
Remember equality?
How we once felt empowered?
Remember how we felt anything's possible
Before those dreams soured?
It was a brave new world in those days of our past,
But our leaders all now run scared.
We slept while they gave away our golden years,
Now we should’ve been better prepared.

Congress votes themselves raises.
Child poverty rises.
Rich pundits cry “vengeance!”
While the poor get no vengeance.
Business begs “education!”
Feds slash education
And they meld church and state
Health care’s in the worst state
Welcome to … the New … American Century

Remember the choices
Before market monopoly?
We believed in the American Dream,
Now we know oligopoly.
Remember when media
Broadcast truth and decorum,
Before money ensured only privileged views
Worthy a forum?
Remember government
Accountability –
No demands to expand President’s powers,
Just open civility?
Remember days before terror became our new pastime
And the long, endless wars?
Common goals, humane minds, days of so much less ego,
No hubris, no settling scores?

Bankroll national security.
Kill Social Security.
Nation shoved to the right
Rescinds all civil rights.
Leaders treated like prophets.
Fire workers, raise profits.
Sweetened deals before closed.
Watch our dreams be foreclosed.
Yes it’s true … it’s the New … American Century

Vanessa Edwards Foster © June 2006

Hurricane Ike’s Lingering Effects: Day 8

It really is starting to feel more like normal. Even the weather is getting back to normal patterns: warm, but now with humidity back along with the stillness. It makes work chopping down branches and debris and hauling them to the street even more physically taxing.

Not only is there the heavy sweat to now contend with, we’ve also seen the return of something else we’re well acquainted with here: mosquitoes. They began coming in with the humidity last night, but I notice quite a number of them out back while I was toiling. During the heat of the day, they’re not too bad. But once the sun goes behind the fence and shade moves in, the swarms come out.

With so many other priorities around the region, spraying for bugs isn’t one of them. Making my situation worse is the fact that I have a bayou right out back. If that’s not great breeding ground, then just beyond my dead end is open fields and a series of large detention ponds (for those unfamiliar, in the flatlands, we have essentially pits dug into the ground to trap heavy rain runoff, or in my case, connected to the bayous or creeks to catch heavy waterflow into them and keep from overtaxing – flooding – the waterways leading to the ship channel. We have to have them because we’re flat, and the floods will otherwise just sit for long periods of time in wherever they would flood prior to the ponds system being built (like roads, or out of bayous’ banks).

All the detention ponds have a little water sitting in them, stagnating and waiting until the sun evaporates it. Meanwhile, they’re virtual mosquito metropolises.

Another part, not so enjoyable, is smelling the musky murk emanating from the bayou. With windows open, the smell permeates the house. It’s like living in a storm sewer pipe. It makes me wonder how people on the coast are living with the smell, much less the mosquito swarms. It’s going to be a while before either floods or our bloodsucking friends leave.

Just driving around tonight, it appears most every store is now open. With the exception of a few smaller storefront still struggling, all the major businesses have opened for business.

Businesses way outpaced the other infrastructure in getting back to normal. Driving down the street, you still see patches without streetlights. Store signs are occasionally there, but many are not or are darkened. Some of them appear not to be open, such as Starbucks with their intimate lighting inside … until you realize the parking lot is full of cars. There’s just no sign to display who it is.

Stop lights are also lagging behind business. We’re getting more of them back, but that’s only about half. The rest vary from blinking red lights, to darkened, to no lights at all – just wires, or dangling fixtures. Even some of the stop light street signs are dangling from the wires. A mile or so away, one stoplight installed on a pole had the pole itself blow completely 90 degrees – not even showing over the street it covers, but parallel to the curb right next to the other stop light.

With more stop lights coming on line, there’s a new problem. We’ve all become so used to all stop lights being treated as four-way stops that we now automatically presume that at every stop-lighted intersection. I did it too, and nearly got hit by the second car who tried to drive through the intersection. Only when the driver honked at me and gestured toward the stoplight did I realize it was functioning.

I can imagine the opposite happening soon as well: once everyone becomes used to most intersections having working lights, then blow through one which is out and supposed to be a 4-way stop.

Even complaining about this makes me feel selfish. People on the opposite side of town, and more so on the coast, would give anything just to have this quasi-normal routine back now. It’s going to be months before these folks even reach our level of routine.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hurricane Ike's Lingering Effects: Day 7

Each day brings the region a little closer to recovery, and one baby step closer to the ultimate goal of the long trip to normalcy. On my part, I actually feel a little guilty. We’ve had electricity for three days now, but 1.18 million – over half – are still without. I revisited my friends, Karen and Bunny, who I walked over to visit on Saturday night when I was bored. When I drove up, I noticed everyone was outside – they’d never gotten their power restored. I felt so bad for them.

The night I was at their place, they’d decided to reserve a room in a hotel to at least enjoy a couple days of air conditioning and get a shower. It turns out the hotel they’d reserved at also had no electricity or water. They’d been homebound since the storm.

On the subject of hotels, as FEMA has already announced that displaced residents whose homes were destroyed will receive housing vouchers, FEMA and the State of Texas put out a website showing hotels that will accept FEMA vouchers. You have to be careful when going through it though. It reportedly lists Galveston hotels among those that will accept FEMA vouchers.

You can’t get into Galveston! Strict restrictions on who can come onto Galveston island … only essential personnel.

Last night, the TV news highlighted a sensational story headline: are utility crews being redirected to wealthy neighborhoods and leaving poor neighborhoods in the dark? This was the case in Cypress (northwest outskirts of Houston). Utility crews from out-of-state were in the neighborhood, reconnecting customers to electricity. Then suddenly, with five more blocks left, the crews climbed back down from the poles, packed up and left.

They were reassigned to Bellaire (a high dollar inner-city suburb of Houston). Residents in Cypress were in disbelief, one lady said she cried. Electric service is the latest field to see classism’s ugly head rear.

The intrepid news crews called Reliant Energy, confirmed the story and caught up with the utility crews that were reassigned from Cypress. They found them in River Oaks – Houston’s version of Beverly Hills! When they caught up with the electrical crew, the utility workers said they were aggravated that they couldn’t finish their assignment and upset with having to re-deploy for no good reason. Six days without power was apparently more than River Oaks could handle – even though I’d wager there were few homes there without generators. Meanwhile, many in Cypress still use water wells, and their pumps don’t work without electricity. Apparently they can wait.

All I can say is whomever made that decision better not deploy a crew in an African-American neighborhood and pull them off to go hook up West University Place or other tony districts. That would not be taken kindly. Regardless of the neighborhood’s ethnic make up, or economic power, everyone should be treated equally. The process should be continuing as stated – with no arbitrary “special consideration” doled out. If we’re all in this, we should be all in this together. It shouldn’t mean rich folks, first.

They’ve begun the early stages of recovery along the coast. Today deaths were confirmed from seven bodies in Galveston County yesterday: two from drowning, five from other causes. With the surge washing everyone in, then the outflow taking them back out to the gulf, it may be months before all bodies are recovered.

They had one story on news of a man living on Bolivar Peninsula who attempted to ride out the storm. When the surge washed away his home, he managed to grab hold of his patio table washing by, grabbed hold, and rode it like a boogie board across Galveston Bay. He had to fight debris, dodge a snake and fight off an alligator, but in the end drifted over to the east end of the bay, where the Coast Guard finally found him. He said he’s had it with living on the coast and plans to move.

On hurricane victim assistance, the state will not issue payment vouchers. Texas authorities were going to do food stamp distributions for many families who (like myself) ended up having to get rid of their refrigerated items. As a result, the first food stamp location opened up Thursday, but they processed their “allotted number of applications” and then turned the rest away. Word spread of this, and with the pressing need, today (Friday) they have opened up with a huge, blocks-long line in wait.

Texas’ Dept. of Health & Human Services (HHS) websites showed they would raise the level of income in order to assist those moderately above the official wage level cutoff receive food stamps. Folks who stood in line all night then had HHS personnel distribute spreadsheets that showed the usual wage level cutoff (about $700/mo lower). Needless to say, the contradictory information between the web and what HHS was allowing caused quite a stir. There were folks who drove there from all around the area and some waited from the night before. One interviewed lady drove down (about 25 miles each way) and waited all night only to receive $14 per month assistance.

Apparently there’s some problems with the temporary FEMA application process as well, which was set up by Cong. Lampson to expedite the process. Those who applied are not receiving assistance. I’m unclear what the problem is with these applications. However, the news also noted FEMA was setting up their own location across the street from Cong. Lampson’s stop-gap site at the American Legion location across from Ellington Field. Why FEMA finds it necessary to open what appears to be a competing site when the one across the way already exists and was created to facilitate getting residents assistance is also unknown.

My personal opinion is that FEMA feels they’re not being assisted but being “shown up” by a congressman who just happens to be of the opposite political persuasion of the President. Gee, politics showing up during a disaster recovery process? I guess someone doesn’t want another black eye a la Katrina and Rita! Maybe something politically triumphant they can stand upon, like Giuliani atop the rubble of the Twin Towers post-9/11.

Well, at least they’re trying to be Johnny-on-the-spot. A week later. No hurry. We’re patient. We’ll wait for ya…. Heckuva job!

Hurricane Ike's Lingering Effects: Day 6

Things are finally getting back to some semblance of normalcy. More stores are open now and stocking some of their shelves. Dairy is beginning to show up, some bread. There are still empty shelves of canned goods, crackers and cleaning products. But the usual day-to-day is an osmosis that's gradually filling in all those exposed gaps.

More gas stations are opening around the Houston area: no more reports of the lines and the tempers. The media only note the newly discovered price hikes.

It was just today that I began taking stock of what's damaged here. There's the obvious roof leaks between my dining room and living room, but other odd little leaks in the living room and inexplicably in my wash room (which is under my bedroom!)

My biggest fear after losing power was losing my computer. The power surge on that initial outage made my 24-inch flat screen monitor audibly pop and flash! I scrambled in the dark and unplugged both it and the computer, but truly feared I had likely lost both of those. I also did likewise with my refrigerator. Amazingly there appears to be no problems!

However, other things didn't fare as well. My overhead fluorescent kitchen lights (which I'd left on), are out permanently. One of the sets of bulbs are brand new, so I know it can't be the light tubes. Another thing I didn't think of: my gas oven. The temperature gauge and timer runs off of an electric digital display. The gas probably works, but the computer display is fried -- nothing. Even though my ceiling fan on the back patio survived the wind and the power surges, the master bedroom ceiling fan didn't! As best as I can tell, those are the only electrical things that fried.

I'm just glad I've still got my computer, and truly dodged a bullet there!

I've got fences on two sides gone, a front gate that's trashed. My back deck oddly lost a number of boards. At daybreak, I saw one of them peel up, get caught by the wind and immediately disappear down the block somewhere. There were branches needing pruning from my trees. There were other trees' branches that had broken off and lodged in my trees! Apparently I lost screens, a loose one in my bedroom and a couple small ones in front of the house, and a cracked window on the back corner of my house. Lots of nagging little problems, but nothing major!

As FEMA is busy themselves with other priority issues, Cong. Nick Lampson (D-TX) from Tom DeLay's old district opened up a location on his own to begin the process of getting residents with damage a chance to log in and receive disaster help from the agency.

It actually brings up another issue: political campaigns. We're in the midst of key national campaign season. In gridiron terms, this is the "red zone." Yet, in the midst of this, Texas politicos have had to put campaigns on back burners. Lampson should be out campaigning hard to keep his seat. Instead, he's put it on hold and is in process of helping the region recover.

Our State Senate candidate, and likely my next State Senator, Chris Bell, has also suspended all fundraisers and campaign work for the next few weeks due to the hurricane's devastation to his senate district -- which took the brunt of Ike's impact.

President Bush, likewise, suspended the fundraisers he was to attend for Republican Party fundraisers yesterday, sending his wife Laura in his stead.

Even U.S. Senate candidate, Rick Noriega (D-TX), has been indefinitely impacted. In the midst of a tight race, as Lt. Col. in the National Guard, our State Rep. Noriega has been called back to duty and is directing recovery operations. It's not surprising – he had to go to active duty in Afghanistan in 2003. It's the downside of being a member of the Guard – you are duty-bound to serve when the call goes out. Needless to say, Sen. John Cornyn, the GOP incumbent, has no such restrictions or responsibilities.

Doubtless, Hurricane Ike is blowing holes in a number of our local political campaigns. Especially in a situation such as Noriega's it's sad, and really unfortunate timing. But another way to look at it, Noriega faithfully fulfills his obligations to the country. You can't criticize that!

Indeed, our political schedules are officially FUBAR. It brings up other issues as well: what happens to displaced residents' ability to vote? We've already heard of the caging issue in Ohio again this year, and 300,000 New Jersey residents suddenly discovering they're not registered. What would prevent local GOP authorities from sending out similar "do not forward" notices to registered voters, receiving them back, and disallowing and suspending their registrations? Galveston, Bolivar and the Golden Triangle (Beaumont, Port Arthur, Orange area) are all heavily democratic areas with largely blue collar residents. That could effectively kill a lot of very close races right now.

It's no doubt Karl Rove and his McCain campaign acolytes have already noted this and are licking their lips in anticipation. It would not surprise me at all to see a serious spike in southeast Texas voters finding sudden problems and refusals from voting.

Hurricanes don't know politics, and the local folks lose it quickly. But the carpetbagging folks on the outside looking in aren't affected by Ike. They only see opportunity for victory.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Desperate Republicans Pushing The Race Riot Road To Victory

My friend Deb had warned me this campaign season was gonna get ugly over a month ago. It’s become pathetic how ugly America has gotten. Republicans are desperate now and more openly angling for that race riot catalyst to scare over the rest of the white voters.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6Ca8reYEfQ [Exposé of product at their sales booth at the Values Voters Convention this year]
http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/politics/2008/09/16/holt.obama.waffles.wkrn [Initial CNN news story on the controversial satirical product]

In a land where we create enemies around the world, declare war and send troops – including many minority troops – overseas to fight and die for their country, how bad does it look when they come back home to find blatant racism in the form of satirically created waffle mix that goes out of its way to tell minorities “you’re not good Americans like us, you’re merely here to be the butt of our cartoonish jokes.”

That’s exactly what a couple of admitted Republicans created: a waffle mix with a cartoon picture of Obama, the first black party nominee in American history, in place of where Aunt Jemima would be. It’s an intended throwback to the imagery of Jemima, the southern indentured, servant-class “black mammy” visage that haunted and indignified the entire African-American community in this nation until the civil rights bill was signed into law, and even well beyond.

[CNN's Lou Dobbs buys a box of Obama Waffle Mix and the creator grabs a quick souvenir photo during the Values Voters Convention]

Worse yet on one version of the waffle box, as one ‘person on the street’ in CNN’s story about this laughed and commented, “oh, he’s got a towel on his head!” Next to that caricature is a red arrow and instructions: “Point box toward Mecca for tastier waffles!” Yes, Obama the good Christian Sunni Muslim. Urban legend, again….

Furthermore, on the back, there’s even a recipe for Open Border Fiesta Waffles with a visual of Obama as a caricatured Mexican, replete with sombrero and a serape over one shoulder! Oh, and the recipe is precious too, beginning with a description: “The greatest danger of all is to allow walls to divide us. It’s time we opened our borders and our wallets to all who desire a taste of freedom. So put out the welcome mat and enjoy this multicultural celebration!”

The ingredients call for Obama waffle mix, oil, goat’s milk and jalapeño peppers, drizzled with chili con queso [sic], and suggests, “while waiting for these zesty treats to invade your home, why not learn a foreign language?” The recommended serving is “4 or more illegal aliens.”

Believe it – I can’t make this kind of stuff up!

These two GOP-folk, Bob DeMoss and Martin Whitlock of Franklin, TN felt a compelling need to speak their mind with their caricaturish concoction. They were open about discussing their brainchild, already spinning off sideline products like Obama Waffle Mix aprons, and were happy to have the free news publicity from CNN that their controversial products created. I predict they’ve hit upon a jackpot that will sell well to collectors, and especially so to rich, white Republican speaking events and fundraisers.

Actually, I’m amazed they didn’t just take that last step and call it Obamamima waffles. In fact, why not go all the way and to the bright red or white “Al Jolson” styled lips a-la minstrel show? Yeah, I know, the visuals were long-ago wrested from cartoons and deemed pejorative, but so was blatant racism. Now that that’s once again stylish among the hoi polloi, why not open up that trunk and bring it all back out into the open Sirs DeMoss and Whitlock? Why hold back, especially when there’s scads of good Republican money to be made?

In this day and age when so many in black America have transcended this stereotype and have attained prominent places in business, society and even government in both parties (Condolleeza Rice? Clarence Thomas? Remember them Republicans?) these GOP folk, and even the RNC and McCain campaign’s coy nibblings around the edges, all deem it AOK to put these “uppity nigras” who don’t genuflect and kiss their political masters’ rings duly back in their place! Are we not yet beyond the days of “yazzuh”?!?

And the precious part about it is these brainiacs don’t stop with African-Americans!

They also manage to take down Latinos as well with their caricature (which only missed the Frito Bandito mustachio)! All that effort John McCain (in retrospect, cynically) put forth to attract latino voters to the GOP by being a sponsor of immigration reform himself has now come into the harsh light of truth – and gets tossed right in the crapper! McCain now wants nothing to do with his former legislation, and further is now the figurehead of a party that openly belittles and stereotypes all minorities, including their former “amigos” who want to erase borders, “invade” from Mexico and eat waffles with jalapeños and chile con queso! Well, Olé!

Don’t forget pointing the box toward Mecca for “tastier waffles!” Surely that will go over well with Sunni Americans. It’ll surely bring a heartwarming smile to Republicans’ friends in the Bin Laden family, too! Not Osama, but the other Bin Ladens who are longtime friends and business partners to George Bush and family. No doubt it’ll also be an attention-getter with Prince “Bandar Bush” and the entire Saud family when time comes to ask for help when the oil prices get too high for America’s economy to function. Certainly they’ll see the humor in not only humans, but foods needing to bow to Mecca so they may be at their best, insh’allah!

It’s a xenophobe’s trifecta! They take out blacks, latinos and Arabs in one fell swoop. Moreover, they simultaneously help paint the entire white race as “good ol’ boys” with german shepherds in the backyard, wooden crosses in the garage and their oh-so-closeted billyclubs and spook-white sheets hanging in the closet.

Gee GOPs, thanks for reminding me how all Americans are nothing but broadly-painted, monolithic stereotypes! What a great, monochromatic image to show the rest of the world. Yes, this is the type of democratic ideals we want to export to those starving for “American style democracy” – get ready Iraq!

Half of my blood is white European, and these idiots are making me ashamed of it! In fact, they’ve made me furious! How dare they presume they can unilaterally decide to throw all Americans back into pigeonholed stereotypes, and throw America’s social progress into reverse a few decades? How hypocritical can these repugnant bastards be when they call Obama on the race card (a bit of a stretch) and yet let stand and fester this type of outrageous commentary and feign being oblivious and innocent? Who gave these Republicans the right to own and destroy our country at their sole discretion?

It’s truly amazing the studied restraint and maturity the African-American community has shown to date. Compare this to the Republicans’ histrionical response to “lipstick on a pig” (a phrase even John McCain uttered about Hillary Clinton’s health care plan).

Better still, think of the shrill GOPer cries of foul when bloggers not even connected to the Obama campaign nor the DNC outed Sarah Palin’s unwed daughter’s pregnancy. Recall the response of Obama as this began hitting the news – agreeing with the RNC calls for hands off on Palin and calling for it to stop. Compare this to the McCain campaign and the RNC response to this half-veiled racial ridicule: silence.

It wouldn’t surprise me to know McCain’s off laughing at this small-minded comedy – after all, he gets into this mean-spirited, crude humor (admitted “bad boy” that he is).

McCain made comments that “Obama chooses his words carefully.” Well, the RNC and its supporters, and the Rovian campaign strategists are beyond careful with words. They’re masters at political marketing, at twisting phrases, manipulating meanings and using “coding” – words that speak to their base, but have little meaning outside of their nebular world.

This is distinctly coded Republican imagery, Sen. McCain, and your Republican party is making no bones about being open with it. Any attempt to flip this off as “unfortunate choice” of wording or ignorance is garbage! This is the most disingenuous “ignorance” possible. It’s nothing short of racially polarizing incitement.

Hurricane Ike's Lingering Effects: Days 4-5

[Photo of Point Bolivar Lighthouse in the foreground, and Crystal Beach TX further beyond, taken from the direction of Galveston Island the day after Hurricane Ike made landfall. Virtually everything's under water even hours after the water has begun receding back into the Gulf!]

Day Four

The tedium becomes overwhelming, so I'm really sinking myself into yardwork. After beginning the back yard yesterday, and getting the first two attacks from yellow jackets, I retreated. This afternoon, I got stung inside my own house! If the damn things are going to get me, then I'll take the war out to their turf -- not mine!

There isn't really much else I can do, and we're blessed with amazing cool weather -- low 80's! I can't emphasize how unusual it is to have decent weather after a hurricane! We really got fortunate.

With this weather, I shouldn't be short-tempered. But apparently frustration isn't only the product of the usual sticky heat and waiting in lines. Mine is clearly frustration borne of tedium and minor aggravations like those of the aggressive insect variety. Again today, I get two more stings -- one in my open eyeball! At least now I know the vitreous fluid doesn't come pouring out deflating your eye! Strangely, beyond the uncontrollable eye-watering, I actually caught a little buzz. It made the colors (once the white-out stopped) very intense in that eye. Nevertheless, it's not a trip I want to repeat: it's painful.

During the day, there's more activity in sound: frequent sirens from groups of either fire or paramedics vehicles (unsure which). One that was in my vicinity was clearly a fire, due to the black smoke, and brought both fire vehicles and even a chopper. It's noise! Maybe not the welcome kind, but it breaks the eerie silence that hovers in those immediate days after hurricanes.

Beyond that, the persistent uncertainty gnaws at you. I catch a little news on the car radio in spurts, but nothing personally useful. It would seem easy to drive to Katy, but a 30 mile roundtrip takes gas, and gas is still a long wait, to say nothing of people's temperament at the pumps. Staying in Katy is a different problem: leaving my home unattended and a looter's draw. So I stay home just to avoid that prospect. With 2/3 of a tank, I think I can wait it out. If I get down to 1/4 tank, I'll just drive out to Columbus an hour west. They'll have gas without the hassles.

This evening I drove to the Home Depot near my home to get wasp spray, and apparently they close early. Wasted trip, wasted gas, just another of those little cumulative frustrations of life in indefinite uncertainty.

Another is the frustration of intermittent cell phone signals. I've been very happy to have cell phone service (thankfully I had the presence to know I'd need a car charger at some point). That said, I've had a number of partial conversations with friends, unless it's under ten minutes or so. Trying to call back is usually fruitless – there's no available signal. Looking forward to another boring night in the dark, the only thing you can do to break the boredom besides walking around the darkened neighborhood is get on the phone with someone. But after a few minutes, getting cut off abruptly is no fun.

I'd noticed today the cell phone signal seemed to be more consistent, so I started making a couple calls. After the last one cut off, to my surprise I was able to get a signal about two minutes later -- a hopeful sign! During my last call, I nearly got heart palpitations as I saw a bright blue flash of light in back of me (I thought lightning!). Then a sound ... and TV! My electricity came on! Hallelujah! Four days was long enough!

Finally I started seeing some of the images of the devastation on Bolivar Peninsula (across the pass from Galveston Island). It's wiped out. A friend of mine, Jackie bought an older beach house in Crystal Beach back in 2000 (one that's only about 4 feet off of ground level) and had mentioned at the time that she was going to sell her condo in Houston and move out there permanently. I have no idea if she did so.

But knowing Crystal Beach was ground zero for Ike's storm surge, and now seeing the town -- save for the lighthouse and the water tower -- has been virtually wiped clean off the map, I worry that she may have stayed. She's obviously transgendered (not a good mix in a shelter), and has her poodle. It strikes me that with her tough military background, she may have decided to stick it out and fight it. I'd drop her an Email, but that doesn't work well when you have no electricity.

Galveston is devastated. Bolivar's little towns are utterly destroyed. So much more damage further inland than I thought I'd see. And the flared tempers show on TV. Even the mayor is angered at FEMA, and is taking over the POD distribution. They apparently sent a truck from one of the POD sites -- against the mayor's protestations, as there were assigned police to guard -- back to the staging area at Reliant Stadium. 7AM Tuesday, the POD opened and there were no supplies. FEMA just can't seem to get it together!

Really, the county and city are the only ones who seem to have a grasp on things! Thank God for Mayor Bill White! He was great post-Katrina, and he's shining again now that we have our own unique version of it. There's been other confusions as well – communication by the mayor’s office and media that PODs were supposed to all be open until 8PM, but a few locations shutting down at 6PM.

KTRK, Channel 13, has been really digging to get the information this whole storm (kudos go out to Miya Shay, Wayne Dolcefino and Art Rascon for not being easily brushed off with fluff or vague responses). Tonight they showed President Bush who apparently visited the area today (maybe explaining all the helicopter activity I’d heard). According to reports, he disallowed any media from riding along with him, and did another fly-over, surveying damage from a helicopter. According to Melanie Lawson, the President gave a press briefing before doing his flyover survey, and gave a fluff-filled, soundbite pat on the back to Houston:

"I have been president long enough to have seen tough situations, and have seen the resilience of the people to be able to deal with the tough situations…. I know with proper help from the federal government and the state government, there will be a better tomorrow." What a feeling guy! He couldn’t buy a clue if it was given to him for free!

The electricity return is making progress, and I truly feel fortunate! I’m part of 836,000 people who’ve had power restored. That’s out of 2.26 million who lost it originally. Only 37% of us have gotten it back.

With all this communication breakdown and miscommunication, keep this in mind: the agency overseeing this is FEMA. Since Hurricane Katrina and Rita in 2005, FEMA has been wrapped up under the direct purview of Homeland Security Dept. and Michael Chertoff. Homeland Security Dept. answers to no one else, and directly reports to President George W. Bush. And as Dick Cheney has asserted numerous times, both he and the President have “unitary executive powers” – unrestricted powers to do anything they want without explanation, oversight or accountability for any of it. Houston has been hometown to Bush-daddy and Bush-mama since his junior high school days.

If Bush-baby had wanted this effort to run smoothly, he would have made it so with unfettered command. Or maybe he did exercise his authority and order Homeland Security Dept. to do so, which communicates a very different and disturbing message…. YOYO!

Finally, the came real shock of being in "Hurricane mode" this past week. The stock market tanked, badly! Trust me, there was no way for anyone in the Houston region to know! For those not in hurricane areas, this may be something you never have to live through, and so cannot relate. Since last Thursday, what media and news we've had has been commercial-free, non-stop news of the hurricane's track, the expected landfall and damage, and even this evening on TV, nothing but damage reports, POD reports, communication of needed information and press-conferences. We have zero news from the outside world! Absolutely nothing. There is no regular programming.

It wasn't until I went through this that I remembered back to my days in Corpus Christi and the same occurring there after Hurricane Allen, and Fern and Celia years before it. You become inured to focusing on locally surviving. But you forget the rest of the world goes on. The campaign stuff is infuriating and I'm worried about what's happening financially. And yet, we may as well have all been planted in Indonesia with no contact to the outside world. Without internet access, we're all clueless -- and even that's an understatement! I literally feel like Rip Van Winkle!

This is testament to how dependent we’ve now become on internet news. It’s happened gradually, but it’s had a comprehensive change on our lives – especially if you have any sociopolitical interests or activities. Now I've got new worries -- what else have I missed? Even with newfound electricity, it's going to be an unsettling night.

Day Five

A good portion of the morning was spent catching up! Catching up on outside news, catching up with friends who worried over me surviving the storm. After so long on the internet, I got a headache. So I decided to try to make my way to Home Depot and the grocery stores again. As it's Wednesday now, apparently traffic had picked up considerably. I tried three times unsuccessfully to attempt a trip and never made it out of my neighborhood. The east-west streets (Richmond and Westheimer further north) are clogged with bumper-to-bumper traffic. Even my north-south artery (two-laned Synott Rd.) was clogged with traffic back ups, which is unusual.

I've become an involuntary urban shut-in!

Instead, I spent most of my day -- as before -- out in back, clearing vegetation debris to get to the downed fence debris. The angry yellow jackets are out in force. All their paper, honey-combed nests are down, and they're already hostile. My disruption of their new attempts at temporary homes is enraging them further. This takes up a good portion of the day.

After 8PM, I finally had a successful drive out of my neighborhood!

Unfortunately, stores are still closing early -- Home Depot at 7PM, Kroger at 8PM (I just missed it!). Again, more infuriating frustration over wasted trips! Waiting in long lines don't appeal to me, but making trips for nothing compounds the problem. But in my drive around, I noticed something good. Four gas stations are now open, with power and gasoline, and there was no waiting in multi-block lines! In fact, there was lots of business, but no lines at all -- a great sign. Noticing that the prices have gone up to $3.77/gal. -- a little over 10% rise from the $3.35 I paid two days before the storm -- was not so welcomed a sight.

But it is gasoline and I didn't have to drive 75 miles each way to get it. I topped off my tank, so it wasn't a totally wasted trip. The comfort level increases just a bit.

From what I see on TV, it seems FEMA is finally getting it together. Chertoff and the county and the mayor are all working in concert, and for the most part, everyone appears to be on the same page. It's about time.

Other things on hurricane news: there are over one hundred tankers parked in a line, anchored off of the Galveston coast. All of them are waiting to come into the Port of Houston to unload, maybe even some to load. Refineries are just in the beginning stages of bringing things online again, so it may be a while for some of those loading. This would be a horrible time for another storm to hit the western Gulf of Mexico -- thank God for the current weather patterns!

Only in Texas: after Ike devastated a lot of the coastal areas in Chambers County, across Galveston Bay from Houston / Galveston, many of the pastures lost fencing (and even some cattle). As there were numerous reports of wandering cattle, some of the ranchers have begun old-fashioned cattle drives of their herd to relocate their stock. TV news showed shots of the cattle drives heading up Hwy. 124.

There's actually a few hundred people still on Bolivar Peninsula, along with the thousands in Galveston. How these Bolivar folks survived, I don't know. But they stayed, and probably for good reason. Even in this difficult time and conditions, lootings are being reported. It makes it impossible for authorities or military to convince people to leave. They'll live with the hardships, they're staying with their homes and belongings.

Crazy Shirley, a Daily Kos contributor who has a beach home in Crystal Beach sent me a video response to my previous diary entry on Kos. It was well-done, with many photos of the old, casual Crystal Beach days. It reminded me of my days living on Corpus' North Beach, and days spent out at Port A or J. P. Luby Surf Park on Padre Island. Then showed the news shots and satellite photos of Ike bearing down. Finally a few shots of the devastation post-storm. It was all done to the tune of Green Day's "Good Riddance (I Hope You Had The Time Of Your Life)." I started worrying about Jackie again, remembering our GCTC beach parties on both West Beach and at Jackie's on Crystal Beach. I worried about whatever happened to the nursing home staff and residents from Baytown and where they ended up.

I also started remembering Corpus, in those first few months post-Celia.

That was too much -- I started crying uncontrollably. You can only stay numb for so long....
"All last night, sat on the levee and moaned
Thinking 'bout my baby and my happy home." — When The Levee Breaks, Led Zeppelin

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hurricane Ike's Lingering Effects, Day 3

Kinko’s is not my favorite place to have to go to use a computer. But in a desperate pinch, it works.

It’s Monday, I should be back at work. But the Shell Westhollow campus that I work at is apparently on the same electricity grid as I am. No power, no work. We got a major break this morning – a norther! That’s unusually rare after a hurricane as we usually get the opposite: high heat and humidity with zero breeze. Couple that with no electricity, nothing cold to drink and worse – no running water adequate enough to take a shower! – and you have a recipe for extreme frustration.

So in that sense, I’m doing well.

However, electricity (as I noticed coming back from my sister’s place way out in Katy) is a fickle thing. Driving back last night, it’s an inexplicable, piecemeal quilt of little squares of electricity amongst a larger dark mass. Even the area right at the tollway, apartments that were likely mostly evacuated before the storm, has power along with the collected storefronts and convenience stores. But crossing the Upper South Brays Bayou, you slip into a sea of darkness with nothing but the occasional candle flicker in a window, or a rare house or two with generator-powered lights.

Even some of the sights are otherworldly. Riding along the Westpark Tollway, a section of it was lit up, but the lights flickered on and off individually on each side and in random patterns – seemingly in time to the music I had on the radio! At one point I spotted a high tension electric pole with two of its connectors spitting fire and sparks like a crazy sparkler, while folks drove by it like it was mundane. It was almost like I’d landed in some crazy country for Carnaval.

While in Katy, I got my first glimpse of news last night. It seems strange, but I really had no idea what was going on in the outside world. Think of wilderness camping with no contact to the outside world. So my first glimpses of the devastation were a bit of an eye-opener. I know we got hit here with well over hurricane-force winds, but it doesn’t compare to the coastal areas.

Miya Shay with our local ABC affiliate was very good in peppering both Michael Chertoff and later County Commissioner Ed Emmett, with hard questions on FEMA’s response and seeming confusion. On Friday, I was struck with some of the things that should’ve been pre-strategized and foreseen that weren’t.

Now we heard the post-storm distribution of supplies such as ice, water, and emergency food were not coordinated. FEMA had pre-determined the state would deliver supplies, but the state declined or said it could not do so, passing it back to FEMA. Great storm planning once again from our vacuous closet queen, GOPers’ boy, Gov. Rick Perry. Chertoff, meanwhile, didn’t have time to do so either and instead tossed it on local authorities – County’s Ed Emmett, and Houston’s Mayor Bill White – to conduct it.

It seems to me that with FEMA being part of Homeland Security, who’s head Michael Chertoff answers directly to no one but the President, who according to Dick Cheney has “unitary executive powers” (meaning he can do whatever he damn well pleases), it would seem the President – who’s family is still here in Houston – and Cherty could have gotten this done. Instead its dumped on the locals – where a bunch of it was to begin with – to get it done. Cherty, yer doing a heckuva job – you too, Bush-baby!

I’m sure somewhere Bush is probably now trying to “cover his ass” and make promises about working to get assistance down to those in need in a timely basis. In other words, YOYO – You’re On Your Own!

Meanwhile for the rest of us, even though we’re lucky, it doesn’t help our moods. Traveling anywhere is a bit testy as all stoplights are four-way stops – but some folks don’t care about good traffic etiquette. I saw one fender bender, and the damn fool who should’ve waited was the one out of his car acting like the enraged baboon. Stores aren’t much better. You don’t know which ones are open, and most of them have lines outside of them. Even Home Depot had me waiting in line just to get in. Once you’re in, you often times don’t find what you went there for – requiring a trip to somewhere else that’s open. One large grocery near this Kinko’s is open, has full power and is doing a brisk business. But there’s no ice, no water, no bread, no chips, precious few crackers, tuna and potted meats are gone (thankfully I’d stocked up on most all of those before). At least they had some pumpernickel and onion pretzels that turned out to be pretty good. Hey, it’s something besides tuna and crackers!

They did bring in a couple pallets of ice while I was there, but the pushy-grabby clambering to grab their allotted two bag limit just gave me a headache. Screw ice. I don’t need that.

Gasoline is also an iffy adventure. Some gas stations appear to be open – but only by generator. That means no gas that can be pumped – something that could be frustrating for someone thinking they’ve found gas, only to find it’s a mirage. The few stations with legitimate gas end up with lines up the block – they’re pretty conspicuous. They can also be hotbeds of temper flares (as I saw on the news at my sister’s).

One of the reasons I don’t make the trip to my sister’s more frequently, even though they have electricity, is the 30 mile roundtrip will whittle down my ¾ tank of gas much quicker. If I stick close to the house, I can last until next week when (hopefully) the electricity will be more widely restored and gas will be more widely available. When it comes to getting those precious supplies like gas or water or ice in the immediate days after the storm, it becomes too animalistic, not unlike what we see in third-world countries during post-disaster food distributions. As I saw close up when I was thirteen, frustration, heat or discomfort and desperation all create a maelstrom that breaks down civility rather quickly.

Three days without electricity gets tedious, even though it is better than 26 days without during August (Celia). The inertia, without even the benefit of vacation, is the maddening part.

For me personally, it’s another day down with no pay thanks to my job being closed, another day down while Human Rights Campaign and the other GLBT opportunists trash the trans community, exploit trans tragedies leaving us bereft of hope, and shoves us collectively even further down the food chain and into permanent poverty, another day while the RNC opportunists trash anyone who’s not devoutly neo-con, cleverly steals everything they can from the national tax base to “no-bid contract” out to themselves while they capitalize on any possible tragedy – esp. from Hurricane Ike – and portray themselves as heroic compatriots, down in the trenches in the same fight!

So all I can do is go cut down the mess in the back yard – and then get surprise attacks from yellow jackets! Twice! Yes this will be over soon enough. But in the meantime, it sure looks like a never-ending stretch of unforgiving rough road.

Damn I hate Kinko's keyboards!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hurricane Aftermath: Ike!

This will be short as I'm using my sister's computer. Thankfully my baby sister, Holly, lives further out in Katy. They had damage, but it's thankfully much less (thus, they have electricity!) And running water! Until you don't have them, you don't realize how much you take the essentials for granted.

[Photo: Until this past February, I used to work at the big Chase Tower, across the street and 7 floors above where this man is standing]

Ike was a pretty tough little hurricane. Having lost power around 2:15 in the morning, I have no idea how strong it ended up being -- 110 mph sustained was the last I heard. Since then, it's been life in the dark -- literally and figuratively. Only today did I decide to drive a bit.

Not having power meant I had lots of thawing meat and fish in the freezer that I had to do something with. Normally it would be barbecue time. But this morning brought some really heavy rain, and intermittent showers throughout this early afternoon. That's not good barbecue weather, so it was time to truck my meats over to my sister's house in Katy.

The drive out was an eye opener. But damage was heavier in some of the areas just north of me. Most all of the stoplights were dangling from the lines or poles they were attached to previously -- some precariously about the height of an S.U.V's rooftop. Others were completely gone, nothing but dangling wires. Many businesses lost signs, a few lost front windows. Fence, tree and other types of debris are still in some of the busy streets even 36 hrs. after the storm -- and may be there for a while. Electricity was mostly gone, but oddly there were little pockets that still had power!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . [Katy Freeway's T.C. Jester underpass flood]
Businesses were mostly closed. What few stores were open had massive lines, and yet still didn't have the most desired items in stock: water, ice or ice chests, bread, batteries, flashlights.... There were gas stations that were open a little further out from me, and they had gas last night, but again the lines were astronomical and the crowds waiting in line were more than restive. Most gas stations that were open were only selling soft drinks and beer (and still doing a brisk business!)

The damage in my area was mostly trees, power poles and line, fences down everywhere, and some lost shingles and leaks (which I had). As it was hot and still in the house, I walked the area around my neighbohood last night -- in the dark -- and noticed it was pretty consistent all around. I ended up with another longtime trans friend, Karen, and her wife in the next neighborhood over. We sat around, along with two other refugees from town, one a trans student at Univ. of Houston dorms. We chatted into the early morning hours.

Earlier in the day, once everyone had finally ridden out the worst of the storm (around daybreak in my neighborhood), I took a nap until 2:30PM. Once I was up and stirring, all the neighbors and I simultaneously got out and began raking our gutter and yards, dragging limbs and branches out to the street. We had two neighbors on my street who'd been out of town for the last week, so we all pitched in on clearing out their front yards as well. It helps make it look like somebody's there (so looters don't get any ideas that the house is empty).

I love my neighborhood, our little United Nations! We've got folks from Ethiopia, Iran, Phillipines, Spain and Vietnam on my street. Black, white, brown, yellow; we're taxicab drivers, used car lot owners, Dept. of Defense, Sherriff's deputy, security guard -- and even a transgender activist! But we're a close-knit street -- family (even if not of the GLB variety).

[<------- Only in Texas!]

After spending the afternoon cleaning up the street en masse, satisfied, we all retreated back into our hot, still homes -- with all the afternoon's worth of sweat, unfortunately. It'd be so nice just to have a cold shower even, but that's the downside to losing power: water treatment plants can't filter and pump out the water. The conditions bite, but we're all in this together (and have been through it all before).

At some point, once I get electricity back, I'll try to upload more video to the blog. Until whenever that happens, I'll be offline for a bit (unless I make the drive out to Katy between then).