“Damn Fools”

From the NY Times:  A firefighter takes a break on a Galveston beach.


Our power just came back one, almost 8 days after Ike hit the Gulf Coast. 

My brief blogging was from the university, which bizarrely declared classes resumed last Tues.  This was bizarre in a city where most of the residents have been living without power or drinkable water, with the children’s schools closed, gas scarce, most sources of food without power, and few traffic lights operating.  Without power, gas can’t be pumped; without traffic lights, traffic in a major US city is interminable.  Without normal access to stores, people wait in lines for government handouts.

And, sadly, those are comparatively minor problems.  A lot of people have lost their homes, and others, the undocumented workers, are afraid of getting too near the government  officials.  From the Houston Chronicle:

Elmer Martinez, 22, lost all his possessions in Hurricane Ike’s storm surge. The restaurant where he worked is closed, and it may be weeks before he finds another job.

That would make him like many Galveston residents, except for one important distinction: He is one of several thousand illegal immigrants living in a post-storm limbo, afraid they will be discovered by the squads of law enforcement officers now patrolling the streets and guarding the causeway entrance.

Some of the undocumented immigrants are hesitant to leave the island, worrying they will not be allowed back. While they wait for work to resume, the financial assistance for housing and personal losses offered by government agencies is not available since they lack valid U.S. identity documents.

They will be needed for the rebuilding effort, though, and the local officials appear to be sensible:

”We’re not enforcing any immigration laws in the city. We don’t have time for that,” said Galveston Police Chief Charles Wiley. ”As long as they’re not violating other laws, we don’t have the resources to enforce immigration laws.”

And of course there’s even worse:  Galveston is home to people who fish for a living; some have lost their homes and, with the destruction of their boats, their livelihood.

There have been some very odd stories; a friend told me one of her students seriously remarked on seeing an elephant and a giraffe walking along highway 45.  A tiger may, or may not, be loose on the Bolivar Pennisula.  Alternatively, it may be loose on Galveston.  Alligators are said to be having a great time.  We probably don’t want to know exactly how. 

And the damn fools?  This is a description of those of us who have tried to live on the coast.  The state has a law allowing it to reclaim property too close to the tide line, and that line certainly has shifted quite dramatically with Ike. 

We have two places on Galveston, one of which we had been trying to sell.  It will be 6-10 months before it can be inhabited, if the building associated is allowed to rebuild it.  The city can leave all the utilities disconnected, and in effect condemn it.  The first picture was taken as the surge was  building.  The water is about 12 feet above normal; the long, black thing is a ‘geotube,’ which helps prevent normal dune erosion.

 The surge apparently picked the pool up and deposited it a couple of yards along.  The water level you see now is probably the new normal.

We’re tempted to hope that the building is condemned and the insurance collectable.  Then I think of those who made the building their retirement home.

Our other place is just fine, built as it was to specifications derived from Florida hurricanes.  The central problem has been described with what seemed to me remarkable empathy:  the bottom garage has a lot of snakes sheltering in it.  In addition to the media’s discussions of failures to make good decisions about leaving the  island, have been discussions of residents further inland being asked to shelter in place.  So the idea of snakes sheltering in our place might seem natural to some, but, really, it might also have been described less empathetically as an infestation!

Help Sarah Palin support Planned Parenthood!

Sort of. Actually, not really at all. But a very fun idea, passed on by Den Bro in comments and Andrew in an email.

Instead of (in addition to?) us all complaining about how horrible she
is, let’s all make a donation to Planned Parenthood in Sarah Palin’s
name for reminding us of the importance of protecting our rights for
birth control, women’s health and reproductive choice. This is a
brilliant idea for $10, or even $5.

And here’s the good part: when you make a donation to PP in her name,
they’ll send her a card telling her that the donation has been made in
her honor. Use this link.

You’ll need to fill in the address to let Planned Parenthood know
where to send the “in Sarah Palin’s honor” card. I suggest you use the
address for the McCain campaign headquarters, which is:

McCain for President
1235 S. Clark Street
1st Floor
Arlington , VA 22202

PS: make sure you use that link above or choose the pulldown of
Donate–Honorary or Memorial Donations, not the regular “Donate

Obama’s ‘Women’s Rally for the Change We Need’.

Despite being neither female nor enfranchised, I managed to get a ticket for Barack Obama’s “women’s rally” in Miami (or Coral Gables, to be precise) earlier today.  Most of the media coverage of the event has concentrated on the brief interruption by a group of crackpot protesters, which is a shame, because his speech was pretty interesting.  I must admit, I’ve not been following the campaign too closely, but my general impression has been that both candidates are heavy on rhetoric and light on policy detail.  Today, though, Obama not only talked about issues in general terms, he gave some indication of what, beyond “change”, he might do to address them.

Since this was a women’s rally, most of the things he talked about were “women’s issues”.  The list included childcare, maternity leave, affordable housing and living, the division of labour in families, the glass ceiling, the gendered pay gap, and abortion.  On all of these, in the abstract, he said (what I consider to be) all the right things, which I think you can probably fill in yourself.  When it came to concrete policy commitments, however, things got a bit less reassuring.   Though he spoke for quite a while about his plans for the economy and tax system, and how these would benefit women – or more specifically, mothers – he didn’t give any detail on how he thought he might close the pay gap, remove the glass ceiling, or encourage a fairer division of family work.

That said, just to hear him talk about these issues at all was heartening.  Most notably, and I believe he has been reluctant to do this in the past, he gave a firm, clear commitment to upholding Roe vs Wade, and supporting the right to abortion.  He also – naturally –  attacked John McCain for not being so committed, and for having few or no policies concerning women’s issues, and talked up Joe Biden’s history of being on the side of women (as noted by Jender below).

All in all, then, a satisfactory event, that went some way to allaying my cynicism about the conduct of politics in America.  But one thing in particular still worried me.  Even though Obama did at one point say that “these are not just women’s issues, they affect men too”, the event and speech were aimed at women, and time and again he referred to “women’s issues”, and… well, perhaps it’s true that women do care more then men about childcare, raising families, being able to buy food, being able to afford housing, and so on.  But characterising such things as “women’s issues” is pernicious.  It really shouldn’t be the case that home economics and family matters are seen as exclusively women’s concerns, and hearing this view implicitly endorsed by the next president of the US (jinx!) is rather disappointing.