Harvey, Houston and Flood Insurance

As I’m watching our neighbor city to the South be inundated by record breaking rains from hurricane Harvey,


PBS NewsHour, As Harvey floods Texas, Congress due to debate insurance program that’s underwater, Aug 29, 2017

A vast majority of Texas homeowners in areas under water from Tropical Storm Harvey lack flood insurance, and how to help them is sure to be a big political fight in Washington. Lisa Desjardins joins Miles O’Brien to take a closer look at the debate about the National Flood Insurance Program.

They don’t have flood insurance because a) the Bush II White House insisted on denying climate change and wouldn’t update flood maps and b) Trump is rolling back guidelines that Barack Obama instituted that would have made many of these homes be mandatorily covered for flood insurance. Flood insurance is there for a reason.

Like health insurance it is not a thing you should be economizing with. Also like the other insurance that’s not really insurance, some of us will need the insurance more than others, but all of us will have to pay the costs the system endures. Just another example of the value of early investment, or how it would be smartest to to engage in the architectural equivalent of preventative care and build to suit the location in the first place. Houston is a prime example of ignoring science and planning and essentially building stupid. No offense to Houstonians, most of which have little choice over where they live.

Houston has been stuck in a vicious circle. More people means more subdivisions, and more subdivisions means more runoff. That results in more flooding, which ends up affecting more people.

John Jacob, a wetlands expert who runs Texas A&M’s Coastal Watershed Program, has been warning about the dangerous effects of bulldozing natural flood barriers for years. The mission of his program is to share the science with communities to help them better cope with the fact that many of them live not much above sea level in hurricane country. He says he sees signs that Houstonians are finally coming to terms with the need to change their ways.

“The idea that we just don’t care is radically changing,” says Jacob. “The real-estate people, to them Houston is a one-night stand. The rest of us want this to be a place where our grandkids are happy and safe… This storm just cements that there’s consequences to the way we’ve done stuff.” – Quartz, August 29, 2017

#MAGA: Cutting FEMA to Build a Border Wall

Chicago Tribune

Republicans are eyeing deep cuts to disaster relief to pay for Trump’s wall. A proposed $876 billion cut to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which falls under the Department of Homeland Security, would help finance large portions of a wall along the southern border. Congressional Republicans are reportedly considering the idea as part of budget negotiations. But now that Hurricane Harvey has ravaged Southeastern Texas and Louisiana, they will now almost certainly be forced to abandon the proposal and look for cuts elsewhere.

The wall is a ridiculous and xenophobic idea to begin with, and cutting critical government programs to pay for it is even more absurd.

What do you think? – Robert Reich on Facebook

You know what? This figures. Completely. This is exactly what Trump and his GOP congressional leadership flunkies would set their sights on. I mean, he comes out claiming something like “This will be the greatest disaster response ever! People will point to this as the way it should be done!” and then the next day you discover NOPE, he’s going to gut FEMA. Perfect. This makes perfect sense.

Everytime he says anything you can count on his congressional leadership to do just the opposite thing. Gong to protect Medicare? Going to gut Medicare. Going to protect Social Security? Going to stiff people living on Social Security. Going to get more jobs in the US? More jobs leave the US. Happens every. Single. Time. This is just more OHM Bullshit

Facebook status backdated to the blog.

Free State of Jones

Smithsonian

We watched Free State of Jones starring one of my favorite Austinites, Matthew McConaughey, Friday night. I really, really wanted to like this movie, which is probably why its meh presentation frustrated and disappointed me so thoroughly. It’s slow in places. The film makes some unexpected turns and time jumps that leave the audience puzzling over events and characters, distracting them from what is happening on the screen.

Perhaps another editor could have fixed this problem? It’s really hard to say. Films like this one are a testament to just how hard it is to get even the most gripping stories and well-written scripts in front of audiences in a form that they will understand and appreciate. Thousands of people have to do their jobs flawlessly. The directors, editors, and producers all have to have the same vision of the finished product in mind the entire time that the film is in production. The actors have to create believable characterizations that can speak to the viewing audience. The film crew and audio crew have to capture those performances flawlessly. If any one group of people fails to do their job, including craft services, that failure will be noticeable in the finished product. If what the audience ends up watching doesn’t connect, for whatever reason, all of those people’s time, energy and dedication can come to naught. It is heartbreaking when this happens to good actors and good stories.

The story of Free State of Jones is one that everyone should be familiar with, but have probably never heard before. It is a portion of the life story of Newt Knight, a plantation owner who never owned slaves while living in the slave state of Mississippi in the years leading up to the Civil War,

“He was a Primitive Baptist who didn’t drink, didn’t cuss, doted on children and could reload and fire a double-barreled, muzzle-loading shotgun faster than anyone else around,” said Moulds. “Even as an old man, if someone rubbed him the wrong way, he’d have a knife at their throat in a heartbeat. A lot of people will tell you that Newt was just a renegade, out for himself, but there’s good evidence that he was a man of strong principles who was against secession, against slavery and pro-Union.”
Smithsonian Mag.,The True Story of the ‘Free State of Jones’, March 2016

After volunteering for the Confederate army and being involved in several botched battles with heavy casualties, he deserted the army and returned to Jones County and his now-ruined plantation. All of this is covered in the movie, to some extent. What extent is real and what is contrived for the convenience of filmatic storytelling is open to question; open to question because not even historians agree when it comes to the details of Newt Knight’s life. The one thing they all do seem to agree on is that, after the war was ended and the South was returned to the Union, Newt Knight remained a supporter of equal rights for all without regard to skin color. Which is why he’s still a pariah in his home state and even in the county of Jones, Mississippi. It is also one possible explanation as to why the film about his story is so hard to follow. It’s hard to follow because the principles involved in the film are too close to the subject matter and so cannot see the big picture, the story that needs to be told.

Which is a shame. Because the story of a white Southerner who rebelled against secession, a plantation owner who hated slavery, is exactly the kind of story this country needs right now. It just isn’t the story that the film Free State of Jones ends up telling. Maybe someday the events of that war, the history of slavery in the US, all of it will be far enough in the past that we can give the story of Newt Knight a proper telling in a visual medium. Maybe in that future time there will be a monument to Newt Knight in the Jones county seat, and not a monument to the Confederate soldiers of the Civil War. The existence of that monument is a testament to the fact that the cause of the Civil War still exists in the minds of the people living in the old South and all across the United States. The cause still has converts living in the US right now. Maybe someday we will end that war, if we are lucky.

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” – William Faulkner

Expanded from four sentences, 27 words and a web address, written as a Facebook status. To say I expanded this one is just a bit of an understatement. 

James Comey Gave the Election to Donald Trump

From Robert Reich’s Facebook wall comes this, today, nearly seven months after the election,

NPR: Sanders Voters

About 12 percent of Bernie Sanders’s supporters in the Democratic primary crossed party lines and voted for Donald Trump in the general election, according to a new analysis. 

In several key states — Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan — the number of Sanders to Trump defectors were greater than Trump’s margin of victory, according to new numbers released Wednesday by UMass professor Brian Schaffner. 

What do you think?

I get really, really tired of the armchair quarterbacking of political events. That’s what I think. I think the three critical states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan were so close as to make the term “victory” an almost meaningless label to apply to either candidate, which is why I ignore most pundits when they talk about why the race turned out the way it did. None of them could do better than Nate Silver and fivethirtyeight.com did before the election and even the best science around still gave Hillary a better than 70% chance of winning. I’ve known virtually since the second or third week after the election that there was only one person to blame for swinging the election to Trump in the final weeks running up to election day.

We have James Comey to thank for President Donald Trump. As 538 has mentioned more than once, Comey gave the election to Trump with his letter on October 28, 2016. It was Comey, Comey and more Comey, which is why I shed no tears at his leaving the FBI. Without Comey’s letter we have a Hillary Clinton presidency. This is undeniable,

The impact of Comey’s letter is comparatively easy to quantify, by contrast. At a maximum, it might have shifted the race by 3 or 4 percentage points toward Donald Trump, swinging Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida to him, perhaps along with North Carolina and Arizona. At a minimum, its impact might have been only a percentage point or so. Still, because Clinton lost Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by less than 1 point, the letter was probably enough to change the outcome of the Electoral College.

Could Clinton have done a better job? Without question. Clinton herself is another subject I hope to tackle at some point, but she did no better and no worse than any of the male presidential candidates before her as far as her activity and campaign go.

So let’s not play these games that the DNC wants us to play right now. They want us to keep Bernie Sanders from changing the Democratic party. They want us to embrace the neo-liberalism introduced by Bill Clinton. That is a part of history now. What the future holds is anybodies guess but you don’t earn the label progressive or liberal by looking to that past. That is Conservatism and playing the Republican’s game. That is playing to lose. Let’s play a progressive game next time and see if the GOP can keep up. Let’s play to win for a change.

Best Eclipse Ever, Obama With an Orange Halo

There are now 2 Donald Trumps – Teleprompter Trump and Tantrum Trump.

Teleprompter Trump, who almost sounds presidential, isn’t the real Donald. He’s the person reading from a teleprompter words written for him by aides and Cabinet appointees. We saw Teleprompter Trump Monday night talking about Afghanistan and yesterday talking about veterans.

Tantrum Trump is is the real Donald. It’s Trump minus the teleprompter. We saw Tantrum Trump at his rally in Phoenix Tuesday night when he called the press “sick,” threatened to close the government if Congress didn’t give him money for his wall, attacked Republican senators, and hinted he’d pardon racist Sheriff Joe. And in this morning’s tweets where he went ballistic on Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. And last week when he called white supremacists “good people” and criticized “both sides” in Charlottesville.

Tantrum Trump is unhinged and dangerous. Republican members of Congress with any integrity must stop him.

What do you think?

Robert Reich on Facebook

There was a broad group of people who watched Ronald Reagan through his last years as president and marveled at the difference between Reagan on script and Reagan off-script. Reagan off-script was frequently befuddled towards the end of his second term, prone to mis-speaking or outright making stuff up. Maybe it was the Alzheimer’s we now know he had, but as I watch the downward spiral of this president I can’t help but think back to those years and wonder if we weren’t seeing more of the real Ronald Reagan when he wasn’t trying to be presidential. What does that say about the Orange Hate-Monkey? Is he the real Donald Trump?

For What It’s Worth, the original eclipse clip was Trump being eclipsed by Obama, because the day goes from light to dark with a halo of orange around the darkness (rimshot) get the joke? OK, don’t laugh. Anyway, of course he gets someone to make the opposing MMGIF and retweets it. The guy has tissue-paper for skin.

Daily Mail

Facebook status backdated to the blog. Trump did eventually pardon Joe Arpaio.

Turkey Will Never Accept an Independent Kurdistan

PBS Newshour

Turkey was always going to oppose the Kurds. The government in Turkey opposed a free Kurdistan in Iraq. Syria is going to be the same. Turkey will not accept Kurdish autonomous region next door. That simply isn’t going to happen. There is bad blood there that goes back almost as long as the bad blood between Hebrews and Arabs. They are going to have to learn how to make peace with each other without interference from outside forces. Outside forces seeking to manipulate the outcomes in ways that vary from what the people living there on the ground want done.

Facebook status expanded and backdated to the blog.

Afghanistan Plans?

PBS NewsHour

What we need is to embark on nation building as we did after WWII. We destroyed Afghanistan’s government. At least, whatever was left of it after the USSR and the subsequent civil war destroyed most of the rest of that country.

We have to make it right or it will just fester again as it did before 9/11 happened. That means going in with construction teams and teaching teams and funds and good will and show these people what being part of the global world can do for them in the long term. That takes time, so let’s stop wasting it.

Facebook status backdated to the blog.

Everything You Need to Know About Ken Paxton

Dallas News

Ken Paxton thinks any attempt to accurately represent the will of the full population of the State of Texas is outrageous because he knows that such a vote would not only unseat him and his White Nationalist cronies currently running the state.

Attorney General Ken Paxton today asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a district court’s injunction permanently barring Texas from enforcing its amended voter ID law (Senate Bill 5). The Legislature passed the amended law to comply with a prior 5th Circuit court ruling. In a separate filing yesterday, the attorney general asked the U.S. District Court in Corpus Christi to stay its ruling while the appeal proceeds.

Wednesday, a district court granted a permanent injunction against Texas’ voter ID laws, defying the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which asked the court to end efforts to overturn the law. In a filing with the court, the Justice Department stated it was satisfied Senate Bill 5 “eradicates any discriminatory effect or intent” and expands voter identification options. – texasattorneygeneral.gov

However, federal courts have blocked the legislation and Ken Paxton himself is likely to end up in jail. Ken Paxton is crony capitalism personified. He certainly doesn’t deserve to be our attorney general.

[At least he’s not the only indicted statewide official currently serving in office any longer. For whatever that is worth.]

Facebook and Tumblr status backdated to the blog.

Repossessing Our Culture

Stonekettle

“OUR” culture is represented by monuments to the Confederacy, says Trump. The Confederacy, a loosely organized short-lived nation dedicated to the ideal of absolute white supremacy centered around the long defunct Antebellum ideal of agricultural feudalism lorded over by a handful of fabulously wealthy elites.

“THEY” are … who?

In this scenario, who is “they?”

Because no matter how I look at this, “they” would HAVE to be the United States of America. – Stonekettle Station on Facebook

Yep. We the citizens of the United States are going to take away the privilege enjoyed by the wealthy of these states; a privilege that they have enjoyed throughout US history because their forebears were smart enough not to hoard all the money for themselves, were smart enough to see that the information consumed by their poor cousins told them what they wanted them to hear.

Now, the information is free. All we have to do is understand what the truth is, and then set off on a course to intersect with it, starting with removing the sitting president and as much of his administration as we need to in order to see that the poor and middle class in this country are protected from the depredations of the wealthy. Chose a side now, and chose wisely, because there will be an accounting later. Will you side with the calls to return to White Nationalism? With the Orange Hate-Monkey’s #MAGA? or will you side with the citizenry of the United States in demanding that justice be done? Pick one.

Facebook status backdated to the blog.

Monuments to Traitors

NBC

Statues of Confederate figures are coming down all over the country, but the names of generals who fought for the South during the Civil War remain on U.S. military bases.

Ten Army posts in the South are named for Confederate officers — including the nation’s largest, Fort Bragg in North Carolina. It’s named for Gen. Braxton Bragg, who commanded 40,000 troops battling the Union Army.

Military bases should not be named for traitors anymore than we should have monuments to traitors on our soil. This really is a no-brainer of a problem, especially when you realize that most of the Confederate monuments were installed as part of the resurgence of White Supremacy in the early part of the 20th century, not part of remembrance for true American war heroes.

This is basic common sense, monuments are to people who deserve to be admired, not to people who fought on the wrong side of history attempting to extend the time that their peculiar institution could be practiced without being seen as the injustice that it was. The names should be changed, the monuments removed and replaced with more appropriate remembrances. Maybe each statue should be replaced with a lynching memorial, a reflection of the true legacy of slavery.

A radically expanded Facebook status.