September 08, 2017

Maybe there's too damn many people there

Per my post last week about Harvey-related evacuation of Houston, if Houstonians and others think that, even with an orderly, Ike-type evacuation, you still couldn't evacuate the whole city in this case, let alone in a fictitious Hurricane Isaiah, then there's one logical conclusion.

There's too damned many people living in greater Houston. (Until you get politicians who fire climate change deniers and stand up to developers, at least.)

The problem's not just there.

If a Superstorm Sandy gets supersized, I know there's too damned many people living in Manhattan.

And — with note that, due to lack of predictiveness, this would be post-event only — if the next Big One hits San Francisco and not the East Bay, I know there's too damned many people living there, too.

With places like the Bay Area, even before the tech/Net boom, it was the scenery. With Manhattan, it was Big Money — and an interesting sidebar that the Net world, rather than increasing remote working, seems instead to have fueled the desire for Big Money to cluster in the Big Apple.

In Phoenix, even before the housing bubble burst, the healthful dry desert air instead became converted to a smoggy urban heat island, with people half-afraid to be caught outside of air conditioning. Add in rapidly depleting groundwater, the Colorado River system being over-allocated, and there's too many there. (Unfortunately, besides bailing out fat cats, Dear Leader didn't use the Great Recession to get people in Phoenix and Vegas to move back to where water is in exchange for surrendering their "underwater" houses.)

Houston? In part, the "energy industry," even though the Houston area itself is no longer a major producer of crude oil, just refined products. And, the energy companies with world, North American, or US headquarters there, really aren't tied there.

Now, if you freely choose to live in some of these places, as in you weren't born there without reasonable means of escape, or your job didn't transfer you there, fine. Accept the natural disasters as part of the price of living there.

And, in the case of places like the Bay Area and Manhattan, accept that blue states or locales actually have more income inequality than red states. In short, if you're trying to live in San Francisco on a shoestring job, you made that choice, even aside from the natural disasters issue.

September 07, 2017

Would an #IkeDike help Houston? Or be a big ripoff? Say #carbontax

With a storm like the current Harvey, or the old Tropical Storm Allison, the answer is simply no, an "Ike Dike," first proposed after Hurricane Ike, would be of no help. Simply wouldn't. That's not only due to a Harvey primarily being a problem due to inland rain-induced flooding, not a storm surge, but that the surge that Harvey wound up generating on its final run was partially from within Galveston Bay, not being brought from the larger Gulf of Mexico INTO the bay. And, that will be true of other storms that run up the coast rather than coming in from offshore.

Yes, per one of the links that friend Brains posted on Twitter, A&M-Galveston is touting it. Of course they are — it's A&M, a fricking engineering school. And, with the Corps of Cadets centered on the main branch in College Station, it's the state's military school, too. That will tie in here in a minute.

Besides, contra AM-Galveston, there simply is no such newfangled post-Katrina item in New Orleans called the "Greater New Orleans Barrier." There is NO Wiki page for it and less than 200 Google hits. (Actually, less than 40 if you eliminate near-duplicates.) This is a fraudulent attempt to put a label on a nonexistent item, which is actually a group of post-Katrina cobbled-together upgrades, expansions and improvements to existing storm surge barriers.

It's also fraudulent to say that the Netherlands' work, designed to face North Sea gales with normal max 60 mph winds, and almost never above 75-80 mph, is the same as trying to block out a Category 5 hurricane. (The same is true for Venice's tidal gate system.)

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

It's also like the Army Corps of Engineers saying yet-higher levees is always the answer for Mississippi River floods, or some newer, higher dam, is always the answer for floods out west.

Per ProPublica, in Houston, city and Harris County officials need to focus on inland solutions — green spaces, permeable ground, and zoning — that are cheaper than dikes that will likely cost $10 billion, not $3 billion, that are hubristic, and that won't help inland flooding, either. And, it's no wonder that a leading private contractor (especially on military stuff) is also touting the so-called Ike Dike. This is the military-industrial complex gravy train at work. And, that same military-industrial complex was at work getting at least one Houston suburb to push for it. (On the "less than 200 Google hits," there's a number of Houston suburbs with city ordinances or similar city council agenda items like that.) Speaking of, the Corps' New Orleans-area work, per Wiki, has long been known to be laden with pork. And, the Corps' post-Katrina levees work, when Isaac came, moved flooding around more than anything else.

And, the Seabrook Floodgate, if that's what's meant, is nothing like a "Greater New Orleans Barrier."

And, again, an Ike Dike would be of ZERO effectiveness against inland, rain-induced flooding.

Something else that would be cheaper? Fixing, or even reversing if possible, ground subsidence.

And, leaders of Sun Belt megalopolises also need to read Ed Abbey (that's YOU, former mayor Annise Parker) and remember: "Growth for growth's sake is the theology of the cancer cell."

But, per my Houston vs Harvey blog post, Houstonians and Harris County voters keep electing "open for business" growth-only mayors, city councilmen, county judges and county commissioners. Your local answer needs to start with "vote the rascals out." And get the new people to fire city and county flood staff.

When President Obama took office, I said he should have used some of the Great Recession stimulus money to make new moves to Phoenix and Vegas go back to Cleveland, St. Louis or wherever as part of buying out underwater mortgages, before climate change made those cities essentially unlivable. To be honest, the same probably needs to happen in Houston, and New Orleans. Beyond all the problems mentioned above, both cities also face land subsidence from groundwater pumping that has turned them into giant bowls.

An Ike Dike as the semi-magic solution to these problems? It's what Evgeny Morozov calls "solutionism." It's what I've called here "salvific technologism." It's the stuff that makes Silicon Valley tech-neoliberals (as well as the military-industrial complex) salivate.

Folks in other places — Baton Rouge and parts of South Florida come to mind — are already at work on inland mitigation effects, including permeability, smart building, etc. Why won't greater Houston, and why shouldn't it?

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As for cost? Kuff has numbers with higher estimates, depending on the project, than does Brains. And state Land Commish Pee Bush, per Vox, says $15M. They're still surely underestimates, once the military-industrial complex gets its hands on this. But, at least we are getting somewhat more serious.

Something else that would be cheaper and would help with flooding, though not a storm surge, is an underground conduit draining Addicks and Barker reservoirs straight to the Houston Ship Channel. It was first discussed 20 years ago. Even that would be less pricey than an Ike Dike, though it would still have the Corps involved.

And, neither Brains nor Kuff talk about the other costs, like environmental. How would this affect marine life? At the intersection of environment and business, how would this affect fishing and shrimping? Or simply business — how would this affect offshore oil exploration? (The channel would also have some environmental effect, though surely less than an Ike Dike.)

I mean, this IS the Corps of Engineers we're talking about, that is generally in neck-and-neck running with the Bureau of Recreation for among the most environmentally UNfriendly federal government agencies.

Even that reservoir conduit? It would be like the Mississippi River levees or moving around the New Orleans ones. A blast from it like Harvey's would probably tear up portions of the Houston Ship Channel unless IT was re-engineered. And, for how much?

An Ike Dike is a nice dream. No more than that. Per the above, probably not tremendously more realistic than an air-conditioned dome above all of Phoenix, or geoengineering the atmosphere with soot to try to reduce climate change.

And, if the real cost is $20 billion? Or even close? The only way I would consider paying for that is a national carbon tax, which the wingnuts who run Harris County, and the accommodators who run Houston, would never back.

And, per Ed Abbey and other things, were I the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., I'd refuse to fund an Ike Dike without a carbon tax. AND, I wouldn't sign off without Emmett, Turner et al agreeing to ALSO do mainland mitigation work.

In other words, if I were president, Houston and Harris County would have to pass zoning ordinances before getting money.

This is no different than my supporting single-payer national health care only if cost controls are attached. (And that is why I want the US to adopt at least elements of a British-style NHS.)

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This is nothing against Perry, nor against other bloggers on the Texas Progressives list. Per what he said about another blogger, he's in many ways like a brother from another mother, or at least a cousin from another aunt. And, I have other friends, including two college classmates, who also live in Houston.

But, this is also about what's right for the country, what's right for the environment and what's realistic. I mean, we already have a country with unmet infrastructure repairs, improvements and upgrades so crappy in some places, along with income inequality, that an MIT economist recently labeled the US a "developing country."

And, on "realistic" and environmentalism, the Corps of Engineers usually runs neck and neck with the Bureau of Reclamation for lack of environmental concern among federal construction-type agencies.

And finally, no, it's not "too soon" to write this.

September 06, 2017

Obama, #DACA and #hypocrisy shattered Dreamers

Yeah, I saw Obama call out Trump yesterday on wanting to end DACA.

But, how many of you knew that Obama deported more people than any other president? That he deported more than all 20th-century presidents combined?

Snopes tries to get Obama off the hook by saying this was in part due to a change in definition. It then undercuts itself by admitting this happened under Bush, but doesn't say exactly when, or what his stats were. This is one of those clear cases where Snopes, moving from narrow skepticism fact-checking to political analysis, fails. (Obama passed Bush by 750,000.)

And, if part of it was due to other legislative changes, Snopes, did Obama try to veto any of it? This is the man who kept the "Bush tax cuts" in place, after all.

Otherwise, quick Googling of the mainstream media shows poor data there on the main stories trying to compare Obama and Bush.

I am going to make what is, I think, a reasonable assumption, that the change in numbers of full, fingerprinted deportations vs turnarounds, and any definitional changes, started not too long after 9/11, and therefore, covered most of Shrub's presidenncy.

Therefore, at a minimum, with apples to apples for most of their presidencies, suffice it to say that Obama was at least as bad as Bush, I am very sure, and still probably worse. (If I generously say the two administrations were 80 percent apples-to-apples, Obama still deports 200,000 more.)

So why the sudden concern for DACA and the Dreamers?

Guilty conscience?

I doubt it.

Legacy?

Maybe.

He should be guilty for abandoning state and Congressional Dems in 2010. But, I'm not a Dem.

Anyway, I think that Obama created DACA by executive order precisely to let him get away with deporting more adults, at least as one part of the idea behind that.

You read that right.

Hence my header.

But why?

To appear tough on crime? But, he didn't make that part of his re-election platform.

So, ultimately, I don't know.

I just know he comes off as a hypocrite on this issue.

And, sure, he was facing the tail end of a Shrub Bush spike in illegal immigration, but it declined, modestly, under his own administration. Per that Pew link, more of them were long-term residents in the US, 10 or more years, especially from Mexico, which makes their deportation even worse.

Plus, more and more were from south of Mexico, escaping places like chronically right-wing wracked Guatemala, or the Honduras of the Obama-Clinton coup of 2009. (I originally called it a non-coup, then a semi-coup, then a coup, per Wiki.)

#Harvey and evacuations

Many Houstonians, including friend Brains and a college classmate of mine, whenever the issue of Harvey evacuations was raised, adamantly sided with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett vs. Gov. Greg Abbott.

They insisted, all while referring to the clusterfucked Hurricane Rita evac, that such a thing couldn't be done.

First, a sidebar. Per one Tweeter, despite the fact he's so anti-gummint he doesn't like the Americans with Disabilities Act, it's possible, whether true compassion or simple rationality, that Abbott's physical condition was a motivator in his thought.

That said, was he wrong?

First of all, let's remember that three years after Rita, and apparently learning from it, Houston-Galveston had a relatively orderly — given the situation — evacuation from Ike. Not all the city, but targeted low-lying areas, as well as Galveston.

Yes, I know people jumped the gun on Ike, and it wasn't as orderly as it could be. But, adequate law enforcement helps. Use the National Guard if necessary. Given an evacuation ultimately affects more than a local area, the gov (Perry then, now Abbott) should be calling it up ASAP anyway.

Harvey had even more rain, so I don't know if that could have been done as well as with Ike, but it's at least possible.

And, per the NYT, others are asking why not an Ike-like partial evacuation?

So, at a minimum, comments here (or if I post to Facebook) that ignore the Ike evacuation will be deleted. Period. You can criticize the Ike evacuation, but to say nothing but "look at Rita" doesn't fly.

Second, having started on this piece on Monday, even as regional public safety officials were going door-to-door in selected neighborhoods, couldn't greater Houston at least had "evacuation in place" plans already started? As in, having designated shelters, or volunteer shelters, in Houston's highest, relatively least flood-prone areas, already set up? And then, mass evac people from the worst neighborhoods there, earlier?

Of course it could have.

I mean, Fort Bend County ordered a mandatory evac of selected areas early Monday afternoon.

At the same time, per my post on Harvey and politics, isn't this yet another reason to "vote YOUR rascals out" in Houston and Harris County? (I know Brains didn't vote for Emmett, and if he voted for Turner in the city runoff, it was while holding his nose.)

"Evacuation in place" would also, at least partially, address the issue of people who can't afford to evacuate.

September 05, 2017

TX Progressives salute those who labor through Harvey relief

The Texas Progressive Alliance suggests a donation to the United Way Houston Relief Fund, or other reputable agency (do not put the Red Cross at the top of that list) to help everyone affected by Hurricane Harvey as it brings you this week's roundup. It also hopes that, even — or especially — if you had to work Labor Day, or if you were lucky enough to have off, you remember what the day is really about — and how the Republicans continue to gut it and Democrats continue to go along.

And with that, this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff celebrated the federal court ruling that halted enforcement of the "sanctuary cities" ban before it went into effect.

SocraticGadfly, from up in North Texas, offers his take on both the politics behind Harvey, and pseudoskeptics, including an alleged actual skeptic in Houston, the politics behind Harvey everything behind the Arkema explosions.

After getting his 91-year old mother out of the calamity that Harvey left behind in Beaumont, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs collected some observations about the looming environmental catastrophes threatening the Texas Gulf coast.

Lewisville Texan Journal, also up in North Texas, noted how hoarding by Metroplex-area drivers was exacerbating post-Harvey gas supply and price issues.

South East Texas soil, air and water are awash in toxic chemicals thanks to deregulation by Trump and Abbott. Trump's gutting of the EPA ensures that the destruction and suffering will have the maximum effect.  CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wishes each of them could experience all of the suffering they are causing themselves.

Neil at All People Have Value said you don't have to be "Houston Strong" regarding Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey if you don't want to be. Do what you need to do to move forward. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

Dos Centavos thinks Trump's planned gutting of DACA and lack of care for Dreamers could be an election issue in 2018 and 2020.

Millard Fillmore talks about patriotic flag-flying for Labor Day.

Jobsanger says "remember the unions."

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Space City Weather, which got some well-earned national attention for its coverage of Harvey, assures us we will get though this.

It's Not Hou It's Me shared their pictures of high water around town.

Katharine Shilcutt found the helpers.

Therese Odell rounded up more examples of Harvey heroism.

Lone Star Ma made it through Harvey in Corpus Christi.

Dan Solomon mourns for Port Aransas.

TransGriot knows that a general evacuation of the Houston metro area would have been an unmitigated disaster.

Maggie Gordon documents the effort to save the Waugh Street Bridge bat colony during the height of the flooding.

The Overhead Wire explains why the lack of zoning in Houston had little to do with Harvey-related flooding.

The Lunch Tray details how to help Houston school kids.

Raise Your Hand Texas discusses how school districts affected by Harvey are coping.

Juanita calls your attention to a couple of folks feeding people who need it in Fort Bend.

BeyondBones tells you what you need to know about floatinf gire ant mounds (spoiler alert: stay away).

Better Texas Blog answers your questions about Harvey and health care coverage.


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Angelia Griffin begs you to choose the things you donate to disaster relief carefully.

September 04, 2017

"Happy" #LaborDay, including words for the #TrumpTrain and unions



Income inequality and economic immobility both continue to grow, even as Speaker Paul Ryan tells easily refuted lies about the latter.

How did this happen?

A mix of many factors.

One is not directly economic, but the general cowing of workers through courts siding with businesses in stripping away workplace civil liberties is a psychological factor. And, other than in rare cases like Ledbetter, where it's actual discrimination, not civil liberties in general, many Democrats have gone along.

Just as Democratic presidents, while not actually working to gut the National Labor Relations Board, generally declined to reverse gutting by their Republican predecessors.

On income inequality, people still don't talk about how bad it's gotten. For the US as a whole, it's as bad as Mexico. That may be another reason fewer Mexicans are coming to the US. (A greater and greater portion of Hispanic illegal immigrants are from Central America.)

An article by the NYT, claiming that $16.60/hour would be the same in Rochester, New York, as in the Bay Area, leaves it halfway pulling its punches on this issue.

It is right — but doesn't push on it hard enough — that allowing companies to designate more people as contractors is another problem. Republicans encouraged this one, too, and Democrats generally acquiesced, until Obama tried to take too big of a bite back at one time, and too late in his administration.

The biggest problem, in many ways? Organized labor.

The Carpenters and AFL-CIO heads both sitting on Trump's business council? Nothing new. Remember Nixon's hardhats in the early 1970s? Reagan Democrats? (A full 22 percent of them went for Reagan in his first election, and 34 percent of them who thought civil rights was moving too fast.) Andy Stern's suck-ups to big biz of the previous decade? 

Goes back before that.

Maybe as far as Haymarket. US organized labor was in general, at that time, more bourgeoisie than its European counterparts. And, Haymarket, Bethlehem Steel and Ludlow coal world incidents aside, more willing to play ball. The American presidential-driven, duopoly-based political system, by helping shut out a political party that might be labor-specific, was a related problem.

But organized labor itself was often part of the problem.

Yes, Debs' railway union and Bridges' longshoremen were color-blind, as well as having stiffened spines, but AFL unions before the rise of the CIO? And even somewhat after that?

Not.

Sure, Jacobin can point at Communists working to help blacks and whites organize together in the South in the 1930s, but that's the exception that proves the rule. Long before that, black workers were used as strikebusters in urban areas North, Midwest and South. Having often been shut out of organized labor by whites, having been opposed in the workforce by white laborers, at best, they often felt they had little choice; at worst, they likely felt smoldering resentment.

(The next time the likes of Jacobin writes an "it's all classism and never racism" piece, ask them how many black faces they can find in, say, pictures from the Flint strikes of the late 1930s. In my opinion, it's intellectually dishonest to try to gloss over the history of racism in organized labor, or to try to reduce racism to classism in nearly every instance — and that goes for people beyond Jacobin.)

Mainstream AFL-CIO unionism would shoot itself in the foot in other ways, or if not direct foot-shooting, undermine broader politically left issues.

It was the third leg, along with the AMA and big business, in opposing Harry Truman when he made the first serious push for national health care in the US.

It cooperated willingly with the CIA in helping establish anti-Communist sham unions outside the country, especially in South America.

Many of its leaders, as well as members (those hardhats), virulently opposed antiwar efforts in the Vietnam War — and later.

In industries like autos, its members believed the whisperings of the ownership class about job loss fears and stridently opposed the environmentalist movement as it grew in the 1970s.

Much (but certainly not all) of organized labor has slouched toward Gomorrah for decades.

That said, so has the American workforce that is not unionized.

Class-conscious in a way that the Paul Ryans of the world won't admit publicly, but surely push to enhance privately, for many gray-collar and tech-collar employees, "union" remains a dirty word.

The labor movement in America, inside and outside unions, isn't going to get better until these things happen:
1. Democrats stop nominating neoliberal candidates / or Greens start breaking through with labor voices
2. Union leaders stop willingly being co-opted by Republican leaders and business leaders
3. More workers indicate their willingness to look beyond the Democratic Party and beyond organized labor if 1 and 2 don't happen.