Tuesday, December 02, 2008

30 miles of Ike debris in Chambers County

Two and a half months after Hurricane Ike blasted the shoreline, alligators and snakes crawl over vast piles of shattered building materials, lawn furniture, trees, boats, tanks of butane and other hazardous substances, thousands of animal carcasses, perhaps even the corpses of people killed by the storm.

State and local officials complain that the removal of the filth has gone almost nowhere because FEMA red tape has held up both the cleanup work and the release of the millions of dollars that Chambers County says it needs to pay for the project.

Elsewhere along the coast, similar complaints are heard: the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been slow to reimburse local governments for what they have already spent, putting the rural counties on the brink of financial collapse.

"I don't know all the internal workings of FEMA. But if they've had a lot of experience in hurricanes and disaster, it looks like they could come up with some kind of process that would work," said Chambers County Judge Jimmy Sylvia, the county's chief administrator.

I met Judge Sylvia in 2006, in Anahuac with David Van Os on the Texas county courthouse tour he made as part of his run for state attorney general. And of course it's not just Chambers County; everybody knows Galveston is still wrecked but in Bridge City -- where they had to rescue people off the roofs of their houses when the 12-ft. storm surge came up -- many of the Orange County residents are still living in tents, waiting for FEMA trailers to arrive.

Galveston County Judge Jim Yarbrough tells the story of receiving word on Sept. 12, as Ike closed in on Galveston, that FEMA was sending him $1.8 million of his $3 million request for storm cleanup — from Hurricane Rita, three years ago.

"Good Lord! The red tape and rules you have to go through to get anything done," Yarbrough said. "On Hurricane Ike, when we're putting out tens of millions, we can't afford a three-year reimbursement program. It would bankrupt most entities in this area if it takes that long.

It's not just Ike that Texans are still suffering from, either:

Near the Mexican border, thousands of families remain in homes damaged by Dolly, the storm that blew ashore on South Padre Island on July 23. FEMA was helpful at first, but bureaucracy and the distraction of the other hurricanes have slowed the recovery, local officials said.

A farmworker rights organization and 14 poor South Texas residents sued FEMA last month, accusing the agency of refusing to help thousands of poor families repair their homes.

"I understand they have Hurricane Ike, but we had a Category 2 come through the Valley, too," Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas said.

Whoever gets to be the next FEMA director inherits this clusterfuck.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Spectacular sky scene tonight

Be sure and look up at the moon this evening:

Every once in a while, something will appear in the night sky that will attract the attention of even those who normally don't bother looking up. It's likely to be that way on Monday evening, Dec. 1.

A slender crescent moon, just 15-percent illuminated, will appear in very close proximity to the two brightest planets in our sky, Venus and Jupiter.

People who are unaware or have no advance notice will almost certainly wonder, as they cast a casual glance toward the moon on that night, what those two "large silvery stars" happen to be? Sometimes, such an occasion brings with it a sudden spike of phone calls to local planetariums, weather offices and even police precincts. Not a few of these calls excitedly inquire about "the UFOs" that are hovering in the vicinity of our natural satellite.


Monday Funnies: The Clintons are back

I think Hillary as SoS is an inspired selection, but that won't keep me from having some fun with her (and her husband) ...

Weekly Wrangle: Tryptophan the light fantastic

Turkey has been eaten, holiday decorations are up -- or at least out of the garage -- and it's time for the Texas Progressive Alliance's weekly round-up.

The Texas Cloverleaf looks at the large donors from DFW who supported Prop 8. Over $335,000 went to California from 59 individuals. Time to consider the DFW Black List!

John Coby at Bay Area Houston is giving thanks to the GOP .

jobsanger looks at the $7.5 million of sales tax money that Wal-Mart gets to keep every year here in Texas, and says it is time to cap the amount of tax money a business may keep to cover the cost of collecting the tax in I Learned Something New & I Don't Like It.

CouldBeTrue at South Texas Chisme wonders how hard can it be to elect someone other than Tom Craddick Speaker of the House? Geeez!

Stace Medellin at DosCentavos reminds us why guest worker programs will fail with a story on Braceros still trying to collect monies owed themby Mexico after decades.

Toni at WhosPlayin took some time off from political work to take in a bilingual performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in Fort Worth by Teatro De La Rosa and offers her review.

North Texas Liberal wonders why Democrats are so anxious to throw former President Bill Clinton under the bus.

The Burnt Orange Report takes a look at Austin activism and the Austin Prop 8 Blacklist.

If sometimes you feel like a nut, McBlogger reports you'll be right at home on the State Board of Education.

BossKitty at TruthHugger reflects how Bush tried and failed to show the world a morally superior nation, instead, he showed the world what hypocritical horse's asses we really are, and Why America Is No Longer THE Role Model - Op Ed

Off the Kuff continues his analysis of Harris County precinct data with a look at HD-133, the microcosm of the county.

Neil at Texas Liberal is a big time player who drinks expensive scotch and gambles at first-class casinos.

Dembones at Eye On Williamson takes Rick Perry to task for defending Texas polluters.

PDiddie gave thanks for illegal immigrants, the inanity of Jared Woodfill, and the life and memory of Jim Mattox at Brains and Eggs.

Over at TexasKaos, Txsharon explains how Cheney Helped Halliburton Hide Secrets About Dangerous Chemicals in YOUR Drinking Water. As she reports:
The oil and gas industry is the only industry in America that is allowed by EPA to inject KNOWN hazardous material-unchecked-directly into or adjacent to underground drinking water supplies.

EARTHWORKS-Hydraulic Fracturing of Oil and Gas Wells

Vince at Capitol Annex notes that a state district judge has ruled that he does not have jurisdiction to rule on a case related to the House District 105 recount.