A Modest Proposal for the Rehabilitation of Galveston

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We've seen the devastation first-hand, read the gloom and doom reports. Bolivar has been erased. UTMB's cutbacks threaten terminal meltdown for the Galveston economy. The schools are in peril. The beaches are ravaged.

What is to be done?

Predictably, there is a call for casino gambling on the island. In an October 24 letter to Galveston city officials, Allen Flores, a bigwig Strand merchant had this to say: "Casino gambling would provide jobs, middle-income housing needs, increased tax base and a plan for beach restoration funding."

Indeed, many of the more conspiracy-minded among us have long believed that Landry's honcho and Galveston native Tilman Fertitta has been angling for gambling on the island long before the city got Iked. And that is a horrific prospect: imagine the smugness that would radiate from Fertitta, lord of Texas gaming, if you gave him a line of casinos in his hometown.

That would never do. Luckily, Hair Balls has a better idea.

We recently came across a report about some once-impoverished coastal villages a world away. These plucky little towns have picked themselves up by their bootstraps - with no aid from the damn gummint whatsoever -- and transformed themselves from flyblown, miserable malaria pits into veritable Miracle Miles.

Where once only camels stalked dusty streets lined by the occasional corrugated tin-roofed tea-house, today, Land Cruisers zip past Internet cafes, clothing boutiques full of beautiful women, full-service restaurants, and houses made of solid stone.

Where are these boomtowns? Harardhere, Eyl, and Bossasso - three notorious pirates' dens on the Somalian coast.

The report continues:

"These boomtowns are all the more shocking in light of Somalia's violence and poverty: Radical Islamists control most of the country's south, meting out lashings and stonings for accused criminals. There has been no effective central government in nearly 20 years, plunging this arid African country into chaos.

Life expectancy is just 46 years; a quarter of children die before they reach 5."

Save for the bits about an arid climate and Radical Islamists, that sounds a lot like the Galvatraz even before Ike came ashore, right down to the stonings and lashings. 

But look at the Somali towns now:

"There are more shops and business is booming because of the piracy," said Sugule Dahir, a clothing shop owner in Eyl. "Internet cafes and telephone shops have opened, and people are just happier than before."

"Regardless of how the money is coming in, legally or illegally, I can say it has started a life in our town," said Shamso Moalim, a 36-year-old mother of five in Harardhere.

And who doesn't want that? Galveston needs to forget all this nonsense about legalizing casino gambling and turn to lobbying the state and Federal authorities for a License to Plunder the High Seas.

First, it's not like Galveston has never been a pirate's den before - Jean Lafitte practically founded the city, and even today, half the people you see in the less-glamorous sections of G-Town look like they just stepped off of Blackbeard's flagship the Queen Anne's Revenge.

What's more, the practical advantages are multifold. Perched as it is at the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel, Galveston's pirates would have ample opportunity to ransack world shipping. It would the very picture of ease and convenience. They could board a motorboat (or even the Elissa, if they wanted to keep it real) in the morning at the Galveston Yacht Club and seize any one of a dozen or so tankers by lunch.

Legal piracy would also bring Galveston the best of both worlds: In addition to the yearly billions in ransoms, any town with legal piracy would surely also spawn a wide-open atmosphere on shore in which gambling (and likely also prostitution) would also thrive. And imagine the great heaps of swag and booty for sale in the great Strand merchants' houses.

You can't tell me that a place like that wouldn't be one of the world's top tourism draws.

- John Nova Lomax

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