Government Has The Right And The Obligation To Make People Do Stuff For The Public Good—Texas Vehicle Inspection
I got a safety inspection and emissions check today. The State of Texas mandates that cars get a safety inspection and that cars in high pollution counties get an emissions test.
Government has the right to mandate people to do things in order to serve the public good. Government has that right even in Texas.
Liberals and progressives should not be hesitant to assert this fact.
A few fearful people will tell you that stuff like this starts us on the path to a totalitarian state.
Yet these same people use public roads, depend on the public fire department, visit the public library and draw Social Security.
These same folks in Texas get their cars checked each year. I don’t hear them complaining.
We must be assertive in proclaiming the virtues of government.
A government that has a role to play in our lives is an extension of the trust we have in each other, and is reflective of our hopes for an ever more fair and inclusive society.
Either government is of, for, and by the people, or America is not a land of freedom
The economic stimulus bill that Congress passed last year and that was signed by President Obama was very beneficial to the economy.
“Amid mounting signs that the economic recovery is faltering, one potential remedy seems out of the question: a booster shot of government spending.The White House says the multiyear $814 billion stimulus program passed by Congress in 2009 boosted employment by 2.5 million to 3.6 million jobs and raised the nation’s annual economic output by almost $400 billion. A recent study by two prominent economists generally agrees, crediting the pump-priming with averting “what could have been called Great Depression 2.0.” … It’s no surprise that the administration would proclaim its own policies a success. But its verdict is backed by economists at Goldman Sachs, IHS Global Insight, JPMorgan Chase and Macroeconomic Advisers, who say the stimulus boosted gross domestic product by 2.1% to 2.7%. It’s impossible to determine precisely how many jobs or how much growth the stimulus program caused. In a nearly $14 trillion economy, economists can’t go employer to employer counting new hires. And there are too many moving parts to confidently link any single factor with individual hiring decisions. Roughly one-third of the stimulus, for example, came in the form of tax cuts, which are designed to boost demand for a wide array of products and eventually result in related hiring. But to estimate the answers to such questions, economists rely on models based on historical relationships between various policies and real-world results. Earlier this month, (Mark) Zandi and co-author Alan Blinder, former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, released the most detailed assessment of the government’s efforts to combat the so-called Great Recession. Neither economist is regarded as a partisan firebrand. Zandi, for example, backed John McCain in the 2008 presidential campaign and has advised members of both parties.” Their conclusion: The fiscal stimulus created 2.7 million jobs and added $460 billion to gross domestic product. Unemployment would be 11% today if the stimulus hadn’t been passed and 16.5% if neither the fiscal stimulus nor the banks’ rescue had been enacted, according to Zandi and Blinder. “It’s pretty hard to deny that it had a measurable impact,” Zandi said.”
Government has a role to play in our lives.
In addition to the helpful stimulus, which should be followed up with an additional stimulus bill, the Health Care reform bill will benefit millions of Americans.
Here are the details of Health Care Reform. Read about this plan yourself and don’t believe the lies.
Government can and does help people. We pay taxes so we can live in a decent society and have a decent government.
The integrity of the elections process is under attack in Harris County.
Far-right Tea Party groups are harassing voter registration drives in Harris County that are looking to increase the number of voters of all kinds in Harris County.
These Tea Party groups are being funded by billionaires who want to corrupt our democracy with huge amounts of money and extremist conservative ideology.
Republicans in control of the voting process in Harris County simply can’t be trusted to make sure all parts of the county get a fair share of voting machines for Election Day.
When the entire picture is considered, citizens of Harris County have every reason to be concerned that our elections will not be free and fair in 2010.
The Harris County Democratic Party, elected Democrats in the county, and all freedom loving citizens need to be active in making sure that all eligible voters are able to vote at the polls in 2010.
It may be the case that outside help is needed.
Folks in Harris County need to be aware of what is taking place and they need to fight back against Republican manipulation of our democracy.
I was driving around Houston a few days back when I encountered this public toilet.
Maybe it was a commentary on society.
Above you see a picture of the offerings at the King Street Patriots Tea Party press conference that I attended two day ago.
There were cookies and water. But no tea.
I wish there had been a Long Island Iced Tea.
I did have a cookie.
I attended this press conference to learn about Tea Party and Republican efforts to suppress the vote in Harris County in order to help far-right wing candidates.
At the moment, these folks are harassing the Houston Votes registration drive in the county. On Election Day and for early voting, they intend to send out poll watchers to quite possible intimidate poor voters and minority voters.
We must support Houston Votes as we support freedom and the American Way.
Also, please note below the weekly round-up of the Texas Progressive Alliance. The TPA is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas.
Liberal political activists work hard to include all people in our democracy. What a contrast from the Tea Party gospel of exclusion.
(Blogger’s Note—With this weekend being the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream Speech, it seems like a good time to repost this M.L. King Reading & Reference list. I update this list each year in January with new additions. Many are familiar with the Dream Speech. That’s good. But King had much more to say on many topics. Please consider taking the time to learn more about the full message of Martin Luther King.)
This is the third edition of the Martin Luther King Reading & Reference List. There are three additions for 2010.
While it is always instructive to watch a rebroadcast or listen to a recording of the I Have A Dream speech, there is a next level for someone who wants to better understand Dr. King and his message.
Reverend King asked serious questions about America as a war criminal nation in Vietnam and he asked if America merited divine judgement as a wicked nation of racism and social inequality. These questions, even in the time of Barack Obama, are still worthy of consideration.
Here is an admittedly incomplete, but I hope useful, Martin Luther King viewing, visiting, listening, and reading list.
An excellent book is Martin & Malcolm & America—A Dream Or A Nightmare by James H. Cone. This book follows the words and the careers of both these men. The premise, which holds up, is that Dr. King and Malcolm X (photo below) were not as far apart as sometimes portrayed. Malcolm was a man with a broader vision than one of simple racial solidarity, and King was in many respects a fierce and almost apocalyptic critic of America.
I’m glad to say I bought my copy of Cone’s book at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, Georgia. This site is operated by theNational Park Service. You can tour Martin Luther King’s boyhood home at this location. You’ll also want to tour the Auburn Avenue Historic District around the King home. Continue reading
Rival Press Conferences Help Detail Possible Vote Suppression And Voter Intimidation In Harris County By Conservatives
Rival press conferences were held today in Downtown Houston as details continue to emerge about what appears to be a campaign of suppression and intimidation against poor and minority voters by conservatives in Houston and Harris County, Texas.
One press conference was held by the non-partisan voter registration group Houston Votes, while the other was conducted by a right-wing group called the Liberty Institute and a local tea party outfit. I attended both events.
(Above–Houston Votes head Fred Lewis speaks at today’s press event.)
The Liberty Institute, a Tea Party group called King Street Patriots, and lame duck Harris County Republican Tax-Assessor Collector Leo Vasquez appear to all be hard at work to discredit the ongoing Houston Votes registration drive in Harris County. ( Mr. Vasquez was defeated in the Republican primary earlier this year. At the time, he thought one reason he had lost among Republican primary voters was that he is Hispanic.)
Houston Votes is seeking to register many thousands of poor, young and Hispanic persons for 2010.
Conservatives fear a Harris County electorate that mirrors the demographics of Harris County will assist Democrats.
The King Street Patriots say they have uncovered many fraudulent voter registration applications that have been turned in by Houston Votes.
Well…..they sort of say that. Here is what the King Street Patriots say on their web page—
“Thank you, Leo Vasquez! The Harris County Tax-Assessor Collector and his team are working hard to maintain the integrity of the voter rolls.”
“Today, the King Street Patriots, a group of citizen-volunteers in Harris County, Texas, announced their discovery of thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of incomplete, inaccurate or false voter registrations.”
Everybody involved are such good friends that they don’t care who gets the credit.
This friendship extends to hospitality as well.
King Street Patriots
9562 Hempstead Rd.
Houston, TX 77092
(This Tea Party/Perry connection was first pointed out to me by John Coby of the blog Bay Area Houston. The Tea Party says they want a new politics. Yet they support for reelection a man who already been the longest serving Governor in Texas history.)
At no point today during the Tea Party/Liberty Institute press conference was an association between the King Street Patriots and the Rick Perry campaign mentioned.
Yet such a connection seems to exist.
At the Houston Votes press conference today, Houston Votes chief Fred Lewis asked if Mr. Vasquez’s office would grant the same type of access to voter registration applications to all people as it seems has been granted to local Republicans.
The Harris County Democratic Party should be asking the same question. Tea Party actions in our public offices should be closely monitored.
Mr. Lewis is asking the Voting Rights Section of the U.S. Justice Department to get involved.
The King Street Patriots web page also says the following—-
“We need hundreds of volunteers to work as pollwatchers on Election Day. Click here to sign up now! Play Your Part in Keeping Our Elections Free and Fair!”
For what reason do they need “hundreds” of pollwatchers? Where in the county will these people be sent? Will they only challenge people of color or people they think for whatever reason might be Democrats?
Citizens of Harris County have the right to be free of harassment from Tea Party goons when taking part in early voting or when voting on Election Day.
The fact is that there is not much voter fraud in Texas.
As they are for every election, the stakes are high in 2010. In Harris County and in Texas, Republicans know they are fighting a losing battle against demographic changes that will elect many more Democrats to public office. Republicans will spare no effort to delay this trend for as long as possible.
An aggressive challenge must be offered to these seemingly well-orchestrated efforts to suppress turnout and to intimidate voters in Harris County in 2010.
(Below–The Tea Party/Liberty Institute press conference. They huddle the people of color up front to give an appearance of diversity that does not in fact exist.)
Vasquez, Tea Party Republicans And Perry Appear To Be Teaming Up For Texas Two-Step Of Voter Harassment And Intimidation
As I wrote yesterday, Harris County Tax Assessor Collector Leo Vasquez is harassing the Houston Votes voter registration drive so that many among the poor, the young, and in our Hispanic community may be denied the right to vote.
Mr. Vasquez is working in tandem with local Tea Party groups. This despite the fact that Mr. Vasquez was defeated in the Republican primary earlier this year. At the time of his defeat, Mr. Vasquez said he felt that one of the reasons he had lost was possibly the fact he is Hispanic.
One local Tea Party group, the King Street Patriots , seems also to be offering up its resources to serve as a meeting place for a major Rick Perry for Governor event in Houston.
The Tea Party wants change in Texas and in America so badly that they are supporting for reelection a man who has been Governor of Texas for ten years already.
It is as if the Boston Tea Party was all about keeping King George in power.
On their website the King Street Patriots say the following—
“We need hundreds of volunteers to work as pollwatchers on Election Day. Click here to sign up now! Play Your Part in Keeping Our Elections Free and Fair!”
Where will these pollwatchers be sent and what will they be doing? What kind of questions will they be asking?
What may well be at work here is orchestrated voter suppression and intimidation of voters.
Mr. Vasquez, the Tea Party, the Republican Party, and Governor Perry seem to have it all worked out.
These dark forces will help make sure that many voters they think may be Democrats won’t be able to register to vote.
For those who do vote, there will be Tea Party goons at the polls questioning people of color or people they just don’t like.
It is a Texas Two-Step of voter suppression and intimidation. Mr. Vasquez works on the suppression while the Tea Party handles the intimidation.
What will be the response of the Democratic Party, of Democratic candidates, and of people of good conscience in our community to this attack on democracy?
These cuts have been mandated by the University of Texas Board of Regents and by the Texas State Legislature.
From the Houston Chronicle—
“UTMB has been edging out of the charity care business for nearly a decade and last year devoted the smallest portion of its resources to charity in memory, dropping to 2.6 percent of patient services. Charity care is a money loser, and UTMB officials say the Legislature wants it to make money, not lose it ..The decline in spending on charity care fell from 20.6 percent of total patient services in 1999 to 2.6 percent last year, according to a chart prepared by Dr. Merle Lenihan based on UTMB’s annual financial reports. Lenihan is the author of a report by the Galveston County Cancer Coalition on the county’s lack of charity policies. UTMB filled a vital role in Texas by caring for the indigent since the 19th century. Those days are gone, said Dr. Ben Raimer, UTMB senior vice president. ”I think it is a different world for UTMB, but it is a world of accountability,” Raimer said…In fiscal year 2006, UTMB cared for uninsured patients from 160 of Texas’ 254 counties. By 2009 that number had dropped to 83 counties. That trend has consequences for social service agencies like Jesse Tree, based in Galveston. The organization has seen a 75 percent increase in people seeking health care since Hurricane Ike..The agency is enrolling 1,000 applicants a month seeking everything from primary care to cancer treatment, Hanley said. ”We’re coming apart at the seams,” he said. Hanley said the problem is acute because half of Galveston County’s 250,000 population is uninsured….”It is their responsibility, that is a historic one, for UTMB to provide services for those that are economically disadvantaged,” said Joe Compian, a member of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston Campaign for Human Development’s local board. “It is a state institution. It is a local institution, as well, and that means it belongs to the people of Texas and let’s do right for the people of Texas…”"I think it’s a travesty,” Galveston County Judge Jim Yarbrough said. “It should be an integral part of their mission. They are the state indigent care facility, and they have patients coming from all over the state.” Yarbrough is irked that Galveston County rode to UTMB’s rescue last year, but now it can’t even get a contract with the medical school to care for the county’s poor. State law allows counties to spend $30,000 per patient, but UTMB wants twice that….To meet a condition set by the Legislature for a state bailout of UTMB, the county raised taxes by 6 cents last year to pay for indigent medical care other than checkups, such as care for diabetes or cancer..Fortified with new legislative appropriations, UTMB has embarked on a $1 billion reconstruction effort, has plans for a new surgical tower and other buildings, and reportedly expects to finish this fiscal year in the black.”
“…A world of accountability” one UTMB senior official says. What?—Being accountable for death and suffering?
And while people suffer from the lack of insurance and lack of care, the State of Texas is fighting what will be a losing battle in the courts to overturn Health Care Reform.
Our State of Texas is acting in a barbaric manner in letting people die because they don’t have health insurance.
We don’t seem to have any standards of decency at all anymore. Everything is about money and about extremist small government ideology instead of concern for our fellow human beings.
Leo Vasquez Teams Up With Same Racists Who Defeated Him In Primary To Help Deny Hispanics And The Poor The Right To Vote In Harris County
Outgoing Harris County Republican Tax Assessor Collector Leo Vasquez is harassing the Houston Votes voter registration drive. Mr. Vasquez is responsible for voter registration in Harris County.
Houston Votes is seeking to register thousands of new voters in Harris County for the 2010 election. The goal is to encourage voting by the poor, by Hispanics, and by the young in Harris County.
This is work that should have been done years ago by the Harris County Democratic Party and by elected Democrats in safe low turnout districts.
Here is the Houston Votes web home. Please visit Houston Votes and see the good work they are accomplishing.
Mr. Vasquez says that possibly one-third of the approximately 25,000 applications turned in by Houston Votes so far are for various reasons not valid.
That’s what he says. Though it is entirely possible Mr. Vasquez could be making stuff up to keep voters he feels will be Democrats off the voter rolls.
If mistakes were made, then disallow the voter applications. Just be sure they are disallowed for valid reasons and not for political reasons.
Here is how the Houston Chronicle reported Mr. Vasquez’s attack on Houston Votes and on the concept of full representation for all—
“Though Vasquez announced his briefing as a news conference, the event was packed with members of True the Vote, an initiative of local tea party activists aimed at combating voter fraud. Members punctuated Vasquez’s prepared remarks with bursts of applause.”
Mr. Vasquez lost the Republican primary earlier this year. After the election, many observers felt that a big reason Mr. Vasquez lost was because Harris County Republicans would not vote for a Hispanic.
Now Mr. Vasquez teams up with the same racist folks that helped put him out of office to make it more difficult for Hispanics to vote in Harris County.
Has Mr. Vasquez any self-respect? Is he so desperate to be seen as tough on Hispanics that he will consort with the extreme so-called Tea Party? Does Mr. Vasquez need to hold another political office someday that badly?
I’ve met the Houston Votes people and they are not fraudsters. They are folks, mostly Democrats, who really want to include more people in the political process.
Registering disenfranchised constituencies with a collection of volunteers and temporary workers is by definition going to be an imperfect process.
It is turned into something more sinister only when a lame duck, desperate-for-approval politician teams up with racist groups to subvert our political process by making sure that many of our fellow Americans will not be able to vote.
All this would be disgusting anywhere in America. That it is happening in racially and ethnically diverse Harris County makes it even more appalling.
What is America? How should America be defined?
America is the idea and the fact of a strong federal government over the lesser powers of the states as written in our United States Constitution. The Constitution was in many ways a response to failure of the Articles of Confederation and the incompetence and corruption of state legislatures.
America is Emancipation and the victory of freedom over states rights treason in our Civil War.
America is the expanded economic freedoms and opportunity of the New Deal.
These are the things that define America.
It is a story of progress, of ever-expanding freedom, and of an always widening definition of what it means to be an American.
If America ever becomes something else than the progress we see detailed above, then it will no longer be America.
My good friend Hamburger Wearing An Astros’ Hat has purchased a copy of Going Rogue by Sarah Palin.
Hamburger wants to read what Mrs. Palin has to say.
The title Going Rogue comes from a description of Mrs. Palin’s actions from the John McCain campaign in 2008.
I think Going Rogue could be said to be a secular version of Romans 12:2. Here is a New King James translation of Romans 12:2–
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
Sarah Palin lives the Word of God by not conforming to any message of caring for the poor or providing meaningful stewardship of the Earth.
She’s a rebel.
Hamburger and I will be reading this book over the next few weeks and we’ll offering up our observations on the blog.
I sure it hope it has been worth all the time it has taken.
With post #2000, I’m glad to announce that I’ll soon also be blogging with the great crew at The Daily Hurricane.
I’ll still be writing at Texas Liberal. This will remain my main base of blogging operations.
Let me be clear—Texas Liberal is not closing up shop.
Also, I will still be posting as a featured politics reader-blogger at the Houston Chronicle online.
Above you see a picture I took two years ago of the hurricane barrier in Downtown Providence, Rhode Island.
This structure, built with government dollars in 1966, is yet another government helps people each and every day.
Here is a story to read more about the barrier. I always enjoyed seeing the hurricane dam as a kid growing up in Providence.
Thanks for reading Texas Liberal.
Galveston Wheelchair Ramp And Americans With Disabilities Act Just Two Ways Government Makes Life Better
Picture Of The Day–Above you see the excellent new wheelchair ramp on the beach in Galveston, Texas. I took this picture a couple of weeks ago.
I don’t know if this ramp is connected to the Americans with Disabilities Act, but it is fine addition in Galveston.
President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. It was an expansion of the powers of government for the good of all Americans.
Without laws and regulations from government, and the Federal Government most of all, our society would be even more under the control of the rich, and minority groups of all kinds would have few if any protected rights.
Link of The Day— Here is the web home of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“With a federal grant, the State Land Office, the city, the county, and the Parks Board used $431,000…(to build the ramp.) It’s the first of what could be many ramps along the seawall.”
Government, with the tax dollars we send as citizens, built that ramp so that all people can have access to the beach.
Texas Link Of The Day—Here is the weekly posting of the Texas Progressive Alliance round-up. The TPA is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas.
A measure of levity is always good. Even in death.
This dead person watched over by the multi-colored pinwheel rests for eternity in Galveston, Texas.
You see on the marker that the decedent, a Mr. Charles Caruso, lived to be 99.
Nothing to be sad about.
Even better, Mr. Caruso is recalled 52 years after his departure.