Texas Liberal

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Our Park—Socialism Is Plenty American

Here is a park in Houston called Our Park.

This is a great and an apt name.

The parks are ours. Just as are the schools, the police department, the waterworks, the public streets, the libraries and so on.

All this going on about socialism.

And yet the common ownership of public assets is an American as Social Security and the U.S. military.

Photo copyright Neil Aquino.

November 30, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 2 Comments

Key Texas Republican Admits Medicaid Pullout Will Leave People Homeless—What We Can Do To Fight This

Texas is facing a budget deficit of at least $ 18 billion.

Texas Republicans say pulling the state out of Medicaid is an option for the 2011 legislative session to address this deficit.

While some Republicans maintain the fiction this can be done without making people homeless, the chairman of the Texas House Appropriations Committee, Jim Pitts, at least tells the truth.

From the Houston Chronicle

“Some Republicans who talk about Texas potentially opting out of Medicaid are quick to say the changes wouldn’t throw people out on the street — but not House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Pitts. Pitts didn’t advocate the change in health care for the poor at a meeting of the Ellis County Tea Party, just noted that it will be discussed by lawmakers. But unlike others who have painted a rosy picture of a potential health-care restructuring without filling in the details, Pitts gave a stark answer when an audience member asked about an ill friend who is on Medicaid. The questioner reacted with concern when Pitts said the state is looking at getting out of the program. What will my friend do then? Will you throw him out in the street? “If we did exactly what we’re doing today, we wouldn’t be throwing him out in the street. But if we have any savings in getting out of Medicaid, we will have to throw some people out in the street,” said Pitts, R-Waxahachie. He noted, “I’m not telling you that your friend would be.”

If pulling out of Medicaid takes place and when, as a consequence, people are out on the streets, who do you think will pay for that? The medical costs and likely police costs of such persons will be paid for by cities and counties.

As you see from the newspaper article above, even Tea Party followers are concerned that they and the people they know in life will be impacted by these cuts. (Though what did they ever expect?)

Texas has a so-called Rainy Day Fund that could help address this budget crisis. There is over $8 billion in this fund right now.

And let’s be clear, the reason this big deficit did not occur in the last legislative session in 2009 was because of federal stimulus money and money from other federal funds.

What can be done to prevent these types of deficits and these proposed radical solutions from taking place in the future?

Here are some ideas—

* We could have a tax structure that meets the needs of the second largest state in our federal union. An income tax would make a lot of sense.

* Texas Republicans holding public office  could truthful about the fact that we take plenty of federal money all the time, and Texas could work in partnership with the federal government instead refighting the Civil War.

* Rank and file Texas Republicans could acknowledge to themselves that they use public services all the time in daily life and that many Republicans in Texas use Medicaid program.

* Hispanics in Texas taken as whole could start to meet the personal responsibility of voting and of taking full part in the politics and the public policy debates of our state.

* Progressives in Texas could begin to really fight instead of being resigned to Republican rule. We are not meeting our obligations to Texas and to the nation.  Where is the organizing and the energy from our side that we saw from the Tea Party people in this last election?

* We could all understand that taxes are a necessity in life and that we have obligations to others in this world. Realizing these things in no way conflicts with the need to have a job and to meet your obligations to yourself and to your family.

* All Texans could decide that we want to live in a decent state where we do not toss people out on the street because they get sick.

(Fellow Houston & Texas blogger Charles Kuffner also addresses these issues. Also, Tea Party blogger David Jennings sees no value in Texas leaving Medicaid.)

November 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You Are Going To Have To Get Involved Yourself—Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up

Here is the most recent Texas Progressive Alliance round-up. The TPA is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas.

With the round-up this week is a picture I took on Thanksgiving Day of the Texas State Capitol in Austin.

Life took me to Austin this past week.

A lot of brutal things are going to happen in that building in the months ahead.  The 2011 Texas legislative session offers little more than prospect of drastic cuts in the already thin social safety net, and, on social issues and immigration issues, nothing but far-right measures and extremism.

I’d like to make a point with this blog post that I’ve made a few times in recent weeks—It is up to you to get involved.

You see what happened in the election earlier this month. Crazy and sometimes hateful people were more enthusiastic and better organized than were others in 2010.

Nobody is going to do the work of freedom and democracy for you. You should please consider volunteering, blogging, running for office, starting a blog, writing a letter to the editor, talking to your friends and family, donating money  and whatever else you think might be of value.

You have to decide that you’re going to do something about the way we are headed in Texas and in  this nation.  It is up to you.

The round-up—

Off the Kuff examined the effect of straight ticket voting on the city of Houston’s ballot propositions as well as the touching of our junk.
CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wonders how the Cameron County Judge’s race can get any weirder. Who won and how did things get so messed up?

This week on Left of College Station, Teddy takes a look at the bills concerning immigration that have been pre-filled in the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Senate. LoCS also once again covered theweek in headlines.

WhosPlayin posted a two-part series following air quality complaints in a neighborhood in North Texas near Barnett Shale gas wells and facilities. Continue reading

November 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

You’ll Have To Visit Another Blog Today

You’ll have to visit another blog today to find any action.

Go to another register.

However it is you’d like to conceptualize the point.

But for these few words, I’m taking the day off from blogging.

Photo copyright Neil Aquino.

November 27, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Why I Enjoyed My Nighttime Drive From Austin To Houston

Last night, from about 10:30 PM until maybe 1:30 AM, I drove back to Houston from Austin. My wife is out-of-town visiting family and I had Thanksgiving dinner in Austin with a friend. I took Highway  290 to get to Austin and back.

I enjoyed my ride home.

Here is why I enjoyed this ride—

1. I had three hours alone to think.

2. It was mostly cloudy. I liked looking at the light of towns and cities in the distance reflected by the clouds. I’m not saying people are always best in the abstract, but it is good to have a mix of actual human contact and a more remote consideration of the human condition.

3. I was glad not to be robbed or to stumble upon a robbery-in-progress when I stopped at an all-night gas station at midnight to get something to drink.

4. I was able to contemplate the road I was driving on as agent of communication between people. The road is an extension of our natural desire to go other places and to see other people.

5. Consistent with the point above , I thought about how the road was built by people, yet how it also bended to the topography.  Terms like “natural” and “artificial” don’t really have clear meanings in many ways.

6. I liked the intermittent flashing lights on the electrical towers, radio transmission towers, and cell phone towers. Though these towers often stand isolated in remote places, they are in fact necessary to facilitate all sorts of communication between people.

7. I felt active and alert while driving and thinking, yet I felt removed from the world out in the night at a late hour. I found this to be a good state of mind.

It is helpful to have breaks from the routine of life. Such breaks can allow for reflection, for new thoughts, for the updating of long-standing ideas, and for renewed commitment to ideas that are of personal importance or that are of personal interest.

November 26, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Let Us Give Thanks For The Fact That Tom DeLay Is Now A Convicted Criminal

Let us give thanks at Thanksgiving that former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom “The Hammer” Delay is now a convicted criminal.

(Above–Mr. DeLay’s mug shot.)

From the Houston Chronicle—

“After almost 19 hours of deliberations, a Travis County jury today convicted former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on felony charges of political money laundering. DeLay faces two to 20 years in prison on a conspiracy charge and five to 99 years or life on a money laundering charge. DeLay remains free on bail, with sentencing tentatively set for Dec. 20.”

To celebrate this verdict, Texas Liberal Panel of Experts members Cactus, Extinct and Hamburger Wearing An Astros’ Hat went out and bought themselves a bottle of whiskey. You see in the photo below that they also rustled up an old Tom DeLay bumper sticker.

Cactus does not drink very often. But tonight is a special occasion.

2010 has been a rough year in politics. However, it is a source of holiday cheer that Mr. DeLay has been convicted.

November 25, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 4 Comments

Have Republicans Taken Over North Korea?—It Is Obama’s Fault

North Korea has lobbed shells at South Korea.

Two South Korean marines were killed and many houses were destroyed.

(Above–North Korean soldiers peering into South Korea. Like you and I, these troops in the picture are people in a world they did not create.)

This took place on Yeonpyeong Island. This is not the first conflict between the two Koreas over this island.

President Obama has said that the United States will help defend South Korea if that is what is required.

With all this trouble, I found myself wondering if Mitch McConnell and John Boehner had taken over North Korea.

We already know the Republican Party wants the economy to fail as long as President Obama might get the credit for things going better.

We also see with the START Treaty that Republicans will undermine our foreign policy  for no other reason but to offer up opposition.

A New Korean War could be used to go after President Obama in many ways—

* President Obama could be blamed for failing to keep the peace.

* When focusing on war strategy, the President could be attacked for not working on job creation.

* The need to fund the New Korean War could be used as a pretense to further gut the social safety net.

* Munitions blasted into the air during the war could be blamed for climate change— Though even better for this purpose would be an exchange of nuclear weapons.

* Both North Korea and South Korea are in Asia. Since many Muslims live in Asia and since Obama is a Muslim, the New Korean War would be the fault of Muslims like Obama.

* And, of course, a New Korean War would show that this is the right time for tax cuts. The fact that the sun rises in the morning is also a reason for tax cuts.

The Republican party is very clever to take over North Korea. They will no doubt be able to cause a lot of trouble for President Obama while running North Korea.

Beyond hassling Mr. Obama, it has been more than 7 years since Republicans lied to start a war. I’m certain they feel it is time to start a new war under false pretenses.

Here is some basic history of the Korean War. A well-reviewed book on the Korean War is David Halberstam’s The Coldest Winter.

Here are facts and  history about North Korea from the BBC.

Here are facts and history about South Korea from the BBC.

File:Warkorea American Soldiers.jpg

(Above–American troops in the Korean War. The killing goes on and on in this part of the world. My father was a medic in the Korean War. I’m certain he saved many lives.)

November 24, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m Thankful For The Fact We Are Going Drive Safely Over Thanksgiving

File:Richard Nixon, turkey pardon.jpg

With Thanksgiving almost here, it is a good time to reflect on the reasons we are thankful.

(Above–Picture mostly unrelated to subject matter of this blog post.)

One reason I’m thankful this holiday is that we are not going to drive like a moron or drive drunk over Thanksgiving.

Okay?

Have a good Thanksgiving.

Don’t kill yourself or kill others because you are an aggressive driver or a drunk driver.

Here is a link to road conditions in Texas from the Texas Department of Transportation.

November 23, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 2 Comments

American Companies Report Record Profits—I Guess That Means More Layoffs

American companies have reported record profits for the third quarter of 2010.

From the New York Times-

“The nation’s workers may be struggling, but American companies just had their best quarter ever. American businesses brought in $1.66 trillion at an annual rate in the third quarter, according to a Commerce Department report released Tuesday. That is the highest figure recorded since the government began keeping track over 60 years ago, at least in nominal or non-inflation-adjusted terms. Corporate profits have been going gangbusters for a while. Since their cyclical low in the fourth quarter of 2008, profits have grown for seven consecutive quarters, at some of the fastest rates in history. This breakneck pace can be partly attributed to strong productivity growth — which means companies have been able to make more with less — as well as the fact that some of the profits of American companies come from abroad.”

What do you think these profits mean for working people?

Layoffs?

Wage cuts?

Benefit cuts?

More temporary workers instead of full-time positions?

Who should we blame for the hard times facing the American worker?

Obama?

Immigrants?

What a country this is right now.

And when things are seen as in batter shape by American companies, will they hire at decent wages or will they keep folks unemployed and underemployed with temporary workers and two-tiered wage scales?

November 23, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

I’m Thankful For Black People

Thanksgiving is almost here. This being so, it is time to reflect upon the things for which we are thankful.

One of the many things I am thankful for is black people.

So few black people are in the so-called Tea Party. Look at the pictures of Tea Party groups–You’ll see hardly black folks at all.

This is a good call by our nation’s black people.

I just finished a book called The Warmth of Other Suns. This book, written by Isabel Wilkerson, details the migration of black people from the south to the north in the 20th century.

Black people wanted out of the south because , as far as I can tell, the way blacks were treated in the Jim Crow south was little better than how Jews were treated in the Germany of the 1930′s.

Below is a picture I took in Houston yesterday. While I don’t know for 100% that the people who painted this fence were black, I do know that I took this picture in a black part of town.

Instead of going on about Muslims, immigrants and the government, the folks who painted this fence were looking  towards a better future.

To proceed in this way in these hard times ,and given the history of black folks in America ,takes character.

November 23, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I’m Thankful For Immigrants

With Thanksgiving almost here, it is a good time to reflect upon the things for which we are thankful.

One thing I am thankful for are immigrants to the United States of America.

I’m mindful of the many issues involved with immigration to our nation.

Yet in the end, these folks are going to come to America one way or another as long as this remains a nation where you can tart over and make something of yourself.

I wager that when the immigrants stop coming that will be a sign that we are in deep decline.

My call is to be welcoming and to be open to people who want to come here and have a more decent life.

I don’t care from where  in the world immigrants to the United States are arriving. I welcome them all.

(Below–Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island in 1902.)

November 23, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Spahn & Sain & What Many Hold To Be True Will Often Rot Your Brain

Baseball fans may be aware of the saying “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain.”

(Above–Spahn on the left and Sain on the right.)

These words are about the 1948 Boston Braves. Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain were two starting pitchers on the ’48 Braves team that won the American League pennant and then lost the World Series to the Cleveland Indians.

The Boston Braves, after a stop in Milwaukee for a few years, are the current Atlanta Braves.

The words are, as I have learned in researching  this post, from a poem written by a Boston sportswriter named Gerald Hern.

Here is the poem—

First we’ll use Spahn
then we’ll use Sain
Then an off day
followed by rain
Back will come Spahn
followed by Sain
And followed
we hope
by two days of rain

The poem conveys the idea that the only decent starting pitchers for the Braves where Spahn and Sain. It suggests the only way the Braves could win was to have Spahn pitch one day, Sain another day, and then hope for rainouts that would get Spahn and Sain back on the mound without having to use other pitchers.

I’ve been aware of this saying since I was a kid. I suppose I’ve long-believed it reflected the truth.

The thing is—It is not true. I was looking up some baseball facts the other day and I came across the 1948 Braves. I saw that the famous poem was not true.

This  made me grumpy. Why do we often believe in things that are not true?

It is not true that Healthcare Reform comes with so-called Death Panels. (Read here about all the helpful aspects of Healthcare Reform)

It is not true that Barack Obama’s trip to India cost $200 million a day.

And it is not true that the 1948 Boston Braves had only two decent starting pitchers.

Sain was a great pitcher in 1948. He pitched a number of innings, did not allow many runs to be scored, and won a bunch of games. Warren Spahn, however, did not in 1948 stand out from the other two pitchers in the Boston rotation.

Braves starting pitchers Bill Voiselle and Vern Bickford had solid seasons in 1948. Bickford was better than Spahn. Though Bickford’s superior performance was muted by the fact that Spahn helped his team by pitching over 100 more innings than did Bickford.

(Below–Vern Bickford baseball card. Bickford seems to have been a decent guy. He died of cancer at age 39. It is good we can recall him.)

Here are the pitching statistics for the 1948 Braves. Look it up for yourself.

Spahn had good years leading up to 1948 and he went on to a Hall of Fame career. However, in 1948, he was just one of three reasonably effective starting pitchers in the shadow of Sain.

People have been believing this story about Spahn and Sain for over 60 years.

I know this is a small matter given all the troubles we face in the world.

It is just that what we hold to be true is so often incorrect.

This is true in what we think about the world and it is true in what we think about the things in our personal lives.

Or, as the rap band Public Enemy once put it—Don’t Believe The Hype.

(Below–Bill Voiselle.)

November 22, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Blogger Round-Up—You Have To Make The Call To Get Involved

Here is the most recent edition of the Texas Progressive Alliance round-up.  The TPA is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas.

(Above–My polling place. The most recent election day was a mess in every respect.)

Please visit TPA bloggers every chance you get.

Please follow the example of TPA bloggers and get involved yourself.

I don’t know what else I can tell you that will be of greater value. You’ve got to get involved unless you want nuts to be running this country.

The round-up—-

Off the Kuff discusses the issue of Latino turnout in the wake of Tuesday-before-last’s elections.

This week on Left of College Station Teddy takes in the landscape after the storm and presents a way forward for Texas Democrats. LoCS also begins the Texas Legislature Watch by looking at the bills thatRepresentative Fred Brown has pre-filed, and covers the week in headlines.

Letters From Texas explained a fundamental truth to state Senator Dan Patrick: democracy is about more than two wolves and one sheep voting on what’s for dinner.

Killing Medicaid and CHIP along with Grandma and the kids will devastate the Texas economy. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wonders why the evil Heritage Foundation wants to hurt the Texas economy. Continue reading

November 21, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Sometimes There Is No Middle Of The Road Position

As you can see from this picture I took a few days ago, sometimes there is no room in the middle of the road.

There is no room in the middle of the road when we have a congress that is denying the extension of unemployment benefits during this tough recession, while at the same time debating to keep tax cuts in place for the wealthiest 2% of Americans.

This kind of thing really makes you wonder about what kind of country we are at the moment.

It is up to you and I to fight back. How long can we allow Tea Party groups to have the upper-hand as the rich get richer and the rest of us are pushed aside?

Are we really going to extend the Bush tax cuts for the most wealthy and then have cuts for programs for the poor and working class in the next Congress?

What kind of country is this? When will we fight back?

November 20, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 3 Comments

Just Kids Wins National Book Award—Woolly Mammoth Reflects On Life And Loss

As I noted a few days ago, Extinct, a Woolly Mammoth, is the newest contributor to Texas Liberal.

Extinct has been reading of late  Just Kids by the performer and artist Patti Smith.

This book tells the story of Ms. Smith’s youthful friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe.

Mr. Mapplethorpe, a well-known photographer, died of AIDS at age 43 in 1989.

As a Woolly Mammoth, Extinct knows all about the passing of time and about the value of longtime relationships.

Longtime friendships offer a measure of reply to death.

There is at least an illusion of permanence when someone knows us as we change with the years.

There is also memory.

The depth of memory when we know a person very well after many years allows us to transcend the passing time.

Just Kids was recently selected as the winner of the National Book Award.

I suggest that you read Just Kids. Just Kids is an instructive book about life, relationships, and death.

Extinct feels the same way about this book. Extinct has seen a lot of life and death.

November 19, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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