A hard working city like Houston, Texas, needs a hard-working star in the sky to keep us warm and to meet all our celestial needs.
The sun asks nothing of us but that we let it shine.
On the other hand, what I ask of you is that you vote in every election, pay your taxes, and be involved in public affairs.
Given that I ask more and do less than our star in the sky, it is no wonder that I am far less well-liked than is our sun.
(Picture copyright 2011 Neil Aquino.)
The picture above is of a Houston city park that, as you can see, is not being very well maintained.
You see that all around the park regulations sign are trees and flowers and weeds.
Maybe the city is returning the land to the wild.
Maybe the city has just forgotten about the park.
Maybe it was never a very good park to start.
It’s all okay. There are things in our lives that would be better if they were a bit more natural. There are things in our lives that we should simply let go of.
(Photo copyright 2011 Neil Aquino)
Here is the most recent installment of the Texas Progressive Alliance weekly round-up. The TPA is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas.
TPA bloggers are folks who do what they can for a better Texas.
That’s pretty much what I have for you today.
Thanks for reading Texas Liberal.
WhosPlayin helped organize a cleanup for an historic African American cemetery dating back to about 1845 that had been the target of litterbugs and illegal dumpers. Respect for the dead, and respect for the land are still values that people from left and right can agree on.
TXsharon at BLUEDAZE: Drilling Reform for Texas reported on two important developments on hydraulic fracturing: 1) the EPA is confident gas in Parker County water wells is from the Barnett Shale, and 2) the media took a lie about the EPA and regulating diesel fuel and repeated it without fact checking.
Capitol Annex takes a look at a study showing that Texas gets an “F” when it comes to reporting outbreaks of food-borne illness and wonders why the media wasn’t paying attention last year when candidates were making an issue of food safety in Texas. Read more »
I had a book in my hand even as a kid.
I’m not so different today.
I had jury duty recently here in Harris County, Texas.
I attended this jury duty just as all citizens should do when they get a summons.
I was not picked for a trial.
Attending jury duty does not mean you assume that people on trial in the courthouse will get a fair shake. I think that many are wary about justice in harris County and in Texas.
What it means is that you have been called do your civic duty, and you have to do that just like any other citizen.
If you don’t want to go for some moral or ethical reason, then make that known and accept the consequences.
Above you see some of the things I took to jury duty. I was prepared to sit in the big jury assembly room for as long as required. I did end up in that room for over two hours.
I had a book and two magazines. The book I had was The President Makers: The Culture of Politics & Leadership in the Age of Enlightenment 1896-1919. This book, published in 1940, is by Matthew Josepheson.
I had two magazines. I had a baseball preview magazine and a copy of the excellent New Scientist.
I also had a copy of the United States Constitution. I carry the Constitution with me all times. We can’t allow Tea Party/Republican Party extremists to make off with our founding documents. The Constitution is a flexible document able to adapt to the needs of society as times change.
Do you think that people who have been dead for 200 years now could have fully imagined the world as it is today? We can move forward without losing the freedoms and rights that we have long held in our nation. To insist otherwise is to offer a false choice.
You’ll please note that there is a necktie in the picture above.
I wore a tie to jury duty. What could merit greater respect than our common society?
Not many of the men were wearing ties in the jury hall.
I don’t see what is casual about deciding the fates of fellow human beings.
This is could be seen as a somewhat conservative position on my part. Yet when our so-called “conservatives” are in fact radicals, and when so much day-to-day conduct is characterized by ill- disciplined and ignorant behavior, it often falls upon the liberal to preserve and defend what is best in our society.
Please go to jury duty when you get a summons. Please dress for jury duty in way that suggests you respect others and that you respect yourself.
My friend Alison Rusza, who lives in New York City, made this print or however it would be properly termed, of a person in the snow.
(Update–It is glass and paint.)
Since it has been snowing so much in New York City this year, and since trees are in the picture, I’d say it is a representation of a woman in Central Park while it is snowing.
You see that she is confident by herself.
You see that the woman is not deterred by the fact that the snow pile and blowing trees are much bigger than she.
You see that she is leaning in the opposite direction of the wind.
This is a person who does more than just move in whatever direction the wind is blowing.
In the top left, you see that the sun is making an appearance. The light of the sun is reflected in the snow drift even as the snow flakes continue to fall.
Life is many things at once. It is natural that some of these things contradict each other.
This picture is good-natured and it has substance.
Good-natured and substantive at the same time is a useful thing to accomplish.
Thanks to Alison for allowing me to use it on the blog.
I’m not reflexively against consumption. I consume things. I discard things.
I own a car. When I am done with my car–After I drive it as long as it will run–I will discard the car.
People need jobs making and selling things. There are many valid reasons that people want to make use of material things.
I’m not looking to make a softball point that our Texas and United States flags stand in large part for our right to use stuff and then to toss it away.
Yet there is the picture as seen at an auto demolition yard near the Houston Ship Channel. There sure are a lot of cars in that lot.
So make of it what you will. See the picture using both nuance, and a recognition of what the photo shows–Even if unintentionally–clearly enough.
(Photo copyright 2011 Neil Aquino.)
No matter how aggressively that tree knocks on the door, it is not going to be allowed in that building.
(Photo copyright 2011 by Neil Aquino.)
Blogger’s Note– This post is updated through 12 noon on 2/6.
This post seeks to offer history and context for what is taking place in Egypt. It is good to get the facts on what is taking place right now. It also has value to go back and better understand the underlying circumstances. This post attempts to offer a mix of current events and larger context.
There are significant protests taking place in Egypt against the longtime and undemocratic rule of President Hosni Mubarak. Mr. Mubarak has ruled Egypt since 1981. A leading opposition figure, Mohamed ElBaradei, has returned to Egypt. This is a strong challenge to the Mubarak government. Various oppostion forces in Egypt exist, but none of these groups can be said to be leading the demonstrations.
Europe and the United States are pushing for some type of transition of government. But at the bottom line, the Egyptian government does not appear to be yielding power. President Mubarak won’t give up power. But Mr. Mubarak’s departure is all that will meet the demands of the demonstraters. Given that the powerful army will not back a harsh crackdown, how can Mr. Mubarak hang on?
It is good to see people fighting for freedom and for a better life. People have to take charge of their lives. While circumstance does not always allow that, we see in Egypt that people can move ahead even in tough circumstances.
Let’s hope that something better does come to Egypt.
(Update 2/6—Opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei says he is being excluded from talks. Mr. ElBaradei also says that the issue should long-standing change instead of an immediate demand that Mr. Mubarak leave power.)
(Update 2/1—The U.S. says Hosni Mubrak should go.)
(Update 1/31—The respected U.S. online newspaper The Christian Science Monitor reports that it is not clear what opposition group or groups have the upper hand if President Mubarak is forced from office.)
(Update 1/31--Some wealthy areas of Cairo are being attacked by mobs.)
(Update 1/30-–Here is the AlJazeera blog on Egypt.)
(Update 1/30—2000 people in Chicago marched for democracy in Egypt.)
(Update 1/28–-Live updates of events on the BBC.)
(Update 1/28–Today’s protests are the largest yet.)
(Update 1/27–Reuters Africa reports many disruptions in internet service in Egypt. The government does not want people to organize.)
(Update 1/27– Mohamed ElBaradei is back in Egypt.)
(Update 1/27–As the BBC reports, the protests are now on day 3.)
(Update 1/26—Twitter and Facebook are blocked in Egypt.)
(Update 1/26– The latest videos and reports from Al-Jazeera.)
From the L.A. Times—
“The most obvious effect is the empowerment of the citizen. The individual who felt helpless before the all-powerful state has now discovered that ultimate political power really does lie in his or her hands — that in spontaneous and collective action, a repressive regime, enjoying widespread regional and international support, can be brought down in a few weeks.”
(Below–Hosni Mubarak with former President George W. Bush.)
From the 2010 Amnesty report on Egypt—
“The government continued to use state of emergency powers to detain peaceful critics and opponents as well as people suspected of security offences or involvement in terrorism. Some were held under administrative detention orders; others were sentenced to prison terms after unfair trials before military courts. Torture and other ill-treatment remained widespread in police cells, security police detention centres and prisons, and in most cases were committed with impunity. The rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly were curtailed; journalists and bloggers were among those detained or prosecuted. Hundreds of families residing in Cairo’s “unsafe areas” were forcibly evicted”
(Above–Mr. Mubarak getting a symbolic shoe tossed his way in the ongoing protests. Photo by Muhammad Ghafari.)
After protests in Tunisia that began this month, the government in that nearby North African nation was toppled. Yet it remains unclear if what will replace the old corrupt regime in Tunisia will be any better than what came before.
The population of Tunisia is as a general matter more educated and more connected online than is the population of Egypt. This is said in no way to disparage the Egyptian people. It is simply to say that when people have not been free for many years, it can be tough to establish a functioning democracy.
From Mother Jones—
“Inspired by the recent protests that led to the fall of the Tunisian government and the ousting of longtime Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Egyptians have joined other protesters across the Arab world (in Algeria, notably) in protesting their autocratic governments, high levels of corruption, and grinding poverty. In Egypt, tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets.”
(Above–The Nile River in Cairo. Here are facts about the Nile River. Here are various travel blogs that describe visiting Cairo.)
Global Voices is an excellent resource for citizen bloggers and citizen reporters from across the world. Here is the Global Voices Egypt page.
Here is an extensive series of articles on Egypt published last July by The Economist. This link is to the first of the eight articles. Links to the others are on the right side of the first article.
From The Economist–
“Political talk in Egypt has always been acidly cynical, but now a new bitterness has crept in. This has not been prompted by any change from above, since little has really changed in Egyptian politics since President Hosni Mubarak came to office 29 years ago. The sour mood is informed instead by the contrast between rising aspirations and enduring hardships; by a growing sense of alienation from the state; and by the unease of anticipation as the end of an era inevitably looms ever closer.”
(Above–Map of Egypt.)
At the bottom of both the BBC links are links to Egyptian and Tunisian media outlets.
Let’s hope that both Egypt and Tunisia find a path to better governments and towards a society that allows people to best use the talents they have in life. Let’s hope that these folks don’t end up with a right-wing religious government.
Let’s also use this North African unrest as a chance to learn more about this part of the world. We all have the abilty to learn more. Accessible and affordable technology, as well the old- fashioned daily newspaper and public library, are always available to help us learn more about the world.
(Below–The Suez Canal Bridge. Also known as the Mubarak Peace Bridge. People in Egypt seem ready to pass on over to something new.)
Where Are GOP/Tea Party Citizen-Volunteers To Help Make Up Texas Budget Cuts?—Is It Only Volunteer Militias They Wish To Join?
Instead of rasing the taxes we need in Texas to live as full human beings with quality education and decent health care, the Texas Republican plan for the $25 billion shortfall is to cut without regard to the future of our state.
Will states rights views be of value when your kids are not educated as well as kids in other places, and when you are sick and need help?
One thing I’ve been wondering about is where are the citizen volunteers in Texas to help make up cuts caused by the deficit? I thought the whole Tea Party/Republican Party idea was that individual citizens, private business places, and church groups can do the work of government.
You know–Like the good old days when everybody would pitch in for a barn raising such as you see in the picture above.
I’m looking to private initiatives to help educate people are impacted by classroom cuts, and to help tend to sick people who lose access to care. I know Texans will “man up” and help build roads, and help clean and maintain our state parks.
Last year in Oklahoma there was a suggestion by Tea Party leaders and by some members of the Oklahoma legislature that a volunteer citizen militia be created. Citizen militia groups played a role in the 2010 elections in both Alaska and Kentucky.
Do these folks only pitch in when they can shoot guns and make up plans to fight liberals in the streets?
I’m certain we will soon have bake sales and garage sales to help fund needed services in Texas. I know once the extent of the problem is seen by everyday Texans, that our church groups and civic groups will rally to help our state.
Fellow blogger John Coby at Bay Area Houston suggests government employees in Texas who vote Republican should willingly give up their jobs. These government-employed Republicans are people voted for folks they knew would bash and slash government to the extent possible.
I took this picture two weeks ago while waiting in drive-up line at a Cincinnati White Castle at 1:50 AM on a Friday night.
The people in front of me wanted to go to White Castle so badly, that they directed the cab they were riding to stop at the White Castle as they were being driven to wherever it was they were going.
It is possible that they may have been drunk.
Here is a fine protest sign. The picture is floating around on Facebook.
To distract Texans from the massive cuts ahead due to the Republican-caused budget deficit, Governor Rick Perry has declared a number of “emergency” subjects for the upcoming Texas Legislative session to consider.
This emergency status allows topics deemed of great importance by the Governor to be rushed to the front of the regular legislative calendar. The Texas political blog Capitol Annex has more details on emergency declarations by the Governor.
Governor Perry’s emergency topics so far are–
* Legislation that will allow state government to force women seeking a Constitutionally legal abortion to have a sonogram and to hear an audio of the heartbeat of the fetus. It is not known at this time what other medical procedures the State of Texas will force citizens to undergo. Nor is it known if Texas will demand that law enforcement officers witness these procedures so they report back to the state that the law is being followed.
* Ending so-called Sanctuary City practices that allow local governments the discretion to check or not check the immigration status of people they stop or arrest. This proposed usurpation of local authority will expand the power of the state by allowing law enforcement to check the papers of any person who might be, in the eyes of the state, in the U.S. illegally. It is not clear how this determination will be made by government, or if this change will lead to police checkpoints where U.S. citizens will be stopped and asked to prove they are here lawfully.
* A bill that will call upon the federal government to balance the budget each year. Do you think this non-binding legislation is more important than the fact that Texas is first in the nation in the percentage of people without health insurance?
* A voter ID bill. Conservatives are obsessed with the notion that people of color are casting fraudulent votes. Yet there are very few cases of voter fraud in our state. In any case, why is this an emergency? What elections are scheduled between now and the end of the legislative session?
* Property rights legislation to deal with alleged eminent domain abuse. It is hard to imagine that after all the years of Republican control of Texas government, that property rights are not yet secure. What has Rick Perry been doing all this time? I thought protecting private property was a big deal to Republicans.
These are the “emergencies” at hand in Texas. They have nothing to do with the education, health care, or the economy. They have plenty to do with appeasing the most extreme far-right elements in Texas and with distracting Texans from the real issues. In the case of the sonogram bill, what is involved is an intrusion by the state into the doctor-patient relationship.
None of these things will be of value when the school your kids attend takes massive funding cuts because of the pending budget cuts, or when you cannnot afford college, or when you are sick and cannot afford treatment.
This being Sunday, below you will find the latest Texas Progressive Alliance round-up. The TPA is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas. TPA bloggers will be covering the upcoming legislative session in great detail. Please visit TPA blogs each chance you get.
(Above—The Houston Public Library Mobile Express vehicle at the 2011 Houston Martin Luther King parade. Learning is a lot better than trying to kill people.)
The bomb were discovered and defused before the parade began. The bomb was discovered by Spokane city workers.
These city workers saved people’s lives. While attacking public employees is all the rage at the moment, we should recall that government employees help us in many ways, and that Martin Luther King died while fighting for public sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee.
The bomb had a remote detonator. The FBI says that the bomb had the potential to do a great deal of harm.
While no person has been arrested for this crime, it does seem conceivable that this was an act of right-wing domestic terror.
My friend Errington Thompson at the blog Where’s The Outrage? has also posted on this subject. Errington’s post has an extansive list of act sof violence committed by the American right since 2008.
I’m glad to be a contributing blogger at Where’s The Outrage?
Right-wing hate speech in an ongoing threat in our nation. While most people draw the line at violence, it just takes a few extremists for bad things to happen.
For a sense of Martin Luther King represented, please check out my Martin Luther King Reading & Reference List.
Due in large part to Republican mismanagement of state finances, and due to the failure of many ordinary Texans to meet the everyday obligations of citizenship, the State of Texas faces a massive budget deficit.
The Texas Legislature, now in session, will have to approve a budget for 2012 and 2013.
There are many reasons for this budget shortfall. Some of them have nothing to do with anything in the control of Texas. The national recession has hit states hard across the nation.
However, property tax cuts we could not afford and a Republican ideology of small government and low taxes no matter what, has also put us in this tough spot.
Will states rights and reflexive bashing of Washington help your kid compete with kids from India and China? Will it help you when you are sick and need help? Will Governor Perry declaring divisive Voter ID bills for non-existent voter fraud and sanctuary city legislation an “emergency” help anybody?
People in our state need to make the call that they are going to demand a focus on things that matter, and that they will not allow themselves to be distracted by sideshows.
We need to be clear. Republicans have been in firm control of Texas for many years now. We have had a Republican Governor since 1995. Republicans have long been in control of both Houses of the Texas Legislature.
Republicans would have you believe that only states run by Democrats face these types of deficit problems.
However, because we are not powerless as free citizens, this problem is also on average Texans who have enjoyed low taxes even as our state has failed on so many measures of education and public health.
And, of course, we have millions of Texans who can’t even be bothered to vote in most elections.
This combination of a bad national economy, a destructive ideology, low taxes, and a short-sighted public has real consequences.
“Pitts didn’t sugarcoat the proposed cuts, which strike a potentially devastating blow to public education and health care, eliminate 9,000 state jobs and shutter two state institutions for people with disabilities, one prison unit and three Texas Youth Commission lock-ups.”
“As many as 100,000 school district jobs could be eliminated in the face of a significant reduction of state aid for public schools, said Lynn Moak, a school finance consultant…The proposed budget does not cover $9.8 billion owed to the school districts under the current school finance formulas. Legislation will be needed to reduce the state’s obligations by that amount, which includes money to pay for new students in public schools and replace the federal stimulus dollars that legislators used in 2009 for basic school funding. Democratic House members said the budget proposal pretends that the 170,000 new students expected in Texas classrooms just won’t materialize. Nor was money included to pay for new textbooks or supplemental science materials that are needed to prepare high schools for the upcoming end-of-course exams. Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, told the State Board of Education on Wednesday that she would fight for those classroom necessities. Shapiro has long led the Senate Education Committee.”
Even a Republican State Senator is upset.
What did she expect?
In Ector County, Odessa College, a community college, has been targeted for zero funding. This has angered people in this area.
(Below–Multi-purpose building at Odessa College. The people in the area of Odessa College last November voted in favor of drastic budget cuts to this institution. Photo by Billy Hathorn.)
What did people in Ector County think they were voting for last November? I thought personal responsibility for your actions is what Texas is all about. By that measure, cuts in services of all kinds in Ector County should rightly be deep and brutal.
People are, of course, free to sacrifice their futures and the futures of their children to lost cause of states rights. They are free to value low taxes over anything else.
However, there are people in Texas who take the position that the future has value.
The Legislative Study Group, a forward-thinking caucus of the Texas House chaired by Houston area State Rep. Garnet Coleman, has issued a document detailing what the budget proposed by the Texas House will mean for Texans.
Review this document and see the impact these cuts will have on all Texans.
Texas political blogs such as Capitol Annex, The Daily Hurricane, Brains And Eggs, Jobsanger, Letters From Texas, Bay Area Houston, and Off The Kuff are also reporting on the deficit and on hopeful alternatives for Texas. These citizen bloggers reflect the best aspirations of Texas.
It is up to each individual Texan to fight back. This is the ethos of Texas. We must take responsibility for our lives and for our state.
The extreme right-wing ideology of the Republican Party in Texas, which even goes so far as to talk about seccession from the union, does not provide any realistic vision of the part that Texas must play in the global economy.
No matter what we have been fed over the years in Texas, we don’t have to live selfish lives. We can care for the people around us and still be good Texans.
(Below–Likely state budget cuts in Texas will further worsen an environment so noxious that even Republican Oklahoma has complained to the EPA about bad air in Texas. The cash for clunkers program and air and water testing are among many environmental services likely to be drastically slashed. )