Texas Liberal

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The Shadow Sells And Supports The Substance

I saw this picture of Sojourner Truth a while back with a caption below that reads—“I sell the shadow to support the substance.”

Sometimes hard facts are best and are what you need.

But so often, when you are trying to convince someone of something, or trying to understand something yourself, it is the essence of the facts, or the essence of the larger point, that you are looking for.

I’ve found that people easily able to grasp the essence of the matter at hand, or the “shadow” as Sojourner Truth says here, are often the more flexible and humane people I meet.

Rigidity and needing every fact can be toxic to understanding the world around you and in getting along with others.

Being open and flexible, and being able to grasp the issue at hand from the facts that are available is a gift.

Here is information about Sojourner Truth.

November 15, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 2 Comments

Fixed Points Of Reference Guide A Conservative Like Myself—Everyday Life Offers Both Clear Facts And Hopeful Imagination

Above is a picture I took last week while on a walk in Houston’s great Tony Marron Park.

It is hard to get lost in a flat city like Houston because Downtown is visible from so many vantage points.

This is a fine metaphoric example for a conservative like myself to say that we need fixed points of reference to find our way in life.

Hard work, reading, civic involvement, my marriage, longtime relationships of many kinds, and my core beliefs serve as some of my fixed reference points in life.

You will have your own points of reference that help you move ahead in life.

At the same time, imagination and metaphor are also essential to a complete life.

As Sojourner Truth said—It is the shadow that sells the substance.

As for today’s so-called political conservatives who have beliefs rooted in denial of the clear facts of climate change and who see America symbolically as a white Christian nation—These are people rooted neither in facts or in hopeful imagination.

A complete life requires both the seen and unseen.

A complete life requires both the clear facts of the matter and imagination.

Look around you each day and you will see all these things in everyday life.

July 31, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Talking Points To Defeat Cruel New Houston Anti-Food Sharing Ordinance—Collective Actions Must Be Guided By Individual Conscience

Houston City Council, led by Mayor Annise Parker and Councilman James Rodriguez, have passed an ordinace that will criminalize many instances of sharing food with the homeless.

Here are some details of this law from Mayor Parker’s office.

Mayor Parker and Mr. Rodriguez are blind to the fact that Sojourner Truth understood many years ago—It is the shadow that sells the substance.

This new law is a mean-spirited law that is meant to harass the homeless. It is the third restriction on the homeless in nine months as we offer public subsidy to soccer stadiums and so-called arthouse movie theaters.

There is a Facebook group that is opposing this new law.  They are circulating a petition to oppose this new law. Go to the Facebook page to learn more details.

Here is an e-mail to get a petition to circulate to help repeal the ordinance — Free2GiveVolunteers@gmail.com

Some of the folks in the coalition to defeat the new law are very good people who are concerned with the fate of all people.

Others are conservatives who just want to move Houston to the right, and see this as a chance to link the brutality of modern conservatism to an illusion of compassion for those most in need.

I support repeal of this law and will post on this subject a number of times in the days ahead.

At the same time, I will keep some distance from the organized opposition to this law.

Collective action is essential, yet it is individual conscience that must guide our acts.

The Keep Houston Sharing Free website has come up with talking  points to discuss this cruel ordinance in the days ahead.

These points are useful if you decide to circulate the petition, or if you just want to discuss the new law with your fellow citizens of Houston.

Here are the talking points—-

1) The new ordinance will regulate a natural expression of human compassion, inhibit groups sharing food with the poor, and cause suffering. Any group or individual who drives around looking for hungry people in need of food will be immediately criminalized since they wouldn’t have prior written permission for the locations where they find people. A significant portion of Houston homeless rely on these forms of spontaneous feeding. This law will cause homeless people to suffer and become sick.

2) In City Council chambers, the few homeless service providers who supported the law were those with city contracts, every other homeless and poor service provider opposed it. At a faith-based food sharers study group conducted by Coalition for the Homeless, not one of the many diverse religious group representatives favored the mandatory and punitive aspects of this law. These compassionate people know best: this type of law will cause poor to suffer.

3) Requiring permission for groups to serve has precedent. In San Francisco in 1988, the permit requirement was used to criminalize and arrest hundreds of food sharing volunteers. Asking for permission is never easy, free, quick, or fair. These permit requirements violate 1st Amendment freedoms of assembly, speech, and religion. Since the law only applies to those sharing food with the homeless, and not those at a tailgating party, the law violates the “equal protection under the law” clause of the 14th Amendment.

4) The law was written hastily and is incomplete, declaring that “there exists a public emergency” without explaining what the emergency is. The law does not include a fee schedule or any of the criteria or processes for obtaining permission to serve. It seems it was written vaguely intentionally to require expansion later, when public attention has waned.

5) The law doesn’t achieve any clear policy objectives. The extra expenses that will be incurred are not necessary and have not been budgeted. The law creates additional work and bureaucracy for various city agencies and homeless food providers without any clearly identified benefits. The law punishes, but does not reward. There were no studies or data presented to justify a new law.

6) When interviewed, over 90% of homeless downtown indicated that without volunteer groups able to help them in the streets, they would turn to crime, begging for money, or less healthy options.

7) The permission process could be used to re-introduce all of the most hated criteria that were taken out of the earlier draft.

8) The police would be given the new job of surveillance and enforcement against good Samaritans. The amount of the fines are said to be $500, which is much more than the entire monthly income of many who help the homeless.

9) There are over 60 groups speaking out against this law. From the conservative Houston Area Pastor’s Council to the Catholic Workers, from Occupy to the Tea Party, evangelical protestants to civil rights organizations, from the Harris County Republican Party to the Green Party, from the Nation of Islam to the Hare Krishnas, the diversity of these groups may well be unprecedented.

10) We the people have a right to share food with the needy and no one has the right to make us ask for permission each time. Volunteers help feed the homeless without making financial demands on the city, and as such should be held up as examples, not criminalized.

11) Spontaneous and un-coordinated distribution of food to the needy is a proud Houston tradition and groups have done so for years without problems.

12) Mayor Parker did not offer any studies to document instances of food poisoning, significant food wastage, or the projected impact of these new regulations on homeless populations.

13) The management districts in and near downtown are funded with tax dollars to implement service plans (posted on their websites) that embrace responsibilities that warrant placement of trash receptacles, public toilets and litter removal programs to beautify and rebrand their geographic areas, and already do so to an extent.

14) No laws can eliminate the annoyances the mayor’s ordinance is addressing, and trying to do so will waste police time in a futile quest.

15) The City, through this ordinance, has converted public property to private property. Public property, paid for with tax dollars, is now the Mayor’s property that you have to get permission to use. This sets a terrible precedent: This week it is permission to feed others, next week it could easily be that you may need permission to take your child to the parks because of the liability that exist if you don’t watch your child and they fall off the swing, etc…

April 9, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 3 Comments

Houston Mayor Annise Parker Blind To The Symbolism Of The Anti-Food Sharing Ordinance—The Shadow Sells The Substance

Below are specifics of the anti-food sharing ordinance as reported by Mayor Annise Parker’s office.

The Mayor’s office was able to post these rules on the day in-between the anniversary Martin Luther King’s death and Good Friday, to tell folks how sharing food with the homeless will now be regulated.

One  of the two most disturbing things about this in my view, is that public property is seen as having an “owner’ and is being treated  here by Mayor Parker no differently than private property.

The other issue that bothers me most is the blindness of the Mayor and Council Democrats regarding the symbolism of restricting the sharing of food with the homeless.

Sojourner Truth had it right when she said that “the shadow sells the substance.”

The only Councilmember who seems to fully get the symbolism is Libertarian-leaning Republican Helena Brown, who will soon be holding a so-called town meeting on the subject. Ms. Brown is both smarter and more dangerous than people on various sides of this debate want to give her credit for being. Ms. Brown denies her City Hall staff fulltime hours and access to City of Houston health benefits.

Here is the Facebook group that is organizing a petition drive to repeal the ordinance.   

In any case, you can read here the Mayor’s side of the issue as we move ahead with the petition drive to repeal the ordinance. Nothing you’ll read will change the bottom line that the sharing of the food with the homeless has now in many instances been criminalized. Mayor Parker simply does not want to understand this basic reality.

From Mayor Parker—

There is lots of misinformation about the Charitable Food Service Ordinance. Here are the facts about the ordinance adopted by City Council yesterday:

  • It takes effect July 1, 2012
  • It recognizes the importance of charitable behavior while still providing protection for owners who don’t want that charity occurring on their properties
  • The only mandatory component is a requirement to obtain written permission from the owner before any charitable food service on both public and private property without the written permission of the owner.  Organizations that fail to obtain written permission may be charged with a misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to $500. The rest of the ordinance creates the voluntary Charitable Food Service Provider Program.  This allows organizations to coordinate services, but without concerns about red tape. Organizations desiring to participate in the voluntary Recognized Charitable Food Service Provider Program will be required to:
  • o Register basic contact information with the City of Houston
  • o Cooperate with the City in scheduling any food service event at which five or more individuals will be fed
  • o Follow basic hygiene, sanitation, and food safety rules provided by the Houston Department of Health and Human Services
  • o Have at least one person at each food service site who has completed the free training in sanitary food preparation offered by HDHHS
  • o Authorize inspections by the HDHHS of their kitchens and transport vehicles and the like
  • o Implement changes suggested by the Health Department
  • o Clean up after the event
  • The names and addresses of organizations that abide by the above requirements will be listed on the City’s website. In addition, they will be entitled to use their designation as a Recognized Charitable Food Service Provider in their publications.
  • The Parks and Health Departments are developing rules for the use of City properties for charitable food service activities.

In Houston, we identify a problem, put an idea out there to address it and then listen to the community for feedback.  This time the process worked better than we expected.  So many people from many diverse groups got engaged and there is renewed focus on finding ways to address our problem of homelessness.  While not everything is in agreement as to the direction being taken, the process has been very productive. Mayor Parker hopes everyone will all stay engaged because there is more work to do to solve the problems that prompted this discussion:  the unapproved use of private property, the lack of coordination that results in food being wasted, the health and safety issues that can arise due to improperly prepared food and the trash often left behind. In six months, this ordinance will be reviewed in the City Council- Quality of Life Committee.

April 6, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Dodge Swinger Brings Back The Past—Everything Is Something Else As Well

I recently saw this old Dodge Swinger here in Houston.

Here is a Dodge Swinger commercial from 1971. 

This car remined me of the two Dodge Darts my family drove in the 1970’s.

The Swinger was apparently the Dart in most respects, with the exception of the fact that the Swinger was a two door car.

I looked inside the car, and the dash and radio were of the same design I recall from the Darts.

I looked at this car for a number of minutes and it brought back a number of personal memories.

It is interesting how an object can bring back the past.

Everyday objects often have a meaning beyond their acknowledged purpose.

Sojourner Truth said –“I sell the shadow to support the substance” 

Arguments can be made in which symbolism is employed, and day-to-day life can offer us a chance encounter with thoughts of one kind or another.

Everything is almost always something else as well.

Dodge is bringing back the Dart  for 2013 after many years of not making the car. I don’t find that very interesting. This new Dart will come without memories as an accessory.

A great book to learn about automobiles is Car–The Definitive Visual History of the Automobile.

January 23, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Candidates For Governor Of Texas Debate Education–An Eyewitness Report

I attended the League of Women Voters of the Houston Area Texas Governor’s race debate held on Sunday, October 3 here in Houston.

The debate was held at the Harris County Department of Education building you see pictured above. As you will note in the picture, this education building is named after Ronald Reagan.

That would be funny if the joke were not on all of us.

Three of the four candidates for Governor of Texas took part in this debate.

The three in attendance were—

Democratic nominee Bill White.

Green nominee Deborah Shafto.

Libertarian nominee and scary person Kathie Glass.

Not attending the debate was incumbent Republican Governor Rick Perry.

Governor Perry does not believe that the people of Texas merit the chance to see and compare all the candidates in one place and at one time.

The focus of the debate was education. There was a warm-up panel of three Harris County school superintendents to discuss education issues in Texas.

So the event was really something of a double feature.

(Below—Double Feature.)

The three local superintendents all agreed that educating kids is a challenge. They all agreed that kids must take many standardized tests, but that they sought to educate kids beyond the tests. They all agreed that money is tight. They all agreed that they agreed.

A top Houston and Texas education blogger is Martha Griffin who writes musings.

As for the debate, here are some observations—

Bill White spoke to the fact that anybody born in the U.S. is a citizen. This was in response to a question about if the children of undocumented persons should get government services.  Mr. White’s stand is clearly the correct Constitutional view.

Deb Shafto said she would be willing to raise taxes to support education. This is a good position that puts the long-term interests of Texans ahead of short-term politics. Texas has one of the worst drop out rates in the nation.

Angry Kathie Glass said that the number of immigrants coming across the border represented an “Invasion.” If you hold this to be true, it seems to me you’d be justified to do just about anything to repel an “invasion.”

(Below–Invasion.)

Mr. White did not at any point mention poverty or the large number of poor Texans. He may have alluded to the fact of poverty, but he made repeated and clear mention of the middle class. The middle class does indeed need a government that is on their side. Yet at the same time, it is frustrating that in a state as poor as Texas, the former Democratic Mayor of a city with a near 50% child poverty rate did not discuss attacking poverty as an important way of improving education. We need a root and branch approach to education because as it says in Job 18:16

“Their roots will dry up, and their branches will wither.”

Ms. Shafto said that she has been a union member and that she supported teacher’s unions. She said that while she has seen these unions at times pursue things she did not fully agree with, that people have a right to organize and that teachers unions are often good advocates for education.

Extreme Ms. Glass said that she would get rid of truancy laws and that if kids as young as 14 wanted to drop out that they should be allowed to do so.

That is just what she said.

Mr. White said the cost of attending our Texas state universities has gone up a great deal while Rick Perry has been Governor. This is a correct assertion by Mr. White and it is not clear what Governor Perry is going to do about this problem.  Maybe if the Governor had been at the debate, his views on the matter would be more clear.

Ms. Shafto used the analogy of a “jump ball” in basketball to describe how Texas teachers are competing for bonuses. I enjoyed this metaphor. As Sojourner Truth knew, we must sell the shadow to support the substance.

(Below–Jump ball)

Far Out Ms. Glass said that local government control of schools was okay, but that Austin should stay out of the picture to the extent possible.

Yet if the issue for libertarians is the place of government in our lives, local government is still government. If any level of government can be trusted to run something as important as are our schools, why can’t government be trusted to handle a number of responsibilities? Libertarians live in a fantasy world.

All in all, the debate served a useful public purpose. I urge folks to consider all the candidates. In my view, either Mr. White or Ms. Shafto would do a good job for Texas. I will be voting for Mr. White because he will be a far better Governor for the future of Texas than Mr. Perry. 10 years of Rick Perry so far is more than enough.

(Below— The debate stage. This is an approved LWV picture. I followed the rules and did not take any pictures inside the debate hall.)

October 4, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Style And Substance As One

Above is a video of me using a specific verbal style in an effort to convey deeper meaning.

The video is 39 seconds long. Please give it a play.

Relevant to this post is a post I made in April of 2008 about Sojourner Truth.

July 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sojourner Truth—I Sell The Shadow To Support The Substance

I saw this picture of Sojourner Truth a few days ago with the caption below, and I knew I had to have it in the blog.

“I sell the shadow to support the substance.”

Sometimes hard facts are best and are what you need.

But so often, when you are trying to convince someone of something, or trying to understand something yourself, it is the essence of the facts, or the essence of the larger point, that you are looking for.

I’ve found that people easily able to grasp the essence of the matter at hand, or the “shadow” as Sojourner Truth says here, are often the more flexible and humane people I meet.

Rigidity and needing every fact can be toxic to understanding the world around you and getting along with others.

Being open and flexible and grasping the issue at hand from the facts that are available is a gift.

Here is information about Sojourner Truth

April 6, 2008 Posted by | History | , , | 6 Comments

   

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