This Bridge To Nowhere Is Simply In A State Of Becoming—Spaces Around Houston’s Bayous Being Improved All Across The City
I was walking along Buffalo Bayou in Houston a few days ago and I came across this bridge to nowhere that you see above.
(The more famous Bridge to Nowhere was in Alaska. It was said to be federal spending project that was quite wasteful. Though the project at the time was supported by Alaska Republicans such as Senator Ted Stevens and Governor Sarah Palin.)
This bridge is part of improvements along Buffalo Bayou for the benefit of the people of Houston and whoever else might be in town.
Here are some of the specifics for the area where I saw the bridge-in-waiting. This is an area not far from Downtown.
Improvements and the construction of new park space along the Houston’s Bayous is taking place all over Houston. This is something that is not just taking place proximate to Downtown.
There are things that do get better even in hard times. I’d ask Houstonians to check out some of the links above and to make use of the new parks.
I’ve walked along a number of the new spaces and they are very well-done.
Government often does make a positive and hopeful difference in people’s lives.
The bridge above in a state of becoming—Just as we all are.
Here is a sign I saw yesterday that opposes Cincinnati Public School taxes.
I don’t know if the sign is against all CPS taxes or just against an upcoming levy.
It looks like a homemade or hand made sign.
It did occur to me though that a superpac opposes these taxes and commissioned 5000 of these signs to give the impression of a grassroots revolt.
My theory is dented by the fact that this is the only such sign I’ve seen so far. Though maybe it is just that this is the first of the 5000 signs.
There will be a Good Jobs Great Houston march and protest against the failure of U.S. corporations to pay a fair share of the taxes in our great nation.
The Government Accountability Office said 72 percent of all foreign corporations and about 57 percent of U.S. companies doing business in the United States paid no federal income taxes for at least one year between 1998 and 2005. More than half of foreign companies and about 42 percent of U.S. companies paid no U.S. income taxes for two or more years in that period, the report said. During that time corporate sales in the United States totaled $2.5 trillion, according to Democratic Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, who requested the GAO study.
Here are detail of the Jan. 24 march.
FACT: You have more money in your pocket than a majority of US corporations paid in federal income taxes last year.
FACT: Several of these corporations are headquartered downtown.
FACT: While these corporations dodge paying their fair share of taxes, we’re the ones getting cut and fired. What’s wrong with this picture?
Join us at the reflecting pool in front of Houston City Hall on Tuesday, January 24 at 1:30 PM, where we’ll go hog wild and march to some of these corporate HQs downtown to tell them to pay their share!
Strong Protest At Senator John Cornyn’s Office In Support Of Good Jobs, Investement In America, and Increased Taxes On The Most Wealthy
The good Americans you see in the picture above were protesting today outside the Houston office of Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn.
These loyal Americans were demanding tax increases for the most wealthy, good jobs, and a federal budget that invests in America. They were out protesting because they know that the work of freedom is up to each of us.
Our Tea Party/Republican Party foes never rest in helping the rich get richer, and in making sure that hard honest work does not pay off for everyday Americans.
These protestors were part of the Good Jobs=Great Houston Coalition.
Here are the member groups as of so far in the Good Jobs coalition. You can click on the logo of each group to learn more about what they do.
It is up to each of us to be involved in our future.
Every Texan and every American has the ability to attend a public meeting, attend or organize a protest, write or call an elected official, talk to friends and family, start a blog, donate money, write a letter to the editor, volunteer for candidates and causes, engage in acts of civil disobedience, and even run for public office.
The name of the probe is Messenger. Messenger is sending data and pictures back to Earth about conditions on Mercury.
If Messenger is sending messages to beings on Mercury, I’m sorry to the great degree that this blog post is missing the real story.
(Above—Messenger orbiting Mercury as seen by an artist.)
I’m glad I live in a time where we’ve been able to learn about the planets in our solar system.
Even more amazing, we’ve been learning about planets outside our solar system. I never thought that would be possible in my lifetime.
If intelligent aliens exist on these distant planets, I implore them to stay away.
They will bring terrible diseases. They will enslave us. They will steal our oceans.
What is it like on Mercury?
Mercury is a terrible place.
At least it is in the context of human existence.
I imagine that in the full scheme of existence, Mercury is just like it needs to be.
“Temperatures on Mercury’s surface can reach 800 degrees Fahrenheit (430 degrees Celsius). Because the planet has no atmosphere to retain that heat, nighttime temperatures on the surface can drop to -280 degrees Fahrenheit (-170 degrees Celsius).”
Below is a picture of Mercury sent from Messenger.
A book about the solar system I enjoy is called The Grand Tour–A Traveler’s Guide To The Solar System by Ron Miller and William Hartmann.
Grand Tour has many pictures, drawings and facts about all aspects of our solar system. The book is currently in a third edition.
Some people say government should only pertain to the most minimal functions.
Yet it is only government that could fund missions to understand distant space.
There are no minerals on Mercury that we will be mining from private profit. There are no advertising jingles that Messenger will be sending from Mercury.
There is so much to learn about existence. There is so much context to understand as we consider our views about the world.
Every person has the ability to learn about any subject.
Take the time it requires to learn about our world.
The more we learn, the better we will understand all that is taking place.
Want to see all the exotic plants at Cincinnati’s popular Krohn Conservatory? Looking for a few minutes out of the cold in the dark of winter by visiting the Krohn?
You’d better hope it is not Monday.
Who needs a morale boost on a Monday? Folks spend all weekend looking forward to Monday.
People need to decide what kind of future they want to have in this nation.
If you don’t get involved and fight back, the things we all count on from government will go away, and your future will have no value but the profit you can make for others.
(Photo copyright 2011 Neil Aquino.)
Governor Perry And Extremist Texas Republicans Target History And The Arts—They’ve Done All The Harm They Can Do To Health And Education
(Above–The Donley County, Texas Courthouse received Texas Historical Commission funds for renovation. Governor Perry wants to end funding for the Commission. Photo by Billy Hathorn.)
Due to longstanding Republican mismanagement of state finances, we have a massive budget deficit in Texas.
The leading “health” issue being addressed is legislation that would force some pregnant women to have a sonogram as they engage in a constitutionally-protected medical procedure.
If the state can force unwilling people to undergo a specific medical procedure, what is there to stop the state from forcing other medical procedures on free citizens?
We have the option of raising taxes or using the $9.4 billion Rainy Day fund to help make up the shortfall.
Governor Rick Perry has said many times that Texas will not use the Rainy Day fund.
Texas is 43rd in the nation in state tax burden, while at the same time the overall tax burden in our nation is as low as it has been since 1950.
People can say they are overtaxed, but they are not. We either have the self-respect to meet the responsibilities of running a decent society, or we can let people suffer and fall behind as we go about our way.
In addition to the cuts in vital public services, Governor Perry has now also proposed to eliminate funding for the Texas Historical Commission and the Texas Commission on the Arts.
It makes sense that a state that places no value on the future would also place no value on the past. All there is are the current political and ideological aspirations of a far-right Governor and a far-right legislature.
The only time history has value is when the State of Texas alters history text books to lie about our past.
Real history goes out the door while fake history goes in our textbooks.
The revision of history is right up there with forced medical procedures with how a totalitarian state would conduct business.
As for the arts, you either feel they have value or you do not. I’m not going to change your mind.
People of all kinds have creative talents. Those with the resources to pursue those abilities will be able to go ahead.
People who need some help in the form of a Texas Commission on the Arts grant, will have to decide where to go in life where what they have to offer will be valued.
The direction of Texas is clear.
* Darwinian cuts for the least amongst us.
* Government control of the bodies and the medical decisions of women.
* Historical indoctrination over historical fact.
* Rejection of the arts and of the people who pursue the arts.
The people of Texas can decide that this is all okay, or they can decide that the past has meaning and that the future has value.
It is up to you.
(A great Texas artist was Jerry Bywaters. You see below one of his works depicting Texas. Governor Perry feels the arts have little value to Texans.)
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. )
What does the so-called Tea Party stand for? What is the Tea Party agenda?
A recent blog post by Tea Party follower David Jennings at his Houston and Texas political blog Big Jolly Politics gives a clear sense of the ideologically extreme Tea Party agenda.
Mr. Jennings regularly attends and offers up observations from meetings of Tea Party cells. His most recent report from the Clear Lake Tea Party here in Houston gives a clear sense of a radical, unworkable, and often un-American Tea Party vision for our nation.
Reporting on a talk given the Clear Lake Tea Party member named Robert Gonzales, who Mr. Jennings describes as the “founder” of this local Tea Party cell, Mr. Jennings offers up a list Tea Party priorities for the days ahead.
Here are some of these Tea Party priorities as reported by Mr. Jennings—
* “Reject Obamacare.”
Repeal of Healthcare Reform will allow insurance companies to once again toss people off coverage because they get sick, and will allow insurance companies to once again impose lifetime caps on policies. Is that what we want to go back to in our nation? Read about Healthcare Reform for yourself. It does a lot of good. For the extreme right in this nation, the issue is not the good points or the weak points of Healthcare Reform. Instead, it is all about political ideology and scoring political points no matter the merits of the program. You see the same with the reflexive far-right rejection to the idea of global warming. No facts of any kind matter in the discussion. Ideology and anger are all that counts.
* ” Reinstate Judeo-Christian Values. ….Prayer back in schools and hanging the Ten Commandments in public buildings…”
People can pray anytime they want. People can live true each and every day to the religious values they hold. Are these values so weak that they must be posted in every building? This would be little different from how an insecure and fearful totalitarian state posts propaganda in every classroom and in every possible location. Where is the confidence in ideas that Christians hold as eternal? Does Christianity need government support? Can’t people find the truth for themselves rather than forcing one idea of truth on an ever-more diverse nation? What will stop a future government from posting anti-Christian messages in public buildings at some point?
* ” English as the official language….”
It sure would be intrusive of government to tell people how they should speak. Will the declaration of an official language come with a language police? Will private business places that advertise to Spanish speaking customers or Chinese speaking customers be subject to fines or some type of official sanction? Will people inform on others who are speaking the wrong language? We could set up a whole new language enforcement bureaucracy.
* “….Deport all illegal aliens, post the army along the border…”
How would we find all the undocumented people in this country? Raids into private business places and into private homes? Informants? Does the Tea Party think they will just turn themselves in to the authorities? Does the Tea Party think family and friends will just allow these people to plucked from their homes without a fight? If all undocumented people are being deported, what would they have to lose by fighting back? Do we really want the army employed for domestic purposes? Will the army take part in the raids to track down the so-called illegals? Once our country is cleansed of the illegals, what domestic mission will our army next be given? How about enforcing the payment of taxes? I think the army would be very useful for that purpose.
* “Repeal property taxes.”
Those three words are the extent of what Mr. Jennings wrote as the Tea Party goal on this subject. We already have no income taxes in Texas. Due to Republican mismanagement, Texas has a budget deficit of over $25 billion. Texas is nowhere near first in the quality of education we offer our children. How is “repeal property taxes” a serious idea in any respect?
* “ Reassert states rights under the 10th Amendment: Eliminate funding for EPA, education.”
It is worth noting that states rights is found in the Tea Party creed in the same place as is eliminating EPA and education funding. This is the states rights doctrine. It is about separating ourselves from the nation as a whole. Yet the air in Texas can be so bad that even the Republican State of Oklahoma has complained to the federal government. Being a bad neighbor can infringe on the rights of others. People in Houston know how bad the pollution was before stricter environmental regulations.
Do you think we should eliminate education funding? Kids who grow up in Texas are going to have to compete for jobs with kids from the rest of the nation and from around the world. Adherence to the lost cause of states rights will be cold comfort when you are breathing even more toxic air, and you are not educated well enough to get a job.
This radical Tea Party agenda is held by only a minority of Americans. But in mid-term elections with reduced turnout, a minority can easily carry the day. The same can be said for local elections that draw less attention than a Presidential election. The Tea Party is holding meetings and organizing. Far-right ideas are held by some of the loudest voices in the 24 hour internet/cable news landscape.
It is the choice of every freedom loving American who values the future of our nation to either get involved in public affairs or, instead, to allow your life to be defined by others. Is the Tea Party/Republican Party plan outlined above what you want to see for yourself, for your family, and for your nation?
Copyright 2011 Neil Aquino
(Above–Various iconic images from our great City of Houston. We all need to pitch in to keep our city strong. Montage by Yassie.)
From the Houston Chronicle—
“Thousands of city of Houston employees will have to take six unpaid days off in the coming six months, one of a series of actions Mayor Annise Parker is taking to close a $29 million budget gap. “This is a step that I didn’t want to take,” Parker said on Thursday. Furloughs send “the wrong message to hard-working city employees who get up and pick up our trash, fix our roads, keep our libraries open, mow our parks.” The furloughs will save the city $5 million and will apply only to civilian employees, with a few exceptions in such areas as trash pickup and other positions that generate revenue, Parker said. Employees who make less than $24,000 a year also will be exempt, she said.”
It is important to note that Mayor Parker exempted city employees at the lowest end of the pay scale. In a time when recession has caused many to go after the poorest first, while making sure that tax cuts for the rich stay in place, it is good to see acknowledgment of the needs of the people hurting most from these hard times.
Are public employees the cause of unsustainable deficit-boosting tax cuts that we have seen at so many levels of government in recent years?
Public employees must accept some of the pain of the recession. People taking a public paycheck at any level of government must lead by example. These sacrifices to be made by public employees must also apply to police officers and firefighters. Health and retirement benefits that are a critical longterm cost to governmentt must be on the table for some reconsideration. There is nothing wrong with looking at all aspects of government spending when times are hard– Or, for that matter, at any point.
Yet at the same time, nothing is achieved by allowing Republican politicians to stoke resentment of fellow working people while at the same time they do all they can to protect tax cuts for the rich.
What these Republicans really wish to do is outsource government services to politically connected firms, so that everybody but the people who actually do the work will get the taxpayer dollars.
If you are an average working person going on about a garbage man making 30k or 40K a year, while you vote for politicians who fight for tax cuts for millionaires, you must be smoking some pretty heavy dope.
Don’t we have any remaining capacity for self-respect as fellow working people, and as members of a society?
Must we allow ourselves to be used to get at others not so unlike ourselves?
Here in Houston, the overwhelming number people skip voting in municipal elections, and there have been a number of city property tax cuts in recent years.
It is time for citizens of Houston, and of our nation, to take stock of the public obligations that we all should share.
In addition to leadership from the Mayor and city employees on these budget questions in Houston, tax increases and sacrifices from average citizens may also need to be part of the solution.
Where Are Republican Objections To Federal Dollars For Galveston Seawall Improvements?—Where Are Seawall Bake Sales And The Citizen Volunteers?
The people of Galveston County will be enjoying the benefits of federal dollars as the federal government will be picking up most of the expense for $15 million in improvements to the Galveston Seawall.
(Above–Picture of Galveston Seawall I took earlier his year. Government, in concert with our own hard work, can help protect us from the storms of life.)
From the Houston Chronicle—
“….the seawall from Fourth Street to 83rd Street will be landscaped with palm trees and native grasses… Other improvements include solar lighting, benches and markers with information on history and local plants and wildlife. The bulk of the $15 million cost for the entire project will be paid for with federal transportation money…”
In 2010, the voters of Galveston County elected a Republican county government.
I thought the message of the 2010 election was to get government out of our lives.
Where are the objections to this project from Galveston County Republicans? Where are the Republicans of principle holding bake sales to raise funds for Seawall improvements? Where are the citizens forming volunteer parties to do this work without federal intrusion from Washington?
People can go on and on about government. But in the end, they take the money.
There is nothing wrong with taking the money for useful projects such as improving a resource as vital to the safety and prosperity of Galveston County as is the Seawall.
Also, there is nothing wrong with realizing the fact that government has a role to play in our lives.
Wherever in the country you live, you can bet that folks who complain about government are taking government dollars for needed and helpful reasons.
We should be proud of the fact that we live in a civilized nation where funds are raised and people are helped for the good of the general welfare.
(Photo copyright Neil Aquino)
Ohio Republican Gov.-Elect Kasich Goes To Washington To Ask Barack Obama For A Lot Of Federal Money To Be Spent On Many Different Projects & Programs
Federal money for Ohio is what Republican Governor-elect John Kasich of Ohio wants.
“Gov.-elect John Kasich said Thursday after a meeting at the White House that he’s not optimistic that the Obama administration will let Ohio use the money intended for passenger rail to upgrade freight lines…Kasich has said the $400 million federally subsidized 3-C corridor project, which would provide passenger rail service among Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland, would be too costly for the state. He wants flexibility to use the money for other transportation needs. He’d also like flexibility in how the state spends federal money designated for job training, Title I (education) and Medicaid….Kasich said he was confident that the state would get the $400 million Race to the Top grant that the state won under outgoing Gov. Ted Strickland. Kasich has said he wants to make changes to the state’s education system, and some have voiced concern that his changes would jeopardize the money. “I have no reason to believe that we’re not going to get that,” Kasich said.”
Mr. Kasich wants money for freight rail instead of for passenger lines.
Where is his call for free enterprise for freight rail?
Must Ohio’s freight rail industry be burdened by socialism? Where are the freight rail executives in opposing this socialism?
Mr. Kasich wants job training, Title I, and Medicaid money.
Where is all the Tea Party/Republican talk about the federal government staying away?
Mr. Kasich says the federal government denies him flexibility in how federal money will be spent.
Yet Ohio will still get the Race To The Top money despite the change in Ohio from a Democratic Governor to a Republican Governor.
What a bunch of hypocrisy is so many respects from Mr. Kasich and from the Republican Party in Ohio.
I lived in Ohio for 18 years and I go back to Ohio twice each year.
Here is what I’d say to fellow Ohioans—
“You can elect every government-bashing Republican you want, but in the end the federal government and government in general has a role to play in helping Ohio.
Your new Republican Governor is tripping over himself looking for federal money. He is going to the White House and asking Barack Obama and Joe Biden for federal money.
Mr. Kasich is doing this because the reality is that government is a needed part of life and because private industry, while essential, can’t meet all the requirements of our lives.
Life and and society is more complex than what the Tea Party/Republican Party is talking about. Most folks in Ohio know all these facts full-well despite the recent Ohio election results.”
This is what I would say to my fellow Ohioans.