The city council of Farmers Branch, Texas has passed mean and restrictive laws regarding immigrants in that community. At current, the people of that town are voting to ratify or reject those laws.
It’s easy to make fun of Farmers Branch. Yet this is a town of under 30,000 people being asked to deal with a global problem. Where is the help they need from the federal government or state government to address issues spurred by new populations?
Texas Liberal’s bottom line feeling about immigrants is the more the merrier. My last name is loaded with vowels and my father told me long ago to trust people with many vowels in their names. I follow that advice every day here in Houston.
That said, places like Farmers Branch need help from the Federal Government and from state government. Fearful people do dumb and, often, rotten things. Everyone merits compassion and understanding.
I’m not a big drinker. At least if you don’t count tonight. The wife is out of town and it seemed like a good night for a bottle of wine. Wine reminds me that at heart I like everybody.
At least in concept.
Emotion is a fine enough guide for how we conduct politics and for the setting of public policy. We should not be afraid to express emotion or to allow our feelings to dictate what we believe.
And that is not just the third glass of wine talking.
I recently read a biography of the American artist Bill de Kooning. The book was called De Kooning—An American Master.
De Kooning admired Picasso. Picasso’s approach to art is a useful approach for a wide range of endeavors. Here is what the book says about Picasso—
“An artist who seemed to reject nothing, Picasso allowed not one but three histories to enter his art: His personal history; the history of his century…and the history of art.”
The willingness and ability to take in as many sources as possible is beneficial to any creative project.
What we define as creative in nature can extend well beyond the arts. A blog, how we conduct relationships, the scope or range of powers offered by a political office, and the human personality are all subject to creative impulses.
In terms of political office, we are often told that many of the most severe problems in Houston and other places are outside the scope of local or state officials.
Yet no set guidelines exist for how these offices are to be conducted. Politics is at core an act of imagination.
The more sources we draw from, the more interesting and the more useful to others we will be.
I’ve been reading John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Affluent Society. Galbraith wrote about what he termed, coining a new term at the time, “conventional wisdom.”
Here is an excerpt— “ ….the hallmark of the conventional wisdom is acceptability. It has the approval of those to whom it is addressed. There are many reasons people like to hear articulated that which they approve. It serves the ego: the individual has the satisfaction of knowing that other….people share his conclusions. To hear what he believes is also a source of reassurance. The individual knows that he is supported in his thoughts—that he has not been left behind and alone. Further, to hear what one approves serves the evangelizing instinct. It means that others are also hearing and are thereby in process of being persuaded.”
Can there be any doubt that this type of thinking is found with both conservatives and liberals?
I’d add that a lack of imagination is often behind such thinking. In political debate, a lack of imagination is often expressed in the kind of black and white all-or-nothing views that are a staple of political blogs. Strict construction of ideas and an overly literal understanding of words and ideas are hallmarks of extremism and party-line thinking.
Texas Liberal wants Senator Robert Byrd as President. While wimpy left-leaning blogs talk about only impeaching President Bush and Vice President Cheney–It seems clear that we must go all the way.
As President Pro Tempore of the US Senate, Mr. Byrd would be next in line if we could only impeach the first three. Mr. Byrd’s speeches on the Senate floor on C-SPAN 2 are great. Top-Rate entertainment. He talks about history both ancient and modern. Who can doubt that the people need a better grounding in history?
Byrd is a great and open champion of pork barrel spending which is a favorite cause of Texas Liberal. (I say less war and more job-creating pork.)
I watched a Mary Tyler Moore Show rerun yesterday. In this episode, Lou Grant needed an operation to have a piece of World War II shrapnel removed. While in the hospital, Lou is visited by bumbling anchorman Ted Baxter.
Lou is shocked when cheapskate Ted brings a top-notch bottle of scotch. Ted says he considers Lou to be his best friend despite all the times Lou has yelled at Ted in the newsroom. Lou was touched and allowed Ted to read to him in order to pass the time recuperating in the hospital.
I teared up watching this. (I have a lot of vowels in my last name and my father told me that this can be a sign that a person is prone to emotion.) It is true that the most unlikely relationships can take root. You never know who might be a friend. You should be very hesitant to close the door on anybody. Life is short and brutal and you need all the friends you can get.
So you can imagine that Texas Liberal is pretty excited about lunch today. Here is an obit of John Kenneth Galbraith. Galbraith thought that the state had a leading role to play in the economy. This is, or at least should be, a core position of the Democratic Party.
The Affluent Society is Galbraith’s best known book. It was a bestseller when it came out in the late 1950’s.
Here at Texas Liberal you get, at times at least, short posts that respect your time and your mind. Please read Texas Liberal each and every day.
The so-called voter ID bill now at issue in the Texas legislature is a plenty bad idea.
It’s a Republican effort, to the extent that anything is the responsibility of one party in the freakishly organized Texas legislature, to deter low-income persons and persons of color from voting. It may also have the same effect on some older voters.
Yet as bad the bill is, what strikes me is the desperation behind the bill. Texas is already a majority-minority state. Dallas County has gone Democratic and Harris County may do the same in 2008. Republicans realize that at some point in the next few years they may lose Texas.
This bill may be a case of it being darkest before the dawn.
Texas is changing and the reaction to that change is going to be harsh in some quarters. Yet no matter how harsh the reaction, a new and different day is on the way.
The above is a goal of any adherent of a political ideology. You want to stay true to your beliefs while still being able to learn and adjust. It may seem simple. But it is not. It is a lifelong challenge.
Just like in our former Texas President Lyndon Johnson. Just like in each of us.
You can lose sight of this basic fact if you spend to much time with some blogs of both the right and the left. Despite representing different sides of a debate, they often behave in the same all-certain manner.
These contradictions extend to political parties that are, of course, comprised of plain old fragile human beings. All parties have merits and all parties have flaws.
When you think your cause is white-snow pure is when you lose the capacity for self-reflection.
Here is the BBC obit on Yeltsin. His life is worth considering.
A new feature at Texas Liberal—The blog post and title of the blog post as one.
Texas Democrats Enable Voter ID Bill And All Junk In Legislature By Supporting Bipartisan Organization Of Legislature
A so-called voter ID law is Topic A in the bipartisan Texas legislature. The intent of the bill is clear enough. It is to suppress the turnout of people Republicans don’t want voting. (Charles Kuffner writes about the ID bill here.)
However, we should not forget that these Republicans were helped into power with the acquiescence of legislative Democrats who voted to ratify the current legislative leadership in exchange for beads and trinkets.
It is bunk to say that this bill is about Republicans only. When the chamber is organized in a bipartisan way, what is produced is the responsibility of both parties.
Texas Democrats serve as first-class enablers of the Republican majority in Austin. We were at one point even reduced to fighting over which Republican would be best to lead the Texas House instead of fighting for our own principles.
When Texas Democrats want to blame somebody for this bad bill, and for every piece of junk that comes from the legislature, they should not forget a good look in the mirror.
My wife and I sometimes go out to eat. In most cases, in Houston or elsewhere when on vacation, the waiter will hand the check to me. He or she will do so despite having no idea who will be paying the bill.
It is not unusual for my wife to hand the server the check herself with the cash or credit card enclosed, and for the waiter to still give me back the change or the credit slip to be signed.
So look—If you’re a waiter— and I’m an advocate of good tips for waiters— please don’t make an assumption about who will be paying the bill. Just please put the check in the middle of the table and take it from that point.
With the constructive input of a fellow blogger, a post I made critical of Houston City Council candidate Melissa Noriega’s campaign has been turned into a more positive thing.
A few days ago I made a post criticizing the campaign being run by Ms. Noriega. I said Ms. Noriega was ignoring or glossing over critical issues in Houston. I said her campaign was failing to challenge or respect Houston voters and might well be taking voters for granted.
My views elicited a measure of disagreement. Fellow blogger Greg Wythe suggested my concerns would be addressed if I called Ms. Noriega’s headquarters. In frankness, this simple enough idea had not seriously occurred to me before. Houston has two million people (Some of who may even vote in next month’s special election.) and I did not figure I’d get anybody who would listen.
I made the call Greg suggested. A very nice lady answered. After I told her why I was calling, she passed the phone to Ms. Noriega. Ms. Noriega and I talked for about 20 minutes.
Ms. Noriega, who was friendly from the start, said she had read my post and asked me to talk a little more about my gripes. I restated some of the points I’d made on the blog and also talked about a general frustration with a Democratic Party in Houston that rarely addresses some of our worst problems.
Ms. Noriega said, (I’m paraphrasing when I describe what Ms. Noriega said in our call), that it might be so that her campaign homepage does lack some specifics.
The most interesting part of our conversation was Ms. Noriega telling me that she is talking to people to help her define the role of a city council member should she be elected. She said she had a firm commitment to the daily nuts and bolts operation of the city. She also said that she understood there are important issues in Houston beyond what some might see as the core functions of municipal government.
Since Ms. Noriega was nice enough to listen, I told her that I view public office to be in many ways an act of or a province of the imagination. I said public officeholders can define their responsibilities as they see fit.
Or, at the least, officeholders always have the option to mix day-to-day issues of governance with other issues that may at first appear to be removed from the business at hand, but are in fact also directly linked to the lives of citizens. Ms. Noriega seemed open to this concept.
Ms. Noriega was both friendly and direct in our talk. I think it’s fair to say that she won me over in some respects. I asked her for a bumper sticker and I’ll put it on my car.
I’m going to vote for Green Party candidate Alfred Molison in the May 12 special election. I’ll do so because I’ve said I would and because there is value in supporting candidates calling for things not yet advocated by the major parties. (Here is a link to a post I made about supporting Greens sometimes as a buffer against being used by Democrats.) I’m also going to send both Mr. Molison and Ms. Noriega a $20 donation.
I’m appreciative of Greg telling me to pick up the phone and I’m appreciative of Ms. Noriega’s time and her willingness to listen. If elected, I think Ms. Noriega will do a good job for Houston.
An excellent book of political history I can strongly suggest, is Richard Hofstadter’s The Idea of a Party System.
Here in Houston,Texas, we labor under non-partisan municipal elections that mute strongly-held party preferences and limit the capacity for decisive action by city council.
The Texas legislature in Austin is organized in a so-called “bipartisan” fashion that thwarts the wishes of voters who on Election Day placed one party in the majority and another party in the minority.
In his book, Hofstadter details how the Democratic-Republican majority— Democratic-Republican being the name of one party—of the first quarter of the 19th century stole a number of ideas from the defeated and ever-shrinking Federalist Party minority.
Presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe embraced territorial expansion, banking systems, and naval build-ups, that would have been an anathema to the earlier Republican partisans who worked in opposition to the Federalist leadership of George Washington, John Adams and Alexander Hamilton.
One thing leaders of the majority did not do was share power with any Federalist supporters. This was a strong assertion and an actual practice of party politics in a time when the idea of vigorous political parties was still gaining acceptance in the United States.
Says Hofstadter— “……However far they might go towards accepting old Federalist measures, they had no intention of accepting old Federalist men. They did not mind adopting a Federalist policy now and then, or bidding for the votes of the former Federalist rank and file, but they were intensely concerned not to haul aboard, along with this inert cargo, any live vipers.”
The analogy of hauling aboard live vipers as part of the cargo reminded me of a book I read a few months ago called Out of Eden —An Odyssey of Ecological Invasion. This book, about invasive species all over the world, is by Alan Burdick and was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Author Burdick writes at some length about the brown tree snake. The brown tree snake is a vicious creature that started out in Australia and Indonesia. Not long after World War II, this snake was accidentally transported to Guam. In Guam it has eaten most of the native bird population.
The brown tree snake can survive in tough conditions and there is concern it will be taken further around the globe in airplanes and in ships. Wherever this snake goes, it wreaks havoc on the native bird pollution and on other local animals.
It seems that 200 years ago Jefferson, Madison and Monroe saw Federalists in the same light that we see the brown tree snake today.