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Texas State Senators Whitmire & Ellis Drive Luxury Cars On Campaign Donor’s Dime

Houston-area Texas State Senators John Whitmire and Rodney Ellis, both Democrats, used campaign funds to rent luxury automobiles during the recently concluded Texas legislative session. This is according to a Houston Chronicle article from July 30, 2007. 

While not illegal, it is disappointing. Republicans in Texas do the same kind of thing, but I expect more from Democrats. 

Senator Whitmire used $ 4,740 in campaign funds to lease a BMW. Senator Ellis used  $ 6,762 in campaign funds to lease a gas-guzzling Cadillac Escalade.

These actions are out of touch with the day-to-day lives of the voters who send Mr. Whitmire and Mr. Ellis to Austin.

Senator Whitmire said in response to the Chronicle article—‘The good news is it’s not taxpayer dollars.” Nobody is suggesting Senator Whitmire would use taxpayer dollars to rent a luxury automobile.

Are voters supposed to be glad that Senator Whitmire’s nice car is funded by wealthy special interest donors?

It’s not Teapot Dome here, but it is frustrating when people you bascially see as decent do this kind of stuff.

The Chronicle also notes that Governor Rick Perry spent $1,387 in campaign funds for a two-night stay at the U.S. Grant Hotel in San Diego. I walked into the fancy lobby of the Grant last March while on a vacation paid for with funds earned by working.

A view of the lobby was all I could afford of the Grant.

Governor Perry took some well-deserved heat earlier this year when Ted Nugent displayed a treasonous Confederate flag at Perry’s inaugural ceremonies.

I guess Governor Perry finds General Grant at least good for something.          

July 31, 2007 Posted by | Houston, Politics, Texas | Leave a comment

Ira Aldridge—Actor, Exile


Ira F. Aldridge was an actor born in New York City in 1807.

The son of a straw merchant, Aldridge was educated at the African Free School in New York. Some graduates of this school later took part in abolitionist efforts.

As a black actor in pre-Civil War America, Aldridge had to go overseas to practice his craft. Aldridge often performed in England. In England, Aldridge would be booed due to his race. Sometimes there is no peace in this world. 

It has been suggested that the fact Aldridge had a white wife did not enhance his popularity in EnglandAldridge left England in the 1850’s because he was not being given roles in the best theaters of London

Aldridge won great acclaim in Germany as a Shakespearian actor. He was also a well-known figure in Russia. It seems he owned the role of Othello.

Aldridge died in Poland in 1867.

The theater at Howard University is named after Aldridge.

July 30, 2007 Posted by | Art, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Saul Bellow’s Henderson The Rain King Tops Weekend Reading

Saul Bellow’s novel Henderson the Rain King tops the weekend reading list for what may be yet another rainy Houston weekend.

(The above photo of Bellow is taken from The Age newspaper in Melbourne, Australia.)   

In this novel, published in 1959, a man, Henderson, leaves his family in America to go to Africa. He is not certain what he is looking for in Africa, but he knows that he is lacking something in life.

In Africa, a tribe of natives comes to believe that Henderson can bring rain. So he becomes some sort of rain god. I’m not up to that part.    

While I mostly read non-fiction, I often have a novel going as well. I read a few books at a time. I have “restless book syndrome.”

Henderson is looking for something new and different.  Just as many of us are. Though what we already have is often plenty good.

The Henderson character is written in a kind of over-the-top way. But if you think about it, most of us are absurd in many respects. It keeps us human to be flawed and absurd. 

I’ve enjoyed the book so far.

July 28, 2007 Posted by | Books, Reading Lists | Leave a comment

What Do You Do With A Right-Wing Half-Brother?

My half-brother was in Houston yesterday on a work related visit. We had dinner at a hotel at Bush Airport before he flew back home.

He and I did not know each other as kids. He’s maybe six years older than I am. I’m not exactly certain of his age. As adults we see each other when circumstances permit. That might mean twice a year or it might mean three or four years without seeing each other.

My half-brother is very much to the right politically. That is, of course, his choice. He has some strong right-wing views on economic questions. Though, based on what he said last night, he at least has some problems with President Bush’s leadership style. 

I’ve never found it within myself to open up in any meaningful way to my half-brother and his family. In my view, shared values are an important part of relationships.  Including family relationships. Beyond that, I only have the energy for so much. Isn’t living in Texas enough?

I don’t know what “opening up” would involve. All I can say is that I’m not the same person around his family as I am around friends.   

I suspect I’m off course in how I’m handling this issue. Given the brevity of life, maybe some way exists to open the door a bit and see if a more substantive relationship is possible with these folks. 

July 27, 2007 Posted by | Politics, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Texas Blogger Who’s Playin? Waves Impeachment Banner

Fellow Texas blogger Who’s Playin? had enough and felt he had to do something.  So he did. He and some other folks took the case for impeachment to a highway overpass.

It takes all kinds of actions to get things done. You need letter writing, blogs, voting, volunteering, donations, and making the case to friends and family.

It also takes public actions such as waving a sign from a highway overpass. This tells folks that what they are feeling is also felt by others.

I don’t think an effort to impeach President Bush is worth the energy it would take and the distraction it would involve.  As much as I dislike Mr. Bush’s conduct of office, I think impeachment is almost always a political act. That is how it was in the case of President Andrew Johnson and how it was in the case of President Bill Clinton

When both sides of the aisle knew a president had to go, Richard Nixon quit his office. 

No matter though what I think—Who’s Playin? is clearly on a good path.

July 26, 2007 Posted by | Blogging, Good People, Political History, Politics | 2 Comments

So Much Litter At Rollover Pass On Bolivar Peninsula

What in the world is with all the litter at Rollover Pass on Bolivar Peninsula in Galveston County? This is a well-known Texas fishing spot.

I don’t fish. But if I did, I don’t think I’d want to fish in all that mess. People just toss stuff on the ground.

One man who had a license plate saying he was a disabled vet, flicked his cigarette butt in the water. Is that what he was fighting overseas for the right to do?   

Here are some great aerial shots of Rollover Pass.

I’ve called Galveston County Judge Ralph Yarbrough to voice my concern.

Maybe what is needed is an undercover litter patrol.  

July 26, 2007 Posted by | Galveston, Sea Life | 13 Comments

I’d Like To Take Fellow Blogger Pink Dome To Galveston

I spent a few minutes at Crystal Beach today. Crystal Beach, on Bolivar Peninsula in Galveston County, Texas is where a man got flesh eating virus last week.

The so-called flesh eating virus occurs in warm Gulf of Mexico waters and it can infect people with weakened immune systems. The flesh eating virus sounds awful because it is awful. However, it is not a large threat to Texas beachgoers.

I did not go in the water at Crystal Beach because I’m afraid of the jellyfish and sting rays and whatever else is lurking under the waves. I like to view the ocean from the shore. 

Fellow Texas blogger Pink Dome made a post about the flesh-eating incident a few days back. Pink Dome suggested Texas beaches were nasty and that people might wish to vacation in Hilton Head.

I go to Galveston every six weeks or so to take a nice walk on the beach. I’m not so certain that all the people who go to the beach at Galveston or on Bolivar Peninsula are always financially able to enjoy a vacation in Hilton Head—Though it is nice of Pink Dome to make the suggestion.

I love all my fellow Texas bloggers and Pink Dome is my favorite blogger of all. I’d like to take Pink Dome on a nice day trip to Galveston. I’ll buy lunch and show off all the many attractions. I know the island well.

Pink Dome—Just send me an e-mail and we’ll pick the day.   

July 25, 2007 Posted by | Galveston | 5 Comments

Cindy Sheehan–One Person Doing Her Best In An Often Lousy World

Cindy Sheehan, who I once saw in Crawford, Texas, has lately taken heat from some on the left.

Ms. Sheehan said she was leaving the Iraq War peace movement. But she was soon back in the news saying she might run an independent candidacy against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

I think Ms. Sheehan is pursuing an uncertain course at the moment. I’d support Ms. Pelosi over Ms. Sheehan if I had a vote in that hypothetical race.

However, that said, I think Ms. Sheehan’s critics on the left should consider a much more forgiving view.

It took a certain type of personality and a good deal of courage for Ms. Sheehan to take the anti-war stand she took and to camp out near President Bush’s ranch. It’s a type of personality people on the left should understand and appreciate. It’s stressful to speak up when others won’t.

Ms. Sheehan is doing the best she can in an often lousy world.

As for running against Ms. Pelosi, Democrats in Congress rolled over for President Bush’s agenda for a long time. What does Ms. Sheehan owe Democrats?

Putting aside Ms. Sheehan to a degree, some say that actions taken outside the two major parties are doomed to be ineffective.

To this I reply–What political party did Martin Luther King or Malcolm X represent?

What political party did Susan B. Anthony represent?

What political party did William Lloyd Garrison represent?

What political party did Tecumseh or Sitting Bull represent?

Ralph Nader has become, for some good reason I admit, the poster child for bashing efforts outside the two major parties. Yet where had long-standing Democratic majorities in Congress been on the issue of automotive safety before Mr. Nader led that crusade?

There is room for all kinds in this life.

If commentators and observers on the left don’t get that concept, who will?   

July 24, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts July-Dec. 2007, Political History, Politics, Texas | 4 Comments

Pink Dolphin In Galveston


A pink dolphin was spotted in Galveston, Texas recently. Though really it is an albino.

Above is a picture of the pink dolphin.

I am going to Galveston tomorrow and maybe I’ll get lucky and see the dolphin.

Here is a link to information about dolphins in Asia that are supposed to be pink

The Pink Dolphin is a gay bar in Galveston. It’s located across the street from the seawall which protects Galveston from hurricanes. Above you’ll see a picture of the seawall. It does its job well.

Here is a link to milestones in the history of U.S. gay rights.

All people should have all their rights.    

I told a friend I was going to Galveston and that maybe I’d see the pink dolphin. She translated pink dolphin to “albino whale.”

If I were in pursuit of a white whale I’d be Captain Ahab from Moby Dick.

Update—I saw a number of dolphins in Galveston. But, sadly, not the pink dolphin.

July 24, 2007 Posted by | Books, Galveston, Sea Life | , , , | 11 Comments

Negro League Great Willie Wells

In Austin, Texas last month, I saw the grave of Negro League star and Hall of Fame member Willie Wells at the Texas State Cemetery

Willie Wells lived between 1905 and 1989. He grew up playing baseball on sandlots in Austin.

Wells, a home run hitting shortstop, played in the Negro Leagues, Mexico, and Cuba from 1924 to 1949. 

He also managed the Negro League Newark Eagles and a club in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The book Shades of Glory by Lawrence Hogan says about Wells—“Though he was never given a chance to play in the major leagues, Wells is given credit for helping the next generation of players such as Jackie Robinson, Don Newcombe, Joe Black and Ernie Banks.” 

Blackbaseball.com says Wells was the equal of the great Honus Wagner.  The ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia rates Wells as one of the 12 greatest Negro League players. 



July 22, 2007 Posted by | Books, Texas, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Godzilla Reasonable To Fight Aliens, Other Monsters & Humans

Recently I watched Godzilla—Final Wars. This movie was released in 2004.

I wonder why Godzilla never comes for Houston. 

In Godzilla—Final Wars, aliens called Xilians have arrived on Earth to consume human mitochondria. The Xilians, beyond their superior technology, have taken over the minds of Earth’s monsters. Giant armadillos, crabs and other creatures are under alien control.

The Xilians consistently refer to humans as “cattle.” 

The humans know they have no choice but to wake up Godzilla. Godzilla was put to sleep in a previous movie. The problem is that even though Godzilla might be able to defeat the aliens and other monsters, he will also attack humans. Godzilla does not like humans. 

Godzilla would fight the aliens and the other monsters because they were attacking him. His hatred of humans did not blind him to his own self-preservation. Godzilla would attack humans because of his anger over nuclear tests and pollution of the Earth.

I saw Godzilla’s position as reasonable. He was not fighting only for the sake of fighting. Just as the Xillans saw eating humans as fair play given how humans raised animals for slaughter themselves, Godzilla felt that poor human stewardship of the Earth gave them little valid claim to run the planet.

Godzilla did have a friend in the movie. He was assisted by Mothra. Everybody needs a friend. 

Sometimes in life it is hard to find an ally. Godzilla was not reflexively anti-social. He had a comrade in Mothra. Godzilla found himself in a world not of his making. He sought out the right line between, on the one hand, always reacting to events and, on the other hand, acting as if he were the only monster on Earth.

That Godzilla chose the more difficult course instead of selling himself out to either side is to be admired. 

I support Godzilla’s actions in this circumstance.      

July 20, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Andrew Jackson Reading List


A good thing about blogging are readers who track down your blog looking for information about something you find interesting.

I’ve made some posts about President Andrew Jackson—who was a friend of Sam Houston—and as a result I get search engine hits from people looking for Andrew Jackson. With that in mind, here are some solid books on Jackson and his times.

Jackson’s leading biographer is Robert Remini. He wrote a three-volume biography of Jackson that is also available condensed into one book. The one volume is a great starting point. The three volume set is still around as well. 

Richard Hofstadter’s classic The American Political Tradtion has a chapter critical of Jackson.

Arthur Schlesinger’s The Age Of Jackson is a Pulitzer Prize winning assessment of Jackson and his times.

A darker take on the same era is found in The Jacksonian Persuasion by Marvin Myers.

Here is the link to the C-Span series on Andrew Jackson that ran in 1999.

Thanks for reading this blog. The more you know about history the better you can understand the present. You’ll also be a more interesting person.

Here is a link to other Texas Liberal posts involving books in one way or another.

July 19, 2007 Posted by | Blogging, Books, Political History, Reading Lists | Leave a comment

Burr, Calhoun, Agnew, Cheney—Who Is Worst Vice President Ever?

Some say our current President is the worst President ever. That could be true.

It may also be so that Vice President Richard Cheney is our nation’s worst Vice President in history. 

Let’s review the candidates for this distinction along with the years each served as Vice President—

Aaron Burr of New York (1801-1805)—While Vice President, Mr. Burr shot and killed founding father Alexander Hamilton in a duel. After leaving office, Mr. Burr would scheme to form a new nation involving the western holdings of the United States. 

John C. Calhoun of South Carolina (1825-1833)—In opposition to tariffs approved by Congress and by President Andrew Jackson, Vice President Calhoun took his native South Carolina to the brink of secession with his false doctrines of interposition and nullification. Later President Jackson would say he regretted not having hung Calhoun.

Spiro Agnew of Maryland (1969-1973)—Mr. Agnew resigned in disgrace for tax evasion while Governor of Maryland. Vice President Agnew was also the right-wing attack dog for President Richard Nixon.

Richard Cheney of Wyoming and Texas (2001-Current)— Mr. Cheney has played a key role in the failed invasion of Iraq. He has advocated a great and unneeded secrecy in government. Mr. Cheney has also claimed that the Vice President is not part of the executive branch.  

My pick–Calhoun

July 19, 2007 Posted by | Lousy People, Political History | 9 Comments

Moby Dick Is First Blog Picture

Moby Dick

Live From Houston—My first blog picture.  It’s a woodcutting of Moby Dick done by Rockwell Kent. It’s from the Plattsburgh State Art Museum in New York.

Moby Dick—Now that’s a book.  

This blog has many posts involving books. Since you’re here why not have a look? Thanks. 

July 18, 2007 Posted by | Books, Sea Life | 5 Comments

What Does Our Poor Democracy Say About How People Feel About Themselves?

If democracy is a mirror of the people, what does consistently poor voter turnout in Houston, among other places, and restrictive term limits for elected officials reflect?

We often say people don’t vote because they’re not interested in politics or because they are busy. People say that candidates on the ballot offer no real options. I’m sure all these things are true to a degree.

I’ve wondered sometimes to what extent poor voter turnout also reflects a lack of confidence people have in their own judgment. Or to what extent it reflects the fact that people feel bad about the place they live.

Turning over control of who gets elected seems to indicate resignation over the future and even a measure of self-loathing. Would people who feel hopeful about the future or who feel good about themselves willingly allow others to determine how they’ll be governed? 

Term limits are always a bad idea. In Houston, if you can imagine, City Council members are limited to three two-year terms. Why would voters limit their own options? Do voters feel they need to be protected from themselves?

Democracy is a synthesis of public and private. The views we hold about public issues are formed by our personal experience of the world. Our private thoughts are a result of the world we see around us.

When democracy seems to be falling short of its potential, we should look for reasons why in the mirror and, also, in the private thoughts and feelings of individuals.    

July 18, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts July-Dec. 2007, Politics | 2 Comments