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The American By Henry James Tops Labor Day Reading List


It’s Labor Day Weekend. The wife and I are going to drive 50 miles south to Galveston on the beautiful Texas coast. It should be a nice day-trip. Maybe we’ll see a Bottlenose Dolphin.  

That said, holidays are a time for reading. All days are a time for reading.

Here is a Labor Day Reading List—-

I just purchased the novel The American by Henry James. Published in 1877, The American is about a millionaire who goes to Europe looking for a wife. In Europe, this wealthy American is seen as crude and vulgar by the old established families.

This will be my second Henry James novel. I’ve read Washington Square. That was about a father who would not let his daughter marry a man he saw as a phony and without prospects. The father was cold and cutting and I enjoyed the book.

I’ll also be reading William W. Freehling’s The Road To Disunion: Secessionists at Bay 1776-1854.

The chapter I’m currently on in Disunion is about antebellum South Carolina.

The author contends South Carolina worked itself up into rebellion over a period of many years. South Carolina pulled back from rebellion in the Nullification conflict in 1832 between Jackson and Calhoun. By the 1850’s however, South Carolina was pretty much ready to go.

Freehling says the bravado and aggression of plantation owners was the flipside of insecurity over, among other things, South Carolina’s economic stagnation and the rise of white man’s democracy outside of South Carolina. South Carolina elites wanted as little democracy as possible.

Insecurity is often the flipside of aggression.

I’ll also be reading my monthly copy of the liberal magazine The American Prospect. It’s often quite well done. Click this link to see if it’s something you might find informative.

I hope all blog readers and everybody else has a great Labor Day Weekend.   

August 31, 2007 Posted by | Books, Galveston, Reading Lists, Sea Life | 2 Comments

If Genghis Khan Came Back From Dead To Blog, Would He Have Something Interesting To Say Each Day?


If Genghis Khan or Leo Tolstoy or Sam Houston came back from the dead and started blogging, would they have something interesting or memorable to blog about 6 or 7 days a week?

I’m not certain they would. Does anybody have something interesting to write everyday of the week?

Are you the blog reader able to recall blog posts you read last week or last month? Do posts run together? Were they about news of the day and now maybe not so relevant?

I blog 6 or 7 days a week. Maybe it’s arrogance. 

I make a blog post and within a few days it is pretty much gone. It stays on the blog. It might have traffic directed to it by a search engine. Still, for most posts, the moment is past.

Old blog posts don’t quite die—But they do fade away.

So in the interest of reviving better posts I’ve made, I’ve put up three best post tags on the right side of the blog. They are under where it says “Categories.”

I’ve listed about 10% of all my posts. That sounds about right. When you get down to it, if one post in ten has some lasting value you’ve done well.

I also blog at Where’s the Outrage? and I have a featured political blog with the Houston Chronicle.

I imagine people start blogs because they want to communicate something in life before they die.

I think most people have something of value to communicate. I don’t know of much more basic than the need to communicate. More than anything else we do, communication is how we hold off the sadness and loneliness we know is never very far away.      

August 30, 2007 Posted by | Blogging, Relationships | 3 Comments

Like Senator Craig, I Deny That I Am Gay

Senator Larry Craig of Idaho denies that he is gay despite some evidence to the contrary.

I also deny that I am gay. The difference between myself and Senator Craig is that I’m telling the truth. Another difference is that if I were gay, I’d tell you.

The final difference is that no matter what, I would not use a career in so-called public service to deny other human beings the basic rights of our nation as Senator Craig has done with his career.   

Update—Click here for picture of public toilet in Ancient Rome. 

August 29, 2007 Posted by | Politics | 10 Comments

Tip Server Time-And-A-Half On Labor Day

It’s simple enough—If you eat out on Labor Day, which is next Monday, tip your server the same time-and-a-half you would expect for working a holiday.  A 15% tip would be 22.5%.

You can use the calculator in your cell phone to figure it out or you can just round it up to 25%.

I normally tip at around 20%. So if I eat out on Labor Day I’m going to tip 30%. If you want services on a holiday you should be willing to pay the fair rate.

If you go to the convenience store, buy the clerk a scratch-off ticket and thank him or her for working the holiday.   

Whoever helps you on a holiday, most especially a holiday for working people, should get at least a thank you.

Here is a link to the Service Employees International Union.

Here is a link to the history of Labor Day.

August 29, 2007 Posted by | Tip Your Waiter Time-And-A-Half On Holidays | 2 Comments

Political Poem


As Texas Liberal readers are quite cultured, please allow me to offer a small political poem I’ve written. The poem comes with a picture—So it’s something of a multi-media exhibition.   


Where no rainfall

Had ever been recorded

People supported

Whoever promised

The largest gardens

August 28, 2007 Posted by | Poetry, Uncategorized | | 2 Comments

What Has Memphis, Tennessee Learned From King’s Death?


A recent heat wave in Memphis, Tennessee led to the death of at least 13 people in that city.

Many—maybe all— of these people lacked air conditioners. Not having air conditioners, they died from the heat.

I’ve been to Memphis once. In 1998. I spent an evening walking around Beale Street. Beale Street is the so-called Birthplace of the Blues.

What I saw on Beale Street were young black kids doing dance moves for mostly white tourists. The kids were hoping for a handout. I did not find Beale Street appealing.

Martin Luther King died in Memphis while fighting for striking sanitation workers.  

What progress has been made in Memphis since King’s death? It seems that whatever progress may have been made, much more remains to be done.   

Please click here to read a Texas Liberal post on MLK’s sermon “Unfulfilled Dreams.” 

Please click here for an updated post of the subject of Memphis and Beale Sreet.

August 27, 2007 Posted by | Martin & Malcolm, Politics | 7 Comments

Instead Of Impeachment, Let’s Try Winning Elections Instead

An effort has begun to impeach Texas Governor Rick Perry. I don’t know that this movement is very widespread. Still, it is has attracted some press attention.

A leading cause among some of my excellent liberal and Democratic friends is the impeachment of President Bush.

I feel that impeachment is almost always a political act.

I wonder if there is any long-serving Governor in America or any President who has not committed some act that under the law would merit impeachment.

The better solution is to win elections. If you win the election then you have your person in office and you’re less frustrated with the course of events. 

This idea of winning elections can be extended to the crazy way the Texas House of Representatives elects a Speaker and selects committee chairs.

Instead of respecting the fact that the electorate placed one party in the majority and another party in the minority, a behind-the-scenes free-for-all takes place where members cross party lines in exchange for covert promises and sneaky deals.

I’m looking forward to the soon-to-come better day when Democrats win elections and Republicans are calling for various impeachements.   


August 27, 2007 Posted by | Politics, Texas | Leave a comment

Wife Says Mustard Stain On My Shirt Reminds Her Of Jackson Pollock Painting

I got a big mustard stain on my shirt at the Houston Astros game this evening. My excellent wife said it reminded her of a Jackson Pollock painting.

Yes—it does look much like the Pollock painting above.   

Here is a link to the Mustard Museum in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin.

My wife is the best person in the world.

August 26, 2007 Posted by | Art, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Marciano vs. Louis In The Mess Hall

A few days ago I saw two restaurant workers shadow boxing in Downtown Houston. This reminded me of a story my father once told me about his time in the army.

My father was in one of the early desegregated army units. President Harry Truman desegregated the army in 1948. What my father related took place around 1950.

My father said he used to shadow box with a black solider in the mess hall. Dad, an Italian, would pretend he was Rocky Marciano and the other guy would imagine himself as Joe Louis. 

( The photo is of Louis in the army. It comes from the National Archives. Louis got a raw deal from the army. He was forced to pay taxes on money he had donated to the troops from some of his fights.)

My father had seen Marciano fight in Providence, Rhode Island in the 1940’s.  

My father said the other soldiers did not know what to make of the play-fighting. He said they were sometimes concerned that the fighting was real. I guess I can infer that not much mixing between the races took place at the time. 

Recent stories have discussed a decline in black enlistment in the army since the Iraq War. Black Americans don’t want to die for nothing in George Bush’s war in Iraq.

I’m not sure what blacks had to fight for in Korea back in 1950—Though at least Harry Truman had done something for them. To this day my father does not know why he was in Korea. 

Louis and Marciano fought each other once. In 1951, Marciano knocked out Louis. This would be the last fight for Louis.   


August 24, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts July-Dec. 2007, Books, History | Leave a comment

Maybe Houston’s Hermann Park Would Be Less Crowded If People Had Other Parks To Visit


 The Houston Chronicle today has two stories about parks in Houston.

One story is about how hard it can be to find a parking space on busy days at our very nice Hermann Park.

The other story is abut the refusal of developers to include enough park space in new housing plans or to help pay for new park space in Houston.

Maybe not enough parks out by where people live in one reason Hermann Park is so crowded.

According to Democratic Houston City Controller and possible Houston Mayoral candidate Annise Parker, politics is about what is “achievable.” 

Building huge Nero-like sports stadiums was achievable in Houston so we now have those things.  Making Houston a nice city to live is maybe not so achievable.

It all makes sense. It’s all about good solid achievable pragmatic common sense—What other logic or motive could exist in the world?  

And who defines what good solid achievable pragmatic common sense is?

Well, you can bet it is most often going to be defined by people already doing well in the world.   


August 23, 2007 Posted by | Houston, Politics | Leave a comment

Last Living Yangtze River Dolphin Was Not Swept Up In Dolphin Rapture


The Yangtze River Dolphin from China is the first Texas Liberal Marine Mammal of the Week.

This creature was recently in the news because it is now believed to be extinct.

The Latin name for this creature is Lipotes vexillifer. The Lipotes is from the Greek word leipo meaning “one who is left behind.” This name was given because of the limited range of the creature.

Left Behind is a religious fiction series about people left behind after the rapture.

The Yangtze River Dolphin is not extinct because it was taken up in a dolphin rapture.

Rather, it was the victim of pollution, colliding into boats, the damming of lakes and other assaults by humans.

The Yangtze River Dolphin was not discovered until the early 1900’s.

A captive Yangtze River Dolphin named Qi Qi lived alone in a tank for 22 years. Much of what is known about these creatures was learned by studying this so-called Qi Qi.

How you could learn anything of value from a creature kept in isolation for 22 years I’m not sure. How would you act if alone all that time?

Like other fresh water dolphins, the Yangtze River Dolphin had small eyes and weak eyesight because river water can be murky. However, the dolphin’s capacity to navigate and find prey with sonar was impaired by boat traffic in the Yangtze.

This dolphin was also called baiji in China which means “river goddess.” A lot of good that title did this animal.

8/29/07–Update! The Yangtze River Dolphin may still be with us.   

August 23, 2007 Posted by | Sea Life | | 2 Comments

Government Intervention For Wall Street, But Not For Kid’s Health Insurance

The Federal Reserve has cut interest rates once already and may do so again this week in order to calm down jittery Wall Steet.   

At the same time, our morally sick President Bush is fighting against the extension of health insurance to working -class and middle-class uninsured kids.

Government intervantion is okay for Wall Street, but not for hard-working Americans and their children.

What a warped country.      

August 22, 2007 Posted by | Politics, Ways We Hate Children | Leave a comment

New York’s Governor Spitzer Should Find The High Road


New York’s Democratic Governor Eliot Spitzer is, depending on the day, a crusading champion of the people against Wall Street or a testosterone-poisoned bully.

Governor Spitzer’s office has recently been involved in a dirty-tricks scandal. It’s alleged that the governor’s office used state police to illegally monitor the actions of Republican State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno.

Don’t worry though—The long-standing no-good Republican majority in the New York Senate is up to the task of making even hard-charging Governor Spitzer appear sympathetic.

A political consultant working for New York Senate named Roger Stone Jr., is alleged to have called Governor Spitzer’s 83 year-old father with threats of arrest and insults directed at his son.

The New York Times reports today that this Mr. Stone, while still a teenager, attempted to recruit a mole to infiltrate the presidential campaign of Senator George McGovern in 1972. 

Governor Spitzer needs to get out of this mess and live up to the promise of his administration. Liberals beyond New York were hopeful about Mr. Spitzer when he was elected last November.

Now that he’s been given a political gift by this ham-handed Republican thug, the Governor should take the high road with his critics and resume his focus on advocacy for average folks.     

August 22, 2007 Posted by | Politics | 2 Comments

I’ve Added Rick Noriega & Al Franken Campaigns To My Blogroll

I’ve added the U.S. Senate Campaigns of Rick Noriega in Texas and Al Franken in Minnesota to my blogroll. That way you can click right to those locations and donate some money.

I’ve donated $75 to the Noriega campaign and I also intend to donate to the Franken campaign. I don’t want no-good Norm Coleman sitting in the Senate seat once held by the great liberal Paul Wellstone.    

Please also consider a donation to Wellstone Action!  Wellstone Action does a great job training liberal activists, campaign staff and candidates.  

August 22, 2007 Posted by | Politics, Texas | 4 Comments

Regulate Houston Strip Joints—Sex Belongs In The Home


A recent federal court ruling strongly boosts efforts by the City of Houston to force strip clubs and other sex related business places to relocate if they are proximate to a school, church, day-care center or park.This ruling is expected to force the closure of at least some of these operations. 

I wish the nearest sexually orientated business were orbiting Jupiter. Sex belongs in the home. Or at least in a car between consenting persons.

I’m an ideologue and ideologues are often puritanical. Instead of being at the strip joint, what people need to be doing is liberating themselves and fighting for their rights.

Or at least reading a book.  

(What rights am I fighting for with the time I spend following baseball? None of your damn business—That’s the rights I’m fighting for.)

Also, the official line on my mother’s side is that my family is off the Mayflower. (How I miss most stores being closed on Sundays as they were when I was a kid in Rhode Island.)  So these impulses are in my blood.

But the story does not end there. The family tree is also said to include that great religious dissenter Roger Williams—The Founder of Rhode Island.

Williams (image above) wanted nothing to do with the ruling clergy of Massachusetts.

I can have puritan leanings and be a free thinker at one time. Politics is both circumstance and imagination.

I see the world as it is, consider the past, imagine the future, and self-create my political identity within those parameters. I have plenty of leeway within those parameters.

This self-creation is how I can be an ideologue and mentally flexible at the same time. If you don’t go with the flow you’ll have fewer friends. If you have strong views and can go with the flow your friends will think all the more of you.

So yeah….I have a right-leaning view on strip joints and at the same time I’m a Paul Wellstone Democrat.

It’s all in the mind.       

August 22, 2007 Posted by | Houston, Uncategorized | 4 Comments