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A Socialist & Outlaw Josey Wales—A Few Words Of Consideration For Houston’s Mayoral Contenders

Houston Mayor Bill White will certainly win re-election next week. His two opponents are a man who changed his name legally to Outlaw Josey Wales IV and Socialist Amanda Ulman. 

It’s easy to discount these people, and voters will dispatch them without much thought, yet both merit a few words of consideration

First, please read below about Ms. Ulman and Mr. Wales excerpted from a Houston Chronicle story by Matt Stiles profiling the race for Mayor.

“…… For now, though, White faces meat-packing plant worker Amanda Ulman and contract engineer and professional wrestling promoter Outlaw Josey Wales IV in the Nov. 6 election.

Ulman is running on behalf of the Socialist Workers Party. Her platform includes calls for amnesty for all illegal immigrants, the immediate end to the Iraq war and a massive public works project to give jobs to the unemployed at union wages.

“Workers are a majority of Houston, and we need our own voice. We need someone to stand up and raise demands that are in our own interest,” said Ulman, an Indiana native who was a write-in candidate for U.S. Senate in 2006. “We join in the struggles of working people.”

White’s other opponent, who legally changed his name to Outlaw Josey Wales in 1998 to create a persona for his wrestling events, ran unsuccessfully against former Mayor Lee Brown a year later. He said he wants to pay Houston police officers more and ensure the long-term viability of their pension system.

He wants to make it illegal to drive while holding a cell phone and to require at least four motorists in a car to allow access to high-occupancy vehicle lanes. He also wants to extend rail lines along major freeways from downtown to the city limits.

“You’ve got to get people out of their cars,” he said. “There’s no reason someone in Kingwood, Humble, Katy, (U.S.) 290 north, Clear Lake, anywhere out past the Beltway on Interstate 10 either way, should be driving into work.”

In the case of Ms. Ulman, the Socialist Party did once have a presence in Texas. In the first 20 years of the last century, there were often Socialists running for Congress from Texas. The Socialist candidate for President won 8.3% of the vote in Texas in 1912 and 5.1% in 1916. ( In 1912, Socialist Eugene V. Debs at 8.3% ran only 1.1% behind Republican President William Howard Taft in Texas.)

I’ve long held that voters in big cities are used by the Democratic Party. We give Democrats our votes and it is often difficult to see how our cities are getting any better and how the lives of poor and working class people in cities are getting any better.   

If big city voters had Green Party or Socialist Party options they felt were electorally viable, such alternatives might well be be considered.

For now, Ms. Ulman and her ideas can be dismissed by simply referring to her as a Socialist. It’s not always been that way in Texas and nothing says it will always be that way in the future. 

As for Mr. Wales, self-creation and starting fresh are acts fully consistent with Houston and with politics.

He changed his name because he wanted to make some money. Good for him. I hope he made some money. If I thought I could make a lot of money by changing my name to Wyatt Earp, I would likely do so. I imagine many people would do the same.   

Mr. Wales has had fewer names than former Texas Comptroller and candidate for Governor One Tough Grandma Carole Keeton Rylander Strayhorn. Every time you turned around she had a new name.

Bloggers give themselves new names and made-up names all the time. Bloggers are a big thing in politics now. That’s at least what I read.

I don’t care what people choose to call themselves.    

Is Mr. Wales anymore or less stable than our civic Founding Father Sam Houston? Mr. Houston used to walk around Houston dressed as a cross between a frontiersman and an Indian. Sam Houston was, in his way, a serious and talented man.

Mr. Wales says he advocates carpooling and people getting off the phone while driving. He wants to increase police pay. That seems like a platform many people might support.

Is Mr. Wales any more or less serious than the process of how we elect our city officials in Houston with silly six year term limits and terrible turnout? I think Mr. Wales might in fact be somewhat dignified for such a screwed-up process.    

In 2010, if Mayor White runs for statewide office, I’ll strongly consider giving him my vote. I want a Democrat as Governor. 

In 2007, my only regret is that I must choose between Ms. Ulman and Mr. Wales. I like them both.

October 31, 2007 Posted by | Houston, Houston Council Election '07, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Possible Response When Asked “How Is Your Day?”

We all get asked, “How is your day?” or ” How is your day going?” or some variation of that question.

It seems like throwaway type of question. Maybe in many cases it is meaningless. Still, it reflects basic courtesy and a realization that other people exist in the world. These are things we can’t take for granted in our society.

At some point I started to reply to this question with the response “Everyday is a good day.”

At first it was really just a line. But I got such a positive response from people I began to think about it more.

If I thought it was completely trite I’d stop using the reply. However, the sense I get is that people think about what I’ve said for a moment and it helps put whatever may be bothering them in perspective.

An underlying issue is death. People will often say something like—“That’s right. any day you wake up is a good day.” 

Black folks will often say: “I know that’s right” with an emphasis on the word know. Whites are a bit less emphatic,  but I’m still certain they are glad they woke up for the day.  

“Every day is a good day” is a small way to reply to a common courtesy that adds to people’s day and, also, makes you appear to have some insight even if you really have no special wisdom.  

And if you repeat it enough you might begin to believe it yourself.

October 31, 2007 Posted by | Things I've Done | , , | 2 Comments

I Have A Longstanding Friendship That Does Not Work Anymore

I have a longtime friendship that doesn’t work anymore. This relationship has been one of my most important friendships for many years.

I met this person when we were both in college. I’m 40 now. Over the years we’ve kept in close touch and visited each other in the different cities we have lived in since college.

At this point however, we are barely able to make a phone call work. There is not much to say and there’s an awareness that certain subjects may lead to disagreement. 

We have much less in common than we did before. Increasingly, we see the world and react to the world in different ways. Nobody has done anything wrong. It’s simply that things change.

Our differences have emerged slowly and with a minimum of conflict. 

I’m hesitant to give up on relationships. I’ve not given up on this relationship. Yet the breach is real.

I’ve thought hard about best to proceed with this while keeping a door open. Relationships often play out over a lifetime. If we could get along well for almost 20 years, it’s possible we might be able to be close again. This is one reason I’m glad that we’ve not exchanged harsh words.

While I don’t have the affection I once did for this person, I do feel loyalty for the years of friendship. I think this loyalty will continue. I see this loyalty as a possible building block for a renewed relationship.

Sometimes a friendship does not work as it once did and you might decide to give up on it.  In some cases that might be the best course. 

Here, I’m pulling away from the relationship until I feel it might work again. Since we’ve mostly avoided conflict, I figure we might have a chance down the road

I don’t know if this will turn out for the best. I do know that you can’t recreate longterm friendships and that every effort should be taken to keep them working to the extent possible.

October 30, 2007 Posted by | Relationships | , | 4 Comments

As Liberal As I Am, If Hillary Clinton Is The 2008 Democratic Nominee I Will Give Her My Strong Support


If Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee for President in 2008, she’ll have my strong support.

I say this though Mrs. Clinton is not my first choice for 2008. I support John Edwards because of his focus on economic issues as they impact the middle class and the poor. I’m also interested in the candidacy of Barack Obama.

In my view, Mrs. Clinton’s soft center-left focus and the Clinton legacy of moving the Democratic Party to the middle are not great recommendations for her White House bid.

So why will I support Mrs. Clinton if she wins the nomination?

It is because our problems today are so great that we must give a Democratic President serving with, hopefully, a Democratic Congress, a chance to find solutions to these challenges.     

In these times, I can’t sit on my hands because the Democratic nominee is not the person I wanted.  

In a normal campaign, the issues of the War in Iraq and how to get health insurance to all Americans would be dramatic enough concerns.  

Yet in 2008 , there are even greater problems before the American people. 

The issues of climate change and the effects of the global economy on how Americans will live are matters as pressing as the dilemmas that faced America between the Stock Crash of 1929 and the end of World War II. 

To this point, neither party has taken leadership on these questions. 

I don’t know that either party knows how to respond. There must be policy analysts and thinkers within the political structure who see the perils we face. I don’t think they have any answers. Or at least I don’t think they have any answers they believe the American people will accept before things get even worse.

Many Americans saw the Civil War coming years before it occurred. Nobody had a solution. Or least nobody had a solution that could pass political muster.

I’m not going to pretend I’m overly hopeful that Mrs. Clinton and a Democratic Congress will strongly take on climate change and the impact of the global economy.

Still, I feel we must give out traditional political structure a chance to work before reaching the point of saying our system is as broken and hopeless today as it was in the final years leading up to the Civil War.        

Since I’m certain Mrs. Clinton reads Texas Liberal each day as she reviews the blogs, I’ve run a picture of the great Eleanor Roosevelt with this post. I feel this picture will inspire Mrs. Clinton to confront the toughest issues with candor and courage.         

October 30, 2007 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Political History, Politics | , , , , , | 6 Comments

My Night With Al Franken & Chris Bell


I attended a fundraiser last week for Al Franken hosted by 2006 Texas gubernatorial nominee Chris Bell. The event was held in Downtown Houston at the Rice Hotel.

Mr. Franken is running for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota for the chance to oppose vulnerable Republican incumbent Norm Coleman. Mr. Franken said he was the likely primary winner and running within five points of Mr. Coleman. 

I learned about the event on Perry Dorrell’s blog. Mr. Dorrell wrote that he is saving his money to elect Rick Noriega to the U.S. Senate from Texas. That’s a good position to take and I’ve donated to Mr. Noriega.

However, it’s also important that Paul Wellstone’s seat be won again by a Democrat.

I think Mr. Franken shares many of what were Mr. Wellstone’s values.

Mr. Wellstone was a true liberal who was neither strident in tone nor remote from average people. I was an original donor to Wellstone Action and I’ve donated at least twice since.

The invitation for the event at the Rice suggested $500 as a minimum contribution. I called the Franken people and said I did not have $500. They were nice.  They had my name at the door when I arrived. I gave them $50.

Mr. Bell said he knew Mr. Franken from appearing on Air America when Mr. Bell was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Houston and pursuing ethics charges against the disgraced Tom DeLay.

Mr. Franken hit all the right notes in his talk at the fundraiser. He discussed public funding for campaigns, universal health care and the War in Iraq.

Mr. Franken also talked about how he had been to Iraq twice on USO tours before Mr. Coleman had visited that nation a first time as Senator.

Mr. Franken said he was going to run a tough campaign against Mr. Coleman. He said he will hit back against negative attacks.  

Mr. Coleman has hired the same smear artists who ran the ads linking, in essence, former Georgia Senator and disabled Vietnam Vet Max Cleland to Osama.

I spoke to Mr. Franken for about two minutes. I asked him if he enjoyed this process of attending fundraisers and campaigning. He said he did enjoy the process and that he liked meeting people.

There you have my Texas Liberal exclusive—Al Franken likes meeting people.      

I’m looking forward to Mr. Franken’s victory just over a year from now.

October 29, 2007 Posted by | Houston, Politics, Texas | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Links To Three Strong Blogs


 Here are links to three strong blogs.

The Yellow Doggerell Democrat is a Houston-based political blog run by Steven Bates. I think this blog strikes a great mix of political news and views along with personal creativity.

The Field Negro  is out of Philadelphia.  It’s owned by attorney Wain Bennett. It’s another example of the personal creativity for a larger cause that blogging allows. The scroll down the right side of the blog is solid work. As is the commentary within the regular posts.

A History of American Women, run by MaggieMac from North Fort Meyers Florida, is about women in Colonial America. It’s clear that a lot of work goes into this blog.

Regular readers will know that I’ve been writing a number of posts about colonial history in recent months. 

The amount of media content in our lives between printed materials, radio, TV and online is overwhelming. I think these three blogs are worth your time.

The drawing is of a Glyptodon —A giant armadillo of the past.

October 28, 2007 Posted by | Blogging, Colonial America, Houston, Politics, Texas | , , , , | 2 Comments

An Inviting Blue Sky Is Uninhabitable—Observations From Galveston, Texas

Here are seven contradictions, of varying degrees, from the Friday afternoon I spent today 50 miles from home in sunny Galveston, Texas.

1. Some of the nicest days to go to Galveston, in late October on a weekday when it is sunny and maybe 80, are past the summer beach season. These days are not nearly as busy in Galveston as a 97 degree weekday in August when it is many regards awful outside regardless of being at a beach.

2. At certain spots on Galveston Island, you can look one way and see a nearly empty ocean. But then all you have to is turn your head to see busy shipping lanes and a huge petrochemical area.

3. The most inviting features of a nice day at the ocean, a wide blue sky and sparkling sea, are in fact mostly inaccessible and fully uninhabitable.

4. The water looks blue from a distance, but appears gray the closer you get.

5. You think the water itself is gray, but really it’s not. 

Today at the beach you could look down from a vantage point of just a few feet, and see clearly the mud beneath the water. Most days in Galveston you can’t see the bottom. Today though, the tide was so calm that not much mud was being stirred up.     

6. It looked like I was alone, but I called a number of friends while I was walking along the Seawall. 

7. It looked like I had all the time in the world, but truthfully I have many things to get done.  

A day in Galveston is excellent. There is a lot of history in GalvestonThe Strand is not fully annoying as shopping goes.  

Galveston is a relaxing place. It’s especially relaxing on a quiet weekday.   

I’ve got some good photos as soon as I load them in the computer. For now a Wikipedia picture will have to suffice.  

October 27, 2007 Posted by | Galveston, Texas | , , | 2 Comments

Should Genocide Resolutions Be Considered For Nations That Exterminated Western Hemisphere Native Populations?


With the recent discussion about a Congressional resolution declaring Turkey guilty of the genocide of Armenians between 1915 and 1918, should parliaments and congresses across the world consider similar resolutions against nations responsible for the extermination of Native American populations in the Western Hemisphere?    

These nations would be Portugal, Spain, France, England and the United States.

Portugal for the widespread death and servitude brought to the Tupi people of Brazil.    

Spain for a trail of genocide extending through the Canary Islands, the Caribbean, Mexico, Peru, Florida and present day New Mexico and Texas.

France for deaths of natives in Canada and throughout North American New France.

England for the liquidation of native peoples in, among other places, Virgina and New England.

The United States for a long history of wiping out native populations.  

I think such debate and resolutions around the world might only be fair.  

October 26, 2007 Posted by | Colonial America, History, Politics, Texas | , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

“Labor Donated” Mailing From Zaf Tahir With, Again, No Party ID & No Union Bug

I got another mailing yesterday from Houston At-Large Position 5 City Council Candidate Zaf Tahir. I was not planning to write about this again. But I have some questions.

Last week I wrote that Mr. Tahir had no union bug and no party identification at all on his first mailer. Mr. Tahir replied with a comment on Texas Liberal saying he was a loyal Democrat and a supporter of unions. He did not convince me to vote for him, but his reply seemed fair enough.

Now I have this additional mailing that says “Labor Donated” in a blank space just above the address. I’d like a better understanding of what that means. The first mailer did not say that anywhere. 

In a comment on my first Tahir post, Steve Bates from The Yellow Doggerel Democrat said sometimes underfunded campaigns will note on campaign materials that all the labor involved in a campaign mailer was volunteer labor and in certain circumstances that might be okay for a Democrat to use.

Okay. (Let me be clear, Steve was not taking any side or criticizing anybody. He was just giving information he had as politically active union man. I cite him because he was more informed on this question than I was.)

Am I to infer that for some reason, Mr. Tahir must cite that he had donated labor on the second glossy multi-color mailing he has sent out within a week?  Money does not seem to be an issue for Mr. Tahir.

Or maybe labor donated means something else in this case. Somebody please fill me in if it does.  

While I believe Mr. Tahir is a Democrat and that he supports unions as he claims, why can’t he say he is a Democrat and why, if he can afford two fancy mailings so far, can’t he have a union bug on the lit pieces?  

Here are questions raised by Matt Stiles in The Houston Chronicle about claims made in a radio ad by Mr. Tahir about how long he has lived in Houston.

Listen to the radio ad on the Chron site. All Republican themes.

Are Democrats supposed to discount the mass appeals being made by Mr. Tahir and just assume he is okay because he’ll tell you in certain settings that he is a Democrat? 

Here is a final link to Matt Stiles with questions about other claims Mr. Tahir has made on the campaign trail.

I think some concerns are being raised about Mr. Tahir as we move towards Election Day.

Here is a link to Position Five Candidate Jolanda Jones. Ms. Jones may merit strong consideration.

October 25, 2007 Posted by | Houston, Houston Council Election '07, Politics | , , , | 13 Comments

Good Luck Defined—Married Now For 7 Years & 7 Months


October 25, 2007 means I’ve been married now for seven years and seven months.

The wife and I were married on March 25, 2000 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Please click here for a great photo of my wife on our wedding day.

Please click here for a poem I once wrote about my wife.

Here is article from the Manchester Evening News in England on why the number 7 is considered lucky.

Here is the beginning of an ancient Akkadian poem called The Seven from 4000 years ago.

They are 7 in number, just 7

In the terrible depths they are 7

Bow down, in the sky they are 7 

It gets more gloomy from that point on.

That poem is unlike my marriage. My marriage gets better each day.

October 25, 2007 Posted by | My Wife Is The Best Person Ever, Poetry | , , , | 3 Comments

I Came Within Inches Of Hitting A Pedestrian With My Car Because I Was On Phone While Driving


Recently, I came within inches of hitting a pedestrian because I was talking on the cellphone while driving. I just did not see her. I had to swerve to avoid her and could not have missed her by more than a foot. 

It’s that simple. I’m near certain that if I’d not been on the phone, I would have seen her. I could have hurt her or killed her. I might well now be facing charges and a lawsuit. All for nothing.  

Like many people, I’ve taken up talking on the phone while driving to save time and to keep in touch with others with time that seemed like downtime. I’ve done this even though I knew it was the wrong course. 

I feel a bit dumb even admitting what happened. Yet I know plenty of people who talk and drive. This practice has become, despite the risk of an accident, a fact of modern life.

I’m done with talking on the phone while driving.  

October 24, 2007 Posted by | Houston, Things I've Done, Uncategorized | , , , | 8 Comments

Why Have A Blog?

Sometimes I ask myself why I have a blog. Texas Liberal takes time and effort. Is it worth the time and effort?

For anyone who runs a blog, or is considering starting a blog, the reasons for doing so will be specific to the individual.  Here are my reasons—

1. To communicate—I think it’s basic to human beings to have ideas and knowledge they wish to commuincate to others. A blog is a way to accomplish this goal.

Is it the best way? That’s up to you. You might be better off writing letters to friends and family or communicating your ideas and values by volunteering for a cause. 

Blogging can be selfish. You have to decide if the time you’re spending on the blog is worth what you could otherwise do with your time.  

 2. To Oppose— As I’ve said, your reasons to blog will be personal. For me, this new form of expression offers a chance to stand in opposition to traditional structures of power that in my view have often let people down.

I also feel why have this new form of expression if the purpose in the end is to simply integrate yourself with the powers that already be? 

None of this means that I don’t get on board for some causes.  Many things in life are good and I try to support them when I’m able.

However, for reasons that don’t matter much here, opposition is where my personality and my feelings about the world often take this blog.

Here is a link to Reporter’s Without Borders Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents.

(None of this matters much if you’re not running a political blog. What I’m getting at here are a few political blogs I’m acquainted with that don’t seem to be much more than extensions of the Democratic Party. That’s fine if that’s what you want to do. It might even be helpful in many ways. It’s simply not what motivates me as a blogger.)    

3. Because it is enjoyable to have a blog— Unless you are somehow saving the world, or at least helping a lot of people in some way, why have a blog if it is not fun? 

4. To build an audience—I think you’d have to be pretty humble not to care how many people are reading your blog. While I’ve never gotten around to putting a more specifically detailed counter on the blog, I do check the number of page views I get as determined by WordPress. So far for October, I’m at just a shade under 400 page views per day. ( If you’ve reached this post by a search engine, please click here to get to the top of the blog and consider becoming a regular reader.)

While I’ll be working to grow the blog, it is satisfying that for whatever reasons something like 300 people a day are visiting Texas Liberal. 

It’s totally up to you what size audience you are looking for from your blog. You might be happy enough that anybody at all reads it. Such a view might be a sign of good mental health.  

5. To create something of value and interest —If a poem or a movie can be a work of art, why not a blog? This is not to say Texas Liberal is a work of art. It is though, I hope, creative in some ways. You can define your blog any way you choose. It’s natural to want to be creative.   

6. To run drawings of the pre-historic Terror Bird—It’s your blog. You can do what you wish.   

If you start a blog, give it time to find the voice you are truly looking for. It can be difficult to be creative and informative in the way you’re hoping to accomplish without making posts you feel did not work out as you had guessed.

Yet if you stick with it you’ll likely attract some readers, be of use to somebody who is looking for what you are saying and make some new friends along the way.

October 23, 2007 Posted by | Art, Blogging, Politics, Texas | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Plymouth Rock: Did Malcolm X Lift A Line From Cole Porter?


I was listening a few days ago to Cole Porter’s Anything Goes.

Here are the first few lines from that famous song written in 1934—

Times have changed,
And we’ve often rewound the clock,
Since the Puritans got a shock,
When they landed on Plymouth Rock.
If today,
Any shock they should try to stem,
‘Stead of landing on Plymouth Rock,
Plymouth Rock would land on them.

Now here is Malcolm’s famous line about Plymouth Rock–

We’re not Americans, we’re Africans who happen to be in America. We were kidnapped and brought here against our will from Africa. We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock–that rock landed on us”   

Hmmmm. Do you think Malcolm sat around listening to Cole Porter? You never know.

I’ve seen Plymouth Rock a few times. Though if you’ve seen it once, you’ve covered it for a lifetime. You’re seeing it in the photo above.

Here is a link to a Malcolm X reading list.

Here is a link to a Cole Porter reading list.

October 23, 2007 Posted by | Colonial America, Martin & Malcolm, Music | , , , , | 8 Comments

Sam Houston & Self-Creation


 Here is a description of Sam Houston from William Freehling’s The Road To Disunion: Secessionists At Bay 1776-1854—-

Sam Houston had studied survival tactics with experts. In his youth, after a mysteriously awful brief marriage on the western frontier, a shattered Houston had …disappeared from whiteman’s society. He reappeared three years later, his old self-confidence restored, his new understanding of how to get along set for life. He had saved himself by savouring the forbidden. This white leader had lived with an Indian princess……His appearance signaled the way he operated and the persona he cherished. President Sam Houston marched around Houston City dressed like an Indian chief….The white chieftain’s red man’s garb proclaimed…a strategist not predictably of any color, not predictably anything at all.   

I thought this was interesting. It shows the mix of circumstance and self-creation that helps form a personality.

While one has to be concerned with becoming a self-parody, Sam Houston here shows you can leave your more obvious identity behind and become what works best for you in life. 

It’s always difficult to construct an identity and a personality that diverges from what seems most apparent. But it can be done.

October 22, 2007 Posted by | Books, History, Houston, Texas, Uncategorized | , , , , | 3 Comments

Political Poem #4—Civilization Of Texas


This is political poem #4 on the blog. I call the poem Civilization Of Texas  

Malarial wetlands

Paved over.

Southern heat

Air conditioned.

Arid lands




Human development


October 21, 2007 Posted by | Poetry, Politics, Texas | , , | 5 Comments