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No Union Bug, No Party ID—Why I Won’t Be Voting For Zaf Tahir For Houston City Council

I got a mailing the other day from At-Large position #5 Houston City Council Candidate Zaf Tahir.  So far, I’ve not focused on this race.

Based on the mailing, it wasn’t hard to decide I won’t be voting for Mr. Tahir.

First of all, no union bug on the mailing. 

The union bug is the small mark at the bottom of a political piece showing that what you have in your hands was printed at a union printer. Just about every Democrat will have a union bug. Most Republicans will not

There was also no party identification on the mailing. People have a right to know what party a political candidate represents. This is basic in our democracy. ( Please click here for my post on why Houston City Council races should be more aggressively partisan.) 

I then went to Mr. Tahir’s web site. He mentions crime and the tax burden as big issues.

I know they all mention crime. But what about the causes of crime? How about helping people? We have no income tax in Texas and yet we have a high tax burden? 

On the mailing in big letters it says Mr. Tahir is “A proven business leader for a smart Houston.”

Government is not a business and smart is not a moral value. Being “smart” does not tell me anything. Plenty of no-good politicans are “smart.”  

I could have simply trashed the flier when I did not see the union bug. People need some shorthand in a busy world. 

Many voters are simply left confused by people hiding their political identity while running for an office with silly six-year term-limits and a musical chair membership.        

October 20, 2007 Posted by | Houston, Houston Council Election '07, Politics | , , , | 7 Comments

A Killer Whale, The So-Called Taku, Dies At San Antonio Sea World


An orca, or killer whale, has died unexpectedly today at Sea World in San Antonio, Texas. This whale was called Taku.

Taku is an interesting name for this whale. Gyotaku is a Japanese art form where an impression in paper made over a dead fish in order to preserve an image of the fish. In this way, fishermen could prove how big a catch they had made to others. It is also practiced by some as an art form.

The photo above is gyotaku art. Gyo means “fish” and taku means “rubbing or “impression.”  

Of course, gyotaku is not what Sea World is doing with the deceased so-called Taku. Everybody already knows that Sea World puts huge killer whales in little tanks. Nothing to prove on that account. 

Please click here for a previous Texas Liberal post on what is done with Shamu whales when they die at Sea World.

Please click here for a post on when a Shamu attacked her handler.    

Since you’re at a political blog, please click here for a great article on helping America’s middle classes. We’ve got to find a way to help people live decent lives in the Global Economy.

October 19, 2007 Posted by | Art, Sea Life, Texas | , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Will America’s Democrats Face Same Questions And Problems As Germany’s Social Democrats?

The Economist reported recently about problems facing Germany’s Social Democratic Party. This is the main center-left party of Germany. At current, the S.D.P is the junior partner in a grand coalition government led by Christian Democratic Chancellor Angela Merkel.  

The threat rising against the S.D.P is the new Left Party. The Left Party is pulling away many working class voters who have long supported the S.D.P.

The appeal of the Left Party comes mostly from economic issues such as low pay, job security and retirement age. The party is strong where steel plants and coal mines have shut down.

In short, the Left Party does best where globalization has hit hardest.  

The Left Party was formed in the former East Germany from the remnants of the former Communist Party. Despite those roots, The Economist cites a recent book maintaining that Left Party leaders are fully democratic.

Up to now, these Communist beginnings are a reason the S.D.P has been reluctant to join in coalition with the Left Party.  

(An exception is an S.D.P/Left coalition governing Berlin under openly gay S.D.P Mayor Klaus Wowereit.

While strongest in the east where economic conditions are toughest, the Left Party has been gaining elsewhere in Germany

In current German polling, the Left Party stands at about 10%. This puts it roughly even with the Greens. With the S.D.P at under 30%, the Left Party might be needed by the S.D.P to form a coalition government in a future federal election.  

Could America’s Democratic Party face the same problems Germany’s Social Democrats are confronting? The recent agreements at General Motors and Chrysler institute a two-tiered wage structure.  New hires will receive far lower pay than long-term employees even given the difference in duration of employment.

How are our blue collar people going to be able to live decent lives? 

Some German voters apparently feel the S.D.P does not have the answers to the effects of globalization in an advanced economy.

It is not hard to imagine that Democratic voters in the United States will soon begin to ask some of the same tough questions now being asked of the established left in Germany.     

October 19, 2007 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Manatee Is Marine Mammal Of The Week


 The Manatee is the Texas Liberal Marine Mammal of the Week.

The Manatee is a large herbivorous creature with a torpedo-shaped body, little hair and thick lips.

The Manatee most Americans are familiar with is the West Indian Manatee. This is the Manatee that lives in Florida. These Manatees also swim up and down the Atlantic Coast up to Long Island and in the Gulf of Mexico as well.

The other two types of  Manatees are the West African Manatee and the Amazonian Manatee.

The West Indian Manatee can wiegh  up to 3000 pounds and live over 60 years. Female West Indians reach 13.5 feet. This is a foot-and-a-half longer than male Manatees.

West Indian Manatees live in temporary groups for purposes of mating or looking for food. Otherwise, W.I. Manatees are likely to be found together only in a mother and calf pairing.

W.I. Manatees spend between six to eight hours a day eating. That’s a long time. They eat sea grasses and sea plants. However, in Jamaica W.I. Indian Manatees have been seen eating fish from nets.

While W.I. Manatees are protected throughout their range, they are still hunted. People eat Manatee meat and use the bones and oil in folk remedies. Manatees also die from collisions with boats, ingesting fishing gear, getting caught in nets and drowning in locks.

We sure have a lot of ways to kill Manatees.

It is estimated that between 3,000 and 4,000 Manatees live in Florida.

Click here for a great New York Times article suggesting Manatees are far more clever than they’ve been given credit for by scientists.

Florida’s Republican Governor Charlie Crist has suggested reducing the level of protected status extended to Manatees. This proposal has come under criticism.  

The Manatee is of the order SireniaThis makes it related to elephants and aardvarks. It is thought that Manatees evolved from land animals.

Since you’re at a political blog, please consider clicking this article about how to help America’s middle class. We need to find a way to live decent lives in the age of the global economy.  

Please click here for other Texas Liberal posts about sea life and marine mammals.

October 18, 2007 Posted by | Sea Life | , , , , | 6 Comments

Will Houston’s New Cardinal DiNardo Be A Strong Voice Against The Death Penalty?

Archbishop Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston was promoted to Cardinal today by Pope Benedict XVI.

I hope this means Cardinal DiNardo will increase his local profile on issues of social justice. Most especially, I hope we hear from Cardinal DiNardo about the barbaric application of the death penalty in Harris County and in Texas.

The recent immoral behavior of Judge Sharon Keller of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is just the latest outrage.  So-called Judge Keller would not hear the appeal of a soon-to-be-executed death row inmate because it was delivered at 20 minutes after five o’clock. The inmate was executed that evening.

Harris County is a death penalty capital of the world despite the shoddy work done in our county’s criminal lab. No matter what, we keep sending people to death row.

The late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin  of Chicago was a leader in the fight against the death penalty.

I know I’ll disagree with Cardinal DiNardo on many questions. I also know the Houston/Galveston area is in strong need of a voice for social justice and against the death penalty.  

Here is a link to Amnesty International’s anti-death penalty blog.  

October 18, 2007 Posted by | Galveston, Houston, Politics, Texas | , , , , , , | 13 Comments

“Just War” Theory Of Ferdinand & Isabella Was The Logic Of Power

The following is from American Colonies: The Settling Of North America by Alan Taylor.

The specific issue being addressed in the paragraph is the killing and enslavement of the Taino people on Hispaniola and nearby islands by Christopher Columbus.    

Columbus’s slaughter and enslavement of Indians troubled the pious Spanish monarchs, who declared in 1500 that the Indians were “free and not subject to servitude.” But Ferdinand and Isabella failed to close the legal loophole exploited by the Spanish colonizers. It remained legal to enslave Indians taken in any “just war,” which the colonists characterized as any violence they conducted against resisting natives.”

And there you have the self-serving logic of power defined. 

October 17, 2007 Posted by | Books, Colonial America, History, Politics | , , , , | 3 Comments

Central Questions—How To Maintain Relationships Across Distances Of Time & Space

This is part of a Texas Liberal series called Central Questions.

How can people maintain personal relationships across distances of time and space in a world in which we are all very busy?

Here are some possible answers–

1.  Understand that others are as busy as you are and just about any effort to stay in touch is appreciated.

2. Map out what strategies you will pursue to keep up relationships. It could be perodic e-mailings to a list of friends or simply leaving a phone message. Anything to keep the relationship going.    

3.  Apply imagination to maintaining your relationships. Think about old contacts that can be renewed. Think of ways to contact people specific to the individual and what they are doing in life at the moment. 

4. View maintaining relationships as a kind of unpaid job.  It’s something that just takes work.

5. Remember that one good conversation or an afternoon spent together can carry a relationship for a long time.

6. Understand that 99% of the time a lack of reciprocity is not a slap in the face. People are (mostly) doing the best they can. Accept limits in others so your limits will also be accepted. Stick with someone over the long haul and odds are you’ll be glad you did.

Maintaining relationships is one of the most important things an individual can do in life.  Relationships give life context and meaning. 

October 17, 2007 Posted by | Central Questions, Relationships | | 4 Comments

The Night Johnny Rotten Spoke To Me—My Greatest Punk Rock Moments

Anyone part of a midwestern hardcore punk scene in the 1980’s was lucky. I was lucky in this regard. Cincinnati, Ohio had a great scene.

(I’ve wondered sometimes what kind of scene Houston had. Click here for a link to Houston Punk Archives. )

In reverse order, here are six of my best punk moments and accomplishments.

6. Watching The People’s Court and spending the day with San Francisco hardcore band Fang when I was 17.

This would have been 1984. It was one of my first punk encounters. Sammy from Fang later went to jail for manslaughter—And I’m not sure how benign he seemed the day I spent with him and the band.

But it sure was fun.

Later that night, Sammy got sick from a mix of White Castle hamburgers and whatever else he may have ingested. He threw up on stage. However, he finished the show as would any true performer.

5. Being included in the lyrics of the Cincinnati classic punk song Newport Gestapo by The Edge .

The song title referred to the Newport, Kentucky police department. Newport, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, was where our best local club, The Jockey Club, was located.

In the song I arrested by Newport police in a raid of the club. The Jockey Club was indeed raided, though I was never arrested.

4.  Anytime I was in Newport’s The Jockey Club.

It was always a blast. Click here for a great website dedicated to a great punk club.

3. The night the Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten spoke a few words to me.

Public Image Limited played one night at a club Bogarts in Cincinnati. I knew the manager of the club. He let me work “security” for a few shows I wanted to see. I’d get maybe 50 bucks and some beer and pizza.

At the P.I.L show, my job was to stand in between the stage and the wooden barrier built just to protect Johnny Rotten. I was supposed to be looking out at the crowd. Instead, of course, I watched the show. Mr. Rotten saw me looking at him instead of the audience. He locked eyes with me and said, ”Get back to work.”

That’s my Johnny Rotten story.

2. Being thanked on the liner notes for the Seven Seconds album “Walk Together Rock Together”

The Nevada skate band spend a night or two at the home of a friend. We all hung around. If you have the record, I’m the Hockeypunk on the liner notes.

That was me—the Hockeypunk. I’d take a hockey stick to shows sometimes. Everybody needs a gimmick. I felt that way as a kid and I feel that way today.

1. Easily–My three years on Cincinnati’s best ever punk radio show “Search and Destroy” broadcast weekly on WAIF 88.3 FM.

I’m forever in the debt of Handsome Clem Carpenter for having me as co-host. It was great being the Hockeypunk and it was always fun to have someone come up to me on the street and say they had a tape of the show.

We were “All punk rock all the time” for three hours a week.

October 16, 2007 Posted by | Cincinnati, Good People, Music | , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

American Politicians Who Have Won The Nobel Peace Prize


( Update–10/09/09—This post has been updated for Mr. Obama’s award of the Peace Prize.)

Al Gore and Jimmy Carter are not the only two American politicians to have won the Nobel Peace Prize.

In 1906, President Teddy Roosevelt won the Nobel for his role in ending the war between Japan and Russia.

One-term New York Senator Elihu Root won the prize in 1912. As Secretary of State under Teddy Roosevelt, and as Senator, Root help negotiate and arbitrate a number of international disputes.  

This does not seem like something the current administration would support. They have a different approach to resolving disputes. 

President Woodrow Wilson won the Peace prize in 1919 for his part in creating the League of Nations.   

It was bit more rocky, though with some successes, for the League after the Nobel.   

Another one-term Senator, Frank Kellogg of Minnesota, was the 1929 winner. (The photo above is of Mr. Kellogg.)

As Secretary of State under Calvin Coolidge, Kellogg was a force behind the Kellogg-Briand pact. Kellogg-Briand was signed by 64 countries and was about the renunciation of war as an instrument of policy by these nations. It did not have much effect at the time, but why not try?  

1931 co-winner Nicholas Butler, was Teddy Roosevelt’s running mate on the 1912 Bull Moose ticket. Butler won the prize for his international work on behalf of Kellogg-Briand.

Former Tennessee Senator Cordell Hull was the 1945 winner.  Secretary of State under F.D.R, Hull had a part in creating the United Nations.

And finally, much more recently, Jimmy Carter in 2002 and Al Gore for the current year.

October 15, 2007 Posted by | History, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Response To State Representative Ellen Cohen

I got a newsletter in the mail last week from State Representative Ellen Cohen.  Ms. Cohen represents me in Austin. Ms. Cohen did Houston and the world a favor last year by defeating Republican incumbent Martha Wong.

Ms. Cohen’s newsletter has a kind of poll. She wants my views.

Ms. Cohen makes a statement on the newsletter and you decide the extent to which you agree or disagree.

First is ” With the highest uninsured population in the country, Texas should invest more to expand health care coverage through fully funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).”

Here I’ll choose “Strongly Agree.” Good for Ms. Cohen for making this the first question.

Next is “The ” Top 10 Percent Rule” has made admission to some state universities too burdensome for students from highly competitive high schools and should be amended”   

This is pandering by Ms. Cohen. I support pandering. I pander to the blog reading world quite often.    

However as to the actual statement I must reply—Isn’t Texas unfair enough to the poor and to working and middle class folks? The 10% rule is about the only fair thing going on in Texas.

I say “Strongly Disagree” on criticizing the excellent 10% rule.

Then we have ” More environmental regulations are needed to address Houston’s air quality problems”   

 I “Strongly Agree.” As a general principle, I always favor more regulation in Texas. I’m glad to have a State Representative who will openly call for more regulation.  

Also—The Texas Legislature should not involve itself in pushing religious agendas in our schools.

I’m not sure how I feel about this matter. 

In his sermon On Being A Good Neighbor Martin Luther King says—True altruism is more than the capacity to pity; it is the capacity to sympathize. Pity may represent little more than the impersonal concern which prompts the mailing of a check, but true sympathy is the personal concern which demands the giving of one’s soul. Pity may rise from interest in an abstraction called humanity, but sympathy grows out of a concern for a particular human being who lies at life’s roadside.

I favor any agenda that matches what I believe and I oppose any agenda against what I believe. If I were in charge of the schools I would have Martin Luther King sermons taught to all the kids.

There were some other questions that did not interest me.

Ms. Cohen also provides a comment space. Here is my comment—

Representative Cohen–

Thank you for defeating Martha Wong. I would like to see reform of how the Texas House is organized. The Speaker and Committee Chairs should be elected by straight party-line vote instead of the sneaky behind-the-scenes deal cutting that now defines the process. I believe the majority party in the legislature, regardless of what party is in the majority, has won the mandate of the people. Party-line organization of the House keeps parties accountable and is most consistent with our Democracy as normally practiced in the United States.

Thank you.

Neil Aquino

Supporter, Constituent, Voter & Citizen   

October 15, 2007 Posted by | Houston, Politics, Texas | , , , | Leave a comment

Four Ways The Past Can Be Experienced


I own a series of books of old photographs coupled with paragraph-sized captions that describe Cincinnati, Ohio. I lived in Cincinnati for 18 years. The books are printed by Arcadia Publishing. Arcadia has a line of these titles with old pictures of cities across the nation. None, so far, have been printed of Houston.

I enjoy these books. I enjoy thinking about the history of familiar places. It’s helpful to have my own experiences placed between the context of a past I did not see and the inevitability of a future I won’t be part of.

I can think of four ways I interact with the past in Cincinnati. This example can be carried over to many other places and experiences we have all had in our lives. Ideally, these four ways will all connect to paint a coherent picture of my life and the lives of others.

Here are my four ways, I’m sure there are more, to interact with the past—   

1. With books, I can go back before I was born in 1967 or before I arrived in Cincinnati in 1980. This is impersonal, but it can be done at my leisure and allows for reflection.   

2. Returning to Cincinnati once or twice a year, I always drive around many neighborhoods. Doing so,  I experience both a personal past and the broader history of the city and the communities that make up the city. A downside is that this requires the cost of an airplane ticket and a rental car. 

3. Communicating with friends and family on the phone, or by e-mail, I get updates about people and places. Talking to family and friends is always a winner. They often know more than I do. And the mix of personal history played out in the larger framework a familiar city is an instructive combination. Life is a mix of the public and the private.     

4. Through my own memories, which have the advantage of being available anytime and on my own schedule, I can recall what has taken place and try to understand what it means. This works well in tandem with looking at the books.

A downside might be the reliability of the memories. But what can one do about that?    

The above picture is of the Tall Stacks Festival in Cincinnati. As you can tell looking at the boats, Tall Stacks is an effort at mixing the past with the present.

October 14, 2007 Posted by | Books, Cincinnati, History, Relationships | , , , , | 2 Comments

Painting & Words Of Frederick Douglass In Northern Ireland

The words on the painting serve as the text of the post.

Please click here for use of a Douglass quote by a Burma blogger

October 13, 2007 Posted by | Art, History, Politics | , | Leave a comment

1980’s Austin Punk Rockers “The Dicks”

A great 1980’s hardcore band was The Dicks from Austin, Texas. I saw them at least once, and I think twice, at the Jockey Club in Newport, Kentucky. 

In 1983, they played on a bill with Fang at the Jockey Club. What a lineup!

The Dicks album I have is “Kill from the Heart.” I have the vinyl album and someday I’ll play it again.

I can still hum “Rich Daddy” and “No Nazi’s Friend.”  

The Dicks were politically to the left. I liked that at 17 and I like it today.

And they put on a great show. 

The picture above is from 2005.

In the show I saw, the singer was wearing a dress.

Punks grow older like everybody else.

I’m proof of that fact. 

I’m glad The Dicks are stiil around in one form or another.

Please click here for my greatest punk rock moments.

I’ll be hosting a giant punk rock blast in Cincinnati on August 15, 2009.

October 13, 2007 Posted by | Cincinnati, Music, Texas | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Political Poem #3—The City


Here is a poem I’ve written. It’s called The City.


The young man knows

Nobody cares.

They only speak to him

When appealing for calm. 


The city decided it had the money

To build a new football stadium.


There’s an extensive market for art in the city

Gallery openings take place all the time.


“Honey, let’s go into the city

There’s a new restaurant we should check out.”


The Chamber of Commerce features only a few neighborhoods

On its maps for tourists.


The Mayor said:

It’s important for us all to have civic spirit


The city is defined

By its sports teams

By its museums

By its entertainments.

The needs of the city’s citizens

Are rarely considered.    


Please click here for other poems I’ve written in the blog.   

October 12, 2007 Posted by | Poetry, Politics | , | 4 Comments

I Met Houston Councilmember Melissa Noriega This Evening

I met Houston City Councilmember Melissa Noriega this evening. I attended a fundraiser for her downtown.

Ms. Noriega’s first became aware of me, as far as I know, when I endorsed the Green Party candidate on the my blog in her special election race earlier this year.

Blogger Greg Wythe suggested I call her and talk to her and maybe my view would change.

I called Ms. Noriega. We talked for about 25 minutes and had a great conversation. I then wrote a post saying  Ms. Noriega was a good person and I was still going to vote for the Green candidate. 

I voted for Ms. Noriega in the runoff election after she failed to secure a majority in the first round.

Ms. Noriega and I have exchanged a few e-mails since. A few days ago she e-mailed me about the event tonight.

I did not talk to Ms. Noriega very much this evening . We were sitting at a table, but every 30 seconds somebody came over to talk to her as she attempted to eat some appetizers on a styrofoam plate.

I did however talk to her parents for about half-an-hour. Both Ms. Noriega’s mom and dad were very smart and courteous.         

In my brief conversation with Ms. Noriega, I felt she had acquired these same virtues from her folks.

A test of leadership and maturity is to move past initial disagreements. Some of the best relationships I’ve had  have been with people I at first did not get along with.

Another test of leadership is to express an interest in understanding the motives and reasons behind someone who at first appears to be an opponent.

Ms. Noriega has shown these leadership qualities.      

Hopefully I will have a further chance to talk with Ms. Noriega.     

October 12, 2007 Posted by | Houston, Houston Council Election '07, Politics | , , | Leave a comment