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America Welcomed Pope With Resumption Of Death Penalty & With Immigrant Raids

Pope Benedict was welcomed to the United States over the last week with a Supreme Court decision opening the way to resumption of the death penalty and with stepped up immigration raids.  

Both these actions are contrary to Catholic teachings.

The church has long been opposed to the death penalty.

The Pope spoke about the need for humane treatment of immigrants in his recent visit. 

This is a sick country in many ways.

We seem crazed with violence and war. 

We use vulnerable and desperate immigrants for cheap labor when it suits us, and as political fodder when it suits us.

The Pope got a sense of this sickness on his trip here. 

April 22, 2008 Posted by | Immigration, Politics | , , | Leave a comment

Clinton & Obama Should Make World Food Crisis A Campaign Issue

Rising prices for wheat and rice have created a food crisis in much of the world.

People cannot afford the food they need to eat. Here is an Economist story on this subject. 

Below is an excerpt from the Economist article—

Last year wheat prices rose 77% and rice 16%. These were some of the sharpest rises in food prices ever. But this year the speed of change has accelerated. Since January, rice prices have soared 141%; the price of one variety of wheat shot up 25% in a day. Some 40km outside Abidjan, Mariam Kone, who grows sweet potatoes, okra and maize but feeds her family on imported rice, laments: “Rice is very expensive, but we don’t know why.”

The prices mainly reflect changes in demand—not problems of supply, such as harvest failure. The changes include the gentle upward pressure from people in China and India eating more grain and meat as they grow rich and the sudden, voracious appetites of western biofuels programmes, which convert cereals into fuel. This year the share of the maize (corn) crop going into ethanol in America has risen and the European Union is implementing its own biofuels targets. To make matters worse, more febrile behaviour seems to be influencing markets: export quotas by large grain producers, rumours of panic-buying by grain importers, money from hedge funds looking for new markets.

Here is a New York Times story on the topic which discusses the global implications of the crisis.

Given that a portion of the crisis has to do with biofuel demand in the United States, and given that we are all connected in this world, it would be good to hear Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama address this subject as an important campaign subject. 

It’s easy to say that we won’t have cowboy foreign policy any more. Let’s back up these words with a genuine outreach to people suffering in the world.   

April 21, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Politics | , , , , | 4 Comments

Back Up And Running With A Picture Of A Tree

The blog was down for two days because of some connection problems with my internet service.  These issues seemed to be an extension of problems I had last week. 

To celebrate the end of almost 36 hours of darkness–except for my ability to speak to others, read books, write letters, and let people into traffic—I am running a nice picture of a tree. 

You would think I would run a spring-like picture of a tree since this is spring and I’m back up and running. But death is part of life and look how nice this tree looks as it sheds leaves for winter.

I took this picture last Thanksgiving just outside the city limits of Cincinnati.

On a fully unrelated subject, my good friend and fellow blogger Jobsanger has written a post on the election of a new left-wing president in Paraguay. This ends the 60 year rule of the Colorado party in that nation. I had intended to write about this subject, but Jobsanger covers it well in his post.  

April 21, 2008 Posted by | Blogging, Cincinnati, Politics | , , , , | 2 Comments

Passover Seder Tonight

Passover begins tonight. There will be a Seder in my home tonight.

Above you see a Passover Seder plate with the traditional foods.

Please click here for an explanation of these foods.  

Here is the Passover story.

Here are some basic facts about Judaism.

Below is an image of the Passover story being read in 14th century Spain.


April 19, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 3 Comments

In The Midwestern Earthquake I Felt, People Ignored It As If It Happens Everyday

The Midwestern earthquake earlier this morning was no real surprise.

( Above you see a map of the epicenters of Midwestern earthquakes since 1974.)

This earthquake, centered in southern Illinois, was 5.2 on the Richter scale.

There was little damage.

Here is an explanation of the Richter scale. 

The New Madrid fault zone is the source of many of these earthquakes. Here is information on that fault zone from the U. of Arkansas at Little Rock. 

The 1811 & 1812 New Madrid earthquakes were very powerful. 

Here is the Earthquake Hazards Program of the U.S. Geological Survey.

I was in a Midwestern earthquake in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1980. I was 12. I was at a movie theater when it happened. The theater shook and swayed.

My mother and I got out of our seats and walked to the lobby to try and figure out what was going on. Many others did as well. This seemed like a normal reaction to shaking and swaying. This would seem especially the case when you’ve never been in an earthquake before.

What struck me at the time was the number of people who did not move from their movie seats.  A 12 year old knew something was up, but many just sat there. It was hard to see how people could have missed feeling the quake.

You wonder sometimes how folks can often be so oblivious to things taking place right in front of them. Whenever I see someone who seems clueless, I think back to that earthquake.

Below is information on that 1980 earthquake from the Ohio Seismic Network ( Click here for the full link.) — The earthquake that shook Ohio and all or portions of 13 other states and southern Canada on July 27, 1980, initiated numerous media and citizen inquiries concerning this particular earthquake and the general seismicity of Ohio. Many residents of Ohio were amazed to learn that the state had ever experienced any previous earthquakes and were startled to find out that more than 100 earthquakes have been reported from the state since 1776.

April 18, 2008 Posted by | Cincinnati | , , , | 7 Comments

Black Run Politics Blog In Houston—Where Are Other Such Blogs In Texas?

A fine Houston blog I’ve recently discovered is There…Already.

Here is the link.

This is a blog with a lot of political content that is run by Black folks.

I’ve long thought that Houston and Texas have a lack of Black-run blogs with some focus on politics.   

Dallas South is, you might guess, out of Dallas. Dallas South is a good blog.

Dallas South is mentioned in this National Public Radio report about Black bloggers focusing on the Jena Six issue. 

Liberal and progressive blogging in Texas does not seem fully demographically representative of the people who hold liberal and progressive views in Texas. 

The AfroSpear is a loose association of a number of Black bloggers across the country.

If there are other politically orientated Black bloggers in Houston and in Texas, I’d like to know. I’m sure I’ve missed some people.

If my new friends at There…Already would like me to buy them a beer, I’d be happy to do so.

Here is a history of African-American newspapers in the United States

April 18, 2008 Posted by | Blogging, History, Houston, Politics | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Why You Should Volunteer For Michael Skelly For Congress Or In Some Other Uphill Race

Michael Skelly is running for Congress as a Democrat from the 7th Congressional District of Texas. ( Please click the link for the Skelly campaign.)

This district includes portions of Houston and areas around Houston. It has been a Republican district in recent years.

The incumbent is the terrible John Culberson.

You should volunteer for Michael Skelly and for other candidates facing an uphill race.

(Though this race may not be uphill as it seems at first look.) 

Let me tell you why.

When I was 23, I volunteered for a man named Tyrone Yates who was running as a Democrat in the very Republican 2nd congressional district of Ohio. This was in 1990.

This Cincinnati-area district now elects the terrible Jean Schmidt.

Tyrone had, at best, a small chance of winning.

In the other Cincinnati-area district, the 1st, there was a tight and high profile race for an open seat.

That campaign had many volunteers. Most of them were forgotten by the campaigns when the race was over. 

Mr. Yates did not have many volunteers.   

I called Tyrone one day out of the blue and he told me to come to a campaign meeting.

I was soon part of the campaign core.

There were maybe 8 of us.

We went to campaign appearances and had a good time. I learned things. I made some friends.

We lost the race, but it was a great experience and fun.

In 1991, Tyrone became a member of the Cincinnati City Council.

In 1992, he gave me a job in his office. Tyrone gave me the job in part because I had been on-board with him when others had not.

While working at Cincinnati City Hall, I met my future wife. 

Also, even though we lost our race in 1990, we served the cause of democracy.

Mr. Skelly will likely have a larger campaign than we did—I hope he does—But I bet he will appreciate each and every person who offers help. The same can be said of challengers like Mr. Skelly running across the nation. 

This story from the Houston Chronicle talks about a quick fundraising start for Mr. Skelly.

Here’s a recap of why you should volunteer for Micheal Skelly for Congress in Houston, or in some other challenging race where you live—      

1. You will learn about politics— 

2. You might meet new friends

3. If you are loyal and lucky, you might end up with a job–

4. You will be serving democracy–

5. Maybe you will meet your future spouse

April 17, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Cincinnati, Houston, Politics, Relationships, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

New Report On Rising Sea Levels

Here is a BBC article about sea levels rising in the 21st century and the impact this could have on low-lying nations such as Bangladesh.  

New information on this topic comes from a British/Finnish research team and was discussed at a conference in Vienna.  Sea levels seem likely to rise in way not seen in the last 2000 years.

Here is an article about the causes of sea level increases and how such things are measured.  

This is a very interesting tour of Bangladesh by way of its rivers. The theme of the tour is the impact of climate change on Bangladesh. 

This issue should be a big part of the American Presidential campaign. But Senator McCain’s electoral base does not care and Senator’s Obama and Clinton have often lacked the personal discipline and maturity to discuss real issues instead of silliness.  

April 16, 2008 Posted by | Politics, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Right Wing Blogs Flock To Link To Texas Liberal

Conservative blogs are have been flocking in recent days to link to Texas Liberal.

Well—If you can call two a flock.

BlogHouston linked to me (twice) for my criticism of Houston-area Democratic State Representative and slumlord Hubert Vo. These links made me wonder if I had been wrong in my post on the subject. 

I wasn’t though. Mr. Vo is a slumlord.  

Lone Star Times mocked my post about visiting the Discovery Green Park in Houston. Some of the comments are kind of funny.

Repeat visitors to this blog may notice that I rarely criticize Republicans. I do sometimes, but mostly not.

I take this course because I don’t see much point. I have only so much time to write blog posts, and I don’t want to do something that is being done just as well or better by many others.

Also, the “conversation” that takes place on many political blogs is often, in my view, a waste of time. It is often just a back-and-forth over the same topics time and time again. Reading Lone Star Times will convey a clear sense of what I mean here.

My view is that anybody who spells your name right and links to your blog has done you a favor. If Michelle Malkin would like to send some traffic my way, she is more than welcome to do so.

April 16, 2008 Posted by | Blogging, Houston, Politics, Texas | , , , , , | 10 Comments

Sun Halo On Ethiopian Election Day Seen By Some As Sign & Links To Ethiopian Bloggers

On a day of local elections in Ethiopia last Sunday, a halo around the sun was seen by some as a sign from God or a miracle of some sort.

( Above is a painting in a church in an Ethiopian town called Bahar Dar.  Here is information about that town. It seems an interesting place to visit.)

Here is information about religion in Ethiopia.  

Some say that an Ethiopian sun halo in 1991 led to a change in government  

Here is a story about this most recent halo. Regretfully, the same corrupt bunch has been returned to office.

If I were running for office, and people believed a cloud formation had spelled out my name and this was a sign to vote for me, I would do all I could to encourage such speculation.

On the other hand, if people saw such a cloud formation as the Devil’s work, I would call for reason to prevail and for a campaign based on the issues.

Please click here for a story about a minister in Houston who says he has a Cheeto that looks like Jesus with his arms out and praying.

And here is a man who says he saw the image of Jesus in a frying pan.

This is all fine by me. It is not hurting anybody. Sometimes I’m a bit envious of people who feel they see these things. I don’t believe in any miracles. Maybe life is easier if you do. In any case, I’m not judgemental about this stuff. People are just trying to get by.

Here is a story about what was stake in Ethiopia in these elections. It seems democracy still has some ground to gain in Ethiopia.

Click here for a BBC overview of the current state of Ethiopia.   

Here is the Ethiopian Reporter newspaper.

Here is the Ethiopia page from the excellent Global Voices

( The bloggers below are not people who saw the sun halo as a sign. I’m taking this post as a chance to link to some of our blogger friends around the world.) 

Here is the Ethiopian blog Addis Journal.

Here is the blog My e-Shoe Box. 

Here is the blog Merkato.

Here is the blog Meskel Square. It is by a journalist who spent time in Ethiopia and is now in Sudan. 

Here is Abesha Bunna Bet. This gentleman is someone now living outside of Ethiopia.

Below is a picture of last Sunday’s sun halo in Ethiopia.

Here are the reasons a sun halo would occur.

 The sun over Addis Ababa on Sunday


April 15, 2008 Posted by | Blogging, Houston, Politics | , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Three Visits To New Houston Park—Once With Wife & Twice By Myself

(Welcome Lone Star Times readers. Anybody who spells your name right and gives you a link has done you a favor.)

This morning I made my third trip to Downtown Houston’s new Discovery Green park.

The park had its grand opening last Sunday. Above is a picture I took of the park.

Once I went with my wife and twice I’ve gone by myself.

I’ve had errands to run Downtown each of the last two days, and I’ve used being near the park as a chance to go and look around.

With my wife the park was very crowded. The two times I’ve gone by myself, at around 11:30 AM on  weekdays, it’s been less crowded.

The day all the people were around the park was noisy from the crowd.

The last two days it has been noisy from construction across the street.

That’s okay. The construction noise fits in with the idea of an urban park. Soon enough the construction will be finished.

The park takes on one character when it is very busy. It takes on a different feeling when relatively few are around.

In this sense the park is not unlike you and I.

I need the right mix of people and solitude in my life.

Here’s a short poem I wrote about my wish for solitude while still wishing to be part of society. The poem is called Day-To-Day

I want so much to be alone.

Can my thoughts and actions

Remain democratic?    

April 15, 2008 Posted by | Houston, Politics | , , , | 6 Comments

Some Thoughts On Senator Obama’s “Bitter” Comments

Senator Barack Obama has recently made comments that have proved controversial.

Below are the comments in question ( I’ve added two paragraphs from Senator Obama’s remarks for some context. The paragraph in the middle is what we have been hearing about–But there was more. Click here for the full remarks) —

“But — so the questions you’re most likely to get about me, ‘Well, what is this guy going to do for me? What is the concrete thing?’ What they wanna hear is so we’ll give you talking points about what we’re proposing — to close tax loopholes, uh you know uh roll back the tax cuts for the top 1%, Obama’s gonna give tax breaks to uh middle-class folks and we’re gonna provide health care for every American.

But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there’s not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Um, now these are in some communities, you know. I think what you’ll find is, is that people of every background — there are gonna be a mix of people, you can go in the toughest neighborhoods, you know working-class lunch-pail folks, you’ll find Obama enthusiasts. And you can go into places where you think I’d be very strong and people will just be skeptical. The important thing is that you show up and you’re doing what you’re doing.”

Here are my thoughts on these comments—  

1. Everyone has a crutch in life. We all turn to some type of distraction. Most are harmless. At times, when personal discipline and self-respect fail, some turn to making light of others. It is a mistake to say this is done only by people having what we call “hard times.” Life is hard for most people.  

2. The comments sting for being painfully true. We’ve all encountered people who often seem bitter. One could ask why remind folks of the obvious? Though these were comments not intended for a mass-audience.  

3. The comments miss the mark because they are generalizations. Americans have liked guns since day one. Many are religious because they simply believe–Not for any other reason. Whenever you generalize about many people, you are inevitably wrong. 

4. Can anyone deny that some working class whites over the last 40 years have voted for George Wallace, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and the Bushes out of racial and economic bitterness?  Maybe what some are bitter about today is having voted for George W. Bush over John Kerry and seeing what a mistake that was.

5. Who can blame many people in this society, or anywhere in the world, for being bitter? Life often sucks. Martin Luther King used to say that in a sick society it is the well-adjusted people who have a problem. Maybe the candidates should get on the case of seemingly well-adjusted people and ask what is wrong with them.   

6. Senator Obama seems in many respects a work in progress–As is the case for many thoughtful people of all ages.

This report from National Public Radio talks about Mr. Obama’s adult religious conversion. 

I feel Senator Obama is a decent person who still has some work to do on seeing himself as the equal of others and maybe not just a bit better than others. I wonder sometimes if Mr. Obama feels, to steal a term a co-worker of mine enjoys using, “too cool for school.”

7. We can’t forget that the real elitist is John McCain. Senator McCain says he now supports the Bush tax cuts for the rich, a flip-flop from his original position, and had to be politically forced to call for aid to struggling homeowners. Mr. McCain is the one out of touch with the needs and lives of the American people.     

8. Even if Senator Obama’s comments seem blunt, none of the three remaining candidates are telling Americans the full hard truths about Iraq, climate change, or the impact of the global economy on our future standards of living.

I feel Senator Obama offers the best chance for meaningful discussion as a first step, and meaningful action as the second step, towards solutions to our most pressing problems. 

Mr. Obama is the remaining candidate most likely to tell Americans the truth about the problems ahead. He is the one most likely to offer the right mix of ideology, willingness to listen to different types of people, and intellectual flexibility to help find answers to these problems.

Please click here for Senator Obama’s campaign web page.

April 14, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Politics | , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Pictures From Houston’s New Discovery Green Park


Today the wife and I visited the new Discovery Green Park in Downtown Houston.

You can go to this park by yourself if you don’t have a significant other.

Or maybe you just like time alone.

Above you see a picture of the pond in the park.

The city plans to stock the pond with alligators.

Discovery Green is an excellent park.

At the opening day events today, there were many people of all ages and colors.

The more inclusive something is, the better it is.  

Unless it is a flu epidemic we are discussing.

Below you see a picture of gardens in the park.

It is nice to look at a pond and it is nice to walk around gardens.

The garden is in both sun and shade because of the tilt of the Earth and our orbit around the sun.

We can’t forget the big picture. 

Learn more about this park by clicking here.

Or go see for yourself if you live in Houston or near Houston or are visiting Houston.   

April 14, 2008 Posted by | Houston | , , | 2 Comments

A Poem Called Planning


 Here is a poem I wrote called Planning—

The town was marketed

Before streets and homes were built.

Homes were finished

Before roads and sewers were built.

People moved in with kids

Before schools were built.  

And people wonder why what they have

Is never what they want.

Please click here for other Texas Liberal poetry posts.

April 13, 2008 Posted by | Poetry | | 2 Comments

If Only We Could Communicate With Zebra Mussels

The Zebra Mussel is an invasive species clogging up American waterways.

Above you see a picture of a Zebra Mussel.

An excellent book about invasive species is called Out Of Eden–An Odyssey of Ecological Invasion by Alan Burdick.

Here is an overview of the Zebra Mussel issue and below is a portion of that overview– 

A small freshwater mollusk called the zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha), has been steadily invading America’s rivers and lakes. Zebra mussels originated in the Balkans, Poland, and the former Soviet Union. They first appeared in North America in 1988 in Lake St. Clair, a small water body connecting Lake Huron and Lake Erie. Biologists believe the zebra mussels were picked up in a freshwater European port in the ballast water of a ship and were later discharged into the Canadian side of Lake St. Clair.

Zebra mussels get their name from the striped pattern of their shells, though not all shells bear this pattern. They’re usually about fingernail size but can grow to a maximum length of nearly 2 inches. Zebra mussels live 4 to 5 years and inhabit fresh water at depths of 6 to 24 feet. A female zebra mussel begins to reproduce at 2 years of age, and produces between 30,000 and 1 million eggs per year. About two percent of zebra mussels reach adulthood.

Young zebra mussels are small and free swimming, and can be easily spread by water currents. Older zebra mussels attach themselves to hard surfaces by an external organ called a byssus, which consists of many threads. The mussels may attach to boats, pilings, water-intake pipes, and other hard surfaces, as well as to crayfish, turtles, other zebra mussels, and native mollusks. While zebra mussels can attach themselves securely, they may also move, and can reattach themselves easily if dislodged by storms.

Zebra mussels upset ecosystems, threaten native wildlife, damage structures, and cause other serious problems. Millions of dollars are spent each year in attempting to control these small but numerous mollusks.

Below is a photo of many Zebra Mussels in Lake Michigan.

Here is information about Zebra Mussels in the Great Lakes region.

Here is Sea Grant’s National Aquatic Nuisance Species Clearinghouse.

In the early 1990’s, I took a tour of the main plant of the Cincinnati Waterworks.

The man giving the tour, an official with the water works, talked about the threat of Zebra Mussels plugging up the water intake pipes.

I said to him ” If only we could communicate with them.”

I thought it was a funny enough line.

The waterworks man did not appear to think it was funny. 

Here is the link to the Cincinnati Waterworks. You can click under features on the right of homepage for a history of the waterworks.

April 12, 2008 Posted by | Books, Cincinnati | , , , , , | 6 Comments