Texas Liberal

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A Poem Called Consent

Here is a poem I wrote called Consent 

How Pompeii accepted Vesuvius,

How Johnstown accepted the flood,

How dinosaurs accepted asteroid impacts,

Is how I accept

The judgements and actions of the majority.

May 22, 2008 Posted by | Poetry, Politics | , , | Leave a comment

Memorial Day History & Links

In 2011, Memorial Day is Monday, May 30.

Here is some history on the origins of Memorial Day and, also, links appropriate for Memorial Day

( We’ve been fighting wars for a long time. Above is an engraving by Amos Doolittle of  the Battle of Lexington and Concord in 1775.)

Here is a brief explanation of the origins of Memorial Day—

Memorial Day originated in 1868, when Union General John A. Logan designated a day in which the graves of Civil War soldiers would be decorated. Known as Decoration Day, the holiday was changed to Memorial Day within twenty years, becoming a holiday dedicated to the memory of all war dead. It became a federal holiday in 1971, and is now observed on the last Monday in May.

Here is a much more detailed explanation.

The American death toll in Afghanistan recently passed 1000. Here are pictures of each of the dead along with their ages and hometowns.

(This representation of a disagreement between Tecumseh and William Henry Harrison is a reminder that sometimes U.S. troops were called upon to do harm to the native population. Tecumseh died in the War of 1812.)

Here is a list of minor and major wars in American history.

Here are numbers of American dead and wounded in our wars.

Here is the article that broke the story of mistreatment of veterans at Walter Reed Hospital. We say we care about our veterans, but that does not always appear to be the case.

Here is the Veterans of Foreign Wars home page.

Here is Iraq Body Count. This organization counts the number of Iraqis killed in the Iraq War. All people have equal value.

( Both a strong military and a strong resistance against going to war are important aspects of democracy. )

Here is the activist group Peace Action.

Here is a list of Medal of Honor winners for great bravery in American wars.

Here is information on women in American wars.

Here is the National Association of Black Veterans.

(Henry Hulbert, below, was a winner of the Medal of Honor in WW I.)

Here is information on the Revolutionary War.

Here is information on the War of 1812.

Here is information about the Civil War. (Photo below is of dead Union soldier.)

Here is information on World War I.

Here is information on World War II.

Here is information about the Korean War.

Here is information on the Vietnam War.

Here is information about the War in Iraq.

Here in an article from Salon about possible American war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.

War crimes take place in all wars and are committed by all sides. It is not a contradiction to acknowledge this fact and still respect the great majority who served honorably. At the same time, it is disrespectful to the concepts of democracy and human rights to ignore these facts.

The National World War II Memorial in Washington is excellent to visit.

As is the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington.

And the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

I called my father from the Korean War Memorial and asked him about the historical accuracy of how the troops were sculpted. He said based on my descriptions, it was an accurate portrayal. ( Photo below)

I’ve been able to visit Punchbowl Cemetery in Honolulu. Many of our dead from wars in the Pacific are buried here. This is one of the most important and impressive locations you can visit in Honolulu.

I’ve also visited Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.

I once toured the Normandy American Cemetery and Monument near Omaha Beach in France.

Below is Arlington National Cemetery. I was fortunate to once visit Arlington on Memorial Day weekend and see the American flags at each gravestone.

Without people willing to die to protect the freedom of others, I would not be able to express my views in this blog post.  Without such people, none of us would be able to enjoy the day-to-day freedoms we often take for granted.

May 21, 2008 Posted by | History | , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Alaska In The 2008 Presidential Election—Views, Facts & History

Alaska, though in many ways a creature of the federal government, is a strong Republican state in Presidential elections.

Alaska is very likely to vote Republican again in 2008.

( Above is a section of the Alaska Pipeline. Click here to learn about the Alaska Pipeline.) 

The roads and railroads of Alaska come from the federal government. There is a significant military presence in Alaska and that is the federal government as well.

But Alaskans resent federal restrictions on land use in Alaska and limits on oil drilling in Alaska.

The premise seems to be that 670,000 people occupying 16% of the nation’s land should have full control over the national resources that exist in Alaska. 

Another significant factor in the Republican leanings of Alaska is the libertarian bent of many Alaskans. 

In 1980, Libertarian nominee Ed Clark won 11.7% is Alaska. This is the best statewide showing ever by a Libertarian.

   

It’s not hard to figure that anybody willing to live in a distant place like Alaska is somebody who wants to live as they see fit.

Okay.

But do these folks refuse the money coming from Washington?

Nope–They want the money

(Wouldn’t it be great to get a few hundred thousand of your most screwball friends together and be allowed to select two United States Senators and get billions of dollars of federal money?)   

With only three electoral votes, far away from much else, and almost certain to go Republican, Alaska may not be heard from much in the 2008 Presidential election. 

About Alaska—

2006 Population—671,000, 48th of the 50 states, 68% white, 15% Native, 4% Asian, 4% Hispanic, 3% black. 

Here is basic information and history for Alaska.

Recent Winners—2004 G.W Bush–61%, 2000–G.W Bush 59%, 1996–Dole 51%, 1992–G.H. W. Bush 40%, 1988–G.H.W Bush 60% 

( The first Bush won with only 40% in 1992 because Ross Perot won 28%. Alaska was Mr. Perot’s best state in 1992. It was also Ralph Nader’s best state in 2000. Mr Nader won 10% of the vote.)

Last (And Only) Democrat To Carry Alaska—Lyndon Johnson, 1964. ( 1960 was the first time Alaska voted in a federal election.) 

Presidents From Alaska—None  

Vice Presidents From Alaska—None

Significant Presidential General Election Candidates From Alaska—None

The Alaska Report has a lot of news and perspective on Alaska

Barrow ( Photo below.) is the northernmost town in America. 4,500 people live in Barrow. Click here to learn about this town.

May 20, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, History, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Galveston Elects Council Members Wary Of Development

Voters in Galveston, Texas have elected three new city council members who are hesitant about unrestricted growth on the island. 

Click here to see what to do on a visit to Galveston.

Click here for some history of Galveston.

From the Houston Chronicle article on the election

Developers on Galveston Island are wary of three newly elected controlled-growth advocates to the City Council who are calling for regulations to protect wetlands and ban construction on rapidly eroding beaches.

” ‘Interesting’ is going to be a good word for this,” said Gregg Harrington, Chamber of Commerce president. “We know it’s a slate of controlled growth, so that’s going to present some challenges to developers.”

Opposition to unfettered development was the key to the election last week of the new councilwomen — Elizabeth Beeton, Susan Fennewald and Karen Mahoney. They rode to electoral victory on a wave of public outrage over the City Council’s decision to approve the largest development ever proposed on the island.

Many in Galveston live in the vicinity of the white symbol in the middle of the picture.

Galveston is 57,000 people on that little sand spit of an island, holding on against hurricanes coming from one direction, and developers who care about money only from the other direction.   

Yet, wary as I am of developers, I did note in the article that it was a low turnout election. (That’s about the only kind we have here in Texas.) I wonder if there exists on the island a number of people doing reasonably well who don’t anything to change.

It’s a matter for the people of Galveston to resolve for themselves. And you can be sure developers would build anything they could get away with regardless of erosion and other environmental issues.

Still, I hope the newly configured city council has some ideas for Galveston’s large number of citizens who could stand some economic help.

May 20, 2008 Posted by | Galveston, Politics, Texas | , , | Leave a comment

U.S. House Democratic Leadership & House Hispanic Caucus—A Two Way Street

U.S. Representative Joe Baca of California, chair of the House Hispanic caucus, is telling the Democratic House leadership to address immigration issues in a meaningful way, or risk alienating Hispanic voters.

The Houston Chronicle story suggests that this sentiment is echoed by other House Hispanics and by Hispanic leaders outside of elected office.

Congressman Baca represents San Bernardino and surrounding areas.

You can’t blame these folks. Democrats specialize is taking minority votes for granted. Hispanics have every reason to fear being used based on how the Democratic Party treats Black voters.

It’s little different from how Republicans use rural voters.

But, of course, this is a two way street. ( Above is a two way street sign from Japan.)

The House leadership could tell Hispanic Congressman that it’s time to generate some turnout in their districts, and to work hard to cultivate a deep bench of Hispanic politicians for the battles ahead. 

Congressman Baca says Democrats want to do ” what’s easy, not what’s right” on immigration.

No doubt Mr. Baca is correct.

A way Mr. Baca and the Hispanic Caucus could show commitment to the broad platform of human and civil rights that immigration policy is part of, would be to work in California to urge Hispanics to reject efforts to appeal to prejudice in the recent California gay marriage ruling.  

Opponents of gay marriage intend to place a referendum on this issue on the California ballot this fall. The New York Times reports sponsors of the ban hope Hispanics will vote heavily against gay marriage.

I know this is all crazy.

Democratic leaders regarding minority voters as something more than a never-ending fountain of support that merits little in return?

Minority legislators seeking to expand participation in their districts in a way that might challenge their fiefdoms?

People speaking out for justice in all regards instead of looking the other way at their own prejudices?

You must think I’m on LSD as I write this post. You must think I’m seeing something like the image below instead of the world as it is.  

I’m not on LSD though—Never touch the stuff.

I’m just saying how it could be if people would get with the program. 

May 19, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Immigration, Politics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

War Hero Dorie Miller

The above poster is of Dorie Miller.

Here is what it says about Mr. Miller in Portrait of a Nation–Men and Women Who Have Shaped America

” At the outbreak of World War II, the armed services practiced a rigid discrimination against African Americans that included a stubborn reluctance to acknowledge black capabilities, no matter how obvious. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Miller was stationed there on the West Virginia. ….By the time he abandoned ship, he had braved enemy fire to carry his wounded commanding officer to safety and, thought not trained for combat, had manned an antiaircraft gun, possibly downing at least one enemy plane. His bravery initially went unrecognized, however, and only after much pressure from the nation’s black press did Miller finally receive the Navy Cross. But once acknowledged, Miller’s heroism became a means, through posters such as this one, for rallying African-Americans to the war effort.”

Mr. Miller was killed when the ship he serving on was sunk in 1943. This was in the Battle of Tarawa.

Mr. Miller grew up in Waco, Texas.

A navy ship was named after Mr. Miller in 1973.

Here is additional information on Cook Third Class Miller from the the Navy Department’s Naval Historical Center .

The artist of the poster above was David Stone Martin who lived 1913-1992.

Mr. Martin drew posters, magazine covers and album covers. This link to the blog LP Cover Lover is of many creative covers Mr. Stone drew for jazz albums.

The Portrait of a Nation book is first-rate. It was produced by the National Portrait Gallery.

May 18, 2008 Posted by | History | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Poem Called Endings

Here is a poem I wrote called Endings

At the end of a dictatorship

Statues of rulers are pulled off pedestals. 

At the end of a democracy

The individual is placed on a pedestal.

At the end of a dictatorship

Walls are torn down.

At the end of a democracy

Gates and walls are built

For people to live behind. 

May 18, 2008 Posted by | Poetry | , | Leave a comment

Photo Of Grounded Golden Arches

Here is a picture I took in Cincinnati last month of the McDonald’s golden arches brought low.

This was in the East Walnut Hills neighborhood of Cincinnati.

Taking this picture, I imagined that the people of this community had finally become enraged they were being poisoned with the unhealthful Big Macs and McRibs sold at the McDonalds.

I imagined the people had come and torn down the golden arches.

Sadly, I don’t think this was the case.

Here is a review of the book Fast Food Nation which discusses the fast food industry.  It is not a fully flattering picture.

Here is the Fast Food Nutrition Explorer.  It seems that the Hardee’s 2/3 pound bacon Thickburger is not very good for you.

Here is the link to a picture I took last year of a giant Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket. This post gets hits every single day. I’m not sure why, but it does.    

 

May 17, 2008 Posted by | Books, Cincinnati | , , , , | 5 Comments

Texas Political Notes

Here are some Texas notes political and otherwise—

The website of the Harris County Democratic Party still leads off with the good news of the announcement of Bill Kelly as chair of the countywide coordinated campaign. I’m certain he’ll help lead Democrats to victory this fall.

It will be good when some news of events is posted to go along with the $500 a plate breakfast promoted under Mr. Kelly’s appointment. I hope Mr. Kelly gears campaign efforts to as much inclusion as possible.   

The new chair of the Travis County coordinated campaign stated right off the bat  with the goal of registering 50,000 new voters. It will be good to see the goals established by Mr. Kelly.

Two polls now show Texas Democratic Senate candidate Rick Noriega well with in range of incumbent Republican John Cornyn. I feel this is about party preference right now more so than any real insight into Mr. Noriega or Mr. Cornyn.  Many Texans are ready to move on from the Republican Party.

The difference between the forward-looking Mr. Noriega and the deeply right-wing Mr. Cornyn should help sell the change in party identification with Texas voters. Learn more about Mr. Noriega by clicking here.

The Galveston Beach Patrol treated over 100 jellyfish stings last Sunday. I find nature good to read about and watch on TV. I’m scared of it in person. I don’t go in the water at any beach I visit. The water is full of creatures. 

Flooding the area with vinegar where you’ve been stung and being careful in removing the tentacles is important in treating these wounds. Click the link below for more.

Here is some good information about jellyfish from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

May 16, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Galveston, Houston, Politics, Texas | , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Victimized People Possess No Inherent Nobility

The Financial Times reports that some South Africans are brutalizing and running off immigrants from troubled Zimbabwe.

From the story (Here is the full article)— 

Isaac Moyo fled to South Africa from his impoverished and repressive homeland Zimbabwe six years ago. He has carved out a new life as a painter in the Johannesburg township of Alexandra, enabling him, like many other Zimbabwean exiles in South Africa, to send home much-needed money to keep his family going.

But on Monday night his new, more hopeful, life came to an abrupt end when a mob of machete-wielding South Africans yelling xenophobic slogans smashed down the door of his shack and forced him and his three brothers to run for their lives. Clutching a small mirror and a bucket of old clothes, all he could grab with him as he fled, he is now camping at the local police station and planning to return to an uncertain future in Zimbabwe

“We were preparing food [on Monday evening]. Then we started hearing guns and shouts of people celebrating they’d been chasing foreigners back to Zimbabwe,” he said. “They came to our house. They took everything, our bicycles, sewing machines, blankets, saying: ‘You didn’t get this from [President Robert] Mugabe. This is our property.

“They were shouting: ‘Go back to Zimbabwe. We don’t want to see you here. You’re taking our jobs’

I read this while eating lunch today. I just shook my head. You’d figure longtime victims of Apartheid would know better than to harass and attack people.

But the truth of the matter is that down-and-out people and victimized people possess no inherent nobility. 

We saw this in economically messed-up West Virginia this week where many Democratic primary voters openly cited race as a factor in their votes.

Everybody counts in this world. Yet this does not mean we have to romanticize people or patronize people with the idea that suffering brings some sort of wisdom or dignity.

I think sometimes liberals are guilty of this. 

People of all kinds are good and people of all kinds are lousy.

May 16, 2008 Posted by | Immigration, Lousy People, Politics | , , , , , | 2 Comments

John Edwards Was Slower Than This Snail In Endorsing A Candidate

Former Presidential candidate John Edwards has finally endorsed someone for President.

Glad he could find the time.  

He endorsed Barack Obama.

I mention who he endorsed in the third paragraph of this post because the real story is that Mr. Edwards endorsed anybody at all.  

The race is was already pretty much over.

Mr. Edwards was slower than the above pictured snail in making his endorsement.

Why not have made the choice when it was hard instead of when the nomination seems to be a done deal?

Here is some good information on snails.

May 15, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Politics | , , , , | 13 Comments

Classic Landscape Is A Good Painting Of A Giant Auto Factory

The painting above is called Classic Landscape. It was painted by Charles Sheeler in 1931.

What is portrayed here is the massive Ford River Rouge plant in Michigan.

Here is how the painting is discussed in American Art And Architecture by Michael Lewis—

“….at the end of 1927…Ford unveiled the new Model A…to riotous crowds. Ford carefully planned its advertising campaign, engaging Charles Sheeler to photograph the complex at River Rouge where it was manufactured. His role was purely that of a  commerical artist but the immensity of the site and factory overwhelmed him. Sprawling over 1,100 acres, it had a sense of colossal scale like that of the Egyptian pyramids or the cathedrals of medieval Europe. And like those monuments, the factories seemed to embody physically the great social forces of the age….He soon began to make paintings based on his photographs, imitating not only their compositions but their photographic character: their crispness…and..abstract geometric forms in almost airless space….adopted the values of the machine—clarity, precision, razor edges, and clean form. (This) became known as Precisionism, the leading school of American realism in the art of the 1920’s and 1930’s. ”

I like Classic Landscape, though I find it a bit dry. It does indeed have the “values of the machine.” While I would enjoy seeing this painting in a museum, I think it would depress me if I owned it and saw it all the time.

I think we do best when we are only as precise as we must be. Not in terms of honesty, but in terms of conveying the right facts within the larger context to best explain the issue at hand.

A measure of symbolism in this painting, such as some hint of movement, might have suggested this was an auto plant.

The railroad track is a suggestion of movement, yet the tracks seem abandoned. Nothing is moving.

The clouds and shadows also imply movement. But the clouds are gray and motionless. And the shadows are reflecting off the landscape created by the factory.

The idea could be that the factory is the mover of things and not part of an interconnected world. Since there are no people or animals in the painting, it’s almost as if the factory created itself and now directs the world according to it’s own plan.

Yet the natural world, people, and, in modern times, machines, all help make the world. At least they do for the brief time human beings will be on the Earth.

If I had artistic talent, I would paint a picture suggesting harmony.

Not harmony in the sense of everything moving towards the same end or goal, but rather the measure of harmony I feel we can discern in the controlled disorder of our world, universe and all existence.

These things said, Classic Landscape is a helluva painting by a talented guy.

May 15, 2008 Posted by | Books, Politics | , , , , | 3 Comments

Houston Astros Mark World Food Crisis With All You Can Eat Thursdays

The Houston Astros baseball team has introduced all you can eat Thursdays.

On Thursday home games you can pay $35 and, in addition to a seat, get unlimited hot dogs, nachos, peanuts, popcorn, soda and water.

Maybe this is being done in response to concern by the team that the rise in gas prices will hurt attendance this year.

Another option the Astros could consider is allowing fans to bring their own food in the stadium. This would lower the cost of going to a game. Other teams allow outside food.

In any case, this new offer is disgusting.

And meanwhile, much of the world is being impacted by increases in the price of food.

I’m not suggesting we poison the world with stadium food. Or that a person eating a meal of four hot dogs and three trays of nachos is denying a hungry person in Cameroon a meal of hot dogs and nachos.    

But what if the Astros donated $1 from each ticket on All You Can Eat Day to world food relief efforts? 

This would at least acknowledge that some people don’t have access to things like All You Can Eat Thursdays.

Above you see a picture of the world’s longest hot dog. Maybe instead of many hot dogs, All You Can Eat customers could be served a four or five foot long hot dog.   

Below is a picture of Zam Zam Cola. This brand is produced in Canada and is popular in Iran and in parts of the Arab world. I will have a Zam Zam with my five foot hot dog.    

May 14, 2008 Posted by | Houston, Texas | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Clear Communication In A Complex World Is Excellent

I recently listened to a song called Mamavtu by a singer named Susheela Raman that has the following lyrics— 

Saraswati

you who reside in the temple of Kamakoti

rescue me

bearing lotus and veena

in your beautiful hands

you give truth to speech

your feet are worshipped by Emperors and kings

your eyes are as wild as Rajiva flowers

and your beauty bewitches.

Garlanded with gems

you fulfill the desires of the good

Indra himself bows down before you

I, Vasudeva, am your servant

for you are the divine word in its essence. 

I like these lyrics for two reasons.

The first reason is that they are clear and direct.

The ability to communicate in a clear and direct fashion in a complex world is excellent.  

Communicating in such a way is something we all have the ability to do with the application of some discipline and thought.

The most complex, simple and important things are always within the grasp of all people.

Direct communication is a complex, simple and important thing. 

Complexity and simplicity are kindred.

How can we grasp difficult things if they are not communicated in a way we can understand?

This is a task of someone trying to reach others—The communication of difficult ideas in an accessible manner. 

The other thing I liked about the song was that though the lyrics are straightforward, I had to do some research to see what they meant. 

Saraswati is the Hindu Goddess of music, knowledge and the arts. That is her pictured above.

A veena is the instrument she is holding.

Indra is the king of the Gods. Yet even he bows down before Saraswati.

Direct, simple and complex communication leads people down a path of learning and understanding.

This is the path we need to be following.  

It’s a path open to all. 

Things open to all are the things that are best. 

May 13, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fight Over Design Of Martin Luther King Statue

Chinese artist Lei Yixin is working on the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial. 

Above is a picture of the planned Martin Luther King statue for the Martin Luther King National Memorial on the Mall in Washington.

(Here is my Martin Luther King Reading & Reference List. It is the best list of its kind on the web.)

The man you see in the photo is sculptor Lei Yexin.

The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, which must approve all statues for the Mall, has said it does not like the statue.

( Update 5/18/08–Here is a very good New York Times story on this subject. It discusses the King statue and the politics of putting new things on the Mall.)

From a Washington Post story— 

The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts thinks “the colossal scale and Social Realist style of the proposed statue recalls a genre of political sculpture that has recently been pulled down in other countries,” commission secretary Thomas Luebke said in a letter in April…..

It is the second time in recent months that the memorial to the slain civil rights leader has come under fire. Last year, critics complained after a Chinese sculptor known for his monumental works of figures such as Mao Zedong was selected to create King and other elements of the memorial in China.

The $100 million memorial, which is being built largely with private donations by the Washington, D.C., Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, is planned for a crescent-shaped four-acre site among Washington’s famed cherry trees on the northwest shore of the basin. Construction is expected to start this year and end next year.

The centerpiece is to be a 2 1/2 -story sculpture of the civil rights leader carved in a giant chunk of granite. Called the Stone of Hope, it would depict King, standing with his arms folded, looming from the stone. At 28 feet tall, it would be eight feet taller than the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial.

I imagine the statue is not the soft image of Martin Luther King that has become the myth of his life with some. And I do see how the sculpture could be taken as something out of a dictatorship.

Still, I hope that whatever design is finally approved retains some of the discipline, and even harshness, found in King’s message of non-violence and divine review of America’s actions at home and in the world.

I also hope these objections are not a way at getting at the ethnicity of the artist. There has been controversy over the fact that Lei Yexin is Chinese. Martin Luther King would have accepted a sculptor of any race to honor his life’s work.      

May 12, 2008 Posted by | Art, Martin & Malcolm | , , , , | 4 Comments