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Top Vermont Art Teacher Sets Up Blog

Top Vermont art teacher, and maybe the leading art teacher in the United States, Kim Corey of Montpelier, Vermont, has set up a blog. It is called ArtTechie. Art Techie was recently linked to by the blog of the Vermont Art Teacher’s Association.

( Above is the painting Indian Summer, Vermont. This is a work by Willard Leroy Metcalf . Mr. Metcalf lived 1858-1925.)  

Ms. Corey teaches art for K through Grade 8 students in Montpelier. 

Good work, Ms. Corey.

Ms. Corey, a cousin of this blogger, is, as is this blogger, descended from those who stepped off the Mayflower. Also, it has been claimed that we are descended from Sir Isaac Newton.

Don’t tell the rabble, but Ms. Corey and I know we are Blue Bloods at core.

September 24, 2008 Posted by | Art, Blogging | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dry Cleaner Loses Three Days Wages Due To Hurricane—Where Is Her Bailout?

My dry cleaner told me that she a few days of wages after Hurricane Ike because her shop was closed due to a lack of power. And, also, because the owners of the shop decided not to pay her.

Many people in Houston and in other areas affected by Hurricane Ike have lost wages due to the storm.  ( Some benefits are in fact available to people in this circumstance. Though they will not make up all lost wages. Also, most people will not, in all likelihood, be aware of such benefits.)

The dry cleaner is a hard working employee who makes sure people’s clothes are clean. When she told me she was not being paid for missed hurricane days, I immediately thought of the giant Wall Street Bailout currently under debate in Washington.

I, regretfully, support the bailout is some form. Here is a liberal take on the issue from The American Prospect. And another liberal view from The Nation. Here is coverage of the bailout from The Huffington Post.

A big problem with it all, beyond the people we are bailing out, is that you can’t trust anything that comes from President Bush’s team and you can barely trust Democrats to protect the interests of average folks.

The whole thing is a big racket and people on every side of the ideological divide see it as such.  We might well save the global economy from collapse—so we are being told—but nothing here is going to make the lives of people across the country better than it was before this 700 billion dollar taxpayer financed deal.

We see that when the big guys fall they are picked up. When most working people take a fall they are not just left to pick themselves up, there is often somebody around kicking them while they are down.

September 23, 2008 Posted by | Houston, Politics, Texas | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Harris County Republicans Fail To Prevent Hurricanes

The Houston Chronicle recently ran a story about the post Hurricane Ike campaign hiatus in Harris County. It seems that because we had a hurricane, most candidates for Harris County office are afraid to run negative ads or campaign aggressively. 

I’m not sure why they see a problem. One-third of people still don’t have power, and many who do have not had cable TV service restored. Who would see the ads?

This is, I suppose, good political sense by the candidates. People want to hear about when they are getting power back and when the debris will picked up off the curbside.

Still, so many people in Harris County live in day-to-day disaster conditions. They lived this way before any hurricane. Negative ads are run all the time when people are suffering. I guess the issue here is that it is not just the poor who are suffering. It’s people who matter to politicians having the hard time, so the suffering has to be acknowledged.

Let me get the ball roiling on the attack ads in Harris County. If this turns out to be a terrible nasty campaign, I want some credit. 

Since Tropical Storm Allison and Hurricane Ike took place while Republicans were in control of Harris County Government, it seems that Republicans are unable to protect hard working tax paying Harris County residents from punishing tropical weather. Just look at the picture above to see the damage these storms do to Houston.

If storms continue in Harris County after Democrats win control of county government in 2008, it will be because of weather patterns left by the previous county administration.

Both sides to to get with the program and start with the attacks. Imagine the relief voters will feel when they see all is truly back to normal after Hurricane Ike.

September 23, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Houston, Politics | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Just One Republican U.S. House Member Left From New England—Let Us Hope He Is Defeated In 2008

There is only one Republican U.S. House member left from New England. There are a total of 22 House members from New England. The six New England states are Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

This is the Texas Liberal Election Fact of the Day. 

The remaining offending House member is Christopher Shays (Photo above) of Connecticut’s Fourth District. Mr. Shays was first elected in 1987.

This district includes both affluent New York City suburbs and struggling urban centers such as Bridgeport.

Like you and I as individuals, this district is your proverbial study in contrasts. 

In some cases, it may be best to keep at least a few Republicans around. For example, a city council with only Democrats may suggest that all the Republicans have move to the suburbs. A state legislature with one party in longterm total control may make that state legislature an even greater den of corruption. ( I don’t have the highest view of state governments.)

In this case though, the U.S. House won’t be running out of Republicans anytime soon and turncoat U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman can plead for Connecticut among Republicans.

So let’s hope Mr. Shays is defeated.

Running against Mr. Shays is Democrat Jim Himes. Mr. Himes is given a good chance of winning the seat.

The last time one party had full control of the New England House delegation was after the election of 1864. Republicans held all 27 New England seats between for the term completed between 1865 and 1867.

Here is some good information on the election of 1864.

Republicans dominated New England from the Civil War up until the Depression. From the Depression until the 1960’s, the area was somewhat more balanced. Southern New England, more urban, industrial and Catholic, had many Democratic voters. Northern New England stayed, for the most part, with Republicans.

Since the ’60’s, New England has moved more firmly to the Democrats. The Southern/Sunbelt social conservative bent of the modern Republican party has been a turnoff to voters in all six New England states.

(Below is a 1911 scene from Stamford, Connecticut. This is a city in Mr. Shay’s district.) 

September 22, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Election Fact Of The Day, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

People Who Should Know Better Who Won’t Vote For Obama Because He Is Black

There have been some recent articles and polls suggesting that some union members and some Democrats are hesitant to vote for Barack Obama because he is black.

Though here is a contrasting view.

If some unknown number of union members and Democrats don’t want to vote for Barack Obama because he is black—Well, that is a decision that people are going to have to make. I just know that I’d rather lose the election than not have nominated a black candidate because of his race. 

I’m not talking here about consistent Republican voters. I’m talking about people who most often pull the correct lever on Election Day.

If after 40 years of voting for George Wallace, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and the Bushes, some blue collar voters still don’t get the idea that these people are not helpful for average working folks, then good luck to them in finding a future for themselves and their kids.

If cultural issues such as guns and gays are the most important things to these voters, that is a call they are free to make. I know the issue here is not God because Barack Obama is a fully believing Christian.

Every election of my adult life–I’m 41– has been about the same stuff. And our national life just seems to get worse and worse.   

I’m hopeful good sense and optimism will prevail and that Senator Obama will win this election.  But win or lose, maybe we need to look at some new options to make our lives better. 

How about a liberal only open-enrollment health plan? Or a liberals only credit union for car loans and college loans? There are millions of us. Enough to make grand plans work. We could work it out so that our organizations donate some amount of fees and dues to liberal causes. Discounts could be offered if you could show proof of a donation to liberal candidates or reliable voting in Democratic primaries.

I’ve wasted enough of my life waiting for people who should know better to come around. I’m not giving up on people. But this is one of those times when we are really going to see what is in some people’s hearts.

September 22, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Political History | , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Personal Bankruptcy More Difficult—Giant Bailouts Of Banks And Big Firms Okay

I’m not going to pretend I understand all the ins and outs of this most recent financial meltdown.

(Below is Three Mile Island where a meltdown was also avoided.)

I don’t need to know all the details to get the drift of who gets bailed out and who does not.

In 2005, a bill was passed and signed by the President that made it more difficult for Americans to declare personal bankruptcy. Click the link to see how Joe Biden and Harry Reid voted the wrong way.

( Below is the King’s Bench Prison which was used as a debtor’s prison in 19th century London.) 

Here is more on Senator Biden’s support for the bankruptcy bill and on the kind of person who is left with no option but to file for bankruptcy. Some good news is that Barack Obama has at least mentioned that bankruptcy laws need to be changed for the better. John McCain has offered no relief for average people. 

We are told that the institutions being bailed out are “to big to fail.” I guess that means everybody else is not big enough to matter.  

I’m not suggesting these most recent bailouts are the wrong idea. It seems we were just a few days from a real panic. Nancy Pelosi’s insistence that their be more regulation of Wall Street as part of any bailout seems prudent.

( Below is a crowd that assembled outside the New York Stock Exchange after the 1929 Crash. I guess today we might just text each other.) 

Yet I’ll also say that a lot of well-educated, well-paid folks who made bad business decisions, engaged in predatory lending practices, and bought into a lousy system of finance must be getting bailed out. At the same time, more average folks and poor folks are getting nothing but trouble.

It is stuff like this why people are so unwilling to trust government, even when it is government that is the most likely source of possible solutions to big social and economic problems.

September 21, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, History | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Recovery As An Act Both Of Rebuilding & Imagination —After Hurricane Ike Post #4

It’s evident enough to anybody in Houston that what we will narrowly define as “recovery” is still some weeks away from being completed. The restoration of power, cleaning of debris, and repair of homes and business places will be an involved process. 

( Above–Conditions as they were one week ago)  

For many school kids however, the gig may be up. Houston schools and the large suburban Cypress-Fairbanks school district will at least be partially open on Monday. The snow days I got as a kid were better than hurricane days I’d say. The snow would melt with little enough damage to people’s homes and lives.

In Houston, many traffic lights are still out or blinking red. Conversations I overhear on the street or in restaurants are still about who has power and who does not. Power may be on in a home, but the cable TV might still be out. 

Reports today from the island nation of Haiti show the effects of this year’s tropical storms and hurricanes, including Ike, on this poor part of the world. Floods have washed away much of the crops.

While most in Houston have taken the effects of Hurricane Ike in good stride, I wish we had the ability to better place events and problems in the fullest possible context. I say this about myself as well. We often don’t have much sense at all about what is a real problem and what is just a hassle.

In Galveston, of course, conditions are much worse than just a hassle.

At the top of this post I said we will likely use what I term a “narrow” definition of recovery to describe efforts to help Houston, Galveston, and other communities impacted by Ike. I say this because so much work was already needed in our communities to make the Houston area a more decent place to live.

I can’t place much trust in the same leaders and in the same civic structure, such as it is in Houston, that has so often been nowhere to be found when people need help.  

It would be great to see in upcoming weeks potential candidates for Mayor of Houston in next year’s election, such as Peter Brown and Annise Parker, outline a vision for Houston that helps people move away from being one bad hurricane away from economic and personal disaster. We know that before any hurricane, many in our area lived in what might as well be termed disaster conditions of poverty and hopelessness.

In Galveston, rebuilding must involve all people. It can’t be about just those who can build new and bigger homes more suitable to a weekend community. People are going to need a better Galveston for everyday living.

Recovery is about the needed work to fix things that are broken and blown away. It is also about the imagination required to help make our area better than what it was before the storm.

September 20, 2008 Posted by | Galveston, Houston, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Third Party Candidates Who Carried A State In A Presidential Election

The following are third party candidates for President who have carried a state in a Presidential Election since after the Civil War.   

This is part of the Texas Liberal Election Fact of the Day series.

1892—Populist candidate James Weaver of Iowa ( photo above) won Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Nevada and North Dakota. Mr. Weaver won 8.5% of the entire vote. Democrat Grover Cleveland of New York won the election. 

1912—Bull Moose Theodore Roosevelt of New York carried California, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Washington. Mr. Roosevelt was also the last third party candidate to finish ahead of a major party nominee. Incumbent President and Republican nominee William Howard Taft of Ohio finished third in 1912. Democrat Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey won the election. In 1912, Mr. Wilson won 42%, Mr. Roosevelt 27%, Mr. Taft 23 % and Socialist Eugene V. Debs of Indiana took 6%.

1924—Progressive Robert La Follette,Sr ( photo below) won his home state of Wisconsin. Mr. La Follette won 17% of the full national vote. Calvin Coolidge of Massachusetts won the election.

1948—Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond of South Carolina carried Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. Mr. Thurmond won 2.4% overall. He was not on most ballots outside the South. Harry Truman of Missouri won the election.

1968—George Wallace of Alabama won Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi. Mr. Wallace won 13% of the nationwide total. Richard Nixon of California won the election.

Winning a state in a Presidential election is hard to accomplish. Ross Perot was unable to do so in 1992 even while winning 19% of the vote. Third party candidates must have some of concentrated regional appeal, as did Mr. Weaver, Mr. Thurmond and Mr. Wallace. Or maybe they just have to be Theodore Roosevelt.

( I’d suggest Texas Liberal readers check out the links to Weaver, Debs and La Follette. They were progressive and interesting figures.)

No third party seems likely to win a state in 2008.

September 19, 2008 Posted by | Election Fact Of The Day, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Much Of Houston And Galveston Was Disaster Area Before Hurricane

Plenty of areas in Houston and Galveston were already economic disaster zones before Hurricane Ike arrived.

We declare places as disaster zones when a hurricane or a tornado comes around, but what about folks who live in disaster conditions each and every day?

The most recent statistics I can find, from the Census Bureau in 2000, reported that 19% of people in Houston lived in poverty. One-fifth of all people. That means that a much larger number of people were, and are still today, just geting by.

In Galveston, the poverty number was 22.3% of all people in 2000. 

Poverty rates in Houston and Galveston were above poverty numbers for Texas and the nation as a whole. 

It’s not just “recovery” we need to be hearing about from our so-called civic leaders. We also need to hear about ideas for real improvements in the day-to-day quality of life for people who live in the Houston/Galveston area.

A focus of attention should be how Galveston is rebuilt. All people must be welcomed back and not just the more prosperous. Galveston should remain a city where people live and work, and not become just a place of second homes and weekend residents.

September 19, 2008 Posted by | Galveston, Houston | , , , | Leave a comment

Donations To Assist Folks Impacted By Hurricane Ike

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, I’ve made donations to the United Way of Greater Houston and the American Red Cross.

I don’t say this to make me out as a great person, I’d just like to please remind people that many in Houston and Galveston are going to need help for a long time. 

The United Way of Greater Houston has established a United Way Hurricane Recovery Fund.  A number of social service agencies are going to be called upon to help recover from Ike in upcoming weeks and months. United Way efforts will offer long term solutions to problems hurricane victims will confront.

The American Red Cross provides disaster relief that is needed in times of crisis.

Here is a list of places to give help or get help after the hurricane.

September 19, 2008 Posted by | Houston | , , , , | 1 Comment

Wife Is Certain To Realize I Exploded Bowl Of Clam Chowder In Microwave—I Must Now Deflect Her With Positive Clam Chowder Memories

I was making a bowl of clam chowder in the microwave a few minutes ago when I heard a big pop.

The chowder exploded all over the inside of the microwave. 

No matter how well I try to clean this mess, my wife will know what has happened.

My wife, who is the best wife ever, is a kind and forgiving person.

It’s just that I know I’m going to leave some clam bits hanging off the top of the oven and that I won’t come near to getting rid of the clam smell. She has been working very hard today and does not want to come home to a big clam smell.

And I am always making some mess and this just might be all she can take from me. 

Oh no…I just went and made an effort to clean the mess. There is chowder gunk and exploded clams everywhere.

I could try to blame the electric company for restoring our power yesterday after a few days in dark due to the recent hurricane. This would have never happened while we were unable to turn on the microwave.  

But I don’t want to “point fingers” and play the “blame game.” No—I won’t go that route.

Instead, I’m going to remind her of the nice clam chowder she and I ate at the Union Oyster House in Boston just a few months ago. You see above the picture of this famous restaurant. My hope is that by shifting her thoughts to positive clam chowder experiences, I will be able to temper her justifiable consternation at my misdeeds. I’ll remind her that I did not spill or explode any of the clam chowder in Boston.

Those who know the wife and myself might counter that she is no fool and that I am a mess-making wreck.

That’s all true. I’m just hoping she forgets all that and just focuses on the time clam chowder brought us happiness.

September 19, 2008 Posted by | My Wife Is The Best Person Ever | , , , , | 5 Comments

Galveston & Rumors About Galveston—After Hurricane Ike Post # 3

Here is After Hurricane Ike post #3.

Today is the first full day I have power at home. It’s nice to make these posts at home instead of at the Downtown Houston Public Library. Though I very much appreciate the resources available at the library.

Today I was able to buy perishable groceries for the first time in over a week. In the days leading up to the storm I figured that power would be going out. As indeed it did. So I just bought water and granola bars. 

Now I have fruits, vegetables and milk at home. 

Here is the link to the Houston Food Bank.

Many are still without power. Life cannot be more normal again in Houston until people have power. Still, I bet there are some, if just the smallest number, who have used the time without power to renew a relationship, read something they might have never gotten around to reading, or to think out a problem.

Everybody needs power back and I know what a frustration it has been for so many, but I hope that for at least some it has also been an opportunity of a kind.

I got a comment on another post today from someone without power for a few days now in Columbus, Ohio in the aftermath of Ike.

The Houston Chronicle today offered up an unhelpful editorial about the failure of Galveston city leaders to as of yet devise a good plan for evacuated residents to come back and see their homes. As I said yesterday on this blog, Galveston officials seem overwhelmed. They need outside help.

I hope the Governor’s office or somebody with insight into the problems Galveston is facing, has offered assistance to Galveston city leaders. Galveston is a poor city of 50,000 people. They have just the resources and talent that they have. Hurricane Ike is a disaster of a scope beyond what Galveston on its own can manage.

Fellow Houston blogger Brains & Eggs has posted about rumors of many bodies being washed out to sea from Galveston and Bolivar Peninsula. I don’t believe these rumors. Some maybe died this way. But not hundreds or thousands.

Here is a report on how bad things are in Galveston right now.

Another Houston blogger, Julie Pippert, wonders about pollution from swamped refineries and chemical plants that may have sludged into Galveston Bay as a result of the storm.  

Julie, of course, is crazy. I recall all the ads on TV a few years ago saying how expansion of the Port of Houston would enhance the environment. All that ship traffic is good for the water. I say that whatever ends up in Galveston Bay is for the best. Mankind will be gone soon enough and Galveston Bay will have millions of years to recover.

Below is Bolivar Peninsula after Hurricane Ike.  

September 18, 2008 Posted by | Galveston, Houston, Texas | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Misguided People Of Kansas Have Not Elected Democrat To The Senate Since 1932

It will distress you, though likely not shock you, to know that Kansas has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1932.

This is the Texas Liberal Election Fact of the Day. This is a new feature I will post each day I’m  so inclined between now and Election Day.

Direct Election of United States Senators—meaning election by the public instead of selection by state legislatures—began with the enactment of the 17th Amendment in 1913.

In Kansas, the first ever popular election to the Senate was won in 1912 by Democrat William Thompson. Kansas allowed direct election before the Constitution mandated such elections.

A more accurate picture of the political future in Kansas came when Senator Thompson won only 34% in his reelection campaign in 1918.

In 1930, Democrat George McGill ( Picture Above) won a special election fill the term of Charles Curtis who had been elected in 1928 as Vice President under Herbert Hoover.  

The link for Senator McGill is a 1938 letter to the editor of Time Magazine article about the Senator. From the letter– 

In the Senate: Balddomed, small chinned, doleful and dull of mien, Senator McGill has only one conspicuous mannerism—a “haha” which he inexplicably tacks on the end of his infrequent speeches. His voting record is Yes to every Roosevelt proposal: so faithful is he that, along with New Mexico’s Hatch, he tried to launch a substitute Supreme Court bill after the President himself had given up.

Senator McGill was defeated for reelection in 1938 and that was it for Democrats in the Senate from Kansas. No state has gone so long without a Democratic Senator. No state has gone so long shutting out either of the major political parties from the Senate.

Incumbent Republican Kansas Senator Pat Roberts is seeking another term this year and is the strong favorite to win.

The people of Kansas are deeply confused on the question of who would best represent their interests in the United States Senate. They have been confused on this question for very many years now.

September 18, 2008 Posted by | Election Fact Of The Day, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Four Days After Hurricane Ike, Our Electricity Is Back

Four days after Hurricane Ike we have electricity back at home. Please see above the hallway in our home. (We live in a bunker. Don’t you?) We won’t trip and fall down the stairs so much now that all those lamps are working again.

( Here is information about electricity.)

Below is an illustration of night becoming day. From four days without power, our internal rhythms had already reverted to this more basic measuring of time.

In fact, I regressed a great deal over the four days.  

No problems though. If you’re lucky enough not to have been fully wiped out by Hurricane Ike, civilization, as we loosely define it in Houston, will be back up and running in just a couple of weeks.

If you would like to make a donation for disaster relief, here is the web home of the American Red Cross.

September 18, 2008 Posted by | Houston | , , , , | 6 Comments

Galveston & Mayor White—After Hurricane Ike Post #2 From Downtown Houston Library

Some observations about Hurricane Ike and its impact on Houston and Galveston in the 31 minutes I have left on the computer at the Houston Downtown Public Library. Many people are at the terminals and others are waiting in line to use the computers.   

( Sorry for the absence of links here. Don’t have the time in this setting.)

The wife and I are now at five days without power since Ike. The wife and I and hundreds of thousands of others in and around Houston are without power. While I have little trust in the electric company,( or in the cable company or the phone company,) I do believe they are doing their best to restore power. In any case, the absence of power is a small burden in relation to the problems others have in Galveston and elsewhere.

It’s a small burden in relation to the problems people have around the world everyday.

It seems clear that officials in Galveston are over-matched by the task of letting folks back on the island to see their homes. The failure to order a mandatory evacuation in good time is an issue voters in Galveston can address later. For now, the Governor’s office or some wise man or wise woman should offer help to Galveston city officials to work this problem out. It felt yesterday that they were pretty much fending for themselves. They have so much work to do. They need some outside guidance.

I’m still waiting to pass a more solid judgement on FEMA. Though I don’t understand why the FEMA Director and the Homeland Security Secretary have not been here 24/7. Houston Mayor Bill White has clearly not been happy with some of FEMA’s early efforts. Though the Mayor has his own agenda of a statewide run in the next few years and his words and deeds must be viewed through the prism of his own ambitions. The Mayor surely does not want to be blamed for a poor hurricane response.

Houston and the Houston- area have so many poor people all the time. I guess it takes a disaster for their needs to be seen as meriting swift action. A disaster and the fact that many others have big problems at the same time. You can be certain that these folks will be forgotten again soon enough. It will take more than people volunteering to cut down a neighbor’s fallen tree limbs to give a more complete sense of community to this city.

It would be great to see so-called civic leaders and alleged community leaders and self-professed religious leaders call now for a kind of reconstruction of our city and its everyday acceptance of poverty and inequality. Just as we can we can rebuild structures, we can also change our minds and see a new and better city. 

Let’s also make sure we don’t forget the good folks in Beaumont, Orange, Bridge City and other places that took a hit from Ike. 

My time is running out. (In so many respects!) In the immediate sense my time is running out on this computer. Thanks for reading Texas Liberal and good luck.

September 17, 2008 Posted by | Galveston, Houston, Politics, Texas | , , , , , , | 2 Comments