I’ve been tagged for one of these 25 things about me lists on Facebook. Vanity compels me to comply. I’ve not yet posted this on Facebook. It’s just that I need a blog post for today.
I like Facebook. It’s an easy way to keep in touch with folks. If any of the blog reading public would like to add a friend who is also one of America’s leading bloggers…..well, I can’t help you. But if you’d like to add me, my name in Neil Aquino and I live in Houston. Look me up and I’ll add you on. The more the merrier.
Here we go—
1. Anything good about me, or good in my life, is in large part due to my wife. Anything bad is my doing.
2. I’ve had four clear-cut best friends at points in my life. One is my wife. One was a grade school kid I’ve long lost touch with. One is just beginning the study of Chinese medicine in Portland, Oregon. I still exchange e-mails with her on and off. The final one is the only I can’t have a decent conversation with anymore. I’m appreciative of her friendship at one time in my life, but I don’t regret the inability to converse with her now.
3. Sometimes I wonder if I would be better off giving up the blog and writing a letter to a friend each day. I give a fair amount of thought about the best ways to communicate.
4. I work hard to maintain friendships across the years and across what are now often great distances. I’m mostly successful with this. Yet I have room to do better.
5. When we keep up with friends, I feel we provide our lives with a measure of permanence that offers a rebuttal to death. We are saying there is a source of stability in an existence marked by things moving away from each other. Longstanding relationships also give a greater relevance to the ways we’ve spent our time in life. When you have a friend for a long time, it’s evidence that you made a good decision many years ago.
6. I feel you can define family in anyway you choose.
7. I wish I had the ability to be an artist of some kind. I’d like to be able to paint a picture. I’d paint a picture of people in a way that conveyed who they are. I’m lucky to have seen in person Copley’s painting of Paul Revere in Boston. Below you see that painting. It’s my favorite. In this painting, Mr. Revere is both a worker and a thinker.
8. I wish I had the time in life to be as creative as I feel I could be. I could gain a measure of that time by the better application of self-discipline.
9. I feel that both the material events in our lives, as well as the thoughts that we think, all need context. Nothing exists alone. We need to know what came before and what may come after.
10. I think one can merge the public and private aspects of life in ways that give greater meaning to both. The two should not be divorced from one another.
11. I often wonder how one can combine a strong desire to be alone with a need to communicate. Hopefully, I’m able to do this in a way that is neither (fully) stand-offish or involves being around to much. (Though in truth, I’ve not yet figured this mix out.)
12. I have a good memory. I recall some things with such clarity that I feel the events I’m thinking about are taking place again. This makes me wonder that if man is the measure of all things, than does not the abilty to retain and relive our memories challenge some of our concepts of time? The past is present in our thoughts and as a guide to our future actions.
13. If each morning we could take just a few moments to assess our lives and our goals for the day, that would be an act of creation and imagination we could accomplish each day.
We could create time and time again. We could do so in a way that builds upon what came before, so that even an act of creation comes with context. I want to have the discipline to be able to do this.
14. I’m not convinced our leaders really believe most Americans have a viable economic future. At least in relation to how we have lived before.
15. I’ve never spent a night outdoors and I never will unless forced to do so by a bad turn of events.
16. Just because your life is very good, does not mean it is entirely the life you want. Expressing this thought does not detract from the good things in your life.
17. I’d like to live on an island.
18. I feel at home when with the wife, when at the ocean in Galveston, Texas, when writing, and when reading. I also felt at home when I was at a bar called the Jockey Club in Newport, Kentucky. That place has long been torn down.
19. Much about the practice of politics bores me. I did not like most people I met when I worked in politics. Though the time I spent involved in politics was worth it.
20. I’m proud of the fact that my name has been on the ballot twice. Once as a candidate for Democratic precinct executive a Hamilton County, Ohio. I was the only candidate and won with about 15 votes cast in my little voting precinct. That was, I think, in 1992. I got a certificate of election from the county. In 1997, I ran for the Cincinnati Board of Education and won about 10,000 votes. I finished 9th of 12 with the top four being elected. I was endorsed by Stonewall Cincinnati and by a number of unions. Beyond being glad I had not finished last, I felt that I had done well in the voting.
21. The best non-fiction book I’ve read is S.E. Finer’s three volume history of government. The best novel I’ve read is The Remains Of The Day by Kazuo Ishiguro.
22. I’d like to start volunteering somewhere. I have a place in mind.
23. I’m lucky.
24. I think we can balance a strong and autonomous personality, with the need for collective action in our political lives. What could be better than free citizens making the willing choice to work for common ends?
25. I’ll end where I started—Anything good about me, or good in my life, is in large part due to my wife. Anything bad is my doing
Short on time today. Please enjoy this photo below. It is of people reading the headlines of the newspaper in Brockton, Massachusetts in 1940. The headlines have been posted in the window of the newspaper office.
It’s just like today. They want the news but don’t want to pay for the paper.
The name of the man who took the photo is Jack Delano.
I sometimes find it difficult to take seriously the subjects of Houston City Council, and, also, municipal elections here in Houston. I find it hard to do so for the following reasons–
1. Few Houstonians vote in city elections and given my limited resources of time, I can’t always muster much effort on something people don’t care about and that does not seem to make a big difference in the lives of people of Houston.
2. The six year term limits mean that councilmembers come and go and you really have no idea who they are. They dance around and wait for an empty seat to run for. Just like this game of musical chairs you see below. ( No..I don’t know who those people are.)
3. Despite the fact that so-called Democrats have a majority on the Council, they don’t appear to do anything in a cohesive fashion. Does the caucus have meetings? Have they offered a vision of what they would like to see from the ongoing Texas Legislative session? Or from the Obama stimulus package? Is there any agenda all except the separate agendas of individuals?
At least one Council Democrat, James Rodriguez, will possibly be supporting a Republican for citywide office. What is his agenda? Can we trust Mr. Rodriguez to serve our city well? The verdict is still out.
4. I’ve been voting for Democrats at the municipal level since I was first eligible to vote in 1985. I feel that often they take the votes and offer in little in return in terms of imagination and concern for people who need the most help from government. (Though I’m glad to see that Barack Obama of Chicago is saying he has a focus on urban issues. Maybe that focus will trickle down and offer some new energy to local urban policy makers.)
What got me thinking about the topic of the Houston City Council was a post by Houston blogger Charles Kuffner. Mr. Kuffner’s post dealt with possible candidates for municipal offices in Houston in 2009. ( 50,000 page views this month Charles. I’m getting there.) Mr. Kuffner, who is one of the best sources for these things in Houston, reports various people running for the various offices.
How does the process work? Here’s what I’m seeing—Some political insider, or some person who feels they might be able to access sufficient funds to run a campaign, waits for the right moment and the right opportunity and decides to give it a whirl.
For the average person it is all very nebulous. (Below—A nebula. Click here for information about nebulas.) Where do these folks come from? For what reason are people donating to their campaigns? What political party and beliefs do candidates represent as they hide behind the lie of the so-called “non-partisan” municipal ballot?
What are the candidates and councilmembers themselves thinking?
Maybe they wonder why people don’t care who represents them at City Hall. They could be thinking that if the public does not trust them to serve more than six years, why then should they trust the public?
It might be that council candidates and councilmembers are thinking that with low turnout and term limits the public has, in effect, ceded control of city government to special interests and the personal ambitions of office holders.
In 2009, I’m going to make some effort to listen to what our Houston municipal candidates are saying. I’ll offer my views as we go along. I’ll be looking for a specific agenda, and for some connection between Houston and the big changes and new resources we are seeing in Washington. It won’t be nearly enough that a candidate claims that he or she is a Democrat. That is a road I have been down often before. (Below—An old road not used as much as it once was.)
Democratic majorities in Congress should be as tough on President Barack Obama, as those of us on the left wanted the Republican-led Congress to be tough on former President George W. Bush.
While I support most of what I’m seeing so far from the new President, we can’t forget that we are giving this man a lot of power. President Obama is proposing spending great amounts of money and he is discussing more troops for Afghanistan.
The longer the economic crisis goes on the more power the President will seek to acquire. It is always possible that the new President will seek new powers to fight what he determines are security threats to the nation.
We’ve seen in recent years what happens when Congress looks away from what the President is doing. Just because the President is now Barack Obama instead of George Bush, doesn’t mean we should forget the lessons learned.
My Congressman here in Houston, John Culberson, has said the following about the proposed government stimulus package that will soon be passed in Congress and signed by President Barack H. Obama—
“Redistributing hard-earned tax dollars will do far more to expand the power of the federal government than it will to stimulate the economy,” said Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston. “This legislation is a Trojan horse that liberals are using to ultimately turn America into France, because it contains massive expansion of multiple federal programs that are utterly unrelated to stimulating the economy.”
Well, I sure hope all this is true.
I hope stimulus package dollars are used to build a Trojan Horse such as you see below….
…..And that this horse is filled up with liberals. I hope the commander of the horse is the late House Speaker Tip O’Neill (below) who is brought back to life by Wiccan socialists in a pagan rite also funded by stimulus dollars. It’s time for everybody to get a fair share of the faith-based dollars.
(Here is information about the best biography of Tip O’Neill. It is called Tip O’ Neill and the Democratic Century and was written by John Farrell.)
(Below are Wiccans chanting and casting spells for federal dollars and to bring Tip back to command the liberals in the Trojan Horse. Here is information about the Wicca religion. If you want to join up with them I say more power to you.)
And I hope that the liberals come out of the horse and help turn America into France.
Below is the French city of Calvi. Can we please make America look like this?
The new President and the increased Democratic majorities in Congress are working out even better than I had imagined.
Could anyone in Washington be more useless than my Congressman? So much is going on and going wrong and what he has to offer is liberals turning America into France.
Two days ago I went to the opera with my wife. Though we sat in the very top row of the opera house, the truth is that when I’m with the wife, it is as if I’m sitting in an opera box reserved for a king, a czar, or a grand duke. It makes no difference where we sit. Next to the wife I am in the best seat in the house.
Above you see a picture of the Royal Box at the Teatro Real in Madrid. (This picture was taken by one Andreas Praefcke.) Sitting next to the wife in the top row must be just like sitting in that royal box in Madrid.
What the wife and I saw was an operatic adaptation of A Midsummer’s Night Dream at the Wortham Center here in Houston. I told my wife this was the first time I’d ever been to the opera. Though when we were driving to the show, I recalled that I had once seen an operatic version of Voltaire’s Candide at the Dayton, Ohio opera with a former girlfriend. (Please don’t tell the wife this fact.)
My review of this Houston Opera show is as follows—-There was a great deal of singing and the performers were all in costume. The subtitles shown at the top of the stage were of great help. The wife and I had a fine time and we may well go again.
Here is a history of opera. This history says that opera began in Italy in the early 1600’s.
Below you see a newspaper illustration from 1888. The people in the opera box are quite sophisticated at the performance. But later in the night they get drunk and whoop it up.
I thought Republicans believed that in a time of crisis all Americans should rally around our President. I can recall Republicans who said we had to get behind George W. Bush and all his wars so we could avenge the attacks of September 11, 2001. I might even be able to recall suggestions—subtle and otherwise—that people who did not support George W. Bush were not fully loyal.
Well—This does not seem to be the case for Republicans anymore as President Barack H. Obama works to fight our economic crisis. Where is the Republican message of “country first” that John McCain kept pushing at us for all those months?
I guess supporting our President in these hard times for our nation is not as important as the Republican religion of tax cuts as the cure to every ill, and the Republican fear that a government that helps people will show a path outside of ceaseless brutal competition with each other.
Patriotism is sitautional with Republicans in Congress. That is if loyalty to the nation is what motivated them in the first place after September 11. Maybe what they saw was Karl Rove’s vision of a permanent Republican majority in a nation always afraid of another terrorist attack.
Barack Obama should not get everything he wants just because he says so. The Democratic majorities in Congress must be independent in a way that the previous Republican majorities were not. Just don’t expect much constructive input from Republicans. Whatever it is that truly moves them, the good of the nation is not so high on the list.
Are the people who run the State of Texas human beings in the sense that we associate humanity with the possession of basic morality and regard for life? In the ten years I’ve lived in Texas I’ve wondered about this more than once. A recent Houston Chronicle story about the debate over expansion of children’s health insurance, taking place in that malignancy known as the Texas Legislature, made me ponder this question again.
One in five children in Texas lack health insurance. It’s another way we hate children for not having the ability to pay their own way. Children are in this regard as despicable as old people and wounded veterans. Drains on society. Is their any more certain death sentence in our society than the widespread expression of care and sentiment?
The debate over children’s health care this year will be as arduous as ever, but so is the ante: More than 160,000 Texas children whose cash-strapped parents can’t get state help to pay medical expenses for maladies as common as chronic ear infections or as daunting as cancer treatment. The argument among legislators will be whether to raise income-eligibility levels so that those children can join the 451,000 now covered by the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Supporters say reducing the number of uninsured youngsters — now one in five — would benefit not only the children’s physical health but the fiscal health of Texas taxpayers. The federal government picks up 72 percent of the cost and providing health care in doctors’ offices is almost always cheaper than treating children in public hospital emergency rooms.
Critics worry about undermining employer-sponsored health coverage and point to the growing costs for the state. CHIP enrollment increases over the past two years have driven the state’s tab from $102 million to $267.5 million. There are no monthly premiums but families pay an annual enrollment fee of $50 and most co-payments for doctor visits or prescription drugs range from $3 to $10. A pending federal bill that renews CHIP is expected to allow Texas to increase income limits so more can enroll. The current limit for a mother and two children of $35,200 could be increased to $52,800. Rep. Ellen Cohen, D-Houston…Cohen this week plans to introduce a bill that would expand CHIP and take advantage of anticipated new federal funds. “Since 2003, Texas has turned away almost $1 billion of federal matching funds by failing to invest in CHIP,” Cohen said. “As a result, we are left with the highest uninsured population of children in the nation.” Gov. Rick Perry’s spokeswoman, Allison Castle, said the governor does not support expanding CHIP’s eligibility standards because of the higher income families who would be covered. She said Congress is trying to lure the state into expanding programs in tough times and doing so would put the state on a “slippery slope to socialized medicine.”
Children living in middle-income families are increasingly joining the ranks of the uninsured. That is largely because employer-based health insurance premiums have more than doubled since 2000. The average annual cost to employees is $3,355 and the cost to employers is $9,325, for a total cost of $12,680, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Only half of Texas private-sector employers offer insurance, and among small businesses, the percentage drops to 34, the federal government reports.
The “slippery slope to socialized medicine.” Sure. We can’t have that. We”ll just have all these kids without health insurance.
A popular movie in recent days has been Paul Blart: Mall Cop. And let me say right off that I have not seen this movie and I’m not going to see this movie. Some books can indeed be judged by their covers. Some movies can be judged by their advertisements and previews.
Here is review of Paul Blart by the New York Times critic who had to see the movie as part of his job—-
“Fat people are funny. Fat people who fall over are funnier. Fat people who fall over and have humiliating working-class jobs? Stop, you’re killing me! This would seem to be the entire guiding principle behind “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” a tossed-off comedy from Adam Sandler’s production company.. In the title role, Kevin James plays a lovable New Jersey doofus whose dreams of joining the police are foiled by a hypoglycemic condition that causes him to pass out in ostensibly hilarious contexts. Reduced to working security at a huge, bustling shopping mall located in some economically vibrant fantasyland, Blart falls in love with the perky proprietress of a hair-extension franchise (Jayma Mays). Enter — because why not? — a gang of thieves plotting to hack into the mall’s credit-card profits. Put down the nachos, Paul Blart! It’s time to, well, to fall over some more and bump into things and make silly faces and save the world and get the girl.”
I’m all for silly. Silly is good. I know people need relief from the endless hassles and stress of day-to-day life. Yet I don’t know why we get a kick out of making fun of people like ourselves. My inner-Marxist will come out here, but this is just what the rich want us to do. They want us to not respect ourselves. Us hating the person we see in the mirror makes it easier for our wages and what is left of our retirement benefits to be chopped even more.
I sure get tired of criticisms of and jokes about auto workers, postal workers, government employees, allegedly disinterested retail employees and, in this case, mall cops.
We haggle over pennies for the lowest prices, do online what we could use a real live employed person to do almost as easily, and, as a whole, have little respect or regard for our fellow working people.
It seems sometimes that nothing is more scary than respecting people who remind us of ourselves. Because if we did, we might then have to confront the lack of respect with which we view ourselves and the people closest to us.
This blog got it right on two questions in the news yesterday. One a local matter here in Houston, and the other a national story.
First, I recently said that tolerance was a lousy name for a bridge. The bridge you see above, to be built here in Houston, was going to be called the Tolerance Bridge.
I said that was a bad name because we should aspire to do more than just tolerate people. Yesterday it was announced that the name of the bridge was again an open question for pretty much the same reason I offered.
I think the bridge should be called the “I Love You Bridge.” Or, maybe, the “I Love You Very Much Bridge.” Something nice and friendly. Or, since many bicyclists will be riding over the bridge, maybe it could be called the “Why Don’t You Stop At Stop Signs You Self-Righteous Elitist Bridge.”
In another recent post , I said that New York Governor David Paterson should select someone from Upstate New York to replace Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate. I said that Upstate was an area moving towards Democrats and that people in New York City sometimes had a snobby view of Upstate.
Governor Paterson selected U.S. Representative Kirsten Gillibrand (above) to take the seat. Ms. Gillibrand represents Upstate communities such as Glens Falls and Saratoga Springs.
Representative Gillibrand is a money-raising machine much like her soon-to-be Senate New York colleague Chuck Schumer. She also pals around with former Republican U.S. Senator Alphonse D’Amato. Mr. D’Amato, as you may recall, was a super sleaze.
Ms. Gillibrand may already face a primary fight to hold the seat in 2010. Democratic U.S. Representative Carolyn McCarthy from Long Island says she will run. Ms. McCarthy lost her husband in a commuter train shooting in 1993. Her son was also hurt. Ms. Gillibrand has actively sought the support of the National Rifle Association.
So am I complaining about Ms. Gillibrand’s selection? I said I wanted an Upstater and that is what I got. I guess what I should have more clear about is that the person I really wanted was my aunt in Utica.
In any case, these two issues–the bridge and the Senate seat–show you that this blog is never wrong in cases where it is correct. Please read Texas Liberal often to see if I’m ever able to get two things right at the same time again.
A couple of mornings ago I went out by myself to breakfast. I went to a local diner. It’s a good place. It has the right mix between annoyingly self-aware and simply dirty.
I laid out my newspaper and was all set for some peace— Both inner and outer peace.
Then I heard a voice say “good morning.” I knew this comment was directed at me. My heart sank. I just wanted to be left alone.
I looked up and facing me in the next booth was the guy who said good morning. I assessed him as a screwball who wanted to talk. He and I were the only customers in the place. Two screwballs I suppose.
I’m not really good at small talk. It can take me three or four years to warm to somebody.
On the other hand, I did not want to ignore the guy. So I talked to him for most of my breakfast. The waitress joined in as well. I guess the guy is a regular.
I can’t recall what any of the conversation was about. I don’t feel that either he or I said anything insightful.
When I was done eating and got up to go, the guy apologized if he had disrupted by breakfast. He had disrupted my breakfast and he knew full well that he had done so.
But I did it. I talked to him. I assume that he started the conversation because he wanted to talk. He was sitting alone in that diner. Though , there is nothing wrong with being alone. In many cases time alone is the only thing holding us together.
In this instance however, I guess I followed the correct course.
I keep hearing about what Michelle Obama is wearing.
If we are going to grade Mrs. Obama on her appearance, she will lose out to Dolley Madison. (Above)
So let’s judge Mrs. Obama on her talents and skills and have less focus on how she looks. That is the right thing to do fo this hard working and successful person.
For all we know, Mrs. Obama is the smarter half of the First Couple.
However, since we are on the subject. I will say that Mrs. Obama’s Inauguration outfit was almost as fluorescent—
—as are these fish below.
When we switch to digital TV, how will I be able to watch my tiny black and white battery powered TV for the five day power outage after the next hurricane?
I won’t be able to watch that TV during hurricane blackouts. That’s the damned answer.
I might as well toss that little TV in the trash right now.
I’m just glad we are not moving towards digital flashlights and candles. Then I’d have to sit in the dark until power came back on after the next hurricane.
Blogger’s note–There is a comment below that offers a suggestion for this problem.
Update 6/8/09—Here is a Wall Street Journal story about the upcoming June 12 switch . Many are still not ready.
This past Tuesday I gave some thought to skipping the Inauguration on TV and heading down the road to Galveston for a walk on the beach. I’m not entirely sure what was motivating my feelings except to say that with time people’s interests can change.
I did watch the ceremony and I’m glad I did. Yet for as pleased as I am in the change of administrations, Mr. Obama and his team want to manage and manipulate the news no less than did his predecessor.
Watching all that day-to-day stuff saps my life energy. I can follow the news without seeing Mr. Obama’s stage managed events.
Here is a link to the C-Span American Writers series. It goes all the way back to William Bradford (grave above) in Plymouth in the 17th century. Without context what do we have? The events of the day are often fun to follow, but it can take a few hundred years for the real facts to become clear.
News was made at a lunch for new President Barack Obama yesterday when Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts suffered a seizure and had to be taken to the hospital. Senator Kennedy has brain cancer. Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia also left the lunch. First reports said that Senator Byrd also had a medical issue. His staff later said this was not the case.
(Above you see Mr. Byrd being sworn in by former Vice President Richard Cheney for his most recent term. Mr. Byrd will up for reelection next in 2012. The big guy is West Virginia’s other Senator. He is Democrat Jay Rockefeller.)
Mr. Kennedy is 76 years old. Mr. Byrd is 91. This got me wondering how many Senators are 75 or older.
15 Senators are at least 75 or will turn 75 in 2009. The average Senator is 63 as we begin the 111th Congress.
Strom Thurmond of South Carolina was the oldest Senator ever. He served in the Senate until he was 100 years old. He was rotten to the end
Here is some interesting U.S. Census data on the age of the American people. According to a three-year sample taken between 2005 and 2007, 6.1% of the American people are 75 or older. In the Senate, that number will be 15% who are 75 or older by the end of 2009.
Here is the list of 75 + Senators listed from the oldest on down —
Robert Byrd D-West Virgina 11/20/17
Frank Lautenberg D- New Jersey 1/23/24
Daniel Inouye D-Hawaii 9/7/24
Daniel Akaka D-Hawaii 9/11/24
Arlen Specter R-Pennsylvania 2/12/30
(Below—Senator Specter, standing, advocating for the single bullet theory in the death of President Kennedy. Mr. Specter worked as a lawyer for the Warren Commission.)
Jim Bunning R-Kentucky 10/23/31
Ted Kennedy D-Massachusetts 2/22/32
Richard Lugar R-Indiana 4/4/32
( Below–Richard Lugar with Ashley Judd.)
Diane Feinstein D-California 6/22/33
(Below–Senator Feinstein when she was Mayor of San Francisco.)
Chuck Grassley R-Iowa 9/17/33
Robert Bennett R-Utah 9/18/33
Jim Inhofe R-Oklahoma 1/23/34
(Below you see a famous moment from the Senate career of Mr. Inhofe. He is showing a picture of his family and saying that none of them are gay or have been divorced.)
Orrin Hatch R-Utah 3/22/34
Richard Shelby R-Alabama 5/6/34
Carl Levin D-Michigan 6/28/34