Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Do You Have A Musical Light-Up Laser Dreidel?

Do you have a musical light-up laser dreidel?

No?

If you don’t have a musical light-up laser dreidel, you are missing out on the best that life has to offer.

I’m enjoying my new musical light-up laser dreidel to such an extent, that I’m just not going to have time to write that post I had planned this evening about a surefire way to revitalize the Democratic Party in Texas.

I guess the cure to cancer I figured out this afternoon will have to wait as well.

Photo copyright Neil Aquino.

December 17, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 3 Comments

Do Trees Change Color In Houston?

Do trees in Houston ever change color?

As you see from this I picture I recently took in Houston, the answer is yes.

The caveat, however, is that, as you see above, the only trees that change color in Houston are those located in shopping strip center parking lots.

Here are facts about trees most likely to change color in Houston.

Photo copyright Neil Aquino.

December 17, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas Tree Protest Against Citizens United Ruling—Maybe You Can Do Something More Effective

Above you see a Christmas ornament on my Christmas Tree.

The ornament is of the U.S. Capitol with a copy of the Constitution scrolled around the building.

You light up the ornament by placing a Christmas tree light into the back of the ornament.

I placed a green bulb in the Capitol/Constitution because our nation’s political system is run by big money.

It’s always been this way—But since the terrible Citizens United ruling earlier this year by the Supreme Court, the rule of big money is even worse.

The 2012 campaign is going to be all about big money from often secret sources.

The Citzens United decision allows for unlimited secret money to be donated to political campaigns from corporations and the super-rich.

I’m not certain my protest of making the Capitol and the Constitution the color of money will change much.

It is simply what I could do in the context of my Christmas Tree.

However, there are things we can do to combat the role of big money in our politics.

We can donate money ourselves, discuss issues with friends and family,  run for office, start a blog, contact our elected officials, volunteer  for candidates or causes we support, and do whatever else we feel may be of value.

There are always things we can do. It is up to us to do the work of freedom and democracy.

To the left of the Capitol ornament you see a salmon.

That would be a great movie where the Capitol was attacked by a salmon. I hope somebody makes that movie real soon.

December 16, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Houston Raising Many City Fees—What People Want To Do Is Complain

The City of Houston is considering raising the cost of fees for as many as 150 city services.

This is what happens when you vote out red light cameras that, in addition to improving road safety, raised $10 million a year

This is what happens when nobody wants to pay taxes and a recession hits.

While I don’t understand why Mayor Annise  Parker often can’t communicate her ideas in a more healthy and outgoing manner with the city, I’m going to stand with her as she does the things needed to address city budget issues. It is difficult to ask people to pay more in economic hard times.

Folks will complain. Yet in our last city election turnout was 16%.

We don’t want to accept the responsibility of paying our municipal bills. We don’t want to stop at red lights. We don’t want to vote.

We just want to complain.

December 15, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

In Support Of The Dream Act

The Dream Act now before Congress would allow undocumented persons who entered the United States at age 15 or younger to gain a chance at citizenship by either joining the military or by going to college.

While this bill does have some bipartisan support, it is not clear it will pass in the lame duck session.

The House has approved the Dream Act. It is now stuck in the Senate. President Obama has said he will sign the bill.

One hinderance to passage of the bill is the broken promise of Republican Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson.

While in the past Senator Hutchinson supported Dream Act type legislation, she no longer does. It seems Senator Hutchinson’s fear of a far-right Tea Party primary challenger in 2012 is more important than anything else in her mind.

America is a nation of immigrants. I know this is almost a cliché at this point—But it is still true.

Either we are a welcoming and confident nation or we are not.

It is not the fault of people brought here as children that they are not legal citizens.

It is not the fault of immigrants that some of our Anglo fellow citizens, who seem amongst most bitter and angry of Americans today, come from families that have over the years not been able to take advantage of free land taken from the native population, of the exclusion of blacks from opportunity because of slavery and Jim Crow, and of the refusal until the mid 1960’s to allow many Asian people to emigrate to the United States.

Maybe we would have more opportunity in this nation if these folks had over the years allied themselves with fellow working people instead of with segregationists and red-baiters and with the states rights crowd.

I’m for the Dream Act. I’m for welcoming people to our nation who know what America is truly about.

Call your Senator and ask that they support the Dream Act.

December 15, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Not A Place To Sit

Just because you’ve been provided with a bench, does not mean you’ve been offered a place to sit.

This bench is in Houston’s Memorial Park.

Photo copyright Neil Aquino.

December 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

What Gift Should You Get This Christmas For People You Don’t Like?

What should to get this Christmas for the people in your life that you don’t like?

The Texas Liberal Panel of Experts has some suggestions of books that you can give such persons.

Extinct recommends Fed Up! by Texas Governor Rick Perry as a literary lump of coal for that unspecial someone.

Fed Up! talks about how to get the federal government out of your life while you collect social security and as your Congressperson asks for earmarks to build yet more roads in Texas.

Hamburger Wearing An Astros’ Hat says Decision Points by George W. Bush would be  a real Christmas downer.

Decision Points is about offering excuses and rationalizations for things gone wrong, while at the same time putting forth a worldview of being responsible for your actions in life.

Cactus says a gift Going Rogue by Sarah Palin will ruin not only Christmas for the recipient, but it ruin New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day as well.

Going Rogue is a book by a person who does not read very much. The book tells about how rugged individualism shapes Alaskans even though Ted Stevens spent years in the Senate making sure Alaska got every federal dollar possible.

Now if on the odd chance you want to do something productive for the holiday, don’t forget you can give the gift to yourself and others, of your greater involvement in civic affairs. In this way you’ll be able to fight the likes of Rick Perry, George W. Bush, and Sarah Palin.

Happy holidays!

December 13, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Party Switching In The Texas Legislature—Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up

Here is the weekly posting of the Texas Progressive Alliance round-up. The TPA is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas.

With the round-up this week, I’ll offer a few thoughts on the prospect of some of our Democratic state legislators in Texas switching parties.

State Rep. Allan Ritter of Nederland has switched to Republican and Rep. Aaron Pena of Edinburg is considering doing the same.

None of this is surprising. Before Mr. Ritter’s defection, Republicans held a 99-51 edge in the House. There is not much to be said for Democratic prospects in the 2011 legislative session.

Politicians are likely go where they can have influence and can get the best deal. In the case of Mr. Ritter, it seemed probable he would lose his seat in 2012 given the political trends in his district.

It’s easy to get mad at these traitors and potential traitors, but is should be noted that the way we run our Texas legislature mutes partisan affiliation. While it would seem the ideological gap between the two parties is such that switching seems unlikely, the fact is party identification in the legislature often takes a backseat to a process that leaves voters guessing just where the person who represents them in Austin really stands.

Examples—

* Votes for the position of Speaker of the House involve legislators of one party voting for a candidate of the other party.

* Committee chairs and vice-chairs are often persons of the minority party.

* Democrats supported former far-right Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick  for years and they got away with it for long enough to do plenty of damage.

* There is no formal majority leader and minority leader position in the House and Senate.

In this context, there is a measure of coherence in switching parties. Rather than a hard and fast identification to one or the other major party and to the values voters count on that party to represent, state legislators work in a system where loyalty is to individuals and to unseen influences.

I realize that control by murky and unseen forces embodies how politics works around the nation. But must we exacerbate these tendencies by making them institutional?

The whole system is lousy. The Speaker should be selected by the majority caucus, and the majority party should run the chamber as elected to do by voters.

In any case, it is hard to muster full outrage at the party switchers when many on both sides of the aisle in Austin have long embraced a system that rewards partisan double-dealing.

Here is some history of party switching in Texas.

Here is a history of the Texas Leguisture up until 1995 from the excellent Handbook of Texas Online.

Here’s the round-up—-

Off the Kuff takes a look at the HHSC report on the effects of dropping Medicaid. Short answer: It would be bad, but what they really have in mind to do may be even worse.

Bay Area Houston has some interesting comments on the criminal probe of State Representative Joe Driver.

Capitol Annex takes a look at a dangerous proposal by incoming State Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Humble) to allow independent school districts to lessen the amount of cash reserves they are required to keep on hand and explains why this is a terrible idea.

This week on Left of College Station Teddy takes a look at the shortfall in the Texas budget, and also covers the week in headlines. Continue reading

December 12, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Possible Worlds

Possible Worlds

1.World before humans arrived

2. World humans have  altered.

3. World made to suit the wants of the powerful.

4. World we live in each day as individuals.

5. World we share with others for better and worse.

6. World we’d like to live in as individuals.

7. Ideal world for all.

8. Non-existence. No world at all.

December 11, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

How Do Average Working People Who Are Republicans Tolerate These Things?

Republicans in Congress have blocked a bill for medical care for 9/11 responders because of an alleged concern it would add to the deficit.

Yet at the same time Republicans insist on tax cuts for the most wealthy regardless of the impact on the deficit.

I wonder sometimes if we live in a legitimate country, or if we all exist and work so a powerful few can prosper.

How do average working people who vote Republican tolerate these things?

Even if you disagree with Democrats on many issues, how do you stand something like this?

December 10, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 5 Comments

Values Of Sacrifice, Society & Connection Require Our Efforts—At Least In England People Are Fighting Back

In the United Kingdom, people protest when drastic budget cuts raise college tuition by astronomical rates.

Above you see a picture of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker reacting when even the royal car was attacked and knocked about during protests in London.

In the United States, we do nothing at all when one of the two major political parties has no greater concern than tax cuts for the most wealthy in a time of recession and war.

We allow the hours of our lives we spend working and spend caring for the people in our lives to slip away, while the powerful few preach on and on about austerity and tough choices.

Sacrifice has value. We are all part of a society. We are all connected.

These values of sacrifice, society and connection will carry the day only when we work hard and fight back against what is taking place in this nation.

December 10, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

There Is Little I Can Tell You That You Don’t Know—What Are You Going To Do About It All?

In Houston and Harris County, our newly elected chief voter registrar, Don Summers, a Tea Party supporter, is making it more difficult for new citizens of our nation to vote.

Nothing about this is surprising.

In Texas, our official State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon, says global warming is real and that human beings are a leading cause of the warming.

Nothing about this is surprising.

In our nation, the retention of tax cuts for the most wealthy that is backed by most Republicans–And, sadly, by our President,–will add billions of dollars to the budget deficit. This despite the fact that we hear so much about deficit from Republicans.

Nothing about this is surprising.

Here is the question—-What are you going to do about all this?

Will you talk to friends and family about your beliefs, write a letter to the editor, start a blog, run for office, donate to candidates and causes you support, and whatever else it is you feel you can do to make the most of your beliefs and abilities?

There is  little I can tell you  on these issues that you don’t already know.

What are going to do about all this?

Are we going to get outworked by Tea Party/Republican Party folks like we were in 2010? Or are we going to move ahead and make progress in the time we have on this Earth?

December 9, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Houston Ship Channel Springtime—The World Around Us Has Value

Above is a picture that I call “Ship Channel Springtime.”

It is a picture I took at the Houston Ship Channel early last spring.

The man you see in the picture was walking down the grassy slope towards the Ship Channel.

Why was he walking towards the channel?

I don’t know. I’d have been crazy to ask.

Why would anybody be hanging around the Houston Ship Channel?

Except in my case.

I hang around the Ship Channel sometimes and I’m plenty normal.

Right?

Below is a wider view of the scene above.

You see your springtime scrapyard. Your springtime ships and barges. Your springtime industry.

You can embrace the world around you and learn about the world around you , or you can be angry all the time and feel out of place all the time.

The Ship Channel is a big part of Houston. Industry, production, and transportation are essential to Houston.

It’s great to study and to learn about the things that are around you.

Here are some facts and history about the Houston Ship Channel.

A Houston Ship Channel Springtime may not be your ideal experience of spring—Yet every place has merits and every place has a purpose.

Without losing sight of the facts of matter and without ever relenting in efforts to make life better , it is good and hopeful if we can see the best aspects of the world around us.

(Photos copyright Neil Aquino.)

December 9, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 1 Comment

Change Will Come When You Work For Change

Sometimes it seems that change can be a long time in coming.

President Obama’s agreeing to keep the Bush tax cuts for the most wealthy is very disappointing.

Republicans are, for the moment, revitalized ,just two after years after we got rid of George W. Bush and his incompetent administration.

Above you a see a picture I took last week of an old change machine at an otherwise demolished  car wash in Houston.

Change will never ever come from that machine.  Grass is growing all around that machine.

Nobody is going to make change for you.

Change will come when you work for it. If you limit your involvement to a voting machine every 4 years, you will never get any hopeful change.

Just voting for Democrats in 2008 was not enough.

Even if you vote in every election, that is not enough.

You’ve got to talk to friends and family, vote in every election, donate money, volunteer your time, write letters to the editor, call your elected officials, run for office yourself, and whatever else you can think of that would best use your talents.

I made this same point about your involvement in public affairs a few days ago on the blog. I’ve been making this point often of late on the blog.

I’m going to keep making this point.

Change will come when you work for change. It won’t come automatically from someone else working for your hopes for this society.

You have to make the call to give your time and effort.

(Photo copyright Neil Aquino.)

December 8, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 2 Comments

Thoughts On Bush Tax Cut Deal Illustrated By Tree, Sidewalk & Grass

Above you see that people and nature can co-exist.

The tree can go on being a tree and people can still take a walk.

That is at least one way of looking at this picture I took in Houston a few weeks back.

Another way of looking at this picture is that the tree is the Republican Party that would not allow unemployment benefits to be extended, unless tax cuts were kept for the 2% most wealthy of Americans and unless the wealthy got a break on the estate tax.

Democrats are the sidewalk that yielded to these obscene demands.

Rotten tree.

Why do Democrats always seem to be sidewalk and Republicans always seem to be the tree?

This “compromise” will add to the budget deficit. We keep hearing about the budget deficit. Yet that does not seem to matter so much when tax cuts for the rich are at issue.

Barack Obama has said for the longest time that he would not support extending the Bush tax cuts for the most wealthy.

I’m not even sure that Mr. Obama is the sidewalk in this picture.

Maybe he’s the grass you see growing on the left.

Passive silent grass that just hangs around waiting for some rain or waiting to be mowed.

The road on the left is the powerful driving unencumbered to more money and power while others catch Hell in this recession.

When I took this picture I thought it represented man and nature living in harmony.

I want to be hopeful.

I just don’t think co-existence can be about one side always being rooted in far-right extremist ideas, and the other side always giving way.

Rank-and-file liberals, progressives, Democrats, independents, and centrists need to fight back.

Republicans are not about the deficit or about working on addressing the recession.

Republicans are about serving the interests of the few and about  far-right extremism on social issues.

The leadership and action of average citizens is needed now to offer a countervailing view to this frightening reality.

Photo Copyright Neil Aquino.

December 7, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment