Texas Liberal

All People Matter

A FEMA Blue Tarp Still On A Houston Roof

A few days ago I saw a blue FEMA tarp still on a roof here in Houston.

These tarps were all over right after Hurricane Ike in 2008.

I believe Galveston still has a number of homes with the tarps still in place. But I have not taken any pictures of those tarps.

While you can’t see it very well in this picture, the word FEMA is visible at the top of the tarp.

Here is the FEMA website. People often need help after a disaster.

The tarps come from FEMA’s Operation Blue Roof. Here are facts about this program.

Here are facts about Hurricane Ike.

Here is a great photo essay of Ike from the Boston Globe. 

After Ike is a book of pictures from the air of damage done by Ike. I have this book. It’s interesting enough of you lived in areas impacted by the storm.

(Photo copyright 2011 Neil Aquino.)

December 20, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 5 Comments

Vaclav Havel Dies—Words And Ideas Matter

Czech writer and freedom fighter Vaclav Havel died yesterday.

Mr. Havel went from jailed dissident in a totalitarian state to President of Czechoslovakia and later the Czech Republic.

(Above–Vaclav Havel in 2010. Photo by David Sedlecky.)

Mr. Havel came to prominence and then to power based on the strength of his ideas and moral courage.

Words and ideas matter. Occupying will matter. Don’t let anybody tell you any different. You don’t have to accept things just because they seem hopeless to change, or because they are less bad than the limited options people in power say you should be content with.

Here is Mr. Havel’s obituary in the New York Times.

From that obituary—

It was as a dissident that Mr. Havel most clearly championed the ideals of a civil society. He helped found Charter 77, the longest enduring human rights movement in the former Soviet bloc, and keenly articulated the lasting humiliations that Communism imposed on the individual. In his now iconic 1978 essay “The Power of the Powerless,” which circulated in underground editions in Czechoslovakia and was smuggled to other Warsaw Pact countries and to the West, Mr. Havel foresaw that the opposition could eventually prevail against the totalitarian state.

Here is Mr. Havel’s BBC obit. 

I’ve been reading Postwar–A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt. I’m reading this book in part because I’ve never read a comprehensive retrospective of the years leading up to the fall of communism.  I’m not yet up to the portion of the book where the Berlin Wall is dismantled and the years Mr. Havel played a central role in the history of Europe. I can tell you though that the book is well worth your time,  and helps provide historical context to the financial crisis and to the overall political situation in Europe today.

December 19, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Give Yourself & Others The Gift Of Involvement In Public Affairs In 2012—Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up

At the end of this post is the most recent edition of the Texas Progressive Alliance round-up. The TPA is a confederation of the best political citizen-bloggers in Texas.

TPA bloggers blog away even at the holidays.

We also wish for you and your family to have an excellent holiday season

For example, the family you see below is enjoying a fine Texas Christmas.

And , of course, Texans know that Santa is from Texas. Nobody else is aware of this fact, but I’m certain it is being taught in our schools by order of the far right-wing Texas State Board of Education.

Not all Texans celebrate the same holidays. Below we see Texas Governor Rick Perry helping light a menorah. Governor Perry is quite ecumenical in the sense he is willing to use the cover of any faith to obscure how he is running a terrible Presidential campaign, and getting all the government money he can for his own pockets as he slashes funds for education.

No matter what holiday you celebrate, a great gift  you can give yourself, to the people in your life, and to your fellow citizens, is the gift of your increased  involvement in politics and public affairs in 2012.

Every Texan and every American has the ability to attend a public meeting, attend or organize a protest, write or call an elected official, talk to friends and family, start a blog, donate money, write a letter to the editor, volunteer for candidates and causes, engage in acts of civil disobedience, and to run for public office.

The work of freedom and democracy is up to each of us. This work is a gift we can all give ourselves and our fellow Texans and fellow Americans.

Things are a little different from what they were this time last year. The Occupy Wall Street movement is strong across the nation. What a hopeful move in the right direction after the Tea Party year of 2010.

Find an Occupy effort near you by searching the web or on Facebook. If there is not one near where you live, start one yourself.

The stakes are going to be very high in so many ways in 2012. Like the elves in the picture below who are Occupying Santa’s workshop, we are going to have to fight and advocate for ourselves and for the 99%.

Here is the round-up—

SCOTUS has issued a stay and scrambled the 2012 elections again. Off the Kuff tries to make sense of it.

BossKitty at TruthHugger notes that it’s business as usual for Texas politicians to tilt the voter tables in their favor by gerrymandering: US Supreme Court May Like New Texas Gerrymandering.

Occupy went to Washington and comes to Houston on Monday, December 12. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs follows along. Continue reading

December 18, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Up High & At Sea Level In Seattle

Above is a picture I took in the summer of 2010 from the top of the Space Needle in Seattle.

Below is the ship that was docked at the grain terminal in the right center of the top picture.

Different vantage points offer diferent perspectives.

Both photos copyright Neil Aquino.

December 17, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Occupy Houston To Hold International Migrants Day March On 12/18

Above are details of an Occupy Houston March to be held on Suday 12/18 at 2 PM.

Here are more details of the event from Occupy Houston—

Immigrants are part of the 99%. Locally and nationally, immigrant communities are facing increasing attacks and human rights violations. On International Migrants Day, December 18th, Occupy Houston will join with those in the local immigration community and Occupy movements nationally to take a stand against the assaults and record number of detentions and deportations. In Houston and around the country, these developments have largely developed from local implementation of Secure Communities and 287g. Not only do these acts violate rights of immigrants, but also legal residents and the greater community who face racial profiling during their enforcement.

We will gather in Bellaire – a city with a high number of police racial profiling complaints reported – and march to Bellaire PD to send a clear message that much like our community at large discrimination, profiling and human rights violations against the immigrant community will not be tolerated. Please join us on this day.

Here are facts about International Migrants Day. 

December 16, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Occupy Houston Field Organizing Training Session On 12/18

There is an Occupy Houston training session for field organizing this weekend.

Day-by-day Occupy Houston and Occupy efforts across the nation are showing that they will be around for the long haul.

Here is the Occupy Wall Street website.

Here is Occupy Galveston.

Here are details of the Houston training event—

Occupy Houston presents its first in a series of community organizing teach-ins: Strategic Organizing Workshop presenter: Scott Parkin Scott Parkin currently works as Rainforest Action Network’s Senior Campaigner on the Global Finance Campaign targeting mountaintop removal, the government agencies which allow it and the banks that fund it. Scott has worked in anti-corporate globalization, anti-war, labor and environmental movements for over a decade. 5-7PM in the Oak Room at the Stag’s Head Pub, 2128 Portsmouth St., 713-533-1199 Food and beverages are available, so come thirsty and hungry.

If you are an experienced organizer who would like to contribute to this or future sessions, please email us at heightscp@gmail.com  and be sure to put MOBILE OCC in the subject line.

December 16, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment

2012 G8 & NATO Summits In Chicago Very Much Need To Be Occupied

The G8 and NATO summits are to be held in Chicago next May.

The corporate-owned Mayor of Chicago—Rahm Emanuel— is ramping up the police state for the events.

From the Chicago Tribune

Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to raise fines for resisting police as the city gears up for anticipated protests that will come with the G8 and NATO summits to be held in Chicago next May.  Protesters found guilty of resisting a police officer or aiding escape would have to pay a maximum fine ranging from $200 to $1,000. Currently, the range is $25 to $500. The proposal introduced at today’s City Council meeting also would allow Police SuperintendentGarry McCarthy to deputize officers with other agencies, including the FBI and Illinois State Police. The proposal also would appear to give the mayor greater power to sign contracts related to planning security and logistics without City Council approval.

Here is a perfect event to be Occupied as a rebuke to both parties, the obscene amounts we spend on defense, and the whole power structure in this corrupt nation.

I can’t imagine that many protest actions are not already in the works.

Here is the Occupy Chicago website. You can also find Occupy Chicago on Facebook.

Here is Occupy Wall Street. 

December 15, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who Was St. Nicholas?

Who is the St. Nicholas who become our Santa Claus?

(Above—an 1898 painting called St. Nicholas of Myra Saves Three Innocents From Death. Painted by a Russian named Ilya Repin.

St. Nicholas was a fourth-century Bishop of Myra. Myra was then in Greece. It is now in Turkey.

Not much is known of the life of St. Nicholas. He is said to have been generous to children and to the poor. St. Nicholas is the patron saint of children. Here is a link to a list of Saints.

St. Nicholas is said to have been born into a prosperous home. His parents died when he was a young man and he was left an inheritance. Nicholas used this inheritance to help a poor man support three daughters who otherwise would have been sold into prostitution to support the family home.

It was this gift giving that is the connection between the St. Nicholas of old and the Santa of the modern day. In the spirit of the gifts for the three children, people in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands began to give each other gifts at Christmas. Santa Claus is, after a few mutations, St. Nicholas.

It is said Nicholas brought back to life two or three boys who had been cut-up and tossed in a brine-tub by an innkeeper. The innkeeper was going to sell the boys as pickled pork.

It is claimed that God his or herself indicated to the people of Myra that Nicholas should be selected as Bishop.

Nicholas was renowned as a champion of the falsely accused. He saved the lives of three men who were going to be put to death based on a sentence that had been made on this basis of a bribe. That account is the basis of the picture above.

Many falsely accused people are put to death and placed in jail in the United States in the current day. Please click here to read about The Innocence Project.

Nicholas is the patron saint of prisoners and prostitutes. All people merit concern. Here is a list of the many groups that can claim Nicholas as patron saint.

St. Nicholas is said to have stopped a raging storm in Greece and in so doing saved the lives of many mariners. In Greece, he is the patron saint of sailors.

Santa is about more than gift giving.  I don’t think St. Nicholas would have lined up at Best Buy at 5 AM the morning after Thanksgiving to get a bargain on a laptop.

Here is a brief account of St. Nicholas from AmericanCatholic.org.  

One source for this post was The Oxford Companion To The Year—An Exploration Of Calender Customs And Time-Reckoning. It’s a great book.

(Below–A statue of. St. Nick in Myra, Turkey. Photo by Lindi44.) 

December 15, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Books About Texas Make Great Holiday Gifts—Everybody You Know Would Like A Book About Texas

What books should you consider as holiday gifts for the Texan in your life, or for someone who would like to learn more about Texas?

I have some suggestions.

As you can see from the picture above, Hamburger Wearing An Astros’ Hat would very much like to learn more about Texas. Hamburger is a member of the Texas Liberal Panel of Experts.

You will also please note that Hamburger is trying to use some Republic of Texas currency to buy a book of Texas history.

While many conservative Texans might wish that this currency was still valid, I may have to spot Hamburger a few real dollars to purchase the book.

Here is a list of some fine Texas- themed books I own. There are many others out there that I don’t own and are worthy of your consideration.

Lone Star Nation–The Epic Story of the Battle for Texas Independence by H.W. Brands will tell you all you need to know about how Texans won independence from Mexico.

Texas: A Modern History by David McComb is short and readable history of Texas history all the way up to the current century.

The Texas Almanac is simply one of the best reference books I own on any topic. The Almanac is published by the Texas State Historical Associataion. The most recent edition of the Almanac was released just a few weeks ago.

(The budget of the Texas State Historical Commission was slashed by Governor Rick Perry and Republicans in Texas. Is this how we should honor Texas history?) 

Unprecedented Power: Jesse Jones, Capitalism, and the Common Good by Steven Fenberg. This is a new release that I own, but have not yet read. Jesse Jones of Houston was a very powerful figure of the Franklin Roosevelt era who played a large role in crafting today’s Houston and our whole State of Texas.

The Formation and Future of the Upper Texas Coast by John Anderson may sound dry. But is an accessible title with many pictures that will help you understand the geography and other aspects of the Texas coast from the Sabine Pass, to where the Colorado River flows into the Gulf Of Mexico.

Texas A & M Press has published a variety of titles about life in the Texas portion of the Gulf of Mexico.  I own four of these books and they are all very informative.

Sam Houston–A Biography of the Father of Texas by John Hoyt Williams is a perfectly good biography of the great man. There are other out there on the same subject. Maybe you’d finally like to learn more about Sam Houston after hearing his name so many times over the years.

(Below–Sam Houston)

I’ve read all three Robert Caro books on Lyndon Johnson. There are two more planned with the next one out in the spring of 2012. Here is a link to reviews of the three Johnson books. These books are full of Texas history and are classics of American biography.

Here is a recent post on the blog about two Texas art books that detail painters of the New Deal era.  

A great web resource to learn about Texas is  The Handbook of Texas Online. This site is very comprehensive on aspects of Texas both past and present. The Handbook is also published by the Texas Historical Society.

Learning about Texas will offer a more nuanced understanding of a place that for many—both in and out of Texas—has become little more than a Texas-sized caricature.

December 14, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Great Gift Ideas For The Holiday—Books On Texas Regional Art

(Blogger’s Note–This is a rerun of a post I ran last summer. I’ve made it current by suggesting you buy the above books as a holiday gift. The first time I ran this post it fell flat in terms of traffic to the blog. And here I was figuring there was a pent-up demand for Texas regional art of the New Deal era that was just waiting for a blogger to express it for the general public. Everyday life has value. These books give everyday life and everyday people they respect they merit by viewing how we live as a subject worth being painted and written about. I hope folks are having a nice holiday season and thank you very much for reading Texas Liberal.)

I’ve bought two art books in recent weeks that show Texans working together and respecting the land and culture of the Lone Star state.

These two books are shown above as they are being read by two members of the Texas Liberal Panel of Experts.

On the left, Extinct–A woolly mammoth–is reading Alexandre Hogue–An American Visionary.

On the right, Cactus is reading The Texas Post Office Murals-Art For The People.

Both of these titles are published by Texas A & M University.

Alexandre Hogue lived 1898-1994. He spent most of his life in Texas and New Mexico.

From the excellent Handbook of Texas Online-

“(Hogue) is best known for his paintings of the Dust Bowl of the American Southwest during the Great Depression. Most of his work on this subject is from the 1930s, but the theme of natural balance-and the resulting environmental disasters when humans fail to respect that balance-is found throughout his work.”

Alexandre Hogue’s paintings offer a way of seeing Texas in a way that reflects something more than just doing whatever you want no matter the harm it causes others.

Below is Hogue’s 1939 painting The Crucified Land.

Again from The Handbook of Texas Online

“Post office murals capture the flavor of Texas through its most prominent symbols. Themes include regional history and early settlement. For example, the arrival of the conquistadors in West Texas is a mural theme in the Canyon, El Paso, and Amarillo post offices. Pioneer settlers appear in the murals of Mart, Big Spring, Brady, Wellington, and others. Included also are murals depicting various industries that characterize Texas, such as ranching (Fredericksburg, Amarillo); agriculture (Elgin, Farmersville, Longview); oil operations (Kilgore, Graham); and lumber manufacturing (Jasper, Trinity).”

Here is a list of Texas post office murals. Some of these murals are still around to view. Others are not. Check in advance.

Below is a picture I took from the Post Office of a 1941 Jerry Bywaters mural called Houston Ship Channel: Loading Cotton.

This painting is at a Houston parcel post facility and, regretfully, is not at the moment able to be seen by the public.

Texas can be seen from many different perspectives. You don’t have to accept a Texas where the land and the environment mean nothing, and where the little person gets no regard from the powerful other than a kick in the head.

See Texas in a more just and hopeful way, and then work hard to make your vision a reality.

(Here is a Texas Liberal list of books about Texas.) 

December 13, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Loyal Citizens (A Few Of Them) Protest Manuel Rodriguez’s Anti-Gay Campaign Tactics—Where Are The Good People?

Above you see freedom loving citizens of Houston protesting the ongoing presence of Manuel Rodriguez on the Houston Independent School District Board.

They are quite appropriately making this protest under the flag of our State of Texas and under the flag of the United States of America.

Mr. Rodriguez circulated anti-gay campaign materials in his recent reelection bid. Mr. Rodriguez won by 24 votes.

The link above shows the campaign circular.

From the Houston Chronicle

“Rodriguez, who is seeking re-election to the District III seat, noted in the brochure that his challenger, Ramiro Fonseca, has “spent years advocating for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender rights … not kids.”  The ad also points out (Ramiro) Fonseca’s endorsement by the Houston GLBT political caucus and underlines the words “gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.” Rodriguez describes himself in the flyer as a “family man” who is married to his high school sweetheart and is the father of four and the grandfather of five. The ad says Fonseca has a male partner and no children”

There is a website regarding this issue. 

Though I don’t see a word about this concern on the website of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. 

There were maybe 20 people at the protest shown in the picture. These folks were loyal Americans seeking to right a wrong.

While that is very good, there are a number of questions I had after attending this rally.

Where was the full GLBT community?

Where were the candidates who have been happy to take the Houston GLBT caucus endorsement over the years?

Where were other civil rights groups in Houston? The freedom of all people is connected. Where is the outreach between groups? Where is the effort and imagination? Where is the hope that people working together can make life better?

At the core of the matter, where were everyday citizens of Houston?

Is anybody serious about anything?

You can’t control what folks such as Mr. Rodriguez are going to do or say. There are always going to be people who do and say mean and hateful things.

All you control is your response to the bad actions of people in power.

Mr. Rodriguez and people who support his narrow mindset know the sad facts of the matter as shown by this example.

You can get away with just about anything and folks will look the other way.

Even folks who say they care about issues of civil rights and freedom will for the most part look away.

December 12, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Well-Detailed Poster Conveying Both Specifics And Abstractions

Above is a poster I saw yesterday at a construction site in the area of Rice University.

I enjoyed very much the clear illustrated instructions about what you should wear at the construction site.

The rules are right there on a big poster. That is what you need to wear on the job.

I feel also that the poster has an aesthetic value. It well-conveys the energy and force one might associate with construction work.

This poster has value both in the solid rules to be followed at the workplace, and in abstractly conveying the nature of the work taking place.

There is a lot to ponder and learn about in things we see each day.

Here are some detailed rules from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration pertaining to safety at work sites.

December 12, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Seawall Santa—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.  TPA members are citizen-bloggers working for a better Texas.

(Above–A patriotic Galveston Seawall Santa. I took this picture last year right before Christmas. It was 83 degrees that day so he must have been very hot.) 

Every Texan and every American has the ability to attend a public meeting, attend or organize a protest, write or call an elected official, talk to friends and family, start a blog, donate money, write a letter to the editor, volunteer for candidates and causes, engage in acts of civil disobedience, and to run for public office.

The work of freedom and democracy is up to each of us.

Here is the round-up–

 Off the Kuff provides a little perspective about redistricting and the political outcome of the ongoing litigation over it.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson says it’s time for a new direction for the Texas Democratic Party: A tremendous opportunity to create a new Democratic Party in Texas.

McBlogger says that Judge Jed Rakoff threw a big wrench into the sweetheart deals some of the banks have been getting from the SEC. Continue reading

December 11, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Who Are The Democrats In Houston Council Runoffs?—Vote Out Of Respect For Yourself And Respect For The Man In The Picture

Today is Election Day for the final four unresolved Houston City Council spots on the 2011 ballot.

Please consider voting. Turnout in this election is likely to be  3% or 4%.

I’m not going to tell you that these are Earth-shattering elections on the ballot today or that anybody running is a consistent champion of progressive values.

Vote today out of your best conception of yourself.

The Democrats in the At-Large races are Kristi Thibaut in #2 and Jolanda Jones in #5. Both candidates are Democrats in District B. Neither candidate is a Democrat in District A.

Below is a picture of a gentleman who is always out promoting Democratic candidates at the West Gray Multiservice Center for early voting. I took this picture when I voted a few days ago.

It was a cold miserable day–but that man was there as always supporting his candidates. If he can sit out in the cold for hours, you can go out and vote.

Vote for the candidates of your choice tomorrow, and then give them hard time as an involved citizen after Election Day.

December 10, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 2 Comments

Houston’s Beer Can House

I don’t live so far from the famous Beer Can House here in Houston.

Here is the website of the Beer Can House. You can take a tour of the house on weekends.

A busy day ahead today so not much time for blogging.

Thanks for reading Texas Liberal.

December 9, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment