New Year’s Day 2013—Drive Safely, Tip Well, Be Kind & Recall That The Work Of Freedom Is Up To Each Of Us
Today is the last day of 2012.
(Above—From left to right are bandleader Skitch Henderson, host Johnny Carson and sidekick Ed McMahon as the Tonight Show rang in 1963.)
I hope you had a good 2012 and I hope you have an even better 2013.
For today and for New Year’s Day tomorrow, all I can ask is that you drive safely and soeberly, that you tip people well who are working a holiday, and that you be kind to others for the holiday and for all the year ahead.
And don’t forget—as I often say here at Texas Liberal—that the work of freedom is up to each of us. If you want things to be better, then you have to work to help make it so.
Thanks to everybody who has the blog in 2012. Texas Liberal will be up and running in 2o13. I also have another project in the works that I hope to be able to discuss and promote soon.
This covers all my current thoughts on the year now almost over, and on the year ahead.
Earlier today I saw a potato that had a smiley face.
Above you see a picture of the potato.
I took this smiley face potato to be a message from the potato kingdom that 2013 would be a good year for all.
I have not seen messages in food before, but nor have I been reflexively dismissive of the people who say they see an image of Jesus in a piece toast.
Life is tough. Who does it hurt if people want to see Jesus or Elvis in the scrambled eggs?
Peace and blessings to each of us in our difficult world.
The office at Glenwood Cemetery in Houston was decorated in a festive fashion on Christmas Eve Day.
There are poinsettias along the staircase and a wreath over the porch.
Life and death could not exist without the other.
Everything we need is around us each day and is accessible with hard work, imagination and luck.
Texas State Rep. Dwayne Bohac Thinks Jesus & Christmas Are So Weak In Texas That Government Regulation Is Needed To Prop Them Up—The Merry Christmas Bill
Texas State Representative Dwayne Bohac thinks that “traditional” observances of Christmas and Hanukkah are so weak and under threat in Texas that government regulation is required to prop them up.
Here is what Rep. Bohac is proposing for the upcoming legislative session—
“Today, State Representative Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston) pre-filed legislation to protect the freedom of Texas Independent School Districts to acknowledge and educate students on the historic and cultural roots of traditional winter celebrations and holidays such as Christmas and Hanukkah.
The “Merry Christmas Bill,” which is expected to receive bipartisan support, affords students, parents and educators the right to celebrate on school property with displays associated with those holidays, including Menorahs, Christmas trees and Nativity scenes. The bill also clarifies the right of school districts and their staff to use traditional winter greetings such as “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah” or “Happy Holidays” on school grounds.”
District 138 Representative Bohac represents a portion of Houston in the legislature.
Above you see Mr. Bohac in front of the Christmas Tree that is located in the Texas House chamber in Austin.
Here is speculation about the likely pagan origins of the Christmas Tree tradition from a web site called All About Jesus Christ. I studied this tree for a few minutes on Rep. Bohac’s Facebook page and saw nothing religious on it at all.
I guess Rep. Bohac picks his battles.
Is it really so that teachers and students in Texas can’t say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah” to each other? I have not heard any complaint in the current holiday season that these words are not allowed to be spoken in our public schools. Rep. Bohac’s press release that I link to above offers no specific examples of anybody being prohibited from exchanging these holiday greetings in Texas schools.
Are these traditional observances really so weak even here in conservative Texas that they require government regulation to thrive?
Mr. Bohac suggests government regulation just as the extreme right-wing National Rifle Association last week proposed an armed government presence in all schools.
Does Rep. Bohac believe that government regulation is the answer rather than trying to win the minds and hearts of his fellow Texans with a strongly articulated faith and with quality arguments for his views?
Does Rep. Bohac see his God as so weak that he must intercede on His behalf?
How fortunate it is that we have Rep. Bohac and Texas state government to defend Jesus and Christmas, since it appears from the necessity of the Merry Christmas Bill that the God-fearing people of Texas are not up to the task themselves.
I took a ride around Houston’s Glenwood Cemetery this afternoon.
I enjoyed how the wreath placed next to the grave marker you see in the picture above had an aesthetic as similar as you might find between a wreath and a grave marker.
The stone was the only one I saw like it in the cemetery. The wreath was the only one I saw up high on a single pole.
When you think of how so little of existence is comprised of living things, it is hopeful that we are here for any amount of time.
It is something that we can–even for just a brief time– hold back the law of existence that says things fall apart.
It is even more hopeful that we have the capacity to recall people who have returned to from where they began.
Below is the most recent 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 Texas Christmas ornament. Please have a nice and safe holiday.)
As I say each time I post the round-up—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.
We can also seek to impact society by consistently acting in a way that reflects our best values. Or by working on an artistic or creative effort that expands the range of thought and imagination we have in our society.
I repeat these thoughts so often on the blog because there is nothing more important I can say.
The work of freedom and justice is up to each of us.
It’s unlikely that the candidate of the”middle of the road” business/corporate interests for Texas House Speaker, aka Joe Straus, will lose. But Democrats should have some fun with the contest anyway: In race for Speaker, Democrats should stir the pot, says WCNews at Eye on Williamson.
Neil at Texas Liberal wrote about the real St. Nicholas. He might have had a hard time in Texas as he was against the death penalty.
The National Rifle Association has finally addressed the Newtown, Connecticut shootings. They held a so-called press conference today.
(Above–Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown after the shooting.)
In the days since the shootings the NRA has stayed silent just as you would expect of cowards. They were cowards despite all the tough talk and all the guns they own. The NRA did not take questions at the press conference. The people killed in Newtown did not have the option to avoid being shot by the gunman.
The NRA said that an armed policeman should be in every school and that violent video games should be regulated.
All we hear from the right is about small government and free markets.
And yet in this case the solution is more government.
If more government is the solution to gun violence, than why is more government not the solution to many other problems in America?
The right-wingers in Congress that the NRA backs are at present fighting against any tax increase for even the most wealthy.
The NRA also called for more mental health services in the United States.
I agree with this proposal.
Yet I don’t believe I heard anything today from the NRA about raising the taxes needed to fund more mental health services in these lean times.
Does the NRA believe in anything but mayhem?
The NRA solution to an abundance to guns in America is to make sure that there are even more guns in America, just as the Texas conservative solution to the large number of people without health care in Texas is to shut down women’s health clinics so that even more people don’t have health care.
These are murderous solutions from people who seem to be in love with hurting people and with death.
Instagram Is Right To Want To Sell User Photos To Advertisers—If You Want To Talk About Empowerment Rather Than Selfishness, I Am Ready For The Discussion
There have been six Black United States Senators in post-reconstruction America.
Here are the five Black Senators to date—
Ed Brooke (above) was a Republican elected from Massachusetts in 1966 and 1972. He was defeated in 1978 by Paul Tsongas who went on to a notable career himself. Mr. Brooke was part of the moderate to liberal wing of the Republican party that does not so much exist anymore. The decline of moderate Republicanism is a big reason why Democrats are so strong in New England and New York state today.
Here is a Time Magazine article from 1971 pondering if President Richard Nixon would consider replacing Vice President Spiro Agnew on the ticket with Senator Brooke.
Carol Moseley Braun (Above) is the only Black woman to have served in the Senate. She represented Illinois. Ms. Moseley Braun defeated an incumbent Democrat Senator in a primary in 1992 and went on to win the General Election.
People had hopes for Carol Moseley Braun. For a variety of reasons, some maybe relating to her own mistakes and some maybe a product of unreasonable expectations, Ms. Moseley Braun lasted only one term. This New York Times story from Ms. Moseley Braun’s 2004 run for President offers some perspective.
If Ms. Moseley Braun had been able to hold on, Barack Obama would most likely not have been elected to the Senate as the third post- Reconstruction black senator. Mr. Obama won the seat once occupied by Ms. Moseley Braun. The Republican who defeated her in 1998, Peter Fitzgerald, did not run for reelection in 2004 against Mr. Obama in strongly Democratic Illinois.
Barack Obama of Illinois was elected to the Senate in 2004. He then went on to even bigger things.
The fourth Black U.S. Senator was Roland Burris (Above) of Illinois. Mr. Burris was appointed by the Governor of Illinois to replace Barack Obama. His appointment was made under controversial circumstances as Governor Rod Blagojevich made the nomination while under indictment for a range of offenses including trying to sell the Obama Senate seat.
Mr. Burris was the first statewide elected Black in Illinois. He was elected as Comptroller of Illinois in 1979 and served in that post until 1991. In 1990 he was elected Attorney General of Illinois. He has also run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate, Governor of Illinois, and Mayor of Chicago.
Mr. Burris did not run for reelection in 2010.
The fifth post-Reconstruction Black Senator was Tim Scott (Above) of South Carolina. Mr. Scott was designated in December, 2012 to replace Senator Jim DeMint who resigned his office.
Mr. Scott is the fIrst Black Republican Senator since Ed Brooke. He is expected to run to fill the seat on a permanent basis.
The sixth post-reconstruction Black Senator is Mo Cowan (Above) of Massachusetts.
Mr. Cowan is a well-connected attorney who has served as Governor Patrick’s Chief of Staff. Here is a profile of Mr. Cowan from the Boston Globe.
Mr. Cowan will serve in the Senate until an election takes place on June 25. Mr. Cowan is not a candidate for the June election.
Why only six black senators in post-Reconstruction America?
Here are some reasons for the low number —
1. Jim Crow and racism long denied Black people the right to vote and to run for office.
2. Even given the (not always uncontested) right of Blacks to vote today, a large proportion of Blacks in America live in the South where whites are not always inclined to vote for Blacks. This is how George W. Bush or Mitt Romney easily carries Mississippi even though 30% of people in Mississippi are Black.
3. Many states have very few Black people and so Black candidates are less likely to emerge from these places. Though it must also be said there were not so many Black folks in Massachusetts to help elect Ed Brooke.
4. The overwhelming majority of Blacks are Democrats. As many Senators are Republicans, this limits the options for Black Republican Senators.
5. Since most Blacks are going to vote for Democrats no matter what, Democrats use this fact and do not push Blacks to run for the highest offices. If someone is going to do something for you anyway, why not take advantage of them?
6. Since many Black office holders have safe majority-minority districts or serve in majority-Black cities, why take a chance on a tough statewide race?
7. Black politicians often have a terrible record of cultivating new people and young people for the tough battles ahead. It’s easy to sit in a safe seat and accumulate power . It is more difficult to help people and fight for people in a more constructive way.
(There have been a full total of seven black U.S. Senators in our history. The other two, from the Reconstruction Era were Hiram Revels a Republican from Mississippi who served in 1870 and 1871, and another Mississippi Republican, Blanche Bruce, who served from 1875 until 1881. Both of these men were appointed by the state legislature as was done for much of American history. Here is information about the 17th Amendment, ratified in 1913, that provided for direct election of Senators.
Above is a picture I took in Houston a few weeks ago that felt to me what a prehistoric landscape where dinosaurs lived would look like.
You never know what you will find when you drive around and look at the world.
You can see dinosaur tracks in Texas at Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas.
The new paleontology hall at the Houston Museum of Natural Science is very good.
Prehistoric Life by DK Publishing is a great resource to learn about the history of life on Earth.
Even at this point not long after the violence, many of the facts of the Newtown, Connecticut mass-shooting of children and school staff are clear enough.
The facts are clear enough because we have seen these type shootings happen again and again in America. We keep lists of the most deadly mass-shootings like we keep baseball statistics.
We have yet another well-armed off-balance individual who has gone to a public place and killed a number of people. And we know that it will not be long until it happens again somewhere in America.
I have 3 points to relate here that convey my thoughts on the matter based on reactions I’ve seen expressed in the news and on social media since the shooting took place.
1. It really is meaningless for the Democratic elected officials to express regret over the Connecticut shooting without talking about efforts they will propose to address the reasons for the violence.
2. We all know the extreme right will not relent on gun control just as they won’t on climate change, taxes for the rich, or as we saw on the international disability treaty killed in the Senate recently despite the support of Bob Dole. How long do we let maybe 25% of the country hold us up on every measure of progress?
3. It is good that people care about each other and want to offer prayers for the dead in the Connecticut shooting. Prayer makes a hopeful difference in many people’s lives. But in terms of stopping the violence, prayers will have no more effect then did Rick Perry’s call for prayers to end the Texas drought while denying climate change. Public policy changes are required to address public policy problems.
California U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein says she will propose legislation in the next Congress to regulate high-powered guns.
There is plenty of leeway in this country to address gun violence without taking after law-abiding folks who have a gun at home for whatever purpose. The debate over guns in America needs to move away from over-rigid interpretations of the Second Amendment and move towards general public safety.
Above is a picture I took a few days ago while at a bar in Downtown Houston.
In this picture I am outside looking in at people enjoying a gathering of some kind inside the bar. I was out on a porch.
I’m sure the folks in the picture are very nice.
This image made me think of people who may feel depressed or on the outside during the holiday season.
If you know such a person in your own life, you might consider reaching out to them during the holiday season.
And–of course–we should recall that folks can be lonely at any time of the year. Life is very difficult.
I was driving around Houston a few months back and came upon this collection of life boats.
These boats reminded me of conservative social policy in our nation where the resources of access to education and good jobs are increasingly hoarded outside the reach of people who could make good use of them, while at the same time we are told to sink or swim.
It is wrong to hoard all the resources and all the ways out of trouble in a place that is blocked off from hard-working people who need help. It is wrong to hoard all the resources and then say that people who do not prosper are failures and freeloaders.
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.
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.)
Houston Mayor Parker And Police Chief McClelland Referring Possible Cases Of Houston Police Abuse To Federal Government For Investigation—This Is The Correct Course
The Houston Chronicle reports that the federal government is investigating 6 incidents of Houston Police shooting or otherwise allegedly abusing unarmed persons. The Chronicle reports that 3 of these matters were referred to the feds by Houston Police Chief Charles McClellend.
( Picture above is of Houston Mayor Annise Parker in front of an airplane.)
I have made posts on the blog about two of the incidents that the federal government is investigating.
Unarmed teen Chad Holley was beaten in 2010 by a number of Houston police officers.
Earlier in 2012, a double amputee in a wheelchair named Brian Claunch was shot and killed by Houston police.
There is no way the Chief is referring multiple cases of possible police abuse and misdeeds to the federal government without the approval in one form or another of Houston Mayor Annise Parker.
Mayor Parker and Chief McClelland should be commended for this course of action.
In the past the Mayor has addressed racism and sexism within the Houston Fire Department.
While our safety forces do many good and brave things, it is also so that some of them engage in wrong actions.
It is good for Houston that Mayor Parker has been willing to confront this fact.