Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Democrats Should Have No Voice In Texas Speaker Vote

A Republican Texas House member from Plano named Brian McCall is challenging incumbent Tom Craddick for the post of Speaker of the Texas House. The coalition McCall hopes to put together would involve House Democrats.

This bid should not involve Democrats. Republicans won a majority in the election last month. The election of the Speaker should be an internal matter of the Republican caucus. If Democrats want to elect a Speaker they should win a majority for themselves. 

So-called bipartisanship in the Texas legislature was a big way Governor George Bush established the phony image of someone who worked across party lines. 

This bipartisanship rewards sycophantic and double-dealing House Democratic members with various committee chairs and committee assignments for working with the no-good Republican majority.

This so-called bipartisanship will handicap a future Democratic legislative majority from enacting its policies.

Most importantly, this bipartisanship thwarts the will of voters who elected one party to govern and placed another party in the minority. 

It is one thing for state legislators to work with members of the other party on specific bills. Cross-aisle cooperation has some virtues as long as it does not get out of hand. However, institutional posts such as the Speaker and committee chairs should be held only by members of the majority. The electorate has given Republicans that right.

For 2007, Democrats should nominate a candidate for Speaker and stick with that candidate win or lose. At whatever point Democrats re-take the House, they should leave Republicans out in the cold.  

December 26, 2006 Posted by | Best Posts 2006, Politics, Texas | 2 Comments

The Artist de Kooning Would Have Had A Different View Of The Sea If He Had Grown Up In Galveston, Texas

I’m reading de Kooning—An American Master by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan. This book has told me things relevant to life in the Houston and Galveston area and has told me things relevant to the human experience. 

Willem de Kooning was an artist who lived between 1904 and 1997. I’m up to about 1935 in de Kooning’s life. 

Here are some things of note from the book so far—-

Growing up in Rotterdam, de Kooning saw the sea as a symbol of change and modernity. This was because of the ships at the port and the sailors from exotic places. 

This is in sharp contrast to the sea I know at Galveston, Texas. Galveston is a place that has seen its best days. The main change the ocean would bring to Galveston at this point is destruction in a hurricane.

The authors report that “de Kooning remembered his childhood as one of great loneliness.” 

A lonely childhood is a time when a strong creative imagination can be formed. I bet the time alone helped de Kooning in the long haul.

In 1919 de Kooning’s sister lived in a part of Amsterdam called the Jordaan. This area was known as “… a center of activism and social change in Holland.” I wish every big city in America had such a district. No such area exists in the two cities I know best—Cincinnati and Houston. Houston has many areas dedicated to consumption.

Here is a description of life in New York before air-conditioning—“In the 1920’s and 30’s, when virtually no buildings were air-conditioned, artists and craftsmen in New York often took off much of the summer. Even the regularly employed even took off much of the summer.” 

If it was that way in New York City in the summer, I can imagine how hot it must’ve been in Houston before air-conditioning. I wonder how anything got done in Houston in the summer. 

Any good book has many things to tell us. 

December 22, 2006 Posted by | Art, Best Posts 2006, Books, Galveston, Houston | 3 Comments

Rotten Cincinnati Bengals Ripoff & Fleece Taxpayers Every Chance They Get

At the same time a new study said suburban poverty is up in the Cincinnati region, the greedy Cincinnati Bengals football team billed Hamilton County, Ohio $900,000 for new turf for Paul Brown Stadium. The county must pay this money due to a taxpayer-fleecing contract it signed with the Bengals. 

Hamilton County is where Cincinnati is located and is the largest county in the Cincinnati area.

Already Hamilton County taxpayers have given the Bengals hundreds of millions of dollars for construction and upkeep of Paul Brown Stadium. Now the Bengals want nearly a million dollars more. 

The Bengals are never called to account for this money. The promise was that Cincinnati and the Cincinnati region would benefit from having an NFL team. The fact of increasing poverty in the region would appear to tell a different story.

The fault for this terrible waste of money rests in the end with the people of Cincinnati & Hamilton County. It is a given that the Bengals will take every dollar they can get and that their political allies will make sure the team is protected. No reasonable person expects the Bengals to do anything but cheat the public. That is what they do.

It is the people of Hamilton County who have acquiesced to this scam. It is the very same people who must work and fight to take back control of local government from the Bengals and their political henchmen.

December 13, 2006 Posted by | Best Posts 2006, Cincinnati, Lousy People | 8 Comments

Tip Your Server At Time-And-A-Half Rate If You Eat Out On Thanksgiving Day

Many people skip the holiday cooking and eat out on Thanksgiving Day. I often eat Thanksgiving Dinner at a seafood place with a view of the ocean in Galveston, Texas. That restaurant is always full.

If you eat out on Thanksgiving Day, please be certain to tip your server at a time-and-a-half rate. If you normally tip 18%, you should consider leaving 27% on Thanksgiving Day. 

Your server is working a holiday. He or she should be paid at the same time-and-a-half rate you would expect for working a holiday.

If you stop at your local convenience store on Thanksgiving, maybe you could buy the person who rings you up a $1 scratch-off ticket. The person behind the counter is working a holiday and should be recognized for doing so.

We can’t respect our own work until we respect all work. People working a holiday might well rather be with family or friends. Treat such people with courtesy and offer up the money that you would hope for in the same circumstance.

November 20, 2006 Posted by | Best Posts 2006, Things I've Done, Tip Your Waiter Time-And-A-Half On Holidays | 15 Comments

Harsh Laws Against Illegals May Be Racist And Reflect Real Concerns At The Same Time

The small town of Farmers Branch, Texas has passed new laws concerning illegal immigrants. Farmers Branch is a suburb of Dallas. Under the new rules, landlords will not be allowed to rent to undocumented people, police will be trained to enforce federal immigration laws and English will become the official language of the town.

It is easy to condemn people supporting these laws in Farmers Branch as racists. It is quite possible that some people in Farmers Branch are racists.  Another likely scenario is that people in Farmers Branch see their community changing and are concerned about job security and wages. Neither major political party has made any serious effort to provide leadership on these issues.

We should not let the people of Farmers Branch off the hook. If the people of Farmers Branch don’t like illegals, they should demand that local employers who use illegals fire the workers, raise prices and pass the costs on to locals.

That said, folks in Farmers Branch need guidance and help just like anybody else. They know that so far they are being left to fend for themselves against global forces way beyond the resources of a small town. They have plenty of reason to suspect that both Democrats and Republicans are selling them down the river. 

November 17, 2006 Posted by | Best Posts 2006, Immigration, Politics, Texas | 6 Comments

Time To Stop Saying Nasty Things About Hurricane Katrina Evacuees Living In Houston

A disturbing consequence of Hurricane Katrina is the demonization of former New Orleans residents now living here in Houston, Texas. I thought about this again last week while driving behind a lady with Louisiana plates on her car. She had a bumper sticker on the car announcing that her child was an honor student at the local Labay Middle School.

Much of the anger and fear the Katrina people have generated comes from local talk radio and the predominately right-wing audience these shows attract. These are the very same folks that do nothing about chronic poverty in America’s cities. We live in a society that is, to a degree, of our own making.

It is true the murder rate has gone up in Houston since Katrina. These crimes can be blamed on both those who committed the murders and on the barbaric conditions of third-world poverty which prevailed in much of New Orleans before Katrina.

Houstonians who see their safety jeopardized by the newcomers have a right to express their concerns and to demand action. Houston Mayor Bill White has attended public meetings on this topic. To his credit, the Mayor has insisted that Katrina victims be treated well.

Former New Orleans residents now in Houston are mostly decent people who need some help. I know this is an attitude I share with Houstonians of all political views— Including many who see themselves on the right.

Those forced to leave New Orleans because of the storm are going to be here for a long time. Many will stay for good. It’s important that these people be treated as individuals trying to make the best out of life.

November 14, 2006 Posted by | Best Posts 2006, Houston, Hurricane Katrina | 3 Comments

Death Of South Africa Apartheid Leader Time To Reflect On Personal Concepts Of Forgiveness

The death of former South Africa President PW Botha is a moment for people to consider the merits and limits of forgiveness. Botha presided over apartheid South Africa and over the first steps towards the dismantling of apartheid. As an apartheid-era leader, Botha did many bad and brutal things. 

Nelson Mandela said about Botha, “While to many Mr. Botha will remain a symbol of apartheid, we also remember him for the steps he took towards the eventual peacefully negotiated settlement in our country.” Even if some of Mandela’s motives are political, it is an example to me that Mandela could find it in him to say anything good at all about Botha.

Other reactions from South Africa, linked to here, were more critical. It is hard to blame people for hard feelings towards Botha. 

We are often faced with situations where we must decide if we are going to forgive someone. Most of these issues are minor. If Nelson Mandela, after losing so many years of his life in prison, can find a way to some measure of forgiveness for PW Botha—It seems that we can be liberal in who we forgive on a day-to-day basis.   

Botha’s death, and Mandela’s reaction to it, should spur us to think about people in our own lives who may or may not merit forgiveness. It is a time to evaluate our personal concepts of forgiveness and to see if they reflect our best impulses.          

November 3, 2006 Posted by | Best Posts 2006, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

1982 Midterm Elections—When Tip O’Neill Got The Better Of Ronald Reagan

A satisfying midterm election was held in 1982. In 1982, House Speaker Tip O’Neill got the better of Ronald Reagan. Democrats gained 26 House seats. This enabled more-liberal Democrats to take effective control of the House back from the coalition of Republicans and Southern Democrats boosted by the Reagan landslide in 1980.

Speaker O’Neill was maybe the only politician who often got the better of Reagan. People did not worry if O’Neill was a liberal. He said over and over that he was a liberal. He put forth a clear vision of a government that should help people. In the recession year of 1982 this was a message people were willing to hear. 

It is a message people are always willing to hear if they feel they need help. 

Another reason things went well in ‘82 was clever redistricting by Democrats after the 1980 census. People complain today about Republican redistricting strangling the process. I don’t agree. What I want is for people I agree with to control the process. Many on the left who complain now would’ve been happy enough to take the gains back in ’82.

The victories of 1982 helped maintain a firm Democratic House majority for the remainder of the Reagan years. Tip O’Neill’s leadership and coherent worldview was an important foundation of Democratic strength in the House in the 1980’s.

October 29, 2006 Posted by | Best Posts 2006, Elections, Political History, Politics | 1 Comment

Everyone Counts In Galveston, Texas & In All Other Places As Well

Today I visited campaign headquarters of the Galveston County Democratic Party. A very nice lady was staffing the office. She was smart and knew politics. 

Though I live in Houston, Harris County, Texas, I donated some money to the Galveston Democrats. Many Galveston residents have yard signs for Democratic candidates on their lawns. I wanted to help those good people out. I’ve already contributed to Harris County Democrats

At headquarters I found a great bumper sticker. It reads as follows—“Register & Vote—Everyone Counts In Galveston County”  What a perfect message!

While I’m a firm believer in partisanship, this bumper sticker was better for not suggesting a party preference. It was inclusive of all and struck to the heart of matter.  It asks us to “Register & Vote.” That’s right. That is what we all should do.

It then says—“Everyone Counts In Galveston County.” Right again. This is the heart of the liberal idea. Everyone counts. That’s why it says “All People Matter” at the top of this blog. Everyone does count in Galveston County, Texas. Everyone counts no matter where they are. All people matter.

October 24, 2006 Posted by | Best Posts 2006, Galveston, Good People, Politics, Texas, Things I've Done | 3 Comments

People Vote For Wallace, Reagan & Bush And Then Blame Illegals For Declining Wages

Many of those most angry with illegal immigration and what they perceive as the effect of illegals on jobs and wages, are people who for the past 40 years have been voting for candidates such as George Wallace, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

The anti-immigrant charge is led by followers and supporters of right-wing radio talk shows and conservative members of Congress.

Men like Nixon and Reagan and Bush, who either directly or indirectly took advantage of supporter’s fears about people who are different, did nothing but erode the bargaining power of the American worker. Many voted for these right-wingers knowing it was a bad deal for the incomes of working people.

People have a right to base their votes on any issue they choose. People may decide that stopping school busing or banning gay marriage is more important than the size of their paychecks. But when you do that year after year—Why be surprised when your wages sink?

The impact of illegal immigration, and legal immigration for that matter, on wages is an important concern. It’s entirely possible that political leaders from both sides of the aisle are selling American workers down the river. This is something we have to discuss even as we affirm the humanity and basic rights of all people who live in our country—Regardless of where they were born. 

Still, when right-wingers look for who to blame for declining wages and benefits, they can focus much of their anger on the person they see in the mirror.

October 2, 2006 Posted by | Best Posts 2006, Immigration, Politics | 2 Comments

Lockheed Martin Gets Corporate Welfare From State Of Texas On Orion Rocket Project

This is a letter I’ve written to Jerry Kircher. Mr. Kircher is Vice-President for Investor Relations at Lockheed Martin. Lockheed is getting even more government money for the Orion rocket project. The State of Texas is giving Lockheed $7.5 million. This money is more corporate welfare.   

Dear Mr. Kircher: 

My name is Neil Aquino. I am a taxpayer in Texas. As such, I appear to be an investor in Lockheed Martin. 

The Houston Chronicle reported this morning that the State of Texas is giving Lockheed $7.5 million. This is because Lockheed is locating jobs connected with the Orion space rocket in the Houston area. This money comes from a so-called “Texas Enterprise Fund.” 

The Chronicle also reports Lockheed is already receiving $8 billion from the federal government for Orion. Just how much government money does Lockheed need?  I can’t imagine $7.5 million is very much money to Lockheed. I’m sure Lockheed is locating jobs in Houston because it serves the needs of the Orion project—not because of a giveaway of $7.5 million. 

Texas is poor. List nearly any social or economic indicator of how people live, and you will find Texas near the bottom of the rankings. I’m asking Lockheed to please give the money back to the State of Texas. Or that Lockheed donate all the state money to some worthy program in Houston or elsewhere in Texas that will help people.

You and I both know Lockheed does not need this money. I’m sure you’re a fine human being. Won’t you please try to persuade your employer do the right thing in this situation?

Thank you. 

September 20, 2006 Posted by | Best Posts 2006, Politics, Texas, Things I've Done | 1 Comment

Lyndon Johnson Helped Make Me A Better Person

In 1964 Lyndon Johnson ran for election to a full-term as President. He sought ratification as the first Southern President since the Civil War.  His opponent was far-right Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater.

Goldwater was running strong in the South. Many white Southerners were angry at Johnson’s support of Civil Rights. Despite the anger, Johnson insisted that he and Lady Bird campaign in the South.

While reasons of ego and campaign strategy were involved, Johnson also had a deeper motivation. Johnson said his support for Civil Rights didn’t diminish his understanding and concern for white Southerners who saw the basic assumptions of their society under challenge. 

Here’s what Johnson said— “We didn’t want them to think they were left out. When a child feels he’s hurt and mistreated he goes on home and don’t come back and we don’t want that to happen. We love those people and we thought the only thing we could do was go tell ‘em we loved ‘em.” 

When I read this passage in LBJ—Architect of American Ambition, I had to stop. I read it many times. I felt it had meaning in how I approach politics. I felt that it might even have meaning in how I approach my personal life.

Johnson wasn’t saying to love everybody. He made no effort to love the extreme-conservative base of Goldwater’s support. LBJ’s idea was that as a white Southerner himself, he understood what people were feeling. Johnson had no sympathy for people who bombed churches. The people Johnson felt for were average whites who had little in life but a feeling of superiority over blacks.

We all have to find the way to sympathy and understanding for people who have problems. We have to do this sometimes for people we may find frustrating. 

Liberals often underestimate the pain of change. When you challenge people’s assumptions and beliefs, you’ll encounter anger and confusion. Surely the years since Ronald Reagan have shown us the pain and frustration of change and defeat.  

Liberals must always work for needed change. We know that politics and issues  must often have a winner and a loser. We want to win. We have no obligation to identify with people who are outright rotten. We don’t have act totally outside our natural individual personalities. 

Yet we should never forget that most people—including ourselves— live in a world not of our own making. A major starting point of political liberalism, and of personal kindness, is the effort to seek out and act upon the things we have in common.    

September 15, 2006 Posted by | Best Posts 2006, Books, Politics, Texas | 5 Comments

Private Vice Becomes Public Policy

In his 1797 farewell address, George Washington said public virtue cannot succeed in a climate of private vice. In a very different time, Lyndon Johnson echoed the same sentiment in a speech to southern Baptists in 1964.

In the years between Washington and Johnson, this concept evolved for the good. President Washington had in mind a more limited idea of the behavior of individuals of a certain class. President Johnson was talking about public policies for the good of millions of Americans of all colors. These policies would be pursued by government in an age of mass politics. 

In 2006, we know that private feelings have a strong impact on public policy. The private greed and fears of our fellow citizens finds ripe expression with George W. Bush and the Republican congress. 

The best impulses of people today are not reflected in current public policy. Yet despite these disappointing times, liberals should not forget that millions of Americans share a personal belief in a just and fair nation and in a government that works to help people. 

We will bring about this better nation with strong faith in our beliefs and with hard work.  

September 5, 2006 Posted by | Best Posts 2006, Books, Politics | Leave a comment

A Few Things Really Count— Much Of The Rest May Get Pitched Overboard

In the 1930’s, President Franklin Roosevelt complained about conservative federal courts striking down parts of the New Deal. In response, Roosevelt proposed his ill-advised and ill-fated  “court packing” plan to align the Supreme Court in his favor.   

Today, Republicans claim left-leaning federal judges are ruining the conservative agenda. Some Republicans have taken to bullying judges they don’t like. 

In the 1940’s, Republicans worked hard to prohibit the votes of servicemen abroad fighting in World War II from being counted. They were afraid most of the troops would vote for F.D.R. 

In the Florida vote count of 2000, Republicans demanded military votes from abroad be counted even if they arrived after the deadline. They guessed most service members would vote for George W. Bush. 

In the 1960’s, liberals supported a Civil Rights movement rooted in the black church.  

Today, liberals say the church should stay out of politics. 

Very few things are core principles. Positions we may think essential to our beliefs as liberals or conservatives are, if we review them, arguments more closely linked to circumstance than to basic truths.

Liberals hold as a core principle an active government that helps those who need help. Liberals assert everyone should be treated equally under the law and, at a deeper level, that all people have equal value. Liberals believe in a balance between personal freedom and obligation to society. 

Liberals should keep in mind the basics. We can keep true to our beliefs and win elections at the same time.

August 23, 2006 Posted by | Best Posts 2006, Politics | Leave a comment

Lonely Society

A report in the June issue of the American Sociological Review says many Americans have few or no family or friends with whom they can discuss important personal issues.   

The report cites a number of reasons for this state of affairs. People are working long hours and have less time for relationships. Since women have entered the workplace in great numbers they have less time for social networking.  

Other factors cited were an increase in commute times and time spent watching TV and, as I’m doing right now, sitting in front of a computer.  

I’m sure all this is all true. An article published in American Sociological Review no doubt passed a rigorous process of academic review and conformation.   

But I think some reasons were left out. 

Maybe people would have richer social lives if they did not invest so much energy in hating other people.  Political attacks against immigrants and gays are all the rage in some circles. Pushing people away is not a good way to have friends.  

People of all colors might have richer social lives if they not assert the worst about people who are different. Living in Houston, I’ve heard black people criticize Vietnamese people and Chinese people criticize black people. Everybody has a gripe about everybody else. 

Perhaps working hours could be cut back if people who already have everything they need in life would scale down their material ambitions. 

Maybe working hours could be cut back if people stopped voting for candidates who support profits for the few instead of decent lives for the many.  

People are free to vote for gay-baiting estate tax repealing right-wingers.  But these acts have consequences and an impoverished social life may be one of them.    

It’s possible many of these right-wingers know just what they are doing and value their hatreds more than the more hopeful aspects of life.   

The political liberal is well-equipped to work past some of the barriers modern life throws up against a healthy social life. He or she is able to embrace a broad definition of family, community and personal fulfillment.  

It’s easier to have close and trusted friends when you are accepting of many different types of people. It’s easer to have friends when you apply some imagination and effort to your relationships. Good friends can often be found by simply working hard at existing relationships and never giving up on a relationship even if you have lost touch for a time.  

Many people are crabby and bitter. I’m not going to be one of them. To the extent I’m able, and sometimes I fail, I work to extend my liberal and open political views to my personal relationships.

July 25, 2006 Posted by | Best Posts 2006, Good People, Lousy People, Politics | 6 Comments