Texas Liberal

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My New Bumper Sticker Says God Bless All Nations

I have a new bumper sticker on my car. It reads “God Bless All Nations.” Below the words are some religious symbols. Maybe 20 of them. I don’t know what all the symbols represent and I don’t care.

I’ve already written about how a “Texas Democrat” sticker led to an exchange in a supermarket parking lot. A man thanked me for surrendering the country to the Muslims. I told him he was welcome.

A previous bumper sticker I had read, ‘Hail To The Thief—George W. Bush 2000.” People kept taking it off my car while I was parked. Three times I found it crumpled up next to the car.

That was okay though because I had bought four of them for just such an eventuality. I finally pulled it off for good when I had some car troubles in Wharton County.

I love the people of Wharton County, Texas. But as I was waiting for AAA, I did not want some sheriff or local to come and arrest and/or shoot me. The Anti-Bush sticker I pulled off in Wharton County was the last one I had.

We’ll see what trouble my new bumper sticker brings.

June 26, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts Jan.-June 2007, Politics | 8 Comments

I Stopped At Ron Paul For President Rally On My Way Home From Work Today

I stopped at the convenience store on my way home from work this evening here in Houston. I wanted a Twinkie. After parking I noticed that a Ron Paul for President rally was taking place across the street. There were maybe 40 or 50 people at this event. 

Knowing fellow whack-jobs when I see them, I crossed the street to see what the story was. I figured I would fit in well-enough. I hoped that Congressman Paul was making some sort of appearance at the restaurant that seemed the focal point of the rally.

I thought of questions I could ask Mr. Paul—“What did you have for lunch today?” “Did you get a chance to catch high tide down in Galveston this afternoon? I hear it was really high.”

I crossed the street and a man on the corner holding a Paul For President sign smiled and asked if I had heard of Mr. Paul. I said I had. He handed me a brochure. He seemed like a nice guy. I was thinking here is a right-wink kook and I’m a left-wing kook. We could switch places and who would really know?

I asked the sign-man if Mr. Paul was speaking. He said no. He said that some sort of Republican meeting was taking place and that Mr. Paul’s supporters were here to make some kind of point. He was not sure what meeting it was or what the point was.

I could understand not knowing. Often the less you know, the less life hurts. He was along for the ride. Aren’t we all to a degree?

Without the excitement of an actual appearance by Ron Paul, I went back across the street and drove home.  

June 13, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts Jan.-June 2007, Houston, Politics, Things I've Done | 13 Comments

Malcolm, Martin & Liberals Like Myself

Politically-minded individuals take different routes of historical knowledge and personal experience to establish their ideological commitments.

For me, reading about Martin Luther King and Malcolm X was a major part of the political individual I am today.

Experience I would later gain matched some of what I had read. 

A point Malcolm X often made was his distrust of white northern liberals. This is what I am in many ways. I’ve lived in Texas for the last nine years and above the Mason-Dixon line for the first 30 years.

Here is a quote from Malcolm on the subject of white liberals— 

“I’ve been up north and you don’t know how to deal with it…He’ll sit there and smile in your face. You’ll go down to see them in the office, and they’ll serve you cookies and tea, and shake your hand and pose for a picture with you. And at the same time, keeping Negroes in ghettos and slums.” 

This quote matches well-enough my experience in Cincinnati city government. I worked for a black member of the City Council who was in some respects to the left of other council members both black and white. 

From the perspective of that office, you did not worry so much about Republicans and conservatives—They were what they were. It was so-called progressives and liberals who would say this and say that, but who at heart were not really engaged in the work of justice and meaningful change.

Martin Luther King came to this view later in his life than did Malcolm. Yet King did indeed come to this view. He saw the liberal as often more committed to order than to justice. He was disappointed by the slow liberal response to President Johnson’s war in Vietnam. 

King always retained his commitment to integration. Malcolm’s changes after visiting Mecca are well-documented. Yet their critique of the liberal remains of value to this day. 

On a personal level, none of this means I try to be something I’m not. I am what I am. Nor does it mean that the repeated failings of the black political establishment should go unnoticed. It’s also so that many white liberals risked their lives or expended considerable effort on behalf of the Civil Rights movement. 

It simply means that I try to understand why I hold the views that I hold. I know my beliefs come from many sources. Self-understanding is a path to effective communication with others. It is also a tool for effectively critiquing one’s own thoughts and actions. 

June 11, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts Jan.-June 2007, Cincinnati, Martin & Malcolm, Political History, Welcome To TexasLiberal | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Leering At Women Joggers Only Duty Of Houston Horse Patrol Cops In Memorial Park?

Do Houston horse patrol officers in Memorial Park have any other duty but to leer at women joggers as they run on the Memorial Park jogging loop? 

This is a very insulting question. Of course these officers have other responsibilities.

For example, after the women jog by, it is the duty of these policemen to cast knowing glances at each other, and, if duty truly calls, they must also raise their eyebrows and make some sort of comment to a fellow horse patrol officer.

These are very busy police officers and I am sorry to suggest that they might have but one duty. It is in fact quite clear that they have as many as 3 or 4 responsibilities.   

June 6, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts Jan.-June 2007, Houston | 6 Comments

I Blew My Chance To Stop “Pastor” Joel Osteen From Doing His Evil Works

My view is that if the Devil came to be with us, he’d come in the form of Houston -based TV preacher Joel Osteen. Coming as Pat Robertson, for example, would be very obvious and most people would be immune to his evil works.

How much smarter it would be for the Devil to come as this so-called “Pastor” Osteen. Pastor Osteen smiles, talks his happy talk, hits up the flock for money, and all the while the world outside gets worse and worse. If Pastor Osteen is not the Devil, he may well be doing the Devil’s work. 

A favorite book of mine is called The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann. In this book Mr. Brueggemann calls for a church that confronts power and injustice, instead of a church that serves as an enabler of so many evils in our society. 

Maybe two years ago, I was reading this book while taking a walk in a secluded Houston park. While walking, I ran into none other than Joel Osteen. We were the only two people on that trail.

If I had thought quickly, l would have handed him the book. I could have of said to Pastor Osteen—“Pastor Osteen, here is a book about a God of justice you have never addressed in your TV sermons.”

Who knows? Maybe he would have taken it as a sign from God and changed his evil ways. Every time I see that guy on TV I think about how I blew my chance.     

May 28, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts Jan.-June 2007, Books, Houston | 16 Comments

Hawaii Five-O Episode Leads To Purchase Of Thoreau’s Walden

In college, I was turned-off when studying Henry David Thoreau. While I, like all people, have many conflicting impulses, maybe my strongest impulse is against someone separating himself from the whole.

I feel this way despite a strong wariness of the will of the political majority, however it may be defined at any given moment, and despite the atomistic bent of my solid 1980’s Midwestern hardcore punk rock credentials. 

Last week I watched an episode of Hawaii Five-O for the first time in many years. In this episode, top cop Steve McGarrett was asked to test some sort of telephone snooping device. McGarrett said into the phone, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.”

This spoke to me. I’d heard it before—But for whatever reason it resonated with me very much on this one particular afternoon. I knew the quote was from Thoreau’s Walden.

So I went out a few days ago and bought a copy of Thoreau. We’ll see if he reaches me or if my Andrew Jackson “of the people” impulses exert too strong a pull. 

May 21, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts Jan.-June 2007, Books, Things Watching Tv Made Me Think About | 2 Comments

Reaction To Falwell’s Death & Malcolm X’s Reaction To JFK’s Death

 

Jerry Falwell died today. I’m sorry when any person dies. Not long after Rev. Falwell’s death today, I heard some disparaging comments making light of his departure. I’m not comfortable with that sort of thing. As tempting as it can be at times, you can’t fight hate with hate.

( Please click here for a video where I read words by Malcolm X in a Houston black cemetery.) 

The comments I heard today about Rev. Falwell’s death reminded me, in a way, of what Malcolm X said after the shooting of President Kennedy. Malcolm said “the chickens had come home to roost.” 

While quite controversial at the time, these comments were not personal in regards to President Kennedy. Here is a take on what Malcolm said from Martin Luther King biographer Taylor Branch as written in the book Pillar Of Fire: America In The King Years 1963-1965

“Malcolm argued from history that the “climate of hatred” so widely blamed for the assassination was anything but marginal to American society. This was the gauntlet of an aspiring prophet—telling a nation that a revered leader had been struck down by a righteous punishment…..”

Rev. Falwell died from natural causes. No lesson can be drawn from his death. The best thing in regards to Rev. Falwell is to just move forward and hope that he has found some peace from all that sad anger.  

May 16, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts Jan.-June 2007, Books, Martin & Malcolm, Political History | 17 Comments

I Saw Someone Buy The New $50 Texas Lottery Scratch-Off & It Made Me Think Of Andrew Jackson And J.Q. Adams

I saw someone buy the $50 Texas lottery scratch-off ticket. Seeing this led to the following thoughts–

I’ve long been politically and personally conflicted between a mix of Andrew Jackson live-and-let-live small-d democracy and J.Q. Adams interventionist quasi-Federalism.

Many folks share this dilemma—maybe even you the reader— even if not put in quite the same terms.

Politically, while respecting, or at least resigned to at times, the views of the majority, I do think that the people get it wrong sometimes and that government has a role to play in many aspects of life.

Personally, I like being out among the people and yet I can’t believe some of the conduct I witness when I am out among the people.

I thought about all this yesterday when in line at a convenience store. The man in front of me bought one of the new $50 Texas lottery scratch-off tickets. I would not deny the man’s right to buy the ticket. However, I could not figure why he would want to blow $50 on a lottery ticket.

I’ve given up trying to resolve my Adams/Jackson internal split. All one can do is take each issue and event as it comes.

A great book that includes the Adams/Jackson era of American history is Sean Wilentz’s The Rise Of American Democracy—Jefferson to Lincoln.

May 10, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts Jan.-June 2007, Political History, Politics, Texas | 4 Comments

Goal Of Liberal Is To Keep Ideology While Remaining Intellectually Flexible

The above is a goal of any adherent of a political ideology. You want to stay true to your beliefs while still being able to learn and adjust. It may seem simple. But it is not. It is a lifelong challenge.  

April 25, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts Jan.-June 2007, Politics | Leave a comment

My Very Good Phone Conversation With Melissa Noriega

With the constructive input of a fellow blogger, a post I made critical of Houston City Council candidate Melissa Noriega’s campaign has been turned into a more positive thing.

A few days ago I made a post criticizing the campaign being run by Ms. Noriega. I said Ms. Noriega was ignoring or glossing over critical issues in Houston. I said her campaign was failing to challenge or respect Houston voters and might well be taking voters for granted. 

My views elicited a measure of disagreement. Fellow blogger Greg Wythe suggested my concerns would be addressed if I called Ms. Noriega’s headquarters. In frankness, this simple enough idea had not seriously occurred to me before. Houston has two million people (Some of who may even vote in next month’s special election.) and I did not figure I’d get anybody who would listen.

I made the call Greg suggested. A very nice lady answered. After I told her why I was calling, she passed the phone to Ms. Noriega. Ms. Noriega and I talked for about 20 minutes.

Ms. Noriega, who was friendly from the start, said she had read my post and asked me to talk a little more about my gripes. I restated some of the points I’d made on the blog and also talked about a general frustration with a Democratic Party in Houston that rarely addresses some of our worst problems.

Ms. Noriega said, (I’m paraphrasing when I describe what Ms. Noriega said in our call), that it might be so that her campaign homepage does lack some specifics.

The most interesting part of our conversation was Ms. Noriega telling me that she is talking to people to help her define the role of a city council member should she be elected. She said she had a firm commitment to the daily nuts and bolts operation of the city. She also said that she understood there are important issues in Houston beyond what some might see as the core functions of municipal government.

Since Ms. Noriega was nice enough to listen, I told her that I view public office to be in many ways an act of or a province of the imagination. I said public officeholders can define their responsibilities as they see fit.

Or, at the least, officeholders always have the option to mix day-to-day issues of governance with other issues that may at first appear to be removed from the business at hand, but are in fact also directly linked to the lives of citizens. Ms. Noriega seemed open to this concept.

Ms. Noriega was both friendly and direct in our talk. I think it’s fair to say that she won me over in some respects. I asked her for a bumper sticker and I’ll put it on my car.

I’m going to vote for Green Party candidate Alfred Molison in the May 12 special election. I’ll do so because I’ve said I would and because there is value in supporting candidates calling for things not yet advocated by the major parties. (Here is a link to a post I made about supporting Greens sometimes as a buffer against being used by Democrats.) I’m also going to send both Mr. Molison and Ms. Noriega a $20 donation.      

I’m appreciative of Greg telling me to pick up the phone and I’m appreciative of Ms. Noriega’s time and her willingness to listen. If elected, I think Ms. Noriega will do a good job for Houston.    

April 20, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts Jan.-June 2007, Blogging, Good People, Houston, Houston Council Election '07, Politics | 9 Comments

Jefferson & The Brown Tree Snake

An excellent book of political history I can strongly suggest, is Richard Hofstadter’s The Idea of a Party System.

Here in Houston,Texas, we labor under non-partisan municipal elections that mute strongly-held party preferences and limit the capacity for decisive action by city council. 

The Texas legislature in Austin is organized in a so-called “bipartisan” fashion that thwarts the wishes of voters who on Election Day placed one party in the majority and another party in the minority.

In his book, Hofstadter details how the Democratic-Republican majority— Democratic-Republican being the name of one party—of the first quarter of the 19th century stole a number of ideas from the defeated and ever-shrinking Federalist Party minority. 

Presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe embraced territorial expansion, banking systems, and naval build-ups, that would have been an anathema to the earlier Republican partisans who worked in opposition to the Federalist leadership of George Washington, John Adams and Alexander Hamilton.  

One thing leaders of the majority did not do was share power with any Federalist supporters. This was a strong assertion and an actual practice of party politics in a time when the idea of vigorous political parties was still gaining acceptance in the United States. 

Says Hofstadter— “……However far they might go towards accepting old Federalist measures, they had no intention of accepting old Federalist men. They did not mind adopting a Federalist policy now and then, or bidding for the votes of the former Federalist rank and file, but they were intensely concerned not to haul aboard, along with this inert cargo, any live vipers.” 

The analogy of hauling aboard live vipers as part of the cargo reminded me of a book I read a few months ago called Out of Eden —An Odyssey of Ecological Invasion. This book, about invasive species all over the world, is by Alan Burdick and was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Author Burdick writes at some length about the brown tree snake. The brown tree snake is a vicious creature that started out in Australia and Indonesia. Not long after World War II, this snake was accidentally transported to Guam. In Guam it has eaten most of the native bird population.

The brown tree snake can survive in tough conditions and there is concern it will be taken further around the globe in airplanes and in ships. Wherever this snake goes, it wreaks havoc on the native bird pollution and on other local animals.

It seems that 200 years ago Jefferson, Madison and Monroe saw Federalists in the same light that we see the brown tree snake today.

April 19, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts Jan.-June 2007, Books, Political History, Texas | Leave a comment

Houston Astros Should Allow Patrons To Bring In Own Food Since All They Offer Is Overpriced Junk

Though I follow baseball and attend Houston Astros games, I’m reluctant to post about sports. Sports get enough attention.

However, one thing that merits additional attention is the Houston Astros policy against bringing your own food and drink into the former Enron Field.

I thought of this last week standing outside of Petco Park in San Diego. Posted rules at Petco Park state that you may bring in your own food and drink.

Astros games are expensive. A family of four buying what are lower-priced tickets at $17 a shot, and then paying to park and buy food is going to spend at least $125. And I bet that is a low estimate of what such a family really spends at a game.

The food at Astros games is overpriced and not very good.  The Astros play in a taxpayer funded stadium. The least they could do is let people bring in their own food and drink. This would make games more affordable and would allow people to bring in healthy food in contrast to the junk currently offered.    

March 22, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts Jan.-June 2007, Houston | 13 Comments

I Stand With Care Bears And Against Brutal Economic Darwinism

My Care Bears calendar for the month of March wishes all people “Good Luck!.” I believe that this means good luck to everyone in Houston, in Texas, in America and in the entire world.

Good luck is an excellent message because luck is the single most important factor in determining our fates.

The spirit of “good luck” runs contrary to the Texas ethos held by some of so-called rugged individualism and runs against the brutal economic Darwinism practiced by many in Texas and in America.

However, the Care Bears understand the large role chance plays in human existence.  On the March calendar, Good Luck Bear is sliding down a rainbow. He has a four-leaf clover on his tummy. As he slides on down the rainbow he calls out “Good Luck!”

It is good luck to be born to in a prosperous country and it is good luck to be born to decent parents. It is good luck that something terrible and beyond your control has not happened and that you are alive to read this post.

Some say that “we make our own luck” or that we should lift ourselves up by our proverbial bootstraps. These statements have some truth to them. It’s just that they don’t have enough truth to get one through life.

I stand with the Care Bears in wishing all people “Good Luck!”  

March 6, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts Jan.-June 2007, Uncategorized | , , | 7 Comments

Haiti & Galveston

A recent review in The New York Times Book Review led me to thoughts about Galveston, Texas. 

The book reviewed was called Toussaint Louverture. Toussaint Louverture was the leading figure in the fight for Haitian independence. The book is written by Madison Smartt Bell.

Here is an excerpt from the book as quoted in the review—  “within Haitian culture there are no….contradictions., but simply the actions of different spirits which may possess one’s being under different circumstances and in response to vastly different needs.” 

This was written about the personality of Toussaint Louverture, but also seems to be about Haiti and Haitian culture as a whole.

I thought about this explanation of contradictory things while visiting the island city of Galveston last week.

Galveston is changing. More wealthy people are moving in and the middle class is moving out. The poor remain.

I saw evidence of this while shopping in a Galveston supermarket. The store is being upscaled. The physical condition of the store has been improved and more wine, fancy cheeses and organic foods are being offered.

The Galveston I’ve known has seemed to be a poor place. Galveston has never fully recovered from the 1900 hurricane or from the construction of the Houston Ship Channel over 90 years ago.

How will a “new” more prosperous Galveston change the character of the island? Is it time to shake off the lingering effects of long-ago events or will a growing gap between rich and poor on the island become a new tragedy?

What “different spirits” and “different circumstances” will shape modern Galveston?

March 5, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts Jan.-June 2007, Books, Galveston, Texas | 1 Comment

People Have A Right To Define Family As They Wish

I recently flew from Houston to Chicago to visit family. Some of the family I spent time with I like. Others I could take or leave.

We should be free to define family as we wish. For example, I find little to be more mean and intrusive than telling people who they may or may not marry. Life is short and it is rotten to deny people the relationships that they want and hope for.

Also, we may feel we have friends we value more than people who by conventional definition are seen as family. Or we may feel that a requirement for a close family relationship is that the family member in question be someone we would want as a friend. 

None of this has anything do to with treating family and all people with basic civility and respect. These are universal obligations.

Values we associate with family such as love and loyalty can become selfishness when not open to others. Family should be defined as broadly as possible. Individuals have the right to decide who they wish to include in their own idea of family. 

(Before you leave a comment, let me be clear that I do not think you should have 12 wives or that government should legalize marrying a cow or whatever other silly examples that these discussions often produce)  

February 22, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts Jan.-June 2007, Politics, Relationships, Uncategorized | 23 Comments