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Today’s Conservatives Falsely Claiming Boston Tea Party Legacy

File:Boston Tea Party-Cooper.jpg

Far-right activists are staging so-called “tea parties” on April 15 to protest the fact that in a free society one must pay taxes and abide by the decisions of the electorate.  (Old-time image of tea party above.)

The claim being made by these extreme elements, when they are not advocating violence, is that somehow we are moving towards tyranny.

By trying to steal the symbolism of the Boston Tea Party, Republicans and the extreme right (no distinction appears to exist between the two) are confusing the idea of  no taxation without representation with bitterness about losing last November’s election.

(Here is the link to the Boston Tea Party Historical Society.)

Below is from the web home of a tea party web site. They say here that “Revolution is brewing.” Just what does that mean? Is it violence? What do they think a revolution is in this context?  

Tax Day Tea PartyThe actual New Englanders who were part of the real Boston Tea Party are the same people, or the fathers of the people, who would later become FederalistsUnitarians and abolitionists.  

Today’s Southern-based overwhelmingly white American right has nothing to do with the legacy of the Boston Tea Party.

The only historical  tradition these people are drawing upon is that of the treason of the first shot fired on Fort Sumter in 1861  to begin the Civil War. (Engraving below.)

File:Bombardment of Fort Sumter, 1861.png

America does have a visible representative of the best and most inclusive traditions of American History— The America of Thomas Paine, William Lloyd Garrison, Abe Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Sitting Bull, Franklin Roosevelt, Martin Luther King and Caesar Chavez. 

That leader is the President of the United States and his name is Barack Hussein Obama. 

File:Ann Dunham with father and children.jpg

April 9, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama, Colonial America, Martin & Malcolm, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Reading Malcolm X In An Old Black Cemetery

The new video on the blog is called Reading Malcolm X In An Old Black Cemetery. It runs just over two minutes and 30 seconds.  

I filmed this in Houston’s College Memorial Park Cemetery. This cemetery, now in some disrepair, began in 1896. It was a cemetery for the burial of black people. There are 6000 people laid to rest on the grounds including some former slaves.

The book I read from is Lend Me Your Ears–Great  Speeches In History. It is edited by William Safire. 

A good book to read to learn about Malcolm X, as you may have already, is Malcolm X’s Autobiography.

Two other good titles to learn about Malcolm, and that are also listed that are also listed on my Martin Luther King Reading & Reference List, are the second of Taylor Branch’s three volumes of Martin Luther King, called Pillar of Fire, and Martin & Malcolm & America — A Dream or a Nightmare by James Cone.

Pillar of Fire has a lot about Malcolm and the Cone book is a first rate compare and contrast of Rev. King and Malcolm.

We all merit respect. All people matter.

Below is Malcolm X’s grave from a photo taken by Jim Tipton. The grave is at Ferncliff Cemetery in Westchester County, New York 

Malcolm Malik Shabazz X

March 10, 2009 Posted by | Books, History, Houston, Martin & Malcolm | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Listening To Joy Division While I Blog Makes My Posts More Angry

Sometimes I listen to music while I blog. Mostly I listen to stuff that is not much more than background music and offers little distraction.  

But sometimes I listen to a Joy Division (picture above) CD I own as I blog. It’s a live recording of  a concert in Paris in 1979. I like it a lot. Though I can only take it to a certain extent. It’s depressing and angry. That’s okay because I believe what Martin Luther King said about how the well-adjusted person in a sick society is the person who is really messed up.

(Please cick here for the best Martin Luther King Reading List on the web.)

(Please click here to watch Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart Video on You Tube.)

When I listen to Joy Division as I blog, my posts are more angry than normally so. I think that’s good because angry is a reasonable state to find yourself in.  

For example, a few minutes ago I had the U.S. Senate on my TV. I was watching Senators explain the stimulus compromise.  Majority Leader Reid called Susan Collins of Maine, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut to explain the compromise. It  made me sick. We win the election, and it still comes down to two Republicans, the most conservative Democrat, and a back-stabbing McCain supporter to broker the deal. It’s disgusting. When will this shit ever get better?

I had to turn the TV off and come and turn on Joy Division and write this post.  I don’t do any drugs and I’m not a big drinker, but I needed to be under the influence of something.  The Senate and the TV were sapping my life force and I needed relief.

Have I ever mentioned how off-putting I found much of the Democratic campaign here in Harris County, Texas last year?  I hinted at it in criticisms of David Minceburg’s terrible campaign for County Judge Executive. I’ve let the blog reading public down by not being  more forthcoming.  

Houston and Harris County is a mess of poverty and people wasting their lives because they are poor and have little chance at ever not being poor.  I’m not going to tell you I have the answer to longterm structural poverty. But I do know the answer will not be found in talking about traffic congestion relief and  restoring electricity more quickly after your every-so-often hurricane.

If you live in Houston bad traffic and hurricanes are part of the deal. What did you expect?

The County Democratic Party found it could raise money easily enough when it became apparent to big money donors that at least some Democrats were going to win in November. The task of voter registration was in large degree left to the primary campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. It seems clear enough that the coordinated campaign had what it felt it needed and saw little reason to dig deeper. 

They did not need to reach down to potential voters who rarely show up at the polls but who, if they voted, might well vote Democratic. And if you don’t need their votes, you don’t need to address their concerns.

Can you blame Hispanics for not voting in greater numbers in Harris County? I mean you can in the sense of why can’t they get their asses to the polls, and claim the political power that their hard work  and raw numbers around here merit? 

Yet in an another regard, nobody in the Democratic Party was really talking to Hispanics last year. Go find 100 Hispanic people on the street in Houston and Harris County, and ask them what the local Democratic Party has ever done for them. Maybe it has done a little bit for them. Maybe. But I bet those things have never been communicated effectively. You have to care about  people before you’ll effectively communicate with them.

Well…the CD is down to the last song and I should make my post. When I’m drunk I talk a lot and I say nice things that I really do think, but am too reserved to say in normal conversation. When under the influence of Joy Division, I get more angry and say things I should have said before.

February 7, 2009 Posted by | Houston, Martin & Malcolm, Music, Politics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Barack Obama Is Not Martin Luther King

I’m glad Barack Obama will be sworn in as our President tomorrow.

However, today, Martin Luther King Day, we should recall that Barack Obama is not Martin Luther King.

Martin Luther King was a radical who, if alive today, would be happy to see a black American serving as President. However, I believe Reverend King would remain on the street side of the fence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Reverend King would be protesting for our cities, for economic justice, and for the still unmet dream of racial justice for all Americans. He would not let up because a black man was President no more than he let up when the domestic liberal Lyndon Johnson was President. 

We can’t forget that Mr. Obama is a politician. For whatever else he may be, he is a politician representing one of the two mainstream political parties.  I’m hopeful that Mr. Obama is a decent man and will be a competent President. But he will not take the risks of rushing far ahead of mainstream opinion and standing alone, if need be, as Martin Luther King often did.

Mr. Obama’s job as President is very different from the work Martin Luther King was called to do.

There is a place for both a Martin Luther King and a Barack Obama. For both the outsider and the insider. Mr. Obama is very clever in talking about grass roots and a movement on the one hand, while talking the language of full inclusion on the other hand. He seeks to be both the outsider and insider at one time.

It doesn’t work that way.  

The so-called “system” has things to offer. It is only government that can, among many other things, provide universal health care, benefits for the unemployed, and offer the resources to fix our roads and bridges. It is hopeful that our government in Washington now seems to be in the hands of people who are willing to use it for these ends.    

Yet the system always needs a push. This is the work of the outsider.

In one sense tomorrow we start a new era. We have a new President with new priorities and new goals. Yet the world will not magically change tomorrow at noon. The never ending work of justice and peace will remain to be completed.     

(Please click here for a Martin Luther King Reading & Reference List. It is the best of its kind on the web.)

January 19, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama, Martin & Malcolm, Politics | , , , , | 6 Comments

One Way To Get Rid Of A Hooters

One way to get rid of a Hooters is to have a hurricane come and blow it away.  This is what happened in Galveston, Texas with Hurricane Ike.

I got this picture from Wikipedia. I wish I had taken the picture because it is a scene I have walked past twice since Ike. But I did not take the picture.

I can’t recall if the Hooters was located where the there is nothing over the first set of wooden beams, or if it isthe damaged structure behind the beams. I think it is was where there is nothing at all.

There had been place called the Ocean Grill at this spot. It was there for at least 5 or 6 years— Maybe longer. I went there sometimes and sat out on the balcony that overlooked the ocean.  It’s so hard to find peace in the world and this was a place I found some peace.

One time I went there and intended to read a book of Martin Luther King sermons while I ate lunch. The hostess noticed my book and made a comment about how it looked interesting. I gave her the book.

I don’t say that to make out like I’m some great guy.  It’s just that each time I walked past the Ocean Grill—I visit Galveston from my home in Houston every six or seven weeks—this is what I thought about. I thought about the  young woman I had given the book to and about Martin Luther King.

Then the Ocean Grill closed and a Hooters opened up. Oh, how I hated that Hooters.

I’m sorry about all the trouble Hurricane Ike caused. But I am glad the Hooters is gone.

(Please click here for my Martin Luther King Reading And Reference List.)

January 17, 2009 Posted by | Books, Galveston, Martin & Malcolm | , , , , | 4 Comments

Is It Best That Chamillionaire Will Be A Grand Marshal Of Houston MLK Parade?

The rap star Chamillionaire will be a co-Grand Marshal of the 2009 Martin Luther King Day Parade in Houston.  Above you see a picture of Mr. Chamillionaire. He is from Houston. 

This parade will be held starting at 10 AM on January 19 in Downtown Houston.

It is easy to say that Dr. King would have been less than pleased by the presence of Mr. Chamillionaire at his parade. I admit that this was my reflexive reaction. However, so I could give a more informed view about Mr. Chamillonaire, I’ve done some studying.

Here is a link to the web site Hip Hop News discussing Mr. Chamillonaire’s part in the parade. The story does not talk about any issues this performer has focused on. His Wikipedia profile makes no mention of any politcal activism.

Here  is his own web home. With his own space, Mr. Chamillonaire makes no mention of any political concerns, that I see at least, nor does he provide links to causes he sees as important.  

Though he does say the following in a profile at his web home— 

“He (Chamillionaire)  does just that on “Hip-Hop Police,” a look at how the media and a variety of public figures continue to place blame on rap music for social issues, making loving hip hop equivalent to committing a crime. Then there’s the insightful “Evening News,” where Chamillionaire examines — with a sarcastic tone – what constitutes newsworthiness on a planet filled with legitimately significant events and genuine human suffering. …”Everyday I watch the news and look at how crazy the world is,” he explains. “It humbles you to see other people’s problems and to see the amount of adversity others seem to be going through. If you think you’re going through hard times, you can always turn on the TV to see someone else who’s going through things 10 times worse than you. But then again, the media will also dedicate a majority of their time focusing on topics that I feel are not as news worthy, often times making celebrity gossip their main focal point. I wanted to do a record with some social commentary but also not be too heavy handed when it comes to discussing the stuff that we should really be focusing on. I wanted to find the perfect balance and go right down the middle.”

All right–That’s something. I have signed up for Mr. Chamillionaire’s e-mail updates in case he announces a more comprehensive commitment to political activity. 

Here is what it says about Mr. Chamillionaire in his profile on the Houston MLK Parade web home—

“On a personal level, there are many causes that are dear to Chamillionaire’s heart, especially anything to do with helping children; something that was inspired by his upbringing. Taking a cue from his Mother, who routinely took in foster kids while he was growing up, Chamillionaire himself currently homes 3 foster children. Cancer research and his church are also causes to which Chamillionaire contributes regularly. Chamillionaire’s fierce love for his city means that you will always find him present in times of need. Whether it is donations for hurricane repairs to schools, or giving his time to raise awareness for those causes he holds dear, Chamillionaire is a philanthropic staple in the Houston community.” 

I punched his given name, Hakeen Seriki, into a comprehensive list of political donors to federal campaigns and saw no donations to help elect Barack Obama. I’m not assuming that he supported Mr. Obama because he is black.  Mr. Chamillionaire is free to vote for whoever he chooses.  But I do think that Dr. King might have supported Mr. Obama.

Here is a link to Mr. Chamillionaire’s song lyrics. I have to say that many of these lyrics do not appear to advocate social responsibility. 

Here is a sample of lyrics from the song Parking Lot Pimpin’—

Ladies and Gents, I’m the prince of all parking lot pimps
Yes I’m the Grinch and I ride twenty inch, like it’s a synch
Might convince your woman, to let me leave my paw prints
On her ass, take a pinch while you watch like a wimp
Look it don’t make sense, rims bigger than Shawn Kemp
I maneuver the big body, like I’m parking a blimp
I’m the thoedest speaker, to ever speak through a speaker
Talk down on Chamillion, I’ll fix your face with my sneakers
I get more green, than a whole forest full of reefer
You just mad, cause you can’t afford a smart beep-beeper
I’m the crooked chrome creeper, from the gutter young thugger
Chrome rims looking bigger, than your seventh grade brother
Not a lover, she just trying to put me in a lip-lock
I can’t stay with you girl, I can only make a pit stop
Big rocks what I rock, and I sip plenty of Henny
While you losing your fame and game, like Penny and Lil’ Penny

Mr. Chamillionaire , like all of us, is a work in progress. Maybe at the parade next week, Mr. Chamillonaire could ask where are the honor roll students and the debate club students marching along with the gun-toting ROTC kids (Who I know are good kids as well.) What would Dr. King have wanted?

The Hip Hop News article says there will be a military flyover at the parade. Maybe Mr. Chamillionaire could ask if that is a good use of tax dollars in this time of recession and people losing jobs.  He could ask if  Reverend King would have ever wished to be honored with a military flyover.

Mr. Chamillionaire seems a hard working and creative person who has earned his succcess. I’m uncertain that if he wishes to be a full force for good, or really merits a place of honor at a celebration of the life of Martin Luther King, that Mr. Chamillionaire can proceed as he been doing with such lyrics and offering such messages.

I call upon Mr. Chamillionaire, and on all of us, to use King Day to reflect on what course is best to follow so we may be of the most service to others.

(Please click here for the 2009 Martin Luther King Reading & Reference List.)

January 15, 2009 Posted by | Houston, Martin & Malcolm, Music, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Martin Luther King Reading & Reference List—Updated For 2009

(1/14/2010—This list has been updated for 2010.)

This is the second edition of the Martin Luther King Reading & Reference List. There are three additions for 2009.

While it is always instructive to watch a rebroadcast or listen to a recording of the I Have A Dream speech,  there is a next level for someone who wants to better understand Dr. King and his message.

Reverend King asked serious questions about America as a war criminal nation in Vietnam and he asked if America  merited divine judgement as a wicked nation of racism and social inequality.  These questions, even in the time of Barack Obama, are still worthy of consideration.

Here is an admittedly incomplete, but I hope, useful Martin Luther King viewing, visiting, listening, and reading list. The three additions for 2009 are noted towards the bottom of the list.

An excellent book is Martin & Malcolm & America—A Dream Or A Nightmare by James H. Cone. This book follows the words and the careers of both these men. The premise, which holds up, is that Dr. King and Malcolm X (photo below) were not as far apart as sometimes portrayed. Malcolm was a man with a broader vision than one of simple racial solidarity, and King was in many respects a fierce and almost apocalyptic critic of America.

I’m glad to say I bought my copy of Cone’s book at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, Georgia.  This site is operated by the National Park Service. You can tour Martin Luther King’s boyhood home at this location. You’ll also want to tour the Auburn Avenue Historic District around the King home.

Regretfully, the nearby Ebenezer Baptist Church (photo below) , King’s home church, is currently under renovation. It will reopen in late 2009.  Still, the District as a whole is very much worth a visit.

In Washington, when you visit the Lincoln Memorial (photo below), you can find a small marker indicating the exact spot where Rev. King made the “Dream” speech. It is a good place to stand.

The best one volume work on King’s life is David Garrow’s Bearing The Cross—Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Bearing The Cross was the 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner for biography.  You can’t help but feel the almost deep-sea like pressure on Dr. King in the final years of his life. I wondered if towards the end of his life King felt that death was going to be the only escape from the exhaustion, the misunderstandings and the conflicts.

An interesting DVD is King–Man Of Peace In A Time Of War. Much of the hour long presentation is a rehash of King biography. What makes this special is a roughly 15 minute interview Dr. King did with afternoon television host Mike Douglas.  Mr. Douglas asked tough questions about Dr. King’s stance against the Vietnam War and about the effect of that opposition on the Civil Rights movement. Dr. King is calm, cool and collected. You could see how King was a leader who could speak anywhere and to anyone.

A solid explanation of Reverend King’s theology and a good analysis on the failure of Southern segregationists to mount an even more aggressive opposition to the Civil Rights Movement, can be found in A Stone Of Hope—Prophetic Religion And The Death Of Jim Crow by David L. Chappell.

A Testament Of Hope—The Essential Writings And Speeches Of Martin Luther King, Jr is needed for a complete King library. In honesty though, I’ve always found this book to be sprawling and without  clear focus. It consists of King sermons, some interviews and excerpts from his books. You need to have it on your shelf, but there are more concise ways to get the “essential” King.  ( Photo below is Rev. King with Coretta Scott King.)

Here are the three new titles for 2009—

A quality children’s book on King is Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport. The writing in this book is clear and concise and respectful of the intellect of children. It’s a great introduction to King and a gateway to further studies by young people.

A comprehensive examination of King’s radical views on economic questions can be found in From Civil Rights to Human Rights—Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice by Thomas F. Jackson. King had leanings towards forms of socialism and came to see the fight for fair wages as an essential element in the fight for full human rights. It should not be forgotten that King died in Memphis fighting for striking sanitation workers.

A web resource to learn about King is the Martin Luther King, Jr, Research and Education Institute that is run by Stanford University. There are King sermons and addresses you can read and a link to a King Online Encyclopedia.  (These things said, there is nothing as good as having you own printed collection of King sermons that you can take anywhere and make notes and underline key passages as it suits you.)

There are three reference sources on Dr. King that in my view stand out.

Strength To Love is the best collection King sermons. It is a concise manageable book. You can cram it in your back pocket or in your purse. ( A larger purse at least.) I think you could read nothing but this one 158 page book, and know everything you need to know about Martin Luther King.

The audio collection of King’s sermons called  A Knock At Midnight might change your life. Stick the CD’s in your car stereo or turn it on at home and you’ll  hear Dr. King just as he was—Mighty and frail at the same time. I’ve listened to the sermons on Knock many times and they never get old. You can’t help but learn something or see an old question a new way each time you listen.

The definitive books on Martin Luther King’s life and the Civil Rights era are found in Taylor Branch’s three volume America In The King Years series.

These three books are the Pulitizer Prize winning Parting The Waters 1954-1963, Pillar Of Fire 1963-1965, and At Canaans Edge, 1965-1968. (Photo below is of Rosa Parks being booked during the Montgomery Bus Boycott.)

These books stand not only at the top of King biography, they stand as great examples of American biography. The picture of Dr. King is complete. You get the good and the bad. There will be times you’ll shake your head and ask yourself how Rev. King could have said that or done that.

You’ll also see how brave King was and how brave the Civil Rights marchers and protesters were. You’ll get a clear sense of the obstacles faced not just from whites, but from status quo blacks as well.  Mr. Branch offers a great deal of context for King’s life and experiences. He provides full portraits of other great Civil Rights leaders.

I can’t recommend all three volumes strongly enough. Read them and you’ll be an expert.

Please click here for a Texas Liberal post on King’s sermon Unfulfilled Dreams

January 14, 2009 Posted by | Books, Martin & Malcolm | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

We Are Seeing The Mountaintop

Here is what Martin Luther King said regarding mountains in his I Have A Dream  speech in 1963–

“This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.” And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring. ”

And here is what King said about mountains in his final speech delivered the night before he died in 1968 —

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!” 

If we elect Barack Obama today, we won’t quite have reached the peak Martin spoke of in 1963. But we will have climbed past a point I never thought I would see reached in my lifetime.

Far more than color, it’s about, after all these years, an affirmation, as visible as possible, that every American is a full American no matter what.

I’ll leave you with a picture of swing state Rocky Mountain peaks in Colorado. Let’s hope that tomorrow freedom is indeed ringing from those high peaks and from all peaks in our great nation.


November 4, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, History, Martin & Malcolm, Politics | , , , , , | 6 Comments

Tune Out M.L. King’s Kids—Focus On His Great Life

This won’t surprise you—Martin Luther King’s three surviving children are fighting for money instead of for justice. This time the issue is a biography of the late Coretta Scott King.

From the New York Times–

In the third King v. King legal dispute in four months, two of Dr. King’s children are refusing to provide a biographer of their mother, Coretta Scott King, who died in 2006, with a collection of her photographs, letters and personal papers. Their brother, Dexter King, chairman of their father’s estate, has asked a judge to force them to comply.

At stake is a $1.4 million book deal with the Penguin Group — as well as the reputation of one of America’s most famous families. Penguin said it intends to terminate the contract and demand the return of a $300,000 advance if the Kings do not turn over the papers to the biographer, Barbara Reynolds, by Friday.

The two children who oppose the book, the Rev. Bernice King and Martin Luther King III, say their mother did not want Ms. Reynolds to write the biography. Dexter King, who orchestrated the deal, said his siblings and mother signed control of their intellectual property over to their father’s estate.

A judge has ordered the Kings to appear in an Atlanta courtroom on Tuesday to resolve the dispute.

“It’s sad and pathetic to see the three of them behaving in this self-destructive way,” said David J. Garrow, a  Pulitizer Prize-winning biographer of Dr. King. “Unfortunately all of the children seem to regard their father’s legacy as first and foremost an income maximization opportunity for themselves.” 

Don’t let the King kids distract you from the greatness of Martin Luther King. Tune them out. Take the fact that the children put Dr. King’s name in today’s news as a spur to learn more about King.

Here is my Martin Luther King Reading & Reference list.

October 14, 2008 Posted by | Books, Martin & Malcolm | , , | 1 Comment

Top Texas Political Blogger Photographed With Fruit, Dolls & Books

Here is a Texas Liberal exclusive.

That’s me—the leading political blogger in Texas and in all America—holding a fruit salad I made this evening.

I wish I could make a giant fruit salad for all my blog readers.

Above me you see my Franklin Roosevelt, Andrew Jackson and George W. Bush dolls.

I play with them all the time. I have F.D.R and Old Hickory kick Mr. Bush around.   

You also see two drawings of Martin Luther King watching over me.

Please click here for the best Martin Luther King reading list on the web.

Look at all the books behind me. 

Have I read them all?

I’ll never tell. 

In addition to this blog, you can find me as one of eight featured politcal bloggers at the Houston Chronicle  and at Where’s The Outrage? which posts out of North Carolina.

Where’s The Outrage is the home of the Dr. Errington Thompson podcast.

Thank you for reading Texas Liberal!

June 17, 2008 Posted by | Blogging, Books, Martin & Malcolm | , , | 2 Comments

New Martin Luther King Book

Cover Image

I bought a new Martin Luther King book last week. It’s called From Civil Rights To Human RightsMartin Luther King And The Struggle For Economic Justice.  It was written by Thomas Jackson who is  an Associate Professor of History at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro.  

This book discusses Rev. King’s economic views and his role as a fighter for a broad array of rights beyond racial equality.  This larger focus is often forgotten in what is recalled about Dr. King.  

Here is a review of the book from the Texas Observer.

From the review—

Jackson describes King as a democratic socialist—one who believes that economic and political power should be distributed equitably among all the people of a polity. From his teens, when King wrote of his “anti-capitalist feelings,” throughout his college, graduate school, and seminary years, and finally into his life as a public figure, his beliefs were strikingly consistent. (Pastor King was thrust onto the national scene during the Montgomery bus boycott at the age of 26; he became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize at 35 and was assassinated at 39.) To gain a wider audience, King resisted labeling his prescription for what ailed America. “Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism,” Jackson quotes him as saying, “but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all God’s children.” Nonetheless, King emerges from this portrait as a democratic socialist, first, last, and always, who also happened to be a civil rights leader. For King, the right to vote was no more or less essential than the right to a job and a decent place to live. Human beings had a natural claim to all of them.

I look forward to reading this book. I have read so many King books that I have to be convinced that any new title is worth the time. 

If I like the book, I will add it to my Martin Luther King Reading & Reference List. My Martin Luther King reading & Reference List is the best of its kind by any blogger and maybe the best on the web.

May 28, 2008 Posted by | Books, Martin & Malcolm | , | Leave a comment

Fight Over Design Of Martin Luther King Statue

Chinese artist Lei Yixin is working on the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial. 

Above is a picture of the planned Martin Luther King statue for the Martin Luther King National Memorial on the Mall in Washington.

(Here is my Martin Luther King Reading & Reference List. It is the best list of its kind on the web.)

The man you see in the photo is sculptor Lei Yexin.

The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, which must approve all statues for the Mall, has said it does not like the statue.

( Update 5/18/08–Here is a very good New York Times story on this subject. It discusses the King statue and the politics of putting new things on the Mall.)

From a Washington Post story— 

The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts thinks “the colossal scale and Social Realist style of the proposed statue recalls a genre of political sculpture that has recently been pulled down in other countries,” commission secretary Thomas Luebke said in a letter in April…..

It is the second time in recent months that the memorial to the slain civil rights leader has come under fire. Last year, critics complained after a Chinese sculptor known for his monumental works of figures such as Mao Zedong was selected to create King and other elements of the memorial in China.

The $100 million memorial, which is being built largely with private donations by the Washington, D.C., Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, is planned for a crescent-shaped four-acre site among Washington’s famed cherry trees on the northwest shore of the basin. Construction is expected to start this year and end next year.

The centerpiece is to be a 2 1/2 -story sculpture of the civil rights leader carved in a giant chunk of granite. Called the Stone of Hope, it would depict King, standing with his arms folded, looming from the stone. At 28 feet tall, it would be eight feet taller than the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial.

I imagine the statue is not the soft image of Martin Luther King that has become the myth of his life with some. And I do see how the sculpture could be taken as something out of a dictatorship.

Still, I hope that whatever design is finally approved retains some of the discipline, and even harshness, found in King’s message of non-violence and divine review of America’s actions at home and in the world.

I also hope these objections are not a way at getting at the ethnicity of the artist. There has been controversy over the fact that Lei Yexin is Chinese. Martin Luther King would have accepted a sculptor of any race to honor his life’s work.      

May 12, 2008 Posted by | Art, Martin & Malcolm | , , , , | 4 Comments

Picture Of Sign Equating Ron Paul With Martin Luther King

I’ve been meaning to run this photo for some time. I took it at the 2008 Houston Martin Luther King Parade.

The sign, as you can see, equates Martin Luther King with Ron Paul. 

Sometimes you just wonder what is wrong with people.

Please click here for my Martin Luther King Reading and Reference List.

April 3, 2008 Posted by | Houston, Martin & Malcolm | , , | Leave a comment

Measures & Philosophies Of Progress In Houston

A contentious urban planning issue in Houston in recent months has been the so-called Ashby High Rise.

Houston has no zoning codes. You can build pretty much what you want where you want. 

Sleazy developers want to build an absurdly tall building in a residential neighborhood. The building is planned at 23 stories.  

On the other hand, many people of the targeted neighborhood are affluent and strike me as annoying. I just can’t believe, as they assert at times, that they also care about other parts of Houston.

I’m certain many of the individuals fighting the project are decent people. But I’m not aware that this neighborhood was organized before to assist people who live near the stench and toxins of the Houston Ship Channel.

Folks opposed to the high rise have the resources to print up bumper stickers and yard signs. They have a web page. 

A few months ago I suggested the tallest building on Earth should be built in this community.

Maybe a compromise could be that the Ashby high rise is built, but all profits from the project are stripped from the developer and architect.   

That way everybody loses.

I was taking a walk a few days ago and I asked myself why I support the construction of the tallest building on Earth at the Ashby location.   

The most positive outcome of all this seems to be that the City of Houston use the issue as a starting point towards increased regulation of development in Houston.  If people I don’t like are the first to benefit, so be it.

But I just can’t get myself there. 

One sometimes appealing aspect of Houston—when I am feeling the small measure of self-loathing that I see as essential to the broadly healthy personality— is that little pretense is made that it is a decent place. 

Many of Houston’s people are poor and the city is often quite ugly. These facts have been the case for many years now.

A small bit of increased regulation holds out the dispiriting hope that things can be better, when what you really feel is that the people proposing the small changes are not at heart sincere.

You could argue some progress is better than no progress, but I’ve seen many times that a little bit of progress often benefits those who least need the help.

A little bit of progress provides political cover for politicians who at heart lack the political will and imagination to advocate for more substantial change. A little bit of progress allows people to think that things that are bad are instead okay.

The other problem with the some progress is better than no progress point-of-view, is that it is often put forth by people who call themselves “moderates” or “pragmatic.” This implies that others are extremists and off the charts. Only the moderate is being “reasonable.”

Yet in many cases the more moderate position involves letting ongoing wrongs go unaddressed.

This is why Martin Luther King often spoke of “The urgency of now.” (Please click here for my Martin Luther King Reading & Reference List.) 

Also, I find it is often those who already hold power who define what moderation and pragmatism are for the rest of us.   

The people living around the Ashby high rise seem to have been done okay by Houston. So let them have Houston  in all its forms. Build the damn building.

Life is, of course, often a series of incremental steps, and if I had final say-so over the Ashby high rise I suppose I’d veto the project. ( Though I’d squeeze the neighborhood for some cash for other parts of Houston.)

Yet I also know that mammals would not have been able to rule the Earth unless the dinosaurs had gone away. Sometimes—if only just sometimes– life requires sweeping change.

To show I’m reasonable, I no longer support construction of the tallest building on Earth at the Ashby high rise location.

Instead, I now support construction of a biosphere. ( See picture below.) With this compromise solution, local residents who feel the neighborhood would be diminished by a large out-of-scale structure, would now at least have the option of moving into one of the many environments contained within the biosphere.

March 28, 2008 Posted by | Houston, Martin & Malcolm | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Obama & Noriega Seem More Organic Than Sanchez & Kirk In 2002

On Texas Primary Day, March 4, I’ll be voting for Barack Obama for President and Rick Noriega for the U.S. Senate.

( Please click here for a Texas Liberal History of the Texas Primary.)

Mr. Obama is black and Mr. Noriega is Hispanic.

Six years ago, Texas Democrats tried what was essentially a stunt by running Tony Sanchez for Governor and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, a black man, for the U.S. Senate.

It was a “dream team” or a “dream ticket.” It was going to bring a surge in minority turnout.


(Below is a print from the Civil War era called “The Soldier’s Dream of Home.”)

Now I have no problem with stunts. Look at the guy of the motorcycle in the picture—Good for him. He has drawn a crowd and I presume he is getting a check for that act. That sure makes him smarter than many bloggers.

Everybody needs an act to get by in this world.   

But Mr. Sanchez was a terrible candidate and Mr. Kirk was a total insider.  The idea that these men were going to bring out a larger minority turnout was pretty much a non-starter.

Six years later we again have the prospect of an all-minority top of the ticket in Texas. (Though of course here in Texas, land of John Wayne and all that, it is white folks who are in the minority.)  

This time around, the possible multi-racial combination at the top of the ticket has a more genuine feel.

For one thing, it’s a chance meeting. It is not a ticket cooked up in the backrooms. ( You’re telling me Mr. Obama still must win the nomination? Oh! Keep your fussy Felix Unger detail-orientated thinking away from the abstractions I hawk in this blog!)

For another thing, Mr. Obama seems to have tapped into a real feeling that we can have something more in this country than Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton.

Mr. Noriega also seems like real progress for Texas. He is as progressive a candidates we are going to see running for the Senate from Texas, and he combines his strong positions on issues with military service abroad.  

As for counting on Anglo urban “liberals” to value positive change more than they value order, and counting on minority turnout to bring home an election victory…..Yep–We are indeed thinking big in Texas for 2008.

(From a web profile of Martin Luther KingIt was not clear how SCLC and King could move from their civil rights work in the South to addressing the economic problems of poverty in the North and elsewhere. In 1966, King undertook a Campaign to End Slums in Chicago. After nine months the campaign ended in failure. King discovered the liberal consensus on race relations stopped short of fundamental economic change.)

(Please click here for the Texas Liberal Martin Luther King Reading & Reference List.)

Below is a picture of an organic farm. That’s nice. I’d like some crops from that field in my salad. This is how I see Obama and Noriega. 

Now look at this remote factory farm. It’s an alien landscape sucking up all our water. This reminds me of the soulless Sanchez and Kirk team from 2002. 

A simplification you say? Hey—That’s politics.  

Texas Liberal is leading the way in political history blogging in 2008.

February 12, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, Martin & Malcolm, Politics, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments