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2012 Harris County And Houston-Area Democratic Primary Results—A Lifeless Party In A Corrupt System

The Tea Party and others on the right did not force local Democrats to oust Judge Steven Kirkland based on smear tactics, nominate a hopeless perennial candidate for Harris County DA, nominate yet again a person who wants to impeach Obama for a U.S. House seat in Fort Bend, almost nominate anti-gay campaigner Dave Wilson for a county commission seat, and give mean-spirited Keryl Douglas more than 40% of the vote for party chair.

And these were the actions of the 5% or 6% who bothered to vote. Is this the core of the Democratic Party in the Houston-area?

These results in our huge Houston-area validate the Green and Occupy view that the two-party system is corrupt and dying.

I’m not sure what the answer is—though I do think there is a solution out there—but this stuff is not viable if we hope to make progress in Houston, in Harris County, in Texas and in the nation.

The work of freedom is up to each of us.  Without forgetting the role of circumstance and context which is key to progressive thought, we have to take control of our own futures and of our political system.

The turnout and the results yesterday were shameful. Our local Democratic Party is a lifeless outfit in the corrupt two-party system.

May 30, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 3 Comments

Texas Democratic Primary Is May 29—Kirkland And Fertitta Lack Credible Opponents In Two Harris County Races

The Texas Democratic primary will be held this month.

Primary Day is Tuesday, May 29. Early voting runs May 14-May 25.

The time by which you must register to vote to take part in the primary is already past.

Who may vote in this primary?

Any registered Texas voter may vote in the Democratic primary with the exception of those who have signed a ballot access petition for a Green or a Republican in 2012.

Here are some additional facts about the primary from The League of Women Voters of the Houston Area.

There are contested Democratic primaries in Harris County, and for all Texas on the upcoming ballot.

I have written about one of these contested primaries so far on the blog.

Highly-rated incumbent Harris County judge Steven Kirkland has a primary opponent for no other reason than that Judge Kirkland is gay.

Another easy race to call is the primary for the Democratic nomination for Harris County District Attorney.

Lyold Oliver has run for office a number of times before in Harris County as a Republican. He has also voted in Republican primaries.

Zack Fertitta is the only credible candidate on the Democratic ballot for DA.

Fellow Houston and Texas blogger Charles Kuffner has the best rundown of the Democratic candidates here in Harris County, and about other contested Texas primary fights as well. 

You might feel that the two-party system is broken and in the hands of the rich.

You might be torn over the fact that while there are clear differences in many respects between the two major parties, that it is also so both parties ignore the poor, and are both leading us to a police state in which the super-wealthy call all the shots.

Fellow Houston and Texas blogger Perry Dorrell has written about the Green Party slate in Harris County and in Texas at his great blog Brains & Eggs.

I will be voting in the Democratic primary.

I guess that is what I should do. It’s what I have done before.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be endorsing candidates in other contested Democratic races.

Maybe I’ll even find a real liberal someplace along the way.

May 8, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Flexibility Is Life And Progress—Different Sets Of Tracks Can Lead In The Same Direction

Last week I watched President Obama’s State of the Union speech.

On my Facebook that evening, I saw a number of reactions to the speech from both moderate and liberal Democrats, from Green Party supporters, from Occupy Wall Street backers and from socialists.

The Democrats all liked the speech, while some of my friends further along on the left had reactions ranging from partial approval to scorn.

This is all fine with me. While I am not President Obama’s most ardent supporter, I am on the side of all good people who want to  help move our great nation to the left.

There is no point in a rigidity that excludes people on our side of the aisle.

Here is the entirety of  chapter 76 of the Stephen Mitchell translation of the Tao Te Ching

Men are born soft and supple;

dead, they are stiff and hard.

Plants are born tender and pliant;

dead, they are brittle and dry.

This whoever is stiff and inflexible

is a disciple of death.

Whoever is soft and yielding

is a disciple of life.

The hard and stiff will be broken.

The soft and supple will prevail.

Yet–of course–we must move in a hopeful direction and this does require at the least a measure of coordination.

The good news is that different sets of tracks can lead in the same direction. We see this in picture below of railroad tracks that I took in Houston last year.

There are multiple tracks, but they merge.

See who your friends and allies are and see the good in them. Focus on where you agree and move forward.

We can be both flexible and focused on a common goal.

January 31, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Post Full Of Distractions—Giving The People What They Want

Here is a post full of distractions. In America we like distractions to take us away from the fact that we are a second-world nation in decline.

It is easier to be distracted than to take part in politics and in public affairs.

I want to give the people what they want.

The text in the post is for people who want a distraction from the distractions.

Above is a running donkey. Sometimes you run and run in life, and yet it feels that you have not made much progress.

It might also be said that the donkey symbolizes the Democratic Party.

We vote for Democrats year after year, and yet we do not appear to be moving ahead.

At the same time, our Republican Party has gone far-right crazy.

Like in Egypt and in Wisconsin, everyday people will have to do the hard work of freedom.

Below is the spinning Earth. We are all sisters and brothers on the spinning Earth.

Don’t be fooled by folks who tell you immigrants are trouble or Muslims are bad.

That kind of talk is just a distraction.

Below is a house being built.

You don’t see that much anymore.

Next is a pink heart and gay pride symbol indicating my support for gay marriage.

We should let people be with the people they want to be with in this brief life.

Gay marriage harms nobody.

Here we have a boat and a bridge. Regular readers of this blog will know I like water and boats.

We can stay the course even when there is an obstacle ahead.

Below is Franklin D. Roosevelt. F.D.R was a great President who helped bring us Social Security.

Your belief in so-called limited government will be of cold comfort when you are old and broke.

You are crazy if you think the private sector will help you get by when you are old.

Finally, we have a tree with one remaining falling leaf.

Life ends with death. But then there is renewal.

February 22, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

In This Case, Democrats Are As Willing As Republicans To Ruin The Lives Of The Urban Poor

In endorsements I have made in this campaign season, I’ve supported many Democrats.

While I’ve also endorsed a Green, a Socialist, and an independent, most of my endorsements have been of Democrats.

While I believe that many Democrats seeking public office are good and decent people, my support comes with a fair measure of reservation.

As a citizen and voter who has spent nearly every day of my life in a city, I feel that Democrats often take the votes of urban voters and offer little in return.

I feel that both liberals and minority voters hear a lot of talk from Democrats, but because the process is so bought off by big money and because so many politicians are cowards, urban policy is ignored and the poor stay poor year after year.

A recent opinion column in The  New York Times by Charles Blow about public policy regarding drug arrests brings this view home.

I’m just going to run the full piece. I subscribe to the print edition of the Times at great cost so I don’t feel guilty.

From Mr. Blow—

Attorney General Eric Holder Jr.’s recent chest-thumping against the California ballot initiative that seeks to legalize marijuana underscores how the war on drugs in this country has become a war focused on marijuana, one being waged primarily against minorities and promoted, fueled and financed primarily by Democratic politicians.

According to a report released Friday by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project for the Drug Policy Alliance and the N.A.A.C.P. and led by Prof. Harry Levine, a sociologist at the City University of New York: “In the last 20 years, California made 850,000 arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana, and half-a-million arrests in the last 10 years. The people arrested were disproportionately African-Americans and Latinos, overwhelmingly young people, especially men.”

For instance, the report says that the City of Los Angeles “arrested blacks for marijuana possession at seven times the rate of whites.”

This imbalance is not specific to California; it exists across the country.

One could justify this on some level if, in fact, young blacks and Hispanics were using marijuana more than young whites, but that isn’t the case. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, young white people consistently report higher marijuana use than blacks or Hispanics.

How can such a grotesquely race-biased pattern of arrests exist? Professor Levine paints a sordid picture: young police officers are funneled into low-income black and Hispanic neighborhoods where they are encouraged to aggressively stop and frisk young men. And if you look for something, you’ll find it. So they find some of these young people with small amounts of drugs. Then these young people are arrested. The officers will get experience processing arrests and will likely get to file overtime, he says, and the police chiefs will get a measure of productivity from their officers. The young men who were arrested are simply pawns.

Professor Levine has documented an even more devious practice in New York City, where possessing a small amount of marijuana is just a civil violation (so is a speeding ticket), but having it “open to public view” is a misdemeanor.

According to a report he issued in September 2009: “Police typically discovered the marijuana by stopping and searching people, often by tricking and intimidating them into revealing it. When people then took out the marijuana and handed it over, they were arrested and charged with the crime of having marijuana ‘open to public view.’ ”

And these arrests are no minor matter. They can have very serious, lifelong consequences.

For instance, in 1998, President Bill Clinton signed a provision that made people temporarily or permanently ineligible for federal financial aid depending on how many times they had been arrested and convicted of a drug offense. The law took effect in 2000, and since 2006 lawmakers have been working to soften it. But the effect was real and devastating: the people most in need of financial aid were also being the most targeted for marijuana arrests and were therefore the most at risk of being frozen out of higher education. Remember that the next time someone starts spouting statistics comparing the number of black men in prison with the number in college. Continue reading

October 26, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Democrats Parker, Locke & Brown Must Earn Support Of Liberals, Progressives & Democrats

Recent stories in the Houston Chronicle detail tough conditions for people in Houston and all of Harris County.

These stories have reported…  

High rates of domestic abuse….

Houston leading the nation in teen mothers….


Low rates of health insurance in our city and area.

All these concerns are directly connected to the economic distress that is inherent to much of Houston even when we are not in a recession.

You’d think that with all three serious candidates for Mayor of Houston being Democrats, that these issues and concerns about poverty in our city would be part of the discussion as we approach Election Day.

The three candidates are Annise Parker, Gene Locke and Peter Brown. 

Health care reform is clearly a local issue and it is an issue currently on the table in Washington. When you’re a Democrat and you’re running for Mayor of a city of two million people, you’d think the prospect of health care for all would be a matter you’d address.

How can liberals, progressives and people in Houston who need some help count on any of these three Democrats when they are silent on such a big question?

Don’t believe the lie that City of Houston elections are non-partisan. Party identification can’t be made known on the ballot, but candidates are certainly free to identify themselves with a political party during the campaign. All three of the main candidates are Democrats.

If Republicans in Houston want to vote for one of these Democrats they are clearly free to do so—But these folks are Democrats. 

Ms. Parker, Mr. Locke and Mr. Brown are making calculations about who matters based on who they expect to vote in November. Other people, no matter how much in need they may be, don’t seem to count.

Liberals, progressives and loyal Democrats need to be sure they are not pushed aside in a race that they should in fact be defining.

September 8, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Austin Area Voting Rights Case Headed To Supreme Court/Idea For Lawsuit Against Democratic Party

A lawsuit that started in the Austin, Texas suburb of Canyon Creek and that will test the limits of the Voting Rights Act is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Please click here to read the Wall Street Journal story on the suit. 

The issue began when a man named Don Zimmerman wanted to move a polling place from one place to another place that he saw as more convenient. Mr. Zimmerman is a lifelong Republican and a fan of libertarian Congressman Ron Paul.  

Moving the polling place required federal approval because Texas is still under the provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Any change in election procedure in a VRA  jurisdiction requires federal approval.

Mr. Zimmerman is suing because he sees this oversight as unfair.

Conservatives in Texas fear losing the state to a coalition of white and minority Democrats. Who knows what they might be up to as Texas (someday soon I’m sure) changes for the better?  

( Below–Former President George W. Bush signing a reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act in 2006. Even a bad man can do a good thing.)


You can say that a black man was just elected President of the United States–But most of the places still open to enforcement of the Voting Rights Act did not vote for Mr. Obama. Many whites in these places are still not on board with our future as an open multi-ethnic society. 

These conservatives are my fellow citizens and I would not deny them any rights or legal recourse that we all share. Yet while I do view them as fellow citizens in equal standing with all others, I also see them as people you need to watch like a hawk. 


(Here is good information on the Red-Tailed Hawk such as you see in the picture above.)

Below is a map of places still under the jurisdiction of the Voting Rights Act.  


The Voting Rights Act was signed into law by Lyndon Johnson in 1965. Here is information on the Voting Rights Act.  Here is information on Lyndon Johnson.

Instead of a lawsuit by this Mr. Zimmerman that has the true intent of weakening the ability of our government to protect the rights of all people, I have a suggestion of my own for a lawsuit.

I propose that minority voters, liberals and all Democrats across the nation sue the Democratic Party and any number of elected Democrats for years of acquiescing, and in many cases tacitly encouraging, low minority turnout.

 The suit could charge that in cities and in majority-minority districts across the nation, the Democratic Party and its elected officials have looked the other way at officeholders racking up millions in campaign dollars from interests at odds with the core constituencies of the Democratic party and at odds with the general interests of the people of  the United States.

As these folks take in the money, they are elected year-after-year in barely contested elections while conditions in America’s cities decline.

Could this have ever been the intent or spirit of the Voting Rights Act?

( Republicans living rural areas could come up with a suit of their own along many of the the same lines.)

Mr. Zimmerman and his allies are bad actors. Yet in opposing Mr. Zimmerman’s efforts we should not lose sight of the damage done from our own side of the aisle.

April 2, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Six Black U.S. Senators Since Reconstruction—Who & Why So Few?

There have been six Black United States Senators in post-reconstruction America.

Just six.

Here is a post on the three black post-reconstruction Governors.)

Here are the five Black Senators to date—

Ed Brooke (above) was a Republican elected from Massachusetts in 1966 and 1972.  He was defeated in 1978 by Paul Tsongas who went on to a notable career himself. Mr. Brooke was part of the moderate to liberal wing of the Republican party that does not so much exist anymore. The decline of moderate Republicanism is a big reason why Democrats are so strong in New England and New York state today.

Here is a Time Magazine article from 1971 pondering if President Richard Nixon would consider replacing Vice President Spiro Agnew on the ticket with Senator Brooke.

Carol Moseley Braun (Above) is the only Black woman to have served in the Senate. She represented Illinois. Ms. Moseley Braun defeated an incumbent Democrat Senator in a primary in 1992 and went on to win the General Election.

People had hopes for Carol Moseley Braun. For a variety of reasons, some maybe relating to her own mistakes and some maybe a product of unreasonable expectations, Ms. Moseley Braun lasted only one term.  This New York Times story from Ms. Moseley Braun’s 2004 run for President offers some perspective.

If Ms. Moseley Braun had been able to hold on, Barack Obama would most likely not have been elected to the Senate as the third post- Reconstruction black senator.   Mr. Obama won the seat once occupied by Ms. Moseley Braun. The Republican who defeated her in 1998, Peter Fitzgerald, did not run for reelection in 2004 against Mr. Obama in strongly Democratic Illinois.

Barack Obama of Illinois was elected to the Senate in 2004. He then went on to even bigger things.

The fourth Black U.S. Senator was Roland Burris (Above) of Illinois.  Mr. Burris was appointed by the Governor of Illinois to replace Barack Obama. His appointment was made under controversial circumstances as Governor Rod Blagojevich made the nomination while under indictment for a range of offenses including trying to sell the Obama Senate seat.

Mr. Burris was the first statewide elected Black in Illinois. He was elected as Comptroller of Illinois in 1979 and served in that post until 1991. In 1990 he was elected Attorney General of Illinois. He has also run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate, Governor of Illinois, and Mayor of Chicago.

Here is a comprehensive profile of Mr. Burris.

Mr. Burris did not run for reelection in 2010.


The fifth post-Reconstruction Black Senator was Tim Scott (Above) of South Carolina. Mr. Scott was designated in December, 2012 to replace Senator Jim DeMint who resigned his office.

Here is profile of Mr. Scott from the PBS News Hour.

Mr. Scott is the fIrst Black Republican Senator since Ed Brooke. He is expected to run to fill the seat on a permanent basis.


The sixth post-reconstruction Black Senator is Mo Cowan (Above) of Massachusetts.

Mr. Cowan was appointed to the Senate by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to fill the vacancy caused by John Kerry being appointed Secretary of State.

Mr. Cowan is a well-connected attorney who has served as Governor Patrick’s Chief of Staff. Here is a profile of Mr. Cowan from the Boston Globe. 

Mr. Cowan will serve in the Senate until an election takes place on June 25. Mr. Cowan is not a candidate for the June election.

Why only six black senators in post-Reconstruction America?

Here are some reasons for the low number —

1. Jim Crow and racism long denied Black people the right to vote and to run for office.

2. Even given the (not always uncontested) right of Blacks to vote today, a large proportion of Blacks in America live in the South where whites are not always inclined to vote for Blacks. This is how George W. Bush or Mitt Romney easily carries Mississippi even though 30% of people in Mississippi are Black.

3. Many states have very few Black people and so Black candidates are less likely to emerge from these places. Though it must also be said there were not so many Black folks in Massachusetts to help elect Ed Brooke.

4. The overwhelming majority of Blacks are Democrats. As many Senators are Republicans, this limits the options for Black Republican Senators.

5. Since most Blacks are going to vote for Democrats no matter what, Democrats use this fact and do not push Blacks to run for the highest offices. If someone is going to do something for you anyway, why not take advantage of them?

6.  Since many Black office holders have safe majority-minority districts or serve in majority-Black cities, why take a chance on a tough statewide race?

7. Black politicians often have a terrible record of cultivating new people and young people for the tough battles ahead. It’s easy to sit in a safe seat and accumulate power . It is more difficult to help people and fight for people in a more constructive way.

(There have been a full total of seven black U.S. Senators in our history. The other two, from the Reconstruction Era were Hiram Revels a Republican from Mississippi who served in 1870 and 1871, and another Mississippi Republican, Blanche Bruce, who served from 1875 until 1881. Both of these men were appointed by the state legislature as was done for much of American history. Here is information about the 17th Amendment, ratified in 1913, that provided for direct election of Senators.

February 4, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, History, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

A Difference Between Martin Luther King And MoveOn’s Eli Pariser

I just finished reading The Argument—Billionaires, Bloggers and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics by Matt Bai of The New York Times. 

The title of this book, published in 2007, gives the idea of what it is about.

The future direction of the Democratic party is the subject of a struggle between wealthy activists, bloggers who represent the so-called “netroots”, and the old-line party establishment.

Representatives of these factions might be, among a number of others, George Soros for the billionaires, Daily Kos for bloggers and Congressman Rahm Emanuel from Chicago for the party establishment. (The Emanuel story I’ve linked with is two years old, but is still useful to read.) 

If you care about the subject beyond this brief summary, you can click the book title above, read the review and figure out what you think.   

Personally, I see it as an interesting question and I’m glad I read the book. However, until new ideas emerge instead of what often seems to be a zero-sum quest for power, what I feel I’m seeing is a circulation of elites and insiders (even if they are now sometimes self-created elites and insiders drawn from a somewhat wider base of people) and not real change.   

What caught my eye most in The Argument was a quote by MoveOn.Org‘s Political Action Executive Director Eli Pariser. He said the following- — (To be clear, I like MoveOn and Eli Pariser just fine.)

The vision of Democrats controlling all three branches of government—That’s not the vision I’m in it for. The vision is to actually to get somewhere on the issues we care about. Democrats are a vehicle. But if I’m trying to got to Boston, you know the vision isn’t Hartford.

Contrast that to what Martin Luther King said in his great sermon Unfulfilled Dreams

There’s a highway called Highway 80. I’ve marched on that highway from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery. But I never will forget my first experience with Highway 80 was driving with Coretta and Ralph and Juanita Abernathy to California. We drove from Montgomery all the way to Los Angeles on Highway 80—it goes all the way out to Los Angeles. And you know, being a good man, being a good woman, does not mean that you’ve arrived in Los Angeles. It simply means that you’re on Highway 80. Maybe you haven’t gotten as far as Selma, or maybe you haven’t gotten as far as Meridian, Mississippi, or Monroe, Louisiana—that isn’t the question. The question is whether you are on the right road. Salvation is being on the right road, not having reached a destination.

On this question, more relevant to daily life and to the goals we set for ourselves in our private and public lives than what group of elites controls the Democratic Party, I stand with Reverend King.

It’s okay if we don’t reach a final destination as long as we have made a good faith effort. I say this even though Mr. Pariser’s point is well-taken. In the end it is not about the Democratic Party, it is about the things that will make people’s lives better.  

Still, life is such that many aren’t going to reach the goals they set for themselves. Reverend King’s message on this fact never loses it’s resonance.

Above is a picture of Downtown Hartford. Here is a link to the tourism attractions of Hartford.  

Please click here for other Texas Liberal posts on Martin Luther King including a post on his Unfulfilled Dreams sermon.    

December 26, 2007 Posted by | Blogging, Books, Politics | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Will America’s Democrats Face Same Questions And Problems As Germany’s Social Democrats?

The Economist reported recently about problems facing Germany’s Social Democratic Party. This is the main center-left party of Germany. At current, the S.D.P is the junior partner in a grand coalition government led by Christian Democratic Chancellor Angela Merkel.  

The threat rising against the S.D.P is the new Left Party. The Left Party is pulling away many working class voters who have long supported the S.D.P.

The appeal of the Left Party comes mostly from economic issues such as low pay, job security and retirement age. The party is strong where steel plants and coal mines have shut down.

In short, the Left Party does best where globalization has hit hardest.  

The Left Party was formed in the former East Germany from the remnants of the former Communist Party. Despite those roots, The Economist cites a recent book maintaining that Left Party leaders are fully democratic.

Up to now, these Communist beginnings are a reason the S.D.P has been reluctant to join in coalition with the Left Party.  

(An exception is an S.D.P/Left coalition governing Berlin under openly gay S.D.P Mayor Klaus Wowereit.

While strongest in the east where economic conditions are toughest, the Left Party has been gaining elsewhere in Germany

In current German polling, the Left Party stands at about 10%. This puts it roughly even with the Greens. With the S.D.P at under 30%, the Left Party might be needed by the S.D.P to form a coalition government in a future federal election.  

Could America’s Democratic Party face the same problems Germany’s Social Democrats are confronting? The recent agreements at General Motors and Chrysler institute a two-tiered wage structure.  New hires will receive far lower pay than long-term employees even given the difference in duration of employment.

How are our blue collar people going to be able to live decent lives? 

Some German voters apparently feel the S.D.P does not have the answers to the effects of globalization in an advanced economy.

It is not hard to imagine that Democratic voters in the United States will soon begin to ask some of the same tough questions now being asked of the established left in Germany.     

October 19, 2007 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mickey Leland In The Texas Observer On Party Loyalty

Though I am of the left, I believe in a big tent Democratic party. In America we have two main parties for 300 million people and people will differ and disagree. In Texas, we have over 23 million people and again, people will differ and disagree.  

A workable standard for party loyalty was well-established 26 years ago by late Houston Congressman Mickey Leland.

Mr. Leland wrote an article for The Texas Observer in 1981 called The Tumor in the Texas Democratic Party. The article is reprinted in the book Fifty Years of the Texas Observer

Mr. Leland wrote about Texas Congressional turncoats such as Phil Gramm and Kent Hance who helped sponsor the poor-bashing tax cuts and budgets offered by Ronald Reagan.

Here is what Leland said—

Now, I want to carefully distinguish between those members of Congress who have or who will vote contrary to the Democratic position either out of personal belief or because their districts demand it….and those few members who go far beyond a vote and undertake a leadership role in sponsoring and working for the Republican program.

Mr. Leland got it exactly right. You don’t have to vote with the majority of Democrats every time, but you do have to have a good reason to bolt the party. If you vote the other way out of conviction or for survival, we can still work together at the end of the day.

If you’re selling out your colleagues for personal political gain or you’ve moved impossibly far away from the positions of your party, then you’re no longer welcome.     

October 4, 2007 Posted by | Books, Houston, Political History, Politics, Texas | , , , , | Leave a comment