Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Steps You Can Take To Defend Our Texas Public Schools—It Is Up To You To Act

Blogger’s Note—The  following post was compiled and written by top Houston political blogger Charles Kuffner at his blog Off The Kuff. I asked Charles if I could use this material here and he was kind enough to say yes. The post deals with what people can do to fight drastic cuts in Texas education being planned by the Texas legislature and Governor Rick Perry.  While the post deals at first with the Houston-area Spring Branch Independent  School District, it could just as easily be about any school district in Texas.  As you read down the post, you’ll see  it offers ways for average folks from all over Texas to fight back and win.  I cannot imagine there is any part of Texas not concerned about these cuts in education. It cannot be said enough—The hard work of freedom and of bringing about a hopeful future is up to all of us. We all have the option to attend a public meeting, attend or organize a protest, to write or call an elected official, talk to friends and family,  start a blog, donate money, write a letter to the editor,  volunteer for candidates and causes we value, and even run for office ourselves. I urge you to consider all these possibilities as from Wisconsin to Washington, D.C, to Austin, our American values of fair play for all are under attack.  Thanks again to Off The Kuff for this post.

1. First and foremost, make sure you understand the scope of the issue and how it will affect you. Here’s an email that was sent out by the Spring Branch ISD to its parents:

Why should you care about the State Legislature and how its leadership impacts SBISD students? 

  • In 2005, state property taxpayers were told by the Texas Legislature that their property taxes would be lowered and that the funding loss to our schools would be made up through other taxes or revenue sources, including a new business or “margins” tax. That promise to make up for the funding loss has not been kept. The Texas Legislature must honor its commitment and restore this funding.

  • Reductions proposed in Austin would equate to 15% of SBISD’s current funding. This represents a reduction of about $800 per student from the current $5,700 per student allotment, or $20,000 per classroom. Pictured in another way, this is the equivalent of one full class period being eliminated from every student’s school day.

  • In 2006, the state froze school district revenue at the 2006 level. Since that time, in order to fund basic inflationary cost increases, including cost-of-living increases for our teachers, SBISD has made difficult non-campus reductions and used its savings to limit the direct effect on our classrooms. In fact, the current 2010-11 SBISD budget reflects reductions of more than $8 million to make ends meet. Unless the Legislature restores school funding, SBISD will no longer be able to keep the impact of yearly budget reductions away from its classrooms.
Our Priorities:Spring Branch ISD students will graduate from high school on time and go on to successfully complete a 2-year technical degree, or a 2-year associate’s degree, or a 4-year bachelor’s degree. 

To support this goal, the Legislature must: 

  • provide SBISD with a revenue stream that is predictable, takes into account inflationary costs, and is not less than the amount SBISD currently receives;
  • exempt school districts from state mandates for which the Legislature has not appropriated funding sufficient to meet expenditures (for example, costs related to the 4X4 math/science requirement);
  • restore the authority of elected school boards to raise funds locally without a tax-rate election, and eliminate the requirement that any of these additional funds be sent to the state (Robin Hood);
  • return local control and responsibility over important issues, such as the school calendar, to elected school district trustees who are most accountable to the community on matters of public schools; and
  • provide high-performing school districts like SBISD with autonomy and flexibility over their educational program.

As the Texas Legislature continues to meet during the months ahead, reduced budgets and associated reductions will be more clearly defined. SBISD, in the meantime, will continue to communicate with Legislators and our community about what these cuts will mean to our students, our employees and the local community.

If you’re not getting this kind of information about what’s going on with your school and your school district, talk to your child’s teacher, your PTA, your principal, or your school board trustee. You can’t know what to do if you don’t know what’s at stake.

2. Make your voice heard in Austin by lobbying your Representative, your Senator, and the members of the relevant legislative committees. HISD has a Legislative Training sessionscheduled for next Saturday to help you learn who these people are and what your best strategies are for communicating with them.

With the State of Texas facing a record-level budget shortfall, it is expected that the Texas Legislature will be severely cutting funding for public education.

To help parents, teachers, administrators, students, and other concerned members of the community understand how this could affect Houston-area students, HISD will be presenting a “primer” on how the Texas Legislature works on Saturday, February 26.

The district’s second “Legislative 101,” which starts at 9:00 a.m. at the DeBakey High School for Health Professions (3100 Shenandoah, 77021), will provide participants with an update on current legislative activity, the chance to hear from top lobbyists on the most effective ways to communicate with elected officials, and details on how Houston-area school districts can work together on legislative issues impacting their students.

For planning purposes, those who expect to attend this event are asked to RSVP as soon as possible to events@houstonisd.org.

You can also watch a video of the first event held on January 27.

Some legislators – Republicans, for the most part – will need more convincing than others.

3. Head up to Austin for a rally and march.

We invite everyone from across Texas to join us at the Capitol building in Austin Texas on March 12th, 2011!

Save Texas Schools will hold a rally and march at the State Capitol on March 12, 2011, with parents, teachers, students, community members, business owners, and faith organizations. A list of speakers and entertainment is in the works for this historic, nonpartisan, family-friendly event. We invite everyone, from school districts all across the state of Texas, to join us in asking our lawmakers to Keep Texas Smart!

DATE: Saturday, March 12, 2011

TIME/PLACE:

March: 11:00 a.m. starting from 12th & Trinity (2 blocks from the Capitol)

Rally: Noon – 2:00 p.m. at the Texas State Capitol on the South Steps, Congress Ave. & 11th St.

Click the link above for a map, and click here to RSVP.

So there you have it. If we don’t fight for this, we will have no right to complain later on. And if you need a little inspiration to get into the fighting mood, read this letter from John Kuhn, superintendent of the Perrin-Whitt Consolidated Independent School District, in which he channels a little William Travis to the Lege.

February 21, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 2 Comments

It Is Up To The Individual To Decide To Work With Others For Shared Goals

Regular readers of the blog will know I often emphasize the fact that it is up to everyday people to do the work of freedom.

We are seeing this fact in full view with current events in Egypt, the middle east, and Wisconsin.

It is the responsibility of everyday people to fight back and make progress.

In Texas, as crippling budget cuts are planned for health and education, everyday people can flood the state capitol just as is going on in Wisconsin right now.

In the end, it is up to the individual to make the decision to work with others for shared goals.

You and the people who share your hopes for the future have the make the call to move ahead.

February 19, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 2 Comments

You Have The Ability To Fight Back And To Organize—Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up

At the end of this post is the most recent weekly Texas Progressive Alliance round-up. The TPA is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas.

The do-it-yourself, self-starter ethos of progressive political blogging in Texas, combined with the advocacy of these bloggers for government action to protect our environment, guarantee access to health care, and to strengthen the rights of working people, is a healthy mix to consider for your own political activism.

Just as we are seeing in Egypt, average people themselves must take a lead role in the freedom of average people.

This does not mean there is no role for interest groups and political leaders in expanding the rights, responsibilities, and opportunities available to all. But just as Texas progressive political citizen-bloggers give their time and effort to advocate for what they believe, every person in Texas and in our nation has the same ability.

With brutal cuts coming in our State of Texas budget—cuts due to Republican mismanagement of the state budget and due to the selfishness and short-sightedness of many of our fellow Texans—it is up to each us to demand that our budget reflect the best that Texas can be. We don’t have  to be fighting each other for the scarce resources allocated by anti-tax zealots who think it is good sport to talk about secession from the Union.

We can all fight back on our own and organize as free citizens for a better Texas and for a more hopeful future.

The round-up—

Off the Kuff took an early look at fundraising for 2011 city of Houston elections.

The Big Gas Mafia says it’s impossible but hydraulic fracturing causes gas to migrate, threatening lives… AGAIN. TXsharon puts 2 and 2 together atBluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS.

Bay Area Houston has a press release from the governor titled Rick Perry Asks Republican Voters to Quit Their State Jobs.

A Texas republican is at the forefront of the movement to kill Medicare. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is not surprised.

This week at Left of College Station Teddy calls out Congressman Bill Flores’ health care hypocrisy for voting to repeal health care reform that ensures health care for millions of Americans while voting against repealing his own government health care. Teddy also covers the week in headlines. Continue reading

February 6, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Facts And Context About Ongoing Egyptian Protests

Blogger’s Note– This post is updated through 12 noon on 2/6.

This post seeks to offer history and context for what is taking place in Egypt. It is good to get the facts on what is taking place right now. It also has value to go back and better understand the underlying circumstances. This post attempts to offer a mix of current events and larger context.

There are significant protests taking place in Egypt against the longtime and undemocratic rule of President Hosni Mubarak. Mr. Mubarak has ruled Egypt since 1981. A leading opposition figure, Mohamed ElBaradei, has returned to Egypt. This is a strong challenge to the Mubarak government. Various oppostion forces in Egypt exist, but none of these groups can be said to be leading the demonstrations.

Europe and the United States are pushing for some type of transition of government. But at the bottom line, the Egyptian government does not appear to be yielding power. President Mubarak won’t give up power. But Mr. Mubarak’s departure is all that will meet the demands of the demonstraters. Given that the powerful army will not back a harsh crackdown, how can Mr. Mubarak hang on?

It is good to see people fighting for freedom and for a better life. People have to take charge of their lives. While circumstance does not always allow that, we see in Egypt that people can move ahead even in tough circumstances.

Let’s hope that something better does come to Egypt.

Here is a profile of Mohamed ElBaradei.

(Update 2/6–The Muslim Brotherhood has taken part in talks for the first time.)

(Update 2/6–Here is an Aljazeera profile of the Muslim Brotherhood.)

(Update 2/6—Opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei says he is being excluded from talks. Mr. ElBaradei also says that the issue should long-standing change instead of an immediate  demand that Mr. Mubarak leave power.)

(Update 2/4–There are protests and conflict taking place in Cairo away from the cameras of Tahrir Square.)

(Update 2/4—This is a blog post I wrote with links to a number of liberal American media sources reporting on Egypt.)

(Update 2/4–Some Egyptians are praying for Mubarak to leave.)

(Update 2/2—Journalists were attacked by pro-government  protestors today.)

(Update 2/2–Hopefully, the protests will enhance the status of women in Egypt.)

(Update 2/2--The leading liberal magazine The Nation has a number of blogs and articles about events in Egypt.)

(Update 2/1—National Public Radio reports on the wide range of demands the protestors have.)

(Update 2/1—The U.S. says Hosni Mubrak should go.)

(Update 1/31—The respected U.S. online newspaper The Christian Science Monitor reports that it is not clear what opposition group or groups have the upper hand if President Mubarak is forced from office.)

(Update 1/31-Some wealthy areas of Cairo are being attacked by mobs.)

(Update 1/31—Here is how things are seen by India’s great newspaper The Hindu.)

(Update 1/30— Israel, a great nation that has every right to exist despite the thuggish right-wing leaders they keep electing, is watching events in Egypt with concern.)

(Update 1/30–With looting taking place, some Egyptians are guarding their own homes and business places.)

(Update 1/30-Here is the AlJazeera blog on Egypt.)

(Update 1/30—2000 people in Chicago marched for democracy in Egypt.)

(Update 1/29-This report from the Times of India suggests that members of the Mubarak family have fled to London.)

(Update 1/29–The excellent monthly news and features magazine The Atlantic is liveblogging from Egypt.)

(Update 1/28–-Live updates of events on the BBC.)

(Update 1/28-The British newspsper The Guardian is updating reports on the protests by the minute.)

(Update 1/28–Today’s protests are the largest yet.)

(Update 1/27–Reuters Africa reports many disruptions in internet service in Egypt. The government does not want people to organize.)

(Update 1/27– Mohamed ElBaradei is back in Egypt.)

(Update 1/27–As the BBC reports, the protests are now on day 3.)

(Update 1/27—The liberal magazine The Nation says that Barack Obama did little to support the people of Egypt and Tunisia in his State of the Union address.)

(Update 1/26—Some are defying a goverment order to stop the protests.)

(Update 1/26—Twitter and Facebook are blocked in Egypt.)

(Update 1/26– The latest videos and reports from Al-Jazeera.)

This 1/29 Los Angeles Times article connects events in Tunsia to the wider protests now going on in Egypt and elsewhere in that region.

From the L.A. Times—

“The most obvious effect is the empowerment of the citizen. The individual who felt helpless before the all-powerful state has now discovered that ultimate political power really does lie in his or her hands — that in spontaneous and collective action, a repressive regime, enjoying widespread regional and international support, can be brought down in a few weeks.”

Here are facts about Mr. Mubarak and his time in office from About.com.

(Below–Hosni Mubarak with former President George W. Bush.)

Amnesty International reports that civil rights abuses and repression are prevalent in Egypt.

From the 2010 Amnesty report on Egypt—

“The government continued to use state of emergency powers to detain peaceful critics and opponents as well as people suspected of security offences or involvement in terrorism. Some were held under administrative detention orders; others were sentenced to prison terms after unfair trials before military courts. Torture and other ill-treatment remained widespread in police cells, security police detention centres and prisons, and in most cases were committed with impunity. The rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly were curtailed; journalists and bloggers were among those detained or prosecuted. Hundreds of families residing in Cairo’s “unsafe areas” were forcibly evicted”


(Above–Mr. Mubarak getting a symbolic shoe tossed his way in the ongoing protests. Photo by Muhammad Ghafari.)

After protests in Tunisia that began this month, the government in that nearby North African nation was toppled. Yet it remains unclear if what will replace the old corrupt regime in Tunisia will be any better than what came before.

The population of Tunisia is as a general matter more educated and more connected online than is the population of Egypt. This is said in no way to disparage the Egyptian people. It is simply to say that when people have not been free for many years, it can be tough to establish a functioning democracy.

The great liberal magazine Mother Jones is writing ongoing updates on the protests.

From Mother Jones—

“Inspired by the recent protests that led to the fall of the Tunisian government and the ousting of longtime Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Egyptians have joined other protesters across the Arab world (in Algeria, notably) in protesting their autocratic governments, high levels of corruption, and grinding poverty. In Egypt, tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets.”

Bloomberg Businessweek has an article on the possible econmic impact of the protests for Egypt.


(Above–The Nile River in Cairo. Here are facts about the Nile River. Here are various travel blogs that describe visiting Cairo.)

Global Voices is an excellent resource for citizen bloggers and citizen reporters from across the world. Here is the Global Voices Egypt page.

Here is the blog The Arabist with reports about both Egypt and Tunisia.

Here is an extensive  series of articles on Egypt published last July by The Economist. This link is to the first of the eight articles. Links to the others are on the right side of the first article.

From The Economist–

“Political talk in Egypt has always been acidly cynical, but now a new bitterness has crept in. This has not been prompted by any change from above, since little has really changed in Egyptian politics since President Hosni Mubarak came to office 29 years ago. The sour mood is informed instead by the contrast between rising aspirations and enduring hardships; by a growing sense of alienation from the state; and by the unease of anticipation as the end of an era inevitably looms ever closer.”

(Above–Map of Egypt.)

Here are some basic facts about Egypt from the BBC.

84 million people live in Egypt.

Here are some basic facts about Tunisia from the BBC.

10 million people live in Tunisia.

At the bottom of both the BBC links are links to Egyptian and Tunisian media outlets.

Let’s hope that both Egypt and Tunisia find a path to better governments and towards a society that allows people to best use the talents they have in life. Let’s hope that these folks don’t end up with a right-wing religious government.

Let’s also use this North African unrest as a chance to learn more about this part of the world. We all have the abilty to learn more.  Accessible and affordable technology, as well the old- fashioned daily newspaper and public library, are always available to help us learn more about the world.

(Below–The Suez Canal Bridge. Also known as the Mubarak Peace Bridge. People in Egypt seem ready to pass on over to something new.)

January 26, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Take Ownership Of The Constitution From The Far Right—Learn, Fight Back & Win

Republicans in control of the U.S. House read the Constitution out loud today on the floor of the U. S. House.

There is nothing wrong with reading the Constitution out loud. All people should know the Constitution.

The mistake has been us as liberals, progressives, and Democrats to allow people on the far-right, such as just about every member of the Republican Party at this point, to lay claim to ideological ownership of our founding documents.

The Constitution does not belong to people who feel it does not protect the rights of all Americans.

With this blog post, you see my copy of the Constitution with my cup of coffee at the White Castle at the corner of Reading & Taft in Cincinnati.

I keep a copy of the Constitution at all times. I have it with me even when I’m on the road. I’m ready to reply to all Constitutional questions should a Constitutional debate break out on the sidewalk, or any other place I may be in daily life. I’m not giving up our freedoms to any so-called Tea Party.

The Constitution is both the starting point of our laws, and a document that allows us to make progress in our society.

The Constitution allows for the rights of all people, and it allows for advancements to be made towards the goal of universal health care.

Learn about the Constitution for yourself. Don’t shy away from what makes our nation strong. Don’t let our futures be defined by our most selfish and fearful fellow citizens.

January 6, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 2 Comments

All Freedom Is Connected

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell will soon be repealed.

This will mean that gay Americans are now one step closer to equal citizenship in our nation.

However, the Dream Act, which would allow young people brought to the United States as children to become citizens if they go to college or join the military, was rejected.

While the repeal of Don’t Ask is a great victory, we need to be mindful of the fact that the freedom of all people in connected.

There is no point in making young people suffer for the actions of their parents.

The work of progress is never completed.

The end of Don’t Ask is a reminder that victories can be won.

The failure of the Dream Act is a reminder of the tasks ahead.

This work and these tasks are the responsibility of every American.

(Flag photo by Jared Preston.)

December 19, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas Tree Protest Against Citizens United Ruling—Maybe You Can Do Something More Effective

Above you see a Christmas ornament on my Christmas Tree.

The ornament is of the U.S. Capitol with a copy of the Constitution scrolled around the building.

You light up the ornament by placing a Christmas tree light into the back of the ornament.

I placed a green bulb in the Capitol/Constitution because our nation’s political system is run by big money.

It’s always been this way—But since the terrible Citizens United ruling earlier this year by the Supreme Court, the rule of big money is even worse.

The 2012 campaign is going to be all about big money from often secret sources.

The Citzens United decision allows for unlimited secret money to be donated to political campaigns from corporations and the super-rich.

I’m not certain my protest of making the Capitol and the Constitution the color of money will change much.

It is simply what I could do in the context of my Christmas Tree.

However, there are things we can do to combat the role of big money in our politics.

We can donate money ourselves, discuss issues with friends and family,  run for office, start a blog, contact our elected officials, volunteer  for candidates or causes we support, and do whatever else we feel may be of value.

There are always things we can do. It is up to us to do the work of freedom and democracy.

To the left of the Capitol ornament you see a salmon.

That would be a great movie where the Capitol was attacked by a salmon. I hope somebody makes that movie real soon.

December 16, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Advocates For Full Voting Rights Speak Out On Allegations Of Voter Intimidation In Harris County

Above you see Andy Wilson of Public Citizen here in Texas speaking in Houston today about reports of intimidation of voters at polling paces in Harris County.

With Mr. Wilson to the left is Anita Privett of the League of Women Voters of Texas.

Here are details of this press conference from the Public Citizen blog Texas Vox.

From the press release—

“Last week as early voting for the Nov. 2 General Election got under way, there were complaints of poll watchers interfering with or intimidating voters and other potential election violations in Harris and Bexar Counties.  Our organizations–LWV-Texas, Public Citizen, and Common Cause–condemn any and all attempts to sway this election by controlling who gets to vote. The right to vote is sacred. People have died for this right, both in our nation’s past and even in our recent history.   Registered citizens should never be turned away from being able to vote.  Our greatest patriots, such as Washington and Lincoln, waged war to insure that taxation without representation did not occur and to protect the notion of government for, of, and by the people. It was a Texan, Lyndon Baines Johnson, who pushed through Congress and then signed the Voting Rights Act which protects the rights of all citizens to register and to vote. We want to encourage everyone, in Harris County, Bexar County, and across the state, to come out and vote, regardless of ideology, gender, race, income, whether your community is urban, suburban, or rural, and whether your preferred party is Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, Green, or Tea.  Do not let tales of intimidation frighten you away…”

The Houston Chronicle has reported on these allegations of harassment.

Perry Dorrell at the great Houston blog Brains & Eggs has written on the matter.

All citizens have the right to vote. It’s a shame if that right is being questioned by some based on superficial differences of skin color or because someone may live in one part of Harris County rather than in another part of the county.

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

When Must One Register To Be Able To Vote In Texas In 2010? When Is Election Day?

Who can vote on General Election Day in Texas and in Harris County, Texas? When must one register to vote in order to be eligible? What day is Election Day?

The last day one can register to vote this year is October 4.

The first day of Early Voting across Texas is October 18.

Election Day across Texas is November 2.

Here is a summary of important dates in the upcoming election season.

These are the qualifications for being eligible to vote for all of Texas —

To be eligible to register to vote in Texas, any United States citizen residing in Texas who is:

  • At least 18 years old on Election Day
  • Not a convicted felon (unless sentence, probation and/or parole are completed)
  • Not declared mentally incapacitated by a court of law.

The information below describes how one can register—

Registering to vote is easy in Texas. It doesn’t even require a stamp! Official applications to register to vote are postage-paid by the State of Texas. In most Texas counties, the Tax Assessor-Collector is also the Voter Registrar. In some counties, the County Clerk or Elections Administrator registers voters. You may obtain an application from the county Voter Registrar’s office, the Secretary of State’s Office, libraries, many post offices, high schools and on the web. From our website, you may request that we send you an official, postage-paid application. Or, you may download an informal application, but you will be required to affix a stamp before mailing. You may also register to vote when you apply for or renew your driver’s license.

Read the instructions on the form, fill it out and mail it to the Voter Registrar in your county, or take it to the Voter Registrar’s office in your county. You must be at least 17 years and 10 months of age on the date you apply.

If for any reason you cannot register yourself, with your permission, your spouse, parent or child may fill out and sign an application for you if that person is a registered voter or has applied for voter registration. This person is known as your “agent.”The application must be received in the Voter Registrar’s office or postmarked 30 days before an election in order for you to be eligible to vote in that election. You will receive a voter registration certificate in the mail after the Voter Registrar has processed your voter registration application. Upon receipt of the voter registration certificate, sign it, fold it and keep in it in your wallet and take it to the polls with you when you vote.

All voters who register to vote in Texas must provide a Texas driver’s license number or personal identification number issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety. If you do not have such a number, then you must state that fact and provide the last four digits of your social security number. If you do not have a social security number, you must also state that fact.

These facts come from the office of the Texas Secretary of State. You can click the link for full details.

Here is information about registering to vote in Harris County, Texas. When you register to vote in Harris County, be certain you fill out the registration form correctly without any mistakes. The County Registrar, Leo Vasquez, has often shown himself more concerned  with keeping people from voting than he is in making sure that people are able to vote.

Here is the campaign web page for Bill White for Governor of Texas. Please consider voting for Mr. White. The incumbent Governor is already the longest-serving Governor in the history of Texas. It is time for somebody new.

September 16, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Government Has The Right And The Obligation To Make People Do Stuff For The Public Good—Texas Vehicle Inspection

I got a safety inspection and emissions check today. The State of Texas mandates that cars get a safety inspection and that cars in high pollution counties get an emissions test.

Government has the right to mandate people to do things in order to serve the public good. Government has that right even in Texas.

Liberals and progressives should not be hesitant to assert this fact.

A few fearful people will tell you that stuff like this starts us on the path to a totalitarian state.

Yet these same people use public roads, depend on the public fire department, visit the public library and draw Social Security.

These same folks in Texas get their cars checked each year.  I don’t hear them complaining.

We must be assertive in proclaiming the virtues of government.

A government that has a role to play in our lives is an extension of the trust we have in each other, and is reflective of our hopes for an ever more fair and inclusive society.

Either government is of, for, and by the people, or America is not a land of freedom

Here are the details of vehicle safety inspection in Texas.

August 31, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment

No Tea At Tea Party Event—TPA Round-Up

Above you see a picture of the offerings at the King Street Patriots Tea Party press conference that I attended two day ago.

There were cookies and water. But no tea.

I wish there had been a Long Island Iced Tea.

I did have a cookie.

I attended this press conference to learn about Tea Party and Republican efforts to suppress the vote in Harris County in order to help far-right wing candidates.

At the moment, these folks are harassing the Houston Votes registration drive in the county. On Election Day and for early voting, they intend to send out poll watchers to quite possible intimidate poor voters and minority voters.

We must support Houston Votes as we support freedom and the American Way.

Also, please note below the weekly round-up of the Texas Progressive Alliance. The TPA is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas.

Liberal political activists work hard to include all people in our democracy. What a contrast from the Tea Party gospel of exclusion.

The round-up—

This past week Off the Kuff did three interviews with State House candidates — Joe MontemayorRick Molina, and Silvia Mintz.

Bay Area Houston wonders why the Texas Federation of Pecker Heads have have endorsed Rick Perry.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme calls out all Republicans clamoring for ‘small government’. Why do Republicans want more tainted food and another BP disaster? Continue reading

August 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Leo Vasquez Teams Up With Same Racists Who Defeated Him In Primary To Help Deny Hispanics And The Poor The Right To Vote In Harris County

Outgoing Harris County Republican Tax Assessor Collector Leo Vasquez is harassing the Houston Votes voter registration drive. Mr. Vasquez is responsible for voter registration in Harris County.

Houston Votes is seeking to register thousands of new voters in Harris County for the 2010 election. The goal is to encourage voting by the poor, by Hispanics, and by the young in Harris County.

This is work that should have been done years ago by the Harris County Democratic Party and by elected Democrats in safe low turnout districts.

Here is the Houston Votes web home. Please visit Houston Votes and see the good work they are accomplishing.

Mr. Vasquez says that possibly one-third of the approximately 25,000 applications turned in by Houston Votes so far are for various reasons not valid.

That’s what he says. Though it is entirely possible Mr. Vasquez could be making stuff up to keep voters he feels will be Democrats off the voter rolls.

If mistakes were made, then disallow the voter applications. Just be sure they are disallowed for valid reasons and not for political reasons.

Here is how the Houston Chronicle reported Mr. Vasquez’s attack on Houston Votes and on the concept of full representation for all—

“Though Vasquez announced his briefing as a news conference, the event was packed with members of True the Vote, an initiative of local tea party activists aimed at combating voter fraud. Members punctuated Vasquez’s prepared remarks with bursts of applause.”

Mr. Vasquez lost the Republican primary earlier this year. After the election, many observers felt that a big reason Mr. Vasquez lost was because Harris County Republicans would not vote for a Hispanic.

At the time, Mr. Vasquez himself seemed to think that one of the reasons he lost was because he was Hispanic.

Now Mr. Vasquez teams up with the same racist folks that helped put him out of office to make it more difficult for Hispanics to vote in Harris County.

Has Mr. Vasquez any self-respect? Is he so desperate to be seen as tough on Hispanics that he will consort with the extreme so-called Tea Party? Does Mr. Vasquez need to hold another political office someday that badly?

I’ve met the Houston Votes people and they are not fraudsters. They are folks, mostly Democrats, who really want to include more people in the political process.

Registering disenfranchised constituencies with a collection of volunteers and temporary workers is by definition going to be an imperfect process.

It is turned into something more sinister only when a lame duck, desperate-for-approval politician teams up with racist groups to subvert our political process by making sure that many of our fellow Americans will not be able to vote.

All this would be disgusting anywhere in America. That it is happening in racially and ethnically diverse Harris County  makes it even more appalling.

My friend Perry at the great Houston political blog Brains & Eggs has written on this issue. Leading local blogger John Coby at Bay Area Houston has also offered his views.

August 26, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What Is America?—How Should America Be Defined?

What is America? How should America be defined?

America is the idea and the fact of a strong federal government over the lesser powers of the states as written in our United States Constitution. The Constitution was in many ways a response to failure of the Articles of Confederation and the incompetence and corruption of state legislatures.

America is Emancipation and the victory of freedom over states rights treason in our Civil War.

America is the expanded economic freedoms and opportunity of the New Deal.

America is the hopeful progress of the Great Society and the Civil Rights Movement.

These are the things that define America.

It is a story of progress, of ever-expanding freedom, and of an always widening definition of what it means to be an American.

If America ever becomes something else than the progress we see detailed above, then it will no longer be America.

August 25, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New York City Mosque Near World Trade Center Should Proceed

Plans for a mosque to be built near the former World Trade Center are moving ahead.

People are calling this the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque.”

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted 9-0 to allow the mosque to go ahead.

Here is the home page of the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Either we have freedom in this country or we do not.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg got it right.

Here is what Mayor said said about the mosque as reported in the first story I link to in this post—

“With the Statue of Liberty as his backdrop, the mayor pleaded with New Yorkers to reject suspicions about the planned 13-story complex, to be located two blocks north of the World Trade Center site, saying that “we would betray our values if we treated Muslims differently than anyone else.” “To cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists — and we should not stand for that,” the mayor said. Grappling with one of the more delicate aspects of the debate, Mr. Bloomberg said that the families of Sept. 11 victims — some of whom have vocally opposed the project — should welcome it. “The attack was an act of war — and our first responders defended not only our city but also our country and our Constitution,” he said, becoming slightly choked up at one point in his speech, which he delivered on Governors Island. “We do not honor their lives by denying the very constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights — and the freedoms the terrorists attacked.”

The 9/11 attacks were not an attack on a building. They were an assault on our values. A building can fall down in a way beyond our control. Our values will collapse only if we allow them to collapse.

While it is understandable that this mosque makes some people angry, I stand with Mayor Bloomberg in favor of the great American values of full inclusion and freedom of religion.

August 4, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Facts About Juneteenth—Juneteenth 2010

What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth is the celebration to mark the end of slavery in the United States.

On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger, landing at Galveston, Texas, made the announcement that the Civil War was over and that slaves were free.

Juneteenth for 2010 will be observed on Saturday, June 19.

Here is information on Juneteenth from the very useful Handbook of Texas Online.

From the Handbook—

“On June 19 (“Juneteenth”), 1865, Union general Gordon Granger read the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston, thus belatedly bringing about the freeing of 250,000 slaves in Texas. The tidings of freedom reached slaves gradually as individual plantation owners read the proclamation to their bondsmen over the months following the end of the war. The news elicited an array of personal celebrations, some of which have been described in The Slave Narratives of Texas (1974). The first broader celebrations of Juneteenth were used as political rallies and to teach freed African-Americans about their voting rights. Within a short time, however, Juneteenth was marked by festivities throughout the state, some of which were organized by official Juneteenth committees.”

Though the Emancipation Proclamation took effect in 1863, it took time for word to get around that slavery was over. People went around for two years not knowing they were free.

The knowledge you need for your freedom is out there. You just may not be aware.

It’s up to you to gain the knowledge you require about your history. I mean this for people of all colors because history is a shared thing. The fate of all people is connected.

The knowledge you need is on-line, in books, and at the library. The knowledge you need is all around you if you take the time and make the effort to learn.

You are intelligent and you are able to gain the knowledge you need.

After Juneteenth came the failure of Reconstruction and over 100 years of Jim Crow. many people had their lives wasted in these years.

Here is a history of Reconstruction.

Here is a history of Jim Crow.

Here is a collection of links that form a history of slavery in the United States.

These folks think Juneteenth should be a holiday.

Here is a list of Juneteenth events here in Houston.

Here is additional information about the Juneteenth event at Houston’s Hermann Park to be held on Saturday June 19 at 7 PM.

( I’ve also written the best Martin Luther King Reading & Reference list on the web. Please click here to see the list.)

Below is a picture of a man who was a slave and who was whipped many times by his overseer.

File:Cicatrices de flagellation sur un esclave.jpg

The man in the picture above had no choice about his fate in life.

And even today we are not in full control of our fates. Circumstance and chance play a role in life.

Yet you always have the option to learn about your freedom and to conduct yourself as a free person.

Sometimes our freedom  is restricted by our self-imposed limits of imagination. Other times our freedom is challenged by the greed of the wealthy.

In any case, we must always press ahead towards freedom and emancipation.

June 17, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment