I’ve not been around much here on Texas Liberal of late, but I am still working hard for the blog reading public.
I’m working on a new website that I plan to have up and running in April. This new website will have a photo essay of a kind, a metaphoric universe and solar system, some poems, and a blog about the 2013 City of Houston elections.
There will also be other things on the website that I have not yet thought about.
Thanks to everybody still checking out the blog from time-to-time and thanks to folks visiting the blog for the first time. I’ll still be posting on Texas Liberal off and on until the new site is published.
Above you see a picture I took recently of an Emu at Bear Creek Pioneers Park here in Harris County, Texas.
Texas Attorney General Abbott Threatens To Arrest United Nations Election Observers In Texas—I’ll Buy Any U.N. Election Observers In Houston A Glass Of Texas Wine
United Nations observers will be in the United States to monitor our upcoming elections.
( Above–The United Nations General Assembly Hall. After all the ballots are cast in Texas, they will be flown to New York to be counted by the U.N. The election will be official when U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon declares the winners. Photo by Patrick Gruban.)
Republican Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott says that any such observers in Texas may face arrest.
From The Huffington Post—
“Greg Abbott, the Republican Attorney General of Texas, issued a stern warning this week to members of a United Nations-affiliated delegation expected to be on hand to monitor voting at polling places around the country on Election Day…In a letter to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a body created by U.N. charter and responsible for helping to ensure the integrity of elections, among other tasks, Abbott warned the diplomatic poll-watchers that their involvement in U.S. elections could have strong legal repercussions…”It may be a criminal offense for OSCE’s representatives to maintain a presence within 100 feet of a polling place’s entrance,” he writes. “Failure to comply with these requirements could subject the OSCE’s representatives to criminal prosecution for violating state law.” Such a restriction makes election monitoring highly difficult. The OSCE announced earlier this month that it would send 44 observers to polling places around the country on Election Day in order to monitor possible disputes that could arise in the voting process. The move came in response to a petition from liberal-leaning voting rights groups, including the NAACP and ACLU, that suggested the OSCE’s presence could help combat what they fear will be a concerted effort to suppress votes from supporters of President Barack Obama.”
Here is how some KTRH Facebook followers responded—
“i say shoot anyone seeking to come into this country to try and oversee our elections. And shoot anyone who does not have a state or federal picture ID when they show up to vote”
“What next, they’ll be observing in our bedrooms.”
“We do not need the UN interfereing with Texas.Maybe it is time to succeed.”
“Observing from a far? I could care less! Up in our business? I say welcome to Texas and GET A ROPE…..”
“I run the election process in Galveston County. If one of the UN observers shows up at one of our polling locations they will be asked to leave. If they do not, law enforcement will be called to forcibly remove them. Only election workers, bona fide poll watchers and voters are allowed in at the polling sites!”
Absolutely. Our big state of Texas could at any time be put under United Nations control. I am very glad that Attorney General Abbott will protect us from whatever number of the 44 poll observers who may be sent to Texas.
There have been real efforts at voter suppression in Texas. The so-called Texas Voter ID law was struck down by the courts because it targeted minority voters.
Attorney General Abbott backed the ID law even though it sought to make it more difficult for Texans to vote.
I will take any United Nations elections observers in Houston out for a glass of Texas wine should I encounter them at the polls. I’m certain I will be able to identify them by their blue U.N. helmets, and by the black helicopters they will have parked near the voting locations.
Here is the link for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. These are the folks who will be sending the observers.
The OSCE has issued a statement saying Attorney General Abbott’s threats violate international agreements.
“Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), expressed his grave concern today over the threat of criminal prosecution of OSCE/ODIHR election observers. This threat, contained in an open letter from the Attorney General of Texas, is at odds with the established good co-operation between OSCE/ODIHR observers and state authorities across the United States, including in Texas, Lenarčič said, adding that it is also contrary to the country’s obligations as an OSCE participating State. The ODIHR Director shared his concerns in a letter to United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.“The threat of criminal sanctions against OSCE/ODIHR observers is unacceptable,” Lenarčič said. “The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite ODIHR observers to observe its elections.”
Damned right. I welcome these observers with open arms. The one-word state motto of Texas is “Friendship.” A threat to arrest people who have every right to be here is not very friendly.
Welcome U.N. Observers! And good luck with your mission of improving the quality of our democracy in Texas. We can use all the help we can get.
With early voting beginning in Texas, it is important that the right to vote be protected. Common Cause has been working in Texas to make sure that one of our most basic rights is not wrongly threatened. Read below to learn about Common Cause training to become a poll watcher in this election. What you see below is a Common Cause press release. If you can’t make one of the training sessions, call or e-mail Common Cause with the contact information provided in the release below. The final link below will take you to a Common Cause report on efforts to suppress the vote in Texas.
Lloyd Oliver Is Just The Harris County District Attorney Candidate That The Democratic Primary Electorate That Voted Him Merits —Two Lousy Candidates For An Important Office
Democratic Harris County District Attorney nominee Lloyd Oliver is not qualified for the office he is seeking.
(Above–A display of support for Mr. Oliver in a Downtown Houston window front.)
A recent Houston Press article details many reasons why Mr. Oliver is not qualified.
From The Press—
“I got some skeletons in the closet,” he (Oliver) said. “And some of them got some meat on ’em.” Beyond the barratry charge involving Perry Mason — which he was nearly indicted for twice — the State Bar of Texas suspended his law license for 11 months in the mid-1980s. Lloyd, with another lawyer, had apparently hoodwinked a woman “with limited education” out of 26 acres and then committed perjury during the fallout, according to a state District Court decision. In strangeness only befitting Lloyd, he’d told prosecutors he barely knew Brenda Oliver, who’d helped him in the ruse, though, in fact, she’d once been his wife, as well as the mother of his child.”
But the thing is that Mr. Oliver was on the primary ballot against a mainstream Democrat who likely would have run a well-funded campaign, and for whatever reasons the Democratic primary electorate supported Mr. Oliver.
The facts were out there about Mr. Oliver, and the primary electorate–supposedly involving a more informed voter—chose him anyway.
Life is really short and I’m tired of making excuses for base voters who get can’t get it right, or for a local Democratic Party that seemingly can’t get a message out to voters and that thinks it is okay to try to overturn what voters have done in a fair ballot.
Harris County is a majority-minority county with plenty of progressive white voters. If we can’t make it work when big issues are on the line then we get what we deserve.
The same can be said for Democratic primary voters in Fort Bend county who—for a second time—backed a woman named Kesha Rogers for the U.S. Congress who supports impeaching President Obama.
I’m not voting for Mr. Oliver or for his far-right Republican opponent Mike Anderson.
But the truth is that for many reasons we have District Attorney candidates we merit in Harris County.
We have what you get when the public fails to meet the basic responsibilities of knowing the candidates or caring about the administration of justice.
As much as I believe that luck and circumstance play a big part in life, we must realize that the work of a decent society is up to each of us.
Hate Campaign Against Harris County Democratic Chair Lane Lewis—Texas Democratic Primary Is Tuesday May, 29
Above you see hate literature circulated by a Keryl Douglas who is running for Harris County Democratic Chair against incumbent Lane Lewis.
I’m sorry even to mention this issue.
But it may not fully be out there that this is the type of campaign that this Ms. Douglas individual is running.
With the Democratic Primary to be held this Tuesday, May 29, people might be focusing on the some of the contested races for the first time.
You see here that Ms. Douglas is running a campaign in no way consistent with the best values of the Democratic Party. If in the unlikely event she were to win, how could she lead the party after having conducted such a campaign?
Here are three other Democratic primary races in which I feel compelled for various reasons to make an endorsement. I feel a liberal or progressive could be comfortable enough with these choices.
* I support Lissa Squiers in U.S. House district 7 to face incumbent Republican John Culberson. Ms. Squiers is energetic and progressive.
* I support Sean Hubbard to represent the Democratic Party in the race for the open U.S. Senate seat. Mr. Hubbard offers Texas Democrats the best hope for the future, and has run a reasonably progressive campaign within the context of two-party politics.
* I support incumbent Steven Kirkland in the 215th Harris County District Court primary. The only reason that well-qualified Judge Kirkland has an opponent is because he is gay. Judge Kirkland has done nothing to merit a primary challenge. With so many judicial seats held by Republicans, why did not Judge Krikland’s opponent seek to win one of those Republican seats instead?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Only Reason That Well-Qualified Incumbent Democratic Harris County Judge Steven Kirkland Has A Primary Opponent Is Because He Is Gay
The only reason that well-qualified incumbent Democratic Harris County 215th District Court Judge Steven Kirkland has a primary opponent is because he is gay.
Above you see a yard sign for Judge Kirkland that I came across while out and about in Houston.
Judge Kirkland’s opponent is black. The assumption is that black people will vote for Judge Kirkland’s opponent because she is black. Or that some black voters will make a special point to vote against Judge Kirkland because of the way God made him.
When all is said and done, this will not be the case. Judge Kirkland is going to win this primary as he moves towards reelection this November.
Here is the full list of supporters that Judge Kirkland has in his primary bid. Every segment of the Democratic base of support in Harris County is well-represented. A broad cross-section of the entire county is represented.
There is simply no reason that this well-regarded incumbent Judge merits a primary.
Should not the focus be on picking up new judgeships instead of a fight that has no helpful purpose?
Wouldn’t making progress towards new Democratic judgeships be the best use of time and efforts of Judge Kirkland’s opponent?
The freedom of all people is connected. We can’t lose a good judge for no valid reason.
Primary Day is May 29. Early voting runs May 14-May 25.
My fellow blogger John Coby at Bay Area Houston has more on this issue. Houston blogger Charles Kuffner has a rundown on all the Harris County Democratic primary races.
There is a wildfire at George H.W. Bush Park in Harris County.
Here is a non-ideological assessment of the presidency of G.H.W. Bush. Though this is not the main subject of this blog post, it is always the right time to learn about and to think about new things.
(Update—9/14/11—Progress was made overnight in figthing the fire.)
The picture above is of smoke from the fire as it was seen a few hours ago. This picture was taken by my friend Ms. Alex Ragsdale.
As you can see, the fire is an urbanized area.
This fire is not surprising as there is an extreme drought in Harris County and in Texas. There have been many wildfires in Texas in 2011 and in recent weeks.
These fires have been made more difficult to fight than need be, because Rick Perry and the Republican-dominated state legislature have cut funds for the Texas Forest Service and for firefighters in Texas.
Given the extreme drought conditions in the Houston and in Texas, it is best that we take steps to avoid being the cause of any more fires.
While some people may wish to do what is best, often we make mistakes.
HFD recommends the following safety tips during this drought: Continue reading
Republican Harris County Judge Ed Emmett hopes Republican legislators in Austin will do they right thing in the face of drastic cuts to vital services that are on the way in Texas.
” In his State of the County address March 4, County Judge Ed Emmett said the county would only see positive changes in the coming years if lawmakers at all levels showed “vision and courage,” such as by raising fees or taxes to pay for mental health care if necessary to secure funding. Emmett, a Republican former state representative, said he expects such actions from the GOP-dominated Legislature at some point. “They’ll get there,” Emmett said. “And if they don’t, then I hope some of them get beat. It’s just that simple. We all have to govern. It’s fine to campaign on what you’re against, but sooner or later you have to govern.”
We can all hope for the things, no matter how unlikely, that we wish to see in life.
Judge Emmett was speaking about funding cuts the legislature is cooking up for Texas counties.
It is unclear what Judge Emmett is really asking of others.
Faced with large cuts for the most vulnerable, and for many other essential services in the Harris County budget just recently approved, where has been Mr. Emmett’s own call for increased revenues to meet the legitimate needs of our county? Where is his leadership? If the money is not going to come from Austin, maybe we need higher taxes in Harris County.
“Facing an 11.3 percent drop in revenue, Harris County Commissioners Court passed a budget today that could mean dozens of law enforcement jobs cut or left vacant, hundreds fewer patients receiving mental health counseling and fewer books in county libraries.”
Does anybody seriously think Harris County is currently over-served by government?
Judge Emmett did send one of his top campaign officials to a meeting of a local Tea Party cell last year to reassure them he was on-board with the Tea Party agenda.
Mr. Emmett himself did not show up at the Tea Party meeting.
You can never quite pin the guy down.
Will Judge Emmett be sending another underling to a Tea Party meeting to sell them on the idea of increased revenues for government?
Which Republican legislators in Harris County will Judge Emmett be campaigning against in 2012?
I’m glad Judge Emmett is open to discussing the issues before Harris County in a more helpful way than are most Republican officials.
( Which is not to suggest that many Democrats have been helpful. Most of our elected Democrats in Houston and Harris County have little to say about what is going on in Austin. And it will be a cold day in Hell when you find just about any of them actually organizing voters and registering new voters for the fights ahead.)
Yet given the gravity of what’s taking place now in the legislature, it is time for Judge Emmett to step up beyond being acceptable to enough Republicans and tolerable to enough Democrats, to remain politically popular.
It is time for Judge Emmett to show the leadership he is asking of others.
Metro Looks At Mass Transit Options For Houston And The Region—Conservatives Don’t Seem To Want To Be Part Of The Discussion
Last week I attended a lunch for local political bloggers that was put on by Metro.
The lunch was held in the big Metro train barn out near the Astrodome.
Below is a picture I took that conveys a sense of the place.
The intent of the lunch was for Metro to gain favorable attention from local bloggers. After recently writing off $168 million in worthless assets, Metro could use some good press.
This wasting of taxpayer dollars no doubt further agitated many local conservatives who have long been suspicious of Metro.
There is nothing wrong with a public agency seeking positive public relations. Metro has goals and plans. Plenty of people of all ideological views use mass transit.
Metro has a right to make their case. The public can then decide what they think and how we should proceed.
Among those from Metro attending this blogger lunch were President and CEO George Greanias, as well as Metro Board Chair Gilbert Garcia. Here is a list of members of the Metro board.
Metro has been pressing hard in recent years for the expansion of light rail. While construction continues, funding is always a problem. The new Republican majority in the U.S. House puts federal dollars for transit initiatives in danger all around the country. Though Houston light rail funding for the year ahead has been requested by President Obama, it seems that securing external funding for this longterm big-ticket item will be a year-to-year struggle.
My own view is that light rail is not likely ever to expand to the point where it represents an effective transit solution to the multi-county Houston metropolitan area. While Metro, at the moment, serves primarily Harris County, an important goal of Metro should be expansion of mass transit options to our full region. Light rail is a contentious subject, not just because it is so expensive to build, but also because it’s limited scope in relation to the needs of our full metropolitan area give it the feeling of a scheme more suitable to Portland or Seattle rather than a useful tool for people who live 30 miles from Downtown Houston, Texas.
If I had to pick three top goals for Metro, they would be as follows—
1. Full regional cooperation.-–The potential environmental and fuel-saving benefits of regional mass transit in an area as large of the Houston-area must be realized. People in all parts of our region merit a mass transit option. (As long as they understand that it takes money to fund mass transit.)
2. Certainty that outlying areas of Harris County that are growing have sufficient mass transit options.— Metro must adapt to where people are living in our county.
3. Operational transparency and outreach across the ideological spectrum.—Metro must have local political support to meet the transit needs of millions of people in our area.
Conservative bloggers were invited to the blogger lunch. This is what Metro asserted and I believe it. None came. If they did not feel comfortable with the idea of Metro paying for the lunch, they could have offered to pay Metro the $10 or $15 or whatever it costed per person. They could have refused the meal. If they’d been excluded from the lunch, they could ask for an invite anytime in the name of fairness.
But it seems that on the whole local conservative bloggers don’t really want to be part of a serious discussion about how Metro should serve the public.What readers of these blogs have so far instead is a post by David Jennings at Big Jolly Politics where he seemed to go looking for a conflict with Metro.
I hope Metro has another blogger function and that bloggers of all political stripes show up. Metro is a public entity and is accountable to all in our community.
I’d be happy to bring my own sandwich if that would make everybody happy.
(Below–Metro is looking for a way out from recent negative attention.)
It is hard to imagine that I have written this blog for nearly five years now without ever having run a picture of the world-famous Houston Astrodome.
This was the first domed stadium in the world.
Above you see the Astrodome from the vantage point of the Houston Metro light rail train facility.
The Astrodome is indeed still standing. At the moment, it is not used for anything. The building is owned by Harris County. There are ongoing debates about whether a new purpose should be found for the dome, or if it should be torn down.
The Astrodome was opened in 1965.
I’m going to take some more pictures of the Astrodome soon and run them on the blog.
The Astrodome was once one of the most famous buildings in the world.
Though opened less than 50 years ago, the Astrodome may well be the most historically and culturally valuable building in Houston.
(Photo copyright 2011 Neil Aquino.)
The so-called King Street Patriots have won the 2011 Ronald Reagan Award at the recently concluded Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington.
(Above–Ronald Reagan in 1980 campaigning in South Carolina with Senator Strom Thrumond. Mr. Thurmond is seen here to the left of Mr. Reagan. Senator Thurmond was a 1948 Dixiecrat candidate for President.)
The King Street Patriots are a Tea Party cell based here in Houston.
CPAC is a national confederation of extreme conservative activists. At the 2011 meeting, libertarian Houston-area U.S. Representative Ron Paul won the presidential straw poll.
Consistent with the views of portions of the American right, Rep. Paul invited an economist with ties to group advocating southern secession to testify before the House committee he chairs.
In what way did the King Street Patriots (KSP) Tea Party cell reflect the accomplishments of Ronald Reagan? Why did this group merit the award?
Did the King Street Patriots match the Gipper in doing to harm to our environment? Remember Mr. Reagan’s nature-hating Interior Secretary James Watt?
Well…even though the Tea Party had a part in electing a Republican leadership in Texas that has pursued environmental polices so bad that even conservative Oklahoma complained to the EPA about the bad air drifting over from Texas, this is not why the King Street folks took the Reagan award for 2011.
Did the King Street Patriots live up to Mr. Reagan’s legacy of making an important 1980 campaign appearance in Philadelphia, Mississippi—near the location of brutal crimes against Civil Rights workers in the 1960’s–and saying “I believe in states rights.”
You got it.
As many Southern whites regress to the solid one-party politics of a shameful past, Republicans and allied Tea Party groups around the nation are working hard to put up obstacles to voting by likely Democratic voters.
With Harris County and Texas undergoing massive demographic change, Republicans are afraid that they will lose control of the county and the state.
As much as I don’t like what the so-called King Street Patriots are doing, they are doing things the law permits. We are not going to change the minds of people in these Tea Party cells. They have a right to act in any manner within the law no matter how offensive and wrong.
The real issue is for folks on our side of the aisle to meet the challenge and to make progress. Progress is always possible.
Voter registration drives of likely Democratic voters should be taking place year round. Lawyers should be in place to defend these registration efforts. Our fellow citizens need to know they will backed up when they go to vote.
Democratic elected officials, along with the civil rights and progressive groups, must work together with the same common purpose we often see on the right. Everyday citizens must be invloved in doing the work of freedom.
It is up to each of as individuals to make the decision to work collectively for the causes we value.
Some resources on the topic of voting—
A new book on the subject of voter fraud is The Myth of Voter Fraud by Lori Minnite.
Here is the web home of the Harris County Democratic Party. Ask them what they are doing to make sure all people in Harris County are being allowed to vote.
And don’t forget–You are your own best resource for the change you want to see.
(Below–1867 drawing of newly freed black men voting. Women would not get the vote until 1920. And of course, near-total resistance to blacks voting went on well into the 1960’s.)
Great news!—Houston is getting yet another stadium.
In case you did not feel that facilities built over the last decade for the baseball Astros, football Texans, and basketball Rockets were enough, now we will have a new stadium for the soccer Dynamo.
The pictures at the top and bottom of this post come from the Facebook page of Houston City Councilmember Stephen Costello.
In the center of the photo above is Mayor Annise Parker. She is wearing orange. Three people to the left is Houston U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee.
I’m not certain who the other folks are. I suppose I could study the picture and maybe guess. But the bottom line is that they are the interchangeable municipal luminaries who back big-ticket projects in Houston year-after-year while rarely–if ever– mentioning that we have a 60% child poverty rate in Houston.
(Above–Some things never change. Painting is “Thumbs Down.” It is an 1872 work of Jean-Leon Gerome.)
The Dynamo stadium uses less public money than have the recent sports complexes in Houston. Though the city paid $15.5 million to buy the land where the stadium will be located, and the Dynamo will get sales tax “rebates” amounting to $3 million over the next 30 years. The City of Houston and Harris County have also committed $10 million each in taxpayer dollars towards the facility.
Taxpayer funds will be used even as we plead poor on services for the poor, education, honoring pension commitments, and keeping up our roads.
The sign below says “This your stadium.”
I had jury duty recently here in Harris County, Texas.
I attended this jury duty just as all citizens should do when they get a summons.
I was not picked for a trial.
Attending jury duty does not mean you assume that people on trial in the courthouse will get a fair shake. I think that many are wary about justice in harris County and in Texas.
What it means is that you have been called do your civic duty, and you have to do that just like any other citizen.
If you don’t want to go for some moral or ethical reason, then make that known and accept the consequences.
Above you see some of the things I took to jury duty. I was prepared to sit in the big jury assembly room for as long as required. I did end up in that room for over two hours.
I had a book and two magazines. The book I had was The President Makers: The Culture of Politics & Leadership in the Age of Enlightenment 1896-1919. This book, published in 1940, is by Matthew Josepheson.
I had two magazines. I had a baseball preview magazine and a copy of the excellent New Scientist.
I also had a copy of the United States Constitution. I carry the Constitution with me all times. We can’t allow Tea Party/Republican Party extremists to make off with our founding documents. The Constitution is a flexible document able to adapt to the needs of society as times change.
Do you think that people who have been dead for 200 years now could have fully imagined the world as it is today? We can move forward without losing the freedoms and rights that we have long held in our nation. To insist otherwise is to offer a false choice.
You’ll please note that there is a necktie in the picture above.
I wore a tie to jury duty. What could merit greater respect than our common society?
Not many of the men were wearing ties in the jury hall.
I don’t see what is casual about deciding the fates of fellow human beings.
This is could be seen as a somewhat conservative position on my part. Yet when our so-called “conservatives” are in fact radicals, and when so much day-to-day conduct is characterized by ill- disciplined and ignorant behavior, it often falls upon the liberal to preserve and defend what is best in our society.
Please go to jury duty when you get a summons. Please dress for jury duty in way that suggests you respect others and that you respect yourself.