Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Environmental Activist Dr. Barry Commoner Dead At 95—Commoner Understood That The Work Of Freedom And Hope Is Up To Each Of Us

The great environmental activist Dr. Barry Commoner has died at the age of 95.

Above is Dr. Commoner on the cover of Time Magazine in 1970.

From Dr. Commoner’s obituary The Los Angeles Times

“Barry Commoner, a scientist-activist whose ability to identify and explain complex ecological crises and advocate radical solutions made him a pillar of the environmental movement, died of natural causes Sunday in New York City. He was 95….He conducted research that helped propel a successful campaign for a nuclear test ban treaty in the early 1960s and drew early attention to the dangers of dioxins, the potential of solar energy and recycling as a practical means of reducing waste….. Commoner was particularly known for boiling down his philosophy to four simple principles: “Everything is connected to everything else. Everything must go somewhere. Nature knows best. There is no such thing as a free lunch,” he wrote in “The Closing Circle.” Describing himself as “a visionary gadfly — I’m right but intransigent,” Commoner often took his arguments into the lion’s den, telling autoworkers that their industry put profits before public health and delivering a blistering critique of Environmental Protection Agency policies and practices before an audience of agency employees….While serving in the Navy during World War II, he was assigned to spray a naval facility on the Jersey shore with DDT to rid it of mosquitoes. To his dismay, the mosquito population ballooned and the fish that normally ate them died. He would recall the experience in later years when he reflected on the development of his ideas about the worlds of men and nature sharing one ecosystem.”

Dr. Commoner was an individual who took responsibility for our collective future. Such acts are a defining characteristic of the hopeful progressive or person of the left. He understood that the work of freedom and of  defining our society and culture in ways other than by the accumulation of wealth is up to each of us.

The are many ways in which individuals can work to expand the range of ideas and paths open to all of us. These things can be accomplished by taking part in politics and in debating the issues of the day, by working in the arts to expand the cultural choices open to all, or by simply working hard to remain open and accessible on a personal level to folks we encounter in life and to the struggles of everyday life.

Open and hopeful acts by individuals help our society become open and hopeful. Dr. Commoner was right that all things are connected. This is so in the ecology of the Earth and in the ecology of our everyday lives.

There are many options open to us other than just dividing the nation into freeloaders and allegedly more productive people and saying that there is a large portion of the nation that can be ignored.

Please consider reading Dr. Commoner’s obituary I link to above.  The work of freedom and hope is truly up to each of us. Taking individual responsibility for our shared future is the only way we will make progress in a society that each day is more and more rigged for the benefit of the few.

October 2, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Next Year May We Be Free

The following refers to the matzoh that was eaten in my home tonight at our Passover Seder, and is taken from the Haggadah that is read each year at Passover—

This is the bread of affliction that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. All who are hungry-let them come and eat. All who are needy-let them come and celebrate the Passover with us. Now we are here; next year may we be in the Land of Israel. Now we are slaves; next year may we be free.

You can take this as literal or metaphoric. In any case, there is always the hope of being freed from bondage and affliction, and there is always the hope that we can move towards the place in life that we see as best and most just.

Here are facts about Passover, the Haggadah, and the Passover Seder. Passover marks the freedom of the Jews from slavery in Egypt.

April 19, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tar Balls In Galveston—Let’s Keep The Beach Of Hope And Progress Clear Of Toxic People, Corporations & Ideas

The first tar balls that originated with the BP oil disaster have washed up on the shores of Galveston, Texas.

Those tar balls you see above are from Padre Island in Texas back in July of 2009.

Once you’ve seen one tar ball, you’ve seen them all.

Here is the link to the Houston Chronicle story about the tarballs in Galveston.

From the Chronicle—

“After workers cleaned the beach, the tar balls and oil were sent to labs to be analyzed. Officials confirmed that the oil was from the Deepwater Horizon spill. However, officials said the makeup of the oil was not consistent with having traveled 400 miles in the ocean. Investigators are looking into the possibility that the oil might have been carried on the side of a ship or in the bilge of a ship that had taken in water. More tar balls were found scattered along 1.5 miles on East Galveston Beach on Sunday. Officials have not confirmed the source of those tar balls, and are expecting test results on Tuesday.”

We all want to maintain a pristine beach of hope and constructive words and deeds—Both in our own lives and for the world as a whole.

At least this is what the people I wish to have in my life might well seek to accomplish.

And yet, the tar balls of anger, ignorance and greed keep washing up in our lives.

Even when we distance ourselves from the sources of pollution— while still meeting our obligations as active and involved citizens—then a ship comes and dumps the toxins right on our beach of hope.

No tar balls were expected in Galveston, yet some have now shown-up.

Toxic people, toxic corporations, and toxic ideas never let up in trying to tar the beach.

The good thing is that the cleanup crew of purpose and resilience will meet the challenge of the tarballs.

This clean-up crew consists of our own internal resources, the support of friends and family, and the knowledge that many people are good and caring. Also part of the clean-up team are the ideals that inform good people such as kindness, fair play for all, and a just distribution of the resources of the world.

Good people, good deeds and good ideas in combination give meaning and form to our lives and ideals.

We will clean the beach of hope as often as we must, and we will make progress no matter the extent of the pollution.

July 6, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Excellent Tree

Here is a picture of a nice tree I took a few days ago in Cincinnati, Ohio.

You see the snow and you can imagine that the day was cold. But even in the cold, you can see how hopeful the tree and all it’s branches are.

February 21, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Annise Parker Knows The Stone The Builders Rejected Will Be The Cornerstone—How Will She Lead Houston?

The Houston Chronicle recently ran an excellent profile on Houston Mayor-elect Annise Parker.

Here is the link to that profile.

From the Chronicle story—

“She loved sports and tagged along with her father when he refereed boxing matches and high-school football games around Houston. She also loved her grandparents’ 100-acre farm in Spring Branch, where she learned how to ride horses, milk cows and fix tractors….School was more problematic. She much preferred walking the rows of her grandparents’ organic farm picking bugs off tomato vines than trudging, head cast down, through the hallways of Spring Branch Elementary. She enjoyed learning, but school was a nightmare for the frightened little girl…It got even scarier in 1968, when her father bought a fishing camp on the back bay of Biloxi, Miss., and 12-year-old Annise was forced to adapt to new surroundings. A year after the Parkers moved to Mississippi, a runaway barge knocked down the only bridge connecting the fishing camp to the mainland. Cut off from its customers, the camp went bust…Les Parker eventually found a job with the American Red Cross, and his position required frequent moves. Annise attended three junior high schools and three high schools, including a high school in Mannheim, Germany. As a teenager, she was prey to anxiety attacks and in a constant state of stress…Coming to terms with her sexual orientation also was stressful. From an early age, she said, she felt different. At 15, while living in Mannheim, she fell hopelessly in love; many a night she found herself playing Romeo beneath the upstairs window of her winsome Juliet. Her parents realized the nature of the relationship and did everything they could to keep the two girls separated...As a senior at R.B. Stall High School in Charleston, S.C., she was a high jumper and long jumper on the women’s track team and a member of the school’s Ecology Club, National Honor Society and Christian Youth Fellowship. She graduated in 1974, won a coveted National Merit Scholarship and enrolled at Rice University, the only college she had ever wanted to attend.”

Texas Liberal readers know I’m not a policy wonk. I’m more concerned with abstraction and analogy than the specifics of day-to-day policy. I do a lot of reading about many subjects because you can’t draw analogies or the grasp the symbolism of an act without an understanding of the world. However, for the purposes of communicating, I see all things as connected rather than as standing alone. Every word and deed is representative of some other word and deed.

As Sojourner Truth said–I sell the shadow to support the substance.

Annise Parker is a policy-wonk. I bet she knows Houston city government up-and-down. She has been clear as an elected official that she is a pragmatic leader. Her focus seems always on what she feels she can accomplish as a practical matter.

The thing is that politics is at core about imagination.  Something that needs to be accomplished  is imagined, and a plan or strategy is worked out to reach the objective. Often, the concern is minor. Yet at other times, broad social and economic change is the issue.

From my own experiences, and from my reading, I’ve found there is little greater spur to imagination than a feeling of being on the outside of the so-called mainstream of society.  As it says in the Bible—The stone the builders rejected became the cornerstone.

Houston has a lot of poverty and lot of people on the outside looking for inclusion. Mayor-elect Parker knows this is the case. She knows many folks will turn their backs without  second thought on people who want to be fully included in society.

Ms. Parker can let her past be her guide and address these issues of full-inclusion in Houston. She knows that full-inclusion is about economic progress as well as the social progress of Houston electing an openly gay Mayor. Ms. Parker has the opportunity to imagine a Houston where all people matter.

Or, as she did in her campaign , Ms. Parker can continue to ignore issues of poverty, homelessness, and the under- representation of Latinos in Houston’s political process.

All progress is connected. Freedom for one group of people is directly connected to the freedom and progress of all people.

Ms. Parker has a decision to make about how she will govern our city. Let us hope that she follows her best impulses and does not hide behind the excuse of pragmatism at the expense of people in Houston who need a city government that is on their side.

December 23, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 2 Comments

Fetching Pin-Up Says Roll The Dice & Vote Your Hopes In Houston—Despite Locke, Green & Lovell

I promise—This is my last pre-election post about Houston City Elections.

Thank you to regular readers from outside of Houston for sticking with me as I write about his stuff.

I’ve got somewhat of a voice around here—Maybe— so I guess I should use that voice.

Runoff Election Day is Saturday, December 12.

Despite tax-dodger Green, gay-basher Locke and vindictive crud Lovell—All Democrats—We can still vote on Election Day and try to retain some hope about the future of Houston.

Without hope,what do we have?

Here are my endorsements for Election Day.

The theme of my endorsements post is gambling.

What is a bigger gamble than democracy?

December 10, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Folks Sometimes Say There Is No Difference Between The Political Parties, Yet This Is Not True

People often say there is no difference between the two major political parties in our country.

The health care vote in the House last night shows that this is not the case.

While counting on Democrats can be frustrating for liberals, think of the difference it will make in people’s lives to have greater access to health insurance.

Great legislation like Social Security or Voting Rights comes along only so often. But when it does arrive, it helps people for years and years.

Liberals rarely have the upperhand in our Federal Government. Yet the impact of liberal legislation is lasting.

We were promised hope and change by Mr. Obama. In this very important matter of health care reform, hope and change is exactly what appears to be on the way.

November 8, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 3 Comments

There Is Hope, But Only So Much Hope—Cards To Send

The painting in this post was completed by a young cancer patient at the M.D Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

It is a Thanksgiving card. You can go to the M.D Anderson web site and buy this card and other things made by young people with cancer.

In this painting, I like the presence of some color on the leaves on the tree, and I like the red barn. I also like the bleakness of the scene. It is clearly a cold late autumn day.

The color offers some hope, but there is only so much hope.

I bought a pack of these cards at the M.D Anderson store here in Houston. This store is in the Uptown Plaza in the Galleria area.

I’ve decided to start writing some letters and cards to folks and I’m going to start with this illustration of a barn in autumn.

November 6, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Your Ship Will Arrive

Above is a picture I took a few weeks ago of ships waiting to enter Galveston Bay and the Houston Ship Channel.

Your ship in life may come in if you assist its navigation with love, friendship, hope, learning and imagination.

You can set your own course for your ship in life.  

You can set your own course and still have many others on board your ship.

You might have to wait for your ship to arrive. But as you see in the picture above, even a ship that must wait will gain entry to a safe and productive port.

October 14, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Money Does Indeed Grow On Trees

I bought the Texas Lottery instant ticket you see above, called Money Tree, because it confirmed my long-held suspicion that money does in fact grow on trees.

I think it is great that the State of Texas sells to its people a lottery ticket called “Money Tree.”

Money is easy to come by!

I wonder if the money on the money tree has grown on the tree like leaves, or if it became stuck to the tree after falling from the sky.

Poor people play the lottery more than other folks. States know this when they establish lotteries. But setting up a lottery is an easier way to raise revenue than taxing the people who would most able to afford paying taxes.

September 7, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Hope Is A Rocket That Breaks The Gravity Of Resentment

A few days ago I posted that resentment is a many layered lasagna.  I said it would take some time to shake off the layers of frustration from the Reagan/Bush/Gingrich/Bush years.

Another thing I can say, is that hope is a rocket that breaks the gravity of resentment. 

When we launch space missions to other planets, the rocket has to break the gravity of the Earth to reach space. Then the probe has to break out of the Earth’s orbit to move on to another planet.

Mariner 4 launch 2.jpg

(Above–The 1964 launch of the Mariner 4 mission to Mars using an Atlas Agena D rocket.)  

With the election of Barack Obama, and with strong Democratic majorities in each House of Congress, I don’t have to expend as much energy being pulled back by the depressing gravity of public life. As we progress, maybe I can use some of that newly freed energy to open myself to people and thoughts I might not have otherwise had patience for.   

For the time being at least, the prospect of something better is a rocket breaking the gravity of resentment. Now I can take a better look at new things to be seen.

(Below–Galileo mission to Jupiter with exciting live action effects. This mission took place between 1989 and 2003. )

Galileo Jupiter.gif

November 18, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m Sorry My Late Friend, A Black Man & A Democrat, Is Not Here To See Barack Obama

I’m sorry that my late friend, Johnny Castille, a black man and a Democrat, is not here to see Barack Obama on the cusp of winning the Presidency.  

Johnny died late last year or early this year. I can’t recall the exact date. He was in his early 60’s at the time of his death.

Johnny was a sacker at my local supermarket here in Houston. He had served in Vietnam and worked at General Motors in Indiana for many years. He was retired from GM and was working at the supermarket until his retirement benefits kicked in. I don’t know if he would have ever seen those benefits given the state of GM.

Johnny was one of the first friends I made after I moved to Houston 10 years ago. He was a loyal Democrat and a good person. He had a sense of humor. While he was at first a supporter of Hillary Clinton, I’m certain he would have moved to Senator Obama as the campaign progressed.

There is a woman customer I talk to at the supermarket who was also friends with Johnny. I mentioned to her last week that I regretted Johnny was not here to see what was taking place. She said she had had the same thought, but she knew Johnny could see what was taking place.

She told me she has prayed long and hard for Senator Obama to be safe in this campaign, and that in her view he was anointed in some way.

I felt some understanding for what she was saying despite not having the same religious faith or skin color as she.

There are three weeks to go in the campaign. In honesty I wish I had a faith that would allow me the relief of prayer. I am tense over the outcome. Senator Obama offers hope that this country is not the country we have lived in for the past eight years.

Maybe we can move past some of the history that holds us back in so many ways. We’ll elect this black person and folks will see that the world does not end.

I never thought I’d see a black person as President of the United States. In three weeks we’ll see how it turns out. Win or lose on Election Day, I’m sorry Johnny is not here today. But I’m made hopeful by what I am seeing. Maybe it is possible that morning will come.

October 15, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, History, Houston, Politics | , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Photo Of Texas State Capitol I Took From Austin Skyscraper

Here is a photo of the Texas State Capitol building I recently took from the 22nd floor of the Chase Building in Austin.  At least I think it was the 22nd floor.

Though I’ve lived in Texas nine years now, I don’t feel an emotional attachment to our State Capitol building. I feel our State Capitol building has been on the whole a location of misdeeds and wrongdoing.

In frankness, though I am first and foremost a political blogger, I do not find much of what takes place in the Capitol building to be of interest. This does not mean I ignore our State Capitol. It simply means I limit my intake of Texas political news because there are only so many ways you can read that people are being cheated. 

Still, I do believe a better day in Texas and in all places is possible. You have to believe better things are possible or you’re finished as a person anybody would want to get to know and have as a friend.

Some people think a better day in Texas will come when ongoing demographic changes in Texas return the legislative chambers of the Capitol back to Democrats.

I think the better day will come when the people of Texas finally decide they want to act upon their more decent impulses and cast aside the aggression and economic Darwinism that have long defined Texas.    

November 6, 2007 Posted by | Pictures I Have Taken, Politics, Texas | , , , , | 6 Comments