I think I caught former Channel 13 investigative reporter Wayne Dolcefino a little bit by surprise under this picture of our father Sam Houston recently at Houston City Hall.
Mr. Dolcefino is currently employed doing opposition research on Houston Mayor Annise Parker for her opponent Ben Hall.
Here is the statue of Sam Houston in Houston’s Hermann Park. I was at this park today.
Sam keeps watch over our great city of Houston.
What books should you consider as holiday gifts for the Texan in your life, or for someone who would like to learn more about Texas?
I have some suggestions.
As you can see from the picture above, Hamburger Wearing An Astros’ Hat would very much like to learn more about Texas. Hamburger is a member of the Texas Liberal Panel of Experts.
You will also please note that Hamburger is trying to use some Republic of Texas currency to buy a book of Texas history.
While many conservative Texans might wish that this currency was still valid, I may have to spot Hamburger a few real dollars to purchase the book.
Here is a list of some fine Texas- themed books I own. There are many others out there that I don’t own and are worthy of your consideration.
Lone Star Nation–The Epic Story of the Battle for Texas Independence by H.W. Brands will tell you all you need to know about how Texans won independence from Mexico.
Texas: A Modern History by David McComb is short and readable history of Texas history all the way up to the current century.
The Texas Almanac is simply one of the best reference books I own on any topic. The Almanac is published by the Texas State Historical Associataion. The most recent edition of the Almanac was released just a few weeks ago.
(The budget of the Texas State Historical Commission was slashed by Governor Rick Perry and Republicans in Texas. Is this how we should honor Texas history?)
Unprecedented Power: Jesse Jones, Capitalism, and the Common Good by Steven Fenberg. This is a new release that I own, but have not yet read. Jesse Jones of Houston was a very powerful figure of the Franklin Roosevelt era who played a large role in crafting today’s Houston and our whole State of Texas.
The Formation and Future of the Upper Texas Coast by John Anderson may sound dry. But is an accessible title with many pictures that will help you understand the geography and other aspects of the Texas coast from the Sabine Pass, to where the Colorado River flows into the Gulf Of Mexico.
Texas A & M Press has published a variety of titles about life in the Texas portion of the Gulf of Mexico. I own four of these books and they are all very informative.
Sam Houston–A Biography of the Father of Texas by John Hoyt Williams is a perfectly good biography of the great man. There are other out there on the same subject. Maybe you’d finally like to learn more about Sam Houston after hearing his name so many times over the years.
I’ve read all three Robert Caro books on Lyndon Johnson. There are two more planned with the next one out in the spring of 2012. Here is a link to reviews of the three Johnson books. These books are full of Texas history and are classics of American biography.
A great web resource to learn about Texas is The Handbook of Texas Online. This site is very comprehensive on aspects of Texas both past and present. The Handbook is also published by the Texas Historical Society.
Learning about Texas will offer a more nuanced understanding of a place that for many—both in and out of Texas—has become little more than a Texas-sized caricature.
Above is the great Sam Houston in Houston’s Hermann Park.
Sam is pointing you towards having a restful and productive weekend.
The two are not all contradictory. Getting stuff done can help ease the mind.
One thing you could do is visit the Sam Houston Memorial Museum up the road from Houston in Huntsville.
Sam looks to have someplace in mind with his pointing up on that statue.
But for our purposes let’s just say that Sam is suggesting that you pick any enjoyable and helpful course for the weekend.
Also, this week the TPA announced that Annise Parker, who was sworn in a few hours ago as the new Mayor of Houston, is the Texas Progressive Alliance Texan of the Year. This was a unanimous selection. ( Here is the Houston Chronicle report on Ms. Parker’s swearing-in.)
( Above–Sam Houston. I think Sam would have been okay with Ms. Parker’s election. You can read about Sam here in the excellent Handbook of Texas Online.)
Some Houston-area political bloggers allied themselves with Ms. Parker’s campaign and worked on her behalf. Congratulations to those bloggers and to Ms. Parker.
Here is the TPA press release announcing Ms. Parker’s selection—
With the election of Annise Parker as mayor of Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States signaled that they pay more attention to qualifications than to sexual orientation. This news reverberated around the globe and brought positive attention to the city of Houston and the state of Texas. National Democratic groups took note of a more progressive Houston than they assumed, and the talk and speculation turned to the possibilities of Texas turning blue sooner rather than later.
The Parker win was no accident. She put together a talented campaign team that ran on the strength of the grassroots rather than City Hall insiders. Key Houston-area progressive bloggers aligned themselves with Parker and were embraced by the campaign. Blogs became an effective messaging strategy, emphasizing Parker’s qualifications and her opponent’s weaknesses.
In the runoff, several third parties — including one longtime right-wing operative who endorsed Parker’s opponent — launched a series of homophobic attacks against her, but they failed to do her any serious damage because voters recognized her distinguished service as a member of Council and City Controller and valued her experience and financial acumen.Voters knew who she was and what she was about because she had always been open and honest about it, and that was more important than anything some agitator could say.
For her historic victory, for making the rest of the world re-evaluate its opinion of Texas, and for running a truly modern grassroots campaign, the Texas Progressive Alliance is proud to name Houston’s Mayor-Elect Annise Parker its Texan of the Year for 2009.
Here is the Round-up–
Could BeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants everyone to be afraid of drug cartels buying our politicians. We’ve all seen what money and power did to health care reform. Imagine all that drug money buying power here. It’s time to legalize drugs and take away the profit.
Calling All Smart Kids—Come To Texas To Compete For College Spots And Jobs Against Kids Who Get Right-Wing Education In Public Schools
The Texas State Board of Education is talking about changes in what kids learn about history and social studies in public schools. They want to shift the curriculum away from the facts and towards the political and Christian right.
Here is a Houston Chronicle article on the subject.
( Above–A schoolhouse in Maryville, Tennessee where Sam Houston taught in the early 1800’s. Here is the link to the Sam Houston Memorial Museum in Huntsville, Texas. This schoolhouse in Maryville is open to the public and has an interesting history. Please click here to learn more about it.)
The Wall Street Journal has also written about this subject. Here is the link to that story. From the article—
“The Texas Board of Education, which recently approved new science standards that made room for creationist critiques of evolution, is revising the state’s social studies curriculum. In early recommendations from outside experts appointed by the board, a divide has opened over how central religious theology should be to the teaching of history.”
The articles here speak for themselves. What is to be taught is a right-wing inaccurate version of the facts. Parents, and all concerned citizens, can decide to take a role in this debate or they can just ignore it all.
People say that having kids changes you and that people care about their kids more than anything. What I see is apathy about education and parents who lack the imagination and the willingness to prepare kids for the demands of adulthood.
I’m happy to be proven wrong on this— But it won’t be individual examples of great education and great parenting that impress. I know these things take place all the time.
What will convince me is a well-educated society as a whole, and parents who take the time needed for their own kids and who are willing to meet the tax burden required to provide a decent education for all kids.
In the meantime, if you’ve got a smart hard-working kid, bring the kid to Texas and take advantage of the weak competition for college spots and good jobs.
From the Houston Chronicle article—
Biographies of Washington, Lincoln, Stephen F. Austin? Not fit reading material for children in the early grades. Cesar Chavez? Not worthy of his role-model status. Christianity? Emphasize its importance. Such suggestions are part of efforts to rewrite history books for the state’s schoolchildren, producing some expert recommendations that are sure to inflame Texans, no matter their political leanings.
The State Board of Education expects to start discussing new social studies curriculum standards this week, with members of the public getting their first opportunity to speak this fall and a final board vote next spring.
The process is a long one with lasting impact: reshaping the social studies curriculum, including history, for 4.7 million Texas public school children. “This is something that every parent would want to be paying attention to… ”
Curriculum standards are updated about every 10 years; the last social studies update came in 1997. According to a preliminary draft of the new proposed standards, biographies of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Stephen F. Austin have been removed from the early grades, said Brooke Terry of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
The early draft, which is likely to change multiple times in the coming months, also removes Independence Day, Veterans’ Day, and anthems and mottos for bothTexas and the United States in a section on holidays, customs and celebrations, she said. “You have the ability to shape the next generation on the beliefs about the government and the role of personal responsibility but also understanding our history and the principles that we want to pass down to our children,” Terry said. “With many of the suggested changes, I think we would be backtracking on many of the important things that people fight for in defense of our country.” Continue reading
The Texas Presidential Primary, to be held March 4, is a big deal.
( Photo above is of Galveston at sunset. If you live near the Texas coast, this might be your concept of Texas.)
32 of the Democratic delegates will be superdelegates. (Please click here for a Texas Liberal history of the superdelegate idea. )
I maintain that the superdelegate idea is undemocratic and goes against the idea of an open and fair Democratic Party.
( The process by which Texas delegates are selected is mind-numbing and not the province of this post. Here’s a link to part one and part two of an explanation of this system by the Texas political blog Burnt Orange Report.)
Not surprisingly, given the lack of enthusiasm for democracy found historically among the Texas political class—-and from many of the Anglo voters who have dominated Texas politics—the Texas Presidential primary does not have a long history.
The first Texas presidential primary was held in 1980.
( Here is a concept of Texas some might have—An oil rig in the middle of town. I’ve never seen this in my nine years in Texas. Though I have seen oil rigs within the city limits of Houston.)
Texas was for many years part of the one-party “Solid South” that anchored Jim Crow segregation in America.
This system had multiple parts.
The two-thirds rule at the Democratic National Convention assured that the South would have a veto over any presidential candidate who threatened progress on Civil Rights. It took two-thirds of all delegates to ratify a nominee. That rule is now gone.
On Election Day in November, the South, including Texas, would almost always vote for the Democratic nominee. A Texas exception to this was in 1928 when Republican Herbert Hoover defeated Catholic Al Smith. (Some Texans must have sat around the dinner table deciding if they disliked Catholics or black people the most.)
( Here is Al Smith with Babe Ruth. You can likely figure out who is Smith and who is Ruth. )
This Southern unity prevented the Democratic nominee from pushing Civil Rights during the campaign (If he had any inclination to do so to start with.) since he could not alienate such a large block of states.
In Congress, Southern Democratic Senators and Representatives, often reelected without opposition, built seniority and gained control of important committees. This also stopped any progress on Civil Rights.
Here is a link to a history of the “Whites Only” Democratic primary used in Texas for many years to determine nominees–and certain November winners in a one party state–for the great majority of Texas offices.
In the U.S. Senate, the filibuster rule allowed Southern Senators to block Civil Rights legislation. This may all seem a bit off the topic of the Texas Primary, but it gets at the political climate in Texas for many years and how it was that the Progressive-era reform of the presidential primary did not reach Texas until 1980.
Today Texas, along with Hawaii, California and New Mexico, is a state where the majority of people are not white. That’s amazing when you think of the John Wayne/roughneck image of Texas.
Many of these non-white folks are immigrants.
(The Port of Houston is immense and it connects Houston and Texas to the world. Many immigrants come to Texas today and they are–for the most part so far–accepted.)
Most of these immigrants are accepted. Even undocumented immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere have not been disturbed much as of yet. If this has to do with the role these immigrants play in the Texas economy, or the possible–mostly unrealized– political clout of Hispanic voters in Texas, I could not fully say.
Roughly one-third of Texans are Hispanic. Though many are not legally here. And of those that are here legally, many do not vote. Texas is just over 11% black. Almost 24 million people live in Texas. Here is a link to some basic facts about Texas.
(Below is the border between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. Hard to see any distinctions between people from this perspective.)
George W. Bush won Texas with 61% of the vote in 2004. Republicans are in firm control of Texas politically.
Mr. Reagan had mostly wrapped up the nomination by that point, but it still shows the strength conservative in the Texas Republican party against a strong home-state candidate.
Texas was a Super Tuesday battleground for Democrats in 1988. Mike Dukakis rook first place with 33% against 25% for Jesse Jackson and 20% for Southerner Al Gore. This win helped confirm Mr. Dukakis as the front-runner, though it would take another round of primaries to make it more certain. (Please click here for a Texas Liberal history of Super Tuesday.)
Vice President Bush was an easy home state winner in 1988.
Though as an incumbent President, Mr Bush’s 69% against 24% for Pat Buchanan in 1992 was not so impressive.
The son, George W. Bush, beat John McCain 88% to 7% in 2000. Not a close call. Mr. McCain may do better this time.
In 2004, while Bush was unopposed among Republicans, John Kerry won two-thirds of the vote on his way to the nomination.
2008 promises to be the most interesting and most relevant Texas presidential primary yet held.
Sam Houston had studied survival tactics with experts. In his youth, after a mysteriously awful brief marriage on the western frontier, a shattered Houston had …disappeared from whiteman’s society. He reappeared three years later, his old self-confidence restored, his new understanding of how to get along set for life. He had saved himself by savouring the forbidden. This white leader had lived with an Indian princess……His appearance signaled the way he operated and the persona he cherished. President Sam Houston marched around Houston City dressed like an Indian chief….The white chieftain’s red man’s garb proclaimed…a strategist not predictably of any color, not predictably anything at all.
I thought this was interesting. It shows the mix of circumstance and self-creation that helps form a personality.
While one has to be concerned with becoming a self-parody, Sam Houston here shows you can leave your more obvious identity behind and become what works best for you in life.
It’s always difficult to construct an identity and a personality that diverges from what seems most apparent. But it can be done.