Monday, January 31, 2011
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Digby linked to this NYT blog by several historians that are doing a narrative of the Civil War.
Here’s a bit from today’s entry that quotes Sam Houston, a notable Texas Governor, a sharp contrast from the tool that’s in the office today:
“With the vote approaching, Houston, undeterred, continued to campaign against disunion. “To secede from the Union and set up another government would cause war,’’ he warned. “If you go to war with the United States, you will never conquer her, as she has the money and the men. If she does not whip you by guns, powder, and steel, she will starve you to death. It will take the flower of the country-the young men.’’ Still, the convention voted for secession, 166 to 8, pending ratification by the voters in a general referendum in February.
“(Assuming they approve, Texas will be the place that was settled by American citizens who left their states to become Mexican citizens, and who then rebelled against Mexico and won their independence, formed a republic, abandoned the republic to enter the union, seceded from the union, but who may reenter some federation involving some or all of the other seceded states. That would seem to settle things for this politically peripatetic people, but if a sinkhole opens up outside Austin, don’t be surprised to see the legislature open talks with Hades about joining the underworld.)”
Saturday, January 29, 2011
In the news last week, Newt Gingrich was in Iowa speaking to the Iowa Renewal Fuels Association. He called for the elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency, replacing it with a new agency, the Environmental Solution Agency, that would pursue clean coal technology and rewrite regulations to encourage construction of small nuclear power plants.
I’ll say one thing for candidate Gingrich, he knows which side the bread is buttered on. Leave it to him to defend struggling coal plant operators, ethanol producers, or those who would build atomic plants; a business where the figures all come with at least nine zeros after them.
This Family Values Serial Philanderer, who made his bones attacking Speaker Jim Wright for using bogus book sales to raise campaign funds, was sanctioned himself as Speaker for using a tax-exempt college course for his campaign. He led the House move to impeach Clinton for screwing a staffer while he was screwing a staffer himself. This guy is a beaut. One of his ex-wives said that if American political orientation moved 180 degrees, from right to left, say; ol’ Newt would be right out front of the latest next thing, just trying to lead the parade. –Not ideological, just cynical.
I have trouble understanding why people would listen to somebody who would say anything to get elected.
Which reminds me of Mitt Romney, another dodgy presidential candidate. Romney was once elected Governor of Massachusetts, where he stood for abortion rights, gay rights, gun control and universal health insurance, but now he’s against all that. Have to wonder what he’ll be for next year.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
I recently finished 'Colonel Roosevelt,' the third volume of Edmund Morris’ biography of Theodore Roosevelt. It’s been 30 years since he published ‘The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt,’ and volume two, ‘Theodore Rex,’ came out in 2001. Morris appeared on The Daily Show, and seemed pleased when Stewart noted that TR died at the relatively young age of 61. When Stewart asked him about this he confessed that he was, “otherwise I would have to write another volume.”
This book takes up when Roosevelt leaves the White House and goes off on safari to collect specimens for the Smithsonian. He follows this with a tour of Europe, where he meets with all the crowned heads. At this time he was probably the most famous person on earth. He returns to America and becomes disaffected with his successor William Howard Taft, eventually breaking his pledge not to seek a second full term as President. When the convention nominated Taft, TR split and formed the Bull Moose Party, which split the vote, putting Woodrow Wilson in the White House.
I find it odd that when Glenn Beck does his eliminationist shtick on the evil Progressive Movement, he focuses on Woodrow Wilson. Maybe he lays off Roosevelt because he was a Republican, but TR advocated for Civil Service reform, conservation, food and drug regulation, women’s suffrage, social insurance to provide for the elderly, the unemployed and the disabled, farm relief, workman’s compensation, anti-trust regulation, limits and disclosure for campaign contributions, direct election of senators, and an inheritance tax. If they still made Republicans like that, I’d vote for ‘em.
This volume tells of the TR that went round the bend. Whether it was splitting the party, attacking his successors, or leading a near-disastrous expedition on the ‘River of Doubt,’ he became full of himself. This leader of the Rough Riders, who suffered 33% casualties in Cuba, was an avid nationalist who considered war to be beneficial to the country, an occasional bloodletting that improved the race. He beat the war drums for US entry into The Great War, making him a persona non grata to Wilson, who denied TR the Calvary commission he desired. Instead Roosevelt’s three sons went to war. All were shot-up, the youngest, Kermit, was killed and this, finally took the starch out of TR, he died within a year.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Bob Stein at the BAND and BAAD Women
Went to see Rice poli-sci guy Robert Stein last night. He spoke to the local Democratic clubs about the last election and elections to come; upcoming state and federal legislative sessions, and the Hispanic Vote.
The Professor talked about Spring Branch, where a lot of us used to live. The population there is now 68% Hispanic, but barely half of them are voting. The candidates they see on the ballot are picked by what Stein calls “the selectorate,” the 74% of Primary voters that are old and white. He pointed out that this situation falls short of democracy, and made me wonder if evolution applies to politics.
Dr. Stein said that it’s unlikely that any Democrat will be elected to replace Kay Bailey, but noted that the Republican leading in the polls for that race is ‘Dr No,’ Ron Paul. If voters in the GOP primary nominate Paul it could be a Sharon Angle or Christine O’Donnell situation; turning over a previously safe seat to the Dems.
He predicted that if the state cuts funding for primary and secondary education; that school districts will pass tax rate increases; that a coalition will emerge with older voters supporting the issues because school quality is the single best predictor of property values. Besides, lots of them have tax rates already frozen.
The new GOP-majority House is not veto-proof, he pointed out; and warned us to watch the rule changes, saying that new Budget Chairman Paul Ryan now has a line item veto and absolute control; and new Speaker Boehner promises that nothing much will come out of this Congress, thereby threatening things like health care, mass transit and NASA.
Anyways, I enjoyed the ‘inside baseball.’ I say if people watched more politics and less, say, football or wrestling, the entertainment value wouldn’t fall off none. As an added benefit, might lower the odds of their being exploited, oppressed, or even vaporized.
Monday, January 17, 2011
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Eisenhower’s Farewell Address
Monday is the 50th anniversary of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell address to the nation. This is the speech in which he warned of the influence of the Military Industrial Complex. Please take a few minutes to read it. (http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/ike.htm)
It is telling that as we read it today, we live in a country on a permanent war footing, with U.S. troops stationed in over 150 countries around the world, with a defense budget larger than that of all other countries combined, spent on defense contractors located in every congressional district in the nation.
A companion speech is his 1953 “Cross of Iron” speech where he says:
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
This world in arms is not spending money alone.
It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.
It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.
It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.
It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.
We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat.
We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.
This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.
This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”
NPR had one of my favorites, Boston University Professor Andrew Bacevich on to talk about IKE’s farewell address. Here’s some;
"Our political institutions demonstrate an unwillingness, or an inability, to really take on the big questions," Bacevich says. "And the American people – many of them distracted by all kinds of concerns, like having a job when there's almost 10-percent unemployment — aren't paying attention."
Bacevich insists that its time for Americans to review the belief that the United States needs to maintain a global military presence to safeguard national security.
"There was a time, I think, in the Eisenhower era, military presence abroad was useful," he says. No longer.
"Maintaining U.S. military forces in the so-called 'Greater Middle East' doesn't contribute to stability — it contributes to instability," Bacevich says. "It increases anti-Americanism. So why persist in the belief that maintaining all these U.S. forces scattered around the globe are necessary?"
If Americans could challenge that assumption, Bacevich says, then maybe it would be possible to have "a different and more modest national security posture that will be more affordable — and still keep the country safe."
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Be Civil and Climb in the Oven, Weakling!
Monday, January 10, 2011
Tom DeLay Sentenced to Three Years in Prison
Eight years after DeLay tried to game the Texas prohibition on corporate campaign spending, the judge has spoken. Three years in state prison for conspiracy and ten years of community supervision for money laundering. DeLay elected to be sentenced by Judge Pat Priest instead of the jury of Austinites whom he had gerrymandered into three congressional districts in an effort to unseat the congressman they had elected.
“This will not stand” said attorney Dick DeGuerin, signaling their intention to appeal the conviction to the all-Republican Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. If they don’t succeed there, don’t be surprised if some year down the line the Roberts Supreme Court throws out Texas’ century-old ban on corporate campaign spending.
But we can still enjoy this moment. His stock has fallen as a cable news commentator, and his dancing career is probably over. DeLay’s Political Action Committees are shut down, as is his website. Look for GOP pols who have long kept him at arms-length to throw him under the bus now. Maybe new House Speaker John Boehner and Texas Rep. Pete Olson will reconsider their hiring of former DeLay associates.
DeLay said in court that he has raised and spent $10 million on his defense. Got to wonder if the people writing him checks are starting to suffer donor fatigue, especially now that there’s no mo’ quid pro quo.
Saturday, January 08, 2011
America: Brown People Need Not Apply
Personally, I think wages should equalize, workers rights fostered everywhere, and the borders open both ways. I'd like to live to see a north american economic union. The current set-up in which employer's exploit cheap labor, and Mexican Nationals get the blame is a disaster for everyone.
The get tough policies of the state and federal governments are nakedly rascist in my view. Here's some of the plans instore for Texas:
HB 17:Police checks for "reasonable suspician." I've sat on a criminal grand jury and I can vouch that this and "probable cause," just means driving while Mexican.
SB 126: Gives arresting officers immunity for this.
HB 22: Requires public schools to determine the immigration status of every student. Is there a chill in here?
HB 177: Requires proff of citizenship to get a driver's license. Now there'll be a bunch of non-licensed drivers to go with the uninsured.
HB 16: Requires proof of citizenship and two forms of ID to cast a ballot. I guess that's oneway to make sure nobody votes.
HB 197: Requires proof of citizenship to get a job.
SB 84: Requires businesses to verify citizenship.
House Joint Resolution 38: Makes English the official language. No more Spanish in schools.
HB 81: No public money can be spent on non-English documents or signs.
SSA has started requiring proof of residency for claimant's of U.S.-born children, and proof of residency for any member of the hoiusehold in which a claim has been filed, with no lawful mandate. Word will travel fast in this town that the parents of anchor babies need not apply for Medicaid or SSI, or any government program for their American citizen children.
The facist state is not hiding anymore. The problem is not with the focus of these proposed statutes; rather, like Arizona, the problem is the effect it will have on all people, whether citizens or not.
Monday, January 03, 2011
Intimate Settings and Public Spaces: Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Drawings and Prints
My art student daughter took me to see this show at the MFAH. Sixty-some works on paper by artists including Pierre Bonnard, Mary Cassatt, Jules Chéret, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Auguste Renoir, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Félix Emile-Jean Vallotton, and Édouard Vuillard.
Vuillard was a name that caught my eye as we strolled the galleries on our way to this show. He made a painting in 1910 or thereabouts that included the Van Gogh canvas “Bedroom at Arles,” in the scene. Considering that Van Gogh was hardly a prominent painter at that time, I figured that Vuillard must have been a friend, admirer or maybe a creditor. Ignorant louts like myself are more appreciative of artworks when they have some biographical information to help them connect to the artist, and I mean to learn something of this Vuillard.
I enjoyed this show, though nothing in it made me gasp out loud or made me forget the pleasure of seeing some favorites as I walked this wonderful museum. I enjoy visiting this “time machine,” seeing objects and images from other centuries or even millennia. These drawings, screen prints, etchings and lithographs made me think of all the oil paintings from earlier centuries made for or of wealthy princes, popes and bourgeoisie. I think it was in the 19th century when painters became like rock stars, with folks lining up to view the latest works. These works were more for mass consumption, made to be posters, magazine art, even advertisements.
Toulouse-Lautrec was well represented in this collection. I learned something from reading the notes. Seeing blank patches or uncolored areas I’ve thought that I was looking at unfinished works. I read that Toulouse-Lautrec, denizen of Paris bordellos, posed his subjects performing banal tasks to de-sexualize them, and gave his images an unfinished quality to de-romanticize the subject matter. He was down with the ‘working girls;’ not a glamorous life.
This show will be exhibited through January 17th, when they move in the 19th century French collection on loan from The National Gallery of Art in Washington. Another show that deserves a look is “Cosmopolitan Routes: Houston Collects Latin American Art.” I zipped through this one and would like to spend some more time on it. I was intrigued at the political content of some works, such as Colombian Miguel Angel Rohas’ work with coca leaves or dollar bills on paper. Seems that some Latin Americans aren’t thrilled by a century of Yankee imperialism. Who figured?