Archive for January, 2009

Republicans Lose Party Identification in Texas

Lone Star Project brings us the good news that “Democrats in Texas now have a slight advantage in party identification, 43% to 41%, a clear reversal from the recent past.”

From LSP:

Texas Party ID, from LoneStarProject.net

LSP goes on to point out that we’ve closed the gap in the TX House to 2 seats and defeated an incumbent Republican State Senator for the first time in a decade.

2010 is our year to turn Texas blue!

Watch Car of the Future Online

Just wanted to report back about the two events I attended this week. Last night’s speech by Carl Coon, former US Ambassador to Nepal, was a pleasant reflection on the promise of US diplomacy hinted at in Obama’s inauguration speech. The question-and-answer section was lively, and he had some great stories of his time serving our country overseas.

Wednesday night’s screening of “Car of the Future” was excellent as well. This episode of Nova is the most concise explanation of where we stand now with car+fuel technology and where we could go in the next few years. The NPR Car Talk guys cover it all: hybrids, ethanol, fuel cells, plug-ins, engine efficiency, ultralights, and plenty of wisecracking humor to wash it all down.

The best part is that you can watch the whole thing online for free. Give it a look and I guarantee that you will find some aspect of green automotive technology to get excited about.

Congressional Republicans Write Themselves Out of History

History will remember that zero Congressional Republicans voted for the economic stimulus package that passed the House today.

Zero.

Zero, even after President Obama met with a delegation of Republican Congressmen.

Zero, even after several items that the Republicans objected to were removed from the bill.

So much for the bipartisanship that Republicans were calling for a week ago.

The Republican solution? More tax cuts for the rich, because that’s worked so well the past six years. (Thankfully, that version failed 266-170.)

Lubbock’s own Randy Neugebauer got in on the act:

Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, sought to strip out all the spending from the legislation before final passage, arguing that the entire cost of the bill would merely add to soaring federal deficits. “Where are we going to get the money,” he asked, but his attempt failed overwhelmingly, 302-134.

Obey had a ready retort. “They don’t look like Herbert Hoover, I guess, but there are an awful lot of people in this chamber who think like Herbert Hoover,” he said, referring to the president whose term is forever linked in history with the Great Depression.

Randy’s sudden concern for spending too much money is particularly galling, now that it might actually do some good to do so. I guess Congressional Republicans only want to spend taxpayer money to enrich their big business friends.

The Republican Party is out of ideas, and Congressional Republicans just made fools of themselves on the national stage. If the economic stimulus package works at all, then even the most outlandish gerrymandering (as with our own TX-19 Congressional District) won’t save House Republicans in 2010.

Two Events This Week

Two neat things going on this week for the politically-minded:

Lubbock DFA is screening “Car of the Future: Engineering for the Environment”
Wednesday night at 7pm at Mahon Library (downtown)

This episode of Nova features the brothers who host NPR’s “Car Talk” as they search for a new dream car among the latest green/hybrid technology offerings.

America in the World: Which Way?
Thursday night at 8pm at the TTU International Cultural Center

Carl Coon, former U.S diplomat and ambassador to Nepal, will speak on how foreign policy should proceed in the post-George Bush Era. Coon is the author of “One Planet, One People: Beyond Us vs. Them.”

This is the third annual Dorothy McLarty Arts & Lecture Series. The previous two were amazing events, so I expect that this one will be well worth your time also.

American Exceptionalism

What a provocative term.

I couldn’t help but notice it touted at that other political blog hosted at LubbockOnline.com.

It’s also a term with a long history — as usual, Wikipedia is a good place to start. We’ve come a long way from de Tocqueville.

In its current meaning, American Exceptionalism is the cornerstone of neoconservative foreign policy, which basically goes like this: “We are the only superpower in the world. We have God on our side. We can do whatever we want.”

I’ve also heard American Exceptionalism referred to as the unipolar worldview (as opposed to the multipolar worldview), which is a term that makes more sense to me because it suggests the history of where we got this crazy notion that we can go it alone in the world. The Cold War worldview was that of two superpowers facing off across the Atlantic and in smaller, hotter proxy conflicts around the world. When the other superpower collapsed, what else could the world be except a unipolar world where the USA is the sole surviving superpower?

So neat, so simple, so wrongheaded.

Firstly, with so many nations in the nuclear club with us, I don’t think our military strength is a guarantee that we will come out on top in a conflict with another first-world nation. And even if we are dominant militarily, how long before someone catches up, and do we have the moral authority to act unilaterally in the meantime?

Secondly, it makes us arrogant, which makes us foolish. I am convinced that the neoconservative think tanks that brought us such wisdom as “we can wrap up Iraq within a year,” and, “we will be greeted as liberators,” were operating from the comfortable overconfidence of American Exceptionalism, or the unipolar model.

Thirdly, it makes us blind to innovation elsewhere in the world. The Bush years will be remembered for falling behind the world in every kind of good statistic, in policy based on science, and in providing a high quality of life. We are all too eager to export some aspects of our culture and commerce, but we need to remember that it is our melting pot of cultures and ideas from around the world that makes America great.

I hope that the Obama administration helps us become a nation that is a partner in the world, not a bully in the world. Signs are already positive: Obama’s first interview as President is with a middle east TV network, and his special envoy George Mitchell is on his way to the middle east as well. Peace in that region will be difficult, but at least the Obama Administration is off to an energetic and meaningful start.

Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up 1/26/2009

It is Monday (the first Monday of the new Obama Administration, in fact) and that means it is time for another edition of the Texas Progressive Alliance Weekly Round-Up.

Would you like a Cheeseburger in Paradise made from Texas Black Angus raised on drilling waste? Get yours at Bluedaze: Drilling Reform for Texas. Served up by TXsharon.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wonders why John Cornyn is dropping poo in our collective punch bowl. Why be reasonable when you can be a Republican?

WhosPlayin was glued to the TV all day Tuesday, popping the cork on champagne at 11 AM. But ultimately there were more important things.

jobsanger thinks it was wrong for federal and state representatives to threaten the El Paso city council with cutting off state and federal funds if they passed a resolution asking the government to reconsider the failed “war on drugs” in Legislators Threaten El Paso Council.

At McBlogger, we’re all about things that make your taco go POP!

Off the Kuff commented on the actions of the State Board of Education in which efforts by religious conservatives to weaken science education were (mostly) thwarted.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston has posted how much money Bob Perry has donated in 2008.

Gay divorce comes to Texas once again, forcing the hand of the judicial system to do what is right in civil law. The Texas Cloverleaf examines the case in Dallas.

Neil at Texas Liberal inquires about Barack Obama’s urban policy.

The Texas Congressional GOP delegation is still voting to deny poor children their health insurance, and John Cornyn continues acting like a massive bleeding hemorrhoid. It’s just a gambit to establish himself as the conservative foil to President Obama, and perhaps presage a White House bid of his own in 2012. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has the bloody details.

BossKitty at TruthHugger illustrates how Homeland Security can justify any risk. All euphemisms aside, taking the most lethal pathogens in the US arsenal into America’s heartland and breadbasket seems suicidal. Plum Island to Manhattan - Pathogens On The Move. Instead of taking researchers to the lethal experiment, they are placing the experiment among us.

Burnt Orange Report formalizes and announces its Right to Respond Policy.

Though the Three Wise Men have been as critical of Isreal’s actions in Gaza as anyone, we’re as quick to point out-as historian Mark LeVine makes clear-that Hamas’ embrace of violence hasn’t exactly helped the cause of Palestinian self-determination either.

Vince from Capitol Annex takes a look at Houston Mayor Bill White’s campaign finance reports and notes that White is spending money from his municipal campaign account on his race for U.S. Senate.

Words of Hope and Inspiration: Social Justice

I’ve spent some time lately thinking about the idea of social justice, a notoriously difficult idea to pin down. I believe it is something that liberals and progressives spend a great deal of their lives pondering, while conservatives and others on the political right tend to dismiss it or diminish its importance. For example, someone on the political right might say something like, “the free market is social justice,” which I believe to be demonstrably false.

Rev. Joseph Lowery’s benediction at last week’s Inauguration had some great lines that urge us in the direction of social justice:

For we know that, Lord, you are able and you’re willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor, of the least of these, and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.

I believe that the idea of social justice allows for rich people and poor people to exist simultaneously in society. To suggest otherwise (i.e. “we should all be rich,” or “we should all be poor,” or “we should all be neither rich nor poor,”) is contrary to reality. However, a key concept of social justice is that the poor are not exploited and the rich are not shown favoritism. All one has to do is read about another crooked or incompetent CEO with a so-called golden parachute, visit a jail for white-collar criminals, or speak to someone who works 40+ hours a week and still does not receive a living wage to see that we have a long way to go before we achieve this aspect of social justice.

More Lowery:

And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.

Another cornerstone of social justice is respect for one’s fellow human beings. We have a long way to go in this area as well, as America has shown a tendency to sort itself into demographically homogeneous communities in the last few years. We need institutions that will bring together diverse peoples from across the nation.

At one time, the American military fulfilled this need to a certain extent. I believe that some sort of non-military civil service — a promise of the Obama campaign — will contribute to our capacity to tolerate, understand, and love one another.

By the way, a full transcript and youtube video of Rev. Lowery’s benetiction are available online. I thought it was a beautiful meditation from a man who’s seen a lot of serious stuff in his lifetime.

I’ve only scratched the surface of this important topic with the above two quotes. What are your thoughts about social justice?

Lefty Links

Have some more linkage!

Inauguration Size and Cost

There’s a little white lie going through the right-wing media outlets, especially FOX, Drudge, and Newsmax. I want to do my part to make sure it doesn’t stick.

Barak Obama’s inauguration is NOT 3-4 times more expensive than GWB’s second inauguration — they actually cost about the same.

What happened is that the widely touted $160 million cost for the Obama inauguration includes the cost of security, while the $42 million cost for GWB’s second inauguration does not:

In other words, it’s the unsubstantiated Obama cost of $160 million (inauguration + security) compared with the Bush cost of 42 million (inauguration, excluding security). Those are two completely different calculations being compared side-by-side, by Fox & Friends, among others, to support the phony claim that Obama’s inauguration is $100 million more expensive than Bush’s.

-snip-

However, buried in a recent New York Times article published one week before the controversy erupted over the cost of Obama’s inauguration, the newspaper reported that in 2005, “the federal government and the District of Columbia spent a combined $115.5 million, most of it for security, the swearing-in ceremony, cleanup and for a holiday for federal workers” [emphasis added].

You read that correctly. The federal government spent $115 million dollars for the 2005 inauguration. Keep in mind, that $115 million price tag was separate from the money Bush backers bundled to put on the inauguration festivities. For that, they raised $42 million. So the bottom line for Bush’s 2005 inauguration, including the cost of security? That’s right, $157 million.

So, the next time that someone points to Obama’s inauguration as a sign of “liberal excess” or other such malarkey, you can tell them what for.

On the home front, we packed the place at the Civic Center Ballroom last night for the Inaugural Ball put on by the Lubbock Juneteenth Committee. Over 600 attended, and we had a great time.

Local coverage of the Lubbock Inaugural Ball:

LubbockOnline.com
KCBD.com
everythinglubbock.com

Words of Hope and Inspiration: Service

I still have a warm fuzzy feeling from watching Obama’s Inauguration speech this morning. Thank goodness we now have a leader who can move the people to their better natures — that’s what it will take to get through difficult times ahead and heal the wounds from the last eight years. President Obama has already started this appeal with his call to a “day of service” on MLK day.

Here’s an example that expands the idea of service from his speech:

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

It is the spirit of service that hauled us out of the Great Depression, and it will be our greatest strength now as well.

Is there a part of Obama’s speech that resonated particularly well with you? Tell us about it.

(You can read the full text of Obama’s Inauguration speech here. And be sure to check out the A-J’s inauguration blog, which features a tag cloud of Obama’s speech.)


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