Archive for March, 2009

Cesar Chavez Event Tomorrow

I want to share details of an event taking place tomorrow:

WHAT: Cesar E. Chavez People’s Honor March and Commemoration.
WHEN: 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., Saturday, March 28, 2009 (Shuttle service will begin at 12:00 p.m. beginning at Canyon Lakes/Buddy Holly Recreational Area, end site, to Cavazos Middle School, beginning site).
WHERE: March begins at Cavazos Middle School parking lot, 210 N. University Ave., proceeding to the Buddy Holly Recreational Area on N. University and Cesar E. Chavez Drive in Lubbock, Texas, followed by a celebration at the Fiesta Plaza located directly Southwest of the park area.
WHO: Announcement of the 2009 Spirit of Cesar E. Chavez Award, as well as recognition of religious leaders will be presented. A short history presentation regarding Chavez and current farm and seasonal worker issues will be included.
ETC: The public is encouraged to wear sunscreen, bring their folding chairs, and flags. Groups are encouraged to bring their banners and wear their organization t-shirts.

The event will also feature live music and voter registration. I hope the weather cooperates!

Uncertainty vs Risk

Investors love risk, but they hate uncertainty.

What’s the difference? Risk is whether the stock you bought will go up or down in value. Uncertainty is whether the stock you bought is an actual stock or the financial equivalent of a fish head wrapped in newspaper.

By now we are all familiar with the so-called credit default swaps that let a staggering amount of uncertainty into global markets. That hidden uncertainty got passed around all over the world, including into all kinds of institutions looking for low-risk investments — everything from Norwegian Villages to your mom’s 401K.

“That oughta be illegal!” you say? Well, once upon a time, it was!

The writing for the current financial crisis was on the wall 10 years ago when Glass-Steagall Act (passed in 1933) was repealed.

(Side note to the blame-Clinton crowd: the bill was passed with a veto-proof majority, so he may as well have signed it as he did. Still, I wish he would have opposed it anyway instead of cheerleading it.)

Who was behind the repealing of Glass-Steagall? Sen. Phill Gramm of Texas.

”The world changes, and we have to change with it,” said Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, who wrote the law that will bear his name along with the two other main Republican sponsors, Representative Jim Leach of Iowa and Representative Thomas J. Bliley Jr. of Virginia. ”We have a new century coming, and we have an opportunity to dominate that century the same way we dominated this century. Glass-Steagall, in the midst of the Great Depression, came at a time when the thinking was that the government was the answer. In this era of economic prosperity, we have decided that freedom is the answer.

The freedom that Gramm is talking about is the freedom to sell steaming piles of nothing, cleverly disguised as AAA rated securities, to the tune of many times our own GDP, more than the GDP of the entire world.

Opposing Gramm-Leach-Bliley were one Republican Senator (Richard C. Shelby of Alabama) and seven Democrats (Barbara Boxer of California, Richard H. Bryan of Nevada, Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland, Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota, and the late, greate Paul Wellstone of Minnesota).

In the House, 155 Democrats and 207 Republicans voted for the measure, while 51 Democrats, 5 Republicans and 1 independent opposed it (15 members did not vote).

Senators Dorgan and Wellstone were eerily, accurately prescient at the time:

”I think we will look back in 10 years’ time and say we should not have done this but we did because we forgot the lessons of the past, and that that which is true in the 1930’s is true in 2010,” said Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota. ”I wasn’t around during the 1930’s or the debate over Glass-Steagall. But I was here in the early 1980’s when it was decided to allow the expansion of savings and loans. We have now decided in the name of modernization to forget the lessons of the past, of safety and of soundness.”

Senator Paul Wellstone, Democrat of Minnesota, said that Congress had ‘’seemed determined to unlearn the lessons from our past mistakes.”

”Scores of banks failed in the Great Depression as a result of unsound banking practices, and their failure only deepened the crisis,” Mr. Wellstone said. ”Glass-Steagall was intended to protect our financial system by insulating commercial banking from other forms of risk. It was one of several stabilizers designed to keep a similar tragedy from recurring. Now Congress is about to repeal that economic stabilizer without putting any comparable safeguard in its place.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but risk and stability (the embodiment of certainty) go hand in hand. Without stability, people cannot take risks — they are simply fighting to survive in a world of chaos.

I hope the current financial crisis at least results in a return to sane laws in the style of Glass-Steagall. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll learn our lesson from history this time.

Thursday: Religulous in Lubbock

Lubbock Democracy for America is screening Bill Maher’s film “Religulous” this Thursday, March 26th at 7pm at Democratic Party HQ.

Here are the details:

Event Date: Mar 26, 2009
Event Time: 7:00 PM CDT
Venue Name: Lubbock County Democratic Party HQ
Address: 2809A 74th St
City: Lubbock
State: TX
Zip Code: 79423
Phone: 806-749-8683
Website: lubbockdemocrats.org
Hosted by: Lubbock Democracy for America

And you can RSVP on the Lubbock DFA site as well.

I have not yet seen “Religulous,” so I am really looking forward to it. Our post-film discussion should be interesting, to say the least. We will keep it civil even if the film doesn’t.

Lubbock is a Suburb of Itself

I’ve been thinking about the idea of community lately, especially as it relates to Lubbock.

Community can mean lots of things. The sense of community I’m thinking about today is city-sized: the community of Plainview, the community of Lubbock, the community of Austin, the community of Dallas, and so forth. The sense of community I’m thinking of today can tell us how two complete strangers might interact when they meet each other for the first time, if the odds favor them meeting at all.

Lubbock is my hometown, and I enjoy living here. However, I have some concerns about how Lubbock has grown over its 100 years — obstacles that hinder us when it comes to growing as a community-at-large.

First, cars. Lubbock is a city designed from the ground up for the automobile age. We pass strangers all day long in our cars and never know who is sitting behind steel and glass a few feet from us. Because of this, we are missing out on the very basic community knowledge of who lives here. We tend to think Lubbock is populated only with the people we meet at our destinations, which are usually self-selected. Contrast this to a city like New York or Chicago, where one can see all sorts of people on the train, the bus, the street.

Second, space. Part of living in a city built for the automobile age is that our buildings are far apart to accommodate our wide streets. Even residential streets in Lubbock are bigger than business thoroughfares in many cities. Every extra yard between your house and the one across the street makes it less likely that you will ever meet your neighbors.

(There is a positive side to the wide open space, captured beautifully by Molly Ivins: “Once you have been to Lubbock, it feels like freedom and everywhere else feels like jail.”)

Third, residential construction. Lubbock has primarily single-family dwellings, spaced farther apart as you get farther from downtown. Most Lubbock residents will never meet their neighbors in the stairwell or common yard because we don’t tend to have those things.

My point is that these factors make it harder for us to find common cause with those geographically near us, and therefore it is more difficult for Lubbock citizens to organize.

(Lubbock is also a conservative’s paradise for the same reasons. Everyone knows that urban areas tend to be more liberal/progressive than rural areas, but I think it’s a little more complicated than that. I think that the places in which people encounter the most strangers are the most liberal, and the places where people never have to meet anyone new tend to be the most conservative.)

However, Lubbock is not totally adrift as a suburb of itself; some neighborhoods have figured out how to organize in spite of our area’s obstacles. For instance, Heart of Lubbock has a very organized neighborhood association. South Overton, Tech Terrace, and Guadalupe also come to mind as examples of well-organized neighborhoods.

Furthermore, I am hopeful that our isolated/insular community-at-large will improve because of the age we live in. With President Obama as an organizer-in-chief, maybe our detached, separated situation will change for the better. Also, now we can find each other on the internet, which can reconnect us face-to-face. Those of us concerned about our community detachment can find each other online and work together to do something about it offline.

Thoughts?

New Mexico Repeals Death Penalty

Great news today, as New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson signed a bill repealing the death penalty in New Mexico. This move makes New Mexico the 15th state to outlaw capital punishment.

I also take as a good sign the fact that his office solicited public input:

In preparing for his decision, the governor solicited input over the weekend from state residents. According to his office, he got more than 9,000 responses by e-mail and in person.

“In a society which values individual life and liberty above all else, where justice and not vengeance is the singular guiding principle of our system of criminal law, the potential for wrongful conviction and, God forbid, execution of an innocent person stands as anathema to our very sensibilities as human beings,” Richardson said in prepared remarks. “That is why I’m signing this bill into law.”

He may have had to wait until it was politically safe to do so, but I commend Gov. Richardson for his decision.

More good news comes out of Nebraska, where a bill to authorize lethal injections has stalled in committee. Currently, Nebraska has the death penalty but no legal way to carry it out — their method of using the electric chair was stuck down by the Nebraska Supreme Court. So, as long as their legislature does not approve a method of carrying out the death penalty, they are effectively the 16th state without a death penalty.

You can learn more about the fight to eliminate the death penalty around the world at Death Watch International.

Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up 3/9/2009

Just so my readers are aware, the TPA Roundups that I post each Monday are not written by me. They represent a list of the most interesting TPA member blog posts selected each week by TPA members.


It is Monday, and that means it is time for another edition of the Texas Progressive Alliance’s Weekly Round-Up.

jobsanger knows that more money needs to be raised to pay for needed improvements and repairs to America’s infrastructure, but he remains convinced that the Mileage Tax Is A Terrible Idea.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson gets readers ready for hte upcoming Voter ID debate, or as the the Texas GOP calls it The single most important issue facing Texas today.

The new video at Texas Liberal is called Reading About The Panic Of 1873 In Front Of The Enron Building.

Over at McBlogger, Captain Kroc posts an interesting piece about seemingly unrelated issues, Rush Limbaugh and Child Molestation.

The Texas Cloverleaf gives a brief on Equality TX Lobby Day this past Monday.

Off the Kuff looks at the case against voter ID, also known as the single most important issue facing Texas today, as advanced by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

DosCentavos posts about the latest on the Voter ID. Can national Latino political and economic muscle be flexed effectively, as it was for Obama?

Obama sent the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to see what our military can do to stop drug cartel activities. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme thinks John Cornyn is shopping border violence as a theme for his 2012 presidential run.

BossKitty at TruthHugger is frustrated at the regression, into childhood, of those who claim to be Republicans. They are NOT Republicans. They are the Neo-Republicans who have hi-jacked the party name to deceive ordinary conservative Americans. They have stolen the GOP cloak to hide their real agenda. Op Ed: Neo-Republicans Are Not The Grand Old Party, scattalogical analogies.

Xanthippas at Three Wise Men rounds up opinion on the newly released OLC memos. We knew they’d be bad…but still.

John at Bay Area Houston says the Harris County GOP’s “Give a Mexican a Bike” program is probably against federal law and smothered with hypocrisy.

As the head of FreeRepublic.com gets visited by the Secret Service, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs finds several GOP pre-post-mortems on the GOP.

TXsharon joined other blogs in areas effected by unconventional natural gas drilling in asking readers to TAKE ACTION and let The View know they were irresponsible to give T.Boone Pickens free advertising for his plan without investigating the full implications. The same drilling practices Pickens promotes recently contaminated water wells in the Marcellus Shale causing one to explode. Manhattan borough president called for drilling moratorium.

Coffee for Progressives, Take 3

…aaaaand ACTION!

Coffee for Progressives
Event Date: Mar 10, 2009
Event Time: 5:30 PM
Venue Name: Sugar Brown’s Coffee
Address: 4818 50th
City: Lubbock
State: TX
Zip Code: 79414
Website: myspace.com/sugarbrownscoffee
Hosted by: Lubbock Democracy for America

We’ve had a good turnout the two previous times, and the conversation has been interesting and refreshing.

Hope to see you there!

To Nationalize?

Behond, the funniest-but-truest political cartoon I’ve seen all week:

Like most Americans, I find myself thinking about the bailout a great deal these days. We are pumping money into the very companies that are responsible for this mess just to keep the whole system afloat long enough to fix it. It seems to be a delicate dance between rewarding the crooks and keeping the working man from losing his retirement.

In 1933, one of the most helpful and immediate things that FDR did after becoming President was to nationalize the banks. He then either re-opened them as re-privatized banks when they were solvent or shut them down gracefully if they were beyond hope. Regarding today’s complicated mix of banks, i-banks, and sophisticated-financial-instrument-clearinghouses (i.e. crooks), I wonder if a similar move is (1) already slowly happening, (2) an option to exercise later, or (3) not gonna happen.

I suspect that outright, wholesale nationalization of banks will probably not happen. So many things are different now — a globalized economy, an order of magnitude more banks, an opportunity to take action years ahead of when FDR could act (think 1929->1933 versus 2008->2009), and the fact that many of the safety net programs from the New Deal are still with us.

However, here’s a bit of depressing commentary about our national dialogue on this issue:

That’s right: we see a 20 point swing in opinion because people do not know what the word “nationalize” means, but BOY IS IT SURE SCARY.

(Limbaugh and the Dittoheads shoulder most of the blame for phenomena like that, I say. His overused tactic of slogan-rinse-repeat has been cratering our national political discourse for nearly two decades.)

Whatever next step is taken to stabilize our economy, I hope it works.

Farewell, My Subaru

I saw Sarah Vowell speak at Texas Tech last night (she was fabulous!), and hot off the heels of that event comes another that I would like to attend:

Living Locally and Reducing Fossil Fuel While Still Living Like an American

On Thursday, March 5, at 6:30 p.m. the International Cultural Center (601 Indiana) will host a lecture and book-signing by Doug Fine, author of Farewell, My Subaru.

Fine, an N.P.R. contributor who has appeared on CNN and The Tonight Show, addresses mainstream Americans who want to do their part to protect the environment but find themselves strapped for time and puzzled about where to begin. Fine uses humor, not guilt, to let his audience realize that reducing one’s carbon footprint can be done one step at a time. The talk will be followed by an award ceremony during which the first G.r.e.e.n. (Grass Roots Efforts to Ecologize Neighborhoods) Award will be presented to Debbie Zak for her recycling efforts at North Ridge elementary school.

(emphasis mine)

Doug Fine’s website is worth a visit as well, especially his short film about the Farewell, My Subaru concept.

Is it possible for every American to live off-grid as Doug does? Probably not. Is it possible for every American to live locally and reduce our carbon footprint — without sacrificing most of our amenities?

Absolutely yes.

Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up 3/2/2009

Well, I’m technically a day late with this, but it’s time for this week’s TPA Round-Up nonetheless:

It’s the first of another week, and that means it’s time to look at some of the best posts by TPA members in the last week. Here are this week’s submissions:

McBlogger takes a look at possibilities for 2010.

Bay Area Houston is following a bill to abolish the Texas Residential Construction Commission.

BossKitty at TruthHugger is sad to see that some things have not changed in the minds of the loosers - CPAC Fans Fuse of Hatred - Seeks Civil War

jobsanger discussed a couple of Supreme Court cases. The first case discussed in A Good Supreme Court Decision denied anyone convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse the right to own a gun, and the second case discussed in The Right To Know The Penalties, which will be heard this Fall, will settle the matter of whether an immigrant defendant has a right to be informed of all penalties that could be imposed in his case — including deportation.

Off the Kuff takes a look at the push for expanded gambling in the Lege this session.

Can you read this resolution, posted on Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS and find any good reason why Big Oil should get to keep the hydraulic fracturing exemption from our Safe Drinking Water Act? Yeah, TXsharon didn’t find one either.

nytexan at >BlueBloggin comments on the >Hypocritical GOP Fiscally Responsible and with no surprise, the world of the GOP is definitely a parallax view.

The Texas Cloverleaf reviews the TX Stonewall biennial conference in Austin, and notes who was or wasn’t there, among elected officials and hopefuls.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts on the economic changes that are starting to show up locally in The state of the economy in Williamson County.

Neil at Texas Liberal states his intent to make videos for the blog in Big Texas Liberal Blogging Announcement and Innovation. Also, Neil discusses if Ice Age beasts in Massive Fossil Find-Should Ice Age Creatures Be Brought Back From The Dead?

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is hopeful that the adults will address the drug cartel violence and figure out how to end the war - the drug war that is.

Rhetoric & Rhythm laments the fact that George W. Bush has become a scapegoat for the conservative movement. Bush did everything they wanted. It’s not HIS fault that their ideas don’t work.

Xanthippas at Three Wise Men, on the mixed bag that is the Obama administration’s decision to try captured terrorist suspect al-Marri in the criminal justice system and what this might mean for the future of the “war on terror.”

Do you know the real reason John Sharp and Bill White aren’t running for governor? Because they’re afraid they will get whipped by a girl, just like Rick Perry. So says PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Over at Texas Kaos the 2.7 trillion that Duyba forgot to mention as part of his deficit. As Libby tells it the bubble dwellers who should have been on top of this little detail weren’t. “…The bubble dwellers don’t know what is going on outside of their self-fixated bubble. Now I understand why President Obama leaves that nutty and toxic place when he wants to speak to real people…”

WhosPlayin has video and commentary on Lewisville’s first Barnett Shale gas well.


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