Archive for November, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Did you know that Ben Franklin wanted the Turkey, rather than the Eagle, to be our national bird?

From a letter Ben Franklin wrote to his daughter:

“For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

“With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country . . .

“I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America . . . He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

Franklin is known for his wit. Check out his essay “Fart Proudly” if you haven’t already. (This fits in with the Thanksgiving theme as well, by the way.)

As a bit of parting advice, I suggest avoiding politics when the family is gathered around the table for a Thanksgiving meal. :)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Fascist Attitudes

A reader recently sent me a list of 14 defining characteristics common to the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. The list was created by Dr. Lawrence Britt. The reader’s point — and I agree — is that these forces are still at work in our country today. Let’s have a look at a summary of fascist characteristics:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
4. Supremacy of the Military
5. Rampant Sexism
6. Controlled Mass Media
7. Obsession with National Security
8. Religion and Government are Intertwined
9. Corporate Power is Protected
10. Labor Power is Suppressed
11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment
13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
14. Fraudulent Elections

So far, the Obama administration has made progress when it comes to toning down the fascist tendencies of the Bush years. There’s still a long way to go, but, in our first 2 years with President Obama, I have noticed improvement in: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14 from the list above.

Neocons and the religious right still embody most of the fascist traits from the above list. We’ve got to be on our guard over the next 2 years, especially in Texas…

I am, however, encouraged by the recent popular reaction to the TSA scanners and “enhanced pat-downs” that seems to be coming from left, right, and everywhere in between. Security theater at airports — a baby step toward fascism — finally seems to be losing popular support. Check out for a grassroots response to this issue. (And don’t miss the always-great NMA animated news version of the story.)

Sunset the TCEQ?

The Texas Sunset Commission has the job of reviewing state agencies periodically and determining if they are still useful agencies to have around. This year the Sunset Commission will be looking at 28 agencies, among them the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), our state’s own often industry-friendly version of the EPA.

The Texas Sierra Club is hosting a series of town hall meetings about this subject, and they need your input. There will be one of these public town hall meetings this Friday 11/19 from 11am - 1pm at the Texas Tech Law School Lanier Auditorium (the big building at 19th and Indiana — can’t miss it).

I honestly don’t know which way to go when it comes to sunsetting the TCEQ. These days, they seem to be falling down on the job to the point where the EPA has to come in and set them straight. But, Texas is such a big and energy-industry-friendly state that we need all the help we can get when it comes to protecting the environment.

Right on the heels of the town hall is another Sierra Club event: Roll Beyond Coal, a bike ride taking place Sunday 11/21 at 1pm at Tech Terrace Park. This is a two-mile bike ride in support of a clean energy future. The first 20 riders will get a free T-Shirt!

It’s great to see the Sierra Club reaching out to cities across Texas, including Lubbock. Spread the word to your friends and lets make these events successful!

Hamilton for Progressives

Whenever discussions degrade into cult-like worship of the founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton is usually not the go-to guy for progressives. However, progressive talk radio hero Thom Hartmann has gone-to there in a new book — Rebooting the American Dream. You can read it free, one chapter at a time, this week on

Alexander Hamilton, in his capacity as the first Secretary of the Treasury, had an 11-point plan to encourage American industry in the days of the first American presidency. Congress and President Washington implemented the plan and put America on the road to becoming an industrial power. It included things like trade protectionism and regulations for industry (sacrilege from a Founding Father!).

Hartmann takes inspiration from Hamilton’s original plan as a blueprint for getting America back on track economically. From what I can tell by the summary, it’s a bit of a stretch to literally connect the two, but the effort is worthwhile for its novel approach.

You can learn more about Thom Hartmann and his radio program at his website

Chisum Leads the Fight against Texas Seniors and Kids

You may have heard that there’s a Speaker’s race on after all in the Texas House. In spite of Joe Straus’ display of overwhelming support (including Lubbock’s own HD84 Rep. John Frullo), lunatic West Texas Rep. Warren Chisum has thrown his hat in the ring for Texas Speaker of the House.

Today, we learn that Chisum has proposed that Texas drop out of the federal Medicaid program to fix our $25 billion budget shortfall. This is the nuttiest of the right wing ideas out there. The GOP has swept state offices; this idea is being taken seriously because a GOP candidate for Speaker has put it out there.

Here’s Chisum in his own words:

“With Obamacare mandates coming down, we have a situation where we cannot reduce benefits or change eligibility” to cut costs, said State Representative Warren Chisum, Republican of Pampa, the veteran conservative lawmaker who recently entered the race for speaker of the House. “This system is bankrupting our state,” he said. “We need to get out of it. And with the budget shortfall we’re anticipating, we may have to act this year.”

I think it’s vitally important — especially for our right-leaning friends who are also sane — to contact our newly-elected state reps and urge them (1) not to support someone for Speaker who is for this nonsense, and (2) not to vote for legislation that withdraws Texas’ participation in Medicaid and CHIP, dumping 3.6 million of Texas’ kids, seniors, disabled people, and poor people out in the cold. It may be too late to reach Lubbock’s other Rep. Charles Perry, who has indicated that he will come out guns-blazing for Chisum. Here’s Perry:

“Not that I have anything against (Straus) individually, but his style is that of a facilitator,” Perry said of Straus. “I’m not sure if this upcoming session is for a facilitator role.”

Not for a facilitator role? What does that even mean? Does he want a tea party nut to ram an ultraconservative wishlist down our throats?

Unfortunately, a large number of the rest of the recently elected 99 or 100 Texas House Republicans are also part of an ultraconservative caucus that has emboldened Chisum to say crazy things like “Texas should withdraw from Medicaid.”

These next two years in Texas government are going to be hellish indeed. It’s up to all of us to stay vigilant and speak out against right wing lunacy as soon as we see it coming.

Move the Memoir

Here’s a fun little idea for nonviolent action, courtesy of a random facebook group:

Be part of a literary movement. Literally.

They did this to Tony Blair’s book and I think we should do the same here.

Subversively move George W. Bush’s memoir “Decision Points” to the crime section in book shops.

It is going to be released NOVEMBER 9th!

Make bookshops think twice about where they categorize our generation’s greatest war criminals.

I think I may purchase a copy of the memoir myself to keep in the true crime section of my bookstore as well.

Additionally, I wonder if GWB’s Dallas booksigning would let someone wearing an orange jumpsuit through?

Election Wrap

Thanks to everyone who came out to celebrate the hard work of Democratic Party volunteers, candidates, and voters tonight. We packed The Lantern Tavern and had a great time. The results didn’t go our way — especially in Texas — but we will dust ourselves off and fight on.

On the plus side: the horse porn guy, the nazi, and the witch all lost. The Tea Party Express is 0-3 in terms of their priority candidates. We still have the Senate and the Presidency, and the Republicans can’t beat a veto in the House.

Get ready for two years of nothing at the federal level, two years of decline at the state level, and two years of “Boehner” jokes.

However, as Harry Reid said tonight in his victory speech: The bell that just rang was not the end of the fight; it is the beginning of the next round.

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