Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

Americanism and ‘taking a knee’

August 25, 2018

Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso, Texas, is a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, running against incumbent Ted Cruz, an extreme and unpopular right-winger.

He was recently asked whether he thinks NFL football players who kneel during the national anthem, in order to protest police brutality against black people, are showing disrespect to the nation and to veterans.

O’Rourke gave a great answer, which was straightforward, respectful of the questioner and ended:

I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up, or take a knee, for your rights anytime, anywhere, any place.

He is financing his campaign with small donations and does not accept PAC money, but seems to be out-raising Cruz.  I admire the way he campaigns.  I’d like to think he could win.


What Democrats can learn from Beto O’Rourke’s viral speech on patriotism and peaceful protest by Chris Riotta for The Independent.

Beto O’Rourke: Ted Cruz’s Punk-Rock Problem by Tessa Stuart for Rolling Stone.

Meet the Kennedyesque Democrat Trying to Beat Ted Cruz by Abigail Tracy for Vanity Fair.

Does Beto O’Rourke Stand a Chance Against Ted Cruz? by Eric Benson for Texas Monthly.

My favorite movie of 2016

February 26, 2017

Click on Hell of High Water: ‘I never met nobody who got away with anything’ for a good review by Lance Mannion.

A whole new meaning for ‘trigger warning’

February 29, 2016

A new Texas law gives college students the right to carry guns.  College administrations are allowed to establish “safe zones”, but these cannot include classrooms or dormitories.

Below is an advisory by the University of Houston faculty senate to its members.


Peter Van Buren wrote on his web log that it might also be advisable for Texas faculty to wear Kevlar vests and put bullet-proof transparent screens in front of their lecturns.

I don’t think the warning is far-fetched.  There is such a thing as road rage, and there is such a thing as people flying into a rage at hearing ideas they think are reprehensible, or even not being called on when it is their turn.

It is a statistical certainty that someday some armed student will fly into a blind rage about something.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution affirms the right of citizens to keep and bear arms, but, as the late Justice Antonin Scalia once remarked, that right is subject to reasonable limitations that are consistent with its purpose.

As Van Buren pointed out, even the U.S. military, whose members have all received weapons training, keep firearms locked up except when necessary for training or combat.


Texas Academics Told to Avoid ‘Sensitive Topics’ to Prevent Angering Armed Students by Peter Van Burn on We Meant Well.

University of Texas President Hates Guns on Campus, But Will Have to Allow Them by Jeff Herskovitz for Reuters (via Huffington Post)


How difficult is it, really, to get voter photo ID?

November 13, 2014

Getting photo ID for voting is damned difficult if the process is set up intentionally to make it hard for you.

pennsylvania_voter_id_rally-thumb-640xauto-6483-thumb-640xauto-6766Richard Sobel, a researcher for Harvard’s Institute for Race and Justice, looked at what some people in Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas went through as they tried to get photo ID.  He wrote a report on what he found, which was published in June.

steve-frank67FAC2A7-A14C-4F72-D3C8-71613E397404He said “free” ID cost $75 to $150 if you figure in the cost of getting birth certificates, naturalization documents and other documents, the cost of travel, and time spent traveling and waiting.   Sometimes there were legal fees as well.

Sobel noted that this is considerably more than the poll taxes that were outlawed by Twenty-Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1964.  I don’t see how any requirement to pay money in order to vote can considered anything but a poll tax.

Here are some examples from his report of what would-be voters ran into.

In Pennsylvania

According to a September 13, 2012 letter to The Morning Call in Scranton, a Pennsylvania resident seeking a “free” voter ID had incurred costs of $94.61 so far, which were likely to eventually reach $133.61. The potential voter traveled 34 miles round trip to and from the PennDOT agency in Bethlehem, an estimated hour of travel time.


The rise and fall of the Comanche empire

August 4, 2014

I recently finished a remarkable book, Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History, by S.C. Gwynne, a Texas newspaperman.

He told a story that is compelling in itself, and raises important questions about how we think of the American past.

empire-of-the-summer-moon200The Comanche were some of the fiercest warriors who ever lived.  Numbering only 20,000 at their peak, they dominated the southern Great Plains for 150 years or more.  They terrorized other Indian tribes, including the Apache, and they repeatedly defeated the armies of Spain, Mexico, the Texas Republic and the United States.

The Comanche were originally a obscure tribe of hunter-gatherers, pursuing the buffalo while afoot in what is now eastern Wyoming.  Their life was transformed by their encounter with wild Spanish mustangs.  Seemingly overnight, they became master horsemen.

The transformation is an example of the adaptability of human nature and a refutation of the recurring notion that the customs of different ethnic groups are genetically determined—unless you assume that the Comanche had a latent horsemanship gene all along.

A six-year-old Comanche could ride bareback.  A young warrior could slip off a galloping horse, handing on by a heel behind the horse’s body while shooting 20 arrows a minute at an enemy.  Comanche could ride hundreds of miles in a day.  No enemy, Indian or white, could match their range or, until the invention of the Colt revolver and Spencer and Sharp repeating rifle, their firepower.

The Comanches were anarchists—masters of the art of not being governed.  No Comanche ever took orders from a Comanche policeman, judge, priest or employer.   Comanche war chiefs were chosen by consensus and followed voluntarily.  No Comanche chief had the power to command another Comanche to obey.

They were savagely cruel.  They raped, tortured, mutilated and killed their enemies, both Indian and white.  While this was the practice of many North American tribes, it also was Comanche policy.  The Comanche realized that terrorism was a deterrent to the spread of white settlement.

The reason the Mexican government invited Anglo-American settlers into their territories was to serve as a buffer between the Comanches and Mexico proper.   These settlers became the Texans, who were the fiercest of the white settlers, as the Comanche were the fiercest of the Plains Indians.

The Texans also were brutal by today’s standards.  But then again, by their standards, people like me are weak and cowardly.  By the standards of today, both settlers and Indians possessed astonishing fortitude and courage.   I do not believe that I could stand up to hardship, pain and danger that they took for granted.

Humanitarianism was not a Comanche concept.  The only Spaniard who dealt successfully with them was Don Juan Bautista de Anza, governor of New Mexico, who in 1779 led an expedition into Comanche territory and wiped out a Comanche village—men, women and children—and then called a council of peace.

He offered to respect the Comanche right to their hunting grounds and to engage in trade, if they would refrain from raiding New Mexico.  This agreement was kept as long as the Comanche were a free people.  Under Spanish, Mexican and U.S. rule, New Mexico were safe from Comanche attack, and Spanish-speaking traders out of Santa Fe, known as Comancheros, were the only non-Comanche who could travel safely to Comanche lands.

It was impossible to defeat them until the invention of the Colt revolver and the Sharp and Spencer repeating rifle, which gave the Texas Rangers and the U.S. cavalry overwhelmingly superior firepower.  Even so, the Comanche held out for decades more.


The passing scene: Links & comments 7/11/14

July 11, 2014

Oligarchy Blues: Without fair elections and a viable legislative process at the federal and state levels, the republic no longer exists by Michael Ventura for the Austin (Texas) Chronicle.

This writer sums up what’s wrong with the USA very briefly and very clearly.  I highly recommend reading this.  Like Ventura, I don’t have a complete answer for what to do, but, like him, I think it is necessary to break free of the assumption that the alternatives that the political system offers are the only possibilities that exist.

In Fever Dreams Begin Irresponsibilities, Texas Edition by Hendrik Hertzberg for The New Yorker.

The Texas Republican Party is part of the problem, not part of the solution.  Enemies like these make Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton look good.

Fighting for Oil by Michael Klare for TomDispatch.  [Hat tip to Bill Harvey]

It’s no coincidence that the world’s various “trouble spots” torn by “age-old conflicts” happen to be rich in oil and natural gas.

The legacy children of the Honduran coup by Dan Beeton for Aljazerra America.  [Hat tip to Bill Harvey]

It’s also no coincidence that the unauthorized child migrants sneaking into the USA come from countries such as Honduras, with its U.S.-backed military dictatorship, and not from democratic countries such as Nicaragua.

The French Do Buy Books – Real Books by Pamela Druckerman in The New York Times.  [Hat tip to Laura Cushman]

France and some of the other European governments forbid on-line booksellers to offer big discounts on book prices.  As a result, French people pay more for books, but independent bookstores are much more plentiful.

The fall of a superpower by Pepe Escobar for Asia Times.

Brazilians assumed that being Brazilian made them inherently superior in World Cup football  and were shocked at their team’s defeat by Germans.   But superiority in anything is never inherent.   Excellence takes continual hard work and hard thinking, and, even then, there’s no guarantee that a smart, determined competitor won’t out-do you.