Let's talk about the Constitution. I should have posted something like this a couple of weeks ago, back on Constitution Day.
Last week, I posed a set of questions to my Facebook fam, and nobody bothered to comment on it with their answers. Nobody even Liked the post or otherwise reacted to it. It's understandable that it received no response, as it requires quite a bit more thought than the average Facebook status.
I'm not a Constitution Fan-Boy like Ted Cruz. For all its virtues and historic value, the US Constitution is a flawed document. At least the Framers saw fit to include methods to amend it to fix whatever flaws it may exhibit, although amending it is, by design, a very cumbersome process.
Unlike Senator Cruz, I have never claimed to have the Constitution memorized, but thanks to Schoolhouse Rock, I have been able to sing the Preamble since I was in grade school.
It would be a fitting American ritual, in my fevered imagination, for Americans, immigrants, and even foreign visitors to get together in groups and read the Constitution, as amended, out loud on or around 17 September. That way, people might better remember what's actually in it—and, just as importantly, what is not.
The ritual would take a couple of hours. It could certainly involve drinks. Because beer and Benjamin Franklin.
It's a pity that most Americans—even very smart ones, even quite a few TV news anchors—seem to have trouble reading anything aloud. Most of us are accustomed to reading silently. I'm told that silent reading was considered a rare skill in ancient times. Supposedly, everyone who could read would read anything worth reading aloud, even when reading to themselves for pleasure. There are certainly quantitative and qualitative differences in comprehension when one reads aloud compared to silently.
But I digress. Back to the Constitution.
The Preamble has no actual force of law, but it has great philosophical importance. It answers the question of why the Framers bothered to swelter through that Philadelphia summer to hammer out a document that created what is now the longest-surviving republic still in business.
What do the following phrases mean to you, at a practical level, both individually and as a whole package?
This is a continuation from Part I, and there may be more parts to come. Eventually, these FAQ will graduate to a single page on dbcgreentx.net.
What are some of the laws related to cycling in Houston? In particular, does the law require cyclists to ride on the street?
Most of the city's bicycle-related ordinances are in Chapter 45: Traffic. There are some others regarding bike racks in Chapter 26: Parking. Some of the important ordinances are discussed below.
(a) No person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk within a business district.
Is it dangerous to ride a bike in Houston?
Well, yes. And sometimes it's deadly. The number of riders killed on the streets and roads of Greater Houston is far lower than the number of motor vehicle drivers and passengers killed in wrecks. (That 22% increase in fatalities from 2013 to 2014 is pretty chilling, but 2013 represents a low ebb in fatalities per 100,000 population.) Deaths per miles traveled, a more meaningful statistic, is a little harder to measure. But one death or life-changing injury is one too many.
What are activists doing to make Houston safer for cyclists and other VRU's (Vulnerable Road Users)?
For several years, Houston Tomorrow has been pushing the City of Houston to adopt a Complete Streets policy as part of its Vision Zero initiative. Bike Houston has also had a hand in advocating for Vision Zero. The concept of Complete Streets includes making thoroughfares safe and comfortable for all users: motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, and wheelchair users. Complete Street principles have already been applied to reconstruction on Bagby and Caroline Streets in Midtown.
Complete Streets designs include:
The "wherever possible" must not have included the recently rebuilt portions of South Shepherd Drive, Westheimer between Shepherd and Weslayan, or the current mess on Bissonnet Street west of Kirby Drive. However, Almeda Road between Brays Bayou and Old Spanish Trail is having its huge median repurposed, and I hope that will bring the addition of a more bike-friendly Almeda.
My nutshell impressions of the Green Party Town Hall that we just watched:
Rather than copying, pasting, and adapting my Goodreads review of Greg Egan's Diaspora, this time I think I'll just post a link to it.
Who knew that "hard" science fiction could be so much fun, and at the same time...well, not fun? I did not completely stop reading sci-fi when I graduated from college, but most of the sci-fi I have consumed since then has been sci-fi dressed up as something else (see Infinite Jest and Against the Day).
Yesterday I posted this status on Facebook:
Things I can say with confidence:
Even before I clicked the button to publish that brief statement, I had a feeling that it would generate some controversy. It did, but my friends of various political outlooks who commented on it are a thoughtful bunch, and it did not degenerate into a flame war—at least, it hasn't yet.
There were comments in defense of cast a strategic vote for president, especially in swing states, but even here in deep-red Texas. There were comments suggesting/insisting that voting itself is a waste of time and effort, that it lends legitimacy to our anti-democratic system; and, of course, there were some refutations of that anti-voting philosophy.
My words were intended to convey my own beliefs, based on current political tides, events that I have witnessed in the last 40+ years, and whatever wisdom I have been able to absorb from those events. There was no direct intent to influence anyone's mind that was already made up. Naturally, intelligent as my friends are, they caught more than a whiff of subtext, interpreting my post as, "This is how I'm voting, and why I'm voting that way, and you should too, because both major parties suck." Well, both major parties do suck, in the most lethal of ways, but I try to respect people's well-considered opinions and decisions even when I disagree with them.
The cover story of this week's Houston Press is a broad overview of cycling in Greater Houston. Main themes:
As a longtime cyclist, bicycle commuter, and facilitator for World Naked Bike Ride, you betcha this article caught my eye.
Within the city of Houston, in recent years, we have averaged just over seven cycling fatalities per year, plus dozens of injuries. This figure may seem minuscule compared to fatalities involving motor-on-motor crashes, but it still points to a glaring problem that notoriously car-dependent Houston could have and should have fixed decades ago. An appallingly high percentage of the collisions, including fatal collisions, are of the hit-and-run variety. (This one that happened Monday night, thankfully, wasn't; the driver stopped and called 911. Despite that, the cyclist is still dead.)
So why does any sane or rational person ride a bicycle on the streets of Houston? This is one of many questions that I would ask if I were, say, someone who commutes into town from Cy-Fair and often gets stuck behind a two-wheeler (or a pack of two-wheelers) pedaling along at 15 miles per hour.
In a comment for the online edition of the article, I pointed out that Meagan Flynn's feature could benefit from a sidebar with frequently asked questions about cycling in Greater Houston. Perhaps Ms. Flynn will take my advice and post a follow-up FAQ online in the coming days.
Meanwhile, I have a blog, and I can post my own. Here is Part I of my own FAQ, which here stands for "Floridly Answered Questions." I apologize in advance if I have omitted any questions you might have asked or heard, or if the answers reflect my own biases. Wait, no, I actually don't.
Tonight, I begin the Green Monday series, Green Party orientations for the Green-curious. We'll be meeting, greeting, drinking, and discussing the party's past, present, future, and mythology. This meetups will take place at various area taverns: Tonight's is at Axelrad Beer Garden, 1517 Alabama Street at Almeda. (For the geographically challenged, that's Alabama Street in Midtown, not West Alabama in Montrose.) Yes, it is inspired by the Drinking Liberally meetups, but it's different.
Additional sessions will be occurring on Mondays for as long as we can stand it, except the fourth Monday of any month. The Harris County Green Party's general business meetings happen on the fourth Mondays. The locations will appear in later posts.
The mighty Quinnipiac University has released numbers from the four biggest swing states for the first week of September. I'm focusing strictly on the four-way responses here (three-way in North Carolina). For what it's worth, among likely voters, Clinton is slightly ahead in North Carolina (!) and Pennsylvania, tied in Florida, behind in Ohio. With comfortable leads in all the smaller swing states, Clinton will not need Florida or Ohio to win.
These results were collected before Gary Johnson turned "Aleppo" into a synonym for "Oops." It will be interesting to see how the numbers change in the next poll.
On the Green front, Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka will not appear on the ballot in North Carolina, but the Green ticket is approved for write-ins there, as it is in Georgia and Indiana.
CANDIDATE FL NC OH PA
Clinton (D) 43 42 37 44
Johnson (L) 8 15 14 9
Stein (G) 2 -- 4 3
Trump (R) 43 38 41 39
If you have any doubts that the two-party so-called system is in jeopardy, consider that Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson is polling at 25% in his home state of New Mexico, just four points behind second-place Donald Trump. He's at 23% in Utah, four points behind second-place Hillary Clinton.
Clinton may have Johnson to thank for reducing Trump's lead in Texas to almost nothing. (Of course, it's not quite that simple.) In a poll of more than 5,000 Texas voters, Clinton and Trump stand at 40% each, Johnson at 11%, and Jill Stein at 3%, without about 6% of Lone Stars undecided. Meanwhile, the Clinton machine will almost certainly tear into the Greens and Jill Stein for standing in the path to our 38 electoral votes to which Clinton is entitled by Divine Right.
These poll results are from the Washington Post, which has been serving as Clinton's mouthpiece for Green-bashing. Grain-of-salt discretion is advised.
BTW, the state in which Jill Stein has the biggest percentage is...Vermont, aka Bernieland. Is anybody surprised?
UPDATE: I rushed this entry terribly and left out some points. The poll cited above, from the Washington Post and SurveyMonkey, is just one poll, and it is the only one showing Clinton and Trump so close in Texas. Other polls have Trump leading comfortably in this state. While I have no evidence for accusing WaPo of manipulating the results, pushing a narrative that Clinton stands a chance of winning Texas by a tiny margin is likely to turn thousands of #NeverHillary progressives into #OMFGBeatTrump voters.
However, let's imagine that all the survey's percentage results hold true in November. Throw out the two states, Colorado and Texas, in which the major-party candidates have the same rounded percentage. Even without Texas, Clinton wins the swing states of Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan (narrowly), Virginia, and Wisconsin, and she rakes in a total of 299 electoral votes (including DC's three). The minimum EV count for victory is 270. Trump takes Ohio and North Carolina, but he squeaks out only 192 EV.
Conventional wisdom states that a politician's site should focus on the campaign. I can focus with the best of them, but I choose not to.