...but it represents a huge improvement over the Green Party US website that started in the 1990s and never really evolved until this year.
People of Cyberspace, I give you THE NEW GP.ORG!
The following is a Facebook note, adapted for blog-cast. It was originally planned to be just a few paragraphs, but it kept growing. It contains language.
I'm sick of the hatred. I know that it has always been there. Since I don't watch TV (except soccer—and I know, there's some ugliness in the beautiful game), I rely on the Worldwide Web to keep an eye on it. I'm not giving up the Web any time soon, so I'd appreciate people in my life taking their hatred elsewhere if they can't cure themselves of it.
So here is my autumnal equinox throwdown.
If we disagree on policy prescriptions for actual reasons, we can still be friends.
However, if you bear any hatred toward any category of anthropoid mammals (i.e., people) based on their nationality, ethnic origin, religious beliefs, socioeconomic status, family status, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical ability, pregnancy, or other traits that might differ from yours, feel free to fuck off.
If you bear any hatred toward other anthropoid mammals based on their political views or partisan affiliations—even if you can prove conclusively that those political views pose a direct threat to the life, health, or welfare of you or the people you love—please look within yourself and redirect that hatred into something productive.
I address the following to my fellow travelers on the left. It is too easy for those of us who consider ourselves liberal or progressive to hate self-described conservatives. After all, they seem to have no trouble hating us. These people became conservative (reactionary, perhaps even fascist) for various reasons. In his book Moral Politics, Dr. George Lakoff attributes a lot of conservative ideology to the Strict Father model of families as a metaphor for entire nations, versus the liberal-friendly Nurturant Parent model.
Perhaps the religious and national narratives they have been fed throughout their lives lead our conservative brethren to conclude that other ways of living are inferior, that anyone with the bad sense to be poor or dark-skinned in the US just needs to learn why God gave them bootstraps.
They may believe that capitalism is ordained by God because that is what they have been taught since childhood, or because they truly believe that God has engineered capitalism to bless them with wealth, in this nation where even the poor have more than the average citizen in many countries.
Almost certainly, the central message of compassion and loving-kindness taught by Buddha, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed has been obscured in, or omitted from, their lessons.
Disagree with your political foes. Disagree vehemently. Fight back in self-defense if you must. But rise above hatred. You are better than that. Understand what instills people with different beliefs. Hating the Trumps, Palins, Huckabees, and Coulters of the world only feeds the all-consuming fire and makes them shine more brightly. We can defeat them without resorting to their tactics.
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."—MLK. This is not a message of conciliation, not a call for us to be good, compliant Negroes. This is a message of revolution, of overturning centuries of domination through force of arms and exchanging it for soul-force.
Houston has city elections coming up very soon. If you're new to Texas, or to Houston in particular, you may not yet have grasped how our city government is structured and how we elect it. On the other hand, if you've lived here your entire life...you still may not have it figured out. So here's a handy, snarky, and heavily biased guide, all assembled on a single page.
Oh, by the way, if you live in Texas but outside the city limits of Houston, this isn't really for you. You can still vote on the seven constitutional amendments offered for your approval or rejection this year, if you can stay awake long enough to read the ballot language.
It makes me squirm when people talk about Houston's elections in partisan terms. "Any Greens running for mayor this year?" Guh. City elections in Texas, by law, are nonpartisan. Yes, we know which candidates hang out with Republicans, Democrats, Greens, Libertarians, Independents, or Barflies. I'm a fan of nonpartisan races for local government: City elections are about who can fill the potholes most cost-effectively, not about party labels and grandstanding. It allows a mayoral candidate like Steve Costello to position himself as a fiscal conservative and social progressive, rather than a captive of Republican Orthodoxy.
Some candidates unflinchingly tell you their affiliations—like Eric Dick, "Republican for City Council" last year. It's no big secret that Mayor Annise Parker is a Democrat, as were the previous five mayors (yep, even Bob Lanier, an old-school Texas Tory Democrat).
Party labels may help us identify candidates who think more like us, but dude, just try to find a Republican in Council District B whom anyone gives a snowball's chance in Houston to win that seat.
In order to vote in the 2015 election, you must be officially registered at least 30 days before Election Day. This page tells you how. If you cannot download and print an application, get one from your nearest County Court Annex or Department of Public Safety (DPS) location.
Whom Are We Electing?
We elect our mayor, controller, and city councilmembers every odd-numbered year as do many cities and towns in Texas. Since there are no statewide or national elections in odd-numbered years, nobody seems to notice that an election is happening. There are lots of campaign signs out, but it's easy to assume that they are leftovers that nobody ever got around to taking down after last year's election.
This fall, you may also have a chance to vote in a school board election, depending on which zone of which school district you inhabit. Houston Independent School District has four of its nine seats on the Board up for election. District IV incumbent Paula Harris did not file for re-election, so four candidates have lined up to take it over. These elections are also nonpartisan, unlike the intensely partisan State Board of Education.
Remember that not all of Houston is in HISD, and not all of HISD is in Houston. Our city contains portions of about a dozen school districts, but most of it is within HISD's borders.
There are also elections for the Board of Trustees for the Houston Community College System, along with other community colleges like Lone Star and San Jacinto.
When and Where Do We Vote?
The official Election Day for 2015 is Tuesday, 3 November. This follows an old federal law setting Election Day as the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November; this keeps us from voting on 1 November, because nobody wants to (or should) vote with a Halloween hangover. Most large cities adhere to this tradition, although smaller cities may hold their elections at other times of year, like in May, when only retirees are paying attention.
If you vote on Election Day, you must vote between 7 am and 7 pm at the polling location in your assigned precinct. If you don't know where that is, go here and click Polling Locations List. It helps if you have your voter registration card so you can look up your precinct number. Harris County has more than a thousand precincts, about half of which are in the City of Houston.
Early voting begins Monday, 19 October, and runs on a weird schedule:
Since the 1990s, elected city officials are limited to three two-year terms in any particular office. Annise Parker, who earned her political wings with a citizens' group called the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, has now served six years each as a councilmember, controller, and mayor. The Caucus is set to retire Parker's jersey number next year.
There may also be referenda on the ballot: you know, those yes-or-no questions that give the voters a chance to determine how their tax money is spent or whether the city should have certain laws. These referenda will be the subject of a later post.
In Houston, the big question this year Proposition 1, asks whether Houston should have a municipal ordinance banning discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations (in particular, the law that City Council already passed but certain aggrieved parties took to court and forced onto this November's ballot). Guess which way I'm voting on that one.
There is also a measure on this year's ballot to increase city government terms to four years, like a proper major city, and limit officials to two four-year terms.
But Wait! There's More!
As if we had nothing more interesting to think about, our State Legislature also has put seven compelling Constitutional issues up for vote.
Our Elected Officials
In Houston's strong-mayor form of municipal government, the mayor is first among equals on City Council, but also has the power of issuing executive orders. She or he must also possess some madd ribbon-cuttin' skillz.
If the mayor is the city's CEO, the controller is the CFO. Anything to do with money goes through the Controller's Office. If City Council proposes spending that result in an unbalanced budget, the controller gets to step in and tell them "nuh-uh."
Houston is divided into 11 single-member districts of approximately equal population, A through K. Each district is entitled to elect its own councilmember. There are also five seats on the City Council for members elected by the entire city (or rather, the 20% of registered voters who actually vote). The Council then elects one of its own as Mayor Pro Tempore for Council meetings when the mayor cannot be present.
At-large representation is a fairly common practice in Texas, where many cities still have all at-large councils. (Austin just adopted council districts in 2014.)
This paragraph is optional, but it helps to understand why we have what we have. During the Progressive Era, federal legislation tried to put the kibosh on "ward heelers," i.e. councilmembers who used city funds to spiff up their own districts and skim off a percentage for their own businesses. Thus was born at-large representation. About 80 years later, the federal government noticed that this made it easy to elect all-white councils in cities with a white-majority population. In the 1970s, the Justice Department forced Houston to adopt a hybrid-form council, with nine single-member districts and five at-large seats. The number of districts would grow as Houston's population grew: After we passed 2,000,000 by the 2010 census, we added two districts for the 2011 election.
As you might imagine, Council districts are drawn not only to baffle voters and alienate geography geeks, but also to optimize an ethnic mix on Council:
This entry is rather liberally adapted from a Facebook status posted Sunday the 13th.
Saturday was Community Involvement Day for your humble blogmeister. First, I finally got my cis-hetero Euro-American male arse to the Montrose Center to volunteer with Houston Unites to promote Proposition 1 & HERO. I plan to spend some more Saturday afternoons making phone calls or knocking on doors, and I hope some of you will as well. Early voting starts in just five weeks on 19 October.
Next, I arrived too late for pizza & gumbo at Last Organic Outpost, but at least I got to spend an hour moving mulch around to build the new amaranth bed. Yes, LOO will soon be growing amaranth, and I'm psyched.
Then there was the Houston Dynamo community. A group of us met up with my former TORSO Soccer team Premier FC at Lucky's Pub before invading the stadium. Sadly, the Dynamo lost a very sloppy match 1-3 to Real Salt Lake, but singing along with the Texian Army and El Batallón took some of the sting out of it.
Also making the weekend go down much easier soccer-wise was my current TORSO team's victory. Houston International FC won its first match of the season 3-2 over a team that had beaten HIFC in summer 8-v-8 action a few weeks earlier. I kept goal for about half the match, giving up one goal and making a few strong stops. It felt good to get back out on the pitch after taking the summer off and not be a disaster between the pipes.
The name "Houston International" was chosen for a reason, not just because it sounds cool or because any of us are Inter Milan fans. We're probably not the only team in this 30-and-over coed league with natives of ten countries on the roster, Greater Houston being the most culturally diverse metro area in the US. But when we formed the team winter, we picked a name that would acknowledge and celebrate that fact.
A friend posts an ink portrait of Salvador Allende with the caption, NEVER FORGET 9/11/73.
A friend of his comments, "I already forgot. What happened?"
I contribute a comment with a link to the Wikipedia entry on the Chilean coup d'état engineered in part by our own CIA in 1973.
Another friend asks if that's really more important to me or us.
OK, DBC, time to revive this blog. It's been rather stagnant of late.
October 2015 will bring visits from a couple of national Green Party celebrities to H-Town. At the beginning of the month, Convention Committee Chair Tamar Yager will come to scout locations for the 2016 GPUS Presidential Nominating Convention. In case you haven't heard the news, in August Houston got the nod to hold next year's big convention. This will be the first GPUS PNC to be held in the Deep South. (I would just say "in the South," but some people still consider Baltimore a Southern city.)
A few weeks later, Dr. Jill Stein will drop by for a couple of days. The dates aren't confirmed yet, but we're estimating 20-21 October. Again, if you haven't heard, Stein is looking to become GPUS's first two-time nominee for president. She is not the only Green candidate, and we don't want to refer to her as the presumptive nominee; however, only she among Greens has applied for federal matching funds and made other steps toward looking like a real candidate.
This blog will report on the exact dates and places of Stein's appearances when they become known.
Two themes keep coming up in Stein's campaign:
The primary reason that Greens, Libertarians, et al, are excluded from the debates is the restrictions that the FEC's Commission on Presidential Debates has set in place. A candidate must be polling at 15% in at least one nationwide survey in order to have a place in the debate. H. Ross Perot managed that in 1992, but he had a lot of money to throw around, in addition to his prominence in efforts to reform public education in Texas in the 1980s. But the CPD was formed by the major parties, so it has an interest in protecting the two-party duopoly from additional competition.
On the second point: Yes, Stein and Sanders are retirement-age Americans of Euro-Jewish descent who live in New England. Yes, Green and Democratic Socialist talking points certainly overlap. But there are substantial differences between them on foreign and security policies, especially regarding Israel. Check out this interview of Stein from Mint Press.
Stein also notes that, when Sanders fails to achieve the Democratic Party's nomination, he will not be an available option in the general election, but will instead support the Democratic nominee. If Stein wins the Green nomination, as seems likely, she will be on the ballot in about 44 states, with more than enough electoral votes in play for a potential Green victory.
Blogging Sporadically since 2014
Here you will find political campaign-related entries, as well as some about my literature, Houston underground arts, peace & justice, urban cycling, soccer, alt-religion, and other topics.