Monday, February 13, 2017

DNC: Pragmatic Politics Means Ellison's Your Choice

I was a Clinton supporter.  I loved Obama's administration.   I respect but kind of resent Bernie Sanders.  Not because I don't like his mostly very good ideas.  Not because he inspired youthful voters in our Party and nearly won the nomination.  My resentment flows from the fact that as a progressive of longstanding faithful to my party as a yellow dog Democratic, I didn't get done in my party what Bernie and his newbie supporters did.  They got it done.  They moved my party further to the left.  Not that they changed many minds within the party; they probably didn't.  But his persistence and issues, though an outsider Independent, he attracted lots of new young Democrats and inspired other not so new progressive Democrats to engage in the primary and the party's business.

Now with a leadership void with Obama's retirement, with Donna Brazile being compromised and with no party base spokesperson since November 9, Bernie filled the role and the media was fairly generous in giving him a platform, though he's once again an Independent. Yes, I kind of resent this role for him but at least we sort of have a voice until the DNC Chair election.

the Chair contest has been good for the party.  There are lots of good ideas coming from various candidates for this position, most with good experience at the state party and local levels.  In particular, the Mayor from Indiana with his articulation and understanding of issues/values framing should speak loudly to all the other candidates who still do not get this communications strategy.  It is so well executed by Republicans and so poorly executed by Democrats as all levels in spite of about 12  years of framing/linguistic experts trying unsuccessfully to teach the party how to communicate.

In my opinion, it is a toss up as to who can do a better job and inspire our brethren, Ellison or Perez.
Both have strengths in different needed areas and both are role models for really important groups in our coalition.   If I were voting, I lean toward Perez, though I have some unanswered questions as to how he might use Jeremy Bird's field organizing firm (of Obama '08 fame) who are running his DNC campaign; I am concerned about creating a shadow party through them, competing for volunteers and money rather than the indigenous party rebuilding of neighborhood organizations so desperately needed.  If they are hired to assist in rebuilding our grassroots party organization at local levels, I'm good with that. 

But it is time for pragmatism.  This party need the energy and youth of the Bernie team.  And their ideas about economic justice and reform.  We Clintonistas simply must put our resentments aside and territorialism and make room for this new invigorating energy.  Yes, they need guidance from those of us who have worked in the organizing trenches of the party and I hope we offer it and they welcome it.  That will be the job of the new DNC Chair. 

So, DNC voting members, give Keith a shot.   If Perez wins this job,  team Bernie , set aside your resentment and bring your organizing energy into his party administration and you will have power and voice. Our very democracy is at stake.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Liberal Elites: Partial Problem, Partial Solution ?

: Well, now Bernie has declared Liberal Elites as the problem within the Democratic Party, somehow blocking a forward path for less/fortunate, less financially successful non- elites and apparently non-liberals by definition.   I respectfully beg to differ, Bernie.  You damn well know things are more nuanced than that.  They can be smug and self righteous, but they can also be right and a necessity for a successful Democratic coalition.

If anything, Liberal Elites represent a potential model within the Democratic Party to strive and achieve for so called working class and lower income people.  Are we given to believe that by diminishing the influence and status of Liberal Elites, somehow others can be elevated?  Why not a co-equal, democratic partnership to move society forward?  I think so.

I defy you, Bernie, to cite me an example of how Liberal Elites are privileged within the Party compared to working class people?   Privileged through Democratic tax policy?  Privileged by Democratic regulatory policy?  Privileged by Democratic civil rights policy?   Privileged by safety net policy?  OK, I'll give you Privileged by virtue of status, access to party officials and maybe invitations to the White House.  But geez, they do throw a lot of money and talent  into the pot that helps both the party and us lessers.  When did you ever feel ripped off by George Clooney?

Methinks, Bernie you've got Democratic Party policy confused with Republican Party policy and governance in all four categories.  The meaningful stuff in the Party Platform you helped shape benefits my caste a lot more than Clooney's.  Do they get tax breaks I might not get due to my much more restricted income sources and stream?  Likely yes, but I don't hear our Liberal Elites screaming for tax breaks.  I hear many of them saying they'd happily pay more, but we, you and Democrats have not recently controlled tax policy, the Republican Elites have and do.

Look, it is stupid to diminish the Liberal Elite's role in the party; there is plenty of room.  Mostly they raise money for us, a tragic necessity until we fix our corrupt campaign and political financing system.  I do not hear them demanding don't fix it because they love writing checks.   Together we can figure out how to at least limit the corrupting influence of  political $$$$.  But in the meantime, they are helping pay the rent.    A bigger challenge is how to divert California money to the California Party so we can build it in neighborhoods where us lessers live and work.  Texas money to the Texas State and their County Party organizations.  That is where the Party building future is.  I want Clooney's money to go to the LA County Democratic Party is, or wherever he lives.  Into year around  store front Democratic Community Centers helping non-voters with their problems and needs.......earning their trust and confidence we can actually get stuff done for them to earn their vote and loyalty.

To rebuild this party in a way you and I both want, Bernie, we are going to need a lot of money.....year round and the fantastic small donor program you created is not nearly enough.  Properly paid community organizers (from the working class), store fronts, technology and communications tools all will  take a massive investment over maybe a 5-10 year period to reach those unengaged but  amenable to our values and goals for us all, plus maintain and nurture our base.  It is also going to take a lot of volunteer time, of which C,D and E level Liberal Elites have more access to than many working class fellow Democrats.  And a lot of developed talent of which these Liberal Elites also have demonstrated gifts.  Again, co-equal members of the team with each coalition member category contributing their part to make progress.

Here is what I've experienced with more years than you, Bernie, as a grassroots, maybe D list  local Liberal Elite.....45+ years in mostly the Texas Democratic Party.  The acknowledged best liberal organizer in Texas in the 50's through the 70's was the legendary Billie Carr.  She was working class and without financial resources, so over the years she was sustained with personal financing by Liberal Elites....several of them, to allow her to work nearly full time in Party reform and organizing.  Her work and our successes in overthrowing Tory Democrats from ruling our party and later chasing the Wallace people off was only enabled by the Liberal Elite funding and middle class grassroots organizing.  The last Presidential success in Texas, Jimmy Carter, was enabled by the generosity of a State Party Chair, a small town banker with big bucks.  He built a unified party by traveling all over that huge state in his private charter plane, kicking County Chairs in the ass to mobilize successfully.  His work enabled the election of huge contributors to social justice in Congress like Barbara Jordan, Mickey Leland and Craig Washington, our first black congresspersons.    His money and generosity made them possible.  Financial angels, all Liberal Elites maintained the Texas Democratic Party for decades, enabling successes before racism took hold with Republican rule with statewide offices.  But their money has enabled all of the urban centers in Texas to hold Blue.  Their money,  augmented by trial lawyers and labor funds made the difference. I suspect the same is true with most other states.   The Party Chair for an 8 year stretch in one of the largest counties in the USA I had the privilege to volunteer with became a Liberal Elite after years of practicing civil rights law while also volunteering for liberal Democrat campaigns in our area.  When his success and earned wealth permitted, he gave every waking hour to leading our party to success, with interspersed failures.  He worked for nothing, took heat for being Elite, gave enormous quantities of time and money to the benefit of those of us in the party without such resources, enabling us to do successful grassroots organizing.  

In the current era, historic female political pioneer Sissy Farenthold just successfully mentored Harris County's first African American Ann Bennett to become their County Tax Assessor Collector/Voter Registrar.  Sissy came from some family privilege but as a Liberal Elite, gave time, talent and funding to elevate working class folks to leadership roles.  Same was true of many others I knew of the privileged class who looked beyond themselves to help others achieve their potential.  I worked in this environment first hand and I never saw the "corrupting influence" of these Liberal Elites....and sat in meetings and while I heard their suggestions as the checks were being handed over to the Party, never once in decades of such experience did I see controlling influence from the Liberal Elites.  Your revolution, which I support, fails to recognize that it takes money we lessers cannot provide to enable a powerful grassroots party.  Yes, we need the Liberal Elites money but we also need their altruism, talent and creativity generously provided, mostly without strings attached.

That isn't to say my experience is the total picture in our national, state and county party organizations, but I'd wager it is typical.  Yes, there is likely both unwise control from the donor class as well as some corruption.  That is fixable.  It is much more fixable than chasing the Liberal Elites off when they've been working the vineyards for years to help those striving for upward mobility and some of the rewards of both good luck and hard work.  This would leave us with a Party which the hard pressed and beleaguered among us, for the most part, with rare exception, do not have the time and resources to rebuild.  This task takes machine operators as well as machine oil.

Let's not have class warfare within our party.....let's make war with Republicans and Fascist Trumpites.   I've learned through years of grassroots Party organizing that it is the currently upwardly mobile, aspiring grade C, D and E Liberal Elites who do much of the shoe leather work at the local party level.  Why?  Because they are Liberals who have at least a few hours to give to party building,  meeting organizing, block walking and phone banking.   Usually it is those folks whose kids are old enough to be left alone or to bring along and who have the disposable income and mobility to spare a few hours a week in volunteer work with the Party.  And who is it they are motivated to help and lift up?  Not themselves or their families but those with fewer personal resources.  Working class people  with talent, intelligence and goodwill to make life better for all. 

I have learned from hard earned personal experience that expecting lower income folks, often with hourly jobs and no benefits to turn out for a meeting or a blockwalk project after leaving their 2nd job workplace is unrealistic.  Sure invite them, but don't expect performance when they are needed elsewhere to help their families.  It is for them that both we more fortunate lessers and the Liberal Elite work to improve policy and secure government support where needed.

Bernie, let's have a party which includes all of us who share the same values and aspiration for economic and social justice.  Each making a contribution in our own way to benefit all of us.  Let me repeat,  I am not writing off the working class.  Some, maybe half, should be written off as racist, misogynist  and homophobic and hopelessly bigoted.  These are the people or their parents who rushed to the exits in the days of civic and party integration and escaped to the exurbs.  They couldn't beat it out of town fast enough.  Enough of them.  But the other half of this working class group, particularly in the rust belt, may be salvageable.  But the huge potential lies with the unengaged non-voters in the urban and suburban centers.   They need to be shown lots of love, tangible help on their kitchen table and shared values.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Letter To My Granddaughters On The 2017 Inauguration

First, my best wishes for all of my granddaughters for a very happy and satisfying New Year.  I want to express to you my thoughts about the upcoming Presidential Inauguration and the Women's March On Washington on the day after, January 21.  This because so many women in my life are converging on our nation's capital on that day to stand up for their rights, your rights and to celebrate the major fight ahead for equality and justice for not only women, but us all.

Most of the women in my life were crushed on November 8 when Hillary Clinton was defeated in our most bizarre electoral college vote.  Crushed not because they agreed with Ms. Clinton 100%; no seriously thinking person would agree with a candidate 100%.  But they respected her preparation for this huge responsibility, her very significant service to her countrymen and countrywomen and the dignified, intelligent and graceful way she presented her case for election.   Now they and I respect the dignified and graceful manner in which she is accepting the results.  No bloviating, no bitter statements of recrimination against her opponent nor those who rejected her candidacy.

I for one had hoped this well prepared and experienced leader might stand before us on January 20 and provide inspiration for all of us as the first women elected to lead this powerful nation.  But, by the tightest of margins in three states she did not prevail.  I will be writing a blog soon entitled Defeat By A Thousand Tiny Cuts.

But for you, the three most important women in my life in addition to my beloved Julia Jackson, I have a few thoughts.  Hillary never gave up, even under withering and demeaning, baseless attacks.  You must not give up either.  Not in any of the pursuits life leads you to, nor complete control over your own destiny and the choices that are ahead for you.  You own your own being.  Every aspect of it.  Mind, body and spirit.   Don't ever give up that control.

Never stop dreaming.  Imagine your futures.  Your highest aspirations.  work like hell to realize and actualize them.

Look the the inspiration the women who came before you offer.  The black women in bondage in America who broke out and not only became free, but gave some much back to us all.   The suffragettes  who labored for 80 years for a right that was always due them, the right to vote and participate in their governance. The Feminists of the 50's, 60's and 70's who fought for your right to control your own destiny, your own bodies and demanded equality.  Their dream of an Equal Rights Amendment to codify their rights and yours is still unrealized.  Help them get it done in your lifetime, if not for yourselves, for your children and those to come.  For your sisters in the cause.

And speaking of inspiration, I want to honor the two women in my life who did their homework, hit the streets in protest, gathered with other women to demand justice, served in community leadership positions denied to others before them and never, never stopped advocating for what is fair and right.  Equality.  Took risks, spoke out and stood tall demanding justice.  Mary Kaye Merriman and Julie Jackson.  Two activists who worked not only for themselves, their families but also for the sisterhood still diminished by misogyny, predatory sexists, ignorant racists and worst of all, silent bystanders who are complicit with their silence.

Do what you can to further the cause of ending the suppression of half the earth's population.  Speak out. Write.  Set examples.  Excel.  Lead if you can.  You are up to the task with the way forward paved by selfless others.  Now it is your turn. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Losing by 80,000 Votes In Three States Is Not a Repudiation

 I'm mad and still in shock that we have a  racist, fascist sexual predator now likely leading our country somewhere that is likely not a good place.  But I'm not so mad or shocked that I cannot discern that this was not some sort of landslide and macro repudiation of the economic policies of the Democratic Party.  It was a stunning example of evil manipulation of our lesser angels and damned effective communications by a master of theater.

Hillary is currently on her way to somewhere in the vicinity of a 3 million popular vote margin.   That's bigger than most in losing American Electoral College election history.  It is a repudiation of lousy emotional connection, policy communications and lousy party GOTV in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.   Our DNC leadership was embarrassing to say the least.  But the margin of victory was hairline thin.

We haven't lost touch with "the people."  Yes, we've lost touch with the white racists, many who escaped from the horrors, in their minds, of having to be in a party with those other people to stake out a new life in ex-urban areas.  Trumpites and their parents started migrating to the ex-urbs back when Daddy Bush in the late 60's started recruiting Wallace people out of the Democratic Party into the current iteration of the Republican Party. The migration  was accelerated with the earlier voting rights and civil rights acts. Likely half the Trumpites fit into this category and good riddance.  The others  are so low information and unengaged outside of their own miserable lives that they fell for a con artist.  Most of them are beyond help.  This is not a mass repudiation as some pundits would have you believe.  This was a very geographically selective failure to turn out our base, in keeping with dismal turnout trends for Democrats at all levels for decades.  It is the continuation of a trend, salvaged by the brilliant Obama campaigns of 2008 and 2012 where he found a way to work around this trend and voter suppression with a determined army of loyalists.

There are a helluva lot more folks who have dropped out of the voting process, about half the voting eligible population, that fit the profile of people who can be helped by the Democratic Party and who help themselves by helping the Party win elections locally and nationally.  It will take massive grassroots work, but that is the real work of the Party so let's get on with it.  Restore grass roots party leaders, train them, support them in their neighborhoods and to the degree possible, empower them with the old fashion ward heeler power of yesteryear.  This is the guy or gal in the neighborhood who can help with a job, a problem, a lawyer, whatever is needed.  No, don't rely on brand loyalty.  Rely on old fashioned patronage and damned good communications.  Lord knows we have the communications tools needed.  We have to do this ACORN style.

As for the populist message.  Sure.  As the co-founder of the Progressive Populist Caucus of the Texas Democratic Party 15 years ago, I know something about that movement.  But  know that it doesn't have to mean blowing up Wall Street, big banking and corporate America.  It means limiting their control of our government and candidates at all levels with their money and lobbying.  We do this by restricting their ability to influence our electeds and getting rid of those unwilling to wean themselves from their influence.  Yes, that means a Party that both rewards and punishes when necessary.

Yes, break up the big banks and separate speculation banking from consumer banking, but do it to support local community banks serving  their communities.  I know about this too as a small business person for a significant part of my working life.  I learned long ago that a big national chain  bank manager is barely a cut above a fast food restaurant manager in power, knowledge and authority.  My neighborhood local bankers knew how to advise me and how to judiciously lend me money to grow my business.

Let Wall Street commercial bankers create and move capital around to create and grow businesses, just  regulate them from taking advantage of consumers, punish them when they break the law and tax them when profits and incomes become obscene.  You still need these people, the honest and good ones to advise you on your savings and your retirement.  And you're going to need retirement investment help to a greater degree than before as pensions and defined benefit retirement plans are replaced by 40l Ks and the like.  Just regulate them to keep them honest, properly compensated but not obscenely so and punish them when they screw you.  Yes, we still need the good ones and someone to keep a sharp eye on them.  Those would be your friendly regulators, who should not be from their ranks, but independent of them in background.

This also goes for corporations.  Don't buy their loyalty to keep their production facilities here at home.  Give them incentives and regulations with good reasons to put customers first and shareholders next in line behind consumers and customers.   Tax them not as punishment but as an opportunity to be good citizens. This was mostly the corporate way of the 50's through the 70's  before Reagan turned them loose to turn on us.   Help them innovate and create new ideas, new products and new and better ways of doing commerce.  That will create new and better employment opportunities. Punish them economically when they leave us for foreign lands, excepting those producing goods intended for foreign lands, not to ship back to us.  That production should be here by and for us.

The Party and its candidates must restrain itself from over promising  easy fixes to the macro economic trends that explain our current underemployment/middle class stagnation.  Yes, too much capital has flowed to the top of the capitalistic pyramid.  Tax policy can fix some of that.  But globalization of trade was originally well intended.  It was supposed to provide expanded growth  through new markets.  It did to some degree, but with unintended consequences of offshoring and outsourcing.  We screwed up.  But rewriting some of the rules and some new regulation can address some of the needed solutions.   And trade can provide economic benefits to workers and put the focus on human needs and away from human conflict.

But the biggest culprit in economic stagnation are the decades long trends toward automation and greater industrial production efficiency, reducing the need for hands-on human labor.  We also failed to protect the sacred right of people to collectively bargain for better wages, retirements and employment stability.  

But be realistic.  Many of those industrial  jobs are not coming back, certainly not in the form of massively staffed production lines.   We need to give those in areas like the rust belt and ex-urban counties the truth about the magnitude of the fixes available, whether they choose to comprehend the truth or if they'd rather embrace desperate fantasy.  And we need to raise the money from the affluent to sustain the lives of those families so impacted until at least some of them can be retrained for tech and service industry employment with a just wage.  Whether Democrats will be rewarded for telling the truth and providing sustenance for the negatively impacted remains to be seen.  But it is necessary because both truthfulness and help are the humane thing to do.

It is possible for this dynamic economy to multi-task.  Democrats can advocate for the rights of workers simultaneously with encouragement of capital to provide growth and innovation in the economy.  Yes, there have have huge abuses from Wall Street with dodgy products and absurd risk.  That can be contained and punished.  But remember, it takes capital to generate new products, idea, services and businesses to employ people; that comes largely from Wall Street.

Repeating, this was not a landslide against Democrats in any sense.  It was a tiny edge won by a Republican party that conned us into believing that they were too much in disarray with the undisciplined Trump to put together an effective ground game in the right places.  And they appealed to our latent sexism and racism with very effective, albeit evil messaging, plucking at emotional chords among the disillusioned and disappointed in the right places.  We Democrats did our usual lists of complex policy statements with overtones of altruism and little emphasis on our economic insecurity and struggle to maintain an economic lifestyle over promised with illusions to the mythical American Dream.  And we did not provide a presidential candidate with an uplifting persona that gave us hope for the possible.  This is a cruel reality of American politics.

Trump at least gave us one positive thing.  He proved that our really ineffective consultants and pollsters are mostly a cruel joke.  Authenticity won.  Fascist authenticity but which our media failed to call out for the manipulation game it was and too many of us thought really was not possible in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Deplorables: Economic or Racist Anxiety?

 Before I concur with some who suggest we try to bring back the Deplorables, at least some of them, into the party of the people, I first want to see credible research on a classical chicken or egg question.  Which comes first, your economic anxiety over very credible long term economy trends in the good ol' US of A or your racist attitudes?  Now I might agree that at least some of you are not racists, but rather, are concerned about racial favoritism; government help/regulations that might be directed to  protect non-Anglo racial groups and don't actually believe non-Anglos to be inferior or undeserving of at least equality.

I have to candidly share my biases from personal experience.  As a kid in Marin City California, there were two groups associated with a nearby town with low/income/public housing. Some were "Okies," rednecks from rural Oklahoma escaping their devastating drought.  Others, maybe most, were African Americans.  My town looked down on them both and deplored, not their plight, but their proximity and numbers.  We actually had "gully fights" with bands of them, mostly the Blacks who came to our town and mocked our little league baseball games, I guess because they didn't have a little league.

In the military, in nearby East Baltimore, I saw first hand segregation, including in nearby strip joints who barred Black military, including those in my officer ranks from frequenting their establishments.  That is until a couple of my Notre Dame grad buddies and I, in uniform, took our Black friend and a Captain who outranked us (and outclassed us in smarts) to those joints, crashed them and elbowed all of us in.  No more segregation there.

Later, in Roanoke Virginia, my pro-integration buddy who owned the local radio station, recruited me to sponsor a Black friend, a very successful physician, to apply to become a 4th Degree Knight of Columbus, a venerated organization of the Catholic Church.   The mostly rednecks who ran the organization welcomed us and our Black friend to drink at the K of C Hall private bar/club but in a stunning secret vote, blackballed our Black friend from the 4th Degree.  This was a defining experience for me.  Our friend exceeded all of us in IQ, education and professional accomplishment but he wasn't worthy.  The Deplorables sure feel to me like the ilk I dealt with back then.

Later in life I experienced first the Wallace Democrats, then they Reagan Democrats when I lived in Texas.  They were mostly working class people, all white and overtly racist as they saw African Americans getting civil and then voting rights in the 60's.  They were not deploring their economic situation caused often by educations that stopped at high school.  They were certain the African Americans were inferior and were loudly vocal about that belief.  They left our party and were recruited by George H.W. Bush and Rep. Bill Archer to swell the ranks of a future dominant Texas Republican party.  This era sure felt like today's Deplorable atmosphere.

In the 2000's, right after the historic Obama election, I had direct, first hand experience with the Tea Party in Texas.  Many do not know that its epicenter is in Texas, with Dick Armey, funded by the Koch brothers in north Texas and True The Vote, also funded by Koch,  headquartered in Richmond, Texas in suburban Houston.  True The Vote is the minority voter suppression arm of the Tea Party. I did hand to hand combat through the Harris County Democratic Party with these clowns.  Oh, I'm sure their racist founding coinciding with the first Black American president is pure coincidence !  Today's Deplorables sure feel alot like these early Tea Baggers to me. 

So excuse my skepticism. You're going to have to show me some well researched evidence that it is the economic anxiety of the Deplorables that drives their attraction to Trump and his very sketchy economic platform.  So somehow returning American company factories to our shores, I guess by edict, will lessen their anxiety?  Or relaxing the few consumer protection regulations we have in place will free up companies to massively increase their workforces?  Or taxing corporations less so they will immediately pass those savings down to their employees, rather than their shareholders?  Yes, I'm skeptical.  Or getting rid of Obamacare, thus causing insurance companies to reduce their premium charges to companies and their employees?  Yes, I'm skeptical.  I'm skeptical too that the typical Deplorable making a household income of $72,000 is dumb enough to believe that shit.

Now, can we develop income and retirement supplements at the Federal level to provide economic justice to people whose employment was disrupted/diminished due to government policy enabling companies to screw their American workers?  Sure, justice requires we should until new policies allow the creation of new industries and business groups are put in place and good jobs/wages become available again.  But I'm not holding my breath that either racism or race resentment  will diminish.

Researchers, social scientists, the task is yours to rid me of my skepticism that we can build the ranks of  Democrats or some comparable liberal/progressive party with very many of these folks to make a difference.  I sincerely doubt many of them will seek out the cultural/ethnic rainbow coalition that is the Democratic party the reflects the best of American values.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

My Friend and Mentor Sam Keeper. RIP

 Sam Keeper left us on October 24.  But he didn't leave us empty handed.  He left a legacy of commitment to truth and justice and improving the human condition.  He endured unimaginably horrific pain in his last year or so but with his beloved spouse Cele at his side, and bedside, he showed us how to celebrate life.

Sam spoke to me years ago about his interest in the Hemlock Society and thoughts that someday he might wish to be in personal control of the end of  his life.  I am certain that his abiding, passionate and sweet love for his spouse of 67 years steered him away from that course, letting nature and hospice take its course to give them as much time together as possible.  This was a great love few of us will experience.

Sam was brilliant, certainly at the gifted level.  He majored in Physics and wound up supporting his family through journalism and public relations.  Sam was renowned for his mentorship of communications professionals; three come to my mind, all with brilliant careers resulting from Sam's care and feeding; Ward White, Helen Vollmer and Steve Barnhill, all at one point in Houston with Sam.  These are some of the communication industry superstars as a result of Sam's work with them.   A minor league player compared to these three, I owe much of my ad career to Sam's help.  I am grateful beyond words;  my offspring I hope are as well. As a result of my successful career, Mary Kaye and I were able to give them a pretty good start.

Sam was fluent in Spanish as well as his native tongue.  He read in that language constantly and engaged speakers in conversation to hone his spoken skills.  He was a brilliant writer and an even more incredible communications and PR strategist.   I had the privilege of working with him on countless projects and can attest to his amazing talents in that area.  He took his own firm and two major communications companies to the top of their fields with his management skills.

But my most compelling critique of Sam's work in life was the community and political service he lent his talents to.  He was an early adopter of sophisticated information technology  and brought those skills, even as a very senior citizen, to fundraising, political campaigns, voter registration. All at a scale only a few can claim to have equaled, civil rights movements and social reform causes successful only because of his professional gifts and grit.

I know of some of these first hand working side by side with Sam.  Through our work and reform through Citizens For Good Schools, we accomplished HISD integration and defeated a public school breakaway effort by racists trying to create the Westheimer Independent School District.  Sam helped defeat the Wallace and Tory Democrats and led takeover of the Texas Democratic Party by progressives.  He led massive voter registration drives with decades of work with the League of Women Voters.  He worked toward mental health reform in Harris County and Texas.  He assisted minority voter registration and mobilization of that vote for the Democratic Party. 
Sam pushed fundraising for the party and its candidates.  The list goes on, including major work with the Houston Grand Opera, The Houston Symphony, the Houston Chamber of Commerce.  Houston owes Sam so much for helping make it a major league urban center.

But all of this work, professional and civic, pales by comparison to his loving skills as a spouse, father and family member.  He adored his family as the centerpiece of his life.  Sam was charming, prickly, challenging, kind, loving and always caring about justice and repairing injustice.  He was doggedly determined, relentless in his pursuit of successful completion of a project and tireless in his endeavors to do what was right.

Thank you, Sam for bringing so much to my life and seldom letting me rest when you consistently outpaced me on things we were doing together.    I'll relish our time together for the remainder of my life.  I loved you so. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Some Conservatives Believe We No Longer Need Public Libraries

To my amazement, a family member once argued that we ought to do away with libraries in the digital age. This is one who has few books in the house but as a child was taken to children's reading gatherings by their mother and whose household was full of books on a wide variety of topics.

That same mother, on one of my first tours of her home town, took me proudly to the Free Public Library that was the center of this historic city.  I'll never forget that about her or that city.

 Libraries are more than storage facilities; they are community gathering places.

A place where many people access the internet.

A place for children's reading gatherings.

A place for story tellers, public readings by authors and poetry contests.

A place for public meetings for those engaged in their community. and for writers to share idea and for adult and summer education. 

A place for low income people without money for or Barnes & Noble books, digital or otherwise to go and borrow books for free, perhaps the group that might benefit the most from enhanced education through reading. 

A place for people with noisy or inhospitable household to study and read in quiet and peace.

Many libraries across the country give refuge to the homeless during the day. 

A place for performing and visual arts and so much more. 

 There is now some research that says cognition is still better with reading from hard copy. They are one of the really good things tax dollars support, making small thinking bigger and a place to share ideas face to face.  Or alone, reading and absorbing knowledge. 

This encounter has gnawed on me for a long time and a Facebook share from another family member inspired this defense of free public libraries.