Bill White: Texas’ best days ahead

June 26, 2010

Nice drive to Corpus Christi for the Texas Democratic Convention.  Long drive.  Very long drive.  One yearns for the days when flying inside Texas was much more affordable.

The advantage, of course, is seeing Texas.  “Miles and miles of Texas” as Asleep at the Wheel might sing. (Love those twin fiddles.) (Watch it here, from Austin City Limits in the ’80s)

Interstate 35 traffic frustrates several million people a day.  One cannot drive through Austin without a slowdown at any hour of most business days.  Once-clear country roads are congested.  Clearly that problem needs some attention.

It’s a stirring and interesting sight that greets you coming into Corpus Christi on I-37.  From a distance you’ll see the massive wind farm, huge windmills cranking out electricity, almost a vision of a cleaner future through the haze.  Closer into town the windmills can be seen through the industrial maze of oil refineries.  It probably can’t be photographed well except from the air, but it’s an interesting juxtaposition of the changes Texas lives through, and the challenges ahead.  I was reminded of the “successful labor-management negotiation” workshops:

Hope for the future, a picture of reality . . . now, what are the plans to proceed?

I missed most of the activity on Friday while driving.  Other blogs and news organizations offer good coverage.  Texas Blue carried the full advanced text.  (Also see The Austin American-Statesman, the AP story in The Dallas Morning News, and Texas Observer)

White’s speech contrasts quite starkly with Rick Perry’s a few weeks ago, in which he seemed confused by geography, “blaming” White’s “Washington ways” for Houston’s successes under White’s leadership.

Bill White’s speech pleased the crowd.  Not fire and brimstone; enough humor that most delegates smiled all the way through, but full of substantive contrasts between Rick Perry’s policies and those White wishes to pursue instead.  Parts of the speech carry the mark of brilliant speech writing, especially in the breezy, pleasant way White paints the policy differences.  Here’s the end of the speech:

Rick Perry will claim he represents Texas values. But Perry’s Texas is different than our Texas.

In Rick Perry’s Texas insurance and utility rates rise faster than in other states. In our Texas wages will go up faster because we invest in people.

In Rick Perry’s Texas we import nurses and welders and other skilled workers from abroad. In our Texas we will train more Texans to do those jobs.

In Rick Perry’s Texas the State Board of Education injects political ideology into classrooms. In our Texas we’ll put more computers in our classrooms.

In Rick Perry’s Texas state boards and agencies are pressured from the top to serve those who help the Governor’s re-election. In our Texas government will be the servant, not the master, and our customers will be ordinary Texans.

In Rick Perry’s Texas the governor threatens to leave the world’s greatest country. He is content [to] allow our state to compete with Mississippi for lack of social progress. In our Texas other states will follow Texas because we will be the leader.

In Rick Perry’s Texas citizens are stuck in traffic in big cities because the Texas Department of Transportation was doing the bidding of a foreign company promoting the land grab known as the Trans-Texas Corridor. In our Texas we will work across party lines for a new mobility plan, assisting commuters to get from home to work and all communities to get their goods to market.

In Rick Perry’s Texas the best days may be behind us. In our Texas our best days are ahead of us.

Let us go from this convention, staffing phone banks, knocking on doors, and sending emails. Lift up all who share our values, from the courthouse to the statehouse to the double-wide trailer Andrea and I will live in while the Mansion is rebuilt. Describe to friends and neighbors, from both parties, the simple choice we face in the governor’s race.

Rick Perry is in it for Rick Perry. By the grace of God and with your help, I’m in it for Texas, for you.

Bill White at Texas Democratic Convention, 6-25-2010

Bill White, after his speech at the Texas Democratic Convention - R. G. Ratcliff photo, Houston Chronicle blogs

It was one of the most positive speeches I’ve heard at conventions in a long time — takes me back to Mo Udall at the 1976 National Democratic Convention, or Ted Kennedy’s at the 1980 convention.  White came down in favor of education, roads and lower taxes, and good government in general.  Cleverly, astoundingly, each of his jabs at Rick Perry was on a substantive, policy issue, and not just a one-liner.  No lipstick on pigs, not even a silver foot-in-the-mouth (apologies to Ann Richards, but not to Sarah Palin).

You have to wonder what this guy was listening to:

“In delivering one of the most negative speeches by a nominee for Texas governor in modern history, Bill White continues to run a campaign of no substance,” said Perry campaign spokesperson Mark Miner. “Governor Perry’s proven leadership, Texas values, and priorities of limited government, fiscal responsibility, and job creation have made our state the envy of the nation.”

The race is on, and the choices are already very, very clear.

Update:


“Maybe the best reason yet for being happy that Obama was elected”

January 4, 2009

Go look at Barry Weber’s post at First Morning.

Spend at least a full minute looking at that photograph.

Wow!

Look at every single face. Each face is the verse of an epic poem. Each expression is a note in a symphony. Here are a hundred eyes full of excitement and joy, and..(though these kids don’t know it yet their parents and grandparents do)..hope. This is the kind of Hope that straightens paths, brightens colors, and builds bridges to possibilities. It is the kind of Hope that I feel so grateful to have been able to witness, and even feel in my own heart.

But, just look at these kids! Whatever I might feel is peanuts compared to the smiles, laughter, and amazement of these young ones.

By many accountings, these are dark days for the United States.  Those faces show the light of the future — they may be the light of the future.

Nice catch, Mr. Weber.


‘No red America, no blue America – a United States of America’ (Please vote)

November 3, 2008

Who said this?

Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America — there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

In the end, that’s what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope? John Kerry calls on us to hope. John Edwards calls on us to hope. I’m not talking about blind optimism here — the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don’t talk about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. No, I’m talking about something more substantial. It’s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a mill worker’s son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. The audacity of hope!

In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation; the belief in things not seen; the belief that there are better days ahead.

I could vote for a guy who said that.


Hope is the things with feathers

September 11, 2008

The Singing Cricket noticed that, with DDT use in decline, a lot of birds can be seen that we didn’t see for a long time. She takes hope at that thought.

Nice photos, too.

Apologies to Emily Dickinson, of course.

Read the rest of this entry »


Ann and Molly

March 15, 2008

I miss Ann Richards.

Ann Richards with her motorcycle
Photo of Ann Richards with her motorcycle, from the Texas State Library & Archives Commission, Prints and Photographs Collection

Here’s an excerpt from Molly Ivins’ column of September 18, 2006, the week after Ann died.

She knew how to deal with teenage egos: Instead of pointing out to a kid who was pouring charcoal lighter on a live fire that he was idiot, Ann said, “Honey, if you keep doing that, the fire is going to climb right back up to that can in your hand and explode and give you horrible injuries, and it will just ruin my entire weekend.”

She knew what it was like to have four young children and to be so tired you cried while folding the laundry. She knew and valued Wise Women like Virginia Whitten and Helen Hadley.

At a long-ago political do at Scholz Garten in Austin, everybody who was anybody was there meetin’ and greetin’ at a furious pace. A group of us got the tired feet and went to lean our butts against a table at the back wall of the bar. Perched like birds in a row were Bob Bullock, then state comptroller, moi, Charles Miles, the head of Bullock’s personnel department, and Ms. Ann Richards. Bullock, 20 years in Texas politics, knew every sorry, no good sumbitch in the entire state. Some old racist judge from East Texas came up to him, “Bob, my boy, how are you?”

Bullock said, “Judge, I’d like you to meet my friends: This is Molly Ivins with the Texas Observer.”

The judge peered up at me and said, “How yew, little lady?”

Bullock, “And this is Charles Miles, the head of my personnel department.” Miles, who is black, stuck out his hand, and the judge got an expression on his face as though he had just stepped into a fresh cowpie. He reached out and touched Charlie’s palm with one finger, while turning eagerly to the pretty, blonde, blue-eyed Ann Richards. “And who is this lovely lady?”

Ann beamed and replied, “I am Mrs. Miles.”

One of the most moving memories I have of Ann is her sitting in a circle with a group of prisoners. Ann and Bullock had started a rehab program in prisons, the single most effective thing that can be done to cut recidivism (George W. Bush later destroyed the program). The governor of Texas looked at the cons and said, “My name is Ann, and I am an alcoholic.”

She devoted untold hours to helping other alcoholics, and anyone who ever heard her speak at an AA convention knows how close laughter and tears can be.

One to make history, one to record it.

I miss Molly Ivins.


Quote of the moment: Ted Williams (the conservationist)

December 8, 2007

It’s a long passage, but worth the read. Go to the Audubon site for the full essay; it’s longer, and worth more. (Photo: Bald eagle, from the US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Bald Eagle, USFWS photo

This is from an essay the great conservation curmudgeon Ted Williams published in Audubon in December 2004.

I envy young environmentalists of the 21st century, but I feel bad for them, too. They don’t know what it feels like to win big against seemingly impossible odds. When I started out, America and the world were environmentally lawless. There was no Endangered Species Act, no Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, no Clean Water Act, no Clean Air Act, no National Environmental Policy Act, no National Forest Management Act. In 1970 I remember standing on the steps of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife field headquarters and arguing with a colleague, Joe, about the banning of DDT. “It will never happen,” he told me. When DDT was banned two years later, he said, “It won’t make any difference.”

For a while it didn’t. The March 1976 Audubon reported “considerable gloomy speculation” about the plight of endangered bald eagles in the Lower 48—more birds dying than hatching, fewer than a thousand nesting pairs. Today there are an estimated 7,000 nesting pairs. The September 1975 Audubon reported that 300 brown pelicans transplanted from Florida to Louisiana—”the Pelican State”—had died from lethal doses of DDT and other chlorinated hydrocarbons. Today Louisiana has more than 13,000 nesting pairs. In 1972 I was assigned by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife to write an article on the peregrine falcon in the East—a history piece, because the species had been extirpated from the region. By 1999 peregrines had fully recovered, and they were removed from the Endangered Species List.

The hopelessness I felt about DDT in 1970 was nothing compared with what Rachel Carson felt when she started her campaign against this World War II hero. Writing a book about DDT seemed impossible; she was a nature writer, not an investigative reporter. Barely had she taken pen to paper when she was assailed by arthritis, flu, intestinal virus, sinus infections, staph infections, ulcers, phlebitis, and breast cancer. She didn’t get discouraged; she got mad. Her ulcers, she told her editor, “might have waited till the book was done.” Radiation treatments were “a serious diversion of time.” She found the phlebitis that prevented her from walking “quite trying””not for herself but for “poor Roger,” her adopted son.

When Silent Spring appeared in 1962, Chemical World News condemned it as “science fiction.” Time magazine dismissed it as an “emotional and inaccurate outburst.” Reader’s Digest canceled a contract for a 20,000-word condensation and ran the Time piece instead. But only seven years later Time used a photo of Carson to illustrate its new Environment section. Silent Spring was not a prediction, as anti-environmentalists profess; it was a warning, full of hope. “No,” Carson wrote her friend Lois Crisler, “I myself never thought the ugly facts would dominate. . . . The beauty of the living world I was trying to save has always been uppermost in my mind.” If Rachel Carson could find hope in the face of what and who were closing in on her, no environmentalist has the right to feel discouraged in 2004.


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