Middle East Incidents: Fake protests?

Evidence is mounting that the 9/11 attacks on US Consulates and Embassies were a coordinated setup. Though the State Department or US military have not confirmed this many Libyan officials are on record with reports stating that a militant group has planned the attacks, and used fake protests as cover.

Similar accounts are also coming from Cairo, Egypt. Many eye-witnesses via Twitter are confirming that the protests are fake. Here are some tweets from @loaiomran, a resident of Cairo…

Freedom isn’t Free: The Benghazi attacks

I suppose it’s possible that it was a sheer coincidence, but the significance of an attack on September 11th isn’t lost to any living American. Most of us still remember that day… the beautiful weather (at least in my part of the country), watching TV and maybe thinking for just a split second that this was possibly the best movie special effect you’d ever seen in your life. Then realizing with shock and horror that you were witnessing an attack on our country. Suddenly, war, death and pain was no longer some far-off country’s problem… it was our problem. We were attacked, we were killed, and those left behind had to find the strength to rebuild.

This is why yesterday’s attack on the US Embassy at Benghazi, Libya is so tough to comprehend. US Ambassador Christopher Stevens, and 3 other brave Americans died at the hands of an angry mob. Our freedom is something that we continue to take for granted, even as those of us on the front lines continue to risk their lives (and sometimes sacrifice them) for our shroud of ignorance. But what was the cause of this senseless violence?

A film by Jewish real-estate developer named Sam Bacile is what sparked all of this outrage, and it continues to spread across the Muslim world. To Muslims, this film is highly offensive, casting the prophet Muhammad as an imbecile, and even a child molester. Eventhough the New York Post declared “it’s just a stupid movie!!” it wasn’t seen that way at all to the Muslim world.

Here’s what gets lost in translation… we live in a Democracy. We’re used to these types of things. And even when someone highly offends us, most Americans would rather demand an apology than try to cause the other person harm. And maybe in extreme cases, we’ll take our “fight” against them to a court of law. But burning and death rarely enter the picture for us. As a highly individualistic society, we also tend to seek individuals for blame over groups. If one person in somebody’s family is a racist, we don’t (ususally) assume every member of their family to be the same.

But outside our shores, Sam Bacile isn’t known to Libya. They probably didn’t take the time to parse out details of who created the film, or any of the motivations behind it. The mobs in Benghazi and Cairo simply saw “American”, and they reacted. To them, there is no difference between one self-identified hater of Islam, and the 312 million diverse, dynamic population that is the USA. We’re all just Americans. And to the minority of persons in these nations that already sought to harm the US, a film like this played right into their hands.

September 11th, 2012 was yet another reminder that freedom isn’t free. It’s a reminder that the live of privilege that we live in this country is attached to huge responsibilities. After posting such a bold statement as this D-movie has become, Mr. Bacile is currently in hiding. This person’s irresponsible behavior has now left him with blood on his hands. One has to wonder if he’s proud of this accomplishment now, and if he mourns the lives of these innocent Americans as well. As a wealthy man, would he be willing to reach out to these families and take responsibility for being so hateful and foolish?

As we continue to mourn the fallen, we as Americans also have to take heed. The blessing of living in a free country has consequences. Just because we are free to have and express our own opinions, no matter how vile they may be, does not exempt us from the responsibility to respect others. If we can’t do that, then we will continue to leave ourselves vulnerable to incidents like this.

Simple Gifts: Bill Clinton’s DNC2012 Speech

Regardless of the actual results on November 6th, former President William Jefferson Clinton made history on September 5th. He gave a speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention that will be talked about for years to come. The brilliant man that has traversed every corner of the USA and the globe delivered a speech last night that was as down home as an Arkansas watermelon. And yet, he countered the falsehoods of the GOP and Romney/Ryan campaign in one 48-minute swoop. He was able to not only give a speech about policy details (Ezra Klein even referred to him as the “Wonk-In-Chief“), but also that landed on the very pulse of the American people. Simple. Direct. Genius.

But even beyond the budget specifics, perhaps the most effective thing President Clinton’s speech happened in the first 20 minutes. He reminded the American people that bi-partisanship is a two-way street. As many attempts as President Obama made to reach out to the GOP, they would have none of it. He also did something that few Democrats today are willing to do… told us that the GOP of 2012 has been taken over by its extremes. Try as they might, this is not the party of Ronald Reagan, or even Bush 43. They have lost their ability to compromise, and to GOVERN. Time and again this was evidenced through House GOP mutiny from Speaker John Boehner over the debt-ceiling fight, to the incessant repetition of 33 votes to “repeal Obamacare”. The Republican Party in Washington has a real problem.

Of course you don’t need masterful Clintonian rhetoric to figure out that the current iteration of the Republican Party is a mess… just ask a Ron Paul supporter. Ask them why the party went from state to state to change their party rules and ensure that Paul would be flushed out of the primary. Ask them why Mr. Ron Paul got 190 delegates (which even that is up for debate, based on whether the Paul supporters would be willing to sue) but wasn’t even allowed to speak at the Convention. If they can’t unite the inner factions of their party, why should we trust them to be able to unite and govern the country?

Here’s the full video of President Clinton’s speech…

The ABCs of the GOP FULL SERIES

Here are links to the full series of The ABCs of the GOP…

A is for Austerity — Jobs in the Private Sector have slowly recovered, but the public sector keeps getting slashed thanks to state and local budget crunches.

B is for Bullying — How Republicans used and abused the Filibuster to cause ultimate Senate gridlock.

C is for Convoluted — The twisting, turning record of Congressional Republicans, and of Mitt Romney

D is for Distraction — How the GOP uses issues like the debt and Contraception to distract voters and control their base.

E is for Extinction — Using Texas as “Exhibit A” shows that the Republican Party’s base is rapidly declining.

F is for Fear — Why the GOP has to work so hard to portray Obama is a foriegn, socialist “other” even when it means voting against their own positions.

G is for Game Plan — How the GOP used a carefully crafted message of fear and hate to make huge gains in the 2010 elections (“Fire Pelosi”).

H is for Hysteria — The party’s inner war with Ron Paul and his supporters.

I is for Illusion — How the GOP manipulates illusions of outrage to get what they want.

J is for Jaded — Why Republicans still can’t except Mitt Romney as their nominee.

K is for Karma — How the GOP’s two-faced positions may come back to haunt them, and Romney spirited defense of OBAMACARE.

L is for Lying — Sure, politicians from both parties lie. But here’s why some of the GOP lies are much more dangerous than Democrats.

M is for Marginalization — How the GOP continues to hasten its route to extinction by shutting out future leaders.

N is for Negligence — How the Romney campaign just can’t seem to get rid of it’s systemic mishaps.

O is for Obligation — Republicans are spending so much time trying to defeat the President, they have let our country fall into disrepair.

P is for Partisanship — simply put, the Republican party in its current state is incapable of governing the country, and why they should be thankful that the President won re-election in 2012.

Q is for Quagmire— After the election, the GOP is now forced with the impossible task of either striking a fiscal deal with Obama on his terms, or letting the Bush Tax Cuts expire. If they choose the latter, anything they pass in 2013 would officially be the “Obama Tax Cuts” and the Republican Party risks losing the signature issue of lower taxes for generations to come.

The ABCs of the GOP: M is for…

Marginalization

This week’s 2012 Republican National Convention was meant to be a spectacle of all things GOP. It’s the one time of the year when the party’s best and brightest, young and old come together to celebrate what it means to be “Republican”. By all accounts, RNC 2012 was a success as they have now achieved the two most important tasks of a political party… nominate their candidate for President, and define themselves to the American people through the 2012 Republican Party Platform. Undoubtedly, Mitt Romney gave one of the best speeches of his political career, and the party did it’s duty to officially nominate he and Paul as their new leaders. Mission accomplished.

But there was another (if perhaps unwritten and unspoken) task for this year’s Republican Party as well… it’s to form the most important coalition in the history of the GOP. A coalition to marginalize the party’s moderates and Libertarians in favor of the Tea Party and Religious Right.

Last Sunday’s Ron Paul rally was ground zero for Republican marginalization. Drawing record crowds to the University of South Florida’s Sun Dome in Tampa, the Liberty movement’s “counterconvention” was aptly titled We Are The Future. The vast majority of the crowd was of college age and seemingly had enough enthusiasm to get anyone they wanted into the Whitehouse. Speakers sent grossly mixed messages of encouraging support to Republicans while simultaneously scorning the party for their (probably illegal) ouster of Liberty delegates. But amidst all of the excitement, an ugly contradiction was clear… Ron Paul and his supporters lost. Their dream to be the future was yet again a dream deferred. Just like 2008, the Liberty folks will again sit on the margins of the real GOP, and just be exploited for their youth and initiative.

As the GOP charges toward the Religious Right with most social issues, this is quickly isolating party Moderates. Sure, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and New Mexico Governor Susanna Martinez gave rousing speeches at the convention. This is not to be overlooked, but having a few representatives to show diversity within the party does not excuse the whole.

Take the Conservative LGBT group GOProud… so far the only LGBT Conservative group to fully endorse the Romney/Ryan ticket. Despite their continued attempts to play by the GOP’s constantly-changing rule book, GOProud was marginalized at this year’s RNC in favor of the Far-Right. Once again, the Republican Party committed to “traditional marriage” 100 percent by adopting it as the party platform. But according to GOProud founding member Christopher Barron, that doesn’t matter…

When asked if he could clarify GOProud’s position on the Republican Party platform, this was his response…

Then I asked if GOProud also supports DOMA like the rest of the GOP…

So apparently there’s a disconnect here. The party platform is supposed to be a statement of what that political party believes. It steers the ship towards legislative priorities of the party, and to select candidates for national, state and local offices. Despite Mr. Barron’s claims that “no one reads it”, the GOP 2012 platform will travel home with every delegate, and be given to every campaign chair across the country. The document certainly is important. After all, if the entirety of GOP did NOT support DOMA it wouldn’t be law today. Democrats are the ones fighting against it, NOT Republicans. GOProud can claim what they want, but their party is actively fighting against them. Just as Republicans are fighting against Ron Paul, Rand Paul, Sarah Palin and any other figure that threatens the delicate alliances holding the “big tent” party together. As more Conservatives and Moderates get left out in the cold, is the GOP really a “big tent” party at all? And how long are these growing Conservative forces willing to play a game at which they always lose? How long can sit on the party’s political outskirts before there’s a real revolt?

As RNC 2012 is now in the history books, Mitt Rommey and Reince Priebus can breathe a sigh of relief. But the tense forces within the GOP haven’t lessened… If anything they may be heightened. It’s going to take every bit of strategic intellect to make it through November 6th. And the margin of error couldn’t possibly be any thinner.

Twitter account suspension

I’m sad to report that my Twitter account (@TexasLeftist) has been suspended. Honestly, I have no clue why… I haven’t violated any Twitter rules or Best Practices to my knowledge. And of course Twitter has yet to resond to my emails requesting an explanation.

I sincerely hope that the account is restored soon. Until then, you’re certainly welcome to check out my Facebook page for any updates.

NOT cool.

UPDATE: My account has been restored!!

Tracking Inner Houston’s Growth: Grocery Stores

I thought this would be an interesting thing to compare. We all know that the inner loop of Houston is growing… there’s a fast pace of infill occurring right now. But are all of these apartments and townhomes equating to actual population growth?

Instead of going on the normal real estate data, I decided to track grocery store development inside a portion of the inner loop between 2008 and 2012. Two things to note…

1) This is within the bounds of basically four neighborhoods… Downtown, Midtown, Montrose and Rice Military. Some stores are on the boundaries of other areas (like the Heights)

2) This is only “major” grocers… chain stores in large format. It doesn’t include corner stores. Phoenicia in downtown isn’t exactly Super-markets, but in my opinion is large enough to be considered a major grocer.

In 2008 here were the area’s major grocers…

Spec’s Midtown, Fiesta Midtown, Randall’s Midtown, Kroger Montrose, Fiesta Montrose, Whole Foods River Oaks, Randall’s River Oaks, Kroger River Oaks

Here’s the list in 2012, with opening dates for the new additions…

Spec’s Midtown, Fiesta Midtown, Randall’s Midtown, Kroger Montrose, Fiesta Montrose (closed), Whole Foods River Oaks, Randall’s River Oaks, Kroger River Oaks, Phoenicia Downtown (2011), Whole Foods Montrose (2011), Target Sawyer Heights (2009), HEB Montrose (2012), Wal-Mart Market Heights (2012?), Trader Joe’s Montrose/River Oaks (2012?)

Between 2008 and late 2012/2013, it appears that inner Houston’s major grocery stores will grow by 40%. Inner city Houston is definitely transforming… FAST!

A Voice for the Rest of Texas