Friday, November 30, 2007
Robert Wilonsky suggests we watch Unfair Park for Jim Schutze's imminent retort. Oh, and here it is, as I type.
As T.O. would say, getcha popcorn ready.
The Austin American-Statesman covered the story so the News didn't have to be bothered:
Comer was put on 30 days paid administrative leave shortly after she forwarded an e-mail in late October announcing a presentation being given by Barbara Forrest, author of "Inside Creationism's Trojan Horse," a book that says creationist politics are behind the movement to get intelligent design theory taught in public schools. Forrest was also a key witness in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case concerning the introduction of intelligent design in a Pennsylvania school district. Comer sent the e-mail to several individuals and a few online communities, saying, "FYI."
Agency officials cited the e-mail in a memo recommending her termination. They said forwarding the e-mail not only violated a directive for her not to communicate in writing or otherwise with anyone outside the agency regarding an upcoming science curriculum review, "it directly conflicts with her responsibilities as the Director of Science."
The memo adds, "Ms. Comer's e-mail implies endorsement of the speaker and implies that TEA endorses the speaker's position on a subject on which the agency must remain neutral."
How can this happen in the 2nd most populous state in the US? In 2007? Based on this Comer didn't even advocate against teaching intelligent design in science class. Let's say she did, though. She's the "curriculum director." Sounds like part of the job to me. And keeping non-science intelligent design out of the science class would be doing the students of the state of Texas a service.
Let's examine that last line quoted from the memo: this is "a subject on which the agency must remain neutral." Why is that? What part of the mandate of TEA requires their curriculum people to be neutral regarding the content of what is taught? That is ridiculous. They need to remain neutral because its politically expedient and ticks the fewest people off. Here's an idea, have scientists develop the science curriculum. Leave the flat-earth people off the committee, no matter how loud they are.
Apparently the Austin Bureau of the News was busy finding a bar to watch the Cowboys game last night rather than writing this story. I can't even find it on their web site. The News is supposed to be "Texas' Leading Newspaper," by the way. And no, I'm not ready to cancel my subscription yet, but I think of it often.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
I think Edwards might actually be a little too populist to win a general election. It's part of what I like about him, but the pragmatist in me doesn't like his odds. Senator Clinton does not excite me for some reason. It's not a strong woman thing; I just don't believe her. The words coming out of her mouth have no truthiness. She is too scripted and playing not to lose. And I think a Clinton candidacy gives the Republicans the best chance to win in 2008. That said, if she wins the nomination she's better than any of the GOP field save that wacky Ron Paul - the gold standard monetary system is crazy enough it just...might...work (sarcasm).
So I've been leaning toward Obama, without really knowing too much about him other than he was opposed to the war in Iraq from the beginning and has a charisma and hopeful message that seems to bring people together.
Since I hadn't really researched their positions thoroughly I thought I would do one of those online candidate quiz things. I chose the McNews (USA Today) quiz. It's not a bad quiz. Only asks you a handful of questions, and the best part is you can weight the issues that are more or less important to you with the slider bars on the right.
Apparently I've turned into a left wing wacko. Let's hope Mom doesn't find out - not until after Christmas at least. After answering the quiz and adjusting the weighting (experience not as important, Iraq and health care more important, etc.), my top three candidates are Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel (who?!), and Barack Obama. Edwards didn't even rank in the top 5. Good hair was not a criteria, a clear flaw with this quiz.
I had strong agreement with Obama's positions on tax reform, global warming, and Iraq. I don't think he's as bold as he needs to be on health care or same-sex marriage (that's where Kucinich and Gravel got lots of points from me). But maybe incremental gains are the way to go in those hot button areas.
As a pragmatist I'll stick with Obama for now. Of course there's lots of time between now and next November to waffle and flip flop and be generally indecisive. But I hope Obama does well in the early primaries/caucuses. It's nice to be a little excited about a candidate, and I hope Obama gives us reason to remain excited. If you are so inclined, take the quiz and let me know your results in the comments.
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Wednesday, November 28, 2007
A man's life hung in the balance but Keller was determined to close the doors on time. It's time to show Judge Keller the door. She is an embarrassment to this state and the judicial system.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
This all stems from women's ordination, which has never been allowed or recognized in Ft. Worth, as well as TEC's welcoming stance toward gays and lesbians. Having a female Presiding Bishop (sort of the pastor in chief for The Episcopal Church) seems to be the last straw. Fort Worth seems to be moving to affiliate with the Province of the Southern Cone. (Follow the link; you won't be disappointed.)
Well, the amendment passed and now we wait. It won't be an easy journey for those who choose to remain Episcopalian in FW. From Katie's post:
So now we enter a time of terrible uncertainty, a time when pressures will increase exponentially on those few clergy who ain't leaving, and on lay people who are trying to understand all the ramifications of what their leadership is telling them.
In a sad way, I guess I'm glad we've finally reached this point. Maybe once the flames of all Bp. Iker's and his followers rage has burned out, and all the court cases are settled, those of us Episcopalians left can start over.
A new diocese will rise from these ashes. But getting from here to there is going to be a long hard painful journey.
I pray God will give us the strength, wisdom, and fortitude to overcome our history and create a new healthy place where all people can grow in God's love and grace.
Please pray for us.
Prayers for you and for the Church, Katie. May our national leadership have the wisdom to respond quickly and appropriately - and to help the remaining Episcopalians in Ft. Worth regain some certainty and a path forward.
Monday, November 26, 2007
After posting that I feel the need to listen to the Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall on the way home today.
But there is evidence that we may be ever so slowly pulling our heads out of the sand. See this story from NPR this morning and you can see a glimmer of hope; it may take a new generation of voters and activism to get it done. We are set in our ways.
One good change the state is making – it is at least a step in the right direction – is to pull old polluting cars off the road. This program should roll out in January. Cynically, I think the only reason this got off the ground is that it benefits car dealerships. But if it also benefits air quality, then let’s give it a shot.
From the NPR story:
"Texas has had its head in the hot burning sands for quite some time," says Tom Smith, head of the Austin office of consumer group Public Citizen. "But now it's getting a little too hot and we're starting to look around to see what we can do about it."
UPDATE: Unfair Park linked to this story this morning as well, but Robert Wilonsky seems to be a little peeved at NPR stereotyping Texans. Or maybe he was being ironic. It's hard to tell!
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Today is to teach my 3-year old the joys of dancing to Queen and Talking Heads. He's teaching me the joys of building trains and eating raisins. Happy Thanksgiving y'all!
Friday, November 16, 2007
Says here that Ft. Worth is becoming a gay mecca. Bishop Iker will not be pleased to hear this.
By the way...
I have to put this on here. The Diocese of Ft. Worth is currently in convention considering amendments to disassociate from the Episcopal Church. They have been put on notice by Presiding Bishop Katharine. Sadly, it is best to get this over with, charge Iker with abandoning communion, and let the property battles commence. The lawyers are licking their chops. Father Jake has more.
The downtown Chase Bank retail branch reads Now Open this morning! This is the only retail bank branch downtown per the DMN story, with the exception of a couple of credit unions. Up through yesterday the signs were taunting me with "coming soon." Yes it is silly to get excited about a bank branch in Dallas. They are on every corner in other parts of town. But downtown is becoming more residential and needs services like this and the adjacent new (and large) CVS.
The Christmas tree went up this week in Pegasus Plaza. I guess they have to get it up before they light it, and I assume the lighting will either be over the Thanksgiving weekend or at the December 1 Neiman Marcus Adolphus Children's Parade. But it still seems too early for Christmas trees. I plan on lamenting the early signs of Christmas every year until I'm too senile to care. By that time Frosty will be marching in the St. Patrick's Day parade.
Neimans is working on their window displays for Christmas. I would try to be a man's man and pretend I don't notice these things, but they come up with some pretty creative window displays there, so I'm curious as to what they will do this year.
The downtown safety patrol has been much more visible in the past couple of months, which is great for the neighborhood. This visible police presence helps make downtown feel like a safe place to be, which is important especially for residents and new businesses. These guys and gals are much more help to the area than the officer in the patrol car who gave me a traffic ticket for walking across the street on red back in February. (Seriously, that is a way to make downtown unwelcoming to pedestrians.)
The strange "where's your D-spot" campaign is in full swing, with brightly colored polka dots adorning empty store fronts. I'm not sure if the idea is to highlight that downtown has lots of empty store fronts or to attract trendy tenants who will think that odd question is cheeky and hip. But they are noticable. I guess we should hope the D-spot question is interpreted correctly by prospective tenants. Did Austin Powers work on this ad campaign? Just curious.
That is all for now. TGIF.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Here is another winning column from the award winning columnist. And it's pure Schutze. It's funny, asks good questions, and it makes me feel good to be part of Cool Dallas, even if my neighborhood is just in close proximity to Cool Dallas.
This week in the continuing post-vote saga of the Trinity toll road, we learn that the Dallas Morning News suppressed information about the city possibly having to kick in more money for the road, per the chairman of the NTTA. The road that Mayor Leppert says will be paid for entirely with outside funding, save for a measly $84M from the original 1998 bond package. The DMN saved this info for the day after the vote, after sitting on it for a month.
But my favorite part of this column is in Schutze's life affirming "reverse snobbery" description of "cool Dallas:"
For one thing, Dallas has something in common with my native Detroit. It's not a destination destination. At least among those of us who have come here from elsewhere, it was never because we had always dreamed of living near the Trinity River. We came here for work, business, opportunity. This is a making-it city, not a scenic city.
So we got here, and then we collided with this odd and charming local culture–sort of Old South, kind of Midwest, tiny bit cowboy but always with one eye on New York. We met all these locals who have deep-rooted culture and good manners. And somewhere out of our collision, from the sparks and smoke a Dallas emerged that is cool.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
But you get the gist from the first bit. The city is going to implement green building standards city wide for new commercial and residential building. There is a task force that is studying the issue and will be reporting back to the city council in March. Let's hope we get some standards that will really make a difference and not something watered down.
Of course there is concern that regulations like these will make Dallas less competitive with our neighbors for new construction. That may be the case short term, but in the long run we will have a leg up on everyone else as this becomes standard. And believe it or not, lots of companies actually want to be officed in sustainable development. There is one architect quoted in the article who has been promoting sustainable design who believes that this would be an immediate advantage for Dallas.
And when we get some type of carbon tax - and that's more likely a when not if - Dallas will be poised to take advantage of the system with new energy efficient building already in place.
It pains me greatly to say this - Good leadership on this issue, Mr. Mayor.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
If the voters of East Dallas are as united on other issues as they have been on the Trinity toll road, and I think that could happen, then there is a new political force in this city. And it's already a voice that has drawn 47% of the voters. The blogoshpere has already labeled this area of town as the People's Republic of East Dallas, or alternately the Eastern Bloc, for the area's more liberal leanings. I think a more endearing term would be Little Austin. Some residents have suggested seceding from Dallas (only half-joking).
We hear a lot about North Dallas as the conservative business minded vote. We know that South Dallas is a political force to be reckoned with, and Vote No did a much better job of turnout in South Dallas. I'll bet in the next election - whatever it is - you'll hear a lot more about which way East Dallas will swing.
Where does that leave my home, Lake Highlands, on the borders of North Dallas and East Dallas? We're somewhat of a mixture. A lot of the area seems to lean toward the North Dallas mindset, and that will probably predominate for the foreseeable future. We also have lots of folks that are there for the proximity to White Rock Lake and value the public spaces we do have in this city and are perhaps a little more ecologically aware. But it appears that most of Lake Highlands followed the lead of North Dallas rather than the influence of our neighbors to the South.
Let's fast forward to the next mayoral election. Let's say Angela Hunt enters the race. She is clearly the most visible local politician next to our current mayor. Her star will continue to rise at every toll road delay or cost overrun or problem with the Army Corps of Engineers or North Texas Tollway Authority. She's going to look smarter and smarter. People from other parts of town will start to warm up to her. And East Dallas could usher her into the mayor's office.
Matt Pulle at the Observer says that East Dallas will always be the lovable losers in this town (last paragraph). I think he underestimates the future potential of a progressive voice in Dallas. He's part of the alternative media, though, and so it's in his interests to be anti-establishment. If his side won, he'd be pro-establishment and that would just be too weird! It's just as weird that I'm being optimistic about Dallas. But I've decided to make my home here so optimism is the way to go for me.
By the way, my favorite term to come out of the post vote chatter: Pop-up Morning News. One visit to their web site will tell you why.
Monday, November 12, 2007
The New York Times reported that Nancy Nord, the head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, has asked Congress not to increase their authority and funding to protect the public. Here's the Times editorial.
Congress is taking this action in the midst of week after week of toy recalls, most of which have lead paint from China. If you are a parent you know that probably 95% of toys are made in China. And there is no way to know if the toys you are buying are safe.
The CPSC has one toy inspector. One. Almost all of our toys come from overseas and there is one full time inspector.
So now the head of the agency is about to get resources to better protect Americans and she writes a note that she'd rather not. She has a number of objections, some of which may even be defensible, but instead of working with the lawmakers to craft a workable solution, Ms. Nord is joining with industry lobbyists to oppose the legislation.
OK - the commission's WHOLE JOB is to protect the public. They are understaffed and unable to carry out their function in a land full of imports and new consumer products. And now Nancy Nord is effectively lobbying against the interests of her own agency and the public she is supposed to serve.
This is what happens when you put "starve the beast" ideologues in positions of power. You get the guy against international law as Ambassador to the UN, you get a toothless EPA, and you get the head of the CPSC that doesn't want the resources to be able to better protect the public. Heckuva job, Nancy.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
A few people were quoted in the DMN as saying that the petitioners wasted $2M of taxpayer money to have this election. That’s not very gracious of them – just be happy you won. 91,000 people signed the petitions to get this on the ballot and give the city a chance to decide if we really want this. I was hopeful but now we know – the city wants a highway in its floodway. If you want to talk about wasting taxpayer money, let’s talk about the $1.3B (and rising) road you want to build.
Schutze is munching sour grapes this morning. I think he’s right: This project is too dumb to build. But they’ll try like mad to do it.
If this road does get built, they might as well scrap the park. You won’t be able to get to it and once you’re there you’ll be situated next to a truck route. And one day – it may be decades from now – but one day we’ll be ripping that sucker out of there and wondering “what were we thinking?”
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
In my prediction yesterday, I forgot to account for a very important election truism. Old people vote. I dropped by the polls with my wife this afternoon. Lots of olds. I hate to sound ageist - this is probably in no way fair or politically correct. But if all those 20 and 30 somethings who signed those petitions had bothered to actually vote we'd have a different story tonight.
Not sure if that's the only factor I left out. Maybe more people are swayed by threats and lies than I thought. Apparently we're not quite ready to shift our thinking from more roads and sprawl to more density, mass transit, and protecting green space.
At any rate the Corps of Engineers still has not signed off on this road. Looks like we probably failed to kill it today at the polls. But maybe we can keep the pressure on the Corps to do the right thing and stand by their own rules: No new dirt inside the levees and no excavation allowed. That would make it awfully difficult to build an earth bench for our new highway to sit on.
Failing that, welcome to Big D's version of The Big Dig. $1.3 billion and counting for 9 miles of road in our floodway.
Here's my take. This vote will tell us something about the future of this city. Will we continue to pave our way to becoming another sprawled out smog congested Texas version of LA? Or will we maybe start to lean a little more towards some place like Portland, OR? Make no mistake, we'll still have congestion and smog and gridlock and sprawl tomorrow. But what will we be saying is important to Dallas and Dallasites? Will we continue to disregard our natural resources, bird habitats and wetlands, or will we embrace a more pedestrian friendly city with more bike paths, green space, and smarter mass transit to draw the "creative class" to the city core?
Even if Vote No wins, I think the success of the grass roots campaign of TrinityVote tells us something exciting about the future of Dallas. Just go read the comments on this Frontburner post and you will feel good about this city's future. Hopefully our future leaders won't be saddled with tearing a highway out of our levees in 25 years. Vote For Prop 1.
And while you're waiting for the election returns to come in, read these two (long) columns from Sam Merton.
Vote No Starts Making Sense
Park and Tollroad Can't Coexist
Monday, November 5, 2007
(2) Vote Yes should be more motivated to come to the polls tomorrow, and the expected low turnout should help our side. It’s easier to get motivated to preserve our green space than it is to pave it, at least by my rationale (but as the Mad Priest sayeth, of course I could be wrong). The Vote Yes side does have more popular support as witnessed by their PAC donations - lots of small donors versus fewer big donors for Vote No. I think the PAC contributions are a good sign of motivation. Also, between 50,000 and 90,000 voters signed those petitions. If most of those people come to the polls it will be an easy victory. Advantage: TrinityVote Yes.
(3) Vote Yes has the easier to understand argument: “Do you want a tollroad in your park/floodway?” The Vote No argument usually is some version of “it’s complicated, but trust us.” Advantage: Vote Yes.
(4) The Vote No side has a huge advantage in that one of their biggest supporters is Robert Decherd, publisher of the Dallas Morning News, the paper of record in Dallas. And the paper is pulling out all the stops with their drumbeat of editorials and big splashy front page stories about why we need a road in the floodway. But the daily newspaper is not the force it once was and the alternative press and the blogosphere have been 9 to 1 against the road. Not sure how big a factor that plays here, but it’s an interesting dynamic. Advantage: Vote No.
That’s two points for Vote Yes and two points for Vote No. Matt Pulle at the Dallas Observer has predicted a small margin of victory for the road building coalition. Jeff Siegel at the Advocate predicts a healthy margin of victory for TrinityVote Yes. I’m calling for a Vote Yes victory based primarily on point 2 above. I am prepared to eat crow if incorrect, but I'm not plucking feathers just yet.
And in other news, my wife is excited about the vote tomorrow, because she believes I will be able to talk about something else after the election returns.
UPDATE: Yeah, I did previously say that I wasn't going to make a prediction, but on the eve of the election I can't help it. Makes it more interesting.
Here's some national media coverage from the NYT and the WSJ.
Friday, November 2, 2007
...a growing number of voices in Seattle have switched their views and now want to tear the highway down altogether.
"The replacement of the viaduct is a fantastic opportunity to begin the creation of a 21st-century transportation system," said Seattle City Council member Peter Steinbrueck. "The car can no longer rule all our decisions. There's got to be a better way."
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Today's installment from Shelley Kofler is important. I hope they play it often and lots of people hear it. This exposes a frequent Leppert fib that the Corps of Engineers has signed off on the toll road. They have not. From the story:
Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, leading the toll road effort, has said the agency in charge of protecting the waterway, the US Army Corp of Engineers, has signed off on the plan.
Leppert: "The Corps has signed off on the safety issues. They signed off on the environmental issues. They feel very comfortable with it."
But the Corps' Trinity Corridor Project Manager Gene Rice says the road is yet to be approved. There's no final design.
Rice: " We've made no determination at this time on whether the project will be acceptable or not. We are still working with the transportation interests to make sure it could go in safely if it goes in. But no determination has been made or will be made for several years."
Mayor Leppert later told us he didn't mean a final sign off , but a sign off of the direction the city's going in.
Leppert often claims to be "comfortable" with something when he wants to convey a "yes" without actually saying it. It's a verbal cue that he's being evasive or misleading.
Here's Leppert getting caught in another of what we'll generously call one of his "half-truths" from a story earlier in the week:
Can Project Pegasus (the plan for fixing the I30-I35 mixmaster) and the mixmaster be improved without the Trinity tollroad? Mayor Leppert doesn't think so.
Leppert: You haven't heard the alternative plan because there isn't one.
Texas' top road official, Texas Transportation Chairman Ric Williamson agrees there would be delays, but he says he cannot imagine a scenario where Project Pegasus would be scrapped.
Williamson: If the tollroad as invisioned now is radically changed Project Pegasus will have to be redesigned. I'm not taking a position it's just a logical conclusion. Project Pegasus is so important to the clean air plan and congestion relief for North Texas I can't imagine a circumstance where it wouldn't be redesigned and moved forward. It's just that important.
Keep up the good work KERA. I hope lots of undecided voters hear this. Looking forward to the next insallment. Here's the site with all the stories from this week.
For the wet winds blow;
There's winter in the air,
And autumn all below.
For the red leaves are flying
And the red bracken dying,
And the red fox lying
Where the oziers grow.
Put the bridle on the mare,
For my blood runs chill;
And my heart, it is there,
On the heather-tufted hill,
With the gray skies o'er us,
And the long-drawn chorus
Of a running pack before us
From the find to the kill.
Then lead round the mare,
For it's time that we began,
And away with thought and care,
Save to live and be a man,
While the keen air is blowing,
And the huntsman holloing,
And the black mare going
As the black mare can.
-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
O God, the King of saints, we praise and glorify your holy Name for all your servants who have finished their course in your faith and fear: for the blessed Virgin Mary; for the holy patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs; and for all your other righteous servants, known to us and unknown; and we pray that, encouraged by their examples, aided by their prayers, and strengthened by their fellowship, we also may be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.