Monday, December 29, 2008

Reverend Rick

Since I'm updating the blog so sporadically these days, this is going to look strange coming right after my election night post but here goes.

I've been trying to figure out how much slack to cut President-elect Obama in his choice to have Rev. Rick Warren deliver the invocation at the inauguration. At first blush it seems to me a massive slap in the face to the GLBT folk (and their friends and family) who helped to elect him.

Yes, it is merely symbolic. It is not policy related. And maybe I can cut him some slack on this.

Then I read Warren's comments equating homosexuality with incest and pedophilia, and I read that until recently he had a message on his church's web site that an "unrepentant" homosexual could not be a member of his church.

And I think - couldn't we have found someone else?

The GLBT community is accustomed to being thrown under the bus at the first sign of friction, but it is almost as if the incoming administration is going out of their way to slight them with this decision. Make no mistake about it, Obama has been consistently against marriage rights for homosexuals, so perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised. But Warren has become a lightening rod to advocates of gay rights because of his disturbing statements linked above and because of his strong support for California Proposition 8.

To invite Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the inaugural is not to encourage unity with religious conservatives - they are upset that he accepted the invitation. No, to invite Rick Warren is to say to gays and lesbians and their families, at the outset of this administration we're putting politics above civil rights and equality and there will be a powerful reminder on an otherwise joyous day that there are still second class citizens in this country.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Champagne and a few tears flowing at the FV household.

America has made a choice and I am elated at this historic moment.

We have a chance now to get our country back to where it needs to be. To be a beacon of democracy, equality, prosperity, brotherhood and hope to the world.

"A government of the people, by the people, and for the people has not perished from the earth." ~President-elect Barack Obama

Monday, November 3, 2008

Holding my breath for one more day

Not much left to say. Except go out and vote!

Madelyn Dunham RIP

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Important note from Texas Freedom Network

Calling all Texans: Let's keep creationism out of our kids' science classes.

It is time for the public comment period on the state's science curriculum standards. The draft looks very good, by the way. But that doesn't mean the anti-science conservatives on the Board can't wreck it. As many of us as possible need to make our voices heard and follow these steps helpfully supplied by TFN:

1. Click here to go to the comments form on the TEA Web site.
2. Scroll down to "Directions for Using the Feedback Forms." You will find a list of links to feedback forms for Grades K-2, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, and high school courses. Forms for Grades K-8 are in Microsoft Excel. You have a choice of formats for the high school form: Adobe Acrobat or Microsoft Word.
4. Once you have completed a feedback form (each is short), you may save the file on to your computer. Then you have three options for sending the form to TEA:
- Attach the saved file of the completed form to an e-mail and send it to TEA at Please put SCIENCE COMMENTS in the Subject Line.
- Print out the completed form and fax it to TEA at (512) 463-8057; Fax to: SCIENCE COMMENTS
- Mail the completed form to TEA at the following address:
Texas Education Agency
Division of Curriculum, Science Comments
1701 N. Congress Ave.
Austin, Texas 78701-1494

Democracy happens

And in a big way. Congratulations, Texas, on surpassing the vote totals from 2004 before election day even gets here!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Good times, early voting

You know what makes up for jerks in East Texas tailgating you due to your bumper stickers and wackos putting propaganda in your mailbox due to your yard sign? (No, I'm not paranoid, why do you ask?)

Casting a ballot.

The line was out the door at Audelia Road Library for early voting on Sunday - and it bears mentioning that this was during the Cowboys game. It was a wonderful sight. And my 18 month old got a little more exposure to the democratic process.

I still don't like touch screen voting machines with no paper trail. But the election workers were very efficient and got us in there after about a ten minute wait. I wonder what it's going to look like on election day...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ruthify me

Let me just say, I can relate to what Larry David is going through. I've been really anxious and irritable lately. And maybe it's stuff at work and maybe it's years of savings evaporated in my 401k, but I know it's this election. I can't wait for this election to be over and in the meantime I need therapy.

This morning I asked God for grace and went running rather than reading the newspaper. And on my commute I kept my paper shut most of the train ride and my spirit was calmed by the sounds of Jack Johnson and Ruthie Foster.

I'm off work early today and am about to open up my voter's guide and a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Gotta figure out who to vote for in the Lead Leprechaun race (hat tip Anna Kay). If I have time I'll go ahead and hit the library for early voting.

November 5th can't get here soon enough.

Update: Polls closed at 5PM, but the Sample Ballot is filled out and ready to go.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Republican warm fuzzies

A friend and colleague of mine is a rabid Republican. She and I have fought for months, sometimes very uncomfortably, about politics and the presidential race. As the primaries were winding down she tried to bet me $100 that McCain would win the election. (I modified the bet to lunch and I'm looking forward to collecting on November 5.)

On Monday she said she had a confession for me. She was considering voting for Barack Obama for President of the U.S. and A. This is a woman who has never voted for a Democrat in her 40 years, still thinks George W. Bush has done a good job, thinks Obama is probably a socialist and also likes Sarah Palin. So what is it that has (possibly) turned her around?

In short: the need for the country to come together and the ugliness of McCain's supporters. The blatant racism and divisiveness that flood her e-mail inbox from acquaintances. She's sick of the division and doesn't want to be associated with the hatefulness of some of McCain's supporters. I assured her that I didn't think that McCain was a racist or that all his supporters were hateful people, but that the Obama camp would welcome her with open arms.

This is a big reason why McCain's campaign is failing. He could have repudiated these tactics. Instead he continues to fan the flames of hate and fear with mailers and robocalls continuing to try to link Obama with terrorism.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Thank you neighbor!

A neighbor noticed our missing sign this morning and offered that he had an extra one he'd be happy to give us. That's the kind of gesture that just makes you feel good.

Fire up Lake Highlands Dems! Let's turn precinct 2209 blue!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Lake Highlands Obama yard signs kidnapped

Some tool swiped a bunch of Obama yard signs in Lake Highlands - either last night or this morning. It appears that only Obama signs were taken. Other Democratic signs were in their proper place.

OK, this was probably some stupid kid, so I'll not try to read too much into this. But a few points:
1. Isn't the Republican party the party of law and order? Don't they get PO'd when someone takes their stuff (think tax policy)?
2. It's hard for me to think that it's merely a coincidence that this happened shortly after the character attack on Obama began. These accusations and insinuations give people tacit approval to do and think some pretty horrible stuff, as witnessed by the hate speech at the McCain-Palin rallies. Swiping my yard sign isn't hate speech and it may be a petty crime, but it is still a crime. And it is not how we are supposed to do democracy.
3. Those whippersnappers better stay off my lawn!

The FV family is contemplating a homemade sign to replace our stolen one. If we do so I'll throw a picture of it up here.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Thank God

After a week of stoking the fear and hate of the far right wing of his party, Senator McCain has finally done the right thing and is trying to calm down his supporters. Thank you, Senator. I hope your ads, rallies, and rhetoric will all shift to stop questioning the patriotism and motives of your opponent. Fear and hate will never bring this country together.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Stirring up trouble

I have become extremely concerned and disturbed as the campaign has taken a nasty turn this week. It is not surprising that the flailing Republican ticket has decided to go negative. What I have been disturbed by though is the violent language which is being stoked on the campaign trail. In separate instances this week crowds at McCain-Palin rallies have been heard to yell "treason," "traitor," "kill him," and "off with his head" in reference to Barack Obama. These remarks, many of them audible to the Republican candidates, were not immediately repudiated.

Even more disturbing is that, even in the face of this hatred, the campaign has kept up the same line of attack. They are fomenting an environment where it would not be surprising for some wingnut to attempt an act of violence against Obama, one of his supporters, or even a member of the media which has also been on the receiving end of much of this same vitriol.

This is not supposed to be the way we conduct democracy in America folks. Please see Andrew Sullivan's piece on this.

Obama is probably going to win this election. Let's not create an environment where the next president has to go everywhere in a bullet proof pope-mobile and his family and country have to be fearful for his life.

John McCain can put a stop to this. I'm waiting to see some leadership from him. As Sullivan signs off: "For once in this campaign, put your country first."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Culture clash at Flagpole Hill

Well, I can see everything is pretty much as I left it back in June. There's plenty on my mind and I have lots of opinions on the presidential campaign, but nothing that I'll share right now.

An interesting thing happened this evening. While picnicking (can you verb picnic?) with friends at Flagpole Hill, near the end of our time there, I saw something that at once piqued my interest and then my own reaction surprised me.

It was a beautiful evening, still a little warm even with the cooling we received courtesy of the edge of hurricane Ike that passed by yesterday. Some older kids were flying a big kite and we talked about how they pitted kites against one another in Afghanistan, like in The Kite Runner.

Our kids played on the playground with the other kids, most of whom were primarily Spanish speaking. This doesn't bother me too much to be in the minority and I consider it good for the kids to be around people who are different from them. I expect it at the public parks because for whatever reason the Latino population makes much better use of the parks system than the white families do.

We had dinner and then played some more. When we were almost ready to leave a family made their way to the park with two women in full burka, only their eyes peeking out. Another reminder of Afghanistan in the days after the 7th anniversary of 9/11/2001. I pointed them out to my wife but reserved any comment until we were driving home when all I could muster was "that freaked me out a little." She seemed to agree and we said later that it seems so oppressive.

The giant American flag overhead seems to stand in stark contrast to these women's attire. As we try to teach our kids to respect other cultures, I'm realizing that some cultures seem completely incompatible and at odds with ours. I think there's room for all of us here, but this multicultural society of ours isn't always the beautiful melting pot or salad bowl we like to imagine.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Bubble to study congestion pricing

Bubble City, a.k.a. Highland Park, Texas, is planning to study tolling Mockingbird Lane for through traffic.

This is a great idea. I think the Dallas City Council should immediately move to study tolls for those residents of the Park Cities who would like to leave the comfort of the Bubble to drive on Dallas city streets.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Democrats, not bargaining chips

Go to huffingtonpost and read this great column by Clinton supporter Hilary Rosen. She has it exactly right. Clinton missed her chance last night to end this primary with some grace. And now she's trying to use her supporters as some kind of bargaining chip for who knows what.

Senator Clinton's speech last night was a justifiably proud recitation of her accomplishments over the course of this campaign, but it did not end right. She didn't do what she should have done. As hard and as painful as it might have been, she should have conceded, congratulated, endorsed and committed to Barack Obama.

As I have some friends and family who have supported Sen. Clinton, I have tried not to be too critical of her or her candidacy. But she needs to stop. Both sides have made some gaffes. Unfortunately her gaffes are going to be used by the Republicans in general election ads against Obama.

Concede the election and get in line behind our nominee, Senator Clinton. The primaries are over and it is time to step aside and turn our focus on winning the White House.

Update Thursday: Obviously I'm pleased and relieved that Clinton plans to suspend her campaign on Saturday. Better late than never. Hopefully her supporters will feel welcomed into the Obama tent. Time heals all wounds and we have plenty of time between now and November.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

We have a nominee

Barack Obama claims the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.

“You chose to listen not to your doubts or your fears, but to your greatest hopes and highest aspirations,” Mr. Obama told supporters at a rally in St. Paul. “Tonight, we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another — a journey that will bring a new and better day to America. Because of you, tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.”

It's been a long road to where we are tonight. It will be good to enjoy it for an evening.

This general election contest won't be an easy one, but sitting here tonight taking in the historical nature of Obama's candidacy and the hopeful nature of his message, I truly believe that this is the right candidate at the right time to lead our country. It is time to show what America can do when we listen to the better angels of our nature again.

Friday, May 30, 2008

A note to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee

"It's clear, this election they're having is not going to count for anything."
-Hillary Clinton (referring to the Michigan primary), October 11, 2007

“Votes cast outside the rule of law and in the absence of contested elections lack moral standing and by themselves have no legitimate claim on the selection of delegates to the national party convention.”
-Tom Mann, The Brookings Institution

Wherein I discuss city finances, voting, hotels, and the Trinity River

This is your last day to vote to rename Industrial Blvd over by our new Trinity River park/highway/floodway/boondoggle. Go here to vote!

And while you are exercising your right to make your voice heard to rename a street, remember that your elected representatives aren't interested in your input for things like building a 1,200 room convention center hotel for $500M with revenue bonds. Nope, we don't need a vote for the city getting into the hotel business. But renaming Industrial, now that's important stuff.

Jim Schutze points out the extra incongruity in this whole hotel business when you consider that the city is going to have to curtail basic services due to declining sales tax revenue. So the city is $50M in the hole for the next budget year but we've decided to spend $500M on a hotel. And Jim doesn't buy the argument that it's free money because it's revenue bonds. There's no guarantee that revenue generated by the hotel will cover the debt service on these bonds. And if revenue does fall short they become general obligation bonds. Translation: the taxpayers just bought debt service on their fancy hotel to add to the budget deficit. Thanks Mayor Tom and Council!

Since it's Friday and I don't want to end on a down note, here's some great news about the new Audobon Center, which is one of the bright spots of the whole Trinity River project.

"We wanted the building itself to be a teaching tool," said Craig Reynolds, a principal in Brown Reynolds Watford Architects Inc., the project's architects. "The idea was to create something that's an extension of the natural setting, rather than something that intrudes on that setting.

"We hope that because of the way it's been designed and built, this center will help convey the message that the land and the water are worth preserving."

According to the Dallas school district, there are 37 elementary schools, seven middle schools, six high schools and one Montessori magnet school within five miles of the center. Together, they have almost 38,000 students.

Most of these students are from low-income families. Some have never seen a river except from a car, a forest except on television, a fish except in fish sticks.

The opportunity to reach this urban school population was one of the things that attracted Audubon to the project, said Ben Jones, the group's director of education at the center.

Way to go Audubon Texas, Meadows Foundation, and Dallas Parks and Recreation! This will truly be a great asset to our city.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Bridge opens in Dallas

Dallas' new homeless assistance center, The Bridge (what an unfortunate name, BID), opened yesterday.

How about this for some anecdotal evidence of initial success: I normally pass 3 Street 'Zine vendors (homeless folks selling newspapers) on my walk from the train each morning. I can see each of their faces but I don't know their names. This morning none of them were out there. I am assuming they each got a good night's sleep courtesy of the City of Dallas.

Apparently one difference between The Bridge and our privately run shelters is that The Bridge is not kicking people out the door in the morning. And they will be set up to treat some of the underlying causes of homelessness. I wish them all the success in the world.

I'm scheduled to volunteer at Austin Street Shelter this evening. I will be curious to see if they have less of a crowd than normal due to the opening of The Bridge.

Update: There were about 350 people staying at Austin Street Wednesday night, fairly close to capacity for a mild dry evening. It seems Austin Street has a very good reputation among the homeless population and Dallas can use the additional shelter.

Bring on the general election

Obama passed another milestone yesterday by locking in a majority of pledged delegates with his win in Oregon and despite the drubbing in Kentucky. But can I tell you that I have been genuinely energized by his past couple of speeches. And it's because the focus has turned on McCain, the general election, and the battle of ideas.

And despite McCain's supposed advantage in foreign policy, he appears to have adopted the policies of the Bush administration from Iraq to Iran to Cuba. And if that is McCain's position, that is a debate that Obama will handily win because the American people are tired of a lack of diplomacy and a foreign policy that has isolated our country and made us less safe. Bring it on.

Friday, May 16, 2008

LH Town Center to seek LEED certification

The Lake Highlands Town Center will be pursusing sustainable development practices, including LEED certification for the whole development. This is awesome news, courtesy of the Advocate blog. Props to Prescott Realty!

Going Green: Sustainable Development
Underscoring a commitment to environmental conservation, Prescott Realty Group President Vance Detwiler announced several “green” initiatives that are being implemented with development of the Lake Highlands Town Center, including:

Creation of tree farms to preserve current trees for future use in the development
Rainwater collection system for irrigation
Building planning and orientation to reduce solar effects
Recycling of bricks, appliances and grinding of materials from demolished apartments
Crushing and recycling of concrete slabs for fill material and road base on off-site projects
Prescott plans to seek a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Neighborhood Development certification, currently being piloted by the U.S. Green Building Council.

“The very nature of the transit-oriented and pedestrian-friendly Town Center will encourage conservation and allow the entire community to take part in preserving and promoting a healthy, walkable environment,” explained Detwiler. “The Town Center’s unique integration of outdoor amenities and urban conveniences will really set it apart from other urban mixed-use developments.”

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Toll road delays and overruns


WFAA Channel 8 reported last night that the tollroad in our floodway is behind schedule and overbudget from what we were promised last year during the referendum. Might cost more than $2 billion according to the report (that's up from $1.3B in November). Thing is, this is exactly what the Vote Yes folks had been saying. And as Angela Hunt points out in her interview in the report, we don't know who is going to pay for these overruns. Will it be the tollway authority? Leppert claims the city has capped it's commitment to the road. I don't think I've heard that from anyone else.

As Schutze notes, Gene Rice of the Army Corps of Engineers was very noncommital on the timelines for this road. They don't even have an environmental impact statement yet. I have my fingers crossed that the impact statement will shut down the road portion of this project. Putting a road in a floodway is not only dangerous for increasing the risk of flooding, it's also bad for the wetlands in the floodway. I don't know if that is considered in this study or not. But perhaps we'll have an administration that puts a spine back in the EPA before they're ready to start moving dirt.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

$500 million convention center hotel: economic engine or boondoggle?

The Dallas City Council is set to vote today on the purchase of land adjacent to the convention center for the purposes of developing a connected hotel, which apparently the convention folks have long told us we desperately need. Price tag for the land: $42 million. The tax appraisal was recently raised from around $7 million to closer to the purchase price to reflect the fact that it won’t be used as a parking lot any more.

Mayor Leppert is leading the charge for this convention center hotel. He had the council in executive session (read behind closed doors) a week or two ago and it was then decided that Dallas not only needed this hotel now, but Dallas needed to own it outright rather than just subsidize it. And it might cost $400-$500 million to build. And we don’t even know if it will make money, so add years of potential operating losses to that number and all of a sudden we’re talking real money.

And of course the voters shall have nothing to say about it. This hotel is to be financed with revenue bonds that do not require a vote of the citizenry.

Leppert has almost the entire council behind him on this, as he did with the Trinity River referendum, with the exception of council members Mitchell Rasansky and Angela Hunt. You’ve got to admit, the man can build a coalition. They’ve managed to keep Rasansky quiet with a ruling that he could not engage in vote or debate on this issue due to some Citigroup stock he held (the company that will underwrite bonds issued by the city for this deal). I thought this was a flimsy excuse to silence Rasansky when the city attorney announced it, but there it is. It’s not like this is going to really affect his Citigroup stock value, a company with a $122B market cap. I’ll just note that anyone with a mutual fund indirectly owns shares of Citigroup, but I digress.

At any rate, Rasansky is silent no more. He has spoken in an Op-Ed piece in this morning’s DMN, ethics be damned. And it’s a good piece.

Here’s the thing. Neither Rasansky nor Hunt has come out against the hotel! They have both just stated that they would like to look at it further before putting taxpayers on the hook for half a billion dollars. And that is a very prudent position, especially in a city with a low hotel occupancy rate (Rasansky states it is less than 65 percent) and in a location that no private hotel developer has yet said this is where we want to put 1,200 rooms. Add to that a convention business that may be about to change radically with the advent of $120/bbl oil and the fact that Dallas is not a destination city like Miami or Las Vegas.

I haven’t read Leppert’s response yet, but I’ll bet he plays the old “world class city” tune, the one that lulls Dallasites into believing that we are just one signature bridge, one road in our drainage ditch, and one fancy publicly owned hotel away from being Los Angeles.

Leppert and his cronies on the council want to rush this through. And they might yet get away with it. Astonishing, really, that something this big could get slipped in under the public’s apathetic nose. Even the Morning News editorial board, Leppert’s lead cheerleader on the Trinity vote, is saying to slow down.

Slow down, Council. You still answer to the voters.

Update: Unfair Park is reporting that the council voted (with 2 dissents) to "get into the hotel business." I don't know yet if that means they voted to purchase the land or to actually go ahead with development of a hotel. If it's the latter... wow, that was fast!

Update 2: It appears from the resolution language that the council has authorized the sale of bonds for the land purchase and directed the city manager to enter into negotiations with developers and operators to build and operate the hotel. Funding for the actual hotel would have to be at a later meeting. Again... wow!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Lost in Austin again

Had a nice little weekend in Austin-town. I am reminded that while I may be considered a tree hugging socialist in Dallas for having an Obama sticker on my V-dub, I look like a prep school yuppie in Austin, even in my Birks.

You need to experience the Austin Motel on S. Congress folks. "So near, yet so far out." It has loud A/C units, but is comfortable, clean, basic, and right in the middle of all that S. Congress has to offer. (And with thematic rooms to boot.)

Watch out for bats.

Shout out to Kim and Jason for their hospitality. ¡Salud!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Closing the deal

That's what we saw last night. Obama closed the deal with a 13 or 14 point win in North Carolina and a squeaker of a loss in Indiana. Now I think Hillary stays in for two reasons: to save face a bit and come away with a couple more wins, and to avoid embarrassing her party's nominee by allowing him to potentially lose a primary or two after she's dropped out.

They were still talking about how unbeatable a joint ticket would be on the Diane Rehm Show this morning. I actually think it could happen except for the fact that I don't think Obama wants a former president second guessing him from the Naval Observatory. That's got to be an even bigger weight than the ego bruising that's been going on.

We shall see. But this primary is pretty much over folks.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Prediction time

I normally don't like to do this but it feels like shooting fish in a barrel at this point: Sen. Clinton will win Indiana. Sen. Obama will win North Carolina, albeit by a smaller margin than he needs to claim a decisive win, and will continue to run out the clock on Clinton through the remaining primaries in a rather uninspiring fashion.

Superdelegates will stick their fingers in the air and see that to override the pledged delegate count would be lunacy on a grand scale, and the majority of them will declare for Obama. After the superdelegates are all declared there will be some kind of compromise worked out to "seat" Florida and Michigan without allowing them to alter the outcome and we will have our nominee sometime in June.

And we can stop the Hillary Clinton deathwatch, pick a VP, and have several months to take on McCain.

Can you tell I'm tired of the primaries? Well, here's something completely different: The Morning News reported on a Rasmussen poll this morning showing Sen. John Cornyn beating Rick Noriega 47 to 43. That's a Republican incumbent in May polling less than 50% in a bright red state. Watch your back Cornyn. Texas might have an early retirement plan in mind for you. And now the big announcement: FV is today officially declaring for Rick Noriega for United States Senate!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Willie!

The red headed stranger turns 75 today! My iPod will have Whiskey River on continuous loop in tribute.

"Here I sit with a drink and a memory
But I'm not cold, I'm not wet, and I'm not hungry
So classify these as good times. Good times."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Blue Lone Star State?

Perhaps borrowing a page from the Dallas Cowboys playbook, our fine state may be ready to change its Lone Star to blue. (Butchered metaphor? Perhaps, but I stand by it.)

We received our fresh clean shiny new copy of Texas Monthly on Saturday with a very craggy Willie Nelson on the cover. He’s still going strong no doubt. We should probably go ahead and institute a monarchy and crown him King of Texas.

But what caught my eye were not Willie’s weathered hands (OK, those caught my eye as well), but Paul Burka’s column asking if Texas is about to be a Democratic state again? (Almost Blue, May 2008). Fascinating to even ponder the question.

Burka notes that there were scads more Democratic voters in the March primary than Republicans in several key counties including Dallas, Tarrant, Harris, Collin, and Denton. And there were just about as many total voters in the primary as there were in the 2004 general election.

Of course Dallas county Dems swept out the Republicans last year, in what has been considered the first possible sign of a realignment. Even competent smart officeholders were not spared (paging Margaret Keliher, we miss you!) if they had an R next to their name.

There has been quite a bit of speculation that some of the strong numbers in the Democratic primary came from cynical and insincere Republicans who were trying to extend the Democratic primary as long as possible by voting for Senator Clinton. Burka thankfully notes that the numbers do not seem to bear this out.

Is Texas becoming a blue state again? Not even King Willie knows, but we’ll find out in November (watch out Sen. Cornyn!)

Welcome to Dallas, Bishop Katharine!

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church in the U.S., was on hand yesterday to bless a community garden at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Dallas. This was Bishop Katharine's first visit to Dallas in her capacity as Presiding Bishop. The small, social justice-minded congregation will use the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor to help fill inventories at local food banks.

Three Cheers for St. Thomas parish! Three Cheers for Bishop Katharine! Y'all come back now.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Thanks be to God (and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board)

The Academic Excellence and Research Committee of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board voted unanimously to deny the request of a creationist group to offer a masters degree in science.

This sets up the vote by the full Board today.

“Religious belief is not science,” Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes said. “Science and religious belief are surely reconcilable, but they are not the same thing.”


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

1, 2, 3, 4, Murdoch declares a newspaper war

Rupert Murdoch, international king of media and new owner of The Wall Street Journal has declared war on The New York Times. Here's a great Newsweek article about the changes he has in mind. The short of it: a shift to more general news coverage and trying to broaden the appeal of the Journal beyond the business reader.

I'm sure it's no coincidence that the managing editor of the Journal just resigned.

I'm no fan of Rupert Murdoch's politics or what he's done to our political discourse with the Faux News Channel, but this guy believes in the contribution print media makes and is willing to invest money in the Journal, a great newspaper, and put it up against the preeminent American newspaper.

Some analysts are suggesting that it's not a good move to change the Journal. I think they will pick up some readers like me who are sick of their thinning local paper but still want a smart daily newspaper. I'm not sure how big a group we are, though.

Meanwhile, the Times had a bad first quarter and people are floating the idea of Michael Bloomberg buying the Times and taking it private. This is an idea whose time has come, by the way. I think at least a few of the major dailies will go private in the next few years to keep them from the kind of cost cutting they've had to endure to survive Wall Street's expectations. The Sulzberger family that has a controlling interest in the Times says it's not for sale.


And on it goes

The presidential race continues to Indiana and North Carolina. I like the metaphor that Clinton is "running out of runway." Give her props, she won Pennsylvania, a state whose demographics heavily favor her. But the math just doesn't work for her to overtake Obama in pledged delegates or popular vote (which everyone has been saying for about six or seven weeks now).

Look for the Clinton campaign to once again raise the specter of Michigan and Florida primaries and taking that fight to the convention.

But look for her advisers to encourage her to drop out if she can't win Indiana (North Carolina should be a lock for Obama) on May 6.

Meanwhile, let's consider if we want more careless blustery rhetoric in the White House. In an election day pronouncement yesterday morning, Clinton suggested that the United States could "totally obliterate" Iran if they attacked Israel. Oy.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hug a tree today

For your Earth Day reading pleasure, I offer the following:

The Transportation Department will make an announcement today that they have a plan to enact the law passed last year raising fuel economy standards for cars and trucks. Does it concern anyone that it merits an announcement that the executive branch will comply with the law?

Paul Krugman scares the pants off of anyone remotely concerned about commodity prices, overpopulation, and the sea change that is already underway. This is gloomy stuff, but it is important to understand what we're going through.

On a more hopeful note, Michael Pollan makes me want to plant a vegetable garden. This is a good read, and speaks to the problem that our individual actions seem to pale in comparison to the magnitude of challenge of climate change. But there are actions we can take to help make viral shifts in the way folks think and live.

Happy Earth Day!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tag Team Character Assasination

My quickly dashed off thoughts about the Democratic debate on ABC.

We should launch an investigation looking for links to RWNJ swift boaters who must have brainwashed George Stephanopolous and Charlie Gibson to relentlessly question Obama's credibility based on such things as his not wearing a flag lapel pin and his sitting on the same board with a 1960s radical.

They really were digging for skeletons in the closet. Maybe they just didn't want to be accused of giving him a free pass on SNL. I was ready for them to ask him if he isn't really a secret Muslim.

They also tried to entrap both candidates on tax issues by getting the candidates to pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class, which by some amazing stretch just became people making less than $250,000 a year. Excuse me, but what freaking planet do these folks live on? Then they questioned the candidates' openness to raising the ridiculously low 15% capital gains tax which has helped to usher in a second Gilded Age (that's not a good thing, folks, if you care about massive gaps in income inequality not seen since the 1920s and stagnant wages for average Americans) and said that would affect middle class taxpayers. So then George and Charlie grilled the candidates on going back on the pledge the moderators just extracted from them because the capital gains tax impacts the middle class as well as the wealthy. Is this a debate or do they have them on the witness stand?

I know it must be fun to try to insert yourself into the story, but we could have used more moderating and a little less attack dog journalism last night.

I got so angry watching that so-called debate, which didn't even have a question about an actual issue until about 50 minutes in, that I had to shut it off and go for a run.

Maybe I've become a little too personally invested in this. I didn't like seeing my candidate, the probable Democratic nominee, on the defensive. But I was also embarrassed for our democracy by the ridiculous display by the moderators on ABC last night.

Update: See Tom Shales' analysis of ABC's performance last night. We miss you, Peter Jennings.

Update 2: Apparently the blogosphere is abuzz about how poorly this debate was conducted. Good to know I'm not alone.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Hump Day Quick Hits

As we wander through that twilight zone that is the space between Tax Day and Earth Day, I offer you the following Wednesdaylicious rapid strikes.

I am shocked! Shocked, I tell you!
Proof that outrage over the words "bitter" and "cling" is mostly media-manufactured: Obama's poll numbers in Pennsylvania are basically the same as they were last week, down to Hillary by high single digits.

The Boss endorses Obama!
I have no idea how much this helps, but it is really cool nonetheless.

Yes we do, Mr. President.
President Bush, who started a war of choice with a nation that was not a threat and has therefore caused the deaths of thousands, welcomed the Pope to the United States with the following statement: "In a world where some treat life as something to be debased and discarded, we need your message that all human life is sacred.”

I'm an old man and old men read their news from dead trees, dammit!
Someone else feels my pain about the lousiness that The Dallas Morning News has become. So I found it a bit late. Tim Rogers over at D Magazine says it very well:’s my two cents: I don’t want my newspaper easier to read. I want it smarter to read, more engaging to read. I actually want it more challenging to read.

And the idea of making it “easier to use” is patently silly. It’s not a universal remote. It’s a newspaper. If the DMN is trying to reach people who are having trouble using a newspaper, they are in worse trouble than I imagined.

I have made the decision to cut the cord and let loose my hometown newspaper for now. I'll cancel as soon as my Wall Street Journal subscription starts. Luckily there are some decent hometown blogs that should keep me well apprised of the goings on in our fair burg. (Yes, the Journal is a Murdoch-owned property and their editorial page is a far right mouthpiece which shall line our cat box, but it still has excellent original reporting.) Here is the letter I am sending to the DMN, if there is still anyone there to read it:

As The Morning News has slimmed down every couple of years I knew that eventually the time would come that I would have to cancel my subscription because spending my morning with the paper was no longer a valuable use of my time. I’m sad to report that time has come.

The latest incarnation of The News is only slightly less useful than the previous, but over the years as the paper has cut costs, reduced staff, reduced content, and reduced quality, it has become but a shell of the newspaper I subscribed to when I first moved to the area in 1997.

Best of luck to you, and if you ever decide to invest in The News rather than relentlessly cut costs I’ll be willing to give you another shot.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Neanderthal Man to State Board of Education: Don't Fence Me In!

Apparently I neglected to pick up a copy of the Dallas Observer a couple of weeks ago, and I missed a well reported story by Jesse Hyde about the ultra-right wing creationists taking over our State Board of Education. Luckily I found the article online yesterday. For those who are keeping score, the creationists hold 7 out of 15 seats and Gov. Perry appointed one of them to the chairmanship. Creationist Barney Maddox lost a bid to unseat incumbent Pat Hardy in the Republican primary in Fort Worth in March, so we’ve narrowly avoided giving these folks complete control, but it’s a little too close for comfort for this future public school parent.

Science textbook adoption is to occur this year, so there is a critical battle being waged to keep real science in the textbooks and not allow the board to sneak their “weaknesses in evolutionary theory” into the text.

I was pleased to learn from Hyde’s article that the board will not be able to blatantly put creationism into the textbooks due to a 1987 Supreme Court ruling. It seems that ruling is what spurred the rise of sciency-sounding intelligent design as a “wedge” the creationists want to drive into our science classes to make room for creationism.

In the article, Hyde revisited the incredible decision the board made last year to reject a highly successful math text, part of a program that has raised scores dramatically in Dallas schools – 11 to 47 percent improvements at various grade levels. I had a visceral reaction as I read how the RWNJs used this issue as a test case to see how far they could go in rejecting perfectly good, possibly excellent, textbooks for whatever reasons they chose. These folks, some of whom didn’t even send their own children to public schools, are playing games with Texas’ future. Geraldine Miller, board member from Dallas, fought to keep the math textbook. Here’s what she ran up against:

Miller argued passionately for the books. The state math review panel recommended them, as did the state's commissioner of education, and several top-notch private schools in Dallas were using the book. But for reasons Miller didn't understand, the seven far-right members of the board were arguing against it.

"They said the multiplication tables didn't go high enough. They said it introduced calculators too early and that was a crutch," Miller recalls. "So I turned to the publisher and said, 'Here are the concerns they have, are you willing to work with the board and make these changes?' And they said, 'Absolutely.' They stayed up all night working on it, and in the morning they made this beautiful presentation on how they would make the changes."

Miller says the publishers then asked the board if they had any other requests. None was given. The vote was called. And the book was rejected 7-6.

"You know what that was? That was a display of power. That's when I realized the direction the board had gone and became very worried," Miller says.

Like others, Miller now thinks the main reason the book was rejected was to set a precedent.

"If they can reject a math book and not give a reason, then they can do the same thing to a science book," [board member Mary Helen] Berlanga says. "It was very clever how they got rid of that book in November, and they will use the same tactics to get rid of books that don't say what they want about intelligent design."

Can we please stop the madness already?

Scientists and businesses are speaking up that we need to make sure Texas science classrooms stick to real science, and to educate the public that there is no controversy in the scientific community about evolutionary theory. And that belief in God is not at odds with evolutionary theory. I don’t know that they can change the minds of the creationists on the SBOE, but they need to keep it up and get this issue out in front of the public. Only with public pressure and accountability can we retain credibility, reason, and real science in Texas classrooms.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

TEC named official denomination of MLB

Episcopal Cafe is reporting today that The Episcopal Church has been named the official denomination of Major League Baseball, narrowly beating out the Baptists and the Catholics.

Selig said that Episcopalians bring the right mix of arcane tradition, an appreciation of minutiae and a tolerance for long stretches of relative inaction that make them "a good fit for us."

Play ball! Happy April 1.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Sleep Through the Static

On the occassion of 5 years at war in Iraq, 4,000 American soldiers killed and 29,000 wounded.

"Sleep Through The Static"
by Jack Johnson

Trouble travels fast
When you're specially designed for crash testing
Or wearing wool sunglasses in the afternoon
Come on and tell us what you're trying to prove

Because it's a battle when you dabble in war
You store it up, unleash it, then you piece it together
Whether the storm drain running rampant just stamp it
And send it to somebody who's pretending to care

Just cash in your blanks for little toy tanks
Learn how to use them, then abuse them and choose them
Over conversations relationships are overrated
"I hated everyone" said the sun

And so I will cook all your books
You're too good looking and mistooken
You could watch it instead
From the comfort of your burning beds
...Or you can sleep through the static

Who needs sleep when we've got love?
Who needs keys when we've got clubs?
Who needs please when we've got guns?
Who needs peace when we've gone above
But beyond where we should have gone?
We went beyond where we should have gone

Stuck between channels my thoughts all quit
I thought about them too much, allowed them to touch
The feelings that rained down on the plains all dried and cracked
Waiting for things that never came

Shock and awful thing to make somebody think
That they have to choose pushing for peace supporting the troops
And either you're weak or you'll use brut force-feed the truth
The truth is we say not as we do

We say anytime, anywhere, just show your teeth and strike the fear
Of god wears camouflage, cries at night and drives a dodge
Pick up the beat and stop hogging the feast
That's no way to treat an enemy

Well mighty mighty appetite
We just eat 'em up and keep on driving
Freedom can be freezing take a picture from the pretty side
Mind your manners wave your banners
What a wonderful world that this angle can see

But who needs to see what we've done?
Who needs please when we've got guns?
Who needs keys when we've got clubs?
Who needs peace when we've gone above
But beyond where we should have gone?
Beyond where we should have gone
We went beyond where we should have gone
Beyond where we should have gone

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Superdelegate "primary" in Dallas?

Here is one good suggestion on how to end the Democratic stalemate, floated by Governor Philip Bredesen of Tennessee: a superdelegate "primary" meeting in June.

Dallas was mentioned as a possible location for this event due to its easy access (and our fabulous nightlife I'm sure...)

The only thing that causes me heartburn about this idea is that it would wait until after the ten remaining state primaries and we'd have the sniping and media-fueled mud slinging until June. But it's better than waiting until August.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Party leaders, now is the time to intervene

It appears that Senator Clinton cannot win the nomination without the superdelegates overturning the will of the voters. And the only way she can make a convincing case that she is "more electable" than Obama, despite trailing in both the popular vote and the delegate count, is to tear down Obama so much that his campaign is too badly damaged to compete in the general election.

It is time for this to stop.

Al Gore and Nancy Pelosi need to step in and ask Clinton to exit the race for the good of the party. Those two have the necessary clout to pull it off.

I'm not anti-Hillary. I will vote for whichever candidate is the Democratic nominee in November. But she can't beat Obama without the superdelegates.

And more than one observer has noted that if the superdelegates overturn the will of the voters, thus shutting out the only black person to ever have a real shot at the presidency, the party will spend years recovering from the ensuing scandal. Yes, the whole furor about race has entered the campaign and you can't get rid of it now. It's out there. And if the party perceives Clinton as "more electable" than Obama, there is a large constituency of the party that will hear "more acceptable to whites." Fairly or not, that is how it will be perceived.

Leaders, it is time to lead. The Republicans are licking their chops in a year they should be resigned to a punishing loss.

The Morning News - the newspaper I love to hate

So my daily newspaper unveiled its latest look this morning. And it just screams USA Today. The pages are narrower and the section mastheads have a new colorful font. My pages weren't actually narrower this morning, just more white space on the sides - apparently they aren't done with all the old newsprint yet.

They assure us that this won't mean fewer stories. But I can guarantee you it will mean fewer words. Like in the story in the business section this morning about the price of oil and the stronger dollar. It was five paragraphs long. No, I'm sorry, upon closer examination, it's five sentences long, each sentence indented.

It makes me consider ditching the DMN for the Wall St. Journal, but the Journal's opinion pages make me angry, so there's no where to turn but the NY Times, which has such a user friendly site that I don't need the print edition (except on Sundays, which I will not relinquish any time in the forseeable future).

So I'll plod along with The Dallas Morning News, just taking whatever they throw at me, until it completely devolves into the free Quick tabloid the News publishes for commuters.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Obama picks up big endorsement

Question: Who is most frequently mentioned as a possible running mate for both Sens. Clinton and Obama?

Answer: Governor Bill Richardson, who will endorse Barack Obama today in Portland, OR.

This is a big win for Obama. In my admittedly biased opinion, I think this may be the first of several big endorsements to come Obama's way as Sen. Clinton's prospects dim.

Welcome to Team Obama, Governor. It's very good to have you!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Race in America

Barack Obama's powerful speech on Race in America on Tuesday was a poignant moment in this campaign. He addressed an issue that I had honestly hoped would not have to be addressed. After listening to his speech, I realized that it had to be addressed, and it's going to be a long conversation. For all we hope that these divisions don't exist, they do, and we are better off confronting them and working toward healing old and new wounds rather than glossing over them.

As if preaching from a text, the speech began with the preamble to the Constitution, "we the people, in order to form a more perfect Union..."

Indeed it has not yet been perfected, but it is up to all of us to work to form a more perfect Union.

Some of my favorite political commentary comes from Jon Stewart. On The Daily Show on Tuesday night, after all the requisite funny observations, Stewart offered this:

"At 11:00 on a Tuesday, a prominent politician spoke to Americans about race, as though they were adults."

If you haven't watched the whole speech for yourself, please do so. I found it much more powerful than just seeing or hearing a few soundbites on the news.

This is not the end of the conversation. This is not the beginning of the conversation. But the other day, Obama offered our country an important and honest contribution to this conversation about race that our country is all too happy to ignore.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

One week later, Texas called for Obama

I’d like to apologize to the rest of the nation on behalf of my home state. Apparently Texas Democrats have trouble not only with organization but with counting. But it appears that Sen. Obama actually won the most delegates in Texas according to CNN. And does that not mean that “Obama won Texas?”

Unfortunately because we didn’t have timely reporting of our caucus results (which in this day and age is ridiculous), the media and the public will remember last Tuesday as a victory for Sen. Clinton which gave her campaign the momentum to keep going. That momentum would have been seriously blunted if Texas had just called in their precinct caucus results to the party HQ on election night.

With Obama’s win in Mississippi, it is becoming increasingly apparent that Clinton will not be able to catch Obama in the pledged delegate count, even if the Florida delegation is seated as is. So her only hope is to have the superdelegates to overturn the will of the voters.

By the way, Florida and Michigan simply can’t be seated as is since the voters in those states did not believe their votes would count at the time. Therefore there was very little motivation for them to go to the polls. And of course Clinton was the only candidate on the Michigan ballot. I’m OK with a revote to allow their voice to be heard, but only if the DNC and both campaigns agree to the process (which may be a tall order). The simpler solution is to split the delegates 50/50 and save the money and energy for the general election.

In six long weeks we will see what the people of Pennsylvania have to say and hope that both the candidates are not too badly damaged and the party is not too badly fractured at that point.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

One more thought on the Texas primary

Just wanted to say thank you to the Fort Worth Republicans who kept creationist Barney Maddox off the State Board of Education. This was a very important election for the whole state and y'all came through. Thanks!

Clinton stops Obama's big mo'

The momentum has been halted. No way anybody's getting out of this race anytime soon. I think Obama will maintain his delegate lead. He'll actually probably win the most delegates in Texas due to the odd delegate rules, but that's a Pyrrhic victory. It's echos of 2000 with Gore winning the popular vote but losing in the electoral college.

(An aside: When is our democracy going to allow the people to directly elect its leaders? Why must we have surrogates vote for us? It benefits my candidate this time, but it seems not so, how shall we say, democratic.)

Well, this just means that several more states will get to have their voices heard. I just hope the party isn't completely fractured by the time we're done.

On to the next contest, which has no Presidential implications, but has lots of bracketology implications: Beat the hell outta Texas A&M!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Dems make FV work hard to make voice heard

Just got back from the caucus and put the kids to bed. What a crazy scene. I must agree with the gentleman who patiently waited beside me in line to sign in who observed: "who knew there were this many Democrats?"

It was also suggested that this would be more orderly if the Republicans were running it.

The party (I guess) assigned four precincts to vote in a single location. That would have comfortably accommodated the normal primary/caucus turnout. But of course there was nothing normal about this year.

We started out at 7:00 with people crammed into the hallways waiting for the voting to end. We had to clear out so they could be sure everyone had voted first. While we were waiting we met some other nice folks who had brought their 19-month old. He thought our 3-year old was interesting.

So after waiting maybe 30 minutes we had to find the room for our precinct. There were so many folks there that we couldn't hear the instructions from the volunteers (who had the patience of Job by the way - kudos to them). So precinct 2209 filed into the gym. There had to be more than 100 of us by the time we all got in there. More instructions we couldn't hear. Then the order to form 4 lines.

Then we stood there like cattle for about 20 more minutes to sign in for our candidate. After you sign in you can leave, which we did as it was past bedtime. You are encouraged to stay however to vote for the actual delegates who will represent your candidate at the next meeting/caucus/convention/whatever they call it. But the initial sign in is what determines the split of the delegates so we had done our duty.

If you stay I think you also get to weigh in on resolutions and party platform stuff and get to have a group hug and sing kumbayah. I hope there are hundreds of resolutions suggesting that this process be improved (although I have to admit it was pretty cool to participate in).

Ran into friends after we had signed in that were having to caucus in the hallway. My oldest didn't even want me to make up a goofy story at bedtime. Just lullabies please.

Time to go watch the returns. I'm told that CNN is calling Ohio for Clinton and Vermont for Obama. I'm afraid it's going to be quite a while before we know the outcome of the Lone Star State, since our caucus delegates are apparently allowed to change their minds and if they don't show they can be replaced by a delegate from the opposing candidate. I don't think it's officially official until the state convention in June. But surely we'll have a candidate by then!

It felt good to cast a vote in this historic election. I'm fired up and ready to go. Go America! Viva Obama!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Pajama Caucus

We're getting ready for step two of the Texas Two-Step in the FV household. Will attend the caucus at a nearby elementary school with kids in tow (probably in jammies). I'm really excited to get to participate in this way in choosing the nominee. It was just a few months ago I was grousing about how my vote wouldn't matter, and here we are with Texas as a crucial primary for the Democrats.

(Caucus is a funny word. Caucusing just looks wrong when you type it. Just an observation.)

At this point the campaign is turning increasingly negative and I think we need tomorrow night to be the last primary of import before somebody drops out. With the Republicans beginning to rally around McCain (or at least rally against The New York Times), the Dems can't afford to still be duking it out.

As far as I'm concerned, whoever is behind in the delegate count after tomorrow's contests needs to recieve all kinds of pressure to get out of the race for the good of the party and the nominee.

But 'til then, look out for Curious George slippers and dinosaur jammies at a primacaucus near you.

Si se puede.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Early voting done

FV did his civic duty this morning and moseyed down to the Records Building to cast a ballot for Obama. It was fairly busy for early voting. There was a short but growing line. I heard several people ask for Democratic ballots but none asking for Republican ballots. Wife of FV heard the opposite at the early polling location closer to Lake Highlands. I read somewhere that Dems are outpacing Reps by 3 to 1 (which makes sense considering the Republican nomination is all but locked up).

And I got a thin strip of yellow paper saying that I had voted and was therefore eligible to attend the caucus in my precinct next week. That's step two of the Texas 2-step, which will help choose 1/3 of the Democratic delegates. The Dallas Morning News added a third step in their editorial the other day, which I think is appropriate: write your party officials and tell them to simplify the process.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Texas hogs spotlight

There is so much to discuss about the campaign moving to Texas I don’t know where to begin. I did not take the morning off to attend the Obama rally on Wednesday. Some speculated that it must have been the largest political rally in the history of Dallas. People began lining up as early as 5 AM and hundreds were turned away as the event got underway. I did get to drive by while it was going on and of course the parking lots were packed, but that’s the only real personal observation I have of the event.

I thought both candidates came off very well in the Austin debate last night. The only gaffe I think was Hillary’s ill-considered line that Obama’s “plagiarism” wasn’t change you could believe in but change you could Xerox. Oops, should have put that in quotes; I’ll probably get in trouble for plagiarizing now. Obama’s response was perfect: this is silly to discuss. We should be discussing the real issues. It shows how desperate the Clinton campaign has become. They’re also accusing Obama of stealing their economic policy ideas.

But all in all it was a good debate. I just came away from it hoping that somebody bows out before the convention. The party will not be well served by a battle over super-delegates and whether or not to seat Florida and Michigan. Hopefully Obama will have enough momentum if he can win Texas or Ohio to make it obvious that he is going to be the Democratic nominee. If he wins both states I think we’re done.

There are Obama house parties in the neighborhood tomorrow. It’s not looking like I’ll be able to get out to one. The one I am drawn to is “Brewskis for Obama.” That one sounds like fun. But I do plan to try to attend the caucus on March 4 and I will report back if anything interesting goes down. Judging by the Iowa caucus it could be pretty boring.

Wife of FV was driving downtown this morning when she noticed some emergency vehicles. I’m pretty sure she was witnessing the aftermath of the death of Senior Cpl. Victor Lozada of the Dallas PD, whose motorcycle struck a retaining wall as he was leading Sen. Clinton’s motorcade. May he rest in peace.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Texas Democratic Primacaucus

Marc Ambinder at the Atlantic has an analysis of the Texas primary system, which is kind of a hybrid between a primary and a caucus. (Props to Frontburner for linking to this.)

It's a little confusing, but the upshot is don't write off Texas just because we have a large Latino population that should favor Clinton. Apparently the way the delegates are doled out has to do with previous election turnout, which might benefit Obama.

Oh, and forget what I said about Austin blindly falling into Hillary's arms. The Burnt Orange Report has endorsed Obama (I'm guessing they have a large student readership, so that makes sense). The party leadership in Texas seems lined up behind Clinton, but that might not make much difference in a state where the party is so weak.

We shall see. But we know who has "the big mo'" after sweeping the Potomac primaries yesterday.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

About that Obama personality cult

A lot of folks are cynical and put off by what is increasingly being referred to as a cult of personality around Barack Obama. I understand that reticence. But I wonder: isn’t this a natural byproduct of having a potentially transformational candidate at a time when the country desperately needs it? That’s what Obama’s running on. Whether he can deliver this transformation or not is another question. But when was the last time we had this much excitement about a presidential candidate? (My three year old even loves his name.)

Anyhow, I’m not concerned about the euphoria around Obama. He’s just a man, but maybe he has the chance to do something different and special. Perhaps that’s naïve, but permit a man some hope. We just won’t know until he’s sitting in the Oval Office.

I can understand the Clinton camp’s exasperation at his relative lack of experience but check out some of the important legislation he’s sponsored (often bipartisan bills). And his experience at the state level and in community organizing is relevant and positive. And as an online acquaintance put it he’s smart, thoughtful, and comes across as a human being.

As for the experience that really matters in the general election campaign, Clinton knows what it means to fend off mean-spirited political mud from the überconservatives and emerge victorious. She really is battle tested. But that’s not going to be enough to get her the nomination.

I have a theory about why Obama’s message is resonating in Middle America, while Hillary seems to be winning the big traditionally blue states like New York, California, and Massachusetts. We here in red state America know how vilified Hillary Clinton is. We know that this emotional response isn’t fair and doesn’t make logical sense, but there it is. I’m not sure that the people in the blue states get that. I don’t even think the frail Democratic Party down in Austin gets it.

A lot of people who would consider voting for a Democrat (and there are lots of these folks) will not consider putting another Clinton in office. We are ready for a change, a clean break. No Bushes or Clintons in the White House for a while. It’s been a dismal time. People think the country is on the wrong track and they’re ready to feel good about America again. Obama gives voice to that hope. That’s what this movement is about.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

They're campaigning down in Texas

Who'd a thunk it? Super Tuesday is over and we still have a race. The Morning News says it's been "decades" and the first time in a generation that the Texas primary has mattered to the outcome of the nominating contests. It certainly hasn't happened in my memory or probably in my lifetime. Let's bring it on and get out the vote!

I have an unsettling feeling though that the Democratic nominee will still be undecided after all the primaries and it will fall to the superdelegates to call a winner. I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Yes We Can

Memo from the Scooter Libby Chair in Political Ethics

SMU is planning for the eventual George W. Bush presidential library and public policy institute. The Orwellian-monickered "Freedom Institute" has raised much resistance among SMU and Methodist types concerned with the complete lack of university oversight this partisan "think tank" will have. Here is a great Unfair Park blog post about Rev. Andrew Weaver, SMU Perkins School of Theology grad and opponent of the Bush Institute at SMU. Someone posted some stuff from Weaver in the comments section that is worth a read. Here is the petition, which I will sign directly as an alumnus. It may already be too late, but there is a possibility that Weaver can force a vote on this by the South Central Jurisdiction of the Methodist Church.

Here's my position: a presidential library managed by the National Archives (assuming everything isn't shredded and classified) is an asset to any university. This is the place where scholars will come to study the documents and help write the history. A school of public service and even a non-partisan policy institute would likewise be assets to SMU. But a partisan policy institute associated with this administration and with zero oversight by the university should be rejected out of hand by SMU, the Methodist Church, and SMU's stakeholders - faculty, alumni, etc. The Bush administration should not get to use SMU's good name to further their cause.

The rest of the country is ready to move on from this administration. Are we going to be stuck with him here forever?

Friday, February 1, 2008

The peak oil scenario

Check out this fascinating article by Mimi Swartz in the new Texas Monthly. It’s about investment banker Matthew Simmons and his contention that a diminishing supply of oil will clash with soaring demand (especially form China and India) to paint a bleak future. The idea is called “peak oil” and it has several adherents, including oilman T. Boone Pickens. In typical magazine style, Swartz describes their meal and the fancy Houston Coronado Club, just to let you know that she dined in style for this assignment. Here’s a quick description of peak oil:

Slashing through his entrée, barely stopping for breath, he describes a bleak future, in which demand for oil will always surpass supply, the price will continue to rise—“so fast your head will spin”—and all sorts of problems in our carbon-dependent world will ensue. As fuel shortfalls complicate global delivery routes and leave farmers unable to run their tractors, we will face massive food shortages. Products made with petroleum, from asphalt and plastic to fabrics and computer chips, will also become scarcer and scarcer. Standards of living will fall, and people will not be able to pay their debts. Lending will tighten, and eventually there will be major defaults. Growth will cease, and hoarding will set in as oil becomes increasingly rare. Then, according to Simmons, the wars will begin. That is the peak oil scenario.

Sounds like fun, no? Just reading that makes one realize just how dependent we are on oil. So what kind of timeline are we on for reaching peak oil?

Simmons believes that the worldwide peak was reached in 2005. He estimates the rate of decline for all oil production at somewhere north of 5 percent a year. At the same time, the global need for oil is expanding exponentially, particularly as China and India claim their places on the world stage. In India energy needs are expected to grow 72 percent by 2025; China’s are expected to roughly double during the same time frame. In seventeen years the world’s demand for oil may well be more than 50 percent greater than it is today, while production capacity may well sink to 1985 levels.

Of course there are lots of industry experts who disagree with Simmons. He dismisses them as wishful thinkers. He claims their optimism that we will find new oil fields or that technology will curb our need for so much oil or the idea that high prices will tamp down demand as “faith-based.”

Just this week we’ve learned that Saudi Arabia and OPEC won’t be turning up the oil spigot to help ease a recession in the U.S. Is it because they won’t or because they can’t? I suppose we’ll see.

A few modest proposals from Simmons and others interviewed for the article: invest in education to prepare for a knowledge-based economy rather than one dependent on natural resources. Stop the 9 to 5 grind – office workers should work remotely rather than commute. Cut out the ridiculous food distribution system whereby we get out of season foods from distant lands.

I would argue that we also need to consider the costs of transporting goods every which way in order to get the lowest labor costs. That would suggest that manufacturing may experience resurgence in the U.S.

One thing about it, if we think 9/11 changed everything, a peak oil scenario will show us what happens when everything really changes.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

FV engages in what ifs

I am pleased with the results of the Florida Republican primary. McCain, while an Iraq war supporter, is still the sanest voice in the GOP field and could gain wide support in a general election. True, he would make it harder for the Democratic nominee to win in the general election, but wouldn’t it be great to have a contest between two good candidates? Granted, by November we’ll be sick of whoever the nominees are, but we’re not there yet.

If McCain remains the front-runner, the Republicans will be making a pragmatic choice by nominating their best chance to retain the White House. And as Andrew Sullivan points out, a McCain nomination means the sure end of U.S.-sanctioned torture, for which we can all be thankful.

On the other hand, if Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, the Dems will be chancing fate by selecting the most polarizing figure of the entire field. I’ve talked to a few people who are interested in Obama and his message, but would vote against Clinton in a heartbeat. These are folks who will vote; they’re not staying home. I think the Democratic leadership has realized this, with the vast majority of endorsements going Obama’s way. But I never underestimate the Clinton campaign and their ability to get what they want. And Edward’s exit could aid Clinton next week.

I’m not calling a Super Tuesday winner for either side. As far as I'm concerned it's still all up in the air. But my hope is for a McCain vs. Obama match up. And a plea that whoever the nominees are try to keep it about the issues and not about tearing each other down through lies and misrepresentation. This may be a silly hope, but as one candidate keeps reminding us, it’s not always naïve to hope.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Back to the future

“The choice in this election is not between regions or religions or genders. It’s not about rich versus poor, young versus old, and it’s not about black versus white. This election is about the past versus the future.”

Senator Barack Obama

Getcha faux hawks ready

Here’s an article from the Pop-Up Morning News that ran in the Saturday GuideLive section: “Bottle service a convenience and bragging right for big spenders.” Apparently there are places called “ultra lounges” where one can go to get one’s party on. Music, dancing, lights, drinks, the whole nightlife milieu. But if one would like a seat with a table next to it - one might say if one wants to “lounge” - one must purchase something called “bottle service” starting at about $300. One imagines it could be much more than that.

(This is all conjecture and second hand reporting as FV has not patronized one of these fine establishments. A fool and his money, etc.)

So what does one get for $300+? According to the article, you not only get a table, but bottles of liquor, mixers, and a cocktail waitress. And “sometimes a guard.” Seriously. Sounds like fun. Reminds me of this fine piece of field research about that enigmatic specimen of Dallas wildlife.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Cold wet quick hits/misses


Whole Foods does away with the plastic bag. We've been using the reusable bags for a few months now and they're great (when you can remember to bring them in the store). We've really cut down on the number of 1-use bags we throw in the recycling bin.

Businesses are moving from the 'burbs back into downtown. The thing about North Texas suburbs: there's no there there. Downtown is still gaining momentum. Hope it can continue through an economic downturn.

Barack Obama's MLK speech in Atlanta. Just wow.

Baylor 116, Texas A&M 110 5OT. Could the Bears be for real this year? It's looking good so far.


The Great Ice Storm of 2008. Looks a lot like rain to me.

Jeb Hensarling, my fearless congressman, was quoted in the New York Times (very end of the article). Apparently poor Jeb is too ideologically pure to get on board with the bipartisan stimulus package. He wants tax cuts for businesses rather than money in the hands of people who will spend it. I'd like to let Jeb in on a little secret, if there's no demand for your goods and services you will lay people off whether you get a tax cut or not. If there is demand for your goods and services you will invest capital whether you get a tax cut or not. End of lesson.

Kucinich exits Democratic primary. Dennis, we never really knew you. Keep up the good fight!

Evil developers knocked down the 100 year old McKinney Ave Baptist Church, also known affectionately as the Hard Rock Cafe Dallas, demonstrating once again the value Dallas places on its past. Can't wait for the WaMu to open on the site. Or if we're really lucky maybe it will be a CVS. Dare to dream.

Ticketmaster doesn't want me to have good seats for Springsteen (and I logged on the minute those suckers went on sale) so I ain't goin'.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

And we call California the land of the fruits and nuts

Yet another reason why we need Rick Perry out of the Governor's Mansion ASAP. (Did somebody once say we were a "weak governor state?" Wrong!)

Barry Smitherman, Perry's appointee for chairman of the Public Utility Commission, who sees his job as saving electricity deregulation (not as seeing that consumers pay fair rates and that we plan responsibly for our future energy needs), once wrote a book titled If Jesus Were an Investment Banker.

And apparently he was perfectly serious. Sometimes I feel like Eddie Albert on Green Acres.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Inmates running asylum

File under: "why ideologues have no place in government" OR "this concerns me as a parent of future public school students."

Apparently we have to worry about our math texts not passing muster with conservative Texas Board of Education members now. Who knew that math textbooks could be an ideological battleground? Apparently these folks are now authorities on how kids should be taught math, because they rejected a 3rd grade math text on the grounds that it didn't teach math the right way.

That's right, it meets all state requirements, but doesn't teach the way these folks think it ought to be taught: in a "traditional manner." I wonder if they checked to see if it's been successful. From the DMN article:

In Dallas, officials rolled out Everyday Mathematics books in kindergarten through sixth grade at 19 schools with low math scores during the 2000-01 school year. By the end of the year, only two of those schools still had low scores; a year later, none of them did, said Camille Malone, DISD's director of mathematics.
I'm no expert, but that's an astounding success rate.

This was a 7-6 vote and there is question as to whether the action of the Board was even legal. The Board is currently suppressing the "minority report" of the members who voted to keep the text. So now they're censoring math text and themselves.

My question: is anyone paying attention to these nuts?

Shades of 2000

Does anybody know who actually won the Nevada Democratic caucus? We all know Clinton won the popular vote, so her name had a check mark next to it. Many news reports say that Obama won more delegates (13 verus 12 for Clinton). This delegate scorecard from CNN says that they each won 14 delegates. Do we even know how many were actually available? (CNN seems to include superdelegates - party and elected officials who get to vote at convention, so maybe that's the difference.)

At any rate, the day went to Sen. Clinton, as she got the momentum boost from winning the popular vote.

Ellen Goodman, columnist for the Boston Globe, had a good column about a Clinton-Obama ticket regardless of who wins the nomination. She does finally acknowlege near the end of the article that Clinton would not be likely to agree to be number 2 on the ticket.

Here's a good article from the NYT about how nobody really has any idea of how the primaries are going to finally play out.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bishops held accountable

It's been a strange couple of months in the Episcopal church, what with the Diocese of San Joaquin voting to unaffiliate with TEC and affiliate with a South American province, and Fort Worth and Pittsburgh setting the stage to do the same.

Last Friday the Bishop of San Joaquin, John David Schofield, was inhibited on abandonment charges by the House of Bishops.

Yesterday we learned that Bp. Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh will be brought up on abandonment charges (although he was not inhibited from performing episcopal acts in the meantime).

And it looks like the storm is headed for Fort Worth. Bp. Jack Iker received a second warning from Presiding Bp. Katharine Jefferts Schori that he will face disciplinary charges as well if he continues to lead people to believe that parishes and dioceses can leave the Episcopal Church. In TEC, people are free to come and go, but parishes and dioceses may not.

Katie Sherrod has some more thoughts about what it's been like to live with +Iker in Ft. Worth.

Apparently Bp. Iker feels threatened by the correspondence from the Presiding Bishop. And he's in discussions with my bishop, Bp. James Stanton of Dallas, about providing for those parishes that don't want to go along with his plan to flee for South America. Stanton should not be aiding Iker's bad behavior, IMHO.

Here's the take from Fr. Jake, who has covered all of the above wonderfully. Jake's place has been a virtual refuge for those faithful Episcopalians living in hostile dioceses, and provided a forum for getting people together to plan for life after the blustery bishops. Mark Harris' commentary is here.

All this activity, while upsetting and sometimes troubling, gives hope to those folks who have weathered the storm in these areas. Because when the dust settles they will be free to be comprehensive broad church Episcopalians, welcoming all of God's children.

Dallas is smokin'

I'm trying to figure out what to make of this story from the Pop-Up Morning News about a push for a regional smoking ban. It seems to me this just gives city councils political cover to do nothing and say they're working towards it. There is no regional authority that can pass a smoking ordinance. It has to be done at the city or state level. And the state's not going to touch this for a very long time.

The restaurant and bar industry say they would love a regional solution because with different regulations in each municipality they see it as giving restaurants/bars in smoke free areas a disadvantage versus places like Addison. This argument no longer really holds any water, as restaurants in cities with smoking bans have continued to fare well.

Here's a regional solution for you: Plano and Fort Worth have already passed comprehensive public smoking bans. Dallas banned smoking in restaurants but allowed it to continue in bars and restaurant patios. If Dallas has the political will to extend its smoking ban (which I think we do), then we're a leader in the region and other cities will follow.

So Mayor Tom, take a few meetings with some other mayors if you must, then let's do this thing and act like the big dog that we are. The other cities will follow (except Addison). I'm not sure why it's so important for all the city smoking ordinances to line up neatly. It would be nice for uniformity's sake, but true uniformity would really require an action of the state.

And in a regional quick hit, we have a favorable comparison of downtown Dallas versus downtown Fort Worth in the letters section today:
Downtown living

After almost a year of living in downtown Fort Worth, I've made the decision to move to downtown Dallas.

My experience has been a mixed one. Downtown Fort Worth has no grocery store, no liquor store, no post office branch, no department store – all necessary components of a satisfying life as a Townie.

Yes, there are good restaurants and bars, cultural attractions and the city does an excellent job of keeping itself clean and safe.

There is no comparison with downtown Dallas, where the residential units have increased from 200 to 10,000 in just 10 years.

In downtown Dallas, no more than a few blocks' walk will get you to a supermarket, a post office, a pharmacy, a convenience store, a department store, a liquor store, world-class restaurants and cultural attractions.

Dallas has achieved what most cities outside the northeastern USA want, but do not yet have: an exciting, convenient, safe and satisfying downtown life.

Ron Sivo, Fort Worth

I must say I've been very impressed with downtown Fort Worth as an entertainment district. I never considered that it wasn't really a neighborhood like Dallas is trying to build downtown. People ask why Dallas can't do what Fort Worth is doing downtown, and that's a fair question, but you can see from this that Dallas is taking a different approach, hopefully one that will build a self-sustaining neighborhood of residences, shops, offices, art and entertainment venues, restaurants and bars. Without smoking.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Just in case the Texas primary matters...

File this column away, candidates. If there is still a race after Super Tuesday (I refuse to call it Super Duper Tuesday - that's just silly), you will want to get to know the Lone Star State, a big supplier of delegates and campaign cash. William McKenzie has done a good summary job of where to get votes and from what groups. Hopefully the candidates already know that they can find Democratic votes in the cities and Republican votes in the 'burbs. Of course not all 'burbs are created equal; our older inner ring suburbs probably have quite a few Democratic voters.

The most interesting point McKenzie makes is the wooing of a demographic that many of us have not considered: the Hispanic evangelical. So says Will:
In talking regularly with Latino evangelical pastors, what strikes me is that their Latino identity matters as much as their religious identity. And I'm hearing that this GOP-leaning group loves John McCain for his broad stand on immigration.

He would have a natural constituency among the many Pentecostal and evangelical iglesias across Texas. More so than Mike Huckabee, an evangelical Southern Baptist pastor who has not been as identified as Mr. McCain with modernizing immigration laws.

McKenzie sees even odds that the GOP nominee will still be in play when Texans go to the polls on March 4, and an increasing chance of the same happening with the Dems.

The races seem wide open right now, but I'll have to go with the conventional wisdom on this and bet that Texas will not be a factor. But if by some chance there is still a race, all that crying you heard about Iowa and New Hampshire having an unfair influence in the primaries will seem like nothing once the country learns that Texans will choose the candidates. Still, I say it's not gonna happen. Mark it down.

...of course I could be wrong.