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 na├»ve 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

Hits

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.


Misses

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.

Oy.

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.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Macho macho Huck

File under Huckawha?!

So the Republican debates temporarily turned into a locker room pi$$ing contest over the subject of Iranian seafaring vessels. Per the Times Online:

Asked whether the American commanders on the scene were right in not attacking the Iranian boats, Mr Huckabee said he backed their decisions, before warning Iran: "Be prepared, first, to put your sights on the American vessel. And then be prepared that the next thing you see will be the gates of Hell, because that is exactly what you will see after that."

So much for the funny likable modest minister routine. Fred Thompson picked up on this with his own zinger: "I think one more step and they would have been introduced to those virgins that they're looking forward to seeing."

This should scare the crap out of every American who thinks our foreign policy should engage in a minimum of blustery inflammatory rhetoric.

Does anyone remember "axis of evil" and how it helped turn Iran from a U.S. supporter in Afghanistan to enemy number 3 (or number 2; did we rank the "axis" according to attackability)?

We can do better. Yes we can.

Streetcars for downtown?

I was telling a buddy the other day about some comments I'd seen on da blogs during the whole Trinity toll road imbroglio suggesting we bring streetcars back to the streets of Dallas. Well, apparently Angela Hunt is onboard and very psyched about doing this to link the various parts of downtown with a free streetcar system. Here is her blog entry from Jan. 8.

I think this is a very cool idea, especially as we get more residents downtown. Part of the idea is to have bus service where the lines will eventually go to get it up and running more quickly.

I was wondering what happened to the DART operated trolley-buses that used to operate downtown in the late '90s. I believe those were free or very cheap. But they didn't seem to get much use. Perhaps we could drag those things back out and publicize the routes, and see if they are more popular with all of the new activity downtown.

I have to say, I really like how excited Ms. Hunt gets over this issue. She really has a vision for this city, and it involves making Dallas accessible and vibrant, and not just handing out tax breaks to developers. I'm looking forward to seeing how hard she pushes and what kind of consensus she can build on the council.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Sen. Clinton's tears

Maureen Down has a column today about Hillary Clinton's teary moment on Sunday. This was the scene at Dowd's office Monday morning:

A woman gazing at the screen was grimacing, saying it was bad. Three guys watched it over and over, drawn to the “humanized” Hillary.

My wife and I had basically the same reactions. I don't think it was calculated (even I'm not that cynical), but I don't think it was bad to show a more human or vulnerable side. My wife said it was a pretty bad move and that none of the men had to cry to show their humanity. I just found it interesting that our reactions were replicated in a NYT newsroom. And probably lots of other places.

Dowd goes on with very little sympathy for Clinton and comes to this line which I think sums up where her campaign has gone:

Her argument against Obama now boils down to an argument against idealism, which is probably the lowest and most unlikely point to which any Clinton could sink. The people from Hope are arguing against hope.

Pollsters can't be right all of the time...

...but sometimes they can all be wrong. Still a strong showing by Obama. Not so much for Edwards. There's still momentum for Barack going into South Carolina.

The CSPAN coverage was much better last night, just showing uninterrupted candidate speeches. After watching several speeches I have these observations and ruminations:

* Ron Paul alternately makes sense (foreign policy) and freaks me out a little (gold standard, nanny state rhetoric).

* Obama and Edwards have the ability to inspire folks to share in a new vision of America. Clinton has a strong and disciplined campaign, but doesn't stir anything in me when she speaks. And yes, I do think that matters in the current polarized political climate.

* Edwards had the best music (Mellencamp and Springsteen). McCain used the theme from Rocky. I kind of like John McCain as an independent spirit, but Rocky? You can do better.

* Wondering how Edwards will fare in S. Carolina. If he can't do well there, is he playing for second place? He would be a really strong VP candidate.

* Was that the guy from Desperate Housewives behind Edwards last night in the Steelworkers t-shirt? Yes it was.

* I may be turning into a political junkie. Healthy interest in the future of our country or need to get a life? I'll say it's the former.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

NH: Big turnout in Democratic primary

It appears that in some towns, the Democrats are actually concerned about running out of ballots. This means all those independent New Hampshire voters are breaking Democratic. Hopefully this points to another Obama win, as Obamania sweeps the nation.

On the Republican side, how long until Giuliani drops out of the race? He doesn't appeal to the Republican base, and he doesn't appeal to anyone that wants to look to the future. Of all the candidates, Rudy is running on the past (President of 9/11) rather than the future. In a time when all the campaigns are touting their candidates as change agents, this doesn't position him well.

I think it's also just a matter of time before the Ron Paul campaign goes the independent route. His supporters are so enthusiastic (if not as numerous as they think they are), I can't imagine him quitting if/when he doesn't get the Republican nod.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Restaurant review: Cindi's N.Y. Deli

Located on the west side of Central Expy between Forest and Royal, right next to the Casket Store - seriously. Bakery, big breakfast menu, and deli.

This place was packed for lunch on New Year's Eve. I'm pretty sure we saw actual New Yorkers there. You learn to spot these things. Cindi's is really a diner rather than a deli, kind of like the Seinfeld diner in Harlem or numerous Greek-owned diners in Jersey.

But this one had something that I've never seen in a diner before: live music behind the counter. Right there behind the baked goods. Classic.

The parking places would be adequate if we were all driving Mini Coopers and carpooling. Alas, the parking was inadequate. If there were a rush on caskets nobody would be able to get in there.

The club sandwhich satisfied, and my 3 year old couldn't stop eating the mounds of French toast they brought him - and this from the kid's menu. It was a little pricey (maybe that's the NY part), but not too bad. We got some bagels to go and they're pretty good. Family friendly. Merits a return trip. Two thumbs up.

FV Iowa analysis

Yea! Barack wins with huge turnout.

The story everyone is reporting this morning is the change-oriented candidates won Iowa. This is an important story. Go read it elsewhere.

The stat that shocked me as I sat listening to the returns on NPR (I don't have CNN and the CSPAN coverage was lacking - they even suggested that perhaps viewers needed to surf the other news networks to get the good exit poll data) was that the turnout in the Democratic caucuses had doubled from four years ago, from 124k in 2004 to 236k yesterday. And it was also roughly double the turnout in Republican caucuses of 114k. Here is a US News article citing these stats.

So the Dems got lots of independents and first-time caucus goers. And lots of those folks caucused for Obama.

Don't know if we can project from this onto other states, but if we could (and right now it's all we have to go on) it looks like a bad year for the Republicans.

I enjoyed the stat that the only polled demographic won by Sen. Clinton was women over 60. Ah, the coveted sensible pant suit demographic. This alone will not win her the nomination.

I haven't looked at the New Hampshire polls yet, but I'm going to go ahead and say that the "Live Free or Die" state goes for Obama and McCain. Obama riding the crest of the Iowa win, and those independent New England folks going for the true maverick of the Republican field. No way they go for a Southern governor named Huckabee. Just a hunch. I've been wrong before.

For now I think I will participate in the process the only way a Texan can at this crucial part of the primary season, by sending some cash to my candidate.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Iowa caucuses tonight...

...and since all we get to do in Texas is cheer on the sidelines until March when the nominees will be all locked up, put me down as cheering for Barack Obama.

The Dem's have several good candidates to choose from, so I don't think I will be disappointed, but Obama's forward-looking message of hope and his charisma have won me over. And I think he will be a good crossover candidate for disaffected R's as well.

It is early still but the rubber is meeting the road. It's gonna be a long year.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Holiday musings

You need an iron constitution to preside over a high church Christmas Eve mass. As I was stifling coughs from all the incense, the rector was singing the gospel passage in a cloud of smoke. He must have the lungs of a blues singer.

Kids can get sick on Christmas Eve. And puke all night long (even if not exposed to incense).

Current favorite Christmas hymn: Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming. I couldn’t sing it to you, but the melody is stuck in my head. Some songs just say Christmas.

Still the best music for road trips, no matter the season: Robert Earl Keen.

I’m not sure I could ever move back to East Texas, but sometimes visiting makes me think I could. It is a nice place with good people. Not sure what I’d miss most, Whole Foods, the option of riding the train to work, or my great neighbors. I think we’ll stay put for a while in Big D.

Hide and seek is less about the hiding/seeking and more about the running around laughing.

Rearranging works. If upon packing for your return home all the gifts/luggage don’t fit in the trunk, take everything out and start over. Just make sure you can fit the gifts from the grandparents!

“Don’t make me turn this car around” is not a compelling threat on the return trip.

The Cotton Bowl game was played in the actual Cotton Bowl. This will only happen one more time, and that’s a little sad. Congrats to Mizzou.

New Year’s Eve is a time to be with good friends, but wives can get sick on New Year’s Eve. And sometimes New Year’s Day is just as good.

New Year Resolutions: haven’t made any yet. Try to slow down and enjoy the journey. That sounds like a good one.

The tree is still up and the lights are still on, and will remain so until Epiphany when the 3 wise guys will arrive late to the party and help us clean up.