Thursday, February 25, 2010

Striking A Blow Against Ill-Informed Pedantry

Steve Blow of The Dallas Morning News writes about Bryan Garner, Dallas resident and author of many books on grammar and linguistics. (If you can state the distinction between those two words, you're more of a language expert than I am.)

After the jump, how Garner the grammar man puts down Steve Blow's "ill-informed pedantry."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Amir Omar, Public Policy Tease

This week, Richardson City Council member Amir Omar has been teasing those who follow his Twitter feed with promises of great things for Richardson soon to be revealed.

"7 days till the presentation of the signature project I've been teasing! Hundreds of hrs of work finally revealed!"

"Just landed my 3rd Corp Sponsor for the project I've been working on! March 1st council meeting it will all be made public!"

After the jump, why I'm not holding my breath.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

On May 8, Vote Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes

Monday night was open mike night at the Richardson City Council meeting and visitors were lined up to speak to the proposed $66 million bond package that the city council later unanimously agreed to place before the voters on May 8. Of the total, $25 million is for streets, alleys, sidewalks and creeks, $23 million is for parks and recreation, $10 million is for municipal buildings and $8 million is for neighborhood vitality projects such as screening walls, landscaping and entry features. Voters will be able to choose to support and/or reject each bond proposition separately.

After the jump, what the visitors who spoke had to say about it all.

"Best Use of Negative/Contrast" - The Envelope Please

Remember the infamous "Voters Guide" in the 2009 Richardson City Council election, a product of the Richardson Coalition PAC and the political consulting firm of Murphy Turner Associates? Murphy Turner is the proud winner of the 2009 "Pollie Award" for "Best Use of Negative/Contrast"? (I don't know which is more surprising, that such an award exists, or that a firm would be proud to win it.)

After the jump, Murphy Turner Associates' involvement with yet another "Voters Guide," this one in Tarrant County.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Avoid Trivia

George F. Kennan, 1904-2005, American advisor, diplomat, political scientist and historian, whose writings inspired the American foreign policy of communist containment that governed American foreign policy for a half century, headed a State Department "think tank" under Secretary of State George C. Marshall. Kennan credits Marshall, who hired him to constantly reappraise America's grand strategy in the world, with giving him the best advice of his career:

"Avoid trivia."

Great advice. Contrast it with this blog, which at its best can only dredge up old quotes, historical trivia if you will, as food for thought. Sigh.

After the jump, another principle that guided Kennan in his thinking of how to apply American power in the post-war world.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

CCI: How Google Failed Me

"I will kill you, CCI." With just 20 characters (Twitter allowed him a generous 140), Ian McCann of The Dallas Morning News (@imccanntx) sent me scrambling to Google to figure out just WTF he was mad about. Here are the possibilities. Your guess is as good as mine.

  • Clinton Climate Initiative: Mad at the weather? No one has cabin fever that bad.
  • Canine Companions for Independence: Mad at his guide dog? Say it ain't so, Ian.
  • California Criminalistics Institute: You'd think they might be after Ian, not the other way around.
  • Custom Chrome, Inc.: I just can't picture Ian shooting up his tricked out Harley.
  • Component Concepts, Inc.: Maybe this "quality paintball maker" sent Ian got a defective batch.
  • CCI Ammunition: Another gun association. What's with the letters CCI anyway?
  • Center for Collective Intelligence: On Twitter? Who are we kidding?

I don't often say this, but this time Google failed me. Help me out someone. What's the CCI that Ian McCann wants to kill?

Sessions and Perry: The Moderates In Their Races

The Dallas Morning News endorsed Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) in his District 32 GOP primary against challenger David Smith. Smith did something I didn't think possible. He managed to make "Taliban" Pete look like the moderate in this race. Kind of like how Debra Medina managed to make Gov. Rick Perry (R-TTC) look like the moderate in his GOP primary race against Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-DC). Yeah, I know. It's a crazy year.

What To Do About The Shrinking Gas Tax

The gas tax hasn't gone up since 1993. It's still 38 cents a gallon, even though the purchasing power of that 38 cents has eroded a lot. On top of that, rising fuel economy standards mean that 38 cents has to stretch to cover more miles driven on each gallon of gas. The result is a highway trust fund that's broke. The result of that is highway construction lagging population growth.

After the jump, one idea about what to do about the problem.

The Odd Republican Who Still Believes in Balanced Budgets

For a while now, Texas state Senator John Carona (R-Dallas) has been a puzzle to me. He's an old-style Republican who still believes in balancing a dollar of gov't expenditures with a dollar of revenue. He is open to raising taxes to pay for all the new roads Texans want. He calls other Texas Republicans fiscally irresponsible and hypocritical to boot. Where does he get the courage? For a short profile of this GOP heretic representing Richardson, Garland and north Dallas, be sure to read the cover story, "The Last Republican," by Wick Allison in the March edition of D Magazine.

Tiger And The Press: Made For Each Other

Michael Landauer says Tiger Woods "doesn't get to dictate how his return to the spotlight will go." Sure he does. He can do as he wants and the press can decide whether or not to cover him. The only thing Woods can't insist on is that the press should leave him alone. Little chance of either side wanting that, though.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Government of the People, by the People, for the Corporation

"Corporations pay for half of what we're going to do here ... We have to think about them as well as the people who go in and vote."
-- Richardson Mayor Gary Slagel

After the jump, what was Slagel thinking?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Should Public Schools Promote Godly Character?

Jesus and the Declaration of Independence
How Christian Were the Founders?
 

Was Jesus one of America's Founding Fathers? If you care about what your children are taught about science and history in Texas public schools, then you'll want to pay attention this election year not only to the governor's race but to some obscure races down the ballot for the State Board of Education (SBOE). According to Unfair Park:

"This could be the election that decides exactly how much power religious ideologues hold over the board that shapes the education for 5 million public school students in Texas."

Last year, the seven members of the religious-right faction on the SBOE successfully steered the science standards to include wording that undermines evolution. This year, the SBOE is tackling social studies, seeking to include language that revises American history to promote Christianity. For the fundamentalists, takeover of education is but a step towards a larger goal, takeover of government. In an article this week, The New York Times explains the fundamentalists' strategy:

"As Cynthia Dunbar, another Christian activist on the Texas board, put it, 'The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next.'"

After the jump, what the SBOE candidates themselves had to say at a League of Women Voters forum in Richardson Wednesday evening.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Spending Millions on "Sprinkled, Iced-Turds"

It's Monday night and you know what that means: open mike night at the Richardson City Council meeting. This week's meeting had only one visitor taking the opportunity to address the council. Andrew Laska, president of the Richardson Heights neighborhood association, voiced his support for the list of projects in the proposed 2010 bond package, projects that will benefit his neighborhood, including a new Heights recreation center and aquatics center. (By the way, why don't people call swimming pools swimming pools anymore?)

After the jump, a losing council candidate's opinion of rec centers and swimming pools.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I'd Cancel My Season Ticket, If I Had One

Britt Dougherty

Remember the old joke: I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out? It was never funny, but it was useful in highlighting how commonly accepted fighting is in professional hockey in America. Wikipedia even has an entry for "Fighting in ice hockey" that starts with a clarification: "This article is about condoned fighting in ice hockey. For disallowed violent acts, see 'Violence in ice hockey.'"

After the jump, a north Texas hockey player opens up about fighting.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Richardson, Gateway to Plano

Continental Inn

Mention Richardson to almost anybody and what image pops into their head? Maybe nothing. Some, even residents who love Richardson, might snicker and say the Como Motel or the Continental Inn on US 75. That reaction alone might be reason for me to support efforts to erect a landmark entrance sign at the Richardson border on US 75, the highway that thousands of commuters use to travel through Richardson every day. Don't underestimate the symbolic power and marketing benefits of a striking landmark.

After the jump, what Richardson needs to think about.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Saturday, February 6, 2010

OTBR: First Jaunt on the New Xmas Snowshoes

Latitude: 44.351700° N
Longitude: 71.729896° W

A child on a road trip with his family asks, "Where are we?" and the father answers, "Let's check the map. We're off the blue roads [the Interstate Highways marked in blue on the road atlas]. We're off the red roads [the US and state highways]. We're off the black roads [the county highways]. I think we're off the map altogether." It was always my dream to be off the map altogether.

After the jump, a few of the random places (and I mean random literally) that I visited vicariously last month that are "off the blue roads".

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Latest Stupidest Depression in History

Lord d'Abernon
Lord d'Abernon

Ron Paul (R-TX) has a bestseller, "End the Fed," in which he calls for a return to the gold standard as the surest prevention of inflation. Although he hasn't won many converts among economists, he has sold a lot of books. Besides Paul, the Fed has picked up enough critics among politicians that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke recently won confirmation for a new term by the slimmest vote margin in history.

After the jump, a different, more accurate criticism of the Fed.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

My Dialog with George Clayton

George Clayton
George Clayton

This week, The Dallas Morning News recommended Geraldine "Tincy" Miller for the GOP nomination for District 12 of the State Board of Education. I unenthusiastically went along. I wasn't enamored of Miller, but saw nothing in her opponent, George Clayton, for me to entrust the post to him. Clayton commented on the DMN's website, which led to a dialog between him and me concerning his position on science education. The upshot is that my doubts about his candidacy only deepened. I had hoped that a qualified, informed candidate who I could trust would put education above ideology would emerge to challenge Miller (like Thomas Ratliff has challenged Don McLeroy in District 9), but George Clayton is *not* that candidate. Miller may not be my ideal candidate, but George Clayton would be much worse.

After the jump, the transcript of my dialog with George Clayton.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Real Heroes or Real Suspicious

Ticker Tape Parade
"We can't all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by." -- Will Rogers

The Richardson Coalition PAC has announced the creation of what it calls its annual Real Heroes Award. The award will recognize "unsung heroes" whose service to the Richardson community is often overlooked. You know, the volunteers who work with youth groups, social services, health care providers, etc. Why is the Richardson Coalition PAC sponsoring this award? In its words, "The Coalition believes strongly in promoting the positive image of Richardson. This award will be an opportunity for the Richardson community to celebrate our many citizens who give to the community with no expectation of any personal reward."

After the jump, this skeptic's doubts.

State Board of Education Recommendations

The Dallas Morning News has made its recommendations for the State Board of Education (SBOE) District 9 and 12 races in the GOP primary. The SBOE is an elected 15 member board responsible for setting curriculum standards for Texas public schools. The three Rs. 1492 and 1776. Ho hum, right? Not if you care about Texas kids. Unless you've spent the last decade living on Pluto (not a planet anymore, by the way), you know that the SBOE has become the front line in the culture war over evolution, climate change, religion, everything from the Indian Wars to the Indian festival of lights, Diwali. (By the way, the argument over Diwali taught me that there are over 50,000 Hindus in north Texas. I didn't know that. Maybe my education, which didn't include Diwali, was deficient.)

After the jump, why one DMN recommendation is merely OK and the other patently obvious.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Berkner 70, Lake Highlands 53

From 2010 02 Berkner basketball

The Berkner High School boys basketball team returned to their winning ways Tuesday night with a 70-53 win at home over Lake Highlands. Berkner took an early lead and just kept adding to it. Berkner led by three after one quarter, by nine at the half, ten after three quarters and seventeen by the final horn. Berkner's Xavier Thomas led all scorers with 24 points. Teammate Glen Till had 19. Berkner stretched its District 9-5A leading record to 9-1 (24-5 overall) good for a ranking of 9th in the area by the Dallas Morning News. Lake Highlands is 6-4 in district (14-13 overall).

Photos from the game can be found here.

Open Mike Night: Tell it to the Judge

Soap Box

A month ago, Richardson City Attorney Pete Smith briefed the council on the status of a lawsuit brought by William Gordon, a losing candidate in the 2007 council elections. Gordon sued the City over the council's use of executive sessions, claiming they violated the city charter prior to a 2007 charter amendment that authorizes closed sessions.

After the jump, new developments in the story.

Monday, February 1, 2010

"Dissension" on the Richardson School Board

Kay Waggoner
Kay Waggoner

Dissension, if you can call it that. Jeffrey Weiss, in The Dallas Morning News Richardson blog, reports that the Richardson (RISD) school board voted, with no nay votes and only one abstention, to name Kay Waggoner the lone finalist for the RISD's next superintendent. That abstention is what Weiss, perhaps with tongue in cheek, referred to as the "dissension" on the school board.

After the jump, who abstained and why.