Thursday Roundup: I Shall Call It the Fing-Longer!

Her last job at a chicken shack paid $139 a week, barely enough to cover her cellphone bill.” This is odd. It’s been my experience that literally every stripper is a business major working towards her MBA and/or law school, not someone who would make questionable choice with personal finance. I’m perplexed, and this requires some research.

Taking the mob contracts Americans won’t take?

Far be it from me to point out how silly all some religious beliefs are. Or maybe not. This lady says her kid shouldn’t have to follow the school dress code and tuck in her shirt because of a Bible verse that says absolutely nothing about tucking in shirts but something about being modest. But whatever. Then it gets weird. The lady is sooo religious that she doesn’t go to church regularly because she doesn’t have a nice dress. What what?

This is getting a little silly with how the city keeps changing its story and paying five figure invoices for studies it claims don’t exist.

I’m not sure there is much left to argue after the case offered by three college professors about how ridiculous it is that constitutional rights are prohibited on college campuses.

Tuesday Roundup: BATFE Burns Another Dealer, Seig Health!, Urban Core Meltdown & More

The Texas Observer has a definitely-worth-your-time investigation into the BATFE’s railroading of a Plano gun shop owner. Now, for those who don’t know, the BATFE is the bottom run of federal law enforcement, where the worst of the dregs wash up. This is an agency that goes after gun dealers for “not keeping proper records of gun sales” because — and I do not exaggerate — sometimes buyers will write the abbreviation for a state rather than the full state name on forms. It appears as though now the BATFE has helped put a man in jail for an arson he didn’t commit. Good stuff. (Hat tip: Unfair Park.)

First they come for smokers, now they’re coming for transfats. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

And Mr. Obama’s wise decisions touch down like a tornado in Fort Worth.

I don’t know what it will take for Dallas to reverse this trend — I have my doubts a park along the Trinity (with or without tollroad) and a half a billion empty convention center hotel will help — but it doesn’t auger well for Big D in the long run.

And now: The 5 Most Popular Safety Laws That Don’t Work

Sound and Fury from the Pseudo-Intellectual Left

The front page of Sunday’s Points section in the Dallas Morning News resounds with a pitiable “I’m relevant” from the pseudo-intellectual left. I could sit here, phoneless (don”t ask, I’ll find it), and spend an hour dissecting two opinion pieces that deserve little but ridicule, but I have an Easter egg hunt to get to, so I’ll be brief and merciless. Both essays I refer to rest of the premise that the left holds some sort of monopoly on intellectualism. It’s a dangerous, petty conceit as shallow as an Ann Coulter column, and old, tired, and full of it as a John Kenneth Galbraith essay.

The first comes from Lee Siegel. Here it is. The long and short of it is he decries the lack of intellectualism in public debate these days. What he’s really saying is any idea that doesn’t emanate from his limited worldview is anti-intellectual. A few tidbits:

Indeed, when The New York Times Magazine describes Newt Gingrich as “a prospector in bold and counterintuitive thinking – floating ideas throughout his career,” you know the word “idea” has wandered, as if in a drunken stupor, from its original connotation.

Look, I’m no fan of Gingrich’s post 1990s conversion to neo-conservatism, but anyone who says Gingrich is not a man of broad and deep ideas is just being a partisan hack. Whatever Gingrich’s personal or political flaws, the man is an intellectual. I’d no more dismiss his ability to generate and propagate big ideas than I would dismiss Christopher Hitchens, despite his socialist politics. Limbaugh may be no William F. Buckley or Barry Goldwater, but he’s also no knuckle-dragger.

Siegel also lumps people like Jim Cramer and Rush Limbaugh in with lightweight bomb-throwers like Ann Coulter. Say what you will of Limbaugh’s bluster or Cramer’s market rants, both ground their more incendiary rants in real scholarship and knowledge. Lumping those three together is like lumping Bertrand Russell with Bill Maher.

Siegel’s lack of economic education shows, along with his own personal, skewed Weltanschauung by making not one but two references to Hegel — tells that show just how out of the mainstream of economic thought Siegel stands.

Arguments about small vs. big government used to entail reflections on the nature of man and society, the question of balancing the highest good against the greatest number of people who might benefit from that good, the meaning of power and of authority. Not anymore.

This much is true. Both sides are guilty of this — small-minded conservatives and liberal pinheads. I’ll give him a pass on this.

Occasionally, things grow more specialized, and just as intellectual disputes over class conflict once spilled over into philosophical differences over “dialectical” change, the issues of taxes and spending branch out into the exciting topic of “earmarks.” Sometimes things get fancy: You might hear the term “moral hazard.

But just when the intellectual wheels start to turn – Aristotle’s Ethics! William James’ pragmatism! Sartre’s existentialism! – you realize that you’ve eavesdropped on a conversation between an insurance broker and a management consultant about the proper way to structure a transaction.

More Marxist tells — Siegel’s use of dialetical as though it were common in Western intellectual thought, and his disdain that mere business people have the gall to discuss weighty issues of the day. Surely business people have no place speaking about economic issues.

This little gem is telling, too.

When Archimedes said, “Give me a lever that is long enough, and I will move the world,” he was talking about how you can think your way into a new actuality.

No, Archimedes was speaking of the fundamentals of engineering. Not literally, but metaphorically.

An old joke went that only two people in history understood Hegel, and even they misunderstood him.

Yeah. See, when Hegel is your touchstone of old jokes and intellectual heights, you’re showing your true colors. This doesn’t disqualify you from the debate, but it shows exactly where you’re coming from.

I have seen award-winning poets and novelists nearly reduced to tears trying to comprehend the relationship between mortgage-backed securities and recession.

Does anyone really care what poets think of market realities, and who can’t grasp the basics of the relationship between mortgage-backed securities and the recession we’re in now?

Ideas drove the various responses to the economic calamities of the 1920s – the result was totalitarian ideologies on the left and the right and the annihilation of tens of millions of people, all in the name of one idea or another.

That’s an argument against the pseudo-intellectuals of both sides if I ever saw one, and yet Siegel uses it in just the opposite way.

In fact, America has a labor history that is more violent than any European country’s, and if class resentment in this country has not been made explicit by a class system, it has simmered all the more furiously because of that. The Civil War, McCarthyism, the turbulent ’60s and just about every presidential election in modern times have all been fueled to a consequential degree by class resentment.

Not only factually, objectively false, but while I’m not defending one side against the other, the use of class envy and class warfare has emanated from one side in recent presidential elections. “Soak the rich” anyone?

For months, while the economy was slipping backward, the phrase du jour, used by people throughout business and media, has been “moving forward.” As in: Dear Employees, Moving forward, we are laying off several thousand of you. And the dishonest, weasel-ish phrase keeps advancing, with no one to stop it.

Sorry, but job destruction is as important to economic growth as job creation. That’s how the market works. Sorry you can’t grasp this, Mr. Siegel.

I could go on, but the truth is, Mr. Siegel isn’t worth the time. He’s just an intellectual lightweight who wraps himself in the robes of intellectualism, but comes across looking like a five-year-old wearing his father’s Sunday suit. How much of a lightweight? Well, he’s the kind who creates Internet sock puppets to praise his own work and attack critics. See it here.

Next comes Judith Warner’s piece. It’s a paint-by-numbers lament of the fact that, horrors, some people consider the masters of Wall Street to be among the “best and brightest.” No one, even the most rapacious capitalist, would defend the minority of business mavens who cheated the system to be among the best and brightest. But her dismissive, condescending attitude towards anyone who chooses to make his bones in business is a bigotry of pitiful proportions.

But the second time, I was able to pause in note taking long enough to grouse, “I never had the impression that the best and brightest people went to Wall Street.”

Really? Because working in business is automatically a calling for lunkheads?

Look, a fat wallet is no guarantee a man or woman has vast oceans of intelligence rolling in the cranium. But, the cheaters aside, it takes great intellectual facilities to prosper in a free market, and the competition is fierce, ensuring that good enough is never really good enough.

Prosperity is no guarantor the holder is a man of great reason, but neither is poverty and a devotion to poetry.

The ability to make big bucks wasn’t the chief characteristic of the “best and brightest,” “each new man more brilliant than the last,” whom David Halberstam described in the 1972 book that brought the phrase into our common parlance. His “best and brightest” were ultimately no better than ours; their “arrogance and hubris” led us into the debacle of Vietnam. But they did at least embody a different order of aspiration. They “wrote books and won prizes (even the president had won a Pulitzer), climbed mountains to clear their minds. Many of them read poetry, and some were said to be able to quote it.”

And this image of best and brightness – however ironic, however laced with foreshadowing of deserved downfall – was the sense that endured behind the phrase for decades, says Susan Jacoby, the author, most recently, of The Age of American Unreason, a best-selling account of contemporary anti-intellectualism. At least, it was until this last boom cycle – that irrational bubble-world of the late 1990s and beyond – stamped its values on every aspect of our world, right down to the language we use to talk about it.

“The best and the brightest meant the people who were supposed to be the smartest, not who made the most money,” she said. “This application in the last few years of the phrase to anyone who’s made a pile of money on Wall Street shows a real degradation of the culture. It’s part of the dumbing down of language as well as culture. It shows a real dumbing down of everything.”

One ideal of intellectual greatness — the minority of hucksters aside — leads to prosperity, economic growth, and a general rise in everyone’s standard of living through the development of better and cheaper goods and services. Ms. Warner’s ideal — all good intentions — leads to things like the Vietnam War. I know which I’ll risk. (And by the way, JFK’s book was ghost-written, his Harvard papers show he was an intellectual lightweight, and his Pulitzer Prize was about as much an honest achievement as The New York Times‘ for its 1930s hagiographical series on Joe Stalin, or Al Gore’s joke of a Nobel Prize. Epic Fail.)

And maybe – if things work out for our book-writing president and his coterie of brilliant advisers – people might even start to see intellectuals as good, and bright, without irony.

If her idea of an intellectual pinnacle is the mediocre mind of Barack Obama and his toadies, this lady is in for one serious letdown.

More sound and fury from the pseudo-intellectual left, signifying nothing.

Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That?

I think some folks got the wrong impression from my recent column in D on the great new ilume development, and the evolution of the Cedar Springs gayborhood.

Wednesday Roundup: Defeat at Victory?, Victory from Defeat & More

You know what starts your day right? A 5-year-old with a 3 a.m. accident from too much chocolate milk (my fault!) and a wife with a 6 a.m. dead car battery (her fault — left the keys in the ignition when getting a CD out last night.) Anyhow…

You know how backers of spending $550 million in taxpayer-backed money on a convention center hotel like to use Victory Park as an example another great city project that used taxpayer funds? Well, you probably won’t be hearing that as much. Granted, Victory’s problems won’t leave taxpayers in Dallas on the hook. The hotel, however, when it fails, guess who’s left holding the bag.

Just remember — if you don’t want to sell your land, stand your ground. You may lose when government steals it to make way for a commercial development. (Land of the free? Home of the brave? Not so much.) But you may make the bastards pay through the nose. Which is something these guys in the SMU lawsuit apparently already know.

The good: Six Flags finally gets its license to sell beer. That bad: It’s 2009, and yet some people still argue that “serving alcohol doesn’t set a good example for kids.”

Define “whiny journalism.”

A long run for a short slide.

Monday Roundup: Leppert’s Pattern, Badge Behavior & More

Went running this morning, so the schedule is a little screwy. But we’re back in the groove. So, let’s get to it.

  • Mayor Leppert seems to be developing a pattern. Charge ahead despite serious concerns, contradicting facts, and the costs. This seems to be the case in the Trinity issue and with the convention center hotel. This doesn’t look good for his legacy.
  • Mixed feelings here on the proposed Texas shield law: On one hand, as a journalist I benefit from a shield law. On the other, why should my profession get special protection not afforded every other citizen?

Tuesday Roundup: Another Weird Day in North Texas

Look, I’m not saying that libertarians have the wrong message, but sometimes we’re our own worst enemies. The one libertarian in the U.S. House, Congressman Ron Paul, R-TX, doesn’t do the cause any favors in his cameo in the upcoming Sasha Baron Cohen movie. Oy vey.

As Dallas City Councilmember Angela Hunt already knows, no good deed goes unpunished.

“Man Accidentally Creates Toxic Gas.” And no, it wasn’t Tim Rogers this time.

I’ve thought for years that the best move for the Dallas Independent School District would be to break it up into five or six smaller ISDs. Now the Lege is considering doing just that.

“This isn’t Russia, Danny. Is this Russia?”

I have yet to understand why the Bill of Rights is void on college campuses.

Monday Roundup: Spring Break Late Edition

The Lege won’t give up on levying a stripper pole tax. And they’re holding $11.2 million in folded $1 bills already collected until the lawsuits are settled and the money is either returned to the strip clubs, or turned over to the state. Question: Should strip clubs win, should they get interest back on the money?

I’m not saying this isn’t good reporting, I’m just saying I don’t much care if a city council member or candidate has donated to one political party or the other. It’s like talking about what church they go to — as long as it stays outside the council chambers, I don’t see how it matters. Am I wrong?

Dawn McMullen asks, “Who would Jesus defriend?”

Finally this morning, my friend Radley Balko poses a damn good question in the wake of the news of the AIG exec bonuses being paid.

AIG to pay out millions more in bonuses to the very executives who ran the company into the ground. This, immediately after accepting another $170 billion in federal bailout money. Question for my lefty friends: A few months ago on this site, we had a discussion about the morality of people who utilize offshore tax shelters. And Joe Biden said during the campaign that it was “unpatriotic” to avoid paying your taxes. At what point in this bailout madness does doing what you can to avoid federal taxes become acceptable? In other words, what percentage of the federal budget has to go toward bailout-out failed companies and their corrupt executives before taxpayers are justified in getting fed up, and refusing to fund the circus anymore?

Friday Roundup: PISD Stupidity, RIP Responsibility, WTF Myspace & More

Why in the hell is my beloved Plano Independent School District following down the road of good intentions to its traditional destination, first paved by the Dallas Independent School District? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

Define “expected” — family blames Boomerangs when they, the family, weren’t paying attention to their own toddler. I’d ask you to define “parental responsibility” but it’s an archaic phrase.

My dear friend Rawlins Gilliland sings the praises of Neiman Marcus, and rightly so. Great read.

Behold the new open-air CVS in Sunnyvale.

Also dear friend Robert Guest gives us a new reason — aside from all the annoying skins, crappy music, and the infestation of pedophiles — to hate Myspace: they’ll accept subpoenas from law enforcement, but not from defense lawyers. Which is funny, because it’s already been proven a Myspace missive can, indeed, exonerate the innocent after a New York man was found not guilty of a bogus gun possession charge when his lawyer introduced evidence the arresting officer was a steroid popper who posted on his Myspace page about the joys of beating suspects and planting phony evidence. (h/t The Agitator.)

The first ad for Prop 1, on the ballot May 8 against the city-owned convention hotel, is up online. Here you go.

Thursday Roundup: Justice, Injustice and Hat Crimes

Dallas Police have made another arrest in the bizarre, brutal smoke shop murder last year. Good job. I’d still love to know just what the hell was the motive here. (Not to self: pitch to Tim.)

I like this. A truly guilty rapist tries to abuse Dallas County’s new openness to re-examining DNA evidence, something which has freed nearly a score of men wrongly convicted. DNA evidence shows the convicted rapist is, indeed, the rapist. Now DA Craig Watkins wants to see if he can get the guy additional time. And he deserves it. There are few greater injustices than being wrongly convicted by the state. There are few lower than people who know they are guilty abusing the new system designed to ensure against wrongful convictions.

And speaking of injustice — one of the cops guilty in the fake drug scandal is getting just two years probation instead of time behind bars. I’m sorry if this offends, but police have to be held to higher standards, especially those who willfully, knowingly put innocent people behind bars.

I like this, too. Sikhs spread awareness with an innovative turban derby. I like it because I don’t like the kind of person who can’t tell the difference between a Sikh turban and a Muslim one. But it does raise the question — is this accidentally marginalizing Islam? And more importantly, what the hell is it with religions and hats?