Category Archives: Politics

More Trail

Great News! No matter what you feel about this neighborhood associations vs. developers story, the fact that we’re getting the extension to the Lady Bird Lake Trail is great news. That was one of the worst stretches to run on the sidewalk, and navigating through the parking lot to get to the sidewalk was always an adventure in not getting hit by a government employee traveling 50mph over speed bumps.

distribution of wealth

Robert Reich has this fascinating quote on his blog from FDR’s fed chief:

As mass production has to be accompanied by mass consumption, mass consumption, in turn, implies a distribution of wealth — not of existing wealth, but of wealth as it is currently produced — to provide men with buying power equal to the amount of goods and services offered by the nation’s economic machinery. Instead of achieving that kind of distribution, a giant suction pump had by 1929-30 drawn into a few hands an increasing portion of currently produced wealth. This served them as capital accumulations. But by taking purchasing power out of the hands of mass consumers, the savers denied to themselves the kind of effective demand for their products that would justify a reinvestment of their capital accumulations in new plants. In consequence, as in a poker game where the chips were concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing. When their credit ran out, the game stopped.

It’s an interesting repudiation to supply-siders and seems somewhat inevitable. To make an economy work you always have to have a balance between captialism and a view more oriented towards the commons. I think the Clinton administration was decent at this. It found a balance, but by embracing some of the dogma of supply-side they cemented it into the public’s mind as fact. And now we’re stuck with a tanking economy because very few people want to discuss whether this wealth equation is completely out of balance. It’s interesting too, because unlike in the 1920s most of the “robber barons” have not been asking for the tax cuts and regulatory cuts that have made them into these capital vacuums. It’s coming from the Republican middle-class who are essentially giving away their money. Giving away their quality of life, and schools, and roads. I don’t know how we’re going to fix this. Thoughts?

You can read the whole post here.

buy as though your job depends upon it!

So I spent a bit of time arguing with a guy a while back about taxes. He felt that I “did nothing to prove to [him] that you or anyone else is entitled to the money I work my ass of[f] for.” Which is interesting. After talking to him a bit more I found out that he really just doesn’t like medicaid and welfare, which of course get a lot of people up in arms. Even if those programs are only a fairly small amount of the tax we pay yearly. But it got back to the government “taking” money from people (of course no one every complains about the military “taking” more than half the taxes you pay every year, but I digress). Which I think is a big perception problem. The government is for us. It is us. We are paying for the services we use or could potentially use. And we agree to pool our resources to get things done that we couldn’t alone. Pretty simple. But the anti-tax rhetoric is out of control.

Which brings me to the President this morning. He was jibber-jabbering about nothing much, and got a question about the economic stimulus package. Here he is explaining the purpose of the package:

And the purpose is to encourage our consumers. The purpose is to give them money — their own to begin with, by the way — but give them money to help deal with the adverse effects of the decline in housing value. Consumerism is a significant part of our GDP growth, and we want to sustain the American consumer, encourage the American consumer and, at the same time, we want to encourage investment. So we’ll see how the plan works.

First off. I love the fact that he can say “their own [money] to begin with” when referring to rebate checks paid for with debt to the Chinese. But we all know that facts are not where Bush excels.

What blows my mind is this discussion of consumers. That we have become in essence a national resource. Like lumber, minerals, or oil. And we’re apparently the only one left. That rather than deal with the underlying problems that got us here, like consumer debt, a housing bubble, and financial market corruption, we should instead spend our way to financial security! We must be fed and sustained, like the endangered animals we are. I can’t wait to have a president who can think outside the shopping mall.

On a side note, the set for the Automat looks fantastic. I want to go in and have a meal. You guys gotta check it out. Got your tickets yet?

Ah AISD… Part 2

So I looked at the recommendations from the school board, and they’re mostly sane if a bit sad.

The central part of the District, south of Lady Bird Lake and east of IH-35, is an area undergoing significant changes. Linder Elementary School is currently experiencing significant overcrowding and is at 155% of capacity.

Continued population increases in the apartment communities located between Woodland Avenue and Oltorf Boulevard have resulted in an overcrowding situation at Linder. While at the same time, redevelopment of older apartment communities in the Metz and Sanchez attendance zones have decreased these schools by 76 and 107 students, respectively, from 2006-07 to 2007-08. This trend will continue as other apartments also begin redeveloping into higher priced apartments and condominiums.

In other words, we’re going to price the families out of the neighborhoods. I wish I wasn’t helping to fulfill that prophecy.

Of course, they still expect Linder to hit 195% of capacity in 2010-2012. Just that the other schools near the water will have low enrollment so no need to build anything new.


Just reading this article from the Statesman. So the school board is trying to decide where to build two new elementary schools. They’re apparently planning on putting one in Circle C, because they promised it to developers a long time ago. And they’re also planning on putting on in another one in North Central Austin. Apparently the schools in North Austin are overcrowded with students and so they need a new school.

More likely overcrowded because of transfers students from other parts of Austin. I can’t believe that there’s been a sudden influx of families with greater than average numbers of children living in sub-1600 sq/ft houses. Perhaps if they fixed problem schools in South and East Austin they wouldn’t have every kid transferring into a North Central school.

Of course I’m biased since the school we’ll be sending Stella to is Linder Elementary. From the article (emphasis mine):

District 2 Trustee Sam Guzman, who represents East and Southeast Austin and whose term also expires in May, said he is concerned that the two proposed sites won’t relieve crowding at Linder Elementary School, which is east of Interstate 35 between Oltorf Street and Ben White Boulevard and is the most over-enrolled campus in the district.

In their recommendation, district staff members said Linder students might have to be transferred to other schools. It’s an idea that isn’t sitting well with parents in the area, Guzman said.

Guzman said he has heard from several parents about crowding and the condition of the Linder campus, which he said is showing its age and has moisture problems.

“The more and more I talk to people about it, the more it strikes me how dire the situation is there,” he said.

But the money quote is:

“Everybody wants the best for the kids they represent, but ultimately, we represent all the kids,” he said.

And by all the kids, I’m sure they mean, all the kids whose parent’s are heavily involved in community politics.

turning blue

Just wanted to key in people who don’t read as many politics blogs as I do. Dan Barrett just won a house seat runoff in Fort Worth last night. This narrows the difference in the state house to 79-71. Democrats have been winning in districts deliberately redrawn by Tom Delay to prevent them from winning.

Next time someone says that Texas will never be a Democrat majority state again, remind them that we’re awfully close.

putin’s a problem

So while Bush was spending today arguing why he should be allowed to bomb Iran even though they’re honoring all their nuclear commitments and are generally behaving themselves pretty well. Putin followed through on some promises and started moving a permanent naval presence into the Mediterranean. And by Mediterranean can we point out that they’re hanging out around Syria? Oh, and in case you missed it they’re also flying long range bomber patrols. You know, within range that they could launch nuclear missiles at the United States.

But keep freaking out about Osama Bin Laden kiddos. If he’s lucky he can kill a whole 3000 people at a time. So he’s about 2% as effective as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. They might have even improved the technology of what can be transported in those bombers since the 1940s, but I’m no military expert.

Good thing Putin’s a “good guy”. Better pray that’s true.


Ah, a great quote from Joe Biden after Bush’s spectacular waffling about Iran today. You really should read some transcripts if you haven’t. It’s spectacular. You start to get the feeling that Bush may not be dumb. There may actually be absolutely no communication going on between the white house and the white house staff and the entire government at large. Here’s Biden’s quote:

“I refuse to believe that. If that’s true, he has the most incompetent staff in modern American history, and he’s one of the most incompetent presidents in modern American history.”

Oh, and the reason why the president is right and the new intelligence is wrong is because we still need to do due diligence to make sure the new intelligence is right. And by right we mean, why the new intelligence is not supporting the president’s facts.

I can accept the fact that Iran might have stopped their nuclear policies because of Bush’s constant insistence that he was going to bomb them, and I guess this could pass for a type of diplomacy. And maybe he can trot this out every third speech to make sure they’re behaving themselves. But c’mon, lets move on. There are bigger threats out there.

Hello Cold War

It seems like we only recently learned how to miss you. This article makes it look as though we’ll be back to the same system that was called Communism under the Soviet Union quite soon. I imagine the Cold War will reemerge soon. We have our new Stalin. He looked good for a few years. A reformer. A man who could make his completely broken country work. But we’re back at the same point. The major opposition candidate in jail. All industry controlled by the “democratically” elected state party. People forced to vote or face loss of job or disappearance.

It might be my lack of sleep, but I’m feeling a bit emotional about this. I remember 1990. Everyone was talking about Perestroika. We went to see a Russian museum tour in downtown Dallas. It seemed so distant and yet so possible that something was happening. We’d seen the Berlin wall fall. Things could change.

We moved to the Soviet Union in August of 1990. We spent the most miserable 9 months of our lives there just trying to survive. The system was crumbling, and while they were still trying to present a facade of a functioning economy they couldn’t provide enough even for foreigners (for years they had a massive propaganda machine to make it look as though all was well). We horded food. I found sugar once at a store while out picking up a loaf of bread and carried home 100 pounds. My parents bought something like 8 palettes of eggs in one grocery trip. My sister Caroline went out several times a week to stood in line at 4am to fill a 5 gallon bucket with unpasteurized milk from a tanker truck in our neighborhood. We spent all day pasteurizing milk. Washing clothes and cooking food. We fought like cats cooped up in our apartments. Only the adults were willing to make any effort to leave the confines of our apartment building.

After that year we took a 3 month vacation in England. In a small pastoral suburb of London. It was heaven. And then we watched in August 1991 as the putsch threatened to oust Yeltsin. The countries first marginally democratically elected leader. It was a tense few days. We had our entire lives back in the Soviet Union. We had our friends back there. And we had a Russian friend staying with us. If things had gone differently he would have probably defected and I would more than likely have a brother.

And then it was over. And we went back to the Soviet Union for another year and things were better. And people were mostly more optimistic. I say mostly because there are probably still people there complaining and praying that the czars will come back. And there was food. It was expensive. Too expensive for most of the people who lived there (more legitimate complaints). But there was food again. And stores weren’t completely filled with empty shelves. And in February of 1992 I sang the star-spangled banner as the American Flag was raised for the first time over the new independent country of Kazakhstan. A new country. Trust me. It’s pretty amazing to be around when a new country is formed.

And when we left in May of 1992. On our way out of the country we stayed in the American Embassy in Moscow. And we looked over the walls where Yeltsin made his stand on top of tanks. And where they hoisted the Russian Flag. And where the back of communist party was finally broken.

And now we’ve circled back. 15 short years. We’ve been witness to a pretty amazing piece of history. 15 years of calm more or less. Of not thinking about mutually ensured destruction. It’s depressing to think that my children will be back to living with that fear.

And my new play “The Automat” takes place in the cafeteria of a missile silo.It’s amazing how the subconscious works.