Three Wise Men

Archive for the ‘elections’ Category

May 22nd, 2012 The truth about Elizabeth Warren

Well, I don’t have it, so if that’s what you came for, sorry. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, catch up by reading this (and if you don’t know who Warren is, read this). The short version is that at some point she claimed Cherokee heritage and her opponent Scott Brown decided to make it an issue by claiming that she doesn’t. Frankly, I don’t think it’s likely that she does. So many people claim Cherokee heritage that mostly we Cherokees just laugh it off. Her “high cheekbones” remark is about par for the course in my experience. The phenomenon is a constant irritant, but basically we have more important things to do than worry about all the wannabes.

But let’s go back to the controversy. I want you to think about why it would matter whether she’s Indian or not. I honestly couldn’t begin to tell you how many people in the US actually believe they have Indian blood, but I do know that a substantial quantity claim it.  As for why, I’ll let that be addressed by other people. In itself, the idea that a white person is erroneously claiming Native heritage is not surprising. Many White Americans have a legend of a Native ancestor, and quite often it’s specifically Cherokee. As to why it’s that particular tribe, it’s impossible to say for certain but there’s a decent answer posited in this book. So it should be clear that it’s really not even uncommon for Whites to claim Indian blood that they don’t have. Most of the time, this does not become the source of a huge controversy, and yet this time, when that claim got mixed up with politics, it did. I have nothing to say about the woman’s heritage, but if you want to read about the current status of the controversy on that, look here.

Again, the question is why it’s a source of controversy. It’s not that the conservatives who object to Warren would like her more if she was Indian, nor would they like her less (since that’s impossible). No, it stems from the fact that they believe she used a false claim to further her career. But do you notice what that assumption says? It rests on the other assumption that being a Native American confers special privileges. I can’t even begin to say how wrong that idea is. On the bare face of it, if Affirmative Action could elevate moderately talented and intelligent public school graduates to Harvard professors, I’d be a Harvard professor! And yet the conserva-wackos firmly believe that racial politics would somehow cause an American Indian to be elevated far above their station. I’ll leave this link here and you can read that idiocy for yourself if you want to, but let me summarize it for you: “Minorities get unfair promotions, preferential hiring, and are treated like gods by stupid liberals”.

I can assure you that such privileges do not exist, but let me go back specifically to Warren. From this article in The Atlantic:

The head of the committee that brought Warren to Harvard Law School said talk of Native American ties was not a factor in recruiting her to the prestigious institution. Reported the Boston Herald in April in its first story on Warren’s ancestry claim: “Harvard Law professor Charles Fried, a former U.S. Solicitor General who served under Ronald Reagan, sat on the appointing committee that recommended Warren for hire in 1995. He said he didn’t recall her Native American heritage ever coming up during the hiring process.

“‘It simply played no role in the appointments process. It was not mentioned and I didn’t mention it to the faculty,’ he said.”

He repeated himself this week, telling the Herald: “In spite of conclusive evidence to the contrary, the story continues to circulate that Elizabeth Warren enjoyed some kind of affirmative action leg-up in her hiring as a full professor by the Harvard Law School. The innuendo is false.”

“I can state categorically that the subject of her Native American ancestry never once was mentioned,” he added.

That view was echoed by Law School Professor Laurence H. Tribe, who voted to tenure Warren and was also involved in recruiting her.

“Elizabeth Warren’s heritage had absolutely no role in the decision to recruit her to Harvard Law School,” he told the Crimson. “Our decision was entirely based on her extraordinary expertise and legendary teaching ability. This whole dispute is fabricated out of whole cloth and has no connection to reality.”

And that’s the second arena where an absence of evidence should have some weight. If there’s no easily located evidence that Warren has Native American ancestry, there’s also no evidence Warren used her family story to boost herself into a Harvard job.

Now that’s a defense of Warren specifically, but in general, the fact of a person’s ancestry never does play any role in whether they get a job that they “don’t deserve” (although it’s for damn sure a factor in making sure they don’t get jobs they do deserve). The irony of this situation is that in fact, Harvard hired yet another White applicant, when they actually could have been performing some affirmative action and been out there recruiting a Native American. I can’t understand how the conservatives who are up in arms over this “scandal” can’t even see the idiocy of their position. They’re arguing that via affirmative action, a woman who falsely claimed Native American status was hired when the fact that Harvard hired a White woman basically proves that they weren’t even looking for a Native American! That’s how ridiculous it is to believe that she got an unfair advantage over her White competitors!

I don’t think I can reiterate this point enough: our race does not gain us preferential treatment. It simply does not, unless you count preferential treatment in being hired by The Cherokee Nation to work at a casino. If it did, would we not be in more academic positions we hadn’t earned? Would we not be executives in more corporations? I sure wish I knew how to take advantage of this privilege of mine and get rich without earning it!

PS. The Local Crank has written a great speech Elizabeth Warren can use for free that would help her extract herself from this situation more gracefully.

May 20th, 2011 It’s getting political up in here!

Well, the ongoing saga of the mayor’s race in Irving is getting pretty interesting. As mentioned in my last post, Beth Van Duyne narrowly edged out incumbent Herbert Gears. Of course the race goes to a runoff, so that’s not the end of it, and it’s time to take a closer look at the candidates. If you want to read their talking points, you go right ahead and get on over to or (I hope you can figure out which goes to which!).

What I want to comment on now is the nature of Van Duyne’s campaign, which, from all  appearances is being run as a Tea Party campaign, which is somewhat bizarre given the non-partisan nature of Irving’s city council. I know Beth Van Duyne is a Republican (not like she hides it), but bringing politics that belong on the state or national level into a city race is just really weird. Before I get any comments pointing out that Mayor Gears has, in the past, donated to Democratic candidates, I can’t see how party politics have affected much of anything that occurred in Irving under Gears’ leadership. For example, Delbert McDougal is a contributor to Republican candidates (more than likely for business purposes). Billy Bob Barnett (the developer behind the Las Colinas Entertainment Center) has contributed to Harry Reid in Nevada (a Democrat, for those not in the know) because he was trying to break into business in Nevada (probably Las Vegas).

I would think most people are astute enough to realize that local business people contribute to whichever politician they think will help them get ahead. Now it’s different (slightly) on the national level, because with pro-tax policies, Democrats may always represent an unpalatable option to, say, oil companies, who’ll always give money to anti-regulation Republicans. But even then, it’s usually not that clear cut.

Let’s just stipulate that although Gears may have donated to Democrats in the past, trying to tar him as a “tax-and-spend” liberal would be just plain irrelevant to city politics (not that anybody is). Not only that, but the policies developed under his aegis certainly don’t lead one to believe he’s some bleeding heart liberal. 24/7 ICE enforcement, for example, is the program that screens all suspects taken to jail in Irving for immigration status. It has led to one of the highest deportation rates in the nation. Sanctuary city Irving is not!

Mayor Gears’ reelection website boasts of tearing down “slum” apartments, lowering crime, keeping taxes low, inviting new business development, and bringing jobs to Irving. Not a word on there about meeting the needs of the poor or expanding social services. Of course, whether he gets credit for these accomplishments is debatable. But my point is he’s claiming credit for what are generally regarded as conservative virtues.

Of course he also claims credit for the new animal shelter and libraries, but my point is that in a city like Irving, the ideological rhetoric of national politics meets homegrown pragmatism and usually gives way. I mean, on the highest level you have Republicans who believe privatization of government services is the greatest good. They say it’s because private organizations do the most good for the least money. That’s a lie, but whatever. You find that generally voters on the ground level vote for things like animal shelters, libraries and public schools. Also, Irving only went wet a couple of years ago by something like a margin of 2%.

The alcohol election is a great example of how the whole Democrat/Republican divide breaks down at the lowest level. Pro-business Republicans were for alcohol while a lot of older residents (mostly Republican) and the black community (mostly Democratic) was against it. Young, affluent professionals (of either party) who lived in Las Colinas and Valley Ranch were key to turning Irving wet. You couldn’t make that a partisan issue if you tried.

But to get back to the point of my post, Beth Van Duyne is apparently running as a Tea Party candidate. Let’s check out some of her talking points (from the header of her web site). She says she will:

Eliminate the Washington, DC style waste and mismanagement of our tax dollars

Restore accountability and fiscal responsibility to the city budget

End the petty politics and backroom deals that have come to define this mayor’s time in office.

Jeez lady, who are you running against, Herbert Gears or Barack Obama? It’s not that there are not legitimate criticisms to be made of the deals that have been made under this mayor (and let’s remember that the mayor is really just one more vote on the council when it comes to these deals), but one would think that voters in Irving would prefer language specifically directed at Irving issues. Let’s take a specific look at some of her issues.

The first one is “Stopping Increased Taxes and Spending“, a Republican talking point if ever there was one. And again, not that I’m defending the mayor, but this is an odd issue to raise with the city. Irving has seen revenues decline because it relies heavily on business taxes, not property taxes, leaving it with one of the lower rates in the area. Most spending is under strict constraints, and its hard to say the city wastes a lot of money when they have been cutting frozen positions at the city for the past three or four years. This statement could only realistically be aimed at the entertainment center and McDougal project, but given that those are separate points it makes one think that Van Duyne intends to cut a lot of “waste” in the city when in fact there’s hardly any room for cutting left (which Putnam actually does a better job explaining on his site).

The next issue (which I quote in full) is:

Promoting Legitimate Economic Development

I support all good economic development, but not all development is good. The Council should do all it can to promote and attract new businesses that bring jobs and make Irving better, while protecting the community from projects that bring down the area, lower property values, or put an undue burden on city services and schools.

What? What is an illegitimate business? The unacknowledged offspring of a legitimate one? What businesses are we talking about? Could she be talking about beer and wine stores? Maybe, but how does that put a burden on schools? Are the kids going and getting drunk? I could be wrong, but I’m looking at that last line and thinking this could be about illegal immigrants. Sex-oriented businesses are out and beer and wine stores don’t put an “undue burden” on schools. Aside from businesses that employ illegal immigrants thus bringing even more Hispanic children into Irving, I don’t see how businesses impact schools at all. I could be wrong. I would like to hear someone explain that one to me.

I’m skipping past McDougal and the entertainment center points, since those are too local to be cast in any partisan terms. The next point is about the city allowing the entertainment center to have eateries that make more than 40% of their revenue from alcohol sales (the limit for restaurants with bars in Irving).

Against special exceptions for city-owned facilities (the R-AB exemption) “I believe it is fundamentally wrong to create an unfair competitive advantage by allowing city-owned businesses to operate under a different law than they require from their private businesses – a law the city created and is responsible to enforce.”

I don’t say that the average citizen doesn’t oppose bars. Some do, some don’t. But to connect that to some sort of pro-business standpoint comes from way out in right field. Joe Irving doesn’t care about “unfair competitive advantage” if it benefits him. The library probably kills the impetus for many internet cafes but nobody’s griping about that. Well, no average citizen anyway. This is just a suspiciously right-wing talking point.

And then the last one I’ll look at is this:

Government Transparency

Citizens have the right to know how and why decisions are made, who are the interested and benefitting parties, how much of their tax dollars are being spent and on what information decisions are based. It is YOUR money, after all. A fact I never forgot during my six year tenure on city council.

Not that it’s wrong, but that’s Tea Party rhetoric. Government should be 100% transparent, but I haven’t heard of anyone filing complaints that the council has violated the Open Meetings Act. I think that some back door deals may have occurred (here’s me wondering how Delbert McDougal just happened to win a contract in Irving that just happened to involve Tommy Gonzalez whom he already knew from Lubbock), but with no actual complaints filed, what are we missing?

Lastly, unless this is all too circumstantial for you, Beth Van Duyne has “conservative” splashed all over her website and is a member of the Irving Republican Women’s Club, whose website says “The recent GOP gains in the U.S. Congress and in State Houses around the Nation must not lull us into thinking things will be great from now on.  It is our opinion that in future, all elected representatives from our City to D.C. must be watched, coached and reminded that we expect smaller Constitutional Government.”

Now I’m not saying that she has branded herself a Tea Partier. Just that she’s flirting with the Tea Partiers to get their backing. I’m honestly not sure if this is why she managed to get ahead of Herb Gears or not. I’m sure the bulk of votes for her have nothing to do with that kind of politics. The question is whether those that tea party voters came out specifically because she’s aiming their campaign at them. If so, I’d say that’s a pretty smart campaign. Then again, it doesn’t seem like there’s much of a presence here in Irving. The immigration rallies from a few years back brought out no more than maybe just north of 50 counter-protesters. Of course that was before the Tea Party movement really got underway, but in those four years Irving has become even more minority dominated, so I have to believe there hasn’t been that dramatic of an upswing in the hard-right Republicans or Tea Party members.

So, are there any Irving residents out there capable of and willing to explain to me the rhetoric coming out of Van Duyne’s campaign?

May 16th, 2011 Stunning Results in Irving Elections!

My my, who would have predicted that Beth Van Duyne would come up with the most votes in the mayoral election? Well, aside from her campaign, that is.

Well, I guess I was wrong about the mayor’s election. I thought Putnam’s popularity was higher than that. I should have guessed that Van Duyne’s turnout would be better; after all she seems to have a solid constituency. In truth I think her results were due to getting out the people who are behind her rather than turning a majority of average Irving voters into her supporters.

Voter turnout was about a third of what it was in 2010, which in most precincts was only 25-33% anyway. I think if more of Irving turned out to vote for these things, probably Gears would have won a clear victory. At least I called two of the races correctly; Cannaday and Webb both won by handy margins. The fact that the votes split 50-50 between Stewart and Gutierrez, I chalk up to people randomly voting for somebody they don’t know. I could be wrong though; I’ll check out precinct results when I have the time and see exactly how it went.

The remaining question is what will happen in the mayoral runoff election. How will Putnam and Spink’s votes redistribute themselves? The main thing that all three challengers were going for was anti-Gears sentiment. Does that mean they can combine and overthrow the incumbent? Will that many people show up? Will they prefer Gears to Van Duyne? I don’t know. I’ll try to find out though and have some news on that pretty soon.

As for IISD action, nothing that interesting except that guy Steven Jones who made an ass of himself won, much to the dismay of people who speak their names properly regardless of whoever is listening.

May 6th, 2011 Irving City Council Election 2011

Irving is holding elections for Mayor, District 3, and District 5 this year. Honestly, this is probably the first time that an Irving election has been interesting, and generally it circles around the proposed Las Colinas Entertainment Center, to a lesser extent the Heritage District, and transparency in meetings. Each candidate has their own particular list of issues, though, so anyone interested in the elections should take the time to read through them. The Dallas Morning News’ Irving Blog is a good place to start. I’m sure there is a guide from the League of Women Voters out by now, and that’s always a great resource for finding about the candidates.

I can’t spend the time to make this an extensive in-depth commentary on every single candidate. I do want to pick out some highlights though. As far as the mayoral race, it’s my gut feeling (because there really aren’t any polls at this level) that the race is really between Gears and Putnam. I say this because of two things: first, most people don’t know anything about the council members, so that leaves Gears and Putnam with a clear lead over all others in name recognition. Second, despite reporting very low fund-raising, Putnam obviously has people pouring money into his campaign. There were “Elect Joe Putnam” signs out on lawns before he even formally announced his candidacy. The man was drafted into the election! His were out there first and from my driving tour of the city, the amount of Putnam signs is at least equivalent to Gears’. Despite raising a respectable amount of money, Beth Van Duyne doesn’t have nearly the presence that either Putnam or Gears does in the advertising. Given that early voting is going on now, it would seem rather late to make a big difference with an ad push. Besides that, (just between you and me) there are plenty of folks who really don’t like her. Spink is a non-factor in this race. He probably can’t overcome Gears in his home district, much less in the entire city.

On that note, as much as people want to take Gears out, pulling opposition votes in three directions is not the way to do it. If there was a poll in the city, he’s probably got somewhere around 50% approval. Despite the questions arising from the Las Colinas and Heritage District development financing, a lot of people take a look at the city and like what they see. City services are apparently untouched by financial hardships (this is untrue, but the city goes to great lengths to mask the cuts they make). New buildings have gone up around the city, like the animal shelter, West Library, McDonald’s in downtown, and there’s always construction in Las Colinas. The average citizen just isn’t going to see too much wrong with the city. They can’t see the hollowing out of certain departments through employee attrition, and have no idea that the state of the city’s budget is the reason it takes a little longer to find books at the library. So far, only Putnam has even raised this issue.

Putnam’s questioning of the financing of the entertainment center has exposed some things the mayor and city manager evidently didn’t really want to have to talk about. However, the fact that the city has been racking up a lot of debt in recent years is no secret to the rest of the council, which makes one wonder why it’s not a bigger issue in this campaign.

The place 5 incumbent Rose Cannaday’s release to the Dallas Morning News indicates all is well, which, being the incumbent, is the expected stance. She also mentions the lowering crime rate and the crackdown on illegal immigrants (as if that’s connected).  On an amusing note, she tells us “we have 29 Certified Liberians and 23 of them have their Master’s Degree”. What are we doing with all these educated Liberians? She is challenged by Julie Grant, a small-business owner and community activist. This one is almost certainly going to Cannaday. I would say that the amount of votes for Ms. Grant is the measure of disapproval that Irvingites have  with the current state of affairs as regards financing for city projects. Unfortunately, without a strong campaign aimed squarely at the incumbent, the challenger isn’t likely to win.

Place 3 is an interesting race. It features three newcomers as the incumbent, Alan Meagher, is stepping down. I’m not personally familiar with any of these three men, but they don’t boast much political experience. Quoting this article: “Webb is a Grand Prairie firefighter and the founding pastor of Bear Creek Community Church in Irving; Kensley Stewart is a healthcare professional; and David Gutierrez is a local business owner of Can Do Wood Projects and Repair Company.” Based on this description and nothing else, I’d say Webb has the best chance. District 3 covers the Bear Creek area, which means that a black candidate who’s a church leader has a built-in supply of votes (because he’s a member of the community). Kensley Stewart is an activist, and that’s a good thing, but he seems more like one of those guys who’s always at city council meetings instead of out there meeting the power brokers of the city. Gutierrez is an unknown. 3 isn’t the most heavily Hispanic part of town, and I’ve seen practically no campaign signs for him whereas Webb and Stewart at least have signs in yards.

So those are my predictions: Gears for mayor, Webb in 3, Cannaday in 5. Interestingly, if Webb does win, that would make the third minority council member, which would be a third of the council. Just think, two years ago there were no minorities on the council!

So, if any Irvingites find this blog, what are your thoughts?