Jazz Blogger Kevin Gillette is still basking in the heady afterglow of an outstanding evening of jazz at the Murchison Performing Arts Center on the University of North Texas campus in Denton. Last night, over a thousand eager listeners were treated to the best in modern ensemble jazz, featuring some amazing young musicians and one alumnus/veteran. Clilck here to read more
Kindness, courtesy and laughter are the great elixirs for energy, happiness and longevity ... remember, we don't stop laughing because we grow old ... we grow old because we stop laughing! Keep on Laughing, Loving and Living!
I guess I am not the only one who wondered if the Dallas Morning News got it wrong this morning in many of its articles on the meaning of Tuesday’s ruling by the Texas Supreme Court on school finance. Wick Allison opined in Front Burner today that he had a similar reaction to one of the News’ articles on the issue where he came to the "exact opposite conclusion" from the News based on the same facts.
Here is my problem with the News rendition: part of the headline of the News story reads: "‘Robin Hood’ left alone". The article itself bluntly states that the 7-1 ruling "does not alter the "Robin Hood" wealth-sharing system." That is not how I read the majority opinion of the Court authored by Nathan Hecht. (Hecht previously had voted with the minority in the last Edgewood decision. Four members of the Court, including Hecht, argued that Robin Hood was an unconstitutional violation of the constitutional prohibition against a statewide property tax.)
While Hecht is careful to appear to accept the precedent set in the previous cases, he states in two separate sections of his opinion that the current public school finance system is in violation of the prohibition against a statewide property tax. I don’t see how the legislature "fixes" this problem without eliminating Robin Hood or drastically reducing its reach.
(I will discuss all of this in greater length in an upcoming viewpoint article on school finance.)
Meanwhile, don’t jump to the conclusion prematurely that, as the News put it, "the ruling did not change the state’s so-called Robin Hood system." Also, if you want to know why we need to end Robin Hood now, go to our Boot Robin Hood Blog section on our editorial site, and see why the current system is a lousy way to fund public education in Texas.
The Texas Supreme Court cut Gov. Rick Perry and the Republican-controlled Legislature some slack when it gave lawmakers until June 1 to craft a new school finance plan. Yet, while it allows them to get through the March primary before having to address the issue in a special session, the deadline also permits voters to put candidates on the spot when they campaign. Voters should ask Republicans why, now that they control both houses and the governor, they have been unable to solve this escalating problem of funding public schools.
Many legislators were elected in 2002 and 2004 by promising to get rid of Robin Hood, and yet lawmakers have failed repeatedly to agree on plans to cut the share-the-wealth system and add new revenues from other business and consumer taxes. The Senate wasn’t the problem. Senators worked hard under the leadership of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Sen. Florence Shapiro to fashion alternative plans. The real bottleneck was the House and Speaker Tom Craddick, whose only response seemed to be “No.”
Craddick wanted to wait to see what the court would do, and he now has his wish. But he can easily interpret the court’s order as a way to do the minimum, which could be merely lifting the current $1.50 per $100 valuation cap on the property tax rate.
The cap is what caused the Supreme Court to declare the school funding system unconstitutional. Almost 70 percent of the state’s school districts are either at the cap or within a nickel of it, meaning they have little or no ability to raise more revenue. Supreme Court justices said that amounts to a state property tax because local districts can no longer control their own taxes.
As for the governor, he has failed to point the way to change in the past, leaving it up to lawmakers to hash it out. Now he’s appointed a blue-ribbon commission to come up with some taxation alternatives, headed by former Comptroller John Sharp, who knows which businesses are getting off easy and who may be able to persuade some industries to pick up more of the tax load.
Likewise, current Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn knows where the little or untaxed bodies are buried. She has long proposed closing loopholes in the state’s franchise tax and expanding the sales tax to create a more equitable tax system. Maybe she’ll get some folks to listen to her during her primary campaign against Gov. Perry, with the school funding deadline approaching.
The Supreme Court has ordered the Legislature to act or funds for the 2006-2007 school year will be cut off. Nonetheless, it’s hard to be optimistic when the Legislature has had such a poor record of stepping up to the challenge heretofore.
While the Supreme Court did not tell lawmakers what to do, it did issue a warning that the state is getting dangerously close to not providing students an adequate education. If lawmakers simply do the minimum and raise the current tax rate cap, the court challenges will not be over.
Gen. Douglas MacArthurThe "Korean War was a civil conflict started by Kim Il-sung for national unification ... should have ended within a month if American forces did not intervene ...... The statue of Gen. MacArthur, the war monger, should be thrown into the gutter of history .... MacArthur is not a person who saved Korean lives, but an enemy who snatched away Korean lives .... MacArthur was just a war fanatic ... The favorable perception of a war maniac who caused the great tragedy to the Korean people should be scrapped. His statue should also be destroyed."
These are not the words of a North Korean communist propaganda operative or an extreme-rightist Japanese who can’t forgive Gen. MacArthur for defeating the Japanese Imperialist army in many battles during World War II. Those are the words of Kim Jeong-gu, a prominent Sociology professor at Dongkuk University in Seoul.
Many leftist radicals in South Korea who share the Professor’s views followed up on Kim Jeong-gu’s words with a protest held this fall at the site of the MacArthur statue at Inchon Freedom Park. Some 4,000 anti-MacArthur demonstrators gathered on Freedom Park on the occasion of the 55th Anniversary of Gen. MacArthur’s landing at Inchon. The Inchon landing was a crucial turning point of the Korean War. That daring military operation, conceived of and planned by Gen. MacArthur, saved South Korea from being conquered by communist North Korea.
The anti-MacArthur demonstrators who participated in this anti-MacArthur protest included members from the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union and Hangchongryon (a pro-North Korea student organization).
Carrying bamboo sticks, the young radicals came to try to tear down a 15ft statue of MacArthur; but riot police and 1,000 Korean War veterans carrying deadly weapons pushed them back. Nonetheless , anti-MacArthur rioters were able to hurl rocks, bottles and eggs at the statue. The actions of the radicals were in strong contrast to the official ceremony, which was held at Inchon Freedom Park to commemorate Gen. MacArthur’s achievements. Leading figures of the Grand National Party (GNP), the conservative opposition party to the left leaning Uri party of the ruling government, attended the event. The Mayor of Inchon, a marine veteran, was one of the speakers honoring Gen. MacArthur for his military leadership during the Korean War. Although the ruling Uri party (a more left-wing political party) has taken the public position that the statue should remain, neither the Defense Minister nor any other high ranking official of the ruling party attended the event.
The violence of this demonstration may seem irrational to outsiders, but South Koreans are not known for peaceful protests. In September, a Busan truck driver burned himself to death due to higher oil prices. Earlier this year, some protesters sliced off their little fingers as part of a territorial dispute with Japan over a tiny uninhabitable island called Dokdo or Takeshima. Ironically, Japenese Yasuka (Mafia) members cut off their little fingers when giving a blood oath.
The extreme statements by the South Korean university professor in opposition to the American role in the Korean War and the anti-MacArthur protests are symbolic of a changing attitude towards the United States by South Koreans. This is particularly so with the younger generation of Koreans who have little or no appreciation for the role the United States played in saving South Korea from a Communist takeover by a brutal North Korean regime. The United States should realize that we will not be able to count on South Korea as a staunch ally in the future.
Judge Tom VandergriffOne of our well-informed DFW bloggers has passed onto Dallas Blog the hot, political rumor that Tarrant County Judge Tom Vandergriff is not going to run for re-election next year. The very popular Vandergriff was Mayor of Arlington and served in Congress as a Democrat. He lost his Congressional seat to Republican Dick Armey during the Reagan landslide in Texas in 1984. Vandergriff later changed parties and was elected County Judge as a Republican. He is widely credited with wooing the Texas Rangers away from Dallas to Arlington. Now, the Dallas Cowboys soon will follow the Rangers to Arlington.
Tom Vandergriff is well-liked by Republicans and Democrats alike in a county that has become increasingly Republican over the past decade. If he retires, there probably will be a lot of Republicans lining up to replace him. It is too bad for Dallas County that Tom Vandergriff didn’t have his business here or serve as County Judge in Dallas. We probably would have the Texas Rangers playing here and wouldn’t be losing the Dallas Cowboys to Arlington.
Wick Allison, publisher of D Magazine, has some excellent suggestions about how to make downtown Dallas more "user friendly" in his publisher’s notes in the December issue of D. He makes the point that the City of Dallas parking code requirements "were written with a precision that would make a Soviet planner quiver with delight".
Without stealing his thunder, let me quote from one paragraph in his article: "Dallas City fathers enacted the present code when they were afraid that downtown would be overrun by cars. That’s hardly the problem now. The city should restore two-way streets and allow for head-in parking to reduce the gully effect. It should eliminate off-street parking requirements to let developers and businesses make their own decisions. It should give the maximum leeway for people to use their own creativity and common sense."
Read the rest of Allison’s article in the December issue of D Magazine.
Tony LawtonOn Saturday evening, November 19, the College of Saint Thomas More presented Mr. Tony Lawton at the fifteenth annual Lewis-Tolkien Dinner and Lecture. Mr. Lawton brought vividly to life the cast of the Great Divorce: George MacDonald, the woman who simply had to have someone to manage, the man who only wanted his rights, and the addict. Mr. Lawton is a graduate of Notre Dame who pursues his acting career as a vocation, both by representing the text of C. S. Lewis’s stories dramatically and by offering spiritual drama to a secular world through his Mirror Theater Company.
The Lewis-Tolkien Dinner and Lecture is an annual event sponsored by The College of St. Thomas More’s C. S. Lewis Center for the Common Tradition. Through the Center the college has brought to this event such internationally known scholars as Peter Kreeft, Thomas Howard, Richard Land, and Father Ian Ker. The Center was organized not to take part in ecumenical dialog but to pursue the common interests of Christians on the assumption of a shared love for God and love of learning.
Tony Lawton lives in Philadelphia where he is at work on a novel and a children’s story in which the main character is winningly named Foozy.