A Daily Conversation
About Dallas


Is The Texas ‘Economic Miracle’ Over?

| 13 hours ago

There was a time not too long ago when Texas regularly led the nation in job growth. Now it ranks 10th. Texas once had the lowest rates of unemployment in the nation, now it has the 26th lowest unemployment rate. Once lauded as affordable, the median price of a home in the state now exceeds the national median. And last year, when Governing magazine ranked states in terms personal income, jobs, and overall production, Texas ranked 21st — just behind Arkansas.

Don’t look now, but Texas is not the booming economy it once was. And as op-ed contributor Richard Parker argues over on the Dallas Morning News, part of the problem is state leaders in Austin aren’t looking:

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Abnormal Psychology

What I Think About When I Think About Death

| 15 hours ago
One tree in field

I have been a little obsessed with death over the last few weeks. I randomly started a list of nonfiction stories about people who saw death coming. Then Tim Rogers interviewed Krys Boyd for his wonderful profile in the April issue (“What to Think About When You Think About Krys Boyd”), which caused him to get a little wet-eyed and necessitated a discussion at our desks about the sudden death of Krys’ first husband from heart failure and the slow death of Diane Rehm’s husband from Parkinson’s and the question of which is better—to have notice of loss, or not.

I’ve had both, sudden loss and advance-notice loss. I’d say it’s a toss-up.

The particular loss that has been on my mind, though, is that of my mother. She died from sepsis after a week in the hospital from what started as a cold, or bronchitis, or pneumonia that she caught as a high school English teacher. She was 65. I pretty much just realized a few minutes ago, while multi-tasking and searching for a Mother’s Day item for the Style section of the magazine and instead finding yet another article about death on the New York Times website, that I may have death on the brain because, well, Mother’s Day is coming up. And this will be the 10th anniversary of losing her.

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How Dallas Democrats Are Destroying Themselves

| 19 hours ago

Not long ago, Terri Hodge, the ex-con, was leading a breakout discussion at table No. 3 at a meeting hall in the Cedars. The strategy talk in early January was part of a biennial get-together to discuss tactics on how to “empower Democrats in the North Texas region.” Specifically, Hodge was giving advice on the art of “Building Better Vote-by-Mail Results,” according to the day’s agenda. What this political jargon means is that the former state representative was explaining to volunteers and activists—and, as it turns out, at least one mole—how to get more votes in ways other than the party putting forth better candidates.

“Remember,” Hodge told the group, according to my mole, “the elderly and the disabled are excellent sources of mail-in ballots. Don’t overlook them.”

There is nothing untrue or illegal about this statement. Everyone deserves a vote. Just because there have long been allegations in Dallas County of Democratic operatives filing mail-in ballots without the consent or full understanding of elderly or disabled voters, that doesn’t make statements like Hodge’s suspicious. Nor does the fact she’s an ex-con, since she was convicted of tax evasion, not voter fraud. Nor does the fact that allegations of mail-in deception have long followed her. Nor does the fact that her old assistant was once indicted for “helping” a blind person fill out a ballot. The charges were dropped, after all.

Highlighting Hodge, someone with what you could at best call a checkered past, is not illegal, but it is indicative of a fundamental flaw in the Dallas County Democratic Party. The party’s inclusion of Hodge—and, worse, its blundering, cornered-animal defense of her—illustrates the party’s slavish devotion to old-school Democrats who have strutted and fretted their hours upon the stage, and from whom we should hear no more. In a post-Trump landscape, when Democrats all over the country are trying to harness progressive zeal, the Dallas County Dems still seem like a party that has no idea how to remake itself and take advantage of that enthusiasm.

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Health & Medicine

How Rana-Gee Lum Earned Her Scars

| 20 hours ago

The state’s accident report is a sparse narrative, neatly packaged, the lines not yet colored in. A 49-year-old woman named Rana-Gee Lum, driving too fast on a country road near the Oklahoma border, loses control of her red Ford Explorer. The SUV flies off the east side of the two-lane road and strikes a tree, damaging a barbed wire fence. To complement this brisk description, there is a drawing of a car and an arrow and a black circle that represents the tree. The report notes that it took 18 minutes for first responders to arrive.

When they got there, they found Lum burning alive. She was tangled in the dashboard wiring, which dislodged after the front end met wood. The car had exploded when it hit that tree. Flames spread into the cab, melting the flesh on her left leg as she struggled to get free. Lum sucked in air and got smoke. The fire spread up her buttocks and settled into her back as it consumed the seat. She doesn’t remember much from there, but she remembers thinking of her daughter, and then she remembers fighting until she was out of the car.

A nearby homeowner saw the black smoke and dialed 911. Soon, Lum was in a helicopter, being flown to what was then known as Medical Center of Plano—one of two burn units in all of North Texas. Lum was one of 736 patients who required inpatient services at the burn center during its first year of existence, so many that the hospital had to hire a third surgeon. That Saturday, June 25, 2016, Dr. Salil Gulati, the burn program’s medical director and one of those surgeons, was called into work. A woman had just been flown in, and her leg was charred to the bone.

Cases like Lum’s are extreme, these deep thermal burns. When they cover more than 20 percent of the body, the injury becomes a cruel alarm; there’s a foreign invader laying waste to soft tissue and the organs respond by flushing the body with fluids. This causes pressure to build up under the skin, limiting circulation to the person’s limbs near the burns, requiring surgeons to quickly make incisions in the skin to relieve it. To treat an injury like Lum’s, who had 46 percent of her body covered in burns, a standard operating room will not suffice. And for decades, the only one that would was located at Parkland Memorial Hospital, 70 miles from the inferno in her Explorer.

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Leading Off

Leading Off (3/29/17)

| 21 hours ago

DART Approves Resolution Opposing Plan to Use Money for Pension Fund. The Dallas Area Rapid Transit board approved a resolution yesterday that opposes Dallas City Council member Scott Griggs’ plan to use DART funds to help the Dallas Police and Fire Pension fund. The board believes that the plan might not be legal and could hinder DART’s being able to pay bond debt. Griggs wants to use one-eighth of DART’s sales tax revenue to aid the pension fund, which is in bad shape, and he wants it to be on a November ballot for voters to decide.

Butt Injection Woman Convicted of Murder. Yesterday, Denise “Wee Wee” Ross was convicted of murder and practicing medicine without a license. She had given a fatal butt injection to a client and also carried out two more procedures while awaiting trial. Punishment is being deliberated today.

Irving ISD Didn’t Show Support for Unauthorized Immigrant Students. At Monday night’s board meeting, Irving ISD trustees voted against the resolution designating campuses as “welcome and safe” and providing a “safe environment where all are treated equally regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, or disability.” Other Texas cities, including Dallas, have recently passed such resolutions.

Storms Move Through D-FW. Powerful thunderstorms moved through the area last night, and there was even a tornado warning in Tarrant and Denton counties. A lot of people lost power. A lot of streets have closures. At about 2:30 a.m., I sat bolt upright when deafening thunder woke me up and couldn’t go back to sleep for an hour.

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Guy Reynolds Documents His Meals on Wheels Route

| 2 days ago

A week from now, on April 4, Dallas Morning News photo editor Guy Reynolds will have a reception for a show at Photographique. It was curated by 1814 Magazine and Allison V. Smith, whose images sometimes find their way into the pages of D Magazine. Allison used to work with Reynolds at the paper. Her mom named D Magazine. Lot of connections going on here. Anyway, Reynolds has a weekly Meals on Wheels route. He brought along his camera. This show is the result. A portion of the sales will go to local Meals on Wheels efforts. You should consider attending. 

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Sports & Leisure

A New List of Hacky Yu Darvish Headline Puns

| 2 days ago

I’ve done this a couple of times. Is it really possible I haven’t done it in five years? That does not seem like me at all. At any rate, with Opening Day coming up next week, and Yu Darvish set to take the hill (that’s a baseball term), here are a selection of Yu-based puns to get you through the insanely, pointlessly long baseball season.

  • All Yu Need Is Kill (subhead: “Can Darvish get back his mean streak?”)
  • Yu-topia (after a great first month)
  • Now Yu See Me (general)
  • That Thing Yu Do (also general)
  • He’s Just Not That Into Yu (after Darvish is passed over to start All-Star Game)
  • Southside With Yu (after great win over ChiSox)
  • Curling Darvish (offday fun at the ice rink in Toronto, I guess)
  • Melt With Yu (summer calendar piece about Rangers games)
  • Yu Tube (after video of Darvish tearing up the club is leaked, goes viral)
  • The Company Yu Keep (after Johnny Manziel is spotted in leaked club video)
  • Yu Can’t Do That On Television (video still in the news cycle)
  • (Everything I Do) I Do it For Yu (takeout feature on Yu’s translator and American team, as the team tries to change the conversation)
  • 10 Things I Hate About Yu (cranky Kevin Sherrington column)
  • Nathan For Yu (after former Rangers closer Joe Nathan begins mentoring Darvish, following what is now being called “The Manziel Video”)
  • Yu Got Served (run above photo of Darvish turning to watch towering home run)
  • I’m Gonna Get Yu, Sucka (rival GM details plan for acquisition)
  • Now Yu See Me 2 (I don’t know)
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Local News

Meet the Man Who Led ‘American Sniper’ Chris Kyle Through the Iraq War

| 2 days ago
photo by Brandon Thibodeaux
photo by Brandon Thibodeaux

If you’ve ever been curious about the man who led ‘American Sniper’ Chris Kyle through the Iraq War, I’d like to direct you to D Magazine contributor Michael J. Mooney’s profile of Jocko Willink in Success Magazine.

Willink was the leader of SEAL Team 3’s Task Unit Bruiser, which became the most decorated special operations team in Iraq. Kyle was its point man. He got his ‘American Sniper’ moniker from his memoir and from Clint Eastwood’s 2015 film of the same name, and Mooney wrote both a D profile and a New York Times best-selling book about him. Kyle was killed in 2013 at a Glen Rose shooting range by an ex-Marine suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder whom he had been helping.

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Deep Ellum

Blow Off Some Steam at the Anger Room

| 2 days ago

Donna Alexander tells me that if I hit the TV in just the right location, a sweet spot somewhere around the middle, “it will explode.” She would know. For the past eight years, Alexander has run the Anger Room, a business dedicated to destruction. As I tap on the glass tube with the head of a 7-iron, I am excited by the promise in those italics.

The TV—an old CRT model, a thick and boxy chunk of hard, graying plastic—rests on top of a scuffed chest of drawers. Next to the chest is a coffee table and an armchair, both covered in a haphazard assortment of mismatched glasses and plates, like I’ve happened upon a yard sale. But I already own all of it: I’ve paid $45 to smash the entire lot. I have 15 minutes, the 7-iron, and a gnarled black baseball bat. It’s the Anger Room’s Lash Out package.

Alexander moved the Anger Room to its current home, a nondescript building on the east end of Deep Ellum, late last year. Inside, a Spartan front room gives way to an open, warehouse-style space at the back, with a whitewashed cinder block wall graffitied with signatures and F-bombs from previous guests, and a growing pile of rubble in one corner. Prior to its arrival here, the Anger Room made stops in Richardson, Arlington, and Lancaster. Its first location, before it was even really a business, was her garage off Ross Avenue. In 2008, she began inviting friends and family and co-workers there to bash away at whatever Alexander could scrounge up, charging them $5 a pop.

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Local News

Leading Off (3/28/17)

| 2 days ago

Mom With Special Needs Son Didn’t Much Care for TSA Screening. Jennifer Williamson wrote on Facebook that she and her young son were “treated like dogs” by TSA agents at DFW. A video of a TSA agent patting down her son has gone bacterial and has now been viewed nearly 5 million times. But we all feel safer, right?

Dallas Uses Cops to Answer 911 Calls. The officers are coming from units that patrol neighborhoods. “That’s putting a Band-Aid on that issue and taking away from the community,” said Councilman Adam Medrano. One of the problems, as I understand it, is that the drawn-out civil service hiring process can’t be accelerated in an emergency like this to hire more 911 call takers.

Former County Judge Testifies That John Wiley Price Threatened to Punch Him. Jim Foster said that Price made the threat after a vote concerning the inland port. Did you take the under or the over for Price’s corruption trial?

Mavs Melt Down Against Thunder. Russell Westbrook racked up another triple double as the Thunder went on a game-ending 14-0 run last night to win by 1 dang point. But Mark Cuban is totally right. Westbrook isn’t a superstar. The loss ensures that the Mavs will finish below .500 for the first time in forever.

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