Streetcar musings, 31.7.14

July 31, 2014

So, it looks like the signature drive for the petition to put the streetcar project in San Antonio to a vote was wildly successful:

In a Wednesday memo obtained by the Express-News, City Clerk Leticia Vacek informed City Attorney Robbie Greenblum that she sought a legal opinion from the Texas Secretary of State’s office regarding the nearly 27,000 signatures collected by the Streetcar Vote Coalition.

That was some 7,000 signatures more than the coalition needed. In other words, they beat their goal by almost 35 percent. I don’t know how long it took them all to do that, but it’s pretty significant. No doubt County Judge Nelson Wolff saw that and translated it as 27,000 people that weren’t going to be voting for him in the next election.

Meanwhile, over on the editorial page, here’s how the Express-News is spinning the whole deal:

Leadership void derails streetcar…

That City Council, VIA Metropolitan Transit, former Mayor Julián Castro, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and business leaders couldn’t sell this vision is troubling.

It undercuts their ability to sell any vision for this community — and portends a leadership void that could haunt the city, in particular, for years.

Well, when what you’re selling doesn’t have any real advantages to offset its myriad disadvantages, it does make your product that much more difficult to sell. Look at what Nelson Wolff himself was saying six months ago: “But every city our size has them.” That was pretty much the streetcar boosters’ argument right there. Well, that and, “we need a multimodal mass transit system” and “we need to get all the buses out of downtown.”

That last thing, as I’ve said before, was just a smokescreen. I rode the bus through downtown going to work Monday through Friday for the last couple of years, on several routes, among them the 2 (which runs down Blanco and Fredericksburg into downtown via Flores and St. Mary’s), the 3 and 4 (both running down San Pedro), the 97 (which comes into downtown via Fredericksburg, Cypress, and St. Mary’s), and the 34 (which comes back up Navarro from St. Mary’s on the south side and keeps going as the 2 outbound up Navarro, Martin, Flores, and Fredericksburg Road). Yes, there were buses downtown, as befits the center of a major city with mass transit. But the way the streetcar boosters talked, you’d think the buses were choking the streets and choking the life right out of downtown, and that was just not the case.

And as I’ve freely admitted before, a multimodal transit system is a good, desirable thing — but, again, what happens when you have the low ridership on the streetcars that would justify a route change if that ridership was on a bus? Well, that’s just tough shit, isn’t it? And we haven’t even gotten to things like what That Guy talks about here:

“We have a light rail that goes from where very few people live to where very few people work. But it does snarl traffic when it crosses the surface streets that people use to avoid the freeways!”

Maybe you could argue that the whole streetcar thing was a failure of leadership. But to the extent it was, it’s due to the fact that the city leadership was trying to sell San Antonio citizens a questionable bill of goods.

Wow. This is huge.

July 28, 2014

From the San Antonio Express-News earlier this evening:

City support for VIA Metropolitan Transit’s controversial streetcar collapsed Monday as recently appointed San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor called for the $32 million that the city had pledged for it be redirected to other center city development initiatives.

She also said that the streetcar, and any rail plan, should not proceed without a public vote, and she pushed for the creation of a city charter commission to explore transportation and other issues.

“The current proposal is very unpopular,” Taylor said. “We certainly believe there needs to be community consensus on a comprehensive multimodal transportation plan.”

In a stunning reversal, County Judge Nelson Wolff said he would ask Bexar County’s appointees on the VIA board to withdraw their support for streetcar, a plan several years in the making. Wolff said officials simply were unable “to gain sufficient public support” for the rail project.

That’s quite the auspicious debut for the new San Antonio mayor. I don’t think Julian Castro said anything about the streetcar project one way or the other; from what I could tell, it seems that he was content to let Nelson Wolff be the point man on it on behalf of the county and the city.

It’s also quite an auspicious (and suspicious) change of heart on Nelson Wolff’s part as well. Six months ago Wolff went on record as saying the streetcar wasn’t big enough for a vote, thereby implying its popularity didn’t matter one way or the other, and today he’s saying streetcar boosters couldn’t gin up enough support from the public to justify it. I’m going to guess he got really scared when he saw the number of signatures on the petition and figured he’d better lay off if he wanted to keep his job. ‘Cause party affiliation be damned, if there’s one thing a politician fears more the anything, it’s getting fired.

Sometimes the jokes just write themselves.

July 28, 2014

This is one of those times:

A total of 55 arrests and 46 medical incidents, including 22 people transported to hospitals, marred a Keith Urban concert event in Mansfield, Massachusetts Saturday (7-26) night at the Xfinity Center as part of his “Raise ‘Em Up” tour….

The Mansfield Police Department said many individuals became ill at the Keith Urban concert due to excessive alcohol consumption.

Like I said elsewhere, somehow it fits, because under the influence is just about the only way one could possibly enjoy Urban’s special brand of elevator music. On the other hand, I could probably go to a Keith Urban show blasted out of my mind on 200 proof pure grain alcohol and still find myriad things wrong with it.

Of course, the Urban fans showed up in the comments to defend their hero as, among other things, “an exceptional guitar player and singer-songwriter.”

And I’m like, y’know, what the hell ever. Maybe I am biased because of the fact that what I’ve heard from Keith Urban is pretty much the musical equivalent of mystery meat casserole — it’s a little bit of everything, which translates to a whole lot of nothing, or elevator music if you like — but it strikes me that, just as the case is with Brad Paisley, whatever talent Urban allegedly possesses is blown up all out of proportion to justify his place in country music.  It seems like that’s always the direction the conversation goes:

“Keith Urban sucks.”

“Nuh-uh! He’s a great guitar player!”

That would actually mean something if he was just playing guitar as opposed to trying to be a star in his own right. But that’s not what he’s doing, so here we are. And I’m just not seeing it. He’s an at-best competent vocalist and songwriter who doesn’t give a shit about country music beyond his ability to make money marketing his music as that, which more or less renders the whole guitar thing moot. It’s just the strangest thing. Country music has no shortage of talented instrumentalists — Jerry Reed, Steve Wariner, Ricky Skaggs, Marty Stuart, Keith Whitley, and the list goes on.

And none of them ever had to have their place in country music justified by their instrumental talents. There’s a reason for that.

Empowerment? Or a huge step backward?

July 22, 2014

Such is the question that this brings up:

If you turn Maggie Rose’s new single, “Girl in Your Truck Song” into a drinking game — taking a swig every time she name-checks a so-called “bro country” song — you’ll likely be pretty buzzed by the end of the first chorus.

“I can be the girl in your truck song/The one that makes you sing along/Makes you wanna cruise/Drink a little moonshine down/Leave a couple tattoos on this town/Chillin’ out with a cold beer/Yeah, hangin’ with the boys round here/Gonna take a little ride/That’s my kind of night/You and me getting our shine on/I wanna be the girl in your truck song.”

Well. you probably already know my answer to this, I bet. I don’t even know where to start, but to say that the whole thing leaves me rather aghast, not least of all because of Maggie Rose’s attitude:

“I like what’s happening in country music right now. There is a place for women, if we just find our niche. Don’t fight it; embrace it…I want to be a big player in country music, and this is the kind of music people are gravitating towards.”

Because that’s just what country music needs, yet another trend-follower, amirite? And is it the kind of music people are gravitating towards? Or is Trigger right when he says that we’re at the point that the bro-country trend has peaked and we’re now at the point of working through excess inventory of bro-country to make way for the next big thing? I don’t know, but either way I am more than a bit appalled that she seems to be embracing this sort of thing, as much as its been justly derided for reducing women to little more than arm candy.

Just as disturbing, though, are perspectives like this:

Male critics, justified are (sic) not, have been taking a very obviously paternalistic approach to the subgenre. They’re protecting women who aren’t asking for protection.

What the fuck does one even say to that? We just can’t win here. If we speak up against this crap we get accused as paternalistic by one side, yet if we don’t we get accused by the other side of promoting rape culture. Frankly, I don’t see why it’s so “paternalistic” for us to want our mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters to aspire to more than what they’re portrayed as in the bro-country trash. The women may not be asking for protection, but there are still those out there who feel they’re being degraded by the bro-country movement, and with all the mentions of sugar shakers, Dixie cups, fine asses and whatnot, it’s pretty easy to understand why. I am always hesitant to talk about any kind of silent majority when it comes to any given issue, but just the same I have to wonder just how many women out there take offense to bro-country because of its portrayal of women — and how many of those women have just given up on mainstream country music because of it. Are we being paternalistic? Maybe it does depend on who’s being asked. I don’t know.

But if we’re wanting our women to be empowered, what would be the better anthem for that? “Girl in Your Truck Song,” or Kacey Musgraves’ “Follow Your Arrow”?

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Really, though, we can go round and round all day long about being paternalistic vs. wanting our women to be portrayed as more than just truck accessories, as a couple of commenters at SCM so astutely put it, but there’s so much more wrong with the bro-country movement than that — specifically, that it not only makes women one-dimensional, but it also makes life that way. The bro-country movement seems to discount everything else that country music is about — it reduces our existence to one big party. Life’s not a party for a bunch of folks at all, let alone constantly. Like I’ve said before, there’s nothing wrong with singing about drinking around a bonfire and whatnot, but there’s more to life than that, and there ought to be more to country music than that. And not so long ago, there WAS more to country music than that. So even if some people are fine with just being arm candy for some redneck, is it still a good place for the genre to be going or to be stuck in? I certainly don’t think so.

Well, there goes another favorite thing of my youth…

July 15, 2014

…and to add insult to injury, he gets martyred to make a freaking political statement:

For the fans of Archie Andrews, his impending death marks a fitting end for the famous comic book do-gooder.

The 73-year-old red-headed character will die in Wednesday’s installment of “Life with Archie” when he intervenes in an assassination attempt on senator Kevin Keller, Archie Comics’ first openly gay character who is pushing for more gun control in Riverdale….

Kevin first joined Veronica Lodge, Betty Cooper, Jughead Jones and Reggie Mantle in Archie Comics in 2010. He later appeared in his own solo title. In “Life with Archie,” he’s a married military veteran and newly elected senator who’s pushing for the gun control after his husband was involved in a shooting.

A military veteran pushing for more gun control. Special. I wonder if “Life With Archie” ever talked about the vitriolic reaction Kevin Keller would have gotten from other veterans for doing such. You know, just to be accurate about the whole thing. And I bet Archie gets killed in a gun-free zone, too. Something about those just seems to make them magnets for killers. I wonder what it is?

Sunday random musings, 13.7.14

July 13, 2014

Leonard Pitts is right

It is a case of Supreme hypocrisy.

…but not in the way he thinks. There is hypocrisy involved here, of course, but it is on the part of the people — arguably most of whom are leftist/progressive — who think that First Amendment rights apply only to individuals and certain collectives, i.e., the Old Media consortia, but that the Second Amendment only applies to the National Guard. I could be wrong here — I’m just going off everything I’ve read — but I’m pretty sure very, very few, if any, conservatives or libertarians ever argued that the people solely had Second Amendment rights as individuals, only that the proposition that people only had 2A rights as part of a group but not as individuals was the wrong interpretation. Yet progressives have argued from day one that the First Amendment didn’t apply to certain collectives at all while the Second Amendment exclusively applied to one specific collective. What gives?

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We’re the Only Ones Letting People Snatch Our Guns Enough:

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — A gunman who killed a rookie officer responding to a report of an armed robbery at a drugstore early Sunday never tried to rob the store and instead lay in wait for police, telling a witness to watch the news because he was “going to be famous,” authorities said.

Lawrence Campbell shot Officer Melvin Santiago in the head shortly after he and his partner arrived at the 24-hour Walgreens at around 4 a.m., Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said. Other officers returned fire at Campbell, killing him.

Campbell, 27, of Jersey City, was one of three suspects wanted by police for a prior homicide, Fulop said.

Fulop said Campbell was carrying a knife when he walked into Walgreens and asked for directions to the greeting card aisle. He assaulted an armed security guard at the store and snatched his gun, Fulop said.

According to Fulop, Campbell approached a witness and apologized for his conduct, then said to watch the news later because he was “going to be famous,” then waited for officers to arrive and shot Santiago with what police believe was the guard’s weapon.

A security guard! One of New Jersey’s Only Ones!

Maybe not quite, but it’ll be interesting to see what more comes out of this. I have to wonder how much of that security guard’s training overlapped with that of official police. Could very well be that the guard was an off-duty LEO. We see that all the time — off-duty cops serving as armed security, that is — down here in both Walmart and HEB. I am pretty sure I’ve also seen them in Walgreens.

An update.

July 9, 2014

So, here’s where we are now…

As Erin Palette told you all, in addition to the situation with our baby, we were also being kicked out of our home and had to find a new place to live as well as needing our van fixed for issues with leaking coolant. Those issues are now taken care of; we got the van fixed, found a new place, and just got moved in last week.

I do sincerely apologize for not updating you all sooner; the last few weeks at least have been quite a stressful blur. I never mentioned it on here, but the landlady (who bought the building from the man we originally rented it from) wanted to remodel the place and got to the point of calling me almost every day asking me when we were going to be out so she could schedule painters and whatnot to get in the building. She whined to me about it costing her extra money, as if that meant shit to me.

And ohhh, yes! Sabra reminded me that the woman actually tried to get us to move into the city’s homeless shelter so as to facilitate this remodeling. In other words, this creature wanted to move a pregnant woman  — again, whose baby has a fatal diagnosis — and said pregnant woman’s family into a germ incubator to save herself some money.

I wanted to tell her, “If I could trade our issues for yours, I WOULD DO IT.” I finally had to write her and tell her that if she said one more word to me about it, I’d consider it harassment and report it to the appropriate agencies.

You’re probably wondering, “Would you really have her dealing with a dying baby?” Yup. It might make me sound like an asshole, but considering that she knew about the situation with the baby and still harassed us and still whined about her financial situation vis-a-vis the remodeling of the building, I’d say she could use some perspective.

ANYWAY…

Psalm-Angel Guadalupe is, well…just fine, other than the aforementioned issues. Heart thumping away just like normal, s/he kicks around in the womb like it ain’t no thang, it’s just…something else. I felt a kick (actually, a head-butt) last night. It was pretty neat. :D Were it not for the diagnosis we got one would never know the baby wasn’t going to live long past birth if s/he is born alive at all. As Sabra put it, it’s bittersweet, but mostly sweet. We hope to get a 3D ultrasound scheduled in the next couple of weeks and are still working on funeral arrangements as well…

Thank you all for your support. It is all very, very much appreciated.

They seem to have forgotten something.

July 6, 2014

Who? Well

A Texas Tech University cheerleader is the focus of online anger after she posted pictures of her recent hunting trip to Africa on her Facebook fan page.

Kendall Jones of Cleburne, Texas, posted pictures of her trip to Zimbabwe, including pictures of her with leopards, lions, and elephants that were killed on her trip. She also included a picture of a white rhino that she tranquilized. Commenters on her pictures have shown their displeasure with Jones’ trips, including issuing her death threats. Jones addressed those voicing their displeasure on her picture with the white rhino.

And what did they forget?

They forgot that they’re making threats against someone who is good with a gun. And they also forgot that her dad was probably the one who taught her to shoot that gun and that he’s probably as good with a gun as she is? What caliber for ignorant nut cases threatening your daughter? I’m sure something like .338 Lapua Magnum would fit the bill just fine.

Seriously, as a friend of mine put it, these people probably don’t know the first thing about how these hunts factor into conservation. The way I had it explained to me, those African safaris bring in a shit-ton of money via licensing fees, much of which goes back into the local communities, which in turn gives the landowners an incentive to protect and nurture the wildlife populations. But I guess it’s just so much easier to make slurs and death threats behind a computer.

Sunday political musings, 29.6.14

June 29, 2014

So, apparently Ruth Marcus and Nora Volkow are A-OK with little old ladies and war veterans getting gunned down (and babies being burned with flash-bang grenades) in their homes via no-knock SWAT raids because police think there might be drugs in there. That’s really the only conclusion I can draw, since neither of them acknowledge the myriad ways that the War On Some Drugs has gotten completely out of control in this country. I find the argument that “we don’t know how dangerous marijuana is” to be more than a little bit disingenuous, because if that’s the case, why was it even banned in the first place? And it’d be interesting to find out how our knowledge of alcohol and tobacco relates to their legality, don’t you think?

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Say what you will about Houston Mayor Annise Parker, but at least she has experience doing things of substance besides filibustering.I don’t really know if I’d agree or not with the way she’s run the city of Houston — meaning, I don’t really have an opinion on that since I haven’t paid that much attention to it. She’d certainly be someone to take seriously, though, unlike a certain Democratic gubernatorial candidate who is to a large extent being pushed by out-of-state interests because of her only accomplishment of note (and even that was more or less created by the media).

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Well, this is special:

DALLAS – Republican gubernatorial nominee Greg Abbott‘s campaign blasted remarks made by state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer at the Texas Democratic Convention in Dallas, calling them inappropriate and symptomatic of the party’s recklessness.

Martinez Fischer, well-known for his penchant for throwing bombs at his colleagues across the aisle, has been especially on point this weekend. During his speech to the full convention Friday, Martinez Fischer said “GOP” stood for “gringos y otros pendejos.”

White people and other assholes. But remember, kids, it’s those evil bastard Republicans who are the racists! Never mind Trey Martinez Fischer, or Dan Ramos for that matter!

Yet another illustration…

June 27, 2014

…of what’s wrong with the local newspaper.

Apparently the Dairy Queen at West Avenue just north of Blanco Road got robbed last night, and you know what San Antonio Express-News reporters are writing about?

They’re writing about a party in a pasture 350 miles away. And the story seems to be almost completely lifted from the website of a Tyler TV station. Freaking pathetic.


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