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Politics & Policy |
September 20, 2012

The battle over UT

I wrote the cover storyin the current issue of TEXAS MONTHLY. The subject is the future of higher education generally and the threats to the academic reputation of UT-Austin in particular. In the story I deal with Governor Perry’s attempt, starting in 2008, to control higher ed by

Politics & Policy |
September 19, 2012

Is Fisher moot?

The case of Abigail Fisher v. the University of Texas at Austin, an affirmative action case involving undergraduate admissions to UT-Austin, is scheduled to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court some time this fall. I wrote about the case in an April BTL, and last night, I

The Wanderer |
September 17, 2012

Sneak Peek: The Wanderer Goes To . . .

For the October installment of the Wanderer, I spent three days exploring a Houston hood with a colorful history (a 1973 Texas Monthly article called it “the strangest neighborhood in Texas”) and a colorful array of shops, restaurants, and watering holes. Can

Politics & Policy |
September 17, 2012

Is redistricting “fair”?

Matt Mackowiak tackled the issue in the Statesman, in an opinion piece headlined “Redistricting doesn’t need fixing.” He writes: With the primary elections in a redistricting year now in the rearview mirror, the predictable lament of losing candidates is to blame the district lines. If only the process

Politics & Policy |
September 17, 2012

A note to the readers of Burkablog

t has always been my policy that anyone may post comments on this blog. In fact, a large part of the success of this blog has been the community of commenters that has developed around it. I have only asked that comments show respect for other readers, as well as

The Wanderer |
September 17, 2012

Spotted in Bandera

  For my first official outing as the Wanderer, I got to play cowgirl for a few days in Bandera, the (self-proclaimed) Cowboy Capital of the World. As I was busy riding horses, two-stepping, and eating fried delicacies, I managed to

Politics & Policy |
September 16, 2012

New leader at Lackland after scandal

From the San Antonio Express News: The Air Force chose a woman Saturday to lead its basic training unit at a Texas base where dozens of female recruits have alleged they were sexually assaulted or harassed by male instructors within the past year. Col. Deborah Liddick is

Politics & Policy |
September 14, 2012

GOP electors go off the reservation

The internal rifts within the Republican party are getting more frequent and more serious. From an AP story in yesterday’s Statesman: At least three Republican electors say they may not support their party’s presidential ticket when the Electoral College meets in December to formally elect the new

Politics & Policy |
September 13, 2012

Nonstory of the year

I’m referring to the recent poll by Wilson Perkins Allen that shows Romney leading Obama in Texas by 55-40. (McCain had similar numbers, 55-44.) With Democrats getting only 40% of the vote, what’s the surprise in these numbers? There is none. Obama is not providing enough coattails for Democratic legislative

Politics & Policy |
September 12, 2012

If Romney loses …

…the reaction from the right wing of the Republican party is going to be a ferocious backlash of “We told you so.” The GOP decided to stick with the front-runner, Mitt Romney, as is its long-established habit, and while it is certainly too early to say that Romney is in

Eat My Words |
September 11, 2012

Blind Houston Chef Wins MasterChef Competition

Reality cooking shows have seen their fair share of Texas talent this past year. Earlier this spring, Austin’s Paul Qui was named the winner of Top Chef Texas. Now, Houston has its own culinary reality star: Christine Ha, a blind graduate student at the University of Houston. Last night on the finale of FOX’s

Politics & Policy |
September 8, 2012

Julián Castro’s future

Castro flashed signs of big-time political talent in his speech at the Democratic convention, but he is faced with the same problem as all Texas Democrats: all dressed up with no place to go. Democrats are not positioned to win a statewide race anytime soon. They don’t have the party

The Wanderer |
September 6, 2012

Choose Your Own Texas Adventure

The first column I wrote for Texas Monthly appeared in the March 2000 issue. The article was titled “Voting Rites,” and I argued that the Voting Rights Act, which Lyndon Johnson had proposed to a joint session of Congress 35 years earlier, was the greatest accomplishment of his presidency. The truth

Politics & Policy |
September 6, 2012

What Obama did and didn’t do

I thought Obama had to do two things tonight. One was tell the nation what he was going to do in the next four years that he hadn’t done in the past four years.  He did some of that–cut the deficit, cut oil imports, improve fuel economy–but there were no

Eat My Words |
September 6, 2012

Paul Qui Returns to Uchi Roots Next Week

Paul Qui – the recent winner of Top Chef Texas and the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest – is currently working on his much-anticipated Austin restaurant projects, but that doesn’t mean he has completely forgotten his chef roots. From September 10-15, Qui will return to the Uchi

Politics & Policy |
September 4, 2012

Castro shines in keynote speech

I thought Julian Castro exceeded expectations in his keynote address. The speech itself was nothing special, but Castro rode its momentum all the way. He hit the right notes–middle class, family, opportunity, Mom, America, working together. All the cliches, in other words, but what is a keynote for if not

Politics & Policy |
September 3, 2012

Did Greg Abbott “save” the Voting Rights Act?

The Web site “The Texas Lawbook” asks the intriguing question posed by the headline. If Abbott did save it, he didn’t mean to, that’s for sure. From the Web site: The Texas Attorney General claims in court that the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 is outdated, unnecessary and

Politics & Policy |
August 30, 2012

Perry names Williams education chief

This appointment had been rumored for some time, so it was hardly a surprise. Michael Williams has a slim history in the education area, except for serving in the Department of Education during the George H. W. Bush administration and serving on the board of a Catholic school. He faces

The Wanderer |
August 29, 2012

Houston: James Turrell’s Skyspace

During a recent trip to Houston, I decided to make an early-bird dinner reservation so I could get over to the Rice University campus in time for the evening viewing of James Turrell’s Light Epiphany. Open since June, the site-specific “skyspace” was commissioned to mark

Politics & Policy |
August 29, 2012

State loses redistricting case; Abbott plans appeal

The outcome of this case was predestined. For months, the D.C. court warned that Texas’s failure to provide Hispanic opportunity districts when there were huge Hispanic population gains could be construed as evidence of intentional discrimination. There was no way a fair court could ignore the facts in the case:

The Wanderer |
August 27, 2012

Marfa: Trans-Pecos Gathering of Music + Love

In one of my favorite descriptions of Marfa, writer David McDannald points out that sometimes it’s “a shadow of a town” and sometimes it’s “a desert Mardi Gras.” At the end of this month, West Texas’s buzziest destination will be lit up like Bourbon Street

Politics & Policy |
August 26, 2012

Neil Armstrong, R.I.P.

I was saddened to hear of the death of astronaut Neil Armstrong, at 82. His passing reminds us of a time when people still believed that government could do great things. Nobody believes that any more. The landing on the moon is one of the great accomplishments of this nation,

Politics & Policy |
August 24, 2012

The Republican field: a sensible solution

Here’s what I think should happen: (1) If Abbott isn’t going to run against Perry, he should challenge Dewhurst for lieutenant governor. It’s the best job available (other than governor), and Dewhurst is gravely wounded. Abbott would beat him like a drum. If Abbott doesn’t run, Dewhurst still has to

The Wanderer |
August 22, 2012

Roadside Attraction: Wild Boar Farms

WHAT: Wild Boar Farms, a roadside farm stand worth pulling over for. WHERE: Stonewall, at the northeast corner of Hwy 290 and Luckenbach Road. WHY: For starters, the head farmer’s name is Daniel Bacon. That’s as good a reason as any to patronize this long, wood-paneled structure,

The Wanderer |
August 22, 2012

Wandering Around the Great State of Texas

If you’ve already picked up your copy of Texas Monthly‘s September issue, you’ve noticed that the magazine has undergone a top-to-bottom redesign. In the new Touts section, you’ll find the debut of my Texas travel column, the Wanderer (or, as my colleagues like to

Eat My Words |
August 21, 2012

Pay It Forward Tonight with Daniel Curtis and Austin Chefs

Despite our most valiant efforts, we cannot predict the life events that await us around the corner. Before May of last year, Daniel Curtis – former food and beverage director of The Carillon – had every intention of continuing his work in the evolving Austin culinary scene. But when a diving accident on

Politics & Policy |
August 19, 2012

Cabins on the coast

I was quite surprised to see the story in the Tribune about the fishing cabins along the Intracoastal canal. I’d forgotten about them since the days when I worked in the Senate for Babe Schwartz as committee counsel. The cabins, which we referred to a squatters’ shacks, were built by

Politics & Policy |
August 17, 2012

Texans First, but in what? [see UPDATE]

There seems to be a new organization that’s getting started. It’s called “Texans First.” Here’s what I think is going on. It’s a Rick Perry play all the way. That’s obvious from the signature on the letter, which is that of Bill Jones, formerly Perry’s general counsel and former chairman

Politics & Policy |
August 17, 2012

Faster than a speeding bullet (train)

I was very interested to see the story that former Harris County judge Robert Eckels is leading a group that wants to bring a bullet train to Texas, backed by Japanese interests. There was a previous effort to bring a bullet train to Texas in 1993. It didn’t come to

Politics & Policy |
August 14, 2012

The fraud of voter impersonation fraud

From the Washington Post, August 11: A new nationwide analysis of more than 2,000 cases of alleged election fraud over the past dozen years shows that in-person voter impersonation on Election Day, which has prompted 37 state legislatures to enact or consider tougher voter ID laws, was

Politics & Policy |
August 13, 2012

Munisteri says Cruz is a “bright star”

The Abilene Reporter-News published a remarkable story about a speech by Republican party chairman Steve Munisteri. “Is Ted Cruz a bright star or what?” Minusteri said in a speech at the Brownwood Country Club. The article continued, “After the meeting, he hesitated to say that Dewhurst, who was backed

Politics & Policy |
August 11, 2012

AP confirms: It’s Ryan

From the Web site policymic.com: The Associated Press and several television stations have confirmed that Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan will be Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate. * * * * One big question that remains is, how many Republican insiders profited from knowing the pick ahead of time?

Politics & Policy |
August 11, 2012

Romney to announce veep choice Saturday

Paul Ryan seems to be the favorite, judging from the latest news stories. It makes sense to me because (1) Romney has still not persuaded Republicans of his conservative bona fides, and (2) Ryan is the darling of the GOP base. If chosen, he will energize the convention, as Palin

Eat My Words |
August 8, 2012

Texas Grabs Seven Spots on Bon Appétit List

Talk about coincidences. I was eating lunch at Elizabeth Street Café, in Austin, one of my favorite new restaurants (great Vietnamese-style fried rice with crispy oysters today, and amazing avocado ice cream. . . but I digress). When I got back to my desk, there was an email from