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Dallas: ‘City of Hate’ vs. ‘Plague City’

We like to poke fun at Dallas’ perennial striving to be “world class.” It’s a symptom of a kind of self-regarding, aspirational character that is not unique to Dallas, but which does manifest itself in this city in a particular way. Most newer, up-and-coming cities share a sense of wanting to prove their worth. But Dallas’ history has shaped this sensibility in its own way. Entrepreneurialism is the city’s birth right; social status is engrained as one of its highest civic values. But our scars, too, have contributed to the particular substance of our striving, self-conscious attempts to be regarded as great.

As we spent considerable ink exploring last year during the 50th anniversary of the John F. Kennedy assassination, the scars left by those terrible events affected Dallas in a particular way. Not every city could have been branded a “city of hate;” that was the result of the particular cultural and political soup that was simmering here at the time.  But also, not every city would have internalized that reputation – and its shame and sense of remorse – with quite the same measure of wounded-ness. Those wounds have taken decades to get over, and they have also contributed to the desire and drive to make Dallas a great city.

In the days following the Ebola breakout, I couldn’t help but think about the assassination.

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Leading Off (10/17/14)

The Latest on Ebola. Nurse Nina Pham was transferred to the National Institutes of Health in Maryland Thursday evening, with news copters following her trip every step of the way from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital to Love Field, onto the plane and then off the plane to the NIH clinic. Just before she left Dallas, a video of her speaking with her physician was recorded and released to the public at her request. In it, she expresses her love for the Presby staff. Meanwhile, Dallas County leaders didn’t declare an emergency situation during their meeting yesterday, but they are requiring all health care workers exposed to Ebola to sign a document promising to avoid public transit and public places. If the workers don’t sign the “voluntary” agreements, orders will be issued restricting their movement. And, at the national level, President Obama called Gov. Rick Perry and vowed to offer Texas and Dallas all the help it needs in confronting the disease.

Superintendent Urged to Apologize to Trustee. At a meeting during which Mike Miles was seeking to explain his actions in response to what he termed a “crisis” at Dade Middle School, some in attendance pushed for the super to say he was sorry for having had district trustee Bernadette Nutall removed from the Dade campus on Monday. He did not.

Housing Prices Continue to Rise. The supply of available Dallas homes remains absurdly low, so the market values keep rising sharply, and now I’m feeling pretty screwed for not having jumped on the bottoming out a few years back.

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Parkland Hospital Releases Major Presby Diss Track

Today, Parkland released a video showing how to properly don and doff protective gear when caring for a patient who has (or is suspected to have) the Ebola virus.

“As a public safety net hospital, we believe it is our responsibility to care for anyone who presents at our doors. Part of that mission is to share with others in the health care industry our knowledge of best practices,” said Alex Eastman, Parkland’s Disaster Medical Director.

Definitely feels like a subtweet aimed squarely at Parkland’s well-heeled, previously-well-thought-of competitor Presbyterian Hospital, which apparently could use a brush up on best practices in this regard. Or, if you prefer, their version of Nas’ “Ether,” directed toward the former “Neiman Marcus of hospitals.” Maybe Presby has a “Takeover” in them.

UPDATE FROM TIM ROGERS (9:35 PM) I had a conversation this evening with a senior Parkland official who was really unhappy with the above post. He didn’t know what a diss track is or who Nas is or what “Takeover” sounds like. Honestly, neither did I when I read this post. Still don’t. But I got the gist. I thought it was clever. And I never for a second thought Zac really meant that Parkland was trying to diss Presby. He was just making a joke.

The Parkland official’s point was that this is not a subject to joke about. It’s not funny. One person in Dallas has died. Others are sick. People are working hard to save lives. Hospitals are not competing with each other or dissing each other. I told him that I understood his point and that I thought it could lead to a really interesting, worthwhile conversation.

Here’s the deal: I’ve been making Ebola jokes for a couple weeks. A coworker told me she had diarrhea. My first response: Ebola joke. My out-of-state friends are texting and emailing me Ebola jokes, saying they won’t see me at Thanksgiving unless I put myself in quarantine right now. Stuff like that. I think this sort of joking is a normal, natural, healthy human response. It’s a relief valve on a system that’s under a lot of pressure.

But you know what? I’m not a healthcare worker. I’m a civilian out here in the world, living under different conditions than hospital officials are experiencing right now. Our relief valve might come across like a guy running through a tense business meeting while firing off an air horn.

Or, you know, a better analogy. It’s late. Been a long day. It ended, for me, with two insane meetings on my children’s behalf (behalves?) at two different schools, followed by a lengthy conversation with a Parkland official, during which I’m afraid I raised my voice more than I ought to have.

For that, I apologize to the Parkland official. As for this post, it’ll remain up, and hopefully we’ll all learn from it.

UPDATE (9:56 PM) From the Parkland official: “I am aware of what a diss track is. And I am very familiar with Nas, as Illmatic came out when I was in college and is one of the most important hip hop albums of all time. I am actually probably more familiar with Nas than the guy who wrote this article. So that part is inaccurate.”

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Mayor Rawlings Learns How to Be Humble in the Face of Ebola

Jim Schutze and I recorded a podcast yesterday afternoon in which we discuss the city’s reaction to the Ebola crisis (and DISD stuff). It’s very timely. It’s also sitting in the trunk of my girlfriend’s car, somewhere in her office parking garage. Since I won’t be able to get the pod up until tomorrow, here’s an example of one item we discussed: How officials have learned to temper their confidence, and how doing so actually inspires more confidence in the public.

Remember what Mayor Mike Rawlings said eight days ago:

Rawlings said that he remains [..]

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Texas Rangers Have a New Manager

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports was the first to report that Jeff Banister, who’s been the bench coach (sort of like the assistant manager) for the Pittsburgh Pirates the last four years, will be the Texas Rangers’ new manager.

The Rangers had narrowed the field to three, and in choosing Banister they are bypassing in-house candidate Tim Bogar, who led the team to a 14-8 record after Ron Washington’s resignation in September.

UPDATE: As a player, Banister was a career 1.000 hitter in MLB. #analysis

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Jerry Jones Lawsuit Settled This Morning After Late-Night Lawyering

So that dancer dropped her sexual assault suit against Jerry Jones. Oddest detail from this story: the settlement was reached at 3 a.m. today. Surely they didn’t start early this morning and work for a couple hours. What time did they start yesterday? Did they take a dinner break? At, like, 11 o’clock, why didn’t they say, “Guys, let’s all go home, get some rest, and then get back at this at, oh, say 9:30 tomorrow”? More questions: does this mean that Jerry is guilty and didn’t want this thing to go to trial? Does this mean that every exotic dancer he encounters in the future — and surely there will be future exotic dancers — will file a lawsuit against him? The dancer initially wanted $1 million. Did she settle for $50,000? Does she have to pay taxes on that?

UPDATE (11:54) Jerry’s attorney sends along the following statement: “”We are pleased with the Court’s Judgment against Ms. Weckerly. Ms. Weckerly’s allegations were false. This case is over.” He also sends along a copy of the judgment, which dismisses the legal action by the plaintiff with prejudice, giving her no money.

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Fox 4 and Clarice Tinsley Show Us the Future of TV News. And Its End.

Last night, I watched the news. On my television. It feels odd to type those words. Maybe this post should end there. But I can’t help myself.

So the Ebola. It’s all Ebola all the time in Dallas, for good reasons and also for less than good reasons. On Fox 4 last night, they did some serious Ebola coverage (that I’d already digested on my phone hours earlier). And then they did their “Your Word” segment, during which the esteemed, long-serving, much-respected Clarice Tinsley was forced by producers to climb from behind the anchor desk and perambulate the studio, all casual like, while talking about the most serious of topics. Actually, she didn’t talk about Ebola. She said, “Social media is blowing up about that nurse getting on a commercial flight to Cleveland.” And then she started reading Facebook comments.

I assume these TV producers have kidnapped Clarice’s loved ones and threatened to kill them unless she follows their instructions. Only reasonable assumption. Last night, she was holding a fancy tablet that operated a large monitor behind her, but at one point, she stood there reading Facebook comments from her iPhone (as pictured above). One of the comments that she didn’t read but which was displayed for viewers was a photo of Homer Simpson. One can only pray for the safe return of Clarice’s husband. Well, one can pray, and one can also put up a blog post.

Imagine if, when television began to supplant radio as the dominant medium, the radio programs had begun to broadcast a live account of what television stations were broadcasting. THAT’S what Clarice was doing last night, best I can figure. It’s goofy. It’s self-defeating. It’s bad business. It’s acknowledging that the entire world is upside down and that you haven’t figured out how to survive in that world.

A quick postscript: I think we sometimes do the same thing in the pages of D Magazine.

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Leading Off (10/16/14)

Your Daily Ebola Update. Presbyterian has apologized. Nurses are tired of taking the blame. Amber Joy Vinson is now at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital. County commissioners are meeting today to decide whether to declare a local state of emergency. Also, this quote, re: Presby: “It has always been considered the Neiman Marcus of hospitals, because a lot of wealthy people came here. Now we wonder if it’s going to become the J. C. Penney.” What a drive-by burn on Penney’s.

DISD Board Will Meet On Monday In Wake Of Dade Middle School Dustup. “My goal is that we come to a better understanding of our purpose, the line between governance and management, and how we can improve the lives of the nearly 160,000 students we serve,” said board President Miguel Solis. Eric has been writing about all this over at Learning Curve.

Highland Park ISD Still Battling Over Books. Come for the story, stay for the super smarmy comment.

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Watch Erykah Badu Hustling On the Streets of New York

She posted up at 42nd Street and 6th Avenue to sing and ask for change. She made $3.60.

“In no way is this video a reflection of my feelings about homeless or unfortunate families nor individuals who have no other means of survival in our world,” she says. “Instead, this short film was shot w/ my iPhone and edited in iMovie for entertainment purposes only and serves as a personal ‘hustle’ experiment for me.”

Also, HOLD YOUR PHONE IN LANDSCAPE.

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A Way To Help Support Nina Pham, The Nurse Battling Ebola

Nina Pham’s condition has been upgraded from stable to good, and — while she’s not out of the woods yet — it seems like she has an excellent chance of beating the Ebola virus. But, she has lost most of her belongings in the process. A couple of Pham’s friends have set up a Go Fund Me account to help replace her things, as well as help with the expenses that have accompanied all of this. It is here if you are interested.

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Update on the Miles-Nutall-Dade Fight

The DMN today has a story saying that three longtime anti-Miles trustees — Bernadette Nutall, Joyce Foreman, and Lew Blackburn — want a board meeting to discuss the superintendent’s authority. In a blog post yesterday evening, I pointed out that said meeting is unlikely to happen until the board reviews its own lines of authority. Why? Because when Blackburn says in the DMN story that he will openly violate board policy whenever he wants, the root of the problem is exposed. Also because in the Dade matter, Nutall clearly was in the wrong in trying to attend a school staff meeting over Miles’ objections, and Miles was 100 percent right in having her removed when she didn’t comply. For background on school board policy that states this, see my post from Monday.

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