Analysts Doubt Texas Is A Toss-Up State

CBS News

Originally Posted: October 24, 2016

Despite Donald Trump’s tightening poll numbers in Texas, Republicans like Cathie Adams, say their confidence isn’t shaken.

“I think he’s going to win Texas hands-down. I don’t trust the polls, but I do trust Texans, and I love Texans and I think Texans can think for themselves and we don’t have to look at a poll to know how to vote,” said Adams.

But Democrats like Rhonda Glenn are optimistic about Hillary Clinton’s chances. READ MORE

Cal Jillson, Political Science, Texas no longer solid Republican


Originally Posted: October 20, 2016

A Fox News electoral vote map now lists Texas as ‘leans Republicans,’ not the ‘solid Republican’ that the state has been for decades.

18 states remain ‘solid Republican,’ including much of the Mountain West, the deep south and Indiana and West Virginia.

But the shift of what has been the most Republican state in the union out of the ‘solid Republican’ list is an indication of several trends, most notably the rising Hispanic population in Texas and the inability of Donald Trump to connect with that population.

Cal Jillson, a political analyst at SMU, says this doesn’t mean that Texas is ‘turning Blue,’ meaning leaning Democrat, but he does say it does show cracks in the solid Republican facade.

Read more:

‘Why Standing Rock Matters’ is topic for Clements Center panel discussion Monday, Oct. 24, 2016

SMU News

Originally Posted: October 18, 2016

why-standing-rock-mattersThe national protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline have drawn thousands to rallies throughout the country, including Dallas. What is Standing Rock and its history, and what is the basis of the dispute over the pipeline?

An invited panel moderated by Ben Voth, associate professor of corporate communications and public affairs in SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, will take on these questions and more at SMU.

“Why Standing Rock Matters: Can Oil and Water Mix?” will take place 6-7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 24, 2016in Crum Auditorium, Collins Executive Education Center.

A reception will precede the panel discussion at 5:30 p.m. Both the reception and forum are free and open to the public. Register online at Eventbrite or call the Clements Center at 214-768-3684.

The panelists include the following experts, who will each bring a different perspective to the discussion:

  • Archaeology – Kelly Morgan is president of Lakota Consulting LLC, which provides professional cultural and tribal liaison services in field archaeology. She works to protect cultural and natural resources alongside other archaeologists and environmentalists in North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota and on the island of Guam. Currently she is the tribal archaeologist for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Morgan received her PhD. in American Indian studies from the University of Oklahoma.
  • Energy – Craig Stevens is a spokesman for the Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now (MAIN), a partnership aimed at supporting the economic development and energy security benefits in the Midwest. MAIN is a project of the Iowa State Building and Construction Trades Council, with members in Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Illinois – the states crossed by the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline. Previously Stevens served as a spokesman for two cabinet secretaries, a surgeon general, and a member of Congress. He also worked on two presidential campaigns.
  • Environmental – Andrew Quicksall is the J. Lindsay Embrey Trustee Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering in SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering. His research focuses on aqueous metal enrichment and water contamination in the natural environment by probing both solution and solid chemistry of natural materials. He received his Ph.D. in earth science from Dartmouth College.
  • Tribal history – Cody Two Bears, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Councilman and tribal member who represents the Cannon Ball district of the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota.
  • Law – Eric Reed (Choctaw Nation), J.D., is a Dallas lawyer who specializes in American Indian law, tribal law and international indigenous rights. Reed received a B.S in economics and finance and a B.A. in anthropology from SMU and his J.D. from the University of Iowa College of Law.
  • Mechanical – Tayeb “Ty” Benchaita is a managing partner of B&G Products and Services LLP, a consulting company in Houston that specializes in products quality control and assurance, products manufacturing and operations for the oil, fuels petrochemical, oil refining, lubricants, re-refining, and environmental industries. He holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and executive management training from the Harvard Business School.
  • Public policy – Michael Lawson is president of MLL Consulting which provides historical research and analysis for government agencies, Native American tribes, law firms and other private clients. Additionally, he is of counsel to Morgan, Angel & Associates, L.L.C. in Washington, D.C., where he formerly served as a partner. Lawson received his Ph.D. in American history and cultural anthropology from the University of New Mexico and is author of Dammed Indians Revisited: The Continuing History of the Pick-Sloan Plan and the Missouri River Sioux (South Dakota State Historical Society: 2010). READ MORE

Politics: 3rd debate quick analysis

SMU News

Originally Posted: October 20, 2016

(This is a section of a larger SMU news release. To read the full analysis CLICK HERE)



On Trump refusing to say he’d accept the election’s outcome…

  • “The biggest moment of this debate will be Trump’s equivocation on whether he’d accept the results of the election. That will dominate media coverage and is probably the final nail in the coffin of his campaign. It does, though, feed the conspiratorial grievance of the supporters who will watch the TV network that he likely plans to launch.”
  • “Refusing to say he’ll accept the results of the election is bad for Trump. He needs to go along with Pence and Ivanka and accept the legitimacy of the electoral system. Trump was doing well in this debate until he refused to concede electoral legitimacy. If you want to claim fraud afterwards, with evidence, fine. But preemptively? That doesn’t play well.”

On the closing arguments…

  • “There was a real contrast in the closing statements. Clinton was positive and encouraging while Trump went on the attack. That’s because she’s winning right now and he’s losing.”

On whether Chris Wallace is playing fair…

  • “I’m surprised Chris Wallace let Clinton off the hook on Bill’s accusers. Why should Trump’s accusers be respected and believed but not Bill’s?”

On whether Trump admires Putin and Assad…

  • “There has been discussion here tonight of Trump ‘praising’ Putin and Assad. He denies it. I think they’re talking past each other. He often says they are strong, effective leaders who have been strategically successful. Is that praising despots, or just respecting your adversary’s strengths and capabilities?”

Wilson is an SMU associate professor of Political Science with specific expertise in politics and religion

What solutions does religion offer for racial tensions?

SMU News

Originally Posted: October 19, 2016

DALLAS (SMU) – As the nation grapples with simmering racial tensions, SMU’s new Center for Faith and Learning is gathering a panel of sociologists and religious scholars for a timely discussion, “Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, or Something Else?” on Thursday, Oct. 27, to explore what role Christianity can play in solving these old challenges.

crowd“We want to demonstrate that the new center will speak to academically and socially relevant questions,” said Center for Faith and Learning director Matthew Wilson. “Race relations in America would be an example of something that is of academic interests to people in a lot of different disciplines and also really important to our society. This panel will look at the Black Lives Matter movement and the responses it has garnered, then evaluate it all through the perspective of Christian faith and sociology.”

The event will begin at 6 p.m. in SMU’s McCord Auditorium, following a 5:30 p.m. reception.

The panel’s featured speaker will be University of North Texas sociology professor George Yancey, who specializes in interracial contact and has authored books on multiracial churches.

Respondent panelists will include: SMU professor of church history Ted Campbell; SMU corporate communications professor Maria Dixon Hall, who also serves as Provost’s Senior Advisor for Campus Cultural Intelligence Initiatives; and Texas Women’s University sociology professor Bilal Sert.

“I think people, whatever their faith, may be interested in understanding what the country’s largest religious tradition says about this faith issue,” Wilson says. “This is a question where faith perspectives have a lot to say and contribute.” READ MORE

Department of Mathematics Research Colloquium: Efficient time-domain DG methods for wave propagation

Event Date: October 26, 2016
Location: Clements Hall 126
Time: 3:30–4:30 (Refreshments are served 15 minutes before the talk)

Mathematics Colloquium Talk by Jesse Chan (Rice University)

Link for more information:

Contact: A. J. Meir

Archaeologist Mark McCoy: Evidence of first chief indicates Pacific islanders invented a new society on city they built of coral and basalt

SMU Research

Originally Posted: October 18, 2016

New analysis of chief’s tomb suggests island’s monumental structures are earliest evidence of chiefdom in Pacific — yielding new keys to how societies emerge and evolve

New dating on the stone buildings of Nan Madol suggests the ancient coral reef capital in the Pacific Ocean was the earliest among the islands to be ruled by a single chief.

The discovery makes Nan Madol a key locale for studying how ancient human societies evolved from simple societies to more complex societies, said archaeologist Mark D. McCoy, Southern Methodist University, Dallas. McCoy led the discovery team.

The finding was uncovered as part of a National Geographic expedition to study the monumental tomb said to belong to the first chief of the island of Pohnpei.

McCoy deployed uranium series dating to determine that when the tomb was built it was one-of-a-kind, making it the first monumental scaled burial site on the remote islands of the Pacific.

The discovery enables archaeologists to study more precisely how societies transform to more and more complex and hierarchical systems, said McCoy, an expert in landscape archaeology and monumental architecture and ideology in the Pacific Islands.

“The kind of society that we live in today, it wasn’t born last year, or even 100 years ago,” McCoy said. “It has its roots in a pre-modern era like Nan Madol where you have a king or chief. These islanders invented a new kind of society — that is a socially creative achievement. The idea of chiefs, someone in charge, is not a new thing, but it’s an extremely important precursor. We know tribes and bands predate chiefdoms and states. But it’s not a straight line. By looking at these intermediate stages we get insight into that social phenomenon.”

The analysis is the first time uranium-thorium series dating, which is significantly more precise than previously used radiocarbon dating, was deployed to calculate the age of the stone buildings that make up the famous site of Nan Madol (pronounced Nehn Muh-DOLL) – the former capital of the island of Pohnpei.

“The thing that makes this case special is Nan Madol happened in isolation, it happened very recently, and we have multiple lines of evidence, including oral histories to support the analysis,” McCoy said. ”And because it’s an island we can be much more specific about the natural resources, the population, all the things that are more difficult when people are on a continent and all connected. So we can understand it with a lot more precision.”

Nan Madol, which UNESCO this year named a World Heritage Site, was previously dated as being established in A.D. 1300. McCoy’s team narrowed that to just a 20-year window more than 100 years earlier, from 1180 to 1200.

The finding pushes back even earlier the establishment of the powerful dynasty of Saudeleur chiefs who asserted authority over the island society for more than 1,000 years. READ MORE

Dale Winkler, Shuler Museum of Paleontology, featured in a series of essays on the Trinity Project, published on Frontburner

D Magazine, Frontburner

Originally Posted: October 11, 2016

In addition to Pioneer Cemetery, there’s another quiet space in Dallas that holds the bones of ancestors: the Shuler Museum of Paleontology, located on the SMU campus. The Shuler Museum has no fully assembled skeletons of prehistoric carnivores on premises or other dazzling displays (though the day I visited, there was a stack of giant turtle shells in plaster jackets in the hallway, outside the entrance). For one, the museum is a shoebox of a space located on the basement floor of the Earth Sciences building. There isn’t the room for that sort of thing. Second, the fossils here function as teaching and research collections. A casual visit from a non-expert like me requires an appointment and a great amount of patience from the host, which I received in abundance from vertebrate paleontologist and museum director Dale A. Winkler.

The museum is arranged library-style with mastodon tusks and similar large bones laid out neatly on gray industrial shelving, while smaller specimens — teeth, small bone, shell, scute, and more — are held in cabinets with pullout trays lined in soft material and organized by collection. The occasion for my visit was to view those specimens described by Bob H. Slaughter and others in the 1962 report “The Hill-Shuler Local Faunas of the Upper Trinity River, Dallas and Denton Counties, Texas.”

My questions, then as now, are basic: what kinds of animal roamed the area now known as the Great Trinity Forest? What kinds of plants and trees were present? What was the climate like? How was the Trinity River floodplain formed?

Answers to these questions can be supplied in part because there’s a fossil record, thanks to the efforts of Winkler, Slaughter, and Ellis W. Shuler, the person for whom the museum is named. Shuler was hired by SMU in 1915, the year it opened, to teach geology and related courses. He served as head of the Geology Department and Dean of Graduate Studies until his retirement, in 1953.

As a researcher, Shuler often wrote about subjects close at hand: dinosaur tracks at Glen Rose, geology of Dallas County, terraces of the Trinity, and vertebrate fossils in river deposits. In a 1934 report, he posited, “The industrial use of sand and gravel in the City of Dallas has uncovered almost daily over a period of 50 years bones of fossil elephants.” That’s because, according to Shuler, “the best preserved fossils are found in the sand terraces along the Trinity river about 50 feet above the present floodplain.”

He did more than observe Dallas’ “fossil elephants” (or more precisely, mammoths); he convinced the operators of local quarries, who routinely tossed fossil remains “aside on the dump heap,” to allow him to excavate. That’s no small task, getting a business to stop the wheels of progress to dig for fossil elephants. This is especially true for sand and gravel operations, which have been a lucrative enterprise in the Dallas area since at the early 1840s. Sand and gravel, then as now, provide the essential ingredients for building a modern city — roads, runways, structures, pipelines, culverts. A Dallas Morning News headline from 1946 says it all: “No Oil on Your Land? Then Try for Gravel.”

In the late 1950s, Slaughter continued the tradition Shuler had begun. He was given permission from Dallas quarry owners to excavate fossil-rich zones. Two of those quarries — called the Moore pit and the Wood pit — were located 700 yards apart in an area off South Loop 12 (now called South Great Trinity Forest Way). A third site, called Pemberton Hill, was situated 400 yards to the northwest of the Moore pit.

Labor at these three locations unearthed evidence of: ancient camel, bison, armadillo, sloth, saber-tooth cat, mastodon, mammoth, wolf, tapir, turtle, crocodile, eagle, a variety of horses, vole, mink, hare, and more.

During excavation at the Moore pit, one of the numerous clay balls regularly encountered in the sand was inadvertently sliced open. Inside was a coprolite (fossilized dung) that contained the hard parts of insects, later identified as: beetle, ant, bee, wasp, stink bug, leaf bug, cockroach, cricket, millipede, and centipede.

Slaughter and colleagues dated the alluvial deposits where specimens were found in excess of 37,000 years, or late Pleistocene. For an age comparison, the city of Dallas received its town charter a mere 160 years ago.

Once the Moore and Wood pits had been depleted of sand and gravel, and excavation stopped, another enterprise emerged in the early 1980s for which the citizens of Dallas continue to pay. The giant holes from mining were filled with trash — illegal, hazardous trash over a long period of time.

What Slaughter called the Wood pit, a mining operation located at the south end of Deepwood Street, was at the heart of Herman Nethery’s notorious Deepwood landfill. In 1997, the massive landfill caught fire and burned for 52 days. After an extensive environmental cleanup on the city’s dime, the site became the Trinity River Audubon Center in 2008.

Not all municipalities treat their mammoth sites the same way, and at least one North Texas gravel pit owner has reached out to paleontologists with an invitation to dig, rather than the other way around. The “fossil-rich alluvial terrace deposits” of Shuler’s and Slaughter’s time are of our time, too. What will we choose to do with the resources under our stewardship in the name of progress? READ MORE

Donald Trump has an increasingly shrinking lead in deep-red Texas

Business Insider

Originally Posted: October 14, 2016

So much so, that a poll released Thursday showed Hillary Clinton within the margin of error, trailing Trump by just 4 points.

The poll, from the WFAA-TV and Texas TEGNA television stations, came after perhaps Trump’s most damaging week of the campaign. It showed Trump up on Clinton 47% to 43% in the Lone Star state, with a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

“I think to put these numbers in context — it shows that Trump’s position has eroded a little bit,” said Matthew Wilson, associate professor of political science at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

He added: “His lead is down to four percentage points according to this poll, but even in the wake of some really terrible news for him, he still leads in Texas, which shows what a tough nut Texas is to crack for Democratic candidates right now.”

2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney won Texas by 16 points, 2008 GOP nominee John McCain carried it by 13 points, and former President George W. Bush carried his home state by 23 points in 2004 and 22 points in 2000.

Texas has not turned blue since 1976.

The survey comes amid a tumultuous turn in the polls for Trump in the aftermath of a leaked 2005 video showing him making lewd comments about women and several women publicly accusing the Republican nominee of sexual misconduct.