Thursday, October 29, 2009

Unclear on the concept...

If there's a public agency less clear on the "open government" concept then Metro I've yet to find them....

[Jennifer Peebles, Texas Watchdog]
Want to know what the state of Houston’s Metro system is? It’ll only cost you $65 to find out!

Yep, kids, that’s right — Metro Chairman David Wolff, who may not have a job for much longer, is going to give a “State of Metro” speech next Thursday, Nov. 5, and it’ll cost you $65 to get in to hear it.
Silliness. That'd be like President Obama giving the State of the Union Address in a $100/plate Democratic fundraiser. Like Rick Perry giving the State of the State speech in front of a paying audience w/restricted entry. Anytime a public agency gives an important "State of" speech, that speech should be conducted in the most open manner possible.

As is usual, Metro misses the point:
Actually, our chairman and president/ceo give multiple speechs to all kinds of groups that often don’t charge any admission. They also address current issues at our board meetings which are not only free to attend, but televised on the municipal channel. The heads of many other organizations speak to the GHP including the mayor, the judge of Harris County and the Port of Houston. I assume you will send similar safe advice to these govt. entities as well.
Of course they do, every politician does. But since Roberts and Metro don't seem to get it: This is the STATE OF METRO SPEECH that we're talking about, not some back-slapping luncheon attended by movers and shakers. This is Metro's big "How're we doin'?" speech to ensure Houstonians that all of their tax money isn't being thrown down some big hole and left to rot while David Wolfe eats canapes.

And, you can hear it if you care to shell out $65 for an audience with the King.

What Metro doesn't understand is that there's no problem with them speaking to the Greater Houston Partnership. There's no problem with the GHP charging admission to their luncheon. Where there is a problem is having a psuedo-government entity with unelected leadership and direct control of large amounts of tax dollars offer up a "State of Metro" speech in a venue that's not free to the public.

How is that hard?

The Noise Machine (10/29/09)

On the eve of the annual birthday blogging slowdown.....

I find nothing shocking in the fact that the State of Texas has prioritized expectant mothers over inmates in the H1N1 vaccine pecking order. Nor am I especially troubled by that knowledge.

I wonder if some of Houston's premiums are driven up by an unwillingness by the populace to manage their own costs? I've got a high-deductible/low cost plan with a health savings account that I fund every year. Anything that's done I pay for. As such I'm very cognizent as to where my money is going. Since changing over to this plan I've noticed my health care expenses (in premiums alone) have fallen drastically. (The fact is, I was paying more in premiums than I was using every year. How many people do that in the name of "good coverage"?)

Charles Kuffner provides an overview of the Mayorals campaign spending as illustrated in their "8 days out" campaign finance report. I'm sure you were as shocked as me when he found Roy Morales' spending lacking.

The never-ending saga surrounding Harris County's 287(g) situation keeps providing onlookers with entertainment. As do the writings of opponents thank goodness. I realize that this is an important issue that really needs to be resolved, but I'll be really sad to see it go. Frothing politicians and partisans are always good for a laugh.

I just have one question regarding this KTRK story about police posing as homeless... Would Mayor White be OK if we passed them a dozen glazed? Just askin'.

Journalism School...40K, Blogging Job, $70K per annum...Creating posts with no public value-add...Priceless.

Nasty....Nasty boys. Don't mean a thing. Oooh yoou Nasty boys, don't mean a thing to me! Huh!!

Three sides to every story....

The Texas Democratic Party won a major fight last Friday by forcing Leo Vazquez and the Harris County Voter Registration office to admit to using voter suppression tactics.

“It’s all about good government, and this agreement should finally put the baseless allegations behind us,” said current Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar, Leo Vasquez. “This was the worst example of a nuisance lawsuit and ill-informed lawyers run amok. As I have always held, this lawsuit proved to be completely without merit.”

The parties hereto agree to resolve all claims and controversies between them, asserted or which could be asserted in this case. including dismissal of the instant lawsuit.

Three sides: The Democrats, The Repubicans & The Truth.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Noise Machine (10/28/09)

Taking pride in our civic duty since well....a few years ago. (We don't remember)

Just over two years ago, on LaE, I predicted that the next big public policy debate in Houston would be over flood control.* guess what issue is raising it's ugly head? That's right, flood control. Go read Mike Snyder's ChronBlog story for the nitty-gritty.

In the past I've been hard on the GOP for not focusing their debate on what they would do instead of griping about what Obama is doing. Maybe they're finally getting the message? Not that I have high hopes, but America runs best when there are two strong parties negotiating policy rather than just one side of the ideological spectrum over-reaching. Compromise quiets the screams from the fringes as well.

There's been a lot of talk recently about the financial troubles of the Harris County Sports Authority. Today, Charles Kuffner offers his two-cents on the issue. This is of note because Mr. Kuffner is on record as having cast votes in support of stadium construction where most other commenters have been long-time opponents. Somehow, however, I don't think the HCSA deals Kuffner supported going South is what Evan Smith and company were referring to when they named Kuffner one of 35 people who will shape your future.

Speaking of Charles Kuffner, He's pointing out a 'hole' in Pam Holm's 8 day out Campaign finance reports. Now, there may or may not be anything here, that's the thing about amateur bloggers and their adventures in watchdog reporting. Regardless, one thing this scrutiny does is make the candidates take a less cavalier attitude toward filling out their forms....that's always a good thing.

OK, let me get this straight: CenterPoint Energy is receiving $200 Million dollars in Federal Grant monies to roll out their "smart" meter program, and is still planning on charging every consumer a surcharge to "pay for the program" for the next 11 years....I wonder how good of an office the industrious little executive who thought up this plan has now? It had better be in a corner, with one hell of a view.

Some bad news this morning: The FDA is fiddling with our oysters. First they came for the bivalves....

*Yes, I'm aware of the irony of my calling for a flood control 'plan' two years ago and now crushing on Peter "Plan" Brown for his over reliance on the same. Apparently my hypocrisy knows no bounds. (Just add it to my anger, my misogyny and my general asshole-ness.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Noise Machine (10/27/09)

On the whole I'd rather kiss the iguana.

For a while there Musings was offering some decent analysis of the Mayoral. Then, she went into the tank for Parker and it's been all downhill since then. My favorite is the poll: "Is the Locke campaign trying to suppress votes or are they simply clueless?" Heh. Serious, in-depth criticism of the type you can only find in the blogosphere.

Sometimes you have to wonder what goes through the minds of those appointed to run psuedo-government agencies with huge budgets. Case in point: The following quip from Harris County Sports Authority board Chairman J. Kent Friedman in today's article on the difficulties faced by the Authority by ChronBlog's Bradley Olson:
“But no matter what happens here, there's absolutely no way the taxpayers of Harris County or the city of Houston could be negatively impacted.”
He goes on to say that only the bond investors would be impacted. That's just wrong. As Bradley detailed: $117 Million of the bonds have been converted to a loan, payable in 5 years. Since the HCSA is an arm of the County Government then taxpayers would be on the hook to pay off those debts. If they go bankrupt, more than just the bondholders would suffer, the County's debt rating would suffer as well...impacting taxpayers. What are these people thinking?

So far, Peter Brown is leading in every poll not conducted by one of the candidates. Since Brown wasn't considered, by experts, to be one of the favorites in the race, said experts are working overtime trying to explain this away. Weak support, bad poll filters....we'll see. *Maybe there is something to the idea of asking voters for their vote huh?*

For a bit of good news, we turn to Shannon Buggs report for ChronBlog that Continental is joining Star Alliance. This is good news for those of you who actually use your travel miles and don't forget about them....

Look out Houston, Quarterly numbers for energy companies are starting to come in and they're not good. Keep in mind that this is before cap n' trade retrenchment measures are taken. Those are still to come.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Will the last subscriber please turn out the lights?

More bad news for the ChronBlog, and by extension all newspapers. (Except those whose names start with "Wall Street" and ending with "Journal" that is)

As you can imagine, reaction has been quick in coming from Houston's media observers:

Unca Darrell echoes my lament here:
This is sad news. If it continues -- and there is little evidence that it won't -- more local journalists will soon find themselves on the street and more news beats will go dark.
Of course, the best journalists might find work with the emerging non-profit outlets that are starting to spring up, but most of those are tightly focused organizations that lack the mission statement to provide the in-depth, meaningful, local coverage that made newspapers what they are.

It should be noted that who they are is still better off than some who meet the ire of their opinion-makers. Not as great as they were during the salad days for sure, but still doing better than some. Unfortunately (for them) "better than some" doesn't work in today's market place, so government subsidies are being seriously considered. In a sane world, this idea would be laughed out of the room.

Sanity has been the first casualty in the current war over the future of the media. The Right-wing is hell-bent to continue their "liberal bias" crusade, while the Left-wing savors the thought of a new-media beholden to Government, much like they envision the new-economy. For the rest of us, main-stream Republicans, Democrats and Moderates all, the very idea of Government-subsidized media runs counter to the traditional American stereotype of media as independent, tough-minded watchdog.

What Houston has is, probably, an overly romanticized vision of the past. Conventional history is that the ChronBlog has always been more about snuggling up to the "in" crowd than they have been focused on reporting on the warts (and pet programs) of said movers and shakers. All of this has resulted in big stories, such as the issue of City finances, being discussed on the margins instead of in the public eye where serious issues belong. Agree or disagree with the analysis of Lemer, Farb & Roberts, their concerns should have received a public airing in the most recent Mayoral campaign. Instead, Houston has been stuck with SAM Awards proffered up by political observers with an affinity for "I" in Mayoral reports & arguments about buying minority votes provided by multi-beat reporter Bradley Olson.

Hmmm...staffing cuts in the newsroom and sub-par vetting of Mayoral candidates.....

Think the two may be related?

If only some writers were given wider coverage....maybe then this race would have a pulse?*

Until that happens Houston is a lot poorer without a large public forum reporting a variety of perspectives and it seems that more and more people are deciding this is true by voting with their pocketbooks. That's too bad.**

*Slampo being just one example of entertaining Mayoral coverage being presented by amateur bloggers. There are a lot more, as well as some excellent Mayoral coverage by Texas Watchdog. The Chronblog has some as well, but Olsen and Snyder are just two reporters trying to cover the entire ballot. That's impossible

**Because, really, despite it all, my goal is to see a healthy, thriving ChronBlog offering up the public service they aspire to in the words of those on the masthead.

The Noise Machine (10/26/09)

Look bronchitis sucks, it really does. Make sure you go to the Dr. if you're sick.

I wonder if anyone in the Chron's Caucasian Think-Tank is aware of the irony present when They call out some for bad information on the web? Especially when the blanket statement is made that " born in ignorance"? Then an "Honestly, folks" honestly? Is Brent Musberger working for the CCTT now?

You should really go read the City of Houston financial summary linked to by Kevin Whited and created by CPA's Bob Lemer, Aubrey Farb and Tom Roberts. I realize that most people tend to believe politicians in matters of finance over actual accountants these days, but as an accountant myself (who understands the numbers, with the huge caveat that I'm not a CPA) their research is startling.

I wonder if Kay Staley is aware of the irony of her publically filing a lawsuit on a faith issue that she apparently feels should be a private matter? Unless this is really about getting her name in the paper that is....

When a campaign is devoid of issues (all candidates choosing to ignore the elephant of City finance that's sitting in the living room *see above* or issueing 'me-too' statements at a rapid-fire clip) then minor issues such as this wouldn't be important. (Don't they all "buy" votes to some extent?)

Want further proof that Roy Morales isn't a serious candidate? Look no further than his TV ads. If the best you can do is invoke the supposed campaign voodoo of "Eeeevil President Obama" then you've got issues. (Here's an idea, run a campaign focusing on the City's revenue short-fall and have a damn plan to fix the thing.) *Aternate title: Why Republicans are suffering 101* All that being said, offering only a blog post by a progressive blogger, who's an active supporter of Parker FWIW, as opinion on the piece is pretty weak. I imagine your jaw dropped as well when Muse said she wasn't all that impressed by Morales' ad. -Then again, you can't really call me biased either, because I'm not a fan of Morales so there you go- (And, to be fair, I looked, there aren't any Republicans out there doing local on their blogs, so finding a quick, easy attaboy for a blog post is hard to come by)

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Corridor of Cruelty

In picture form: (Warning, graphic photos of dogs in distress. Do NOT CLICK if you don't want to see it.)

These are some of the dogs that are currently under the care of Corridor Rescue Inc. The rescue group that I work with. As you can see some of them still have a way to go.

We'll be out at the Old Town Spring PetFest this Saturday all day. Our booth is in front of Wunsche Brothers and will be easy to spot.

If you're interested in fostering (very rewarding experience) adopting, or just want to come meet some special dogs, please stop by. (Donations are good as well, as you can see, there are some rather large vet bills in the future for most of these dogs.

For the rest of the week only expect for me to update the Twitter Feed. Blogging always takes a back seat to charity work.

The Republican overreach.

There's nothing quite like a good "politician vs. the media" story to make the populace go 'yawn'. When the opposition party gets involved things really get entertaining.

[Charles Krauthammer, Real Clear Politics]
Factions should compete, but also recognize the legitimacy of other factions and, indeed, their necessity for a vigorous self-regulating democracy. Seeking to deliberately undermine, delegitimize(sic) and destroy is not Madisonian. It is Nixonian.

Not really. All the Obama White House is doing is following a long tradition of Presidents striking out against critical media, as outlined in this historical review by Michael Nelson.

An additional problem, for Republicans, is that they are turning into the very thing they claimed to despise about the Democrats during the Bush years, campaigning against Obama instead of offering up an opposing plan for voters to embrace. The problem with this theory of campaigning is, as the Democrats are now discovering, it makes the actual act of governing difficult. Without public understanding and buy-in to large-scale programs, public approval is fleeting. It's easy to campaign, harder to actually govern.

During the Clinton years, the Republicans sold Americans on the "Contract with America". Unfortunately, for them, they then allowed the Bush administration to tear up the contract and go off in a totally different direction. The Republican challenge now is to convince Americans that they still have a viable plan, all while convincing them that they won't crock it up this time. If the Tea Party movement is any indication, the base ain't buying what the Party is selling.

One positive that could come from an issues focused Republican Party could be a renewal of focus on Democratic plans. There's a risk that, if the plans were fully developed, that the public would accept them, thus damaging the Republican brand further. (A risk that many progressives say is sure to happen, feeling that Americans will pay higher taxes if the benefits are there.)

Either way, it's better than the half-baked policy mess that we have now. Of course, most anything would be better than the deficit-fueled spending spree that America currently finds itself in, even a revamped tax-code that funds what's being promised.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Who are these "fiscal conservatives" of which you speak....

Take One part progressive blogger...
While Locke and Brown are squabbling over who deserves the Republican vote, Annise Parker is rising above that fray, looking good as the fiscally conservative choice for mayor of Houston for both Democrats and Republicans
A blogger who has openly endorsed Annise Parker FWIW (not disclosed in the above post) add in one campaign e-mail from Annise Parker who cut and pasted the post word for word, and who also lists said progressive blogger on their list of 'supporters'.....

Mix it all together and you've got?

According to some "Fiscal Conservatives" for Annise Parker.

Now, I'm not going to deny Parker's bonafides (in comparison to the other candidates of course) here, nor am I going to argue against her suddenly squeaky clean fiscal prudence (again, given the competition). Nope...I'm not. As a matter of fact, I'm on record as endorsing Ms. Parker for Mayor. Granted, I feel that she's the "best of the worst" and my recommendation is more along the "do the least harm" vein but still, it's an endorsement right?

What I don't see are large groups of fiscal conservatives running to support Parker. Hell, if anything, they (and blacks FWIW) are supporting Peter Brown. There are a lot of theories out there as to why this is, most of them wrong. Peter Brown is in the lead because of his high energy and endless verve....Most of it displayed prominently on various television ads.

Peter Brown is everywhere, proving that even a man whose campaign sends nastygrams to people who tweet that he's no longer carrying an active architect's license(something that's true BTW), can hire a good PR firm and find himself a constituency. I'm willing to bet you that 70% of average voters aren't aware that Parker is gay, and possibly as many as 50% don't know a damn thing about Gene Locke, maybe they don't even know he's black.

In local politics it's all about exposure, especially on TV, during prime time, preferably when singing, dancing or annoying British judges casting come-hither looks to allegedly hopped up on pain pills and bourbon former pop diva judges are on. That's the real sweet spot in local politics, right after Simon asks Paula if she's a fan of spotted dick.

Just remember to stay away from any local production of Channel 13, or Dynamo games. After all there has to be enough voters watching to move the polls. Fiscally conservative or not.

The Noise Machine (10/22/09)

I know I said no updates, but there's some good stuff going on out there...

KPRC Reporter Mary Bentson wonders if the latest Houston Press cover is offensive. I truly hope it is, because good social satire should offend to some degree or its missed the mark.

Kevin Whited over at the newly re-vamped BlogHouston is asking the important questions....DOES the ChronBlog still employ editors? And, if so, what are they doing over at 801 Texas Avenue? Because it's sure not editing....

I'm not sure what to make of this story that Houstonians are among the most stressed. On the one hand, consider the source....Now I'm waiting for either new Houston service from Princess Cruise Lines or a "stress reduction" advertising special from them.

Wow, at least four public questions will be answered in the last Mayoral debate. My guess is they'll be questions that can easily be answered with platitudes, or which Peter Brown can claim he has a plan to fix. For more details go read Bradley Olson's blog post on ChronBlog.

It's true, I'm hard on L'il Red most of the time....and most of the time it's well deserved. She can, however, occasionally write something that closely resembles a Metro column. today's effort was one of those occasions.

There's a lot of ranting and raving about the obesity "epidemic" but no real concrete "solutions" for the problem. Except: "Tax the other guy" of course, which is the new American way.

The big, recycled local transportation story is commuter rail which Andrew Bruleson has been trying to convince Houstonians should be high-speed, specifically an elevated mag-lev unit. (Burleson's also been on a one-man rampage against business professional wear, although his suggestion we all borrow wardrobe from Lawrence of Arabia is making some people blanche.)

If you can't beat 'em....Sue 'em?. (Or, if you can't beat their marketing machine is more accurate.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The problem isn't that they have a perspective....'s that you disagree with the perspective they have..

[Lloyd Green,]
On Sunday, White House Chief of Staff and Chicagoan Rahm Emanuel announced that Fox News was “not a news organization so much as it has a perspective.”
Whatever Rahm. What he's ignoring is the fact that ALL media is written from a particular perspective. Lloyd Green does a pretty good job pointing this out, before veering off into black helicopter land with conspiracy theories and imagined parallels to Nixon etc...

Before that though, he was correct. The New York Times writes news from a NorthEastern Liberal perspective, using that to frame their stories on health care, climate change et al. CNN is more progressive, going so far as to 'fact-check' a Saturday Night Live skit that was critical of Obama. (via Politifact! - that great bastion of 'non-partisan' *but hardly non-ideological* truthiness).

Harris County Almanac is written from a Center-Right perspective. If you've been reading for a while, both here and on Lose an Eye you know where my biases lie. Most blogs are like that, more open about their perspectives than a media who thinks they are somehow superior by masking theirs.*

The key is not to try and avoid media without a perspective, that's impossible. What you have to do is identify which perspective the information is coming from and then apply the correct filter.

*Or, should we say, attempting to mask theirs. Due to editorial creep in the news media it's becoming more known where some writers stand on the big issues facing Houstonians today.

The Noise Machine (10/20/09)

Into every life a little rain must fall.....

ChronBlog loves the Houston blogosphere. No, really...they do. Some of it anyway. At least the parts they haven't been barred from mentioning by the members of the masthead.

Maybe it's just me, but the style of answers given to bicycle activist Peter Wang by the Houston Mayoral candidates says a lot about them. Parker and Morales answered with a short "yes", Peter Brown referred Peter to his "comprehensive transportation blueprint" yada, yada, yada and Gene Locke sounded like a lawyer. In today's convoluted world, a direct answer is sometimes appreciated.

Remember all of the hubub about the new "smart" parking meters? Local 2 News provides some detail suggesting that they might not be that smart after all. The problem is, there's little incentive for the City, who's sucking up the revenue, to try and fix them.

Another group fascinated with the content of local bloggers is the newly-launched Texas Tribune Weekly. It's nice to see these big media groups taking notice of the bloggers out there.

Speaking of revenue, the County isn't happy with the City's attempt to withhold registration from drivers who fail to pay red-light tickets, according to a story by James Pinkerton of ChronBlog....Remember though, these RLC's are about "safety" NOT revenue....dammit.

The ChronBlog poll that keeps on giving: Bradley Olson informs us that Most Houstonians are undecided when it comes to the controller's race. I don't know about you but I would have NEVER seen that one coming. Thank God for polls.

Yes, L'il Red really did use the phrase squint-eyed skepticism in her latest bout of hammer-banging. And yes, you should be mildly offended that this is being passed off as a Metro column in Houston's largest political blog.

The Chron Caucasian Think-Tank fulfilled media by-law 1, Article 7, sub-set 12 today by submitting this love-letter style eulogy to Justice William Wayne Justice. They might as well be using a paint-by-numbers book to construct these editorials these days. (For that matter, what the hell is the CCTT doing lecturing Texans on racial equality?)

It's too nice a day to be inside. Alas, here I will be. Enjoy your Tuesday.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Noise Machine (10/19/09)

Early voting starts today. (Blogs are required to say that)

Taking pot-shots at Rick Perry is somewhat of a parlor game among the worker bees at the rapidly diminishing Austin press corps right now. Whether or not they have anything substantial to say is beside the point.

Old Texas stereotypes die hard. It's never too early to talk rodeo, even if the damn thing is almost six months away.

Be leery of the news that two-thirds of Houstonians are in favor of stricter land-use laws. Not that I question the numbers, or Bradley Olson's reporting, but the questions asked in the poll. Tory Gattis raises some valid concerns here, but I also wonder how many people are just opposed to these things in their neighborhoods, but would be quite happy to see everyone else face some vertical redevelopment?

Behold the power of fried butter.

Imagine this, a teacher tries to improve things, runs into the powerful teachers union, and decided not to run again because the teacher's union was supporting a life-long administrator. Now, what if I told you this was true? Anyone who still thinks Fallon and Co. are either for the teachers or students needs to read this.

Chicken vs. Egg: Is light voter turnout expected because the population is unmotivated, or is voter turnout expected to be light because the slate of candidates is fairly un-motivating? Discuss....

Where you stand on the political spectrum tells how you feel about this. Party over fact.

So far we've heard how Houston has fared better than other cities in regards to the economic downturn. The EPA is doing their darndest to even the playing field.

Most of the best political reporting on a local level is being done by blogs and non-profits in my opinion. This David Jennings piece is further proof of that.

BlogHouston has seen the light. Short, pithy asides with links to stories and brief comment are the wave of the future. (No, I didn't break my arm patting myself on the back.) The thing with blogs is that, no matter how many words, or examples, you provide as proof of case, most readers make up their minds whether to agree or disagree based on pre-existing conditions.

It's not just me: The idea of government subsidized media is the final death-knell of a free and independent media. The future is blogs and non-profit media organizations, and a public that needs to take responsibility for their own actions. Even the MSM is increasingly moving to blogs. I predict they will make wholesale changes soon. For now they're still number one (as this link-post proves) but they are losing their advantage rapidly.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Noise Machine (10/18/09)

A weekend of chattering.....

How, and where, Houston grows in the future is hotly debated topic. What's not often discussed is how co-called new-urbanists are busily arguing against pretty much every bit of urban development in their neighborhoods. Maybe if that discussion were held we'd get a full idea of the scope of the problem?

Pity the poor ChronBlog, they run a poll that few take seriously (with most pundits ignoring the polls front-runner and spinning it to their chosen candidates' benefit) and then send out Houston's second-least important columnist to try and make sense of it. Part of the problem is, this election, much like ChronBlog, is a symptom of sustained quality decline in Houston among both politicians and the media.

One result of newspapers (and other media) cutting back local resources, is a ballot of Texas Constitutional Amendments that few know much about. Most of the problem lies at the feet of the State political parties as well, who have focused more on issues and "winning in DC" while leaving voters to sort out the local mess on their own.

Ah the Grand Parkway, it's got more stickaround than a zombie despite the fact that sizable majorities seem to not want the damn thing built.

Blowing it.

It's official, ChronBlog has fallen apart. Hell, the Chron's Caucasian Think-Tank can't even get the most basic of editorial basics, the election endorsement correct any more...
Houstonians are fortunate to face a difficult choice for mayor this year between two exceptional candidates, public law attorney Gene Locke and City Controller Annise Parker. It's likely one or both will be in a runoff after the first round of voting winds up on Nov. 3.
That's right, in their endorsement, the CCTT punted. Choosing to co-endorse both Parker and Locke, falling back on the "exceptional candidate" cliche and leaving unsaid what most causal observers have been thinking all along: "Is this the best Houston can do?"

After all this time the best Houston, America's fourth largest city, has to offer everyone is a fourth-class newspaper and four candidates that would have trouble being elected dog-catcher in other municipalities. How bad have things gotten? Consider this: The Chief of Police under one of the most incompetent Mayor's ever, a man who was in charge of the HPD Crime Lab during the bulk (although, to be fair, not the entirety) of its problems, who was chief during a high-profile botched K-mart raid, and who has done little to explain his role in these events, received the endorsement for, and is expected to be elected to, City Council At-large #4. That's right, C.O. Bradford is going to be on City Council casting votes unless something odd happens.

All of this brings us to the current crop of Mayoral candidates, a slate that's enough to make one question the political direction of the Bayou City....

Roy Morales: If ever a candidate screamed "token Conservative" Morales is that guy. Not that the Almanac has anything wrong with conservatives, but we prefer them to at least have a deeper motivation for their conservatism than attaining public office. A committed conservative candidate would have talked about re-making Metro, about reducing its expenditures through BRT and increased bus service and putting an end to light rail. A true conservative would do more than just beat the illegal immigrant band-wagon to death and offer up a new, business/housing, friendly version of Houston for the 21st century. Morales has done none of this. "Cut taxes" and "eliminate waste"....pass.

Peter Brown: Give Peter Brown this: he's been able to put together three fairly strong television ads that have created a nominal amount of buzz around the InterLeft. Outside of that? His platform involves the creation of new levels of Government to "study" issues and "create" plans, usually to create new levels of government to implement long-term plans. Though he denies it, he's a huge proponent of zoning (re-branded as 'form based codes') and he's had little in the way of endorsements, save his own, sizable, checking account.

Gene Locke: The insider's insider. Involved in most of the major civic projects in Houston over the last 20 years. At least, most of the civic projects with iffy financing. Locke is connected, and has received money from many of the people who have used the City budget to fund pet projects over the years. As mainstay's of his campaign, he's promised to push to build even more projects, one guesses using the same dodgy financing he promoted for the others.

Annise Parker: Ms. Parker is NOT the establishment candidate. As a matter of fact, she's got the smallest bank account of any of the majors. Parker's problem is that it's hard to find accomplishments. As a matter of fact, her main claim to fame (in the media) to date is that she's the gay candidate who's not running as a gay candidate. Oh, and she's "ready to lead" whatever that means.

Given this not-yet-ready-for-prime-time roster of candidates I could understand why an organization such as CCTT would have issues picking a favorite. However, instead of admitting the flaws, they punted and gushed over just how great they all were. In short: They blew it. Their chance to editorialize in the public interest and they blew it, again.

The easy choice would be to suggest a vote for "none of the above" but that would just lead to someone winning that you really didn't want to. Democracy is toughest however when there are no clearly superior choices from which to make a selection. In those cases you have to decide which candidate would do less harm while serving six years in the Mayoral office.

In this race, the Almanac believes the clear choice is Annise Parker. Yes, she's unproven in an administrative capacity, and doesn't seem to have many great plans for Houston beyond platitudes and sound-bytes, on the bright side however she's also not proposing Houston spend Billions of dollars remaking itself into some world class monstrosity designed to attract a creative class who, on the whole, would much rather live in Austin or Seattle. In retrospect that might be the quality Houston desperately needs while the economy is in recession.

Hell, somebody has to make an endorsement right?

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Noise Machine (10/16/09)

Friday's are fun-days and fun-days are.....

There are three schools of thought when it comes to endorsements made by the Chron's Caucasian Think-Tank, either you will vote exactly with them, all the way against them, or totally ignore their recommendations. Either way you've got material today. (Some would say the last idea is the best idea, a sentiment with which the Almanac does not disagree.)

Imagine that, a climate change specialist is mad at Gov. Rick Perry for not.....well...paying more attention (and by extension money) to climate change specialists. *Funny how that works*

Remember all of the hubbub about Texas Food Stamps? (After all, Falkenberg beat it to death with her hammer) Yeah....not so much. Nothing to see here, move along....(That said, Texas could do a better job, but it's not the massive political failing it was made out to be by partisans with an axe to grind)

If you're reading this blog you're probably ahead of the curve on technology. If that's the case, then you'll be happy to know how Houston's Mayoral candidates feel about it as well. Bradley Olson provides the details. (FWIW Peter Brown wants to create new Government departments and implement plans. Shocker!!)

They say that a successful business needs a good location. Texas Watchdog is moving into their new one today so if you need to contact them you might want to wait until Monday, and the after-moving hang-overs have worn off.

One thing you have to admire about the City of Houston, they've got this revenue collection thing down to a science. Craig Malisow fills in the blanks behind BARC's latest misadventure.

Outside of that, it's beautiful weather and a beautiful weekend is on tap. Go outside and enjoy it.

Around the Horn

(Your guide to the major players in the Houston Blogosphere in one sentence or less)...

ChronBlog: We still matter dammit!!

BlogHouston: I mean, this Mayor White guy...really?

Bay Area Houston: I HATE Texas!!! (oh, and that Hatch Act thingy....literally)

Off the Kuff: Blogging is much easier since the advent of cut n' paste. (I have nothing to add to that)

The Brazosport News: Would be Houston's Blog oracle if oracles were covered in 1,3-Butadiene

The Houston Press: Run by hipsters, written by amateurs, and read by the tragically douche. (What could possibly go wrong?)

Unca Darrell: A hooligan's format authored by a gentleman.

Texas Watchdog: Hey Buddy. You gonna use that FOIA request?

Lou Minatti: A curmudgeon with a wicked sense of humor.

Big Jolly Politics: Proof that some people will do anything for free to get their name in the papers.

Lone Star Times: On-Line foot-stomping for the dissafected Right-wing of the Republican Party.

Right Wing Sparkle: Look at Me! Look at my Picture! (Aren't I pretty?)

Dr. Melissa Clouthier: Change at the local level is hard. Watch me scream at the National pols.

NeoHouston & Intermodality: The result of planning divorced from the meddling harshness of reality.

Slampo's Place: The happy result of a classical liberal wordsmith having the shackles removed.

Harris County Almanac: Proof of case that accountants should stick to accounting. (Like Lose an Eye but with even less observant observations.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The noise machine (10/15/09)

A quick n' dirty summary of what's being said around town.

The Chron's Caucasian Think-Tank:

Still hasn't found an increase in State expenditures that they don't like. (Also, did you know that Houstonians will play a key role in this election?)

Mike Snyder of ChronBlog informs us that Annise Parker is "ready to lead". (Oh, and she's gay, counts Chris Bell as a supporter and has a history with County Attorney Vince Ryan) {Did we mention that she's gay?*}

Being opposed to Vince Ryan could be a good thing, if you read Texas Watchdog that is. Who weighs in today with a down n' dirty story of legalized conflicts of inerest that produced results.

Then there's Big Jolly Politics, who made a much-needed return to political reporting with this report which suggests that Sen. Dan Patrick has strayed far from his original populist roots. (And also raises some questions about his use of campaign funds)

Back over at ChronBlog, you guessed it. Falkenberg's got her lone hammer out again and is banging away. (There's been other, better writing on this whole issue throughout the blogosphere.)

Bay Area Houston informs readers that C.O. Bradford has been served with an ethics complaint Not that John Cobarruvias has much faith in the Texas Ethics commission, but at least he didn't end his post with "literally".

Finally, local attorney Tom Kirkendall shoots down Loren Steffy's weak response to the fact that the Skilling trial is going to the Supreme Court. In part because Steffy's (and ChronBlog's) coverage of the thing was so biased that it served to poison the potential jury pool.

That certainly seems like enough to keep you occupied for a while. Enjoy your Thursday!!

*Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Something that should be tied together.

Remember around a month ago when Mayor/Sen. Candidate Bill White warned voters to be wary of spending promises made by people looking to replace him? Bradley Olson started off the story as follows:
Houston mayoral candidates, read Mayor Bill White's lips: No new spending.

White, who has shied away from endorsing or even offering tacit support to those vying to replace him, weighed in last week with surprising advice for voters: Beware of any promises of new spending in 2010 and 2011.

“Texas has not come out of the recession, and sales tax receipts are dropping,” White wrote in a post on his Facebook page Tuesday. “Be sure not to vote for our next mayor based on commitments of more spending in the next two years.”
Nothing wrong there right? I mean, that's good advice given that Houston is still in the throes of a recession, and Harris County taxpayers are potentially on the hook for Billions of dollars of stadium loans. (Including a potential $142 Million dollar balloon payment which will probably have to be picked up by Harris County Residents).

So why is it that Mayor/Sen. Candidate White is suddenly on a spending spree? First there's $3-5 Million on Safe Clear, now there's talk of a $5,000 payment to realtors who sell homes in certain 'disressed' areas.

White's penchant for speaking out of both sides of his mouth is on full display here. Give him this: he's perfected the political practice of changing his story depending on the audience.

Of course, given the lack of interest local media has shown in illuminating these contradictions, there's no reason why he should not continue to do what's worked for him up until now.

The "firewall" between editorializing and reporting

Came tumbling down in the lede of this ChronBlog piece by Mike Tolson:
Simple question: Can a guy with little name recognition, slight political experience, a short history in Houston and no money to speak of really expect to be elected to lead the nation's fourth-largest city?

The answer, just as simple, is no.
I'm sure there's something I'm missing or reading wrong that will be pointed out to me in the comments.

Of course, then there's this:
Political observers and bloggers have been dismissive of his candidacy, for reasons other than a somewhat awkward public demeanor. One blogger made fun of him for minor errors in filling out state-required expense reports. Another slammed him for putting up an unusually weak Web site. A third labeled him clueless. Veteran blog pundit Charles Kuffner concluded that Morales' ignorance on a matter related to Metro, revealed at a meeting with journalists, showed “there's a reason why he doesn't get to sit at the grown-ups' table ... Poor Roy.”
It should have been noted that most, not all, of the criticism Morales has received has been from bloggers who are publicly identified as Democratic partisans. Staunch left Democratic partisans. It seems that treating Roy Morales as the court jester in the race is approved commentary.

Is Roy Morales as serious candidate?

My hunch is no, but the election will bear that out. I'm certainly not going to make a definitive statement before the first ballot is cast. He's a Republican who can't get much traction even among other Republicans. He's the Pachyderm's version of Chris Bell, running for office wherever there's a spot on the ballot. (Although not, it should be noted, with as much vigor as Orlando Sanchez) His candidacy has zero traction, and mockery of it is one thing that most Democrats and Republicans can agree upon in Harris County. In short: He's fighting an uphill battle.

That being said, it's still a candidacy that deserves to not be written off until election day. Morales deserves the basic courtesy of correctly identifying his strongest detractors who are, not surprisingly, strongly identified with the opposite political ideal.

ChronBlog failed on both counts in this story.

Looking forward to that Gene Locke endorsement by the Caucasian Think Tank.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mostly Fluff

A quick look at the ChronBlog's local politics coverage today reveals the following:

A love letter to Gene Locke penned by Bradley Olson. - Providing a hint as to who the CCTT is going to endorse?*

An after the fact re-hashing by Lisa Falkenberg of points made by David Crossley and reporter James Pinkerton previously. - With little or no value add. On a good note: She can continue banging away with that hammer for one column more.**

The Chron's Caucasian Think-Tank gets one right by endorsing a 'yes' vote on Proposition 11 - This might come as a surprise to some observers, since said proposition could impact certain pet projects that they have long supported.

Where ChronBlog offered readers some value, in my opinion, was not in the print edition but, once again, on the Houston Politics Blog:

Peggy O'Hare provides an overview of the recent Mayoral Debate. - Something that should have received front page placing in my opinion.

And the blog posted the generic election ballots for Harris, Montgomery, Waller, Liberty, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend & Galveston counties.

Meanwhile the blogosphere has been buzzing about questions of residency for both candidates named Khan as well as the continuing issues faced by the Locke campaign.

*I know, I know, there's a "firewall" between news and editorial content over at 801 Texas. Uh-huh. And if you believe that I've got an "internal memo" that outlines a land deal in California for you

**It's hard to believe that these columns are allowed to fly in a major daily

Monday, October 12, 2009

Do two wrongs make a right?

That's the question that I have after seeing the following AP article by Christine Armario on several mainstream media sites offering the Frankfurt School version of US History a non-contested wide-run.

Except by those with a far-left political leaning, the historical point-of-view held by Frankfurt School devotees is seen as more than slightly skewed. In the place of the jingoistic patriotism forwarded by more Conservative scholars is a overly-negative view of American History distorted through the lens of Neo-Marxism. Instead of 'discovering the real world' (a falsehood) Columbus is held responsible for the slaughter of the indigenous population. (also a falsehood)

The truth, as it often does in these situations, lies somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. Columbus certainly "discovered" the New World from the perspective of the Western World, opening the door to European population, conquest and the establishment of the United States of America. Unfortunately, during the course of this conquest, diseases such as smallpox laid waste to entire civilizations. In other words, Nature (and not Columbus) was the real culprit. It's also OK to acknowledge that Columbus was hopelessly lost when he stumbled upon the West Indies, and that the name he gave them was evidence of his failure. Whether or not he was a "nice" man is totally beside the question. (most naval captains were, at that time, cruel men by the very definition and circumstance of their job)

Taken as one this story doesn't really mean much in the grand scheme of things. However, when viewed alongside similar negative stories running throughout MSM sites of a similar vein, a deep gash in the National dialogue is revealed. It's a dialogue that's taken truth-bending to Orwellian levels.

Far better would be to foster a National dialogue within the pages of a free, and impartial press. A press that does not provide an unofficial blessing of thought to a single school of thought. It's very likely that the history of America is far more nuanced than any single school of thought can truthfully convey. By including all of these perspectives, by truthfully acknowledging their biases and ideologies, and by allowing them to present their perspective free of qualifying opinion (this does not mean that absolute falsehoods cannot, or should not, go unchallenged) the National dialogue could be elevated to a point that demagogues and splinter groups are not able to prey on young minds that have been heretofore insulated from the hard glare of history, nor lied to about the good, and the bad of America.

Happy Columbus Day. Whether he meant to or not he spurred the creation of the United States of America. For that we owe him at least a passing mention.

New Poll.

Rate the local MSM on their election coverage

How do you feel the local MainStream Media does on local election coverage? That's been a question that's been bandied around the comments section of several posts on the Almanac of late.

Do you feel like they're going above and beyond the call of duty and providing readers with more information than they can possibly be expected to properly digest?

How about if you feel that they are right on the beam and providing us with everything we need to know?

Or do you think that they are dropping the proverbial ball and missing out on the true 'newsmaking' stories of this election?

Then there's the last group, those of you who are shocked to find out that people still read MSM sources at all for local news.

Unlike most polls I'm not going to vote in this one (I typically vote and then tell readers how I voted after the poll is closed). Nope, I want to know what you think. How do you rate the election coverage of ChronBlog and the local network affiliates.

Related to that where do you get your election news?

Please elaborate in the comments.

Voting closes in six days.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Working hard while hardly working.

Having given up my pseudo-political blogging (most would say "thank God") I've had a little bit of time to read the other political writing in Houston. One thing that I've noticed is that the baseline seems to be getting lower and lower by the day.

For example: Candidate financial disclosures. For a long time reviewing these was just considered "part of the job"* for poli-bloggers and Metro columnists. No longer it seems:

Mayoral Musings with Nancy Sims:
Money, Honey – I have taken some time to review the reports.

Chronblog's Rick Casey:
I pored over more than 700 pages of campaign finance reports filed late Monday afternoon by the three major mayoral candidates.
OK, poring over reports is one thing, actually taking action on what you find is something entirely different. Whether or not you subscribe to Charles Kuffner's politics, when he researches, follows up, and puts in the legwork on posts like this (as opposed to long quotes of others) you understand why his blog appears on political blog lists everywhere. As with his interviews, these posts are reflective of what campaign finance reporting should be.

From a different angle, Slampo's many background pieces on the candidates and their donors provide much-needed context to the numbers found within. Also of note are John Cobarruvias' "spending campaign cash" series of posts.

It's true, except in the case of Slampo, these nuggets of good blogging are found hidden within numerous posts that are of little value or so poorly written as to be unreadable. (or so biased in nature that they will turn most readers off) However, given the state of local politics coverage in the mainstream media**, it's worth it to hunt out these more obscure writings in order to get a better overall picture of the funding, and relationships, behind the candidates that are running for office.

*It should be noted that, for hobby bloggers, the 'job' is an unpaid one, so don't expect the same level of prose and editing that you find in the big publications.

**It should also be noted that some members of MSM don't think there's anything wrong with the coverage they're providing. They feel that they are doing enough and that their value-add is superior to what hobby bloggers and non-profits are adding to the discussion. I have my opinion, I'll leave it up to you to make your own. (My criticism deemed 'not credible' due to my lack of funds to hire a professional copy editor) *I still freely accept pro-bono editing in the comments however All corrections will be given proper credit of course.*

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Getting ready to drop the firewall?

In my post on declining language standards at ChronBlog there was a comment by bob which deserves wider consideration based on recent events....
Meanwhile, can you imagine how much dough Hearst will be rolling in once it takes the "best" of this web content and puts it behind a paywall?
The Hearst pay-wall has been talked about for some time now. The last remaining questions seem to be where to drop it down on people clamoring for less information presented with an ideological slant?

Recent activity suggests that the decision has been made. (or, more accurately, is in the process of being made)

Consider this: Recently ChronBlog has been on a tear organizing their material into clusters. First we had Delish which is the Chron's "new" food page, paired up with but minus Alison Cook's food/restaurant blog.

Strangely, that blog and Beer, TX (Ronnie Crocker's entertaining brew blog) are lumped together with features on why women have sex (complete with suggestive picture, you know, it's news) behind the newly re-designed "entertainment" section. As a matter of fact, it seems that most of the time, effort and money are being directed toward 'features' based reporting now, as the news & business sections are withering on the vine with curiously few upgrades or enhancements.

All of this leads to the following guess. It should be noted that this is only a guess, as I have no inside information from 801 Texas Ave. to back this up.*

The paywall is going to drop at the gateway to features, sports and entertainment. Items classified as "news" are going to remain free to the public. Not free will be the two sorry Metro columns and the rantings of the Chron's Caucasian Think-Tank. Imagine the dollars that those shallow pools of municipal thought are going to bring in. I would imagine that the revenue potential is somewhere in the hundreds (slightly lower for the food and entertainment sections.)

The reason I think this is because newspapermen have always considered the news side of the job to be a part of the public trust. Yes, it's true that all of the old-school newspapermen are now either dead or retired, but old habits die hard. There's still a false air of elegance that newspapers bequeath upon themselves, almost as if they are the last bridge to an uncivilized society.

Nevermind that, to my thinking, they have this all backwards. It's their news content that provides newspapers with whatever value they have left. The more they cut the news, the less valuable they become. Now I've got the feeling that they are contemplating walling off the majority of their content, the part that has the least value to the community.

Either way I don't think ChronBlog is going to stay a free site for long. Will this help them? That I highly doubt. They seem to be intent on moving away from what it is they do well, and what has the most value at an alarming pace.

What they fail to understand is that there are websites, amateur & professional blogs and other resources that do "Features" reporting better, often for free. What no-one does as well as a strong newspaper is report the news of the day.

At least, that was how it used to be.

If any employee of 801 Texas wants to fill us in anonymously I'll approve that comment of course.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tech as Tech does

If you read the Tech press, it's an Apple world. So far behind has Microsoft fallen it's a miracle they can even keep the doors open, much less continue to roll out products and pretty much dominate the computer market.

How can this be?

A large part of this disconnect falls in the laps of tech writers themselves, mostly likable writers with inability to cure themselves of Apple fever. A second issue is the ingrained techie need to be 'different', to pull away from what the "untech" public is doing and forge their own path. Most (not all) of Apple's social cache is there due to the fact that 93% of the computing world isn't typing away on a Mac. As a matter of fact, MOST computer users haven't even considered purchasing an Apple computer since the old Apple IIe Oregon Trail days of their youth. The personal computer battles are all but over, and Microsoft has won.

In mobile phones and music players however there's a different result currently playing out. Apple has come to dominate those markets due to the success of two products. The iPhone and the iPod w/iTunes. Compare that to Microsoft's Zune (the original, NOT the Zune HD which is stellar) and Windows Phone and you'll find the interface gap to be quite large.

The good news, for users of Windows devices, is that the gap is narrowing. Like any big company Microsoft is less nimble than Apple, they might not be as cutting edge but, eventually, they'll get it. And they'll get it at a scope that makes financial sense to companies and users of their products.

Which is why yesterday's Windows Phone (formerly Windows Mobile 6.5) roll-out was such a big deal....

At least it should have been. But you wouldn't have known it from looking at Dwight Silverman's ChronBlog TechBlog. Because, outside of a link in his link post, he didn't cover it at all. Compare this to his coverage before and after Apple's recent (non)news-making iPod update event. The difference is night and day.

Now, granted, Dwight is on vacation currently, and will be back to the office today, but wouldn't you think a large, relatively major product upgrade by the number one software company in the world would at least merit more than a link in a link post?

I understand that Dwight is an "iPhone guy" and that there hasn't been a phone come close to it in appearance and functionality in his view since the roll out, but for many of us (especially in the business world) an update to Windows Mobile is a fairly big announcement. This is news, and we turn to the tech writer at Houston's newspaper of record to look for it. (A Tech writer who's columns are typically informative and entertaining FWIW)

Or, at least, we used to. However, if the information contained on ChronBlog isn't information we need? Then we'll turn to other sources. For instance, Gizmodo and ars technica, both of whom provided good overviews of the system and its capabilities. While neither was excited about the upgrade, I still am, because it shows me that Microsoft is going to (hopefully) take mobile computing seriously. What this means for the future of productivity is limitless.

Lest it seem that I'm cracking on Mr. Silverman here let me finish up by making some final points....

- It's the job of the names on the masthead to decide that covering items such as tech news is worthy of significant resources. Given the tech nature of our current lifestyles, I would argue it is. One person is hardly enough to provide coverage of a wide range of products, announcements, expos etc. More is needed.

- When you cede an entire beat to one individual, you are limiting the perspectives that are allowed to filter through. This blog is a running dialogue between me and the reader, but everything is posted from my perspective. That's fine for a single-user blog, but not ideal for a major news daily. No one should begrudge Dwight his preference for Apple products, we should however begrudge the leadership of ChronBlog for only allowing one perspective to get past the firewall.

- I wrote before about the difference between non-partisan and non-ideological organizations and the importance of understanding where ideologies come from. The same holds true for single-person news information. (including this blog FWIW) Again, it's fine that Mr. Silverman is pro-Apple, It's not fine for ChronBlog to not have, or at the least link to, a pro Microsoft writer as a rebuttal.

- It's true that we're talking about tech, and that the horse may already be out of the barn as far as readers go. The important lesson though is applicable to a variety of sections over at ChronBlog. It's a lesson they don't seem to be taking to heart.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dumbing Down

It only takes a minute on my morning perusal of today's news to find this stumper which, presumably, was printed in the teeny Tuesday print edition of Chronblog:
In many places, it ain't exactly like CSI.
In case you're wondering, that tidbit of literary brilliance was foisted on the public by one Lisa Falkenberg, the Chron's Jr. Metro columnist and chief nail-banger. Which editor allowed it into print is information to which I'm not aware, being an outside accountant-blogger whose** opinions in this matter are given short shrift by the powers that be over at 801 Texas Ave. (Unlike say, Christof Spieler, ChronBlog's transportation go-to guy (and employee of Morris Architects a firm with ties to Parsons that stands to benefit from increased LRT development...just sayin'), or Bob Stein designer of the SafeClear program (and the conductor of a survey regarding its** efficacy) and husband Mayor White's agenda Director**. (No conflict of interest there))

The problem with the blurb is that it's just one of the many instances where "Features creep" has infiltrated the newsroom. It's bad enough that the ChronBlog is directing most of it's resources toward projects like the hardcore-porn promoting 29-95 or the potential FoodBorg magnet delish but now there's evidence that low standards of language are infiltrating the newsroom as well. It's started with cute, witty passages from ChronBlog's Caucasian think-tank and has now trickled into the outlying opinion columns.

Need more evidence?

The Houston Mayoral race and most State political coverage has been relegated to staff blogs, freeing up more print space for personal asides.

The offshoot of this is that the public is being drastically underserved by the former newspaper of record on many fronts. Critical watchdog reporting has been all but ceded to non-profit ventures such as Texas Watchdog or amateur bloggers such as HouBlog who are doing the heavy lifting that should be done by paid, trained reporters. When those, local, groups aren't out there scooping ChronBlog, it's out of town, or national news organizations that are doing the job, as in the case of Enron.

Unfortunately, the list of key issues that the newspaper has missed, due to either lack of interest or lack of staff, is growing longer by the day. KHOU broke the crime lab story, the under reported crime story and a host of others. KTRK was responsible for breaking the story about Harris County Commissioner Jerry Eversole, scandals that could land the Commissioner in court. Then there's BARC, the reporting of which has been owned by Craig Malisow of The Houston Press and local blogger Kelly Cripe. All of these stories broken by organizations with much less funding and resources than ChronBlog.

Why is this a concern? Because a community needs a strong and independent media to be healthy, and Houston has been operating without this civic cog in its inner working for quite some time. Ever since the now-infamous rail-mirror memo was inadvertently posted on (and then quickly withdrawn with the weak explanation that it was 'an internal memo' not meant for public consumption) watchdog reporting has taken a back-seat to features fluff over at Chronblog, and the City of Houston has been worse off for it.

It's such a little thing, one phrase in a long article about errors in autopsies that are occurring throughout the State. Such a little thing that speaks volumes about the state of media in Houston, and why our democracy is nearing the end of its half-life perhaps. Given the general lack of quality and creativity demonstrated by the current crop of candidates for public office I'd say we're getting very, very close to the end of it.*

*If a candidate like Gene Locke can be an announced candidate for months and only have his potential conflict of interests high-lighted weeks before the election (and by the aforementioned Texas Watchdog to boot) then I'd say that we're in just a little bit of trouble.
**Thanks to Mike, who was kind enough to provide me with some free editing. We'd offer to buy you a hamburger but sadly, free lunches have been cut back in the latest budget

Monday, October 5, 2009

Poll Results. (10/05/09)

So, based on the results of our user poll, it seems that many of you are taking the time to (mostly) create your own content with just a wee-bit of blockquoting thrown in for good measure.

The results were:

Outside Content (Heavy Blockquoting) - 0
Outside Content w/value add (Moderate Blockquoting) - 1
Value-Add w/references (light blockquoting) - 3
All original content (almost no blockquoting) - 4

That's 87.5% of the eight bloggers responding who said they come up with their material, for the most part, on their own. That's pretty good stuff.

Granted, this is a very small sample size (HCA readership being limited due to its relative young age) but its telling. My vote was "Value-Add w/references". I sued to be #2, but have moved to much lighter blockquoting in recent years. Now almost everything I write is original, with just a few quotes scattered in for reference.

In the end, provided you're following the terms of fair use, how you do it is of secondary importance. Just think about what you're doing, how and why. It makes for a better group of blogs. (And the Houston blogosphere is in desperate need of some quality right now)

Stay tuned for a new issue and new poll coming soon.

Oh no! We really are!

Laughed a little bit today at this John Nova Lomax post in the Houston Press Hair Balls blog regarding Houston's comparative ranking to, well everyone else when it comes to intelligence. Needless to say, the results weren't pretty. Think: Trailing Nashville not pretty...

OK, harmless diversion right?

Then there was this comment which kind of put the entire thing into perspective:
local says:

I guess controlling objects in space does not take much brains. Why don't we ship NASA to Nashville, let's see how well that will go.
Indeed lets....

Considering much of the engineering and flight control personnel for NASA are imported, one could assume that they could also be exported to Nashville and the touchy job of directing objects in space would cruise along without so much as a hiccup.

It's a hard slap in the face when reality comes up and bitch-slaps your argument against a stereotype is it not?

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