Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Noise Machine (12/31/09)

On the cusp of.....Friday.

So the ChronBlog's Caucasian Think-Tank is all over bringing back Glass-Steagall? Back in April I suggested this very same thing. I also added that, in addition to the repeal, additional Congressional action (on the part of both parties) and businesses forgoing business sense for a quick buck were all drivers of the mess we currently find ourselves in. At the time, some Democratic bloggers/commenters said I was out of my gourd. Now their party has latched on to that way of thinking. Are they out of their gourd as well? (If you answered "no", then you're right.)

Maybe it's just me, but using a Ring of Sauron Analogy from Tolkein's LOTR trilogy is maybe not the best way to push the meme that Metro's faulty Q-card payment system should be the single payment system for the entire region's coming transportation infrastructure?

It's official: We have the first, really bad, (racist?) election pun courtesy of newly minted Democratic Lite Gov candidate Marc Katz. Enjoy.

Jarvis Johnson advocates for minimum standards in rental housing. Given the Republican anger over Hubert Vo's apartments, I don't see how they could possibly be against this proposal, but I've been surprised before.

Unca Darrell, reminding the CCTT of the folly of their words once again. One of the better conservative apologists in town. (and a life-long Democrat to boot)

A little internal sparring at HCC to end the year. Local, petty turf wars are always worth a chuckle or two. (Unless it's the taxpayers that end up getting stormed)


This is interesting. (and it poses a potential problem during trial, you know, the non-military trials that we're giving them?)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

These are the people we want running our healthcare? (Part IV)

You'd think, if the the media and government were working together, they'd get it right.

The news story: Federal appliance rebate program set to launch. [Vinnee Tong, AP via Yahoo! News]

The quote:
WHAT'S MY STATE OFFERING? For state by state information, visit the federal Web site and click on "state appliance rebate program" on the right.

The payoff: Ugh....Maybe next time.

T'aint no party like a term-limit party

...cause a term limit party don't stop!

One would think, with the term-limited Mayor moving out and a new Mayor moving in most of the political coffee-talk amongst what passes for a chattering class would be focused on administrative items such as cabinet, advisory boards, who the new police chief might be.....

You'd be wrong of course because this is Houston, where it's an ingrained parlour game to ignore the pressing issues (budgets, flood control, public works) for the more flashy ideas such as downtown Minor League Soccer stadiums and term limits.

That's right, term limits because ensuring that elected officials can stay in one place for a very long time is paramount to the issues that I've listed above.

For some reason, bloggers love term limits, or (more accurately) Republican bloggers love term limits and Democratic bloggers love fighting against them. Hell, they're even such a big issue that this little blog now has a blog post focusing on the blogging and reporting surrounding them. Such is the all-powerful allure, for some, of working very hard to ensure the consistently mediocre retain the seats of power that they've influence peddled so arduously to achieve.

Upon further review, there could be another force at work here as well.

Let's call it the Burka effect. You see, when George W. two-stepped his way to the White House Mssr. Burka effectively lost much of his insider's edge. For a long time he had been fed tid-bits from Bush's inner circle that allowed him to get out in front on several major stories. Once that team obtained a DC PO Box, that influence was gone. Burka today is a shell of his former self, reduced to expounding on gossip disseminated by the truly plugged in while he waits for the doorman to once again validate his ticket and allow him inside the club.

What the elimination of term limits really do is ensure that the same person guarding the velvet rope is there for a much longer duration. Relationships can be forged, fawning news stories and blog posts can be written granting said writer the ear of those with the key to the castle. Much more than allowing themselves in, (all MSM journalists, and most serious political bloggers from the same party can get in with little trouble) familiarity is all about who can be kept out.

Then there's always the issue of backing the wrong horse. Journalists do a much better job than bloggers of hiding their biases. I'm fairly certain that "fake impartiality" is a requirement a Journo school that must be completed before a degree is officially rewarded. True, you won't find the course on any curriculum, but I'm willing to bet you that Dan Rather has written the text book. Bloggers, traditionally, wear their political hearts on their sleeve, often taking the slightest political transgression and hyping it up as the Houston equivalent of Watergate. One thing that political reporting has lost (irrevocably IMO) is some sense of perspective when scandals are outed. Even MSM journos tend to overstate minutia in the interest of generating page views.

The point is that, as opposed to their MSM content overlords, when bloggers step on themselves they can REALLY step on themselves. Often to the point of losing access. I'm not talking about a meltdown on a personal level, where a blogger freaks out and starts penning arcane posts, or when a journo fires off an e-mail in anger that someone doesn't share their opinion. Nope, I'm talking about a blogger being shut-out of those fun bloggy things because they were too gung-ho for backing the wrong side. You've seen it happen, bitter bloggers sitting outside political rallies, peeking through the windows while their counterparts (who had the good sense to back the winning candidate) sit down at long tables furiously live-blogging an event that most of their readers are at anyway. Currently the reward is inclusion and free wi-fi. Personally I'm holding out until I'm bribed with free food and booze. Hey, even bad bloggers need to have standards.

There are times (most times actually) that I enjoy reading political blogs more than I do MSM reporting, primarily due to the level of passion that one finds in blogging over reporting. However, with certain stories there is a real need for honest, impartial reporting. While that's become rarer and rarer it's still out there if one chooses to look for it.

The sad downside to the rise in blogging is the rise in importance of the divisive and the lowered focus on the mundane. After all, public works, flood control and the intricacies of balancing a budget are less likely to be blogged about than a list of possible names for the new political machines that could arise when/if term limits are abolished.

My choice: Southampton Social Club

The Noise Machine (12/30/09)

Rainy days and Mondays.....

This is perhaps the most pathetic thing I've ever read. (That the American system of taxation is broken goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway)

The biofuel revolution will be driven by big oil? How long until someone in Congress slips up and tries to punish big oil by removing the tax breaks they stand to get for this? Proving, once and for all, that climate change has less to do with the actual climate than it does the transfer of wealth from an industry that's currently out of political favor to ones who are in favor.

Good news/Bad news for UTMB: The Good news is that they are growing again, the Bad news is the Live Oak on campus is not. Still, on the whole, I'm sure they'd rather have jobs than a tree so read into that what you will.

The times they are a'changin. Not necessarily for the better. (losing broadcast TV would certainly be a change in the way we live our lives, and in inconvenience for many at first. The initial problem would be loss of free, local news, but (as with newspapers) I'm sure something will take its place.)

Until now we've been told that Houston has 'fared better' than most other cities in terms of the recession. That could all be about to change. If the new EPA smog rules are aggressively enforced. (I'm all for clean air, don't get me wrong, but what's the use of having clean air if no-one has enough money to get out and enjoy it?) **Maybe, like me, you're still wondering where the green economy is and why it hasn't started creating at least SOME of the 5 Million jobs we've been promised?**

Of course, expanded bus service could help. Something the County seems to understand but Metro has still failed to fully grasp. (Instead the idea is to cut bus service in an effort to push people toward a tram that doesn't go anywhere. All so more trams can be built which require more cuts in bus service to ramp up ridership.....)

Go on, Go party with Annise. You know you want to.

Sometimes those that don't matter spend the most time telling us what does. (Politics are odd that way)

If you only read one healthcare story today, make it this one by Houston Lawyer Tom Kirkendall. (I also feel that the Government, who ostensibly works for the people and not for profit, has to play a role. I like the idea of them as re-insurer, I'd also add to that the need for a robust system of clinics that are funded by a combination of taxes and user fees. To work though the fees would need to be very low.)

Possibly the best blogger on issues surrounding State politics is re-engaged. You'd be remiss not to keep up with his insight.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Noise Machine (12/29/09)

Feeling National today....

Many people don't qualify for COBRA? Shoot, most people can't afford COBRA.

I've long been a fan of low-cost medical clinics attached to grocery stores, pharmacies etc. Great places to go if you've got something minor and don't want to go through the hassle of scheduling a Dr's appointment. Too bad more people don't know about, and use, this medical option. (I still use my regular physician for my annual physical, major health issues and the like, but for an upper respiratory infection? Give me a walk-in clinic any day.)

Speaking of health care: How's that "top 5% of Americans" promise looking to 'ya?

Tom Kirkendall on America's Security Theatre. The important bit is that America currently isn't doing airport security, it's never been about that over here. Real security means the bad guys don't ever get on the plane. Ask the Israelis.

Wanna deal on a Pontiac? Because they're coming.

If you think your job sucks, consider the task in front of Peter Orszag. Cutting a Federal budget that's resistant to cuts, has entrenched bureaucracies fighting against even common-sense cutbacks and politicians who are afraid to lose funding because they might lose votes. Give me Oil & Gas accounting any day.

See? Potholes are crime fighting tools. Silly us to not let Chief Hurtt's master plan mature.

Round One for Al Hoang. Now there's just that little matter of his campaign finance reports....

Are you ready for Immigration Reform 2010? Some groups are. I wonder if Congressional Democrats (already feeling under siege from healthcare and Cap n' Trade) are going to be willing?

One man's opinion on the best tech devices of 2009. Your opinion may vary.

An end to the long, winding Ben Reyes tale? I'm willing to be he's hoping so. I wonder if an attempted return to politics can be too far in the future?

Houston's airports don't have body imaging devices. How un-World-Class of us. (Something MUST be DONE! **probably something that involves spending Millions of taxpayer dollars**)

Private Oaths equal less money spent. The age of austerity begins?


If Houston REALLY wants to be world class, Slampo suggests we start by cleaning our restrooms. Makes sense, it's cheaper than a fourth sports stadium, serves a public health purpose, would actually generate jobs and is something that can be used by everyone.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Bad Newspapers live for this sort of thing....

I'm speaking of Year, decade, or some other period of time, review stories. Never quite sure about how to address the coming of that frustrating 3-month (or so) period where many personal checks are voided in rage due to incorrect dates, newspaper readers are ensured a steady diet of this or that in review columns which provide the columnist to meet a deadline without having to research a story or, conveniently, do much actual work over the Holidays. The worse the newspaper, the more "year end" pontificating one is likely to find.

In today's ChronBlog?

There are four such 'stories', two of which (by Buggs and Kever) pretty much seem to be the same tale (the Aughts have sucked) told in just about the same way.

If, like most, you don't want to read reporters bloviating on what already happened, let me sum it up for you....

A LOT of funky stuff happened from 2000 to 2009 OK? With the benefit of hindsight some things we did look foolish. Although, we won't mention how we reported on them without said benefit (Hint: ChronBlog was just as ruffled as the rest of society about Y2K.)

I would like to point out for the record, (and much to the relief of the crew over at BlogHouston I'm sure) that the editorial staff at the Almanac will NOT be assigning a 'decade/year/week in review' beat to ourselves. It's happened, let's move on. We also won't be doing one of those "New Year's resolution" posts that bloggers seem to love so much. I have no resolutions for this or any of my other blogs partially because I refuse to take them that seriously.

For the most part bloggy-style resolution lists, "best & worst of" or "year/decade/month in review" efforts are weak, lacking both creativity and analysis of even moderate depth. They're typically deadline busters for when the reporter/columnist/blogger has nothing in the works after downing too much egg-nog. They're as bad as the "Christmas gift" lists that pop up from time to time where some blogger/reporter, feeling themselves in the midst of a creative moment, drum up a Christmas list for their political friends & enemies that's intended to be humorous, but which ultimately falls short due to its inability to recognize its own perspective. Had the Almanac a gift to give it would be a big dollop of self-awareness to many in the blogosphere. (See what I did there?)

The week leading up to New Years is tough. From opinion articles to fond look-backs to the inevitable "We're going to do XXX better dammit!" statement from whatever struggling Government/private-sector organization manages to get their press-release printed first. For the news consumer this week is one of the year's longest.

Until next week, when everything is suddenly "young" and "new again" and we're promised that the NEXT year/decade/month is going to be somehow better than the previous year/decade/month despite the fact that only one day has passed since the pages of bad newspapers were covered with dire retrospectives. It's done every year, the definition of insanity in printed form.

At least they're not calling it "news analysis" this time around.

The Noise Machine (12/28/09)

No more figgy pudding!!!

Goodbye Ms. Feibel. (That Move It! column is burning through columnists at quite a clip) **It's telling to note that the CTC is STILL characterized incorrectly in this article. They're non-partisan, but hardly non-ideological. (That their pro-rail, anti-freeway expansion ideals mesh with ChronBlog goes without saying.)**

That's one archaic Texas regulation under review. The idea that trucks should pay less in registration fees dates back to the days when the State's economy was agricultural in nature. Of course, it MEANT pick up trucks at the time, but has been expanded to include SUV's as well. Good riddance. ChronBlog links to this Fort Worth Star-Telegram article on the same issue as well. My assumption is that the Fort Worth paper broke the story, and ChronBlog hastily penned the chub before picking up the original off the wires. That's our ChronBlog!

Good article on Church Under the Bridge. They do some food ministry as well, which isn't mentioned. (My prediction is that Religious charity work such as this is going to come under increasing fire during the next decade by those who feel it's the Government's job.)

Bad News: Rain chances on amateur night. If ever there was a NYE to stay at home....

Not the kind of story that's conducive to creating a "world class" downtown destination. (Toughs in fights and beating deaths? Really?)

Question: If it's the system that failed on Christmas Eve then why is the "fix" focused the further rights eliminations for law-abiding citizens and not on said system?

Answer: Because that's how we've designed the system to work in the first place.

In other words: Our initial response to the terror threat, Bush's reorganization and the creation of an entire new bureaucracy which in turn created a Rube Goldberg Machine for airport security, was wrong. This error became the system that's being talked about now. If you're running on a faulty system then the law of GIGO (Which America seems to have forgotten) guarantees that you're going to have faulty outcomes.

Case in point:Don't round up the people who came in contact with the inept Christmas Eve terrorist type guy. Instead, let's make sure we don't offend anyone and scrutinize everyone. (Here we go again)

(Marginally)Helping the environment by (Severely)punishing the poor. During tough economic times at that. (How long until some group is calling for a "bag subsidy" to offset this rise in costs that's primarily going to effect the poor and lower middle class? **What the City wants, is the .10¢/bag revenue that this is supposed to generate. Hiding under the cloak of "environmental stewardship" of course.**

"Going Green" in more ways than one. (As if the 'climate change' hoopla has ever been about anything else than making money.... From Al Gore and his group of carbon exchange investors to poor and developing nations hoping to cash in to municipal governments trying to find new revenue streams to upstart companies hoping for infusions of Government cash to make the non-viable operational for a short time.)

We're number 3!!! (This is a good thing)

I feel for the aughts decade. It's almost become a journalism parlour game to write about them in the most negative way possible. (And it's not just ChronBlog (who lives for dreck like this) penning disaster tales there's going to be a long list of dim bulbs offering Hosannas to their Deity of choice that some artificial time barrier has passed.)

Back to the "Party of No" - My guess is that this sticks because of a lack of articulation. I'm constantly told by my Republican friends that the Party does have ideas that extend beyond tax breaks and tort reform. Granted, most of the time they don't tell me what they are but they assure me they are out there. (The Democrats main problem is simple: A majority of the people aren't liking the ideas they're shovelling out. From that perspective this "party of no" thing might not have any legs. You can only call so many people "wingnut" before the word stops having any meaning.)

Prediction: One of the top stories of the next decade (here we go with artificial time barriers again) is going to be the increased governmental control into our financial lives. (Call it the "Europeanization" of our economy if you like. It's a fundamental sea-change in how America does business.) What will be left (mostly) unexamined is the overall global economic impact of removing the largest consumer of goods from the world economy.

Are all of the "new"* tax proposals really a tax on upward mobility instead of a tax on those who are already there? Victor Davis Hanson makes a strong case that it's so.

Slampo provides a public service to the masses. "Where's Waldo" with a Houston spin!

*By "new" we mean recycled from past administrations. In reality there haven't been any new taxation ideas for centuries.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy ChrisChanKwaFesSoltimas.

May your Holiday Season be full of good fun, good friends, good times and blessings from the God of your choice.

To all of my Athiest readers: Happy Friday.

**I'll probably be offline until Monday, due to commentary moderation don't expect to see new comments on here until then. Your comment's not gone, it just hasn't been approved.**

The Noise Machine (12/22/09)

It's beginning to feel a lot early Fall.

Who's checking your ticket? Because putting people making $7-$10/hr in charge of verifying $1,000's of dollars in winnings didn't seem like a problem to the geniuses who gave us the lottery.

All HealthCare All the Time

What if the so-called "reform" really isn't? (It's not) So where do we go from there?

OK, so the Healthcare reform bill sucks. That's OK, we're told by the people we elected to represent us This same crew that crafted this putrid bill should be trusted to fix the damn thing. (The definition of National Insanity)

Spend a Trillion, cut few Million, call it 'fiscal responsibility' (Didn't we learn ANYTHING from the Bush Presidency?)

The thing is, Nobody likes this bill but it's a start. Kill the patient to find the cure I guess....

End "All Health Care All the Time"

I often wonder who it is that gets excited over the far-fetched, grand touristy plans floated by pie-in-the-sky pseudo-public agencies that have little real chance for success....Now I know.

Will Apple TV not interact with TV sets made by other brands and only operate at twice the cost? (One thing's for sure, when it rolls out the fanbois (and certain tech writers) are going to go gaga over it)

New Gay Marriage Rally Cry: Let's be JUST LIKE MEXICO!!!...hey NO, wait.....Ah nevermind dammit.

County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia = King Canute....Discuss.

3-hour tarmac limits are great. Can we do something about that hard-as-a-rock pellet on my slop tray that was last identifiable as a dinner roll during the McKinley administration?

Atheists are people too. (And should have equal rights to run for elected office and dip their snouts in the trough)

If the argument for no arguments against is that "It's science", then you're really not dealing with "science" at all. (It's technically closer to something that we call "Religion", down here in the Bible belt that is.)

Speaking of Religion (And you thought the Catholic Church had a monopoly on funny robes.)

Today's Texas Tribune Daily Brief. The Interesting bits: "Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy group" & "according to a report the Center for Public Policy Priorities released yesterday."

I've no issue with labelling the AfP as a "conservative group" they most certainly are. But to not label the CPPP as a liberal "progressive" group is a glaring omission.

Why do elected officials burn through thousands to win a job that only pays in the hundreds per year? (Hint: It's not some secret siren call to public service that only they can hear.) **Despite their assurances that this is so.**

Emily Ramshaw needs a drinking game. In this article on Texas' health spending every time you see a reference to increasing State spending....drink. (If you make it passed the first five paragraphs drink two)

Ronnie Earle is all-in for Lite Gov, and in the InterLeft there was much rejoicing.


Slampo takes a peek at Houston's long, storied history of (allegedly) electing gay mayors. In the process he bangs out one of the funniest blog posts of the year.

Monday, December 21, 2009

BARC & $11 Million (with a sprinkling of political grandstanding)

So the Houston Bureau of Animal Regulation and Control Care is on the cusp of construction for a new, $11 Million dollar pet adoption facility. Mike Snyder provided the details and, on the political blog, offered up this little tid-bit from Houston's Senate-Candidate outgoing Mayor:
I would encourage those to whom I've passed the baton to use words that I've used in many other contexts, whether it be with our parks, our libraries, our historical preservations, our building of our arts and cultural institutions. Talk is cheap and advocates come a dime a dozen. Ooh, did I just say that? I did. And there's a role for advocacy. But real advocates are those who are willing to donate both their treasure and their time to accomplishing the goal that they seek. They're not so into taking credit as they are taking individual responsibility for making sure change takes place.
Ignoring for a moment the irony of a politician using a public event, designed to get him some positive press coverage as he continues with his campaign, to question the motives of advocates and volunteers who have been complaining about BARC, I think it's important to look at whether or not this is $11 Million dollars that has to be spent in the first place....

1. Should BARC be in the adoption business to begin with? My gut answer is "no". To understand why we need to look at BARC's core mission. In its original iteration BARC was designed to contain and prevent the spread of disease that could be transferred from stray animals to humans. Running a "no-kill" shelter and tackling the considerable expense and time of adopting out animals is something the agency is not equipped to do. Are we setting BARC up for failure to score a few political points with voters?

2. Can the business of pet adoption be successfully farmed out? Yes, it can. Without much difficulty at that. Were I King of BARC (pay attention new BARC director) the first thing I would do is work on fast-tracking local charity organizations that handle pet adoptions. The second thing I'd do is to ensure that spay/neutering became a priority, and the third thing I would do is consider spay/neuter & release policies for feral cats. Why spend $11 Million for BARC to handle what other organizations are currently doing better? The "key" here is to reduce the kill rate at the shelter. What better way to accomplish this than to use existing resources to handle pet adoptions, and apply the majority of BARC money to veterinary services?

I guess, according to Senate-candidate Mayor White this is just another example of "false advocacy". Fair enough, for your sake I won't re-hash my pet rescue bonafides. This isn't about me however, it's about an animal control system that's rapidly running off the rails.

In Houston there's always a lot of talk about being world-class. It's almost to the point of comedy. I'm sure that, at some point, someone at BARC is going to suggest that this adoption center is world-class and other such nonsense. As an alternative, might I humbly suggest trying something that is truly world-class instead of reeking of world-classiness....

Why not set up a first-of-its-kind partnership between BARC and local animal rescue/pet adoption services? Yes, I know this is done in other cities, but what BARC could do is aggressively court these charity groups at a level we haven't seen before. It could be a working partnership between charity and gov't. What we're being offered is a top-down authoritarian bureaucracy which is doomed to, eventually, collapse under its own weight.

The Noise Machine (12/21/09)

I'm only going to say this once.....

Only in Houston: Mayor as tourist draw. There are a few tell-tale signs that the quest for world-classiness have gone too far. This is one of them, pathetic attempts to say Houston should be just like everyone else is another, as is suggesting the new Mayor ease up on oversight when Billions of dollars of public monies are at stake. (That's our ChronBlog!)

Speaking of Billions of dollars: Metro promises to do better**. Cross their heart and hope to die. (No, seriously, they mean it) *snicker*

That ol' Rice endowment just ain't what it used to be. And that's too bad. A strong Rice is good for Houston. Notice I didn't say a strong Rice propped up by taxpayer dollars. Rice is private and should remain so. I hope some doddering politician in an attempt to maintain world-classiness doesn't propose a taxpayer bailout.

Bad political blogs live for this sort of thing. (That's our ChronBlog!)

More bad news for the Texas Youth Commission. At some point you have to ask who wrote the laws that established the organization? What a mess

When "health & safety" go too far. (At what point are Americans going to look in the mirror and realize that we didn't vote for this? Change, maybe, but the over-criminalization of day to day life, government interference where it shouldn't be, and asinine warning labels that have no reflection of reality?)

Meet the Advent Conspiracy. Of which I am a card-carrying member. (One thing I respect about Ecclesia and other modern-Christianity devotees is their rejection of the prosperity Gospel. Roberts, Osteen and their followers may take comfort in God as a non-questioning ATM but, in the end, the greed principle is what's gotten Christianity in the most trouble throughout history. What we are (hopefully) seeing are the beginnings of a modern-day reformation of the Christian Church.)

The race for Harris County GOP Chair gets some pub which prompted swift (negative) responses from the InterLeft. (From whom the same idea springs, organically we're sure, that Woodfill would be the worst result for Republicans, therefore the best result for them.) *They're correct on that point IMO*

OK, So Copenhagen was a disaster. Well, not really a disaster, but hardly what the globalists were wanting. The answer? How about admitting that the suggested changes will put an end to economic growth? (You won't find opinion much in America, where we're being promised the fallacy of the new green economy. What a climate change economy is going to do is retard the financial growth of the poor and middle class. This is obviously not disputed amongst those in charge of the global climate change movement.)

Is there an underground music movement any longer? My vote is no.

A long (New Republic) read by Johnathan Chait on the fall of Republican ideas. Most Republicans I know would disagree with this, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that Chait's view is in-line with many in the electorate. I've long said that "tax-cuts, deregulation" and putting on Reagan's underwear isn't going to appeal to today's American electorate. Those things are fine, but there's got to be something else. (Beyond "Obama sucks" that is. The Democrats tried the inverse of that and were in the political boonies for years)

**Irony: Metro telling small businesses that they're going to have to "open their books" in order to receive assistance via a hardship grant.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Noise Machine (12/18/09)

A coward dies a 1000 deaths, a brave man only one. At the end of the day, both are dead.

Death sentences are dropping Nationwide. - To me, a good thing. I've said often that, while I support the idea of the death penalty, I believe that it should be reserved for the worst of the worst. In Texas, more so than other states, I often feel that the statute is over-applied.

The Beatification of Parker in print form? Buy a paper to find out! *cue dramatic music*

More fallout from the HFD grafitti incident. - This time with 50% more lawyers!

Friday newspaper: 75¢, Cup of coffee: $0.59 - $5.25 (depending) Opening the paper to find this passing as a Metro column? Worthless.

Steffy is right here the Oil & Gas industry is increasingly moving toward Natural gas. Has been for quite some time as gas wells, still cheap and relatively easy to drill, become more prevelent. One thing not discussed, that should be, is the royalty boom that could come from this. Mineral royalties, especially for carbon fuels, have the ability to generate great personal wealth for farmers, ranchers, land-owners, etc.

Before you make up your mind on exclusion zones for sexually oriented businesses (SOB's) please read this blog post by Keep Houston Houston. Now there's an analysis that didn't make it into the pages of Chronblog. (Who, as is their custom, kept to the superficial or only focused on one side of the debate {usually the side their elected friends were supporting oddly enough*}) *That they even linked to this post here,on their opinion page, is a sign of improvement.

The great Al Hoang takedown, Part the second. (Wanna know a little bit about campaign finance codes? Here's a good place to start.)

The View from the American Media: Barack Obama: Climate Crusader.

The View from the European Media: Barack Obama: All hat no cattle.

Same speech, two totally different reactions. Proving the truism that there are three sides to every story: Yours, Mine, the truth.

That's a lot of frequent flier miles. Nice report from Matt Stiles and Andrew Kreighbaum of the Texas Tribune, with the additional bonus of detail discussing the difficulties of finding information within disclosure forms. (Think Needle/Haystack in many cases)

Heavy equipment theft and a costly government solution. - Texas Tribune's Reeve Hamilton provides the details. (Not that increased training and enforcement is a bad idea (they're a very good idea actually) but if they're the ONLY idea then they're going to be grossly limited, temporary in nature and, at the end of the day, ineffective. Have we learned nothing from the endless "war on drugs"?)

Again from the Tribune: Another example of the single-solution folly. (A better idea would be to fix schools, to stop trying to fit all students into the same hole (college) and instead let them follow their own paths (trades, fast-food management, skilled labor, etc.) Haven't we devalued manual labor enough already?

Finally, That's funny: I don't feel 15th happiest.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Grassroots (A quick review)

Houston City Council District F elected a Council Representative that may not, in truth, reside within the bounds of the district full-time. Around 20% of eligible voters (maybe 8% of the populace) voted Annise Parker & Eugene Locke into a run-off (with slightly fewer ultimately electing Parker to office) for Houston's Mayor. Despite calling a local fire fighter a "House Negro" Jolanda Jones won a low turnout run-off election against Jack Christie.

On a State level Rick Perry received 39% of the popular vote, and is now the longest serving Governor in the history of the State of Texas. Chris Bell ran in the same race, and was treated as a serious candidate by many. The 2006 Democratic Candidate for Attorney General stole a quote from a TCU football coach without attribution (passing it off as his own, instead of inventing his own campaign slogan) and 37% of voters took his candidacy seriously.

Nationally, Al Franken is a Senator. Think about that for a second. Al Franken, average comedian and Saturday Night Live star (during one of their "not-funny" periods) is representing Americans in the U.S. Senate. Even worse? Arnold Schwarzeneggar is the Governor of California.

Internationally, Sylvio Berlusconi is in charge of things in Italy, despite having multiple affairs, some of them allegedly with teens of questionable age.

Given all of that evidence: Hugo Chavez' standing ovation in Copenhagen makes a lot of sense does it not?

When intelligent people abdicate the decisions of governance to those whose sole desire is the abdication of guilt through the release of responsibility then the snake oil salesmen, carnival barkers and narcissists will come to dominate the public stage.**

**Or...Maybe they already have?

The Noise Machine (12/17/09)

Oh for the love of it all...

I'll be people were wondering where this was when Houston was trying to get their wheezing, crashing broadband "dome" off the ground?

White fulfills promise, gets fingerprint ID up and running in city jails. - Thereby angering both immigration activists who feel he's gone too far as well as immigration opponents who feel he's not gone far enough. (Immigration: The issue that keeps on giving.)

Whoever she hires/promotes has a rough few years in front of them. With budget concerns and a sub-par infrastructure caused by years of neglect and (to be frank) poor management, HPD needs a full overhaul in a big way.

Here's a thought: Fire the lot of them. Everyone who was involved in the Comeaux fiasco, from the people who issued the wheelchair to the officers "taken by surprise". The Marines have a word for what went on in that situation.

So Congress is expected to raise the limit on borrowing, setting the stage for a historical pas de deaux. The Republicans' role, consider them the Mouse King, is to wail and howl aobut "unsustainable debt and fiscal irresponsibility" until their blue in the face. The Democrats' role, consider them the Nutcracker, is to sincerely speak about "necessities" and "tough choices" that they were "elected to do". If, by any chance, they can do this with an American flag in the background that's all the better. You, as the audience, have one role and one role only: You are to believe the lie that things are somehow different this time than they were when Bush was in office, similar bills came before Congress.....and the casting was reversed.

The war on Kinky for Ag Commish begins.

Political truism: No matter what the issue, there's always going to be someone for an issue and someone against that same issue. Remarkably, both sides cherry pick different sides of the same facts to prove their case, ignoring any evidence against. (The best way to examine this healthcare bill is on the margins. Stripping away the good things (there are some) and the bad (some of those also) where does this bill stand in that light. IMO the potentially unsustainable costs cancel out the marginal increase in the insured. What's left standing is a punishing tax increse that primarily is going to hit the middle class. *Again: The only way to 'reform' healthcare is to create a system where everyone pays, and is responsible for, their own care. Currently our system is designed to take responsibility away...which leads to fraud and waste.

Finally, The answer to the leaf question. Courtesy of Kathy Huber, one of the bright spots over at ChronBlog.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Noise Machine (12/16/09)

Now with 33% more noise......

It's Leo Vasquez vs. Bill White in a cage match TO THE DEATH. (My money's on Vasquez, he's got slicked back hair.) - Is this political? You BET it is. That doesn't mean that the allegations aren't true, or that the City is in arrears, but addressing the issue in this, very public, manner is done with only one goal in mind: providing a future White opponent with a campaign point.

Say it ain't so Harold... Or, say it IS so. Either way this is not a surprise. I love the "I was not forced out" spin. ( were)

Give the guy this: When Slampo pens a love letter to his newly elected Councilmember, he REALLY pens a love-letter. (Meanwhile, the Chron's lazy, ineffectual Metro columnist is still going on about teh gay. Zzzzzzz)

Try as I might, I can't understand how the election of (White) Annise Parker, is the harbinger of America's demographic electoral change? (Reinforcing my point that reporters often try to make too much out of isolated incidents.) If anything, the election of a wonkish, long-time politician with a strong history of mediocrity reveals more about the lack of depth in Houston's political talent pool than anything else. It's not that Parker is bad (she's not) it's just that she's not shown anything to date that's especially good. *That being said she was the best of this sorry lot, IMO*

Truth doesn't fear the light of day. That's all I've got to say on that issue.

This story on Farouk Shami by Bill White Texas Tribune reporter Abbey Rappaport is quite possibly the most negatively slanted article I've seen in regards to a political candidate for office from one of the two major parties. (How negatively slanted? The web address for this reads "samaritans-and-snakeoil" {Working title?})

Houston Blogger and Urban Issues Expert Tory Gattis bends Mayor-Elect Parker's ear in regards to an agenda for her as Mayor. (Good stuff, even if you don't agree with all of his points.)

One thing about Houston, we've got no shortage of opinions. Michael Garfield gives Ms. Parker some unsolicited tech advice which includes offering tax credits to high tech firms looking to relocate.

When economic reality meets pie-in-the-sky rebound projections, reality is (unfortunately) the overwhelming favorite.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Noise Machine (12/15/09)


Don't look now, but there's evidence less draconian criminal justice might actually work. It sure beats locking up a larger percentage of your population than any other country in the World.

Y'all pack 'em in tight now ya hear?

I never took one of Prof. Bott's classes, but I've met the man. No bigger a UH booster will you find anywhere. (Which is unusual in a faculty that's as negative toward campus life as any I've ever seen)

How to tell when it's not looking good for you. (Official oppression style)

Anyone else get the idea that Perry wishes this entire forensic mess would just go away?

Ride, Jitney Ride (Just don't take too much revenue away from Yellow Cab or the establishment will sock you in the mouth)

The Harris County Budget crunch is morphing into a political football being kicked down the street by supporters of newly minted (Possible) County Judge Candidate Gordon Quan. While that's certainly fair, I wonder if the same principle applies to Bill White's FIVE consecutive rate cuts now that the City of Houston is struggling financially as well? (Fiscal Conservatism: What's good for the goose....) **This would normally be the point where I'd talk about the need to take a holistic look at Texas' antiquidated, land-based, tax system. But I think I'll let that slide for now**

Health Care reform is what happens when you're not asking the proper questions. (Asking "who" should pay for health-care reform is a recipe for failure. Everyone should pay for their own healthcare, that's the only way to sucessfully reform any system. As long as a coveted voting bloc is being given a free ride, people will continue the pattern of abuse.) That a majority of American's don't see this says more about the health of our democracy than any other indicator.

Drive more? Well, you're going to pay more. I wonder how long it will take big city politicians to realize that the "urban core" policies they've been espousing are going to indirectly lead to tax cutsincreases on the poor (who will have to drive further to get to their jobs due to land prices, etc)? Meet the law of unintended consequences.

Jason Stanford gets fired and his biggest supporters are the journos that are supposed to be providing unbiased coverage of his candidate. There used to be something called professional detachment. Obviously that's gone by the wayside. (Along with "secret" get-togethers, the new idea being to pimp one's attendance as some archaic status symbol) **I have no problem with PR people and journos being friends, but when so many of them are that close?

The Texas Tribune's Ross Ramsey provides a Peek into the wonderful world of incumbency of the Texas Lege. It's a good gig, if you can get it.

Kinky drops his Gubernatorial bid choosing instead to run against Hank Gilbert for Ag Commish. (He's still going to face the same problem of finding a constituency in the Democratic Party, who still hasn't forgiven him for running against perennial candidate Chris Bell, a man whose electoral draw was slightly below the dead.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

New Poll: Voting on Light Rail in Houston

With all of the talk about John Culberson's "Congressional Hold" on Metro's Light Rail expansion plans, and a call for a second election regarding said plans, it makes sense to take a look at the arguments being used for as well as the arguments against holding a second rail-based election.

First, the two main arguments for:

1. Metro's 2003 Solutions plan (Which the 2003 referendum authorized) has been altered from its original form to the point that what Metro is now proposing is unrecognizable from what voters approved. - The key argument against this logic is that Metro Solutions 2003, as with any large program, was meant to be viewed as a framework for future transit and was not "cast in stone" as critics contend. That works out OK except for the fact that there were a few specific proposals in the Solutions plan (a 50% increase in bus service for example) that were key to it gaining support that have been removed from the plan.

2. The East-end support isn't there. - Winning over the East-End Chamber of Commerce (and it's residents) was crucial to Metro winning the 2003 election. Now that the Harrisburg line is promising to be more trouble than it's worth, that support will not be there. This is a dubious case to make about a democratic election. There are many things that are legal, but which do not have widespread public support. If a new election is required to get anything done every time the parameters of a plan change then nothing will ever get done.

Now, the two main arguments against:

1. A majority in the Houston Region support light rail. - We don't know that. What we do know is that in 2009 (for the first time) A good-sized majority of polled respondents supported the addition of a "rail component". We also know that a sizable plurality supports using a mixture of roads, trains & light rail as the best solution for future transit. What the Survey is not able to provide is what mixture said plurality deems to be ideal. It's hard to say, right now, where the Houston Region stands on the revised Metro Solutions plan. Since the major information sources on this issue have deemed it necessary to mis-report the issue (MetroSolutions = Mass Transit) we'll probably never know.

2. We already have buy-in from the 2003 referendum. - As stated above, to MetroRail supporters it doesn't matter that the spec's of the plan have changed, only that Light Rail is being built. This, they feel, was the underlying mission of the 2003 MetroRail referendum. Yes, there are things that could be done better and yes, Metro is not expanding fast enough for them, but all of those complaints are specifically due to a relatively small group of Rail deniers whose object is to rid the County of light-rail altogether, sinking us into the dark ages of bus transit. In some respects, this is true, there is a large portion of the anti-Metro faction whose sole purpose is the moth-balling of the entire Metro Light-rail system. Here's an excerpt from a Barry Klein e-mail that is going around describing the same:
Second is a resolution prepared earlier this year by Buses are Better, a group of activists in Houston who think a bus only system is wiser than bus-and-rail.

Which leads us to the new HCA: "Participating In Social Speaking" poll question of the day.
Should there be a second public referendum regarding Metro Solutions?

The poll will be open until Christmas.

Logic, ChronBlog style

If, as some do, you choose to divide up ChronBlog into two sections (not-news & News) this makes a lot more sense.....

Not-news: Replaces a long-time beat reporter with two people, who will still be covering one beat, but will be (supposedly) expanding the coverage to make it more dynamic and multi-media friendly. What this means is more coverage of what the wealthy, and those with a LOT of credit, are doing in River Oaks, a bevvy of douchebag bars, and wherever bad h'or d'oeuvres are served with sub-par Champagne.

News: Let's put One Reporter on every city, State & regional beat immaginable. Bradley Olson is the hardest working man in local news, covering City Hall, County issues, the Gubernatorial race, the Crime beat, Commissioner's court, all of the local elections and providing most of the content for the Chron's local politics blog.

That's "Where Houston Lives" according to ChronBlog, which once held the title of Houston's newspaper of record.

Logically then (according to ChronBlog) wealthy socialites drinking comps and downing expensive canapes while helping the plight "of the hungy" are more important news beats than any of the beats that Bradley Olsen is being forced to cover solo. It's also more important than NASA, the Port of Houston, Metro & surrounding counties, all of which have one (or fewer) reporters assigned to them on a consistent basis.

The Noise Machine (12/14/09)

There's nothing like taking a few days off....

In case you haven't heard: Houston has a new Mayor-Elect, the way...she's *gasp* gay.

True to form, ChronBlog has opened up the "newly elected public official cliche generator" providing such stunners as: Pulls no punches, grass-roots and aggressive agenda. Oddly enough, every mayor since Kathy Whitmire also generated the same cliches at one point or another during their tenure. At least ChronBlog is keeping it simple. (At this point we'd say something about bad newspapers and limited talent regarding Houston's political analysis class but...well..that'd be a cliche)

Note: Running a re-hash of things people have known about for quite some time is not the Yellow Brick Road to the city of Pulitzer. (You're advance) *There have been posts regarding this issue from Judicial and InterLeft bloggers. I'm too damn lazy to look them up, but they're out there. (Although not with the same information that Olsen's story has, I'm not suggesting plagiarism is at play, just that this series of stories is hardly ground-breaking, watchdog journalism.)

You knew it was coming: finger pointing in the fingerprint lab mess. (Question: Is "everyone is doing it?" really a valid defense?

What's $1.1 Trillion amongst friends? (The next fight on a federal level is going to be raising the ceiling for National debt. Republicans did it several times under Bush, and the Democrats howled in protest. Now the Democrats will do it under Obama, and the Republicans will howl in protest. Partisans on either side will then take the time to convince us that what they're doing now is 100% different than what they criticized the other side for, despite it being exactly the same.)

Proof that competency and politics do not go hand in hand. (I have nothing personal against Mr. Green, but Houston hasn't had a qualified auditor as Controller for many years.)

A better election round-up than you're likely to find anywhere. A must read.

Beware labelers giving advice about not labeling others.

And finally, just when you thought it was safe...

It's already 2010 election time, for political types that is. (Be afraid, be very afraid) *When a significant portion of the economy is based on politics you know you're in trouble.*

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dog Fighting: The Ball is in their Court

The following e-mail was sent to both Mayoral candidates today:
Good morning,

As you may or may not know, I spearhead the animal rescue effort in the Corridor of Cruelty. I coined the term nearly a year and a half ago, and have coordinated the rescue of well over 100 animals from the area since August of 2008. I’ve also worked with the Spay Neuter Assistance Program and was able to bring them to the Corridor beginning in February of this year.

As with most major metropolitan areas, there is a huge stray animal problem in Houston. This is one of the reasons I became involved with hands-on rescue - to create a better life for as many stray dogs as I could. The particular area off I-59and Little York caught my attention because of the great need that exists there.

Most people will agree that it is extremely sad the way in which dogs and cats are abandoned in the Corridor of Cruelty. And most will agree that it is a worthwhile endeavor to try and rescue and rehabilitate as many of them as possible. But aside from the live dogs being dumped in the Corridor of Cruelty, there exists a larger, even more insidious “dumping” problem. Over the past 16 months, my volunteers and I have watched as the dead dog dumping continues at a horrifyingly increasing rate in the Corridor. This type of activity is directly related to the gruesome “sport” of DOGFIGHTING. On a regular basis we find the corpses of dogs in black hefty trash bags littering the streets along the I-59 feeder road near Little York. These poor, tortured animals have either been used as bait or have been made to participate in organized fights. We always find these bodies on Sundays, Mondays, or Tuesdays - depending on when we are in the area along our feeding station routes. The reason we find them on these days is because the human criminals are holding dogfights on Friday and Saturday nights, and then disposing of their “waste” afterwards.

For over a year now I have contacted and continue to contact local authorities whenever we make another grisly discovery. I was encouraged, as many were, when the DA’s office and Crimestopper’s launched an anti-dogfighting campaign last February and used the Corridor as a springboard for their effort. As far as I know, not one arrest was ever made and I never saw a single billboard advertising the campaign. Supposedly there were 18 billboards and busboards also.

As we all know, DOGFIGHTING is a serious and dangerous criminal activity. If an elementary/high school poll was taken, I would not be surprised to learn that a great number of youths had either participated in a dogfight or been present at one. Is this type of activity something we want to run rampant and unchecked in our city? Do we want to be known as the “Dogfighting Capital of the U.S.”? Of course, not! But if our elected officials do NOT take a stand and provide for a special task force and budget to combat this crime, then I have no doubts that we will end up on the map known for this serious illegal activity.

Whoever wins the race for Mayor, I pray that you will be guided to do your best and utmost to stop illegal DOGFIGHTING activity in our city. It is not my job or the job of any other citizen of this city to get rid of this horrendous crime that takes place every day and eats away at the inner core of goodness of humanity. It is YOUR job!!! However, I stand ready to assist you in any way that I can to fight the fight against DOGFIGHTING in the Corridor of Cruelty in Houston.

Attached are photos of dogs found yesterday as well as photos from the past several months. Unfortunately, I have MANY more that I could show you. Just want you to see first hand what you are up against and what must be stopped…..for the dogs….for our youth…for our city’s future.


Deborah Hoffman**
President and Founder
Corridor Rescue

Since children can access this, I'll spare you the picture of dog corpses that the rescue I work with is finding on an increasing basis.

So far the problem of dog-fighting, abuse and abandonment has been paid a LOT of lip service without any real action being taken. As with BARC, our elected leaders tend to extol animals verbally (and in campaign ads) extending to them little real physical effort, possibly because they have no campaign donations to give.

Yes, stopping dog-fighting, ending abuse and reducing shelter kill rates cost money, large amounts of money. Almost anything worth doing right is going to involve a cost. I said, in a prior post, that there were things I believe only the Government has the ability to handle, animal control is one of those things. There are also things that I believe we, as a society, should want our taxes to go towards fixing. Good water, roads, healthy children, and eliminating animal cruelty are at the tops of my list.

What about yours?

I await the answer of our elected officials. More rhetoric? Or are we going to see some action?

**It should be noted that all of the opinions on this blog mentioning my work with Corridor Rescue, as well as any positions that I promote regarding the same, are soley my opinion and are NOT reflective of Corridor Rescue Inc., Deborah Hoffman or any other person affiliated with CRI. In other words, the words on here are mine and mine alone unless otherwise noted.

The Noise Machine (12/09/09)

The day before the day before.....

That's 20 Heights fires now, and counting.

This is a good idea. Granted, it's one that local "law & order" types are going to have kittens over, but it's a good idea regardless. (I say that and I'm no fan of Lykos)

Here's what I can't figure out about the whole Locke/Hotze psuedo-scandal....Is the problem that Hotze is anti-GLBT? Or that he's a Republican?...Judging from the tone of Casey's piece and the comments you'd think it's the latter. (The InterLeft especially not afraid to make a 'ghey' implication toward people as a put-down, especially Republicans)

Yesterday (on my Diigo feed, I noted that the important bit to this story was at the bottom and that critics of Perry would ignore that bit. So Charles Kuffner's attacks today should come as no surprise. (Here's where we agree: Perry was short-sighted to suspend collection of the tax back in 2008. We're paying for that now. However, accepting the Federal stimulus money would have been just as short sighted, and would have led to even larger tax increases once the $555 Million was gone. Two wrong's don't make a right, and so on and so on.)

Who knew that the over-restriction of signs could lead to a depressed economy? Certainly not Houston, who's trying to copy Irving's ordinance. *An ordinance that's been described as "world class" when it was debated.* (story via Charles Kuffner)

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. (Alternate title: Yes, we think you're stupid so just accept our weak explenation and move along.)

When a tax is better than a manipulated, artificial government-controlled 'free-market' system. (On the downside, Al Gore and his investors won't get rich.)

Yesterday the Texas Tribune gave the Democrats a forum for irrational exuberance, Today it's the Republican's turn. (The Republican reliance on "their built-in advantage" is, to me, a huge mistake. They've shaved off a lot of that advantage due to general incompetence and poor leadership. As bad as Texas Democrats are (and, from a National perspective they're pretty bad) It's possible that Texas Repubicans are worse.)*

*One of the unique fallacies of politics is the lack of most politicians to recognize real talent. Because of this politicians such as Bill White and Rick Perry (neither of which are especially talented managers) are risen through the ranks and held up as political wunderkinds when, in fact, they're both quite average. Since there's little real talent in both Texas politics and among the pundits, average politicos are often elevated well beyond the actual talent ceiling.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Six Years of General Nothingness.

I was reminded, by my lovely wife, last night that this month marks six years of me wasting large amounts of time slogging away at one blog or the other, offering as little of value as humanly possible and switching things up frequently. I had forgotten that Dec 2003 was the month that I typed out the first "hello" post on my first LiveJournal. Soon after I found Blogger and created Isolated Desolation. After IsoDes ran it's course I decided to switch gears and roll out the award winning *snicker* Lose an Eye, It's a Sport which was my main blog home for the next two years or so. During that time I also have kept up 3CB a sports blog (and also now my longest running blog) as well as the short-lived I've got the Munchies which was shuttered and replaced with Beyond Beltway 8 which is my current food blog that I neglect far too often.

Which brings us to what you see here, the Almanac, which I consider to be the natural extension of IsoDes and LaE, a continuation of a bloggy journey that's turned into more silly self-indulgence than any actual attempt to craft public policy or impact the future etc. However, if there's one thing bloggy-types love doing, it's getting a good old-fashioned navel-gave on. Lacking anything overly compelling to write about today....why not?

When I started writing Isolated Desolation, the object of the entire operation was to offer commentary on politics from a local, State and National perspective. At the time of the writing, I was somewhat naive politically, considered myself a Republican (albeit a rather moderate Republican) and really didn't know the first thing about blogs, blogging etc. At the time, the idea of a blockquote or html formatting was as foreign to me as Svengali. Those early posts were confrontational, partisan, and (happily) gone, except in the pages of the wayback machine and other Internet archival tools. If you want to hunt them down, so be it. IsoDes wasn't deleted to hide them, it was deleted after a time to make room for what came forward. At that time I didn't realize you could keep a blog around for archival purposes, I assumed that Blogger would delete it. Ooops. Had I known then what I knew now, IsoDes would still be in archival form as is LaE and IGM. Ah well.

Despite (then) self-identifying as a Republican I can still say I'm one of the few moderates who did not cast a vote for George W. Bush in either of his two elections. I've never been a political fan of the Bush crowd, and consider their policies to be short-sighted and (over the long term) unsustainable. Of course, I didn't vote for Gore or Kerry either. For the last three Presidential elections I voted third party, mainly in protest to the dreck that both parties have been issuing forth from their bowels to head the ticket. Strangely I've got a feeling this next Texas Gubernatorial election is going to have the same stench.

One of the big pluses of dumping IsoDes and moving forward with LaE was that it let me, for the most part, shed the cloak of partisanship which, I've found, frees up your writing as you're not beholden to any sacred cows. Sure there are some, primarily in the blogosphere, who refuse to accept any philosophical change, at any level, from someone they've decided to hate (for whatever reason) but the truth is I haven't been a Republican since the election of Bush 1. In today's small-tent Republican Party there's no room for someone who believes that the Government actually does some things really well, that utilities should be regulated for example, and that gay marriage is not today's sign that the apocalypse is upon us. Add to that my strong support of stem-cell research, and my belief that limited abortion rights (where I stop is when abortion is used as a means of birth control) should be granted in a free society. Unfortunately, in today's spiritually pure Democratic Party, there's no room for someone who doesn't believe the hype surrounding anthropogenic global warming, who doesn't view Gov't controlled healthcare as a good thing and who isn't a fan of hate crime laws or so-called "smart-growth" planning. That was the whole point of LaE, an attempt to move the discussion forward in my own way. Judging by the state of debate in the Texas blogosphere, that mission was a resounding failure.

After a couple of years of beating my head against the proverbial wall I decided to shutter LaE and move forward with the Almanac as my primary blog. Here you will find more media crit and much more cultural observation than actual political insight. I'd like to think that, over the past six years, I've mellowed some and have come to accept that there are certain people who aren't going to like me simply because they're angry people who have to win at all costs, even if 'winning' is akin to coming in first place in the consolation bracket. (I mean, honestly, they're blogs. 99.9% of the populace doesn't know who you are, or what brilliance you impart on the World on a daily basis.)

Over the past six years I've seen the political landscape turn almost 180 degrees. From the Republican domination that bred IsoDes, to the collapse of Right-wing power that saw the genesis of LaE, to the inevitable rise of the Democrats into which the Almanac has been birthed. I've no doubt that, as time passes, the Democrats will eventually seize control of the State and, contrary to many beliefs, the world will not suddenly come to an end. Heck, there's a good possibility that I'll be voting for some (not all) of them, and will endorse them over ineffectual Republicans for a variety of offices.

I've also seen the Texas blogosphere grow and then regress. My view now is that the quality of debate online is shockingly low. Part of the reason is that some of the talent has been shipped away to on-line news services, another reason is that some of the better commenters have either lost interest or found themselves too caught up in the demands of life in the real world to take the time to play in the blogger's sandbox. The last part is just the general personality make-up of bloggers in general. By rule they're people (self included) who honestly view their opinion to be correct. They're so sure of this that some (not all) will go to distracting lengths to perpetually discredit even those with whom they disagree on most issues. That most bloggers tend to internalize even the slightest disagreement only feeds the monster that is the on-line flame. Perhaps the most fun, from my blogging standpoint, is when people take a satirical post and run it up the rebuttal flag-pole. This happens more often than you might think. When it does, it's a beautiful sight to behold. The old saying that you're not blogging if you don't have (at least) one Internet stalker is true. I can safely say that I have a couple of stalkers and have had an entire blog created for the sole purpose of correcting an error in math that I made in one post. How's that for quality?

The last lesson I've learned is that an audience and an open forum are overrated on blogs. At LaE I experienced both the good and the bad that go with a fairly broad audience. (for a blog) On the one hand, you get lots of e-mails and information from campaigns, which makes poli-blogging fairly easy. On the other hand every period and mis-spelling is held up as proof of case that you're an idiot. This is especially annoying when it comes from the MSM. As an accounting major, I've never claimed that either my spelling or grammar was world class. Of course, I also don't have a paid editor whose job it is to go over my writing with a fine-toothed comb and make corrections. I also don't have a paid fact-checker on staff to do my research for me. These are the structural differences between blogs and the MSM. Things that make them different, yet useful in their own way.

One constant over the past six years has been my criticism of ChronBlog, something that I suspect will remain in place as they continue to decline. It's hard to believe that the Mrs. White/J. Howard Gibbons LiveJournal era would be considered the salad days, but compared to the dreck the ChronBlog Caucasian Think-Tank is churning out now one almost pines for a return of Mrs. White's catapult. Then, as now, I have a desire to see ChronBlog succeed, to really focus in and own the local market. While I'm not as torn up as some about their lack of a conservative columnist, it would be nice to see some balance on the Op-Ed page on local issues. (However, part of that fault lies with local Republicans, who seem loathe to comment on local news, choosing instead to bash the National Dems)

So, that's it. Six years of navel-gazing wrapped up in one nice, neat post that's gone on for too long and accomplished pretty much nothing. Which, when you think about it, is an ideal summation of my blogging career. How long will the Almanac last? Your guess is as good as mine. Short answer: It will last as long as I want it to last, and not any further. One thing I believe the Internet allows us to do is totally tear up the blueprint and reinvent the wheel on a constant basis. If you go back to the early posts of LaE through to its end, and then pick up from the beginning of the Almanac you'll see a constantly evolving style of writing and posting. To my mind, this is a good thing. With this smaller, admittedly less open, platform I've found what's right for my blogging style....for now.

Maybe next a photo blog? Nah.

The Noise Machine (12/08/09)

More news links than Tiger Woods has mistresses (we think)

Endangered Birds > Humans - According to one environmental group anyway. (The alternative would have been many people, many of them poor immigrants, doing without sufficient water.)

Ed Emmett's got an issue with a $60K bonus given out to the head of the County housing authority. (I question any bonus that's in excess of 20% of one's annual salary.) *I'm sure Gordon Quan would put a stop to this*

Sports note: On his blog the past two days this joker has been against Kubiak. I realize he's just writing now for page views, but damn.

El Franco Lee: Put the prisoners to work! With the idea of giving them credit so they can get out of jail sooner I'm a fan of early release for non-violent offenders, but it doesn't seem to go over well in law n' order Texas.

I gotta tell ya...This lesbian story's got legs. Here's the question: Are we to the point that a candidate, at least some candidates, need to screen every donation to ensure purity? I guess so. (This is mainly for Democrats*, of which Locke is one. Better watch your donor list) *Republicans should probably watch out as well, they've got their own set of donation purity police watching over them. Call it citizen journalism for a partisan age.*

Hey! Look! The Controller's race!. OK, moving on...

You stay classy Democrats.

You too Republicans.

Abnormal is the new normal. (So're saying that Al Gore is a Visitor?) *That sure would explain a lot wouldn't it?*

Other's are finally noticing that Obama is talking out of both sides of his mouth. (One of the big faults of America, according to the left (Not to be confused with classic liberalism), is the hyper-success of our economy. There's nothing as gauche or as disgustingly vulgar as "The American Way." The tightrope that Obama must walk is convincing a large voting bloc that they want to allow them their American dream, while taking it away from enough people to pay for everything. That the math doesn't add up is often ignored.) *A better solution might be to re-define "the American Way" in a manner that's more focused on Conservation, instead of trying to limit via legislation and taxes...That Republicans are incapable of doing that speaks volumes to why they're out on their cans.*

Joel Kotkin expands on the above idea. (What we're really doing is giving away our competative advantage, in the name of the threat that we aren't going to be able to control regardless.)

While I disagree with Rupert Murdoch's closed-door vision of new media, His op-ed today on media freedom should be a must-read for every executive in every media outlet large or small, not-for-profit or for-profit. (Rupert Murdoch, media champion. I wonder what kind of odds you could have received on that bet five years ago?)

The Texas Tribune's Matt Stiles has long been a reporter-advocate for increased transparency of government. It's good to see that he's continuing that fight at his new stomping grounds.

Speaking of the Tribune, They're big on these "Government solution" stories are they not? (I've long felt that anecdotal stories are a poor way to craft public policy, not being a strong reflection of the mainstream. That and there are always one or two worst-case scenarios that one can find to disprove any theory. After reading this piece of advocacy journalism my thoughts are unchanged.)

The view of the Texas Democratic revival from the InterLeft, courtesy of the Texas Tribune. (My view is that their resurgence is a more driven by a terrible state Republican Party who's failed to reach out to emerging demographics than by the formation of groups who make what amounts to petty-cash donations to campaigns. They still have to capture a state-wide race. I would surmise that Bill White gives them their best chance in years to do so.) *One thing they did do, which Republicans are in the midst of now, is use their time out of power to purify their ideology. What this means for their long-term future viability remains to be seen, but in the short-term its fired up a very angry base of voters.*

Monday, December 7, 2009

A tax for thee but not for me....

I'm a big fan of Ronnie Crocker's Beer, TX blog over at ChronBlog. So what I'm about to say is not a reflection on him, or his blog.

It is, however, a reflection on his friend, Patti Rosenberg of Baltimore who had this to say about the prospect of raising alcohol taxes in Baltimore:
Personally, as a non-drinker in an impoverished city with high property taxes and a huge budget deficit, I'd like to see them tax the hell out of alcohol here.
Well played.

The sad part? Ms. Rosenberg is part of an increasing majority who's idea of sustainable fiscal policy begins and ends with taxing everyone else to support their lifestyle. The humor comes in when someone proposes raising taxes on things they really like. Well then, something must be done!

Typically that 'something' is screaming and hollaring while holding up home-made signs. Or boycotting, that's always good choice, or calling into talk radio shows all huffy, composing an unreadable, or creating a scattershot blog post calling your political opposites names....etc. *sigh*

The Noise Machine (12/07/09)

All you need to know before you know it....

Thar's Oil in dem there

In case you missed it (and you probably did) there was ANOTHER Mayoral debate on TV over the weekend. (I'll be so glad when this election is over)

The only thing that can rile up local political types (and political bloggers) more than a debate is a poll, with cross-tabs. Let the blog poll orgy commence! (In case you're wondering "none of the above" is still polling strong)

Missing from this story on the worst fined Texas "polluters" is any semblance of perspective. They mention, for instance that Exxon's Baytown facility is the largest in the Country, but where do they and Total rank in terms of percetage of the plant market? (Meanwhile, China is begging oil companies to build their new refineries over there, and they are.) I'm not advocating polluting, they should want to be as clean as possible, but "the big-bad oil comapny is out to get you" reporting is not helping matters, and is borderline irresponsible. There's also no mention of the alternative: The plants closing down and substantial members of the local work force losing their jobs. More balanced reporting might lead to a workable solution, hopefully one that doesn't demonize, and serves to reduce pollutants to minimal levels.

At least the gulf snapper are recovering. Now if we can just get the Gov't to listen groups like the CCA on other sustainability issues we'd be onto something. (As opposed to listening to the enviornmental wackos or industry groups)

I can raise more money than you can....

I love the phrase "slug it out" when it comes to low-profile City-wide political races. It just sounds appropriate doesn't it?

BigJolly provides us with a glimpse into Roy Morales' candidate questionaire. Odd that Gene Locke didn't answer considering he's been portrayed as 'courting' the conservative vote by the Parker camp.

Partisanship, in detail courtesy of the Bill White Texas Tribune (I keed).

No...they're really not that high. (based on recent evidence that is) But why let science, like the science suggesting the temperature hasn't increased over the past decade (you know, the stuff the scientists suppressed?) get in the way of a good research grant?

Good job Loren, tell us again how "facing a budget shortfall" is equal to solvency? (Additionally, tell us why we should trust the word of a business columnist with a history of getting wrong over the calculations of a group of CPA's?)

It's OK, I usually don't understand what David Wolff is saying either. (He mentions "not reducing transit lanes" being part of Metro's agreement with the City, but then he uses Main street as what NOT to do...Didn't Metro build the Main Stree line? Or am I missing something in the Orwellian world of Metrospeak?)

Finally, Slampo. Because what the world needs now is a good blog read.

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