Friday, December 31, 2010

The Apple Dumpling Gang Strikes Again...(Part V)


I'm not surprised that the Apple Dumpling Gang (and their InterLeft fellow travellers) are gung-ho about having the EPA take over Texas refining industry, what surprises me the most is their main argument: It's good for Texas.

Unless, that is, you're one of the approximately 30% of Houstonians (and the real number is probably higher) who earn a living off of the petro-chemical industry. THEN it's not so good for you. So the main argument seems to be that a lot of you will be homeless, but at least the air you breathe will be .05% lower in carbon dioxide.

Yup, that's worth killing the economy.

The funny thing is that those who claim to be "for the little guy" only look at the success of the big guys when they gauge an impact on an industry. Stock goes up? Well, everything must be just fine. Executives are raking in bonuses? Yup, all's well. What these residents of A Place Called Perfect ignore is that those stock price increases and bonuses are built on cost reduction in a profit-unfriendly environment. The single, biggest cost for most companies is labor. Industry giants look to other countries, smaller players lay-off and the unemployment rate hangs stubbornly around 9-10%. All to try and "fix" a problem that is most probably 99.98% natural occurrence.

Is the Earth's climate changing? You bet it is. Just as it has for Millennia, and will continue to do so even IF humanity were to shut down all traces of industrial activity tomorrow.

The best thing to do is try and live a clean life. Give a hoot, don't pollute, go out and buy some reusable grocery bags, conserve energy, join a local clean-up effort. And while industry progress on some clean-up efforts are (admittedly) slow, realize that forcing them to take drastic steps is just going to put a lot of people out on the street, with no immediate prospects for employment. (The so-called "green" economy being a jobs non-starter.)

Pollution sucks, we get that. But the answer to our pollution concerns is not going to be letting an activist EPA come in and start dismantling our economy so that Al Gore's green investment firm can realize another half-percent return on their principal. He's done a good job convincing a sizable minority that it is however. That this same minority's favorite political party is all but dead in Texas (for now) should tell you something.

New Year's Resolution: Live clean, don't buy the "green" hype. In other words: Be a Conservationist not an Ecomentalist. Your life, and the economy, will be better off for it.

Oh, and stop paying attention to The Apple Dumpling Gang. That's the first step to ridding Houston of intellectual pollutants.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Apple Dumpling Gang Strikes Again.....(Part IV)

Matt Bramanti tells you why (In the comments to this editorial which tries, unsuccessfully, to tell you why Houston, despite providing people with a decent living, really sucks's not just like other places.)

Back to Bramanti's comment:
This editorial is just a rehash of a two-week-old blog post from the Houston Press. It even uses the same statistical examples (Houston-Boston on education, Houston-LA on life expectancy.)

If you think Houston's numbers look bad, just be thankful the study didn't include editorial-board quality in its methodology.
So it comes to this....The editorial board for what used to be the newspaper of record in the 4th largest city in America (and currently America's worst big-city daily) has resorted to cribbing off of the (now mostly amateur) content of the free alt-weekly.

And that doesn't even speak to the ridiculousness of the survey itself. When hard numbers aren't in your favor the preferred method is to start to make up metrics. Metrics that are hard to define, hard to quantify, and therefore difficult to argue against.

Yes, Houston (like any big city) has problems. It also does a LOT of things right. Unfortunately local news media and newspaper editorials aren't two of them.

The Noise Machine (12/30/10)

Humming for the last time this year.....

Your EWWWWW moment for the end of year. Can you imagine the outrage if an O&G plant did this?

The Feds want their money. If you want something done right I guess.....

Guess who's back? Still wanting to spend more of your money believe it or not.... (Which goes back to my points made on education in an earlier post. I think we can all agree that education is a priority. Where the disagreement typically lies is in whether or not our institutions are currently giving us the best bang for the buck. White's missive does little to address this, instead borrowing Mrs. White's catapult to hurl large amounts of money at the problem.)

State Republicans behaving badly. Maybe I'm wrong, but my thought was people in Texas elected Republicans to large majorities in large part because they wanted a small, unintrusive, effective government. Instead we get infighting. (Surprised?)

And finally......

Some (clean) coal in your stocking? Sure hope so.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Things we hope not to see in 2011....

That we unfortunately saw too much of in 2010......

Proclamations that "New" Metro/BARC/HUD are "fixed": No they're not, they just have new leadership. The truth is all of these organizations are bureaucracies that are inflexible by nature. There was a commenter over on BlogHouston that likened Metro to a huge ship that's hard to turn. That's true for all dysfunctional organizations. It takes a long time to change an unwieldy organization. Attrition and a total culture change have to take place, and that's not done overnight.

That Mayor Parker is "promoting the gay agenda" when she makes an appointment: The simple fact is all politicians appoint their friends and colleagues to positions of power when they have the chance. Annise Parker has many prominent friends in the GLBT community. It only makes sense that many of her appointments would come from there. On another note: We're tired of partisans claiming one side accusing politicians of cronyism while ignoring the fact that all politicians partake in this practice. They all appoint their friends, that's the power of the executive.

Bad journalism: As an example. These political agencies spend enough on PR. They don't need help from ostensibly (but not really) neutral news organizations whose number one concern should be the well-being of the citizenry. Since we can pretty much rule out anything of substance from ChronBlog, We guess we're hoping for alternative news outlets to continue to shine.

A repeal of the Texas Senate Blocker Bill: One of the most conservative provisions in Texas law is the 2/3 requirement in the Texas Senate. The purpose of this bill is to keep most legislation from passing. What's left out of the discussion is the simple fact that most legislation shouldn't be passed into law. If you take the time to read the bills that are in the hopper for the 82nd you'd pray that the blocker bill stays in place as well. Related: That Texas Senate Democrats show a spine.

More news-ish organizations: The one's already in place (Texas Independent, Texas Observer and the Texas Tribune) have all failed at their #1 goal: framing the news in a manner that gets more Democrats elected. It's time for them to go. (Well...the Trib can stay around (how else are we going to follow eye-wear trends?) but he's hoping their future work is more along the lines of their in-session Lege reporting and less like their poorly edited issues reporting.)

A smooth redistricting: Messy redistricting fights are to bad political blogs what celebrity divorces are to bad entertainment blogs. And the sour grapes are fun to watch as well. While I doubt anyone will carry on a grudge to the level of perennial candidate (and 2nd place to a corpse vote-getter) Chris Bell, I'm sure one of the Republicans who are sure to lose their seat will be good for a laugh right?

Gary Kubiak as the head coach of the Texans: That one's pretty easy right?

Happy New Year Y'all. Here's hoping it's a good one.

An error by omission...

Today's weak effort by The Apple Dumpling Gang....

(Call the spin doctor, TADG, ChronBlog)
We can think of at least one other agency in town that could use bad-news insurance. The Port of Houston has lately garnered unflattering reports for paying former executives outsized severance packages.

Notably missing from the Ed board pages of America's worst big City daily are the following.....

City of Houston Department of Public Works
Jerry Eversole
Annise Parker


Houston Metro.

All of these groups (people) have had way worse years than has the Port of Houston.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad and all that.

Here's hoping your holiday is filled with giving and joy and not pesky new reporters asking asinine questions:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

We wish you a Merry Christmas....

...and a Happy Federal indictment.

In a move that was a surprise to no one. Heck, the Harris County Democratic Party even had theircanned response ready to go.

Two questions.

1. How the heck is Gary Binberg still the head of the HCDP? I mean, after all, Harris County Dems were talking about gains in the manner of Dallas-area Democrats just a few months ago.

2. I'm not sure what Democrats hope to gain by Eversole resigning. In his district, with Texas anti-Dem fever still alive and well in the State, there's precious little chance they could win this seat, even in a special. Far better to keep this in the public eye and then make a big run after A.)Eversole is forced to resign. or B.) the regular election comes up and the atmosphere is a little more favorable. Unless the idea isn't to win but just to poke the other guy in the eye that is.

Monday, December 20, 2010

It makes sense really.

(Harris County-Houston Sports Authority insured for bad publicity, Chris Moran. ChronBlog)
Insurance no longer just pays for damage. It pays for damage control.
If things go really wrong for the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority in the coming year, an insurer now will cover what the public agency spends on spin.
This new kind of insurance kicks in, according to a policy summary, when an event "has caused or is reasonably likely to result in adverse publicity."
Given the questionable financial state of the Harris County Sports Authority this could be an example of one of those weird public sector deals that makes sense.

Their debt service is increasing annually, their credit rating is falling faster than Congress' approval rating, and they just signed what seems, to some to be a sucker of a operating agreement with the Houston Dynamo......and we haven't even mentioned yet that they recently had to dip into their reserves.

If you really want a laugh, go read Moran's entire article to see some of the things the HCSA is now insured against.

What kind of sports shop are they running over there? " An authority employee is the victim of a violent crime at work"? Really?

The Noise Machine (12/20/10)

Forgive me, a head cold and the new job have thrown these off kilter for a bit.....trying to get back on the beam.

News-ish, Correction-ish? Or just hella correction?

The big losers in the last election? Hispanic Democrats. What was notable to me was the following quote:
“The most alarming thing about this election was, not only did Latinos not turn out to vote despite the fact that there were huge voter-registration campaigns going on,” says San Antonio Express-News columnist Jan Jarboe Russell, “but the gains were made in the Republican Party. We have to give [Hispanics] a reason to vote. We have to give them a public agenda to vote on.
Not that it's unusual for newspaper columnists in Texas to lean left, what is unusual is here them refer to the Democratic Party as "we".

Keep an eye on lawsuits & Texas have a long, sordid history.

I'd say that 2010 is the election that won't die but, quite honestly, this is typically how all elections eventually play out. (At least in today's over-litigious society.)

Peña for Congress? It makes sense. Especially when you consider the State GOP could draw him a fairly safe district without much trouble. (And gain another Hispanic Congressman in the meantime)

Go get that new oven NOW!

OK, so Metro cancels their non-compliant contract and throws $26 Million away while doing so. While partisan think tanks and ChronBlog focus on an unrelated $50 Million that was part of a compliant program which was going to get the money anyway. This is what happens when you don't look beyond the press release. (Which, should be expected from the partisan think-tank but not from America's worst big city daily.)

Sheriff Garcia is running for re-election. I expect he'll have a Tea Party challenger who will give him quite a run.

Meanwhile, Loren Jackson finds a job, leading to predictable reaction from the Left (YAY!!!) AND the Right (BOO!!!) As for HCA, we believe that Mr. Jackson is a good fit for the position, but feel that the hiring freeze should have been honored and not tossed aside for political insiders.

I'm not quite sure how this is going to go over. (Although I think the idea might have some merit)

And finally.....

"Small" Government Yeah....

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Point. Counterpoint.

Less-than-a-corpse-vote getter Chris Bell on why people should invest in Texas Democrats.

Frequently right Texas conservative political blogger Evan on why Chris Bell's argument is 100% wrong.

Advantage Evan. There's a reason he's my favorite Texas political pundit. That some major media outlet hasn't offered him money for his analysis is one of the State's great political crimes.

Of Pensions and Balanced Budgets. (UPDATED)

***Updated with link***

In today's print only Chronicle (link here) there's a story about Houston's continuing problems with municipal pensions. The story, well written by ChronBlog reporter Bradley Olson, got me thinking.

Wasn't pension reform one of the planks of Bill White's "vote for me" platform?

Yes, it was. It also wasn't fixed as many critics of the White administration pointed out while being jeered down by White's blogger cabal. It's interesting that ChronBlog, one of White's biggest supporters, is choosing to report on this now, after White lost badly and their editorial choice for governor has been vanquished.

These are campaign claims that SHOULD have been given the journalism once-over in the same manner that Rick Perry's claims were. But they weren't. Which makes readers wonder: What, exactly, is Chronblog's reason for doing this now?

Metro is broken, the pension system is broken as is the City budget. These are problems that need serious discussion and serious solutions. "Cut at all costs" or "raise taxes (on people we don't like) at all costs" are not long-term answers to the problem. What Houston (and Texas) needs to do is take a long, hard look at how their spending money and then have a serious conversation about how to fund the core priorities that most agree are needed.

Education? Agreed, we do have to teach our children. But are we going about it in the most cost-efficient, effective way?

Public Safety? You bet. But are we using all of the tools available to us, and are we spending money where it's needed? (And yes, Republicans, that includes taking steps to reduce the prison & jail population)

Transportation? Yes, but are we building roads where they need to be? And, most importantly, are our mass transit plans designed to move people where they need to go?

The safety net? Republicans would say "no" but I'm of the thought that most Americans agree some form of safety net is needed. The question is, how much and how to pay for it.

The easy answer is to change the way we fund things in Texas (and Nationally) from the ground up, and to remove political influence from the taxation process. The reality is that this not going to be easy because special interests die hard. If Texas wants to succeed going forward however they're going to have to do some serious navel-gazing in order find answers that will work for the Tea Party crowd, as well as Texas conservative majority.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Damage Control

Very interesting reporting by Mike McGuff yesterday regarding Mark Greenblatt's FOIA request that confirmed a local political agency was leaking his stories to a friendlier news outlet to mitigate the damage.

Though neither Greenblatt or McGuff named names, it shouldn't be too hard to see which local news outlet spent significant time in their reporting questioning Greenblatt's credibility. I'm SHOCKED!! to find out that certain local news outlets are carrying the water for local agencies, SHOCKED!! I tell you.

Next thing you know we'll find out that TV news stations run racy stories during sweeps week.

Glad to see Houston has solved it's budget woes.

...How else can one explain hiring graffiti artists to paint a mural in a downtown parking garage? Not that I have a problem with graffiti artists (provided, of course, that they don't graffiti my house or property) but it sure seems odd that the City would go out of it's way to spend money on something like this while simultaneously raising fees in order to meet the budget crunch.

While $30K is not material to the City budget as a whole, it's indicative of spending cuts that the City should be making, but aren't. And it makes the Apple Dumpling Gang's contention that the fee hikes are inevitable in the current economy sound even more daft.

It's high time our local elected officials (on the City and County level) take a straight-razor to the budget and cut off the excess fat before deciding that pet owners and ambulance drivers should cover the cost of art installations in parking lots for libraries whose hours are being cut due to cost constraints.

Here's an idea: Don't lay-off the librarians, and lose the mural.

Just a thought.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sell your dog, become a lobbyist.

After all, according to the City's new (revised) fee structure it's more expensive to own Fido than it is to ask the City to spend Millions of dollars of taxpayer money on pet projects.

Or, you could be mad about the adult service industry having to charge more. Or ambulance services, car repairmen, restaurants etc.

At least the Parker administration seems to understand where their priorities lie. How about those spending cuts we were promised?

Garnet Coleman refuses to join Tea Party Caucus.

Color me shocked*.

As a matter of fact, NONE of the State Democrats signed up to join State Sen. Dan Patrick's capitol hot-tub party. They all did however express "concern" about something called "ideological ideas" from the far-right. Far preferable, I'm guessing, would be "ideological ideas" from the far left? Or maybe they'd be willing to work to dissolve the various "progressive" caucuses that one finds from time to time.

After all, the last election revealed progressives to be further out of the American mainstream than the Tea Party crowd right?

*That's sarcasm, I'm not really shocked

Different but similar.

Remember C.L.O.U.T.?

How about the Independent Conservative Republicans of Texas?

Yes? No?

Well, don't worry, they're all just past vehicles for forwarding the political name of one Texas State Senator Dan Patrick. Some would say they were all created to increase his "clout" at the State level, thus allowing a run for the Federal Senate.

In case you missed those two short-lived (and pretty much ineffectual) organizations fear not, Patrick is back today with his latest bit of political theater, the Tea Party Caucus. Or, should we say, the "I'm for what Dan Patrick is for so ergo I'm a really" Texas House Caucus.

Because that's what this is really, Dan Patrick issuing press releases and trying to get his name out there in preparation for his run at Kay Bailey Hutchison's Senate seat. He's smart enough of a politician to understand that he's going to need the Tea Party behind him to win, and he's savvy enough a politician to realize that all people are going to remember is the press release.

It doesn't matter if the Tea Party caucus actually succeeds or no. That's not the goal.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

You're kidding me

The Apple Dumpling Gang (otherwise known as the Chron Editorial Board), a group of people acting as the mouthpiece for the former newspaper of record in Houston, the newspaper that failed to report on years of Metro malfeasance, who's role as a watchdog on local government has gone the way of the dodo, whose seriously understaffed metro desk hasn't broken a meaningful story in some time, is seriously hen-pecking the TCEQ for their deficiencies?

Shutter the Ed board, redeploy the resources to the Metro desk and do some real reporting.

Otherwise just go back to creating International treaties and overusing exclamation points.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The best political news in Texas is on the blogs.

It's certainly not coming from Paul Burka, whose posting and pulling blog posts makes it difficult, at times, to see what he's saying. At least he admits to pulling the post and supplies an explanation for it, that's better than some at ChronBlog. (Hint: Rhymes with Jichard Rustice)

He's back at it again suggesting that Beaumont area Democratic Representative Allan Ritter is going to change parties.

Meanwhile, Evan, from Rick Perry vs. World, offers up some real analysis telling you why Peña won't switch. (Not if he wants to get re-elected anyway.)

Meanwhile, The Hearst Austin bureau snoozes. Hey, at least Austin's alternative weekly had something to offer. It's not very good, but it's something right?

Other places to watch are Peña's Blog and independent blogs such as On the South Steps, who hasn't written anything about it yet but probably will. Also worth following is the news-ish site Texas Tribune, the part of their budget that doesn't go toward hip eye wear for staffers goes to writing liberal interest pieces and (most importantly) doing a good job covering the goings-on in the State Capitol.

On the plus side these sources rarely pull posts.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Farouk is on FIRE!!!!

Recently named to Rick Perry and David Dewhurst's 2011 Inaugural Committee.

We can only hope he's in charge of entertainment.

Just not this guy.

New is Old (Metro that is)

The thing about contracts, they don't go away just because new management is in place. So writes award winning Houston Community Newspaper scribe Mike Reed....

(New Metro paid $21 million to CAF after federal admonishment, Mike Reed, Houston Community Newspapers)
The new Metro — caught in something of a contractual Catch-22 — paid more than $21 million to contractor CAF, even after the federal government announced the agreement was under investigation.
Metro summary-of-payment records show that on May 21 and July 16 checks totaling $8.84 million and $12.6 million, respectively, were sent to the light-rail vehicle vendor, even as a probe into Buy America violations and the use of a flawed procurement process were under way.
George Smalley, Metro vice president of communications, said the transit agency had little recourse because the investigation, in and of itself, did not void the contract.

Go read the entire article, it speaks a lot about the foolishness of the prior administrations contract writing, their blind determination to build the thing no matter what, and the troubles that "new" Metro is having shedding the skin of "old" Metro.

Congrats as well to Mr. Reed, who's providing Houstonians with the Metro coverage they've long been denied by ChronBlog.

Also reported on by Reed (and missing from ChronBlog) is the sudden, unannounced, departure of Wilson-era CFO Louise Richman. (As well as their raising of their debt limit, and talk of issuing $440MM more municipal bonds. Wow.)

Mayor Parker to issue mandatory furloughs

with the threat of lay-offs still hanging around in the background.

One thing about it, in the private sector, the concept of a furlough instead of an outright layoff and reorganization is foreign. I realize that City employees are going to be mad about losing a day's pay, but it sure beats the alternative. An alternative that should not be the last option on the table. Nobody wants to see anyone lose their job (with a wife that's currently only partially employed due to a lay-off I'm sympathetic) but it's been a while since government at any level went through a fat-cutting process as far as payroll is concerned.

There's a fair question circling around the InterLeft, "What level of Government Services are we willing to tolerate?" The idea being that the starve the beast tactics of Republicans is doomed to fail because people really do want the safety net. I don't disagree. I believe people do want the safety net and should be able to have it available at a reasonable cost. Part of maintaining a reasonable cost structure involves constant workforce analysis.

During a down time the City, County and all layers of Government should take a long, hard look at staffing levels and efficiencies to see where improvements and savings (yes, head count reduction) can be found. I'm sure every department head and every worker will tell you that they are over-worked and can't get by with less. In almost every case I've found this to be nothing remotely like the truth. There are always inefficiencies and redundancies to be found.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Root Cause Analysis

There are a lot of theories why Democrats did poorly in Texas during the recently completed 2010 election. Starting with a voter backlash to the Obama administration, continuing to low voter turnout amongst minority groups and ending with that old election stand by, the enthusiasm gap, every idea has merit, and is probably a contributing factor to the carnage.

However, at the base of it all, might I offer up a different theory: In today's most recent post-mortem focused on the historic losses experienced by the so-called "Yellow Dog" Democrats ChronBlog reporter R.G. Ratcliffe reported the following quote from losing Democratic incumbent candidate for Angelina County Justice of the Peace R.G. Bowers:
"They were so anti-Obama that they just pushed one button. I said they couldn't spell R.G., so they just spelled R," Bowers said.
It's hard to have people vote for you when you (and your State Party) are continually insulting their intelligence.

"You're all a bunch of dumb, stupid, mouth-breathing, inbred, illiterate rednecks....but vote for us" doesn't typically make for a good campaign strategy. Add to this a State party platform that's out of step with a majority of voters and you have a recipe for electoral disaster.

After the '08 election, when it seemed Democrats were on the verge of transforming back into a viable political party in Texas, I praised them for their move toward ideological purity within their ranks. To a large extent Republicans in Texas have mimicked that strategy to a victory in 2010. The Democrats problem is that, by and large, they have abandoned their working class roots in favor of a North East ruling class, condescending progressivism. Their current ideology is more of a mangled statism, far removed from the lean roots of liberalism that just wanted to ensure the little guy got a fair shake. All today's Texas Democrats seem to want is to take advantage of the little guy for votes, all while taxing the heck out of their employers and funnelling State money to trinket projects within urban cores. (Now with MORE world-classiness!!!)

Is it any wonder the rural areas have soundly rejected them?

Monday, December 6, 2010

In one line....

...possibly the greatest indictment of the State's political media.

(Already lean Texas faces a bitter diet, Rick Casey, ChronBlog)
I don't mean to complain, but there is precious little evidence of massive waste in Austin.

For once, Casey is correct. The problem is that while identifying the symptom (no evidence) he's failed to identify the cause. You see, there is evidence of waste and bloated spending in Austin. It's just not being reported on with much vigor by the State's lazy, ineffectual political media.

Take a look at the landscape:

Paul Burka, Texas Monthly: Here's a guy who epitomizes the fallacy that longevity equals expertise. He's been a round for a long time, and consistently gets his analysis wrong, adds nothing of note to the discussion and runs under the (false) assumption that the single-party Republican Texas is playing by the same rules as the single-party Democratic Texas was. Add to that the fact that he doesn't have the strength of will to be an investigator.......

Wayne Slater, Dallas Morning News: Now mostly known for his unhealthy Karl Rove obsession which has led to the creation of the Slater/Rove drinking game. Once the Bush administration jumped to Austin Slater (much like Burka) lost their contacts. Also like Burka, Slater's more a political commentator who's been around for a while and doesn't have the will to be a watchdog investigator.

ChronBlog/Hearst: To be honest, the Houston Chronicle is not a major player on the State level. They have a couple of reporters whose job it is to attend press conferences and report the news (and R.G. Ratcliffe does a decent job at that) but they lack a significant lead presence. (Sorry Ms. Fikac) In actuality, their content is derived from the Hearst "Pool" so nothing they really report from Austin is original anyway.

Harvey Kronenberg: His Quorum Report is useful, but Harvey is a beat reporter not an investigator. He doesn't have the time, or funding, to embark on big, expansive investigations. He's best covering elections and lege sessions. To be fair: He's very good at what it is he does.

Ross Ramsey, Texas Tribune: Ramsey's been around for a while, and he's got a stable of young, energetic reporters seemingly ready to go. Unfortunately, when put to the test their results have been somewhat formulaic and superficial. With all of that trendy eye-wear better is expected.

Texas Watchdog: Their mission is to expose waste, corruption and abuse in Government and they've done a fine job. Often producing reports that traditional begrudgingly must approve, TW is leading the pack. Unfortunately, they're still a web-only news outlet in a media market that's still trying to decide what it's going to be.

The Interleft: Blogs as news has always been somewhat laughable to me because of two things: 1. Most political bloggers don't have the training or resources to produce investigative reporting on a meaningful level. 2. It's party-blogging, which typically results in the production of pieces that are either attack pieces, or carefully regurgitated press releases from candidates of the chosen party.

Bloggers O' the Right: I don't lump them in with the InterLeft because, as bad as the InterLeft is, their Republican equivalent is worse. If anything, Republican party-bloggers are MIA from the State scene, choosing instead to focus on soft targets, such as Pelosi, Reid and Obama, instead of dabbling in the minutia of State and Local government.

I'm not suggesting that every State agency is a bloated, fetid cess-pool of excess where grapes are peeled while the commoners suffer etc. Far from it. I'm sure, given budgetary restrictions, that many Government organizations are running on shoe-string budgets and making ends meet with creativity. What I don't believe is that 100% of Texas Government is running fat-free 100% of the time. Scant evidence produced by a disinterested media is hardly proof of case. Nor am I suggesting that the names listed above are responsible for the mess we've gotten ourselves into. The fault with media in Texas goes way beyond the heads of each outlets Austin bureaus.

The Noise Machine (12/6/10)

Well it feels like Christmas anyway.....

Sucking up all of the oxygen will be District Judge Kevin Fine's hearing on the Death Penalty. It probably shouldn't however because Fine's inevitable ruling against the Constitutionality of such will certainly be reversed on appeal. (Judicial theater anyone?)

Parks are good. Privately funded parks that are better. (Privately funded parks with disabled access are even better still.)

I would imagine that there are better ways to cut the budget. Given the limited vision of the County Commissioners however I'm not sure there's much chance they get enacted.

If Texas Democrats are looking for a go-to guy, State Rep. Aaron Peña would be a good one to look at. His money quote:
“These are examples of what has happened, so people have become increasingly polarized. When there is no Center in the Democratic Party or when there is a diminishing Center… we have lost the business vote, we are losing the rural Hispanic vote and we have lost much of the Anglo vote. Those people are not, necessarily, hard conservatives. But, increasingly, they have lost identity with the Democratic Party.”
Thank you to the Rio Grande Guardian for the interview. Go read the entire thing.

"Perry taking his rebellion national" really sounds like a sour-grapes headline. I wouldn't call it a rebellion, more of a revival of a political thought suddenly back in favor. (What's old is new again. Funny how that works.) Houston deserves a better paper than ChronBlog.

Here's a line you don't see very often in newspapers today: Perry does the right thing. (Which he does more often than his detractors (of which I'm one) like to admit.)

Why Hutchison is considering a run in 2012 is beyond me. Her brand was irreparably damaged when Perry cast her as a Washington insider. (If only she's have bowed out four to six years ago. Hard to quit while you're on top of the dung heap however.)

How to say absolutely nothing in 800 words or less. Casey can't even write a good Municipal column, why are we expected to take him seriously on State matters?

You know things are bad in the budget when even ideas meant to be humorous are potential options.

And finally....

Remember, back during the salad days of the Abe Savaadra HISD regime, when the anti-merit pay forces were labelling the proposed HISD merit-based bonus program as ineffectual and worthless? Yeah, well....not so much. They're not a silver bullet, nothing is, but they're also not the total waste of time and money that Gayle Fallon (and others) proclaimed them to be.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

In November....

Did Texas move further to the Right? Or were Republican voters just more motivated?

My opinion is it's just a little of both. Not only were Republicans more motivated to come out to the polls, but the political middle in Texas sided with their anti-National Democratic argument. Ironically, the best thing for State Republicans could be the Obama administration.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Some Good, Some bad.

First, the bad......

I give you what could possibly be the worst piece of political commentary to ever see print.

Not only does Thomas Friedman project, but he projects without regard to the Chinese worldview or any sense of reality. (Hint: Do you REALLY think the Chinese would make fun of Americans for their 'immobile population'?) This column should be a fireable offense.

It has often occurred to me that the cure for intolerance could be the death of the tolerance movement. (Which is, by design, intolerant.)

Ditto for the environment and the "Global Warming" movement. The way to save the climate could be to remove most of the people that claim to be trying to save it. (Provided, of course, that "saving" the planet involves large sums of money and huge chunks of National power being transferred to them. -and a lot of money going to Al Gore and his investors-)

Now, the Good.....

Meet the Sugar Land Skeeters No better a name for the region could they find. Of course, urban Houstonians (many of whom will probably never attend a game) are already deriding the name. (One supposes they would have preferred the "Lizard Kings"?)

Think of it as a National Do Not Call list, but for the Internet.

How do you know something is a good idea? When advocates on both sides are "disappointed". My initial reaction is 'bring it on', as the idea of usage based pricing for the Internet makes perfect sense. One of the worst things about I-net pricing is getting a lot of speed but coming nowhere near the usage limits. It's the same for cell phones, whose minutes-based service plans I've never liked either.

Not all of our espionage apparatus is broken. Some of it is working quite well.

The Noise Machine (12/01/10)

Ah December.....

My favorite part of this story on the projected rise of diabetes in Texas is the big government response of purportedly 'small-government' Republicans:
"The numbers are shocking," Nelson said after the Texas Health Institute report was released. "I want my colleagues and the public to see what will happen if we don't change behavior, if we don't do something now."
Something!!! Must be DONE!!!

And when they're not calling for big government solutions they're having issues with ethical issues it seems. The more things change....

The red light camera issue, seemingly resolved by voter decision, could emerge as one of the more entertaining (and politically damaging) fights of 2011.

Imagine if these were ads for a Church. Then ask yourself, is faith that there's no God any different (other than the obvious) than faith that there's a God?

These reforms are great, provided they are coupled with a lower overall rate. How much you wanna bet that won't happen?

Rick Casey goes back to San Antonio. Can we work out a trade so they can keep him? (Houston deserving better than a lazy, disinterested columnist)

I expect this will go over like a lead balloon. Our universities don't want to compete. They feel entitled to more money after all. No matter how poorly they handle it. (Not that we'd know, if they had their druthers.)

Are straight-ticket voters lazy? Or is it just that the two parties are so ideologically opposed? (There are good arguments either way, but voting blindly straight-party often means casting a vote for a bad candidate.)

ERCOT and nodes. This is a big story with far-reaching ramifications. As such, it's been almost totally ignored by the biggest political blog in the energy capital of the United States.

And finally.....

Two red flags in this story. First, you have a news-ish agency breathlessly promoting a progressive budge plan. Then you have a politician using the word "Honesty" in a proposal. Combined these two items 100% guarantee that the plan will not be.

Monday, November 29, 2010

This molehill we call a mountain.

Is it desperation to wring some drama out of what's sure to be a pretty boring legislative session*? Or is it the result of a slow, s-l-o-w news period?

Whatever it is it's got the State's lackluster political media in a tizzy. What is it you're asking?

(Two Freshmen Reps Pledge to Paxton for Speaker, Ross Ramsey, Texas Tribune (Maybe they NEED all that hip eyewear?)
Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, is also in the race, though Paxton appears to have more support. Last week, two of Chisum's fellow West Texans — Jim Landtroop of Plainview and Charles Perry of Lubbock — announced their support for Paxton.

Counting the candidate himself, that brings Paxton to nine votes. Straus claims pledges from more than 120. It takes 76 to win.

Nine. The leader of the conservative "groundswell" to unseat Speaker Straus currently counts his supporters at nine (9). According to this report Wayne Chisum has even less. To put this in perspective: Rep Paxton has approx 5.92% of the vote. That's less than Chris Bell for goodness' sake.

Even if you assume that Chisum's supporters number six (6) that would still leave both challengers with 9.87% of the total vote. Yes, that's creeping up into Democratic down-ballot territory, but it's not really threatening that low bar.

In other words, this "internal clash" really isn't, despite what Texas poor political pundits think. Unless something happens that greatly cuts into the support of Straus the only thing to take away from this is that the social Conservatives are going to make a lot of noise, but the actual numerical strength of the movement is somewhere around the listenership of KDAN Patrick's radio station.


*By "boring" I don't mean things aren't going to happen. To the contrary, I think that there's going to be a LOT that transpires during the 82nd that will be meaningful (in a good and bad way) to Texans. What I don't think we're going to have is much hullabaloo surrounding it because the opposition party has been reduced to the political equivalent of a party-blogger.

The Noise Machine (11/29/10)

And we're back at it....

So far the bulk of the media's education stories have been dire predictions of doom should schools not get everything they wish for. While there probably would be some things lost what you don't ever see is that schools could choose to make other cuts, would that they wanted to. (Of course, it's easier to cry "Doom!!" than cut pet projects isn't it?) I'm not looking forward to this next legislative session if this is going to be the tone of the debate.

Nice to know that a storage device is considered a storage device by Texas courts. What's amazing is that this had to go in front of a judge at all.

This is a hope that could die with no argument from me. Of course, the World Classiness crew will be salivating over this prospect. (Including the pandering to FIFA reps that inevitably comes with it.)

When I was in High School Band we payed for our own instruments. Not today however.....(My parents sacrificed a LOT when I was in school. Today's parents seem to want all of the sacrifice done for them by others.)

Ah the beginnings of the budget debate. Furloughs, staff cuts, fire & brimstone. And we don't even know how much needs to be cut yet. (Yup, I can't wait for this next Lege session, and the media and blogger coverage that's going to surround it.)

It's good to know that Republicans are just as prone to wasteful distraction as are Democrats. The more things change the more they stay the same.

Green Houston. Or, at least, green-ish Houston with just enough baubles to keep the World Classiness, trinket-loving set quiet.

A lesson for BARC from Dallas. Something lost in the "no-kill shelter" debate is the animal control portion of the agency's charge. Certainly, you want to minimize euthanasia cases, but their existence is a sad reality in a world that places little value on the lives of animals.

Rick Perry as the harbinger or death? Perry derangement syndrome lives.

And finally,

Perhaps the problem is not with changing times but with short-sighted, restrictive laws that are always championed by myopic groups such as the Apple Dumpling Gang? (If every problem requires a new, big-government solution -typically one that reduced the rights of the people- then too much is never going to be enough.)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Weekend Update (11/27/10)

Stuffed.....can't move.....

The battle over red light cameras continues. The city's revenue grab could end up costing Mayor Parker a 2nd term.

Oh boy, here we go again. I can't wait until people start pulling the race card again....

Get ready for the anti-2nd Amendment groups to fire up again after this....

Tom Delay made redistricting political? Gotta love historical revisionism done in the interest of forwarding a point of view. (Redistricting has ALWAYS been political, when Democrats ruled the State they were political as well.)

A Republican speaks on Voter ID, Democrats respond. I can't think of any reason (political or otherwise) that Democrats would want to give-in on this issue. Right now their stance should be one of "vocal opposition".

The e-slate voting machines are coming back. Putting an end to the theory that whatever comes next may have the ability to provide a paper receipt.

Why is it that the Government's default response to a problem is suddenly to decrease the civil rights of everyone?

Willie arrested...Again.

And finally.....

SEC guy is the best local radio character bar none.....

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Give Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!

There are a lot of things to be thankful for this year. Here's just a few of the things on my ledger.....

My family - Especially my wife, who's learned to put up with last-minute blog meet-ups, poker trips, political rants & long nights researching for blog posts. Not to mention standing in line at Downtown Spec's for an hour making sure I get three six packs of the latest Divine Reserve. Yup, pretty great she is. (And a huge football fan, which does NOT make the Fall and early winter suck)

BlogHouston. Kevin, Anne, Callie and everyone over at bH were my first contact with the Houston blogosphere, back when I was writing Isolated Desolation just for the fun of it. Over the next several years I've developed friendships with all of them.

Living in Houston - Yes, during the Summer, the weather sucks, but it's late November and we're all going to be wearing shorts (until tomorrow). There are tons of things to do, a vibrant restaurant scene, and the economy is (relatively) good. The Government is entertaining enough to keep a local blog in content, and (last but not least) there's an ethnic diversity in this town that rivals anything you'll find in the South. I love Houston, and I'm always reminded how much I love living here.

ChronBlog - Yes, I constantly give them grief, and they're standard of journalism has fallen over the years to barely above that of a College newspaper, but I look at the Chron as a bloggy-type version of job security. If they ever go down, I'm betting 1/2 of Houston's blogosphere disappears right behind them.

The Houston Press - You can tell a lot about the soul of a City by taking a look at the health of their alt-media. Houston's alt-weekly is chugging a long with a bare-bones staff of professional journalists while increasingly leaning on the, upper-middle class sensibilities of a growing group of amateur bloggers. The result is a homogenized, relatively bland, trend-chasing product that fails to push the envelope and fails to offer up much but cliches. Amazingly, in Houston, it's the same groups that are behind the movement to "re-make" Houston into a reduced, less culturally deep, less original, version of New York City. That alone makes it a great resource for watching the dismantling of the things that have made Houston great.

Texas Watchdog. - Houston's #1 shop for hard-hitting, investigative journalism. They're also a great advocate of citizen-journalists and local blogs. One of Texas Watchdog's missions is to provide support and training for local bloggers. This is a great resource that I encourage everyone to take advantage of. I've also made many friends at Watchdog for whom I'm very thankful. Great group. (Even Lynn Walsh, who's an Ohio fan but I don't hold that against her too badly)

Texas Tribune. Without whom I'd be ignorant in regards to eye-wear options for the young and hip. Oh, and their Lege reporting is pretty good as well.

Chris Bell - It's always good to be thankful for a content driver. (See also: Dan Patrick, Bill White, Houston Metro, the InterLeft, Bloggers O' the Right, etc.)

Miller Outdoor Theater, The Houston Zoo and Houston's Museum District - Hours of low-cost (or free) entertainment that was helpful after my wife got laid-off and the entertainment budget was reduced.

And finally....My two (or so) regular readers. Thanks guys for following me around from blog to blog. I realize my writing style is not conducive to a big audience. That you've stuck around speaks volumes.

Happy Thanksgiving all. Take some time today to remember what exactly you're thankful for, and leave the political arguing to the truly sad and hollow. I'm off to eat some turkey and stuffing.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The 'new journalism' revolution marches on!

It's bad enough that ChronBlog feels the need to comment on America's most 'hated' cities without realizing that Houston, yes our Houston, is probably at the top of that list for most others due in no small part to the inferiority complex that our ruling and chattering classes continue to display to the rest of the world......

Then they have to go and do things like this, this and this.

Austin, Shreveport and Beaumont? Really?

Because, where Houston lives is somewhere in that dark place where a city of approx. 2.5 MM gets its jollies by picking on the 200K - to 500K set. Has our collective sense of we suck grown so large that we're left picking on the Golden Triangle? What's next, a discussion of the many ways Galleria Houston Prada is superior to Marfa Prada? Are we going to hear that Houston has better dining options than Mart? Boy I tell ya, you think Houston is bad you should take a look at Durant, Oklahoma. The Bayou City has all of them beaten COLD..... Thankfully, except for the occasional "libs are evil" commenter, most people advised ChronBlog just how wrong they were, including my favorite comment here:
77007 12:41 PM on November 23, 2010

A perfect example of why the Chronicle is the largest big-city paper to never win a Pulitzer.
It's also a perfect example of why many people want to change Houston to be more like other places....because, as a city, our self-confidence sucks. It sucks so bad we actually pay attention to the new urbanists who insist our community, full of despair, want and woe, can be magically healed if only we build a park that contains giant chess-board pieces, that we can all live happy productive lives if we just shoe-horn everyone into monochromatic apartment units within a relatively small geographic area, thus allowing the split-tongue toe lizard to make his return to the marshes that will re-surround the city. Why all we need to do is save that historical outhouse over there and tourists will come flocking to our doors. As a matter of fact, the key to a long and happy life is doing things exactly like they want you to do things with no deviation and no independent thought. McDonald's, it goes without saying, is right out. So is Thanksgiving, pick-up trucks, personal freedom and the right to not have to worry about playing in your living room without covering the neighbor's bed with a hail of plaster.

Yup, if we could just do that (and maybe bomb Beaumont) Houston would finally be a city deserving of the news daily it calls its own.

Monday, November 22, 2010

When Customer service isn't.

Spent part of my Sunday (the part during the second half of the Texans game thankfully) store hopping up in the Woodlands. Popped into Barnes & Noble to have a look at their Nook reader. I'm in the market for either that or a Kindle from Amazon, haven't decided which one yet.

One tablet that I'm definitely not interested in is a Nook "color". Not only is it $100 more than the regular Nook reader, ($249 vs. $149) but it doesn't have the e-ink technology which makes reading doable on a standard black & white reader. And that's primarily what I want this for: To read e-books. Despite my many attempts to convey this to the sales clerk at the kiosk, my appraisal of the black & white Nook was continually interrupted by a sales pitch for the Nook Color.

I now know that the Nook Color can stream movies (not what I'm looking for), it can connect to the NY Times (for a fee, as can the Nook B&W) or a host of other magazines and dailies, and it has the memory to download more books than I'll probably read in my lifetime. It's also not available right now. It's recommended that you reserve one on the release day just in case you MIGHT think you want one. Whether or not you actually buy one, just reserve one, you know, just in case.

Get the picture? (I'm sure we'll all be shocked, SHOCKED! when B&N announces supply shortages of the Nook Color right before Christmas won't we?)

I came in to look at a e-reader in which I was interested, only to be told by the staff supposedly selling said reader that it wasn't that great, they had a better (more expensive) option that I couldn't even GET right then, having instead to wait until December something-or-other, and that didn't really even do what I wanted it to do.

All things being equal I'm now leaning toward the Kindle. Which I will purchase on-line from the comfort of my own home. Oh yeah, it's $10 cheaper than the Nook B&W as well....Probably because Amazon isn't paying someone to talk me out of buying what I came in for in the first place.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Noise Machine (11/19/10)

Bad media....bad....

Wayne Slater should stop with the political analysis. But hey, at least he didn't mention Karl Rove.

Of course, the Houston Press should probably try and stay away from political 'reporting' as well. Their talent, with the current roster, is more suited toward top 5 lists and Richard Connelly's bitterness anyway. (Let us keep our memories of the Press' salad days please.)

So, Perry and Bush W. don't like one another all that much. Giving them something in common with their political opponents.

Invade Mexico!?!?!? Let's not and say we did. (Somebody loan Perry a medal, he won't know the difference.)

There was a guy on Twitter going nuts over this story. Of course, he typed in all caps and couldn't Tweet without resorting to vulgarities so everyone pretty much laughed at him. (Speaking of laugh, why is it that the Texas Interleft thinks it's OK to use vulgarities that have typically been used derisively toward gay males is an OK way to attack their political opposites? I don't see the allure.)

A going away present from Cynthia Dunbar. Yeah. Thanks for that. (And good riddance)

Down with Straus!! Who, it seems, made the unforgivable mistake of not treating Democrats like dust under a boot heel, instead choosing to try and work with them in a divided House chamber to get things done. (As well as revenge for ousting Craddick, who no one liked anyway.)

I don't buy this argument. An area may lose some seniority in the Government when they elect new representatives but they don't lose their clout. An effective legislative group can restore political clout almost immediately if they're smart and do a good job representing the interests of the community. ("Clout" is code-word for we're mad the side we like lost.)

If Houston black clay is named the State's official soil does that mean that Houston will finally be "World Class"?

And finally.....

If Ken Salazar has his way the American West will become Disneyland. Unbelievable this man eh?

Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sunlight shining on the Sunset Commission.

The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission is either making friends or cultivating enemies, depending on your feelings toward The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the The Texas Railroad Commission, the subject of the commission's two most recent reports.

The immediate take-away from both reports is that the folks over at Sunset Advisory feel that the two Commissions need to do a better job enforcing the rules and regulations pertaining to the industries over which they are charged. For the TCEQ it sort-of ends there. Oh sure there's a lot of wordiness to be found in 124 pages but, for the most part, the TCEQ got off with a stern scolding and advice to do better....pending the outcome of a current audit and several legal dust-ups with the EPA that is. Kate Galbraith* of the Texas Tribune (apparently, wearing no hip eye wear) offers up her take on the report choosing to focus on the side-stepping of the EPA issue by Sunset Advisory.

Of more interest, to me, was the Sunset report on the Texas Railroad Commission. Most surprising was Sunset Advisory's suggestion that the Commission move from elected positions to those of gubernatorial appointment. This was especially curious on the heels of the latest gubernatorial election, where one of Democrat Bill White's campaign arguments was that incumbent Rick Perry had grown too powerful due to the power of appointment.

Despite the fact that there's not much they can do about it, I cannot imagine Democrats would welcome this new power vested in a candidate they can't seem to beat, and who doesn't seem to be inclined to go anywhere. One concern that I have is the potential for political chicanery in a commission that's responsible for the biggest chunk of Texas' economic pie. Yes, political elections are imperfect, and sometimes (as in 2010) there's a head-scratcher of a result that puts a relative novice in a position of authority. This is a weakness that appointments cannot fix. The main difference is the voters would have a chance to fix their error, should one occur, within four years. With appointments the appointed can often fly under the radar, held unaccountable to the voters. Still, appointed wouldn't be that bad if the terms were kept relatively short and bad actors could be flushed from the system immediately.

One other benefit of staggered elections is this: It becomes very difficult for the RRC to change focus quickly, needing at least two election cycles to change the make up, plenty of time for the citizens to right the wrongs. Currently the RRC is one of the more agreeable regulatory organizations to deal with, although (contrary to news reports and partisans on the Left)they're still not pleasant. They're just less unpleasant than most. I would hate to see that change. I would also hate to see Texas' economic advantage suffer under a wave of industry-hostile appointments which decimate oil & gas production in Texas, we're already seeing just how much trouble that can cause in the Gulf.

There are other recommendations in the report including the cessation of propane marketing, an idea whose time has long passed. Again, Kate Galbraith of the Texas Tribune (Maybe she was edited by someone wearing hip eye wear?) has more.

One recommendation that I am in favor of is moving the regulation of gas utilities to the Public Utilities Commission. That just makes a lot of sense from a logistics standpoint. The RRC handles production, the PUC worries about distribution. That's a much more focused business model.

The last recommendation in place is one that, for sentimental reasons, I would be sad to see enforced, the proposed name change to The Texas Oil and Gas Commission would bring to an end a part of Texas history I don't want to see vanish. It'd be akin to changing the name of the Texas Rangers. Sometimes the old ways are the best.

*As the Texas Tribune notes, Gilbraith is a green energy writer and approaches the issue from a far different perspective than my oil & gas industry view. That's neither good nor bad, it just is. At least we both admit our bias on these issues.

Dogs and cats.... together.

Who would have thought that TX State Senator Dan Patrick's ideological running buddy would be Iowa Democrat (and staunch union liberal) Tom Harkin?

The real irony is that the Texas "blocker" bill is one of the single most conservative pieces of legislation out there, and it's Texas self-proclaimed leading conservative who wants to do away with it.

Harkin? OK, that's consistent with his rhetoric.

And here comes the art debate

Arguments like this happen when government coffers are full, so it should come as no surprise that folks aren't happy about a $360,000 vase.

(City spends $360,000 on sculpture despite budget problems, Gabe Guitierrez,
The city’s decade-old public arts ordinance is being questioned after the Houston Arts Alliance bought a $360,000 sculpture.
The sculpture, “Standing Vase with Five Flowers,” is the work of Texas native James Surls and will be displayed outside the parks and recreation department’s headquarters on Wayside Drive in southeast Houston.
Council approved the purchase back in August, before the city’s finance director announced that Houston could face a $50 to $80 million budget shortfall by the end of the fiscal year. There is talk of potential furloughs to close the gap and several departments are consolidating to save money.
I'm never a fan of overpaying for art in public spaces, although the trinket-based, world-classiness crowd seems to get all agog over them. For my taste however I'd be more interested in seeing the money deployed to critical departments to hire staff, the police department for instance.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the ordinance responsible for this expenditure is a relic of the Lee P. Brown administration, after all, we've seen this before. Hopefully this time a newly motivated city council will work to get this onerous provision stripped from the books.

On another note: This is more bad PR for the increasingly snake-bit administration of Mayor Parker. It's very rare for a Houston Mayor to not win re-election to the point they're term-limited out. Given her administrations generally unfocused, market unfriendly and unpopular start. (The dithering before turning off the RLC's was just odd) One wonders if she's destined for a second term*?



While I'm not too worried about it, there are many who will use Mayor Parker's appointment of a transgendered judge as proof she's pushing the so-called "gay agenda". There are many social conservatives who took her word for it that she wasn't going to push this. I wonder how ready they'll be to take her at her word the next time? (My position still is that if their good at being a judge....then who cares?)

The Noise Machine (11/18/10)

Chamber of Commerce weather.....

Straus speaks on a local Conservative blog. (Bypassing ChronBlog FWIW)

Bad Religion. (And the bad politicians that are suddenly decrying it.)

Whoops. Although, the way the media coverage has slanted on this case, it's hard to tell if this is really a big deal or no.

Imagine that, public universities running themselves like a business....(Instead of a playground for those who couldn't succeed in the private sector?)

It's been a long time since Houston has seen its mayor take a defeat on such a public issue. Bill White used to handle this behind the scenes. (There's real evidence that Mayor Parker is losing the respect of City Council)

Make it stop! (Alternative title: The continuing decline of newspaper media.)

More on Lost revenues for Houston from a program that's (ostensibly) all about safety.

On that note: The Texas taxpayer burden and your share of it. Yikes.

One of the problems of living in a "safe" political district is that you have to put up with shenanigans like this from your elected officials. Dan Patrick won SD 7 with almost 90% of the vote. In a decent district he'd be tossed for his grandstanding or, forced to tone it down at least.

The Tribune (Now, with MORE hip eye wear!) has a sit-down with Mayor Annise Parker. It's no surprise that they didn't grill her on some of Houston's more pressing issues.

In contrast, here's a good interview of Arlene Wohglemuth by the Trib's Ross Ramsey. We are unsure if he sports hip eye wear however. (His picture on line suggest his tastes are more traditional)

Amazing how an election will do that isn't it?

You've gotta hand it to the gambling lobby, they're persistent at least.

Does a Huckabee endorsement matter in Texas politics? At the ballot box my guess is not much, but this is insider baseball so who knows?

And finally....

We give you the most anticipated audit in Texas this year. Soon to be released (and spun) by partybloggers everywhere.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Yes, it's news-ish....

but DAMN...

(Sen. Wentworth scolds new Rep. Simpson over campus carry, Mary Tuma, Texas Independent)
Longtime state Sen. Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) wasn’t too pleased to hear that freshman state Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview) had jumped the gun by prefiling a bill that would allow concealed firearms on college campuses. Wentworth has driven the issue in past years.

“The representative-elect doesn’t yet understand the procedure and traditional courtesies in the Legislature. You don’t come down here, when you haven’t even been sworn in yet, and introduce fanfare that your fellow members got passed,” Wentworth said Tuesday evening. “You don’t come in as a newly elected representative and take over a bill that has already been worked on by two senior members. You don’t come down here and think you’re going to be the author of major legislation in your first term.”
Emphasis mine.

Jeff Wentworth needs to remember just who and what he is. An elected official whose primary job is to serve the citizens of the State of Texas. Not some tarted up demi-royal doddering around the capital annex wearing nothing but a Texas Ranger star and some spurs. Obviously Sen. Wentworth's sense of entitlement is bigger than his ability. You're essentially a part-time employee when you're in the Texas Lege anyway. Which could be part of the problem, we're asking Summer temp help to run the State.

Get him and Dan Patrick in the same room and the egos involved would reach critical mass.....

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Kay goes all-in....

What else could this mean?

(Kay Bailey Hutchison backs tea party's earmark moratorium, Todd J. Gillman, Dallas Morning-News*)
Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison – an ardent purveyor of earmarks throughout her congressional career – fell in line this morning behind a two-year moratorium demanded by tea party conservatives.
That Establishment Kay has seen the handwriting on the wall and is tweaking her campaign message for 2012 to something that is Tea Party friendly speaks volumes. For her to have a chance at surviving the Senatorial primary in 2012 the damage done in the Gubernatorial primary against Perry must be undone. I've no doubt Rick Perry will aid her in doing this, but she's going to have to make some concessions. I imagine this is just the first of many.

Here's the thing. If she adopts this message and sticks to it, she's probably going to win. The only people who are mad about her continual breaking of the "term limits" promise are Democrats who would love to get control of the seat. Speaking of Democrats, I wonder if Bill White knew something we didn't yesterday? He couldn't win either way, but I'd rather run against Dewhurst than KBH in a senate race, partially because she's not the best campaigner. Dewhurst is a merciless campaigner when he needs to be.

If she gains the Tea Party vote and can keep a hold of her moderate base however, all bets are off. If those things happen she's unbeatable....except by Perry. All bow down to the campaign focus of Rick Perry & team.

Expect the "news-ish" agencies to go mad running breathless exposes of pretty much every earmark she's successfully procured during her time in the Senate.

h/t to Kevin Whited of BlogHouston for the link.

The Noise Machine (11/16/10)

Hoo boy.....

HISD is dipping its toes into the single-gender campus well. Good luck with that.

Wait, I thought it wasn't about revenue? So how come all of the concerns are about revenue now?

No, MORE belt-tightening, MORE dangit!!!! Suck it in fellas.

Kirk Watson vs. David Dewhurst. Dewhurst does a good early job of making Watson look like he's grandstanding.

It's Not that tough of a decision Ms. Hutchison. Retire and save yourself from an embarrassing defeat in the primary. (Unless she thinks the primary defeat to Rick Perry wasn't all that damaging to her politically.)

How close is Mexico to becoming a failed state? It's hard to tell from our media reports, (most of them pushing an agenda) but it has to be pretty close. (Which begs the questions: What is our Government doing about it? Or, more accurately, what CAN they do?)

Rep. Fred Brown is going after the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. I'd be very surprised if the check scratchers at UT-Austin and aTm-College Station let him succeed.

And finally.....

The idea that pension funds are not Ponzi schemes destined to fall is taking on more and more water.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Another way to posture politically.... to make a lot of noise and then call for the creation of a "Blue Ribbon Commission" to figure things out.

Which leads HCA to this question: If part of your campaign plea is that you're the experienced and competent choice who has the ability to "make the tough decisions" for Texans...then why are you now asking us to trust the words of others when it comes to the budget? Why didn't we just elect them in the first place?

If there's a more useless thing in politics than the Blue Ribbon Commission we've yet to find it. Guess what that makes politicians who repeatedly call for them in our eyes?

Do the job you were elected to do, stop fawning it off on others.

The Noise Machine (11/15/10)

Slightly abbreviated this morning.....

You have to give it to Chronblog, they've got political fluff down to a science.

Happy 50th Houston Baptist University.

The Texas Tribune (Now, with even MORE eye-wear!) provides us with this look at the two GOP's in Texas courtesy of Ross Ramsey. The whole idea is a little ridiculous, considering that both parties have major factions within that are constantly in a fight for ideological supremacy. Still, it matches the InterLeft narrative that the GOP is continually infighting and not focused on the 'people's business'. (What, you don't see the same thing going on with the Nancy Pelosi/minority leader spat?)?

And Texas shall lead them.....

Yeah, but Robin Hood always gave to the poor.

Ed Hubbard takes a peek at the race for Texas Speaker of the House. It seems that Straus has committed the unforgivable sin. He tried to get things done in a Lege that was almost 50/50.

Charles Kuffner looks at straight-party voting and the City Propositions. And comes to the conclusion that....well, to be truthful I don't really know. At the end he suggests that the under vote didn't have much of an effect on the Prop outcomes, but he hedges a lot in the body of his post.

and finally.....

Have W will protest. *sigh*

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A heretics view of DR 10

It's always wildly anticipated, and it's been praised by most but I'm finding myself underwhelmed by St. Arnold's recent entry into Divine Reserve territory.

Divine Reserve Ten is a barleywine, and there's little I like better than a good, malty barleywine. Unfortunately I struggled to find the notes of malt in the nose of this, and the taste reminded me of a beer that was a little unsure of itself.

I drank two over the weekend, both at the traditional temperature of around 55 degrees F. The first one I drank on its own, letting it breathe after pouring for just a bit, and had a lot of difficulty identifying it as a barleywine.

To see if I was imagining things, I tried another bottle the next night alongside a Bigfoot barleywine from Sierra Nevada brewing, and a personal favorite of mine, the Sisyphus barleywine from Real Ale. (Real Ale makes my favorite ale: Devil's Backbone, St. Arnold's makes my 2nd favorite: their Texas Wheat) When first opened I thought the Bigfoot smelled like OFF insect repellent. Again, to make sure I wasn't hallucinating I checked with my wife and she noticed the same thing. I poured it into a room temperature glass and waited for two minutes, the next sniff was malty and sharp and good. The barleywine in the bottle was good as well. After this I poured and smelled the DR10, still nothing. I let it sit for a couple of minutes and thought that I got a slight whiff of malt but still nothing much. When tasting I still noticed the same confusion that I had noted the night before. Finally, I tasted the Sisyphus, it was just as I remembered and a great example of the type. The smell was right on, the head was perfect (I found the head of the DR10 to be thin, the BigFoot was right on) and the color was caramel.(as was the BigFoot, with the St. Arnold's coming in just a tad lighter, but equally rich in texture)

I'm hoping that 5 or 6 months in the bottle will help to settle this beer down a bit. That's what happened with DR9. (Which I couldn't drink immediately due to it's overwhelming bitterness but am really enjoying this fall due to it having mellowed.) If anything, DR10 reminds me of an immature barleywine that just needs some time to organize itself and find out what it needs to be. Since these are beers that are meant to be laid down I'm not that concerned. (After all, the great Bordeaux wines are borderline undrinkable in their youth) Maybe some time in a dark, cool place will do them some good.

Divine Reserve 10:

11% ABV

NOTE: On the St. Arnold's website it recommends laying these bottles down and letting the beer age. I'm hoping they're right.

Katy Fresh Market Closes its doors.

You won't find it on their web-site but this past weekend was the last for the Katy Fresh Market, who blamed slow business and poor farmer crops (a result of the recent drought) and difficulties receiving stock as among the reasons they were closing.

The wife went there on Saturday morning (I was not feeling well that morning and stayed home unfortunately) and said the shelves were almost bare. All they had left were a few onions, some potatoes and a few tomatoes left on the shelves. For the first time in several months we purchased most of our produce from HEB.

Too bad. The staff at the Market gave hints that their might be an attempt to come back in the Spring, but that would depend on the willingness of the financial backers to fund what has, so far, been sluggish consumer response.

It's back to Georgia's and the various Farmer's Markets around town for us I guess. Or a heavier reliance on HEB's organics.*

*There's nothing wrong with HEB's organic section mind you, except that it's somewhat limited. The quality of the produce there is typically pretty good.

Or maybe the issue is overblown?

First we hear that A new law to prevent discrimination passed last year has resulted in.....absolutely ZERO indictments or convictions. Most of us would conclude that, possibly, such a law was a solution in search of a problem and wasn't needed. If, however, you were an activist, the problem is with the law itself, specifically that it was written in a manner that didn't catch enough people who.....well, it just didn't catch people OK?

Then we hear that an "unexpectedly small" crowd turned out for a summit that was offering "solutions" to bullying. Again, with no attendance one might assume that that the problem is not as prevalent as experts would have us to believe. Unfortunately, the problem dear reader, is probably going to be that UH or someone else just didn't do enough to promote the summit or that people were afraid if they attended someone would bully them? A more likely scenario is that most people realize that much of what's going to be done about bullying is not going to be done in an auditorium talking to the editor of a magazine and other academics.

Until then, expect these mini tempests in teapots to continue to boil.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Local news, ChronBlog style.

It's bad enough they didn't think to look for themselves.....

(Image captured from front page of ChronBlog, Thursday, November 11, 2010 @ approx. 10:30 AM.)

Note the highlighted headline: "Web site claims to have key docs on UH strategy to KTRU deal:. At the time, clicking the link (now gone) immediately directed the interested reader to the original story at Texas Watchdog.

Let me make sure I get this straight: A local watchdog news organization does original reporting on something that ChronBlog should have thought of (pertaining to the sale of KTRU, a reasonably big story locally), ChronBlog then links directly to their piece (possibly giving the false impression that Texas Watchdog and ChronBlog are somehow related) all while questioning the legitimacy of the story through a stand-offish headline.

Did I leave anything out? (Other than the obvious "What the hell were they thinking?" question that is.)

How Metro could work

According to Bill King writing in today's ChronBlog editorial page.

I love the "prominent local blogger" riff as well as many of his ideas. It's a good look at how Metro could provide real transportation solutions while living well within the bounds of the 2003 voter referendum.

Which, of course, means that none of it has much of a chance of getting completed*.

*Most telling is the first comment. Someone angry because King is focusing on people outside Loop 610. What the resident of A Place Called Perfect is forgetting is that MOST people in the region reside beyond the confines of the Loop. That may not be Perfect, but it's reality

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