Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Noise Machine (01/31/10)

Ending the month with a bang....

Houston's new Fire Chief has a tough job winning the PR battle. Good luck.

The Democrats roll out three candidates for Lite Gov. Eh.....

Miss Virginia is the new Miss America. Eh.....

Sue Dat! You knew there was going to be trouble when the NFL tried to trademark a misspelling and the national emblem of France.

Going to the same store after a big winner bought a ticket there is akin to sitting down at a slot machine after it paid out big. Just sayin'.

Save NASA! There's a legitimate argument to be made that, by scrubbing the moon mission, Obama is doing just that.

I didn't watch the debate, but David Jennings did. Given the fact that he, and not a bunch of left-leaning journalists, was the target audience I'd say his review is more worthy of note. (That being said, if ChronBlog ever got around to hiring that mythical conservative State/Metro columnist....) **As for Burkha? Eh...**

Consider this: New Orleans is still in shambles, and is still hooked to the IV of public assistance. Now people want Houston to follow that model. Maybe there's another way that could encourage people to take the steps they need to improve? Just a suggestion.

Nate Silver is very good at political analysis, but mixing politics with economic news typically reduces the usefulness of the latter. This case is no different. (Overstates the positive in news that most, nonpartisan observers have characterized as "Eh...")

When Texas Watchdog does a Gov't spending report you'd be advised to take notice.

Blogging luminary Lou Minatti on Bill White. It's a good read.

And finally....

All you need to know about this op-ed pimping wind and solar as the future of Texas energy can be found at the bottom: "Hershey is a fiction writer" Because the idea that wind and solar can replace oil, nuclear and coal as our energy source is more fiction than reality. (Even industry sources cap the potential share at 20 percent that's an 80% gap for those of you not keeping score.)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Rumors of newspapers' impending salvation...

..may be premature at best.

With all the talk of the iPad saving the media you'd think that a lot of people are willing to pay for online news if only they had the proper tools.

You'd be wrong.

(Harris Interactive News Release, Poll by Regina M. Corso 01/13/2010)
Newspapers around the country are struggling. 2009 saw a few newspapers change their business model to an online focus or shut down completely. 2010 will most likely see the same struggle and, perhaps, new business models emerge for these media entities. One thing is clear, the era of Americans reading a daily newspaper each and every day is coming to an end.

Just two in five U.S. adults (43%) say they read a daily newspaper, either online or in print almost every day. Just over seven in ten Americans (72%) say they read one at least once a week while 81% read a daily newspaper at least once a month. One in ten adults (10%) say they never read a daily newspaper.
Worse than that, is the value that the public places on newspaper content:
One potential business model that newspapers are exploring is charging a monthly fee to read a daily newspaper's content online. This model, however, seems unlikely to work as three-quarters of online adults (77%) say they would not be willing to pay anything to read a newspaper's content online. While some are willing to pay, one in five online adults (19%) would only pay between $1 and $10 a month for this online content and only 5% would pay more than $10 a month.
Locally, this is potential bad news for ChronBlog, who faces all of the same hurdles as other daily newspapers but is suffering from the additional burden of reduced news content caused by ill-targeted layoffs.

In short, ChronBlog is suffering from a segment collapse in the market and incompetent leadership. I've yet to see a business that can stand on one leg (monopoly) when the other two legs (demand & quality) dry up.

Good news though! This Sunday we're being treated to another Features-type section!

Help 'em now

Because the way the Country is going kids today are going to need it later.

That's right, it's charity time.

If you're not familiar with Junior Achievement then click on the link and read up. Go ahead, I'll wait.....

Got it? Good.

Given the economic mess that we're going to bequeath to the next generation of young, hungry worker bees the least we can do is equip them with the tools they need to make a go of it in the rough n' tumble world of business. That being said charity doesn't mean that you can't have a good time....

I'm asking you to help me support Junior Achievement.

If that link doesn't work then here's a direct link to my Donation Page. I'm also going to be placing this in the sidebar to make it easy.

I've got a big, big goal for this charity, but the potential pay-off is worth it:

Any participant raising $5000 gets 2 Continental Airlines Business First Class Round-trip tickets anywhere within the lower 48. For those of you that don't know, my wife was laid-off back in March. So yes, I'm not too proud to admit it, this is partially driven by our desire to take an anniversary trip later in the year. Believe me, I'm not doing it because I'm a great bowler.

Granted, since it's two tickets I can't offer a ticket up to a big donor (It's me and the wife, you understand) but I can guarantee that I'll take pictures and video which I'll share on my Flickr page, on my food blog, and on here. Hey, it's sorta like being there right?

More importantly, you can walk away with the knowledge that you've helped properly train the next generation to make good business decisions. If you don't think that's important remember this: Their salaries are going to be paying for your retirement, medicare etc.

The economy of the future...

The salad days for major oil companies are over. What this means is that Houston's buffer against the bad economy is about to evaporate like so much condensate spilled out of a tanker. If you think Big Oil is worried about public perception over off-shoring you'd be wrong. The way they figure it they've already been demonized by one political party who's now suggesting large tax increases on them to fund entitlements.

Meanwhile, we're told that the new "green-energy" economy is The economy of the future.

It's similar to "free crabs tomorrow". By the time tomorrow gets here we're all going to starve to death. The failure of the Republicans (when they were in power) and the Democrats (now) to craft an energy policy that's designed around our domestic resources in lieu of reliance on foreign oil and a pie-in-the-sky unrealistic alternative will be looked at as one of the greatest public policy blunders of all time when future Chinese historians study American culture.

The Noise Machine (01/29/10)

Much ado about......

Let us start with today's odd defense of climate science by ChronBlog faith-based writer Eric Berger. (They admit they don't know exactly what they are talking about but they all agree it's going to happen.)

UH is working to meet Gov. Rick Perry's 5% budget reduction mandate. (It's important to remember that this is done in the private sector all the time. As such, it's not the impossible task the hand-wringers are making it out to be.)

If you're suffering from insomnia, there are some cures, in the form of Gubernatorial primary debates coming up soon. (I watched the first one, so I've done my Republican time. I will probably watch the Democratic debate however, for no other reason than morbid curiosity.)

NASA gets their marching orders, and they don't include the moon.

Why do I get the feeling that, if groups like Texas Parent PAC were to get their way, Texas would get an "F" in this survey and that would be a desirable outcome? (Education "reform" isn't about better teaching, it's about those currently ruining the system getting theirs.)

The sins of the father..... (Is this a system of justice? Or revenge?) Tom Kirkendall has more.

Coming Sunday Only in the print edition (Until Monday that is):The Return of Chron-Eye for the Death Row Killer Guy! Now with 12% more hype! (Oh, and a new "good life" section) (Which fits ChronBlog, who typically suffers from 12% lower subscription rates.) *sigh*

Speaking of declining subscription rates. L'il Red is back. Thankfully, and true to form, her comeback post was all about the "I". (In this crazy world we need some constants, even bad ones)

Do newspapers even employ copy editors now?

Texas Tribune Eye for the Death Row Killer Guy Part II. (One more in a continuing series of reports by Texas journalists trying to find that mythical 'innocent man' executed by the state.)

Sure, you can pay us for the education, but right now the field can't handle the workforce. (Someday however, in the future one guesses)

And finally......

Many people who gripe about the low-tech in Texas voting systems are the same folks who rail against the e-slate voting machines.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Some call them "Parents"

Texas Conservative blogger Rhymes with Right lifts the veil covering the funding of Texas Parent PAC.

Funny, according to some on the InterLeft this group is nothing more than a group of parents concerned about educating the children, certainly they're not a group that sees political and financial benefits from ensuring the current (failing) status quo is maintained.

This has to be an error, sort of like those made surrounding the Texas Ethics Advisory Board which led many to (falsely) believe that they were part of the Texas Ethics Commission.

Stop me if you've heard this one before.....

Wealthy, centrally located neighborhood objects to big, residential unfriendly development right in their back yard.

Instead of Southampton vs. the Ashby Highrise we give you The City of Bellaire vs. the proposed West side Dynamo Stadium. Charlotte Aguilar of the Bellaire Examiner provides the details. One detail that wasn't made very clear (in this article) was whether or not Bellaire can do much about it.

Of more interest (to me) was this tidbit that suggested this "new" plan isn't as "new" as news reports have led us to believe:
One Bellaire councilmember might not be part of the city’s official debate. Newly elected Councilmember Corbett Parker counted Houston Dynamo CEO Oliver Luck among his campaign supporters, and Luck introduced him at one Bellaire fundraiser. Does Parker see this as a conflict? “Potentially,” he told the Examiner. “That’s one thing I’m going to have to look at.”
I'm sure we'll hear something along the lines of the "mutual respect" that Mr. Parker and Mr. Luck share. Knowing the small-town manner in which Houston operates, we'll HEAR it, but we'll have trouble believing it.

UPDATE: In a second report Ms. Aguilar reports that details of the deal were a little more secret (to some) than the participants have let on. Insider information, back-room deals brokered by former Pols? It's the Houston Way!

UPDATE 2: ChronBlog reports.

The Noise Machine (01/28/10)

Today with 27% more noise....

You'd probably expect that I'd start off with the State of the Union....

You're right. But, did the speech work? Too early to tell.

News Flash: Democrats loved it and Republicans generally didn't. In related news pneumonia is generally a bad thing.

Of course there's a Texan response.

Hey, the Republican response! (Zzzzzzzz.....)

And finally....The perspective from the British version of the Democrats. (I'm sure their talkers will come out with better over time.)

Onward and upward....

The veterans public housing proposal beats a retreat. Not that many gave it much serious consideration in the first place.

Binding homeowner arbitration comes under fire. There's a serious case to be made for getting rid of this or, at least, making it non-binding and keeping the threat of litigation on the table to force home-builders to negotiate in good faith. (Sadly, those that are out front on this issue are not known for making serious arguments.)

The Westpark Dynamo has a fine ring to it. With no public money on the line I think this is a superior solution. (Which, of course, means that it has absolutely zero chance of ever getting done.)

KBR bets on downtown. The original plan being to move out West, but the economy sacked their planned campus. That's good news for downtown office occupancy, ironically it's KBR that's renting the space. (A company that's repulsive to many of the Downtown area's biggest boosters.)

No education = no drivers license = no way to get to a job = dependent of the State. I don't think Rick Perry has thought this one through.

The ChronBlog Caucasian Think-Tank finds another tax increase to embrace. This time against those mean, evil bankers. (I wonder if they'll be as excited about taxes on the bonuses of Newspaper companies? My guess is no.)*

The Republican stimulus problem. Good for me but not for thee is a tough campaign slogan. (Then there's the problem of the flag-waving that was associated with the small checks cut for the Bush tax-cuts.)

Those backroom healthcare deals aren't going away. Broken transparency promises notwithstanding.

I present to you the least surprsing news story of the day. You're welcome.

Texas Tribune eye for the death-row killer guy? (I remember, back in the halcyon days of 2009, how Texas Tribune promised to 'redefine journalism' upon their rollout. Let's see: Advocacy journalism and anti-death penalty screeds. Nope, just more of the same minus getting your hands dirty.)

RIP Howard Zinn. There's an important message in this piece: You can learn something from everybody. That's why it's important to get your news from a variety of perspectives. (And why it's important for news outlets to try and offer a variety of viewpoints, which is something at which most fail miserably.)

You know things are bad if beer sales are down in Germany. So yeah, things are bad.

And finally....

Shopping for bananas in PJ bottoms is not allowed in one large British grocery store chain. A sensible idea that should be implemented here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

SOTU: Snap Analysis.

The Text: Here.

In reality, SOTU speeches during election years are little more than campaign speeches dressed up in the tuxedos high rhetoric and overly-long applause. From that perspective, Obama's speech was a solid B+ for the Democratic Party. Heading into the speech many pundits were expecting a return to Clinton-style triangulation, what they got was a wide-ranging repeat of Democratic policy priorities that Obama has championed since the beginning of his campaign.

Health Care: In my opinion, the weakest part of his speech. Instead of channeling Clinton and taking a conciliatory tone Obama stood up and appeared ready to fight for the dog of a bill that's currently awaiting passage. As is his wont, he evoked the image of "some people" who are for people losing their insurance and dying in the streets, and he mockingly invited "anyone" who has a plan to bring it to his attention, implying that no-one had done so previously.

The buck stops....: With Bush apparently. A large section of the speech was focused on blaming the Bush administration for the ills of society. Is there plenty of blame to heap on the Bush Administration? You bet. But there's also plenty of muck-up within the Administration and the Democratic party to spread around as well.

The Spirit of Determination: From the speech:
But remember this - I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I can do it alone. Democracy in a nation of three hundred million people can be noisy and messy and complicated. And when you try to do big things and make big changes, it stirs passions and controversy. That's just how it is.

Those of us in public office can respond to this reality by playing it safe and avoid telling hard truths. We can do what's necessary to keep our poll numbers high, and get through the next election instead of doing what's best for the next generation.

But I also know this: if people had made that decision fifty years ago or one hundred years ago or two hundred years ago, we wouldn't be here tonight. The only reason we are is because generations of Americans were unafraid to do what was hard; to do what was needed even when success was uncertain; to do what it took to keep the dream of this nation alive for their children and grandchildren.
In my opinion this was the best portion of Obama's speech, and his delivery was bang on.

Irony: Does it strike anyone else as odd that Obama is railing against the Washington "establishment" in an effort to make sure many of them get re-elected? Think about that for a minute.

Biggest Surprise(s): A targeted capital gains tax cut? From a Democrat? Also, I was surprised that he even discussed Cap n' Trade, a bad bill that many have considered DOA for quite some time.

Cognitive Dissonance: Obama's outright campaign statement calling the Republicans the Party of No during a section bemoaning constant campaigning and increasing partisanship in Washington was poorly conceived by his speech writers.

Jobs bill: Republicans will cast it as "Stimulus II" but they'll be under severe pressure from a public with shaky confidence in the economy to pass it. He also pushed for tax credits for business, and repeated his call for tax increases on Oil companies, banks and all those making over $250K/year.

Now that the speeches are over, the campaign begins, it will be interesting to see how people react to the speech in the polls.


After all of the hoopla and hubub surrounding the GRAND BIG ANNOUNCEMENT of the (get this) iPad *snicker* I was ready for emergence of a Tech messiah to lead us to the promised land of true, mobile computing bliss.

What we ended up with was a super-sized version of the iPod Touch with some limited connectivity options on the high-end. Call it an iTouch on steroids (sans camera) or a big-assed iPhone with no calling plan or whatever you want. What we're looking at here is iFlop....or iThud....or *shudder* Newton.

Despite being generally panned, I'm thinking the HP Slate running Windows 7 @ a rumored price point of under $400 peaks my interest more than this.

The Noise Machine (01/27/10)

Do not adjust your set......

About that HPD crime lab.... (At some point, it's got to get better right?)

The unmaking of NASA. (A limited constituency et. al.)

Harris County on being the biggest dog in the kennel. (It's good to be the king.)

Regardless of your political affiliation, I think we can all agree that reducing the number of incarcerated juveniles is a good thing. (Certainly so in the country with the largest (official) prison population in the world.)

Let's throw a (political) Party:

A Democratic pollster takes Obama to task. (The spectre of incompetence was always hanging over this administration, it's just that most who voted for him didn't expect the learning curve to be so steep.)

When in doubt, Democrats remember the lessons of Bill Clinton. (Inarguably the most successful Democratic President of the computer age.)

Why the Democrats are in trouble: Exhibit A (When you build your base of power on a collection of special interest groups with no defining, central vision these things tend to happen.)

Need more proof? Well then here's Exhibit B and Exhibit C. (Too many narrow agendas spoil the soup.)

Or there's this, from Joel Kotkin, possibly the most serious urban affairs writer out there today.

Another problem: In many cases they detest those they are elected to represent. (For more proof of this go read pretty much any InterLeft blogger after a political moment doesn't go their way. "Stupid" and "losers" are the descriptors du jour.)

The spin-off of all this is that the generally non-productive public sector is growing while any sector that creates wealth is shrinking. (Speaking of unsustainable)

Oh, and the Progressive "model" for Texas is slowly drying up and blowing away. (See: Public Employee Unions for more)

Then there's the whole hubris thing, coupled with politically calculated moral outrage....*sigh*

So, politically anyway, we're in a wasteland populated by those who view the average American as inferior and inept and....

An intellectually bankrupt GOP who's clinging to the parts of the Reagan plan they like (tax cuts, small Government) while rejecting the parts they don't like (Amnesty for illegal immigrants) is only a partial solution to the mess.

There are signs of hope however, Rep. Paul Ryan's Blueprint thingy has some serious policy provisions inside, and Americans seem to have finally had enough of the spending. That's something at least.

As tonight's SOTU address approaches I wouldn't advise playing a drinking game centered around the words "middle class" or "bipartisanship", your liver will defect within the first 15 minutes

Speaking of the SOTU, It appears that most people will watch it on FOXNews. (Another fact that spawns fits of rage amongst the InterLeft set FWIW)

The Bill White er..Texas Tribune on Charter schools and the problems they're having retaining teachers.

And finally....

Never before has a candidate polling at 12% been so hailed. (Could it be that she's the only Republican candidate Bill White has a chance of beating?) In the words of a long-time blogger.....stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Noise Machine (01/26/10)

SOTU Eve.....

Let's talk about sex bay-bee. (Just maybe not to a bunch of 10yr olds OK?) *yuck*

Sheriff Garcia wants a SWAT team. What's this, a para-military County Police force? (What's he doing, angling for the Republican vote?)

The University of Texas-Austin is planning tuition hikes. In non-related news (we're told) Mack Brown is raking in $5MM per annum. (And, as ChronBlog has told us, their poor Regent isn't getting a raise.)

The way they were going I'm questioning whether there was a plan A.

A comedy in four acts:

We're gonna FREEZE that Federal Spending. (At least, that Federal spending on programs we don't like.)

The Sky is falling! (What will we do without massive federal funds?)

No! The sky is NOT falling! (Think of the finances of your children!)

Forget the children and their quality of life 50 years from now. The sky IS falling! (I know this because God told me. I'm a Reverend after all.)

The end....

If a State of the Union Speech is given in the woods...and no one is around to hear spending cuts really get implemented? (Political theatre is the best theatre FWIW)


Taking the romance out of olive oil. (So you really want to be a farmer?)

Increased transparency in Government is a bi-partisan issue. (Except when it's not)

And finally.....

I sure am glad the old campaign finance laws (struck down by the SCOTUS) eradicated corporate money from politics. Oh....wait.

Monday, January 25, 2010

If only they offered podcasts or video streaming to the public....

their interviews might be relevant again.

(Peggy Fikac, Texas Politics, 01/25/2010)
Gov. Rick Perry won't be meeting with newspaper editorial boards as they decide which candidate to endorse, campaign spokesman Mark Miner said today.

Miner said that Perry still wants coverage, of course, and "we want to work with the media" but he doesn't want to spend the time on editorial board meetings.

"They can still endorse us if they want," Miner said. "A better use of the governor's time is speaking around the state, talking about issues that matter to people. If you have an opportunity to talk directly to people around the state or sit in a board room for two hours, we're choosing to travel around the state and talk about issues."

Kevin Whited has long suggested that the CCTT consider streaming these insider board meetings to the public, thus increasing their value to politicians and making it worth the public's time as well. For a blueprint, see the fine candidate interviews completed by Democratic/Progressive blogger Charles Kuffner.

As the amount of information available increases in everyday life the idea of editorial writers and newspaper editors acting as some sort of news filter to protect the general public from themselves is laughable. The end result is the obsolescence of old media traditions such as candidate/editorial board closed-door meetings.

Open it up and let the customer decide.

Glutton for Punishment

Back in March of 2009 I disclosed the fact that, for the first time in 12 years, I would not have a subscription to the local newspaper. This was a decision that was reached despite my long-term subscription to the Houston Chronicle.

Unlike many, my reasons for cancelling my subscription weren't ideological. In short, I could give a damn whether ChronBlog has a liberal, conservative or anarchy bias, as long as I understand it and apply the correct filter to their news. Yes, ChronBlog has never met a government solution in search of a problem that they don't like, or a tax that they felt shouldn't be collected, and yes, they're too close to Metro and the political machine that they cover, but the biggest reason that I stopped subscribing was because the value-add that their reporting provided was growing less and less every day. The Monday & Tuesday print editions are fairly worthless and, aside from the Sunday edition, I found myself taking the newspaper straight out of the bag and putting it directly in the recycle bin.

Not that I wasn't reading ChronBlog, I was. As my blog(s) changed in style I came to rely on ChronBlog content more and more. I've always said that, without newspapers, the political blogosphere would be a boring place populated by sock-puppets reciting news releases from their respective parties into the echo-chamber of a readership that either agrees, or is mocked viciously and angrily using some of the weakest arguments known to man. You want a primer on logical fallacies? Get thee to the comments thread of a blog.

I went along without a paper edition of ChronBlog for 10-months, and then my wife reminded me what we were missing: coupons. My wife is a dedicated coupon-cutter, she can save around 10-15% of our total grocery bill buying with them, and she ended up buying the early Sunday edition on her Saturday shopping trips more often than not.

Here's where ChronBlog came through. Their Wed-Sun home delivery with the ability to get the e-edition of Mon-Tues was just what I was looking for. Not only do I now get the Sunday edition for the coupons (and, to be honest, I enjoy reading through the paper on Sunday morning) but I also get the Taste section and the food reviews on Wednesday and Thursday. Since I do most of my news-reading on line, this is a perfect set-up for me.

So I find myself, once again, a member of the ChronBlog subscription base. A paying customer. My 10 month experiment with no daily newspaper has come to an end. In summary, here are the results....

- My life was actually OK without a daily newspaper to read. At first I thought I'd miss sitting down with something tactile to skim through, but I found that getting my news online was a workable substitute.

- The death-blow to the industry could be the day someone figures out how to reliably deliver coupons in some other form than the Sunday paper. I've spoken with several people who say that this is the main reason they still get the paper at all.

- I did miss sitting down and reading the food sections, especially the restaurant critiques by Houston's lone, remaining professional food critic. Granted, you would be advised to wait before trying the recipes but they do provide a good guide post for Internet searches of the same.

- Oddly, the section that I found suffered the most online were the comics. Text stories on-line were just as good as text stories in the hard-copy medium, but there was something about the comics page that just wasn't the same.

- I find myself reading more of the hard copy paper than online. Maybe this is because the ChronBlog website doesn't encourage drilling down past the front page? All I know is, when reading the physical paper I'm more likely to look at the work of the Metro columnist and the ChronBlog Caucasian Think Tank. In the online version I could go weeks without reading either. (or I'd have to remind myself to check up on them for the linkpost.)

- This is going to sound like a joke but it's not. One thing that not having a physical newspaper effects is the availability of kindling for grilling. I don't mean that rude, it's just fact. Newspaper stock makes for a great fire-starter.

Oh yeah, to the FCC, I have received nothing in compensation for this blog post.

The Noise Machine (01/25/2010)

Who Dat? etc. etc....

Welcome to Chrysler-land Fiat.

When crisis strikes: Change the window dressing. (Call it, Modern Political Leadership Theory 101)

Political truism: When polls are trending negative the gut-shot reaction is to announce "help for the middle class". (Call it, Modern Political Leadership Theory 201)

I don't know about you, but I'm still waiting for the "dippin' dots" green economy of the future to replace the jobs that are about to be lost.

Are For-profit colleges the wave of the future? (Not unless the perception of their degrees in the corporate world improve substantially.)

Saving wetlands is always a good idea. (There are perhaps no ecosystems more vital to environmental health than marshes and wetlands.)

Here come the wave of fitness center lawsuits. (Death, taxes and trial lawyers trying to make a buck.)

An interesting look at Texas CAN academy. (Write-off the car AND the kid?)

What a mess. (With all of the oil traffic in the Houston Ship Channel, it's amazing this doesn't happen more often.)

Foreclosures on the upswing in Houston. As the current administration seeks to cripple Houston's two largest industries (health care and energy) expect this trend to continue to rise.

Should we read anything into the ChronBlog Caucasian Think-Tank's recent fixation on Houstonians' eating habits? That's two editorials against processed foods in two days.** Preparing for a second career in nutrition perhaps? (After the eventual shuttering of the ChronBlog that is.)

Two sides of the Metro Universities line land takings: 1. From the Pro-Metro crowd and 2. From the Anti-Metro crowd. You are all free to choose the argument that best suits your political leanings.

What's the statute of limitations on blaming your predecessor? In the corporate world you have somewhere around a six-month window. In politics, where (honestly) taking the blame for screw-ups is unheard of it could be unlimited. (Whether or not the populace believes you (not including the unquestioning left fringe) is another story. We already know the unquestioning right fringe never believed you in the first place.)

Cutting the Federal Budget without addressing entitlements is akin to trying to lose weight without changing your eating habits. It ain't gonna' work. That being said, the populace has, seemingly, had enough of the run-away spending. Of course, this being politics, the pundits think this is a good time to increase the agenda and spend more.

The problem with today's journalists? They're too close to the people they cover. (See: The "super-secret" journo/movers & lefty shakers meetings that none shall mention**.)

Medina is turning out to be a progressives late Christmas present. A Republican with no chance to win but who could force Perry into a run-off. (Thus keeping his campaign machine turned away from Bill White.)

And finally.....

Republicans on the Interwebs (WARNING! It ain't pretty.)

*All joking aside, the advice they are giving regarding diets is fairly accurate. So there's that.

**Unless they want to let everyone know that they are a lefty mover & shaker that is, then....they let it slip. (from time to time)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The end of a money grab...

...fittingly, with a whimper

(Mary Flood, 01/23/2010)
Houston this week lost its bid to collect millions of dollars in hotel occupancy taxes from online travel sites.
Houston, like other cities around the country, sued Expedia,, Orbitz, Travelocity and other online booking companies, saying the city wasn't getting the full amount of taxes for each Houston hotel room booked.
Houston alleged that the companies violated its hotel occupancy tax ordinance and sought millions of dollars. The city argued that online bookers should pay taxes on what the customer paid.
But the online services argued that taxes should only be paid on their wholesale cost for the hotel room and the city had no right to tax the online service fees or the room markup.
Harris County Civil District Judge Brent Gamble this week tossed the case out of court based on arguments from the online services that include that they aren't hotels and their fees should not be subject to hotel taxes.

Of course, there will be appeals and (since no bad political idea ever truly goes away) eventually a new lawsuit worded differently or with a different tax basis used to try and extract more money from the hotel/motel sector in order to pay for the increasingly unworkable debt load on our shiny new stadiums and city owned hotels.

Desperate times and all of that.

The Noise Machine (01/24/10)

And I in my cap, settled in for a long day of football....

Anne Linehan of BlogHouston points out two new Metro absurdities rightly calling the local agency a 'cesspool'. (The argument for Metro is, well, that they're about the same as TxDot when it comes to cost overruns. This is made by the same folks who constantly say (rightly) that TxDot is a mess.)

Also from Ms. Linehan is an update of the controversial "F-2" segment of the Grand Parkway. If ever there was a road that didn't need to be built....

Rest in Peace Robert Mosbacher.

Feminist economics, yup you read that right.

Hutchison's abortion problem. Or, why she's got no chance of winning the Republican Gubernatorial primary.

Fontaine resigns from Metro, takes position with Metro. Good luck with that....

Translation: The voters are too stupid to make the necessary decisions inherent in a Democracy. (I wonder if they'd also be open to limiting the spending of unions and trial lawyers? Nah...

Guerrilla politics, courtesy of Debra Medina. (Given her lack of money this could be her best tactic.) It won't help her much methinks, but it's probably the best thing she's got.

Bill King is still out there sounding the pension obligation alarm that our elected officials are failing to hear.

Out-going Metro Chairman David Wolff however, wants to worsen Houston's already precarious financial standing by recouping $1.6 Billion in sales tax funds in order to prop up Metro's shaky financial situation. (Caused, for the most part, by Metro's insistence on building a faulty at-grade rail system.)

When I agree with the ChronBlog Caucasian Think-Tank. Where they miss the boat however, is in their failure to address the cost of such a diet. Organic food is expensive. The reason the poor eat so poorly is because, in many cases, they can't afford food from the farmer's markets that the cultural elite are holding up as an ideal.

Slampo provides some historical perspective to the Republican Gubernatorial primary. (and illustrates both why Hutchison can't win, and what's wrong with the modern-day Republican party.)


Your weekly dose of Clarkson (Because, if Houston can't have a good Metro columnist we'll have to ape the work of others.)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Noise Machine (01/23/10)

Got a belly full of breakfast pastries.....

Odd story on the heels of yesterday's news that the unemployment rate has risen is it not?

The best thing about this article on political endorsements? No sign of either Bob Stein or Dr. Richard Murray.

Translated: The American citizen is too dumb to make the proper choices.

Translation: WAaaaah!

In contrast: A more rational disagreement.

FWIW I have no problem with people who are in disagreement with this decision because they believe the majority erred on their interpretation of the Constitution. Where I take issue is with the 'democracy if falling' dimwits who haven't been paying attention to the damages done to our democratic freedoms because they've been pushed forward by their chosen party. And, yes. I'm referring to you as well Republicans (Patriot Act, warrentless wire-tapping etc.)

The odd, twisted logic of Rick Perry. (I see no problem with metal detectors at the State Capitol. As a matter of fact, I'm surprised they weren't there already; politics attracting odd-balls to it like moths to a flame.)

Give this to Metro Chairman David Wolff, He's consistent. He may not be transparent, competent, or humble (it's obvious listening to him that he holds Houston's public in poor regard) but he's consistent and that's something.

Medina is a media darling. At least, for ChronBlog, which makes sense when you think about it, them being in the tank for Bill White. (Medina being the only Republicans White leads in the polls.)

Your Republican candidates for Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector. - My early feeling is that this race is a prime candidate for another Democratic County-wide win. (Of course, I've been wrong before)

And finally....

You've seen my thoughts on Texas campaign fund-raising, Here's the Democratic perspective. If I can find a Republican perspective I'll link to that as well.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Two views on the American citizen.

In the wake of yesterday's SCOTUS ruling against McCain/Feingold...

1.) The American public is smart enough to make the decisions necessary in a democracy (The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board 1/22/2010):
In last year's oral argument for Citizen's United, the Court got a preview of how far a ban on corporate-funded speech could reach. Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart explained that, under McCain-Feingold, the government had the authority to "prohibit the publication" of corporate-funded books that called for the election or defeat of a candidate.

2.) The American public is too stupid to be entrusted to make the decisions necessary in a democracy (Desperado, Something different, Chron.commons 1/22/2010):
“Under today’s decision, insurance companies, banks, drug companies, energy companies and the like will be free to each spend $5 million, $10 million or more of corporate funds to elect or defeat a federal candidate — and with that power, influence the candidate on issues of economic importance to the companies.”

What those who wish to censor political speech with which they disagree fail to point out is that they judge themselves smart enough to make those decisions. The 'idiot' part is just reserved for anyone who views the world from a different perspective than they.

The Noise Machine (01/22/10)

Yeah, I slept in on a day

Houston's unemployment rate is no longer beating the State's. - That's bad news for Houston workers. (Less importantly, it's bad news for Houston boosters who've been sticking their heads in the sand.)

In related news: Oilfield services companies are seeing profits nosedive. Think there's a connection?
(Still believe that predatory taxes on the oil & gas industry are good for the economy?)

Inflation and other cost increases may rise by $130MM, Metro offers Parsons a $100MM up front hedge in the proposed revised contract. (And David Wilson wants us to believe that this puts Parsons on the hook for 98% of future price increases? **Maybe he doesn't understand what an up-front hedge is?**

Conversely, Here's Metro establishing a transportation solution that goes where the people are. Which one makes more sense?

Today's global warming sermon brought to you by the Al Gore and his Investors. (If they can't predict the number of hurricanes, why should we believe this statement of faith?)

A new business radio program is most welcome. (Very welcome when you consider the investor show on KSEV has become nothing more than an evening politics show.)

Eversole may not have an opponent, but he's sure spending campaign money as if he does.

Charles Kuffner on the politics of Health Care and how winning elections is more important than reform.

In the end, Air America went out with a whimper, much like how it started.

Did the Tea Party drive Brown's victory?

Trying to find an answer to corporate money...Why not just campaign on the evils of corporate money? Hey, you can use the unlimited lawyer and union money you receive. (Same influence peddling, different names on the checks)

And finally.....

The media in Texas sure is concerned about University Chancellors not getting a raise. To bad they don't have the same level of concern for University students who are facing sky-rocketing tuition increases. (Of course, student's aren't invited to the expensive dinner-parties & semi-private 'insider round-tables' that journos like so much either, so that could have something to do with it.)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

People get paid to write this stuff?

From the recycling bin.....

ChronBlog Caucasian Think-Tank Jan 14, 2010:
A national curriculum, they say, wouldn't be much different from what Texas already teaches. Fourth-grade math is fourth-grade math, and who cares if a national test replaces the TAKS? Besides, even if Texas adopts a national curriculum, the state would remain free to require our kids to learn extra stuff — whether that's an entire seventh-grade class about Texas history or a single third-grade PE lesson on the Cotton-Eyed Joe.

ChronBlog Caucasian Think-Tank from today's print edition: (strangely, not online):
But no. Gov. Perry used the competition as a new excuse for states'-rights grandstanding, saying that the program was a federal attempt to wrest away "control of our school system." But what does that mean, really? Shouldn't fourth-grade math be the same in every state?

Of course, in the same editorial they channeled Larry the Cable Guy and actually printed "git-'er'-done" not once, but twice.

This is a prime example of why sub-par, emotional editorializing is not only bad for ChronBlog, it's bad for the Houston region as well. While I didn't like the idea of the State applying for grants at a macro level, I am open to the ideas of allowing individual school districts to do so. To me the increased level of local control allows for voters to hold their districts to a higher standard of accountability. Given the response of Republican governors to this plan Obama is smart to bypass them and appeal to local communities, and local voters. It'd be nice if this argument appeared in the Houston Chronicle, instead of a re-edited version of last week's drivel.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Let us Take a Walk

Semi-Interesting post on Prime Property, ChronBlog's very good real estate blog typically penned by Nancy Sarnoff, from Mike Snyder on downtown walkability that highlighted certain parts of downtown that were decidedly NOT walkable.

I use the term "semi" interesting because I feel that, quite often, the debate around walkability is being conducted on a 'false-choice' plain in a similar vein as transportation. On Twitter I asked Mr. Snyder if 100% walkability was even all that desirable? His response was the predictable "yes, if that's the only way you have to get around." It's not that I disagree that downtown should aspire to maximum levels of walkability it's just that I question whether 100% walkable is practical, or advisable?

Take this example: (fictional)**

Leading to the City of Houston Courthouse you have four major roads. Of those four roads, one main boulevard typically handles 75% of the automobile traffic heading to/from the courthouse. The downside to this is that the road in question is decidedly NOT pedestrian friendly and does not have much access to public transportation. It DOES however have immediate access to a parking garage.

Conversely, the remaining three streets heading up to the Courthouse have wide, well-shaded sidewalks, two streets have a rail component and the third has a major bus transportation stop located within 1/4 mile. Not only do circulator bus routes stop there but so do commuter bus routes that come in from different areas.

On all four roads there's ample capacity for automobile traffic, foot traffic and public transportation, and both the train and bus lines are designed in a way that the busy automobile thoroughfare is relatively unimpeded.

It sounds ideal, but not 100% walkable. It's also not conducive with our current transportation plan, or those who want to reduce the capacity of main auto-carrying roads, or expand sidewalks along those same roads thus eliminating lanes of traffic, in the name of transportation.

It's easy to understand the appeal of older cities that had wide sidewalks installed before the age of the car. It's also easy to wish that Houston had grown up to be that way. The harsh reality is that Houston didn't grow up that way, it grew up in the age of the car. The job then should be to work to keep our stellar car infrastructure in place (since, protestations to the contrary, that's still going to be the dominant mode of transportation for the foreseeable future) while working to expand mobility options in a multi-modal way. Not only would targeted development of this type make more sense, it'd be a better use of public resources in an age where funding is hard to come by.

When it comes to transportation issues I'm in mild agreement with those who insist that Houstonians will be willing to walk to their location. I say mild agreement because I disagree when it comes to distance. For walking in Houston to really be practical my guess would be that the terminus would have to be within a 1/4 mile of the drop off point. When the free downtown trolley stops were in place this was doable because they stopped every 1/2 mile. Metro could make this happen again by introducing a downtown circulator route with frequent stops, followed by one in Midtown, the Heights, the various wards etc. Then Houston could turn its attention to expanding sidewalks on "walkable" roads, ensuring that walkable options were available to almost anywhere you wanted to go.

Just leave the major thoroughfares alone, lest you get ran over by a fast-moving vehicle.

Somewhat Related

**Management apoligizes for the lack of pretty maps or the use of such idioms as "world-class" or "mixed-use" in this example. We would like to note that no one on the editorial staff owns a Mac nor are any of us twenty-something urban-planners. We did however manage to throw in "multi-modal" which is a positive, but not "plan" which is probably a negative.

The Noise Machine (01/20/10)

...and among the Republicans there was much rejoicing.

Imagine what they would have sung had he lost?

It's not like Art Briles is taking over...c'mon y'all.

My design suggestion would be to not build a thing.

How do you solve a problem like Medina?

The big question is: Are we really going to miss people like this if they DO boycott. (Don't let the door hit ya.)

As hard as it is for some to believe, there are people who are willing to accept slower response times in return for lower taxes. (Your willingness to live in the City is just as foreign to them)

Lose an election, burn the "rich" in effigy. (In their defense, the Democratic playbook is as thin and uncreative as the Republican playbook)

Nope, The Boston Globe doesn't get it. They REALLY don't get it. (Media temper tantrums are fun!)

It seems that some Democratic pols are getting it however. (Begrudgingly, but the specter of the unemployment line is a great sobering agent.)

An unlikely victory, in graphic form.

Texas Gubernatorial donations in graphic form. Guess where most of Bill White's money is coming from? (To be expected of course, and not necessarily a bad thing.)

As hard as this may be for some journos to grasp: Maybe Medina wants to win? Just sayin'.

And finally.....

Being a Texan is a state of mind....for Republicans & Independents mostly. Democrats are more likely to identify with their City. Which could partially explain why there are more Democrats blogging locally than Republicans. (And why 'Texan sucks' is such a popular refrain among Texas Dems.) Interesting data points.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mass. Senate Race: Snap Analysis

By now you've probably heard that Republican Scott Brown defeated Democrat Martha Coakley in the Massachusetts special election for U.S. Senate. Admittedly, I'm not an expert on the internal workings of Massachusetts politics, I'll leave that to others. What I do know a little bit about is incompetence. (Some would say that my blogs are proof of that.)

My contention that the only group more incompetent than National Republicans are National Democrats has proven true. Let's tally.

- Control of the Executive Branch.
- Control of the House of Representatives.
- (Brief) Super-majority control of the United States Senate.

Not since Jimmy Carter have the Democrats been in such a position of power. And not since Texas Republicans blew it in the Aughts has a party wasted such a strong majority. After the election of Al Franken you would have thought that policy priorities such as the expansion of Government into healthcare and severe restriction of the oil & gas industry would have been a given, but the Democratic leadership couldn't push the ball across the goal line.

You'll hear a lot in the coming days about "angry voters" and "change" but the real reason the Democrats are in trouble is plain old-fashioned arrogance. The same arrogance that led Karl Rove to declare a "permanent majority" and the same arrogance that led to Coakley (possibly the worst, serious, major party candidate for Senate ever.) deciding that "Kennedy's seat" was hers for the taking.

Now the US Government is looking down the barrel at gridlock, or moderation through true, bipartisan negotiation. A fact that should bring big smiles to the faces of America's moderate majority. Ironically, this event could end up helping Democrats in 2010 (provided they play their cards right, hardly a given). One thing the market likes is certainty. Now that some of the more onerous bills are close to being scrapped, it's possible that a small economic bump is on the way.

Granted, "we lost and things improved" isn't the best of campaign slogans but, heading into the mid-terms, it might be the best card the Democrats have left to play.**

**Unless you're a Texas Democrat or a member of the CCTT, who will probably spin this to somehow be a win for Bill White.**

The Noise Machine (01/19/10) see it's like this.....

After months of controversy, HFD Chief Boriskie is stepping down. So far details are sketchy but it almost sounds as if he's going to try and re-join the rank & file. (Which makes me curious, has any prior chief ever attempted a move such as this? If, that is, this is what he's considering.)

Originally I said no way. But if Brown defeats Coakley then you get what you paid for on this blog in terms of National political predictions.

Why does it matter? This Richard Dunham article does a pretty good job of laying out some reasons why. (Yes, it even matters to Texans, from a 'super majority' perspective.)

The Texas Tribune ran something similar to this story yesterday. Why ChronBlog felt the need to ape their content today (with very little value-add) is beyond me.

Question of the day: Is anger for political purposes really anger? (I vote no)

We all saw this coming: The President of a Texas University feels the solution to our education crisis is to put more students in Universities. (The definition of insanity and all that. How about not forcing square pegs into round holes? Ever thought of that?)

OK, so you were appointed by Perry to run the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Your term is up, and you get jobs advising people who you argued with continually while in office? Welcome to the revolving door of Texas politics. (Where the only "green" so-called green groups are pursuing is federal funding.)

TABC Chair Jose Cuevas (Real name, not kidding) either has an unlimited reservoir of chutzpah or is among the more politically tone-deaf public officials in Austin. You be the judge.

And finally.....

Word clouds! I found this interesting, your mileage may vary.

Monday, January 18, 2010

ChronBlog Update (01/18/10)

Keeping tabs on the Interwebs so you don't have to.....

It's OK, you can laugh. (Future member of the ChronBlog Caucasian Think Tank? Hmmm....)

Protesters = uneducated? Ummm..OK. (It would sure be nice if you could offer up some empirical evidence to bolster your case however...instead of "well, I think that way.") Welcome to the 2010 issues debate via ChronBlog.commons, where there's only one sensible option to take on many issues and that sensible option typically involves large increases in government expenditures. *sigh*

ChronBlog's Caucasian Think-Tank wants you to pay to build up Haiti. They also want you to unquestionably fund food stamps whether the recipients need them or not. Give them this: The Think-Tank is, at the least, consistent, except when there are political points to score on behalf of their former man that is...then....well, this Gov't spending thing has gone TOO FAR!

(Is it any wonder they're widely considered to be the worst big-city newspaper in America?)

Some quick thoughts on Campaign Finance reports

Evan over at Rick Perry vs. World has done all of the work..So, yes, I'm aping off of his material. Thanks Evan.

The numbers:
Rick Perry (R)
$7.1M raised
$4.7M expenditure
Cash on hand $11.6M

Kay Bailey Hutchison (R)
$6.1M raised
$6.4M exp
$12.3M COH

Debra Medina (R)
191k raised
164k exp

Bill White (D)
6.2M raised
151k exp
COH 5.5M

Farouk Shami (D)
57k raised
loans $3M
exp $3.1M
COH 6k

Lt Gov
David Dewhurst (R)
$2.8M raised
$2.2M exp
$1.7M COH (+1.1M in loan as I understand it)

Earle (D)
2k raised
exp 6k
COH 28k

Marc Katz (D)
7k raised
exp 6k
COH 9k

Chavez-Thompson (D)
no report

Attorney General
Greg Abbott (R)
1.2M raised
456k exp
$10.2M COH

Radnofsky (D)
$331k raised
157 exp
COH 388


1.) White's fundraising ability makes him a real player in the game. Despite that he's still sitting at roughly 1/2 of the COH held by Perry and Hutchison. It's probably worth mentioning that White (slightly) out-raised Hutchison this quarter, but I'm not sure how important that is in terms of the big picture.

2.) In the Lite Gov race, the performances of Earle, Katz and Chavez-Thompson are laughable. Either Democrats are entirely placing their hopes on the "coattail eftect" or they've already lost faith in all three candidates. At this pace Dewhurst has little to fear.

3.) Unfortunately, given the state of Texas politics, this election cycle won't put an end to Radnofsky's being viewed by some as a viable candidate for Statewide office, but it should. At least for now. If there's a poster child for the weak bench strength of Democrats at the State level it's Radnofsky.

The Noise Machine (01/18/10) *CORRECTED*

One......singular sensation...

You have to get a license to drive a car, own a handgun carry a concealed handgun*, own a dog, yet just about anyone can become a parent.

Texas Task Force One is still waiting. Which highlights the difficulty of an aid situation when you can't get aid to those who need it. (It's telling that the rescue efforts we're still seeing are just a bunch of ordinary citizens trying to tunnel in through collapsed buildings.)

Anyone else having trouble working up a can of concern for Texas' University presidents? Nah...I didn't think so.

The best news to come out of the formal announcement of Mayor Parker's staff is that local news outlets are still going to be able to omit the fact that quote-machine Bob Stein is married to the Mayor's agenda director when they go to him for evaluation of Parker's programs.

When times get worse, criminals get more desperate and are willing to take more risks. This should not come as a surprise. (To anyone paying attention that is) Taking one anecdotal example that's negative toward the police and using it as a basis to advocate for sweeping HPD changes? Well, if you're a long-time reader/observer of ChronBlog, that shouldn't surprise you too much either.**

Texas is poised to bounce-back from the economic recession first. Of course, that assumes the political climate stays constant...(and that the state's competitive advantage isn't given away, hardly a given.)

If I were advising Bill White, my advice would be to do as many of these fluff interviews as possible. No reason to muddy the waters with hard questions about City of Houston finances, The Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation, Galleria-area land-deals, etc. (There will be time enough for that once he gets past the primary.)

Of course, if Bill White runs out of friendly bloggers, ChronBlog is always available. (I'm at a loss to determine what type of value-add these fawning, syrupy features-style write ups add to a race, but ChronBlog sure seems infatuated with them. They read more like partisan blog posts than actual journalism.)

And finally.....

Your essential weekly Clarkson. Because we care.

*Thanks to commenter EdT for pointing out that, in Texas anyway, you don't need a license to own a handgun, only to carry a concealed one. Thanks Ed!
**I'm not suggesting that the report is wrong, or that it's right. What I DO know is that there's not enough evidence in this opening debate argument to tell if there's a trend of increased police force or no.

Friday, January 15, 2010

This is the time in Texas when we dance.

Rick Perry, Kay Bailey Hutchison and some gun-toting, federal government hating, political novice (Kidding: Debra Medina) got together and spent a lightly-moderated forty-five minutes taking shots, questioning records and carrying out a joint anti-federal government rally. As I've said before, bad media organizations live for spectacles like this, and the Almanac is no different dammit.

So without further ado:

The only things you need to know about the 2010 Gubernatorial GOP Primary debate (Part 1):

There are no winners here - OK, if you had to name a winner, that name would be Kay Bailey Hutchison. Yes, that win might be akin to winning "Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader?" but a win is a win is a win. At the minimum, she looked better than Perry and came off as more serious than Medina. All in all I thought, compared to the other candidates, it was a good showing for Hutchison. The question is: Did enough people watch the debate to really matter?

Line of the night. - It was a relatively weak night for comedy, but Debra Medina did manage to get in one line. Her "I have no plans to resign from the Senate" jab at Perry addressing a question to KBH that should have gone to her even elicited laughs from Perry. Not high comedy, but quick, against this crowd that's funny.

Unintentional comedy of the night - If you're not following the Farouk Shami campaign on Twitter you should be. If nothing else, the tweets of (I'm assuming) Vince Leibowitz pointing out Shami's dissimilarity to politicians by acting like a politician accusing Perry & Hutchison of playing politics.

Bad make-up job - Was it me, or did Rick Perry look a little bit like a kewpie doll wearing a bad toupee with that grin and constant head-bob? If anything, this debate provided a stark illustration of the issues Perry is going to have. Namely, his record is uneven at best, problematic at worst. His employment argument was the weakest moment of the night.

Moderation by default - This was possibly the worst moderated debate in the history of ever. Not only were the candidates frequently allowed to run overtime, there was also very, very little control. At times it felt more like a barroom political discussion than it did a debate.

Who makes up these questions? - OK, granted, the Austin American-Statesman asking about Roe v. Wade was a given (it also led to KBH's worst moment) as were the questions about taxation etc. But what in the world were people thinking letting a Johns Hopkins University graduate ask an obscure question about the Advance Directives act? Not that this act isn't controversial or important, but you sort of got the impression that the question was thrown in to make the candidates look bad. It worked. (As the Texas Tribune helpfully editorialized in their daily brief)

From here? So far I haven't seen any news on a Democratic debate (If I'm incorrect someone please correct in the comments) which probably makes sense for them since Bill White is the overwhelming favorite and there's no reason to put him in a position to make a misstep. The next Republican debate is going to be a Belo-ran affair that will be held Jan. 29th. At this point, only Rick Perry and Kay Bailey are invited, with Medina again fighting for inclusion.

What's not being said by pundits is this: Broadcast on PBS this debate probably counted among its viewership a maximum of 5% of all Texans. Within that 5% my guess is that at least 95% have already made up their minds about whom they are voting. Nothing that happens in these debates are going to matter. Rick Perry supporters thought Perry won, KBH supporters say Kay was the winner, Debra Medina supporters thought she nailed it, and Democrats & the media will claim Bill White to be the winner. The remaining 95% of Texans were watching American Idol and could care less.

The Almanac spectrum:

Kay Bailey Hutchison > Farouk Shami > Bill White > Rick Perry >Debra Medina

The Noise Machine (01/15/10)

Today Rick will perform for you......

Call this Terry Grier vs. the teacher's unions. I've often thought that any new HISD Super needs to come in and immediately stare down Gayle Fallon & Co. It's called institutional control, too many HISD chiefs haven't had it.

HFD Chief Boriskie gets a scolding but who can tell with the calendar shot that ChronBlog has chosen to accompany the story? (Whew!)

Green takes over, sheds staff. This could be "removing one level of management" as he calls it, or it could be clearing out salary for cronies. As is usually the case, the final determinant will be in the quality of staff he hires to fill the audit positions. Right now the two top slots in the office are filled with individuals possessing no audit or accounting experience. (Of course, the biggest lie in politics is that the controller, or comptroller, is a financial position. It's a political position that ostensibly serves an accounting role.)

The County faces a criminal lab funding dilemma. What to do, what to do? (Publicly the main goal is accurate forensics, privately we all know that the job of the crime labs are to not flub up to the point that elected officials get cameras jammed in their faces. {See: Crime Lab, HPD for more})

ChronBlog Caucasian Think-Tank logic: Standardized testing is bad, except when it's good which typically dovetails with accepting federal funds that would force large future increases in spending if accepted. Oh, and if we can ding Gov. Perry that's cool as well. (At least they didn't lecture us on how bad this is going to hurt minority students. Baby steps)

Meet the candidates for Governor you don't know...and won't see much more of, after reading this story. (The irony is that most of these people got in the race to "prove" something about the common man & politics. What they proved is that the common man has no chance of winning a political race in today's pay-to-play two-party system.)

And finally.....

Joel Kotkin on the decidedly non-populist views of today's neo-liberals progressives. Specifically the Democratic Party but also the Greens. (After all, when you view yourself to be the smartest people in the room the only thing left to do is save the mouth-breathers from themselves. Drills a gaping hole in the 'friend to the working man' argument, but who can concern themselves with that when there's a proletariat to save?)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Does one sign a Satanic pact with cow's or sheep's blood?

Of course, there's no historical evidence of this pact, no 50% off discount coupon, no contract signed on virgin human skin no nothing. What we have is a terrible natural disaster and a Prosperity Gospel adherent with an extensive history when it comes to making ridiculous statements.

There have been many responses to this, although none of them raise much above the level of calling Robertson some names and telling us why their faith is right and his wrong. I guess that's OK, if you're into that sort of thing.

My argument would be to go back to history, and see if there's evidence of said pact. Since there's not, we can all conclude that Robertson is just rambling on again and get on with the business of helping out those in need.

Don't let yourself get distracted by those looking to score a political point or two in order to better their own side through tragedy. Much like giving to political campaigns instead of charity, that's just a waste of resources. Focus instead on charitable giving to those in need.

The Noise Machine (01/14/10)

I say yes, you say no...that's the way it goes....

Woo Hoo! More taxes on the other guy!!!

During downtimes, people typically go back to the cheaper alternative. Aesthetics and 'cool factor' be damned. (The predicted death of the PC could is premature methinks.)

Hey ChronBlog, Welcome to last week. (Not "news")

A bag! A bag! My hard-on-the-poor-touchy-feely program for a bag!

Some closure to a Houston tragedy.

This is why we can't have anything funny in America any more.

Skilled, robust and experienced....and that was just the 'welcome' buffet. (After the event sunshine was blown up attendant's asses and 'optimism' was said to abound.) Tragically, that went unreported.

Hello ChronBlog Austin Bureau, welcome to last week. Big Jolly's been all over this one

Yes we Can!
No you Can't!

Proof positive that the media never wastes the opportunity to expose a mighty disconnect. (I'm so glad they're here to tell us these things.)

A modest proposal (Can't wait to see the campaign signs for this one.)

Texas Watchdog gets some results. (Results that, given the nature of politics, will be pooh-poohed, thrown down a sinkhole, forgotten, and then burned. Thus proving that there was something to this despite protestations of partisans to the contrary.)

Someone finally questions the taxpayer subsidizing of those silly boats in that man-made creek in Teh Woodlands.

Perry says no! Abby Rappaport editorializes that it's bad. (Continuing an early Texas Tribune theme. Political decision is made, Texas Tribune editorializes about it in their 'news' coverage.)

Get ready for all debate all the time coverage today from the State's various news outlets. Mediocre and below-average news outlets LOVE debates, it provides for easy fodder. In reality most political observers know that today's debates are scripted to the point of being more not-news than news. (The things to look for are "my candidate won" summations that don't provide any reason WHY said candidate won {other than the fact the blogger has endorsed that candidate} and opposition party-bloggers and commenters calling the Candidates (and their supporters) "loosers". I'm thinking about leveraging the latter into some kind of on-line drinking game. Possibly through Twitter.**)

and finally.....

"Fact-checking" (in reality political opinion) brought to it's lowest low hits Texas. I don't expect much, and neither should you.

**Who's with me? If you find a "looser" out there in the blogosphere, provide a link on Twitter and everyone has to drink one. If you find a "looser" coupled with another misspelled put-down, then everyone has to drink two.**

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I don't make 'em up....

I just talks about 'em.....

Typical "Oh My GAWD!!!!!" story in ChronBlog today about the SBOE's impending changes to history and social studies curriculum.

Depending on where you sit on the ideological fence this means that we're either one step removed from suddenly morphing into a state of mouth-breathing illiterates or we're drawing closer to the ultimate realization of God's kingdom on earth....well, except for the humidity, hurricanes, new urban/social control bureaucrats, budget get the drift.

The point is that this is typically the time when those who fancy themselves smarter (or holier) than us typically was philosophical in the comments section. Take these Mensa candidates for example:
Commenter DDH:
Religious or non-religious - to think that religion needs to play ANY part of public eductation is ignorant an assinine at best. The only place it belongs in public school teaching might be learning what basics beliefs and religious history is in a history course or perhaps social studies. Beyond that, there is no room for it except in the minds of the mindless sheeple.

Commenter georgex:
I doubt that this pious broad members will point out that Thomas Jefferson was very critical of organized religion preferring to idea that ones relationship with God was between himself and God and not the business of others.

My favorite:
Commenter sharpdressedman:
By all means separate church and churches
I'll leave it to you to determine how the act of taxation constitutes 'separation'.

Commenter Bonnie 75:
i say if you dont like it leave, bye no one will miss you!!!!! ive had enough of people saying what we can or cannot do on school property. if someone feels like praying then pray without getting in trouble. so to all of you winers outhere get over it. I am so over political correctness i say what i want and mean what i say i dont care whose feelings i hurt. oh and as for the private school comment what about the people who cant afford it. is it religion be damned too bad your poor.

Regardless of one's stand on the presence of religion in public education, I think we can all agree that, while not especially productive, the debate from the fiery fringes is, at the least, entertaining.

The Noise Machine (01/13/10)

Now with 30% less noise.....

Internet free China. Not as catchy as Radio Free London is it?

Haiti in crisis. If you saw the chart of the main earthquake and the aftershocks yesterday it was stunning.

Suburbs, Tacos & the changing demographics of formerly Caucasian areas. It'd be interesting to see where these Latinos are coming from. Are they new immigrants or are they transplants fleeing the Utopian bliss of new urban cities. (Cities where, it should be noted, residences are getting more and more difficult to afford.)

Today's Healthcare moment. Bringing an end to the idea that "free" or "cheap" healthcare is going to somehow reduce costs. (And shooting big holes in the argument for the current reform bill.)

As has been his pattern, Gov. Perry is going to reject a one-time infusion of Federal cash that brings with it a large increase in unfunded mandates going forward. That won't be popular with those who would have us be more like California, but it's probably prudent. (Although I am not a big fan of Mssr. Perry I find myself in agreement with him on fiscal issues such as this.)

Is it me? Or is Houston Tomorrow president David Crossley just recycling the same editorial over and over with a different header? There's never any detail, no mention of cost, whether the City can afford it, or what is going to happen to property values should these 'plans' be enacted? (Hint: if you're poor, tough) Is having one, personal freedom draining idea (Granted, a HUGE personal freedom draining idea) all it takes these days to be a Houston Bright? Sad.

Can you hear me now? (Apparently not)

Let the character assassination of Farouk Shami begin. At least we know which blogs Casey is reading.

The case for Solar over coal made with one glaring omission. (Hint: What do we do when the sun doesn't shine?)


Loren Steffy, still missing the boat. At least some things stay the same in this crazy world.

Sports Section