Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Sounds like the Big New Apple iPad is a big iPhone* that doesn't make calls and is going to function much like an Apple Netbook.

How much you wanna bet those that dislike netbooks declare it the "next big tech thing?"

*Apple's smart because they understand that their products are more accessories than actual productivity enhancers. Style crack for the young and easily impressed if you will. Because of this the iPad won't be a loss leader, will sell well, but probably won't have the impact (outside of the fanboi community that is) that the 'experts' are predicting. That said I don't think it will lose money for them either.

Why KBH staying is GOOD news for Texas Democrats

Coming as no surprise to anyone, KBH is staying put until at least the end of her term in 2012.

Republicans, some of whom are feigning happiness, should understand that this could work against them in several ways:

1. Obama's not that popular in Texas right now. And neither are National Democrats. Understandably these are heady times for the former progressive set but, in Texas anyway, things are not looking rosy. It's far more likely that a special election in the near future would trend toward the pachyderms than it would the donkeys. Having a Republican elected two years before the term is up would give the winner....

2. ...the power of the incumbency. Despite protestations to the contrary a sizable portion of voters make some decisions based on name ID alone. I still maintain that there is no way KBH survives another Republican primary should she run again. Her image as the Grand Dame of Texas politics withered under the glare of Rick Perry's hair spray. Even if she does run again, she's damaged goods now. Not only will she have to overcome the punishing attacks from the Perry camp, but she's have to fight.....

3. ...the power of the straight-ticket vote. Current popularity drop aside, two years is an eternity in politics. Plenty of time remains for Obama to direct legislation at enough special interest groups to win their support in 2012. He's also still very popular with two key Presidential voting blocs: African-Americans and the Youth vote. Both probably won't be there, in significantly increased amounts, in 2010 but in 2012, when Obama is back on the ballot, expect there to be a VERY strong push to have him re-elected in 2012. A big part of that push will be straight-party ballots.

Granted, there's always a chance that the Obama administration could go down in flames, that the attempted jobs-killing dog-pile of healthcare reform, immigration reform and climate change legislation could paint a scenario where the maximum amount of votes ANY Democrat could get in Texas hovers somewhere around 20%. The Hispanic/Latino voting blocs are hardly as monolithic as are the African-Americans. It's possible that Republicans could lose the anti-immigrant rhetoric and take strides to woo minority (and majority) groups with whom they have many shared values. For my purposes I'm going to assume that no major ideological shifts occur in either party between now and 2012.

When viewed from that angle, were I a Democrat, I'd be celebrating KBH's decision today with a sparkling wine. Were I a Republican I'd pray for the strongest candidate we've got in 2012. You're gonna need it.

Two thoughts on the Summit

One from local businessman (and Southampton resident) Robert Glaser in an opinion piece for the West University Examiner:

(Another option for Compaq Center, Robert Glaser, West University Examiner, 03/30/2010)
The city has an asset that has a current present value of about $35 million (Information taken from a published article referring to the Harris County Appraisal District’s appraisal of the property — this value can even be argued as being low).

Because the city is offering to sell the property, and because it was originally obtained as a “gift” to the city from an earlier developer, there is no debt associated with this property — the land and improvements are owned “free and clear” by the city.

Based on these facts, plus the fact that the city is in a unique position to access municipal credit markets, it makes sense that the city of Houston can go to these markets to create and sell an instrument that allows the city to “cash out” a portion of the equity of this asset.

Assuming that the property does not appreciate at all from today until the end of the first lease period in 2031 (an almost unimaginable assumption), we can calculate a present value based on that future value ($35 million) and discount it by the market rate of a municipal zero coupon bond that would mature in 21 years. (I will use a conservative estimate for this type of issue — say 5 percent). The present value of that issue would be more than $12.56 million — that’s more than $5 million more than than the offer being discussed as a sales price.

And one from the CCTT:

(Let's make a deal: City should get out of the church landlord business, ChronBlog Caucasian Think-Tank, ChronBlog, 03/31/2010)
As Houston City Council considers a proposal by Mayor Annise Parker to sell the former Summit-Compaq Center to lessee Lakewood Church, there are a number of compelling arguments for making the $7.5 million deal.

The prime reason for unloading the seven-acre site of the former Greenway Plaza basketball arena on the Southwest Freeway is the city's stretched finances, which include an $11.9 million shortfall in the current budget and a projected gap nearly 10 times that in the coming year. Without the sale, the city will be forced to cut already stretched services. It would receive nothing from Lakewood, which paid more than $11.8 million up-front on the current 30-year lease through 2034. After that the tenant, which has spent more than $90 million to renovate the building as a church and social center, has an option to lease the property for another three decades. Having put that kind of money into reshaping the facility, it's likely to exercise the option.

City director of real estate Bob Christy calls the proposal a fair deal “given that this property is tied up and off the books for many, many years to come.” Mayor Parker argues that the sale will “put money in the city's coffers today rather than waiting 23 more years.”
That neither of these ideas are very appealing underscores the terrible bit of deal-making that was the original lease, written by then-Mayor Lee P. Brown.

If anything this is an object lesson that elections matter, and quite often you pay for them years after the bad politicians have exited the political stage.

FWIW: Sold! To the shuckster in the $2,000 suit for $7.5 Million.

Tight times at HISD

Steve Mark of the West University Examiner offers this overview of the HISD financial picture.

(HISD could face $25m shortfall, more cuts, Grier says, Steve Mark, West University Examiner, 03/30/2010)
The current HISD budget is $1.6 billion. Between lessened revenue from the state, rising health insurance costs, an expected increase in water rates from the city of Houston, among other factors, Grier thinks the district could see a $25 million shortfall.
The result of this revenue shortage is, in the short-term, going to be about labor arbitrage and cost-cutting. Both of these policies are sure to spark off another round of arguing with Houston Federation of Teachers chief Gayle Fallon. Hopefully one that involves more name-calling and public outbursts by Houston's most entertaining member of the Courtesan class royal attendents.*

*Let me change that word to remove anything remotely sexual from the post in deference to my more sensitive readers. The idea of a courtesan class, in political terms, is equivilent to the scores of Royal attendents that were ultimately responsible for the demise of most monarchies throughout history. Once the listing of royal sycophants reached a breaking point, so did the ruling legitimacy of the pontif. The Courtesans who survived were those that were smart enough to pledge fealty to the next monarchy, and thus went on with the sole goal of preserving their unearned piece of the public largesse. Today's equivilent is the rapidly growing public sector.

The Noise Machine (03/31/10)

Taking a wider view today....

Lawmakers hate competition. They typically do enough on their own to make Texas a laughingstock.

Oooooh! What's Kay gonna do? Hint: Who cares? There's no way she survives another Republican primary.

All of this sudden hand-wringing over the National Debt by editorial boards who backed almost all of the programs that created said debt is growing tiresome. (Almost as tiresome as the existence of editorial boards)

Example Two of the irrelevancy of the print media. Had they done their job reporting on health-care reform none of what's happening as a result of it would be a surprise. (Except maybe to Waxman, who's in an orbit of his own when it comes to the laughingstock thing seen above.)

If Texas sucks as bad as Progressives would have you believe...Then why are so many people still coming here?

Are "Public Sector Employees" the new "Red Menace"? One thing's for sure, the current leadership's job-growth policies seem focused on enlarging their ranks. (While simultaneously paring jobs from the private sector.)

And finally.....

If Houston had a real Metro columnist, or a real news media this guy would never have a chance of getting elected.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sidebar update (03/30/10)

The Chron news stories sidebar is now showing stories a month old.

That lady in Kansas City probably REALLY wishes she never messed with that salsa eh?

I like the real media.....

I just wish that ChronBlog actually had some of it.*

I'll let y'all hash it out regarding which ChronBlog columnist managed to bang out the worst dreck of the year. It's close between The angry bloggers sad attempt to justify his salary, and Li'l Red's presumptuous use of "The Great Recession". It's all just suck.

People who wonder what a town would be like without a real, civic-minded, watchdogging newspaper acting as a citizen-advocate need look no further than Houston. We're the petri dish.

*That being said I'm still not a fan of the Soap Box Derby Hill. I don't give a damn what party is supporting it's being built, or what projections of financial success Republican boosters non-skeptically accept.

Monday, March 29, 2010

It seems a little early for this....

I guess the Bill White er...Texas Tribune isn't taking any chances after the early returns for White haven't been as stellar as his supporters have hoped.

These "advice for" items never work out as planned. Remember John Spong's story for Texas Monthly offering advice to Rick Noriega? In that case the story made Noriega look like a control freak who had no clue of how to use his campaign assets, raise money, or develop a winning strategy against Cornyn. Now we have the media giving Bill White "advice". Advice that, if he has a campaign staff that's worth anything at all, he probably doesn't need.

These types of stories play well to the base, but to the undecided voter they make the candidate look clueless & ineffective. Still, a left-leaning Internet news-outlet getting opinions on "when to go negative against Perry" is as unavoidable as death and taxes. Smith is just following the same script he wrote while at Texas Monthly. One that did work for years I should add.*

*The key is how you define success. The Tribune has obviously decided to become a news outlet for Texas Dems much like the Guardian in England is a news outlet for the LibDems. This is actually not a bad model of journalism, far better than the fake 'non-biased' news that we've been spoon-fed.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Paving the road to hell....

...with the best of intentions.

(International Landmarks Darken Around World for 'Earth Hour', Michael Lipin, Voice of America, 03/28/10)
International landmarks went dark Saturday as lights were switched off in thousands of cities around the world for "Earth Hour," a global call for action on climate change.
Then they burned up twice as much energy ramping the power back up to normal levels.....

What they really want to do..... bring an end to what has traditionally driven their economy.

To do this their going to go out and look for a problem.

(New season means new rules for Central Texas tubers, Jennifer R. Lloyd, San Antonio Express-News, 3/28/10)
On March 8, council members approved 18 rules regarding water-recreation shuttle services, including the ban on their use of pickups as shuttles. Though in Texas it is legal for people 18 and older to ride in the back of a pickup, New Braunfels Mayor Bruce Boyer said the change addresses a potential safety issue for some revelers.
“People are tired. People may have, perhaps, lost their inhibitions to some extent,” Boyer said of tubers exiting the river. “We haven't had a lot of incidents with regard to this, but it really only takes one severe incident ... for it to become a huge problem.”
Got that? It could potentially be a problem but hasn't been yet. Therefore the obvious answer is to put an expensive level of regulation on companies that have traditionally been boosting the hell out of our economy.

I just hope the 1.5 Million people that visit New Braunfels annually don't decide to move their tack to the out of state river that my friends and I visit every year. It's crowded enough.

Such great performance....

...that you all lost your jobs?

Out-going Metro Chairman David Wolff puts lipstick on a pig but can't escape the fact that the current iteration of Metro is...well...still a pig*...

Others: BlogHouston

*The thing about spinning facts out of contact is can always say your statements were taken out of context right?

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Noise Machine (03/26/10)

Taking a broad view......

When breathless advocacy reporting runs smack into reality the result's aren't pretty. ChronBlog has been a staunch advocate for CenterPoint's overly expensive(by National averages) "Smart meter" plan. Never mind that there's little evidence the benefit is worth the cost. (Thus proving the proclivity of the simple to be drawn to anything with the word "smart" in front of it like moths to a eco-friendly flame.)

The Republican problem in arguing against student loan reforms is that they are not arguing to preserve open markets. What they're arguing for is continuing corporate subsidies. (Which is a large blind spot for most modern Republicans, whether they admit it or not.)

HISD students prepare to take more tests. At least, those in AP programs, whose ostensible purpose is to allow kids to earn College credits. (This is a move that should weed out those children who shouldn't be in those programs in the first place.)

Shocker! Government study finds government funding does a better job dealing with the homeless than does charity. (Could've knocked me over with a feather.) I'll still keep donating to charities however, until the Government shuts them all down.

Charles Kuffner provides a progressives perspective on the shrinking Republican structural advantage in Texas. I think he overstates the Democratic case by (admittedly, in some cases*) discounting any factors that weaken his argument but, overall, there can be little doubt that Texas is purpling.

Next will be Social Security Reform. Hint: The solution will be even more wealth redistribution, and it won't be pretty for the Middle Class, who are going to take a beating along the lines they've taken in the regulation of Health Insurance. (This makes sense to you if you understand how progressives view the American Middle Class.)

Today's moment of whoa. (Or: "Damn" take your pick)

In today's economy, it doesn't pay to be the wrong kind of business. (Companies that make stuff, are non-union, and aren't a part of the Dippin' Dots economy need not apply)

And finally.....

America gets ready to fall into the VAT. (Which will further burden the middle class, thus lowering the standard of living.)

*Of course, he's hyper-partisan so you would expect that, just as you'd expect hyper-partisan Republicans to pooh-pooh the recent gains. The truth is somewhere in the middle: Democrats are gaining, but not as fast as progressives would like.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Not a one...

Ostensibly, the idea behind a Board of Directors is to have a diverse group of independent thinkers whose competing thoughts hedge against the tendency of any sizable organization to group-think and to keep things from running off the rails into multiple cars, pedestrians and bu....Wait, wrong organization....sorry.

Except when polling for a majority on trivial matters, a unanimous board vote in the private sector is something seen with less frequency than a Democrat who understands the concept of the opportunity cost of deficits or a Republican who thinks the Government occasionally gets things right.

With this in mind, I present to you Exhibit "A" in the case of what's wrong with Government done "The Houston Way"....

(Harris County-Sports Authority gives green light to Dynamo East End stadium, Ford Gunter, Houston Business Journal, 03/25/2010 2:49pm CDT)
The Harris County-Houston Sports Authority unanimously approved moving forward with the East End stadium for the Houston Dynamo Thursday in a 10-0 vote.
With apologies to Lyndon Johnson "When 10 people in politics agree, one person is telling them what to think."

That's not to say the HCSA overseeing stadium construction is a bad thing, given their experience building stadiums with taxpayer money it's probably a pretty good idea. (Granted, you want to keep them far away from urban development around the stadiums AFTER the fact, something Houston just can't seem to get right.) A better idea would have been to abolish the HCSA a few years ago but, since they're still hanging around.....

But you grab any 10 people off the street and ask them whether or not they think the Dynamo Stadium is a good idea and I'll guarantee you at least one of them would say no.* This suggests that the board of directors for the HCSA is not as diverse as it would like to be. It also suggests that quasi-public organizations in Houston aren't giving the expenditure of Houston taxpayer dollars a real, old-fashioned double-scoop of due diligence.

I don't care what your political philosophy that last suggestion should scare the hell out of you.

*Conversely, if you asked 10 smart-growth proponents they would say it's a swell idea, 10 conservatives would probably all say it's a bad idea, 10 Dynamo fans, a good idea. The problem with that theory is that you're biasing your sample pool, just as the HCSA board has been biased.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Anger is a terrible thing.....

...on which to ground your political movement.

(Gas line severed at home of lawmaker's brother, AP via ChronBlog, 03/24/2010)
Authorities are investigating the severing of a gas line at the home of U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello's brother following the posting of his address online by Tea Party activists.

The activists are upset with the Virginia congressman's vote in favor of the health care reform.

Perriello's office confirmed that a line to a propane tank on a gas grill was cut at Bo Periello's Charlottesville home on Tuesday
Talk about your overblown headlines....

My theory is that one of the signs that are so common at Tea Party rallies railed about STEAKholders and it all cascaded downhill from there.

I've been told that my lack of participation at Tea Party events and overall indifference to their movement is evidence that I'm nothing more than a closet socialist who secretly has his lips attached to the hopium pipe and is pining for a grand new era of Gov't expansion. OK, I can live with least my BBQ grill is working.

Other than $32 Million....

...what is the difference between the downtown Dynamo Stadium and the Harris County Soapbox Derby Hill?

- Both are public expenditures serving relatively small portions of the populace (Stadium: Minor League Soccer Fans, Hill: Boy Scouts)

- Both are using tax monies during times of fiscal duress.

- Both are non-essential budget items that are being cost-justified with questionable claims regarding "tourism income".

Yet, Radack's Hill has been loudly mocked by the ChronBlog's Jr. Narcissist columnist while the (more expensive) Dynamo Stadium is being loudly praised by ChronBlog's Sr. San Antonio Metro columnist.

Other than the party affiliation of those championing the projects (and the price) I can't find much difference at all that would warrant such differing responses from such ideological purists.* (Or, more accurately, those who have no qualms selectively their outrage concerning corporate welfare based on party.)

*Of course the answer is that NEITHER project should have been green-lighted in the first place.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

ChronBlog reports!

The new police chief is from HPD ranks...we think.... I THINK they're talking about interim HPD chief McClellan, but I'm not sure. Congrats to the new Chief, whoever the hell he is.....

Ooops...looks like I got it wrong.... I guess it's McClelland. I (and others) could've SWORN there was no D. Give it up to Olson, he nailed it.

There's a deal for a new Dynamo Stadium (maybe)...

(Matthew Schwartz, ChronBlog: Houston Politics, 03/23/2010)
A proposed deal on a stadium for the Houston Dynamo is being unveiled in a City Council committee this morning, our City Hall and county writers are reporting this morning.

Details are sketchy, but it appears Harris County will join an East End tax increment reinvestment zone and contribute $10 million toward the stadium project, David Turkel, director of the county's Community Services Department, told reporter Chris Moran.

"I think we've reached a point in discussions where there is basic agreement on the different elements," Turkel told Moran.

The TIRZ, located just east of U.S. 59 downtown, would serve as the financing vehicle for the public portion of the stadium project.
I don't know about you but I'm glad those City Hall and county reporters were reporting in the morning. If they were there in the afternoon that would have been a fairly short story.

Our ChronBlog, accurate and timely way more often than the National Enquirer (This despite the fact they're about to have one less Pulitzer.)

The Noise Machine (03/23/2010)

All of this and no goodie bag?

BlogHouston invites you to compare and contrast Tom Kirkendall's examination of the problems at Metro with The ChronBlog Caucasian Think Tank's love letter to the agency. Does fawning praise or critical analysis best serve the public interest? (And which one would a good daily newspaper involve itself in more?)

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's off to court we (and other States) go....of course, that a majority of states are considering opposition to this bill won't stop the fringe on the InterLeft from categorizing Texas' AG as "out of the mainstream".

Yeah, urging the children to fight is not a good thing. You might get fired for that.

Metro's new board gets down to business and business is not so good. (At least all of those people sent to the hospital in the train/bus wrecks didn't have serious injuries eh?)

Settle down. No, seriously, settle down. Let's not go overboard here. I mean it, y'all gotta stop. This healthcare reaction is getting a wee bit out of hand. (Never trust anyone who makes a snap judgement of 'historic' when speaking about a piece of legislation that's passed, but failed to accomplish anything as of yet.) {See: Prize, Nobel, for more.}

The same thing I said about Democrats vs. Bush applies for the GOP vs. Obama: Anger is not a winning political strategy. There has to be substance behind the anger and, so far (except for Ryan and a few others) the GOP ideological well runneth dry. Plus, anger attracts idiots. Just sayin'.

Texas Watchdog provides an update on the moon-lighting lawyer of Harris County. (Hint: He's still pulling down a paycheck.) Yup, electing those Democrats worked wonders when it comes to putting an end to that evil Republican {Republican ONLY, if you believe the InterLeft} insider baseball. Yup.

Think the State budget is in bad shape now? Wait until the full cost of health insurance regulation kicks in. Then it's going to get really fun.

Soaking the poor? Or, at least, the institutions that provide the majority of healthcare to them. (Thank God we didn't listen to the nay-sayers and read the bill right? Starting over? Nope. SOMETHING had to be done! You know, for politics the children.)

How can we miss you if you won't go away? By a raise of hands....who REALLY thought she was going to leave?

And finally.....

Going all in for the Dippin' Dots economy. Reminds me of a sign: "Free Crabs(Power) tomorrow!"

Monday, March 22, 2010

Funny, I don't feel healthier?

So last night saw the passage of either the greatest, or worst, legislation in US history and reaction among the peanut gallery is......meh.

Not out there on the fringes mind you, the socialist progressive Left and the theocratic conservative Right are deep into the process of shoulder dislocation due to self-congratulatory back-patting or angry-at-something-but-we're-not-quite-sure-what fist shaking. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"* without, unfortunately, much meaningful change being contained in the actual bill.

Oh sure, there are some insurance mandates and medicare payment reductions, not too many people are going to be happy with those. Beyond that, however, the biggest immediate change that Americans are going to feel is a 10% tax for (get this) indoor tanning. That's right, the Democrats fired their shot and their shot is aimed....directly at tanning beds. Oh sure there's something in that bill hidden somewhere after John Conyers stopped reading it, which would be page 2, that might mention health-care co-ops and exchanges and all of that, most of which is scheduled to take place in 2014. For those keeping score there very well could be a different party in both Congress AND the White House by then. You don't think Republicans are going to sit back and let this public relations bonanza go by do you? Of course not.

What we're left with then is the promise of increased health-insurance regulation without actually enacting any reform. That's right, health-insurance regulation, which is what this entire mess was about from the git-go. The only people who believe this is about "reforming healthCARE don't understand the bigger picture....

The only way to reform healthCARE is to take a deep look out how our healthcare system operates. Changing from playing catch-up to getting ahead of the game with preventative medicine is unaddressed in this bill. Requiring medical doctors to have a working knowledge (although not a mastery) of nutrition would help, as would uncoupling the USDA from the big food. Little things like tax credits for gym memberships and ending farm subsidies which promote the growth of ethanol for fuel, returning our agricultural community's focus to foodstuffs, are beginnings. Demanding healthcare companies cover children on their parents insurance policy until the age of 26 is not. Neither are reducing Medicare payments by 10%, or setting up co-op exchanges etc. etc.**

For all of the promise and high-minded rhetoric dish out by Democrats and the gloom and doom, end of freedom rallies held by Republicans the final regulation bill feels a little bit like.....meh.

The good thing is this mess is easily fixable, as pointed out by the Brother's Judd:
While a reform requiring private health insurance -- and treating abortion as anathema -- would be a Pyrrhic victory for Democrats anyway, the best part of the proposed bill is how easy it is for a Republican majority to fix. All you need to do is add an HSA/catastrophic option and expand coverage to 100% of Americans.
We have until November to find out if Americans are going to be willing to give them that chance.

Until then we anxiously await the day that America decides to take a long, hard look at reforming HealthCARE. We're not holding our breath here at HCA.

*Why Charles Dickens of course
**All of these would be examples of increased regulation of the insurance industry, but NOT healthcare reform.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

School Food and Taxes....

Watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution* today (Before I was interrupted by a news update telling me that the medical insurance industry is now facing increased government involvement) I couldn't help but think back to the Cy-Fair school district property tax exemption roll-back that was in the news last year. These two ideas came up because I couldn't help but thinking that a much larger group of people would support rolling back the exemption were it tied to better food quality and preparation in our schools.

Say whatever you want about the American healthcare system, but it'd sure be a lot less stress on the system if we stopped using tax money to pay for processed shit that we then feed to our children. Paying a little bit more in taxes so that kids don't have to eat food that's provided by the lowest bidder.

*Speaking of the show. Watching this show I'm very depressed about the future of America observing the attitude of parents who could give a shit about the lack of quality their children are shoving down their gullets.

Big, Shocking Weekend Stories!!!!

Or not.....

1. Increased Government regulation of the medical insurance industry is going to pass. For many, this is going to be either cause for mass celebration or for wailing and gnashing of teeth. For me, it's more the signal that the 2010 November election season has officially started. IF this legislation fails and doesn't lower prices while adding to the deficit then the public will vote out those responsible and will vote in the opposite party to fix the mess. If it does work, then you can expect even more regulation (and an eventual government takeover of health insurance) to be in the offing. Either way expect it to be more sound than fury as the private sector will move faster than the government can legislate. (See: Credit Card reform for more.)

2. Mayor Parker has released her Metro Board appointees. The name creating the most buzz in the blogosphere is Christof Spieler, local blogger, member of the Citizen's Transportation Coalition and (most importantly) "Smart Growth" proponent. I would have liked to see Tory Gattis added to the board in order to bring a different perspective, but Parker's mandate is to get those LRT lines built and Tory would not have been a strong proponent of that. The interesting thing to see is whether or not this new board (and the new CEO they hire) will be anxious to continue putting social engineering above mobility needs and will continue to champion at-grade rail as a means to combat urban sprawl.

3. Another Heights arson this weekend. Officials hoped that the arrest in September, and conviction in February of a 30 year-old male would bring a stop to these fires. So far the prevailing idea has been that transients are causing the fires, I wonder if it's not something else?

4. The Conservationists join the debate. Pollution control, and not stopping climate change, should have been the driving force on our public policy debate for a while now. Instead we've been ran down the rabbit hole of enriching Al Gore's investors and continuing funding scientists based on studies and factually challenged movies made by the very people who have the most to lose. Let's CLEAN the environment not try and change it's natural temperature cycles.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Noise Machine (03/18/10)

It's Madness I tell you.....

BlogHouston notes a trifecta of Metro commentary that's better than most that you'll find in MSM. The thing is, there's always been more than two sides to the rail debate in Houston, they just weren't very well represented by a newspaper that has chosen sides. (One advantage of the decentralization of media is the ability of all sides in a debate to express themselves. You might not agree with them, but it's good to hear their opinions anyway.)

I just have to ask: Where the hell was this type of coverage over the last eight years? Anyone? (Or, just maybe, ChronBlog has decided NOT to let another big story unfold Statewide and Nationally while they sit on their hands?)

The perils of a weak immigration policy. No matter your party affiliation, if you don't believe in "a day's wages for a day's work" as one of the fundamental rights people have in America then you need to crush your Freedom Foil because you're getting some bad reception. (Now, as to what a fair wage IS there can be some debate, but shortchanging workers for work performed? Weak.)

In the Houston area, you might not be who you think you are. More specifically, someone else is more likely to be you than in other locations.

Let's try this again: "Gas" is not "gasoline" and interchanging the two in an article on gasoline prices doesn't help your energy cred. (As a matter of fact, the price points of the two products are relatively unrelated.)

Bill White: "The SBOE is Perry's fault.". Which would be a good campaign strategy except that, the SBOE is the voter's fault. (While the Commissioner of Education is an appointed position the State Board of education members are.....elected. The best way to reform this organization is at the ballot box, not in a change in Gubernatorial leadership.) This should, however, play well to White's base. Moderates? Not so much is my guess.

"Re-Elect Borris Miles" could be a violation of election laws. It probably won't amount to much more than a small fine, but there you go.

Sobering thought: $940 Billion Dollars. We now return you to your regularly scheduled job....

Maybe motherhood has been good for L'il Red? It's sure seemed to bring some external focus to her (formerly self-centered) writing style.

Upon Further Review: Texas didn't do as well as everyone claimed during the 2009 recession. Yes, they did better than California, but that's kind of like winning first prize in a wellness contest at a smoker's convention.

Speaking of California: Anyone catch the irony of a State with no grasp of history lecturing Texas on theirs? Yes, the SBOE has been embarrassing, but those in glass houses etc....

and finally....

The well educated are looking to comedians to generate their talking points. Think about that for a second. There's a case to be made that an education in common sense & people skills are much more valuable things than a traditional liberal arts education. (see: MSNBC & CNN for more)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Pat's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all of you.

This evening I will be partaking in corned beef, cabbage, and a nice Guinness in the company of my wife, who is of Irish ancestry.

Me? I'm of Scottish descent. Doesn't mean I can't enjoy the day. (And you should enjoy it as well.)


The Noise Machine (03/17/10)

Well Blarney......

Phrase of the Day: "Deem & Pass" HCA Political Translation: Covering our assess for when this all blows up in our face. (If there's been a bigger legislative mess in recent history than this health care debacle, I don't remember it. I'm sure the Democrats could have handled this worse, but I'm not sure how.)

It's not that I care that Bill White has profited handsomely from his position on the board of BJ Services (FWIW: Nice reporting ChronBlog, took you a while but good job.) I don't. How he makes his money is his own look out. Where I take issue is when those who are making personal fortunes on oil and gas stand up as politicians and tell the rest of us that we should suffer for "the good of the planet". Yeah, that I take issue with.

At least Rick Casey is around to "provide the rebuttal" for the White campaign.

Speaking of the Goober, Texas Observer takes a peek at Rick Perry's slush fund. Otherwise known as the "Texas Enterprise Fund" a.k.a. the most egregious example of insider-corporate welfare in the country. (And yes, I take issue with Rick Perry's willingness to give Millions to his business cronies while cutting health-care for the poor. You should too FWIW, especially if you call yourself conservative.)

South! To the border! Oh boy.

Yet another twist in the long-sad tale of the BP refinery saga. A rare win for BP. (Albeit one, while unpopular, was probably justified under the language of the law.)

What's the deal with Metro drivers running red lights? (The video in this instance is especially jarring, because it indicates that said driver wasn't paying attention.)

The bad Metro news rolls on: A consultant is going to "probe" (ChronBlog's words) Frank Wilson's relationship. OK, yuck.

Finally! World Classiness! (It's OK to shed a tear for Houston. After all, we've worked so hard to get here.)

When social, neo-conservatives lose, the results ain't pretty.

If a fine is levied by the Texas Ethics Commission and it's paid for out of campaign funds. Is it really a fine?

and finally.....

Kirkendall asks the right questions about Metro. The answers to which should give everyone in Houston a little pause. (But they won't, because many aren't concerned about said questions, much less what the answers portend for the future of the city.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Carly Fiorina is back

And so his her campaign team.*

Watch and enjoy.

*Yes, this is a real ad.

The Noise Machine (03/16/10)

Stand up and be counted.......

BlogHouston notes a Mark Greenblatt (KHOU) report that suggests firing Metro CEO Frank Wilson could be costly due to a contractual golden parachute. (bH also makes mention of the lack of vetting Wilson underwent by the area's largest political blog and wonders "what if?")

In related news: Mayor Parker asks the current Metro board to back off. Don't do anything else to muck things up and let her seat the majority of the new board first. (Parker is taking care of the business that Mayor White should have during his time in office)

Back to Metro: The driver's union wants a study of the wham-bam intersection conducted. Apparently they disagree with Metro police that the problem lies in their understanding of safety. (The problem for the average Houstonian, ticketed almost immediately when they hit the train, is that they don't have a union backing them.)

David Crossley: "The University Line is the Key to Houston's Greatness." Funny, I thought Houston's pro-business climate and entrepreneurial attitude were the key to it's greatness? (Crossley needs to back away from the light-rail bong for just a minute and take a look around.)

Finally, Charles Kuffner brought this Metro Letter to the Editor to light and I thought it was interesting:
Rick Casey's Friday column (“Metro can't let rail jeopardize its buses,” Page B1) should have included more evidence on precisely how Metro is putting bus service first.

For the previous five fiscal years, Metro has spent $34 million improving the existing rail line on Main Street. During that same period, $518 million was spent improving bus service — a 15 times greater investment in bus service than rail service.

Improvements to bus service included: 365 new buses, part of a plan to purchase 100 new hybrid buses per year; four new Park and Ride lots and 3,150 new parking spaces; five new local routes; two new Signature bus routes; 200-plus new passenger shelters/stations; and adjusting running time to improve reliability on 50-plus routes.

Unlike the example of Los Angeles cited by Casey, no court needed to force Houston Metro to make these investments. Our bus fleet has been, and will continue to be, the backbone of Houston's transit system.

John Sedlak, executive vice president, Metro
An interesting case study would be to compare the level and volume of bus service pre-light rail to the level and volume of bus service POST-light rail. You know, for fun.

Cell phones for Narcissists. (Trust me, we don't really NEED to know where you are.)

What if a College Education isn't for everyone? I've been asking this same question for years now.

America's most serious urban thinker, Joel Kotkin, peers into the crystal ball to take a peek at America in 2050. Well worth a read.

Slampo on Mark Lanier. Somehow it makes sense.

*Yawn* Time Magazine on the Texas Gubernatorial race. "Bill White has a chance if he.....blah, blah, blah." Nothing new here. (Although they do continue the myth of White the smooth, disciplined campaigner -again forwarded by Dr. Richard Murray- something that's starting to feel more truthy than actual truth.)

That being said, White's got the opinion-makers at Politifact: Texas on his side. (Hint: What Adams said was not so much a lie, as unproven either way. There is circumstantial evidence both ways.) **Of course, if you're the type of person who relies on Politifarce for your truthiness then what can we say?** (Oh, and then there's this. I'm sure the folks at Politifact just missed it.) h/t: Perry vs. World.

And finally....

Kesha Rogers, Fighting Pete Olson, the Democratic Party and the Red Coats, although not necessarily in that order.

Monday, March 15, 2010

You will have a fair trial and then be found guilty....

MetroRail goes Wham! Bam! one more time. Wow that at-grade rail was a good idea.

I was more interested in this little tidbit from Raequel "9-volt" Roberts in today's story:

(19 injured when Metro bus, light rail train collide, Peggy O'Hare, ChronBlog, 03/15/2010)
The bus driver in last month's incident was found to be at fault, Roberts said. He is out on medical leave. The investigation into that wreck is still continuing, she said.

How can a driver be "found" anything if an investigation is still on-going?


KRIV Fox 26

The Noise Machine (03/15/10)

Got a little change in my pocket......

Cabrito! (And the effect of changing demographics on the local economy)

Diversity is beauty. ...and, if you read between the lines in the article, being Anglo is a bad thing. ( written by the Anglo journalist FWIW)

So...tell us how you really feel.... ChronBlog's Mike Snyder sets the tone:
More than six years after voters approved a light-rail system serving much of central Houston, roughly half of that system has been thrown into doubt by falling sales tax revenues, distrust of Metro's leadership and other factors.
What? No mention of Tom DeLay? (The question of whether or not this system is what voters approved..both in price and scale, goes unasked, the assumption being.....)

Keep your damn hands off my pepper. That is all.

The fact that so many insiders are angry about the proposals to eliminate the CEP contract makes me believe that there is quite a benefit in doing so.

Another Rick Casey column, another question as to why he's even bothering? (He's offering no insight, breaking no new ground, only rehashing what's appeared previously in ChronBlog and other news outlets.) Houston deserves better.

The far-right likes tea, the far-left likes coffee. (I love the coffee partiers trying to cast themselves as the "sensible middle".) What's lacking in this elitist move toward "substance and compassion" is any semblance of well....substance or compassion in their dialogue. At heat they're just mad about the Tea Party's being mad about Government spending. *Yawn*

We believe in being tolerant to everyone, except those who disagree with us. Those people we stereotype as 'thuggish-racist' type people. (Hey, y'all nominated her.)

The clean-out of Houston's unelected bureaucracy continues. If nothing else, you have to be impressed with Mayor Parker's willingness to go out to the fields and tip sacred cows.

Houston MetroRail....Too big to fail?

$3.7 Billion...or....enough money to fund the Houston Food Bank for 65.7 years. All of this so society's Least Common Denominator can get (re)elected so they can "fight" for you. (Beyond all of the hype and "the gov't is broken" nonsense emanating from those with no leadership skills...if you want to know what's wrong with our government....)

Clean drinking water should not be a cost-cutting casualty. That is all.

Money quote in today's Texas Tribune story on the Texas State Board of Education by Trust-Fund* board member Abby Rappoport:
Voters “get their information from the papers, which is mostly inaccurate,” says Leo. “Most reporters are lazy, and they don’t do their homework."

Trouble for Bill White? 57% of Texans think their State's current business model is good for the remainder of the country to emulate. Those are no numbers conducive to the "change" campaign that Bill White is going to have to run.

Speaking of Bill White...Just how badly did he flub the taxes question? Pair that with his flub on the tax returns disclosure issue and you've got a rough start to March for White.

and finally.....

Talking about the Texas Driver Responsibility Act. Or...the risk of not doing a proper cost/benefit analysis on a fine heavy mandate designed to fill the coffers.

*Notable due to the fact that Ms. Rappoport's foundation makes several education-related grants annually.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Noise Machine (03/10/10)

More sound than fury.....

Metro trashes Pauline Higgins then pulls a Pontius Pilate and attempts to wash their hands of the matter. (I guess when you've already fired all of the bullets in your gun there's no reason to keep pulling the trigger eh?)

Meanwhile, in all seriousness, we give you Today's former ChronBlog employee golf update. Keeping the count straight: Pulitzer Prizes: 0 Holes in One: 3 (Assuming there's not a story tomorrow about Jeff Cohen bagging a couple while contemplating the next round of staff reductions.)

Back to Metro: Who is now arguing that some debt isn't debt and that $2.6 Billion in debt related to the new rail project doesn't apply to the $640 Million cap the voters approved of in 2003. (Houston Metro: Our reality is supreme.) Metro apologists generating flimsy rationalizations in 5...4...3...2....

We got spirit, yes we do. We got spirit, how 'bout....Oh...I pulled something. (Seriously: Good luck to 'em. When the wife was competing in figure I dabbled in powerlifting, it's brutal.)

The funny thing about and argument over the 'facts' of history is that, quite often, even historians don't agree on them. (History is told from the viewpoint of the victors. Always has been. Then the losers bitch about it.)

Our budget. Your department's budget cuts. Any questions?

Giving new meaning to "saved".

Developing an urban-rural transit organization to better negotiate with Metro sure sounds like a winning idea. (Now if they can just wrest control from Metro over the project we'll be on to something.)

Perry saw the hole and he took it. (Can't blame him. Those partnerships that Bill White wants to keep secret are probably a better political weapon if kept from the public eye.)

You stay classy Gayle Fallon:
Houston Federation of Teachers President Gayle Fallon, an ardent supporter of CEP whose union has exclusive bargaining rights at the Houston campuses, criticized Grier's idea.

“That jerk is willing to throw these kids away rather than save them so he can divert a few dollars into his asinine new programs that no one wants,” she said.
That's the kind of professional representation that must make HISD teacher's swell up with pride.

Tom Pauken, Part III. It's been an interesting read.

Fine! I'll change the ruling. (Might as well since it's not based on any law that experts are familiar with.) Elections have consequences kids.

And finally....

UK's social mobility sucks. If you're born poor in Britain you're very likely to stay poor. If you're rich, you die rich. In America it's different. The odds are still against you (because life is hard) but if you work hard, go to school, apply yourself you can get a job and haul yourself up to the middle-class. Amazingly, many in America (and Texas) want us to be more like the Brits. (I know, I can't figure it out either.)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

That noise you hear in the background...... the sound of Bill White's staffer in charge of travel cancelling his planned visit to Montague County.

(2010: Montague Mystery Solved, Reeve Hamilton, Bill White...Texas Tribune, 03/09/10)
Odom explains what happened: "The original report incorrectly listed the candidates in alphabetical order and not as they appeared on the ballot for the offices of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Commissioner of General Land Office, and Commissioner of Agrictulture."

After putting everything in its proper place, White wound up with 258 votes to Aguado's 3 in the race for governor.

I'd have held out for a T-shirt or bumper sticker at least.....maybe an appointment as head of the Combative Sports department over at the Texas Bureau of Licensing and Regulation?

Oh well.

You missed the follow up.....

...when Bill White left the door open.

(White says Perry takes too much credit for economy, Jason Embry, Austin American-Statesman: Postcards from the Lege. 03/09/10)
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White said this morning that Gov. Rick Perry has taken too much credit for the success of the Texas economy.

Speaking at a breakfast event sponsored by the Texas Tribune, White noted that high oil and gas prices in recent years allowed money to stockpile in state coffers, and that the Texas economy historically grows faster than the rest of the country.

White also said that he brought jobs to Houston when he was mayor without help from the state, “nor did I need or want help.” And he said he brought in businesses “without giving them tax dollars.”

And no-one asked White how there was any difference between his responsibility for the Houston economy and Perry's responsibility for the Texas economy? I'm starting to wonder if there's a reporter in Texas that's going to decide to report on this campaign?

Of course, Evan Smith of the Bill White...err....Texas Tribune was conducting the interview so maybe expecting tough follow-ups was somewhat optimistic.

It's a fair question and one that should have been asked.

More news you needed.....

..same as the first verse but now even MORE out of date!

I know that, as a news consumer, what I'm looking for in a sidebar is news that's 14 days past the expiration date.

Around two weeks ago Dunta Robinson said "thank you" to Houston before signing with Atlanta, the Daughter of the IRS plane crash called her father a "hero" (later she backed away from that, which is NOT news one guesses) and some lady in Kansas City admitted to poisoning the salsa at a Mexican food restaurant.

According to the ChronBlog sidebar these are still relevant, working stories. Petty items such as the earthquake in Chile, healthcare reform & ShredMetro are not. Where Houston lives. (In the past)

Just wait....

...someone in Houston, somewhere, is going to anoint urban downsizing as Houston's next step toward "world classiness".

(Detroit looks at downsizing to save city, David Runk, AP via The Washington Post, 03/09/10)
Detroit, the very symbol of American industrial might for most of the 20th century, is drawing up a radical renewal plan that calls for turning large swaths of this now-blighted, rusted-out city back into the fields and farmland that existed before the automobile.

Operating on a scale never before attempted in this country, the city would demolish houses in some of the most desolate sections of Detroit and move residents into stronger neighborhoods. Roughly a quarter of the 139-square-mile city could go from urban to semi-rural.

What's going to be overlooked by all of the enthusiastic, twenty-something, urban-planners with greenscapes on their minds and fancy maps erupting from their MacBooks is this:

Step One: Destroy your base economy.

I wish Detroit and the other cities luck, but I hope Houston doesn't follow them.

The Noise Machine (03/09/10)

Welcome to the silly season.....

David Jennings of BigJolly Politics has been after Terry Lowry and his Link Letter endorsement mailer for quite some time. Today he's got his first break. It will be interesting to see where this goes moving forward.

More trouble for the State lottery. As if they need it.

More change at HISD from Terry Grier. It's been interesting watching him remake a district that desperately needs it. (Whether it all works or not?)

Who says the Republicans don't do it on the Facebook? It's the social conservatives vs. the fiscal conservatives in a cage match. (I'd pay to watch Lowry vs. Emmett, my money's on the County Judge however.)

County Court vs. County Sheriff. Showdown at high-noon. (In the modern day duels are fought with budget wonks.)

Busy week for Bill White so far. He says he's for real, tells the gambling lobby no way and tells those who want to see his personal financial statements to go pound sand. (In opposition to his opponent, who's made it a habit to release those to the public)

Tom Pauken on the Big Government Conservatism of the Bush administration courtesy of Texas Tribune.

And finally....

"The Medical Center would collapse without Light Rail", "Other cities are going to come and look at how we did this contract", "I think Metro is extremely transparent" and other joys abound in Charles Kuffner's interview with David Wolff. One thing clear from this is that Metro is bringing about its full arsenal of PR flacks against Pauline Higgins. (Well, that and David Wolff has no concept of scale when performing a cost/benefit analysis.)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Do Republicans have a Hispanic Problem? (Part III)

Just a few notes in closing to address some items that have risen in the comments of these posts....

1. "Machine" politics: David Jennings of Big Jolly Politics lamented the presence of "Machine" politics that could be needed were Republicans to up their recruiting of Hispanic candidates. And he was right, to a point. What are political parties after all? In short they're organizational and recruiting entities for those who share (basically) similar ideals. The very job of the party is of a machine in nature. Good local parties recruit good candidates, place them in the best position to win, and organize and get out the vote to help them get elected. True, you don't want your party making endorsements in the campaign, but they sure can make it easier/harder for a preferred/nonpreferred candidate to get elected. Don't you think the State Democratic Party did everything they could do in 2008 to try and prevent Gene Kelly from getting in a run-off w/Barbara Ann Radnofsky? Provided there's no high/exclusionary barrier to entry or influence peddling then "machine" is not necessarily a bad thing.

2. The strength/weaknesses of individual campaigns: I've no idea whether or not the Leo Vasquez live-in issue had any impact on the electoral results. I am willing to bet that his stature as "Paul Bettencourt's hand-picked replacement" did. Like it or not, there is a rather large "anti-Dan Patrick/Paul Bettencourt" contingent that's starting to make some noise throughout the County. Whether or not this can be attributed to Dan's abandonment of principle while in office, (Compare his "Austin can't fix our woes" rhetoric before he got elected to his "We've got to find solutions to these problems" rhetoric now) his overreach on the sonogram bill, or his heavy-handed attempts to unseat local politicians who won't vote for his pet projects, is open to debate. However, there is a slow-steady backlash building against Houston's most neo-conservative radio host. The Carillo campaign is harder to explain away. While Vasquez was carrying some sizable baggage, outside of a few health issues (that were handled) Carillo seemed like an idea candidate, relatively free of scandal. No question neither of the candidates ran perfect races, but there's still quite a large difference in won/loss margin in these races that needs to be attributed to something.

3. How much, if any, of an issue will this be going forward? Truth be told I'm not sure. My initial guess is very little. Right now there's not much coverage on this outside of The InterLeft and MSM political blogs. The former are notorious echo chambers (as are all political blogs really, this one included) and the latter are only lightly read by the general voting public. Most of the readers of The Bloggers 'O the Right don't see the problem in the first place. All in all I'm not sure if there's going to be enough people who care about this to start the chain reaction of change. Republican office holders enjoy the rhetoric of appealing to the minority voter, but don't do much to bring about the reality of minority appeal.

4. Different Parties, Same problem: Lest readers think that I'm only picking on the Republican Party, it's important to note that the Democratic Party has the same problem with rural, non-Hispanic Whites. Of concern, to me, is the dehumanization and stereotyping of one group of people by a significant portion of each major party. Does every Republican have an issue with Hispanics? Of course not, but some do. Just as every Democrat doesn't view urban/suburban white America as a bunch of racist, backward hicks. Based on the writings from bloggers and speeches from candidates some clearly do. Campaigning against one segment of the population as the root of all evils hasn't worked out so swell in the past, and it's probably not going to end swimmingly today.

5. The odd bit: What's really odd about all of this, is that Hispanics would tend to agree more with Republican ideals and, at one time, the Democrats were the party of the rural white farmer. Both parties seem to be working against what should be a core demographic. Much of this is due to a sea-change in party idealism that's many in the lurch without a party to call their own. Evidence of these changes can be found in the recent rise of independent voters we're seeing Nationwide. Either way, it's good fodder for discussion.

Fact-checking Rick Perry....

expect a whole lot of this...

(Perry claim on Texas growth put to the test, Tristan Hallman, ChronBlog, 03/08/2010)
Politifact Texas examines the claims made by Perry in the following video that Texas is the fastest growing state with the most Fortune 500 companies.

According to the story Politifact Texas has put "several" Bill White quotes against the "Truth-o-meter". That's not exactly true. As of this writing, Bill White has exactly 5 statements that have been "truth-tested":

Rick Perry has Seventeen.

Also of note, there's been no "fact-check" of this statement by Bill White despite the fact that it is a quantifiable statement that is central to his positioning in the campaign.

Consider this "exhibit A" in the argument against media "fact-checking." It's a rediculous venture that often leaves more unanswered than it answers. Plus it's conducted under the false tag of "non-partisanship". Far better to get your campaign news from partisan bloggers and non-profits. Yes, they're biased, but they admit it and you can filter that out.

Nothing you see over at Politifact: Texas is going to help you one iota in sorting out the Bill White/Rick Perry "Who sucks the least?" morass.

'Nuff said

"White said he fully expects the GOP to make the state of Houston an election issue. He expects the rebuttal to come not only from his own campaign but from Houstonians and local news media." - Houston will be under spotlight in race for governor, ChronBlog Caucasian Think Tank, 03/08/2010.

Expect an encore performance from Mrs. White during this campaign cycle. I wonder if any of the CCTT cringed when they realized Bill White was planning on using them as an unpaid PR crank?

The Noise Machine (03/08/10)

Award ceremony free since 2003......

It's getting ugly in the race for Chair of the HCRP. From charges of promoting gay candidates and encouraging those with moral turpitude to get on the ballot to questioning the wisdom of Mr. Woodfill's slicked-back mullet. Ugly, ugly indeed.

The anatomy of a Metro Story.....

1. A group of business owners meet to protest that Metro has not been keeping them in the loop regarding light rail plans on their street.

2. Anti-Metro blog notes that they talked to the movers and shakers (many of whom are on their board or who have financial deals in the works with them).

3. Pro-Metro blogger interviews one of the movers and shakers who summarily reminds us that the nay-sayers are 'tenants' with no real say in the matter.**

4. Life moves on, things proceed as normal, until construction starts and small businesses are forced to close "for the good of the community."

Speaking of Metro: I wonder how that "media scorecard" looks now? My guess is not so great after this week.

Superintendent Grier continues his slashing of HISD finances. It will be interesting to see how much more of this is allowed to go unchallenged by the media considering he's starting to impact the sacred cow of school meals.

Houston lawyers are getting in on the Toyota gravy train. If Toyota survives the inevitable deluge of lawsuits it will be a miracle.

ChronBlog plants a big, wet sloppy one on Bill White. I'm still amazed the CCTT hasn't gone ahead and endorsed White. (Most major newspapers should just get on with it really. Unless they understand that, given the current state of their industry, endorsements from media probably won't move the needle much and could end up hurting the endorsed candidate.)

You idiot Texans. If only you would have voted for the party that wants to dismantle 80% of your economy they would have been in place to "fight" harder for you when the time came to save the remaining 20%. (Like many, the economy is the single largest issue that I have with the Democratic platform. We can come to agreement on a lot of social issues, but the elimination of the classic JFK economic-moderate from the Democratic Party is equal to the expulsion of the Rockefeller social-moderate from the Republicans.)

The Ecomentals are against the Ike Dike. I am against the Ike Dike. Proving that there are issues where we can find common ground. (If you're thinking about pollution reduction and conservation, I'm typically with you. If you're venturing out into the realm of 'animal rights' forced vegetarianism and economic strangulation then we're probably at loggerheads.)

Unca Darrell continues his deconstruction of the ChronBlog Editorial Board.

While Slampo continues his deconstruction of Al Hoang.

Both bloggers are working harder and providing deeper analysis into local issues than are either of ChronBlog's two Metro columnists.

And finally.....

Can someone tell me the point of this Rick Casey column? He doesn't offer any new insight, he doesn't generate any new information. All he does is recap previous reporting (mostly by TV news crews) and then reminds us of what we already know.

**That's actually only a small part of the interview, where Breeding suggests that the property owners know what's going on (and that one of them is the Chairman of the Board of his organiztion) the entire interview is fairly enlightening and is worth a listen and more ink than I can give it in a simple link-post designed primarily with humor in mind.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Late, earlier...(UPDATED)

...and I'm not referring to Daylight Savings Time...(Which is this next Sunday FWIW..Spring Forward and all of that)

(Harris County business tax deadline coming early, Houston Business Journal, 03/05/2010)
The Harris County Tax Office is taking advantage of a resolution that allows the office to turn over delinquent business personal property tax accounts to attorneys ahead of schedule.

The office will turn over accounts for collection on April 3, and a 15 to 20 percent penalty will be added to any unpaid balance. Previously, the deadline had been June 30 and accounts would have been turned over on July 1.

I wonder if Vasquez would have taken this step had he been up for re-election? For some delinquent businesses two months might not matter much, but for some that could be the difference between keeping the doors open and closing down.

FWIW: As near as I can tell, from the information in the article, this is NOT the "Business income margins tax" that Rick Perry and Republicans pushed through a few years prior. This is personal property tax, which has been with us for quite some time. What's changed is now the County (and State, through opt-in) have decided to reduce the amount of time businesses have to pay before delinquency is charged.

UPDATE: I received an e-mail from Fred King of the Tax office informing me that the original HBJ article I linked to was incorrect. According to Mr. King the HC-Tax Assessor-Collector has no choice when to send the notices out per law. Here, courtesy of the office, is the press release they sent out:
HOUSTON – March 3, 2010 – Thousands of business owners are getting a delinquent notice this week from the Harris County Tax Office that they have never seen before. It is a notice that delinquent business personal property tax accounts will be turned over to attorneys for collection on April 3 and a 15-20 percent penalty will be added to any unpaid balance.

“That probably will be a surprise for many business owners. The April 2 deadline is months earlier than delinquent real property accounts are turned over for collection,” Tax Assessor Collector Leo Vasquez stated. “I’m hoping those who owe taxes on business personal property act quickly. Twenty percent is a lot.”

The April 2 deadline falls on a County holiday and all 16 Tax Office branches will be closed. Payments will be accepted on-line at, or by telephone, 713-368-CARD, on April 2.

“The state law allowing this early turnover of business personal property accounts took effect in 2006. However, taxing jurisdictions have to opt into this process,” Vasquez explained. “Last year, only two of the jurisdictions for which the Tax Office collects had opted in. As required, we sent notices to delinquent accounts in those jurisdictions.

“In 2010, 64 of the 66 jurisdictions passed resolutions to opt in, so we are required to notify many more business owners. We’re sending about 45,000 notices,” Vasquez stated.

Each notice reminds the business owner how to pay, describes payment methods and point s out that taxpayers can avoid the additional collection penalty if they make an installment agreement with the Tax Office by April 1. Persons with questions about their accounts or their eligibility for an installment agreement or who want to arrange an installment agreement should call the Tax Office at 713-368-2000.

HCA regrets the error(s). *See comments*

Do Republicans have a Hispanic problem? (Part II)

"Could ballot position explain these weird election results?"

That's a question that was asked by Rorschach of Red Ink: Texas in the comments to this post examining the Republicans' Hispanic problem.

There are no direct correlations that I could find on the current ballot (same size, same voting district, etc.) to test this theory but I did find a couple of examples where a candidate with a Hispanic surname was placed first on the ballot against an opponent with a more traditionally Anglo surname. The results were as follows:

Harris County Commissioner Pct. 2:
Dorothy Olmos 37.24%
Jack Mormon 62.76%

In addition to this two-person race, there were several multi-candidate races where a Caucasian-named candidate ran considerably higher than a candidate with a Hispanic or Latino surname:
State Rep. - Dist. 127
Susan Curling: 20.01%
Martin Basuldua: 12.77%
Dan Huberty: 48.74%
Addie Wiseman: 18.48%

District Judge - 180th judicial district
Danny Dexter 46.50%
Emily Munoz 17.26%
Mark Brown 36.24%

Family District Judge - 308th district
Rick Ramos 18.52%
Alice J. O'Neill 29.38%
James Lombardino 41.09%
William Frazier 11.02%

Family District Judge - 311th district
Donna Detamore 18.21%
Lorraine Cervantes 7.70%
Denise Pratt 51.19%
Anthony Magdelano 9.14%
Joel A. Grandstaff 13.76%
None of what I reproduced here is definitive proof that Republicans are a group of racist old white folks who are in desperation mode as they watch their culture fade away. Without taking a look at all of the candidates in all of the races there's just no way to know. In most of the races above, name ID (rather than racial ID) is enough to tilt the election, never mind an endorsement by Link Letter or The Texas Conservative Review.

Then there's one more theory, in the case of the local race for Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector, that makes sense. This time submitted by Kevin Whited:
I think a lot of voters who identify with that latter group took a look at the way Vazquez was anointed, and decided this race on the merits of the candidates.
The Vasquez campaign was not without its warts, and neither was the Carillo campaign. Both candidates were flawed, Vasquez more so than Carillo. It very well could be that the voters made an informed decision based on the relative strengths and weaknesses of each candidate.

That being said, in Harris County, I could not find one example of a candidate with a name that suggested they could be a minority (Hispanic, Asian, etc.) beating a traditionally Caucasian named candidate. Guzman defeated Vela, Orlando Sanchez ran unopposed (although his under vote was actually quite low comparatively.) so there's no smoking gun there.

One election does not a trend make, and don't let breathless InterLeft bloggers with race issues of their own convince you otherwise. I said in the earlier post that yes, I DO believe Republicans have a Hispanic problem. I never outlined what I thought the problem was however.

It's as simple as this: Republicans need to do a better job recruiting more quality minority (including Hispanic) candidates to stand for office in their primaries. Only then can they shake off the appearance of racism, or root it out if it actually does exist in meaningful numbers within the party.

Call this election an "incomplete" in terms of its ability to answer the questions above. Right now the Republican problem is the appearance of racism within the rank and file of the party. As well all know, in politics, appearance is 90% of the battle. If you're a Republican supporter you had better work to turn that trend around soon, before your structural advantage in Texas withers away to nothing.

The Noise Machine (03/05/10)

Hitting 'em where it hurts.....

More form Houston Community Newspapers on Metro's finances. Since ChronBlog doesn't seem to have any interest in objectively covering the agency it's nice to see that Michael Reed has stepped up to the plate. (On that note: Is anyone REALLY surprised that an agency whose marching orders from the President include increasing trains is going to support an organization whose main goal is to build trains?) The article goes on to say that Metro's financial projections are based on some rather unlikely assumptions, all of which will significantly increase taxes in the Houston Region just to make up for lost funds. If that doesn't give you pause.....

As if on cue...ChronBlog steps up to the plate and plows new ground on the "MetroShred" issue. Conflicts of interest and pillow talk, or vindication for those who have been called 'know-nothings' for waving the trouble-at-Metro flag for years now. Also, The documents referred to in the story. Nice job by the reporter on this one. (Now if we could just get whoever runs the online site to provide a link to the document posting etc.....)

Also, Texas Watchdog weighs in with a look at the background of dismissed attorney Higgins. (Nice to see all of this local media attention in Houston. The light is forcing the roaches to run for cover.) Now if we could just do something about the fiefdoms at the County and the Port of Houston we'd have something.

Win some, lose some. After a good piece on MetroShred ChronBlog again finds itself behind the curve with respects to the Republicans' race issues. Ah well, one out of two ain't bad.

Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you Please give me money, 'cause you don't want Texas falling down a hole made by liberal(conservative) spending(budget cuts) that threaten our culture(the children), our values(government services) or our sovereignty(our ability to get federal government money). (take your pick)

Because, Chet Edwards wants to be re-elected you see, and he's shown for some time that he's smarter than most Democrats in Congress. (Smart enough to co-sign a Ryan plan? Maybe.)

Proof elections matter. Elect an unqualified judge to the bench, get results that fly in the face of common sense and stare decisis. Fine is not up for re-election this time, I wonder if this will have blown over when he comes back up in 2012?)

These are the people we want running our health care?

These are the people we want designing our transit system?

God help us all.

And finally....

BlogHouston on Sit n' Spin, Metro now telling us the way to save money is to spend lots of money building out a robust transit system....Which costs money to build, then to ride, then to maintain which means large tax increases in the future to fund a poorly designed system that won't move 5% of the population. But yeah, that's going to 'save you money'. (Good public transit isn't about saving money or several other pie-in-the-sky promises that Houston's so-called 'transportation experts' keep telling us. It's about moving people safely and efficiently to different points inside a grid. There's a cost to this, but it's overridden by the benefits to the general population. Metro's biggest issue is that their transit plan fails this cost/benefit analysis for all but a select few people who decide to alter their lifestyle to fit what Metro's developer/planners have decided is ideal.)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

There will be more of you voting than first imagined.

If Rasmussen is to be believed.....

(Texas Governor: 2010, Rasmussen Reports, 03/04/2010)
The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in Texas finds Perry leading White, the popular former mayor of Houston, by just six points, 49% to 43%. Three percent (3%) opt for some other candidate, and six percent (6%) are undecided.

For those of you not keeping score that's 101%.

The important number here is the "undecided", which, assuming it is 6% (and the 'other candidate' vote is actually 2%) must go entirely the way of Bill White for him to have a chance. My guess is that 25% of KBH followers are currently with White, and he picked up a sizable chunk (immediately after the election) of Medina supporters. Let me qualify that by stating that's a guess based on the electoral raw numbers and without the benefit of the cross-tabs.

I'm also going to guess that Perry's 49% is a LOT more solid than White's 43% due to name and issues ID. Expect Perry to start trying to chip away at that 43% soon, his ultimate goal being to get White as close to the 29% Democratic base as he can.

The good news for White is that he's still a single-digit trailer. This means that, with the combination of a good campaign and some luck, this could draw down into a really tight race come November. Bill White's best (only) bet is to try and win a squeaker. He's simply not going to peel away enough of Perry's support to win in a blow out. As for Perry, I'd say right now he's about 80% to win, even with the polls this close. If I were on his campaign I'd feel pretty comfortable with my 49%.

Nothing down-ballot yet. We'll see soon I hope. Be nice if it was based on 100% voting counts.

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