Sunday, May 23, 2010

Back in June

It's getting close to time for Memorial Day, and time for my annual trip to Oklahoma for some time w/friends, niche wines and good foods.

Because of this I'll be too busy w/work, packing, planning and getting stuff together to worry about blogging and what-not until at least June, maybe longer than that considering how busy I'll be when I get back.

So until then: Hang in there Houston. Be back in a bit.

Weekend Update (05/23/10)


Metro wants to settle their open records lawsuit. No comment from the group that actually brought the suit in the first place.

Rest in Peace Jose Lima. One of the most colorful Astros ever. His career was pretty much eighty-sixed by the advent of band-box stadiums such as (then) Enron Field.

Can you imagine if a Republican group was working to disenfranchise the elderly? The InterLeft would be breaking out in hives.

Bill White: "Let's keep politics out of eduction." Well, politics with which he disagrees that is. HIS politics (like making this a political talking point in his campaign) are A-OK. (Funny how that works isn't it?*)

Maybe it's just me, but I can't side with folks who are angry about the potential of having to purchase flood insurance when they live on the coast in an area where Hurricanes can (and do) occur.

And finally...

Educated guesses held up as factual proof of case.

*Those who try to say that education isn't about politics, or that they want to remove politics from education, are lying. What they want is for their political view to be featured over those with which they disagree. "Freedom from politics" would be to not teach. Science and history are political after all, especially the former.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Chipping Away

First it was the death penalty....

Interesting quote in today's Rick Casey column at ChronBlog...
“I was not a big supporter of life without parole,” Bradley testified. “I think even people who commit some of the most horrible crimes need an incentive to behave (in prison) and to rehabilitate and develop over a long period of time. I think that applies even greater when that person is a juvenile.”
The context of this quote is in relation to the latest SCOTUS ruling barring life without parole sentences to juveniles who committed a crime other than murder.

What interested me about this quote is how it relates to another argument....the argument against the death penalty.

Just a couple of years ago the battle cry was "Offer life without parole as a sentencing option in place of the death penalty!" That drum-beat continued until the bill (correctly, in my opinion) passed resulting in a decrease in death penalty punishments.

Now the goal posts get moved further down the field.

It's ironic that many of the same who are calling for reduced sentencing options for violent offenders (including murderers it should be noted) are, at the same time, calling for increased penalties for so-called "soft" crimes. That's backwards.

The over-criminalization of America is something that's best been covered by better bloggers than I. It's an issue that I strongly agree with as we sit and watch the "Land of the Free" morph into the "Land of the incarcerated". The idea that a big, sweeping government solution is the key to almost any problem has resulted in the waste of one Trillion dollars, many cases of prosecutorial misconduct and the crazy idea that thought could be enough to put people in prison.

Doesn't that seem backward to you?

Problem solved

I'm unclear why people are saying this issue is a "potential problem" for the Army....

(Texas man faked way into Army, Danny Robbins, AP via Yahoo! News)
Jesse Bernard Johnston III, 26, joined the Army Reserve in February as a sergeant and was assigned to the Corps Support Airplane Company based at the Fort Worth Naval Air Station. But he wasn't qualified to hold that rank, according to military records obtained by the AP. The records show that Johnston's only military experience was attending part of a 12-week Marine officer candidate course for college students in 2004.
So, the guy went around claiming he was a Marine when he really wasn't?

Just turn him over to the boys at Lejeune and let them deal with him.

End of problem.

The Noise Machine (05/21/10)

Put the needle on the record......

This just in: People feel they are discriminated against more than other people feel they discriminate. In related news water is wet.

185 abandoned homes on the block, 185 abandoned homes. You tear one down, oh what a sound, 184 abandoned homes on the block.

Dewhurst's pet program is going to survive. Despite not accomplishing much of anything and generally just being bad public policy. Or, perhaps, because of that. (And the fact that he needs something to put on a campaign commercial.) Had the Democrats nominated a credible candidate there'd be an option come election day. Sadly, they did not.

Out! Out! Damned Cisneros!

Appropriate for Houston: On Bike to work day the big, politician photo-op friendly event isn't even people biking from HOME to WORK....

(Bike to Work, ChronBlog Caucasian Think Tank, Chronblog)
This morning, hundreds of bicycle riders are headed from Memorial Park to City Hall for festivities to mark Bike to Work Day
The idea of the event was supposed to entice people to ditch their cars and ride their bikes into work. In Houston, most people at this rally probably drove to Memorial Park, untethered their bike and then rode to City Hall. Which, of course, means that some of them probably took a day off work for "bike to work" day. The irony of this is wasted on the CCTT of course, who instead use this rather benign event to do Bill White another solid. (They're nothing if not predictable...predictably bad.)

I'm not sure if the actual SBOE meetings or the InterLeft and media reaction to them have been more entertaining. (One thing I am sure of: In a battle of wits against both sides it's a tie for last.)

And finally....

Rick Perry vs. World is underwhelmed by Bill White's latest TV ad. One data point backing Evan's analysis is the relative Internet silence surrounding said ad. When the InterLeft goes underground you know they're not happy. (I'm sure most progressives want an attack ad. I don't think that's a wise move against Perry, who can parry and counter with the best of them. White needs to try and define himself. I don't see this channel-switcher getting the job done.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Noise Machine (05/20/10)

Just a spoonful of sugar......

Political wonks rejoice! The term-limits panel is expected to release their results soon. Meaning that Houston will be told it's in their best interest to try and keep sub-par public officials around even longer. Yay!

Get shorn, save the planet. If I don't see the entirety of the Houston Sierra Club walking around bald over the next few days I call bollocks.

Vote por favor por nosotros. (Entonces podemos no hacer caso de usted por los cuatro años próximos.)

Political wonks rejoice! Metro has released it's 2009 (clean, mind you) Audit. Just in case your social calendar is free for the next several weeks and you want to do the work of analytical accountants pro-bono.

An Austin Democrat that won't raise taxes? It's an Austin Democrat that won't raise taxes unless the State spends more on his policy priorities. Nothing new to see here. (That's like a Republican that won't call for cuts unless they cut the things they deem need to be cut.)

What pro-Democratic article in Texas is written without mention of the coming demographic change? Not one written by the Bill White Texas Tribune that's for sure. (One that quotes a Democratic activists and references a speech by a Democratic activist/pollster to boot.)

Tom Kirkendall asks: Is freedom possible without wealth? Short answer: No. (Any excuse to link to a post with a clip from the HBO mini-series John Adams is good by me.)

Is the "Man" using Hispanic culture to keep the Hispanics down? Or is the situation more nuanced than that? (To be fair, L'il Red does just about all that she can with this topic, before being timed out in the intellectual depth department. Not a bad column all things considered.)

The best watchdog reporting in Houston is consistently being cranked out by Texas Watchdog. Need proof? Go read today's Lynn Walsh story onHISD's troubles accounting for Project Clear.

And finally.....

Bob Dunn asks: What's so great about technology anyway? Go give it a read.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I don't think they thought this one through....

Proof that there are some really DUMB people elected to office.....

(Arizona Official Threatens to Cut Off Los Angeles Power as Payback for Boycott, Judson Berger,
If Los Angeles wants to boycott Arizona, it had better get used to reading by candlelight.

That's the message from a member of Arizona's top government utilities agency, who threw down the gauntlet Tuesday in a letter to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa by threatening to cut off the city's power supply as retribution.

Gary Pierce, a commissioner on the five-member Arizona Corporation Commission, wrote the letter in response to the Los Angeles City Council's decision last week to boycott the Grand Canyon State -- in protest of its immigration law -- by suspending official travel there and ending future contracts with state businesses.

Noting that a quarter of Los Angeles' electricity comes from Arizona power plants, Pierce threatened to pull the plug if the City Council does not reconsider.
The largest flaw I can find in progressive (as opposed to liberal) thinking is that they don't fully understand the consequences of not making anything. Old school liberals understood that a State needs power plants and clean water and other such stuff even though it might increase pollution or visual blight. The benefits outweighed the costs.

The other option is that they understand the ramifications of what they are doing, but they don't care that people will suffer. All in all I'll take incompetent over cruel any day when it comes to political leadership.*

*All in all however, I'd like to see a return to some classic, "hear! hear! to the hard-working, middle-class guy", liberalism.

The Noise Machine (05/19/10)

The "good Lord I have a lot of meetings this morning so this is going to be short" edition.....

There's a fine line between defending Houston and blatantly carrying the water for the White for Texas campaign. Rick Casey of ChronBlog walked over said line long ago. (And he quotes Politifarce, which is like the 'lazy journalist' go-to site for opinion based truthiness.) Good job.

I'm still not clear why two day olds qualifies as must-read 'news'? (Was there any value-add in the ChronBlog piece over the AP piece penned by Jay Root?)

Interesting blog post by Mike McGuff on How TV news can restore it's credibility. Of course, to go along with that you have to assume there was a time they were telling it straight in the first place. More and more we're finding that to not be the case.

Tom Kirkendall on how America is letting slip the basic principles of American justice in it's single-minded pursuit of business crimes. (First they came for the financiers, but I was not a financier so I stayed silent....)

I missed this the other day, but Texas Watchdog has a great report on shoddy workmanship allegedly committed by Sheltering Arms using stimulus funds and the secrecy surrounding the non-profit's work. Go read it.

Sometimes, not often but occasionally, L'il Red gets one right. Today's column on Don McLeroy of the SBOE is one of those times. (Unfortunately, given her track record I'm expecting a stinker of a column her next effort.)

Perry vs. World on the partially released Opinion Analysis poll. You have to wonder just how bad this is for White if this Democratic group is jumping through hoops to keep it from the public?

I'm not sure what the final solution is to the off-shore oil-spill, but I'm pretty sure the answer doesn't lie in creating a new, expensive and unwieldy bureaucracy. (That seems to be the default solution for the "Something! must be done" crowd however.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It just doesn't add up.

I realize that, in Houston, my belief that a strong public transit system is one that adds capacity instead of decreasing it is a little bit out there but this is getting ridiculous....

(We already own the right of way that connects our homes and jobs, David Crossley, City Dims, ChronBlog)
TxDOT and other public agencies already own all the right of way we use every day to get to our homes and jobs today. This right of way is in streets and highways. In fact, that infrastructure was specifically created, often by TxDOT, to enable the creation of places that we can get to. Why not use it to provide transit service so that huge numbers of us that want to can get around without using cars, thus relieving pressure on the car and truck lanes?

Why isn't it obvious that there would probably be a lot more future in working out ways to use that 20th-century right of way for public transportation than there would be in working out ways to use 19th-century infrastructure that had nothing to do with the most direct routes we'll use to get everywhere in the 21st century?
If you're thinking: "Am I understanding him correctly?" then you probably are. Mr. Crossley's grand plan for future mobility is the increased reduction of capacity to cater to a relatively small portion of society.

Even the most optimistic projections for public transportation in Houston cap participation rates at less than 10%, even defenders can't get past that number instead deciding to beg the question and ignore quantitative analysis.

Given that fact, let's assume that a 'new' light rail system built on existing rights of way would take up one lane for each track going each way. Let's also (again, for simplicity's sake) limit construction to 8-lane highways. What this means is that you're taking up 25% of travel capacity (2 lanes out of 8, or one lane out of 4 each direction) to accommodate 3-5% of users. The remaining 97-95% have to get by on 25% less available space. That's not a recipe for transit Nirvana, that's a primer for transit hell.

The counter-argument to this is two-fold. The first argument is that not all trips are commuter trips, some are freight proponents for the Crossley plan always love to point this out. The problem is these freight trips are not going to go away, neither are 85-90% of all car traffic. You still run into the problem of having more cars on less available space. The second argument requires a suspension from reality, that people need to uproot and move into apartments and townhouses in the inner-city instead of in the suburbs for these plans to work. To be accurate: None of these fancy new-urbanist plans are designed with the suburbs in mind. I've said it before, it's the Paris model with a Houston twist.

It's also a plan that's doomed to fail. I agree with new-urbanists when they suggest that in-fill development is the way to go, but I disagree that the second plank in their platform that those who choose to stay outside the City have a difficult time getting in.

The trick is to accomplish both, thus raising the standard of living for everyone. Our new urbanists frequently seem to forget that in their quest to homogenize America.

Because the war on drugs has been so successful....

...the 'anything wrong needs a government solution' types are now declaring a war on sugar?

(San Antonio city manager wages war on sugar, Josh Baugh, San Antonio Express-News via ChronBlog)
City Manager Sheryl Sculley has declared war on sugar.

Well, at least when it comes packaged in cans and candy bars. Sugary sodas no longer have a home in the city's 250 beverage vending machines and unhealthy foods in the 75 snack machines in city facilities are next.

“I asked the staff to remove the high-calorie soda drinks from our vending machines,” Sculley said. “I'm a fitness person, and I care about our employees, and I want them to be healthy. And I think this is a very small gesture.”
Emphasis above mine.

It's odd that the word "I" (or some derivative) is used FIVE times by an elected official whose stated purpose is caring for OTHERS.

Which points to the real motivation of the nanny state-ists who claim to only be doing what's in everyone's best interest. It's got nothing to do with others and everything to do with pumping up their ego.

It really kicks into high gear with the adoption of the Royal "we":
“We know that statistically that people who are overweight or obese have greater health problems than those who do not,” she said. “We're about educating community and we think we can lead by example.”
What happens now if you're a San Antonio city employee, are hypoglycemic, and need a Coke to stabilize?

Like all bad ideas I expect this one to come to Houston next. All in our effort for world classiness of course. The road to becoming an international city starts at the vending machines one would guess.

Outliers (Updated)

On the heels of the latest Rasmussen poll showing Rick Perry with a 51-38 lead over Bill White there's much contorting in the blogosphere to write these results off as an outlier.

I haven't had a chance to fully digest the cross-tabs of the Rasmussen poll as of yet but what I have seen makes me wonder this:

Given the Maslin poll (Commissioned by a The Texas Sierra Club which leans severely Democratic and the March Rasmussen numbers which had Perry up 49-43 the question should be which of these two polls is the outlier?

I don't think we'll know for sure until the Bill White Texas Tribune releases their upcoming poll for public consumption.

Also: Reading the Burka post is like stepping into an alternate reality. His contention that Perry is rising because of Annise Parker's recent statements feels off base. My guess is that less than 2% of Texas voters have even paid any attention to those statements, and they really won't matter until Perry hits TV with his bundle of ads against Bill White. I think the two big movers in this poll are attitudes toward Obama (which I forgot to include in yesterday's post and the whole "I shot the coyote" incident.

Given that this story is creeping National I think the next round of poll results will tighten somewhat. Don't expect Perry's base to shrink substantially however. When your core support has no expectations for you it's hard to let them down. Such is the political reality of Perry.


The Bill White Texas Tribune has a new Democratic Poll out that shows White trailing by 9. They also refuse to release the entire poll which makes both the Tib and Evan scratch their chins.

It's looking more and more as if that Rasmussen poll from last month is the outlier isn't it?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Corrections: Because a bad legal opinion....

The other day on this post regarding the Metro response to the "Buy America" regulations I framed the post in a manner that suggested the reporter in question (Mike Snyder of was working as a de facto PR reporter for Metro.

Mr. Snyder offered up the following response via e-mail:
You write: “It was nice of Metro to provide this information to Snyder so he could put it out there for him” (I assume you meant “for them,” meaning “for Metro.”) The implication is that they spoon-fed this to me because they were confident, since I’m a PR shill for Metro and all, that I would report it in the most favorable way from their point of view.

What actually happened is that I reported, which is what reporters do. I knew that Metro’s response to the Buy America investigation (a story that I broke, by the way) was due by Friday. I asked them EVERY DAY last week to provide it to me as soon as it was ready. Friday afternoon they called me and said it had been sent to the FTA, and I went to their headquarters and picked up a copy of the letter and the supporting exhibits. I interviewed two Metro board members and got a statement from the FTA which I included in the story.

Thank you Mr. Snyder for filling us in on the leg-work that led to this information being printed. HCA appreciates the response.

Mea Culpa time: It's no secret that I'm no fan of Chronblog, but my displeasure typically lies with the members of the masthead, the decision-making editorial staff and opinion writers. I very seldom intend to write posts that reflect negatively on the reporter in question, not knowing the editorial decisions that led to any story appearing in the newspaper or on the site. After re-reading the original blog-post it was phrased in a manner that was more personal toward Mr. Snyder than I had originally intended. My beef is not with him, but with a newspaper who's entire editorial process regarding Metro is called into question by the presence of the oft-discussed 'rail memo', something I feel has never been adequately addressed by the editorial leadership at ChronBlog. (In fact, their response was the old "internal memo" cop-out).

For that I do apologize. And no, I'm not saying that just to avoid a libel suit. Mr. Snyder e-mailed me and the discussion surrounding the post was very professional. Whatever other disagreements we may have (and they are many) his interaction with me regarding my blog has always been professional.

As I've stated before: The purpose of HCA is to present my opinion on matters. If facts come up that prove my opinion wrong then I will gladly correct them rapidly and prominently in an open manner. Thank you to Mr. Snyder for providing additional detail which shed further light on this story.

Ficksing Skools (A year later)

Last year, on the award-winning *snicker* now-defunct, Lose an Eye, It's a Sport, I wrote a short series on what I thought was wrong (in part) with the public education system and some steps that would go a long way towards fixing it. If you haven't read this series, or are a masochist and would like to read it again, you can find all of the posts here. (start at the bottom and work your way up)

My main argument was that Texas, and America really, were pushing many children toward college that really didn't need to go there. From time to time I've linked to articles on my diigo feed that offered up evidence supporting that contention.

Today, in ChronBlog, I found two unrelated articles that move the ball further down the field.

(A warning signal for Latinos and Texas, R.G. Ratcliffe, ChronBlog, 05/17/2010)
If the American Dream is upward economic mobility and arrival in the middle class, the grim statistics show only a small percentage of Texas' Hispanics are on the road to success.

As the state's Latino population continues to expand over the next two decades, if current trends stay the same, Texas is in danger of developing what one academic describes as a “permanent underclass.” Widespread poverty could pull down the standard of living for all Texans.

Later on in the story, the following fact is mentioned:

Hispanics make up a third of the manual laborers in Texas. But U.S. Census statistics show that even in construction trades Hispanics account for less than a fifth of skilled labor, such as an electrician.

Which leads me to this second story, also in ChronBlog:

(College for all? Experts say not necessarily., Alan Scher Zagir, AP via ChronBlog, 05/17/2010)

The notion that a four-year degree is essential for real success is being challenged by a growing number of economists, policy analysts and academics.

Their consensus is that more Americans should consider other options such as technical training or two-year schools, which have been embraced in Europe for decades.

And then, the following comment by a ChronBlog reader on the same story:

CheeryEyed wrote:
They should teach ROI in high school. Welders are in much greater demand than History teachers, and therefore make much higher wages.
For years now the American education system has been populated by public union employees whose main goal has been to feed the pipeline to create....more public union employees. This has led to an explosion of liberal arts degrees with no real, practical market purpose other than primary or secondary education. I'm not suggesting that we don't need teachers, obviously we do. But across the nation the real need is for educators in mathematics and science, not Social Studies, English etc. (unless you count ESL, which there's an argument to be made should not be taught in the first place.)

Tradition stated that the way out of poverty was to learn a skill or a trade and work your way to the middle class. After WWII an entire class of skilled laborers leveraged their skill and a hard work-ethic to realize the American dream. Somewhere along the way we've forgotten that, and allowed ourselves to be taught that the way out of the poverty class is to attempt to leverage large amounts of federally backed debt into an office career that's somehow viewed as "superior" to trades and skills that require manual labor.

In short, we've grown lazy.

By devaluing the blue-collar roots in favor of cocktail parties and ergonomic office chairs* we've cheapened what's always been America's most valuable resource: An army of workers with the desire to be put to work.

*What this doesn't mean is that we don't need accountants, engineers lawyers, and other professional positions in business. But there are too many people in colleges across America trying to ice skate up-hill in order to get a business degree they have no ability to complete. Hell, I'M an accountant who sits in an ergonomic chair all day. I went to school and have a degree that says I've been educated to perform my task. I happen to have an affinity for, and an enjoyment of, the work I do every day. That said, if the wiring in my house hits the fritz I'm sure hoping there's a licensed electrician around to repair it.

The Gub, as it stands now...

Ah the Bill White salad days...four points down (44%-48%) in the latest Rasmussen poll and trending upward. The InterLeft was starting to get that tingling sensation running up and down their collective legs with the thought of a non-gun toting policy wonk sitting in the front office under the Pink Dome.

That was April.

This is May....

(Election 2010, Texas Governor, 05/17/2010, Rasmussen Reports)
Texas Governor Rick Perry earns himself a little more breathing room this month, crossing the 50% mark for the first time in his bid for reelection against Democrat Bill White.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Texas shows the Republican incumbent with 51% support, while White earns 38%, his poorest showing to date.
Two important things here:

1. For the first time in this election cycle Perry has creeped above the 50% mark. What this means is that the independents who broke, probably broke his way. It also means that Bill White lost a sizable amount of middle-ground support as he (oddly) focused his television buy in Houston, while Perry focused on areas where Bill White is less well known.

2. Attacking Perry (and seeming anti-gun) for the now infamous coyote incident was probably not the smartest of moves. I'm not sure who the campaign staffer was that thought White could out-macho Perry but I'm willing to bet they're biting their nails down to the nubs today wondering if a pink-slip is coming their way.

It's not as if the media hasn't provided the White team plenty of cannon-fodder to mount an offensive. There are real fiscal concerns coming to light that I'm sure Perry would just as soon went away. Instead of awkward photo shoots like this (with White wearing what's now mockingly called "the nipple shirt"), and wonky 10-page 'analysis' of well blow-outs you would think White would better focus his message on what he's planning to do*, unless they feel what they are planning is not going to play well with Texas voters, something that their internal polling might have revealed.

In which case they should probably head back to the coyote shooting. Or just go ahead and admit that they're in a heap of trouble. Either way it's not good.

*I've always contended that Democrats should stand up and just say "hey, we've got to raise taxes" and see where that leads them. What gets them in trouble is trying to run as fiscal conservatives when they know full-well they have no plans to practice fiscal conservatism. The independents get ticked and Democrats are soon voted out of power. To be fair, there are some on the InterLeft who admit that tax increases are part of the platform, but the candidates rarely do. Instead of "a government that cares about the citizens" and "a government for all Texans" just tell us that, in order to make your project priorities work, Texans are going to have to pay more. Hell, run on an income tax platform if you believe in it....

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Shutter the Editorial board (Part 12,476)

It's been suggested before, by better bloggers than I, that the best use of ChronBlog resources could be to shutter the out-of-touch editorial board and redeploy the resources to the news desk.

Based on today's twin efforts I heartily agree.

(Balancing Act: Parker’s proposed city budget will require discipline, luck") ChronBlog, May, 15, 2010)
Give Mayor Parker credit for proposing an austerity budget that minimizes service cuts and avoids tax increases and the use of debt to cover expenses.

(Balancing Act II: How not to deal with our projected $18 billion state budget deficit ChronBlog, May 15, 2010)
As a first response to this news Straus has done the politic thing. The speaker has come out against new taxes while putting most everything else on the table as a solution.
Emphasis above is mine.

It reminds HCA of people speaking ill of others all why they stand just a few feet away. Hey CCTT! We're right here. You do realize that we can hear you snickering at us (the readers) right?

If that's the best they can do then the best option is to shutter the Ed board and redirect the salary to hire some reporters with a watchdog bent. Of course, that won't happen at America's worst big-city daily, but it's an idea.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hire this commenter as an editorial writer

He's better than anyone working for the CCTT.

From the comments of the following CCTT op-ed....

(Retaining River Oaks, Commenter PK48, ChronBlog)
Old gives way to new. Were talking about houses here, not publicly significant buildings. If it were an old court or a church I would be on the side of preservation. Private property belongs to the owner to do with as he wishes. After all, this is still , although barely, America.

If only the short-sighted masthead members of America's worst big city daily could hire staff editorial writers who could think (and frame an argument) like this.

Because a bad legal opinion....(CORRECTION)

CORRECTION: please see the linked post. still just a bad legal opinion.

Even if Metro's favorite ChronBlog blogger says differently:

(Voice mail key to Metro's "Buy America" defense, Mike Snyder, ChronBlog)
A year-old voicemail retained by one of the Metropolitan Transit Authority's outside attorneys may hold the key to preserving the first federal light-rail funds in Houston history.
The April 17, 2009, message from Scott Biehl, then the Federal Transit Administration's acting chief counsel, to Metro attorney Ed Gill responded to Gill's inquiry about whether “Buy America” rules would permit the assembly of two prototype rail cars in Spain if the cars were purchased with local, not federal, funds.
“Ed, you nailed it,” Biehl said in the message, which was included in Metro's formal response Friday to the FTA's Buy America investigation. “The answer is we don't care.”

Not "caring" about a law and being forced to enforce it (especially during times of economic recession.) It was nice of Metro to provide this information to Snyder so he could put it out there for him. You have to wonder if Metro's PR staff is thinking about freshening up their resumes given that ChronBlog seems to be willing to float their PR budget for them.

As an aside: It thought this comment was unintentionally funny:
OneOfTheHerd wrote:
Houston will never be a first rate city until it has a first rate transit system
With this at-grade streetcar/reduced bus capacity monstrosity in the works....keep waiting.

Harris County GOP: Do what we say....

...not what we do.

(Activist steamed over water rates, Bradley Olson, ChronBlog)
Republican activist Paul Bettencourt plans to challenge the city of Houston's drastic water rate increases in court on Monday, saying Mayor Annise Parker has taken an “abominable” step in passing increases that go far beyond the limits outlined in a 2004 voter referendum.


“If you're going to make a contract with the public and get them to vote on it and get them to pass the vote, then by God you better honor that contract,” Bettencourt said of Proposition 1, a charter amendment passed in 2004 with the backing of then-Mayor Bill White and City Council. “I saw the campaign. I know what the public approved, and I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that the public vote is followed
Emphasis mine above.

In case you're wondering, this is the same Paul Bettencourt that resigned almost immediately after the "voters spoke" by re-electing him to the position of Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector.

Remember that? Yeah, that early severing of a "contract" (in effect) with voters? Yeah Paul, we're pretty sure that was you. It rings hollow to call someone out for an election not mattering when the last one you were in didn't seem to matter all that much right?

I'm constantly amazed at the points Republicans choose to draw lines in the sand. Granted, there are certainly lines on expenditures that need to be drawn, it's fair to question, however, if today's Republican leadership are in any position to do so?

In other words: Why in the hell should non-partisans take this group seriously?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Noise Machine (05/13/10)

Please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in the upright position....

Non-certified teachers in charter schools? That mess is a system right? (The instructor should be criminally charged FWIW.)

The new UH budget is out. And it's a tough one as far as their dreams for Tier One status goes. (And this is before the Lege gets done with their expected higher education cuts.)

One thing about the Perry campaign, just when you think you've seen it all, there's something else.

As for the Democrats, elect us and we'll raise your taxes hasn't worked to well in the past but, to their credit (or fault), they keep trying. My thought is their fundamental problem is a sustained effort to keep politically rigging flawed tax systems across the country and refusing to have discussions about real reform and change*. (As opposed to false reform that does nothing but continue to increase the percentage of Americans who don't have any stake in the system in an effort to get more votes.)

No surprise here: Rick Perry is not a gambling man. Socially conservative Republicans and Democrats (despite their unwillingness to be categorized as such) don't do well with the concept of "personal freedom". (It's too icky. What if people are free to do something we don't like.) It's far better to call for the banning of speech with which we disagree under the false flag of hate. (Are the thought police any less daunting than "show me your papers"?)

The new battle for the Alamo will be fought in the courts. Good news: Gone are deaths and senseless slaughter. Bad news: Gone are acts of personal courage and lines in the sand. (Which says a lot about modern society methinks.)

Texas Watchdog, following up on their Woodlands Road District story, note that the losers are taking this to court. My hope would be that the Texas Supreme Court would eventually get this and take down the entire "taxation without representation" system that districts such as these represent. (Won't happen I know, but one can dream right?)

David Jennings of BigJolly Politics takes KHOU's "no bill" story by Mark Greenblatt to the woodshed. As everyone knows I'm a Greenblatt fan. I've found him to be a good reporter who's methodologies are typically proven to be sound and his reports to be right on. That being said there were legitimate questions surrounding his recent Metro story surrounding monetary forecasts (and specifically how he framed it) and David Jennings makes the case that there are some legitimate questions here as well. I'm anxious to see what Greenblatt's response is to this, especially since he's been more than willing to justify his reports in the past. (He's also been proven right more often than not. And while past performance is not a reliable indicator of future success, when reporting the news track record means something, but not everything.)

Does your blog have a virus? eTee2k suggests you get a checkup post haste. (I'm running a word search right now, early returns are this blog is safe. *phew*)

And finally....

Bob Dunn opens up on Eric Cantor and military spending. I'm a fan of National defense, but not of the increased International deployment of our military. Some places we need to be, some we do not. Read into that what you will. (It's unfair to blame Republicans alone however. Afghanistan is the Democrats war almost in it's entirety. If you're mad at W for Iraq then you should be mad at Obama for Afghanistan as well. Unless your outrage thermometer has a partisan dividing line that is.)

*I guess it makes sense however, Texas Democrats especially seem to have no clue how to close structural deficits except to sit back and "hope" things turn around naturally. There's very little difference between the strategy behind "changing demographics" and "the economy is going to turn around eventually". To be fair though neither of those are any better than the Republicans "hey, at least we don't suck as bad as they do" political game-plan

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

That's Billion with a B....

Mayor Parker unveils her new budget, one that's notably less ambitious than those submitted by the two previous administrations.

It's probably safe to call this the "hold your breath" budget since it forestalls a lot of 'nice to have' projects in the hopes that the economic turn-around is going to happen sooner rather than later. There's a lot of faith put in that fact, a fact that may not come to fruition given recent events.

The first cause for concern is the oil spill currently growing in the Gulf. Depending on the scope of the disaster and how the current federal administration reacts to it, job loss in the energy sector could severely weaken Houston's tax structure. Add to that a Senate climate change bill that's been written without a nod to reality and you have two potential major down thrusts on Houston's economy.

Then there's the regulation of the health insurance industry, the long-term effects of which we don't know. While it's true that "30 million" Americans are going to now be required to purchase insurance, it's not yet clear that the payment system for medical treatment providers is going to be in the sustainable range. For a City whose economy is linked to the health of the health-care industry.....

Then there's the pension short-fall, whose negative effects are being stressed by Bill King. At some point the City is going to have to address the issue that has been, to this point, pushed back to other administrations, by previous Mayors.

All of that still doesn't take the following into account: A lot of the 'plugs' for revenue short-falls in this budget have yet to materialize. There are rumors of departmental cuts, but nothing on paper. There are also potential land and real property sales that have not materialized, or could close at lower amounts than City appraisals.

Given all of the above what Houston is seeing is a realistic budget written in times of economic stress. It's also the first symptoms of Houston's coming hangover from the drinking binge of recent years.

Three rules to keep in mind:

1. You reap what you sow.
2. You reap after you sow.
3. You reap more than you sow.

For the last 20/odd years Houston has been sowing fiscal irresponsibility. If the economy doesn't turn around soon the price for that will have to be paid through sizable tax increases on a potentially shrinking taxable base. Granted, that's a worst-case scenario, but not an unrealistic one.

The Noise Machine (05/12/10)

Who? What?

It's good news/bad news for the Harris County Sheriff's Department as they settle three high-profile lawsuits from the Rosenthal administration but end up forking out almost $600,000. Ah well....

Is it the letter of the law, or the spirit of the law that matters? The Texas Lege is going to consider that as more and more Representatives use text messages and Twitter to circumvent open meetings requirements. (Twitter is open so I encourage more Reps to get on that, engage with their constituents. Just don't constantly DM one another.)

Yesterday, in the link-post I high-lighted Bill White's attack on Rick Perry for his use of the Texas Enterprise Fund and hinted that I thought there could be fertile ground to plow for the White campaign. It seems Matt Angle and the State Democratic Party have sent the same message to the InterLeft. I'm assuming this is going to be a major thrust of White's campaign going forward. (It's a stronger argument than the unemployment angle, which really just displays a lack of understanding of basic math. If White really wants to make some political hey he'll make eliminating the fund, and diverting the money to education, a key plank in his platform. Of course, that would rid the Governor of a powerful and influential tool.)

This story included for no other reason than I have an interest in things being hurled out of galaxies at high-speed.

Jason Embry of the Austin American-Statesman comments today on budget coverage of Texas' major news dailies. Guess who's coverage is the weakest?
Here are the headlines newspaper subscribers in our big metro areas are waking up to this morning:

Austin American-Statesman: “Speaker rules out taxes to fix budget”

Dallas Morning News: “Prisons, mental care exempt from 5% cuts”

San Antonio Express-News: “Texas now is facing $18 billion shortfall”

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “Projected state budget deficit rises to $18 billion”

And there is a tease at the bottom of the Houston Chronicle which reads, “Facing a shortfall, speaker wants to avoid a hike, too, while trying to close the gap.”
So you have an $11-$18 billion dollar hole that could have a profound effect on all Texans and ChronBlog decides it's only worth a tease at the bottom of page 1. Nice job editors. Oy.

Meanwhile, Ben PhilPott of the Texas Tribune provides proof of case (unintentionally?) why using one-time Federal dollars is a bad budget idea:
The Legislative Budget Board’s assistant director Wayne Pulver told House budget writers this morning that they could start the next legislative session in a $15 to $18 billion budget hole.

“You’re looking at the – essentially 11 or so billion in use of one time revenues if you will – if the federal money doesn’t reoccur. Plus the cost pressures. Plus revenue perhaps not coming in as previously estimated. So that’s a number that has been out there. And that’s a reasonable number," said Pulver.
So, $11 billion of the $15-18 billion is the result of Federal funds not being renewed? Boy, aren't we glad we didn't take that one-time infusion of Federal cash into our unemployment system now? (Which goes to the point: Taking Federal money often means spending more money to bring a State program into Federal compliance. Typically this compliance was put in for political, rather than practical, reasons. It's often (not always) better to go it alone and implement a smaller tax increase sooner rather than a bigger tax increase later.)

Unca Darrell reminds us that, while ChronBlog's Nick Anderson can really draw, he doesn't quite have that intellectual consistency thing down yet. (The problem for attacking the Tea Party for their fiscal conservatism is that you then have to explain why they were right when you offer up your stump speech for reducing the deficit. There's a lot of reasons to dislike the Tea Party, their call for fiscal restraint isn't one of them.)

And finally.....

Tom Kirkendall excerpts the Happy Hospitalist on Medicare. The biggest lie of this year was that the Health Insurance Industry Regulation signed into law by President Obama had anything to do with "reforming" healthcare.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Covering the Dippin' Dots* economy.....

...means not admitting it could be the Dippin' Dots economy.

(Meet our 'Covering the Green Economy' Fellows, Kelly Carr, Reynold's Center for Business Journalism)
Twenty outstanding business and environmental journalists have won fellowships to attend the “Covering the Green Economy Seminar” presented by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism from June 28-30 in Phoenix.

Journalists from around the country and Canada were chosen from more than 120 applicants to attend the seminar at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, where the Reynolds Center is headquartered. The fellows include reporters and editors from print, online, television and radio outlets.


Attendees will learn to recognize “greenwashing,” track federal stimulus dollars designed to create green jobs, and answer consumers’ most frequently asked questions about leading environmentally sustainable lives.

The article notes that the funding for said symposium is made by the McCormick Foundation a group whose board of directors is almost entirely comprised of Chicago Tribune company employees or alums. It's worth noting that the Tribune has strong editorial lean toward the new 'green' economy. Given that the speakers are all proponents of (or have financial interests tied to) the success of the Dippin' Dots the idea that any coverage coming out of this will be even remotely unbiased is a stretch.

Think about this: Change the name to "Covering the Oil Economy" and change the speaker's list to executive team members of Multi-national oil companies and what would you get?

Protests? Outrage? Claims of a Vast Right-Wing conspiracy? InterLeft bloggers calling for the blacklisting of reporters who attended?

Well there you go.

* By way of explanation, if you're not familiar with Dippin' Dots ice-cream it's marketed as "The Ice Cream of the Future". It's always been marketed that way and it always will. Just as I believe the so-called "Green economy" as it's currently idealized, will always be the "economy of the future".

I'm constantly amazed....

....that Senators making statements such as this aren't laughed out of the room:

(Oversight of Oil-reg equipment draws scrutiny, Siobhan Hughes, Wall St. Journal)
Earlier Tuesday, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D., N.M.) said technological, human and regulatory failures contributed to the oil-rig accident in the Gulf of Mexico
Considering there's been no evidence brought up from the sea-floor as of yet, and all we have is speculation to go on, that's an amazing statement by Sen. Bingaman.

And you wonder why I call the US Senate "Society's Least Common Denominator"?

The 11 rig-workers that died in the blowout deserve better than election year political posturing.

Because what Houston needs right now..... gushing praise heaped on Metro.

Fortunately, for Metro, the ChronBlog Caucasian Think-Tank is ready and willing to gush for Greanias in a manner to which readers of America's Worst Big-City daily have become all to accustomed.

A real news organization, one committed to watchdog journalism instead of unquestioning devotion to the ruling elite, might have written something like this:

"We welcome the appointment of former City Council member and Controller George Greanias as the CEO of Metro and wish him well. Greanias has a distinguished public service record and his private-sector experience suggests he'll be pre-disposed to overseeing a Metro that is open and honest, traits that were sadly lacking during the Wolff/Wilson era.

We remind Greanias of this however: The public deserves to know the goings-on at Metro and how their tax dollars are spent. That shadow you see behind you as you conduct business is the (insert news agency here) looking over your shoulder."
Since CCTT is unwilling to say it, and the members of the Masthead at ChronBlog are unwilling to do it, I'll say it.

Congratulations on your appointment Mr. Greanias. Here's hoping that your leadership is more transparent, open and successful than that of the previous office holders. Don't slip back into Metro's old habits, or there will be people keeping tabs on what's going on at 1900 Main St. even if those in charge at 801 Texas have decided not to.

The staff at HCA (OK, me) wish you the best.

The Noise Machine (05/11/10)

Stormy weather......

When home-school numbers don't add up, the questions about drop-out rates come flooding in. (again)

Call it, selective morality, based on financial needs. Funny how that works.

Supreme Court nominee Kagan, cautious middle-of-the-road pick or anti-military lesbian? Next question: should lesbian even matter, from a legal perspective that is. (Obviously it matters from a social perspective, where many -mainly on the right- feel that a "gay" agenda is marching forward.) And what does her selection say about representation?

Houston Restaurant BB's Cajun Cafe is expanding with a new downtown location. Congratulations to the Bassler's.

And here comes the Grand Parkway again, ready or not. (Need it or not, like the idea of paving over the Katy Prairie or not....)

Left out of Jared Woodfill's GOP history lesson is the fact that he was a key player when the local GOP was asleep at the switch.

The bi-annual Chet Edwards is a goner countdown has officially begun. Why do I get the feeling he's still going to be standing in office when this is all over?

I'll give Bill White a C-minus for his white paper on Rick Perry's spending. He's right regarding the Texas Enterprise Fund, dead-solid wrong on Perry's refusal to take federal unemployment funds and then raising taxes, (an issue that I've previously blogged about in some detail) and wrong to continually release wonkish "policy papers" that few Texans are going to read, or even care about. (IMO what White needs to guard against is the impression that he's lecturing Texans on how they "should" be. People like to think they're voting for a candidate who understands them, not one who feels he's smarter than them and can continually talk down at them instead of speaking with them.)

Texas Watchdog lays out the details on the funniest story of the weekend. I can't see any way these votes are going to pass muster but, then again, I don't see how a taxing authority can be set up in a way that no constituents can live within it's boundaries. My guess is the vote will be disqualified, and something will have to be done in the Lege to straighten this mess out.

And finally....

Would someone please go explain the concept of commuter school to the Bill White Texas Tribune's Reeve Hamilton? As an alumni of UH-D I can tell you this. There are intelligent students there (present company excluded) who are working full-time and attending classes at night. That they don't graduate within six years makes their degree no less impressive. In fact, to my mind, their ability to juggle work and school makes it even more impressive were I making a hiring decision. (One of our great failures, as a society, is allowing the education bias of some affect the goals of the entire system. Especially when the 'some' operate under a sense of royal entitlement *cough*UT&aTm*cough*)

Monday, May 10, 2010

What'd she look like before?

This is not the first time I've seen this model on multiple advertisements in the same issue of the Houston Press. As a matter of fact, I remember some months ago seeing her in three different ads.

Which leads us to the question in the title.....We could have Houston's own version of Heidi Montag* here if we're not careful.

*...and I don't care how desperate you are, but Heidi Montag is NOT world class.

The Noise Machine (05/10/10)

Testing positive for non-steroidal substances since 1991.....

The Texas Prison System has decided to release inmates geographically closer to home. Such a simple idea.

Texas Education Reality: Gotta High School that can't meet the standards? No problem, just lower the bar.

File this under "the sky is blue": A progressive environmental commentator is anti-oil industry. I'd like to see the anti-oil people go a month without oil and then report back to us.

Both the Austin American-Statesman and the Bill White Texas Tribune pen articles that are potentially damaging to the Perry campaign. The question remains: Can the, to this point, uninspiring Bill White team take advantage of any of it? (My guess is no.)

Democratic Party activist/blogger Charles Kuffner interviews Democratic candidate for Texas Lt. Governor Linda Chavez-Thompson on immigration. (Hint: She's for immigrant amnesty and will support the AFL-CIO position, whatever it may end up being.) If you're undecided on this race you should go give it a listen and decide whether or not you agree with her and then vote accordingly. (At times the audio is rough, but you can hear most of it.)

Texas GOP 2010, calm on the surface but paddling like hell underwater? Could be. (As the Tea Party is partisan meme loses steam it appears that the GOP stands to suffer more from it than do Democrats. The results could not be pretty come election time.)

Maybe it's just me, but a story focusing on your six-month page-hits, Interweb status thingy is NOT inspiring journalism. I understand the need for some chest beating, but more important to the general public are the awards you've won. (Or...haven't won, as is the case with ChronBlog)

And finally.....

Hmmm....Texas Democrats and Matt Angle....where have I read that before?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Do what they say....

...not what they do.

(From the comments of
From joel:
oh man, i had never even noticed that bistro vino shut down. it was a great location/setup for an upper end restaurant and would certainly better serve the area if it continued to serve as this rather than more housing.*
Bistro Vino has been shuttered for almost one year.

Gotta love those dumb smart-growth proponents who are 100% sure that they know what's best for you despite the fact that it hasn't worked for them.

*Isn't 'infill development' (ostensibly in the form of more urban dwelling) one of the key factors in the new urbanist' ethos? And if so, why is it that said new urban devotees argue against almost every urban living project proposed to be built inside the Loop?

Throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Due to my employment with a large oil & gas company (no, NOT BP) I've been a little quiet regarding the recent rig explosion/oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. There are a couple of reasons for this: One, all I've seen so far is speculation as to why this happened, and I see no reason to speculate on my future career based on anything other than factual, sober analysis. Two, I really don't have much new to offer to the debate that's out there. Whatever I would say would be accepted by those who like big oil (ConservaBloggers) and instantly discarded by those who don't (the InterLeft).

With yesterday's announcement by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that he's halting all offshore permitting and slowing down an already approved Shell/Alaska project I think the time is here to say something about this so I ask my dozen (or so) regular readers to bear with me.

First. The most important factor in all of this is that eleven rig workers died in the original explosion. Due to the political nature of the fallout I feel that this has been buried under a wave of self-important reporting and blog-posting by adherents of green energy. That's eleven humans, almost equal to the 13 fatalities in the Gulf over the past six years. In terms of lives lost then, this is one of the worst failures Gulf of Mexico drilling has seen in some time. Ignoring political posturing, our prayers, thoughts and support should go out to the families of those lost.

Second. Beyond Rick Perry's "act of God" and Bill White's speculative causal analysis, there's fertile ground to plow about how and why this happened, what can be done to stop it, and the best road ahead. One thing is for sure, I'm certain that Mr. Salazar's "cut off the head to cure a sinus infection" approach isn't the smartest thing to do. If anything I lean closer to the written recommendations of energy experts and many politicians (including Bill White and Rick Perry). There are fairly strict regulations already in place, enforcing them would be a first good step.

Last. This, is not oversight. For years the Federal Government has talked out of both sides of their mouth when it comes to dealing with oil companies. Republicans have turned a blind eye to some industry excesses and then feigned outrage when a few companies got caught with their hand in the cookie jar. Democrats have spent the last two decades vilifying the industry all while happily accepting more taxes and fees from them than any other business sector. The end result of this institutional dishonesty is a National energy debate that's juvenile, short-sighted and useless. I've seen un-hinged bloggers honestly say that "no one has ever been killed building a solar panel" without understanding the dangerous conditions in which silicone miners work daily. Liberal blowhard Ed Schultz was not laughed off the air when he suggested that all offshore drilling should be abandoned, neither was Conservative blabber Rush Limbaugh tarred and feathered for his foolish suggestion that a clean up was not necessary. There's a stunning lack of education in this country about the true cost of energy, and what it takes to sustain a country's power needs.

How else do you explain people pushing for increased use of electric cars, but refusing to consider clean coal technology to power the energy grids that drive said cars? Republicans fight against trains and other forms us mass transit without thinking, while Democrats push their use while courting votes from the automobile unions. Then we have nuclear power, touted as a panacea it can never become or wrongly vilified for sins it never committed. Almost nowhere in our National debate is there enough remaining oxygen for measured, reasonable discussion or legislation. There are too many political axes to grind, too many special interests to appease.

The end result of this nonsense is that America is rapidly losing what was once it's greatest competitive advantage, great stores of natural resources. In the KHOU article linked to above are the following sobering facts: American oil production is decreasing while demand has increased, currently we are importing 65% of our oil. What that means is that a majority of our energy and fuel supply is provided at the whim of a foreign power. If you want to view something that is unsustainable that is the very definition.

I'm not going to end this post with some grand plan for the future of energy in America that makes it sound like I've got all the answers. The fact is I don't. I'd like to see tighter enforcement of the existing rules going forward and for the MMS to take the "management" part more seriously, and I'd like to see America's energy independence restored but, as an accountant, the "how" this gets accomplished is above my pay grade. One thing I do know: If we keep letting the conversation be dominated by faulty logic, pundits shooting for ratings and those on the fringes with anger management issues we're going to soon be looking down the barrel of an economic and societal disaster.

The Noise Machine (05/07/10)

Will the last oil-field worker out of Houston please turn out the lights?

Did it ever occur to anyone at Metro that needing to spend $100K for "public image consulting" is one of the reason's they have a bad public image to begin with?

Mike McGuff relays ChronBlog's efforts to restructure leading BlogHouston to ask: How many people are going to get laid-off this time? (I realize I'm hard on ChronBlog, but that mainly stems from shoddy reporting habits by a few bad apples and piss-poor management from those on the masthead. There are a LOT of good folks over at Houston's biggest blog and I hope they land on their feet.)

Metro logic: Feds refuse waiver, Metro inks deal anyway. Maybe David Wolff can fax Mike Snyder from Istanbul that he's shocked, SHOCKED! to find out the Feds have problems with what Frank Wilson is doing?

I find it sad that HISD had to cut a deal with the Feds to ensure that no influence peddling occurred in the e-rate deal process. (Don't be fooled, this is NOT an ethical victory, it's a sad snapshot of just how full of it the process is.)

Note: Inconsistent discipline is a bad thing. (Let's hope the charges are just a fishing expedition and not true.)

I typically give Paul Burka a hard time (with good reason IMO) but credit where credit is due. His identification of Dr. Richard Murray's political ties in this story are better than almost any you see in ChronBlog or other local news outlets. Dr. Murray's analysis is typically insightful, from a Democratic perspective. Just running his numbers without a nod to his perspective only tells half the story. (For instance: His contention that Democratic single party rule=good and Republican single party rule=bad is perhaps the most honest reporting of his political beliefs that I've seen in print.) The rest of the story covers old ground. The shrinking Republican structural advantage. It's there and, until the Republicans get a change of leadership, a platform relevant to the 21st century or a mass lobotomy it's not going to slow.

Charles Kuffner informs us that The Houston Federation of Teachers Gallegos vs. Grier is heating up. Get your popcorn.

Quick aside: Orrin Hatch is still around? Well I'll be.

The Bill White Texas Tribune takes a hard look at the race for GOP State Chair. From debt issues to ideological concerns Texas Republicans have some problems. (Still, this story reads as if Boyd Richie was a consultant.) To her credit though, Ms. Smith did a good job providing some background on three people that most Republicans know nothing about. (And probably still don't, since I'm guessing not too many Republicans are checking the Trib daily.)

Also from the Trib, a primer on the financing shortfalls for public employee healthcare. For all of the talk about runaway government spending (some of it justified) and economy killing taxes (some of it also justified) the elephant in the room for America is the overwhelming cost crush that public sector employees' benefit plans will face in the near future.

And finally.....

We're so glad he didn't retire: Unca Darrell on the advocacy journalism prevalent in America's worst big city daily.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Noise Machine (05/06/10)

Give us this day our daily bread.....

Frank Wilson is learning an important Houston lesson: Live by the establishment, die by the establishment. It's neither going to be surprising to many long-time observers of Houston politics that the blame for any delay in federal rail funding will be laid at his feet, or that ChronBlog is now dutifully devoting column inches to that contention. (Now let's see if certain ChronBlog reporters continue accepting stories from David Wolff and running them without question. After all, research is not high on ChronBlog's skill set.)

Elenor Tinsley gets a street. Not a fancy street mind you, but one that's close to Planned Parenthood's Houston headquarters. (Which relatives assure us is what she wanted despite the fact that billboards, and not reproductive rights issues, are what she made a career campaigning on.) Hey, as long as everyone is happy.

From the NY Times: Americans are concerned about immigration and are OK with the Arizona law, even though they admit it could lead to racial profiling. (Which, if we're honest, is mainly a concern for progressives who travel in homogeneous social circles and academics. Truly civilized countries understand when, where and how much profiling security requires.)

Don't get too hyped-up for high-speed rail. The truth is you're probably not looking at a working system for 20 years. Even if everything goes right. And we do mean everything. The reality is, if any high-speed rail is ever implemented, it will probably be future generations that use it. (Which makes sense considering it will be their money we're going to be spending to build the damn thing.)

Here's a thought: Instead of viewing gambling as a revenue stream cure-all (which, outside of Vegas it's not) how about viewing it as a freedom issue? (As opposed to running a nanny state where a bunch of politicians supported by morality groups (on both sides of the aisle) tell us what's right and what's wrong.)

You know the Country is in trou....We interrupt this link post for an HCA PSA:

If you think Newsweek's continued presence is invaluable to the future of democracy. It's not. In fact, much like ChronBlog, it's been failing at the mission of journalism for some time now. There's far better news coverage elsewhere.

(We now return you to your regularly scheduled link post, already in progress)....Texas State Representatives in knee-high stockings dancing the can-can.

When "Of" is vitally important. and why those who subscribe to "from" are dangerous. All that being said....the truth is you don't need a National day to pray just pray.

In response to ChronBlog's sicky-sweet love-in with the Dynamo stadium Houston Clear Thinker's Tom Kirkendall wonders if a little truth-in-advertising is too much to ask. Meanwhile BlogHouston reminds us that, given ChronBlog's and Ortiz' history for this type of writing, we shouldn't be surprised at all.

And finally.....

The ends justify the means? Another question is this: How can you have a taxing authority that is in no way answerable to the voters? No taxation without representation? Anyone?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

See Ray, that's the whole problem....

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was in town today speaking to the Intelligent Transportation Society of America at their annual meeting (for a kick, go read the strategic plan for the ITSA. It's more about building their group than it is intelligent transportation.) where he had the following to say to you backwater Houstonians who like to text, talk on the phone, apply make-up, shave, eat dinner, or do whatever else while driving your car:

(quoted from: LaHood: We are committed to Houston Rail, Mike Snyder, ChronBlog 05/05/2010)
"If you're hooked on your phone or you're hooked on your Blackberry and you need to use it 24 hours a day," he said, "get on a bus, get on a train, get on mass transit."

Uh...yeah. Obviously LaHood thought that he was in New York, or Dallas, or some City with a transportation system that goes somewhere, or that's designed with utility in mind instead of in the vain hopes that New York will notice it's world classiness and that the next company to consider jumping ship will take one look at the DangerTrain and fall back in love with us all over again.....

Nope, not in Houston. In Houston we have seven miles of track that goes from the hospital to downtown....and then back again. Not to any residential areas and not to some area where people might live and want to ride the train. The kicker to all of this is that the future plans don't have any of that either. To top all of that off we've allowed out bus system to be gutted to the point that it's basically a feeder system for short trips on the train to get you to the next bus. If you notice, the train is full for about 1/4 of it's 7 mile run, where people get off of their bus and are forced to hop the train to their next bus, then it runs nearly empty* on the edges.

All of this is what happens when the process of theory and design are disconnected from the harshness of reality. When you design the rail in a downtown building, never travelling through the Third Ward and seeing the people lined up at the bus-stop, then deciding that a line running down Richmond makes sense. It also allows you the freedom from the hypocrisy that spawns from criticizing road-building to spur development as futile, while suggesting that rail-building to spur development is the wave of the future.

Good luck with that commitment Ray, and here's hoping you continue to be driven around Houston in a limousine when you visit as well.....

Oh honestly thought Mr. LaHood rode public transportation?

*By "empty" we obviously are not counting the occasional unpaid homeless person who's taking advantage of the cool interior on a hot Summer day. I will say this about the DangerTrain, you will stay cool right before you smash into that oncoming car or bus.

It's your fault you know.

You beer-swilling, Spanglish-mangling, cheap labor-exploiting gringo. At least, that's what those who are intent on sucking every drop of fun out of American culture want to say to you today, on Cinco de Mayo. (Also known as "peak sales day" for Corona, Tecate and Dos Eqius.)

While it's true that I'm not one to let go much of a celebration on the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla, that doesn't mean that I begrudge those who do. Nor am I going to heap scorn on them in the manner of Oscar Casares who had this to say in today's ChronBlog:
Every year we prefer to celebrate Mexico's history on our terms, whether that history is accurate or only convenient. But then again, isn't the United States' relationship with Mexico all about convenience?
Yeah, yeah "fight the man" and "Gringo go home", "Viva la Raza" and all of that. Blah, blah, blah. I, for one, am growing tired of the PC scolds whose self-appointed job it seems is to come around on every celebratory occasion (either real or manufactured) and inform the general public that they're actually cogs in some Rube Goldberg machine that's stripping people of their dignity through some convoluted process involving beer koozies, co-eds in bikinis and watered down Margaritas. Spare me your outrage there sparkita.

Yes, there are serious issues with how (many) Americans view the Mexican immigrant. That goes double for those who have circumvented the official channels of entry and have placed themselves in a situation where they can be easily exploited by a system that looks for the lowest cost without much thought to social impact. From NAFTA to the policies of the Mexican government to a US Federal government sitting around with their PC thumbs up their collective asses it seems that pretty much all official policy is designed to stick it to the poor Mexican laborer, without the benefit of KY.

It's projection and misplaced anger, however, that directs the ire at people spending happy hour at a bar drunkenly belting out "La Cucaracha" before heading home to down two Advil in a desperate attempt to not appear fat-headed at work on Thursday. Hey, at least they're trying to be multi-cultural and diverse right? It's not like every culture who celebrates something from another culture does it the exact same way. There are always going to be nods to the home-team locked up in every celebration that originated elsewhere. It's a universal constant.

So, while you're pounding down watered down horse piss and pretending you like it while contemplating ordering another one of the worst cocktails ever invented by man do it with a clear conscience and a nod to our friends South of the border.

Then get a cab.

Leave the whining and moaning over the supposed injustices to folks like Mr. Casares who could suck the fun out of a Whoopee! cushion by just looking at the chair.

They're just pissed they don't get invited to all of the good parties.

The Noise Machine (05/05/10)

Stay thirsty my friends....

What passes these days for critical analysis in ChronBlog. (It would have been better to call this a paid advertisement and let the reporter make a little extra change on the side.)

Texas A&M dares decide that people committing the civil crime of undocumented entry not be rewarded for such. Cue outrage by immigrant groups.

I wonder, When Con/United CEO Jeff Smisek spoke with the CCTT did he offer assurances they were still loved? Were there tears?

Texas shrimpers, long the targets of progressive, econmental groups, are now the left's poster children for the evils of big oil. Funny how things work.

Perry's critics Bill White's supporters are all over his "possibly it's an act of God" remark, all over it. As is Perry's habit, he's defending his remark which is smart considering many of his "critics" wouldn't know a force majeure if it bit them in their Lilly-white asses.

To his credit, Bill White has a fairly sober, yet admittedly speculative, analysis of the blowout online for all to read. (It's ten pages, and wonky, as White is known to be, and it assumes a lot but, to White's credit, it doesn't take seriously the knee-jerk ecomental contention that we should immediately halt any additional off-shore drilling.)

As the Austin American-Statesman notes: their reactions say a lot about the two potential candidates, each will be trumped up as a positive by their supporters, and as a negative by their opponents. There's fertile ground for a blog post about the upside/downside to each candidate's style, but I'm not sure if I've got the time to pen it. (I'd say there's something to be written about whether or not the RepubliBloggers or the InterLeft are a boon or a drag on a campaign but I don't think enough people pay attention to them to move the needle any either way.)

The artist formerly known as Mrs. White, goes back on the offensive for her (former) man today. And in typical ChronBlog fashion ignores the mounting evidence that Perry made the right call.

Still more on the idiocy born of 'safe' districts and what they portend for the level of political discourse in our State & Country.

And finally.....

Politics makes for strange bedfellows. It's a universal truism regardless of party affiliation.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Noise Machine (05/04/10)

Big, icky blobs of nothingness.....

Call it merger mania as ChronBlog unleashes it's not-so mighty business reporting staff to cover all things United.

Really? A Dear John letter? Dear Houston, It's not you, it's me. (Are we now so insecure as a City that we need Jeff Smisek to stroke our collective ego? Ridiculous.)

Meanwhile, local fishermen are trying their best to stop the oil spill. Illustrating that, while politicians pontificate and campaign the real work of getting things done is completed by those with a skin in the game.

So wait, you mean to tell me that defense lawyers want to discredit the forensic evidence panel? Didn't see that one coming.

Bill White 1, Rick Perry 0. After all of the bluster coming from the Perry team about "having a conversation regarding the economy of Houston" you'd have thought their initial response would be better than this?

All that being said, don't believe it when partisan bloggers take opinion pieces and twist them to suggest the needle is moving. Let's get some polling data first. Blog posts like that one from Democratic blog Burnt Orange Report are nothing more than campaign pieces and should be treated accordingly.

Finishing off a good news cycle for Bill White, Brent Budowsky, writing in the Hill, says White is going to win. (It's still a flawed analysis of Texas, painting the electorate as more liberal than it actually is in my opinion, but it's still good press for White.)

And finally....

The Bill White Texas Tribune does White for Texas a solid. (A solid that appears to have the added advantage of being true.) If the MSM picks up on this, with their poll moving readership (unlike the Tribune*) then it could put an end to the "sanctuary city" issue.

Yes, yes unlike this blog as well, whose readership makes the Tribune's look like internal Tea Party projections of their rally attendance. (And, in case you haven't been paying attention, that's pretty big.)

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Comprehensive Houston Area Political Jargon Cheat-sheet.

What they say vs. What they mean.....*

Chapter One: Development

What they say:Mixed-Use Development

What they Mean: Honestly, we go nuthin'. I mean, there's single use development (i.e. your house) and then pretty much everything else. The goal here is to put lipstick on the pig that drunkenly walks up to your stoop and takes a piss on the door. You call that an intrusion, we call it the learning opportunities present in a diverse urban environment.

What they say: Walkable Neighborhoods

What they mean: OK, we admit it, we're seriously invested in inner-loop real-estate and that damn light-rail, 7-mile piece of crap just isn't doing it for us. Thank God for Al Gore and his "save the planet" marketing pitch because without that we'd be screwed. Hey, it's not like everyone is a former member of City Council who can cut a sweet-heart deal to have a soccer stadium built on his previously lowly-regarded piece of property.

What they say: Eco-friendly transit is part of the new "green" economy.

What they mean: Yeah, we know, we've got no idea where in the world those supposed "green jobs" are going to come from either, but it sure makes for a helluva marketing campaign doesn't it?

What they say: Dense, urban environments are good for the planet.

What they mean: How dare you asshole suburbanites differ in your ideas from us. I mean seriously, can't you see our graphs? Don't you know we're the iMac generation, the creative class that's going to save your butt from ranch style homes? Yards? You idiots want yards? Why have a yard when you can have a shared green-space (parks) where child molesters have free-run at your kiddies? Hell, in a fenced in yard how's your child supposed to learn basics like self-defense? Give them some pepper spray, teach them to holler out loud and be done with it. Next thing you know you morons will be wanting a car. Gits.

What they say: World-Class

What they mean: To be honest, we couldn't think of a single-damn benefit that cost-justifies this monstrosity so we're falling back on platitudes. You want real world-class? Well then move to a World-class city. What we're offering you is a shrink-wrapped, photo-copied version with a busted fuser. It's a close facsimile but not the real thing. Sort of like Pamela Anderson Lee dressed up as Sophia Loren, looks OK from a distance until you get up close and realize the things done up on the cheap.

What they say:Houston Luxury Real Estate Outside of River Oaks.

What they mean: You're right, we can't keep a straight face when we say that either. How about a nice, Heights-area fixer-upper?

*Part One of a series. Helping you to cut through the political crap in Houston politics and get to the heart of the matter.

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