Thursday, April 29, 2010

Left unsaid.....

ChronBlog ran TWO editorials today (a terrible bit of horrible writing from the ChronBlog Caucasian Think-Tank and a formulaic plea from Patrick Oxford head of the Greater Houston Partnership) designed to accentuate the curves of Houston to the prospective leadership team of the soon-to-be newly formed airline created by the merger of Continental and United. (Mr. Smisek, we're ready for our close-up!*)

Unsaid amongst the lack-of-status hue & cry are the very things that Houston's struggling with in the first place. Namely: The City's government, over the span of the last decade, has hardly been "business friendly"

From selective application of ordinances to satisfy wealthy, politically connected constituents to filing lawsuits against the region's largest employers to marketing for most-favored customers while not doing the same for those in 'unapproved' areas, Houston's recent business friendly reputation has taken a high-profile hit or two.

Why is this? Part of the reason lies in the incompetence of the Brown administration followed by a White administration that tuned out the nuts and bolts of infrastructure and economy. The remaining cause lies with a power structure that's been bent on satisfying transplanted progressives who give heartily to political campaigns. The concern wasn't building a Houston that creates jobs, it was for building a Houston that has downscaled facsimiles of things found in other "world class" cities in the North East.

In short, Houston needs to get it's pro-business, pro-jobs mojo back. Early returns suggest that the Parker administration grasps this, and is willing to make (at least some of) the tough choices required to make it happen. What businesses want, more than parks, or stadiums or anything, is a consistent structure that allows for long-term planning. If Houston wants transit, then it needs to approach the citizens with a long-term plan for transit that's not deviated from as the political winds shift, overseen by a transit organization that's transparent with how it's spending taxpayer dollars. If Houston wants increased land-use restrictions, then it needs to bring a comprehensive plan to voters to enact said rules, not choose to apply them piece-meal when a favored group gets their knickers in a knot. And finally, if Houston wants to keep it's remaining corporations, then it needs to go back in time and revisit what made it so attractive to them in the first place.

Until we have that conversation with Corporate Houston, then all we're going to be left with are bad editorials and jingoism as one company after another looks for a way out.**

*Of course, they also ran a anti-merger piece by former anti-trust lawyer (and current UH Law Professor) Darren Bush which probably reflects their real sentiments more closely)

**It's probably too late to do anything about Continental leaving as that ship has sailed, but the object should be to strengthen our business chops to save the companies that are still here

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Noise Machine (04/29/10)

Keep rollin, rollin, rollin, rollin.....

More road-humps for Metro on the path to LRT nirvana. Fortunately, ChronBlog assures us there's nothing to see here, move along. There's really been no clear indication that the FTA would revoke the $900 Million grant even if it was proven that Metro couldn't build the system, or that they violated every rule imaginable. The current administration seems to be operating under the "mass transit at all costs" system of management so all of this is just noise. Or, as the ChronBlog and their friends on the InterLeft would tell us: "It's better to have a bad system that's a detriment to mobility than no system at all." Call it Government logic. (What comes next is the clumsy, expensive, transparently coordinated PR push to regain the public's trust.)

Good for Moody Gardens, the Rainforest Pyramid re-opens today. Time to head down there and check things out (again).

Harris County gave the tentative OK to a provisional Public Defender's Office yesterday, no word on who's going to do the miracle budget dance to make the funding work after the initial, temporary, grant money runs out. Gawd I hope it's not Ed Emmett. (Or worse, the entire Council...ewww.)

Surprise, unscientific, Internet poll reveals the public likes the teacher pay tied to performance plans. Apparently Gayle Fallon and the Teacher's union couldn't marshall the troops quickly enough to stuff the ballot box with no votes. (They should have struck up a temporary deal with the Paulistines)

We got tech, yes we do, we got tech, how 'bout you?

It's official, The Port of Houston hearts Cuba. What this means is that we get the freshest cigars and best rum....once the embargo is lifted that is.

Texas, Where no coyote is safe.

An Almanac PSA: Tweet with care. That is all.

Why am I reminded of the Biblical story about the beam in your own eye when ChronBlog tries to criticize other local media outlets watchdog efforts? (Is there a media outlet in America that does less watchdog reporting than ChronBlog?)

And finally....

It's newspaper annual circulation report time leading to a raft of blogger posts explaining why their local newspaper is the worst. As usual, Tom Kirkendall supplies on of the best regarding America's worst big city daily.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

One step back

Just as we were willing to consider her possible promotion to young adult columnist L'il Red, Chronblog's resident new (world-class we're sure) mom and teen-columnist severely regresses with today's weak Metro puff piece belatedly re-enforcing the defensive position that Metro took on their website.

OK. In the interest of fairness I'm going to ignore the obvious, that Greenblatt is a multiple award-winning reporter and L'il Red is....well...a columnist with a track record for shallow analysis and a juvenile tendency to beat her own drum. Then there's also the fact that the FTA has suspended the grant process and requested the new tax numbers. Both of these are actions that add credibility to Greenblatt's report.

The main problem L'il Red has is a refusal to apply Occam's Razor to her problem solving. It's the same flaw that many on both sides of the rail argument possess.

To wit: Instead of whipping up some grand conspiracy involving anti-rail forces that are marshaling together using Greenblatt as a foil in an effort to kill the rail why not just accept that Metro made a boneheaded mistake?

From the other side: Instead of envisioning Frank Wilson & David Wolff sitting in a room sharpening their sacrificial knives while deciding how best to defraud the taxpayers of Houston why not just accept that Metro made a boneheaded mistake?

Then we can fire those responsible and move on. Hopefully to a transit plan that works.

The thing unmentioned.....

...when it comes to repurposing the Dome is that the City/County contract with the Texans makes finding a profitable long-term going concern virtually impossible.

Compare it all you want to the Eiffel Tower, the hanging gardens of Babylon, the Colossus of Rhodes whatever, none of them work. The Tower is the symbol of France, the Astrodome is....well.....a fairly ugly, deteriorating husk at this point.

A husk whose use is limited unless Bob McNair suddenly decides his non-compete agreement can be by-passed.

The Noise Machine (04/27/10)

Takes too long...let me sum up....

Why environmental groups fail. There's a difference between trying to solve a problem and trying to kill a gnat with an elephant gun. Most of us want to see the Kemp's Ridley Turtle thrive, few of us want to see thousands of families lose their livelihood based on a guess that they MIGHT have something to do with them dying in increased numbers.

After the Haiti earthquake, when a group of Americans were charged with kidnapping, anti-Christian commenters came out of the wood works to condemn the volunteer workers and, by extension, Christianity itself. If some of the vitriol was used against other religions it would have qualified as hate speech. Ooops. It appears the parents wanted the group to take their children and maybe give them a better life. (You still have permission to crack on Pat Robertson however.)

Every election there is a certain amount of wrangling about debates, and every election there's always one (breathless) report that "the candidates may not debate!" *Gasp* Reporters everywhere throw on sackcloth and spread ashes on their foreheads while sub-par moderators bang their fists on the kitchen table in frustration at a potential lost revenue stream. Meanwhile the candidate trailing in the polls accuses the front-runner of "dodging" debates. This year is no different. Which leads me to predict that the outcome will be no different. The debates will occur, they will reveal little, and the questions will suck. Carry on.

On the heels of David Mincberg's "Republicans are Bad" term-limits op-ed appearing in the pages of ChronBlog, Houston blogger Charles Kuffner offers his own, slightly less partisan, take on the issue. While HCA believes that the best form of term limits is a fully engaged public at the ballot box, the idea of County term limits is probably a cause that those who enjoy causes would be right in pursuing. Legislative passage is a hell of a tall hurdle however, especially in Texas where the government is designed to not pass a lot of legislation.

and finally.....

Quote of the day courtesy of Texas Representative Leo Burman (R-Tyler) as reported by The Tyler Morning Telegraph:
"I believe that Barack Obama is God's punishment on us today, but in 2012, we are going to make Obama a one-term president."
InterLeft explosion in 5...4...3...2....

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Noise Machine (04/26/10)

Too nice of a day to be inside.....

Earmarks? Earmarks? We don't need no stinkin'.... OK wait....

White, White he's our man, if he can't do it no one can! Some cities are blessed with a watchdog press. Houston has been saddled with the JV cheer leading team.

For supporters, A one-time grant that will go-away over time is an A-OK way to start a public defender's office. We'll deal with those sticky things like budget burdens later. (Hopefully, much later...say, after we're 65 and our property taxes freeze. Yeah, that's it.) I like the idea of a PD's office, but not the current funding options.

Texas + Mexico = Texico? Just asking.

Are overwritten ledes now required in advocacy journalism pieces? (Poorly overwritten at that) The Bill White Texas Tribune does breaking news fairly well, everything else has been unimpressive at best. For an organization that promised much, it'd be nice to see them step up their game.

Unca Darrell proposes you Honor Dan Duncan's memory by donating to one of his many charities. That's an idea with which HCA heartily agrees.

Tom Kirkendall of Houston's Clear Thinkers continues his examination of the overcriminalization of American society. If you haven't been reading his blog you should. (Unless you're OK with the fact that the so-called "freest country in the world" incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than anyone else. That's right, even those scary places)

Evan over at Perry vs. World notes that It only took a year for Obama's "no red states or blue states" campaign slogan to be cast aside. (It's amazing how much the end to politics as usual feels just like politics as usual.)

Tea Partiers...Meet the public sector unions. (Peas in a pod)

Big Jolly Politics lets us know that the HCRP is playing nice. (for now anyway)

And finally....

BlogHouston's running a water/sewage rate hike takedown by guest commentator Brutus. Make sure to give it a read.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Making the case....

ChronBlog Houston is up in arms over reports that the newly-merged United/Continental Airlines would be based in Chicago. In times such as these a town historically would look to it's bastions of media to make the case for the City and lead the rally that would save a major jobs-creator vital to the regional economy.


(The business deal could end up being a raw deal, Loren Steffy, ChronBlog)
Lots of big cities, of course, don't have an airline, but Houston isn't just any city.
This is Space City.
The very nickname invokes all that is modern and vibrant, and airlines, for all our passenger complaints and frustrations, still capture our collective imagination as something futuristic. Like trains and muscle cars, they have a romance that transcends basic transportation.

Uh Oh....

(Keeping Continental, CCTT, ChronBlog)
Continental is a Fortune 500 company, one of 25 that make their headquarters in Houston. That's three more than Chicago can claim, but who's counting? Since the Chicago advocates are, we will, too.
Continental's success, a true rise out of the ashes of years of mismanagement, is first and last a Houston story. It was built on the efforts — and willingness to sacrifice by taking significant salary cuts — of thousands of hardworking Houstonians.
The CCTT goes on to talk about Houston's "world class" status as a "gateway to Lain America" among other emotional appeals. What's unfortunate, for Houstonians, is that there's nothing signature we can point to and say "we're better than them" (Chicago, that is).

Transportation? Chicago has the El and Houston is stuck with a piddling transit organization that's been more worried with building speculative streetcar lines that do more for development than it they do for mobility.

Infrastructure? No again. Chicago has a robust public works program, Houston's is crumbling before our very eyes due to chronic mismanagement by previous administrations. (To be fair, the Parker administration is working to turn this around, but it could be too little too late.

Quality of life? Negative. Sure, Houston's bell-cow in this argument is that we don't have snow, but Chicago is the cultural and social gem of the Mid West. While Chicago has been investing in their police department and cultural venues Houston has been too busily pursuing expensive boondoggles of limited use such as pro sports stadiums and the like.

Tax burden? This one is a push. Yes, Texas has no income tax but it's tax system is designed to put the entirety of the tax burden on the landowner, a relic that has survived from the former frontier days.

One thing Houston does have going for it is low real-estate costs, something that Smart Growth proponents are trying their hardest to bring to an end.

Don't get me wrong (although many will) I love the Houston region, I love Texas, but the fact is our political leaders have made some bone-headed decisions in recent years that have not allowed us to keep our competitive advantage in the jobs market. Many partisans will say that the answer to this is to vote in new leadership, one that will further stick it to business and further increase the burden of society to those with. People like the executives of Continental and United who are huge jobs-drivers for the region.

Living in the Houston region is, for the most part, a joy. If you have to ask why, go outside today in your shorts and feel how nice the weather is, go to Hermann Park and see all of the people enjoying the great outdoors, see the zoo and take in a free show at Miller outdoor. If you live in the suburbs go out to your local County Park and take in some nature, make a day trip to Brenham and see the wildflowers in bloom.

Then, on Monday, take some time to contact your local officials and tell them to get on the stick, fix the infrastructure, work on the pension mess, fix the issues within the emergency responder organizations and work on building a truly world class transit system that takes advantage of our structural capacity for buses*. While you're at it, write a letter to the editor of ChronBlog and tell them that they're not helping matters. Instead of sounding like civic advocates, they sound like children throwing a tantrum. It might be too late to keep Continental, but it could be the key to ensuring the next round of mergers fall favorably to our region.

*Not to say that streetcars and commuter trains can't play a role (they can) but not at the expense of what should be the bread n' butter of our public transit.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Noise Machine (04/23/10)

With the first pick in the Houston Blog draft, HCA selects......

BlogHouston notes that Metro is still in damage control, spin mode from their latest round of (seemingly never-ending) scandals. The Houston Press meanwhile offers their PR shop a bit of friendly advice.

Meanwhile, over at ChronBlog, "Nothing to see here, the Americans are NOT in Baghdad". (Calling this an "accounting review" is sketchy, at best. When you consider that UHY did not take into account GAAP standards nor apply any type of business case test what they basically did is say "Yup, everything is documented". Totally stripped of it's underlying business context you could say that a ponzi scheme is OK when you think about it.) The entire report is provided here.

Local New Urbanist Andrew Burelson makes a good observation regarding government mandated parking standards and their disconnect with reality. (Oddly enough, he (and many other New Urbanists) aren't fans of this big, monolithic government solution because they don't like the outcome. However, they're fine with proposing other big, monolithic government solutions that produce outcomes they think see as desirable.*)

Over at the Bill White Texas Tribune, Evan Smith gives public school teachers an earful. (Implying that those who question the Trib are lazy and whining about his salary being posted on various blogs. It should be noted: this blog was not one that posted said salary, nor will it. Nor will HCA delve too deeply into teacher's salaries. Your mileage may vary. Now administrator salaries? That's a different matter. Buck up Evan.)

Also from the Bil... er...Trib: The Perry camp has the White campaign on the defensive. (Who could have predicted that Perry's team would be successful in framing White for the public?)

And finally.....

Is there a correlation between body weight and sucking from the public teat? Lou Minatti thinks he could be onto something here...

You see the same thing with the pro-healthcare reform crowd, who LOVE the idea of Government mandates and control of the healthcare industry, but are throwing a fit over the proposal that the Federal Government regulate (read: eliminate) direct sales of wine.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day: Missing the Forest for the Trees.

I had a parody post for Earth Day planned. It was going to be Al Gore & Thomas Friedman in a bat-cave like setting getting ready to mobilize to Iceland to present Eyjafjallajokull with it's carbon offset bill.

Then I read this column by Bill McKibben on the fading environmental movement and I changed my mind. What, specifically, intrigued me was the following:

(On Earth Day, the environmental movement needs repairs, Bill McKibben, Washington Post)
But for 20 years now, global warming has been the most important environmental issue -- arguably the most important issue the planet has ever faced. And there we can boast an unblemished bipartisan record of accomplishing absolutely nothing.

McKibben goes on to bemoan the presence of money in politics, the evil power of the fossil fuel lobbies and the lack of organizational development of the 70's ecomental movements. What he doesn't seem to realize is that the problem lies in the definition of "environmentalism" itself, or more accurately, what the word has come to mean.

There was a time, in the 70's and 80's, that conservationists and environmentalists walked hand in hand. It was not uncommon to find ranchers, small farmers, hunters and outdoorsman rallying side by side with vegans, vegetarians and various other eco-groups. At the beginning the movement was more about cleaning up pollution than it was anything else. As with any movement, that dynamic changed over time.

Part of the reason for the change was the realization of politicians that this emerging earth-conscious group was a voting bloc and part of it was due to the natural need humans have to feel superior. Eventually, following a vegan diet wasn't a dietary issue, it became a moral choice. Having their way of life declared immoral by PeTA and other non-green groups, the hunters, fishers and outdoorsman left the movement never to return. Suddenly it wasn't enough to want a clean planet, fresh air to breathe, quality food, and clean water, you had to sign onto the belief that industry was bad, energy companies (many of whom funded much of the Earth Day movement in the early days) were the epitome of evil and anyone NOT willing to chain themselves to a tree or sacrifice the food supply of third world countries in order to save the three-legged, brown-assed salamander in order to be a "true environmentalist". Contrary to popular belief, you could use deodorant and be a member, but that was discouraged at rallies.

The final phase in the transformation from Environmental to Eco-mental however was Al Gore's correct hunch that most of the remaining green group could be persuaded to believe that the way to a healthy world was by funnelling a percentage of the world's energy revenue into the pockets of he and his investors through carbon credits. What this effectively did was provide political cover to those who had based their previous eco-mentalism on flimsy moral arguments. Now the idea that, primarily because of the actions of others, the world was heating up faster than a Viking range became a cause celeb of the fashion set who had no problem living in environmentally unsustainable mansions, or flying in a helicopter to 'catch' polluters being blissfully unaware of their own impact on the planet while being afforded the opportunity to live out their own mini-deity fantasies.

One thing that was lost in all of this was the truth. As suburbanites got branded with a black letter P (for polluters) it was often ignored that many of them have long been practicing the type of individual gardening in their backyards that is now so popular among the urban set. In Houston, the primary howls against the Grand Parkway plans to plow over the Katy Prairie aren't emanating from downtown Houston, but rather from place that are closest to the well...the Katy Prairie.

Despite all of this urban dwellers have been caught up in the hysteria and have fallen for the fallacy that their lifestyle is somehow superior to those who have chosen a suburban dwelling. Meanwhile, politically connected groups such as Houston Tomorrow perpetuate that myth without offering much in the way of substantive evidence. Read most arguments against suburban living and you'll see phrases like "everyone knows" and "makes sense that" both of which run on something other than hard fact.

With all of that in mind, what CAN we all do to make Earth Day meaningful?

For one, don't pollute and, if you're so driven, make noise about the companies that ARE polluting our planet. If there's a team player in an industry, resolve to purchase from them even if it costs a little more. Most importantly, get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Go hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, or just lay out on the grass in your front yard (if you're an urban dweller go to the park). Whatever you do, don't fall into the trap of thinking that you environmental solution is the best and only solution for everyone else.

And if some member of PeTA or another vegan group starts razzing you about the hot-dog you're eating? Laugh at them and point them to the nearest tofu dog stand.

They can get their own damn food.

Self flagellation

Frequently at HCA the attention paid to the ChronBlog's Jr. Columnist is reserved for those times when she really messes up, or exceeds the maximum usage limits for self-promotion in one of her many columns describing the good things that have come from one of her columns that was based on something she saw while driving to the grocery store one day and decided to make a phone call about. Call us cranky, but we prefer our columnists to be along the lines of the wickedly humorous John Kass or possess exceptional maturity and insight as does Kimberley Strassel. When it comes to columnists, the ChronBlog's desk-bound duo don't frequently churn out the type of material that qualifies as either cutting-edge or particularly insightful.

For Lisa Falkenberg, there have been glimmers of hope since her return from maternity leave. Often derided (accurately) for her juvenile writing style that seemed more inwardly (as opposed to community) focused, there was evidence, in fits & starts that she was maybe, hopefully, starting to "get it" when it comes to being a columnist.

Today's column on Frank "Procurement Disaster" Wilson is the best she's ever written. Sadly, due to a ChronBlog management freeze, Falkenberg was unable to mention the number one blog that has kept this report in the public eye. Fortunately, the HCA has no such blog ban policy in place so we'll out them for her: Blog Houston.

The money line in Falkenberg's piece is probably the most self-damning blurb ever to appear in the pages of ChronBlog:
The report didn't get any ink from this newspaper, although it's been discussed and linked to on various blogs through the years.
Of course, it should be noted that this piling on of Frank Wilson has taken place after the new administration expressed it's desire to terminate Mr. Wilson's employment so it could just be one more example of ChronBlog taking on the role of PR firm and releasing information to the public that the powers that be want to be released. Given ChronBlog's recent history that's the most likely scenario.

However, and I'll defer to Slampo on this one, given the insertion of that one, very telling line, I think we might have to consider granting Falkenberg that promotion to Young Adult Columnist.

Provided she can maintain this quality however. We're not a public sector union here, bestowing promotions for life regardless of work output.

How's that workin' out for ya?

When KHOU's Mark Greenblatt first reported reported on the possibility that Metro had used outdated (and inflated) revenue projections in it's $900 Million funding request to the FTA in order to finance two of five light-rail lines I predicted the story was would generate buzz.

I was wrong, it generated a loud roar.

Response to the story was predictable, with Metro supporters immediately lashing out at the credibility of KHOU reporting followed up by Metro placing a video response on their home page all but accusing Greenblatt of lying. Metro's response was further parroted by Houston's former newspaper of record (and current largest political advocacy blog) in the form of a long-form blog post that chose to quote none of Metro's critics.

It was the typical give and take between the two extremes of the Houston transit debate that typically suck up most of the oxygen. We've seen this before. All that was left to occur were dueling op-eds in ChronBlog and this scandal would fade into the background as the next scandal du jour hit the news.

For a day or two, it seemed that Metro's attack the messenger/scorched earth method of damage control was going to work. They forgot one important detail: KHOU's Greenblatt is a Peabody Award-winning journalist with a history of getting things right.

Was he right this time? The FTA sure seems to think so.

(Feds scold Metro and take action to protect taxpayers on rail lines, Mark Greenblatt,
The Federal Transit Administration said it "won’t approve" federal funding right now on two light rail extensions proposed by Metro; until it can become confident the transit authority can afford to finish the jobs while still maintaining current service.

Ooops. To top it off, the FTA directly responded to KHOU regarding David Wolff's contention that Metro and the FTA had "developed the current revenue projections jointly"
The FTA does not develop sales tax projections. Rather, it reviews and analyzes the projections submitted by project sponsors. The FTA first signaled its concern with Houston’s aggressive tax revenue assumptions and insisted on revisions back in May of 2009.
It also seems, based again on FTA responses, that Metro only recently provided the organization with updated revenue projections, after failing to comply with several past requests.

None of this should be read to mean that Metro has lost $900 Billion dollars in Federal funding. The smart bet, given the attitude of the current Federal administration, would be that Metro will eventually receive the funding, or at least partial funding which will allow them to start construction on additional streetcar lines while they figure out what other "under-performing" bus routes they can eliminate or force-feed into the streetcar system.

Until that time, they might want to re-think their policies regarding responding to negative media. 'Cause it doesn't seem as if they're thinking these things all the way through.


Houston Strategies

The Noise Machine (04/22/10)


Wait, I thought the Federal regulation of the health insurance industry was supposed to put an end to this silliness? Say it ain't so! (Given the recent history of our government the answer will be to attack the credibility of CFO's.)

The Madness of the Texas Legislature? (Makes as much sense as many other theories)

The Texas Public Policy Foundation takes a pro-voucher stance. Not surprising coming from a relatively conservative think-tank. (It'd be really shocking if it came from the Texas Public Policy Priorities group but they're too in bed with the teacher's union.)

What's that? Our government is behind the curve? Never saw that coming.... (And these are the people we want regulating our healthcare?)

And finally....


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wishful thinking?

(Ailing economy worries Texans, could hurt Perry, R.G. Ratcliffe, ChronBlog)
Vacant car lots, shuttered businesses and the grind of bad economic news is wearing down Texans' belief in a better tomorrow, according to a new survey of state voters, and that could be even worse news for Gov. Rick Perry.

The survey by the national political newsletter Rasmussen Reports found 46 percent of the state's voters believe the economy is getting worse. That's up from 35 percent in January who believed things are getting worse.
It could, but I have to wonder if the people who are voting for Perry would blame him for the economy anyway? In the article Dr. Cal Jillison seems to think not.

I also think it's a big mistake to separate Republican primary voters from the general electorate, just as it's a mistake to separate Democratic primary voters from the general electorate. They're all significant parts of the whole.

Bill White will do his best to try and tie the current economy to Perry's tenure. To the 20% of Texans that make up his base I predict he'll be 100% successful. Likewise Perry will be successful penning the slump on DC with 100% of his 20%. The question will be how the remaining 60% of the electorate feels. Given past voting history my early guess is that around 35% of them are going to side with Perry. Still, White's chances rely on things getting much, much worse.

That's something that's sure to burn the britches of the CCTT.

An Almanac PSA: 50% for dummies

Today the Almanac reaches out to our friends over at the Bill White Texas Tribune, offering up this handy dandy resource guide for calculating "half".

2 Things:

1. (2010: Perry On "Worst" List, Reeve Hamilton, Texas Tribune)
Liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which is based in DC, does not think very highly of Republican Gov. Rick Perry.
That's some mighty fine identification going on right there. Good job Mr. Hamilton.*

2. (TribBlog: Half of Texans Support Suing Over HC Reform, Emily Ramshaw, Texas Tribune)
The latest Rasmussen poll reports 56 percent of likely Texas voters support suing the federal government to stop health care reform from becoming law.
Ooops. Last I checked 56% wasn't half. As a matter of fact (statistically speaking) it's not all that close to half.

In a "yes/no" situation 56% is a full 12% win. In case you're wondering 12% is almost 25% of 50, which is half, or 50%, which (as noted here) is NOT 56%. And while it's fairly close numerically to half that doesn't mean that it's within the margin of error. In a political race getting 56% of the vote wins every time. A politicians winning by 12% points would be considered to have won by a sizable margin.

Therefore, in order to help the Bill White Texas Tribune with "half" we offer up this simple reminder.....

Two stories: 1 with good identification and 1 with bad. That means that 1 our of 2 (or 1/2) of the stories out of the sample were "good". That's half. It also means that 1 out of 2 (or 1/2, or half) of the stories in the sample set were "bad". So, from that angle, it's not very good at all.

Like most statistics how you interpret these depends largely on your POV. In baseball, for instance, batting .500 (or getting a hit in 'half' your at-bats) over the span of a career would get you into the Hall of Fame and cement your status as the greatest hitter of all time. In football however, a .500 winning percentage will get your coach and several players fired....unless you're referring to a team owned by Bob McNair. In journalism, being accurate 50% of the time would have meant instant termination in the old days where even typos were counted against you. Today however it places you at, or near, the top of the class in Texas Journalism.

By today's standards that ain't half-bad, but historically speaking it's not half-good either.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog, already in progress.....

.....omething about Dan Patrick, Paul Bettancourt and a mysterious order of bumper stickers reading "to thine right."

*Left unsaid is that Perry will probably use something from a liberal group as a POSITIVE going forward in his campaign. That's plausible in Texas, where Republicans still have the advantage.

Like Warren G.... gotta regulate.

(Senate Bill Sets a Plan to Regulate Premiums, Robert Pear, New York Times)
Fearing that health insurance premiums may shoot up in the next few years, Senate Democrats laid a foundation on Tuesday for federal regulation of rates, four weeks after President Obama signed a law intended to rein in soaring health costs.
Of course the healthcare bill was supposed to prevent rising premiums, which is something I'm sure the Government would have gotten around to explaining to us once they themselves figured out where it was located in those 2,000 pages. In the interim? Price controls.

So I hooks a left on the 21....

(Fast action to limit salt in processed foods pushed by Sen. Harkin, Rep. DeLauro, Lyndsey Layton, Washington Post)

Two members of Congress urged the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday to move quickly to limit the amount of salt in processed foods, calling the matter a "public health crisis" that demanded a swift response from government.
Because the answer, is always going to be a large government program that limits consumer choice and personal freedom right? How much longer until we get personal consumption limits on hotdogs? Burgers? Bacon?

Or, better yet, that some bureaucrat with a Masters in organizational development who graduated in the bottom quartile of their class at Harvard three years ago decides that meat in general is 'bad' and therefore should be totally restricted from the American market?

Yes, the 'slippery slope' is a logical fallacy, but we were promised by healthcare proponents that we wouldn't see this type of thing if HC reform passed. The truth will out I guess.

The Noise Machine (04/21/10)

Spanning the blogosphere for the news and opinion you need....


Good news for the Houston Technology Center. Forbes named them to their 100 Places that are Changing the World list. Congrats.

This TCEQ ruling on Valero's tax exemption request is proving to be an interesting case study on the effects of poorly thought-out legislation. (And a reminder that for every action their is an equal and opposite reaction. See: "Health Insurance Industry, Reform Legislation" for more.)

Feral felines? Really? Please stop insulting our intelligence and just go out and admit that this is nothing more than the lingering vestiges of Bush Derangement Syndrome by the far left. (For your emotional well-being more so than ours.)

Pataki, no seriously.


Remember Clayton Williams? The Bill White Texas Tribune thinks he's about to do some very bad things with Ft. Stockton's water.

Also from the Tribune. Have a problem? obviously the answer is a big government solution. (It's the Tribune Way.)

Rick Perry vs. World offers this take on Cornyn vs. Crist. Evan's theory is that Crist is done, it's a theory with which I agree. (Along with pretty much every other Southern Republican whose not willing to fly the "Government is evil" banner.)

And finally....

One of Houston's twenty-something urban planners suggests that free parking in Houston IS the problem. (Nice use of the Communism card as well, bonus points for that one.) Whether or not you agree with Mr. Burleson it's a well-thought out piece that uses source material (by experts even) to forward his argument. If he keeps that up he's going to give the rest of us bloggers a bad name.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Columnist to bloggers.... insane

(Connie Schultz as interviewed by Tim Harmon of the South Bend Tribune, 04/18/10)
What do you as a professional newspaper columnist do for readers that the blogospherists can't or won't?

The overwhelming number of the blogosphere's "citizen journalists" would benefit a great deal by adhering to traditional journalism's best practices, starting with posting under real names and then setting out to verify, verify, verify. Gossip is not fact; at best, it's a starting point for running down facts and unraveling rumors. Too many blog posts begin with, "I heard that..." and then launch into rants and speculation. No phone calls, no e-mails, no interviews to find out if what they "heard" is true. It's the Internet version of the busybody neighbor, except far less benign.
It's patently obvious that Ms. Schultz hasn't been reading many blogs.

It's also obvious that Ms. Schultz feels bloggers should act insane, following the same journalism "best practices" that have led newspapers and network news to the brink of financial collapse.

Ironically, in this same interview, Ms. Schultz engages in the very same activity that she despises of bloggers. Anecdotal forming of opinions used to smear large groups, assumptions based on fact.

The mistake made, as I talked about yesterday is viewing independent or party bloggers as news vehicles. For the most part they are not. They are opinion drivers and opinion (by its very nature) is a messy, unruly, fluid medium. A place where there are more exceptions to core beliefs than bats in Dan Patrick's belfry, where consistency is checked at the front desk and where augmentative logic is barred from the meeting upon penalty of being forced to spend its days making a case for the newsworthiness of anything in ChronBlog's Good Life section.

Opinion is where America hangs its intellectual undies out to dry.

Trying to apply the standards of journalism to that makes as much sense as getting marriage counselling from Pamela Anderson.

All that said this interview is good for being a revealing insight into the mind of an MSM stalwart, and further explains the lack of understanding between media and the blogosphere.

The Noise Machine (04/20/10)

Just another cloudy day in paradise....


More bad news for Metro At this rate they're going to be able to build the rail out of recycled legal briefs.

Those controversial water rate-hike proposals Mayor Parker came up with? City Council has decided they're not high enough. At least, not high enough from some. (read: anyone who works for a living) (For everyone else....a rebate producing, vote securing, slush-fund.)

The poll that revealed nothing but which has energized the media and the InterLeft, both of which (in Houston, which is where this blog is based & Austin, where most of the State media is based) want to see Bill White prevail over Rick Perry. (Still, even a flawed poll is OK when it's the only poll you've got.)

This, is a sobering data point on Houston's economy. (It deserves full treatment in a full-on blog post but I'm not sure if I'm going to have time for it. If someone else wants to do it I'll get you started: How did other cities trend? Discuss.)


This first, is presented as news (one of my pet peeves) and comes from Morgan Smith of the Texas Tribune:
As Bill White continues to drill Gov. Rick Perry over the state’s education record, poll numbers show he's gaining some traction against the decade-long incumbent.
What poll numbers? Because I haven't seen any poll tracking potential voter attitudes to that data point. Unless Ms. Smith is referring to the aforementioned Rasmussen poll, in which case she's opining as to why there was a (possible, given the margin of error) subtle shift in the numbers?

David Crossley, of Houston Tomorrow (and a ChronBlog dim bright bulb takes a look at commuter rail vs. park n' ride buses and finds commuter rail lacking in some important aspects. (Now if he'd only apply the same logic to light rail he might be on to something.)

Tom Kirkendall of Houston's Clear Thinkers thinks about Metro in the future and is troubled by what he sees. (Think the fiscal disaster that is San Francisco Metro)

Lou Minatti on why a United/Continental merger would result in a blow to Houston's economy. (Hint: The Chicaco Way > The Houston Way)

How bad is Politifarce? Bad enough that Rick Perry vs. World is defending Bill White. That's pretty bad.

Bob Dunn reminds us of the two political truisms: 1. That the politicians are beholden to special interests. 2. That most people feel that the other side is the most beholden. (This is typically true regardless of which party a blogger supports.)

And finally....

Big Jolly is underwhelmed by the "Independence" of the Independent Conservative Republicans of Texas (Which is, it has been decided, the most inappropriate name since "The Lone Rangers".)

Monday, April 19, 2010

And these reporters say they LIKE local blogs...

The "Blog Chat" video series on Texas Watchdog started out as an informative overview of some daily content for Houston's local blogs, sort of a video version of a link-post if you will. With multimedia journalist Lynn Walsh on board, the excellent news organization has promised to make video reports such as this an increasingly large part of their content.

Barely a month into the project and Mainstream media sources are dominating the video cast. Let's take a look at today's stories and their sources....

1. jail overcrowding: Off the Kuff and Grits for breakfast - (That's one for blogs. Granted, both blogs linked to held the same position, but that's probably more due to local Righty blogs surrendering the local turf to the InterLeft.)

2. Metro's financial malfeasance: Mike Snyder and KHOU & Mark Greenblatt. (Well, that's one linking to other paid journalists, birds of a feather etc. MSM 1 Blogs 1)

3. The latest Rasmussen Poll: Texas Tribune, Evan Smith (Texas Tribune is not a blog, they're an on-line, advocacy journalism agency that's doing a good job covering the State. There was a LOT of blog material on this one. MSM 2 Blogs 1)

4. High Fees for Sarah Palin: Star-telegram - (No I wouldn't pay that much money to hear Sarah Palin FWIW. However, the S-T is decidedly a MSM outlet and NOT a blog. MSM 3 Blogs 1)

5. NASA Funding: - (Important story but certainly not a blog. MSM 4 Blogs 1)

6. Buffalo Bayou Dredging: - (+1 for MSM. MSM 5 Blogs 1)

7. What to do this weekend: Texas Tribune. (It's a whitewash....MSM 6 Blogs 1)

I bring this up NOT to poke fun at Texas Watchdog, I consider them to be doing some of the best journalism in town, what I'm trying to highlight is how tall the wall is for local blogs to sustain the interest of journalists working for an MSM outlet. (Yes, I consider non-profit web outlets to be MSM, most of their employees worked for newspapers or TV stations at one time, or went to journo school.)

Certainly all of the stories highlighted were important stories, they were timely, relevant and *gasp* local in nature. They also did something that the blogosphere frequently does not: They broke new ground. Well, except for the first one, the Kuff story that was really just a blockquote of the Grits post which riffed on a story on jail overcrowding.

This is meant to take nothing away from Scott Henson and his terrific blog focused on Texas Criminal Justice. He's doing what all good blogs do (for the most part) he's taking a story that originally ran in an MSM source and expounding on it. Hell, that's what I'm doing in this post. As one person with a 7-5 job I don't have the resources to go out and break new news, so I rely on other sources to provide the articles that drive content. That, in a nutshell, is blogging. (opposed to reporting, which actually takes skill)

It's the problem that limits blogs to niche status no matter how hard they try to self-promote. Some bloggers, who work and play well with the journalists, may be incorporated into the mainstream to some level, but they're never going to be stand-alone content drivers. This means that, in order to be fair, video news reviews like those on Texas Watchdog are better served quoting the original story.

Either that or they're just not reading local blogs. In which case forget all of the previous bloggy-style navel gazing and move along. Nothing to see here.

A word about dogs...

In the news today: Another terrible story about a so-called "pit-bull" attacking a child. This time the owner let the dog escape the house "repeatedly", according to the story, and attack the child.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the child and her family. They also go out to the dog, who's (rightly) going to be put down. To the owner of the dog I say: "Idiot".

To put it simply: Everyone that's going to be severely punished in this situation has done nothing wrong. The child? Just playing. The dog? Incapable of moral judgements. The dog owner? Oh, they'll get a ticket and a slap on the wrist, but won't be prohibited from owning pets in the future.

Not everyone should be allowed to own certain breeds of dogs. It's not that some dogs are "bad" per se. (as commenters to stories such as this and politicians would like you to believe) It's that the owners are ignorant of the realities and responsibilities of ownership.

To date, the wife and I have fostered three pit bulls or pit bull mixes. Jones, my rottweiler/boxer mix, is what many would consider to be an "aggressive" breed. We've had zero issues with our dogs attacking children, and zero instances where we would have had a 'close call'.


For one, Jones, Duchess and Rocky (our three dogs) have been trained to not bite, but to corner and contain. Even on the instance where a kid DID try to go in my backyard, Jones just barked at him. Once I came out and told him to stop, Jones let the kid come up and pet him. The second reason is this: Our foster dogs are NEVER left unattended outside. When we're gone they're kept in a kennel with a locked door. Until we get to know the personality of the dog (and remember, most of these dogs are rescued from horrible conditions) they're not allowed contact with children. Once we get a better idea of how patient they are, they're allowed to be pet by the older children in the neighborhood. At no time are the dogs left with very small children unattended. Not even for a minute or two.

Part of the reason for our constant attention is that bully breed dogs play rough. A high percentage of "baby maulings" are unattended Pit Bulls trying to play in a manner that damages the child. People say the Pit Bull "attacked" the baby when, in reality, they viewed it as a toy. The second part of the equation are dogs that are trained to fight and view the child as "bait". Often these dogs are released from chutes and allowed to run and maul docile "bait dogs" in rings. I'm not suggesting that this is what happened in this case, but I'm sure it happens.

There are three things that you're probably going to find in any story about a child mauled by a pit bull:

1. The neighborhood knew the dog was aggressive: You saw that in this story, this dog had attacked before.

2. You can bet this dog is an outside dog and "chained to a tree" is somewhere in its life: Although not mentioned in this story, chaining a sociable breed like a Bully to a tree is one of the most detrimental things you can do. Bully breeds bond to a family, and they want to be included. Our foster will get up off of the floor where she's lying and will try to curl up on my lap when I sit in my chair. Our send pit bull (who's currently undergoing heart worm treatment) would lay his head on my chest to hear my heartbeat. The point is these are dogs that don't handle isolation well.

3. The owner of the dog will never realize their dog could be aggressive: Which is the problem. There are too many people that own Pit Bulls for the wrong reasons, either as a status symbol, for fighting purposes, or just because they are cute puppies. (they are, go take a look at one) For certain breeds ownership should require dog training & approved socialization. If your dog attacks a person, you should be prevented from owning pets in the future.

Too-often society's knee-jerk is to take out the pet-ownership failings of humans on the pets themselves. The answer to the problem is not extincting a breed of dog, it's extincting the bad dog owner. The dogs will work it out on their own. They always do.

A good look at the fringe.

In the past I've characterized the 'fringe' voting blocs* on the Left and Right as roughly that 30% of the population that will toe the party line on any isue no matter what. Even when things go horribly wrong (Iraq) are horribly designed (health care) or are just horribly incompetent (Houston Metro) these idealists will back their chosen party to the bitter end, always coming up with some flimsy rationalization why "their" side is the right side no matter the facts.

Given the latest surveys, It appears that I've overshot my estimation by 10%:

(Americans Are More Skeptical of Washington Than Ever, Andrew Kohut, WSJ)
Over the course of the past decade we've seen a spike in intense anti government attitudes amongst a small segment of the public. The proportion saying they are angry with the federal government has doubled since 2000, increasing to 21% from 10%.


This is not the case today. Just 22% say they can trust the government in Washington almost always or most of the time, among the lowest measures in half a century.
The emphasis above is mine.

The take-away from this is that, from now on, when I mention the non-thinking, spoon-fed fringe, I'm referring to the roughly 20% of people on the margins and not about the 60% that are more level headed.

*Included in the "fringe" (for lack of a better word) are the entirety of the InterLeft and Bloggers O'the Right, The ChronBlog Caucasian Think-Tank and anyone who truly believes electing their chosen party is the key to fixing the problems that are facing America.

The Noise Machine (04/19/10)

Back to the grind.....

The road to Tier One status will be paved with dollar bills. A LOT of dollar bills. Then, as is typical, politics will be the ultimate decider. (Better make sure you spread those dollar bills around to the right crowd.)

That new "green" economy is going to start a job BOOM! right?'s not. (Which is why punishing job creating industries to the benefit of mostly jobless industries is a purely political move.)

We won't know what's IN the bill until we pass it. Now that we've passed it, it's not pretty. (What the authors of the bill won't tell you is that this was their stated goal the entire time, to move health insurance out of the private sector.)

5,000 people at Sam Houston Race Track? Not a meaningful movement. 50 people meeting at a coffee shop for lattes? THE political movement of our time. (And journalists wonder why they're not trusted?)

Evan Smith interviews Rick Perry. Rick Perry is among the best prepared politicians for any interview. His missteps are few. Line of the day:
We will have a most interesting discussion of the city of Houston’s financial affairs over the next six months.

And finally...

Ah, our Chronblog, protecting us from that icky, negative watchdog reporting that other cities have to tolerate. (What happens in a community when there's no newspaper to report the news? Houston is the test case.)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Two things....

1. Do you think statements like this contribute to poll results like this? ('Cause I do.)

2. America's worst big city daily stretches it's lead with three more puff pieces where they give positive coverage to those in the establishment with whom they're trying to curry favor. See any signs of hope here?

One thing both the government and newspaper journalism have in common is low levels of trust by the general populace. I think the Gov't typically says what they think will play the best to the audience with truth only being a secondary consideration. I think journalists are just mostly lazy and it's easier to offer up unchallenged, positive coverage to local courtiers who offer occasional audience and pick up the tab at super-secret meet-ups. PoliBloggers, on the other hand, are usually satisfied with a photo op with their favorite politician and a table with high speed Internet. Maybe some chips....

EXTRA Credit: Is Jose de Jesus Ortiz contractually obligated to write as if he's in a bromance with the head honcho of every organization he covers?

Friday, April 16, 2010

I'll be out of town for the weekend...

...but I'm betting this Mark Greenblatt/KHOU report is going to have some legs

(Did Metro try to deceive Feds to get $900 Million? Mark Greenblatt, KHOU)
“You've overestimated by billions on sales tax … from 2010 on. Billions,” he told Metro’s board. “Between 2010 to 2012 you're off $300 million just in the 3 years.”

Then Metro Board Chairman David Wolff rebuffed it all in his response.

“I doubt that's the case,” Wolff said. “We've gone over these numbers carefully. We've adjusted them. We met just yesterday to review them.”

Go read (and watch) the entire story. It paints a sobering picture as to the former (Metro) board of director's honesty when filling out the financial application.

What you can expect now is for rail backers to claim there's nothing to see here and rail opponents to claim this is the worst case of financial malfeasance since Enron. Those arguments make for good sound bytes, but they don't address the fact that, if Metro can't afford the project, a sales tax increase will be in the regions' future.
Progressives don't like sales tax increases right? Something about them being punitive toward the poor?

Mayor Parker and the newly appointed board members have promised to clean up Metro's ship. Welcome to your first big test.

Have a great weekend.

NOTE: Silence from ChronBlog. I guess this doesn't reflect well in the mirror? A city without a strong citizen advocate media indeed.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Death and.....

It seems as if the InterLeft as received their tax day meme. The IRS is a GOOD thing and failure to unquestioningly pay is un-Patriotic. (Oh, and the stimulus helped, it really, really did....we promise.)

Not to be out-done, the Right has their script ready as well. (Well, and the tea-parties, to which I won't attend and won't link to.)

My thought is this: Outside of the idiocy of politicians and talking heads there are some serious points to make about American tax policy. The fact that 47% of all Americans aren't paying any tax is troubling, if you don't understand why that's so then you need to back out of the debate and go take a look at some history. Democrats are correct that more taxes need to be collected, but they're wrong in their mechanism for doing so. Republicans, except for a couple of notable exceptions are too tied up in waving signs and screaming through bull-horns about how evil Obama is to be taken all that seriously. In 1996 1994 *Doh*, Republicans swept into power by offering up the "Contract with America" which they then promptly tore up and went on a spending spree that made a Hunter S. Thompson weekend look tame in comparison. Today's Republican Party can't even agree what type of contract they want. Democrats, meanwhile, are desperately hoping that a one-time "Making work pay" tax credit can provide enough smoke to obscure the fact that their spending binge is going to require either extremely large, economy crunching tax increases (under the current system limited to the 53% who are still paying taxes) or a pledge by the US Government to stop spending money until the year 2052.

Which brings us to the Tea Parties, a group of angry people who have scheduled rallies across America to vent and "be heard", as I listened to a Tea Party organizer say on the radio today. The assumption being that there's a fundamental lack of understanding of life in a Democratic society, even one that functions as a Republic. Call me old fashioned, but I still believe that the best way to "be heard" is to speak out at the ballot box. If one person can persuade 50% of the remaining voting public to agree with their POV then you have yourselves a simple majority. (50% + 1 get it?) In our system, excepting the Senate, which is there for a reason, the simple majority wins. It really is that simple.

I will agree with one thing the tea-party crowd is saying however, there IS a fundamental flaw in our system today. If you want to know what that is, think again about the 47% of Americans that don't pay any taxes. Once that number hits the majority threshold, you might as well pack things up and start taking lessons in Mandarin Chinese. It's for this reason that I think opponents of the Tea Party are making a silly argument as well: The argument that taxes went down for some Americans this year. (Which is questionable for most making $60-$200K per year, or the traditional middle class, when overall tax burden is considered)

According to a recent survey, a majority of Tea Party protesters view their current taxes as "fair". So, what then, is the onus for going out and mis-spelling signs while dressed in bad patriotic dress? The fear that where we're headed is more France than Great Experiment in design. Yes there's a healthy distrust of "those people" and, to a large degree, you can look at the Tea Party as the last stand of the Caucasian majority as rising minorities storm the Bastille. Many Tea Party opponents choose to view it through that prism and, while not incorrect, it dismisses some of the more legitimate concerns that the group is voicing.*

It's true that I'm not a Tea Party fan, supporter or member, but neither do I identify with the counter-protesters (such as the coffee party) who are using logical fallacies and opinion-as-fact to counter what is basically a widely-held political opinion. Arguing that dutifully paying taxes without complaint is true patriotism or that loving the IRS is equal to supporting the troops are flat out fabrications. There's a wide area of disagreement over the term "fair share" and the IRS is only necessary under the current messed-up, political-payback, vote-grabbing, special interest-friendly behemoth we call a tax code.

Whether you're going out to drink coffee, sip tea, or rush to the post office at the last minute to avoid fines and penalties remember this: Just because the conventional wisdom is saying one thing, doesn't necessarily mean that's the best (or only) option. The right and left are going to keep howling, you can either join in the chorus or (like many historical greats) strike out your own path, hopefully it's a path that leads to the ballot box in November.

The Noise Machine (04/15/2010)

The "1040EZ" version.....

You know you've made it in Houston when ChronBlog makes you the subject of a puff piece(filler) masquerading as journalism. Congratulations HPD Chief McClelland!

Modern Government 101: Bureaucracy OK's tax break, big corporation moves to take advantage of poorly thought out tax break, public officials (many of whom pushed for tax break in the first place) and citizenry (who don't understand the tax break but have fallen for the 'green' marketing plan) freak out. Repeat. Ad nauseum. (Addendum: Progressive types inform us that the problem was not the tax break, but that there are not ENOUGH government regulations preventing businesses that actually employ people from profiting from it.)

Why is it that every L'il Red column features a moment where she feels the need to inform us that a previous column, written by her, has generated some ground-swell of reaction? We get it Red, you're smart enough, you're good enough, and dog-gonnit, people pay attention to you. (Apologies to Stuart Smalley)

The battle for history will be fought on the edges. I often wonder what those who actually lived through historical times would say about the way we try and re-write it frequently to match current social norms? (Stripped of periodic context, history is nothing more than an adventure yarn.)

Dogs and cats, living together.

And finally....

Good stuff from George Will on Supreme Court justices and why the GOP should re-think "judicial activism".

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dropping out on dropouts.

I was going to author a long blog post re-hashing my past arguments on education (in four parts, from the old blog) as it relates to dropout rates all the while deftly riffing on L'il Red and her lack of ability to put together a decent column when it hit me....

I can't do better than Slampo and Evan so I'll heartily encourage you to follow the links to their blogs and read what they have to say on the issue. (As opposed to heavily blockquoting them and then claiming I blogged on it at a later date knowing full well you won't follow the link.)

News Flash! (Updated)

Just the opinions ma'am....

(Reports show more Americans feel economic recovery", Christopher S. Rugaber, AP Econ writer via ChronBlog)
A flurry of reports out today suggested that many Americans are feeling better about the economic rebound.
That's GREAT! Finally signs the economy is turning around! Democrats everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief, Obama has fixed this sucker.....Oh wait......
Pandl estimates consumer spending may have risen by as much as 4 percent in the January-to-March quarter — more than double the 1.6 percent rise in last year's fourth quarter. That would be the biggest quarterly gain in three years.
Well....that's good but:
The gain is largely a result of reduced saving. Disposable income actually dipped in the first quarter
Economics are calling this "an expectation of the American consumer that good times are on the way." That's fine, but it also could mean that people just finally got to the point where they needed stuff after making severe cutbacks, and had to dip into savings to get it.

That this opinion piece was written shouldn't offend. That the editors (both at the AP and ChronBlog) let this run as 'news' probably should. As should the ChronBlog headline: "Americans like what the economy's doing." Wow.

That pretty much explains it.....

Sleeping through a run-off, Joe Holley, ChronBlog)
Personally, I hope Curling wins, for one reason. Imagine all the puns we bloggers can bandy about with an anesthesiologist in the House.
It's nice to see that the beat writers are taking this ChronBlog suggestion to heart.

If a tree falls in the woods.....

(Houston and H20, ChronBlog Caucasian Think-Tank, ChronBlog)
We urge City Council to do best by Houstonians present and future by selecting the “best practices” option.
Sounds good to me, but the question is: Is anyone paying attention to what these folks are saying? You'd think a hot-button issue like the water rate increase would at LEAST get one comment right?

Wrong on so many levels......

(TribBlog: Don McLeroy on Al Jazeera, Brian Thevenot, Texas Tribune)
Yes, that Al Jazeera, the network known for a certain amount of sensationalism and anti-Americanism in its coverage
Just to clarify, the story ran in Al Jazeera ENGLISH which is actually ran by a Canadian and is one of the better International news organizations out there.
You might think McLeroy, known for liberal-media conspiracy-thinking, might shy away the Arab world's favorite news source. But you’d be wrong: The man loves a camera of any kind. (He likes in-depth print or online media interviews quite a bit less; he tends to cut me off after five minutes.)
What does it say that McLeroy knows he's going to get fairer coverage from a news source out of the Middle East than the very left-leaning Texas Tribune?
What’s more, the Al Jazeera piece is one of one of the more in-depth and fair I’ve seen on television, hitting the high points without the hysteria and fact errors that has plagued, say, Fox News' coverage. The piece ran some seven minutes — an eternity in TV. And the reporter treated McLeroy quite even-handedly.
Or say...Texas Tribune's coverage, especially this piece, which is so full of low blows and un-opposed writer opinion it's terrible. Not to mention the whole Western culture superiority vibe that Thevenot has going on here....That's right, how cute it is that the little foreign fella' over there had the pluck and know how to go out and do a right sure professional interview. Why he didn't even treat McLeroy unfairly! Hey, 'scuse me...what's another way to say McLeroy is a fat ass?

And reporters wonder why they find themselves less liked than politicians. Maybe it's because politicians are doing a better job in DC than reporter/bloggers are in reporting the news? (As hard as that is to believe.)


Read L'il Red's blog post....Then go back and count how many times she uses "I" in the post.....terrible, terrible, terrible.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ah good.....

...something for the local political blogs to fight over.....

(Chris Moran, Houston Politics, ChronBlog, 04/13/2010)
Harris County sheriff's deputies can join the Mexican American Sheriff's Organization or the Afro-American Sheriff's Deputy League. Now comes the Caucasian Law Enforcement Association, founded two months ago by a deputy who works in the Mission Bend community.
Expect there to be much wailing and gnashing of teeth, accusations of racism (or worse) particularly from Caucasian bloggers and editorialists of a certain political stripe.

Lost behind all of that screaming is this: With their imminent status as a minority on the horizon, would Caucasian groups qualify for minority-group status in Harris County?

Your "yes/no" answer on that question probably has more to do with your politics and attitude toward "white guilt" over any practical considerations*. Unfortunately, for white man, your historical pro-ethnic groups have been, how do you say? Less than equitable in their treatment of other races. Of course, there are people out there who (unbelievably) would say that a majority of klanners were just a "misunderstood lot" who didn't know about all of the nasty things like lynchings and cross burnings in people's yard for intimidation. Nope, most of them just really thought the uniforms were nifty. Uh-huh, and the gas chamber operator at Auschwitz was really just addicted to pushing buttons. The problem with these race-based groups is that they typically tend to be all about "one race".

Which is where my problem lies with all of them. When you have a group pressing for legislation that's to the benefit of one race, it typically comes at a detriment to another. Run along with this long enough and eventually you have a system where the haves are the have nots and the have nots are trying to find the next group of haves to take from before they have to pawn off the flat screen in their 3rd bathroom in order to make the minimum payment on the credit card they use to eat out at a 'nice restaurant' every weekend.

What would really be nice is to have a system of laws based on intelligence and common sense rather than political expediency. Then this group would be allowed to set itself up and operate for a while. Given the increased media exposure on them a public dialogue would take place where we all gathered around the proverbial campfire and realized that all of these ethnic/race based groups are about as useful as Bill Clinton chastity pledge.

Sure, they'll be well intentioned, but they're never going to accomplish much. Outside of bad blog humor that is. (Case in point.)

*Sadly, when it comes to race in America, many people choose to substitute reality with their own set of facts that back up their chosen world-view.

The Noise Machine (04/13/10)


Ah Houston, take a little thing like a shut-down of our entire rail system (OK, seven miles but hey) and watch it turn into a catty back n' forth between idealists. *sigh*

Ah that HCRP, operating in a open and transparent manner. No Washington-style back-room deals here!

I don't know about you, but not being able to make "Don't laugh it's paid for" T-shirts for the Dome is a disappointment.

Two years on and Disco Green is booming. Good for them. I still say the overall measure of success will be long-term, how the park is doing 10 years on etc., but until then the fact that people are enjoying it is enough. (Too bad Houston's courtiers feel the need to add-on isn't it?)

You're reading this right: $4.5 Million, for Yoga. Who knew?

And finally:

Sobering dose of reality #1:

(Brian Riedl, Heritage Foundation via the St. Petersberg Times)
Washington will spend $31,406 per household in 2010 — the highest level in American history (adjusted for inflation). It will collect $18,276 per household in taxes. The remaining $13,130 represents this year's staggering budget deficit per household

Sobering dose of reality #2:

(Margaret Wente, The Globe & Mail {Canada})
The government will pay Mr. Creeggan and other solar producers around 80 cents a kilowatt hour for the power they sell back to the grid. That’s about 15 times more than the current spot price that consumers now pay for power.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Another year.....

Another Pulitzer dry hole for ChronBlog. Ah well, maybe next year the Good Life will get the recognition it deserves....

Congrats do go out to the Dallas Morning News Editorial Board for their Pulitzer win.

Not to further pile on to ChronBlog, but Jeff Cohen's handicap isn't doing so swell either. Sorry Jeff.

I can see it now.....

At the naming meeting*...

State Sen. Patrick: "No, we HAVE to get independent in the name somewhere."

Staffer: "Uh, OK. How about "Independent Conservatives of America"?

SS. Patrick: " kind of need to say that we're Republicans. I owe a lot of political favors to those guys. Besides, you ever see Rick (Perry) get angry?"

Staffer: (stares incredulously) "So, you want to be independent, BUT Republican at the SAME TIME?"

SS. Patrick: "Exactly. I'm a maverick politician you know."

Staffer: "I don't think you've thought this one all the way through."

SS. Patrick: "Screw this, Get Paul (Bettencourt) on the Phone! He's used to convoluted explanations."

*Note: Naming meeting is a fictional event. Unbelievably, this group is real.

Casey misses the forest for the trees....

You have to wonder about Rick Casey and Chronblog. Given that they (purportedly) journalize in America's 4th largest City, one where cronyism and political networks run deep (The Houston Way) you'd think they'd have a Woodward and Bernstein smile on over the prospect of digging for the details of these networks.

You'd be wrong but you'd think that.

Instead of probing into the connections between Rep. Shiela Jackson-Lee, Carol Mimms Galloway and (former) Key Middle School Principal Mable Caleb, Casey is content to sit back and pen the lazy-man's column. The "atta-boy" pat-on-the-back to a school-board who finally got around to getting rid of an administrator they should have released five years ago. Political support of the type Caleb received typically involves some interesting connections. Unfortunately, for ChronBlog subscribers, rooting out the details of those connections often requires getting up from behind a desk and reporting, something that Casey has not shown a great proclivity for since coming over to Chronblog.

It could just be friendship that draws these three women together, or it could be something more. Historically it was the job of a committed media (sometimes partisan) to draw out the details and give them a full public airing. In today's Houston political arrangements are often reported on with the philosophy: "Let sleeping dog's lie."

Don't want to lose access after all.

The Noise Machine (04/12/10)

run-off eve....

Big Jolly Politics reports that rumors of the demise of the Jared Woodfill campaign are much exaggerated. Recent reports had Bob Perry supporting Ed Hubbard, now that appears to not be the case. With former anti-establishment "champion" Dan Patrick on-board with Woodfill Hubbard supporters have their work cut out for them.

Peace officer overtime is a big deal with the MSM, but is it a resonating issue with a general public that consistently lists "public safety" as their #1 issue? (Not that ChronBlog would have priorities that are different than their customer base.)

I still think that this is the wrong place for Republicans to draw a line in the sand. Your view may vary.

Heck, even Irving knows what to do with dilapidated old stadiums with no current practical use.

Apparently, you're not enthused about the run-off election. Which means that those who do vote will have votes that count all the more.

When discussing the economics of parking, I wonder why it's OK to say that too much parking is undesirable for a vibrant city center but to say that too little parking is also bad is taboo?

Charles Kuffner's last piece on voting trends, looking at straight party tickets today.

One more from Mr. Kuffner on the cutting back of library hours. Notable for the fact that it raises questions as to whether or not some in Houston understand the budgetary implications of Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones.

Think about this: (American Style Socialism, Sherman Frederick, Las Vegas Review-Journal)
About 47 percent will pay no federal income taxes at all for 2009.
If you don't understand why that's a scary number you probably failed civics class. (If you ever took civics class, as a friend and I discussed this weekend)

These Perry for President stories just won't stop. (Maybe it's because shoddy reporting is only being outed by bloggers? Where's Politifarce on this one?)

Texas Watchdog weighs in with a quality duo: One, that Metro execs don't like using the same public transportation choices they provide for you, and two, print and video coverage of the HISD meetings over charter schools.

Imagine that: The regulation of the health insurance industry may require a big new bureaucracy. Can't say I didn't see that one coming. (And I'll bet the funding of said agencies wasn't in the CBO "scoring" of the bill either.)

Race-track slots in the news again. Will they get approved? (My money is against.)

And finally.....

Is the Texas Democratic weakness one of strategy? That's one theory.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Into the VAT

Remember, after the regulation of the private insurance industry passed, I noted that the next logical step for the Obama administration had to be a VAT tax?

Well, the howler monkeys have received their marching orders.

Meanwhile, in Texas, the meme is that a fee is not a tax.

Jonah Goldberg's been roundly criticized for this editorial, but the talkers are proving him right.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


...most of you hate the media as much as you hate your current elected representatives.

While I don't find that terribly surprising during a time of economic trouble, I do find it unusual that the media is now trusted even less than people who got to where they are predominantly through pandering and some slick PR. If we're electing the Least Common Denominator to the halls of power then what does that say about the people who give us the news?

When historians look back on this they're going to laugh. The sad bit being that it was all preventable.

The Sensibility of Courtiers

I love this...

(They speak their minds and mind their manners, Josh Schaffer, McClatchy News via ChronBlog, 04/08/10)
To join the coffee party in Raleigh, you can't be a screamer, a name-caller, a loud-mouthed zealot or somebody whose idea of politics translates to jabbing a sign in the air, red in the face.

All you need are some manners, a good listening ear and a caffeine jones.
It also helps to have a underlying belief that your political discourse is superior to that of all others, and that anyone who disagrees with you is either unscientific or, even worse, acting out of emotion instead of logic.

That the logic coffee partiers utilize is mostly fallacy doesn't matter. What's important is striking the correct "just the (my version of the...)facts ma'am" argument. It's still a flawed argument whether it's made under the facade of Royal manners or when screamed from the streets. The only thing that changes is the elite's view of those having the discussions. Peasants need to be placated with symbolic gestures, courtiers just need to be paid attention to and treated as if they really matter. Pet them like a puppy, make them feel important* and they'll stay in their coffee shops**.

*Perhaps that's why journos are so smitten with them? In a way they share the same need for attention and justification of self-worth? All courtiers exist because of the glory of the Royal Court after all, they add nothing to it.

**One of the misnomers about America is that, since we don't have official royalty, we don't have courtiers. In fact, America has established one of the largest courtier classes in history since we've replaced one monarch with many.

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