Monday, April 25, 2011

When you don't understand the policy....'s difficult to create a credible argument.

From today's ChronBlog:

(Classes may get more students, Jennifer R. Lloyd, ChronBlog):
State representatives will take up an education bill on Tuesday that includes, among other changes, a proposal to swap the strict 22-to-one limit for a 22-student average and prohibit districts from enrolling more than 25 students per class in the early grades.

From the comments:
This_Machine_Kills_Fascists: As a 9th grade teacher, I can tell you that anything over 30 is going to severely impact the quality of education provided in a given classroom. I have a few classes in the high 20's and it makes it that much more difficult to ensure that each student's needs are met.

Emphasis mine on the above.

Looking at the bill in question it's fairly obvious that no one is threatening class sizes in the 30's. EXCEPT the teacher's union, who has a financial incentive in favor of low class sizes and more teachers on the payrolls. When you get to the high school level the argument against large class sizes becomes doubly hard to swallow. In colleges, many Freshman classes are conducted in auditoriums with student counts well into the 100's. I would argue that a larger class size for Junior and Senior level classes would help reduce the culture shock when Johnny and Jill are sent off to UT-Austin.*

From another perspective: How many kids did you have in your class growing up? I know mine was closer to 30 than it was 22. Outside of a propensity to mis-spell words and over use hyphens and adverbs I turned out OK. I'm sure you did too.

*Of course, if more professors at UT taught students instead of always conducting research........ *wink*

Friday, April 22, 2011

Market needs....

Perhaps you were surprised by today's report that Houston Metro's ridership is declining despite the rising cost of fuel? You could have been surprised, but I wasn't. As a matter of fact I'd be surprised if ridership had increased.

The reason?

It's been a well-discussed top on this and other blogs that Metro is not providing services that get people where they need to go. Instead of focusing on moving people from neighborhood to business center, circulating bus routes and focusing on the people who most need their service, Houston Metro has decided that a very expensive toy train that goes nowhere is the future of transportation. As more and more people decide to move out to the suburbs, Metro has decided to become even more focused inside the Loop. If you build it where the people aren't, the people won't ride on it. That's not opinion, it's a fact. A fact that's been borne out by Metro's own numbers.

Sure, they'll try to spin it any way they can. That's what they do and what they have to do to keep their jobs. At the end of the day, and I would suspect in their deepest thoughts, they realize that not providing adequate bus service to key areas is a long-term recipe for disaster. Their hope is that gas prices get so high that people ultimately are forced to change their lives, drastically.

Fortunately, for Metro, there is a political party in America whose goal is exactly that. Unfortunately for Metro, it appears that the other party, the one that doesn't share these goals, is destined to win again in 2012. Until then we're stuck with seven miles of a glorified amusement park ride masquerading as a transit-backbone, and a group of useful idiots who are riding the system straight off the rails.

Want to ride the bus into work? Or to the Galleria? No luck for you.

The Noise Machine (4/22/11)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Even a blind squirrel.....

If you've read HCA for any period of time, you know by now that I'm not on the Christmas card list (or "Holiday" as they would probably say it) of David Crossley and his Houston Tomorrow Group. In my opinion they offer up some of the worst analysis in Houston, typically only eclipsed by the Apple Dumpling Gang (who shills AGAIN today to salvage their shrinking revenue stream in the name of democracy) and much of the writing on this blog. (Hey, it's free)

Occasionally however, even we have to admit when Crossley, a man who clearly hates suburbanites, the cars they drive in, and their little Republican-to-be children who are going to perpetuate this cycle, inadvertently stumbles onto a good idea. He probably didn't MEAN to of course, but stumble he did.

Corssley's call for the Tea Party to pay more attention to local issues (in the form of the Grand Parkway) was dead, bang on.

One of the weaknesses that I've always found with those who misspell signs and eschew tea is their single-minded focus on the National. Yes, Obama is an easy target. I understand this. I also understand that it's easier to set the feed reader for Fox News and Drudge Report and let the locals spend at will. When you get down to it, that's why I think the Tea Party isn't all that interested in local. Local is HARD, it takes research and work. Never mind that focusing on local issues is the single biggest way a citizen can have on government spending.

Unfortunately, Crossley will miss the boat in that his proclivity is to call for the money to be diverted to seven miles of light rail, or a walking trail that few could use or benefit from. So yeah, he's missing the biggest reason for the Tea Party's existence (ostensibly). That being said he's nailed it: The Grand Parkway boondoggle is a road that doesn't need to be built, will negatively affect the Katy Prairie, and will have little benefit to existing infrastructure. That being said, according to the most recent census results Houston-area residents are moving further and further out HWY 290.

Perhaps a better plan would be to scrap the Grand Parkway and dedicate the funds to widening that road?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Rethinking 2012 and other ramblings

The idea by David Brooks that an Obama win in 2012 is a dead-lock certainty took another hit today with the release of these numbers by Gallup. To summarize, Obama's Job approval rating fell to 41%, and he's down to a 35% approval rating among so-called "independent" voters.

For a long time now I've considered myself one of those independent voters. In the past I've voted for several Democrats, and will continue to do so (locally probably, because my State Senator and State Rep are two of the worst in Texas Government) in future elections. However, unlike in the past, my "democratic" (yes, the small d is intentional) votes won't be 'for' a candidate, but against the sitting incumbents. They will also be wasted votes because I live in one of the most conservative districts in the Country.

Oddly enough, I started my political journey as a Democrat. Granted, I was a moderate Democrat, possibly even a conservative one. My Democratic heroes were John F. Kennedy, Del Miller and other old-school Democrats. When the Democrats of convenience switched over to the Republican Party, I followed most of them because, honestly, what was left-over, was too progressive for my tastes. At the beginning of my blogging career I tried to play nice with everyone. That didn't last long because of one fact: Progressive Democrat activists are, as a whole, a very angry group of people. It was their vitriol that fully drove me away from the Democratic Party, just as it was the anger from what eventually became the Tea Party folks that kept me from fully embracing the Republicans.

Now I'm left with a problem. I still don't like many planks of the Republican platform, but I have difficulty identifying with ANYTHING the Democrats are currently offering. Having something in common with one party and nothing in common with the other pretty much strips away your so-called "independence" doesn't it?

I'm guessing this problem is something a lot of moderates are experiencing right now. I'm certainly never going to be a progressive Democrat because I believe in guiding principles like free markets and personal freedoms. I'm never going to be a Republican because I'm not a social conservative. However, I'm closer ideologically to Republicans than I am Democrats right now, a fact that most readers of this blog have probably already figured out.

Because of this I'm just going to admit that I identify as a Republican. That doesn't mean that the Republican Party is going to welcome me into the fold, or that I'm ever going to vote a straight (R) ticket (I'd rather skip the ballot than ever cast a vote for Sarah Palin or Dan Patrick) but more often than not I'm going to back the candidate with the (R) behind their name.

I say all that to say this: (about time eh?)

I've already made my choice for President of the United States.

That choice is Sen. Marco Rubio. My dream Republican ticket would pair Rubio with Rep. Paul Ryan for Veep.

My friend Evan, has been on the Rubio for a while, and I've checked the evidence, listened to the speeches and, most importantly, studied the Ryan plan and I believe it's the only sustainable course for the Country to follow. I'm not suggesting I'm ever going to be an activist, and you won't see me at a Tea Party rally unless I'm working on something for Iconoclast, but I will be working to see that Republicans bring more politicians like them to the ballot box to give the voters a real choice.

It's a choice that I think will put the Republicans on top. I think the oratory and vision of Rubio matched with the policy of Ryan is a winning combination. I think that a majority of Americans understand that the bloated social compact is doomed to fail, and that we have to make a course correction or something terrible is coming down the pipe. That being said, I believe the Republican Party needs to move away from their corporate welfare, and needs to embrace policies that strengthen the middle class, not through class warfare, but through sensible tax policy that doesn't allow companies such as GE pay no taxes. Yes, this means that I'm against heavy subsidies for oil and gas companies, not because they're "evil" but because it's money the government doesn't need to spend. However, I don't want to see those subsidies go to ethanol or other green energy gimmicks either. If green is going to work, then let the market decide.

So that's it then. This blog post has been a long time coming. I realize that it's going to result in squeals of glee from some on the InterLeft but I just don't care. They were squealing on the few occasions that I agreed with them, why should they change now?*

UPDATED: Wouldn't you know it, I talk good about Rubio and express my distasted for the Tea Party and along comes this story about Rubio speaking to the Tea Party. *sigh* Such is the thin line I'm going to have to walk I guess.

*Having said that, I'm not going to go out of my way to pick fights with them. I don't view politics as "fighting", it's more negotiating and working to forward your ideas. The comments on this blog, and the content of the blog itself, will (hopefully) remain civil. Any Democrat who wants to come on here and debate an issue is welcome, just keep the personal shots to your blogs. Mine are reserved for the humorous posts.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Daily Link Post 04/14/2011

  • "One of the most controversial and feared aspects of Obamacare: the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which was purposely put out of the reach of congressional supervision. It may not be a death panel, but it’s headed in that direction."

    Where's Politifact when you need them?

    tags: Healthcare

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Texas Iconoclast

Evan, Kevin and I have pulled up the curtain on Texas Iconoclast, what we're hoping will be your go-to site for Texas Political news and opinion presented from the perspective of the center-right.

For now, my plan is to roll most of my Statewide political writing and commentary over there and to the IconBlog which will be our format for more long-form posts when the occasion calls for it, or when one of us is stricken with the muse.

Initially our plan is to have a post up every morning at 9:00 providing you with all of the Texas State political news you can hope to find. Over time? Who knows? We just hope that you'll join us on the journey.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The more things change....

....the more they stay the same.

It's amazing to me that, after the replacement of part of the executive staff and most of the board, Metro STILL doesn't understand it's basic function: Moving people from point A to point B efficiently and with minimum hassle.

Not creating a new urban wonderland, not land speculation, not generating good PR, paying a lot of money for bloggers and PR reps with name recognition. Nope. Moving a bunch of people. That they are getting no better at this despite all of the changes leads me to believe it's past time to stop referring to our region's transit agency as the "New" Metro.

They're the same old Metro. A Metro that, perhaps, should be shuttered and reconstituted under a different structure/leadership. Perhaps it's time to give the County more say than the City? Commuter rail vs. a toy train that doesn't go anywhere, can't carry a significant amount of people and takes away from needed bus service that can actually get you where you want to go.

It's just Metro, same as the old Metro only with more spin.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Noise Machine (04/03/11)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

More than a river in Egypt

Denial as political philosophy?

Present, not voting. Hal, Half Empty
Hopelessly outnumbered, because Texas Democrats forgot to go to the polls last November

That's one way of looking at it I guess. That Democrats were swept out of power in historic fashion in 2010 not because a majority of Texans disagreed with their message, but that the vast majority who do simply forgot to go out and cast a vote. It's not that Texans look at Democratic blather such as this and are turned off. It's that most Texans are so angry they didn't mark their calendars.

Not that all Democrats are like Mr. Cobarruvias, walking around angry all the time and using clunky humor to try and make their point, it's just that even the serial block-quoters slip up and forget politics is a marketing game from time to time. That's right Democrats, it's typically not a good idea to insult the values and dreams of those people you are trying to woo. Doesn't work out too well.

Nor does it play well to tell your remaining supporters that they're dense and forgot to vote. Certainly not when it's most likely that you're not giving them much to vote for in the first place. The reality is this, at its upper leadership level (in both practical and policy terms) the Democratic party (both State and Nationally) is a rich White-folks club. Ecomentalism doesn't spawn in the ghetto, neither do "smart-streets". Poor families of all races aren't sitting around contemplating farmer's markets and taxes on their sodas.

In short, it's not that Dem voters "forgot" to go to the polls, it's that the party failed to present them anything to vote for.

As a one-time, self-identifying Democrat, this makes me sad. As a one-time, self-identifying Republican, it makes me happy. As a current, self-identifying independent, it depresses me. Because I'm a firm believer in the philosophy that Government works best when there are two strong parties with different, honest ideals providing a policy back-and-forth that weeds out the worst ideas on both sides, providing a healthy amount of gridlock and letting the truly good ideas through the firewall to keep the State from running wild, it concerns me.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Noise Machine (04/01/11)

Fitting that the Parade of fools in Austin is making news on April Fool's Day is it not?

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Carburetors and buggy whips....

Such is the future of municipal libraries?

There's an argument for that, moth-ball our space consuming book repositories and re-deploy with smaller, more economical "data-centers". Hell, I'm willing to bet you could get Apple, HP, Dell and other companies to chip in on some of the infrastructure cost, in return for deals to buy their machines.

Hey, I like books as much (or more) than the next guy. I've always been a voracious reader. That said, I'm about to make the jump to Kindle and leave paper books behind. Think about it: a network of data centers spread across Houston could be established fairly quickly in the many unused store-fronts (Hey, you could even place one in a couple of the many derelict areas along the MetroRail line.) in Houston, they could be staffed by just a few people (an on-site help-desk person and a centralized IT staff) at a fraction of the cost current libraries are burdened with. An ideal arrangement would be to negotiate exclusivity deals with either Kindle or Nook so that children can download books onto devices they purchased at discounted prices. I'm sure a charity group or two could do a device delivery for Christmas as well. Talk about bridging the digital divide, and at a reduction of costs to taxpayers.

Of course, if you don't like this idea there are others. Many others that don't involve continuing to fund a non-sustainable business model just because it's been around for a long time right? Texans have always been about creative solutions to big problems. Let's go Houston, let's get some creativity flowing here.

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