Sunday, July 31, 2011

In defense of the Tea Party...

I know, I've been hard on the Tea Party of late, telling them to get out the Kiddie Pool and offering the opinion that they might have to accept some tax increases as a part of the debt ceiling deal (I was wrong on that one, the Democrats have caved). All that being said, is it really fair right now to blame the Tea Party for this mess?

Last I checked, the Republicans PASSED a plan that the Democrats unilaterally rejected. While I still hold the position that the Tea Party is going to have to accept some compromise going forward, it's very hard to make the case that they're the drivers of this mess.

The Democrats have gone from a request for a clean increase, to the demand that no increase without a tax increase would be unethical, to now (apparently) abandoning the call for tax increases. Paul Kurgman this morning on "This Week" on ABC called for kicking the can down the road until after 2020 (Is Bill White advising him now?) Meanwhile the clock is ticking on the deadline imposed by the President, a deadline that may, or may not, be a real time for worry.

Today the thing to follow is the Grand Agreement 2.0. If one is reached, and is passed through the Senate, will Boehner and Co. be able to ram-rod it through the House. The unasked question, by the media, is whether or not they should.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Bullet Points!! (Debt ceiling version)

- Matt Lewis of the Daily Caller has a pretty solid take. My thought is an imperfect deal from the right would be far better than an imperfect deal from the left.

- Case in point. If Harry Reid is out-flanking you you're not doing it right.

- It is fair to question Boehner's leadership at this point.

- It's also fair to question the political viability of the Tea Party movement at this point. Any group that doesn't understand the mechanics of turning around the ship of state might not be the ideological group you want manning the wheel.

- Turning this mess around is going to be a long, steady, plodding slog. America needs a course correction but attempting to do so too rapidly could buckle an already weakened hull.

- The Republican establishment politicians (McCain, Hutchison) are missing the boat again. Adopting the Democrats plan was never the right answer, the strategy should have been to develop one of your own that would pass.

- Important lesson: Even RINO's serve a purpose. The Tea Party would be wise to understand this, and not let their anger get in the way of using them to garner a deal.

- There has never been a President that would be considered "conservative enough" to satisfy the current demands placed on our elected officials by today's Tea Party. There's a reason for that. Think about it.

- Finally: My guess is the Reid bill gets passed and signed on Sunday, signed into law on Monday. This was seen as a chance for Republicans to keep momentum, the question is: would they blow it? If Reid's bill is the one that survives, the answer will be: "Yes, they blew it."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Get out of the kiddie pool Tea Partiers....

It's called political reality. In this case Tea Party members need to understand that the Democrats control the Senate and the Executive branch of the government. From that perspective the "other side" controls two of the three levers of legislative deal-making. What this means is that any deal that's made is going to HAVE to include buy-in from the other side.

This doesn't mean that Republicans should just roll over, to the contrary, they need to fight to make this as big a win as possible. The key word is POSSIBLE. Not a wish list, not something that's a complete sell-out to the other side, but a bill that has enough in it that you can claim a win with a straight face, all while blaming the bad things on the other side.

Tax increases? Bad idea during a recession. However, since the Democrats are full of bad ideas during a recession you let them have some and then drape them over them like a cheap suit come election time. You hammer that issue, and Medicare, and Social Security, and ObamaCare. You tie them to those issues so tight they can't burp without people thinking about how much the Democrats are costing them.

Was the Boehner plan perfect? Far from it, but it was a whole lot better than Reid's mess of a plan, or the non-plan, things-we-cross-our-heart-promise list of things Obama's press secretary claimed to be a plan. Was Cut, cap and balance better? In a way, but since "balance budget" is a loaded phrase these days (and one that the public doesn't entirely believe) it had it's flaws as well.

Granted, there's no way the so-called "gang of six" plan could go anywhere, not if Republicans still remember their historic rout of the Dems in 2010 that is. But there are still realities in any plan that have to be recognized.

1. The debt ceiling has to be raised. - True, Democrat threats are probably overblown, but their is going to be a legitimate price to pay if it's not done. The thinking that Obama will get most of the blame for this is a risky proposition. Far better to pass a bill with his fingerprints on the bad things in the bill, while playing up your (hopefully good) contributions.

2. Any deal is going to need some tax increases. - Remember that 2 out of 3 thing from earlier? Yeah, it's still there. The trick is to force Democrats out of their class war mentality and force them to raise taxes on ALL economic levels, not just the one's they use to club the voters over the head with.

3. A worse fear is a debt downgrade. - If you want to see things get really bad, let S&P and Moody's lower America's credit rating. If that happens it might not matter whose in power. Plus, you never know who the public is going to blame with no legislative DNA scattered around for evidence.

So instead of your name-calling of Boehner, arguing with aging relics such as Kay Bailey and McCain and get to focusing on the business at hand. Then go back to continuing to elect more fiscal conservatives so this isn't an issue the next time around.

Out of the kiddie pool Tea Party. Tweeting and rallying with mis-spelled signs is the easy part, governing is hard.

Sex on the bus (Updated)

or...toy train, in this case....

Metro chief Greanias suspended, Carol Christian,

The Metropolitan Transit Authority board has suspended George Greanias, the agency's president and chief executive officer, for accessing adult content on Metro's computer system, board chairman Gilbert Garcia announced today.

Greanias, who has led Metro for less than a year, will be suspended for one week without pay for violating Metro's electronic communications policies, Garcia said.
My thought is he could say he was doing research on how to increase sagging ridership numbers on Metro's 7 mile transit backbone.

Update: Houston Press provides site-by-site detail.

If these are true (and coming from the Press (more a shock shop than a 'news' shop these days) with no verification or sourcing I'm not saying they are) then there seems to be another issue here. Some of these sites (by name) appear to be relating to child pornography or prostitution. I would think this is something Metro would want to look into. Although maybe not. Judging from the commenters in the said Houston Press piece underaged porn is 'no big deal'.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I thought Houston was running OUT of money?

So how come the municipal government keeps finding so much to spend?

Houston's new motto: Yes, our roads suck, we are cutting back on police service and our librarians are now part-time but hey, check out our new underpass eh? (Of course, to do so means riding our toy train, and we REALLY, REALLY need you to ride our toy train dammit.)

Remember: All politics is about buying votes. If you don't think you're strong in a certain community, just re-work the budget to ensure they get something. I think they probably teach that in Poli Sci 201. (101 is now exclusively dedicated to reading teleprompters we hear)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

About those East Downtown Homeless.

They're a problem. Falling asleep on sidewalks, peeing in entryways, generally mucking things up in Houston's (soon to be) hip, hot district where the walking of the dogs (running of the bulls being deemed too dangerous) occurs annually and where a bevvy of new sidewalk cafes are sure to appear....soon...we promise, because so much popped up around Minute Maid Center....OK never mind.

The point is Houston needs to figure out what to do with these people, especially now that more and more young, urban Caucasians make plans to relocate to the bevvy of European-style lofts and multi-use developments that popped up around Minute Maid....ah forget it.

The early idea for this is to extend Houston's civility ordinance to include East Downtown thus barring the homeless from breathing their rarefied air. I'd be OK with this, IF they'd consider dropping the incredibly stupid EaDo moniker. If they did however the folks over at Culture Map would explode. Since it's a civic imperative that their terrible journalism standards be contained in a relatively harmless vehicle, that will never happen.

Fortunately Houston, I have a plan.

Round these homeless up, put them in temporary shanties, and then put them all to work building Dynamo Stadium.

Think about it, it's a win/win. East Downtown rids them selves of those considered undesirable (but, it should be noted, should be protected -in other people's neighborhoods- at all cost) while the Dynamo can truthfully say their new playground is a stadium of and by the people. The homeless? They get steady work with three squares per day and possibly a renewed sense of civic pride in contributing so much to a Stadium from which they'll be barred from begging in front of.

Of course, you have to do something with them when construction is completed, but by then the new Grand Parkway will be open and you can relocate them to empty overpasses with plenty of room. Maybe throw in a blanket and shopping cart for each of them.

The alternative is Soylent Green people.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Wish I could do this at work.....

Houston can't appeal red-light ruling for now, Cindy George,
A federal judge ruled on Friday that the city of Houston may not immediately appeal his ruling invalidating the November referendum that turned off a red-light surveillance system.
That's handy. Hey, boss. I know you want to look at my latest revenue projections for the 3rd quarter but I'm going to have to say you can't do that right now. Maybe I'll work with you and the investors so that you can take a look at those at a later date. (Once the final settlement has been successfully negotiated behind closed doors, so that the royalty owners have no say in the outcome.)

Think that would go over well?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

America: Fat and getting fatter

Amazingly, the answer provided by the group performing the study is to do even MORE of the things that got us fat in the first place.

The definition of insanity is......

The answer to this problem isn't to put MORE kids on school meal programs but less. Even if you don't like Jaime Oliver and his Food Revolution thing, you have to admit the quality of food in public school lunches is abysmal at best.

The answer to this problem isn't to follow the lead of the USDA, it's to move AWAY from their recommendations. After all, since the inception of the "food pyramid" America has gotten fatter and fatter.

And the answer sure isn't throwing large amounts of money at the problem, or taxing sodas, or fast food or listening to the world's leading "nutritionists" on the matter. Hell, it's the nutritionists who are pimping for increased funding so that they can get more money to do studies such as this. The driving force behind modern day "prevention programs" is research, not the public good.

If scientists and government really wanted to help people they'd stop subsidizing soy, corn and beef and would open up the marketplace to a wide variety of fresh vegetables. Ending the subsidy on corn would a.) make it's price point more comperable with other vegetables and b.) raise the price of HFCS, which would raise the price of processed foods. Why tax an item on the back end that highly subsidized on the front end?

Government farm and fiscal policy, in many cases, was implemented in the interest of large multi-national food companies, and not the lowly farmers that Democrats & Republicans love to trot out in front of the cameras during election season. The single-family farmer is all but gone from America, excepting those who have learned to take advantage of the foodie, farmer's market fad and even they're just scraping by.

There's an argument to be made that time and technology have passed these groups by, that AGM and Cargill are the wave of the future. That might be so, but all I know is the tomatoes I grow in my back-yard mini garden taste much better than the red balls of wax I get at the store. Hell, even farmer's market tomatoes taste better.

The government isn't going to make one person less obese, despite their good intentions. What's going to change this trend is the public taking personal responsibility, taking a long look in the mirror and deciding that maybe 3 hamburgers for dinner just isn't a good idea any more. And while I don't advocate vegetarianism (and certainly not veganism, which is code for "fad eating") I do think that too many of us eat way too much processed and feedlot red meat.

That's why I'm a big fan of "The Omnivore's Delimma" and "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan. In neither of those books does he recommend a Government solution (although I'd be willing to bet he supports the soda tax). What he does recommend is taking ownership of your own diet, getting rid of the processed crap and eating a LOT more vegetables, a variety of vegetables at that.

In the end, that would probably be the simplest 'cure' of all for this epidemic, but there's no research money to be made and corporate profits would be low.

So the "tax everything we don't like" drum beat will continue, and America will get fatter. Experts will wonder why.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

That's one way of handling it.....

(City turning red light cameras back on, Chris Moran,
The city of Houston will turn its red-light cameras back on today, Mayor Annise Parker announced after this morning’s City Council meeting.

According to a statement from the mayor’s office, tickets will be issued after a “short period of equipment testing.”

Houston voters approved a referendum to turn off the cameras in November, but a federal judge ruled last month that it had been improperly placed on the ballot, rendering the results invalid. As a result, the city faced a choice to turn the cameras back on or canceling its contract with American Traffic Solutions, which could cost the city $16 million.
It was always only a question of "when" not "if" they decided to turn them back on. It's tricky work deciding what period of time is sufficient so that the majority of people will forget you're ignoring the stated will of the voters. It's like when your boss tells your group that you're going to have to work evenings and weekends for a while and then immediately announces they'll be out of the office on vacation for the next two weeks. Consider the appeal like your boss' closing statement: 'I'll have my Blackberry with me'.

I'm sure the city's legal interns are working on that appeal just as hard as your boss is looking over their e-mail while sitting on a deck-chair sipping a Mai-Tai. This outcome was the administration's preference from the moment the lawsuit was filed. Given their track record on other issues, I'm surprised anyone there had the competency to see this through. How much you wanna bet they now divert some funding from trauma centers to some green initiative now that the "money is there" again? I'm placing the odds at 2-1 for.

Ah well, at least the Apple Dumpling Gang is happy. Now that they've had a win can we shutter them and re-deploy the resources to news desks?

Update: Of course they will. After all, why spit in the face of due process without a revenue stream?



Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Let me sum up.....

I could fill up an entire blog detailing the Houston Foodie reaction to the new Whole Foods/Montrose location that has everyone in a tizzy.

That would take to long so let me sum up:

WOW!! You can drink a beer AND shop in MONTROSE!!!

Otherwise you're just dealing with a smallish, crowded, Whole Foods inside the Loop that often reeks of sweat and patchouli oil.

Based on the hype this place has received I was slightly dissappointed at not having the option of receiving my Champagne slightly chilled and poured down my throat by a Lisa Foranda Lucy Noland Nefratiti Jacquez look-a-like while Ilona Carlson's (prettier and slightly younger) twin sister fed me caviar brined by the last living descendent of the Russian Tsars when I visited this weekend.

Talk about your downers.

The Noise Machine 07/05/11

Trying something a little bit different today....

Dear France: America's criminal justice system is a feature, not a bug. It's a different matter when you're speaking of our mainstream media however....

About that media....It's bad...real bad.

Today's sign that David Brooks is not to be taken seriously. Neither as an opinion writer nor the moderate political thinker he aspires to be.

No, the "people" (read: Caucasian progressives) want higher taxes on OTHER people, not themselvs. That's kind of a key point.

Another day, another "yeah but" story on Perry. It seems like almost every positive the State's political media finds, they feel duty bound to follow it up with a "yeah but" qualifier. (Is there a 'anti-Perry' media badget that could get taken away or something?)

Reductionist science is bad science. Unfortunately, most of what passes for science today is reductionist in nature. This leads to bad policy ideas such as soda taxes and carbon offsets.

Our government is designed to push down large decisions to a low level. In many cases those making the decisions lack common sense. The end product is the least free, "free" country in the world.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Fourth

I'm not much of one for "rah-rah" patriotism. I don't like the "USA USA" chants at sporting events*, and I can't stand "Proud to be an American" by Lee Greenwood. To me, true patriotism is understated, it doesn't need to be shouted out to everyone around so they get it.

That being said I like July 4th, mainly because it's one day where political reading goes bonkers and every minor political pundit tries to drum up some obscure viewpoint of the founders to further their political beliefs. Because of this we get the Tea Parties and their misspelled signs, progressives calling everyone who doesn't think the founders were tax and spend statist liberals stupid, and the Apple Dumpling Gang...well, the Apple Dumpling Gang defies explanation. I read somewhere (don't remember where) something by my friend Kevin that basically said you couldn't have a discussion about the Nation's founding anymore because no one understood the damn thing in the first place.

I agree. Much of this is because history is written by the victors, and much of it is because of the human tendency to discount those things with which we disagree. There's also the frustrating tendency of people to try and superimpose past ideologies on present groups. For example: people saying that the founders were all "liberals" and the pro-England groups were "conservatives" . That's just wrong on so many levels, and factually inaccurate.

The real story is that America was founded by an amalgamation of political ideas, figures both great and small and (yes) scoundrels and opportunists. It's what makes this Country great, and our inability to come to grips with this fact** is (partially) what brings us down.

So this 4th I encourage you to celebrate the holiday however you see fit. Wrap yourself in the flag listen to Lee Greenwood, sit in a bar and rail against those evil conservative idiots, do charity for the right reasons or just to prove you're superior to others, attend a political rally for your chosen party or spend time blogging about the evils of every other idea but yours. The important bit to remember, is that we all have the ability to do this because of where we live, and what a ideological diverse group of men were able to accomplish 235 years ago.

*You'd think that, after all these years, we could come up with something better than just chanting our initials over and over.

**Conservatives have a tendency to ignore America's faults while Liberals/Progressive/Socialists have a tendency to focus too much on them. Part of the problem is the liberal education system which, for years taught a glorified version of history. Your coping mechanism for dealing with this is largely driven by your political ideology. Neither are correct.

Houston's leadership "wants" urban density...

...just not all of the stuff that goes along with it.

(Bars' double-decker parking raises concern. Chris Moran,

(Montrose-area residents face parking woes after popular restaurant moves in. Courtney Zubowski,

The funny thing is, that happy, Utopian dense living dream always looks good until you realize you're going to be living asshole to elbow with 6 Million plus Houstonians who will A.)be in a sour mood B.)All swear that "they've been there for years" and that their interests (i.e. the way they think things should be) should be protected over the interests of the community as a whole.

You don't hear about this urban downside in the Houston Tomrorrow workshops talking about the socio-morality of an apple or the need of plants for water. Everyone* loves the concept of dense, urban living but when you get to the ugly reality that parking sucks, people start to tune out.

*Everyone who matters in the eyes of the Houston Chronicle and Houston Tomorrow of course. That being Caucasian progressives who really just want Texas to be less than it is. You know, the cool kids.

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