Monday, August 29, 2011

Unintentional Humor

If find it funny that Prog economist Paul Krugman comes out with this:

Republicans against Science, Paul Krugman, New York Times.
Jon Huntsman Jr., a former Utah governor and ambassador to China, isn’t a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination. And that’s too bad, because Mr. Hunstman has been willing to say the unsayable about the G.O.P. — namely, that it is becoming the “anti-science party.” This is an enormously important development. And it should terrify us.
On the same day CERN comes out with this:

Science Getting Settled, Lawrence Soloman, Financial Post.
The science is now all-but-settled on global warming, convincing new evidence demonstrates, but Al Gore, the IPCC and other global warming doomsayers won’t be celebrating. The new findings point to cosmic rays and the sun — not human activities — as the dominant controller of climate on Earth.

The research, published with little fanfare this week in the prestigious journal Nature, comes from ├╝ber-prestigious CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, one of the world’s largest centres for scientific research involving 60 countries and 8,000 scientists at more than 600 universities and national laboratories. CERN is the organization that invented the World Wide Web, that built the multi-billion dollar Large Hadron Collider, and that has now built a pristinely clean stainless steel chamber that precisely recreated the Earth’s atmosphere.

In this chamber, 63 CERN scientists from 17 European and American institutes have done what global warming doomsayers said could never be done — demonstrate that cosmic rays promote the formation of molecules that in Earth’s atmosphere can grow and seed clouds, the cloudier and thus cooler it will be. Because the sun’s magnetic field controls how many cosmic rays reach Earth’s atmosphere (the stronger the sun’s magnetic field, the more it shields Earth from incoming cosmic rays from space), the sun determines the temperature on Earth.
I'm not going to go out on a limb and suggest to you that the Republicans were somehow "right" about the whole climate change deal. Many of them have been denying that there was any significant change all along. On the other hand, it's the Prog's who seem to be in danger of becoming the party of pseudo-science, happily believing unproven theories left and right because they are told to by their political heroes who stand to gain Billions of dollars based on a series of politically influenced financial bets.

Neither am I going to say the issue of climate change is dead. There are still open questions as to whether or not ground level pollution is a partial driver, or whether the chemicals needed to drive climate change are mostly natural in origin. In short, the Sun drives MOST of our climate's change, but there still is a benefit from not polluting etc. not only from a climate perspective but from a general health and natural beauty perspective as well. These study results are not carte balanche to pollute, but they should spell the end of the "stop climate change by shutting down the economy" nonsense that we've seen for a while.

The simple fact is that the Earth's climate has always been changing. The idea that human beings had the ability to stop or alter that change is arrogant. It's high time we started finding ways to deal with climate change now that we're seeing its effects, and stop wasting Trillions of dollars trying to stop something we have no control over in the first place.

What should terrify us is not the GOP's refusal to believe man is altering the climate, but that the Prog's are willing to destroy our global economy in a vain attempt to become King Canute.


RELATED: CERN Press release on CLOUD

Saturday, August 27, 2011

100% Newsish

That should be a label on The Texas Tribune's "31 days, 31 ways" list of progressive candidate's talking points examination of the "effects" of the 2011 Texas Legislature.

Expect these issues to be parroted repeatedly by Prog* candidates as they attempt to try and gain back some relevancy in Texas politics during the next election cycle, and expect the same Prog politicians to quote The Trib (and their Progressive/Democratic board and financial backing) as an "independent source of journalism" verifying their claims.

That's not to say that newsish outlets can't report hard news. The can, and do. As a matter of fact some of the best day-to-day legislative reporting in Texas comes out of Evan Smith's shop. On election day, when their site is up, they're required reading for political junkies. However, when they move into news-editorial content (what I call newsish material) that's where their bias slip shows.

In many ways this is not a bad thing. To me it's OK that the Trib writes from a Progressive perspective, in many ways that this blog writes from a center-right perspective as does my other project Texas Iconoclast. Of course, the big difference is we readily admit our bias so that it's out there for all to see. The Trib, on the other hand, will swear up and down that the bright, young, trendy group of reporters with edgy eye-wear (who happen to all be Progs that Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith (himself a trendy, hip proponent of edgy eye-wear who's also a staunch Prog) has gathered around the Prog campfire have NO BIAS AT ALL in their writing. It's the same newsish fallacy that the public is supposed to follow with groups like Politifarce, the opinion cum "fact-checking" site that proved the Pulitzer to be nothing more than a giant journalist circle-jerk. (Much in the same manner Obama's Peace Prize proved the Nobel to be a big Prog circle-jerk)

The problem with party bias is that, when ideas become politically untenable, you look a fool when you about face on an issue because the party Politburo has suddenly done an about face. Party bias doesn't work well for news organizations, or newsish organizations for that matter. Were the Tribune to come out and say "Hey, we're a Democratic news outlet!" that would (1) be false and (2) ruin their access to Republican candidates. In short, they'd become a Democratic party blog. Their mission is much bigger than that.

Reporting the news with a particular ideal however is A-OK. As a matter of fact, I would argue that ALL journalism is reported from a certain ideological perspective. Just as the MSM groups all possess a liberal (note: note Democratic) bias so does Fox News post with a conservative (note: not Republican) bias. The problem arises when Fox and the MSM say they're "right down the middle", which is just so much bull. They're no more "down the middle" than is the Trib, or Iconoclast, or this blog.

As a matter of fact, I would argue that ALL of the news you read today is mostly newsish, from one perspective or the other. The difference between a news organization producing newsish material and a newsish organization reporting the news is really just a matter of funding. From a newsish perspective the best outlet in Texas is the Trib, with a couple of sub-par outlets (Texas Observer and Texas Independent) occasionally producing a blog post or three.

But the Trib is the Majordomo, no other outlet can compete with products such as their "31 in 31" series and, given the level of writing talent that Smith has assembled, they probably shouldn't try.

Long-live the King of Newsish.









*Prog: Short for progressive, also a poke at the French.

Friday, August 26, 2011

If you read one thing this weekend.....

Please make it this great piece by Mike Cronin and Jennifer Peebles of Texas Watchdog...


Interwoven ethics problems at Houston ISD, Houston Community College, port authority, Harris County -- all one big ball of string

You're welcome.

I reject your reality.....

...and substitute my own.

That seems to be the mantra of City Controller Ronald Green when dealing with S&P:


(City dropping S&P as its investment-rating agency. Chris Moran, Chron Houston Politics blog.)
The city of Houston will drop Standard & Poor’s as the rating agency for its investment portfolio as a result of getting downgraded earlier this month, said City Controller Ronald Green.

The rating only applies to Houston’s investments, not its debt, so it has no effect on the city’s borrowing costs, Green said.
I get it, there are a LOT of things wrong with S&P as a ratings agency: They blew it on the sub-prime mess, haven't found a bubble they didn't like (or missed it's coming POP!) The problem is people are using these examples as factual arguments for why S&P is wrong NOW.

It's just more logical fallacy argument-making posed as fact. It only makes sense that, if the US Government is downgraded, that the investments stemming from US Government sources would be downgraded as well. Despite Green's claims, there's really nothing arbitrary about that. Political? Possibly, but not arbitrary.

The problem is, like Metro, City of Houston finances are on increasingly shaky ground. At times like these the main focus should be on efficiency and cost-cutting, not funding trinkets and expensive light-rail lines that don't serve those who need transit services the most.

The focus by Houston City and area elected officials (as well as appointed quasi-governmental bureaucrats) on trinket governance would be considered incompetent if you removed the understanding that today's government is not about citizen service. Put in their proper perspective, these decisions make perfect sense*.





*We'll let you decide the proper perspective for yourselves.



Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Seattle: Quick Thoughts

Just got back in (Haaawt) Houston after a week spent in Seattle. As with my Toronto trip, here are some quick thoughts.

1. Yes, cost of living is HIGH there.

2. No, they aren't getting their money's worth for the high taxes they pay.

3. Seattle's monorail = Houston's light rail, only it has cooler destinations at each end of the line. To be honest, Seattle is a city full of boondoggles that probably sounded good at the time.

4. Whatever you do, don't drive during rush hour. - Seattle may be beautiful but its roads are crap. For all the money that City is taking in you'd think they could afford some decent pavement.

5. Hub and spoke bus/train/monorail routes may be easier to administer, but they don't make getting around all that easy.

6. Crosswalks....optional. Watch out if you're driving.

7. Seattle residents STILL don't like George W. Bush, although they do seem to be enamoured with Bar-B-Q.

8. Two words: Deodorant pal.

9. There are a lot of edible fish on display at the Seattle Aquarium, some of which are advertised to live in Puget Sound. Despite this most restaurants serve only fried cod.

10. Pike's Place Market is neat, but the whole throwing the fish thing is overrated.

Red-light cameras and stupidity.....

So City Council has voted, in a non-binding resolution, to turn the city's controversial red light cameras off immediately.

As you can imagine, this has the pro ATS (or, possibly, ATS themselves for all I know) all in a tizzy:
(From the comments in the linked story)

Kent L. Hunley says:
August 24, 2011 at 10:33 am
Congrats voters of Houston, your will has been honored. One small thing, you might have to pay more taxes since you voted the cameras out, unfortunately when you are stupid enough to think that just getting rid of the cameras doesn’t come with a several million dollar penalty, you pretty much get what you deserve.


Left unsaid: The City could have avoided a "several Million dollar penalty" had the escape clause in the contract not been removed by Bill White, super genius.


All of which goes to show you that there's "smart" and then there's "political smart". The two have nothing in common.



Monday, August 15, 2011

Food Trucks Brought to you by MetroRail

Hey, Houston already has a "mass transit backbone" that requires 99.9% of residents to drive into town in order to ride it. (makes sense right?) So who's to say that we can't destroy the idea of food trucks by creating a central location where 99.995% of Houstonians would have to drive to them?

Possible Spot Where Food Trucks can Flock, Nancy Sarnoff, Chron.com
A local entrepreneur wants to turn the parking lot she leases near downtown into a gathering spot for the city's growing fleet of food trucks.
Lauren Barrash, owner of an Inner Loop shuttle service, is circulating a survey to residents around her Washington Avenue- area property to gauge interest in the proposed project.
She already leases space to one food truck and has started approaching others about the idea.
Of course, the whole appeal to food trucks is that they are mobile, and that (in an ideal world, outside of the mind-suck that is inner-loop Houston)they can drive close to where people work and serve up some tasty food.

Not in Houston however. In Houston the idea of food-truck Nirvana is a place where people would have to drive, pay the owner of the lot a fee to park, eat, and then drive BACK to their offices (or homes, after a night of drinking on Washington Ave.)

If MetroRail doesn't sponsor this Metro is overpaying for their bloated PR department.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Money

There's this: Metro lays track for southeast line as questions remain, Carol Christian, Chron.com.


This: Mayor Moving to curb blight, Chris Moran, Chron.com.

This: Dynamo see "green" in soccer stadium, Houston Business Journal.

This: United, city agree on $1 billion airport deal, Chris Moran and Julenia Moreno, Chron.com

And this: Serving a fresh helping of hope, Chris Moran, Chron.com.


In a city out of money, looking at financial austerity, how is all of this going to be paid for? Oh...

Water, water...

Who's got the water?


Houston expects mandatory water restrictions next week, Matt Schwartz, Chron.com

Mayor Annise Parker this morning said that the city is moving toward enacting mandatory water restrictions and a simultaneous draw-down of water from Lake Conroe, as soon as next week, in response to the ongoing drought.
In June, the city implemented what it calls Stage 1 water conservation. Those include voluntary restrictions on water usage, including a request that residents limit the watering of lawns to twice a week and to do that watering at night or in the early-morning hours.
Under Stage 2, those restrictions would become mandatory. Other restrictions, such as a prohibition on washing cars, would be added, Parker said. Residents also would be required to repair water leaks on their properties within 72 hours.



Out of Time, Out of Water, Ubu Roi, HouBlog

Having enough safe water to drink. And on this one, I feel our administration has been tanking. (Har, har). Ok, so the Mayor declared that, by golly, we’re going to Stage 2 water rationing, andobythewayweregoingtodrawdownLakeConroenobigdeal.

It’s a big deal all right. While we are in a drought of epic proportions (about 85% of the state is in “Extreme Drought” conditions, the most severe), the administration has done next to nothing about it, aside from bring some contractors on board to try and keep up with the leaks. Frankly, I’m surprised we haven’t had a major sinkhole somewhere yet, thanks to a washout from a broken water line. I do know where there’s some suspicious dips in the road…



Apparently not Houston.



Also: BlogHouston

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

In the coming economy....

some might say it's wise to teach kids how to cheat.

HISD's school board seems to think this is OK.

Hey, we've got ChronBlog, The Apple Dumpling Gang, the Metro Board and Progs everywhere supporting Grenias' alleged kiddie-porn habit so why should being accused of cheating be all that big a deal?


Next up: Murder is A-OK. Oh....wait....

Don't believe the hype.

Polls such as this typically aren't worth much....

("Wave" election could be coming. Mackenzie Weinger, Politico)

Less than a quarter of Americans say most members of Congress deserve reelection — the lowest number ever found in the 20-year history of Gallup/USAToday polling — and the dismal numbers could mean another “wave election” is in the cards for Washington.
A wave "could" be coming, but it's probably not. A better poll question to ask would be whether or not people believe that THEIR congressional representative deserves re-election. Typically people feel this way about other people's representatives, but they prefer to keep theirs. That this is coming from Politico (which I consider to be a fairly conservative news organization that runs the occasional Prog friendly story) tells me that, on the political beat, the media is scrambling to frame 2012.

Also to add: The poll was a CNN poll. They do a pretty good job on specific elections (see: Machin WV Senate) but tend to trend further left as the issues become less granular. The problem seems to be a clear selection bias. Having not seen the crosstabs for this poll however I will admit this is a guess based, in part, on recent history.

Finally: Even IF this poll contains some type of selection bias I can't believe it would flip the numbers. If that's the case, then the Prog's should be happy because it means their finger-pointing on the debt fiasco has been more effective than the Conservatives. Given the media coverage surrounding this issue that should not come as much of a surprise.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Worst.Editorial.Board.Ever.

From The Apple Dumpling Gang:
When Chronicle reporter Brian Rogers asked, Daniel gave lots of mealy-mouthed, not-good-enough excuses ("District clerk bailing on court fees, critics say," Page A1, Thursday).
He said he's trying to untangle the fluctuating state law, which was settled back in November. He said he wasn't briefed in depth on the matter until a month ago. And he said he was concerned that raising the fee would have the "unintended consequence" of keeping more people in jail, since bondsmen would pass the cost to their customers.

None of those excuses passes muster. It's the county clerk's job to know the law and enforce it - whether he has qualms or not.



From Matt Bramanti in the comments:
"It's the county clerk's job to know the law and enforce it - whether he has qualms or not."

Whose job is it to know the difference between a county clerk and a district clerk when the editorial board is asleep at the switch?

This story is about the district clerk. But hey, don't let facts get in the way of a good Chron huff.

Disband the editorial board; it does a bad job.


Yes they do. Also, they're a week late and an editorial dollar short (again)

Just shut them down. They're an embarrassment to the City.

Some quick thoughts on Toronto...

I just got back from a quick trip to Toronto, and here are some thoughts on my (too quick) trip to the City.....


1. Toronto in the Summer is brilliant.

2. Poutine is the Canadian version of Buc-ees Beaver Nuggets. Crack cocaine in food form.

3. Canada has taken a lot of the good stuff from Europe (sensible public transit, a walkable City Centre) and mixed it up with a lot of the BAD stuff from America (ignoring infrastructure needs -especially their roadways, which suck and are always full of traffic) and nanny-stateism. (Their alcohol retail sales system makes Texas' look sane in comparison).

4. The high-rise apartments in Toronto all look like they were built in the 50's and 60's.....by the Russians.

5. Bilingual is their "multi-culturalism". It's being pushed by people who have no clue and for reasons that make no sense. It's also a one-way (pro-French in their case) street.

6. On a Summer evening, you can stroll along the Waterfront in Toronto. In Houston you can fry an egg on the sidewalk next to Buffalo Bayou.

7. In the Winter, Torontans don't walk around much. They tend to use a tunnel system or (when possible) drive cars. If not possible they stay home and eat Poutine (see #2)

8. Due to years of road maintenance neglect, Toronto's traffic is terrible. (Also, left turn arrows folks, look into them eh?)


(Points six, seven and eight are proof of case Houston Tomorrow's vision for "future Houston" is complete and utter bollocks.)

9. Two words: Good beer.


10. Point ten has been ceded to Torontans due to the terrible ass exchange rate you're currently seeing. The US $ is 90% of the Canadian dollar. I'll will say the Loonie is pretty cool however.


And yes, I do want to go back.

You can learn a lot from a Tweet....

Case in point, from the Honorable Annise Parker...
Long Heights town hall! 2 bad we couldnt hit many city issues due to multiple anti-Walmart and anti-Preservation folks tryin to score pts-a


Unsaid in this Tweet is that Herronor is FOR the Wal-Mart development and (in the right places of course*) Preservation. What she forgets is that, to the "anti-" whatever crowd these ARE city issues that are very important to them. That she disagrees with them means (in her words) that they are "scoring points" rather than bringing up real City issues.

I'd like to sit here this evening and tell you that false arguments such as this are the sole property of the Prog's. Unfortunately, they're not. Bad arguments and demagoguery seem to play well with everyone in politics, and political blogs. If you're not paying attention to recent events in the City, State and Country this is not working out so swell. It's time to stop it and challenge these fallacies whenever and wherever they occur.




"Right" being identified as those areas where reliable, progressive voters with deep pockets reside. That they are typically Caucasian and are gentrifying formerly diverse neighborhoods is just another one of those political paradoxes that test if you still have a sense of humor.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

It doesn't matter what the real reason is....

....this just looks bad.


Daniels might have not raised the rates for innocent reasons, but if you're going to crack on your political opposites when they seem to favor donors (Borris Miles) then you better be just as hard on your own. It looks bad. Like a political favor being returned by a candidate who I can't figure out how he got elected for the life of me.

If nothing else we should have seen this type of technical ignorance regarding the statutes coming down the pipe when we elected into office a person with almost no relevant experience.

If a Federal Agency Shuts Down....

....and no one notices....Is it really even needed?

Have you flown since the shutdown? I have, and I didn't notice a thing.


I mean, sure. The workers noticed, and we should work through the private sector to get them back on the job as soon as possible, but from an air-travel standpoint I think it's safe to say we now know the FAA could get by just fine on a LOT less.


Oh, and if you're wondering why Obama is so concerned about this? Union jobs are at stake people.

Government solutions in search of a problem.


Study: Healthy eating is privilege of the rich, Donna Gordon Blankenship, AP via Chron.com

A healthy diet is expensive and could make it difficult for Americans to meet new U.S. nutritional guidelines, according to a study published Thursday that says the government should do more to help consumers eat healthier.
Of course it does. Because that's the manufactured "solution" to every perceived "problem" out there: A big, expensive, government program that takes money from those that have, and gives it to those that have not.

I would suggest the "solution" is not as complicated (or expensive) as our Statist experts would have us believe.

- Square foot gardening: Teach people, yes even people in apartments, that cultivating a small garden is doable. Yes, it takes work, and work is something that the Statists feel people are not willing to do. But it only costs pennies for a few seeds, possibly a few dollars for a seedling. The ROI on these, if properly tended, is exponential. It's also a good way to teach kids responsibility and install a work ethic, something the Statists understand would put an end to their desired way of life.

- Remove subsidies: The reason it's "more expensive" to eat healthier is because we've let the Government subsidize our food supply thus ridding it of diversity. In reality, the costs that are seen for healthy foods are closer to a real cost than the incredibly low costs for "unhealthy" foods. Simple supply and demand dictates that, as it becomes less profitable for big companies to continue growing wheat, corn and soy, our agriculture will rediscover other grains etc. Because there is more supply, the price on these "ingredients for the wealthy" will eventually moderate.

- Rein in what people on assistance can buy: Don't want people eating unhealthy? Restrict the food options on programs like the Lone Star Card. Fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat. (not processed meat) That should about do it. If someone wants to eat a chocolate bar there's nothing that says they can't do it, just not on the government dime.

- True cost: Used to be a sign of being wealthy was to be plump. That's because the rich could afford food and the poor cannot. In today's society being fat and sloppy are signs of being poor, while the wealthy are bronzed and fit. That's because the poor are now eating TOO MUCH unhealthy food. Perhaps being forced to purchase less healthy food would be a good prescription? Sadly, that did not fit the pre-determined conclusion of this survey.

- What are we really doing here: It seems as though the Statists behind this survey don't have a clear grasp of what food assistance is designed to do. Programs such as welfare, WIC and the Lone Star Card (yes, I know, they are one and the same, but there are slight distinctions) are designed to be safety nets to prevent people from having no food at all. The choice is between starving and having some food to put on a plate. We're trying to act as if those on welfare need to decide whether or not to purchase their Champagne with or without a peacock splashing around. That latter line of thinking is where fiscal ruin lies.

- The bigger picture: Of course, I'm referring to the job market. People with jobs will make more money than people on welfare assistance, and they'll take more pride in the money earned. The secret to "closing the food gap" is to not try and close it at all. More importantly the secret is to create jobs and get unemployment down. Once you do that there will still be a food gap (there always is) but it will be far less critical.


And the solution will not require a big, expensive government program either.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

There's a problem with hating the voters....

One that the Prog's are discovering is oh so real. The problem is, you can't continually insult the intelligence of the Country and have them identify with you.

Per that recent Gallup survey 41% of Americans now self-identify as "conservative" with the "liberal" numbers down around 21% and with "moderates" hanging around 36%. Here's the rub....

"Millionaire" and "Billionaire" have been publicly re-defined as anyone making more than $200K per year (the family income floor for Obama's proposed "tax increases on the wealthiest Americans".) That doesn't make those making more than $100K feel very comfortable because they now understand that they're next. And "next", in terms of having your wealth given to those who haven't worked for it, sucks.

Is it any wonder then that the Prog's are angry with their candidate while the Republicans seem to be on the verge of coalescing around theirs?

My friend Kevin used to quip that the Americans typically let Prog's get in charge for a little while and then quickly remember why this is a bad idea. It seems that could be the case here although I would argue the Republicans need to finish before there's any talk of a "Tea Party Spring" in America. (This is even before the debate of what it should look like and who should lead it or, if it should even happen in the first place.)

Until then, here's a love note from Jonah Goldberg to the MSM. Enjoy.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Behind the screaming headline

ChronBlog's editorial headline department parrots the meme:

Red-light cameras reduce crashes, Texas study suggests, Paul J. Weber, AP via Chron.com

But a closer look at the survey itself reveals something slightly different.

Yes, during the first year or two there is a (slight, and uneven) decrease in traffic accidents after the installation of RLC's. At 14% (with little controls, this could easily be mostly made up of noise. But, since we're taking the numbers at face value without factoring in noise*....)

You would also be wise to notice that accidents started to INCREASE at almost all intersections after the 2nd year RLC's were in effect. What this suggests is that the "safety" benefits from RLC's are transitory at best, and the intersections will revert to the mean over time as people get more and more oblivious to the RLC's and continue old driving patterns.

What any of this means is uncertain, but it certainly doesn't "suggest" that the installation of RLC's provide any sustained reduction in accidents. If anything, it suggests the opposite. It's just another incomplete data point in the on-going debate over RLC's, which the voters of Houston have rejected in an election the areas former newspaper of record refuses to recognize as valid.

A far better solution could very well be reinforcing already ingrained behavior by lengthening yellow light times. Unfortunately, this option does not drive revenue for the City so it's being rejected out of hand.







*Noise could also relate to reduced traffic volumes due to the economy. The raw number decreases are way too small vs. the general population to be considered statistically significant, especially considering the lack of control intersections (i.e. intersections without RLC's) in the study.

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