Thursday, October 20, 2011

Did PeckBlog Plagiarize?

Saw a Tweet from Amy Peck tonight advertising an analysis of Texas' Constitutional Amendments on her blog. Always interested in political analysis I thought it wise to head over there and take a look. This is what I found:

Proposed Texas Constitutional Amendments, Amy Peck, PeckBlog

Here are the proposed state constitutional amendments coming up in the November election. As a state employee, I do not think it would be ethical to post my opinions about the proposed constitutional amendments. So instead I have posted an analysis and arguments for and against each proposed amendment. Post any questions you have in the comments, and I will do my best to get you an answer.

In and of itself, that's not too bad. The problem comes with the "analysis". If you go and read the PeckBlog "analysis" you might notice that it looks very familiar to the analysis found here. Again, this is not, in and of itself a problem.

What IS a problem is that it appears that Amy Peck has 100% either straight copied, or summarized the Texas Legislative Council's work without attribution, essentially presenting it as her own.

However you cut it, that's plagiarism.

Now, it's probable that this was unintentional, that Peck just used the TLC's document and is ignorant of copyright laws, and the pratfalls of not offering proper attribution. At worst, she intentionally ripped all of the content and presented it as her own. I don't think there's any way you can look at the two documents and make any kind of argument that the information on Peck's blog is her own.

Let's hope that we're dealing with the former and Peck corrects her error and apologizes.

Do endorsements matter?

My initial thought is: These two probably don't.

Bell endorses Jones. Chris Moran,
Rodriguez, Harris and Stipeche for HISD board. The Apple Dumpling Gang,

Let's start with the easy one.....


I'm not sure the candidate who couldn't out draw a corpse is really someone who I would rely on to bring the vote. It's a testament to Kelly Cripe's savvy as a PR flack that she's wise enough to not use it in a mailer. Chris Bell? Meh.

At least, that's what most people would say, but Bell is a fave rave with the local InterLeft and Because of this, his endorsements are constantly paraded out in support of favorites that are probably going to win (comfortably) anyway. The effect of this is that Bell's self-delusion of popularity (Wow! My endorsement really put THAT candidate over the top!) is maintained and he's still mentioned as a serious Democratic candidate for almost any office that opens up for which he's eligible.

Even worse, is the Apple Dumpling Gang's endorsement.

First: No one pays attention to them any longer, and second, they obviously don't place the same weight on a Prog politician's cronyism as they do on a Republican candidate's cronyism. Besides that, when your definition of "qualified" seems too be more closely tied to idealism (in this case: Prog) than to actual qualifications you run the risk of losing credibility. For many years now the Apple Dumpling Gang has had zero.

If you haven't heard the phrase "post normal science" I encourage you to go look it up. Not only is it anti-science, but it's also the foundation for much of the human-driven climate change movement. What we're getting close to in Houston is "post normal politics". Where key players are recasting basic facts in a more favorable light to ensure a desired result.

I'd say you should think this is a problem no matter what side of the aisle you're on, but we know from the recent past that, at least, one side has no problem with hi-jacking civil discourse to advance something that's destined to fail. (Yet which has been sold to them as a panacea all facts to the contrary)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Alternative methods for traffic reduction

Courtesy of Metro rail.

Link to the text version of the story is here

Obviously this OLD plan wasn't doing the job as efficiently as possible. The obvious flaw, which Metro obviously overlooked, was that people were getting their cars fixed and back on the road soon after the Danger Train "relieved traffic".

Well now we can't have that. This new "phase 2" plan brilliantly attacks the problem from both ends. Metro takes out your car, and blocks the entrance to the places where it can get fixed.

I guess you can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs (or, in this case, cars)

Three unlikely data points (updated)

If you spend anytime at all listening to "those in the know" in Houston you'll hear a lot of stuff about how Houston will die on the vine without expensive, centrally planned, (and horribly inefficient) transit or how Houston is ugly or that Houston will lose their competitive advantage if they don't immediately stop what they are doing, give all of their planning over to David Crossley and his group and stop losing out to other cities in the race for "the creative class" and high priced workers.

Given all of the opinion and computer modelling that they've thrown at the problem (note: Not hard evidence, computer modelling) you might be surprised to find these three hard data points staring you in the face:

1. Houston home sales rise, break price record. Houston Business Journal
2. Harris County foreclosures take major dip. Houston Business Journal
3. Houston sets US pace for income growth, study shows. Houston Business Journal

So let me get this straight. Ugly, blighted, dumb, transit-deficient Houston, home of big traffic delays and buildings that no self-respecting liberal journalist could love. Houston, with its grungy air, mouth-breathing tea-party types and a cast-iron aversion to central zoning. Houston, a city so dumb some people don't want to live asshole-to-elbow in Crossley Towers (after their construction in a formerly blighted area of course, keeping them fully away from the "proper neighborhoods") where sustainable living, square foot gardens on two square foot balconies are the norm. Houston home of food deserts and an intellectual back-water where some people think they might, just might think they want a fenced-in backyard and believe that they should have some modicum of control over the property they own......

....that Houston is leading the nation in salary growth and is, by all accounts, experiencing a population boom.

Maybe we're not the armpit of civilization our would-be ruling class is making us out to be?

Funny, right after I posted this article David Crossley's group, Houston Tomorrow, rolled out this clap-trap, obviously meant to be a slight (again) at the Houston region:

Houston Region ranked 11th most stressful by Forbes, David Crossley, Houston Tomorrow.

There's just one small problem:
The Houston region is #11 out of 15 in Forbes new list of the Most Stressful Cities in America.

(emphasis mine)

Unsaid in the Houston Tomorrow article is that Houston came in BETTER than liberal utopias Seattle, San Francisco and San Diego and waaaay behind dense, transit heavy, walkable (Crossley's gold standard) New York (#1) and Chicago (#3). Again the facts don't match the rhetoric.

One District at a time

Maybe that's the path?

(Business owners want Montrose Management District dissolved, Ken Fountain, West University Examiner)

The Montrose Management District, not yet a year old, may be facing extinction.

Like all of the Houston’s management districts, the Montrose Management District runs on assessments solely to owners of commercial, not residential property. It was formed under a law passed by the Texas Legislature in 2009 -- after two failed earlier attempts -- to encompass the western part of the Montrose area. In January, it merged with the already existing East Montrose Management District to form one district.

From the outset, a group of small business owners have opposed the district, appearing at board meetings to voice their objections. Many claim that they were unaware of the district’s formation until last fall, when they received mailed notices of a meeting to set the property assessment.

Ever since, they’ve vowed to collect the number of signatures from property owners required by state law -- equal to 75 percent of the assessed commercial property in the district -- to force the board to dissolve the district.

And succeed they have, or so it seems. As of last word the District's lawyers are pouring over the signatures trying to determine if the signors "oppose the totality of the district". My guess is they will, and they'll have no other choice to disband.

If you need to know more about why this is a bad thing, take a look at this blogHouston piece that outlines some of that "bad crony capitalism" that The Apple Dumpling Gang finds so offensive when practiced by the wrong politicians (i.e. politicians who do not share their ideals.)

You'd think that the Mayor's life partner and the seemingly under-qualified son of fund "manager" David Hawes being employed by the district would have fired off a round of warning bells....You'd be wrong,

It's not the job of those from the ruling class party to worry about things such as conflicts of interest and cronyism, only to point out when they think the other side is doing it better than them.


Texas Watchdog, Rhymes with Right

Thursday, October 13, 2011

You know "for flood control"

So say we all?

(How tight is Houston's drainage tax 'lock box'? Bike trails funded by Rebuild Houston money for streets and drainage, Steve Miller, Texas

It was passed by Houston voters as a tax to address the city’s decrepit drainage system and Third World streets. But $857,000 of the new Proposition 1 fund --- which Mayor Annise Parker pitched as a "lock box that can only be spent for street and drainage improvements" --- is slated for hike and bike trails.

The money will pay for "design, acquisition and construction" of trails as part of an overall plan to provide "an alternate route of travel for bicyclists and/or hikers away from street traffic," according to the city's latest capital improvement plan.

If you're not reading Texas Watchdog for your daily news, my question is "Why not?"
The answer is THIS type of reporting that one won't find at Houston's newspaper of record. It's the type of reporting that Houston certainly needs.

Supposedly, the hapless Parker administration is none too happy that this news has been released to the public, which is all the more reason why it SHOULD be released to the public.

Don't expect the city's prog InterLeft to get upset about this, that's not what they do.

You should probably be upset about it however, because your tax money is going to end up paying for this*

*Not that we here at HCA have a problem with bike trails, we're avid bicyclists after all, but we believe in paying for them in an honest way, not under the guise of "flood control"

Friday, October 7, 2011


Good story today in about RenFest....

Grateful it survived fires, Renaissance Fest opens Saturday, Hallie Jordan,
Rather than preparing for the nation's largest Renaissance Festival, crew members spent a week in September defending the 55-acre fairgrounds from one of the largest wildfires the region has ever seen.

Using heavy equipment, 5,000-gallon water tankers and a small fire truck of their own, the fair's 14-member maintenance team worked around the clock to keep the flames at bay just a month prior to Saturday's opening.

The blaze came within 100 yards of the property, and right up to the edge of a 60-foot firebreak the crew cleared around the festival site. By removing trees and plants from the area, the team was able to help contain the blaze and protect the fairgrounds' permanent structures.

Nice to hear the Houston area's local "things white people like" festival is going to pull it off this year. It was getting a little dicey there for a bit with all of that fire. GREAT job by those 14 maintenance workers stopping the blaze.

Unfortunately, travel plans will preclude me from going to the Festival this year, but if you want to go out and have a good time, get some decent food and overpay for some beer served quite often with some good natured ribbing?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Funny, I don't feel occupied

It's amazing how the media gets worked up about 150 or so people while all but ignoring 10,000.
(Protesters target bank, City Hall In Houston this morning. Robert Stanton,
More than 200 protesters — young and old, healthy and disabled — converged in downtown Houston Thursday under the banner of the Occupy Houston movement.
The demonstration was an outgrowth of a New York event focused on what the protesters called social and economic inequality and corporate greed. It began at 8:30 a.m at Market Square Park with about 150 protesters — many carrying placards and chanting — who then marched to the J.P. Morgan Chase Bank Tower before moving on to City Hall.
The crowd grew to more than 200 by midmorning, according to a police officer at the scene.
“We have officially occupied Hermann Square Park,” a speaker told the crowd, referring to the reflecting pool area on the east side of City Hall. “We are not going anywhere until the people are heard.”

Supposedly, according to a tweet by KHOU's Alex Sanz "rally" organizers are claiming 700 people attended. To get to that number they must be using the same models used to calculate global warming. Either that or they're using the Keynesian multiplier.

Some are calling this the "Tea Party of the Left". I don't buy that. It may be a rally of the rank and file of the Democratic Party, but it's still just a bunch of young people with no jobs running around living out some Che fantasy while chanting things that are hard to hear at a distance.

On the bright side, all of the signs I saw were spelled correctly.

It's no secret that I've no affinity toward the Tea Party. I view them as the tantrum wing of the right. They're pretty good at making noise but, so far, haven't shown the ability to govern the darn place. I don't expect to see this from the Occupy folks either.

More damaging to the Democrats is the Occupy Manifesto a treasure trove of anti-American ramblings that can be summed up as "gimme". Where the Tea Party doesn't want to pay taxes only to have them go to those they consider to be lazy and freeloaders, the Occupy folks want to get a free ride without putting in any effort.

In the end, the Tea Party is guilty of having limited vision, while the Occupy movement has shown no vision, no drive, and no proclivity toward doing much but playing bongos, smoking, wearing Guy Fawkes masks and quoting philosophers out of context.

Bread and circuses is all this is. Bread and circuses.

Wake me when it's over and the adults come back in the room.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Is anyone still tracking these?

Yet another greatest hit from the Danger Train.....

(15 hurt as Metro train, dump truck collide downtown, Dale Lezon,
Fifteen people were treated for minor injuries Tuesday morning after a dump truck collided with a Metro light rail train downtown. The truck, headed west on Capitol, struck the train at Main and Capitol at 9:15 a.m., according to Metro officials.
Thirteen passengers, the train operator and the dump truck driver were taken to St. Joseph Medical Center and Ben Taub General Hospital. They had bumps and bruises and other non-life threatening injuries, officials said.
The dump truck apparently ran a red light, according to Metro officials. The driver said the sun reflected on the traffic light and he couldn’t see that it was red. The train had a green light.

Glad to hear everyone was (for the most part) OK. Bumps and bruises but nothing (too) serious. There used to be someone on the web that was tracking the number of Danger Train collisions. Does anyone know if this is still around?

On another note: Notice how Metro officials are quick to release the information when the other vehicle (not the Metro driver) appears to be in the wrong. Had Metro been potentially at fault the story would have been: Metro is still investigating.

A bigger problem is that, years after the train has been operating, collisions with the train are still fairly commonplace. The (Metro-fed) idea that Houston drivers are wholly to blame (What part of safety don't you understand?) obscures the fact that these lines are poorly engineered. Streetcars share lanes with automobiles, but they are subject to all traffic laws, including red lights. Non-grade seperated rail in areas with high automobile traffic are accidents waiting to happen.

As Metro continues to plow ahead with this dangerous, unflexible (notice that, while the rail was down, unsexy busses had to fill the gaps. Yes, the very busses Metro has been cutting since the train started operating) rail accidents are going to continue to skyrocket, transit options are going to continue to decline, and Metro is going to continue to sink further and further into a financial abyss.

Meanwhile, as rider capacity declines, automobile congestion is going to increase.

All of this raises the Question: What problem was "Metro Solutions" trying to solve?

Monday, October 3, 2011

True bi-partisanship

When Democrats and Republicans truly work together, the results are often disastrous for the American people
(Turning Your Cell Phone Into A 'Sell Phone'? Ned Hibbard, FoxNews Houston)
A bill just filed in Congress would make your mobile phone “fair game” for the kinds of calls you might not want to take. For the past two decades, your cell phone has been off limits to automated dialing programs. But that protection – like the Nokia ringtone – could be about to vanish. “Pretty much, it's probably the worst bill I've ever seen,” says telemarketing opponent Joe Shields. He’s talking about House Resolution 3035, known as the “Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011.”

Got that? Those annoying automated phone calls you get at home can soon eat up paid minutes on your cell phone. You'll be PAYING for the privilege of being annoyed.

Who's responsible for this mess of a deal?
The bill is bipartisan in that it’s sponsored by a Republican and a Democrat. But FOX 26 News looked at the top nine political contributions of the congressman who introduced the measure. And it may be worth noting that four out of the nine came from telecom or banking groups.

The one thing good about America is this: Despite all of the anti-Democracy rants by the Progs of late it's still the best system for identifying the sponsors........and voting them the heck out of office. Which is why the Prog's anti-democracy rhetoric is so dangerous.

(Sorta) back in the saddle quick hits


Think Occupy Wall St. could become a campaign liability for Progressives?
 The problem they're going to have here is that 70% of Americans are way right of this type of expression. Not that Wall St. doesn't have it's problems, but the answer to them is not to blow up the entire capitalist system and replace it with some Marxist Utopia that won't be...a utopia at all. The main problem the left in America has right now is that there's no such thing as moderation to them. Taking it too far is not far enough to their ardent supporters (bloggers).
Speaking of pushing it too far: The GOP isn't with these two bills but they also have a proclivity to get out of hand.
Getting rid of the EPA would be good move (you could have better regulation and policy without them), but it's not in-line with what the majority of the electorate is willing to go along with. There's a fine-line between being pro-economy and anti-consumer. IMO the government should always have heavier regulation over things people NEED (food, water, electricity, gas etc.) and only health and safety regulation over things people WANT. That's a pretty striking difference from what a few on the far right are proposing.
On a serious note: Nothing to see here, move along.
To suggest that regulators and those that they regulate not have any human feelings is absurd. There's nothing here that suggests the State department is being swayed by these friendships, only that both sides are acting human. The Socialist/Environmentalist movement wouldn't be happy unless the regulators called the TransCanada employees a bunch of capitalist pigs.
It makes you wonder what Obama's internal polling numbers are showing if they're going to these lengths to shut out the public on his jobs plan addresses

I'd be willing to bet the polling results aren't good, despite an administration and media coordinated press to
win support.

In a word: Heh.

You gotta think the Occupy Wall St. peeps (and the Prog bloggers that support them) would just as soon sell their first born for medical research than admit the Tea Party was on to something. Far better to misrepresent and call them vulgarities.


A man called Cactus

The urbanists and transplants are going to have a seizure over this one. Surely County Commission called "Cactus Jack" isn't world class right?

In which the Houston Chronicle admits the media didn't do it's job.

Had reporters done what reporters typically do - dig for facts - they might have gradually uncovered a raft of details that put Jones' claims in a different light. They could have learned that the combined recollection of virtually every KBR employee who dealt with Jones that day described a different version of events. That company records seemed at odds with Jones' memory on many points. That medical evidence did not support her descriptions of her injuries or her claim of being drugged. That previous diagnoses by her own doctors in Houston said she suffered from a psychosomatic illness that included faking some symptoms.

There have been far too many stories of late where the media, after the fact, has admitted that "whoops, we kind of dropped the ball on that one, sorry, we'll do better NEXT time." The problem is that the "next time" comes and the media does what it has done for years, slant the news. The Houston Chronicle, under it's current leadership, is among the worst of the MSM outlets for slanted (towards the Houston establishment usually) reporting. You expect this type of behavior from The Texas Tribune, the Texas Observer or other newsish outlets, whose funding is typically from party activists and/or interest groups. Sadly, you have to expect it from the mainstream as well. Far better if all of them would just own up to their bias and let us all digest the news with full disclosure.

To be fair, the National news media is worse than the Houston Chronicle.

KBR was a tailor-made villain. Too bad it doesn't appear they've turned out to be. Damned facts.

No matter how many times you put lipstick on a pig it's still the same 'ol pig.

The Chron could have a hundred apps, and it's still not going to change the fact that their local news reporting is sub-par, quite often getting scooped on stories of local interest by National or out-of-town publications. The iPad was hailed as the saviour of newspapers, my prediction is that it won't move the needle AT ALL. What newspapers need to do is get back to some old fashioned watchdog reporting. For the pro-establishment Houston Chronicle, this would mean a 100% re-vamp of the product. I don't believe that Jeff Cohen is the visionary that is necessary to pull off a feat of this magnitude.

So much to talk about. I'll leave the Perry Presidential stuff for The Texas Iconoclast

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