Saturday, March 28, 2015

Texas Leadership Vacuum: We don't understand it. Let's Ban it!

Texas, your elected idiots are at it again.....

Lawmakers trying to ban powdered alcohol before it reaches Texas. David Saleh Rauf, ($$$)

The pertinent quote:

"I've never in my life seen powdered alcohol, but it scares the heck out of me and I've got a big concern," said state Rep. Roland Gutierrez, a San Antonio Democrat, who sits on the panel considering the bill. "I think the rest of the committee has a big concern."

The purpose of this post isn't to pick on Democrats, that quote comes from the Houston Chronicle. The article (and I suggest you go read the entire thing) states that the main driver of this movement is Rep. Charlie Geren, a Republican.

So, the next time you hear Republicans like Geren talk about "limited government" and how dedicated they are to the free markets remember nonsense like this.  Most elected politicians, even Republicans, have a first instinct within them to legislate and create new laws.

Even stupid laws like this, with no basis in fact or reality.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I Need a Car: The Toyota Camry (Part 3 in a series)

Note: What follows are my thoughts on cars that I have driven in my search for a new vehicle. I'm hoping to focus on how cars would react in real, Houston conditions. Not whether they have "tech" or how sporty they are or what their 0-60 time may be (although I will discuss those things). I hope that you come away from this with a better idea how a car would be in everyday conditions, not around a test track.  What follows is my opinion, and my opinion only. I have not received any compensation or influence in writing this other than my own impressions on each vehicle. Your mileage may (and will) vary.  Finally, the following should not be considered either an offer, or advice, on whether YOU should buy a particular car or not. Go out and make your own decisions.

Part 1: The KIA Optima

Part 2: The Dodge Dart

The car you about to see is a cure for insomnia.

No seriously, try and look at this car and not fall asleep.

It's not that it's a bad car. In fact, it's a very good car, likely to be very reliable and one that possess good handling, a comfortable ride and a very well designed 4 cylinder engine that's supposed to get 25/35 mpg depending on driving conditions.

To drive, the Camry is nice. Everything about the Camry is nice actually.  And that's part of the problem. It's just nice.  There is nothing either spectacular, or especially memorable, about the Camry at all.  I can't tell you that the ride was outstanding, or that the steering was crisp, or anything really. The Camry I drove might as well have been any other car, except that the seats were horribly uncomfortable for a person my size and the "sporty" part-time paddle gear box seemed out of place in a family sedan.

The Camry also suffers from a malady that affects all front-wheel drive cars, torque steer. Engineers try to get rid of it but they frequently fail. The problem is nothing wrong with the car, but just a problem with trying to force the front wheels to handle both the drive and the steering. The Camry also is plagued by the tendency of almost every auto manufacturer to assume that what the customer wants is a sports-like feel.  In reality, most of us don't want that at all.  What we want is a car that handles pot-holes well and which doesn't jar our spines every time we drive over one of Houston's pot-holes.

Besides random boredom, What ails the Camry is the problem with most sedans in this class. They're all trying to be something that they're not.

In Summary: Overall I liked the Camry. I think it's a little more expensive than other cars in the class but it's going to be backed by Toyota's reliability. It's a very nice car at a fair price that's going to get you from A to B.  All that said, I didn't fall in love with the Camry because, while there was nothing about it that was bad, there was nothing about it that was really great either. That said, I wouldn't buy one because I kept feeling that, if I purchased one, I would ultimately end up looking at other cars in the class and thinking "I should have bought that."  As with most cars, the Camry comes with a bunch of available options, including an electronic nanny, which can drive the price of the car way, way up.  I drove an SE model that comes with plenty of standard features and a ton of available technology. Bluetooth is standard but, in that model, dual zone climate control is not an available option. To include that you have to move way up in price.

Why you might buy one: You want a nice car that doesn't stand out in a crowd, that is reliable, and honestly is something you don't have to think about all that often.  If that's what you want in a car, if you view it as nothing more than a tool, there is no better car for you. Toyota's are endlessly reliable and their engineers do a good job of dampening, but not eliminating under steer.  While the dealer did his level best to ensure I didn't hit many potholes on my test drive I was able to drive over a water grate, the Camry felt fine going over it. The ride though borders on hard because, as I've mentioned, Toyota is determined to add an element of sporty into it's cruising sedans.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10: The Camry gets points full points for engineering, handling and predicted reliability but only partial points for ride and style.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

I Need a Car: The Dodge Dart (Part 2 in a series)

Note: What follows are my thoughts on cars that I have driven in my search for a new vehicle. I'm hoping to focus on how cars would react in real, Houston conditions. Not whether they have "tech" or how sporty they are or what their 0-60 time may be (although I will discuss those things). I hope that you come away from this with a better idea how a car would be in everyday conditions, not around a test track.  What follows is my opinion, and my opinion only. I have not received any compensation or influence in writing this other than my own impressions on each vehicle. Your mileage may (and will) vary.  Finally, the following should not be considered either an offer, or advice, on whether YOU should buy a particular car or not. Go out and make your own decisions.

Part 1: The KIA Optima

Have you ever played the game "Would your rather?"

It's somewhat of a truth or dare game where you're given two rather awful choices to choose between and you have to decide which one is the least worst option.  Say, would you rather slide down an incline covered razor blades into a vat of rubbing alcohol or be forced to watch Gigli for 72 straight hours?

Tough choice.

I faced somewhat of a similar choice (although not to that extent obviously) when I decided to go out and look at the sedan options offered by Dodge.  The marketing group from Dodge will tell you that Detroit is back, never mind that they're now owned by Fiat.  Don't get me wrong, I love Italy. I lover the food, the people, the climate, the wine. I also love Alfa Romeos despite the fact that they have an unfortunate tendency to break down all the time. And, while it is ugly, I'm a fan of the Fiat 500 as well.

However, I'm in the market for a four door sedan and Dodge only offered me two options.

The Charger:
Photo courtesy of Dodge

And the Dart:
Photo courtesy of Dodge

Would you rather?

First, the Charger.  I mean just look at it. It's really not an attractive thing and it's priced much higher than other sedans in the class. Add to this the fact that you're not going to see 20MPG in the City and I didn't even want to test drive it.  So I didn't.

The Dodge Dart:

At least it's a prettier thing than the Charger, missing the Cyrano De Bergerac nose for one. And while it's still thirsty (rated at only 22 MPG in the city for the model I test drove) the 2.4 L inline 4 engine generates 184 horsepower. I didn't ask what the "top speed" is, because I'll probably never hit it and I really don't care. It comes with four disc brakes (which is almost mandatory now) and front independent suspension which is not as good on the Dart as I've found on other cars in the class. If you're into this sort of thing Dodge does name some of their engines "Tigershark" giving the impression that you're an alpha predator. This image holds one guesses until you tell everyone it's in a Dart.

To drive, the Dart is a challenge. I'm a hefty guy and I found the seats to be uncomfortable, and I had trouble finding a driving position that would come anywhere close to what humans call "comfortable".  Add to that road noise, bad torque steer on take-off and a very, very rough ride and the Dart and I were not off to a good start. I'm trying to think of something nice to say about driving this car but I just can't. Given the pedigree of the Dart I really did want to like it. I wouldn't buy it because of the infamous reliability of Dodge cars but I was rooting for it at the outset. Back when people were throwing gasoline in the garbage because it was so cheap the wife and I owned a Dodge Ram 2500 with a V8 Hemi that we called "Big Thirsty".  Yes, it sucked down gas but it was a great big ol' truck to drive. So to drive then, the Dart is not good.

It got worse after I stopped driving and took a look at the cabin.

I'm not sure why car companies think that racing cars look like this on the interior, or why red trim lends an air of class to the joint, but I wish they'd stop. The model I tested was the SXT (Starting MRSP is a cheap $18,895 but you get into the 20's fairly quickly if you want more than four wheels and an engine, the one I drove was somewhere around $22,500) which does not have the option for a back-up camera, nor does it have the option for an electronic nanny. On the bright side you can get a "Rallye" badge on the back and 17 inch wheels.  No one could provide me with any evidence of the current Dart's 'rallye' pedigree.

If you're really feeling saucy you can go for the GT (Does Dodge even know what Grand Tourismo means?) edition but you'll be starting out at over $21K before many options and I'm sorry, but that's just too much money for this car. Especially when you consider the Toyota Corolla can be had for the same with plenty more features.

Then there's the predicted reliability. In it's recent history Dodge has not had much luck with designing cars that run consistently. Their trucks have been good and are consistently rated at or near the top of their class, but their cars are hovering somewhere down at the bottom.  Hey Dodge, take a couple of engineers from your truck division and get them working on your cars.  Warranty-wise the Dart checks in at 3 years/36K for the basic warranty and 5 years/100K on the powertrain. 

Yesterday, when I wrote about the Kia Optima I mentioned reliability concerns but also noted that they offer a good warranty in an effort to address that. Dodge's warranties seem to be designed on the "well that's how it's always been done" motto which is not a selling point if the cars aren't rock-solid.

In Summary: The Dart rolled out with a huge marketing campaign, a short-haired, clean shaven Tom Brady and a ton of things that distracted from the car. After driving it, I have to say this was a smart move. Unfortunately, Dodge still can't get automobiles that don't have a bed right.

Why you might buy one: To be fair here, I'm decidedly NOT the target market for this car. I'm 42 years old, fat and work a 9-5. It's very clear that Dodge is marketing this to a more youthful market. That said, I can see someone in their late teens - early twenties really liking this car. It's not bad looking although I don't think the front grill design that works so well on trucks works out half as well smushed down on cars. It also can be had relatively cheap, since domestic dealers on cars in this class seem more willing to offer deep discounts than do some of the foreign manufacturers. That said, if you want a cheap car with a lot of features the Toyota Corolla or most others would be better. It's also really your only choice if you HAVE to drive a MOPAR. It's probably number two if you want American, ahead of the abysmal Chevy Cruze (a mistake of a car just like the the name itself) but falls well behind the new Ford Focus.

Rating: 2.5 out of 10: Most of the points come from the looks and what appears to be a fairly solid inline 4 engine. Everything else on this car falls way, way behind the current sedan competition.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

I Need a Car: The Kia Optima (1 In a Series)

Note: What follows are my thoughts on cars that I have driven in my search for a new vehicle. I'm hoping to focus on how cars would react in real, Houston conditions. Not whether they have "tech" or how sporty they are or what their 0-60 time may be (although I will discuss those things). I hope that you come away from this with a better idea how a car would be in everyday conditions, not around a test track.  What follows is my opinion, and my opinion only. I have not received any compensation or influence in writing this other than my own impressions on each vehicle. Your mileage may (and will) vary.  Finally, the following should not be considered either an offer, or advice, on whether YOU should buy a particular car or not. Go out and make your own decisions.

There is a book that is currently being advertised on the splash page of my Kindle. It's authoritatively titled "Climate Change: The Facts" which is odd considering that the debate over climate change is devoid of them.  Even the so-called "scientific consensus" is based almost wholly on computer models programmed to assume that so-called "greenhouse gases" are changing the Earth's climate drastically.

I've found that it's much the same in automobile journalism. Between junkets and pre-conceived notions about what a car "should" be, we're given an endless litany of test drives performed on a baby-smooth racing circuit where 0-60 times are paramount and where, in the curious case of Car and Driver no car can be rated as excellent if it doesn't come with an option for a manual transmission.

For most of us, in Houston traffic, manual transmissions are hateful things. I know, the car I've been driving for the last 11 years is equipped with one. On the Devil's Backbone in Texas Hill Country this is outstanding. My 2004 Mazda3 is a joy to drive on the open road. During rush hour, on my commute, I arrive at either work or home with a noticeable limp that takes about 10 minutes to walk out from my left leg being at constant tension depressing the clutch.

Of all the car testing sites I think that Consumer Reports, especially in their long-term tests, get closest to the mark, but they seem to get too distracted at times by baubles, hence they gave the Tesla S their highest car rating ever.

The Kia Optima then....
Picture courtesy of The Car Connection

First off, it's not an ugly car. At least, not from certain angles. When I first started looking at the car I was impressed. The model that I test drove was the EX version with a 2.4 liter 4 cylinder engine. This gives the car 192 horsepower which provided plenty of acceleration on a feeder road and I got up to speed just fine without having to worry about oncoming traffic running up my tailpipe.

Unfortunately, that's about where the good stopped.

Upon first acceleration I was startled by the amount of torque steer that I was fighting. It was as if the engineers forgot that, in addition to powering the car, the front wheels would also have to do the job of steering.  Honestly I thought that the car might handle just a bit better, and get more gas mileage than the rather week 23mpg rated in the city, with around 40 less horses under the hood.

It was also surprisingly loud. I'm not sure if it was the tires or the lack of noise dampening but the road noise was noticeable. The air-noise from the windows was quiet, but I had to talk in full voice so my wife could hear me. At highway speed the engine whine was noticeable.

The interior was decidedly not my cup of tea. The car I drove had 'quilted' seats. Which I find to be a bad selling point since the depressions in the quilts are almost impossible to get clean should something spill on them. I also didn't like the look of light-gray seats in a charcoal gray car. It felt like they were trying to go for a sporty, racing look in a family sedan. Back to the drawing board on this one.

Most importantly, the suspension on this car trends toward hard.  When changing lanes and running over cats-eyes I could count them and really feel it every time we hit one. I intentionally drove over a small pot-hole and it felt as if the car jumped. All-in-all sitting in the driver's seat was not a comfortable place to be.

The main selling point of the Optima is the price (MRSP for the EX starts at $24,190 but you can purchase one for much less if you negotiate smartly) and the abundance of features that KIA has decided to pour into the car. The car I was in had an easy to read LED screen interface for the audio, back-up camera, MP3 dock, and host of features that are standard for this car. The car that I drove had the optional fold-in mirrors (which initially did not deploy when I started the car), back-up camera (which worked well, had a clear picture and was easy to use) and the back-up warning system installed. The car also is equipped with Bluetooth for your phone, and a jack for your MP3 player. It has push-button start which is handy if you don't like fishing your keys out of your pocket (or have to dig around in your purse) to find the fob while dropping change everywhere. I like this feature very much.

Unfortunately, it also had a flat bottomed steering wheel, which I'm not a fan of. While it may make it slightly easier to get into the car I find that the two kinks at the bottom make it feel odd when you're turning a corner.  The steering itself was OK, but nothing great. I thought the turn radius was a little below average compared to other cars that I drove and I didn't get the feeling that the car was always ready to go where I wanted it to go. It almost felt as if I need to give it a little advanced warning. "In 200 feet Optima, we're going to be making a hard right."

Now for the big problem.  Every car, no matter the brand, is at least good today when it's brand new. The real test of a car is how it's going to look two-to-three years after purchase when miles and vibrations start to accumulate and Houston's weather starts to have it's way with the paint.  Consumer Reports says that the Optima's reliability is below average, and you see a lot of fairly new KIA's on the road that certainly don't look showroom new. To counter this KIA offers an excellent warranty (5 years/60,000 basic and 10 years/100,000 miles on the power train) That's a good thing because, I think, there's a very solid chance you'll have to take them up on it. I have serious doubts that the Optima will feel anything close to what it feels like new after 20K miles.

I've gotten this far into the review without mentioning the very large elephant in the room.  In all areas that really matter, the Optima is basically a year-old Sonata. It's almost as if Hyundai gave Kia all the spare parts from the old Sonata and said "Have fun".  Sure, the Optima is a little bit cheaper but you can't help feeling that you're driving old technology when you're inside it. 

Bottom Line: You might be interested in buying an Optima if you would like to have a ton of features at a price. Kia has loaded the car with baubles and has managed to keep the price-point low. If you don't mind doors that feel flimsy and a car that might vibrate loose over time and like the idea of a car that has things only previously seen in luxury sedans then the Optima is right for you. However, you will have to live with a firm, borderline hard, ride and a rather loud driving environment. There's also the fact that the sight-lines on the Optima, especially looking out the rear half of the car, are challenging at best. Make sure you get the back-up camera as an option. Avoid the electronic nanny.

Rating:  4.6 out of 10 - The Optima gets points for it's options but loses big points for ride quality, dodgy steering, a loud driving environment and reliability concerns.

(My rating scale is based on a ten point system with 5.0 being what I consider to be an average car in it's class)

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Texas Leadership Vacuum: Where you have to be told what the bill you sponsored actually does.

Ah Texas.

The amount of red tape in the liquor sales business is legion. It's so bad that apparently our elected representatives don't have any idea of how to fix it.

Lawmakers, Wal-Mart seek to end liquor sales prohibition. Neil Morton, SA Express-News via ($$$)

By now you know the drill, ChronBlog has decided that they don't want people reading their journalism so I'll just cut out a small piece, and encourage you to go read the rest:

The state's alcoholic beverage code currently prohibits publicly traded companies, such as Wal-Mart, Costco and Target, from selling spirits here. But House Bill 1225 and Senate Bill 609 would eliminate that prohibition and remove a cap on the number of liquor stores one company can operate.
However, those bills would continue to ban operators with mixed-beverage permits or permits for on-site wine and beer consumption from enjoying the same access to the state's lucrative liquor market.

Call this the "Wal-Mart Liquor Monopoly" bill then.  Because, in effect, it gives Wal-Mart a huge advantage over the smaller players due to their volume advantage while limiting the access of other high-volume competitors into the market.

The most damning part of all of this?  Look at this:

State Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, introduced HB 1225 last month, but said he was unaware the bill's language wouldn't benefit H-E-B or Whole Foods. And Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, who filed companion legislation in the Senate, confirmed his office has started researching the issue.

Remember when Republicans made much fun of Nancy Pelosi for saying "we have to pass the bill before we find out what's IN the bill" in reference to the ACA?

Pot meet kettle.

In the comments to this story many people seem confused why Fiesta & Costco have liquor outlets but Sam's Club and Wal-Mart don't. It's very simple. The liquor stores at Costco are not owned by Costco. They're owned by a company based out of San Antonio called "Western Beverages" and they lease the space. (Full Disclosure: My wife is a former Western Beverage employee).  They have to have separate entrances and they cannot sell anything in their store that is sold in the main Costco.

The bigger problem here is the Byzantine system that Texas has set up for liquor sales and delivery. Limiting ownership, the implementation of the three-tier system and many other things make purchasing liquor a chore in Texas.  The justification to this goes back to prohibition, and illustrates the fact that Texas is, in fact, a very large part of the so-called Bible Belt.

Anytime you deal with liquor legislation it's very wise to follow the money. There is no legislation in this area that is truly "consumer friendly" as the State's leadership has allowed it's aversion to "sin" to cloud their thinking when it comes to free market principles.  This is why you see  elected representatives who might otherwise be conservative put forward a stinker of a bill such as this. It's also why Texas' Republican government passed a bill last session which stripped craft-brewers of their local distribution rights, a matter that's still being bounced around the courts.

What I see, in the long term, if this bill passes is a business environment where there is less competition not more. By limiting the market and insulating Wal-Mart from meaningful competition they will eventually use their size advantage to put pressure on smaller companies such as Spec's. Without allowing other major grocers to get involved competition will suffer.

Many will look at this and blame Wal-Mart, which I think is foolish. I'm not a believer in the evil Wal-Mart theory of economics but I do think they are savvy and realize weakness in both politicians and political regulation when they see it. They are then smart enough to take advantage of that weakness and craft an environment that's profitable for them.  Who you need to blame are the politicians, both the ones that set up this awful system way back when as well as the ones who are perpetuating it today.

I've written a lot here about the Houston Area Leadership Vacuum and how it imposes itself on our quality of life. It's probably time to take a hard look at the Texas Leadership Vacuum as well.  Because, increasingly, the conservatives we elected are acting an awful lot like the Statists we supposedly told to shove off.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Personal Blogging: I need a car. (Prelude to a series)


It's time. Time to go into the world of dishonest dealing, broken deals and high-pressure shenanigans.

Nope, I'm not talking about politics, it's time for me to break down and finally get a new car. The old 2004 Mazda3 is North of 125K miles, and my wife's car is not too far behind.  And while I've enjoyed not having to make a car payment for about 4 years now, I have to accept the reality that having two high mileage autos in the family is probably not a long-term recipe for success.

Add to that the fact that I'm getting older, and driving the sporty, admittedly fun to drive outside of rush hour, Mazda3 with rock-hard suspension and a manual gear box is just not practical anymore.

But, what kind of car?

Those of you who know me know that I'm a sucker for Mercedes-Benz. It's my favorite brand by a mile.  I'm also a fan of BMW and Audi.

But I think not.

What I really need is a 4-door sedan that gets good gas mileage.  I also don't want to spend a bundle on this so that I have more money for other, more fun things, like travel.

So it's a commuter car then, with an automatic transmission, some (but not all of the) bells and whistles and a price tag that's somewhere around or under $25K.  Unsurprisingly this leaves me with several options.  In fact, this evening, I scouted out almost 20 cars that fit the profile.  From the ridiculous (The Dodge Dart "GT") to the surprisingly affordable (Acura ILX) and all points in between.

One thing I've seen with auto reviews is that they often don't focus on things that are important to the common Houston driver. Most of us don't CARE how much "tech" a car can handle (hint: most of them can handle a lot) and it doesn't really matter how fast a car goes from 0 (or naught, in Top Gear parlance) to 60.

Nope, what you need to know about cars (or trucks) is the following:

1. Gas mileage - How much/little, and what size is the tank.  This latter is more important than you think, especially on long trips.

2. Suspension - Let's face it, Houston's roads suck.  And if you drive a car with a hard suspension (for example, the Mazda3) you're likely to come back home with your spine compressed by 3 inches.

3. Handling - One of the downfalls of a softer ride is fluffier handling. Does any car in my price range get it right?  We'll see.

4. Total cost to own. - A good deal buying the car is great, but how reliable is the thing? This is important and I've been blessed the last 10 years to own a couple of very reliable cars.

5. Ooomph. - While 0 to 60 is not that important, you do need enough power to pass someone when the need arises. Also, to accelerate onto the freeway. (Do you hear me Prius drivers?)

Notice I didn't mention badge prestige. That's because I don't care about it, at all. I'm just as likely to get a KIA as I am the Acura if the former is a better value for money.

So, I'm going to test-drive around 20 cars and report back here my thoughts on them.  This, of course, should mean nothing to you because you're going to have your own list of wants in a car. That said, maybe something I write will appeal to you, possibly it will help you in your buying decision.

Hopefully, you'll laugh a little as well along the way.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Houston Area Leadership Vacuum: The New Mrs. White rebuts her own argument without realizing it.

It's very rare these days to click on and find actual 'news'.  Typically the former newspaper of record for Houston focuses on click-bait slide shows usually involving women in various stages of undress or Houston "lifestyle" stories that typically focus on things wealthy white folks like to do. It's not surprising then that, when they do attempt to venture into the serious, they quite often get it wrong. Increasingly, they don't even understand why they get it wrong.

Take today's editorial on the creatively named ad-hoc committee on city charter changes.

Charter Changes, The New Mrs. White,

The committee voted unanimously on Thursday to leave in place the unnecessary and fiscally irresponsible revenue cap. Passed by voters in 2004, with some tweaks in 2006, the cap requires the city to limit growth in property tax revenue. There is no similar mechanism to limit declines in tax revenue. So while city services can take a sharp nosedive during an economic downturn, any recovery will remain stuck in the slow lane.

Council members have said that they're hesitant to remove the cap when cutting spending is still an option. But savings that seem plainly obvious are often politically difficult to achieve.
That cost savings are so difficult to implement is proof of case that the revenue caps are a needed and necessary check on government growth.  If even obvious savings can't be implemented then there has to be a mechanism in place to ensure that City Government is living (sort of) within its means.

Maybe it's because they're too busy looking at slide-shows of bikini's through the ages, or buildings that used to be in Houston but the New Mrs. White, and the rest of news room, seem to have little idea of the problems actually facing the city, or any idea how to deal with them.

The rest of the article is a rather tepid defense of Houston's 'strong mayor' system of governance, her only argument for keeping it is that "it's not broke".  What Mrs. White ignores is that the system IS breaking as Houston's financial outlook grows worse and worse as the Parker administration winds down.

In times like these, where the Mayor obviously is not up to the task of governing, having a system in place that would allow Council Members to have more input on the agenda would help. That the New Mrs. White cannot see this would be puzzling except that the Chronicle has abdicated the throne of media watchdog in Houston.

In short, there's very little reason to pay attention to the Chronicle on matters of Houston, State or Federal governance any longer. As such, there's very little reason to pay attention to them at all.

The quick fix here is to shutter the entire editorial department and redeploy the resources to actual hard news reporting. Unfortunately that won't be happening any time soon because the leadership seems hell-bent on turning Houston's last newspaper into some kind of watered down hybrid of Deadspin and TMZ. All of this while still claiming they have the insight to make reasoned political arguments regarding government.

They could not be more wrong.