Monday, November 30, 2015

The dumbing down of America: The Smartest Among Us.

We've seen this script before....

Tragedy Strikes

Idiots rush forth to politicize it.

Partisans charge forward, facts be damned

And then someone, anonymously, in the comments, says something they think is clever which will rile up the masses.

"Christian Terrorist"

It was a two-word comment by a chron.commenter designed to enrage folks. I'm sure the author, hidden safely behind their anonymous identity, felt that they were adding something unique and witty to the debate, that they were being wise beyond the capabilities of their fellow men when, in fact, they had no idea that they were playing the role of the court jester.

The sad reality is that we've come to expect this now. The world of politics has been so skewed by several forces that we've entered an era where every.single.event is a political statement. That sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner is genocide, that shopping on Black Friday is an act of aggression, that not wanting your tax money to go to an organization that acts in ways you feel are morally abhorrent is somehow enacting a "war on women" when, in reality, it is nothing more than a 'war on the profits' of Planned Parenthood.

Meanwhile, Zero fiddles while Rome burns. The most "educated" President ever is proving to have very little in the way of wisdom.

Wisdom, the lack of which is causing us to regress, for the phrase "It's been a good run America" to not just be something bantered about casually as a joke but words that actually might mean something as our political class does it's level best to not only divide, but to give away America's competitive advantage in the world.

Make no mistake however, neither the anonymous Chron.commmenter or President Zero are choosing their words in the hopes that things will change or that they'll bring some good into the situation.  The commenter is just trying to poke God with a stick while Obama is attempting to build his legacy at the feet of his country's greatness. It's less leadership than it is Narcissism packaged as some type of witty insight.

To put it into historical context. While King Solomon was wise enough to understand the threat of splitting the baby in two would draw out the real mother, President Zero would want to put the baby into Federal care while the chron.commenter wouldn't care enough to make a decision one way or another.

The problem is that the baby in question still needs tending to.

So we can scream and moan and wax philosophical over Christian Terrorists all we want, we can wail and gnash out teeth that bad people get guns, and we can point fingers at the other side in a desperate attempt to make ourselves feel better until we're blue in the face but none of that is going to change one simple, underlying fact:

Each and every one of these mass shooters had severe mental issues that were either undiagnosed, ignored, or treated wrongly. While America needs a serious plan to deal with mental illness we're being deluged under a wave of "trigger warnings" and "micro-aggressions" that are obscuring the real issue.

Unfortunately there doesn't appear to be an adult in the room right now who is equipped to deal with this issue.  President Zero doesn't care, he's out playing golf.  She Who is Entitled doesn't care, there's nothing in it for either her or her business associates. Sanders doesn't care, because there's no imaginary bogeyman for him to demonize.  And the Republicans don't care because it's becoming increasingly evident that they don't really want to deal with issues of mass shootings at all.

In fact, the candidate who is coming closest to getting it is Ted Cruz who is one of the better candidates on the gun issue period. He's also right to push back against the Left when they start to talk about "inflammatory rhetoric" and how it should be banned. It should discourage everyone that a major political movement in America has, as it's default, an inclination to strip law-abiding American's of protections every time a tragedy occurs.

We live in an age where the Progressive movement is hyping a type of Social Fascism while the Conservative movement is promoting Social Puritanism. So far, the Nation does not seem to have fully embraced either idea.  What is happening however is that we are getting a patchwork implementation of both ideologies which might lead to something far worse:  Social Serfdom.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Presumptuous Blogging: Things you should read (11/27/2015)

The tryptophan edition.....(Or, better stuff to do then fight Black Friday crowds)

Maybe it's just me, but touting endorsements from the folks who stood guard over Houston's fiscal mess and a guy who used his work computer to search child-porn does not strike me as a winning strategy.

Politifarce Texas has buried itself behind the Chron's pay wall. Suggesting that the newspaper has, in fact, gotten a bigger shovel.

Bitching about 'no refugees' is a meaningless gesture unless you are willing to take them in. And no, I don't mean offering them your 700 sq ft. Michigan apartment while you reside in a $5.2MM mansion miles away.  Just another reminder that, for the members of the courtier class, sacrifices are meant for you, not them.

There have always been problems with 'he said/she said" rushes to judgment. And the "we didn't see that coming" response is ALWAYS the same.

In case you were wondering, this man is a Democrat. I find it amazing when and where the Chron chooses to make partisan identification on negative stories.

This man is a Democrat as well. (which, to be fair, the Chron mentions) They also mention that he's not going to lose his seat. If he had any honor at all, he'd resign.  But this is Texas so a small part of the Lege will probably give him a damn standing ovation when he returns to office.

News "Analysis" allows John Thornton's Texas Tribune to have an Op-Ed page after all.

John Thornton's Texas Tribune is REALLY out to get Sid Miller.

Houston's increasingly bad City Council approves body cameras on police officers. All while ignoring critical issues such as data storage, security etc.  Knowing this group whatever plan they sign off on (which will be crafted by the Parker administration under light review) will probably make the footage inadmissible in a court of law.

Government crowing about growing government. All wrapped up in a pretty bow titled "economic stimulus." 

It appears that rejecting Parker's Folly has not had the chilling effect on Houston that supporters warned of.  Somebody notify the Greater Houston Partnership.

If other cities passed an ordinance that 1 in 4 citizens were to jump off a bridge, would Parker want to emulate them? Almost all of her policy arguments have been "well, other cities are doing it." which leads me to point out that Houston is in better shape financially than other cities, in part, because we don't do things that other cities do.  Parker is horrible, and cannot get out of elected office quickly enough.

The Chron's problem with the proposed Houston/Dallas high-speed rail is that it is not worshipping enough sacred cows. Never mind that it's a financial boondoggle in the making, or that it's going to require asset seizure on a huge scale.  The downtown interests (a downtown that the Chron is abandoning FWIW) are not being served and that cannot stand.

Controlling the flow of shit into storm water is expensive. This is a fact rarely mentioned when unaccountable "experts" mention the City taking steps to rein it in.  Also not mentioned is that it will cost Billions, or where the money is going to come from (hint: the pocketbooks of primarily poor residents)

What we've been saying for years now: New Urbanist schemes increase segregation, income inequality and other social ills. To add, it is designed to do this and adherents view this as a feature not a bug. (Something they would only admit in their most unguarded moments)

More ballot-language woes for an administration that's starting to make us pine for the competency of Lee P. Brown.  Is the Parker administration capable of getting anything right?

Danger Will Robinson! "Houston's vibrant, world class arts scene" is all you need to read to know that the Chronicle Editorial Board is rolling out Mrs. White's catapult in an attempt to raise your taxes to fund something they like to do on the weekends.

I find it amazing that court jesters such as Harry Reid are not laughed off the public stage in a storm of rotten vegetables. Then again, in comparison to 0 and Pelosi he sometimes appears to be the sane one in the room.

No Mr. Abbott, creating degree mills is not the solution. Texas needs more plumbers, welders and fabricators and less Women's Studies, Philosophy and Fiction majors.

Those unfamiliar with the Bible should not base arguments on sections taken out of context. - If anything, Falkenberg has gotten worse after being gifted a Pulitzer by a Chron editor.

And's outright lie.

"These politicians are telling women where they can and cannot go for health care," said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a conference call. "That's illegal and a violation of federal law." Except, that's not what they're doing at all.  What they are doing is saying that taxpayers should not be funding an organization that has possibly violated the law and is suspected of committing wide-spread fraud. 

Now, I'm off to take a nap.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Back to real life: Happy Thanksgiving!

After a quick peek above the surface last week it's back to real life for me.

But I did want to take a second to wish my handful of regular readers a Happy Thanksgiving and hopes that you get to get to spend it at home with those you love.

Normally, I'd complete a list of "things I'm thankful for" at this point but those who know me best already know.

I'm also going to be preparing for the beginning of Advent so I'll just throw this out as well....

One of the most overlooked Holidays, the season of Advent is something that I think needs renewed focus, especially during these times.

My plan was to come back to blogging prior to the Houston run-off election but that doesn't seem workable now except in fits and starts.  As an accountant, and with year-end close looming, and a husband, with family things taking precedence, I just don't foresee myself offering up much into the local conversation until after the New Year, and perhaps not even then on a consistent basis.

So I leave you, for now, with wishes for the Happiest of Holiday season for you and your families, regardless of what faith you profess (if any).

So Happy ChrisHannakaKwanzamas to you all.  And Happy Festivus for the rest of us.

Begin the airing of grievances!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Tales of a sub-par Media outlet: You idiots. (Please buy our substandard product)

There are times when it's OK to wonder if the Houston Chronicle even wants some people to continue to read their product......

Ode to the Ignorant. Sarah Cress, Gray Matters, ($$$)

The problem then is not the news media, their reporting (or lack of) on certain issues but you. You're responsible for not buying an antiquated form of news and spending time you don't have perusing the used car ads, stories about gardening and other diversions to find the stories they say they are reporting on the upper left hand corner on page A-36, in a section marked "briefs"

What you do, you simp, is go to Google and perform a search, which brings up dozens of stories about the same thing in alt-media which doesn't require sifting through an article the Bieber concert to try and find out what, of import, is going on in the world.

Instead, you knuckle-dragging mouth-breather, you take the newspaper and use it to line your birdcage, or as tinder for your Gaia-choking backyard barbecue, blissfully unaware that the page you're setting alight could educate you on the fact that Pass & Provisions has a communal hand-washing area in their bathrooms.

If your non-craft beer-swilling, pot-bellied uneducated beings could just focus for one second, in spite of your ADD brought on by, I don't know, eating non-gourmet hot dogs or something, then you would see that the articles tell you why Norwegians think Texas is crazy.

In all areas of communication technology is moving things forward. How dare you, you uneducated farce of a human being, dare to demand that news technology progress as well. Don't you remember the "good old days?"  Those heady days when people used to sit at their breakfast table and spend an hour (or three) reading the newspaper?  Of course, the races were segregated then and the general wealth of the nation was worse off, but ignore all that.

The newspaper, that bastion of enlightened thinking and champion and last refuge of the Courtier class, is here to educate you, you ignorant, classless, uncultured waste of human DNA, on everything you need to know.

Now, if you don't mind....... please spend a few minutes clicking through broken links and slideshows to increase our click-count which allows us to provide even more well-hidden news buried deep in the dead-tree edition that you're likely too gormless to understand anyway.

Fortunately for you, we have people smarter than you, hidden behind our paywall, who can 'splain things to you. (As a matter of fact, we're so sure she's smarter that we placed an editor as chair of the panel that awarded her a Pulitzer.  We know you won't see through that, because you are all ignorant doofs incapable of rational thought anyway).

We thank you for your subscription.


The Editors

Houston Area Leadership Vacuum: 'Me too!' sayeth we all.

If the other cities passed an ordinance suggesting 1/2 of residents jump off a bridge, would Parker want to follow their lead?

City could take up a texting ban before Parker leaves. Katherine Driessen, ($$$)

The danger of using cell phones while driving is well documented, increasing crash risks by more than 23 percent, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. In 46 states and the District of Columbia, texting while driving is already banned. Though Texas is one of the few states without such a law, 40 cities including San Antonio and Austin have already opted to enact a local ban.

Houston needs the law because "everyone else is doing it" it seems.

Never mind that there are already distracted driving laws that are not vigorously enforced that would cover this, or that it's going to prove difficult to prove whether the driver was texting, or something else. Houston wants to do this for the same reason they felt they needed Parker's folly. 

Because everyone else is doing it.

And no, I'm not arguing in favor of allowing people to text on their phones while barreling down the freeway.  But I'm equally concerned about people eating, putting on make-up and shaving while doing the same thing. 

The problem is that we already have laws that prohibit this, but they're not enforced.

A bigger problem is that Parker is now desperately in search of a legacy before she leaves office. HER Ordinance was overwhelmingly rejected by voters, ReBuild Houston has been all but rendered moot by the Texas Supreme Court, and now there is a lawsuit being filed that the term-limits ordinance was poorly written.

Given the Parker Administration's track-record crafting ordinances, it is advisable that she just ride off into the sunset and leave things to her successor who, presumably, would do a better job writing ordinance that's not either misleading, or that blatantly violates the Texas Constitution.

There's already evidence that Parker is mobilizing the City Finance Department to act as a de-facto arm of the Sylvester Turner campaign a fact that Turner has seized on (h/t BlogHouston for that last link), and her meltdown after the defeat of Parker's Folly suggests that her time as an effective Mayor has come and gone.

I've mentioned before that Parker is using the results of some dodgy polls to justify her standing as a popular Mayor. This is in much the same vein as Obama refusing to acknowledge that he's currently underwater in approval ratings, pointing to the last election rather than real-time evidence. It would be much better for Houston if the current Mayor would just play out the string, keep things running and let the next Mayor and Council address the city's problems when they get into office.

Establishing a new area of law-enforcement with the ability to fine citizens, with an ordinance that must be carefully written to avoid free-speech concerns, is something best left to elected officials who still must face the wrath of the voters should they get it wrong. Parker is no longer under any such restrictions and we've already seen the fruits that her proclivities produce.

As with Parker's Folly, there are a lot of stakeholders impacted by this that should have a say in crafting the legislation. It's going to take more than Parker's staff. A staff that, in the past, has revealed itself to be not quite up to the task of writing a good ordinance.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Travel: The mileage game is over.

The last big domino has fallen....

American Airlines changes how travelers can earn rewards points. Jonnelle Marte, Washington Post
On Tuesday, the airline announced a series of changes to its AAdvantage loyalty program, adjusting how travelers can earn rewards miles and what it takes to redeem them. Under the new rules, which will take effect in March, certain types of flights, such as first-class trips to Europe, will require more miles than they did before, while others, including business-class flights to the Caribbean or Central America, will require fewer rewards miles.

One of the biggest changes is that consumers will now earn rewards miles based on how much they pay for their flights and not how far they travel. 

The airlines are now finished rewarding passengers for finding the lowest cost flights with the highest number of miles. As you can imagine, this has it's frequent-traveler program members pretty upset.

Why American Airlines Passengers are pretty ticked off. Jonathan Chew, Fortune.

rather than actual miles you'll be losing those customers like me who were loyal only for the mileage program

The reality is, the airlines don't care.  To those passengers they are willing to risk losing filled seats in the open market to cater to first class and business travelers. Sure, they'll talk a good game (as United and Delta did when they made changes.) as they do here:

We don't want you to be upset with us, our goal is to continue to have the best frequent flyer program.

and here...

The focus is to evolve onto building a rewarding program for all members, benefiting our Elite members with great perks.

..but what this really boils down to are attempts by the airlines to cull their list of Elite (higher tier) members to reward only those passengers who are the most profitable. This doesn't mean that they won't still take your business, only that they're not going to reward you for it with free premium cabin trips and other perks as they did in the past if you're not spending a ton of money with them.

American was seen, by those who play the miles game, as the last adherent to the old ways. They were the last place where "mileage runs" made sense and where perks could be attained by finding 'mistake fares' which rewarded many miles for a low number of dollars.  The old metric (miles per amount spent) is no longer applicable. This has made many travelers angry as the airlines have transitioned to this new business model that is highly skewed toward travelers with deep-pockets.

Sure, there will be much anger and gnashing of teeth (as we've seen above) and the airlines will wring their hands and say "we don't want to lose you" but they really don't mean it.  When United made the change I ended my loyalty to them and, on Twitter, they acted aggrieved, but then their multi-Billion dollar life moved on and my multi-thousand dollar travel habit changed. United's bottom line didn't change on penny, but my travel life did.

Today, I no longer carry "elite" (or premium, whatever) status with any airline. I'm a member of 4 programs (United, Southwest and American and Spirit [which I've never flown and probably won't]) but I don't actively chase elite status with any of them. For the most part, the spending minimums are much higher than what I was spending to achieve status (or, in the case of American, there is no "official" spending minimum [yet]). When running the cost/benefit analysis, it just didn't matter.

For me, in the new environment, airline travel is a commodity. It's similar to buying a toaster or an appliance. I have no specific brand loyalty and price, while not the primary concern, is certainly a factor.  The reason I don't fly Spirit, despite giving them a look, is that they are the off-brand, bargain basement television, the one that looks good on the surface but has too many drawbacks in practice.

So I stick with the name brands, and price shop those hoping to find sales and deals. Prior to these changes I would compare flights, give preference to United (with which I held status) and keep an eye out for long-haul flights that came in at 3 cents per mile (or less).  Those deals were harder to find, but they were out there. Often in the form of 'mistake' fares or flights to places I didn't necessarily want to go.

The upside of this is that I visited a few places that would not have been on my radar otherwise. I got to see Dubai, Singapore and spend a birthday weekend in the Virgin Islands. These are cities and regions that would not have been high on my places to visit had I not found good deals. I would return to all of them, except Dubai. (I've seen it, have no desire to go back) And I'm glad that I got to visit them as they enhanced my cultural knowledge.

Travel today is much more focused on finding the best deal to places I want to visit. Instead of worrying about miles and status I worry about what the flight costs regardless of whether or not I have a membership in the airlines' frequent flyer program. I'm a travel free-agent if you will and life has actually been pretty good for me.

Of course, there are changes that need to be made. For one, travel is a lot more a la carte now. You find creative ways to pay for lounge access, branded credit cards get you one checked bag and so-called "priority boarding". On some airlines you pay for better seats in enhanced economy etc. You buy cheaper, usually, better food in the terminal and drinks, and bring them on the plane. In short, you're much more likely to have to ensure that your own travel experience is what you want it to be, and that's not entirely a bad thing.

For all of the wistfulness surrounding the "good old days" of air travel one important factor is frequently overlooked. Today, and this is something the political class is trying to do away with, air travel is much, much cheaper today than it has ever been, allowing many more people to fly to destinations they couldn't afford before. This means that an expanded group of people can visit Europe, Asia and other destinations which I view as a net positive.

Because travel is the best way to expand your horizons and make yourself a better citizen. You see different things that other countries do and you realize that they are not entirely wrong, and America is not totally right.  But you also see that America does a lot of things right as well, free speech for one, the free market for another. (depending on your point of view I guess). It also provides you with a level of freedom that's not available to most people in the world. This is a net positive in my opinion.

Of course, there are downsides to all of this. For one, airlines are increasingly treating economy class passengers like cargo. However, if you understand this, and are willing to take more control of your flight experience, and adjust your expectations, then you can survive this new travel environment without much stress at all. Gone are worries about amenities and perks (something I care little about any longer), replaced with the bones of travel, is the airline clean? Did they get me to my destination on-time? Did they get my luggage to the right place, undamaged? It's the bones of travel that I'm concerned about, and a decent level of customer service when things get squirrely.

If the airlines can keep prices low, charge me fees on things that I can easily avoid, and run a decent airline then I'm OK. Sure, I won't have any loyalty to any of them any longer, but they are going to be OK with that and, to be honest, so am I.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Houston Area Leadership Vacuum: Before the run-off, news is happeneing

But, are people really paying attention?

Parker reportedly to endorse Turner. Mike Morris,

"I'm assuming that I'll have an opportunity to sit down with the two candidates who are remaining and see whether I want to engage —whether they'll be interested in having me engage. Despite what the anti-HERO campaign seems to think, my personal polling continues to trend pretty high, but it's question of whether either campaign thinks an endorsement from me would help them out."

It's notable that Parker is, presumably, basing her high-personal approval numbers on the same flawed polling that showed HER Ordinance winning. Which brings into question just how popular of a Mayor she still is after her angry tirades against the dupes and rubes that voted.

What Houston Mayoral Candidate Have to Say about bringing back HER Ordinance. Florian Martin, Houston Public Media

King has been criticized for not taking a clear stance on HERO but he has said he didn’t like the ordinance as written. He now says he is concerned about the message HERO’s repeal sent about Houston.
“I think we need some time to heal the bruised feelings on both sides,” King said. “But I absolutely intend to call all the stakeholders together at some point in time and begin a discussion about how do we best go about demonstrating to the rest of the world the kind of city Houston really is.” 
Sylvester Turner has supported the equal rights ordinance throughout his campaign. But he sounds less inclined to bring it back — even a modified version — saying the voters have spoken. 
“This is a democratic process,” Turner said. “The people voted on Nov. 3, and I think it’s important now to deal with a whole host of issues that are important to every Houstonian.”

The thought was that King would not bring back Parker's Folly and Turner would.  Either Turner is realizing HER Ordinance is political leprosy or he's just playing some sleight-of-hand to try and quell the anti-HER Ordinance forces in the run-up to the run-off.

As for King, he's going back to being the wishy-washy candidate again which, in my mind, is troubling and provides his detractors with even more ammunition to use against him.  That being said, I've called for what he is proposing so I'm not critical of that tack.

Chris Brown touts his endorsements.

Endorsed by Houston Controllers George Greanias & Kathy Whitmire

I'm not sure that being endorsed by (in order) three of the people who allowed the city to fall into the financial mess it's in, a man who was surfing child porn sites while on the clock and a former Mayor, outside of the public eye, who has lived in Hawaii for the last several years (and who hasn't paid any attention to Houston issues by all appearances) is something I would want to shout from the rooftops.

Here come the TV ads.

Interesting that the original Chron banner headline trumpeted that "King is gong negative" when, in reality, both campaigns are going mildly negative toward one another, but nothing that seems out of bounds. Just another case of a Chronicle headline not matching the story behind it. This is a problem for the paper because a LOT of people just peruse headlines and don't read the story itself. It's a way of stealth editorializing or framing the story while still being able to throw up your hands and claim independence.

Of course, we know the Chronicle is anything but independent.

Don't worry, this will all be over soon.  Then we can go back to wondering why in the world professional sports in Houston (other than the Astros) is so horrible right now.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Houston Area Leadership Vacuum: Endorsements Make for Odd Bedfellows (Or do they?)

Two bits of endorsement news that might strike observers as odd dropped while I've been dealing with real life issues.

First:  Costello endorses Turner for Houston Mayor. Rebecca Elliott,

The first reaction to this was that it somehow proved Turner was the more "conservative"* candidate than King.  I disagree with that because I think Costello is endorsing Turner for more selfish reasons.

It all boils down to the morass that has become Rebuild Houston. This program was Costello's brain-child, it was designed as a give-back to his friends, supporters and donors who stand to profit greatly from it and he desperately wants to see it survive.

In the run-up to the general election Turner stated that he wanted to see Rebuild Houston continue, King said he wanted to eliminate it and fund flood and other improvements with bonds.  Costello views Rebuild Houston as his legacy, and also hopes to generate business from it.  It's that simple.

Second: Chris Bell endorses Bill King

I'm sure we're not far away from the reaction stating that this proves Bill King is a liberal, but again I disagree and think the simple answer is the best.  Bill King promised Chris Bell that he would work to widen Brays Bayou and make improvements to Bell's Meyerland neighborhood while Turner would not guarantee a focus on what is, essentially, a well-to-do, primarily Caucasian neighborhood. This doesn't tie with Turner's "Two Houston's" narrative and Bell wants to make sure his neighborhood remains a spending priority. 

All politics is local after all.

Perhaps more importantly....

Adrian Garcia endorses Turner. KHOU


Most of Garcia's leadership team (and big donors) support Bill King

What this means for the actual vote I'm not sure. But I do think that it shows the relative weakness that some noticed for Garcia on election day.  The overriding story arc might be that Garcia has gone from rising Texas Democrat star, to also ran with no meaningful base of support.

This could be an interesting data point to keep an eye on when Garcia eventually files for whatever office he decides to run for next. 

This is also problematic for Turner as it reinforces the belief that he has difficulties expanding his voting base.  Garcia endorsing is one thing, but the money and organizers siding with King probably means that few votes swing Turner's way. 

Even worse for Turner, Parker's Folly has not gone away and the anti-ordinance crowd are going to run TV ads linking him to a revival.  It is rumored that Parker is going to endorse Turner in the near future, he might want to step up and discourage that as it might motivate the wrong base.

The run-off is December 12th, right now I give King the slight edge.  Were I handicapping I'd lay the odds as follows:

Bill King  (-130)
Sylvester Turner (+120)

I keep the Vig if you want to make that bet.

*Honestly, we're at the point where the term "conservative" has the same political worth as RINO. They've both devolved into meaningless terms and should be treated thusly.  I prefer Libertarian, Corporatist, Theist and (worst of all) Progressive these days to the traditional Conservative/Liberal labels.

Of course, as in most cases most people are a combination of all four whether they admit it or not.

Travel Pro Tip: Selfie with Care

This is the funniest thing I've seen in a while....

I guess if they see what is behind him, and listen to most of the commentary 10 seconds later, it might make sense.

As my wife would say:  Oh well, now we have to go back!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Texas Leadership Vacuum: First, they came for the dogs.

Real quick post.

In case you missed it, Gulf Greyhound Park has announced that they will cease live racing at the end of the year.  Ken Hoffman of the Houston Chronicle provides some further detail:

After 23 years, Gulf Greyhound Park nears the finish line. Ken Hoffman, ($$$)

Unsaid in the article, is that the current mess surrounding Texas racing spearheaded by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and friends is not just limited to horses, and is starting to have meaningful impacts on dog racing as well.

Granted, greyhound racing was a dying industry in Texas, ahead even of horse racing on the extinct-o-meter, but it certainly cannot help to schedule on-going live races in an environment where funding is only guaranteed for a few months and where the Texas Racing Commission is about to find itself staffed with people who don't like dog and horse racing period. Add to that the fact that greyhound racing is even more under attack by fringe-groups like PeTA and you have an environment where a venue once labeled among the best in the country is just about to shutter for good.

While it's true that Gulf Greyhound Park has fallen into disrepair over the years, and it's nowhere near the top-level racing forum it once was, it was still a place where some dogs of national renown had history so it will be sad to see it go.

Of course, there will be jobs lost and several dogs, suddenly without a reason for being, will probably find themselves put down (while others might get sold to different breeders, shipped out of state or adopted outside of the racing industry) and the venue will continue to limp along (for a while) as a simulcasting venue the fact remains that dog and horse racing never lived up to the wild financial promises they made when approved.

That, and the fact that demagogue politicians like Patrick and Sen. Jane Nelson, are dead set that they know what is best for all Texans, was enough to doom the industry who needed the shot in the arm that slots would provide to compete with gambling in bordering states.  States who, conveniently, have made sizable financial donations to the very politicians who are fighting to restrict Texans' rights in line with their 'spiritual' guiding principals which just happen to dovetail perfectly with their financial well-being.

Would Gulf Greyhound Park have made a go of it with slot-machines?  To be honest, I'm doubtful.  Because greyhound racing is a dying breed, even in the most favorable of circumstances. And while horse racing is currently undergoing a resurgence in popularity (Thanks to Triple Crown and Breeder's Cup Classic winner American Pharoah) the sport of greyhound racing doesn't get a fraction of the media coverage or begging handle that it needs to survive. It also did a poor job with PR and rooting out the bad actors in its ranks, a thing which the horse industry has done much better on.

More importantly, I don't think dog racing is going to be missed by many. I've been to the track several times and the only time it was even remotely busy was during the Triple Crown horse races, even then it was only about a quarter as full as Sam Houston (as a matter of fact, it was my go-to venue for betting the Triple Crown, since you were unlikely to be able to reach the betting windows at Sam Houston in time). If I say names like "the Connally Turf Classic" and the "Maxxam Gold Cup" you probably can't identify what they are, but you might have heard the name.

Now, name a big race at Gulf Greyhound.  You can't.

To be honest, neither can I. Despite the fact that I've been there several times.

So, in the grand scheme of things, this is a small ripple in the larger movement toward limiting Texans' in-state gambling options and allowing adults of a consenting age the ability to make decisions for themselves.  If anything however it should act as a canary in the coal mine as the State of Texas moves to secure their monopoly on gambling in the form of the Texas Lottery. (Which, as you know, is really just a tax on those who are terrible at math*).  Amazingly however, even that is not safe from social conservatives in today's single-party Texas government.

And so it goes.

*While I'm opposed to playing the Lottery myself, and actively encourage people not to, I also respect the right of adults to do so should they choose.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Presumptuous Blogging: Things you should read (11/10/2015)

Even though I'm taking a break, there's still a lot of funny stuff going on right now.

The Divide: Hunting for a home. Monica Rohr. ($$$) - The Chronicle discovers the "Two Houston's" theme just in time to aid Turner's campaign. The late Marvin Zindler said it best "It's Hell being poor." The questions not being asked are: What role, if any, should the city have in forwarding a solution? (Mandatory minimum wages have not worked out well in other cities) What is the root cause of this? (Education? Drive? Circumstance?) and (most importantly) What do we mean by affordable housing? (At this point the term is as undefined as food deserts) Then there are the legitimate concerns surrounding unintended consequences. Do we really want to make the 21st Century equivalent of the Automat commercially viable?

As Katy booms, housing scarce for working class. Leah Binkowitz, ($$$) - In which the Chron decides to shame surrounding communities for not sharing in Turner's "two Houston's" vision.  And doubles down on it's inability to adequately define "affordable housing".  This is a big problem in media coverage on this issue.

In Texas, minorities less-likely to own homes. Alexa Ura and Jolie McCullough. John Thornton's Texas Tribune. - Not surprisingly, the TLSPM suffers from the same lack of definition as does the Chron. It's almost as if these reporter types get together and share notes in a semi-secret roundtable setting....or something.

Do food deserts cause poor eating habits. Joe Cortright. The Atlantic. - Reading the story the short answer is "No". The problem is more likely caused by poverty. That hasn't stopped Houston from issuing thousands in tax subsidies to solve a problem that's both poorly defined and unlikely to provide much of a solution.

Why some Christians are upset at Starbucks new Holiday Cups. Heather Leighton. - As the Chron's free website continues to go down the crapper it's important to note that Christians are the last unprotected class deemed OK to mock.  Even if that mockery is based on nothing but the author's projections and not reality.

That won't stop them from mocking however. The kids have their story and they're sticking to it. Whether it's fact-based or no.

The soft bigotry of low expectations. - We no longer expect much from Metro, and boy do we get it. The bigger story is that "reimagining" was sold as totally revamping Houston's bus service to make it work better for more Houstonians. That it's not coming close to doing that is not the story.  Instead, we've moved the goal posts back to chip-shot range, and Metro is still barely getting by.

'Campaign in a box' fires up commissioners, consultants. David Saleh Rauf.$$$) - Still, it's better than a "D**k in a box" right?

Business leaders aren't giving up on Parker's Folly. Chris Tomlinson, ($$$) - The Chron's Austin-based business writer basically tells us what we already knew. 1. That the GHP is still on-board with HER Ordinance and 2. He doesn't understand what a special accommodation is either.

Parker's Folly was defeated by an unholy alliance. Egberto Willies, - The meme from progressive groups have moved from "Houstonians are transphobes" to "Houstonians, especially minority ones, are too stupid to understand the issue."  Don't worry though, Non-progressive Caucasians are still hateful homo or transphobic so all is well. Don't want you to get the impression that we're progressing on the debate over this issue.

Speaking of John Thornton's Texas Tribune, I'm not sure they understand the meaning of the word "disenfranchise". Because, if they do, then they're intentionally misusing it.

Things Parker and a majority of city council also don't understand: How diesel engines work. I would say the Editorial Board doesn't understand that either but you knew that already.

Houston's Budget Outlook Looks Gloomier. Mike Morris,$$$) - Meanwhile, Mayor Parker is continuing to obsess over her folly and Sylvester Turner is imploring us to "love one another" so that we can fix potholes....or something.

John Thornton's Texas Tribune helps Turner's campaign make a reach. Of course, this is a tempest in a Teapot. According to the campaign a "junior staffer" sent a stupid tweet that was deleted due to concerns it violated Cruz' privacy.  Whether or not you believe that the resulting twitter storm by Turner's staff was comical.  As many early attacks that they're laying on King (and some of them have been nastily personal) they must have some negative internal polling data that's freaking them out. Either that or Turner's staff is rather dim. (also a possibility)

Speaking of odd. - While the Houston Mayoral race is officially non-partisan I'm willing to bet the number of Democratic precinct chairs leveling attacks against Turner is exactly zero.  Supporters will call this "truth telling" but they would be wrong. While it's OK to dislike King as a Republican (and to say he's not a driver of the conservative movement [he's not, but he's also not running as a conservative as the author wrongly states]), it's dishonest to try and cast Turner as "the true conservative" in the race. 

Houston Tourism sees first impact after HER Ordinance fallout. Cara Smith. Houston Business Journal - This would be a blockbuster story....except the headline is untrue.  The operative quote is as follows:

As of Nov. 6, Waterman said that he's heard from four "fairly large," citywide customers that are concerned about what HERO's loss means for Houston. These customers could be conventions or events in Houston, and are “thousand-plus” customers, Waterman said, meaning that on their peak nights, more than 1,000 hotels rooms in Houston are booked for the event.
Losing one, let alone all four, of these customers would result in a substantial amount of business opportunity lost. But Waterman also said that’s not likely to happen, and that the city has thousands of smaller events customers that are still all-in.
Emphasis mine.  So, in other words "Nothing to see here" (Despite the fact that the GHP would like there to be).  The Houston Business Journal has basically thrown away any pretense of not being the GHP's mouthpiece, as opposed to a media outlet. As such, and given that they don't have much of a grasp on how oil and gas works, I've pretty-much stopped going to them for actual business news. Rigzone and other national business publications do a much better job reporting on Houston's largest industry.

And finally......

Houston might be getting a Shake Shack. This is a good thing. Provided they finally get the Galleria III section completed right and it's no longer a dank, hard to reach, low-rent section of Houston's best mall.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Houston Blogging Vacuum: Suspending my campaign for Lightly Read Blogger of the Year.

Over the past several months I've been churning out more blogging material than usual.  Now that the main election is over that will be coming to an end for a week or so.

Unlike media outlets who have back-ups in place should a reporter get sick, this little blog is a one-man operation.  That man (me) is going to be very, very busy in the real (not political, or Internet) world for a bit.

In lieu of this I'm informing my handful of regular readers that I'm taking a blog vacation. I might try to fit in some Presumptuous Blogging over the next couple weeks but, for at least that long, it will be a lot of silence.  I had a choice of continuing to either blog sports or politics. Sports is more fun and won out.

Given the likelihood that you're going to be viewing this post at the top of the masthead for a while, I figured I'd leave you with something pleasant to look at.

Enjoy the view and remember: What you're reading in the local media (especially as it relates to local politics) is probably not what is going on.

This would be Madrid

Friday, November 06, 2015

Tales of a sub-par media outlet: Is there a Chronicle memo we haven't seen for Parker's Folly? (Corrected, due to a tweet from Ms. Gray)

Due to the fall out I've spent probably more time on Parker's Folly than I intended to post-election. But the fact is that it's driving the (media) conversation in Houston and, while I think that's not a good thing, I think that's going to be important in what I believe is the real important issue: The Mayoral run-off.

I posted the previously that Mayor Parker, who might be suffering from stress-related issues surrounding the defeat of HER Ordinance (this would not be the first time there were questions regarding her mental state under stress) has indicated a willingness to push through HER Ordinance in a segmented form, and reiterated her unwillingness to remove the controversial portions dealing with special accommodation. (FWIW, it's not clear that Ms. Parker, or many others in Houston, realize what special accommodation is, and why it's a problem, from a legal perspective).

I talked, briefly, about the effect Parker's actions (and endorsement) might have on the Mayoral run-off and whether or not her continued push to provide the transgendered community a special accommodation would hurt Sylvester Turner's chances.  Either way, it's fairly clear to me that Parker views HER Ordinance to be more important than her future political career, as she's potentially burning up any political capital she has left in her effort to push it through.  If, for instance, her doggedness hurts Turner and other Democratic/Progressive candidates from winning political office, it might totally erode her support from her own party.

This is why I have posited that Parker is either a.) deciding that she's done running for office and angling for a high-paying job in the advocacy business (where she can continue to hurl either transphobic or "too stupid to understand the issue" insults at voters) or she's planning to move her family to a more liberal location after her term is up to run for office there. (For instance, seeing a Parker run for the Mayor of San Francisco would not be 100% a surprise in around 5 years).

That's all in the political realm however, but it's relevant to this question: Does the Houston Chronicle have an internal memo, regarding Parker's Folly, that's circling around internally as they did with MetroRail? And, if they do, does this mean that the entirety of their reporting on this issue is suspect?

The evidence:

Since the election the Chronicle, mainly through the "Gray Matters" blog edited by (Former - According to Ms. Gray*) Editorial Board Member** Lisa Gray, has published a series of advocacy pieces for the transgendered community. Both pieces are anecdotal in nature (which, as we know, is a logical fallacy) and neither contains any mention of the opposition view.

The Deal with transgendered people and bathrooms. Lisa Gray, ($$$)

Even on its own terms, the argument didn't make sense. Let's stipulate that HERO would have affected public restrooms. Does anyone really want trans people to use the bathrooms that match the genitals they were born with?
"I have scruff on my face," Lou said. "I've got a deep voice. Do they want me in a women's restroom?"

The sportswriter who became a woman. Randy Harvey, ($$$)

WE MET outside the restaurant. She wore a long, blonde wig, a business suit, makeup and high heels.
I told her she cleaned up nice.
When we walked into the restaurant, the greeter said, "Hello, gentlemen."
She didn't hear him. Or she acted like she didn't hear him.
That's when I knew she hadn't chosen an easy path. Or that an easy path hadn't chosen her.

The Bathroom Ordinance, "Houston I'm Disappointed." Joni Rodgers, ($$$)

I am not for a moment co-opting the disenfranchisement experienced by people who actually are trans or cisgender. I'm saying the promotion of ignorance and hate forces all of us to live in a city that is less generous, welcoming and intelligent than it should be.
I'm profoundly disappointed in you, Houston.

(note: I mocked this ladies post (and others) here)

Of course, having one staffer's opinion ring out in a "blog" is not a problem (side note: This collection of outsourced editorials actually won "Houston's Best Blog" for 2014 proving, once and for all, that blogging as a medium in Houston is not only dead, the corpse has been beheaded, cut into pieces, and burned) but having this type of activity bleed into the so-called "hard" news reporting is.

Houston's Restrooms outpace politics. Alyson Ward & Andrew Dansby. ($$$)

Three days ago, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance went down in defeat, in what opponents dubbed the "bathroom ordinance." Although voters expressed considerable unease at the thought of a transgender woman in a woman's bathroom, Houston restrooms are way ahead of politics.

The argument, forwarded by the authors of the story and endorsed by the editors, is that because private, and a public, entity in Houston are already choosing, of their own volition, to move toward gender neutral restrooms the City is justified in requiring this special accommodation.

The problem, and it IS a big problem regardless of which side of the closet-door you find yourself, is that what might work for a small sample of businesses in specific parts of the city does not necessarily work for the  population as a whole.  This is the logical fallacy known as Anecdotal evidence played out across the board in the Chron's reporting.

It assumes that, because the reporters can find single, or a few, examples of something happening, then it must be true on a macro level.  What this ignores is that of these instances is an isolated incident, even the one that I believe the author either made-up, or embellished greatly to make herself the star.

Even taking all of these stories at face value it doesn't make a compelling case for the transgendered community to receive a special accommodation that is not available to other groups like the Chronicle seems to think it does.

The ONLY thing that is being proven here is that neither side understands the arguments of one another. The transgendered community is just as unwilling, or unable, to realize the valid concerns of those opposed to Parker's Folly as the opposition is unwilling, or unable, to realize that the issue of transgender rights is something that needs to be recognized whether you agree with them or not.

This shouldn't mean that you have to fully endorse them, only that you need to understand that they are people as well who have just as much right to societal inclusion as do you.

After all of that talk about the "fallacy of Anecdotal evidence" here's where I'm going to get a tad bit that way myself. And, you might be surprised, it's in favor of transgendered rights. Because, in my view, the line of demarcation that we draw should be based on adult consent. In other words, if two adults, of consenting age, decide that they love one another and wish to spend time together (not the rest of their lives, I think we realize that's a fallacy) then the American government has no business getting in the way of that happening.  This is why I support, but don't endorse, the rights of GLBT couples to engage in the bonds of matrimony. It's also why I support the rights of those with truly religious objections to refuse to recognize those unions.

It's why I don't support, and will never support, the current movement by some of the more far-left publications (such as to try and legitimize pedophiles, or bestiality. The line is adult consent, and there is not consent between two adults there.  To me (your mileage may vary) that is the hard line that we should never cross.

When you start to get into the arena of the provision of goods and services by a private entity I think the issue gets murkier. There is a fine line between equal access and special accommodation that the courts are going to have to work out. I think, over time, we'll discover the boundary for religious objection as well. (For all of the faults in Parker's Folly, even she was not stupid enough to fail to exempt religious organizations from the ordinance.)

The sad thing is, leading up to the argument over Parker's Folly I would have thought Houston to be an ideal petri dish for some of these debates to take place. It is after all, one of the most diverse cities in the world and it has a very large, and active, GLBT community that, for the most part, is thriving, successful and fairly widely accepted. I would have thought that both sides in any debate would posses the maturity and depth of understanding to carry on a decent conversation without the insipid flame-throwing that a city such as San Francisco would engage in.

The problem is that I underestimated both sides capacity to want to engage in honest debate, and I probably overestimated the intelligence of the ruling and media classes quite a bit as well. For one thing, while the pro-HER Ordinance group got steamed up about "men in women's bathrooms" they were not smart enough to understand that the worry of the anti-HER Ordinance group was not surrounding the truly transgendered at all. In fact, what they were concerned about were pedophiles using the law as a means for entry by POSING as transgendered. I would argue that the left's (and the Chronicle's) blind-spot in regards to this is transphobic in and of itself.

Finally, I've made a plea, prior to this, that both sides calm down in regards to the rhetoric they're spewing. I realize that this is a useless plea.  That doesn't mean that I'm not going to keep trying to write in what I feel to be a sensible manner on this topic.  The thing is, despite trying to keep things on the up-and-up I've been accused of being transphobic as well. This proves two things: 1. Those who are levying the charge (Mayor Parker for one) don't really understand the definition of transphobic, or choose to not acknowledge it (more likely) and 2. There is a large group of people in Houston who are using this not to advance equal rights, but to try and tear down what they see as the existing social order.

The goal of those people is to shame and disenfranchise, to remove entire segments of the population from the public square.  The Chronicle is one of these organizations, Mayor Parker is another. That should scare you because they have both the biggest bullhorn and control the levers of power.

*Ms. Gray sent me a tweet telling me to "check my facts".  Since the process behind what goes into the Chron's unsigned editorials is a black box and impossible to verify, and since her name HAS been taken off the editorial roll, we take her at face value and regret the error.

Houston Area Leadership Vacuum: Their Hometown is an Embarassment.*

I'm sorry Houston, but you're one big embarrassment.

Most of you just can't see the vision here. You don't have the capacity to understand that if you want to make a good omelet, you have to start by breaking some sacred eggs.  I understand that this is tough, that you think you should have a say over the rearing and education of your children, that you should be able to set their value system in accordance with your beliefs, but no.  This is not true. Because your children, raised in your way, are more than likely going to grow up and be a carbon copy of you, and that can't stand.

And really, have you ever tried to talk to you?  I mean, according to certain reports (of no provenance) you're not even capable of getting out two words without sputtering and spitting and throwing out a wall of hate. So insecure are you in your own sexuality that, when confronted by the enlightened, you devolve into a slithering pile of primordial jelly whose only recourse is to run and hide.  This works all the better for their venting if you are a Male over six feet and they are a female of relatively diminutive stature. (Makes for a better Gray Matters post you understand)

Because now, the current Mayor is threatening to reintroduce HER Ordinance, on her watch, within the next two months before she leaves office. This will surely set up another painful debate that could be easily avoided by simply waiting, gathering all of the interested parties together and talking it out, you know, like adults. This also gives them another chance to reaffirm their intellectual superiority over you, to ensure that YOU KNOW they are enlightened and you are not. Until you fully understand the depth and breadth of your knuckle-dragging ignorance they will continue to write stories to publish in Gray Matters, the New York Times (and other publications) that you won't read. You won't read them because you don't read those publications, which is just another example of your inferiority.

Of course, we also know now that all of the rhetoric from supporters was a lie. A carefully crafted lie that our government and media were in on. A lie that the whole bathroom/locker room thing was not a consideration and the lie that great economic harm is just over the horizon. But none of that matters. What matters is the lie and why they are telling it. And it's not because they really care about "equal rights for all" either.

They're lying because they hate you, and they don't respect you, and you disgust them and they want to feel better about themselves.  Oh sure they'll come calling to you looking for money and donations and it's good if you patronize their favorite establishments during off-peak hours, those types of things are OK. They'll even allow you, during holidays etc. to use their parks and come in with your flabby arms, cut-off shorts and non-designer brand clothes to make a mess of things. Then they'll mock you for the mess you made because the City didn't provide adequate waste disposal services.

Most of all, they hate not being held up in the highest esteem by New York and other outsiders. They hate their inferiority complexes and the fact that they're only viewed as the energy capital of the world, and not the light rail/museum/arts/food/cultural/insert-insecurity-here capital of the world. they hate that it burns when they watch all of the pretty people on TV and then are forced to trudge into their jobs and they see Johnny from the suburbs and his suit bought from the Macy's clearance bin and his McCafe coffee cup and pictures of children on his desk sitting on what is obviously a suburban park with their chubby little appendages serving as proof that he stuffs their bellies with nothing but fast food produced by the working hands of 'those people', the people who need their help because they don't know any better.

And it's all our fault. Those of us who don't really care about who sleeps with who or what the self-centered crowd from New York thinks about us or the not-really-all-that-bright Hollywood set. We are standing squarely in the way of Houtopia. Those of us who just want to go to work, eat the food we like, watch the movies we like and not get involved in the lives and choices of others. It's our fault because we don't know our place. Because we are inferior and stupid and too gormless to understand that their vision and plans for us are the best visions and plans. That our way only leads to a future dystopia where races commingle and not-everything is European-lite.

They're better than that, and they want you to be to. They want you to be better than that, to think, but not BE,  just like them, they would prefer it if you remain poorer and out of their way. What they really want is for you to go live in your neighborhoods and subsidize them making theirs how they want it to be.  If you do decide to move into the city, please select one of the chosen neighborhoods, you can identify them because they're occupied by the poor (East Downtown is one, they don't visit there much). Just don't go to their places or try to live in a high-rise near their neighborhood because that would interrupt their latte and beer and might cast a shadow on their Tibetan Cinnamon tree that was imported via eco-friendly floating natives and blessed by the Dalai Lama himself (probably). You see, these things need constant sunshine and the shadow from your high-rise would ruin the karma man. 

Really they'd just be happiest if you'd shut up and keep voting them into power. Especially those of you they consider to be in the 'inferior' demographic groups. You know, those who need their help? If 'those people' would just accept the crumbs of help and vote in the correct manner they'd be quite happy. For the rest of you (read: older, Caucasian conservatives primarily) just stay in your gated communities in the sticks. That way they can write even more articles in publications you don't read talking about how bad you are, how you're forcibly raping Mother Gaia and how everything that is wrong in the world is the result of the carbon that is emanating from your tailpipe.

Oh sure, they'll tell people that they TOLD you to change. How they clamored and played "An Inconvenient Truth" on a continuous loop for 20 days straight until Al Gore's visage was burned permanently into the side of the Hilton America's Hotel. They'll claim that "business leaders" tell them to keep doing things their way.  Of course, they won't identify those "business leaders" and when asked they'll turn around and ask you how many business leaders YOU know? And then they'll pout.

And while pouting they'll do some more TV interviews and talk about some more protests (provided the weather is nice) and they might even buy a Guy Fawkes mask because, edgy. Even better is that they might ride their bikes on a busy road during rush-hour, pound the hoods of cars and then not care if first responders can't navigate through to a medical emergency, or a fire, or a crime.  Because the only thing that matters to them about you is that you pour their coffee while it's hot, and take their abuse when the escarole is not as fresh or local as they think it should be.

Other than that?  Should you, possibly, have an idea how something should be better, should you invent a company like "GoRevGo"  or maybe want to, eventually, do something they don't think is fine? Say you prefer Shipley's to Krispy Kreme or want to go to the Monster Truck Jam or that you really aren't interested in the fetid selection of vegetables available at Houston area farmer's markets but prefer the traditionally farmed produce at HEB?

You embarrass them.

*See how easy that is?

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Houston Area Leadership Vacuum: Parker Wants to Double-Down on her Folly.

Not to be an I told you so.......

But I told you so (on election night)

Parker: HER Ordinance could come back this year. Mike Morris, ($$$)

After the failure of her nondiscrimination ordinance, Mayor Annise Parker said it is possible she will put an item before council to pass similar or related protections before leaving office at the end of the year.

I have some things to say about this:

First, the City of Houston can now not afford to keep Parker around for any longer than it absolutely has to. She is now proving to be willing to tear the city apart at the seams, and keep it in the negative forefront of the National Media, in order to forward both a personal agenda and her post-office economic prospects (Prediction: she's either in line for a high-paying advocacy job, or is preparing to move to California with her family post-Mayorship and run for office there).

Two, I stated earlier that Parker deserved a seat at the table. Her churlish actions since the election prove this to be no longer true. In order for Houston to move forward from this mess it is going to be imperative that Parker be excluded from any discussions going forward.  She is a divisive voice seeking only to benefit her friends and fellow travelers, at the expense of the rest of Houston.  Certainly she is allowed to have an opinion, just as we are allowed to tune her out.

Three, It appears that Parker is not as smart as we have given her credit for.  From the story:

Parker stressed that any item she brings forward will include all 15 protected classes – including transgender residents, the target of opponents' attacks – and said she is not interested in advancing a measure that exempts bathrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities from coverage, as some other cities have done.

For all of the "the opponents are lying" garbage that has spewed from her mouth since the election, she pretty much vindicates everything they have said about her plans. She also has now laid bare the lie that "Houston's Ordinance is JUST LIKE THAT OF OTHER CITIES". Cities with administrations who, unlike Parker, understand the thorny nature of one clause in an ordinance designed to protect many, seem to understand that taking the controversial provisions (which provide special accommodation and have nothing to do with equal rights) out of their ordinance is an OK thing.

Lastly,  if any of the other Councilmembers, outside of Ellen Cohen, are clamoring for Parker to bring this back up, they're either admitting that they either don't care what their constituents think or aren't sharp enough to understand that, out of all the Districts, only District C (which contains the majority of Houston's GLBT population, voted to support Parker's Folly.

Granted, some of the Council Members could be bumping up against term-limits and won't face voters again, and others might assume that, in four years, they won't have to worry about it anyway, but for those running on a Pro-HER Ordinance stance this could turn the run-off in a direction that is painful for Parker's progressive friends.

At some point you have to think that Houston's Democrats, anxious to not entirely lose the Black and Hispanic votes over this, will step in and tell her "OK, that's enough".  Then again, it might not matter because it appears that Parker is writing off her political future in this area regardless. In that case it's going to be up to Council to realize what is going on here and vote this down.

Let the next Mayor deal with it, whomever it may be.

Houston Area Leadership Vacuum: Post- HER Ordinance fright-fest continues.

I have mentioned that things are going to get ugly.

Things are getting ugly:

Anti-HER Ordinance vote puts "business" leaders, recruiters on edge. Erin Mulvaney, ($$$)

Business and tourism leaders worried Wednesday that voters' rejection of a citywide anti-discrimination ordinance has hurt what had been one of their best recruiting tools: Houston's emerging reputation as a diverse metropolis that supported an openly gay mayor and welcomes young talent looking to launch careers in a progressive environment.

It is important to note that there is no empirical evidence of this.  All we have right now are "the feelz" of Greater Houston Partnership President Harvey and a churlish Mayor Parker.  In fact, both the NFL and NCAA have stated that the vote will have no effect on the upcoming events in Houston. And while there are attempts to tie Houston's not being awarded the College Football Playoff 2020 title game to HER Ordinance the president of the committee has made it very clear that this is not the case.

So right now all we have are a bunch of chickens running around with their head's lopped off, screaming something about how the sky is falling without any actual proof that it is.

For all of the messaging about so-called "scare tactics" employed by opponents, the true scare-tactics are now being employed by disgruntled supporters who still cannot quite cope with the fact that they have lost and the Earth is still rotating as normal.

On a related note. The Daily Caller recently ran a story that presented an argument against HER Ordinance that has not been presented in any Houston Media that I can find, but which is a fairly damning argument against:

Houston voters reject law allowing cross-dressing men to use women's bathrooms. Eric Owens, Daily Caller

Banzhaf also observed that Houston’s failed law would not provide equal treatment but, instead, an affirmative accommodation.
“Blacks, Jews, and even gays do not require or even seek separate restrooms or other different treatment; they ask simply to be treated like everyone else,” he told TheDC. “But transgender people demand a special accommodation, not available to others, because of how they feel, and regardless of how typical women might feel about a person with a penis sharing their restroom.” 

The "special accommodation" argument is, perhaps, the strongest argument against HER Ordinance, and something I tried to address rather poorly here, that I've seen to date. It provides some credence to the opposition's claims that Parker's folly was not simply a bill that provided "equal rights to all" but was, in fact, seeking special treatment to a favored Parker group that other groups do not enjoy.

I've stated, from the start, that gender self-identification was a key problem in Parker's folly, but I never had the legal chops to explain exactly why.  Professor Banzhaf's observations do a very good job of that, but were never presented as a legitimate reason to oppose the ordinance by anyone in Houston's media. 

Instead of reasoned arguments for or against we were force-fed a diet of lies, half-truths and uncontested spin from supporters which really never told the entire story behind HER Ordinance. That it's coming out now feels like it's too little, too late, but the above should be prominent in defending defeat of Parker's folly to those who are currently running around screaming that Houston is doomed.

Somehow, before HER Ordinance existed, Houston had a reputation as a thriving urban environment where people can come, succeed, and prosper while making lifestyle choices (either urban or suburban) that fit their lifestyle. Houston also ranked number 1 or 2 on several "best cities" lists published by several National publications.  Why this is suddenly null and void because Parker's folly has failed is not being adequately explained by HER Ordinance supporters nor are they even really trying.  Right now the efforts are largely around explaining to Houston why you are all a bunch of back-water, mouth-breathing rednecks who are not as enlightened as your progressive betters.

While this might serve as a catharsis to the losing side, it hardly provides for much of a framework going forward, which is really what the city needs. 

Houston Area Leadership Vacuum: Taking a Look at the Mayoral Run-Off

After all of the Sturm und Drang as a result of the electoral failure of HER Ordinance, Houstonians can be forgiven for having a not insignificant amount of political fatigue. The problem is that we're not done, and even though some might think the big issues are over and the ground has been thoroughly salted, but the truth is many of the same campaign issues are still going to be present in the Mayoral run-off.

The election, which is either going to be held on December 5th, or 12th depending on who you listen to, will pit two polar opposite candidates against one another.  In light of this, the Chronicle has published an early look at the dynamics of the run-off which, in my opinion, is mostly incorrect.

Turner, King set for showdown in December. Rebecca Elliot and Mike Tolson, ($$$)

I'm not going to quote any of this, but I am going to highlight a couple of key points that the Chronicle transcribes from Democratic political consultants:

1. King is behind the eight-ball because he is a Republican.
2. Turner is the front-runner because he's largely viewed as the front-runner.

I disagree with both of these main points. And I disagree strongly with UH Political Scientist Brandon Rottinghaus' contention that King has to go negative early and often. To better explain why, let's take a look at the two candidates in question first, and then at some of the issues the article raises.

Sylvester Turner: This is Turner's third run for Houston Mayor. In prior runs he came up short because he was unable to expand his support beyond his base. In the run-off this challenge does not go away. Turner ran a very focused campaign that was predicated on driving sufficient turnout in what basically was his district as a Texas Legislator. He has high name-ID in this area and a fairly reliable base.

To succeed he's going to need to expand that base, most notably he'll need to pick up Hispanic voters and some independent moderates.

Bill King: This is King's first run for Houston Mayor, so we don't have the electoral history that we do with Turner. What we do know, right now, is that King did a good job, as did Turner, running a focused campaign that drove sufficient turnout in Kingwood and parts of the Clear Lake area that are within the City of Houston.

To succeed he's going to need to expand that base, most notably he'll need to pick up Hispanic voters and some independent moderates.

In short, both candidates are facing the same challenge, but Turner has a track record of being unable to do so. In my mind this makes King a slight favorite to pull off what some will consider an upset, but he is going to have to campaign hard and keep interest relatively high.

HER Ordinance: The conventional wisdom is that King enjoyed support from voters who were motivated primarily by opposition to HER Ordinance. I do not believe this to be true. For one, the under vote for the Mayor's race was lower than the under vote for Prop 1. This suggests that, while Prop 1 was certainly a driver, there were those who cast votes independent of that issue.

Second, the idea that King was "helped" by anti-HER Ordinance fervor doesn't pass the smell test. In the run-up to the election King actually took some heat form his opponents for initially not taking a stand on the issue. It was only late that he came out against it for technical reasons. I think that the only candidate who received meaningful support from those opposed to HER Ordinance was Ben Hall. Without taking such an aggressive stance against Prop 1 I doubt he would have cracked 5%, with that support in his pocket he was able to get close to 10%. (Still not a good showing due, in part, because he lost a lot of credibility with Houston voters in his last run for Mayor)

One thing not mentioned is that HER Ordinance furor is likely to run both ways. IF you accept that King received support from the anti-Prop 1 group then you have to concede that Turner received a portion of his support from the Pro-Prop 1 group.  Because of this I think both candidates are going to find that this motivated group of voters is not going to go to the polls for the run-off in the numbers that they did during the general election. Whether than being a negative for King I believe this is a non-factor as the two sides losing momentum will cancel each other out.

Motivation: The key to winning any run-off is the motivation of your base. I think that each candidate is going to see a drop-off in motivation by their supporters and the key to winning will be which campaign does a better job in limiting the damage.

Endorsements: Typically, I don't think these matter much (because people don't pay attention to them) but there might be a couple of factors at play here that could slightly affect things.

Annise Parker: I've written earlier that I think the political reputation of Ms. Parker has taken a beating during this entire process.  She has angered the Black Pastor's Association and many independent voters not only through her spiteful campaign, but in her churlish response to losing. The expectation, based on her public statements to date, is that she will now endorse Turner in the run-off, as she has been very derogatory toward King.  Were I the Turner campaign I would consider asking her to not endorse, and not tie me to the political mushroom-cloud that is HER Ordinance.

What Turner does not want to see happen is he being viewed as the savior of HER Ordinance and his campaign get bogged down in promising to ensure its passage after he is elected. Should that happen, then all of the talk of the anti-Prop 1 forces tuning out could be wrong and King could find himself with a motivated support group who will stay engaged to ensure that Parker's folly doesn't come back from the grave after she leaves office under a Turner administration who is facing rumors that he is a member of the GLBT community himself.

Adrian Garcia: Again, I'm not quite sure either candidate is going to be all that interested in receiving Garcia's imprimatur. The collapse of the Garcia campaign, and the fact that he angered many Democratic activists, could potentially move as many votes away from a candidate as they do toward.

I think this dynamic is potentially more damaging for Turner than King. Turner needs the Democratic activists that supported Garcia while King does not. King could use the support of the Hispanic community but I think he has a good shot at receiving most of it whether Garcia endorses or no.

Ben Hall, Chris Bell, Stephen Costello: Honestly I think their endorsements are irrelevant. Hall's voters were primarily anti-Prop 1 types who will either vote for King or not at all. Neither Chris Bell or Costello received enough of the vote to matter anyway.

Intangibles: There are always these.

We don't know what Mayor Parker is going to do now that she is stung and angry by her electoral defeat. We don't know what surprises lie in the weeds about which we don't know.

There are rumors, circling about both candidates, that could be potentially damaging in the minds of voters, but will either candidate want to be the one to pull the trigger and potentially open themselves up to a counter-attack?

Is there a potential that Bill Frazar and Bill King team up?  IMO this could provide an additional boon to both campaigns if they're seen as a strong team that could shake things up in the city.

How is the media going to cover this race? If it's the same bad coverage that we received in the run-up to the general election will it have any effect here? (Even though it appears not to have on Tuesday)

One last unknown, how hard are the municipal employees unions and John Whitmire going to attack King on behalf of Turner? There are strong arguments to be made why they would/wouldn't and it might depend on whether or not King is seen as jumping ahead early.

So many questions, and just over a month to find out what the answers are.