Thursday, March 31, 2016

Stuff More Interesting than this Blog. (03/31/2016)

There are a lot of things on which I'd like to write however, there are many times people write about them 1. first and 2. better than I can.....

Yes, Trump as nominee DOES endanger the GOP House majority. - The last time the Dems were in charge we got the colossal failure that is the ACA.

Trump as eight year old child. - It's humorous with children, obnoxious with adults.

The proclivity of demagogues to criminalize business decisions needs to stop. - It should be noted that once the Democrats succeed in Nationalizing the Oil and Gas industry all of this climate change nonsense will go away.

Reminder: Most Democrats don't even realize they have a problem as well.

And even those who do think the solution is "more government"

See?  Not all is gloom and doom for the GOP.

Your now almost daily reminder that reigning in the regulatory state, rule of law and Bill of Rights restoration is key to any conservative reboot. Failure to address these three key issues renders pretty much anything else moot.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Houston Area Leadership Vacuum: Leaving a City Behind.

****WARNING - Blog navel-gazing ahead - WARNING****

In the 11 plus years that I've been blogging on various platforms, from way, way back in the live-journal days through Isolated Desolation, Lose an Eye, It's a Sport, Harris County Almanac, Your Drink Order Please and other, forgotten, blogs, I've almost always kept my focus trained on Houston and the surrounding region.

I've never been one to do National, until recently, and the vision for this blog was never for it to be a "national blog" that discussed national, or international, events. Part of the reason for this is because I only paid passing attention to those issues, and part was because I felt there were people out there doing a better job of it than I.

Granted, there were people doing the Houston Region better than I so I'm not sure why I used that as an excuse, but a large part of me enjoyed writing about my home because I really thought this was where change could, and should, be enacted. All politics is local and all of that.

So off I went on a merry crusade against New Urbanism, the Houston Way, bad politicians and possibly the worst local news environment in any big city in America.  From the middling, regional daily to television news that often devolved into comedy, Houston always lacked the ability to report on itself in a critical manner.

The results?

As I said several months ago, I lost. I lost so bad the ground of my ideas were salted and refuse dumped on it. The idea that Houston should grow forward instead of backward was rejected by the only two factions that mattered. The New Urbanists, who have convinced anyone that matters in Houston that the solution forward are the failed 19th century urban policies of the past, and City Hall, which is a devolving mess of petty politicians appointing Houston Way proponents who view taxpayer dollars as their own personal slush-funds to bestow on their friends in return for trinkets which, they hope, will secure their "legacy".

Then, the unthinkable happened. The Houston Chronicle placed one of their editors as the judging panel chairman for 'commentary' and finally was in a position to gift itself its first Pulitzer Prize. In some small way, this column (through it's extensive use of "I" and "me") is an homage to the writing style of the gifted one. Predictably, this award didn't help things.

Post-Pulitzer the news  is much worse, if that's possible, and the media shut-out any and all criticism in place of advocacy reporting while all but abandoning their role as watchdog.  Because of this, news of the City of Houston debt problem being away bigger than anyone first imagined was suppressed until after the election of a life-long politician who, early results are indicating, is entirely unprepared for the job.

Then today, something that's been bugging me for a long time snapped. News that Houston area drivers were moving barrels and cones to access the as-yet unopened Grand Parkway (ignoring the safety of workers and others) reaffirmed my anecdotal evidence that suggested Houston was a selfish, ugly town that's getting exactly the governance it deserves.

So after all of these years I'm changing scope. I'm going to focus my gaze upward and take one what I think is a much bigger issue than Sylvester Turner trying to get people to love their way to potholes being fixed. I'm leaving Houston to the nitwits of the unproductive class as they try and craft a Houtopia that's only going to suppress economic activity, and drive people to the suburbs faster. I'm leaving the Houston Chronicle to itself as it continues to go after Houston's biggest, and most important industry, in the hope that it can aid in recreating Houston as the Boston of the South a city where the wealthy and connected thrive to the detriment of everyone else, where the pretty people are happy and gay, while the great unwashed are asked to please hide during big-ticket events. Houston will end up bankrupt and crumbling on its own, content to read the inane ramblings of sixth-generation Texans and the great block quote machine without having to be distracted by me.

One of the reasons for this is that I'm tired of Houston, but the other reason is that I feel the bigger problem of the future of the State and National conservative movement is of greater import. Should Houston collapse there are other cities (and States) in which to live, if America goes down the options will become pretty slim.

And that's a problem.

So in parting I want to say goodbye to a city that I've written about for over a decade. Despite yourself I've watched businesses thrive inside your borders and, recently, begin to flow out of them for the safety of the suburbs. I've watched Metro spend Billions trying to copy other cities, I've laughed at your parklets and your small-town attitude. For the foreseeable future I'll still call Houston my home, but I will no longer care what you decide to do with yourself.

It's not me Houston, It really is you.

PostGOP: Trump as Democratic stalking horse.

Remember the pledge? Touted, at the time by what passes for leadership in the Republican Party? Yeah, that's pretty much been thrown out the window.

Trump drops pledge to back Republican Presidential nominee other than himself. Steve Holland, Reuters

And with that, the Trump destruction of the GOP is all but complete. No matter who wins the nomination in Cleveland, there will not be a unified party in November and there will be a significant amount of voters staying home, or voting 3rd party or voting for Hillary.

It doesn't matter now who wins, the GOP is going to lose because this was Trump's plan all along.  While I'm sure he thought that there was an outside chance he might become the nominee he was in this more for fun and ego. In a nutshell, he just wanted to see how far he could carry the charade and how many knuckle-dragging voters he could bring with him.

By all evidence, he got about 35-40% of the Republican Party, and around 5% of Democrats.  To be fair however, 100% of Democrats are A-OK selecting either a candidate under federal investigation or a man with absolutely zero understanding of economics as their standard-bearer so, at least, the sane part of the right has them beat.

Unfortunately, I don't think there are enough sane people in America to do much about what appears to be more and more likely to happen. In a choice between an idiot, someone absent a moral code and an ignoramus the opportunist begins to have an awful lot of appeal. How again did the former greatest, most free country in the world end up a regulatory state with higher incarceration rates than all except the most brutal dictatorships?  How did the country that generated more wealth creation than any other in history become a rigid, stratified land with less chance for economic mobility than the old Indian caste system?  And how did the country that gave us Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Ronald Reagan end up with a quadrant of candidates such as this?

It's very easy to cast our gaze at the "establishment" which many in the Tea Party are wont to do, but the reality is that we've led ourselves down this road, we've driven the car off this cliff. We are exactly where we deserve to be.

The 2016 Presidential election is no fluke or accident, it's not the fault of the 'man' or the 'other party' or even the Illuminati or some nefarious overseer who's set this up for their own personal amusement.

The Bronzed Ego, Her Highness and the Angry White man are constructs of voter apathy, the continued insulting of "nerd" culture and a society that would rather vote for American Idol than in elections. (Although, to be fair, given their level of attention perhaps it would be better if the proletariat stay focused on reality TV and not on politics?)

There have been a lot of articles written about how less people should vote on one side and how that is the worst suggestion in the world from the other.  The "right" to vote is held sacrosanct in America with good reason. (Although, it should be noted, that many people [i.e. felons, non-citizens] do NOT have the right to vote nor should they.)

What's ignored in the entire discussion is that yes, every citizen of the United State's provided they are competent and not disqualified, has the 'right' to vote in America but that carries with it the 'responsibility' of voting responsibly and in an informed manner. It's also not mentioned that Democracy is not a right that was given by our creator, but one that was created by man and is, as a result, very imperfect.

As we slink toward the party conventions on a trail of FBI Investigations and non-crime, crime reports of campaign managers grabbing female reporters remember this:

As in all elections, we are getting the government we deserve.

Houston Area Leadership Vacuum: Houston First? No, it's just the Houston Way.

Imagine working at a job where you not only get to operate with tons of money that you've done nothing to earn, but you have the ability to spend some of that money on events which you can then use to justify your requests for additional money.

Such is the current reality of Houston First, the quasi-governmental, taxpayer funded, organization whose job is ostensibly to 'promote Houston' but which is really just creating a slush-fund to be spent on friends and cronies.

Houston's approach to conventions raises eyebrows. L.M. Sixel,

Houston First Corp., the quasi-public group that oversees the millions of dollars collected in hotel/motel taxes, also invests in some of the locally produced events, said Waterman, who is also executive vice president of Houston First. He wouldn't say how much either the bureau or Houston First has invested.

Nice work if you can get it.

You really should go read the entire article if you can. It's a shame that this is hidden behind the Chronicle's increasingly expensive pay wall because it really is something that should receive wide distribution.

In addition to this, further down in the story is the sad tale of Space City Comic Convention, and how Houston First is allegedly refusing to promote them, and is even suing them because of the name "Space City" while having a stake in a competing convention, Comicpalooza.

For anyone who pays much attention to how the City of Houston operates however this is just more par for the course.  It's the Houston Way after all.  Control the levers of financing and power and ensure that everything gets funneled to the "right" people. By right we mean your political patrons and cronies.

It's a less sophisticated, less elegant, method of legal public corruption than Chicago, which has elevated machine politics into an art-form.  Of course, Houston is a less-sophisticated, less elegant city than Chicago on the whole.  Ironically, the bigger Houston gets, the more small-town the politicians we are electing to office (and the people they are appointing to the bureaucracy) become.

Then again, given the selfish, ugly behavior of many of the citizens are we really all that surprised that we have elected selfish, ugly people to govern?  Or that they would select selfish, ugly people to positions of power?

Don't worry, I'm sure the Houston Chronicle Editorial Board is furiously working on a scathing call for "change" at the organization as I write.

Can't wait.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Houston Area Leadership Vacuum: New Urbanism is not about density.

At its heart, it is about redeveloping poor, minority areas and pushing gentrification for well-to-do, primarily Caucasian members of the "cool" set.

Ashby High Rise casts long shadow over Houston land use. Erin Mulvaney, ($$$)

These arguments have emerged in several similar lawsuits filed against projects since and city laws have been passed to address some of the complaints brought by the residents who live near the Ashby site.
Festa said that with the various land use restrictions in Houston, in the form of minimum-lot sizes, historic districts and residential buffer ordinances, the region has "de-facto zoning." This has led to many questions and sets up battles over where to build and about density versus preserving what is already there.
He said there are equity issues on both sides.
"Wealthy neighbors pass the hat and hire top-notch attorneys. What happens to the ones that don't have those resources?" Festa said. "Nowhere is this stuff more intense than land-use battles."
There have been battles over what should be built in River Oaks, the Museum District and the Heights.
There are, of course, no issues that are being intensely litigated in poor areas as there are in the wealthy enclaves mentioned above. Nor has there been the traditional amount of support in City Hall for say, preserving Houston's Wards. (With the notable exception of the 3rd Ward, which acts as a personal finance tool and incumbent protection system for State Rep. Garnet Coleman.)

But New Urbanism has never been about density, it has always been about trying to force people who choose otherwise to adopt a lifestyle deemed "suitable" by a group of people who work little and accomplish less. Who spend their days attending workshops, talking about a walk they once had and demanding that city resources be spent on their priorities. If the 'other' people would just move into areas that they feel blighted?

That's a bonus.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with this. People can, and should be allowed to, voice their opinions on how and where others live to their heart's content. Just as we have the right to point a finger at them, laugh and mock them for both their lack of self-awareness and utter ignorance when it comes to economics.  David Crossely and his band of think-tank acolytes are free to call for so-called "complete streets" with European roundabouts, speed humps and a region-wide 20 MPH speed limit as loudly as they want. Despite their protests to the contrary no one, of serious demeanor, is trying to blunt their ability to do so.

The arguments come when the government buys into this job-killing nonsense (as did the Brown, White, Parker and (it seems) Turner administrations) and start directing scarce city finances to making the dream a reality.  This is how Houston gets saddled with Billions of dollars in spending on active and proposed rail lines that aren't decreasing mobility, it's how parklets, and the ridiculous photo-ops they create, suddenly get viewed as urban policy victories, and it's how bike lanes to nowhere get built, and then ignored because the city doesn't really belong in the business of playing nanny for people's living choices.

What the cities need to do is figure out what reality is, and then make transportation plans that reflect that reality.

In Houston, that would mean realizing that the amenities in many Houston suburbs are knocking the so-called "urbanism" that Houston is priding itself on into a cocked hat. It would mean that trying to force (other) people to move downtown to fulfill some Manhattan-lite wet dream that New Urbanists have is not popular on a mass scale. It would mean more bus service to outlying areas, more park-n-ride and less insistence that one of Houston's busiest traffic, and economic, corridors lose car lines in favor of a nowhere.

It would also mean that, at some level, people in high places are beginning to envision a Houston with driverless cars, where taxi services are no longer needed and traffic collisions are less prevalent than in the past. It would mean buttressing the existing road infrastructure to to handle this eventuality.

Unfortunately, this type of thing takes leadership.  And as has been clearly demonstrated on this blog for several years now, Houston has a leadership vacuum that is sucking up all of the good ideas and the city's potential. This could be reversed by members of the productive class pushing back against the unproductive nitwits trying to make decisions for them but, as the productive class does, they are too busy working during the day and being otherwise occupied during the evenings and weekends.

In other words, little is going to change until leadership fills the void.  I wouldn't hold your breath.

Monday, March 28, 2016

PostGOP: The Problem with Trump

As has been noted several times, here and many other places that have been linked to here, the GOP currently has an ignoramus with bad hair, a bad fake tan and no discernible moral code currently positioned as the "front-runner" in it's primary for President.  And while it's starting to look more and more like Trump will not reach 1237, just, the damage to the GOP has already been done.

Bad Choices, Amy Davidson, The New Yorker

And yet on this issue Cruz seems in line with today’s Republican Party, beginning with Donald Trump, its front-runner in the Presidential race. With broadcast and social media still filled with images of the bombing victims at the airport and in a subway station in Brussels, Trump and Cruz each launched a push for votes in the next round of primaries and, it seemed, for the low ground in the fight against terrorism. 
Already the GOP is being lumped in, wrongly, dishonestly, with Trump's ideology, and Ted Cruz' political opportunist instincts are not helping matters.  Now, granted, it doesn't take much to send members of the media straight to the fainting couch where the GOP is concerned. But, while there were issues with the wording of Cruz' police in neighborhoods idea (patrol and secure) the overreaching idea that keeping Muslim communities engaged is a strong one.

In his quieter moments Cruz' would undoubtedly like to have that comment back. Say what you want about the man, he's hardly an authoritarian thug whose just waiting for a chance to place the Constitution in a paper shredder like Ms. Davidson is alleging here.

The problem is Trump.

Because Trump comes out with his typical answers which make one realize that they don't have either the correct decoder ring, or a level of ignorance needed to decipher them.  "Belgium is no longer Belgium" is not only shallow, it's rote, silly, and a juvenile way of looking at a very real, very complex problem.  As Kevin D. Williamson wrote in the link at the top, Trump honestly believes that there are simple solutions to complex problems that only he has the guts to implement.

Trump has also brought into the light a rather seedy underbelly of the GOP. Namely, Nationalist Whites who feel that the country is passing them by. They have been all but abandoned by the Democrats, have found a home with the GOP, and have found a leader in the Bronzed Ego. That they are the ugly counterpoint to the ugly result of decades of racial identity politics played by the Democratic Party (and, to be fair, responded to by Republicans) is never mentioned. Nor is it mentioned that groups such as this exist in pretty much every racial category.

This is not an attempt at moral relevance, but a reminder that both parties have fostered an awful lot of hate since they both bungled and mangled the civil rights debate. Instead of creating freedom and equality, both parties came together and crafted a framework for hate and recrimination that continues today. The legislation and good intent of the '60s created Donald Trump, Angry White Blue Collar Voters, Black Lives Matter, LaRaZa and pretty much every other modern racial problem you can think of.

Trump understands this, and he's using it to his advantage in the same way that Her Highness understands it, and is using it, on the Democratic side.  The difference is, of course, that the media doesn't care about the angst and hate when it comes from the left, it's only an issue from the right.

For the Democrats, this will not be a problem until they run out of other people's stuff to promise to the groups they are keeping on the string.  For the GOP however, it's cracked the party and appears to be threatening to drive what's left of it off a cliff.  In many ways, the GOP is now paying for it's utter lack of anything close to a minority message stemming back to the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

The problem with Trump is that he has revealed the GOP to, in part, still be the party of the Angry Caucasian Man. It's something they tried to move past with candidates such as Rubio and (to a lesser extent) Cruz, but seem to be unable to shake.  Of course, the Wall Street arm of the GOP wanted Jeb(?) Bush and look where that got them?

The problem with Trump is that him being popular among a plurality of GOP voters is painting every conservative with the same nasty brush.  Yes, a lot of this painting is being done by intellectually dishonest people, but that doesn't matter to the unquestioning majority of the electorate who are reading their work.

The problem with Trump is that the GOP is associated with him at all.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Tales of a sub-par media outlet: Experts who aren't.

Today Houston's Middling Regional Daily has decided to send one of its Junior reporters to cover the hairy issue of balancing academic freedom with concerns over campus sexual harassment.  Predictably, the results are, shall we say, interesting.

As College try to reduce campus sexual assault, academic freedoms suffer report states. Benjamin Wermund, ($$$)

National experts on college sexual assault, however, say such instances are rare. Title IX, they say, is a powerful tool to combat a long-standing problem, and university administrators mostly use it appropriately.
At the University of Texas at Austin, for instance, officials carefully weigh complaints to determine whether something was legitimately part of a class discussion or could have been targeted at a student, said LaToya Hill, a UT-Austin vice president who serves as the school's Title IX coordinator.
Clearly by "experts" the Houston Chronicle has decided that the Vice President at UT-Austin, Texas' flagship university, who is the administrator of the Title IX plan there, and who's professional credibility is being called into question by the reports, is a viable 'national expert' to address the issue.

Since the court ruling that placed "hostile environments" under the auspices of Title XI (an area the Title was never intended to address) a cottage industry, primarily staffed by the aggro-wing of the feminist movement, have used it as a cudgel to beat anyone, and anything over the head that might contain a 'trigger-warning'. The problem with this is that history, and much of life, is a trigger-warning if you're a coddled child with no discernible social skills.

What this has created is a cottage-industry where low-functioning idiots are running around our colleges and universities clamping down on free-speech, the right to free-association and pretty much any and everything that might, at some point, be considered fun.

Don't get me wrong. Rape, and sexual assault, are not fun. In fact, they're horrible acts that should be stamped out which would make the world a better place. On that I (hope) that all of us can agree. But that there are subjects that people consider uncomfortable, and that they feel the need to remove them from the public discourse is a problem.

A huge problem.

An even bigger problem is that the media seems hell-bent on making this a reality by selectively reporting on this and choosing to classify partisans who are for the restriction of liberty as "experts".

Part of the reason for this is that there are a sizable group of media, including a large portion of the editors and staff that work at Houston's middling regional daily, who feel (incorrectly) that the free speech protections in the 1st Amendment apply ONLY to the professional media.  To understand why, let's take a look at the Amendment itself:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

It's the inclusion of "of the press" that makes many feel this way. It's the same way that many feel the structure of the 2nd Amendment applies only to "a well-regulated militia". It's revisionist thinking from the modern-day equivalent to buggy-whip makers.

The fact is the 1st Amendment is absolute, it doesn't even contain the carve-out for "Fire! in a crowded theater." If you want to know more why go talk to a good 1st Amendment attorney.

Today however ideas such as freedom and autonomy have gone the way of the Dodo. We're rapidly falling down the rabbit hole of security over freedom.  It's gotten so bad that (supposed) 'strict Constitutionalist' (and GOP anti-Trump Presidential hope) Ted Cruz has called for the police to 'patrol and secure' Muslim neighborhoods. 

If the body politic cannot count of Conservatives to preserve our rights then who do we turn to?

Certainly not the Democrats, and not academia. In fact, the so-called liberal party, and it's followers, who once declared that "dissent is patriotism" are seeking to stamp it out at every turn. One of the problems lie in the misconception that Democrats are liberal. They're not. Today's Democratic party is progressive. They are Statists who believe not only in rule by the enlightened few, but total suppression of the individual and the family unit. There is no longer a classically liberal party in America, just as there is no more classical Conservative party in which to turn.

In addition to being a problem for personal freedom and liberty, this is a very real problem for education as well. If we start deciding that certain areas of thought are "off limits" because they might send today's wilting flowers to the fainting couch, then we will grow a crop of adults who are incapable of operating in polite society. The natural end-game of all of this is the decline of America as a great nation, which is something we are already witnessing today.

Alas, the task of fixing this falls to the tenured professor in Universities, people who can say what they will with very little risk of repercussion. We should also look to a free media, interested in reporting the full truth, to shine a light on the erosion of our freedoms.

In other words, we're doomed.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

PostGOP: The Party Autopsy Begins.

Over the past few weeks, as it became more and more clear that the GOP was all but finished and it was time to figure out what to do next, I have been looking at what follows the GOP as a national party. In a bit of naivete I created the hash-tag #PostGOP for Twitter. Thinking myself quite clever, at the time, but realizing now that it wasn't so much being intelligent, but more an affection for short, pithy preludes to the titles of my blog. (HALV, TLSPM, ChronBlog etc.)

Now that the big GOP pundits are coming to similar conclusions regarding the future of the Grand Old Party we're starting to see articles asking the same questions, but with much more salient answers.

And while the Jonah Goldberg article (linked above) is a good read, there are two other items on which this post is focused.

First, the cause of death, because any good autopsy begins with understanding what caused the death in the first place.  To begin, this piece by Joel Kotkin.

Farewell, Grand Old Party. Joel Kotkin Orange County Register

Those most responsible for the party’s decline, however, are those with the most to lose: the Wall Street-corporate wing of the party. These affluent Republicans placed their bets initially on Jeb Bush, clear proof of their cluelessness about the grass roots – or much else about contemporary politics. They used to attract working- and middle-class voters by appealing somewhat cynically to patriotism and conservative social mores, which also did not threaten their property and place in the economic hierarchy. Now these voters no longer accept “trickle down” economics or the espousal of free trade and open borders widely embraced by the establishments of both parties.
The fecklessness of the party leadership has been evident in the positions taken by corporate Republicans. Reduce capital-gains taxes to zero? Are you kidding, Marco? New trade pacts may thrill those at the country club, but not in towns where industries have fled to Mexico or China.

While I agree with Kotkin that the Wall Street branch of the GOP has been clueless politically, a bigger problem is that the party as a whole has been rather tone-deaf, in a variety of areas, for quite some time.

Instead of holding true to the rule of law, free markets and a tightly contained, small, but effective, regulatory apparatus, the GOP has, since the end of the Reagan era, been more focused on creating rules that helped big party donors, often to the exclusion of the poor and middle class.

It's one thing to say that tax cuts for the wealthy create jobs. It's another thing to continue to say this when they clearly are not. You can holler to the rafters that economic prosperity lifts people out of poverty, but when the stock markets are booming, corporations are reporting record profits, and the poor and middle class continue to feel squeezed, the promises begin to ring hollow. The fact is that companies, often benefiting from the public largesse due to GOP sponsored policies, have not greatly increased hiring or wealth among workers outside of the executive suite. In many cases, big corporations, receiving windfalls from GOP-sponsored tax cuts, have chosen to pocket the cash and earn interest rather than invest into the market. This has provided an opening for Democrats to advocate for taxing the wealthy in order to assimilate their power into the marketed-as-benevolent-federal government.

This doesn't mean that the "soak the rich" policies of the Democratic party are ideal solutions, in fact, they will result in even worse outcomes if successful, democratic socialism only really working in countries that are oil emirates.  Not only has the GOP done a poor job countering the Scandinavian argument, but they've offered up no new economic ideas since Reagan. What the GOP should have pushed for was a fairer, flatter tax that benefits the poor and middle class as well as the rich, the end, or at least a large reduction, of corporate welfare, loopholes that can only be taken advantage of by those with means, and a loosening of the expensive regulatory collar that makes businesses wary to invest. Recently, you are seeing these suggestions offered up by Cruz, Rand Paul and some others, but they're usually coupled with some silliness such as eliminating the IRS (impossible) or not coupled with realistic plans of where cuts in spending are going to occur.

The GOP has forgotten that being conservative economically means more than just shouting "supply-side!" and sticking out your hand for donations. Instead of making policy that lines the coffers of selected industries a true conservative economic platform would promote economic freedom for all. This includes big-business, middle-business and the much romanticized small-business owners who are currently being strangled under the weight of oppressive over-regulation. The GOP has paid lip-service to this message, but has not fully embraced it or taken any political risks necessary to bring it to fruition.

Second, while it's admitted that the GOP has lost it's way from a policy perspective, the Conservative Entertainment Syndicate (CES) has totally lost it's mind. Conservative authors, writers, radio hosts and TV personalities (with a few, notable exceptions) have hijacked the Tea Party movement and morphed it to a point that the purity tests became so rigid all but a few crusaders failed and got kicked off the reservation. Marco Rubio, once a tea party candidate himself, tried to compromise on immigration and was instantly branded a RINO, the put-down of choice for the purity clan, and immediately voted off the island. From this he was never able to fully recover, and therefore his lackluster campaign became a hill too large to climb.

It's gotten so bad right now that last night, as the Arizona election results rolled depressingly in, husband and wife pundit team Chris and Dana Loesch took to Twitter on a tirade against Rubio supporters who "refused" to give up and support their candidate Ted Cruz. That almost all of the Rubio ballots were cast early, before the candidate dropped out of the race, was seemingly lost on them. More important was to lecture people that they "didn't care" if they hurt people's feelings and that they were "fighting" (a favorite tactic of bad pundits and politicians) for "principle" (and book sales, one assumes).

Of course, this caught on with the sheepish crowd and soon Twitter was filled with far-right pseudo-warriors bemoaning the whining of the Rubio crowd who, apparently, had the temerity to point out that vote-shaming Rubio followers was not the correct way to win friends and influence people. It's not fair to suggest that the pro-Rubio crowd are innocent victims of Cruz and Trump's vicious band of thugs. In fact, they spend a lot of their time choosing to hurl insults of their own including "paid-divider" and other, harsher critiques. It's to the point now that the three groups, which are all comprised of the eight multiple factions of the GOP that I've mentioned before roughly chopped up among the 5 big candidates that were, initially, in the race, no longer have the ability, or desire, to work out their differences civilly.

All of this argument has been urged on by the newly risen conservative alt-media. Media personalities that you can find on your drive to and from work, on the AM radio dial, on FoxNews and, increasingly, on pod-casts and in columns recorded, written and posted on a variety of insular right-wing online outlets. Inevitably included in most of them is a central message: "Trust us (and buy our crap) and don't trust the Liberal Media!"

The GOP's response to the left-tilt of the media has been to cast shade and retreat. The blame for the media's leftward tilt on issues is placed on the education system, the media itself, communists (in their more honest moments). Instead of engaging and trying to compete in the arena of ideas, the party proper retreated to talk radio, the Internet and Fox News. There the party message became an echo chamber akin to the fools over at ThinkProgress. Limbaugh's show became a joke, Hannity was better known for his hair rather than solid political opinion and Coulter became a racist clown-show throwing any opinion against a wall that she thought would be controversial and drive book sales.

In fact, since the late 80's the GOP has become a front organization for politicians and entertainers busking products to the low-information section of the electorate in the name of Conservatism. Now you're just as likely to hear a pitch for a doomsday shelter, or an information course (now on sale!) on how to invest in gold than you are anything about economic freedom. The 2nd Amendment is a big deal not because of the Bill of Rights, but because it's sold as the last firewall against you and the government (communist!) jack-boots breaking down your door and sending your kids away to Young Communist Education Centers.  The CES is big on the end times, understanding all to well that a large portion of their audience is Evangelical, and is spending at least some of their time preparing for the coming of Armageddon. It's a bleak place full of communists, collective societies and fire, and brimstone. And it sits inside the automobiles, living rooms and bedrooms of America and festers.

In 2006-2007, when the bottom fell out of the economy, there was a brief hope that the conservative movement would re-engage with the rise of the Tea Party. The first iterations of the movement, misspelled signs and all, was a call for America to return to it's lean roots, focusing on rule of law, limited government and sane fiscal policy. What we forget now is that this all was happening before the Obama administration took office. The Tea Party was a direct reaction to the Bush bailouts.

Then the worst thing possible happened. Tired of eight years of Bush, the electorate rebelled and punished the GOP by giving the Nation a Democratic legislative majority and Barack Obama. In trying to counter that, the GOP placed John McCain in the breach. A war hero who had only a passing interest in conservatism. In order to counteract his relatively weak conservative credentials he selected a carnival barker to appeal to low-information voters in the form of Sarah Palin. The GOP became a comedy show with Palin, unprepared for the job and more a reality show caricature than an actual politician outshining McCain on the campaign trail and causing the campaign to all but collapse under it's own weight (and bad campaign consultants).

The inevitable result was an electoral disaster.

Over the next four years Democrats did what Democrats do, expanded the government, increased the regulatory state and moved America away from the rule of law.  When this happened the GOP put up token resistance, and (falsely) concluded that forcing Obama and the Democrats to pass their legislation without GOP support would fan the flames of conservative outrage to the point that a return to legislative relevance would be inevitable. Then along came the octopus of legislation that was the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and the decisions by the Obama administration to ignore what parts of the law they found convenient in order to make it work. In part, this was true, because in the low-turnout, mid-term elections of 2010 the GOP rode electoral which granted them majorities in the House and the Senate.

Unfortunately, in order to get these majorities they decided to run on something that was never going to be accomplished. Pushed by the CES many 'tea party' candidates abandoned the small government mantra and morphed into anti-Obama crusaders. "Repealing ObamaCare" became a rallying cry for low-information voters despite the fact that this was never going to occur. Even IF legislation would pass, it would be vetoed by the President and the GOP lacked sufficient majorities to override.

This, of course, led the GOP to rely on the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Roberts (a W. Bush appointee) who, it was felt, would reliably declare ObamaCare unconstitutional and provide the party with an out from a mess of their own making.  As we know, Roberts declined to do this. While declaring the mandate a "tax" kept the issue alive, it also allowed a shameless Obama to pivot on the issue and self-unaware Democrats, who had endlessly sold the bill as decidedly "not a tax" did a 180 and started using "It's Constitutional, Deal With It!" as their rallying cry. Scorned by the Supreme Court, the GOP chose Roberts as the culprit, and was totally unprepared to deal with the fallout of the decision.

Enter the CES, who immediately seized on this to demand even more "pure" conservative candidates, notably, replacing less pure Republicans instead of Democrats, which led to the resurrection and (at the same time) destruction of the term "Republican in Name Only" (RINO). From working toward smaller government etc. the Tea Party movement started prominently displaying "RINO Hunter" T-shirts and the CES pivoted toward a gatekeeper role in terms of purity. If they didn't feel a candidate was sufficiently "pure" then they were ostracized and, in many cases, voted out in primary for a candidate who had gained the CES stamp of approval. Voters, content to buy shirts and laugh at comedy skits, accepted that rage against Obama (and, more importantly, RINOs such as George W. Bush etc.) was sufficient and failed to question why these CES groups were supporting said candidates in the first place. More importantly, they didn't pay much attention to the people that they were electing. This led to many elected officials in office who shouldn't be in the running for dog catcher, much less in control of a Statewide bureaucracy or in the House or Senate.

Much like political bloggers, the CES craves attention. In many cases the newly minted "Tea Party" candidates were supported not for being truly conservative (in many cases they were Theocrats, or demagogues, or worse, self-promoters looking to cash in) but either granted CES members access or, in some cases, finances to allow them wider distribution platforms for their brand. At the local level pay-for-play campaign endorsements became commonplace and enterprising political hopefuls learned to game the system for their own benefit.

In 2012 the GOP Wall Street group tried to respond to Obama by nominating Mitt Romney, a competent, decent man who didn't cater to either the CES, or the Tea Party that was now largely controlled and ran by and through them and as a result, many tea party voters stayed home granting Obama a second term. As things continued to get worse, and the CES continued to use Obama's poor leadership to increase their hold on the party faithful, another mid-term, low-turnout, election provided a false boost of support by ushering in a new wave of CES/Tea Party approved legislators who promised that, this time, they would follow up on their promises.

Fast forward to today, and the rise of Trump, which is the last-gasp of the CES to fleece the low-information GOP bloc that their plan is the right plan.  Unfortunately, Trump is a vile candidate who is so out of the GOP mainstream that a sizable fragment of the CES has revolted, and chosen to back Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who is ideologically pure, but certainly an opportunist as described above.

All of this is the inevitable end-game that was put in motion after the so-called "great recession". After years of stagnation, increased government size (and deficits), the GOP is left with nothing more than rage. It's a rage that's being stoked by the CES, low-information voters and what's left of the so-called "establishment". None of  these groups like the other and the fissures between them are, seemingly deep and unlikely to be mended any time soon.

In summary, after a too-long blog post (for that I apologize), there's more blame to go around than just some brain-dead policy making on the part of the GOP leading lights. The CES certainly bears a part of the blame, as do the tea party leaders for allowing their movement to be neutered and hijacked, as does rank-and-file GOP members for believing the false promises of "standing against Obama" logic be damned.

There will be a lot of talk in the coming months/years about how to 'fix' the GOP. Most of these will be akin to putting a band-aid on cancer. The truth is that any real 'fix' for the GOP probably means putting the party out to pasture for several years until the Democrats make things so bad the American people are willing to listen to the message of limited government, rule of law and Constitutional principles again. Until then we're going to be subjected to the CES desperately trying to hang onto power by doubling-down on their populist message and railing against all of the wrong targets.

The GOP party-proper might try and complete another debrief, and they will again determine that a lack of appeal to certain demographics is hurting them, and that their narrative is not one that appeals to the majority of voters that is blue-collar, working class and on the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder. They will, at some level, also admit that the brand is not "cool". They will then take these findings, package them up in a series of power-point slides, and parade them around to the CES claiming that they 'got the message' and that hope is but a fleeting savior (not Donald Trump-like mind you) away.  In the end, nothing much is going to change.

That doesn't mean that those concerned with advancing issues should stop working to educate people about them, or electing candidates that (truly) will work for them, only that they can probably not count on having a National (or local) GOP having our backs while they do. It means that the work of advancing conservative principles might have to be accomplished without the aid of a National Party, at least for a while. It also means that, as Mr. Goldberg stated in his article linked above, is that the GOP is going to diminish and break-up into sides.

What side you pick is ultimately up to you.

Houston Area Leadership Vacuum: Balancing the Budget on the Back of the Prior Administration's Bad Contracts?

The particulars can be found here: (in part)

City Accuses Auto-Parts Supplier of $1MM overcharge. Mike Morris, ($$$)

(In deference to the Chron's fire-wall, I only provide a small, selective quote and encourage you to click on the link above, if you can, and read the entire thing)

In written responses that appear in the audit, NAPA officials said the fees charged as a percentage of sales were associated with expenses such as off-site administrative staff who work on multiple contracts. As for billing the city for its workers' higher-than-allowed salaries, the company said its practice of averaging salaries across worker groups has resulted in an average amount that is below the maximum allowed under the contract.
Both practices, the company stressed, were discussed with city officials at the time.
"The lawsuit filed by the city of Houston comes on the heels of our refusal to essentially provide products at no profit to the city," said spokesman Gaylord Spencer. "What is not debatable is that NAPA has saved the city of Houston taxpayers a huge amount of money since 2011."

It appears that the terms under which private-sector contractors do business with the City of Houston have changed, and are still in the process of changing.  Consider how Waste Management was treated when they tried to negotiate a contract with profit factored in. Not only were they vilified, but they were cast as "taking advantage of the City" when, in reality, all they were really doing was not only reflecting market realities but also using the diminutive Mayor's total lack of business experience to negotiate better terms.

Now you have NAPA which, if they are to be believed, interpreted certain items in the contract to mean one thing and, at the time, received approval of City Hall to proceed billing in that manner. Now you have Brown and Turner walking in and blowing it all up.

Either the Parker administration was inept and Ronald Green, as Controller, was asleep at the switch, or the diminutive Turner administration is using Brown's office as a political tool to punish contractors and perform what is basically contract renegotiation through the legal process.

Whatever the case, it's clear to me that the Brown Controller's office is flying through these "audits" with little review and very little thought to the meaning of the terms, his orders clearly being to interpret the contract terms in the best possible manner, for the City of Houston.

Working in the oil and gas business and dealing with both State and Federal auditors is part of my daily job responsibilities, I can assure you that 4 months for a government audit is unheard of, especially when documents are (as stated in the article) "Missing". A much more reasonable time-frame for a thorough audit is six-twelve months. And that assumes that the auditor understands the complex terms in the contract without submitting questions to legal.

I also know that contract law is messy, and words and phrases within contracts typically mean specific things. Very specific things that cannot be unilaterally decided upon by one party whose made it very clear that their top priority is using audits and media-pressure to try and force contractors to operate at a loss for the "good of the city".

I also know that two different parties can come to two different interpretations without one side acting in a dishonest, or fraudulent manner. That is something that Brown and Turner either don't, or won't understand in an effort to score points.

In effect, they are treating the business of the City in the same manner they treat a partisan political campaign. They are trying to do business in the media, by using PR, which could have disastrous long-term effects for the city.  Because if the vendors operating with the City of Houston feat that working with a Brown/Turner administration means that they are subject to punitive review when the finances go bad, they are going to start writing this legal risk into the language of their contracts. Given what we've seen, so far, I've little confidence that Brown/Turner have the business knowledge to be able to identify this risk.

The other option is that the vendors will stop participating in the open bidding process altogether, deciding that the risk of doing business with a city that is not an honest partner is hardly worth it.  This could throw the City into the unenviable position of having to buy certain items and services at market rates, instead of at the steep-discount which they receive today.

While I believe there is a lot of concern that should be directed toward the Turner administration, I think that a lot of blame needs to be laid at the feet of former Mayor Annise Parker and former Controller Ronald Green as well. In six years we never did see this type of audit activity from Green, and there was never the sense that Parker conducted any sort of review on city contracts. Had that been the case this could have been sorted through long ago and issues of this type, and irresponsible comments, such as the $5MM due comment from Brown, could have been avoided.

Finally, it's fair to ask where the media has been during all of this.  Many individuals, taxpayer advocates and other activists/bloggers/citizens questioned the lack of audit activity conducted by Green for almost the entirety of his tenure. During this time the media would run a tut-tutting editorial around election time, Green would release an audit or three, and then there would be silence for two years until the next audit cycle.  When he did face a deadline, he was usually late and the work suspect.

During her entire time as Mayor, Annise Parker never seemed interested in focusing on the nuts and bolts of running a city. This would have been especially important in a city that, as we are now seeing, was teetering along on the road to financial collapse. Had she been more interested in solid negotiating rather than parklets Houston might be better off today.

To be fair however, there was/is no meaningful reason for either Parker/Green to do more or Turner/Brown to do better. In Houston, the Middling Regional Daily is more of a City Hall cheerleader than a true watchdog (the tone of this article was very favorable to the City) and even the best local TV station isn't hard-wired for this type of work. The GOP, and conservatives don't do 'urban' and haven't shown a proclivity for doing the dirty work that it takes to advocate on municipal issues. (Although there are signs things are improving). So from that perspective, and given all that power in a Strong-Mayor form of government, there's very little reason to try and make things better.

And it hasn't gotten better, it's apparently become much, much worse. As the Parker-era contracts come up for renewal, and Brown/Turner start scouring them deeper to find revenue dollars, it will be interesting to see just how bad the next rounds of open-bidding truly are.  Because, under a leader (which, as we've stated, Houston has been operating without for quite some time) renegotiation of bad contracts to more favorable, but livable, for both parties, terms is the goal when one party is desperately looking to cut costs. A businessman would understand that.

Politicians, especially the bad ones, always return to their default inclination to "fight". After campaigning so long as "fighters" it's the only play they know how to run. If you're thinking this activity runs counter to how Turner ran for office (as a negotiator and someone who would "bring all sides to the table" you're right. Apparently we can't fill a pothole without loving one another in the same manner we can't resolve contract disputes without going to court.    Fun.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Presumptuous Blogging: Things you should read. (03/22/2016)

It's been a while since our last round-up.....

The nature of the beast is to feed the beast to keep it growing and healthy. It does not care that it's eventually going to run out of food.  The beast is incapable of advanced thought.

We're the Government, and we're here to help! More often than not that "help" is to run small businesses out of business through needless, over regulation in the name of "public safety".

A reminder that the Democrats have a fringe-element problem as well. One that attracts the poor and stupid, is xenophobic and populist in it's roots, and (unlike the Tea Party) is viewed as visionary in it's brilliance by those who control the narrative.

What replaces (or, even better, reforms) the GOP MUST get a handle on crony capitalism. Roll back the regulatory State, return to the rule of law, strengthen Constitutional rights. No other issues matter without those three.

Is it time to break the GOP? Noah Rothman, National Review Online It is increasingly looking like the answer is Yes. The question is, from without, or from within?

Your now almost daily reminder of two things. 1. Internet news comments are where society's lowest common denominator go for comfort. 2. The people moderating (in this case "picking" the comments) are not much brighter than plankton.

Why are so-called "conservative" congress critters trying to butt into private university tuition? A. They're not really conservative. B. They're in a re-election year. C. Both.

No, Clinton/Castro won't turn Texas Blue, but Trump/Whoever just might. The Castro brothers, like Wendy (?!?) before them, are proving to be the emptiest of progressive suits. #NeverTrump

Thin Skin: Jr. Web reporter style. Houston is really just a sprawling business complex wrapped around a core of insecurity and thin skin.

The head of Jeb(?)'s SuperPac is tired of the conservative con. Kevin Drum, Mother Jones - Make no bones about it, this was not written with the GOP's health in mind.  That said even a stopped clock is correct two times per day.

If you want serious, thoughtful transit reporting, you might want to look someplace other than Houston's Middling Regional Daily. All you get here is transit advocacy, as forwarded, and in line with, the wishes of the unproductive class. (and the developers and train companies who are smart enough to have taken advantage of them)

Parker's Parting Gift to Houston appears to be dirty as hell. - I wonder if this was on her topic list while she was lecturing to political science students in the Ivy League?

Call it me but, a jobs program designed primarily by a man who's never really had a job in the private sector doesn't inspire me with confidence.

The "safety" in Transit Safety Council means spending a TON of money in an effort to reduce mobility. Were it otherwise, the first thing they would recommend is lengthening yellow light times, closely followed by considering grade separation between different types of transportation.  Instead, they're going to want to make it impossible to drive a car. (And destroy Houston's economy in the process).

Donald Trump and the White Working Class. Kevin D. Williamson, National Review. - This is the article that stirred up the Trump faithful last week.  In it, it should be noted, Mr. Williamson is dead, bang on.

Merrick Garland's "Moderation". Kevin D. Williamson, National Review Online Again Williamson lays out a thoughtful, and 100% correct piece with more deep thought than anything being put out by the Conservative Entertainment Complex.

A Post-Mortem of the Rubio Campaign. Tim Alberta, National Review Online. - Alberta only gets it partially right. The Gang of Eight immigration disaster hurt Rubio, but it didn't cripple him. He made many other missteps along the campaign trail, and from a policy position, that finished him off.  Well, that and the endless attacks from Right to Rise, from which he never fully recovered.

Is Trump's rise giving progressives second thoughts? Charles C.W. Cooke, National Review Online. I doubt very seriously that many progressives, based on the rather large sample that I've met, are all that capable of having thoughts period, much less of the deep, introspective kind that Mr. Cooke is referring to here.

There are few things in the TLSPM more creepy right now than Hearst TLSPM member Peggy Fikac's Wendy(?!?) obsession.

And finally..... goes out with a whimper, not a bang.  Just the first of many "conservative" entertainment outlets that need to be disposed of in the purge.

Texas Lock-Step Political Media: Continued Reporting on Something Trivial won't make People Care. Also #PostGOP

You have to hand it to the TLSPM, when they think something should be an issue they will doggedly try and beat you over the head with it until you care:

Protesters call on Cornyn to "Do his job." Kelsey Bradshaw, ($$$)

About three dozen protesters demonstrating outside his Austin office Monday called on U.S. Sen. John Cornyn to "do his job" and at least meet with Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland.

Houston NAACP: No Supreme Court Justice, No Peace. Florian Martin, HoustonPublicMedia

Most of the about 20 protesters were with the Houston branch of the NAACP, which organized the rally. Also there were Harris County AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer Richard Shaw and HISD board member Jolanda Jones.

Those participation numbers are just sad. And while I realize it's important, to the Democrats, to have Mr. Garland nominated (Note to the Houston Chronicle Editorial Board, it's Mr. Garland NOT Mr. Merrick, as you seem to have trouble figuring out) and flip the Supreme Court. As such, they're pretty much rounding up the advocates that have nothing else better to do and sending them out to dutifully protest.  Credit to the Houston NAACP however, because 'No Justice, No Peace' is a better chant than 'do his job'.

Some of it, of course, is due to a relatively slow news cycle in Texas.  The Lege is not in session, there's not a whole lot going on and this is forcing the TLSPM to fixate on progressive outrage over so-called Jesus shots and anyone ever known by Attorney General Ken Paxton and anything they might ever do wrong.

The hope, of course, is that a much more progressive candidate will win in the next election and take their place, ushering in a new, enlightened Texas that the cub reporters working for various Texas media outlets no-longer are ashamed of.  In their eyes, Texas needs an Agricultural Commissioner whose main focus is combating climate-change, and restricting certain foods that they don't like to eat from the dinner table of others. Texas needs an Attorney General who will go after people making a profit, take it from them, and redistribute it to those who can't. If that new Attorney General would be willing to conveniently ignore the rule of law when it gets in the way of social progress that would be great as well.

Of course, none of this suggests that Mssrs. Miller and Paxton are particularly good at their respective jobs. Miller is a social-conservative operating a bureaucracy that has nothing to do with social issues, Paxton is a serving Attorney General under indictment for securities fraud. If the GOP had been paying attention, they would have put stronger candidates against them in the first place, not let them run against relatively weak competition. (Despite what the TLSPM tells you, neither Miller or Paxton were opposed by political heavyweights, although their opponents both would have been better than them.)

The job for what is the rapidly shrinking sane branch of what's left of the GOP is to put up strong primary contenders against both of them and then hit them hard on their record.  Will this be enough to sway the social-issues, nativist, and somewhat sizable, Trump-faction of the Texas GOP*? I have my doubts.

Ironically, the TLSPM is aiding and abetting both Miller and Paxton by continuing to report on these issues, and they're probably hurting Mr. Garland's chances (not that he had many to begin with) by continuing to act like these tiny micro-protests matter.

If there's one thing that the social-GOP voter hates more than a RINO (An increasingly meaningless term which really is code for "any Republican who the conservative media complex tells me not to like) it's the "liberal media".  Every hit on Miller and Paxton just endear them more to the social-GOP base. It's like Trumpism at the State level. Every attack is verification that the candidate is onto something that the so-called establishment (Another meaningless political term, many anyone who is not just like me) doesn't like and therefore is something that should be supported.

At the National level this gives us Trump, who has parlayed some anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and (to be honest) misogynist talk into a National lead for the GOP Presidential nomination. At the State level it's given us Paxton and Miller, two elected officials currently serving in positions that they should be allowed nowhere near. To the detriment of not only intelligent political discourse but the GOP Party as a viable movement going forward.

In our two-party system if you don't think that having one party become dysfunctional is a bad thing then you haven't been paying attention to either California or Texas the past few years. Whatever it is that ultimately replaces the GOP, or (more likely) reforms it, had better be a movement rooted in limited Government or rule of law or we're going to be looking down the barrel of more elected officials such as Trump, Paxton, Miller, Jackson-Lee, Rahm Emmanuel and Al Franken. Our political system is going to become nothing more than a bloated, corrupt, comedy act.

If it's not already.

*I've a feeling that, minus Cruz, Trump would have won Texas pretty much going away and would be the undisputed presumptive nominee by now.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Houston Area Leadership Vacuum: How can Democracy work if Elected officials don't understand the process?

Yet more blow back from the Super Tuesday Democratic Primary elections in Harris County.

Congressmen call on feds to investigate Harris County's primary election day disaster. Leif Reigstad, Village Voice Houston

The letter, penned by U.S. Reps. Gene Green and Al Green, asked that U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch look into "the distribution of voting machines and polling stations" for the Harris County primary. 
"On March 1, we witnessed long lines in predominately Hispanic and African-American precincts in Harris County due to the lack of voting machines and polling locations," the congressmen wrote in the letter. "The failure to distribute sufficient voting machines in predominately Hispanic and African-American precincts in Harris County, in comparison to the resources made available in more affluent, predominately Anglo precincts in the county, had a discriminatory impact on our constituents' ability to participate in the political process."

Hopefully the first person that Ms. Lynch looks at is Harris County Democratic Party Chair Lane Lewis. Because it's the local parties that determine which precincts will be combined and which polling places can be open.  The County Clerk's office then disperses voting machines to the selected polling locations based on historical patterns.

In other words, the primary reasons that there were long lines and "confusion" is because the Harris County Democratic Party did both a poor job allocating resources, and an even worse job of notifying Democrats where to vote.

There was nothing in the run-up to these elections to suggest that minority turn-out on the Democratic side was going to be high.  To the contrary, Democratic turnout has severely lagged behind GOP turnout throughout the primary process.  That so many people came out to vote also makes this statement, by President Obama, hilarious on it's face....

The congressmen's letter, dated March 15, came after President Barack Obama's weekend SXSW critique of Texas's voter registration law for limiting public participation in politics.

Clearly whatever "limitations" that are being experienced haven't leaked down to the actual voters, because they seem to be turning out just fine.

Of course, all of this only makes sense when you realize that "voter rights" actions aren't really about more voters at all. They're about scoring political points and targeting an elected official that local Democrats feel is vulnerable in their desperate attempts to gain more county offices.  Stan Stanart has had his problems. And when he is up for reelection I'll be shocked if he doesn't draw a strong primary challenger that beats him and then goes on to beat whichever activist the Democrats put forward.

However, if you're looking for a landing spot for former Sheriff, failed Mayoral candidate and failed Congressional candidate Adrian Garcia, the new perennial candidate for local Democrats could find himself parked here.

Controlling the mechanisms of voter registration is the first step in building a political machine, and it appears that there is a not too small faction of local Democrats who think the Chicago Way should become a blueprint for extending and expanding the Houston Way.  They are going to use a partisan Justice Department in an effort to aid that goal.  It also appears that what remains of Houston media is going to do their part as well.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

#PostGOP: 03/15/2016

Today is the day that it could all go sideways.  With five States, including Florida, heading to the polls to determine who their preferred nominee for President will be it could be all but over after the last winner is announced.

For the Democrats, it's time to see whether the perpetually presumptive one can hold off the raging socialist with no grasp of financial literacy. FiveThirtyEight thinks her majesty will but they thought the same way in Michigan and look what happened there.

The Democratic establishment is getting just a bit worried, as their party appears to be in the midst of a revolt that's not only going unreported, but which is being dishonestly reported when the media does pay attention to it.

The Republicans have the same problem, except their numbers are even worse. While Hillary has a lead in the delegate count, and is still most likely to win the nomination, her numbers point to weakness in the MidWest that make it harder for her to climb the steps to the Presidency.

The biggest problem, for Republicans, is that their candidate most likely to beat Hillary in November, is not only trailing badly in the polls, but is likely to be former candidate Rubio after today. Because if Rubio loses Florida, there is no path forward for him, and he should drop out and allow the remaining voters to cast their lots behind either the opportunist Senator from Texas, or the Bronzed Ego.

Things are so bleak on the Republican side that a brokered convention leading to a Romney re-boot is the consensus best choice of all the bad choices facing party leadership. It's either that or support Trump, which GOP National Chairman Reince Priebus has pledged the GOP will do.  Not ALL of the GOP of course. Those of us who have vowed #NeverTrump won't, and neither will a lot of others who aren't as active on political social media but who will just tune out.

Of course, a brokered convention effectively ends the GOP as well, and will cause chaos among those many voters who supported Trump. The question remaining is whether or not facing down a rigged primary system is going to hurt the Democrats as well?

My early guess is no, because the Democratic leadership has a much tighter grip on the rank and file than do Republicans. Yes, the Bern has made some inroads with predominately poor, white Democrats, but his campaign hasn't been allowed to escalate into a movement as has Trumps. It is somewhat ironic that the party that, on a superficial level, supports voting rights, chooses to handle it's candidate selection process through an early network of party officials and insiders known as "Superdelegates" while the supposed vote-suppressing GOP has let the mob run wild.

And running wild they are. No group during this process has taken a harder hit to their credibility than has the so-called "conservative media". In the process of endorsing, and slathering, over Trump infotainers such as Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham have exposed themselves as operating without principle in search of a buck. Some of the more odious players, such as and Ann Coulter, have just exposed themselves as D-level shock jocks with racist and misogynist tendencies.

Their grip on what's left of the conservative movement is, hopefully, loosened. However, given the gullibility of the masses I'm unsure whether what follows is going to be any better.

I implied earlier in this that the two parties are facing much the same problems. While they are on different sides, this is true. Both the Democrats and Republicans are facing the anger of the poor, white blue-collar worker that they've ignored for years. The Democrats claimed to be a friend of the American Worker while pushing policies that decimated them. The Republicans promised prosperity that would flow if the wealthy were just "taxed a little less" and allowed to use capital to create "good-paying" jobs. These promises never emerged as the GOP donor class took those tax credits and redistributed them to their stock-holders or the corporations held the cash in reserves.

Both parties promised that Government would fix the poor-man's problems, but instead they exacerbated it by forwarding tax structures and regulatory obstacles to social mobility. Unlike what the media tells you it is not the income gap that is the problem, it's that the government has been busy for the last 20 years burning all of the economic bridges between the classes and effectively putting an end to social mobility. In effect, the government regulatory state and crony capitalism have put the American Dream out of reach for most citizens. They've rigged the game if you will.

The Democrats answer to this is to make the strata more rigid, by burning down the middle class and offering feel-good solutions such as increases in the minimum wage that will only create more unemployed. The Republicans have countered by offering to put more money in the hands of the wealthy or, in the case of Ted Cruz, implement a European-style Value-Added-Tax in place of an income tax. One that will be passed immediately onto consumers and which will be even more onerous than the current system.

Fortunately, for the campaigns of the Bronzed Ego and Angry Bernie a large chunk of the electorate that follows them doesn't understand how global markets work. Instead people are just angry that "the Government was here, and they were here to help." That the solutions offered up by El Bronzo and Captain Angry are like giving a cancer patient the flu is lost on most of their supporters.

All of which brings us to March 15th.

Today I'm afraid that the last adult in the race is going to lose his home State, and drop out of proceedings, leaving us with a choice between four adolescent candidates (and, of course, the delusions of Kasich) whose campaign strategies are nothing more than to shriek the loudest, make the most out-there promises, and control that anger all the way to the nomination and beyond.

Certainly Rubio was not a perfect candidate. He was very (extremely) weak on corporate welfare (namely, sugar tariffs) and government spying. But there has been no candidate in this race who has done a better job offering up a hopeful vision for the country than has Rubio. Except for his ill-advised dalliance with Trump's hand-size, he has been the most optimistic candidate in terms of vision.

And he'll most likely be gone after today.

What remains is, most probably, going to be the next President of the United States of America. Your choices are now going to be a man who is nothing more than an over-sized ego and a Napoleonic complex so big it is threatening to burst through its fake-tanned wrapper. A Jr. Senator from Texas who no-one seemingly likes, and who either thinks that shutting down the IRS is a viable plan or he's conning his supporters. A Governor from Ohio who's father was a mailman, and who refuses to believe that he's been beaten. An Angry Statist who has learned to mask his lack of understanding of basic financial principles behind a veil of socialism (but which is really just a crony system designed to keep the right members of the ruling class in power). Or a candidate who truly believes that it is her destiny to become President and has proven a willingness to do, say or promise anything to get there.

In short, it's pretty dire folks. The State of the Union is decidedly not strong, and it's future prospects are getting worse with each passing day.  We might just look back on March 15, 2016 as the day the last, best hope (however flawed it was) abandoned the race and left us with a beggar's choice of horrible options, a political game of "would you rather?" in which there is no good choice. Amazingly, once again, it appears we're placing our hopes on Florida.

God help us all.

Friday, March 11, 2016

#PostGOP: Money Grabs brought us here.

This should be a cardinal rule for any conservative candidate:  If the Houston Chronicle Editorial Board thinks you're making a wise policy decision, immediately reconsider.

Medicaid Expansion. ($$$)

There's no need to quote any of this editorial as you've heard it all before.  A 'conservative' member of the GOP who's been the beneficiary of relatively high taxpayer funding in relation to expenditures takes a "reasonable" position regarding expanding Medicaid and accepting the Billions of dollars in "free money" being offered up by the Federal Government.

In this case it's Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack, deemed a "conservative firebrand" by the gang of fools at the editorial board who refuses to be blinded by extreme ideology.  Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Such is the power of messaging, where a majority of people are starting to believe that these Federal dollars are created by the money fairy and will have no long-term repercussions.  There's no mention of the fact that the manna from Heaven is temporary, and will soon mold and sour (or go away entirely) as did the sustenance the Lord provided to the Hebrews on their journey out of Egypt.

And what then?

Supporters of the plan assure voters that the funds will be "extended".  That the temporary nature really isn't and that Congress will "surely" act to make the additional funds permanent.  But, if they don't?  Then Texas is going to be staring into a permanent budget hole and will be forced to radically alter its revenue confiscation structure in order to fund it.  Because kicking all of those Texans off the Medicare rolls once the Federal funding goes away is not consistent with the incumbent protection plan that is our current electoral system.

It's not that Radack and Emmett are bad people. Far from it.  I've met both gentlemen and they seem like devoted family men, genuinely nice, no better or no worse than anyone else, albeit with slightly better suits, and man-scaping than most.

The problem is they, like many other in the GOP, are not movement conservatives and are really just conservatives of convenience when it forwards their political ambitions. In this, they are not alone. The pandering and equivocation of politicians are part of the reason why Trump is so popular, and it might just be the key to the Texas Democratic resurgence, in the short term at least.

This is not to say that the medical system in America right now is anything less than a nightmare. It's an over-regulated mess whose cost structure is way out of line, and whose billing practices are a mess, and that's being kind.

The problem is that no one in the GOP seems to have an understanding what a workable solution is or, at least, they haven't made it public.  In most cases they are content to prop up the ADA as a whipping-boy for fund-raising purposes, without actually taking any meaningful action against it.

For local GOP officials this is creating a problem.  Because Emmett, Radack and Co. have a system to run, and they really don't want to make meaningful change independently because that would require a LOT of sweat equity and would require some original thought of the type that would be controversial and, in the case of Radack at least, potentially result in losing an election.  From that perspective the natural default is to support more money coming in, and let the folks that come next worry about the blow-back.

It is becoming increasingly clear that momentum for Medicaid expansion is building in Texas and I have no doubt that it will eventually come. I believe that it's coming to Texas will be the canary in the coal mine for the collapse of the Texas GOP.

What follows that will be interesting to see. Hopefully it is better at the task of messaging than is the current harbor for those of a conservative lean.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

#PostGOP: Be careful to keep the baby, not the bathwater.

Suddenly, driverless cars are bad.

Liberals Want Your Car Keys. Daniel Gelernter, National Review Online

Vella admits that weaning America off its “long-standing romance with its cars” will be a tough chore. But it is apparently a worthy task because Vella, like millions of other Americans, has been a victim of a human-driven-car accident. So he knows firsthand just how dangerous letting humans drive can be. His whining rhetoric is reminiscent of that of the anti-gun lobby, who similarly maintain that the only thing preventing us from saving lives is an irrational and outdated emotional attachment. 
This is pat leftist thinking: “Individuals want X. Individuals are incapable of doing X efficiently by themselves. Therefore X should be provided for them by experts.” The experts are generally the government, often the academics, but never the individual. They know which doctor you should see, which operations your insurance should cover, which schools your kids should attend, and what the curricula should be. 

While the author does make a salient point, he buries the lede underneath an avalanche of current-right thinking.

In short, if progressives (not liberals) approve of it, then it's bad.

History has shown that this is not the case. And I don't think it's going to be the case with driverless cars.

In fact, getting off work and then sitting in a car on the ride home that I hailed with an app on my phone sounds pretty pleasant. If I can read the news, watch TV or write a blog post during that 45 minutes then I've reclaimed that productivity. That I'm less likely to get in a wreck in a driverless car seems pretty much a given.  After all, it won't get tired, sick or, let's be honest, for some people drunk.

The problem that Mr. Gelernter has identified is not with the act of driving, but the progressive idea that we all need to be subject to rule by an appointed elite class.  Matt Vella, who penned the article in Time magazine that Mr. Gelernter is referring to, cannot cope with the fact that people think differently than him. Because of this he has decided that everyone with a through running counter to this is a "contrarian" (which will-soon morph into the Nazi-inspired insult "deniers"). Vella's argument is not to be met head-on because you cannot change the mind of someone who is 100% sure they are correct to the point that they will not consider opposing arguments. Instead, Vella's position needs to be foisted on a pike in the public square an openly mocked.

But that doesn't mean that driverless cars are bad.  In fact, that they have fairly wide early enthusiasm suggests to me that they are a good idea.  They have the potential to reduce automotive collisions which can lead to financial and physical ruin, they potentially can remove a great stressor for many, and they are a potential solution to Billions of dollars being continually wasted on 19th century transit solutions.

Are their ethical concerns?  Yes. Just as their are with any new technology, implementation will be key. But one fool's rambling in a magazine should not cause conservatives to pull the plug on technical advancement.

Conservatives should embrace driverless cars, but they should fight very hard at the government seeking to over regulate the automotive industry as a result of them. It is the overreach of the regulatory state that is the undoing of many good technological advancements. Fear, by the supposed elite, that they will not sufficiently understand knew technology to make it (with apologies to Asimov) clearly distinguishable from magic. If they can't fully understand it then their reasoning for regulating what you MUST do with it (namely, that they know better) vanishes in a puff of exhaust.

Unlike Mr. Gerlernter I'm not worried about the driverless car taking away my keys. What I am worried about is the elite, progressive class trying to take away my freedoms.

I'd like to keep those ALONG with driverless cars if you please.

Energy Scarcity: What Bill McKibbon's wins mean for the poor.

*Full Disclosure: I work in government reporting/regulatory for a mid-major oil and gas company based in Houston. The opinions presented here are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer, the board, or any officer of the company.  Also, because I work in the O & G industry I realize that many of you will discount my thoughts out of hand.  That's OK, I'm not talking to you, I'm talking to the reasonable people out there.  

EPA Expands Methane Rules to all Oil and Gas Wells. James Osborne, FuelFix (Houston Chronicle)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expanding its crackdown on methane emissions from oil and natural gas drilling to all existing wells.
The announcement from the White House Thursday came as part of a joint agreement with Canada on climate change, curbing methane emissions from North America and taking steps to protect the Arctic region from rising temperatures and oceans.
The EPA had announced plans to cut methane emissions from new oil and gas wells last year. But if the United States was to reach the goal set out by President Obama of cutting methane emissions at least 40 percent by 2025, existing wells have to be included, said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
“Based on this growing body of science it’s become clear it come time for EPA to take additional action,” she said in a press conference. “We’ll start this work immediately and we intend to work quickly.”

As a world wide consumer of energy this is bad for you. If you're poor in America, or live in a developing country, this is even worse for you.  The reason for this is that the new rules are going to come with an extreme cost, and that cost is going to be paid for by the consumer, most notably by the poor who will not be able to absorb the cost increase.

Of course, I can hear you say, 'But the Democrats are the party of the poor, how can they want to hurt the poor?' The problem with your question is that it is bunk. The Democrats are not the party of the poor, they do not work for the interests of the poor, nor do they care all that much about the poor except to provide them with sufficient government subsidy to ensure their vote.

At this point Republicans chime in 'See!! WE'RE the party of the poor, and OUR policies really help the poor.'  But they don't.  Because too many Republicans look at a problem as see an opportunity for a big G Government solution.  Even Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, the founder and champion of the State's Tea Party Caucus (Which, tellingly, has absolutely nothing to do with the Tea Party) has been known to suggest that "Government must do something!" when a problem arises.

It is the nature of those who Govern, who we have elected to govern us, to want control, to want to purchase power through largesse funded primarily by your tax dollars. In the end, the entire anthropogenic climate change fallacy is nothing more than an attempt to do that. Al Gore has leveraged a scientifically dodgy movie to do just that to the tone of Millions of dollars in personal wealth, all while not changing his or his families lifestyle one iota. Mr. Gore still travels via personal jet, in armored sports utility vehicles running on diesel. In most cases he is driven, and the house in which he lives is less climate friendly than some gas processing plants.

Then we have the story of Bill McKibbon, the new-age climate change activist who has coined the term "Keep it in the ground" which, he thinks, is a call to eliminate all oil and gas production, but is being used by the government as a means to attempt to control an industry that has vexed politicians for decades.

America is unique in the fact that it allows private citizens to have ownership, and profit off of, mineral royalties. In other countries the monies paid in royalty for oil, gas, coal etc. are exclusively the property of the government.  This is why Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other countries enjoy a standard of living so high. It's why Scotland thought they could afford to break-away from Great Britain, and it's why many of the so-called "Nordic Democratic Socialist" governments can make things work. In all cases, they are not socialist but oil emirates in government structure.

There is a large group of Statists in America who want our company to operate the same way.  They have latched on to the carbon movement to try and accomplish this goal. What you are being sold is that it is "Wall Street" who are going to be hurt by this and who cares right?

In truth, the people who are going to be hurt the most are the landowners who rely on those royalty checks, in many cases to bridge gaps in their income.  The working poor are also going to be hurt because rising energy prices will affect them the most.

Scarcity of energy will be felt the most in developing economies. In fact, lack of energy being increasingly acknowledged as a prime contributor to World poverty.  You don't often hear the green movement address this because it's one of their many inconvenient truths that they seek to hide from the general public.

In fact, the green energy movement is not about plentiful, so called 'free', energy as the businesses and politicians in their pocket would have you believe.  In fact, even so-called 'new-environmentalists' admit that the movement views people to be the problem. Specifically, too many people of the wrong socio-economic class and mindset.

When Bill McKibbon, Al Gore and their sycophants suggest that on carbon we need to "keep it in the ground" what they're really suggesting is that approved forms of energy production should only be available to the groups they want it to be available to.

I have no doubt that the Earth's climate is changing. I believe this just as I believe that pollution above certain levels is a bad thing. However, I remain unconvinced that we know about this planet to determine the entire cause to be anthorpogenic.  There is the problem of the warming pause to which climate change true believers have attempted to discount only by tweaking their computer models. And if you're serious about science then any contention that Mann's Hockey Stick has not been totally debunked is based only on faith in the movement.

At some point, we're going to have to come to grips with the fact that man is pretty much powerless, despite all of our hubris, to alter the Earth's climate significantly. In other words.....

Climate change is coming regardless of what we try and do so our focus had better turn to how to DEAL with it rather than how to PREVENT it.

Because dealing with the issue means providing developing economies with the tools they need to power their economies in the cleanest, cheapest way possible so that they can have access to technology and medical services at a 1st world level. In order to do this we need carbon.  We also need political leaders who are not pushing fantasy in a thinly veiled attempt to grab power.

Does the Oil and Gas industry need to do a better job capturing methane?  You bet.  But the way to accomplish this is not to punish them into leaving mineral resources in the ground.

The way to do it is to encourage other countries to adopt natural gas so that the price rebounds and capture becomes economically feasible, and profitable. The Obama Administration (aided by a complicit Congress, is doing exactly the opposite by enacting regulations that are going to greatly increase the cost of energy for the poorest among us.

Hope and change for the ruling class. Pain and suffering for everyone else.  I don't think he said that on the campaign trail did he?

Oh yeah, he did.* But his predominately poor supporters ignored that and voted against their own economic interests.

We're doing this to ourselves, and there will be no reason for the government to stop until we require them to.

*OK Sorry, I couldn't find a video linking to that tweet that didn't have the crazy, birther stuff in it.  My apologies.