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Archive for August, 2014

Meet the Press

It was announced yesterday that Chuck Todd would replace David Gregory as host of “Meet the Press.” Now you can all YAWN. Here is what I said last month:

I have said it before that the Sunday morning news talk shows have become stale with the same old tired talking heads from the DC media and political class. They are so predictable and come armed with the same old talking points. I have them on but I am usually occupied with other matters on Sunday mornings. I am really not surprised by the fact that NBC will be making changes to “Meet the Press.”

The best Sunday talk show is “Fareed Zakaria GPS” on CNN. However, he mostly focuses on international issues. His guests don’t come armed with snarky lines to shoot at the other side.

“Meet the Press” thinks the host is their problem and I disagree. The Sunday morning talk show hosts all have the same old folks on that come in with same old agendas, talking points, and spin strategies. The hosts never call them out and folks are now getting tired of watching. The coziness just oozes off of the flat screen. Folks are fed up with Washington and they really don’t want to see a bunch of cozy insiders telling us what is going wrong when for the most part they are the enablers to what is going wrong.

“Meet the Press” could have used this opportunity to change up their format and focus but instead they brought in frick to replace frack.

I would have looked at bringing on Fareed Zakaria. Maybe Ann Curry? Of course she is probably still in no mood to help out her employer. Maybe Bryant Gumbel?

The other problem with the Sunday morning talk shows (GPS not included) is that folks are not being informed. We don’t learn anything?

They need to take a page out of the NPR playbook. Give a brief update on the latest news items then spend the rest of the hour interviewing the fella that wrote “Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety.”

Ditch your roundtable. Folks don’t want to hear Dem and GOP politicos blaming each other for DC’s ills. Oh, well!

We blew it last night at Fenway. What is our all-time record at Fenway?

Seventy-five years ago today they had the Hollywood premiere of “The Wizard of Oz!” I rate it the third best movie of all time.

Forty-five years ago today Woodstock kicked off.

We are 0-8 at Fenway of course.

It all fell apart for the team in the sixth inning last night. It was brutal.

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The Leader’s Slam

Congrats go to Ferguson, Missouri for getting known throughout the universe for all the wrong reasons! They even arrested a couple of reporters last night.

The 1998 ‘Stros were probably the best team we ever had. Heck, we went 102-60. We had six players with 200 plus at-bats that batted over .300 – name them?

According to the Twitter folks, there were over eight million mentions of Robin Williams after he left us. Some writer on Politico wrote it ain’t cool to post stuff after someone dies. Huh! Yeah, good luck!

I still don’t know what set off the publisher of The Leader. Here is his entire slam of the Mayor and City Hall:

We don’t spend much time at The Leader covering city government. I’m beginning to wonder if we should. Especially if no one else is going to do it.

In the Houston hierarchy of media, here’s how things typically work: You’ve got your big boys like The Chronicle, the local network news and, if we can stretch it, the Houston Press. Next you’ve got your talk radio folks and some wonderful niche news websites like CultureMap and SwampLot. Only after those can you begin to list newspapers like The Leader. In fact, there are more than 40 newspapers like ours around this city, and all of them (ideally) are geared toward covering specifically local news.

The Leader, for instance, cares a lot more about what’s happening on 19th or 43rd Streets than we care about what’s happening on Bagby Street. We care about the businesses on White Oak and Ella more than we do about the conglomerates down on Louisiana Street.

As a general rule, the only time we worry about what’s happening at City Hall is when their actions impact the lives of the people who live in the Heights, Garden Oaks, Oak Forest and all the wonderful pockets of neighborhoods in between.

It’s not completely foreign to read about city news in this newspaper. Some would accuse me of being on a crusade against the implementation of a certain historic preservation ordinance the city passed back in 2010. Of course, those accusers would only be half-right. I am not against historic preservation or even the ordinance; I am against the callous and capricious way the ordinance is enforced. But let’s not swerve too far off subject.

Maybe it’s the journalist in me, or maybe it’s from past experience, but over the past couple of months, I’ve paid a little closer attention to our city’s government. I’ve been incredibly disappointed in some of our city council members who have personally told me they would do one thing only to blatantly ignore that promise just two weeks later. I’ve been even more disappointed (if there’s something more than “incredibly”) in Mayor Annise Parker.

The city of Houston has myriad problems. While you don’t read much about it in The Leader, I sure hope most of our readers understand that our city is on a perilous financial slope. Whether it’s pensions we cannot fund, revenue caps that voters likely won’t remove, or suggestions that police begin limiting calls to our homes, our city is not in very good shape.

I don’t know that I would wholly blame Parker for those problems, but as one source told me this week, if there’s anyone we should blame, it is her. Parker has been in city government for almost two decades as a city council member, controller or mayor. She has been elected to serve us, and if her financial background didn’t give her reason for concern, then she has failed us tremendously.

My bigger concern with Parker, and members of our city council – including those who represent us directly – is that most of their energy has gone into fighting battles that don’t address our most important concerns.

Parker has been on a self-proclaimed (and self-serving) mission to pass what many call the Equal Rights Ordinance in Houston. I’ll steer clear of offering a personal opinion on the legislation, but I won’t steer clear of adamantly addressing the renegade approach Parker and City Attorney David Feldman have taken in making City Hall their personal playhouse.

We don’t have the time or space to give all the details of the ordinance, but earlier this week, a group of opponents – namely church organizations – presented 50,000 signatures to the city requesting a repeal of the ordinance. In order for a repeal like that to be placed on a ballot, opponents needed signatures from 10 percent of the total number of people who voted in the last mayoral election. In this case (and tragically, I might add), that meant the opponents needed a little more than 17,000 signatures to be placed on the next ballot.

Rather than allowing voters a chance to approve or defeat this Equal Rights Ordinance, Parker and Feldman began bending rules to fit their agenda. A very good source in City Hall told me they were able to kill off 35,000 of the signatures by finding one questionable name on a sheet of signatures and eliminating the entire sheet. City officials pulled out every red-tape trick they could find to get their desired result, and I have no doubt that was a concerted effort by our mayor.

Now, contrast that to what we experienced in the Heights in 2010, when Parker wanted to shove this Historic Preservation Ordinance past the voters. In this case, the city literally ignored the very same red tape they used to avoid putting the Equal Rights Ordinance before the people. In the historic instance, they used a shoddy ballot, allegedly broke the City Charter, and despite the screams of constituents, went ahead and ram-rodded some legislation that may not have passed if done properly.

When I talked to my source in City Hall earlier this week, some of the other examples of this sort of behavior made me cringe more. Remember the red light camera fiasco? In that case, Parker didn’t care if the votes were legitimate. She allowed that measure to go to voters because it suited her politically.

Remember the ordinance banning feeding the homeless? There was a petition to repeal that. According to my source, the names on that petition are still being counted – two years later.

Want to know the worst part about all of this? I don’t think there’s a single entity in this city that has the courage or stones to hold City Hall accountable. I don’t think Mayor Parker or her administration cares one bit what we, the constituents think.

It’s a sad commentary on a couple of things. First, our government runs like we work for them, not the other way around. Second, and most devastating to me, the media – the “big boys” of the media – are too busy trying to cut expenses and shoulder up with government that they’re scared to stand up when our elected skirt their jobs.

Moises Alou (.312), Baggy (.304), Derek Bell (.314), Sean Berry (.314), B-G-O (.325), and Richard Hidalgo (.303) all batted above .300 of course in 1998.

We start a four game series this evening at Fenway.

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Very Brief

A while back, something went wrong when I synced my mobile gizmo with my computer. A bunch of my phone numbers got all confused and were assigned different names. Very few listings survived. So much for technology.

Jose Altuve leads the AL in batting average at .339. Who is second in batting average in the AL?

I tweeted this last night:

“We had it all, Just like Bogie and Bacall. Starring in our old late, late show. Sailing away to Key Largo” #TogetherAgain #LaurenBacall

It got multiple retweets.

In the past couple of days we lost two of the greatest actors of all time.

The City of H-Town is looking at proposals on how we recycle our trash. I don’t know about that. I think we need to be educating and encouraging folks to recycle the right way.

Robinson Cano of the Mariners is batting .330 and is number two in the AL.

The news from last night’s win at The Yard went national as some fan from out of town went home with both of Chris Carter’s dingers – cool.

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That Ad Nextdoor

Commentary belongs to one of those “nextdoor” chat or email groups. Personally, I prefer that folks stick to the basics. Who was the victim of a crime? Who saw a suspicious vehicle? Who saw folks casing a neighborhood? When is the next meeting on something that is going to happen in the ‘hood? Who is getting their ditches dug? Who found some kitties or puppies?

If someone is looking for a painter or mechanic or plumber I stay away from recommending. I don’t want to recommend someone and they end up not being satisfied with the work. I don’t want a neighbor mad at me or thinking I am in cahoots with the folks I recommended.

Lately, folks have gotten into the restaurant critic business. They have eviscerated the new eatery that opened on Studewood and White Oak. A new eatery has just opened on North Main. I wonder how they will be welcomed by the online ‘hood.

The KC Royals are in first in the AL Central. Name their skipper?

Here is a good piece from Texas Monthly’s Erica Grieder on the Team Davis ad:

On Friday, Wendy Davis released a 60 second TV ad–her first TV ad in this year’s gubernatorial campaign, and the first campaign ad I can think of that’s caused me to ask myself if this is the kind of situation where an outbound link should be accompanied by a “trigger warning.” Trigger warning, just in case: the ad, which you can watch on YouTube, relates to a 1993 rape case, and includes a few moments of dramatic re-enactment.

At issue is how Greg Abbott responded to the case in 1998, as a justice on the Texas Supreme Court. The rapist was a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman working for an independent contractor that distributed Kirby vacuum cleaners. The victim had sued Kirby for damages, arguing that Kirby had a responsibility to screen its salesman, but Kirby disavowed any liability, because the rapist was employed by the distributor, not by Kirby. Six of the justices agreed that the victim should have the right to sue Kirby itself. Abbott was among the three who dissented. (See Christy Hoppe at the Dallas Morning News and Gardner Selby at PolitiFact Texas for more details on the case itself.)

I had a mixed reaction to this. As a moral question, of course Kirby had some responsibility in this situation. The fact that the company had shunted the business of actually selling the vacuum cleaners to independent contractors, and sought to wash its hands of any problems that might result from that model, makes them more culpable in that sense, not less. Legally, too, the Court’s decision strikes me as the correct one. Abbott notes in his dissent that Kirby’s contract with the distributor explicitly stated that Kirby wouldn’t control the hiring. The majority opinion sticks closer to common sense: insofar as Kirby’s business model was based on in-home sales of Kirby vacuum cleaners, Kirby had a “duty of reasonable care” to take some precautions against dispatching violent sexual predators into sedate suburban homes.

All of that being the case, I can see why Davis would cite Abbott’s dissent as evidence supporting an argument that her opponent has, throughout his career, been systematically cavalier about consumer protections and public safety and overly lenient to monied interests. She’s touched on that argument at previous points in the campaign, as in July, when the campaign cheerfully made hay over Abbott’s inexplicable suggestion that Texans worried about where explosive chemicals are stored can “just drive around” their town and ask people.

But that’s not exactly what Davis is doing here, is it? The ad–its title, bizarrely, is “A Texas Story”–refers to that line of argument in its final frames, with a few words float up: “Another insider. Not working for you.” But nothing in the ad establishes, or even suggests, that Abbott had any cronies or donors at Kirby. The implication of the ad, with its somber gray palette and stalker-cam angles, is that the attorney-general is some kind of rape apologist. “Thank God this time Greg Abbott lost,” the narrator intones at the end, as the camera pans over a yard littered with symbols of shattered innocence (capsized tricycles). Yikes. I’m glad the woman was allowed to sue Kirby in the end, but “Thank God” makes it sound like Abbott wanted to give the rapist a pardon and a reference letter for a job as a high school volleyball coach.

I can’t shake the feeling, then, that this ad is sort of a seance intended to summon the ghost of Claytie Williams. It’s not a foolproof strategy, for several reasons. Abbott is not Williams; the election is less than three months away; most polls show Abbott leading by double digits; Williams, come to think of it, is not dead. Still, at least it’s a strategy, and whether Davis’s ad is in good taste is a different question from whether the ad will be effective. On the latter front it may be more successful. Certainly it’s received more attention than Abbott’s first TV ad, which features a testimonial from his mother-in-law.

Ned Yost of course is the skipper of the Royals.

We should have won last night.

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In yesterday’s Chron sports section there was a big feature story on the 1994 ‘Stros. We went 66-49 that year. 1994 was also the season the players went on strike and the World Serious was cancelled. Name our Opening Day starting pitcher back in 1994?

Who in the Mayor’s Office pi__ed off the publisher of The Leader? Was his phone call not returned? Is his garbage not being picked up? Does he have a big arse pothole in front of his house? Does he have too many loose dogs running around his neighborhood? Did his car get broken into? He really put out a scathing editorial on the Mayor in the latest edition. It is headlined “City Hall needs accountability”. For now you can only check it out in the hard copy. Here are bits:

“My bigger concern with Parker and members of our city council – including those who represent us directly – is that most of their energy has gone into fighting battles that don’t address our most important concerns.”

And:

“I don’t think Mayor Parker or her administration cares one bit what we, the constituents think.”

Ouch! Somebody needs to ‘splain to me what this is all about. His readership includes neighborhoods that helped get the Mayor elected.

Commentary for the most part approves of comments submitted unless they are extremely offensive. I even put up those that are critical of Commentary. For the most part I trust that folks that comment got it figured out. Here is one comment in response to the “Limoinsider”:

“Electricity bills tripled after deregulation? The writer is on drugs. Ours is less than it was. In addition, the writer is a disingenuous shill for the rent seeking potentates that run the current monopoly. Hopefully Uber will make Yellow Cab et al pick up their game.”

I don’t know if getting personal with the “Limoinsider” was necessary, after all, folks kind of figured out if you call yourself “Limoinsider” you are on the side of the limos and taxis. Oh, well.

Since yesterday morning I have seen four AG Abbott “Madrina” ads and one Team Davis “Assault” ad.

Pete Harnisch of course was our starting pitcher back on Opening Day of 1994 as the ‘Stros beat the Expos in 12 at the Dome.

Where has the season gone? After the Twins three-game series that starts tonight at The Yard, there are only two more homies left. Well we took two of three from the Rangers.

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What H-Town Wanted

Ryan Howard of the Phillies smacked a grand salami off of us last night in the bottom of the eighth and snatched a 6-5 win from us. How many career grand salamis does Howard have?

Joe L. Jordan, Editor of the Limoinsider Report, put the following out yesterday on the City letting Uber and Lyft play in H-Town. Uber and Lyft were operating without permission and I really don’t think they will play by all the rules laid out in the new ordinance.

The City for sure is not going to add staff to make sure things are running smoothly. They didn’t on payday loans and they won’t on this. It will have to be up to Yellow Cab and the limo folks to put together a monitoring division and pass the results over to the City. That’s what H-Town wanted! Here is the Limoinsider Report:

Last night, UBER Lobbyists and the ten Houston council members who supported them were basking in their glory and one can only presume that the champagne, caviar, oysters Rockefeller and prime angus beef brisket flowedfreely.

The Limousine, Taxicab and Jitney companies, working together shoulder-to shoulder fought the good fight and kept the UBER you-know-whats at the city gates for sixteen long months. The estimated cost for UBER to penetrate our market is in the millions. (Chump change for billionaires)

We made UBER and Lyft blink and forced them to submit to degrading and insulting requirements that they evade in all other cities.

As Houston Mayor Parker, said, “We hope this ordinance (Chapter 46) will be a model for all cities.”

HERE’s THE DEAL:

1) All UBER/Lyft drivers must submit to:

a) Fingerprints and full FBI background check
b) Mandatory drug tests
c) Physical exam by a doctor

2) All UBER/Lyft vehicles must be rendered to Harris County for annual Ad Valorem Property Taxes. (Estimated $500-900 for a newer SUV)

3) All UBER/Lyft vehicles must submit to annual vehicle inspections by City of Houston Inspectors.

4) UBER/Lyft, Taxicab, Town Car and vans must be removed from service at seven years or 150,000 miles, whichever comes first. Stretch Limos can
go ten years.

5) UBER/Lyft drivers must pay 2% of gross revenues annually to the city. UBER and Lyft agreed to provide income data on each driver. (That’s a first in the USA) (20% to daddy UBER, 2% to the city and a price war with Lyft. Boy that will really attract new drivers) (Gypsy operators, anyone?)

6) UBER and Lyft (And Limo and Taxi) must have 3% of their vehicles as wheelchair accessible vans. Houston is the first city to force this on UBER. Council is to be commended for this provision.

BONES THROWN TO THE TAXICAB INDUSTRY:

1) Street hails now permitted.

2) Taxicabs will be allowed to do surge pricing during busy times and special events. (Same privilege extended to UBER/Lyft)

This will have the unintended consequence of ripping off all Houstonians when they need hired transportation the most. Taxis and UBER will monitor each other’s prices in a monkey-see, monkey- do marketplace.

UBER is actually a German Language acronym for “UBER VERKAUFSPREIS”(Over-Retail Price)

During the New York massive (3 1/2 inch) snowstorm, Jerry Seinfeld’s wife was charged $487 to take her daughter to a sleepover 14 blocks away. Drunks in San Francisco will pay $200 to go home TONIGHT from bars at 3 AM. New year’s Eve? Fuhgeddaboutit.

Fast-thinking cab operators can undercut those prices by $5 on their Hailacab App and steal all the UBER/Lyft millenials and yuppies. Hey, it’s all about free-market competition, right?

The Texas Legislature de-regulated electricity prices three years ago. How’s that working for you? (Most people’s home electricity bill tripled)

UBER/Lyft and Taxis will now do the same thing. $40 for an UBER ride that used to be $15 in a cab? Hey, it’s rush hour buddy, wait until 2:00 PM when the surge kicks out. It’s happening all over the USA.

You asked for it; you got it. You can always thank your Mayor and Council later. They really look out for themselves (Excuse me, I mean you)

ITEMS NOT ADDRESSED BY THE ORDINANCE

1) Airport permits and fees. Airports in major cities are their own little fiefdoms and make their own rules. It remains to be seen how they will deal with the upstarts. Holding lots? Transponders? Annual fees? Get your wallet out UBER, and be ready to cough up big bucks.

2) Hours of Service (Sleep deprivation) and Driver Distraction (Too many electronic gadgets on the dashboard) were conspicuously absent from discussion. Might have come up if any of the lobbyists for either side thought it worthy of consideration.

IMPEDIMENTS TO NEW UBER DRIVERS

1) In addition to the above, how about $520 a year to RENT the UBER dinosaur 3G phone? (Happening right now in Seattle)

2) UBER in other cities downgrades SUV’s and sedans from UBER black to UBERx (one third the fare) when they are more than three years old. Who you gonna complain to? You’re an independent contractor, sucka.

3) Turn down runs you don’t want? They keep track of all refused runs and it affects your “Score”. If it drops down below 4.5 out of 5.0, you’re history. Think a Limo company will want to hire you? No way. You’re damaged goods.

4) If all the billybobs wanting to make extra beer money driving part time file under Limo instead of TNC, they will be required to wear dress pants, a clean shirt and a tie 365 days a year. You’re cool with that, right?

SUMMARY:

UBER and Lyft aimed for the moon but splashed down prematurely in the Houston ship channel by the sewer outfall.

Their lobbyist expense account would go the moon if the dollar bills were all scotch taped together.

We kept Attila the Hun and the swarms of Mongol hordes, their liars, thieves and drug dealers, felons, undocumented illegal aliens and rapist drivers (Excuse me, I mean all the fine folks at UBER and Lyft) away from our Valhalla as long as we could, one of the last holdouts, like the Alamo.

I think the reason UBER spent so many millions to come here was to personally attack me and my city because I have caused them so much heartburn, angst and sleepless nights in cities all over the world. I am their biggest enemy and worst nightmare and I will continue in that capacity until the end of time.

The enemy of safe, regulated, legal public transportation is UBER and Lyft (Between them they have over 800 tickets for operating illegally on Houston streets the last four months)

The solution to UBER and Lyft is Jihad.

We will be watching every little step they make in Houston and we will be vigilant and vigorous in demanding that all the onerous regulations imposed on them by the Houston City Council will be strenuously enforced 24/7/365.

Again, I thank and praise my cohorts and fellow warriors at Yellow Cab and Liberty Cab, the Washington Wave Jitney and the 300 licensed legal Limousine Operators for all working together as one in this battle against the crooks and forces of evil. The council meeting yesterday for final arguments before the vote was five hours without even a bathroom break. Our minds are numb and our tails are sore, but we fought the good fight and put our boots on the throats of UBER and Lyft and forced concessions they have never surrendered elsewhere.

I truly feel that the valiant efforts of the “Band of Brothers” of legal, licensed operators comply fully with the exhortation below:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” ― Theodore Roosevelt

So the game is not over. To the contrary, it has just begun.

The referee has blown his whistle and it is game on!

Hurry up and get out here on the playing field, UBER and Lyft……

So we can whip your ass.

AG Abbott and Team Davis announced they were putting out ads. How much are they spending on the ad buys?

Today is a good day to pick up a hard copy of the Chron. Lisa Falkenberg has a must read piece on burnt orange affirmative action. Nice job again Falkenberg!

Ryan Howard has 13 career grand salamis of course.

The two lousiest teams in the AL meet this weekend at The Yard. Sigh!

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Over?

I am thinking Team Davis does not think much of Burkablog. Here is his latest headline and take:

What Governor’s Race?

With three months to go until the general election, there isn’t much reason to talk about the governor’s race. It’s over. In fact, there was no governor’s race. The only good day Wendy Davis had was the contretemps with Abbott over his keeping the location of dangerous chemicals secret, an exchange that Davis clearly won. Otherwise she has little to show for her efforts.

It’s not entirely her fault. The larger problem is that the Democratic brand in this state is so damaged. The party lacks the infrastructure to win an election. The idea of turning Texas blue this year is a pipe dream. Greg Abbott is no ball of fire, but Republicans have figured out a simple formula to winning the race: just mention Barack Obama’s name at every opportunity. It’s the only strategy they need.

Well, here we are on August 7, less than three months from Election Day, and as a Dem do you feel good about our chances? Over?

Name the former ‘Stros closer who is number five on the list of all-time career saves?

The Uber and Lyft folks prevailed at H-Town City Hall yesterday. In the beginning I didn’t think they would but I guess they did a better job of selling their services. It is what it is. I think it is a bad idea and will only create problems down the line. When that happen, those that supported will of course not claim ownership. That is always the case.

One of the winning side lobbyists tweeted this out yesterday during the debate:

(Council Member Mike) Laster amendment for 24/7 commercial coverage dies a Fiery death! #houcouncil.

I don’t know about rubbing CM Laster’s nose in the dirt. That is kind of like celebrating after a sack.

Billy Wagner of course has 422 career saves.

The bad ‘Stros showed up last night in Philly and we got mauled. We are now only two games ahead of the Rangers.

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Well today at H-Town City Hall the Taxi-Limo-Uber-Lyft issue will be settled for now. We will see who prevails. I will be watching on the flat screen.

Nobody is watching the ‘Stros on TV these days because they aren’t a good team and because a huge chunk of the H-Town area isn’t plugged in so to speak so you probably didn’t see the 15 inning 5 hour loss against the Phillies last night? Name the skipper of the Phillies?

Remember back in 1984 – 30 years ago – when Wendy’s rolled out their “Where’s the beef?” ad with the elderly lady that went after the Big Mac and the Whopper. Then remember when Walter Mondale took the line and used it against Gary Hart and scored some points during the Dem Prez primary that same year. Well Burkablog and Lisa Falkenberg are kind of asking the same question on Guv Dude’s decision to send the cavalry to the border.

If you ask me, Guv Dude is kind of starting to look and sound like a combination of F Troop’s Captain Parmenter and Corporal Agarn from Fort Courage. Here is Burkablog:

To close this discussion, I simply want to say one thing: This was completely predictable. There was no reason to send the National Guard to the Border. There was no mission. There was no objective. It was just political theatre to make Rick Perry look like he was doing something, which of course he was not, because there was nothing useful the National Guard could do.

The real issue here is whether the immigration issue will end up doing real damage to the Texas economy. If we seal the border, are we prepared for the effects of that decision?

Here is Falkenberg:

With every headline he generates, I’m looking for the numbers. With every interview he does, I’m listening for the numbers. With every fear mongering claim he makes, I’m waiting for the numbers.

If the border is truly the warzone that Gov. Rick Perry suggests, if it’s truly under siege by an opportunistic wave of undocumented criminals, if it is hard hit by record infiltrations of people from terrorist countries, if it is indeed in desperate need of another state trooper “surge,” and a Texas National Guard deployment of 1,000 that will cost Texas taxpayers millions of dollars per week — surely, then, there must be statistics to prove it.

Or not.

Perry has offered no statistical proof of his theory that crime has increased in historically safe border cities as law enforcement contends with the wave of child immigrants flowing in from Central America.

Asked for proof, Perry’s office sent me to the Texas Department of Public Safety – an agency that is far from a beacon of transparency.

When two of my colleagues recently requested data on how DPS “surge” efforts along the border have affected drug seizures and other crime, DPS refused to disclose the information and diverted the request to the Texas Attorney General. The agency didn’t give a good reason, except to cite, quite literally, every exemption in the book to avoid turning over the numbers.

DPS did provide one interesting figure to other Chronicle reporters, Lomi Kriel and Mark Collette – 36 percent. But that supposedly represents the percentage decline in apprehensions of people entering the country illegally starting in late June.

Of course, Perry attributes that drop to his decision in June to send a “surge” of DPS officers to the border.

But local border officials insist crime was never up following the influx of child immigrants. And experts interviewed by Kriel and Collette say the decline is more likely the result of seasonal migration patterns and publicity over the humanitarian crisis.

“This is a good media event, but it’s not practical, it’s not going to work,” Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia was quoted saying about the National Guard deployment. “It’s creating the perception that we’re in a violent crime zone of some kind, and we’re not.”

Meanwhile, the Texas governor, with two dark-rimmed eyes on the White House, is making the border photo ops and TV news circuits with the same cowboy swagger – albeit without the boots. He says he gave them up because of back problems, not to cater to the delicate sensibilities of northeastern voters.

But it’s clear he’ll do anything to stage a comeback after his disastrous oops-plagued 2012 presidential campaign. Anything, including trying to scare the daylights out of Americans concerned about the border.

And what’s scarier than surging crime, complete with terrorists?

In June, Perry tried to attribute the record number of non-Mexicans crossing the border to people “coming from states like Syria that have substantial connections back to terrorist regimes and terrorist operations.”

PolitiFact Texas found that less than 5 percent of the “other than Mexico” apprehensions involved people from so-called terrorist states or safe havens. The web site rated Perry’s claim “Pants on Fire.”

Perry was back at it again in July, telling Glenn Beck that more than 3,000 homicides were committed by “illegal aliens” over the past six years. Again, PolitiFact looked into it. Baseless. Perry was slapped with another Pants on Fire rating.

This past Sunday, Perry went on CNN’s “State of the Union” and claimed that the United States is at “historic record highs” of individuals being apprehended on the border from countries with terrorist ties such as “Pakistan or Afghanistan or Syria.”

Again, Pants on Fire.

Now, that’s the designation PolitiFact reserves for the worst political claims, the ones that are inaccurate to the point of ridiculous. The nice folks at PolitiFact Texas are too polite to call Perry’s claims what they really are.

I’m not.. They’re lies. Lies that Perry mixes with innuendo, half-truths, and hyperbole.

Perry often Tweets out editorials and so-called “news” stories that feed his chosen narrative of mayhem on the Rio Grande.

One recent “exclusive” FoxNews.Com report promised in its headline to reveal a “disturbing trend” of brazen attacks against border security by gangs, drug and human traffickers. The report, citing a leaked document, was vague and provided only raw numbers with nothing to compare them to.

The first paragraph mentions how police officers were wounded recently in an hours-long standoff with a gang member wanted for murder. No doubt, it was a horrible incident. But the gang member wasn’t one of the “illegal immigrants” the report warns about. He was a U.S. citizen, according to interim Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra.

“The story is conflating domestic issues with border issues to make it look like it’s worse than it is,” said Larry Karson, a former U.S. customs agent who is now an assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Houston Downtown.

It’s the kind of misinformation that keeps the base stirred up and the uninformed alarmed. Then Perry comes riding in with a thousand National Guard troops to save the day.

“This is the one tool he has to put himself back in front of the national media,” Karson said. “And it’s working.”

It’s working for Perry. But it’s not working for us.

There’s no question that the flood of Central American pouring across our southern border is a crisis, one that requires substantial resources and responsible leadership to solve.

We’re not getting either.

Texas taxpayers will pay millions — $5.2 million per month for the DPS and $12 million a month for the Guard. It is not to “secure the border,” as Perry claims. It is free political advertising for a career politician’s next misguided campaign.

What the heck, here is Burkablog on same-sex marriage and the sign of the times:

Wouldn’t it be nice if Texas were to catch up to the modern world, for once? I’m addressing the issue of same-sex marriage here. What’s the use of fighting for a policy that without question violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws? In fairness to Greg Abbott, he knows he’s licked, but he has to try to justify the unjustifiable to satisfy parts of his constituency.

State after state has given up the fight against same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court has spoken. And yet Texas continues on its lonely fight. I don’t blame Abbott. He has to uphold the state’s laws. But he might consider making a statement that would acknowledge the growing national consensus that same-sex marriage is constitutional.

Hall of Fame great Ryne Sandberg of course is the skipper of the Phillies.

I actually watched the entire 15 inning game last night that ended at around 11:15 pm. The highlight of the evening was probably Alan Ashby commenting that he thought Philadelphia at one time served as the capitol of the United States probably in 1680. Oh well!

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Well Tom Hagen actually said it to Sonny the other way around, but he actually could be talking to the H-Town Mayor.

I am thinking the opponents of the H-Town equal rights ordinance underestimated the Mayor and supporters of the ordinance. I guess they didn’t think they would go over every petition page and signature with microscopes. They came in with sloppy petitions and got nailed by the Mayor and her folks. They must have forgot that the Mayor said this was personal. There is really no excuse for the sloppiness.

Speaking of underestimating, I guess we have to give congrats to Guv Dude for helping bring SpaceX and spaceport to the Lone Star State. To infinity and beyond I guess.

Name the current active MLB closer with the most career saves?

I am definitely for this. Check this from today’s Statesman:

Nearly all hand-held cellphone use while driving in Austin would be made illegal under a recommendation from the Public Safety Commission on Monday.

The recommendation will come into play for the Austin City Council when it considers fast-tracking the creation of a new ordinance during its meeting Thursday. A resolution set for vote would direct the city to create an ordinance by Aug. 28 and begin an approval process for any new cellphone laws, Assistant Police Chief Brian Manley said.

We need to do this. Too many times I have had to watch the other guy nearly run into me or run a red light while yacking on their cell. This is a no brainer and I am kind of surprised nobody has advocated this at City Hall.

Joe Nathan of course of the Tigers leads active MLB closers with 363 saves.

The Chron’s sports columnist has a piece today on the ‘Stros raising ticket prices.

The team is in Philly for three and can you believe that we are four up on the Rangers. The Rangers will be at The Yard this weekend.

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It looks like the pro H-Town equal rights ordinance folks are going to get the repeal effort signatures disqualified on technical issues. That’s the way it goes.

The ‘Stros are 47-65. What was our record a year ago today?

Kuffer gave mention to the Mayor’s race yesterday but said he really didn’t want to talk about it until after the November elections. Here is Kuffer: http://offthekuff.com/wp/?p=61987.

Well if folks are talking about and actually running, Commentary is going to talk about them. Mike Morris of the Chron is also going to talk about it. In fact, it is the lead story in today’s Chron. Morris lists ten potential candidates and even names a frontrunner. Of the ten, only one is a woman – Laura Murillo. Here is the article:

Most voters likely are focused on this fall’s gubernatorial race, but at Houston City Hall the political chatter is dominated by talk of next year’s mayoral contest.

Mayor Annise Parker is in her third and final two-year term atop one of the strongest strong-mayor forms of government in the South, leaving the seat open and the electoral intrigue high for the next city election cycle.

“Given the presence of term limits in Houston, it’s only in the years where you have a term-limited mayor that we tend to have the most competitive and vibrant elections, so 2015 is set to shape up as the most interesting and exciting mayoral race since 2009,” said Rice University political scientist Mark Jones. “As would be expected in a race for the most prominent and powerful local executive position in the state, we have a field of very high-quality candidates.”

The list of possible candidates thus far includes mainly those who have held or sought public office before, though analysts said the guessing game at this point is difficult.

“There are always people who get in the race who no one expected and people everyone expects to run who don’t,” said Houston political consultant Mustafa Tameez. “At this early stage, rumors are often floated about people as an insider game.”

The list of rumored or confirmed candidates includes:

Chris Bell, a lawyer who was elected to City Council in 1997, to one term in the U.S. Congress in 2002, was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2006, and ran unsuccessfully for Houston mayor in 2001;

City Councilman Jack Christie, a chiropractor in his second term;

City Councilman Stephen Costello, an engineer in his third term who chairs the council’s budget committee;

Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, who is in his second term, having served on City Council and, for 23 years, in the Houston Police Department;

City Councilman Ed Gonzalez, who spent 18 years with HPD before being elected to City Council in 2009;

Ben Hall, an attorney and ordained minister who was city attorney from 1992 to 1994 and who lost to Parker in last year’s mayoral race;

City Councilman Michael Kubosh, a bail bondsman in his first term who has helped lead several petition drives to overturn city policies;

Laura Murillo, the president and CEO of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce since 2007;

City Councilman Oliver Pennington, a retired attorney in his third term who chairs the council’s ethics committee.

State Rep. Sylvester Turner, a Democrat and a Harvard-educated lawyer who was first elected to the House in 1988 and who is vice chair of its appropriations committee; he ran unsuccessfully for Houston mayor in 1991 and 2003.

Turner the frontrunner

In what is sure to be a crowded field, observers noted a December runoff between November’s two highest vote-getters is assured. Thus, candidates’ must first aim to make the runoff, they said, and that means mobilizing a base that can swing the vote in a municipal election likely to see a lackluster turnout.

Jones and University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus agreed that of the presumed candidates, Turner – who has publicly declared his intentions – is the frontrunner, thanks to likely support from black voters, who are a large base, and many progressives.

Turner’s frontrunner status could change, they said, if Garcia enters the race. The Democratic sheriff has crossover appeal with some conservatives, they said, and solid name recognition. As a county officeholder, Garcia would have to resign his post immediately upon announcing his candidacy.

Lots of angles

As the only female and only Latina to have declared thus far, Jones said, Murillo could enjoy an advantage that, with her track record, might get her into the runoff if she proves an adept campaigner. Pennington seeking to mobilize conservatives is a sound strategy to make the runoff, Jones said, though it’s less clear that approach would succeed after that.

By contrast, Costello’s centrist approach would make him a formidable candidate in a runoff but could prevent him from getting there without an obvious base, Jones said; Republicans dislike his support for the ReBuild Houston drainage fee and Democrats don’t claim him as one of their own.

Political observers had differing views of which candidates are likely to benefit from the issues likely to dominate discussion next year as Houstonians gripe about terrible roads and the city faces a daunting budget deficit and, perhaps, a November vote on whether to alter a decade-old, voter-approved cap on city revenues.

“It probably plays well into the hands of people who’ve been more experienced at dealing with these kinds of crises,” Rottinghaus said. “Other people would have to make a good case that they could step into that role right away, negotiate with all the players and find a reasonable solution.”

Too early to tell?

Jones said financial issues might mobilize conservatives more than would otherwise occur. Tameez downplayed the role of timely issues, however, saying each credible candidate will find a way to argue that he or she is the right candidate at the right time.

The bottom line, Rottinghaus said, is that speculation about next year’s politics are, perhaps, better left to next year.

“It’s like trying to predict what the Texans’ record is going to be,” he said. “It’s shaping up – there’s no doubt there are some blocks that have been put in place here. But we still don’t know about so much of this.”

A year ago today, the ‘Stros were 36-74 of course.

We got notified this past Friday that ticket prices were going up next season. The team reminded us that ticket prices haven’t gone up since 2008, which by the way was the last time we had a winning season. I am sure that the team got push back from season ticket holders this past weekend, so I guess I wasn’t surprised that they invited me to sit in Insperity yesterday. The grub was delicious.

During the homie we got swept by the Fish, took two of three from the A’s, and three of four from the Jays. Go figure!

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