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Archive for April, 2017

I’m skipping the MLB question today and instead asking what do Anna, Eleanor, Julia, Lucy, Martha, Michelle, Pam, Penny, Rita and Sadie have in common? Way too easy!

How many of you have seen those “Missing Senator” flyers with Sen. Ted Cruz’s mug that are slapped on utility poles throughout H-Town? They are funny if you ask me.

The Chron has a story about them but the story is not in the front section or City/State section. It’s on the front page of the Star Living (entertainment/style) section. What is up with that? Sen. Cruz is now entertaining us.   What a joke for sure! Here is from the article:

“When people see them, either they think, ‘Ha, that’s witty,’ or ‘Ha, stupid snowflakes,’ or ‘Ha, let me go to this website and see what the deal is,’ ” said Nisha Randle, a member of Pantsuit Republic.

“As soon as you see ‘Missing,’ you stop and you try to figure out what’s missing,” she said. “And that’s what draws everybody to it. They’re like, ‘Wait. That’s not a cat. That’s Ted Cruz.’ And then they start to read the poster, and they’re like, ‘Oh, snap. Yeah, Ted Cruz is missing.’ ”

In addition to publicly shaming Cruz, the flyers also publicize a “Ted Cruz Is Missing Town Hall.” Now scheduled for Saturday at Texas Southern University, it will, in theory, operate like any other senator’s town hall – except that it’s unlikely that Cruz will be there. Anticipating this, organizers have assembled a panel of experts to answer constituent questions.

“We’re throwing pebbles,” says Daniel Cohen, chairman of Indivisible’s Houston branch. “But you throw enough pebbles and you have an impact. It’s taken thousands of us, but it’s working. And it’s a pretty phenomenal thing going on.”

Here is the entire article: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/life/article/Ted-Cruz-once-the-beneficiary-of-Tea-Party-11070993.php?cmpid=btfpm.

Let me just say that the posters just add to the narrative that the fella is arrogant and aloof and doesn’t feel a need to have very much contact with his constituents. It also makes him look like a political chicken of sorts for refusing to hold town hall style meetings.

More folks in Texas dislike him than like him so the flyers don’t help him out so that is a good thing. Most folks in DC don’t like him either.   I guess he has to know that he is a very dislikeable fella so he thinks he is better off ducking us. Hats off to the folks who came up with the flyer idea.

Jeffrey Lord is an arsehole pure and simple. Yesterday, he compared Donald Trump to Martin Luther King, Jr. There is nothing to say other than from the line from a story on the internet yesterday:

“Don’t be upset with Jeffrey Lord, who is a proven imbecile. Be angry with CNN for casting him in that role,” wrote Marlow Stern senior entertainment editor at the Daily Beast.

Weasels and worms have way more class than this fella.

A trustee of the Houston Community College referred to Asian Americans as “orientals” and says she didn’t know the term was offensive. Huh?

In a Channel 13 news story, Rogene Calvert, who is a board member for the Organization of Community Advocates, OCA, formerly the Organization of Chinese Americans, called HCC Trustee Dr. Carolyn Evans-Shabaaz’s use of the term “oriental” “dated and reflective of a lack of basic knowledge of today’s Asian-American community. It’s a term that we regard as being very negative.”

Here is the entire Channel 13 story: http://abc13.com/news/hcc-board-member-under-fire-for-post-on-united-passenger/1870642/

I wonder where Evans-Shabaaz has been the last few decades? This is wrong and ignorant.

I told my parents I would come by on Good Friday and prepare them seafood meals on this day. My Mom said not to worry because older folks were exempt from fasting on Good Friday so they could eat anything they want.   Huh!

I checked it out and here is from CatholicCulture.org:

1) Abstinence on all the Fridays of Lent, and on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

  • No meat may be eaten on days of abstinence.
  • Catholics 14 years and older are bound to abstain from meat. Invalids, pregnant and nursing mothers are exempt.

2) Fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

  • Fasting means having only one full meal to maintain one’s strength. Two smaller, meatless and penitential meals are permitted according to one’s needs, but they should not together equal the one full meal. Eating solid foods between meals is not permitted.
  • Catholics from age 18 through age 59 are bound to fast. Again, invalids, pregnant and nursing mothers are exempt.

Mom was right – again.

Anna, Eleanor, Julia, Lucy, Martha, Michelle, Pam, Penny, Rita and Sadie can all be found in the titles of Beatles tunes of course. I told you it was easy.

We have three in Oakland this weekend.

Have a Good Friday and Happy Easter!

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PaperCity

We were down 5 zip last night and ended up winning 10-5. When was the last time we came back after being behind by 5 or more runs?

For the most part, PaperCity is a monthly magazine for and about H-Town’s rich folks – most of them white, for the most part. Its advertisers are of the high-end variety. I don’t have a problem with that. When Anthony Bourdain came to H-Town a few months ago to film his “Parts Unknown” show which runs on CNN, he didn’t feature any of the hot spots frequented by the PaperCity crowd, you know, the fancy eateries with the high profile chefs.

New Yorker recently had a lengthy feature on Bourdain and in the piece had a brief mention of the H-Town visit in which Bourdain, a white guy, said he didn’t want to include “white people” in the H-Town shoot. A white guy who doesn’t want to include white people on his show is not offensive to Commentary who is of the Latino persuasion.

I guess that didn’t sit well with a PaperCity writer who put this out recently:

From PaperCity:

Anthony Bourdain received plenty of love for the unconventional Houston episode of his popular CNN TV series Parts Unknown. The episode’s diversity was particularly praised. It turns out the bad boy chef turned travel savant achieved that with one simple edict.

“No white people,” Bourdain told producers about his vision for highlighting Houston according to a recent New Yorker magazine profile.

As PaperCity’s own Jailyn Marcel pointed out when the Houston Parts Unknown first aired, none of the city’s celebrity chefs even sniffed a bit of air time. It turns out most of them never had a chance to get on. Foodie power players such as Chris Shepherd, Bryan Caswell and Ronnie Killen were out from the moment Bourdain issued his “no white people” command.

It’s hard to argue with the results (though when it comes to race, someone is always going to object). Bourdain’s Houston show is one of the most critically-acclaimed episodes of Parts Unknown ever. Bourdain tells the New Yorker that he wanted to look at Houston “as a Vietnamese and Central American and African and Indian place.”

There is little doubt Bourdain accomplished his mission — no matter his methods. The episode provided a fascinating look at the Houston that many of the residents populating all the mid-rises and high-rises popping up don’t even know.

Bourdain comes across as a fascinating, almost tortured artist in the beyond extensive New Yorker profile (it runs a full 13 pages in the magazine — the New Yorker scoffs at what other publications try to pass off as “long-form” journalism). The article opens with a riveting scene detailing the meeting between Bourdain and then-President Barack Obama at a barebones noodle shop in Vietnam — and gets into the dissolution of his marriage with Ottavia Busia. It also delves into some of Bourdain’s hilarious chef feuds.

But some of the most interesting stuff is how determined Anthony Bourdain is to not do what’s expected on his ever-evolving TV show. Sometimes that requires issuing a “no white people” decree.

Here is the H-Town mention from the very lengthy New Yorker piece on Bourdain

At this point, Éric Ripert observed, Bourdain’s show has “done the entire planet already!” Now, Bourdain says, the pleasure of making “Parts Unknown” lies in revisiting places to see how they’ve changed—Cuba five years ago is a different country from Cuba today—or in returning to a place with a fresh perspective. For a recent episode on Houston, Bourdain decided that he wanted “no white people,” and provided instead a look at the city “as a Vietnamese and Central American and African and Indian place.” Chris Collins suggested to me that the perpetual discontinuity of Bourdain’s life may have assumed a continuity of its own, as if jet lag were his natural condition. “I’ve often thought, How would he ever go on without the show?” Lydia Tenaglia said. “It is such an inextricable part of him—who is Tony, apart from this?”

Here is the entire New Yorker feature on Bourdain:

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/02/13/anthony-bourdains-moveable-feast.

I guess the PaperCiity take didn’t sit well with Bourdain. Here is from the Chron:

Last summer author, TV personality, and world traveler Anthony Bourdain came to Houston in search of the best culture and food that the city could offer.

While he was shooting footage for an episode of CNN’s “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” he discovered the city to be a very gritty, multicultural and tasty place. When it aired in October 2016 the episode was just as much a revelation to natives as it was to outsiders. 

Flash forward six months later and PaperCity writer Chris Baldwin finally decides to pan it for not including enough white chefs. 

Houstonia’s Katherine Shilcutt first noticed Baldwin’s blog post and wrote her own response on Tuesday evening. 

She was confused, like many people, as to why it took so long for Baldwin to get his blood up about the six-month-old episode, not to mention at a loss as to what exactly he was offended by. Baldwin pointed to a recent New Yorker piece in which it was revealed that Bourdain wanted “no white people” in his Houston episode. 

Bourdain responded to the story directly on Twitter. 

“This is some shameful, dishonest race-baiting click bait. All involved should take a hard look in the mirror,” wrote Bourdain, linking to the PaperCity piece himself. 

Here is the entire Chron piece:

http://www.chron.com/life/food/article/Anthony-Bourdain-takes-offense-to-Houston-11069034.php.

Much ado about nothing if you ask Commentary. It is funny though. So what if the PaperCity crowd didn’t get a Bourdain shout out. It is not the end of the world.

Commentary has said it before. Donald Trump played his voters for the suckers they are. See these tweets from yesterday:

Manu Raju‏Verified account@mkraju 40m40 minutes ago

Trump today shifted positions on Ex/Im Bank, Yellen, China currency manipulation, and NATO being “obsolete.”

Pulitzer Non-Winner Retweeted

Ryan Teague Beckwith‏Verified account@ryanbeckwith 3h3 hours ago

In a single day, White House reverses on: • Janet Yellen • Ex-Im Bank • China • NATO • Federal debt • Hiring freeze

I think that Steve Bannon fella is losing the battles. Bannon got played too. What a sucker.

When writing about MLB, Commentary never mentions the name of the Cleveland team.  I don’t even refer to them with the “T” word.  It is my way of protesting the caricature logo of the Chief Wahoo fella. You know what I am talking about. So, it was good to see that MLB is taking steps to bury the Chief once and for all. Here is from a Sporting News story:

The Chief Wahoo logo was prominently displayed at the Cleveland Indians’ home opener Tuesday, but that might not be the case in the near future.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is increasing the pressure on the team to abandon the caricature, The New York Times reported, and there are signs of progress on that front.

While the logo remained on the caps and uniform sleeves of Indians players Tuesday night, the Times noted it was not evident anywhere else around Progressive Field. While the uniforms remain the most visible use of the logo, an MLB spokesman said Manfred has made it clear to the team he wants the Indians to “transition” away from the logo.

“We have specific steps in an identified process and are making progress,’’ spokesman Pat Courtney told the Times in a statement. “We are confident that a positive resolution will be reached that will be good for the game and the club.’’

Native American groups and others have advocated for the elimination of the logo for years, saying the caricature of a smiling Indian is offensive. While the team has used it less in recent years, Indians senior vice president for public affairs Bob DiBiasio said there is still a balance to be struck between the two sides.

“We certainly understand the sensitivities of the logo, those who find it insensitive and also those fans who have a longstanding attachment to its place in the history of the team,” DiBiasio told the Times.

Now that sound like a very dumbarse thing to say. If you “certainly understand the sensitivities of the logo, those who find it insensitive” then get rid of it. That’s an easy call. For those “fans who have a longstanding attachment”, give them a free hot dog with the works and a beverage of their choice, and heck, throw in some peanuts, double heck, also throw in some roasted grasshoppers if they want.

Speaking of, here is more on the toasted grasshoppers:

According to Forbes, sales of toasted grasshoppers, served up by Seattle-area Mexican restaurant Poquitos, were brisk at Monday’s home opener.

In Mexico the dish is called “chapulines” and has been available here in Houston for years at award-winning eatery Hugo’s as an appetizer next to the salsa and guacamole. 

The candy booth at RodeoHouston has also been selling ranch-flavored grasshoppers for years now.

Over 300 orders were sold at Safeco during Monday’s opening day game, according to the Mariners, which amounts to about 13 pounds of bugs. They can be served up as a stand-alone side or inside tacos for $4. The lines at Safeco for grasshoppers were longer than lines for hot dogs and beer and they were sold out by the end of Monday’s game. 

Root Sports field reporter Julia Morales took it upon herself to try out the delicacy on Tuesday night during coverage of the Astros-Mariners night game, which the good guys won 7-5.

During the sixth inning Morales tried a few of the protein-rich bugs but reported that the taste wasn’t so great. 

Forbes reporter Maury Brown said that the grasshoppers were “salty, with a good kick of Cayenne pepper and chili lime salt” and that they go well with beer or tequila.

And we all thought that weird mashed potato and chicken popper waffle cone at Minute Maid Park was wacky.

On May 15, 2008, the ‘Stros fell behind the Giants 6 zip at AT&T and came back to win 8-7 of course.

It looks like our bats are coming alive – it looks that way and we have the day off.

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#SpringerDinger has five dingers and four are of the lead-off variety. How many base hits does he have thus far?

The H-Town Mayor’s office put out a press release yesterday that said pension reform has to happen or else. Check out the statement here:

Credit Rating Agency Puts City on Notice About Downgrade in Absence of Pension Reform

April 11, 2017 — Moody’s Investors Service has sent Houston a dire warning about the need for the Texas Legislature to approve the Houston Pension Solution. In its latest update on Houston’s $3 billion taxpayer supported General Obligation debt, the agency cites the “lack of a sustainable pension plan to address growing pension liability” as a factor that could lead to a downgrade in the city’s credit rating.

“This is a clear indication of what will happen if pension reform is not approved in Austin,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner.  “The city and Houston taxpayers cannot afford the increased borrowing costs that will accompany a rating downgrade.  We have presented state lawmakers with a Houston solution to a Houston issue.  Now, it is imperative that they approve it without upsetting the delicate balances we have struck.  The stability of our finances is at stake.”

Houston’s current credit rating from Moody’s is Aa3 with a negative outlook.  In summarizing its rationale for the rating, Moody’s writes, “The City of Houston’s Aa3 rating reflects a large and regional economy whose recent performance has been tempered by decreases in oil prices, and underperforming revenues, contributing to a weakened but still adequate financial performance.  Additional considerations reflect high fixed costs, large unfunded pension liabilities (among the highest in the nation), as well as property tax caps.  Also considered is the city’s current reform plan, which if approved, could positively impact the city’s long term fiscal position and stabilize the credit profile.”  Moody’s is reserving any reconsideration of the existing rating until the conclusion of the legislative session in May.

If the legislature fails to pass reform, the General fund will incur over $130M in additional charges next fiscal year.

“Our current credit outlook remains intact, but that outlook relies heavily on the outcome of the Houston Pension Solution in the Texas Legislature,” said City Controller Chris Brown.  “Moody’s most recent credit analysis reaffirms that the time for Houston’s pension reform is now.”

After receiving earlier endorsements from the Texas House Committee on Pensions and the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs, the Houston Pension Solution is now awaiting floor votes in both chambers. The reform plan eliminates $8.1 billion in unfunded liability, caps future costs, does not require a tax increase and is budget neutral. The measure has strong support from City Council and two of the three employee pension systems as well as numerous other stakeholders.

Scare tactic statement? Not really because everyone already knows this. Was the statement intended to be a scare tactic? I can’t say for sure but they obviously are ramping up their efforts on the pension reform bill.

As the Mayor starts today’s city council meeting with pension reform talk.  The Mayor said that if pension reform fails this session, Austin (the legislature) owns it.  I don’t know about that.  Is that how it works?  Stay tuned!

Commentary said before that Sean Spicer lost all credibility on day 2 – period, so I really don’t have much to say about yesterday other than to point out what CNN put out yesterday:

(CNN) White House press secretary Sean Spicer forgot the first rule of politics during a press briefing on Tuesday: Never, ever compare anyone or anything to Adolf Hitler.

Ain’t it the truth! Ain’t it the truth!

You also need to have a lot better knowledge of key events in world history if you want to be press secretary.

I have to give Spicer equal time with this from AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) — White House press secretary Sean Spicer is apologizing for making an “insensitive” reference to the Holocaust in earlier comments about Syrian President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons.

Spicer says in an interview with CNN that he mistakenly used “an inappropriate, insensitive reference to the Holocaust.” He says there was no comparison and “it was a mistake to do that.” He adds, “It was my blunder.”

Spicer said during a White House briefing Tuesday that Adolf Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” That drew instant rebuke from Jewish groups and critics who noted it ignored Hitler’s use of gas chambers to exterminate Jews during the Holocaust.

Spicer was attempting to discuss the horror of the chemical weapons attack last week in Syria.

He probably got the word that his arse is on the line so he better apologize.   Of course, the next press secretary would have to lie just as much.

Is it common for elected officials to have twitter accounts with the padlock symbol? Why be a public official with a closed off twitter account? Just saying.

From the all I want for my birthday is a bowl of toasted grasshoppers department here is from MLB.com:

The season may be young, but one thing that’s making a lot of noise already is the new concession stand fare at Safeco Field — specifically the toasted grasshoppers

Throughout the telecast during Houston’s 7-5 win over the Mariners on Tuesday, announcers Todd Kalas and Geoff Blum spent many minutes discussing the new in-stadium treat with the team’s field reporter, Julia Morales. 

Morales had promised to try some grasshopper and made good on her word in the sixth inning. She took the plunge and ordered herself a cup of crunchy cooked bugs … but she just didn’t seem to enjoy it very much.

Yummy! Happy Birthday today Julia Morales!

#SpringerDinger has nine base hits this season and five are dingers of course.

We got 14 hits last night and won and are now 5-4.

 

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Support Your Local

Among active players on a MLB roster, name the player with the most career at-bats?

Commentary has said before that it is important to support your local newspaper by subscribing. Many folks don’t agree and I get that. But they do important work. Just ask the family that was put together last week with a little help from Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Lisa Falkenberg. Falkenberg also had a hand in how we now select grand juries here in Harris County.

Last year, Brian Rosenthal and the Chron put out articles on how kids were being denied special education programs. The articles were eye opening, heartbreaking, and disturbing.

Newspapers help break stories on local government corruption and just plain old coverage on what is going on at city hall, the courthouse, and at our school districts. If they aren’t around to let us know stuff, who will.

So I don’t have a problem rooting for the Chron or giving them a shout out for being named Pulitzer Prize finalists yesterday. Props to Joe Holley and Evan Mintz. Here is this from the Chron:

The topic that drew the incisive focus of Houston Chronicle editorial writers Joe Holley and Evan Mintz last year could not have been more Texan or more timely than guns: Each year, an estimated 3,000 gun-related deaths occur in Texas. For their superior work, the editorialists were finalists for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Writing awarded Monday.

Art Cullen of the The Storm Lake (Iowa) Times won the Pulitzer in Editorial Writing; Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of The Washington Post also was a finalist. The Chronicle also earned finalist standing in the category of Public Service for a package of investigative stories, editorials, cartoons and multimedia work about an arbitrary statewide measure that effectively denied special education services for children in public schools.

The series in the Chronicle’s finalist entry of editorials sought to drive home the point that gun-friendly social groups have a duty to ensure that powerful and dangerous weapons are treated with all necessary caution. Importantly, the series emphasized that efforts to protect the Second Amendment rights of gun owners need not endanger the rest of us.

“These pages have consistently been concerned about the pervasiveness of guns in our culture,” said Jeff Cohen, executive editor of the Chronicle’s editorial pages. “In their editorials, Evan and Joe have consistently recognized this is a complicated topic and have argued for gradual change in laws and in society.”

Here is the entire read: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/Pulitzer-finalists-11064117.php.

Joe also has the informative articles on Saturdays about Texas and Texans past and present. I have learned a lot about the Lone Star State from Joe’s articles.

The Chron was also named a finalist in the Public Service category. Here is from the Pulitzer website:

Finalist: Houston Chronicle

For exposing the grave injustice of arbitrary cost-cutting by the State of Texas that denied tutoring, counseling and other vital special education services to families, hindering the futures of tens of thousands of children.

Nice going Brian Rosenthal and others at the Chron.

Maybe next year.

Let me say that a lot of folks are not fans of United. I get that. They should have given the passenger a couple of years of free business class to anywhere in the world and said we’re sorry. Instead they went stupid.

Commentary goes to Baytown a lot these days and my Mom loves for me to make donut runs for her.  I wonder if she will like this from the Chron today:

Krispy Kreme will open a location in Baytown, its third in the Houston area, at 6 a.m. Tuesday.

The first 100 guests in line at 3422 Garth Road will get free Original Glazed doughnuts, with limitations, for a year, and a t-shirt. 

The new shop, which sells more than a dozen kinds of doughnuts, contains 3,460 square feet and a drive-thru. But you’ll have to get out of the car to be eligible for the free doughnut promotion.

The chain has grown to three locations since returning to Houston in 2015 after a long absence. The new store joins 8611 Westheimer near Fondren and 5603 Highway 6 North in the Bear Creek area.

Adrian Beltre of the Rangers leads all MLBers with 10,295 career at-bats of course. Beltre is currently on the dinged-up list.

We are 4-4 and waiting for our offense to show up.

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On Not Voting

Renée Cross, Jim Granato and Mark P. Jones have an eye-opening Op-Ed in today’s Chron on why some Texas registered voters didn’t show up at the polls this past November. From the Chron: Cross is associate director and Granato is executive director of the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs. Jones is Political Science Fellow at Rice University’s James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy and a research associate at the Hobby School.

This is a must read for local and state Dem leaders on how to combat low voter turnout in the upcoming 2018 general election.  Here is the beginning of the Op-Ed:

The state must do a better job of educating the state’s voters. The 2018 elections will be crucial for the state’s future, with positions ranging from U.S. senator and governor to county judge and constable on the ballot, and all registered voters need to understand the rules.

But as our study of registered voters who stayed home last fall found, confusion over the law may have kept some people from voting even though most could have complied. Latino voters were affected most significantly.

Now is the perfect time for attention to the issue as the Texas House Elections Committee on Monday takes up proposed voter ID legislation.

The University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs recently completed a report, “The Texas Voter ID Law and the 2016 Election,” based on surveys of registered voters who sat out the 2016 elections in the state’s two highest profile battleground jurisdictions: Harris County and Congressional District 23 (CD-23), which stretches from San Antonio to El Paso.

We found almost all registered voters who did not vote had a valid photo ID, and virtually no one was prevented from voting for lack of one of the seven state-approved forms of photo ID needed to vote in person.

However, these registered voters were poorly informed about the photo ID regulations, which are the foundation for revised ID legislation now being considered in the Legislature.

It’s no surprise that the Texas Secretary of State’s 2016 public education campaign left some voters uninformed about the voter ID law, given that only $2.5 million was allocated for the effort and the requirements changed just months before the election.

But legislators can correct that problem, even as they consider other changes to the law. We urge them to take that responsibility seriously in light of what we discovered.

Thirty-seven percent of registered voters in Harris County and 45 percent of those in CD-23 did not vote in November. But almost all of them could have. Altogether, 97 percent of registered non-voters in Harris County and 98 percent of those in CD-23 had an unexpired, state-approved photo ID. That rose to 99 percent in Harris County and remained at 98 percent in CD-23 when acceptable expired IDs were considered.

Lack of a state-approved photo ID kept almost no one – just one non-voter among the 819 surveyed – from voting in 2016.

Despite that, 1 in 7 non-voters signaled that lack of a state-approved photo ID was one of the reasons they did not vote. However, it was just one reason. Only 1.5 percent of non-voters in Harris County and fewer than 1 percent (0.5 percent) in CD-23 said lack of a state-approved photo ID kept them from voting.

Regardless, few actually understood the law.

Here is the entire Op-Ed that Dems need to check out: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/outlook/article/Cross-Granato-Jones-State-should-focus-on-11059285.php.

The GOP controlled state of Texas is not interested in educating voters on how to go to the polls. Don’t expect them to cough up more dough for an education effort because the folks who are not voting are Dem voters. Dem leaders need to look for third parties to come in and expend major resources on voter education initiatives. To do nothing would be a travesty.  It certainly is fixable.

The ‘Stros are 4-3. We have two players hitting above .300. Name the two?

One reason Dems have done poorly statewide is because we stopped talking to folks in some parts of the state so it was good to see this tweet:

ANTONIO ARELLANO and 2 others liked

Beto O’Rourke‏Verified account@BetoORourke 13h13 hours ago

Beautiful evening with amazing people in Longview! Thank you for welcoming me & sharing what’s on your mind. Can’t wait to come back!

That’s Gregg County by the way in East Texas.  It is good to see Beto in Longview.

Commentary sometimes has to let you know the bad as well as the good. I saw this tweet yesterday:

FOX Business‏Verified account@FoxBusiness 2h2 hours ago

Women in Elizabeth Warren’s office make less than men – report http://fxn.ws/2nELXQg

Then I saw this Boston Herald editorial form yesterday:

Another Equal Pay Day has come and gone.

It’s the day that marks how far into the next year women have to work to match the annual earnings of men (using the Census Bureau’s annual adjusted pay gap). This year that day was April 4, just in case you missed the celebration.

Now last year Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren marked the day with an impassioned statement calling it a “national day of embarrassment.”

“By the sound of it, you would think it’s some sort of historic holiday commemorating the anniversary of a landmark day that our country guaranteed equal pay for women,” Warren said. “But that’s not what this is about. Not even close.

“The game is rigged against women and families, and it has to stop,” she added.

So this year the Washington Free Beacon had a special Equal Pay Day surprise for Warren in an article documenting that the pay gap in Warren’s Senate office is nearly 10 percent higher than the national average. By their calculation, women working for Warren earned 71 cents for every dollar paid to men during the 2016 fiscal year.

The Free Beacon’s analysis included only full-time staffers who were employed for the entire year. That meant Warren’s chief of staff, Mindy Myers, and her male replacement were not included in the calculation. But the report found only one woman,

Warren’s scheduling director, making $100,000 or more, while five men earned six-figure salaries.

It’s not that Warren’s the only hypocrite on Capitol Hill; she’s just the preachiest.

Really? Oh, well. I am sure she has a good explanation for this.

Dante and I were doing some work up in my attic yesterday and also doing some cleaning out stuff. We ran across a life size cardboard cutout of President Clinton dressed in Elvis gear with a sax hanging around his neck. I don’t know when, how or why it was acquired. I don’t know what I am going to do with the darn thing.

Afterwards we went to eat and Dante drove. Yes, Dante is now driving. He has a nice ride for sure.

The Chron’s Jenny Dial Creech has a column today that pretty much sums up where the ‘Stros are after week 1. Here is how it starts:

One week of the baseball season is done.

There have been seven games at Minute Park.

The Astros are 4-3 after their 5-4 win over Kansas City on Sunday afternoon.

With one week down and 25 to go, there have been highs, lows, questions answered and questions raised.

It’s not time to plan for a World Series appearance. And it’s not time to give up on the Astros yet, either.

They have a lot to work out, a lot of improvement to make and a lot of unexpected positives to build on.

After a week, what they also have is our attention. The Astros remain one of the more intriguing teams in the league.

This team is going to be an interesting, at times frustrating and all-around entertaining one to watch this season.

Every game last week showed something – great pitching, strong parts of the lineup, weak spots. And on Sunday, it showed grit.

Here is all of Creech’s column: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/sports/columnists/dialcreech/article/Creech-Intriguing-Astros-have-our-attention-11061856.php?cmpid=btfpm.

Evan Gattis if hitting .357 and Marwin Gonzalez is hitting .333 of course.

Today is Opening Day for the Mariners so we play at 4 pm H-Town time.

We now begin a six game roadie.

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Over There

You set off missiles so now this is your mess. You now own it. F all of you for putting blame on President Obama. You guys now have the weapons so now it is yours. If you are in office, then it belongs to you. So F off.

100 years-ago today, George M. Cohan wrote “Over There.”

Over there, over there,

Send the word, send the word over there

That the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming

The drums rum-tumming everywhere.

So prepare, say a prayer,

Send the word, send the word to beware –

We’ll be over, we’re coming over,

And we won’t come back till it’s over, over there.

He wrote it the day after the USA entered World War One.

It worked then. I hardly think it works today. Just saying.

We are just into the sixth day of the MLB season so who are the only two MLBers with three dingers apiece?

The Trib has a piece today on pension reform and conflicts of interest so what else is news. Here are bits:

The Texas lawmaker championing a controversial House bill aimed at fixing Dallas’ beleaguered police and fire pension fund is also the father-in-law of a firefighter in that city.

But state Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, is far from the only state lawmaker this session to find that bills tackling some of the country’s most financially troubled pension systems intersect with their personal or business lives. And in a state with a broad definition of what constitutes a conflict of interest, each legislator gets to independently decide for themselves whether to recuse themselves from helping shape pension bills being considered this legislative session.

Flynn said the Dallas pension’s dire financial conditions — and not the fact that his daughter married a Dallas firefighter less than three years ago — was his driving force in authoring the legislation. The bill aims to address the city’s multibillion-dollar pension shortfall by overhauling the board, changing how and when some pension funds can be collected and increasing the amount of money the city and its public workers pay into it. Flynn said the personal relationship and his legislative work don’t constitute a conflict of interest.

“That’s almost offensive that anybody would suggest that,” Flynn said from the House floor Thursday.

And:

Meanwhile, pension committee member Rep. Rafael Anchia, a Dallas Democrat, chose to skip the meeting entirely because his law firm counts the city’s police and fire pension system among its clients. Anchia said he is not going to deliberate or vote on the bill because it specifically pertains to the Dallas retirement system and not pension funds in general.

“If there is even a remote possibility that the appearance of conflict can arise, I just want to avoid that altogether,” he said. 

State Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, also plans to refrain from voting on the bill, a staffer confirmed Thursday. The reason was unclear. Johnson was unavailable for comment as House members debated that chamber’s budget during a marathon session expected to last into Friday morning.

And:

State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, previously said that he may avoid voting on some pension matters this session because he works for a law firm that counts Dallas and Houston pension systems among its clients. But Whitmire was the sole Senate Democrat last week to break party ranks and vote for a bill that would require voters to weigh in when a city wants to take on pension obligation bond debt – a bill aimed squarely at efforts to address Houston’s pension troubles.

State lawmakers rarely recuse themselves from legislative votes because the definition of a conflict of interest is broad in Texas. Plus, there is no meaningful enforcement mechanism if existing rules are violated.

Here is the entire read: https://www.texastribune.org/2017/04/06/author-dallas-police-and-fire-pension-bill-apparently-has-son-law-s-fi/.

The conflicts won’t do a darn thing one way or the other.

#SpringerDinger and Yasiel Puig of course lead MLB with three dingers each.

We should be undefeated. We should have won last night. A few of our hitters are just not hitting.

The Royals are now in for three.

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Feel Better?

The ‘Stros are 3 zip. We haven’t started out 3 zip since 2001. Who did we beat the first three games of 2001?

Steve Bannon is off of the National Security Council and Rick Perry is now on the National Security Council. Going from DWTS to the National Security Council doesn’t seem right. Do you feel better though?

Just what did this clown expect when he tried to play hide-and-seek with intel. He became a dumbarse on national TV. He gets no sympathy from me. Here is from AP this morning:

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House intelligence committee says he will temporarily step aside from the panel’s probe into Russian meddling in the election.

In a statement on Thursday, Republican congressman Devin Nunes of California says that several left-wing activist groups have filed accusations against him with the office of congressional ethics.

Nunes says the charges are false and politically motivated. But he says it’s in the best interest of the committee to have GOP Congressman Mike Conaway of Texas temporarily take charge of the committee’s investigation.

He says he will continue fulfilling other duties with the committee and wants to talk to the ethics committee as soon as possible to defend himself.

During a news conference on Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan says an ethics complaint filed against Nunes by government watchdog groups would be a “distraction” and that Nunes should no longer lead the probe. However, Ryan says he is confident that Conaway “will oversee a professional investigation into Russia’s actions and follow the facts wherever they lead.”

Nunes has come under intense criticism for meeting secretly with White House officials to view intelligence regarding associates of President Trump.

He deserves this for sure.

The Dean is among the leaders of bail-bond reform here in Harris County. Bail-bondsmen are opposed for obvious reasons. Here is from the Chron E-Board today:

But what’s bad for taxpayers is good for bail-bondsmen, who claim they’ll go out of business if low-risk offenders can go back to their jobs and families without having to put up cash. Any business model that relies on an unjust system deserves to go bust. After all, they’re largely to blame for the slow pace of change in Harris County. Any Republican judge who advocates reform has to worry about a bail-bond-backed primary challenger who will accuse him of being soft on crime.

Here is the entire E-Board take: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/Simply-indefensible-11053556.php.

Don’t ask me about a shameless take I saw the other day in defense of the current system. Absolutely shameless.

Really, DC Dems?   Have you been dropping the ball? Why aren’t you paying attention? Here is from HuffPo:

Shortly after the presidential election, Casey Bailey, one of the dwindling number of Democrats in Montana, organized a Facebook group for his neighbors to vent about national politics. The driving question on everybody’s mind for those first weeks and months ― What can we do? ― had no obvious answer. By February, one started to emerge: President Donald Trump had nominated Rep. Ryan Zinke of Montana to be secretary of the Interior Department, and as Zinke rode his horse to his first day on the job, his old job became vacant.

To the surprise of Bailey and much of the rest of Montana, a familiar name emerged in the race to fill the job. Rob Quist, the legendary banjo-strumming folk singer with a populist streak and a penchant for public service, was running as a Democrat for Zinke’s seat.

Democrats chose their nominee at a state convention, where, as the first ballot turned to the second and then third, it gradually became apparent that Quist was deadly serious. He had barnstormed the state, urging locals to set up county parties, get active and come vote for him at the state convention. Bailey, whose journey into political activism had begun with a simple Facebook page, found himself a delegate at the gathering. The 37-year-old organic grain farmer cast his vote for Quist, who won on the fourth ballot.

In a state with 56 counties, at least six saw new Democratic central committees pop up in response to Quist’s statewide tour, said Nancy Keenan, the executive director of the Montana Democratic Party.

When Quist arrived last month in Fort Benton, Chouteau County’s biggest town, nearly 70 people gathered to hear him speak.

“We’re a very Republican, red, conservative area,” Bailey told The Huffington Post by phone in a recent interview, describing the first rally they held with Quist in March. “I was like, ‘Holy cow!’”

Now, his rallies regularly draw hundreds. It’s precisely the kind of organizing Democrats say is essential to rebuilding the party and taking back power. But back in Washington, Democrats are conflicted on how or whether to get involved in the race. Some aren’t following it at all.

Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) was the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s national mobilization chair in 2016. “Montana special election?” Clyburn said, when HuffPost asked if the DCCC planned to get more involved in the race. Somebody nearby told him the race was to replace Zinke. “Oh, I didn’t know about that,” Clyburn said.

Montana voters will go to the polls on May 25 to choose between Quist and a Republican easily panned as a cartoon plutocrat fresh off a statewide election loss. The president’s approval rating is at 35 percent, and a special-election loss in Montana would be a crushing blow.  

Here is the entire read: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/rob-quist-a-montana-special-election-nobody-is-following-could-deal-a-huge-blow-to-trump_us_58e3fcc5e4b03a26a3670c30.

Get it together, please!

I remember when this album came out. I remember bringing it home and listening to it for hours and hours. If anyone claims that this is the best album of all time, they won’t get an argument from me. If anyone also claims that this is the best album cover of all time, they also won’t get an argument from me. Here is this from a fascinating read from the LA Times:

The most ambitious reissue yet of an individual album from the Beatles’ catalog is coming May 26 with an expanded and newly remixed edition of the Fab Four’s 1967 pop masterpiece, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

Consistently ranked by critics and fans among the most influential rock albums of all time, “Sgt. Pepper” is being reissued in multiple formats and editions, including new stereo and surround-sound audio mixes along with nearly three dozen previously unreleased recordings from the same sessions.

“It’s crazy to think that 50 years later we are looking back on this project with such fondness and a little bit of amazement at how four guys, a great producer and his engineers could make such a lasting piece of art,” Paul McCartney writes in a new introduction for the anniversary edition of a project that started out as his baby.

In a 1970 interview with Rolling Stone, John Lennon said, “It was a peak. Paul and I were definitely working together.”

Ringo Starr, the quartet’s other surviving member, writes in his introductory remarks to the new edition that “‘Sgt. Pepper’ seemed to capture the mood of that year, and it also allowed a lot of other people to kick off from there and to really go for it.”

Indeed, the Doors’ drummer, John Densmore, told The Times recently, “We were working on our second album, ‘Strange Days’ [in 1967] and while we were working on it, we got an early copy of ‘Sgt. Pepper’ and we just died. That made us experiment more, inspired us to try the Moog synthesizer, made us generally be wild and just say ‘What the hell?’”

Purists still love to debate whether “Rubber Soul,” “Revolver” or “Abbey Road” are more consistently creative works than “Sgt. Pepper,” and McCartney has often said there are days he leans toward any of those four as his favorite of the band’s studio works during its relatively short but astonishingly fertile seven-year career as a recording unit.

But dozens of musicians, producers, record executives, music writers and others polled by Rolling Stone magazine in 2012 place “Sgt. Pepper” at the pinnacle of the publication’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time,” lauding it as “simply the best of everything the Beatles ever did as musicians, pioneers and pop stars, all in one place.”

Breaking from a long-standing tradition of avoiding fanfare over significant anniversaries since the group disbanded in 1970, McCartney, Starr, Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, and George Harrison’s widow, Olivia, this time gave approval for the grand-scale look back at “Sgt. Pepper.”

Giles Martin, the son of the Beatles’ original producer, George Martin, has collaborated again with veteran Abbey Road studios engineer Sam Okell on the new stereo and 5.1 multi-channel mixes of the album.

Perhaps the most tantalizing element for Beatles aficionados is the word that Giles Martin and Okell created the new stereo mix with direct transfers from the original four-track tapes, rather than the two-track master that has been the basis of all previous stereo versions of “Sgt. Pepper” for the last 50 years.

Why so much attention to a new stereo version of an album that has been available in stereo for five decades?

In 1967, George Martin and the Beatles spent the vast majority of their time focused on the monaural mix, which was still the dominant playback format in England at that time. The group members by and large were not even present during mixing of the stereo version of the album.

Hence the new anniversary edition is an attempt to create a mix closer to what the world might have heard if the Beatles and George Martin had cared about stereo at that point.

Among other facets of the new version, it restores the original playback speed of the ballad “She’s Leaving Home” rather than using the slowed-down version most listeners have heard on the existing stereo mix.

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/music/la-et-ms-beatles-sgt-pepper-50th-anniversary-20170405-story.html.

I am certainly looking forward to next month when it is released – again!

In 2001, the ‘Stros took the first three from the Brewers of course.

Hey, we’re 3 zip so let’s get to The Yard!

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Courtesy of my friend Hector de Leon, you know which top ten zip codes in Harris County turned out the most Spanish-surnamed voters this past November?

77449 with 7,760 voters. 77449 is the Katy area.

Second highest?

77084 with 6,377. This zip code is next to 77449.

Third is 77009 with 5,369. This is Northside and East of Studemont like Woodland Heights, Norhilll and Montie Beach.

Fourth is 77089 with 5,011. This is off the Gulf Freeway and Sam Houston Tollway.

Fifth is 77093 with 4,833. This is north of the Loop between the Hardy Toll Road and Hirsch Road.

Sixth is 77023 with 4,430. Eastwood area.

Seventh is 77015 with 4,317. This is I-10 E, Federal Road, Cloverleaf area.

Eighth is 77087 with 4,265. The Gulfgate area.

Ninth is 77433 with 4,252. The Cypress area in Northwest Harris County.

And tenth is 77017 with 4,020.   Area bordered by the Gulf Freeway and East Loop that has the Meadowbrook/Allendale neighborhoods around Howard Drive and Park Place areas.

Hector says that “only two of the top ten are inside the loop, four are mostly outside the 610 loop and four are outside the Beltway.”

Now you know.

I wonder if local Dems are working the Katy area?  Just saying.

Texas lost another Latino political legend yesterday. Here is from the Statesman:

John Treviño Jr., Austin’s first Mexican-American City Council member and a longtime force in the community, died at home around noon Tuesday after a short illness. He was 78.

“He was absolutely masterful at getting ‘todo el jugo’ (all the juice) out of each one of the city’s programs and other initiatives,” former Austin Mayor Gus García said. “I will always remember Johnny as the public servant who inspired so many of us to do our best to improve the lives of the people in our great city. We will always be indebted to him.”

After recently deceased Richard Moya’s breakthrough election to the Travis County Commissioners Court in 1970, John Treviño ran for City Council in 1973 but lost. He won in 1975 and served for 13 years.

“It was such a joy when he was first elected,” his niece, Hermelinda Zamarippa, said. “It was as if we had finally arrived.”

He was selected as mayor pro tem in 1978 and served for three months as acting mayor in 1983 after Carole Keeton resigned. Followers were disappointed when he didn’t run for another term in 1988.

“You can walk out,” he said then. “You can be booted out, or you can be carried out.”

In the early 1970s, Moya, Treviño, García and future state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos were marked by journalists as the “Young Turks” or the “Brown Machine.”

Here is the entire read: http://www.mystatesman.com/news/local/john-trevino-was-1st-mexican-american-austin-city-council/Txr4KKGqazglOibT8zrkyL/.

He will be missed but not forgotten.

A former H-Town mayor has a take in today’s Chron on pension reform. Here is the headline and here is how it starts:

White: Houston’s pension reform bill deserves support

By Bill White

Isn’t it always easier to tell someone else what to do rather than getting one’s own life in order? So it is with various levels of government. Nonetheless, the Texas Legislature should resist the temptation to micromanage Houston city government. It can start by passing intact the bill that gives Houston’s elected officials more flexibility in managing retirement benefits of city employees.

The issue has received plenty of local scrutiny. During the last city election campaign, all major candidates recognized the need to reduce benefits earned for future service in order to reduce the burden of future taxpayers and avoid cuts in essential city services. Those candidates offered a variety of solutions, so it was quite an achievement when a bipartisan City Council voted 16-1 in support of a reform plan.

Houston’s pension problems arose from benefit increases adopted in 2001 and based on flawed projections. I began fighting for reforms during my first months as mayor, in early 2004. Then, as now, no one could undo billions of dollars in obligations that had already become vested. Reforms efforts were also hamstrung by state law that prevents the city from reducing retirement benefits without an agreement by employee-dominated pension boards (for police and civilian municipal employees) or changes in state law (for firefighters.)

With momentum from public support in a May 2004 referendum and consensus on council, we did pare more than $1 billion in estimated unfunded liabilities. In the four years before our 2004 pension reforms, the police and municipal plan liabilities grew by $2.56 billion more than did plan assets; in the next four years, assets grew by $915 million more than did liabilities.

Here is all of Mayor White’s take: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/outlook/article/White-Houston-s-pension-reform-bill-deserves-11050314.php.

There is no MLB question today.

We are 2 zip which is better than zip 2 or 1 and 1. Got it?

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Just in case you didn’t know, HISD voters have an election coming up in less than three weeks. Early Voting in Person starts on April 24. It is on the recapture issue. Would you please listen to HISD Trustee Anna Eastman on the argument for voting yes? Folks should have listened to her last fall. Here is her Op-Ed that ran in yesterday’s Chron:

At least once a day, I find myself in a conversation about Texas public school finance. This is not entirely unexpected considering I serve as a school board trustee for the Houston Independent School District. This year’s debate, however, is more complex and vexing than the usual fights over funding cuts and will culminate with a districtwide election on May 6. HISD voters need to understand what’s at stake.

Simply, an independent school district in Texas goes into “recapture” and becomes a Chapter 41 or “Robin Hood” district when the ratio of the district’s property values as compared to the students enrolled in that district rise above the wealth level the state has determined is sufficient to fund those students’ education. We can vote to “purchase attendance credits” to swap dollars for kids who aren’t attending our schools and bring us into line with that wealth level per child, or we can vote for the state to detach commercial properties from our tax base and add those properties’ revenues to another district with lower property wealth.

In either scenario, HISD loses money. But the former is the better option. When we purchase attendance credits, HISD loses funds that pay for the district’s maintenance and operations expenses (think teachers, administration and other student services.) When the state detaches property, we lose maintenance and operations funds, too, but HISD also loses the ability to raise interest and sinking taxes on the detached properties, revenue we use to pay our bond debts and other facility costs.

We did just vote on this issue a few months ago, but we find ourselves with a different set of circumstances today. Last fall, we were expecting to pay $162 million dollars in recapture this year, either through a check to the state or by detaching property with values that could generate that revenue. As of today, that amount has been lowered about $77.5 million due to a reinterpretation by the Commissioner of Education of the way your local homestead exemption is calculated in the finance formula. The amount was also affected by our final property valuation from 2015 and student enrollment numbers. This point is critical because it highlights that the recapture amounts fluctuate and the amount we may be required to send in by check can decrease. But if the property is detached, the loss of the tax revenue from that real estate is permanent.

Most of us believe that the finance system as it stands today is broken on multiple levels. First and foremost, your Robin Hood dollars do not increase the overall pot of money distributed to schools – whether paid by the purchase of attendance credits or through detachment. Rather, the state lowers the amount it is contributing to the effort to equalize funding for all kids, and places those dollars in the general revenue fund, not for public education. We also know that the funding formula that includes “weights,” or more funding, for English language learners, low-income and at-risk children have not been revised in three decades. The system must be fixed to ensure Texas schoolchildren are receiving appropriate funding for their education.

In the meantime, Houston ISD should not willingly give away our largest revenue streams to other districts. As values rise, more property will be detached, and we will be left with homeowners carrying all of the load. Businesses that are at risk of paying a higher tax rate than their neighbor are likely to relocate or not choose us at all. That’s bad for HISD, and bad for Houston.

Voters should support the ballot measure authorizing HISD to purchase attendance credits on May 6.

Eastman represents District 1 on the HISD school board.

Don’t argue and just vote yes. Got it?

FYI: Anna is also my client and a very good friend.

The ‘Stros had a shutout Opening Day win last night. How many Opening Day shutout wins does the team now have?

The H-Town Mayor wants the PGA to move its annual tournament to Memorial Park. The Chron’s Brian Smith disagrees. I have to side with Smith on this one. Here is the beginning of Smith’s column from yesterday’s Chron:

I kept waiting for Houston’s mayor to suddenly reappear. Kick in the interview-room door, pry Russell Henley’s just-won PGA Shell Houston Open prize from his hands, and smash the glass trophy on the floor.

It was that kind of day at the Golf Club of Houston. And Mayor Sylvester Turner didn’t just take over a show clearly lacking big names on a rainy, gloomy Sunday. He proudly stole the spotlight and overshadowed all the professionals who play golf for a living.

“The city of Houston wants this tournament inside the city,” said Turner, speaking from the suburb of Humble and all of 18 miles from downtown Houston.

Just wait. There was more.

“I don’t think you can do things on the outskirts, outside the geographical limits of the city of Houston, and get the sort of benefits that would take place if things are done within the city,” Turner said.

And more.

“Can you imagine … to meet the PGA requirements, what a beautiful course that (Memorial Park) would be,” Turner said. “And Memorial Park is a destination park for people coming from all over the world, and certainly for people from the Houston area. Can you imagine what the attendance would be?”

In case you somehow missed it, Mayor Turner badly wants the PGA’s annual Houston Open to move from the burbs – where it’s been since 1975, first in The Woodlands, then Humble – to within the loop of the country’s fourth-largest city. Turner also stated that the Houston Golf Association is “very, very interested” in relocating the tournament to Memorial Park.

Misguided on Memorial

Which was interesting, because when the media tried to get HGA president/CEO Steven Timms to discuss Turner’s unexpected comments, all inquiring reporters received was a two-sentence statement.

“Houston Golf Association remains focused on securing a title sponsor for the Houston Open. We will share the news regarding our future home once plans are finalized and in place.”

Forget for a minute that Memorial Park hasn’t hosted the Houston Open since 1963, has “parking issues” and would require a major upgrade to become PGA ready. Ignore the fact that, contrary to the political grandstanding, Memorial Park is not a world destination for eager international tourists.

Here is the entire column: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/sports/columnists/smith/article/Houston-Open-works-just-fine-in-suburbia-Mr-11045349.php.

Commentary thinks it would be too disruptive to the park and to the surrounding area if you ask me and go on ahead and ask me.

Commentary doesn’t have anything to say about the QB situation and the Texans.

There was some negative online buzz yesterday on the new HTX sign the team has in center field under the team logo. Dumb move if you ask me. We are HOU or H-Town, not HTX.

We had to park in the theater district and take the light rail to The Yard yesterday. It worked out OK.

Last night was our third Opening Day shutout win of course.

We won last night and that is all that matters.

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Opening Day 2017

Commentary attended the Cong. Beto O’Rourke meet and greet yesterday at the IBEW Hall and let me say that I was mightily impressed. I am not exaggerating when I say there were about 1,000 Democrats in attendance and had a standing room only crowd. (I took the time to count the rows and seats per row.)   There was a lot of energy in the room.

Commentary has never seen this many Democrats show up for a Democratic statewide candidate for their kickoff event in a city. Come on! How much time has Cong. O’Rourke spent in H-Town to get this size of a crowd?

His speech hit the right marks. Some of his lines were delivered in Spanish and not a mangled broken Spanish – very fluent. A friend I respect a ton said he should have hit Sen. Ted Cruz harder. I don’t know. He’s got 19 months of hitting to go. He hit Donald Trump pretty good.

You do have to say he’s the real deal. He does have charisma. Rock star status? It certainly has that look and feel.

Another observation. I didn’t see any Dem elected officials at the event. I also didn’t see very many Dem Party leaders. So the O’Rourke candidacy is kind of organic in nature and not being force fed to us by Dem leaders, which is probably a real good thing.

I am glad I attended.

We begin our 18th season at Minute Maid Park this evening. So, this will be our 18th home opener. What is our won-loss record for home openers at The Yard?

I went back to check out the June, 2014 Sports Illustrated piece that has us winning the 2017 World Serious. In the piece, Bo Porter is still our skipper and Mark Appel and Brady Aiken are key members of the pitching staff. We sweep the Cubbies in four and go 106-56 in the regular season. Got it?

Donald Trump definitely never wanted to be a grown-up. Still name calling. Check out this from The Hill this past Saturday:

“When will Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd and @NBCNews start talking about the Obama SURVEILLANCE SCANDAL and stop with the Fake Trump/Russia story?” Trump tweeted just before 9 a.m.

And:

Meanwhile, Todd on Saturday brushed off Trump’s “Sleepy Eyes” tweet: “For those wondering, I slept well even tho I stayed up late watching the #msstate upset of UConn. #cowbell. Don’t feel sleepy at all though,” Todd tweeted.

What a joke for sure.

My good friend State Rep. Carol Alvarado sent this out Friday:

Dear Friends,

Today the Texas Tribune published an article about my bill HB 1087 that will make animal sexual abuse a crime in Texas for the first time. If you would like to read the article simply click HERE.  

Texas is one of only eight states that has not criminalized sexual assault of an animal and I am proud to author this piece of legislation.  This is not just about animals, sexual assault of an animal is the number one predictor of sexual abuse of a child.  It is imperative that we pass this bill for the protection of innocent animals and our children. 

Nice going, Carol!

The publisher of The Leader, a local community newspaper serving my ‘hood and other nearby ‘hoods, is on the H-Town Mayor’s program for sure. Here is what hit our front lawns this past Friday:

In 2015, Houston voters weren’t exactly unanimous in who they wanted to serve as our city’s next mayor. For that matter, politicians weren’t exactly sure who should assume the throne.

There were 13 candidates in the November 2015 election, and most all of them seemed qualified for election (I said “most,” not all).

Bill King and Sylvester Turner survived the first round of the General Election and if you think Trump-Clinton or Bush-Gore was close, the population of about two city blocks separated the candidates in the Dec. 12 runoff.

Turner received 104,711 votes to King’s 104,125. That’s half of one percent difference, if you’re keeping track at home, and after two previous runs at the office, Turner finally won his turn.

In a moment of brutal honesty, I’ll tell you that I didn’t think Turner was the right choice for mayor in 2015. I thought the city was headed toward fiscal calamity (we were) and Turner’s credentials and demeanor on the campaign trail didn’t match up with what I thought our city needed at the time.

My reasoning made sense, at least at the time. Turner had spent two decades in Austin serving as a state legislator. He had done that job without much opposition, and let’s face it, state and national political governance aren’t exactly the same thing as running a city the size of a small country. (The city of Houston has as many people as the entire country of Jamaica.)

In Austin, any decision that needs to be made goes through a sickening spectrum of red tape. Bills pass from interest groups and lobbyists and – sometimes – actual legislators. Then they go to a committee and get sent back for revisions. If they make it out of committee, they end up on 4th Street, where they are discussed over Stubbs, and then, if lucky, the bill gets compared to similar Senate bills where it may get changed, scrapped or actually voted upon.

Let’s put it this way: State and national politics are slow, slow going, and I was worried Turner would come to Houston with 20 years of experience in red-taping every single issue Houston needed to fix.

I’ve been wrong about a lot of things in my life. Most weeks, our readers are quick to point them out. But I don’t know that I’ve ever been more wrong about a political candidate than I was about Sylvester Turner. In fact, I’m not sure Houston could have gathered the most qualified candidates in the entire country and found someone better than the person we have sitting in the mayor’s office on Bagby.

Part of the reason is because I’m not sure Turner ever actually sits down in his office.

Recently, I sent a note to Turner’s communications director asking if I could spend some time with him talking about the issues most important to our area of Houston. Immediately, I was told the mayor’s schedule was booked through April. I got a note back later that day saying he could fit me in for 30 minutes.

The reason Turner doesn’t have much time for interviews with people like me is because he has spent his first 15 months in office confronting every issue previous mayors have only serviced with glancing admissions.

In his first week, Turner took on potholes and, if you haven’t noticed, those things usually get fixed within 24 hours of being reported. More importantly, our mayor has tackled a pension issue that has haunted our city for the past decade.

Maybe I’m so bullish on Turner because, in my opinion, the bar was set pretty low. His predecessor, Annise Parker, had served as the city’s controller from 2003-2009 and mayor from 2009-2015. She was a member of the city council from 1997-2003. Again, if you’re counting at home, that’s 18 years of being elected by the voters in Houston, and we never attempted to seriously address the debt piling up in pension funds to our city’s most valuable servants – police and firefighters.

It took Turner nine months to craft a pension plan that could be presented to his old buddies in Austin. Turner will admit the solution isn’t perfect. He likes to call it “actuarial sound,” meaning it keeps us from piling up more debt while fulfilling our obligation to municipal pensions.

Potholes and pensions aren’t the only things Turner has done. He’s already implemented enormous solutions to flooding, he has faced a budget shortfall head-on and figured out a way to keep this city running. He has addressed the homeless issue our city faces and even led a movement to clean homeless encampments twice a week.

Turner has sent spies into the permitting office to figure out ways our city could help businesses and homeowners, and he’s even been successful at helping Houston ISD cut its obligation to a Robin Hood law that would have taken $165 million of Houston taxes and sent them to other districts in the state. Instead, his savvy political move got that number down to $77 million, saving us almost $90 million.

But here’s why I’m most proud of Mayor Turner. A few weeks ago, he was seemingly attacked by members of his own party – people who said he wasn’t being progressive enough on social issues.

At the end of our interview, I briefly asked him about that, and his answer was a lesson all politicians could stand: He didn’t seem to care much.

For Turner, he may have one more election fight in him when his first term expires at the end of 2019. But until then, the guy just can’t seem to sit still.

He wants to fix everything wrong with his city, and he’ll travel anywhere at anytime and talk to anybody if it will help. Along with trips to Bahrain, Cuba and Mexico – all in the name of trade and improving Houston – Turner spent Monday in Austin and Tuesday in Washington, D.C. He wasn’t taking trips for the sake of travel. He was promoting Houston and fighting to fix our pension crisis.

While it’s fine for the Mayor to travel, if he keeps up what he’s doing now, we need to keep that guy right here, in his office on Bagby, for another seven years.

Ok. I get it.

Meanwhile, Bill King sent this out on Friday:

Fire Fighters Claim Turner’s Pension Plan is Unconstitutional

The problem with doing something no one has ever done before is that no one has ever done it.  Trying something that is untested in the real world almost always leads to unintended and unanticipated consequences.  In the IT world, it is referred to as being on the bleeding edge of technology.  

I have been warning since Turner announced his pension plan that no one could possibly know how its hideously complex corridor mechanism would actually work.  Well, this week we got a preview of the kinds of problems that come with doing something no one has done before.  

At both the Senate and House hearings on the Huffman/Flynn/Turner bill, Andy Taylor appeared on behalf of the fire fighter pension board and testified that the bill, if adopted, would be unconstitutional.  If you are unfamiliar with Taylor, he is a former assistant Texas Attorney General and has for the last 30 years been in private practice doing exclusively governmental litigation.  You are most likely to recall him from his battles with the City over the drainage fee and the HERO ordinance ballot language.  In both cases, he cleaned the City’s clock.  So, when he says something is unconstitutional, he should not be taken lightly.

His assertion arises from Article 16, Section 67 of the Texas Constitution.  That section grants exclusive responsibility to the pension boards to “adopt sound actuarial assumptions to be used by the program.”  Of course, the entire point of the corridor mechanism is to give the City some control over those assumptions.  Some may feel that the City should have more say over the assumptions (I would probably be in that camp) but whether it is a good idea or not is irrelevant to the question of constitutionality.  

There are some cases that generally support Taylor’s position but none that are directly on point.  So, it is impossible to know how the courts would ultimately sort this out.  But given the lightning speed at which our courts move, this will be tied up in court for years.  

If the City ignores the litigation and goes forward with the plan (assuming a court does not enjoin it from doing so), it risks owing hundreds of millions of dollars in back benefits if the statute is ultimately thrown out.  And my friends in the investment banking industry tell me that it will be exceedingly difficult to issue the $1 billion in bonds on which the plan relies if there is litigation pending.  

And it is a virtual certainty that the fire fighter pension board will file the suit, because they would be exposed to lawsuits by their members if they do not.  The police and municipal boards will face the same dilemma.  Also, every employee and retiree probably has standing to bring suit individually as well.  You can take it to the bank that this lawsuit will be filed by someone.

And the risk is pointless.  All of the savings from Turner’s plan come from the immediate benefit cuts in exchange for the issuance of the bonds.  The corridor mechanism is an elaborate ruse to limit, i.e. define, the City’s contributions without Turner having to admit that defined benefit plans don’t work.   

It is time to admit the obvious.  The City needs to do what the private sector did decades ago.  We need to come up with an equitable plan to phase out defined benefit plans and replace them with Social Security and defined contribution plans.  There is no reason to do something no one has ever done before.  Let’s do what we know works.

Commentary doesn’t want to sound simplistic but it looks like the H-Town Mayor is saying we cut a deal in H-Town so the Texas legislature has to approve.   Bill King is saying the GOP controlled Texas legislature has to act like a GOP controlled Texas legislature and go with defined contributions. Stay tuned!

The Chron E-Board certainly had some things to say yesterday. They big time putdown Dems in the Texas State Senate and they said H-Town missed out on the Big Data initiative that the UT System had planned.

Here is how the putdown of the Senate Dems starts out with the headline first:

Democrats, RIP

It is with a somber heart that we must announce the death of the Democratic Caucus of the Texas Senate.

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to Planned Parenthood or the Texas Trial Lawyers Association.

Changes to the Two-Thirds Rule in 2015 delivered a near-fatal blow to the already weakened Democratic members. The suffering caucus sadly took its own life last week by voting unanimously to support Dan Patrick’s budget.

It didn’t have to end this way.

Suicide Senate Dems? Ouch!

Here is the entire E-Board read: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/Democrats-RIP-11042522.php.

Here is H-Town missing out on the Big Data deal:

Houston made a mistake. The chancellor of the University of Texas System may have made mistakes, as well, but it’s up to this city to launch an effort to recover from its own shortsightedness.

We’re referring, of course, to plans the UT-System had for its 300-plus acres near the Texas Medical Center, plans now scuttled after UT Chancellor William McRaven was forced to surrender a few weeks ago to petty politics and parochial concerns exhibited by lawmakers, UT regents and University of Houston officials. Houston-area lawmakers with UH connections were high-fiving each other when McRaven walked away, but a just-released report from an advisory group of Houston civic and business leaders underscores what we’ve lost.

Co-chaired by Carin Marcy Barth and Paul Hobby, the 18-member Houston Task Force envisoned, not a full-fledged campus offering undergraduate instruction but a collaborative institute for data science. As the report lays out, the Houston institution would have been a research and academic consortium of public and private partners from academic institutions, national laboratories and industry. The institute might have resembled Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study or the National Humanities Center in North Carolina or Cornell University’s forthcoming New York City campus that will offer data and business programs.

The focus of the institute would have been the role of so-called Big Data in three areas that reflect this city’s strength – energy, health care and education systems. The advisory group’s report included an endorsement from Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet. “Big Data is the oil wealth of the 21st Century,” he said. “Texas needs to invest in Big Data, and I am excited that the University of Texas System is leading the way. I can think of no better place to start this initiative than Houston.”

Other Houstonians thought otherwise, to this community’s detriment. Tilman Fertitta, chairman of the UH System Board of Regents, said the university’s leaders, supporters and elected officials mounted a group effort to “stand our ground against an unnecessary duplication of resources that didn’t align with the state’s plan for higher education.”

In this case, the star of CNBC’s “Billion Dollar Buyer” came a cropper on a billion-dollar idea for Houston. So did UH Chancellor and President Renu Khator, who should have followed the example set by her counterpart at Rice University. President David Leebron saw the UT proposal, not as a threat, but as an opportunity for collaboration.

And this is how it ends:

Can the plan be revived? We believe the effort should be made. So does David Wolff, chairman and president of Wolff Companies and former Metro chairman. He points out that the nation’s fourth-largest city can accommodate any number of higher-education ventures and that a greater UT presence in Houston would diversify the city’s economy and boost its reputation as a laboratory of new ideas and innovative thinking.

So who will take the lead? The Greater Houston Partnership? UT alumni? The mayor’s office? Philanthropic groups and individuals? We need farsighted men and women with ambitious ideas about this city’s future, a future that includes a greater UT presence. The eyes of Texas have been averted, for now. We need a robust effort to re-direct them to the Bayou City.

Here is the entire E-Board take: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/Revived-vision-11042527.php.

I guess time will tell if we are missing out on the Big Data deal.

From the ‘Stros:

The ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day will be a “passing of the Hall of Fame torch” from Class of 2015 Hall of Famer Craig Biggio to newly-inducted Class of 2017 Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell. Biggio and Bagwell are the first players in franchise history to represent the Houston Astros in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Ken Hoffman had a column in yesterday’s Chron on the new grub at The Yard. Here is from his column that should not be at The Yard:

I almost had a personal meltdown at the Astros Melt stand behind Section 114. Astros executive chef Dominic Soucie has created a SPAM Grilled Cheese Sandwich ($10). I usually scram from SPAM, but chef says keep an open mind.

SPAM at The Yard? No way! Who’s with me?

And then this from his column:

In deep right field, you’ll find a convenience store selling packaged sandwiches, a self-service soda fountain, soft-serve ice cream and candy bars. Also, bottles of wine, which a friendly clerk will pour into a plastic carafe you can carry back to your seat.

On the wine takeout, they will only let you take out a carafe if you have another 21 year or older person with you if you know what I mean.

Here is all of the Hoffman column: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/life/columnists/hoffman/article/New-concession-eats-stepping-up-to-plate-at-11042234.php.

Here was one of the lead stories in yesterday’s Chron on the ‘Stros and 2017. Here is how it starts:

Shortly before 7:10 p.m. Monday, Jeff Luhnow will take his customary front-row seat in the general manager’s suite-level box behind home plate. To his right, on the main Minute Maid Park scoreboard that dominates right field, the most potent Astros lineup since the days of Biggio and Bagwell will adorn the right side of the screen.

The complete teardown and long-term rebuild Luhnow envisioned when Astros owner Jim Crane hired him in December 2011 will manifest itself this year in a 1 through 9 that might be baseball’s best. When the Astros’ lineup is at full strength, opposing American League West pitchers won’t find much of a letup, even at the bottom of the order.

But that’s especially the case at the top, where for the first time to begin a season the Astros will have the core four position players they’ve built toward in the same lineup. In terms of youth, talent, cost and years of club control, only the Cubs and Red Sox can make legitimate cases of having a better quartet of position players under 30 than the Astros.

In shortstop Carlos Correa, second baseman Jose Altuve, third baseman Alex Bregman and outfielder George Springer, the Astros have four homegrown players between the ages of 22 and 27 who are each among the best at their positions.

Fittingly, they will bat consecutively to kick-start manager A.J. Hinch’s opening-day lineup, with the uber athletic Springer setting the table for the infield trio: the smooth-swinging Bregman, the human hit machine Altuve, and the phenom Correa.

Here is the entire article: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/sports/astros/article/Astros-core-four-ranks-with-best-in-the-majors-11043943.php.

The article is accompanied with a picture of Altuve, Bregman, Correa and Springer. The sub-headline of the article calls them the “core four.” Let me say that I like Alex Bregman and I am rooting for him but I don’t think he has earned “core four” status.   He has only played in 49 big league games with 201 at-bats. Not yet, not yet. I hope he gets to “core four” status very soon. But like this season’s slogan says, #EarnIt.

I will say that if we are going to make a World Serious run, we have to get offensive production from our catcher, first baseman, and third baseman. Brian McCann is the real deal. I kind of feel good about Yuli Gurriel and Bregman. We will see.

Our record in home openers at The Yard is 8 wins and 9 losses of course.

Last season, a St. Arnold at The Yard sold for $10.25, tonight $10.75.

They broke me.   I blinked. With the exception of tonight’s home opener, my tickets this season will be on my iphone gizmo. I didn’t want to shell out $250 for a set of hard copy tickets. I apologize for letting you down.

Oh yeah, we are playing the Mariners. They are going with King Felix and we are going with Dallas Keuchel. They have Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz and you know who we have.

Let’s play ball!

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