6/15/2002

No preference A new survey shows that the number of people who express no religious preference doubled to 14% during the 1990s. The increase comes from people who do have religious faith, but who may be turned off by the link between religion and politics.
Now it's the Dems' turn The state Democratic convention is underway this weekend in El Paso. Gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez fired a few choice shots at Governor Goodhair:

"I am going to restore respect, integrity, honesty and decency to the governor's office," Sanchez told the Texas Democratic Convention, paraphrasing a line that President Bush used in the 2000 presidential campaign to link Democrat Al Gore to the scandals of the Clinton White House.

"Insurance companies, HMOs, electric utilities, favored real estate developers in Austin ... have lined up, paid the freight ... and turned the governor's office into little more than a checkout line at the grocery store," Sanchez said.

I've expressed a number of reservations about the Democratic candidates trying to sound too much like Dubya, but the irony here is pretty amusing.

Meanwhile, a smallish group of state Dems pined for the good old days when Texas was Democratic territory and the party was more liberal. I have sympathy for these guys, and I'm certainly glad that they've stayed in the party rather than join Ralph Nader's band of merry anarchists, but there's a reason they've been marginalized: Like it or not, most people here don't agree with them. I wish them luck in working to change minds, but I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for results.
Whatever you say, dude Apparently, I made some "ignorant claims" (scroll down, his permalinks don't work) when I wrote about the NYT's recent Houston hit piece. The gentleman in question doesn't bother to specify which of my claims may have been made in ignorance, so I can't exactly reply to him.

He seems to think that we should just shrug it off when someone insults our city. I'm perfectly happy to do so when it's a comedian or an obscure publication saying silly things, but when it's written someplace that will affect a lot of people's perceptions of who I am and where I live, I don't think it's overreacting to get upset. Of course, I'm just an ignorant-claims-making kind of guy, so what do I know?

6/14/2002

Incompetence and punishment Chicago Boy Jonathan Gewirtz quotes Robert L. Bartley in Monday’s Wall Street Journal:

When the government fails in its most basic functions -- say, protecting our citizens from foreign enemies -- no one at the FBI or CIA loses his job, we all gather around to salute the flag and Washington gives us yet another bureaucracy. But if business stumbles -- say a minor recession and the collapse of stock values many had thought inflated -- businessmen are hauled into court and the air is full of proposals for "reform."

I agree that there should be consequences when government fails, and indeed one of the many reasons to be skeptical of the Department of Political Cover Security is the fact that no one has been made to fall on his or her sword for the myriad of screwups that have been uncovered so far. However, it's a bit disingenuous to suggest that businessmen suffer where bureaucrats don't. You can oversee large losses and a dive in your stock price, get investigated for illegal market manipulation which causes your stock to fall farther, leave employees with the specter of layoffs and yet still stand to walk away with 33 million dollars. Dynegy and its employees and shareholders may take it in the shorts, but Chuck Watson, who also still owns 15 percent of the Houston Texans, will retire in style. I say that's more the norm than the exception, and I challenge the WSJ to prove otherwise.
Airport security update Al Gore was twice pulled aside for random security checks while flying Midwest Airlines between Washington and Milwaukee. Gore apparently took the indignity with good patience.

Via my buddy Drew on the RoundTable list. I saw him drop a hint in comments on Karin's blog that he's considering getting his own blog. Go for it, dude! Say the word and you'll be on my blogroll.
MLB contraction update Rob Neyer does the math and concludes that contraction in 2003 or beyond is increasingly unlikely.
Junius asks why no one in blogdom has commented on the new visa rules, in which people from certain countries, but not Saudi Arabia, have to get fingerprinted and interrogated in order to enter the US. He wonders if it's because Robert Fisk has spoken out against it.

I could have sworn I'd seen some commentary in my recent blogrolling, but the only one I can find now is from War Liberal. I figured if anyone would speak to the no-Saudi part of this proposed plan, Little Green Footballs would, but this is all he's had to say about it. Can anyone address Junius' question?
Think he could room with Salman Rushdie? I didn't imagine I could feel anything other than contempt for the so-called "artist" Eminem, but if this report is true, then he will have my sympathy:

Metro Detroit hip-hop artist Eminem (news - web sites) has reportedly received threats in response to a video he made in which he dresses up like Osama bin Laden (news - web sites).

Bin Laden's supporters allegedly threatened the artist, whose real name is Marshal Mathers, after the release of the video for the single "Without Me." The threats were reported on a music Web site and appeared Thursday in print and television reports.

Eminem hired more bodyguards and consulted with a specialist in terrorism, according to Local 4.

It should be noted that Eminem's people deny the report and the website that originally printed the story has taken it down, in which case I can get on with my life without having to sympathize with Eminem.

6/13/2002

No nuclear watermelons Here's a good post on the costs of nuclear power by J Bowen of No Watermelons. Via Ted Barlow.
When dumpster diving is outlawed, only outlaws will dumpster dive The Houston City Council followed through on its intentions to outlaw dumpster diving as well as "aggressive panhandling" downtown.
Has Salon fired all their editors? Today on Salon there's a story which attempts to debunk the "psychic" John Edwards. Author Shari Waxman makes a good case of pointing out how Edwards manipulates the audience and works the odds in his favor, but nearly made me gag with the following:

But Edward, a 32-year-old native of Long Island, has not fessed up to all of his talents. As it happens, he is more than a psychic medium; he is also a master statistician. The smoke and mirrors behind his self-professed ability to communicate with the dead is a simple application of the summation law of probability. The law states that the calculated probabilities of events that are independent (i.e., the occurrence of one event has no effect on the probability that another event will occur) may be added together. In symbolic terms, where A is the first event, B is the second event and P stands for probability:

P(A) + P(B) = P(A or B)

For example, if you roll a six-sided die betting on a 3, your chances for success are 1 in 6, or 17 percent. Roll the die six times, and you are almost guaranteed to see a 3 (17 percent x 6 = 102 percent). Lucky for Edward, most audience members on his television show, "Crossing Over," are too hopeful and trusting to pull out a calculator and expose the charlatan behind the prophet.

Her statement about independent events is correct, but it's only true for differing independent outcomes of the same probability distribution. In other words, if an event has three outcomes A, B, and C, and the three outcomes are independent, then the equation Waxman gives is correct.

However, Waxman is all wrong when she tries to extend this to successive events. If what she said were true, then the probability of seeing at least one heads on two flips of a coin would be 100%. And whoever proofread this piece should be shot, since a 102% probability is impossible.

The right way to figure out the probability of a single outcome A occurring over N tries is to calculate the probability of A not occurring at all, and then subtracting it from 100%. The odds of two events occurring together is the product of their probabilities. Thus, the odds of outcome A occurring on consecutive tries is P(A) x P(A), where P(A) means the probability of A as before.

Let's take Waxman's example of rolling a 3. The odds that you do not roll a 3 on a given toss of a six-sided die is 5/6. The odds of not rolling a 3 on consecutive tosses is the product of the probabilities, so for two tosses it's (5/6) x (5/6), or 25/36. For six tosses, it's (5/6) multiplied by itself six times (ie, to the sixth power), which works out to be about 33.4%. Since that's the odds of not rolling a 3, the odds of rolling at least one 3 is 66.6%, because the odds of an event occurring (in this case, no threes in six dice rolls) plus the odds of that same event not occurring (in this case, at least one three over six dice rolls) must add up to 100%.

Putting Waxman's mathematical foibles aside, I was happy with her debunking efforts until the very end:

I prefer to believe Edward's fans are not unintelligent, but simply in need of something to believe in, to feel good about, or to relieve the anxiety of what cannot be controlled. If he is fulfilling these needs, then in some ways, his gig is legit. Just like playing the lottery, if you really want to believe, you are better off not knowing the odds.

How is his gig "legit"? Earlier in the article, Waxman notes that Edwards sells an audiotape called "Developing Your Own Psychic Powers" for $59.95. Given that he's selling nothing for something, how is this not fraud? If he were marketing himself as strictly entertainment, as many stage magicians and mentalists do, that would be one thing. But he's not. And you can believe in him all you want, but unlike the lottery, the odds of hitting the jackpot with Edwards really are zero.

6/12/2002

Sex talk Charles Murtaugh answers the question that InstantMan asks and Den Beste fumbles, namely why is it that so many sex-advice columnists are female. Murtaugh groks the real reasons:

The reason women succeed as sex columnists is because lustful guys like myself (and I would lay long odds that the Rachael Kleins of the world -- we had one of her back when I was in school -- have more male readers than female)

(a) are curious to know what an attractive woman thinks about sex

(b) really, really want to believe that such attractive women think about sex just as much as we do

(c) secretly hope for mentions of "experimentation," if you know what I mean, and every guy does

and (d) already know all there is to know about the straight male perspective on sex -- because we are straight males!

Yep. There's another side to this coin as well. The Playboy Advisor (note to Glenn, Steven, and Avram - there's one you missed) has written that a large percentage of his questions come from women. It's no stretch to imagine that they're looking for the straight male's perspective, just as Rachel Klein's male readers want the straight female's viewpoint. Knowing what the other side thinks, that's what it's all about. You'd think a military expert like Den Beste would understand that.
Thom Marshall admits he's an idiot The Chron's least useful columnist cops to laziness in a correction in today's paper regarding his uncritical belief in the Valentine Foundation, which Houston Press readers knew is run by convicted grifter Whitney Broach. Thanks to Kevin for helping to put pressure on Houston's Leading Information Source and for spotting the mea culpa.
Grrrr... Blogger keeps losing the recent changes to my template, so if you've found that you're not on my blogroll any more, it's Blogger's fault. Yeah, I know...
One EggMcSpam to go, please Mac points to this article about McDonald's in Hawaii testing a breakfast meal that contains Spam. I sent this link to the RoundTable mailing list, and was promptly informed that this sort of regional adaptaion is quite common for McDonald's. A friend who did a stint in the Peace Corps in the Phillippines confirms the McSpaghetti item, and adds the rather gross comment that it contains a fair bit of sugar, since Filipinos apparently like sweet foods.

I've been to Japan, and I've eaten at a Japanese McDonald's (let me tell you, as much as I love sushi, after a week of it I was really really really craving a burger), but I don't recall seeing Teriyaki McBurger or Chicken Tatsuta Burger. On the other hand, I was so blinded by my need for comfort food that I don't think I actually looked at the menu - I just pointed to the picture of the Big Mac and fries and sat down to await the greasy goodness that was headed my way. Mmm, Special Sauce...
Machiavellian Whores Online? Avedon has a good conspiracy theory going today, in which the mysterious founder of Media Whores Online is in reality Jennifer Liberto. The hatchet job was done to throw everyone off the scent. Works for me!
National Bloggerhood Week Meryl gets in a musical mood over the NYT blogger rivalry article. Hmmm, maybe I can help here...

National Bloggerhood Week, with sincere apologies to Tom Lehrer

Oh, the war blogs hate the tech blogs
And the tech blogs hate the war blogs
To hate all but
Those just like your blogs
Is every blogger's goal

But during National Bloggerhood Week
National Bloggerhood Week
Dave Winer and Glenn Reynolds are dancing cheek to cheek
It's fun to eulogize
The bloggers you despise
As long as you don't put 'em on your blog-roll

Oh, Ted Frank hates Cameron Barrett
And Jason Kottke hates Eric Olsen
Hating those blogs
Is really wholesome
It's as American as apple pie

But during National Bloggerhood Week
National Bloggerhood Week
Scripters love the pundits cause it's really chic
Step up and give a link
To those who really stink
You can tolerate them if you try

Oh, the old school hates the new kids
And the new kids hate the old school
And the techies hate the newbies
And everybody hates Ted Rall

But during National Bloggerhood Week
National Bloggerhood Week
It's National-We're-All-Just-Web-Loggers Week
Be nice to bloggers who
Are inferior to you
It's only for a week so have no fear
Be grateful that it doesn't last all year!

6/11/2002

Link update time Congrats to Karin for her new blog location. Update those links, people. And help her figure out a movie made recently that was about women, but which was not also a "disgusting, sappy, Hollywood chick flick?" Can't help you there, Karin, the only movies I've seen this year are Star Wars and Spiderman.

Also, note Amy's new blog name and purpose. Have fun with it, Amy!
Good Taste Dept. The redoutable Jack Cluth has named me the People's Republic of Seabrook Site of the Day, which puts me in good company. Thanks, Jack!
Nader update The NYT's Harvey Araton shoots down Risible Ralphie's silly charges about fixed refereeing. Via Ken Layne.

Oh, and for those who like to bemoan the lack of competitive balance in baseball, check out this Jayson Stark column which talks about the abject lack of such balanced in the salary-capped NBA. Stark goes right to the heart of the issue here:

If the Yankees are so bad for baseball, how come they're on national TV every time you turn on your set? If the Yankees are so bad for baseball, how come they outdraw every team in the sport in road attendance? If the Yankees are so bad for baseball, why were we all so worked up last weekend when Barry Bonds finally came to the Bronx?

Because, in so many ways, they're not bad for baseball. They're great for baseball.

So what bothers us about the way Bud Selig's crowd complains about the Yankees isn't the merits of their arguments. It's all in the attitude with which they make those arguments.

It's about time baseball started doing more to sell everything that's right about its sport instead of everything that's wrong. The NBA has problems, too. It just doesn't turn them into a national marketing campaign.

So listen closely as David Stern presents the championship trophy to Jerry Buss and Shaq and Kobe this week. We bet he won't mention competitive balance for one mili-second -- even though his league has had so little of it, it makes baseball look like the World Cup.

Damn straight.
Religious tolerance update I see that the story of the Texas GOP and its broadly inclusive platform have been fairly widely noticed in the blogosphere. Today, state Democratic chair Molly Beth Malcolm fires back:

State Democratic Chairwoman Molly Beth Malcolm on Monday said the new Texas Republican Party platform is a religious document that tries to question the loyalty of Democrats.

"I think it is rather frightening that these people are trying to say everybody ought to believe alike or they are not good Americans. They are wrong," Malcolm said.

"When the Republicans try to say they are people of faith and the Democrats are not, they also are very, very wrong," Malcolm said.

It's illuminating, I think, to look at what the state GOP platform calls for and what the Democratic platform calls for:

Besides the call for a Christian nation, some of the other faith-oriented items in the GOP platform include:

  • A call on Congress to sanction any country that persecutes citizens for religious beliefs. The platform specifically calls for rejection of "most favored nation" status for the People's Republic of China until it allows freedom of religion.


  • A restoration of the chapel in the Texas Capitol.


  • Increased government attention on promoting faith-based community and business organizations that help the needy.


  • Public group prayer in schools as well as "the return of Bibles and other religious books to the shelves of all public schools and libraries."


The party also called for character education "based upon biblical principles upon which our nation and state law system were founded."

For the folks in Santa Fe who've been harassed about their beliefs - including a lot of Christians - that first one is undoubtedly a barrel of irony.

Now compare to the Democrats' statement:

The state Democratic Party's 2000 platform, subject to revision at the party's state convention later this week, calls for "government to scrupulously honor every Texan's right to religious freedom while respecting the separation of church and state," according to the state party's Web site.

The platform adds, "We recognize the importance of religion and prayer in the lives of Texans and support every individual's right to practice his or her own beliefs without imposing them on others."

Which one sounds to you like it's more in tune with the First Amendment?

Owen Courreges left some good comments in my last entry about the philosophy of the "separation of church and state". While I can see where he's coming from, and agree to a certain extent, I hope it's clear why I prefer that the two maintain their distance. I have no faith that the position as stated in the state GOP's platform cares one whit about those who practice a non-evangelical faith, let alone those who choose to practice no faith. That's not the America I believe in.

BTW, Ginger gave a list of platform items from a mailer she got in March. Even putting aside my disagreement on many of these issues, it's hard to see why some of them are such priorities. Don't we have Important Things to be worrying about, such as the $5 billion budget shortfall?
NYT Hatchet Job Update Chron columnist Ken Hoffman gets a little snarky without actually crossing over into scorn. Well, Texas is a friendly state, after all.

Larry has been keeping track of local bloggers' responses to this piece of shinola. Here's another one for you, from the aforementioned Owen Courreges, who does a nice job of debunking the notion that Houston is all brown and no green.

Erica suggested in the comments to my post on this that Larry, Ginger and I write a letter to the NYT to set them straight. Tiffany told me she agreed with this, saying that unless a few articulate Houstonians speak up, the average NYT reader will think he or she has read an accurate report. I'll try to compose a letter in the next day or so, and when I do I'll post a copy here.
Energy Deregulation Update NewPower, the erstwhile Enron subsidiary, is pulling out of the Texas market, sending 80,000 customers back to Reliant and TXU while making some people ask if this whole deregulation thing is going to work.

Pending regulator approval, Dallas-based TXU Energy will gain NewPower's 34,000 electricity customers in the Houston area, and Houston-based Reliant will get 45,000 NewPower customers in the Dallas market.

Also, although they will be paying less than local customers who pay the "price to beat" rates of incumbent provider Reliant, many former NewPower customers in Houston will be paying more as customers of TXU.

NewPower has been the most aggressive among competing electricity retailers in the state -- the leader among providers that had convinced customers to switch over from their incumbent provider.

"I think it's going to shake some confidence in the system," said Reggie James, director of the southwest region of Consumers Union in Austin.

When deregulation was first proposed, James said, "there was all this hype about how everyone would save all this money."

The reality, James said, has been numerous billing problems and "now we see the biggest marketer going down the tubes."

The powers that be, of course, disagree, saying that the market is just fine, thanks.

Rep. Steven Wolens, D-Dallas, who co-chairs the legislative committee which has oversight over electricity deregulation, issued a statement affirming the overall strength of the market.

Wolens noted that Texas customers are continuing to pay less than they did under last year's regulated electric rates.

That's in part because the state's new laws on deregulation mandated a significant decrease in the base rates offered by the incumbent providers.

That last sentence has me scratching my head. I admit, I haven't followed the dereg story here very closely. I'm a risk-averse late-adopter. My plan remains to wait and see how much the market shakes out before I look around for another provider. (Actually, I just want to avoid the hassles of making a switch and the worry that my power will get cut off because some phone drone misspelled my name or some such.) "significant But what's up with a deregulation law that mandates a "significant decrease in the base rates offered by the incumbent providers"? Isn't that, like, a regulation of the market? Couldn't we have just mandated the decrease and left things as they were? What am I missing?

There are still a bunch of providers in the market (nine in the Houston area, according to the article), so it's not like we're on the verge of being in an unregulated duopoly. I do have to wonder if anyone's thought of the possible consequences if this market, like so many others in America, goes through a wave of consolidation and buyouts. What happens if some day there are only two or three players? What happens if a part of the state winds up with only one choice?
A legal viewpoint Recently I posted about a change to Harvard's sexual assault policy, which would now require "corroborating evidence" for an official school inquiry. My father read this story and was rather appalled by it. Here's the feedback he sent me, from his perspective as a judge:

It has been reported that as of the school year 2003 "peer" complaints of "sexual assault" will not be investigated by Harvard University without "corroborating evidence".

This change in the student handbook has been brought about by asserted "financial" burdens necessarily incurred by investigating all claims of peer sexual assault.

Does any of the claptrap make anyone take pause as to the underlying message coming from the administration, faculty and student body of this University? The cost of investigation is putting a burden on their already tight "budget" is the message, or more bluntly, "we don't want to spend the money looking at all those claims of sexual assault coming from our student population." Would the result have been the same of complaints about faculty sexual assaults of students?

The question has to be asked, how many complaints are we talking about for the years 1999 to 2002? According to the Harvard's website, in 1999 there we 18541 students enrolled in all courses, fulltime and part-time, in all divisions. 34 sex offenses reported were listed in the Harvard University Police Department's crime stats in 2000. For my purposes, I include their statutory definition of forcible fondling since it most nearly squares up with "sexual assault". Forcible fondling includes, inter alia, touching the body where the bathing suit covers for the purposes of sexual gratification against the will of the touchee. As a comparison, according to the Cambridge Police Department, between 1998 and 2000, 41 rapes were reported. Certainly I am not comparing "sexual assault" to rape, but if we used the classification of sex crime, these stats become significant.

34 "sexual assaults" for the calendar year of 2000 with a student population of 18,500+! Some how I find it difficult to understand the amendment to the student handbook and how eliminating investigations when there is no "corroborating evidence" a cost effective remedy. Much less, I view this amendment as a significant blow to the pursuit of justice.

"Corroborating evidence" is a fascinating phrase. How do you corroborate "forcible fondling" when you are at a frat party or whatever and you are the victim of an unappreciated, unwelcome and intrusive hand on your body? Previously, it's only your word if you want to file a complaint, but now, you cannot file a complaint, you have no "corroborating evidence", no bruise, no scrap on your body, no "medals", only your word and your credibility. Historically, the credibility of the complainant been the basis of many charges and convictions simply because a seasoned cop or prosecutor had the experience and wisdom to go forward with only the complainant's word. I can attest to that fact, since there are a few inmates doing time after convictions based upon the credibility of the complainant in case tried before me.

Someone is going the have to explain all this to me, the old fashioned, out of touch believer in using all those years of experience and all the common sense acquired doing business with the person on the other end of the conversation. Do I believe what this person just said, does it make sense, have the ring of truth, and what is this persons ability to recall past events and report them with accurately?

Consider this set of facts: A coed dorm; a roommate who has a frequent visitor, also living on the same floor; the complainant is in the dorm on a weekend night and the dorm floor is empty; sometime during the early evening the complainant awakes to find the friend of the roommate in bed and fondling the complainant's genitals. The victim makes enough noise that the perp leaves. There is no physical assault so as to leave telltale "medals" (bruises), scraps or lacerations, nothing; identity is not an issue, but under the new policy of Harvard, the is no "corroborating evidence". No harm no foul?

I guess that single sex dorms, curfews, dress code and mandatory attendance at religious services are next, after all, without "corroborating evidence" there is no problem with sexual assault at Harvard.

Would an informed citizenry vote to retain in office the Legislators who voted for such a bill?

Dad's making an implicit assumption that most if not all of these sexual assault cases involve both genders. I've read enough crime fiction set in all-male British public schools that I wouldn't be so sure. It's orthogonal to his point, but I wanted to make note of it.

I also note that TAPped agrees with Dad in that these cases should properly be referred to the police instead of being handled internally. Harvard students Evan Day and Matthew Yglesias have some comments as well.

6/10/2002

What were your credentials again? The Poor Man points me to this post in Quark Soup which discusses why you shouldn't rely too strongly on political writers for environmental policy:

"There is no democracy in physics," the physicist Luis Alvarez once said. "We can't say that some second-rate guy has as much right to opinion as Fermi."
The same goes for any field of science.
And if that's true within fields, it's even more true between fields. Anthropologists have very little useful to say about high-energy physics (which I'm sure they'll be the first to admit), and physicists are very unlikely to be credible on the subject of angiogenesis. Science has gotten too deep, the questions are too specialized.
[...]
The world is complicated. Science is complicated. The scientific method is a time-proven process that has lead to a great understand, and mastery, of the natural world.It takes time for it to reach conclusions, and scientists put in that time. As I've written before, the IPCC Assessment Reports are some of the most peer-reviewed scientific documents in history. When I've attend conferences such as those of the American Geophysical Union and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, I see little debate on the fundamentals conclusions of climate science in the sessions.The skeptics aren't there.
Of course, this subject has now taken on a life of its own, and it's the polemical battlefield that [Thomas] Sowell et. al. are fighting over. But just be clear it's not the scientific battleground. If our society and our politicians decide they want to ignore the scientific findings of climatologists, that is of course their right -- it certainly happens with other scientific topics. But that doesn't make the consequences any less grounded in science. To borrow a phrase from the early days of Los Alamos, that doesn't mean you're not tickling the dragon.

Very well said. I note that I expressed similar concerns awhile ago, in a slightly different context.

Anyway, Quark Soup is worth checking out. Scroll down from that link to see much more about global warming.
I love stories like this A five-year old bulldog in Minnesota has become a local celebrity for his habit of picking up plastic recyclable bottles while out for walkies. Harry, of course, is a minor celebrity around here, but he only picks up things that smell like food.
Proving that Houstonians harbor no ill will towards New York no matter what the Times and its retread writers say about us, the predicted post-9/11 baby boom will soon generate more of us.
Matt Welch gets the kind of feedback most of us only dream about.
Local roundup Kevin Whited, whom I probably should have discovered before, has several items of interest. He's attempted to fact-check Thom Marshall's sorry ass - I wouldn't hold my breath on a response if I were you, Kevin - he's got a scary picture of Elyse "Arlene Oslaf-Joseph" Lanier, and he's got a few thoughts about the possibility of Clyde Drexler getting the Nuggets' head coaching job. On that latter score, I recommend checking out this recent BP article on how managing the press is a key ingredient to a head coaching job. Clyde Drexler was and still is one of Houston's favorite sons, a UH alum and former Rocket whose family owns a well-regarded barbecue restaurant. In his time as the coach of his alma mater, he had the benefit of all the journalistic good will one could ever want, especially from UH alum and professional bootlicker Dale Robertson. Two disastrous years later, he walked out on the job and was roundly assailed for his miniscule attention span and and unwillingness to do any nonglamorous work. Even worse, dark mutterings about his political machinations and prima-donna-ness as a player surfaced. If after all that the Nuggets hire him, they'd better have some justifications handy. It could get ugly.

Oh, and my condolences on the Coogs' loss to UT in the Super Regional. UH had a great season and would have been a tough draw in the College World Series. Good luck next year.
As if I needed more I've added a few blog links and done a bit of reorganizing on the left-hand side of the page. I'm caught between the fear that I might be missing something good and the realization that I don't have enough time for all this. In the end, I'd rather have a list of good places to look, even if I can't visit them all the time.

And hey, you never know, some of these folks might eventually link back to me. I'm currently listed as a Lowly Insect on The Bear Truth for having 22 links to me. It's my goal to some day make it to Slithering Reptile. May as well pollute a few people's referrer logs, y'know?

If I really find myself with Too Much Time On My Hands, I can check out Bear's list of lefty blogs and see if the ones I haven't heard of are worth regular reading.
Referral Log Roundup Let's see, today we have Broder where art thou, a reference to the award-winning Cohen Brothers movie in which three Midwestern stringers journey to Washington in search of the mythical Dean of Political Columnists. We have a visit from Andy Rooney, in which he asks "Ever wonder what noted sports journalist Rick Reilly is really?". I always thought he was a failed cloning experiment, Andy, much like yourself. Next, we have someone looking for Iranian Boyz music poster. I don't have any Iranian Boyz lying around, but I do have a fine collection of Chicago Boyz for your edification. Last but not least we have someone looking for pictures of Jennifer Liberto, proving that some things about the Internet remain constant.

6/09/2002

Stop me before I write another clueless article about Houston! Larry vents his formidable spleen at this tiresome article about Houston's soul, or spirit, or spunkiness, or whatever theme former Houston Press writer Randall Patterson's editor asked him to write about. Ginger has her say as well.

The first clue that Patterson may have lived in Houston but was never truly a part of it comes right in the first graf, as they say in the highfalutin' dead-tree media biz:

After the disaster, I got back to Houston as quickly as possible and at first could hardly tell anything had happened. It was not as if a bomb had exploded or a building had collapsed. There had been a disappearance, that is all, and the effect was not apparent until I got out of the car. It was the fear I noticed, and I saw it first when I sat down with Elyse Lanier.

Elyse Lanier, bless her fashionably decked-out little heart, is nowhere close to what a normal citizen of Houston is like. Elsye Lanier is the Arlene Oslaf-Joseph character from Grosse Point Blank. She means well, but she simply isn't from the same planet as the rest of us.

Patterson goes on the do the usual trashing of Enron and Ken Lay that we here have grown accustomed to. His purple prose contains howlers like this:

It has never been like other cities -- not like San Francisco or Denver or Palm Beach. People have never gone to Houston for its beauty or climate, or because it is in any natural way a good place to live. Houston from the start has been a place to make money -- the great interior commercial emporium of Texas,'' as the Allen brothers promised. And if money was Houston's singular attraction, then certainly the city would impose no heavy restrictions on the making of it.

Um, Randall? Just FYI, but the last people to see New York City's natural beauty lived there in the 17th century. And I daresay that I inhaled more exhaust fumes in four-plus years of commuting into Manhattan than I have in fourteen years of living in Houston.

On top of that is all of the nose-wrinkling about making money. It never ceases to amaze me that in a society that so clearly worships having money there are so many people who gets prissy about people who actually work to make it.

And if we're going to look down our nose at people who work at making money, we have to spend a few sentences making Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale look like a rube. Mack is many things, including a live-action cartoon character in his own TV commercials (and anyone who thinks that this sort of thing is endemic to burgs like Houston has never seen a Crazy Eddie commercial) and a businessman who is truly dedicated to customer service. I've bought furniture from Mack. Most times I've gone to Gallery Furniture, he's right there. You can walk up to him and tell him what you think. I've done it. The decor may not be Hamptonsesque, but I've never walked out of there feeling like I got ripped off. If that's tacky, then so be it.

By the way, while prominent New York businessmen like the fellows behind Crazy Eddie became famous for their role in a huge financial statement fraud case, Mack is known around here for being the fastest checkbook in the West for all kinds of worthy causes. He spends Thanksgiving at the George R. Brown Convention Center feeding turkeys that he paid for to "the less fortunate" as the newsies like to say. Somehow, that sort of thing never makes it into articles like Patterson's.

In the end, I think what really chaps my ass about this piece is how Patterson gives two seconds' worth of time to Tropical Storm Allison, then goes on ad nauseum about the trauma that Enron and Ken Lay wrought on Houston's society, as if anyone in Houston gave a shit. Patterson could have written about how a year later, there are still over 700 families still awaiting FEMA assistance. Patterson could have written about how many of the people in one of the 70,000 flooded houses are still doing repairs or have sold their homes for lot value. He could have written many different stories, but somehow he thought that this society-page pyschobabble would somehow serve the readers of the New York Times. I'm still not sure if I should scorn him or pity him.

I could go on about the reasons why I choose to live here (and for the record, I came here to attend graduate school, an activity which was and is no one's idea of a good way to make money) but that would probably be as boring and self-indulgent as Patterson's piece. I'll just say that whatever else may be true of Texans in general and Houstonians in particular, we do have a pretty good sense of humor about our native or adopted state. That's good enough for me.
More bad news for Democrats Having voted down the silly anti-RINO proposition at the convention, the GOP made some serious inroads to the Democrats' traditional base when a prominent black minister from Houston threw his support behind Governor Goodhair and the GOP.

The Rev. C.L. Jackson of Houston's Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church provided a show of support for Gov. Rick Perry by announcing at the Republican State Convention that he is switching parties.

To the cheers of some 8,500 party stalwarts, Jackson said that his two days at the convention convinced him that he now is a Republican after years of being a Democrat.

Add in the GOP's efforts here in Houston and I for one am getting nervous.

Molly Beth Malcolm? Ron Kirk? Tony Sanchez? I hope you're all paying attention here. Counting on black and Hispanic folks to vote Democratic because they've always done so is beyond stupid. If you're not giving people - any people, never mind who - a reason to vote for you, someone else will. I haven't been seeing any good reasons to vote for the so-called Dream Team lately. What I have been seeing is a lot of pissing around, wasting time, and lack of focus.

I keep reading that Texas will trend Democratic in the next decade or so as Hispanics become the plurality population. I have to say, if the Dems don't win at least one statewide election this year, I'm not sure that this prognostication will be accurate any more. It seems to me that the GOP will be able to make a good argument to ambitious young black and Hispanic candidates that if they want to win they need to run as Republicans. If that starts to happen, we may as well give up the pretense that there are two parties in this state.

The GOP will have its own issues regardless of whether the Dems continue to play to lose, as the RINO proposition shows. The bigger your tent is, the more likely you'll have people with wildly different viewpoints fighting for control of the party's soul. The Dems have dealt with this issue since the 80s as the paleoliberals have mostly given way to the DLC types. It's been ugly, there's been permanent fallout (see Nader, Ralph), and it's nowhere close to being over. The Republicans' recent national and state prominence have shielded them from some of this, but it's coming.
Answering their own question Here's an update from the state GOP convention:

DALLAS -- Texas Republicans argued over whether their state convention was mainstream or filled with "religious zealots" Saturday as delegates approved a party platform that called for the repeal of the state lottery, declared the United States a Christian nation and favored posting the Ten Commandments on public property.

The Republican platform also reaffirmed the state party's belief that the nation needs to "dispel the myth of the separation of church and state."

Guys? Here's a clue for you:

Amendment I

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

And lest we forget, here are a few thoughts on the subject from one of the authors of our Constitution.
Victim or predator? The case of a 14-year-old girl and her multiple sex partners in Michigan is calling into question some of the assumptions about age of consent laws. Has Reynolds written about this one yet?