Category Archives: Random Rants

Me spouting off like I know something. At the very least I have an opinion, and I’m not afraid to state it. Step away from the hedgehog, and nobody gets hurt.

Parker: The Sky is Not Falling!

Controller Anise Parker attempts to quell fears over the city’s shaky finances, by talking about how it’s borrowing money from itself!

City investments and debt on solid ground
As anyone with any investments knows, this is not your ordinary financial market. The city has an investment portfolio but also uses debt financing to pay for public works projects and other infrastructure improvements. The ongoing turmoil on Wall Street and within the banking industry requires innovation and quick action on both sides of the ledger.

“I want to assure Houstonians that we are exploring every possible option and taking utmost care with your tax dollars during these difficult times,” Houston City Controller Annise Parker said.

When financing public projects, the city commonly borrows using short-term instruments then watches the market for the best opportunity to convert to long-term fixed-rate financing. Last fall, when the credit markets all but dried up and several banks either failed or were struggling, Mayor White and the city controller announced they would pursue various financing alternatives to keep interest rates on city debt as low as possible.

The controller noted that financing through other governmental entities is one alternative that has been employed successfully. For example, she said the city has purchased the debt of (loaned money to) city governmental partners at Metro and Harris County. Likewise, Harris County and Metro have purchased city debt.

City invests in own debt

Parker said the city’s own investment portfolio holds about $229 million in city debt, made possible because the city maintains segregated funds. Interest rates in the municipal bond market have varied widely. By investing in its own debt, the controller said the city earns 1.5-2%. An earlier purchase of $30 million of Metro debt yielded about 4%, and investment in Harris County Flood Control debt returned 6.25-8%. In comparison, more traditional financing options are yielding less than 1%.

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Uh-oh…

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit makes the following observation:

THE RACE TO find alien earths. In science fiction stories, you often see references to “forerunner races” who settled the Galaxy before humans emerged. But what if we’re the forerunner race?

Oh great. As if I didn’t have enough to worry about. Now I gotta worry not just whether we’re screwing up my country, but the entire galaxy.

Wrong Message at a Critical Time

A little birdie just forwarded me this letter from Bill King, ex-candidate for Houston Mayor. Emphasis added.

As most of you know, I have been considering a candidacy for mayor of
Houston for sometime. I have recently decided that I will not be a
candidate for mayor or any other office in 2009.

There are several reasons for my decision, some personal and some
political. Most prominent among these, I believe that my candidacy
would likely result in an election that would emphasize partisan and
other divides. It is my belief that such an election would not be
healthy for the City or, frankly, particularly favorable to my
candidacy.

The City is in for some very difficult times over the next several
years, especially as it relates its finances. The multiple challenges
of crime, crumbling infrastructure, crushing pension debts, falling oil
prices and the aftermath of Ike will all weigh heavily. This is hardly
a time that we can afford to be divided along partisan or other lines.

As I have attempted to become informed on issues facing the City, I have
become increasing concerned, and in some respects, even alarmed at the
problems we are facing with regard to our municipal finances. I believe
we have made unsustainable commitments that will financially hobble
future generations and that it is imperative that we have a candid and
realistic discussion of these critical issues.

Before Hurricane Rita while I was still the mayor of Kemah, I began
raising the alarm that we were not prepared to evacuate the region in
the event of a major storm. Because I held an elected office, many
discounted my warnings as political posturing. As a result, little was
done and 150 died in the Rita evacuation. I fear that if I begin a
discussion of the financial challenges facing our city as a candidate,
there will be similar reaction. Perhaps if no political agenda can be
attributed to my views, there will be a less skeptical reception.

I want to express my profound appreciation to all of you that have
encouraged me to consider a candidacy. The mere fact that so many of my
fellow Houstonians have expressed their belief that I am capable of such
a leadership position has been a great honor.

I hope that you will stay tuned. We have some important issues to
tackle.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. This is the critical time to be divided among partisan lines: the party of “Fixing It” vs. the party of “Continuing to Ignore It” The second is a disaster in the making.

Our elected officials have continued to ignore citizens at all levels and from all walks of life who are unhappy with the way the City of Houston is being mismanaged. On the Democratic side, we are looking at a solid slate of “go along and get along” pols, none of which will rock the boat to tackle serious issues; every one of them is hoping only to push the collapse back beyond their term. How do I know this?

Because if they saw a need to fix anything, they’d be out there in public making their point. Instead they’re feeding us baby food. Bland, mostly tasteless, and thoroughly uncontroversial, it goes down easy and turns into crap in the end.

The problem is there’s only so many candidates out there that are viable. I’m sure as hell not. I can’t do much but work in the background and act as a cheerleader. (Those of you who know me, please scrub that imaginary picture of me carrying pompoms and dressed in a short skirt right out of your brain. Now.) We can support, but we can’t lead. We need a standard bearer to rally behind, and yet another has chosen to leave the field. In an era when we need Pattons, we get another Milton M. Milquetoast. Merely quitting wasn’t bad enough; he had to spout nonsense about not dividing people, and avoiding being accused of partisanship.

Final word: If you’re going to be held hostage to what your opponents say about you, forget ever being an effective politician.

Let’s Have Those Skyrocketing Electricity Rates

Obama on Coal:

You know, when I was asked earlier about the issue of coal, uh, you know — Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket. Even regardless of what I say about whether coal is good or bad. Because I’m capping greenhouse gases, coal power plants, you know, natural gas, you name it — whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, uh, they would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money.

If we elect this dunce, we deserve what we get.

Good Note

So I’m researching non-profits for a project I’m working on (more later), and I run across this, while looking for information on sample by-laws. Note the part I bolded:

The Klingon Language Institute (http://www.kli.org/kli/KLI.Bylaws.html), a Pennsylvania nonprofit, offers these sample bylaws (in English).

I wonder if the state would have accepted them if they’d been in Klingon…

Probably not. Unless they claimed to be an oppressed minority.

Chinese Checked

And some people wonder why I try to never buy Chinese goods. Bad enough that they fix their exchange rate artificially low; they’ve destroyed our heavy industry, what was left of our semi-conductor industry, our textiles; it’s gotten so bad they’re stealing Mexican jobs from the maquiladoras.

But I’m sure President Osama, I mean Obama, will seek better relations with them by fixing that thorny Taiwanese problem. If I were Taiwan, I’d be cozying up to India, Japan, and Russia right now. None of them alone would be enough to save them, but the combination might keep the dragon at bay.

I wouldn’t put money on it. Wonder if I could find a Taiwanese internet bride, really cheap, in a few months? Heh. If I’m lucky, she might like wearing cat ears… “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Catgirls! Nya?”

Politics On City Time

Just got this email — in my city email inbox, mind you — from my uwanted friends at the SEIU:

Dear Friend,

Earlier this week the SEIU New Media team wrote to you about what our union is doing online to help get Barack Obama elected President of the United States.

Over 25,000 people have watched our online ad or signed up to volunteer before the election … and after.

Today I want to turn the focus back to you, our members and supporters.

SEIU is organizing Get Out The Vote canvasses in swing states across America this weekend and every weekend between now and the election.

Will you volunteer your time to talk to undecided voters about why we need to elect Barack Obama on November 4th?

seiu.org/gotv

I know not all of you live in swing states or can’t take the time to travel to volunteer, so we’ve built an online calling program that lets you talk to undecided health care workers from home.

Healthcare is an important issue in this election and polling shows that healthcare workers are a critical voting block that we need to reach.

The simple act of picking up the phone or knocking on a door to talk to an undecided voter will ensure we elect a pro-working family administration this November.

We need your energy to win this election – will you take action today?

seiu.org/gotv

We can do this together.

In Solidarity,

Andy Stern

Go fuck your solidarity, Andy. This is spam.

PAID FOR BY SEIU. WWW.SEIU.ORG. THIS COMMUNICATION IS NOT AUTHORIZED BY ANY CANDIDATE OR CANDIDATE’S COMMITTEE.

SEIU
1800 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036

This should be considered an in-kind donation by the SEIU to Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. Failure to report it as such, I’m quite sure, is a violation.

Not that we’ll hear anything about such in the press, will we?

If They Can’t Make Money Doing That….

From an email making the rounds:

Back in 1990, the Government seized the Mustang Ranch brothel in Nevada for tax evasion and, as required by law, tried to run it. They failed and it closed. Now we are trusting the economy of our country to a pack of dumb-asses who couldn’t make money running a whore house and selling booze?

h/t to Tom Bazan

Job Opening: Horsemen Wanted, multiple positions available

Strangely, I was thinking about the whole “Horsemen of the Ablogolypse” a few days ago. Maybe it was a premonition (I was trying to remember who they all were, and I forgot Charles Johnson and Andrew Sullivan). Tonight, Steven Den Beste reminisces about that, thanks to an Andrew Sullivan-inspired link to the past. Now given that Andrew has gone over to the stupid side, and Steven’s retired to anime-blogging for the most part, that means we need a new Plague and War. I’d take nominations, but even with Ike and Brendan Loy helping me, I don’t pull that kind of traffic!

Still, I can speculate. Emperor Darth Misha I? (But would he be Plague or War?) Could Jane Galt finally make the grade? Could Bill Quick get promoted from the B-team? What about Bill Whittle? Michelle Malkin?

I’m just not feelin’ it here…. especially given that DenBeste was one-of-a-kind. I mean Whittle’s the second coming of Samual Clemens, but he’s a little wordy, and definitely short on science skill. Maybe we can give him Sullivan’s old spot?

Hundreds Missing After Ike

Maybe now we’re going start seeing something on this in the media?

Nearly 400 people are presumed missing 12 days after Hurricane Ike slammed on shore. Calls flooded a Galveston County missing persons hotline at the Laura Recovery Center. People are terrified a relative was lost in the storm.

Also, we have the point that Rorschach made in comments:

This is third hand but I am told of a coast guard member that is saying that they are pulling bodies out of the bay on a daily basis and is suprised that it is not being reported in the media. I am also being told that many people on the Bolivar peninsula were overtaken by events. That Thursday evening many people got home form work and started packing up to leave Friday morning, but TXDOT stopped the ferry early Friday morning and that within an hour or so of the ferry stopping, the road through High Island flooded from the storm surge in seargent leaving them no way off the peninsula. I too am questioning the official body count.

The last part of Ror’s comment dovetails with accounts we’ve seen all along — hundreds of people were trapped on the Bolivar Peninsula, and the Coast Guard ran out of time to rescue them prior to the storm. Rumors continue to swirl about that there is a cover-up, and while I don’t have any sympathy for the tinfoil hat brigade, I would be remiss if I failed to note ABC13’s reports of rumors on the issue:

Viewer emails have come in claiming there are countless 18-wheeler trailers full of refrigerators with crews unloading boxes and boxes of bodies. Another viewer reported the recovery of at least 60 bodies, while another says 89 corpses are at UTMB.

And in Crosby, despite the four FEMA trucks outside the crematorium, owner Stanley Blackwell says his cemetery is in fact the regional storage site for area funeral homes in the event of a disaster.

When the power went out, FEMA sent the refrigerated trucks and powerless funeral homes sent over their deceased. He stresses the 100 bodies he currently has are not stacked inside. “We do not stack bodies,” he told us.

So where are all the bodies? Answers based on the official speculation so far…

1. In the marshes/small islands behind Bolivar. Significant debris fields exist there, and are difficult to reach, thus they haven’t been searched.

2. Out in the Gulf, washed there by the back flow off the islands, when the surge receeded.

3. Still in unsearched debris or buried in the sand. Sure they searched with cadaver dogs. They did in New Orleans too, and were still finding bodies in attics a year after Katrina.

4. They were all Scientologists and nobody noticed the giant comet stopping off to pick them up in the middle of the hurricane. (Ok, that one’s not official; I made it up.)

So the death toll is still pending, but at least it’s going to be a lot lower than it looked 5-6 hours before Ike landed.

A related rant.

And before I forget, lookie-look! The Chron’s back up to it’s old “Support the Illegal Aliens” schitck. “Cleanup spurs labor need: Undocumented workers will be linchpin in efforts.” Just goes to show that there’s no disaster so bad that the Chronicle can’t find a way to use it to push its agenda.

Homeowners have already turned to day laborers — many of whom are undocumented — to help clear brush, tent roofs and repair other storm damage. Contractors have hired them to rebuild or restore businesses and the city’s infrastructure.

And the major work of rebuilding small towns along the Gulf Coast or big homes in Galveston will likely be aided by undocumented workers.

And if they were here legally, they could pay taxes on their earnings, helping to fund the cleanup too, instead of sending all their money home to relatives in Mexico, so they can pay the coyotes to join the others here.

Hurricane Fatigue

It doesn’t just stop people from evacuating, it stops them from blogging. After a solid week of all Ike, all the time, I’ve had enough. I tried last night to finish my article about hurricane evaluation methodologies, only to lose an hour’s work through sheer stupidity. “Save early, save often.” And I didn’t.

I’m going to take a day or two off from blogging and just chill for a bit. Watch some anime, relax and blog about it, maybe (until I read someone’s really stupid comment somewhere, and then get pissed enough to write again). I’ll get back to that article, and I’ve still got some thoughts about folks returning to Galveston, supply distributions, what the city pays for gasoline, and of course, the aforementioned methodologies.

In the meantime, my sudden burst of activity has caused a slew of folks to link to me, and I’d like to give a shout out to them:
Dr. Melissa Clouthier at Information Polination (Hey Doc, tell your mom I said “yes”*)
Houston Press’ Hair Balls
Dick Stanley, at The Texas Scribbler
Brendan Loy at Weathernerd
Brian Neudorff at WX-MAN’s Perspective

Thanks, all of you.


* From here

12:20 PM CST From my mom via IM, “Do we really need to witness the last moments of Geraldo’s life. And where’s Anderson Cooper?” I’m howling. See where I get my smart ass sense of humor?

With Geraldo and Dolecifino both on the Island, and expecting the surge to be even worse than it was, I really thought we had a shot at being rid of these two. Only way it could have been better would be if Chris Matthews were there to describe the kind of leg tingle he got from watching water come over the seawall. :)

Update: Additional referrers, as I dig through my logs and find them:
Trent Seibert at Texas Watchdog

Disaster Recovery

(Moved from the prior post, edited a bit for improved sarcasm.)

A pair of really stupid responses to a news story got under my skin earlier. I really don’t have a lot of patience for people who only know how to complain that professionals (about whose field they have not the slightest idea) have obviously screwed up. Somehow, the ability to navigate from Webster to Galveston by using a paper map, street signs, and their enormous brain power has made them experts in the field of disaster recovery. (Hint to out-of-towners: drive south on I-45. That’s it.) Obviously, if you place a dump truck in Tiki Island, it can get to the West End more quickly, right?

Theres a reason they say about the military “amatuers study tactics, professionals study logistics.” As an object lesson in that, we’re about to study the profession of Incident Control. Lets say you’re going to pre-position thousands of people for disaster recovery. To be “there” within hours, they’d have to be IN the disaster zone. (There where? Everywhere of course! But especially where I am!!)

This strikes me as unsafe.

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Galveston Mayor Flubs Again (Edited)

After spending two days trying to empty her island, Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas abruptly reversed herself and told residents, “Ya’ll come on home.” Well, she meant for only six hours, to “look and leave” but predictably, since she didn’t have the brains to establish a rotation or any other type of control, everyone tried to head home at once. There is now a two-mile long traffic jam on on I-45 (as of an hour ago) with residents trying to get to Galveston. TxDoT is not happy.

Our resources are not able to get through,” said TxDOT spokeswoman Raquelle Lewis. “We have National Guard sitting in traffic, we have our crews sitting in traffic, we have FEMA resources sitting in traffic.”

I’ve (mostly) been restraining myself from being overly negative about glitches and problems, because this is a huge, huge disaster and it’s not like we get to rehearse for things of this magnitude. I do not want to be “stuck on stupid” like certain members of the press. But this is just damn idiotic political fear–she’s probably afraid of the backlash from disgruntled homeowners.

But how many of the people who get home will refuse to leave? She was just getting her city emptied out, and now it’s going to fill right back up with people needing ice, water, and food. She’s going to end up forcing Governor Perry to declare martial law and send in the National Guard to remove people by force, if she’s not careful.

Update: And the comments are even stupider:

Lmaris wrote:
Why did it take 2+ days after the storm for these “emergency” vehicles/personnel to attempt to enter Galveston island?
why weren’t these items/people stationed closer to the area so it wouldn’t take days to arrive? How long are people expected to stay away from their homes in shelters that don’t have food or beds?

SomeDude713 wrote:
us dang helicopters!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not enough money to own? RENT!

You remember the good ol’ days where everyone helped themselves and didn’t sit around squalling that the gubbermint should have had food, water, and debit cards in their hands within hours?

EDIT: the remainder of this update really didn’t fit the original thrust of the article, so I’ve broken it off into the next post.

Ike: NOAA Aerial Damage Survey (update)

At this link. Pics are hard to understand because they haven’t been rotated to orient properly. Actually, top is north, but I think on closer look, these are satellite pics, not aerial. (Edited for spelling. Photography, not fonts…) (Edited again for spelling. Photography, not X-men characters.)

It does put that pile of rubble that used to be the Balinese Room (which every local and network reporter stands in front of for their stand-ups) into perspective, doesn’t it?