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At the TV studio

I’m at the KUHT studio for Houston Have Your Say along with Ree-C Murphy and Mizanur Rahman from the Chron. We will not actually be on camera – we’re off on the side at the “bloggers table”, which suits us all just fine. There’s a number of distinguished-looking guests, fifty or so, and they are now being told what to expect. There will be three sections – economy and security issues, health care, and education. There will be a short video clip to start, then questions will be asked of the guests. Everyone has been told to play nice. We’ll see how long that lasts. Oh, and no mike-grabbing.

The blog for this event is here. I’m going to post what I can as I can, given the limits of my attention span and comprehension skills.

UPDATE: Among the distinguished and distinguished-looking guests: Harris County Treasurer Orlando Sanchez, and State Sen. Dan Patrick. No Democratic politicians that I have seen as yet.

UPDATE: Just got our hands on the guest list. Other recognizable names: Former City Coucil Member Gordon Quan, Massey Villareal with the Greater Houston Partnership, Rice University’s Dr. Stephen Klineberg, Sonny Messiah Jiles from the Houston Defender, Richard Shaw with the AFL-CIO, and our consensus favorite name on the list, Lura Lovestar, who is listed as a Concerned Citizen. Mike Fjetland, former canidate for CD22, is also here but not part of the on-camera audience.

UPDATE: My first post after the start of the show is here.

More me on your TV

Apparently, my initial foray on KUHT wasn’t enough to scare them off, so I’ll be back on Channel 8 this Thursday at 7 PM as part of a live broadcast called Houston Have Your Say:

The first show will take a closer look at the impact of immigration on Houston’s economy, security, health care and education while also searching for solutions.

Should be a nice, light, genteel conversation, right? There’s a blog for this as well, which I presume will include some of the other talking heads as authors. Beyond that, I don’t really know what to expect. Tune in and see what happens.

Oh, the one thing I do know is that we were asked to “dress in business or business casual style clothing”, so I’m afraid that if you missed me in a suit and tie last time, you won’t get another chance for that, at least not this soon. Sorry about that.

Big media me

I have often said that I have a face for radio and a voice for blogging. Tonight you will have the chance to judge that for yourself, as I make my debut appearance on The Connection: Red, White, and Blue. It airs tonight at 8 PM and tomorrow at 5 PM on KUHT channel 8 in Houston. We had a discussion of the recent primary results and other matters political, with David Jones, Gary Polland (who for some reason reminded me of Ryan Chappelle from 24), and Edd Hendee of KSEV. As an extra special bonus, you get to see what I look like in a jacket and tie. What more could you want? So set your TiVos and check it out.

Texas Monthly and me

So the February issue of Texas Monthly is on the newsstands, and they’ve got a feature story called 35 People Who Will Shape Our Future, one of whom is their cover boy, Lance Armstrong. And one of whom, amazingly enough, is me.

It’s quite humbling, and very flattering, to see my name along with people like Armstrong, Rafael Anchia, Cat Osterman, Will Harrell, and Chamillionaire. I wouldn’t have included me, had I been the listmaker. But the good folks at Texas Monthly saw it differently, and I’m thrilled that they did. At the very least, the next time someone says to me “Your parents must be so proud”, I can reply “As a matter of fact, they are”. My sincere thanks to Texas Monthly for the honor.

Let’s debate that

Interesting op-ed from the weekend by Barbara Radnofsky.

Now, in many urban high schools and particularly in Houston, policy debate is gone. Private and suburban public high schools are still actively involved in debate, but predominantly low-income minority students lack the opportunity.

Houston needs an Urban Debate League to bring competitive debate back to the inner city, and to involve minority and low income students. By public-private participation, we can also aid both sides in the HISD bond controversy and litigation.

Urban Debate League (UDL) structures partnerships between the urban public school district and a private partner, a local not-for-profit organization (the UDL Advisory Board) composed of civic-minded leaders in business, law, academia, government and the nonprofit community.

Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, Kansas City and Baltimore all have successful Urban Debate Leagues. Now, Dallas has stepped forward.

The programs succeed. Here’s the evidence from the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues: UDLs increase literacy scores by 25 percent, improve grade-point averages by 8 percent to 10 percent, achieve high school graduation rates of nearly 100 percent and produce college matriculation rates of 71 percent to 91 percent.

We are University of Houston debater alumni seeking resurrection of urban policy debate programs in Houston.

We’ve pledged our service in Houston’s UDL Advisory Board if the NAUDL will sanction a League. We call on Houstonians to contact NAUDL (312-427-0175, [email protected] and www.naudl.org) to join us.

Also noted here; the idea got some good feedback in today’s letters to the editor. This is more call-to-arms than ten-point-plan, so it’s not clear how this would be done, but that’s not important right now. For right now, this strikes me as a fine idea, one on which I hope there will be some follow through. I hope something will come of it.

A perfectly cromulent neighborhood

You know, I never thought I’d see a day where it would be necessary for Pete to come to the defense of Mister Rogers, but that day has apparently come. And just in time, it seems. Check it out.

RIP, Fort Bend Now

Damn shame. Fort Bend Now is a terrific publication, a go-to source for all things CD22, and a unique resource for local news junkies. Plus, Bob Dunn is a peach of a guy. Nonetheless, as another old dad (though not as old as Bob) with young kids, I totally understand his decision. Good luck with whatever comes next, dude. You’ve earned it.

Ya no puede caminar

I confess to being somewhat ambivalent about Stace’s call to action regarding the comic strip La Cucaracha, which has disappeared from the dead-tree edition of the Chron, though it’s still online. It was never a regular read for me, though I was enjoying its recent focus on immigration. On the other hand, the strip that replaced it – I can’t even remember the name – has pretty much nothing to recommend it. Generic art, lame gags, indistinguishable characters – at least La Cucaracha was distinctive and had something to say. Frankly, on those grounds alone, it’s worth your time to visit Lalo Alcaraz’s MySpace page and help him lobby the Chron for reinstatement. I generally think the Chron’s comic pages are very good, but more effluvia like the penguin strip they don’t need.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering where the post title comes from, it’s from the song.

But what will I read in the checkout lines?

Horrors!

Publisher American Media Inc. said on Tuesday it will stop printing the Weekly World News, which for 28 years gleefully chronicled the exploits of alien babies, animal-human hybrids and dead celebrities.

The company said in a brief statement it would end the print version of the tabloid newspaper next month but would maintain the online version (www.weeklyworldnews.com).

“Due to the challenges in the retail and wholesale magazine marketplace that have impacted the newsstand, American Media, Inc. today announced it will close the print version of the Weekly World News, effective with the August 27 issue. Weekly World News was AMI’s smallest weekly publication,” the company said in a statement e-mailed to Reuters.

You realize what this means, don’t you? Now college students who want to festoon their dorm room doors with WWN headlines and photos of Bat Boy will have to use their own paper. Oh, the humanity! Thanks to the equally traumatized ‘stina for the heads up.

Great show! You’re fired!

Well, what did you expect?

Filling in for conservative talk-show host Michael Berry Tuesday morning, Houston lawyer Geoff Berg was direct with KPRC radio’s listeners.

“I am a moderate,” he announced. “Michael is a right-wing fanatic. We are going to disagree.”

He was on point.

Listeners — and apparently advertisers — disagreed so much that KPRC/950 AM fired Berg after one day on the job, ending his brief stint as a talk-radio host.

“Right after the show, the producers told me that I’d done a great job as host,” Berg said Wednesday.

“(But) later in the day, they said don’t come back.”

[…]

Berry, when asked for comment, sent the following reply via e-mail: “Geoff is a personal friend. I also think he can develop into a good talk-show host. He is quite to the left of me, but I think there is an audience for him. 950 is not that place.”

Berg said he does not have any ill will toward Berry or KPRC, joking that the station fired him after “one day of diverse opinion.”

You know, I don’t have any problems with KPRC’s actions here. You’ve got to figure that if, say, Michael Berry had sat in for Amy Goodman one morning on “Democracy Now!”, KPFT listeners would be pretty vocal about it. People tune into a show like that expecting one thing, and when they don’t get it, they’re not gonna like it. While this is certainly amusing, and while I agree with Jack that it would be nice to have a little more diversity in the airwaves, I also agree with Berry that it’s not going to happen by mixing and matching on an established station. It’ll take a different outlet establishing its own brand. Which means it’ll probably never happen, but that’s what it’ll take.

Cragg Hines is retiring

Looks like the Chron is going to need another DC-based columnist.

FishbowlDC has learned that Houston Chronicle Washington columnist (and former Houston Chronicle D.C. Bureau Chief) Cragg Hines is retiring after 35 years with the paper. A Gridiron fixture, Hines has become one of the great Washington monuments in the journalism community. He is leaving at the end of July.

I suppose they could just leave his position vacant, and let Julie Mason pick up the slack. I’d rather they give someone else a shot at it. Either way, Happy Retirement, Cragg.

(And feel free to keep blogging afterwards. You’ll be able to say stuff you might’ve felt uncomfortable about before. Believe me, that would be a good thing.)

New gig for Mary Beth Harrell

Via Eye on Williamson comes the news that Mary Beth Harrell, who ran against Rep. John Carter in CD31 last year, has a new gig:

KNCT-TV, the local public broadcasting station located on the campus of Central Texas College, recently announced the addition of a new show to premiere this summer. “Insight,” hosted by local attorney Mary Beth Harrell, will premiere Thursday, July 12 at 7:30 p.m. on KNCT (channel four on the local cable system or channel 46 for non-cable subscribers). A re-broadcast will air the following Sunday at 10 a.m.

“Insight” is a half-hour roundtable discussion featuring prominent, successful women who help shape the issues affecting Central Texas. These leaders come from numerous sectors of the community including education, healthcare, banking, economic development, city management, the courtroom, charitable giving and the news media. “The guests on ‘Insight’ understand the challenges confronting us today in many areas of our everyday lives,” said Harrell. “They will not only identify these challenges but also talk about their plans and goals to meet those challenges now and in the future.”

Some of Harrell’s guests on “Insight” will be Ann Harder, Channel 25 news anchor; Martha Tyrock, Temple city councilwoman; Judge Diane Henson, Judge Martha Trudo, Colonel Diane Sutton and Colonel Victoria Bruzese of Fort Hood; Reverend Mary Wilson, Dr. Rose Cameron, Diane Connell, Colleen Beck and Brenda Coley.

One segment of the show will feature Harrell on location at area restaurants seeking public opinions from Central Texans on an array of topics. “We want to bring our community into the studio so our guests can hear the opinions and concerns of its citizens,” noted Harrell. “We hope the viewers, as well as our guests, find the exchange enlightening and entertaining.”

Following its July 12 premiere, “Insight” can be seen Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m. and once monthly on Sunday at 10 a.m.

Great to hear. Mary Beth ran a fine campaign on limited funds against Carter, and she’s just an awesome person overall. Congrats, Mary Beth!

How many more signs of the Apocalypse do we need?

Who said this?

“When Paris Hilton was going to jail last week, more people knew about that than knew that we were sending people into space that day. It has replaced what is real news. There was always a place for it, but it was [gossip writer] Rona Barrett. Now it is the equivalent of Edward R. Murrow reporting it today.”

If you guessed “O.J. Simpson”, and your head didn’t explode, congratulations. You’re right. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to speak to a large white Sylvilagus cunicularis, and he’s in a bit of a hurry. Link via Tapped.

Great moments in publishing

There really are days when I feel like I’ve seen it all.

Believe it or not, there actually does exist a magazine called Blogger & Podcaster. And yes, the tagline is: “For Aspiring New Media Titans.” And yes, you won’t even come close to being the first to mock the effort. Nevertheless, Troy McCullough of the Baltimore Sun says “the concept of a blogging trade publication isn’t as crazy as some have made it out to be” and insists that the magazine “has shown it has some early potential.”

I don’t know about you, but my personal Sign Of The Apocalypse count is now well into three digits. Thanks to the ever-vigilant Julia for the link.

Freeway blogging, Houston-style

I have three things to say about this story regarding Houston’s freeway bloggers.

1. How you can write such a story while never mentioning the original Freeway Blogger is beside me. (His blog site is now here.) I mean, FreewayBlogger.com was the first freaking result in a Google search for “freeway blogging”. Saying that it’s “a term that emerged out of California, where protesters hung signs on overpasses and then took pictures to be posted on the Web” doesn’t really explain what it has to do with blogging.

2. Hanging a sign may be illegal in Houston, but that sure didn’t stop Orlando Sanchez last year. I swear, every freeway overpass I drove under had a Sanchez sign hanging on it.

3. The bridges over 59 between Montrose and Shepherd really are cool.

That is all.

What he said

I don’t often do a post that just says “What he said”, but every once in a while circumstances dictate it. So, without further ado: What he said. That is all.

(Thanks to Greg for the pointer.)

UPDATE: Jack Cafferty is my hero.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Is Anna Nicole Smith still dead, Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, we’re going to — updating our viewers coming up shortly on…

CAFFERTY: I can’t wait for that.

BLITZER: … the mysterious circumstances surrounding that, Jack. Thank you.

At the risk of repeating myself, what he said.

Media fight!

It’s ABC13’s Miya Shay versus KTRH talker Chris Baker in a storm coverage smackdown! Place your bets, place your bets…

Henley in the Examiner

I received an email last week from Charlotte Aguilar of the Examiner telling me that former CD07 candidate Jim Henley will be filling in as a guest columnist while Molly Ivins takes a sabbatical. His first effort is here, on the topic of Iraq. I look forward to seeing more of his efforts while he fills in for Molly. Check it out.

On the radio tonight

I’ll be on the radio tonight, proving once again that I’ve got a voice for blogging, as a guest on Agonist Radio out of San Antonio. Tonight’s lineup is here, which puts me on the air at about 9 PM. Sean-Paul doesn’t give a hint of what we’ll be discussing, but at a guess I’d say it’s not going to be Analytic and Algebraic Topology of Locally Euclidean Metrization of Infinitely Differentiable Riemannian Manifolds. But you never know, so you better tune in. You can hear it online here, or on 550 AM in San Antonio. And feel free to call in and stump me with a question – the numbers are (512) 599-5555 and (toll free) 800-299-KTSA.

An old fashioned link dump

Lots of stuff I’ve been meaning to link to lately. Indulge me here for a minute while I link around.

Vince gets in the candidate interview game with Q&As featuring Sherrie Matula and Kathi Thomas.

Speaking of Matula, her opponent John Davis has had ethics charges filed against him for failure to properly report credit card expenses. Muse has the scoop here and here.

Tory gives his thoughts on Midtown urbanism.

Do you think that red light cameras will be a cash cow for Houston? DallasBlog asked a council member there about its expenditures on them. They’ve got video of his answer.

More video: Juan Garcia and Shane Sklar.

Bob Dunn speaks to the mystery man of the CD22 write-in brigade, Joe Reasbeck (scroll down to see it).

The original tough grandma. Accept no substitutes. More here, including an ironic ad beneath it and to the right.

Scott is leaving his job with the ACLU of Texas. Best of luck in your new pursuit, dude. And thanks for linking to the smartest thing I’ve read about immigration so far this year.

Three words: Bubble wrap contest. Need I say more?

Mary Beth Harrell attended the Round Rock town hall meeting on Monday. Do I need to tell you who didn’t? Read Mary Beth’s latest Kos diary, about a soldier from her district that was killed in Iraq, here.

Is YouTube doomed? (Thanks, Dwight!)

Do you hate college football’s new clock rules? If so, you’re not alone.

Ben Barnes interview

The PerryVsWorld blog has part one of an interview with former Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes up, and it’s some interesting reading. So far, they’ve mostly covered redistricting and redistricting reform. I hope the question of Carole Keeton Strayhorn comes up in a subsequent segment. Check it out.

Where the box turtles come from

When I read that the Washington Post’s new Republican activist blogger was once a speechwriter for Sen. John Cornyn, I wondered if he had a hand in some of the more, er, colorful things that our junior senator has said lately. Via Atrios, it turns out that young Ben was, at least indirectly, responsible for the infamous box turtle statement that was in a prepared speech Cornyn gave to the Heritage Foundation. (Cornyn, in a rare moment of restraint, skipped that remark when actually delivering the speech. But someone wrote it for him, and it would seem that someone was Ben Domenech. I’m sure his new colleagues at the Post are so proud.)

Next question: Did Domenech have a hand in this embarrassing chapter of Cornyn’s career?

Not if, but when

Things which are supposedly imminent, on the grand scale of things:

  • The release of the city’s report on the Carol Alvarado payroll-padding scandal, according to the H-Chron.
  • The release of Guns-and-Roses long-awaited (nine years!) album Chinese Democracy (pardon me, but considering I was about 10 (that oh-so-impressionable age) when Use Your Illusion came out, GN’R necessarily holds a special place in my heart).
  • In another blast from the past, the reformation of the Ma Bell monopoly.
  • The failure of New Orleans’ levee system (again), according to engineers and libertarians.
  • The moment when we discover whether Vince Young is as smart as Mack Brown says he is, or as dumb as the Wonderlic says he is.

I predict that more bloggers will write about this than traditional media pundits

My friend Ellen sent me a link to this WSJ article about quantifying political prognostication.

As 2006 approached, pundits performed the annual rite of making predictions for the year ahead. Scripps Howard’s prognosticator expects the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq to begin. The Christian Science Monitor published a forecast that North Korea or Iran will acquire nuclear weaponry. On Fox News, Bill Kristol predicted another Supreme Court vacancy, while Brit Hume’s crystal ball saw an acquittal for Lewis “Scooter” Libby. (The Wall Street Journal’s New Year’s Eve look-ahead to 2006 couched most of its political forecasts with the word “likely.”)

Such predictions are good fun. But in general, the prognostications of political pundits are about as accurate as a chimp throwing darts. At least that’s the finding of “Expert Political Judgment,” a new book by University of California, Berkeley, political psychologist Philip Tetlock. From 1987 to 2003, Prof. Tetlock coaxed 284 political experts of all stripes — academics, journalists and think-tankers from across the political spectrum — to make specific, verifiable forecasts. He looked at more than 27,000 predictions in all.

Prof. Tetlock’s innovation was to elicit numerical predictions. As he noted in an interview with me, political punditry tends toward the oracular: statements vague enough to encompass all eventualities. But by promising confidentiality and relying on the “curiosity value of the project,” he was able to get pundits to provide probability estimates for such questions as whether certain countries’ legislatures would see shifts in their ruling parties, whether inflation or unemployment would rise and whether nations would go to war.

Without numerical predictions, “it’s much easier to fudge,” Prof. Tetlock told me. “When you move from words to numbers, it’s a really critical transition.” What he found is that people with expertise in explaining events that have happened aren’t very successful at predicting what will happen.

He demonstrated this by checking their predictions against reality, and then comparing the humans’ performance with that of several automated prediction schemes. The simplest type was chimp-like. No chimps were harmed in the experiment; Prof. Tetlock essentially used random numbers. More complex sets of predictions were based on the frequency of similar events in the past. The virtual chimps did about as well as humans, while several of the more-complex schemes exceeded the best human forecasters.

I don’t suppose that’s a great shock. As a famous philosopher once said, “Often uncertain the future is.” Why should so-called experts be any less subject to that uncertainty?

Prof. Tetlock wants to see elevated debate and improved punditry, and he has several ideas for how to make it happen. One is for pundits to hone their skill by playing predictions markets — betting pools that assign values to future events such as a Republican victory in a gubernatorial election. These markets, like Prof. Tetlock’s study, force prognosticators to make quantifiable bets and provide feedback in the form of monetary gains or losses — if you back a losing outcome, you lose money (see more on this at Wikipedia). He found that the best forecasters operate in fields like meteorology “in which they get quick, unequivocal feedback on predictions.”

The recommendation with which he ends the book is the most far-reaching: Prof. Tetlock urges independent monitoring of experts’ predictions. In the interview, he suggested either two media organizations — he named The Wall Street Journal and New York Times — or two respected think tanks join forces to get experts on the record with numerical predictions, and then regularly report the results.

“It would be a good thing” to do political punditry better, Prof. Tetlock told me. “It would be good for society, and it would be good for science.”

I totally agree, and I’d love to see that happen, though I’d just as soon it be done as an open-source Web project than by media outlets like the NYT and the WSJ. Keep track of every quantifiable prediction every syndicated pundit and widely-read blogger makes, record how those predictions turned out, and turn it into a scorecard of some kind so they can be ranked.

I can’t seem to find it now, but I distinctly recall Slate magazine publishing a list of Election 2000 predictions by a wide array of media types. It asked how many electoral votes Bush and Gore would get, whether Hillary Clinton or Rick Lazio would win the NY Senate race, and one extra prediction of the pundit’s choosing. Someone – I think it may have been Peggy Noonan, but I can’t swear to it – picked Bush to win over 400 EVs while carrying California. Whoever it was, I think it should be a part of their byline with every op-ed piece they write.

During the NFL season, the Chronicle sports section features a full-page ad by an auto dealership, which lists each of its salespersons’ picks in that week’s games, ordered by their record so far. I presume the winner gets some kind of award at the end of the year, while the poor sap who finishes last has to wash everyone else’s car or something like that. If that kind of accountability is good enough for football fans, isn’t it good enough for pundits?

On the radio tonight

I will be a guest on Sean-Paul “The Agonist” Kelly’s radio show tonight from 7:30 to 8:00 PM. The broadcast is on San Antonio’s KTSA, which is 550 on the AM dial, or you can click the link and listen to a live stream. You can call in to the show at (512) 599-5555, or toll-free at (800) 299-KTSA. Tune in and remind yourself what “a face made for radio, a voice made for blogging” really means.

Agonist on the air

Sean-Paul Kelly will be guest-hosting the Jack Riccardi show on 550 KTSA Talk Radio from 7-10 pm in San Antonio tonight. Here’s the lineup:

7-730 Intro segment, introduce the night’s guests, main topic etc . . .
730-800 Comedienne Margaret Cho.
800-830 Congressman Chris Bell (and candidate for Texas governor) to talk about Senator John Cornyn’s links with Abramoff and Scanlon.
830-915 Don Henry Ford Jr. Author of Contrabando, Confessions of a Drug Smuggling Texas Cowboy
915-1000 Elaine Wolff, Culture Editor of the San Antonio Current, to talk about the media, Judy Miller, Bob Woodward and the role alt weekley’s can play in politics.

There’s a live stream at KTSA.com, and you can call in via local number 599-5555, or toll-free at (800) 299-KTSA. If you do call in, be sure to wish Chris Bell a happy birthday.

Behold my power!

If only I had such sway over the Chronicle’s editorial page! Thanks for the egoboo and all, but I’ve never even gotten them to print one of my letters to the editor. Believe me, if they were taking orders from me they’d have finished all of their endorsements by now.

Sedosi’s complaint here is that the Chron doesn’t have an op-ed on the passing of Rosa Parks. Far as I can tell, the editorials there generally lag the news cycle by a day or two. While I agree that it would be nice to see them be more on top of things, I think it’s a little unfair to single them out without at least a cursory check of what the other major papers are opining on. With that in mind:

– The top editorial at the Morning News has to do with sanctions on Syria, with secondary pieces on Ben Bernanke and teaching kids about the evils of drugs.

– At the Star-Telegram, they’re weighing in on cancelling proms, a tax increment financing district, and more kudos for Ben Bernanke.

– The Express News tells us to support the McCain anti-torture bill and to vote for Prop 7, while also counseling NBA players to accept a dress code.

– Last but not least we have the Statesman, which turns out to be the only paper eulogizing Rosa Parks on its editorial page. (They also lionize Ben Bernanke, which makes me wonder who all these papers have been listening to and why the Chron didn’t get that particular memo. I will admit, though, that “Bush hires competent non-crony for important job” is a topic worth remarking on.)

So five major papers, and one editorial obit for Rosa Parks, with many other pieces commenting on older stories. I feel certain that by Thursday, at least four of the five will have said something about Ms. Parks. As well they should remember a true American hero, who deserves to be commemorated from coast to coast. All I’m saying is that if it’s a crime for the Chron not to have done it today, they had their share of accomplices.

Berke Breathed interview

Wonder what Berkeley Breathed had on his mind while doing those Opus-in-jail-for-protecting-his-source comics? Find out in this brief interview. Via The Stakeholder.

Independence and Patriotism

Following up on Julia Sisyphus’s post, a new poll shows patriotism remains near an all-time high in America:

Whether or not “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” as the British writer Samuel Johnson observed more than 200 years ago, it may be the first refuge of a broad cross-section of modern-day Americans, regardless of their ethnicity, religion or political affiliation…

The poll, conducted by the Roper Reports unit of NOP World, is based on personal and telephone interviews over several years. It found that 81 percent of Americans believed patriotism is “in,” meaning it is an important factor in their individual identities, compared with 14 percent of Americans who believed patriotism is “out.”

I wasn’t aware that patriotism could be “in” or “out” like a fashion trend; one is reminded of Thomas Paine’s thoughts on “sunshine patriots.”

Nonetheless, it’s always affirming to see an outpouring of positive feelings for my country. On the other hand, it’s still refreshing to know that one may feel differently about Independence Day, as this week’s editorial from AAN&I does. Dissent challenges us towards being a greater nation, ever-more deserving of adulation, because we can hope that Americans will never condemn our country to being a wasteland of broken promises and shattered dreams.

Hermann Park

I’ve never really been down there before tonight; a friend of mine decided he wanted a picnic for his birthday. I highly recommend doing that. In the winter, when it’s not so derned hot. Good times. Especially the “playing chicken with the Hermann Park kiddie train” times.

Arianna’s Oddball Friends: The Ted Poe Edition

I knew I’d have to go easy on making jokes at Arianna Huffington’s expense once she signed up some quality like Harry Shearer. But not being content to merely lure one of my own faves, Andrei Cherny, out of a relative recluse of writing, she can now add Harris County’s own Congressman Ted Poe to her list of guest bloggers. So, is it time to take the Huffington Post seriously?

I guess so. At least, if you see fit to draw favorable parallels between Gitmo and a Carribean resort the way Congressman Poe does. Yessiree Bob … er, Ted. It’s a terrorists paradise down there. Nothing but the politest of interrogations he witnessed. Funny, I could have sworn they’d want to give a former judge with the reputation of Ted Poe a little bit of insight into their own creative justice at Gitmo. Guess not. So based on Poe’s word, I guess we should just ignore the actual documented evidence of mistreatment? And why not one word out of Poe about prisoners being held in the pokey without a single charge filed against them? I guess that was off the beaten path for his little sightseeing adventure.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to dive into the deep end that suggest we shut up shop, close our eyes, and wish these predominantly evil people away. But I think there’s something to be said for maintaining a high standard of American justice. After all, that is something that we pretend to be fighting for, right? Not a word out of Poe on any of that nonsense, though. He’s too busy taking in a little beach volleyball, no doubt.

The Texas Research Foundation

The Houston Democratic Forum meeting that I attended last night turned out to be a standing room only affair, as almost 70 people packed into the reserved room at Ziggy’s Grill on Alabama to hear Dr. Richard Murray and Keir Murray talk about the new Texas Research Foundation they’re setting up. Marguerite Reed has a detailed overview of the talk, so I’ll point you to her instead of duplicating her effort. I will have more to say about this in the near future, but for now read her writeup and check out the TRF site.

Must see Greg TV

Greg Wythe gets to burn a few minutes off of his fame clock tonight as he appears on “Texas Politics-The Real Deal”, a talk show hosted by liberal Democrat attorney David Jones and former Harris County GOP chair Gary Polland. It’s on Time Warner channel 17 in Harris County from 6:30 to 7:30, and you can call in and heckle him at 713-807-1794. I need to tell the TiVo that this channel exists so I can record it. Knock ’em dead, Greg!

Blog stuff in the op-eds

So there were a couple of op-eds in Sunday’s Chron that had blog themes to them. One was by Cragg Hines in which he chided bloggers on the right for their role in the case of the “Schiavo memo” that emanated from Sen. Mel Martinez’s office. All I really want to do here is offer some advice to Hines: Next time you do this sort of thing, name names and quote excerpts. Not only will it help the sizable portion of your audience which isn’t up to its eyeballs in blog stuff on a regular basis know what it is you’re talking about, but it’s what other bloggers (myself included in times past) will do to you. Arguing with unnamed and unknown opponents is not a winning strategy.

Elsewhere there was this piece by Scott Henson on the demise of the federal drug task force in Harris County (more background on that here). I can’t help but note that the byline they ran did not include Scott’s blog URL, which seems to me to be a pertinent omission. I’ve commented before about the Chron’s inconsistent byline policies, and this is another example to add to my collection. But don’t let that keep you from reading Scott’s piece – it’s a good one.