May 31, 2004, 03:00 PM

Let him speak for himself

By Rob Booth

James Howard Gibbons has a Sounding Board editorial in today's Chronicle that includes this quote:
Last year President Bush famously told a correspondent for Hearst-Argyle television that he rarely read a newspaper apart from the occasional glance at the headlines. Bush said he was told all he needed to know by his aides, who gave him facts without opinion.
I'm a firm believer in letting people speak for themselves, so I went looking for the quote he alludes to. I couldn't find a Hearst-Argyle television quote of the president saying that. There was a Hearst-Argyle television quote of the president saying this:
In one interview, with Hearst-Argyle, he said, “I'm mindful of the filter through which some news travels, and somehow you just got to go over the heads of the filter and speak directly to the people.”
I did find the president discussing his newspaper reading in a section of an interview with Brit Hume of Fox News where the president is reported as having said this:
HUME: How do you get your news? BUSH: I get briefed by Andy Card and Condi in the morning. They come in and tell me. In all due respect, you've got a beautiful face and everything. I glance at the headlines just to kind of a flavor for what's moving. I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who are probably read the news themselves. But like Condoleezza, in her case, the national security adviser is getting her news directly from the participants on the world stage. HUME: Has that been your practice since day one, or is that a practice that you've... BUSH: Practice since day one. HUME: Really? BUSH: Yes. You know, look, I have great respect for the media. I mean, our society is a good, solid democracy because of a good, solid media. But I also understand that a lot of times there's opinions mixed in with news. And I... HUME: I won't disagree with that, sir. BUSH: I appreciate people's opinions, but I'm more interested in news. And the best way to get the news is from objective sources. And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world.
Now, the central thrust of Mr. Gibbons' editorial is a valid argument — one shouldn't rely on one source of information. I would add, you also shouldn't rely on the newspapers exclusively, either.

Permalink | Miscellaneous

May 31, 2004, 08:15 AM

The left never has believed in the spirit of America

By Dan Patrick

The current military operation in the war against terror has a number of critics. It is good they weren't around in WWII. They surely would have demanded that we never enter the war to begin with, or that the President and his Generals should have all resigned based on the mistakes and loss of life during WWII. They would never have believed that Americans would be willing to do whatever it took to win. Fact: At the beginning of WWII America was not a rich country. The depression had depleted our wealth. America's army was only the 17th largest in the world at the beginning of the war. Fact: 16.1 million served in the miliitary. America suffered 292,000 killed in combat and over 400,000 deaths total. 671,000 were wounded. In some battles, America suffered 150% loss of life. (the original troops and replacements) Thousands were often loss in just one day of battle. Fact: The average stay in the military was 33 months. The average time spent overseas was 16 months. However, for those who signed up in the beginning of the war, many were away for 4 years. Fact: 40% of all vegetables were grown in backyard gardens, called victory gardens. Two out of every three Americans bought war bonds. Americans at home gave up chocolate, stockings, gas, tires and much more. If the critics of today were alive in 1941, and had the voice of the media as they do today, they may have said the following: 1. Our military is too small to fight in a world war. 2. America will need years to ramp up in order to fight. Losses of thousands at Iwo Jima or on the beaches of Normandy, prove our Generals don't know what they are doing and will lead us to defeat. Americans at home will not support this loss of life. 3. Americans will never make the sacrifice at home to support our troops. 4.They would have demanded that we try to understand why Germany, Italy and Japan hated us. They would never have supported the bombing of German cities or the dropping of the atomic bomb which killed hundreds of thousands of civilians. If the left had had their way, we would have lost WWII. There will always be those who have no courage to fight for what they believe. We must not let them stop America from winning this war on terror. America is still a great nation and it will do whatever it takes to win the war on terror. The left does not speak for the average American. Sadly, because of the liberal bias of the mainstream today, the left seems to have more support than in reality they actually have. Th defeat of John Kerry in November will prove the left is out of touch with mainstream America.

Permalink | News and Views

May 31, 2004, 08:08 AM

Remember the Proud Patriots

By Rob Booth

The purpose of Memorial Day, according to the official proclamation, is:
On Memorial Day, a grateful Nation remembers the proud patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of liberty's blessings.
Click [Read More] to join me in remembering some of those brave men. If you've ever seen Black Hawk Down, you've probably seen the part of the movie where two Special Forces snipers volunteer to secure a helicopter crash site and protect the wounded pilots, even though it's obvious that doing so is almost a suicide mission. What you may not know is that what is shown is based on a true story. The two men who volunteered were Gary Gordon and Randy Shugart. They received the Congressional Medal of Honor for their actions and the official citations are an interesting read. Here are two excerpts: MSG Gary Gordon:
When Master Sergeant Gordon learned that ground forces were not immediately available to secure the second crash site, he and another sniper unhesitatingly volunteered to be inserted to protect the four critically wounded personnel, despite being well aware of the growing number of enemy personnel closing in on the site. After his third request to be inserted, Master Sergeant Gordon received permission to perform his volunteer mission. When debris and enemy ground fires at the site caused them to abort the first attempt, Master Sergeant Gordon was inserted one hundred meters south of the crash site. Equipped with only his sniper rifle and a pistol, Master Sergeant Gordon and his fellow sniper, while under intense small arms fire from the enemy, fought their way through a dense maze of shanties and shacks to reach the critically injured crew members.
SFC Randall Shugart:
Sergeant First Class Shughart pulled the pilot and the other crew members from the aircraft, establishing a perimeter which placed him and his fellow sniper in the most vulnerable position. Sergeant First Class Shughart used his long range rifle and side arm to kill an undetermined number of attackers while traveling the perimeter, protecting the downed crew. Sergeant First Class Shughart continued his protective fire until he depleted his ammunition and was fatally wounded. His actions saved the pilot's life. Sergeant First Class Shughart's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest standards of military service and reflect great credit upon him, his unit and the United States Army.
There's another proud patriot who should be remembered today, a Marine who has been recommended to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. WSJ via USMC News: In Combat, Marine Put Theory to Test, Comrades Believe
AL QA'IM, Iraq — Early this spring, Cpl. Jason Dunham and two other Marines sat in an outpost in Iraq and traded theories on surviving a hand-grenade attack. Second Lt. Brian “Bull” Robinson suggested that if a Marine lay face down on the grenade and held it between his forearms, the ceramic bulletproof plate in his flak vest might be strong enough to protect his vital organs. His arms would shatter, but he might live. Cpl. Dunham had another idea: A Marine's Kevlar helmet held over the grenade might contain the blast. “I'll bet a Kevlar would stop it,” he said, according to Second Lt. Robinson. “No, it'll still mess you up,” Staff Sgt. John Ferguson recalls saying. It was a conversation the men would remember vividly a few weeks later, when they saw the shredded remains of Cpl. Dunham's helmet, apparently blown apart from the inside by a grenade. Fellow Marines believe Cpl. Dunham's actions saved the lives of two men and have recommended him for the Medal of Honor, an award that no act of heroism since 1993 has garnered.

Permalink | News and Views

May 31, 2004, 07:30 AM

Americans are fed up

By Dan Patrick

The following is a guest contribution to Chronically Biased. Americans Are Fed Up By Jean-Jacques de Mesterton We Americans are so evil! I hear the complaints every day: Americans are fat, wasteful, ignorant of customs that are not their own; they can’t spell obscure foreign names, nor can they pronounce them—Americans are deeply confused about basic human history, and generally ignorant of the greater world beyond our shores. Well, I’ve had it with this sort of facile rubbish. Our president is a knave who doesn’t respect the power of the mighty giant pretzel, they tell me. Often. We consume roughly thirty percent of the world’s resources; we number about three percent of the world’s population; we’ve got half the world’s lawyers, and most of its frivolous lawsuits to match. And it’s true that our countrymen have little sense of measure. After all, it doesn’t require a school-bus-size SUV that sucks down more gas than the Middle East produces in a month to carry one charming lady to the market.... Our most persistent critics, the Europeans, appear to benefit from a moral superiority complex. Never mind that the continent has socialized at America’s expense. It was the U.S. that largely bore the cost of fighting—and winning—the Cold War, a titanic struggle which absorbed over four decades of toil and sacrifice. Europe blithely depended upon America’s largesse, while it collectively spent less than one percent of GDP on its own defense. And America engaged the enemy with great focus and determination, because our country’s leaders understood that the challenges must be surmounted. Europe developed its societal structures under the protective umbrella of a mighty nation. But we are redundant now, it seems, and tarnished, as well; damaged by the ghastly Iraq prison scandal. Every American was thoroughly disgusted by the vile images from Abu Ghraib prison, the sordid, serial offending slime which has now smeared its way across the world. I have seldom been more depressed by revelations that our own people horribly misbehaved. And considering the facilities that technology brings to ill-motivated persons everywhere, well, it isn’t exactly surprising to find this scandal spreading like a Montana wildfire. But there is something more dangerous at work, an insidious movement that will not rest, until America is forever sullied. And it makes me sick. There are many who revel in American setbacks, who want the U.S. to fail egregiously. On all fronts. There is a new spirit in the land. You needn’t travel beyond our borders. It isn’t necessary to seek out the French, for whom criticism and paranoia are cultural birthrights, nor is it a requirement to spend time among our Russian friends, for whom democracy is a newborn experiment; it is unnecessary to visit China, where everything is now made, or even Germany, which America helped to make, or any among the dozens of countries where we are now out of fashion…no, you merely have to tune in to certain elements of the opposition. And I’m not referring to just Michael Moore, but to “mainstream” democrats, for whom the sight of Mr. Bush is like a red cape to a bull. GWB can’t catch a break these days. According to my liberal friends—and I have liberal friends—the president is a feckless dolt who sees the world in simplistic terms. The man doesn’t even read the paper, they tell me, full of indignation. Never mind that an American president has a great staff of plenty, and that these fine folks have jobs of their own, and among them you will find persons who dedicate their time to ensuring that every detail of life in our great country is properly scrutinized for the chief executive’s enlightenment. Now, realize that those who spread these imbecilic stories know bloody well that such positions exist in the White House, every White House, but that they nonetheless continue to discredit the president by every means available. Don’t get me wrong, George W. Bush ain’t perfect by a country mile. But he is a much better man than you will ever know from America’s dominant print or television news organizations. Step into the church of common sense for a short paragraph: America is the most benevolent great nation in the long history of the world; no country has ever done so much to serve the cause of freedom for so many around the globe. I deeply regret the mistakes our country has made, but nations are cold monsters, animated by interests, driven by need and the will to survive. America, too, can be cold and brutal. But America is so often right, so often motivated by higher purpose…we alone must transcend the current climate of divisive nastiness that has polarized our landscape. Our strength has long been a kind of unity that Europeans can only imagine. The future is still ours. Time to fix the mess and move on. Jean-Jacques de Mesterton is a frequent contributor to Fox News Channel.

Permalink | News and Views

May 31, 2004, 02:43 AM

Ten best war movies of all time

By Dan Patrick

Be sure to read the list of the 10 all time best war movies by Bob Willems in our feature section. All of these movies have something in common. Find out what. Then click on comments below this article and list your all time 10 best war movies and compare your list with Bob and our other readers.

Permalink | News and Views

May 30, 2004, 01:17 PM

Bush will win in November, history guarantees it

By Dan Patrick

On Saturday, the news networks covered the dedication to the new WWII Memorial in Washington D.C. It was an emotional event. For at least a brief moment , our nation was one. There was a stunning shot of former Presidents Clinton and Bush (#41) standing side by side, with hand over heart, singing the national anthem. All of the speakers gave thoughtful remarks. Tom Brokaw and Tom Hanks were two of the speakers. Bob Dole, a hero from WWII, gave an emotional speech. It made me realize how America missed a chance to elect a great man to the White House in 1996. Had he won, he would likely still be President today. The events of the last eight might have been very different. The Twin Towers, might still be standing. The last speaker was our current President. He gave one of the best speeches of his life. He resisted the temptation to bring the current war into his remarks, knowing some would see it as being political in nature. Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and our current President have one thing in common. Reagan could speak to the public in a straight forward manner. Clinton and our current President can also address the public in the same style. Our current President may not be as gifted as Reagan and Clinton, but he comes across in a sincere way , just as Reagan and Clinton, as a man of the people. Sadly, his dad, President Bush, did not have that ability. It is interesting to note that after he left office, he seemed to be much more relaxed and down to earth when speaking, then while in office. Al Gore and John Kerry also do not connect with the average American. They seem to be speaking down to people as if they are superior to the rest of us. If you look back over the Presidential elections of the last 50 years, the man who came across as one of us, the one who came across as more likeable always won th election. Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Carter were more likeable than their opponents. Nixon was less likeable than Kennedy, but more likeable than Humphrey. Bush, #41, was more likeable and down to earth than Dukakis, but less likeable than Clinton. If you want to know who will win in November, ask this question. Who is more likeable and more down to earth, Kerry or Bush? You now know who the winner will be in November. History will repeat itself once again.

Permalink | News and Views

May 30, 2004, 10:15 AM

I Like Ike

By Rob Booth

At chronicallybiased.com, we're not quite at the point where we get to see TV shows or movies before the public. That makes it pretty hard to review them. So, we've got to try and tell you about shows that look interesting, without actually having seen them yet. Tomorrow night, on Memorial Day, A&E is running a movie called “Ike: Countdown to D-Day,” which is about the planning for D-Day (Monday, 7:00PM Central). Tom Selleck portrays Ike, and the first thing that interested me was that Mr. Selleck told the Boston Herald:
“I don't think actors should do impersonations,” Selleck said of his portrayal. “George C. Scott didn't look anything like George Patton, but he captured the man's spirit (in 'Patton'). I tried to get in Ike's ballpark physically, but I didn't put on Ike ears and a bald cap. I shaved my head, that's all.”
I'm interested to see an actor try and do a portrayal of someone without resorting to the gimmicks of a lounge act. If George C. Scott as Patton was his model, then he's got big shoes to fill and it'll be interesting to see if he can pull it off. The other thing that caught my attention was that the movie was written by Lionel Chetwynd, a man who doesn't follow the Hollywood party line. He's made several military films that were extremely engaging, particularly The Hanoi Hilton, which portrays the American serviceman as a decent, honorable person working to protect his fellow countrymen. That's kind of different from Oliver Stone's Platoon, isn't it? Anyway, Tom Selleck as Ike is getting mostly good reviews, here's a couple: SunHerald.com: Selleck wears the stars well as Eisenhower
You have to wonder who first envisioned Tom Selleck as U.S. Army Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Yes, that Tom Selleck - Quigley, Magnum, Monica's mustachioed Richard on “Friends.” Selleck's still hot at 59, almost as hot as the first time we saw him in a 1975 Revlon ad for a men's fragrance. But Magnum as the supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe? In the spring of 1944, Eisenhower made history as the man who put into motion the most massive mobilization of troops ever. Whoever had that vision was inspired, and as hard as it may be to believe, it works. Granted the first few scenes of “Ike: Countdown to D-Day” (7 p.m. Monday on A&E) are distracting, but once you get past a balding Selleck minus mustache, it works.
Star Ledger: Selleck — sans mustache — comes on strong as 'Ike'
Texas legend Sam Houston wasn't known for wearing a big, bushy moustache. This didn't stop actor Sam Elliott from refusing to shave his totemic lip hair when he played Houston in a 1986 TV film. What's all this got to do with “Ike: Countdown to D-Day”? Well, in this two-hour A&E production, Ike — that is, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower — is played by Tom Selleck. Yes, that Ike, that Selleck, at first glance a bit of fanciful casting. But unlike Elliott, Selleck did shave his totemic moustache, as well as much of his scalp hair, and turns in a solid performance as Eisenhower, chain-smoking his way through the weeks leading up to the invasion of Normandy.
I'll be watching and you might be interested in taking a look yourselves. If you've got young people in the house who are interested in history but you don't think they're quite ready for Saving Private Ryan, you might want to tune in. There's supposedly no violence, not a single shot is fired in the film.

Permalink | Miscellaneous

May 30, 2004, 09:52 AM

Article on Blogs and the Media

By Rob Booth

AJR: The Expanding Blogosphere
When political bloggers bay in the blogosphere, do political reporters hear them? The answer, I quickly learned, depends on four factors: how you define “political blog”; which political bloggers you mean; which political reporters you mean; and--not to go all Bill Clinton on you--what the meaning of “hear” is. Blog, for the uninitiated, is shorthand for “Web log,” online journals of thought and commentary. They feature a personal, distinctive voice, links to other sources and regular postings displayed in reverse chronological order with the newest entry first. Readers scroll down the screen to scan the blogs, which often include a place for reader input, archives of past entries and “blogrolls,” lists of other blogs the author finds useful.

Permalink | News and Views

May 29, 2004, 07:00 AM

Your chance to honor our vets

By Dan Patrick

Saturday I have noticed that more people are aware of what the real meaning of Memorial Day is this year. In the past, it seemed the main focus of this weekend, for many Americans, was a cook out and a day in the sun. This Memorial Day, it seems more people are talking about honoring our military than in years past. I am sure that these feelings are due to the sacrifices many are making in Iraq and in other countries in the war on terror. The 9-11 attack on the World Trade Towers is still a vivid reminder of our precious freedoms for many Americans. The new Washington D.C. memorial to World War II has also helped focus our nation's attention on the brave men and women who have defended our liberty over the last 65 years. Many Americans go to various places that honor our soldiers in our country and leave a note or a reminder to share their feelings about all who have served. For those of you who will not be able to visit war memorials to honor our soldiers this weekend, all of us at Chronicallybiased.com want to give you an opportunity to share your thoughts in our web paper. So, please submit your thoughts by clicking on comments below. Please keep your submission to 100 words or less. You may leave a comment at any time. We will begin posting your comments at noon today, noon tomorrow and again on Monday. To read the words of your fellow readers, remember to check the comments for today, and then again tomorrow and on Monday. Each day will be a new posting. To see all three days of comments, you will need to scroll down our main page to see each day. I will make the first post. I sincerely thank all of the men and women who have served in our military and their families for their unselfish sacrifice for me, my family and my country. I especially honor the memory of my father who I lost last year. He served in WWII in the Pacific. He was an example of that “great generation” who did their duty and then came home to help build this country into the great nation it is today. Like many of his time, he was modest, honest, hard working and never asked for anything in return for his service. He was a great husband and father. He cared about his fellow man and his country. He was one of the few, the brave; he was a Marine.

Permalink | News and Views

May 29, 2004, 07:00 AM

The Wrong Lessons

By John Vaughn

The most serious criticism of President Bush for his handling of the Iraq war is that he misled the country by justifying the war on the presence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq. The fact that such weapons have not been found has been a political disaster for the President. Chastising the President based on our failure, so far, to find that Iraq had WMD demonstrates a significant misconception of the nature of the war on terror and of the options we faced before we invaded Iraq. Our war against terrorism is a race against time. Al Qaeda and other radical Islamic groups are trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction. The devastation some of these weapons would cause when used against us is so terrible that it is difficult for most people to comprehend. Last year, the President was faced with a decision on whether to invade Iraq. He did not know for sure that Iraq had WMD, but he was not willing to take the risk. In his 2003 State of the Union, President Bush laid out his case succinctly:
Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent . . . If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.
The President has often been misquoted as saying the threat was imminent, but what he chose to say in this speech was exactly the opposite: The threat may not be imminent, but we cannot afford to wait to be sure. The President decided that the risks of inaction were potentially catastrophic. It was a rational decision, and it was the right decision based on what he knew at the time. The President shared his thinking with the American people and with Congress, which gave its approval for war. At some point in the near future this President, or one that comes after, will be faced with another such decision. Many people in the Democratic party have assailed Bush for the lack of these weapons because it allows them to gain political ground against a president whose strong suit was up until recently his handling of the war. At what cost have these political maneuvers come? The next time a President faces such a decision he may hesitate to act because of the political fallout if he is wrong. If this comes to pass, then the political posturing of the President's opponents will have come at a high price. The political calculus of future presidents may dictate that the political risk is not worth taking action in such a situation. We can learn lessons from our experience in Iraq. Let us hope this is not one of them.

Permalink | News and Views

May 28, 2004, 03:57 PM

Nitpicking the correction and going beside the point...

By Rob Booth

As we posted this morning, the Chronicle ran a correction to their story on HISD budget cuts. I'm confused by one word in the correction, but that's beside the point. Here's the sentence that is confusing me:
On Thursday, the district revealed it also will save $4.1 million as part of a previously announced plan to cut 124 jobs.
How does one “reveal” something that one has “previously announced?” Let's go to the dictionary:
Main Entry: 1re·veal [snip] 1 : to make known through divine inspiration 2 : to make (something secret or hidden) publicly or generally known 3 : to open up to view : DISPLAY
The first thing that comes to my mind with the word “reveal” is to “reveal a secret.” The 124 jobs to be cut was publicly revealed in a press release in March. HISD puts out a ton of press releases, all the Chronicle had to say was they missed that one. Anyway, as we noted, the HISD retort to this article doesn't address the more serious accusation in it, that the HISD board has been meeting in what the Chronicle described as an “apparent violation of the state's open meetings law.” Please correct me in the comments, but shouldn't the affected parties, e.g., the Chronicle, the teachers' union, or the parents' groups, bring this up as a legal matter?

Permalink | News and Views

May 28, 2004, 09:47 AM

Chronicle rates global warming scare flick a 'B'

By Owen Courrèges

Eric Harrison, the same Houston Chronicle film critic who gave “The Passion” an 'F' rating, has given a positive review to the politically-charged global warming thriller “The Day After Tommorrow.” For those who haven't seen the preview, the film's plot is actually rather simple. The entire planet begins destroying itself in a global catyclysm because of, yes, global warming. Of course, this is scientifically impossible. More than that, it's downright ridiculous. Patrick J. Michaels of the Cato Institute makes this point in a recent op-ed run in USA Today. Still, many left-wing organizations such as MoveOn.org and CBS News have decided to offer the film free publicity, ostensibly in order to heighten awareness about the scourge of global warming in the most unrealistic way possible. Yet the critics haven't been buying it. Most of the reviews thus far have been negative, according to RottenTomatoes.com. Now I'm not about to accuse Harrison of reviewing “The Day After Tomorrow” entirely through the lens of his own politics (he obviously doesn't), but when he gives this mindless thriller a 'B' and “The Passion” an 'F,' it provides justifiable concern as to his judgment. And when the Chronicle continues to run his film reviews... Well, suffice to say it makes you wonder as to their credibility in general.

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 28, 2004, 07:30 AM

My View: Oil prices

By Owen Courrèges

As occurs every year, we're having a brief period of increased oil prices. Yet this year, the price shocks have been considerably worse than usual, especially in certain states such as California where demand is high and regulation is onerous. Houston has actually been spared the brunt of the increases, although consumers still suffer. Some claim that the oil companies are responsible for this, that BP, ExxonMobil, Total, et al, have been engaged in some kind of grand collusion to manipulate the price of gasoline. At first blush, it sounds like a valid theory, considering that profits remain high. However, this charge is completely without merit. First of all, there is no evidence of collusion. Several congressional investigations into the oil industry have all come up with nothing. Secondly, the fact is that oil company profits tend to track the crude market. Since crude oil itself is expensive right now, the oil industry benefits as prices increase. Accordingly, there must be some other reason for the price shocks. And although it may come as a surprise to many, one reason is you. No, I don't mean you specifically. I mean you, the consumer. Demand for gasoline tends to spike in the late spring and early summer, resulting in considerably higher gas prices. People simply consume more fuel during this time, which makes the country more vulnerable to price shocks. Other, larger factors include recent increases in cost of oil in the crude market, excessive government regulation on fuel formulations, a lack of new refineries, and taxes. Not all of these problems are solvable, but there are many that we can control. In the aggregate, removing gasoline taxes, pursuing an aggressive energy policy with producing nations, and stripping away needless regulations. On an individual level, we can simply drive less. That's the natural response of a consumer operating in a free market. We are not experiencing a crisis. Gasoline prices, adjusted for inflation, are still far lower than they were during the 1970's. Compared to other goods, it has remained fairly inexpensive, even now. Suffice to say we've become a bit spoiled thanks to cheap gasoline. In any case, though, we should expect prices to taper off as the summer slogs on. There are already signs that the crude market is hitting its peak, and will begin coming back down to earth shortly. I'm Owen Courrèges, and that's my view.

Permalink | Owen's View

May 28, 2004, 07:07 AM

41

By Rob Booth

KTRK: METRO light rail suffers 41st accident
A pickup truck and METRO light rail car came together Thursday. That's light rail accident number 41. Thursday's accident happened at Congress and Main. The pickup driver says he had to stop suddenly because the car in front of him did and found himself on the tracks.
Thanks to John Gaver at Action America for the news tip.

Permalink | Houston's Light Rail

May 28, 2004, 07:00 AM

Reagan Understood How to Win

By John Vaughn

President Bush's speech last Monday struck me as very Reaganesque. It got me thinking of the similarities between Reagan's handling of the Cold War and Bush's handling of the War on Terror. When Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, the world was a much different place. It was less than ten years after the end of the Vietnam war. America was demoralized, struggling through the economic malaise of the Carter years, and we were suffering staggering losses in our power overseas as the Soviet Union spread its influence to state after state. We had also just lived through the most humiliating foreign policy debacle in American history, the hostage crisis in Iran. In response to the dangers we faced, there were many in this who country wanted the United States to disarm itself of nuclear weapons, to make peace and compromise with the Soviets (leaving half the world in the stranglehold of tyranny), and to retreat within our borders. The peace-at-all-costs left has not changed much. Then, as now, their hope was that all conflicts are simply a matter of misunderstandings, or a natural reaction to American imperialism. If we would only leave the world alone, and emanate peace, love and understanding, the world would be safe from war. We were the primary font of war, and all that was needed to bring an end to it was to disarm and embrace the world. President Reagan had a different vision. He understood that we faced an evil empire, one which subjugated its people and desired the subjugation of others. He believed this tyranny should and could be ended — that the spread of freedom was not only the right thing to do, it would also make the world safer. Reagan challenged the Soviets in places like Nicaragua and Afghanistan, fighting proxy wars to keep the spread of communist dictatorships in check. He also increased the size of the U.S. Navy to six hundred ships, pushed for the development of the Strategic Defense Initiative and other advanced weapons systems, and generally increased the size of defense spending significantly. Reagan wanted to win the Cold War. He didn't want to come to terms with tyranny, he wanted to defeat it. He understood the true nature of Stalinist Russia and her allies and he used clear language to communicate this to the American people. The U.S.S.R. was the “Evil Empire” and it had to be defeated. Reagan proceeded to do just that. There were howls from the left of how simple-minded Reagan was not to understand the nuances, and to have the arrogance to think he could change the world. But he did. The Soviet Union is gone. Eastern Europe is now free. And the United States is indeed safer. My son, who is now seventeen, has grown up never knowing the fear that the world could end at any moment — a situation of which I was well aware from the time I was thirteen. George W. Bush is the same kind of President. If anyone out there has any doubt about his determination for victory in the War on Terror, you need to go and watch a series of his speeches on the subject. Start with his speech to the Joint Session of Congress on Sept. 20, 2001, and end with his most recent speech on Iraq. The President has been clear as to what is at stake. That we will fight, and that we will win. He does not, as his immediate predecessor did, give empty speeches full of vacuous threats, followed by token actions, police investigations, and the issuing of arrest warrants. Bush's way is the only way forward. Our other options are accommodation and appeasement. Those who think we should instead invest more in “Homeland Security,” and that this alone will keep us safe, are living a dangerous fantasy. Prudent security measures are, of course, a good thing. But we cannot defend against all possible attacks. We are an open society, and 100% defense is a practical impossibility. This is fact. One vial the size of a thimble containing a weaponized version of the small pox virus could threaten our very existence if released into the population in the right way. Such an event would result in not thousands of deaths, but millions or tens of millions. How do you defend against the entry of one thimble into this country? You cannot. We must remember that Al Qaeda is not a terrorist group like the IRA, which desired limited political goals though it used the still despicable tactics of terror. Al Qaeda and those like them are apocalyptic terrorists — they wish the end of the world as we know it so that they can reshape the aftermath into the medieval society that they desire. Hesitation, appeasement, and compromise with those who would kill us will only be interpreted as weakness and opportunity. In the short term, our most important defense is offense. We must find the people that desire and plan to do these things to us and kill them. This is the brutal reality of war. Any country that develops the most dangerous types of weapons and has ties to terrorists must be disarmed or overthrown. The confluence of these two things can no longer be tolerated. We should try to do so by means other than military when possible, but the end must be the same. And yet, we cannot fight every country in the Middle East, nor can we continue fighting forever. In the long term, therefore, we must aim to change the dynamics of the Middle East in our favor. We can work to spread democratic governments (or at least pluralistic, consensual governments based on the rule of law) throughout the Middle East, starting with Iraq. This will not only rob the terrorists of one more source of angry disaffected arab youths who would be potential recruits to their cause, it will also be a catalyst to other democratic movements elsewhere, such as Iran. Bush understands all this and has made the case for his policies with clear conviction. This is from Monday's speech:
We did not seek this war on terror, but this is the world as we find it. We must keep our focus. We must do our duty. History is moving, and it will tend toward hope, or tend toward tragedy. Our terrorist enemies have a vision that guides and explains all their varied acts of murder. They seek to impose Taliban-like rule, country by country, across the greater Middle East. . . Our actions, too, are guided by a vision. We believe that freedom can advance and change lives in the greater Middle East, as it has advanced and changed lives in Asia, and Latin America, and Eastern Europe, and Africa.
Like Reagan, Bush is derided for being simple-minded, not understanding the nuances, and above all for being so arrogant as to think he might change the world. But it has been done before, in my lifetime. We must do it again. What choice have we?

Permalink | News and Views

May 28, 2004, 05:45 AM

HISD requests a retraction from the Chronicle

By Rob Booth

Terry Abbott, Houston Independent School District Press Secretary, sent out an e-mail on May 27 to members of the media informing them of HISD's request to the Houston Chronicle for a retraction. They requested a correction to part of a story headlined HISD trustees gather behind closed doors. This retraction request did not concern the part of the article in the Chronicle's headline. Terry Abbott brought this paragraph of the Chronicle story to the media's attention:
With a July 1 deadline to enact a budget looming, school officials have yet to offer any specifics on how they plan to cut an estimated $39 million from their spending plan.
Terry Abbott maintained that HISD “announced by news release and interviews with all of the media that HISD was immediately eliminating 124 job in an effort to cut $39 million out of the budget.” According to the HISD web site, a press release was posted on March 11, 2004 titled HISD eliminating 124 jobs in the face of state revenue cuts. Here is an excerpt:
Facing a reduction in state revenue of more than $28 million, HISD will reorganize its operations and eliminate 124 jobs, officials said Friday. No classroom teachers will be laid off as a result of this budget cut. Some of the positions being eliminated are already vacant. Employees who lose their jobs as a result of the position cuts can apply for other positions in the district. The Board of Education has approved a severance package based on years of service for those who leave the district because their positions were eliminated. Employees who have been with the district for 20 years or more will receive three months' salary, and veteran HISD employees with less than 20 years service but at least five years will receive two months' salary. Those who have worked less than five years but at least one year will receive one month's salary, and those with less than a year of service will receive two weeks' salary. The position cuts come on top of the 367 jobs eliminated last year. For the 2004-2005 school year budget, HISD needs to cut about $39 million because of the declining state revenue and increasing costs for such things as employee health insurance and school-building utility bills. The district will save about $2.1 million by cutting costs for consultants and will cut the travel budget by $150,000.
The Chronicle issued a correction to the story on Friday, May 28.

Permalink | Poor Chron Journalism

May 28, 2004, 05:30 AM

Time for a lighter moment

By Dan Patrick

In today's world the news of the day is always so serious. However, with a holiday weekend upon us, I thought we should take a break from these serious headlines and smile for awhile. As you know, we are very focused on making sure the Houston Chronicle is held accountable for all of their mistakes and liberal bias. We also try hard to eliminate spelling and grammar mistakes. However, according to one major university, maybe people don't notice all of the errors anyway. Tihs is Amzanig !!! Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm.Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. amzanig huh? Hvae a graet wekned! p.s. I mghit strat writnig lkie tihs all of the tmie. Taht way I wno't hvae to wrory abuot splelnig msitkaes.

Permalink | Humor

May 27, 2004, 07:30 AM

Letters: Advertising Planned Parenthood

By Owen Courrèges

Today I received the following e-mail from Helen Posvar, president of the Coalition for Life. She essentially proposes a boycott of local media outlets that allow advertisments from Planned Parenthood on their stations. Specifically, she takes aim at AM 740 KTRH:
I work at the Coalition for Life here in Houston. It's a group that started up in Bryan/College Station when PP announced they would be opening up an abortion facility there in 1998. We are working to eliminate PP's negative influence in our community (and since we started, the Coalition has spread to Houston & Huntsville to concentrate more on those 2 PPHSET offices). I was wondering if I could enlist your help with a new development. [AM 740] KTRH has begun to run ads for PP on their station, and when some of us called to complain & request that they stop, we found that many people had complained before us. (Beau Brown told us that). Ken Charles called me yesterday explaining that because abortion was a “political issue” he couldn't discriminate against PP. (When I pointed out that he discriminates against sexually oriented businesses he just said, “Yea, but that's a moral issue.”) Go figure that one out. My bet is that if we make it more politically (or financially) expedient for him to use discretion about who can advertise on his station, he will re-think his decision. If dozens of Austin area construction workers can all boycott the building of a late-term PP abortion facility in Austin, Houston radio stations & businessmen can also refuse to PROMOTE the largest abortion provider in our region (PPHSET aborts 6,876 babies per year). Helen Posvar President, Coalition for Life
I'm obviously a staunch pro-lifer, and yet Posvar places KTRH in a very difficult position. Denying air time to advertisments from Planned Parenthood would send a very distinct political message that, as a news radio station, they just don't wish to send. After all, I don't believe KTRH would refuse to run ads from pro-life crisis pregnancy centers. Given just how divisive this issue is, they only wish to remain neutral. That's the very definition of reasonable. On the other hand, I do view abortion as a great moral evil and would prefer that Planned Parenthood be marginalized. As such, I sympathize with Posvar and I admire her dedication. That leaves me a bit torn, although I still must lean towards KTRH's position. Unlike with the Houston Chronicle, they don't fund Planned Parenthood directly; they merely let them pay money for airtime. The connection, it appears, is quite tenuous and unworthy of a boycott.

Permalink | Letters

May 27, 2004, 07:28 AM

Memorial Day

By Kevin Whited

Just a quick note to readers that I won't be posting to the weblog or answering emails for a few days, as I'm heading out of town and to the (internet-free) woods for Memorial Day. Let me publicly salute our veterans (and soldiers) ahead of time, and wish everyone a good holiday. Most of our other posters should be writing over the holiday, and we have some nice features set to post. See you on the other side!

Permalink | Staff Notes

May 27, 2004, 07:00 AM

My View: Gore's speech

By Owen Courrèges

Yesterday, former Vice President Al Gore delivered a hysterical speech in which he charged that “twisted values and atrocious policies at the highest levels of our government” resulted in the abuses at Abu Ghraib Prison, which he calls “Bush's gulag.” He also called for the resignations of no fewer than six administration officials — Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Stephen Cambone, Condoleeza Rice, and George Tenet. Gore's tone was also less than temperate. As this picture shows, his crazed look was evocative of erstwhile Democratic frontrunner Howard Dean. All in all, the man simply embarassed himself. Indeed, when I read the transcript of Gore's speech, I was struck by the sheer level of fanaticism in it. He blames the president directly for the prison abuse scandal, and seemingly absolves the soldiers themselves who actually committed the abuses. That's well beyond “the buck stops here.” That's shifting the blame from those immediately responsible to a policial enemy, for no better reason than to slander him. Clearly, Bush didn't encourage abuses. Call him negligent if you wish, Mr. Gore, but these incidents did not occur with his sanction. Blasting on, Gore also claimed that Republicans attacked Senator Max Cleland, a triple-amputee and a Vietnam veteran, as being “unpatriotic.” In reality, the GOP merely attacked his voting records on national security issues. Nobody questioned his patriotism, but many people questioned his judgment. That's why he lost his senate seat, and yet the way Gore paints it, it seems as if Cleland was accused of hating his country. Bizarrely, he conflates a political discussion with a personal attack. Given all of this, I think everyone should be thankful. We should be thankful that Al Gore is not president. Gore revealed that he lacked the temperment to be president. He lacked it all along, and his instability is only now clear to all. Gore has become a charter member of the anti-Bush left, whose only apparent goal is to defeat the current administration. There is no positive message buried underneath. None of this is to say that dissent is unpatriotic or that spirited political opposition is innately wrong. It isn't. However, there is a point at which discourse degenerates into character assassination and intellectual dishonesty, a point that Gore obviously passed long ago. I'm Owen Courrèges, and that's my view.

Permalink | Owen's View

May 27, 2004, 06:51 AM

Chronically Biased staff - Read this!

By Rob Booth

OJR: To Their Surprise, Bloggers Are Force for Change in Big Media
Blogger Robert Cox tried everything he could do to get The New York Times to change its ways. After he read an incorrectly abridged quote in a Maureen Dowd column last year, he tried in vain to get a correction in the paper. He vented, he raged, he rallied the blogosphere and even some other newspapers. But in the end, his parody of the Times' correction page — and the overreaction from the Times' legal department — got the newspaper to change its policy.
Thanks to reader David for sending this in.

Permalink | Staff Notes

May 27, 2004, 06:30 AM

New Poll Question

By Owen Courrèges

We have a new poll question up today: “Do you believe that America will suffer a terrorist attack between now and the November election?” To register your vote on this very important question, just click here. As for our previous poll, 47.8% of you believed that Governor Perry “did the right thing” in going ahead with Kelsey Patterson's execution. 37.6% of you responded that “he should have made an exception in this case,” and 14.6% of you believe that “there shouldn't be a death penalty.”

Permalink | Staff Notes

May 27, 2004, 06:02 AM

Towing Proposal News

By Rob Booth

Here's a couple of links to stories about the new towing plan. News 24 Houston: City Council passes tow truck ordinance
A tragic accident on I-45 near The Woodlands — a distracted mom slams her car into a tractor trailer sitting on the shoulder, killing her 5-year-old daughter. “You can't dispute the argument if these vehicles and these accidents had not been stalled on the freeway or not parked here, that these people wouldn't have died, and there have been three deaths in the last week,” Councilman Mark Goldberg says.
KHOU: Mayor's 'tow and go' policy approved
A hotly debated 'tow and go' policy got the hook-up Wednesday by the city of Houston. City council approved Mayor White’s plan to have stalled or wrecked vehicles towed immediately from area highways. Here’s how it will work:

Permalink | News and Views

May 27, 2004, 05:46 AM

The first step is admitting the problem

By Kevin Whited

Not to be left behind by the effort by the Dallas Morning News to clean up their shop, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram is deploying some sophisticated new software as a safeguard against plagiarism by its writers. As their reader advocate (it must be nice to have one who is functional!) David House explains, the software helps automate a laborious process:
The gravity of the situation calls for unusual steps such as the Star-Telegram's fact-checking policy. Checks scrutinize stories in three ways with help from the writers, who provide lists of sources and contact information. Stacy Garcia, director of news research, compares facts, phrasing and other details with results from searches of the massive LexisNexis database and Web searches. D'Juana Gibson, Witt's administrative assistant, assists with calls to sources to verify the accuracy of quotes and paraphrases. Web searches are crucial to the fact-checking process because plagiarists have found it so tempting, easy and relatively safe to steal information that's on the Web. For us, Web searches have been painfully slow, limited to our subjective selection of search phrases and potentially only as good as what's publicly available on the Web at the moment. That changes with iThenticate, developed by iParadigms LLC of Oakland as a commercial version of the plagiarism detector Turnitin, which academics have been using for several years at high schools, colleges and universities nationwide and abroad. We gain considerable scope, depth and speed with iThenticate. For instance, in a matter of seconds, iThenticate will make a digital fingerprint of an article and check it against two monolithic collections of published information — the ProQuest database, which is similar to LexisNexis, and an archived Internet database of more than 4.5 billion Web pages. An additional 40 million Web pages are added to the archive each day as iThenticate searches its Web-based sources for fresh material.
If the Chronicle were using such software — or even used the labor-intensive system of actually calling to verify quotes used in articles — incidents like Rick Casey's lifting of quotes without proper attribution (and lifting of some of Dan Morgan's exact phrases with NO attribution) would never have gotten past the editors. Of course, Casey's editors simply stuck their heads in the sand when his misbehavior was pointed out to them, which again illustrates the extent of the problems at the Chronicle. It's nice to see the DFW area's major newspapers taking their craft more seriously, at least. In Houston, adding color and summary boxes to the sports pages is a higher priority.

Permalink | Miscellaneous

May 27, 2004, 02:15 AM

Democrats just can't help themselves.

By Dan Patrick

Yesterday morning, Democrat Congressman Gene Green was on my show. Green is a moderate Democrat and a fine gentleman. Recently, he spoke at the memorial service of Leroy Sandoval Jr., when Republicans were a no show. Many of Leroy’s family members live in a Republican district. Green, the highest elected official in attendance, was there to pay his respects and ended up speaking at the service. I praised him at the time for doing the right thing. However, when it comes to politics, Green must follow the company line or be ostracized from the party. Monday night, on Channel 2 Green criticized President Bush after hearing his speech. He echoed the same mantra that I have heard from other Democrats concerning the President and Iraq. He talked about how our troops were untrained, ill equipped and talked about the 800 lives lost. He then went on to say that the President and his staff misled the nation before taking us into this war. I was watching the Fox News Channel last night and heard a Democratic mouthpiece saying the same thing. Gene denied that he was following party orders. He also said that Ted Kennedy, Tom Daschle and John Kerry did not represent the party view and that he was an independent voice. I do not think so on either accounts. The Democrats are masters at drawing up a few lines to argue their point, attacking others and then making sure everyone says the same thing in every interview. Later that day, Al Gore, apparently out on a day pass from the hospital, went absolutely overboard in his attack of the President. He went beyond criticizing the President, which he surely has the right to do, suggesting that President Bush has led us into an immoral war. He demanded that everyone under the President and Vice-President resign. He yelled and screamed as he compared this President to Richard Nixon. Gore’s hateful speech is harmful to our war effort and puts our soldiers and civilians in Iraq at a greater risk. As a former Vice-President, Gore must understand that his words carry more importance than the average citizen or politician. Gore's words can be easily misunderstood around the world. His words give our enemies hope that they can divide us and eventually drive us out of Iraq. It is one thing to criticize our President. Gores did much more than just criticize. The Democrats can not help themselves. Whether they are a local Congressman or a former V.P., they hate this President so much and want to return to the White House with such passion, that they will do anything to try to destroy and defeat President George Bush. Even if that means putting America at greater risk by giving our enemies hope to fight on. We’ve seen this before from the left. It was 35 years ago and the country was Vietnam.

Permalink | News and Views

May 26, 2004, 05:32 PM

Good and bad journalism

By Kevin Whited

The latest edition of Sherry Sylvester's Texas Media Watch is posted, and in it, she takes the Chronicle's Clay Robison to task:
For Texans who wonder how a relatively one-sided newsroom affects daily reporting, consider this most recent column by the Houston Chronicle's Clay Robison. Robison's stridently partisan point of view is evident in almost every column he writes. Still, his editors appear to believe he is objective enough to serve as their Austin Bureau Chief.
We agree with Texas Media Watch on this. Back on 9 May, I wrote:
I realize this is an op-ed, but I question how a bureau chief can take shots like this on the editorial page and claim to oversee his beat with any objectivity whatever. It strains credibility (if that is the right word to use to describe the Chronicle).
The editors of that newspaper don't even seem to realize (or perhaps care) that it doesn't look very good to give Robison op-ed space for his partisan rants, yet also allow him to head up an important news bureau. Elsewhere, Sylvester praises John Williams for this recent column. Our Owen Courreges commented here on that column. I didn't have any real problems with that column, but here's something for those of you who think we take too many shots at the Chronicle: I think Williams did a better job with this column. Here's an excerpt:
Money may be about the only thing [Peter] Brown and [Jeff] Daily have in common. Brown is a founder of Blueprint Houston, which is attempting to find ways to improve the city's quality of life through better planning. Daily is a board member of the Houston Property Rights Association, which supports a hands-off policy by government regarding use of private property. Brown is a Democrat. Daily is a Republican. Brown opposes the proposed city revenue cap that Daily has worked to get before voters later this year.
Instead of simply applying labels in an unbalanced manner (like some of his colleagues), Williams actually contrasts the positions of the potential candidates, without rendering judgments for the reader. It's an example of good journalism. The rest of the column is also fair and informative. More of the Chron's writers should emulate it.

Permalink | Miscellaneous

May 26, 2004, 12:07 PM

Iran is at War with the United States

By John Vaughn

Michael Ledeen, a contributor to National Review, has been reporting on events in Iran and warning of the dangers of our current policy with regard to that country for quite some time. Iran is, of course, one of the states on the official State Department list of terror-supporting nations. We have suspected for some time that they support deadly terror groups, such as Hamas, that blow up school buses full of children and commit other atrocities in Israel. Iran is also on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons. I knew all this yesterday. But I still found Mr. Ledeen's column today, No Way Out , shocking. Ledeen details excerpts from a recent speech by a top official, Hassan Abbasi (a man working “in the office of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei”). In this speech made just last Sunday, Abbasi admitted training terrorists:
“Lebanese Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas have all been trained by these hands,” that is, Iranian hands.
That a high government official should admit such a thing is of great consequence. But it gets worse. He also stated the following:
“We have identified some 29 weak points for attacks in the U.S. and in the West, we intend to explode some 6,000 American atomic warheads, we have shared our intelligence with other guerilla groups and we shall utilize them as well. We have set up a department to cover England and we have had discussions regarding them[;] we have contacted the Mexicans and the Argentineans and will work with anyone who has an axe to grind with America.”
Ledeen points out that exploding six thousand warheads is certainly beyond their capability. This is, however, a blatant statement of the intentions of Iran with regard to the United States. It is worth restating that this is not simply the rantings of some lunatic cleric, nor of a man on the street in Gaza. This was from a high official in Iran. Why is this not on the front page of the Chronicle, or carried on the major news networks? I find it interesting that editors and producers responsible for choosing which stories to run do not consider it newsworthy that people high up in the Iranian government are openly talking of their support for terrorist groups and detailing plans to attack the United States.

Permalink | News and Views

May 26, 2004, 08:17 AM

Chronicle plays its usual game

By Dan Patrick

I can always count on the Houston Chronicle to be late reporting the facts on any story that they have stated opposition to in prior articles and editorials. For example, the Chronicle’s Rick Casey attacked Texas Governor Rick Perry when he came to Houston a few months ago to unveil his plan for a three percent cap in the appraisal rate. Also, the Chronicle has never given a fair examination of either C.L.O.U.T. or homeowners who called for property tax relief. Now, after the legislature has failed to reduce or cut taxes, the Houston Chronicle has written an article focusing on appealing higher property taxes. The Chronicle openly admits that homeowners have seen their taxes go up over ten percent a year. Where was the Chronicle during the property tax debate? The Houston Chronicle likes to play games with its readers when it comes to issues its editorial board opposes. The Chronicle never publishes fair or balanced stories, giving the other side of an issue, until the editorial board thinks that they have won the issue. After the board members think that they have won a particular issue, they write an article on that issue as if they just discovered “new” information pertaining to that issue. The Chronicle has a long history of telling only one side of the story. They have followed this pattern on everything from stadiums to metro trains and property taxes. They must think their readers have very short memories. Writing the full story after the fact does not show that the stories in the Chronicle are really fair and balanced. Writers at the Chronicle like to think so. So, here we go again. Writers for the Chronicle write about the problems of property taxes after the debate is over and they think they have won on the issue. When the legislature takes up the issue of property taxes and appraisal caps again you can expect the Chronicle to once again follow its pattern of only writing one side of the story, the side they want you to hear. They will attack the Governor and any other Republican who wants to reduce the size of government. They will write about school districts, cities and counties not having enough money. They will ignore the facts that clearly show that the average homeowner has seen their taxes double in the last seven years and will see their taxes double in another seven years. If they write about C.L.O.U.T they won’t mention that it is the fastest growing grassroots movement in the state and that it is having a real impact on public policy. They will attack C.L.O.U.T. They will write that its founders are only interested in being elected to higher offices or grabbing higher ratings. Sadly, we know the pattern by now. What is offensive is that the Houston Chronicle apparently thinks many of its readers are not intelligent enough to catch on to the games they play.

Permalink | News and Views

May 26, 2004, 07:00 AM

My View: Capital Punishment

By Owen Courrèges

Capital punishment is a difficult issue for me. On one hand, I have a strong reverence for human life. On the other hand, I am fond of the old Texas legal justification of “he just needed killin'.” These conflicting extremes tend to guide my position on the issue. First of all, though, I do draw a firm distinction between innocent life and guilty life. There has to be a substantial difference drawn between a nun and a serial killer, at least in terms of how we view the value of their lives. Our actions can render our lives less valuable if we let them, just as they can make short work of our souls. I believe that the moral wrongness of the worst crimes — namely homicides — can render our lives forfeit. Under that circumstance, the death penalty becomes just. Beyond that, however, is the concern that those who are willing to kill can harm others. There is no such thing as absolute incapacitation. Killers can kill again, even in prison. They may kill fellow prisoners, or even guards (this happens more often than you may think). Oftentimes the only realistic solution is an execution. Now I do not believe that the desire for vengeance should motivate executions. Certainly, it is good that capital punishment often helps families reach a point of a closure, but indulging their anger won't help them or society. The death penalty is in place to provide a just punishment and to protect other human lives. Nothing more. In this way, I believe that the death penalty actually enhances our reverence for life. If we are willing to take life away from those who dare to steal it, does that not show reverence? Sometimes the best measure of how much we value something comes in how strong a message we send to those who take it. I'm Owen Courrèges, and that's my view.

Permalink | Owen's View

May 25, 2004, 11:56 PM

Letters To The Editor

By The Staff

Here are our most recent letters to the editor. Please feel free to email us your opinions, and to take advantage of our comments. We can't post all of the emails we receive, but we do read them. Boycott Having Little Effect I am a private contractor for the Houston Chronicle and in our district we have had very few cancellations due to the Jeff Cohen situation. In fact for every cancellation we have received on my route (less than 1%) we have received new subscribers to take their place. I can't speak for the Houston area as a whole, but in my zone this boycott has had very little effect. Editor's Note: In a follow up, the same person writes as follows: Also, to try and increase subscriptions the Chronicle has been delivering the paper to all non-subscribers on my route twice a week for the past four weeks. [Name withheld by request] Classifieds I was just shown your publication by my fiancé today, and I really must say I am totally impressed. However, I must first come clean about my enjoyment of the Dan Patrick radio show.... I just wanted to add one comment that I think would be very interesting for you to consider. I was reading in the NRA magazine that The Houston Chronicle does not allow ads to run in their classified section that involves the resale of guns and ammo. They state that Houstonians do not want such items listed or promoted by the paper due to the fact that it is promoting violence and killings. Ok, so we all understand how silly the newspaper is, but this is in no way true! Both my fiancé and my self are Life Members of the NRA, ATA and advocate safe and responsible gun ownership. It is truly a shame that the Houston Chronicle can not see past this fog of untruths and cut out a large group of Houstonians in general. My thought for you is this, would you consider setting up a classified section for general purposes. Not only for gun owners, but anything your readers would like to sell so we do not have to patronize a newspaper that does not care about its readers or the truth for that matter. Effie Leeman Editor's Note: Actually, we are planning to roll out an online classifieds system in the near future. We'll publicize it when it's ready to go!

Permalink | Letters

May 25, 2004, 10:13 PM

Thanks!

By Kevin Whited

I'd like to thank RatherBiased.com and Brothers Judd for linking to us. RatherBiased.com is devoted to keeping an eye on the biases and weird behavior of CBS News anchor Dan Rather. Brothers Judd is my favorite weblog of politics and culture on the web, and Orrin Judd is a prolific book reviewer as well. I highly recommend both sites, and appreciate their taking note of us!

Permalink | Staff Notes

May 25, 2004, 09:06 PM

Did you hear the one about the AP, a Chronicle staffer and the LA Times?

By M. Wildes

It took a Chronicle staff writer, the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press to put together today’s biased Iraq war article and finagle it into a negative story about Bush’s speech last night. The story, “Bush says troops staying put, but plan dissatisfies Iraqi leaders” is only about its headline for a few paragraphs, and it to, in fact, is a misrepresentation. The remainder of the story tells us how the U.N., France, Germany, China, Kerry, “Americans,” etc… feel about it.

The clever authors try to discredit Bush’s speech by misrepresenting the Iraqi leader’s statements about the blueprint submitted to the U.N. and crisscrossing it with the opinion of China and France as to troop withdrawal:
The president of the Iraqi Governing Council said today that a proposed U.S.-British blueprint for a post-occupation Iraq falls short of expectation, and several key U.N. Security Council members said the proposal presented to the United Nations does not make clear whether the new government will have full authority over Iraq's security, and when foreign troops would leave…

Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer …said the council welcomed President Bush's statement Monday night…that the occupation will end on June 30 as expected.

So it is the blueprint that Iraqi leaders feel falls short and it is the U.N. and company that are dissatisfied as to when troops will leave. Al-Yawer welcomed Bush’s statements Monday.

It may sound as though I am stretching a little until you read what the Iraqis feel is less than their expectations:
On the draft blueprint submitted to the U.N. Security Council, however, al-Yawer said: “We found it less than our expectations.” He said he hoped that input from the Governing Council would be incorporated into the final version of the resolution.
It sounds to me that the Iraqis are happy with Bush’s speech but “dissatisfied” with the lack of their input in the draft blueprint submitted to the U.N. which deals with more than troop withdrawal. It is, in fact, the U.N. that has the problem with the timetable for withdrawal of troops. After all, they had a problem with the troops being there at all. The authors are trying to discredit the speech with unrelated quotes.

Still not convinced?: Later the authors say, of the troop withdrawal and security:

France, Germany, China, Chile and Russia would like to have an earlier reassessment, or to simply leave the force's mandate to the new Iraqi government to decide.
This gem of a biased story continues with:
Bush did not satisfy critics who have called for a timetable for withdrawing from Iraq or reducing U.S. troops there. Instead, he started a campaign to reverse growing American skepticism about the course of the war in Iraq…
Does the second sentence tell us what Bush’s response to the first statement is? No. It does not even have anything to do with the sentence it is supposed to be “instead” of. The statement that Bush “started a campaign” is nothing more than an opinion inserted to imply that Bush is only campaigning with this speech and is also a way to slip in the latest interpretation of a poll.

Furthermore, I am not sure exactly who the authors are talking about. Maybe John Kerry, France, China or the authors themselves. No matter who these critics are, they apparently were not listening when the president said we would be there as long as it took (as the authors mention toward the very end of the story when discussing other matters) and that a timetable would be a mistake.

The story continued with more opinions such as:

The president Monday did not admit to large policy mistakes in Iraq or concede the need for major course corrections.
So let me get this straight. If the authors believe that mistakes have been made or that the course must be corrected, then the president was supposed to respond to their opinions. This is just another attempt to make it look as though Bush has failed to relieve people’s worries and failed in Iraq. It’s a subliminal message that reinforces the mischaracterization of Bush and the war.

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 25, 2004, 08:20 PM

The Chron fixes its problems

By The Staff

Jeff Cohen's making big changes at the Chronicle. No, he's not dumping his editorial staff in favor of people who demand better writing and projects from the writers. No, he's not making the editorial process more transparent by adding an editorial blog or a high-profile ombudsman with power to rebuke staff and correct mistakes. No, he's not adding any known conservatives to the stale mix of editorialists running around Chron offices. No, he's not taking claims of bias and journalistic ineptitude seriously in a highly public fashion. Instead of those, he's concentrating on the real problems at the newspaper:
Please turn to today's Sports section to see the latest in a series of design enhancements being applied to each section of the newspaper over the next couple of months. We've said repeatedly over the last few months that Houston is growing and changing. So is the Chronicle. And some of our most visible changes will be in the way we present our work to you. Our goal has been to energize the newspaper, to make it easier to navigate and to have it reflect Houston and the Gulf Coast of Texas. You'll see:
  • Distinctive typefaces that are easier to read because they were built for our printing presses.
  • More color photographs as well as color coding to help you browse the newspaper
  • Elements like summaries at the beginning of each news story and graphic boxes that highlight key elements in stories.
More color, more graphics, dumber prose (if that's even possible). Apparently Mr. Cohen thinks that you, kind Houstonians, are just not smart enough to read the paper as it is. You need help. And he's going to provide it. Call it Chron arrogance, cranked up a notch or two. The problems at the Chron are not the layout or the typeface or the graphics boxes, Mr. Cohen. You can spend tons of money “fixing” those things, and we think you're going to discover that you should have invested Hearst's money and your time in better editors, better writers, and better processes. In fact, we think you're still going to have to fix those things if you want to boost your circulation in our growing metro area, much as the Dallas Morning News finally decided to revamp their operation substantively in the face of declining circulation and much criticism. There's your model. When you're done playing with new colors and typefaces, we suggest you give their approach some thought. And maybe take some of the (free) criticism you've been getting a little more seriously. Your (former and potential) readers might not be so dumb as you think!

Permalink | Poor Chron Journalism

May 25, 2004, 04:30 PM

Strange Changes to a Washington Post Article

By Rob Booth

On Monday, May 24, the Houston Chronicle reprinted a Washington Post article about recent US efforts to step up measures against Moqtada Sadr, the “rebel cleric.” It seems the Chronicle changed some lines in the article, and I'm not sure why. It should be pointed out that there are various, possible reasons the texts are different, for example, the Post could have sent them a different version of the article mistakenly. Operating on the assumption that the Chronicle did make these changes, let's take a look at the two versions of the article. Here's the link to the Chronicle's version of the article and here's the Post's. Comparing them line by line, we come to a change in paragraph 10. Here's the original Washington Post version:
The move failed to end attacks against U.S. troops. One Marine and one army soldier were killed Sunday just outside Fallujah when their convoy was attacked with rocket-propelled grenades.
and here's the rewrite the Chronicle did:
The move failed to end attacks against U.S. troops. Two Marines were killed Sunday just outside Fallujah when their convoy was attacked with rocket-propelled grenades. The attack in Fallujah was the only report of American lives lost in fighting Sunday. It brings the unofficial U.S. military death toll to about 790 since the invasion in March 2003.
Right off the bat, you'll notice that the Chronicle changed One Marine and one army soldier were killed to Two Marines were killed. The reason for the change could be that this account differs from a Los Angeles Times (LAT) article the Chronicle ran the same day. LAT via the Chronicle: 2 U.S. soldiers die in Fallujah attack
BAGHDAD, Iraq — A car bomb and rocket grenade attack killed two U.S. soldiers and injured five others as their convoy rumbled past Fallujah on Sunday, the first such deadly attack since U.S. Marines ended 3 1/2 weeks of siege late last month. The ambush occurred during a day of heavy fighting to the southeast, as U.S. helicopters, planes and ground troops hammered insurgents in the holy cities of Kufa and Najaf, killing more than 60 religious militia fighters and civilians, according to the military and local hospitals. The attacks are intended to destroy units of the Al Mahdi army loyal to radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. “We've been keeping the pressure on them and we're whittling away at them,” said Army Maj. David Gercken, a spokesman for the 1st Armored Division. “A lot of these guys are misguided. We're trying to give them the message that Sadr is not the future of Iraq.” The attack in Fallujah was the only report of American lives lost in fighting Sunday. It brings the unofficial U.S. military death toll to about 790 since the invasion in March 2003.
So, the Chronicle saw these two accounts were going to be in the paper on the same day and decided to make them consistent. How they chose the “two Marines” is still unclear, the LAT article says “soldiers.” In the interest of setting the record straight, here's the official press release from coalition forces in Iraq: CJTF7: 1 Marine, 1 Soldier Killed, Several Wounded in IED Attack
CAMP FULLUJAH, Iraq - One U.S. Soldier and one U.S. Marine were killed and several other U.S. forces and one civilian contractor were wounded when attackers detonated an improvised explosive device, at about 4:50 p.m. May 23 northwest of Fallujah. Reports indicate the device was placed in a parked vehicle and detonated as two U.S. convoys passed on the highway. The wounded were evacuated by air to the 31st Combat Support Hospital. Release #040524b
I'm not sure whether the Chronicle had access to that press release at the time, so they're off the hook for not checking it. Perhaps in the Chronicle's style guide, Marines and soldiers are synonymous. Also, one can't say that a government/military press release is in and of itself more accurate than reporting by private agencies. On a factual matter of the branch of service of combat deaths, I don't think there's any incentive for the military to fudge the story. In fact, I would think they have more experience and sources to get the facts right. What they're not off the hook for is the line that appears right after the “two Marines/one Soldier and one Marine” sentence. Here's what the Chronicle inserted into the Washington Post article:
The attack in Fallujah was the only report of American lives lost in fighting Sunday. It brings the unofficial U.S. military death toll to about 790 since the invasion in March 2003.
The line above did not appear in the original Washington Post article. Here, however, is what appeared in the LAT article:
The attack in Fallujah was the only report of American lives lost in fighting Sunday. It brings the unofficial U.S. military death toll to about 790 since the invasion in March 2003.
So that phrase appeared in two different articles in the Chronicle on the same day. One can only hazard a guess as to what their motivation is. The Chronicle also changed the casualty count in the last paragraph of their version. Here's the Chronicle version of the Washington Post article:
Overnight Saturday, U.S. troops, for the first time, drove deep into Kufa in tanks backed by attack helicopters. U.S. soldiers remained there Sunday, raiding a mosque and killing more than a dozen insurgents. But other news reports put Sunday's death toll in Kufa as high as 36.
and here's the original Washington Post version:
Overnight Saturday, U.S. troops, for the first time, drove deep into Kufa in tanks backed by attack helicopters. U.S. soldiers remained there Sunday, raiding the green-domed Salah mosque. The military said U.S. soldiers killed at least 32 insurgents in Kufa, the Associated Press reported. Footage from inside the mosque showed blood-red marks curving along the white floor, apparently left by the wounded being dragged to cover. Hospital officials said at least 10 Iraqis died as a result of the fighting.
Where'd the 36 number come from? Once again, we look at the LAT article:
Iraqi security forces and U.S. troops also battled insurgents at Kufa's nearby technical college and a building known as Saddam's Palace. In all, 36 insurgents were reported killed.
That 36 number is supposedly the total number of Iraqi casualties in Kufa in two different incidents. The Chronicle also chopped the end off the Washington Post article, but that could reasonably have been in the interests of space. I won't allege any bias on the Chronicle's part in the differences between the stories. The various numbers thrown around don't really amount to much in the grand scheme of things. What is important is for people who read the Houston Chronicle to know this:The way I resolve this problem for myself is by getting the news from the original source. Thanks to reader Dwight for alerting Chronically Biased to the fact that the articles were different.

Permalink | Poor Chron Journalism

May 25, 2004, 03:00 PM

Bias?

By The Staff

Cox and Forkum: What Bias? Courtesy of Cox and Forkum.

Permalink | Political Cartoons

May 25, 2004, 10:11 AM

Polling Bias at CBS/NY Times

By The Houstonian

The rise of the internet and various watchdog sites (and before that, talk radio) has helped a great deal in exposing the biases of elite media, and providing an alternative perspective when they go awry. The crew at RealClearPolitics have an interesting observation today regarding the polling done by CBS News and the New York times, and how their polling consistently reports approval figures for the President significantly lower than other major poll sources. It's useful information to keep in mind.

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 25, 2004, 07:00 AM

My View: Abortion

By Owen Courrèges

Since I dealt with the issue of Planned Parenthood yesterday, I feel it's only fitting that I face the issue of abortion in a straightforward manner today. I may be sinking into a Mare's nest by speaking openly about this issue, but I feel that I can present a strong argument for the pro-life position. Specifically, the best philosophical argument that I have ever heard for the immorality of abortion comes from a Catholic apologist, Dr. Peter Kreeft, who is also a professor of philosophy at Boston College. This is very fitting, since I am likewise a traditionalist Catholic. I heard him speak once at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, and believe me, the man is impressive. Getting back to Kreeft's argument, though, one sees that it is simple, yet very compelling. Essentially, Kreeft points out that there are only four possibilities of what is true with regards to the philosophical standing (i.e. the 'personhood') of the fetus, the idea being that if the fetus possesses 'personhood,' then it must have a right to live. Here are those four possibilities: 1. The fetus is a person, and we know that; 2. The fetus is a person, but we don't know that; 3. The fetus isn't a person, but we don't know that; 4. The fetus isn't a person, and we know that. In three out of four of these possibilities, Kreeft shows that abortion is immoral. In the first case, Kreeft points out that abortion is cold-blooded murder. Obviously, if the fetus is a person, and we know that, then we commit murder by killing it. That's what murder is, after all — the intentional killing of another person. In the second case, abortion is manslaughter, because the fetus is still a person even though we are ignorant to that fact. Kreeft analogizes it to “driving over a man-shaped overcoat in the street at night or shooting toxic chemicals into a building that you're not sure is fully evacuated.” If somebody is killed in those cases, you can't plead ignorance. Murder without intent is still a crime, and we call it manslaughter. In the third case, Kreeft notes that abortion would be tantamount to criminal negligence. The fetus isn't a person, but we aren't sure, and we're just plain lucky that it's not. Still, it could have been. The man-shaped coat could have been a person in the road, but even if it isn't, it's still a crime to run over it. People are expected not to expose those kinds of risks to other potential persons. Only in the fourth case, says Kreeft, is abortion morally acceptable. And what we therefore must ask ourselves is whether or not we can be certain about the fourth case. In Kreeft's words, “skepticism counts not for abortion but against it.” It isn't the pro-lifers who are the dogmatists, but the pro-choicers. They must believe that the fetus isn't a person and that we know that for certain. They must have total faith in that proposition, lest they condone crime on a massive scale. You'll notice that this has nothing to do with religion. The pro-choicer can't cry “separation of church and state” as a bulwark against this chain of reasoning. That's what makes it so compelling, and I believe it demonstrates quite clearly that abortion is wrong. I'm Owen Courrèges, and that's my view.

Permalink | Owen's View

May 25, 2004, 06:34 AM

Journalists and their ideology

By Kevin Whited

The latest Pew Research Center survey of journalists has been released, and the results aren't all that surprising:
Those convinced that liberals make up a disproportionate share of newsroom workers have long relied on Pew Research Center surveys to confirm this view, and they will not be disappointed by the results of Pew's latest study released today. While most of the journalists, like many Americans, describe themselves as “moderate,” a far higher number are “liberal” than in the general population. At national organizations (which includes print, TV and radio), the numbers break down like this: 34% liberal, 7% conservative. At local outlets: 23% liberal, 12% conservative. At Web sites: 27% call themselves liberals, 13% conservatives. This contrasts with the self-assessment of the general public: 20% liberal, 33% conservative.
Studies have consistently shown that journalists are more liberal than the general public, and that conservatives are greatly underrepresented in the profession. That in itself does not mean that journalism is biased, of course, but it does suggest that journalists may indeed have a predisposition towards certain worldviews, which can influence their coverage. Our friends at RatherBiased have some further thoughts on this topic, and plenty of additional reading.

Permalink | News and Views

May 25, 2004, 06:30 AM

Cragg Hines derides lethal injection

By Owen Courrèges

Chronicle columnist Cragg Hines tells an interesting anecdote in his latest piece, although his argument is, as always, somewhat less than compelling:
David Nelson faced execution and bad veins. Alabama prison officials were prepared to slice into Nelson's arms or legs to ensure that the forthcoming chemical cocktail killed him. At first it was decided a half-inch incision would be enough. Then the warden said, no, it would take a 2-inch incision. Only a local anesthetic was promised. Nelson is a convicted murderer and due no overweening sympathy. His veins are in sorry shape from drug abuse. But Nelson is a human being, whose life is to be taken by the state. And, as this is not the Dark Ages, if the state is going to engage in this contemporary barbarity, it must define and defend its procedures.
Lethal injection will always have some problems with it comes to people with hard-to-find veins. Thanks to AMA protocols, doctors cannot perform lethal injections (oddly enough, they can still perform abortions). As such, medical technicians who only know rudimentary procedures are brought in as executioners. This can lead to complications. However, with an anesthetic, a two-inch cut is hardly 'cruel' nor 'unusual.' For a heroin addict, I'm sure it's downright common. There's no other way to give them IV mediciations. Moreover, there's no way to make the procedure pleasent. It is, in the end, an execution. People need to use more common sense about it. My opinion is that capital punishment is well-justfied, and not barbaric in the least. Yet if death penalty opponents like Hines wish to condemn executions, they certainly ought to be able to do better than this. This is a tangental issue at best, and it doesn't really involve anything resembling a cruel method of execution.

Permalink | Noxious Chron Columnists

May 25, 2004, 06:00 AM

Alphabet networks pass on President's speech

By Dan Patrick

The President spoke to about half of America last night, those with cable. The big three networks, ABC, NBC and CBS, are quick to criticize the President for his handling of the war in Iraq. However, when he announces that he is going to address the nation on the war in Iraq, they pass. May is ratings sweeps month and the networks were not about to let the President take up valuable airtime telling us about the war. ABC spent an entire Nightline show not long ago to list all of those killed in the war. I guess when it comes to really showing respect for those men and the other 138,000 still in Iraq, their movie of the night took higher priority. CBS wasn’t about to push Everyone Loves Raymond back and whatever NBC was airing was also apparently more important that hearing the President address the nation on the war. Gosh, it’s only a war. The President did not ask the networks for airtime. Maybe he thought they would make the right decision on their own. I watched all three local newscasts last night. I applaud channel 2 who did a complete segment on Iraq. They had two Congressmen on live, Democrat Gene Green and Republican Kevin Brady. I like Bill Balleza and Dominique knocks your socks off. (her last name really should be spelled that way instead of Sachse.) They are both talented anchors and personal friends. They asked good questions. However, had I been a live guest, my question to them would have been; if this is so important, how come your network did not air the President’s message live. Obviously, it was not Bill and Domique’s decision or fault, but you get the point. Again, NBC was not alone in passing on airing the President’s speech live. Nightline did their usual special on the topic and like CBS, ABC, home of Nightline, also skipped the President’s message. One might wonder just how important is this war? Or one might ask the obvious, if Bill Clinton were President would the networks have broken away to carry his message live on the same topic The President laid out a very thorough five-point plan in his speech. If anyone listened to the President last night, I believe they would have come away with the impression that the President was in control of the situation. He was candid enough to state the unexpected surprises, disappointments and failures to date. He did not duck the fact that many difficult days lay ahead. However, he sounded confident and committed to resolving the current problems and he put forth a clear vision. If all of America could have seen and heard him live last night, the support for both the war and President would have increased with the public. Maybe that is the reason the alphabet networks kept him out of sight. They preferred telling America after the fact what they, the networks, wanted America to hear about the President’s speech.

Permalink | News and Views

May 25, 2004, 05:45 AM

Mayor responds on KSEV

By Dan Patrick

Mayor Bill White joined me yesterday afternoon on AM 700 KSEV. He answered every question I threw at him in a candid, open manner. I will replay that interview this morning at 7:07 am. In the event you missed it yesterday and will again today, here are the highlights. Property Taxes The Mayor will support CLOUT for an appraisal cap cut to at least 7%. (CLOUT wants a 5% cap at a minimum) He believes cities and counties should have the right to set the cap at any level they believe will work best for their citizens. Note: That would take a constitutional amendment. African American Museum The Mayor says that he supports the concept of an African American museum, see our earlier exclusive article, but believes that such projects should be built with private sector money and not depend largely on taxpayer dollars. We will keep an eye on this story as he did not fully close the door on giving away 2 million dollars to the group wanting to build the museum. He did add that he would not let any “funny business” take place on any such project. We had reported that the museum group was planning to spend the 2 million on buying a building allegedly owned by a friend of former Mayor Lee Brown. Tow truck ordinance Lastly, the Mayor said he wanted support for his bill, due for a vote this Wednesday, that would require tow truck companies to buy a license to operate in the city and restrict where they can tow vehicles. Later, council member Addie Wiseman called in to say she was against this bill because it would take away the rights of drivers. I plan to continue to debate this issue on the air today and look more fully into the details of the ordinance. The Mayor is correct in wanting to stop 20 trucks from showing up at the scene of an accident and drivers being over charged. However, if the council member Wiseman is correct, then the ordinance needs to be amended.

Permalink | News and Views

May 25, 2004, 04:28 AM

Mayor Brown's Most Admirable Achievement

By Phil Magness

Today's readers may have come across an odd little comment contained in the Chronicle's daily Metro polemic. It's one of those passages that demonstrates just how out of touch from reality their editorialists are:
One of Mayor Lee Brown's most admirable achievements was weaning the city from a $50 million per year Metro subsidy. That money, which went to fill city potholes and increase police patrols, now stays in Metro's hands.
That's a funny thing to cite as an example of budget “weaning.” The funds went to build a novelty train on Main Street and the potholes just sat there unrepaired...for six years. Leave it to the Chronicle editorial page to identify a classic case of mayoral ineptness as an “admirable achievement.” My car's shock absorbers certainly didn't admire it.

Permalink | News and Views

May 24, 2004, 11:19 PM

The newspaper in that Texas city up north

By Kevin Whited

The Dallas Morning News draws praise from political commentator Morton Kondracke:
The decapitation of Nicholas Berg - which, it merits reminding, required several cuts of the knife to stop his screaming - was a front-page story for just one day. Only one newspaper that I know of, the Dallas Morning News, plus the Weekly Standard magazine, made the point that Berg's murder is “why we fight.”
We also praised the Dallas Morning News for their editorial, and contrasted it with the Chronicle's lackluster editorial performance the same day. The Dallas Morning News seems to be working hard to correct some of their self-identified problems, as we've noted before. But even they aren't perfect. Here's a snippet from an AP story they printed today:
“It's not going to happen today, but it is going to happen or we're going to drive our state into a Third World-type country,” said Scott McCown, executive director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, an Austin-based group that studies issues affecting low-income Texans.
Here's another snippet:
However, when one shopper chooses designer jeans at Dillard's and another buys a cheaper brand at Wal-Mart, each pays the same sales tax rate, said Michael Quinn Sullivan, spokesman for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank based in San Antonio.
Note that the political orientation of one think tank is identified, but it's not for the other. This sort of uneven treatment is pervasive in the “unbiased” media. That it happened at a newspaper that's made an honest effort to stamp out such bias illustrates the extent of the problem (although it's easy to see how AP copy would be posted, and I don't mean to single out the DMN — this AP copy has gone all over the place, bias intact). The Chron, of course, doesn't even admit such problems are problems. And that's our problem with them.

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 24, 2004, 10:49 PM

Chron runs stale, biased business copy

By Kevin Whited

Reader Gary Foster sends the following:
The article in the business section on May 24, 2004 was a clear example of liberal bias. First, the only reason it was in the business section is that it included the word wages. It had nothing to do with business. It was clearly an editorial that they positioned as a news article. There were about 20 column inches in support of the minimum wage and two inches of weak rebuttal. A classic example of liberal bias is a quote from a Josh Mason, a member of the Working Family Party. He states “As governor of Texas, Bush was responsible for the lowest minimum wage in the country. His record is not somebody who's likely to be pushing the issue.” How could Texas have the lowest “minimum” wage in the country? We follow the same federal laws as the other states? And how was Bush responsible for it?
Mr. Foster nails the author on that last point. The federal minimum wage is uniform, as most journalists (or at least their editors) should know. So why include an erroneous statement, even if it is a quote, unless the author is trying to get in a cheap shot at the President? I would note that the article is by Alan Wechsler and that the Chron picked it up from the Albany Times Union. That newspaper ran the story on May 16! It's actually in their paid archives now, so I can't check it to see how badly the Chron's editors hacked it up. Still, the Chron shouldn't call articles over a week old news, but OLDS. I'm sure they picked it up because of the Bush and Republican bashing. Why else run a story that's over a week old, from a New York newspaper, and written from a New York perspective? Can't you do better than that, Jeff Cohen? That's bad even by Chron standards.

Permalink | Poor Chron Journalism

May 24, 2004, 08:01 PM

The Chron's Metro-sexual message: We Hate Roads.

By Phil Magness

Harris County Judge Robert Eckels is the latest Republican leader to fall victim to the Chronicle's light rail worshipping editorial page. The reason ostensibly has something to do with Eckels' support for a freeway corridor expansion plan being developed by the Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC). The underlying message, of course, stems from the Chronicle's love affair with light rail. Eckels opposed last November's Metrorail expansion package and the Chron is still seething with resentment. One problem complicates their position though: Eckels recently stated his acceptence of the Metrorail package and expressed a desire to see it implemented along side the HGAC proposal. Yet in a world where criticizing light rail is an unpardonable offense, even an offer of friendship gets you slammed on the editorial page:
[Eckels] did not explain why he and his political allies tried to defeat Metro Solutions and spend the rail transit money on freeways, but his preference for more concrete is plainly visible in the council's plan.
In other words, the Chronicle is not content with getting the light rail it so mercilessly campaigned for on both its news and editorial pages. They also evidently view any attempt to relieve our congested freeways as a hostile competitor to their transit mode of choice. Naturally, today's editorial rant is loaded with specious and slothful arguments galore. Take the case of inconsistency. The editorial opens by condemning HGAC's plan on the grounds that “Houston is prone to flooding” and thus so are the new roadways, creating a need for more drainage basins. Yet only a few paragraphs later the essay condemns HGAC's plan for containing “unsightly and intrusive overpasses” instead of “below-grade roadways” on Kirby and Allen Parkway improvements. Note to the Editors: below-grade roadways flood and this is especially true of below-grade roadways that parallel and criss-cross flood-prone bayous. Later in the rant we get this little gem:
The authors of the plan seem oblivious to Houston's desire to make Main Street and Upper Kirby more friendly to pedestrians and more attractive to all.
Oddly enough I don't ever recall the entity of Houston rising up with one voice to declare its “desire” to turn Main and Kirby into pedestrian malls. Most of us Houstonians however do desire that they remain navigable to traffic at a reasonably efficient pace. The editors also point out the complaint that local communities “can't fill their potholes without Metro dollars” as if street repair advocates are somehow robbing money to which the Chron's beloved transit agency is somehow entitled. Well, let's think about that for a moment. Metro gets its money from a regional sales tax that we all pay. It is also true that the majority of us never use any of Metro's transit “services” that some of these taxes are used to finance. Does it not make sense that since so many of us pay Metro for transit modes that we do not use Metro should at least spend a little of its revenues on a service that the majority of taxpayers do use such as road repairs? Even further, is it not true of those ubiquitous Metro busses that, aside from clogging streets with traffic and air with plumes of thick black smoke, contribute to the very same wear and tear upon our roads that creates those potholes? As policymakers for all taxpaying Houstonians, Metro has a public duty to provide benefits to more than the tiny population that likes to travel 7.5 miles to the Astrodome at an average speed that's slower than a Segway Scooter. In that regard, it probably should be contributing even more to road repairs than at present. The Chronicle also demonstrates once again its spectacular inability to comprehend the basic human experience known as causality. Referencing the HGAC roadway expansions, they predict that “acres of concrete driveways and parking lots to handle the additional vehicles also will aggravate flooding.” This statement assumes, without even so much as a thought, that more roadways will somehow create “additional vehicles” that require new parking lots. I've yet to see a new roadway that births cars out of thin air, however I have seen many roadways that are too small to accomodate the existing cars that desire to use them. Many of these roadways are in Houston and include among them the very same thoroughfares that the Chronicle would rather supplant with a granola-fied monstrosity of bicycle trails and 12 mph streetcars for people who associate roads with demons and who desire to impose their malcontented frustrations over Houston's failure to emulate the clogged urban wastelands of the northeast by making us endure the unnecessary traffic jams that their willful and complicit lack of infrastructure maintanence create.

Permalink | Houston's Light Rail

May 24, 2004, 07:27 PM

The Chronicle's front page Bush Bash

By M. Wildes

In the right hand column of the Chronicle's front page today, appears the headline to a story about U.S. forces moving in on al-Sadr. Under the headline are two paragraphs followed by information telling us on what page to find the story. Under that headline, but further to the right, is the picture of George W. Bush, hand raised, with both his face and hands scraped from his mountain biking accident this weekend.

I suppose that putting Bush’s picture on the front page is fair game, but the problem is that it had nothing to do with the front-page story. In fact, it had nothing to do with the other two stories captioned beneath the photo either. Even worse is what the caption below the picture says:

Despite injuries from the day before, President Bush started Sunday with another bike ride. Tonight, he’ll make a major speech on U.S. plans in Iraq: Page 10A
When you go to page 10A expecting, perhaps, a story about the president falling off his bike or some sort of story tying the Iraq speech to the bike ride, you find a story about the speech that does not even mention the bike ride or the fall.

Now, I can admit that had they included a non-story about the president falling, I would have railed them for it, but this is worse. They were so eager to get this picture and comment about the crash on the front page, they tied it to an unrelated story! They did not even spend the time to tie it to an AP story on the fall, of which I’m sure there were hundreds.

What alternatives would be appropriate?

Oh, I do not know, maybe a picture of Bush making a speech or a picture not focusing on his injury. Perhaps, a comment underneath the photo that directly relates to the article it directs you to would be a good choice. If they were trying to fill space, they could have even said something like, “Despite Air Force One’s tire rolling off the runway into a gutter yesterday (which also did happen), the plane took off safely and the president will speak to the nation tonight." The AP story we are directed to on Page 10A, “Bush to address public over Iraq woes” by Pete Yost, categorizes tonight’s speech as nothing more than an attempt “to calm anxieties about rising casualties and spreading violence,” because Bush’s approval ratings are at an all time low “just six months before he faces the verdict of American voters on a second term.” The article contains quote after quote of negatives and suggestions as to how things should have been done differently or should be done in the future. Only one quote states that the speech will focus on our goals in Iraq and how we will accomplish them.

Absent is any neutral journalism.

I’m not saying the article needed to say that Bush was going to talk about the next step in the most successful military campaign in history. However, it should have neutrally stated that Bush would be outlining the next steps for the Iraq war and the transition of power. After stating, free from spin, the crux of the speech, it could then go into a balance of quotes. For instance, some quotes stating that Bush is trying to ease the public's anxieties and others saying that Bush is outlining the next successful step in the war. At the very least, the story should not have made assumptions as to the public’s “woes.” Such woes may in fact be created by stories like this.

Permalink | Poor Chron Journalism

May 24, 2004, 06:48 PM

Letters To The Editor

By Kevin Whited

Your response is overwhelming. We can't print all the letters, but we like to put up a sampling regularly. For short responses, please also feel free to use our comments system, which is working again. The Watchdog Needs A Watchdog Dan Patrick claims that former Mayor Lee Brown has done “everything he could do to sabotage” his successor. This is a major accusation requiring intent on former Mayor Brown. Mr. Patrick gives absolutely no evidence to back this serious charge. I don't think Mr. Patrick actually believes that former Mayor Brown intentionally sabotaged his successor. ChronicallyBiased should not make unsubstantiated accusations of wrongdoing, particularly when incompetence on the part of Mayor Brown is sufficient to explain the state of the city when he left. None of us would accept this kind of behavior from the Chronicle — even on the op/ed pages. False accusations have no place even in a journal of opinion. I hope ChronicallyBiased removes this offending passage, explains why this change was made, and announces a policy that this will not happen again going forward. In the interest of full disclosure, I am providing my full name. I respectfully request that my name not appear on ChronicallyBiased. [Name verified, but withheld by request] [Note: I didn't read Dan Patrick as suggesting literally that former Mayor Brown deliberately sabotaged Mayor White. Rather, I read it as emphasizing rhetorically the extent of the problems left for Mayor White. Still, we should always be careful with our language, and as a “watchdog” site we certainly welcome those who would keep us on our toes! --KW] Good Work Just wanted to say how continually impressed I am with what you are putting out. It is getting better every day. How exciting! And thanks for John Vaughn's excellent tax piece. I am a big proponent of sales taxes, as opposed to income or property taxes. It is truly the fairest tax of all. The more you buy, the more taxes you pay. If you don't want to pay a lot of taxes, watch the spending. I find the property tax system in Texas astounding, having just recently moved here. Imagine retired seniors paying those incredible property taxes year after year! Unbelievable! Keep up the good work. Anne Linehan Sports Talkers Who Should Stick To Sports. Although I am a loyal and informed listener of talk radio, including KSEV, I sometimes enjoy listening to lighter fare and occasionally switch to sports talk. However, ignorance & bias recently exhibited by a pair of afternoon sports talk hosts have soured me on this practice. In discussing the recent beheading of Nick Berg by Islamic murderers, one of the hosts (ostensibly the “smart”one) said that “...of course it was an atrocity...but we've committed a few atrocities of our own too”. I am paraphrasing of course but the reference to the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison as one of our “atrocities” was unmistakable. It is unconscionable that a citizen of the United States would so callously equate the extinction of an innocent American life with the embarrassment at best and the humiliation at worst of enemy combatants who tried, and likely succeeded before they were caught, to kill America's proud defenders. In another incident shortly thereafter, a caller inquired about Barry Bonds comments regarding Astros management's decision to allow Roger Clemens to bypass some road trips during which he's not scheduled to pitch. I didn't hear Bond's comments directly but he apparently said something to the effect that “...management wouldn't do that for a black man”. The caller sounded honest and intelligent and simply wondered about how many black sports stars felt the same way as Bonds about this issue. The other host (not the smart one) replied, again paraphrasing, “...would you blame them...after the way they've been treated”. I couldn't believe what I was hearing! Who exactly are “they” and “them”? I thought perpetuating the separation of races in such a manner was in the strict purview of conservatives! As to whether Bonds and fellow black professional athletes have been treated poorly during their lifetime, I'm sure they have on occasion, as have most of “us”. I rather suspect however, that pro athletes black & white have largely been treated with deference and admiration due to their remarkable athletic skill. In any case, although I'll not patronize this local sports show again, I suggest sports talk hosts stick to what they know best. Namely sports, eating, drinking, and discussing the fairer sex. For when they stray into serious political and social issues they are like a bad running back, always fumbling the ball. Dave Hart Needed: Property Tax Relief I live in Montgomery County where we are building our dream house. We are doing this to save money for the retirement years. The dream ended when I got my 2004-taxed bill from M.C.A.D. for $4,570.00. Based on the “Rule of 72”, as CLOUT has shown, in a short time I will be paying over $9,000.00 in property taxes and by the time I retire it will cost me over $18,000.00 ($1,500.00 per month in taxes). I'm 49 years old, and based on that, there is no way we will be able to keep my home that we built and be able to hand it over to our kids. We will have to sell it and move to a less expensive county. It is a crying shame that the average Texan homeowner is forced to give up his dream over taxes. I do not think this is what our ancestors had in mind. I am a member of CLOUT and I tell anyone I can in order to get them to pay attention of what is going on in Texas. Every Texan better wake up and watch what is going on, regardless if they own property or not. We are all affected. I am very much in favor of increased sales tax, at least it spreads the responsibility to everyone. Homeowners should not be the only entity that carries the burden of the state. I do believe in paying my fair share. I want to tell our elected representatives today that if you cannot get it done now, you will not be back sitting in that same chair after the next election. I promise that I will do what I can to see to it that you are voted out of office . As the line was drawn in the dirt floor in the Alamo courtyard many years ago, my family and I have drawn a line at the doorstep of our home today. We are watching you. EITHER YOU ARE WTH US OR AGAINST US! Do what is right! Ronnie and Debra Land

Permalink | Letters

May 24, 2004, 06:45 PM

In defense of Tom Delay

By Kevin Whited

Liberals just can't resist taking shots at Tom Delay, no matter how inaccurate or unfair. Today, Meghan Keane comes to his defense on NRO:
“If Tom DeLay is acting out of his Born-Again Christian convictions in pushing legislation that disadvantages the poor every time he opens his mouth, I'm not saying he's not a Born-Again Christian, but as the Lord's humble fruit inspector, it sure looks suspicious to me.” That was Joe Hough, a liberal minister and ethics professor, on Bill Moyers's PBS show last year. It's about par for the course whenever DeLay's name comes up among Democrats — “mean” and “cruel” are typically used. It's almost always personal. Well, it doesn't take a humble “fruit inspector” to recognize the unfair and judgmental tone adopted here. Because DeLay doesn't want to expand the welfare state, it doesn't mean that he doesn't believe in Christian charity.
Keane's article is worth reading, although it is a stretch for her to suggest that a Chronicle columnist has ever “admired” Delay on this or any other issue. Grudging praise would be more accurate.

Permalink | News and Views

May 24, 2004, 06:03 PM

Small Things

By John Vaughn

President Bush fell off his bicycle over the weekend and judging by the pictures of him afterwards, it was a pretty bad spill. A small event, even if it was the President. I found a few things about this interesting, though. The Associated Press reported the event as follows:
Bush was on the 16th mile of a 17-mile ride when he fell, [White House spokesman Trent] Duffy said. He was riding with a military aide, members of the Secret Service and his personal physician, Dr. Richard Tubb. “He had minor abrasions and scratches on his chin, upper lip, nose, right hand and both knees,” Duffy said. “Dr. Tubb, who was with him, cleaned his scratches, said he was fine. The Secret Service offered to drive him back to the house. He declined and finished his ride.”
John Kerry heard about it and made a comment on it, in front of the media. What was his reaction? He said, “Did the training wheels fall off?” Does this strike anyone else as a cheap shot? It sure struck me that way. I think a pattern is beginning to emerge with John Kerry. He will take any opportunity to make his opponent for the Presidency of the United States look bad. As a Senator, he may vote against drilling in the ANWR, and vote for increasing gasoline taxes. But that doesn't stop him railing against the President for high gasoline prices. He may vote for a war when the mood of the country makes such a vote popular, but he will also vote against the funding for the troops once they're in the field if that is advantageous to him. If troops are dying in the field, or Bush gets hurt on his bicycle, it's all just another political opportunity for the new JFK. I remember when John Kerry fell off his snowboard in Aspen. Here was his reaction as reported at Drudge:
When asked a moment later about the incident by a reporter on the ski run, Kerry said sharply, “I don't fall down,” the “son of a b*itch knocked me over.”
Someone once told me that you don't judge people by how they treat their perceived equals, but by how they treat those they perceive to be their inferiors. John Kerry's initial reaction after an accident on the ski slope was to say he never falls down and blame it on someone else — and someone whose job it is to take a bullet for him, if necessary. When a similar thing happens to President Bush, he gets back on his bike and finishes his 17-mile ride. As I mentioned, the bicycle and snowboard incidents are small events. However, it is sometimes the case that the small things about a person serve to illuminate the larger things, such as character and class.

Permalink | News and Views

May 24, 2004, 05:05 PM

Property Tax News

By Rob Booth

Links to news stories around the state concerning property taxes. 1. FWST: Skyrocketing? Not here
Gov. Rick Perry recently ventured to Tarrant County to promote his ill-conceived plan to cap residential property appraisal increases at 3 percent annually and to restrict property tax revenues of local governments. In seeking to justify the caps, Perry contends that Texas property appraisals and taxes are skyrocketing out of control. But the latest valuations in Tarrant County don't bear that out. New preliminary valuations released May 14 by the Tarrant Appraisal District showed that the net taxable value of all properties in Tarrant County grew 6.5 percent.
That's from the editorial page, so it really needs to be checked out. Although, if it's true, then one could say that capping appraisal increases at 3% per year wouldn't be that big a “sacrifice” for local governments to make. 2. KVUE-TV: Rising property taxes squeeze residents, businesses
New developments have forced some property taxes to rise 300 percent over the past few years. Tonight an historic business is struggling to raise money to pay bills. The Victory Grill has begun a 48-hour marathon of music in hopes of raising money to fix up the place. The grill is one of the few original businesses left on East 11th Street.
Interesting how the Austin TV station laments the effects of property taxes on small business and the Fort Worth newpaper above dismisses appraisal caps as unnecessary. 3. Bloodhorse.com: Poll: Majority of Texans Support Racetrack VLTs
According to the results of a recent public opinion poll, most Texans would welcome video lottery terminals at the state's five horse and three Greyhound racetracks. The May survey by Baselice and Associates indicated more than 70% of 600 registered voters believe revenue collected from VLTs would reduce property taxes and provide more funds for public schools. Furthermore, more than 70% of the respondents said they would favor legalization of VLTs if legislators were to put the option on a state constitutional amendment election ballot this November. As mandated by the Texas constitution, two-thirds of the legislature must approve any amendment before voters can consider it.
Bloodhorse.com is a site devoted to horse racing. 4. DMN: Plano again to consider tax freeze
It looks like senior citizens and the disabled in Plano may get their property taxes frozen after all. The Plano City Council is to take up an agenda item tonight on adopting a tax freeze.
5. AP via KVUE: Does Texas need an income tax?
A monster lurks in Texas' closet – it makes voters scream and politicians hide. But is a state income tax really that scary? As Texas deals with its troubled school funding system, a few lawmakers and business leaders dare to suggest that an income tax represents the best and only foolproof way to pay for public education while relieving homeowners' heavy property tax load.

Permalink | News and Views

May 24, 2004, 04:00 PM

Chronicle does unbiased story on homeschooling!

By Rob Booth

In a move possibly designed to appease conservative critics, the Houston Chronicle today published a fair look at homeschooling. Oh, wait a minute, not so fast... The article started out pretty well, a nice little story about trends in homeschooling:
At a recent graduation ceremony, the students wore royal-blue caps and robes with gold tassels dangling near their faces. Personalized music and a video accompanied every graduate as they walked on stage to receive a diploma. It looked like a scene from dozens of high school graduation ceremonies around Houston in recent weeks. But the 21 students at the ceremony held at Clearpoint Church were all schooled at home. And the traditional graduation ceremony is not the only change taking place among home-schooled students.
I can't say how accurate the information is, but it seems like a reporting of facts. Reading through it, I thought it was nice that they didn't make homeschoolers out to be survivalist types who are teaching their kids to be prepared to fight Zionists. Then I got to the paragraph fifth from the end:
Both Juren and Lambert acknowledge that public perception of home schooling also includes images of isolated or abusive situations of children being kept at home. When home-schooling mom Andrea Yates drowned her five children in June 2001, Juren expected the negative associations.
[Emphasis added.] If you go to the Media Bias Indicators page, you'll notice a category called Projection.
Projection — Reporters sometimes use a non-specific source to give credence to an idea that may only be circulating in the press corps. Terms like “many believe” or “some fear” are most often a reflection of who the reporter is speaking with – not of public sentiment.
It's too bad, the article started out so well...

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 24, 2004, 01:57 PM

More Chronicle propaganda: The fifth freedom?

By Owen Courrèges

Original image can be found here.

Permalink | Humor

May 24, 2004, 11:58 AM

My View: Planned Parenthood

By Owen Courrèges

(This is a new feature I'll be doing. Essentially, I'll be outlining my stance on a specific political issue affecting our city, state, and nation. Consider it the equivalent of the Chronicle's 'Sounding Board' columns). Everybody has heard of Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion referrer. What many people do not know, however, is just how sordid a history Planned Parenthood has. The founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, was an ardent eugenicist. For her, this meant supporting policies such as forced sterilization and segregation to prevent certain “dysgenic” persons from reproducing. She also favored restricting the immigration of those deemed to be “detrimental to the stamina of the race.” This is, I'm sorry to say, the legacy of modern abortionist movement. Planned Parenthood claims that Sanger was a supporter of “womens' choice,” when in reality choice had little to do with it. The agenda was one of social engineering, and the hope was that allowing abortions would ensure the improvement of humanity. The hope was that 'lesser' humans would be those who were aborted. Today, the Houston Chronicle gives money to Planned Parenthood, in spite of their refusal to accept responsibility for their detestable past. So do many other organizations. Planned Parenthood is, for better or for worse, mainstream. Give what they support and what they have supported, I find this very disappointing. No, that's not strong enough. I find it disgusting. I'm Owen Courrèges, and that's my view.

Permalink | Owen's View

May 24, 2004, 08:09 AM

Missing the big picture

By The Houstonian

It's good to see the Chronicle's new interest in dictators, especially ones in the Americas, but as usual, their editorial perspective is a little skewed:
Houstonians have special reason to be concerned about Venezuela. Chavez controls the government-owned Petroleos de Venezuela, parent company of Citco, our city's newest corporate citizen. While Chavez is unlikely to make good his threat to turn off the spigot of Venezuelan oil to the United States, fraudulent handling of the recall petition or subsequent election could destabilize Venezuela and interrupt its oil production.
Actually, it's Citgo, with a G. There are many reasons to be concerned about the reign of Hugo Chavez. First and foremost, he's become a dictator whose disregard for human rights (and popular sovereignty and the rule of law) is troubling. Second, his mismanagement of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) for his own selfish political ends has effectively made what was once a highly professional company into one that is largely run by his political allies, people with no real expertise in the oil business and people who have hurt the country with their ineptitude. Venezuela's hydrocarbon regime is already suffering as a result of the gross politicization of PDVSA, and even if Chavez were to go tomorrow, it will take time to fix the problems. That threatens American energy security, but it also threatens the financial security of Venezuelans, which in turn could threaten the political stability of the regime (bringing us full circle). Chavez is, indeed, bad news, but the threat posed to Houstonians, Americans, and Venezuelans is not primarily a few refining jobs in Houston. The Chron's perspective is entirely too parochial.

Permalink | News and Views

May 24, 2004, 07:00 AM

Williams puffs DeLay challenger

By Owen Courrèges

Houston Chronicle political columnist John Williams has written a column that, from my reading, seems to present DeLay challenger Richard Morrison as some kind of crusading underdog. It's not the most unfair column I've read, but it's one of those that imposes a feigned populist image on a thoroughly undeserving candidate. Moreover, as far as the Texas political spectrum goes, I object to any characterization of Morrison as a “moderate.” He's a liberal with smooth edges, and that's it. Williams may not know better, but I certainly do.

Permalink | Noxious Chron Columnists

May 24, 2004, 06:30 AM

Chronicle bashes Regional Transportation Plan

By Owen Courrèges

Although I may feel that Houston shouldn't aspire to become like Boston, the Chronicle apparently disagrees. Their latest staff editorial on transportation derides the Regional Transportation Plan of the Houston-Galveston Area Council because it lays too much new pavement and focuses too little on high-density development. Here is the bulk of the piece:
Will Rogers suggested that the only way to solve the country's traffic problems was to pass a law allowing only paid-for cars to use the highways. In lieu of that sound but improbable strategy, the Houston area has a Regional Transportation Plan for 2025. The plan, necessary for any transportation project to receive federal funds, has been crafted by the Transportation Policy Council of the Houston-Galveston Area Council. The plan proposes a $77 billion outlay. It calls for freeway and thoroughfare lane miles to increase by 12,900, a 60 percent increase. The Houston area will gain 1.5 million or 2 million people by 2025. Huge investments in transportation will be needed. However, even a casual glance at the Regional Transportation Plan shows it places too much emphasis on pouring concrete and not enough on improving Houstonians' quality of life. [...] Harris County Judge Robert Eckels chairs the HGAC's Transportation Policy Council. In a May 2 Outlook article, Eckels said battling congestion will require expanding roads, transit, bikeways and pedestrian facilities. But according to the transportation bulletin of the private Gulf Coast Institute, the council's plan would spend only 0.3 percent on bike trails and walkways. Of the $65 billion for ground transportation, 73 percent would go for freeways and other road projects. [...] The authors of the plan seem oblivious to Houston's desire to make Main Street and Upper Kirby more friendly to pedestrians and more attractive to all.
Besides the well-justified concern over drainage issues, which will have to be addressed eventually, the Chronicle's criticisms are completely wrong. They seem to believe that reducing congestion — which is far and beyond the most important goal to Houstonians — should be made subservient to some grand vision of turning Houston into a high-density utopia, with numerous bike trails, walkways, and of course, rail transit. However, that's neither realistic nor desirable, and besides, it's not what Houstonians generally want. What they want is to be able to get from point A to point B in a reasonable amount of time. Freeway improvements, if properly managed, can make that a reality. Spending millions more on Main Street will not. Then again, the Chronicle always seems to believe that it knows best, even when the best evidence shows they don't. It's the very definition of arrogance.

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 24, 2004, 05:30 AM

Twofer: Casey smears the pension board, raps the President

By Kevin Whited

Chronicle metro/state columnist Rick Casey pens the following in his Sunday column:
Some of you have said that by voting for Proposition 1, I was reneging on a promise to you. That's true. The problem is, I didn't make the promise. Neither did my 2 million fellow taxpayers. That promise was made by the pension board, and it was cooked up in a closed room. I'm not saying I expect to be at the table, but I do expect for someone who represents me to be at the table. It seems, however, nearly the entire board was made up of people who were beneficiaries of the pensions. With the help of well-paid lobbyists they got the Legislature to remove representatives appointed by city council. (Not that some council appointees in the past weren't more concerned about who got certain pension contracts than they were about my wallet.) Sure, the mayor had representatives and was supposed to protect my interests. But unfortunately Mayor Lee Brown accepted outrageously optimistic numbers produced by an actuarial firm that worked for the pension board and ignored a cautionary warning from state officials.
Casey is right to put some blame on former Mayor Brown (although it would have strengthened his article to point out that the Brown Administration allowed changes that actually reduced the city's oversight role). Casey should put some blame on his own newspaper, which didn't exactly play the public watchdog role that it should have as all of these matters were developing. Casey is on less firm territory when he tries to smear the pension board. He speaks of “closed room” meetings, and alludes to lobbyists, and suggests misbehavior on the part of an actuarial firm. He insinuates what he doesn't quite come right out and say: that the Pension Board was engaged in a dishonest if not a criminal enterprise. That's an unfair smear. Casey presents no evidence to that effect (and is very careful not to make the charge even as he tries to lead readers to that conclusion). Even though Chuck Rosenthal is investigating the process, no charges have been filed — and I think it highly unlikely any charges will be filed or any convictions obtained if they are filed. Casey's own newspaper has not turned up any smoking guns that suggest criminal behavior. At this point in time, it's responsible to look into the procedures that led to the underfunded liability. It's not responsible to insinuate that the pension board members are a corrupt lot, or have committed dishonest/illegal acts. We have no such evidence at this point, and we shouldn't prejudge anybody. It's not a Rick Casey column, of course, without a shot at a prominent conservative. And here it is:
But there's another lesson here. Politicians, whether they be a president funding a war or a mayor funding a city budget, are eager to push the costs onto those who come after.
It must excite someone downtown when the Chron's metro/state columnist weighs in on national politics, but it really doesn't add much to his metro/state columns. Still, let me flip that around a bit. Suppose there was nefarious intent on the part of some municipal entity, but not the pension board. Suppose, perhaps, that cynics in the last administration allowed the pension board to move forward with this plan knowing full well it wasn't sustainable, but that it would: 1) help the city balance its books short-term by underfunding a liability that it's known about for a while, and 2) would get municipal employees to move en masse from the free pension plan they had enjoyed for years to a (seemingly more lucrative) plan that required contributions from them. I'm not saying that happened in Houston, but it has happened in other cities in our country; indeed, San Diego's city manager recently resigned amidst accusations that his city deliberately underfunded its pension plans to improve the city's overall budget position (on paper, at least). Before we go and turn the members of the pension board into convenient scapegoats on the basis of Mr. Casey's smears, shouldn't we consider all of the possibilities, gather the evidence, and come to some reasoned judgment? And shouldn't the Chron engage in a little more investigating, and a little less smearing?

Permalink | Noxious Chron Columnists

May 24, 2004, 03:18 AM

Chronicle publicity for yet another DeLay challenger

By Phil Magness

The Chronicle is already gearing up for its biannual newsprint campaign against Tom DeLay's reelection as this article indicates. Appearing prominently in today's Metro section (as in the local news portion, not the nearby transit agency cheerleading page), the story highlights at great length the longshot campaign of Democrat Richard Morrison. What exactly did Morrison do that the Chron deemed so newsworthy? He filed to run against their arch-nemisis Tom DeLay. (Sidenote: the Chron has run at least 17 direct staff editorial page attacks on DeLay and a dozen or more anti-DeLay columns regarding Metrorail alone since 2000. Democrats Sheila Jackson Lee, Nick Lampson, and Gene Green by comparison have a combined total of about 1) Today's article marks at least the second election in a row during which the Chronicle has taken an early lead in publicizing DeLay's longshot Democrat challenger of the year. While one cannot dispute the newsworthiness of covering any contested congressional race, readers should ask when the last time the Chron did the same for a challenger to one of Houston's entrenched Democrat incumbents. The answer is virtually never. Take the case of Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston) for example. The Queen has been challenged in recent years by Bob Levy (2000) and Phillip Abbott (2002). Neither of these candidates achieved any more than a passing mention and a short biography in the Chron's pre-election day voter's guide - a “service” provided to all candidates on the ballot. Democrat Gene Green was challenged by Joe Vu in 2000, another race that one would expect to attain at least some basic mention in the Chronicle. The only substantive coverage was yet again in the voter guide bio Democrat Nick Lampson fought off challenges from Paul Williams in both 2000 and 2002. Williams fared only slightly better in his first bid earning a three sentence report the day he filed, yet also recieved little more than a biography in the voter guide. Not so for Tom DeLay's 2002 challenger Tim Riley, who, in addition to the voter guide, got a full length pre-election article devoted to his challenge plus a plug in two staff editorials. Today's story on Morrison tells us we may expect more of the same for DeLay's in 2004. In the meantime, the Chronicle has yet to even notice that Sheila Jackson Lee has drawn a challenger, Tom Bazan, nor will they likely do so until the voter guide comes out sometime around November 1st. Reporter John Williams did get one thing right when he noted that “liberals and Democratic partisans” have “long viewed [DeLay]...as a bogeyman.” He simply neglected to identify the leader of those partisans, viz.: his own newspaper.

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 23, 2004, 11:02 PM

Tweaking our syndication output

By Kevin Whited

Earlier, a reader pointed out some problems with our site syndication (the feeds we mention down the page on the left sidebar, which can be monitored with a newsreader). I think those errors are now corrected, or at least we've started to get a handle on them. If you're using a newsreader and think something looks funny, either send us an email or leave a comment here and we'll keep working on it. Thanks!

Permalink | Staff Notes

May 23, 2004, 09:29 PM

Cartoon time

By Kevin Whited

Brian Fairrington (c) Brian Fairrington and Cagle Cartoons

Permalink | Political Cartoons

May 23, 2004, 08:24 PM

Can we spell?

By Kevin Whited

A reader with email username mpatrick (presumably no relation to Dan) writes:
Check Edd Hendee's bio and then check your dictionary for the correct spelling of restauranteur. (hint: I spelled it right). Other than that it all looks good.
Actually, you spelled it right, and WE spelled it right, so we'll happily accept your compliment that it ALL looks good. From Dictionary.com:
res·tau·ra·teur (rstr--tûr) also res·tau·ran·teur (-t-rän-tûr) n. The manager or owner of a restaurant.
Like all humans, we make our share of mistakes, but this wasn't one of them. (Update) This post even started with a mistake, so there you go. We'll never claim perfection. We aren't Progressives. :)

Permalink | Letters

May 23, 2004, 07:22 PM

Berg, Fallujah murderers must be prosecuted

By M. Wildes

Let me be the first person to call for immediate trials of the four men that were arrested as the executioners of Nick Berg. The announcement came Friday, that four of the five men in the beheading video had been arrested a week earlier. With all the talk that we must hold our soldiers accountable for their actions at Abu Ghraib and hold immediate courts marshal of our soldiers to show the world and the Iraqis that we do not tolerate abuse, the same should apply to those who mistreat Americans in ways unimaginable to our soldiers who stand accused of much less.

Many have been calling for the abuse trials that began last week as a way of demonstrating American justice to the Iraqi people. What better way to show them that all wrongs, by any person or group will be swiftly tried and punished? If you abuse prisoners, we will catch you and kick you out of the military. Maybe even make you do some time. If you capture a civilian and cut—no, saw off his head, while wearing masks, film it, and later dump the body on the roadside, you will be tried and executed.

The same sentiment goes for the ten people who took part in the Fallujah murders of four U.S. contractors on March 31, 2004. Announced Sunday afternoon, the U.S government has given a list of ten suspects in the murders to Iraqi authorities. The ten are said to be mostly militants. Once again, if you pull contractors from their cars, drag them through the streets, hang them from bridges and light them on fire, you will be tried and executed.

However, maybe there will be little cry for any punishment. With the media focused on unseating Bush with an incessant berating of the public using Abu Ghraib photos, little attention was paid last week to the arrests of the four men. Time will tell if the ten suspects warrant much mention, if at all. After all, the media was satisfied with blaming Bush for the crimes in both the Fallujah and Berg cases and showing very little of the brutality committed. Of course, they hid behind the fact that the videos were too horrible for public broadcast and print. Even they know that they could not have pulled off condemning Bush and the war for the murderous crimes if they had shown them in their entirety. If what these terrorists did was so horrible, then the mainstream media might have to admit that what our soldiers did was harmless, and in turn, Bush and the war are not as bad as they want you to think.

Permalink | News and Views

May 23, 2004, 04:30 PM

End Property Taxes in Texas

By John Vaughn

Dan Patrick and others here have shown that our property tax system is broken and needs fixing. The wrangling now going on in the legislature is over the rate at which our property tax assessments can increase each year. The current figure is ten percent and there is talk that maybe we might be able to get it down to seven, or possibly even four, percent. I would go a step further and argue the whole system should simply be scrapped. Even four percent is well above the rate of inflation, which is currently a little over two percent. This is a stealth tax increase that our government can impose on us without our consent. The politicians can say they have not increased taxes, and yet through simply reassessing the value of our homes we all pay more. The system is also grossly unfair because the assessments are not applied evenly. Like a tornado that sweeps through a street and leaves some houses standing and others demolished, one homeowner may get a small increase while his neighbor may see his taxes go up thousands of dollars. Furthermore, the clever and well-connected can contest their assessments or find a way around the intent of the law (John Lindsay's “tree farm” is a great example of the latter). I understand that all of us have a right to contest, and the agricultural exemption is within the law. But is a system that ends up being so uneven in practice really a good idea? In addition to the unfairness issue, and the stealth tax increases, there is an even more fundamental problem with raising revenue through property taxes. This has to do with a simple rule in economics and public policy that if you wish to encourage something, you subsidize it, and if you wish to discourage something, you tax it. Raising revenue through property taxes discourages home ownership. Becoming a homeowner is one of those things that benefit not just the buyer and seller of the home, but the community as well. If I remember my college economics lessons correctly, this is something called a positive externality. Education is another example of this kind of transaction, as an education is not just of benefit to the child. Society also benefits from having another informed citizen. Aside from the moral reason for providing a free education to all children, this is the economic argument for it. I'm not saying we should give free houses to everyone. I'm not even suggesting we subsidize home ownership. But we should not be taxing home ownership more than other economic activity. Our local tax policy should be, at the very least, neutral to home ownership. When you own a home, you become invested in the community. You care about the schools, the roads, the quality of the police and fire services. You're more likely to vote. Discouraging these things is just nuts. To continue to escalate the rate of taxation on home ownership year after year in Houston is detrimental to our whole city, not just home owners. Of course, the money will still have to come from somewhere. The most obvious alternative would be to raise sales taxes by whatever amount would be necessary to raise an equal amount of revenue. It would be a significant increase, and I'm sure this would give many of us pause. Wouldn't this stifle the economy? You only need to think about this for a moment to realize the fallacy in this line of thought: the money is already coming out of the economy, this would only shift the burden from a narrow group of individuals to almost everyone. This would solve all of the problems outlined above. There would be no stealth tax increases. And when the legislature tries to raise sales taxes in the future, we'd all notice. We'd talk about it, and our representatives would be responsible to the voters in the next election for their actions. It would also be applied fairly — if you spend money, you pay the tax. A sales tax is therefore much more difficult to get out of because you happen to be clever or well-connected. I applaud those legislators in Austin who are pushing for property tax relief now. It will be an improvement over the status quo. However, I would argue that we should also start working towards a permanent solution to this mess — one that will be fairer, more democratic, and encourage the common good of more homeownership.

Permalink | News and Views

May 23, 2004, 04:28 PM

Chron implicates GOP in anti-Hispanic bias

By Phil Magness

Readers of the Chron's Metro section may have seen an article by Joe Black regarding President Bush's appointment of an ex-state judge from South Texas to the federal bench. The story detailed several other Bush appointments from recent years and had the following to say:
Xavier Rodriguez, also in the Western district. Appointed by Perry in 2001 to the state Supreme Court, he lost in the GOP primary that year to an Anglo candidate who filed the suit that ended affirmative action at Texas universities. Several GOP candidates with Hispanic names have had difficulties in recent years in Republican primaries. Rodriguez donated $500 to Bush's election campaign.
This statement appears to be intentionally designed to implicate Republicans with an anti-Hispanic bias. Notice that they only identify the candidate who beat Rodriguez as the “Anglo candidate who filed the suit that ended affirmative action at Texas universities,” not by his actual name, Steven Wayne Smith - an extremely unusual placement considering that he is also an incumbent Justice on the Texas Supreme Court. The implications continue, suggesting that Rodriguez was defeated due to his Hispanic name while neglecting to mention the substantial role that his political beliefs played in that election. Many conservatives opposed Rodriguez because he campaigned as a moderate and publicly stated that his judicial philosophy resembled that of liberal US Supreme Court Justice David Souter. Yet none of those facts appear in the Chronicle's article, which instead seems only designed to identify Texas Republicans with closet racism. The final remark about other GOP candidates having difficulties in GOP primaries is entirely off base. Aside from Rodriguez, Texas Republicans have been highly supportive of hispanic candidates. Former Railroad Commissioner Tony Garza (appointed Ambassador to Mexico by President Bush), former Supreme Court Justice Albert Gonzales (appointed White House counsel by Bush), and current Railroad Commissioner Victor Carillo are all strong examples of Hispanic Republicans who have succeeded in the Texas GOP.

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 23, 2004, 04:20 PM

Metrorail ridership takes a nosedive in April

By Phil Magness

Looks as if Metro overshot its ridership projections by some 50%. Per the figures they released to the Chronicle, April provided only 379,465 light rail boardings in a month when the transit agency predicted almost 800,000. The stats also prove that without a highly publicized sporting event to herd the cattle onto the trains, Metrorail's riders virtually disappear on weekends (not that the statistically negligible 14,000 weekday boardings in a region of several million daily trips is anything to get excited about in its own right). Also in keeping with the company history on all things Metrorail, the Chron's transportation beat reporter appears to have done his best to downplay this month's disappointing performance at the fare box. Per Lucas Wall's article, entitled “Rail ridership up during week, down on weekends,” Metro experienced a month of “mixed results.” These characterizations effectively overstate a statistically minor increase in weekday boardings while obscuring the disastrous bottom line figures. The fact of the situation, simply put, is as follows: Metrorail ridership dipped by 37% for the month of April. Those results are about as “mixed” as celebrating the repair of the office coffee maker in a quarter that posted a sales dropoff exceeding one third of the previous mark. Perhaps the biggest howler of the article comes from Metrorail spokesman Ken Connaughton, who as usual is the Chronicle's only referenced source in their entire article:
“We anticipate that ridership will grow to about 35,000 per day within a few months.”
Best of luck in getting there, Ken, but even a World Class City can't hold a Super Bowl every weekend.

Permalink | Houston's Light Rail

May 23, 2004, 01:25 PM

Poorly done on several levels

By Kevin Whited

Reader Bucky Taylor calls our attention to this little snippet from an article in today's Chronicle:
Some people said Cosby's comments simply brought to the surface long-simmering generational and class schisms among blacks. Some applauded him for using sharp language to reiterate a long-running debate among blacks about the direction of the black struggle. Still others said they feared that his remarks would become fodder for racists or conservatives who believe that blacks alone avoid personal responsibility.
Are there any conservatives who believe such things? Perhaps. Is it a view held as a tenet by American conservatives? Absolutely not! This is just another subtle (or not-so-subtle — you be the judge) example of the Chron equating racists with people whose political views they don't like (conservatives). It's a smear. Granted, this article was chopped from a longer New York Tims piece, but that's no excuse. The bolded statement shouldn't have appeared in that paper as “news,” and the Chronicle didn't have to pick it up and reprint it. Doing so implies that they agree. Additionally, who are these “others” who said they “feared” such things? Sources should be named when possible, so they can be held to account and/or verified. It sounds to me like some liberal newspaper editors and journalists feel this way, said it, and put it in their story. That's what we mean when we refer to bias. Finally, compare the Chronicle hack job on the story to the original New York Times story. The Chron has mutilated Felicia Lee's original piece, dropping her name from the story and running only about half of it, and a day later at that. It shouldn't be called news, but olds! If folks in this area want a liberally biased rag, why not just to read the New York Times in the first place, instead of the hack job the Chron editors perform on the same articles a day later? Leaving aside politics altogether, it really is hard to rely on the Chronicle to get things right journalistically or for hard news. Thank goodness for the internet.

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 23, 2004, 10:28 AM

Picking Nits

By Rob Booth

Here is an excerpt from today's Houston Chronicle story, Quick work reopens Katy Freeway early:
The demolition marked the first time the Texas Department of Transportation had to close the freeway as part of the $1.7 billion rebuild from the Loop to the Fort Bend County line west of Katy. Construction on the 20-mile segment began last June and is supposed to finish by 2009.
The Fort Bend County line crosses I-10 near Katy Mills Mall, which is located east of Katy, not west. That is, for those of us who consider Katy proper to be Old Town Katy.

Permalink | Poor Chron Journalism

May 23, 2004, 09:46 AM

Chuck Muth vs. The UN

By Rob Booth

Chuck Muth is a DC-area political activist who runs an influential e-mail newsletter. He has learned about the latest globalist plan to interfere in our country's internal affairs and reports on it. Be warned, Chuck writes 'em likes he sees 'em! Chuck Muth's "Muth's Truths" - May 23, 2004
SMOKERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE! by Chuck Muth May 23, 2004 If you think the smoke Nazis are restricted to America's shores, think again. There's a worldwide war against tobacco going on, and if you people think these people will stop at tobacco, you're smoking something other than tobacco. “The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control,” reports CNS News, “is the first-ever global health policy negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO?).” The treaty includes bans on tobacco advertising, limits on second-hand smoke and mandatory warning labels on packs of smokes which cover at least 30 percent of the display area. It also prohibits the use of terms such as “low tar” or “light” or “mild.”

Permalink | News and Views

May 23, 2004, 09:01 AM

Our policy on comments

By Kevin Whited

As many readers know, when we launched Chronically Biased a week ago, we had a comments feature. As longtime bloggers, Owen Courrèges and I felt that it was important for this weblog to have a comments feature. However, we probably underestimated the number of readers we would have when Dan Patrick flipped the switch a little over a week ago, and that combined with unmoderated comments was threatening to: 1) severely stress out our server and software, 2) turn the weblog into a community message board, which was never our intent, and 3) allow some posters to put up offensive or hateful material that might stay up for hours before our editors had a chance to remove it. As some of you know from my answers to your emails, I've not been happy about turning off comments, and I think we've come up with a solution that we're going to test for a while: Moderated Comments. With our Moderated Comments system, readers can still compose and post responses to individual articles. The only change is that the comments will not appear immediately (so PLEASE do not submit the same comment over and over). Several times a day, our editors will go through and approve (or deny) comments that have been left. If approved, they'll appear on the weblog with a timestamp reflective of the time they were left by the reader. Here are some general guidelines for comments. Comments that violate these rules will not be approved, so please keep them in mind: The editors reserve the right to approve or deny comments at our discretion, but we will try to adhere to the guidelines above (which we may modify from time to time). We very much appreciate all of your feedback so far, and we hope you'll make good use of this Moderated Comments system. Please be mindful of our posting guidelines, as we really hope to keep this feature.

Permalink | Staff Notes

May 23, 2004, 07:30 AM

The Chronicle publishes... Me?

By Owen Courrèges

I... I actually have an op-ed running in today's Outlook section of the Houston Chronicle. Well, I'm glad the Chronicle picked my op-ed. It's one of my better ones. It also provides a perspective on urban planning that the Chronicle rarely provides itself. I'm still in a bit of shock about this, though. After the launch of ChronicallyBiased, I wasn't expecting for any of my op-eds to be accepted, for obvious reasons.

Permalink | News and Views

May 23, 2004, 07:00 AM

Cragg Hines's obsession with Tom DeLay

By Owen Courrèges

Houston Chronicle opinion columnist Cragg Hines has a major problem. He has an unnatural fixation on the US House Majority Leader, a.k.a. Tom “the Hammer” DeLay. In previous columns Hines has analogized DeLay to Satan. In his newest column, however, Hines seems to have mellowed slightly. But only slightly. He essentially accuses DeLay of gross corruption based on the word of Democracy 21, an advocacy group favoring tighter campaign finance restrictions. It's all very compelling, but only if you take for granted that what DeLay did is wrong. That seems to be the problem Hines faces. Ordinary Houstonians don't hate DeLay the way he does, and so when he lashes out in such an intemperate manner, he invariably turns off his audience, and ultimately proves nothing. He's angry and self-important, but in the end, he shows that it's not enough to simply hate. This all reminds me of an opinion piece I once wrote entitled “The Futility of Hate.” In the end, I believe that Hines's attitude is self-defeating.

Permalink | Noxious Chron Columnists

May 22, 2004, 09:09 PM

Clarification: Democracy Exemplified

By M. Wildes

Yesterday, in “Democracy Exemplified: Iraq, not MA,” I said that when a court steps in and dismisses the will of the legislature, democracy has failed and the will of the people has been dismissed. I did not mean that courts were not an essential part of our democracy. My criticism is simply with courts that ignore what a law or constitution says and dismiss the drafter's intent so that they can advance their own political agendas.

In this case, the court found the law to be against the Massachusetts Constitution's prohibition on creating second class citizens. If we give the Court in the Massachusetts case the benefit of the doubt this time, the real test will come in 2006.

Both Houses of the Massachusetts’ legislature, in a constitutional convention, have to approve a constitutional amendment in two consecutive sessions. The 2004 session passed the amendment before the court stepped in. The second session was set to vote when they meet in 2005. The final approval is brought to the public for a vote the following year in 2006.

If the legislature fails to continue its desired course of action because of the court, then the will of the people may be ignored. If the amendment passes and the courts still try to throw it out, the will of the people has been usurped. In 2006 if the amendment passes, the only avenue the opponents of the amendment may have is to have it declared unconstitutional as to the U.S. Constitution.

People, who want or do not want gay-marriage, should speak to their state and U.S. Senators and Congressmen, not rely on activist courts.

Permalink | Noxious Chron Columnists

May 22, 2004, 08:37 PM

Letter: Chron delivery personnel taking a hit for Cohen's agenda?

By Kevin Whited

Reader Randy Arnold sends the following:
I recently sent Edd an E-mail detailing my paper delivery man begging me to retake the chronicle, offering a 50% discount and lamenting that 75 people on his route alone had canceled over the chronicle's refusal to fire Lucus Wall. I felt sorry for him since he was going broke as a private contractor.
The Chron seems determined to pursue an editorial agenda that much of the greater Houston area finds offensive. Jeff Cohen even recently praised one of his editors for his work at promoting this “progressive” agenda. That's all well and good for the suits sitting on the Chron editorial board. I guess they feel like they can afford to insult and demean customers who do not share their political beliefs (much of Harris County). So long as overall circulation doesn't dip too badly, they must feel like they're fine (although frankly, with our area's population growth, I don't know why Hearst would be happy with anything short of spectacular growth in circulation). Unfortunately, the contractors who deliver those papers — real working people who bust their rears to get papers out on time, every morning, before sunup, rain or shine — depend upon subscriptions to make their living. The newspaper makes its money from advertising, which is sold at a rate based on subscriptions. Delivery contractors make their money on subs. When someone cancels, the delivery folks feel it directly. When the Chron says throw papers for free as a loss leader, it's just extra time the delivery people spend on non-revenue activities (not good for the bottom line). Those guys ARE in a tough spot. When the Chron offends readers and cancellations result, those are the folks who feel the immediate pinch. The folks sitting downtown feel the pinch later (although we're convinced they're starting to feel the pinch). Isn't it ironic that a rag so devoted to a “progressive” agenda ignores the needs and observations of the working-class folks they employ to deliver their own product? It seems to me that Chron editor Jeff Cohen and publisher Jack Sweeney could learn quite a bit from talking to some of their distributors. But I guess they're too busy answering to a higher “progressive” calling.

Permalink | Letters

May 22, 2004, 07:16 PM

Capitalism and Freedom in Houston

By John Vaughn

If the title of this post sounds familiar, it’s because I pilfered it shamelessly from one of my favorite books. Milton Friedman wrote Capitalism and Freedom on the relationship between the free market system and democracy. Friedman managed to demonstrate something that should have been obvious, but had not been said definitively before — that a free political system cannot function without a free market system. Friedman asserts that although a government can guarantee the right to free speech and freedom of the press in law, these rights have no practical meaning if there are not independent sources of capital that can fund the dissemination of opposing views. In a large country, word of mouth is not enough. Ideas need the platform of newspapers, radio stations, and other major media in order to be heard. Friedman never anticipated web logs when he wrote his book, of course. Many might therefore point to the internet and suggest one does not need much at all in order to publish. Writing a web log, however, can often feel a lot like pontificating in an empty forest. When I first heard of the launch of this fledgling online newspaper, and its partnership with KSEV, it immediately struck me as a wonderful example of Friedman's principles in action. Of course, it also gave me a great excuse to write about ChronicallyBiased, which I have just joined as a contributor. I hope you don’t mind indulging me in a little navel-gazing – if you do, you’ve been warned and should flee the room about now. For some time now, the Houston Chronicle has been the only major written source of news and political commentary in our city. It is verifiably biased towards the left. Many of the other writers here have documented this very well in the past, and I'm sure we'll see more of it in the future. This is true of the major papers of many American cities. What’s different here, however, is that we are a conservative state, and our city has more conservatives than most other major metropolitan areas. In short, there is a market in Houston for another perspective on the important issues of the day, the demand for which is not currently being met. This is an opportunity for us, but this is not only a matter of economics — of simple supply and demand. The market of ideas has more important implications than the market for soap powder or bananas. It is critical to the functioning of our democracy, and therefore to the preservation of our freedoms. Friedman got it exactly right and our experience here is a great example. Our modest contribution to the ongoing political debate would not be possible without the power of KSEV behind it. The same free market that provided a platform for KSEV to prosper has also produced those entrepreneurs who have come forward to support us with their advertising. Without both, we wouldn’t exist. Small events such as this occurring all over the country add up to the vibrant free market of ideas that provide us so many wonderful choices for information, which is in turn the life blood of our democracy. This is something worth keeping in mind every time you hear someone propose just one more new tax or one more regulation. Each step we take towards an unfree economy degrades all our freedoms, whether we realize it or not. Now I’m beginning to pilfer from Friedrich Hayek, though, so perhaps I should save my ramblings for another day.

Permalink | News and Views

May 22, 2004, 01:33 PM

Have you seen me?

By Owen Courrèges

Chronicle reader representative James Campbell has written to us before, so he's got to be out there somewhere! Now if he could only begin responding consistently to conservative readers...

Permalink | Humor

May 22, 2004, 12:47 PM

KHOU on trolley route elimination

By Rob Booth

KHOU.com: Stop, stop, stop go the trolleys
“I think that for many things, it's going to be a car again, frankly,” says Midtown resident Marty Beard.

Permalink | Houston's Light Rail

May 22, 2004, 12:17 PM

PC Olympics

By Kevin Whited

PC Olympics - Click for larger version Courtesy of Cox and Forkum. Click on cartoon for larger version.

Permalink | Political Cartoons

May 22, 2004, 11:39 AM

More Heroes

By Rob Booth

I came across the person who I think may have originally caused the story of our Houston Marine and Navy Cross recipient, Lance Corporal Joseph Perez, to be brought to our attention. That writer also has a story about Lance Coporal Perez's platoon leader that you should read. According to World Net Daily, there's an article going around the Internet that is the work of Bob Lonsberry, a radio talk show host in Salt Lake City, Utah. The column Bob wrote starts out like this:
SOMETHING THAT DIDN'T MAKE THE NEWS Maybe you’d like to hear about something other than idiot Reservists and naked Iraqis. Maybe you’d like to hear about a real American, somebody who honored the uniform he wears. Meet Brian Chontosh. Churchville-Chili Central School class of 1991. Proud graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology. Husband and about-to-be father. First lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. And a genuine hero.
It goes on to detail the exploits of now-Captain Chontosh, you should read the whole thing. According to World Net Daily, the article has found its way on to veteran bulletin boards. That probably caused someone to post the official USMC story, which Gil Raynor forwarded to us. Thanks Bob. More importantly, thank you to the brave men and women who wear our country's uniform and to their loved ones.

Permalink | News and Views

May 22, 2004, 06:30 AM

A look back at week one of Chronicallybiased.com

By Dan Patrick

Yesterday was the one-week anniversary of chronicallybiased.com. It’s been quite a first week. Let me review. Even though our mission is to be the watchdog for the liberal bias and errors in the Houston Chronicle, we planned from the beginning to include original enterprise stories and break news from time to time. Obviously, with a small all volunteer staff we knew the job would be difficult. However, during the first week we broke three stories that the Houston Chronicle and local television newscasts missed. We broke the story on a possible additional special session to be called by Governor Perry, the awarding of a Navy Cross to one of our local heroes and a story that the city may be considering giving away two million dollars to a group who wants to build a museum dedicated to African Americans. The Chronicle did eventually follow up on the first two stories, but as of yesterday failed to even mention that the Mayor they supported for six years, Lee Brown, had moved to give away two million dollars of your money just before he left office. In fact, the Houston Chronicle has all but ignored what a mess this city was in when “their” guy, Lee Brown left office. During the past week, I believe the caliber of writing from our volunteer staff surpassed what we have seen in the Houston Chronicle over the last several years. Owen Courreges's original cartoons are terrific.. His cartoon of a worker seeking employment with the Houston Chronicle editorial board was priceless. Again, I want to thank all of our volunteers who have put in long hours every day and night to bring you chronicallybiased. By now, those of you who are regular readers are getting to know our talented staff; Owen Courreges, Rob Booth, David Wildes, Dan Lovett, the Midnight Writer, and our editor in chief, Kevin Whited. He is our version of Editor in Chief, Perry White of the Daily Planet. We may not have Superman, but we do have Captain Chronicle. Chronicallybiased.com is a groundbreaking enterprise. Noting quite like this has ever been attempted on such a grand scale. Our goal is to be a full service Internet newspaper by the fall, maybe sooner. We rolled out our feature section this week. That is just step one of what will eventually be separate sections for sports, religion, finance, health and lifestyle sections. We will roll out our classified section sometime this week. You can count on that our rates will be much more affordable than the Chronicle’s rates or other internet rates. You will be able to reach thousands of readers for a very small price. We are getting great support from the advertising community. We are adding sponsors and advertisers every week. I am truly grateful to the original founding sponsors, Adams Insurance, Taste of Texas, Hy-Tech Foundation, Royal Oaks Banks, American Appliance and the other advertisers for believing in our cause. I encourage our readers to support these advertisers. Without their support, we cannot continue. Even if you don’t need their product or service today, call them or e-mail them and let them know you appreciate their support of our effort. I want to thank you, the reader. You have come to us by the thousands every day. We have exceeded our expectations for the first month in just the first week. I also want to thank those of you who have left a tip for us on page one. If you haven’t have not done so, please consider doing so. You can easily use your credit card. Your payment is secure. We will be hiring our first people on a part time basis beginning next month. My goal is to continue to offer our web paper free to everyone. You can help by supporting our advertisers, leaving a tip or using our classified section when it comes on line. One of the most important contributions you can make is to spread the word. E-mail all of your friends, read us everyday and tell everyone at work to check us out. We are still looking for quality writers who can contribute to our main page as well as our various feature pages. We are also looking for a few top sales people who know how to sell to small business, sell coupons and sell ads on the Internet. If you are willing to start at the bottom and be part of our team, send a resume to us at KSEV, 11451 Katy Freeway, Houston Texas, 77079 (Suite 215) It will be tough going in the beginning. The hours will be long and the work hard. This is how it was back in 1988 wheb we began KSEV. I am proud, that as I review my KSEV radio family, 80% of our current employees either started with us in 1988 or joined us in 1993 when we acquired KPRC. I want to build another family of hard working talented people. When I began KSEV back in 1988, we started in a similar manner. The big difference was that in those days we only had a few dozen listeners that first week. However, we grew our station by counting on a grassroots movement of word of mouth by our loyal listeners. When we first aired Rush in the spring of 1989, we didn’t have a budget for his show. But, within six months, he was number one in the ratings. As they say, the rest is history. Chronicallybaised.com will eventually change its name to represent our full service paper. However, our critique of the Houston Chronicle will continue to be a major part of our content. Lastly, I must confess that this project is taking much more time than I ever imagined. I am writing more than I anticipated. Since all of our writers have full time jobs, we work on the paper until the wee hours of the morning on most days. Nevertheless, we are committed. We are here for the long term. The Houston Chronicle has had their liberal way for much too long in this town. If our first week has proven anything, it has proven there was an audience for our vision. We have also proven that when people are committed to a cause, they can do great things. I say that not to salute myself, but to salute my staff, our advertisers and you.

Permalink | News and Views

May 21, 2004, 07:20 PM

Democracy Exemplified: Iraq, not MA

By M. Wildes

I could not disagree more wholeheartedly with Joan Silverman's column in Friday’s Outlook. I just do not get it.

She wants us to imagine that we are foreigners “watching American news on TV.” Now first, she tells us to forget politics for a moment (snicker, here it comes…).

In a nutshell, her premise is that on one hand we have the perfect example of democracy at work with the legalization of gay-marriage in Massachusetts, and on the other hand a breakdown in the democratic process with the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse controversy.

Ms. Silverman says that the Massachusetts proceedings exemplify democracy at work, because all three branches of government were involved, as well as the fact that the fighting will continue for years to come. Wrong. When a court steps in and dismisses the will of the legislature, democracy has failed. The will of the people has been dismissed.

Ms. Silverman says that a lack of checks and balances and the failure of democracy is seen in the Abu Ghraib photos. Wrong. In this case, the people found out, the legislative and executive branches investigated, and within three weeks the judiciary began trials.

She says that the process of getting to war “entailed a series of breakdowns in the democratic process.” Wrong again. Bush went to the people. Bush went to the legislature. A majority gave permission to proceed and we went to war.

Ms. Silverman says:

The legalization of same-sex marriage in one state reflects our nation’s ability to disagree loudly and publicly, and still comply with the law. It exemplifies the often raucous and scrappy nature of democracy at work. The prison abuse scandal, by contrast, is about chaos and secrecy. With no checks and balances, our soldiers abused their power…
If that is all they saw, perhaps that would be their impression, but it is not. If they saw an accurate depiction, they would see Americans helping, protecting, and freeing in Iraq. When a few of our own got out of line, our process went into action. Even abuses, minor in comparison to those committed by our enemies, are answered with the full force of our democracy.

If they saw an accurate depiction of the events in Massachusetts, they would see the desires of a few trumping the will of the democracy at work.

Then again, maybe she is right after all. The foreigners in her scenario are watching “American news on TV.” That would limit them to her worldview. Unfortunately, that is not her point.

If Ms. Silverman were honest about herself and the world around her, she would realize that a large majority of the world would condemn the legalization of gay-marriage and a large majority of the world (subjected to or responsible for, far worse abuses/atrocities) is laughing at the tailspin such minor abuse is causing.

Permalink | Noxious Chron Columnists

May 21, 2004, 05:13 PM

The Chronicle's cancellation problems

By Owen Courrèges

This reader e-mail is priceless. I love reading anecdotes such as this:
I'm sure you already know that the Chronicle has been calling those of us who have canceled subscriptions. When asked 'why?' I responded that I was tired of reading left biased news. The caller almost chuckled and said 'we've been hearing that all day. I guess we'll have to change our policy.' Kay Richards
I hope that the Chronicle will change its policy, but I'm not holding my breath.

Permalink | Letters

May 21, 2004, 03:37 PM

Leading the Chron to do the right thing

By Kevin Whited

Yesterday morning (20 May), Rob Booth posted news that Marine Pfc. Joseph B. Perez had been awarded the Navy Cross Medal. We had been forwarded the link to the story in Marine Corps News, and wanted to highlight the valor of this brave Houstonian. We were pleased to see that the Chron picked up the story this morning, and that it's now been syndicated to the Associated Press. We're not sure if one of our readers tipped off the Chron, or if the folks over there have become more than casual readers of Chronically Biased, but we appreciate the Chron's new-found interest in the heroism of our American soldiers. We'll be happy to keep providing them scoops like this.

Permalink | Staff Notes

May 21, 2004, 10:41 AM

Mowbray's Latest

By The Staff

We noted a few days ago that the Chron had decided to pick up the syndicated column of Joel Mowbray, even though they chopped it down a bit from the versions available elsewhere on the web. Today, they didn't choose to pick up his column, perhaps because it is an indictment of the media's treatment of the Abu Ghraib and Nick Berg stories:
From May 11 to May 19, there were more than 6,600 stories in the Lexis-Nexis news database with “Abu Ghraib” somewhere in the text. During the same span, there were just over 3,000 with both “Berg” and “Iraq.” To fully appreciate the significance of those statistics, though, the prisoner abuse story was already two weeks old at that point, and the news of Berg’s beheading broke on May 11. Why is this important? Because the “noise”—the collective impact of news from various sources—has been so focused on Abu Ghraib, the political backdrop is the savagery of Americans, not that of the terrorists we are fighting. In some respects, the terrorists are winning more favorable coverage.
We recommend Mowbray's latest article in its entirety. We've already pointed out problems in the Chron's treatment of these two stories on these pages (here and here). The problem is much more widespread, which is not entirely surprising given how many news outlets take their editorial cues from the New York Times. It's unfortunate just the same.

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 21, 2004, 08:11 AM

The Mayor Jumps On A Good Train

By The Staff

The following is a guest contribution exclusive to Chronically Biased. The Mayor Jumps On A Good Train By Paul “Taxman” Bettencourt No, it is not the Metro train, but Mayor White did join the property tax relief “train” this week by putting a 7% appraisal cap for homesteads into his proposed City of Houston budget for next year. As the train is still in the station due to the lack of consensus in the special session adjourned last week, we will reserve a seat for the Mayor to testify for property tax relief at future legislative sessions in Austin. The taxpayers of the City of Houston deserve property tax relief, as the average homeowner in Houston has seen his property tax bill rise 89% or $1,382.00 in just six years. The question we need to ask is, will the Mayor's proposal to put a 7% limit on homestead appraisal increase into the city's budget for 2004/2005 fiscal year lead to homeowner tax relief before the seventh year doubling of your tax bill? The answer is no, because in his own words, “it's a work in progress”. First, any such proposal for the city to adopt a reduction from the current 10% statewide appraisal cap limit is not allowed under the Texas Property Tax Code. It is specifically blocked by the Texas Constitution, as well. That is why Dan Patrick, Edd Hendee, Robert Eckels, your “Taxman”, and all the members of CLOUT have been in Austin lobbying on behalf of Houston's hard-pressed taxpayers. Second, this is also why everyone knows that “Appraisal Creep”, as Governor Perry put it so well in his recent proposal for a 3% cap in the special session, must be fixed in the Texas Legislature and not by local governments. Lastly, let's again thank Representatives Wong and Bohac who filed bills in the House last session and all their bipartisan co-authors, plus Senator Janek, who filed needed constitutional amendments for a 5% homestead appraisal cap in both last year's regular session and this year's special session. They, and others like them, are trying to solve this problem for good in Texas. Therefore, do not let yesterday's Houston Chronicle front page headline, “Mayor Unveils Portions of Budget - Property Tax Relief's the Key to His Plan” fool you, as the vast majority of Houston taxpayers will see no tax bill reductions in 2004 because the proposed property tax rate stays the same in his proposal. The lion-share of Houston's electronic media did not buy this story and neither should local taxpayers. The Houston Chronicle staff has covered this story repeatedly since September 2002 when I first proposed a reduction in the 10% homestead cap that was well received by a bipartisan group of Texas House members. The obvious facts should not be ignored at this late date. To be fair, the Mayor's office should have checked the facts before announcing a non-working fix to “tax-weary Houstonians,” as the article called us. Surging homeowner property tax bills are a real problem for all Houstonians that deserve a real solution. Without legislative changes, the city's leaders can only provide tax relief the old fashion way, by cutting the city's tax rate! It is the only way homeowners and business-owners can see any reduction in their tax bill increases, as appraised values rise this year. I hope we are “all aboard” the property tax relief train. Paul Bettencourt is the Harris Country Tax Assessor-Collector.

Permalink | News and Views

May 21, 2004, 06:46 AM

Brown's Haunting Legacy

By Dan Patrick

The ghost of Lee Brown continues to haunt Houston taxpayers. Just before Brown left office, he did everything he could do to sabotage the next mayor. He left the streets in a mess, the budget in crisis and the pension plan in disaster. As part of the pension scam he made sure that his confidants, the police chief and other high ranking city officials, got big increases in their pensions. Of course, Brown took care of himself. Brown left office like a shady houseguest with silverware falling out of his pockets. It seems he learned this behavior from his former boss President Bill Clinton. Clinton left the White House like a third world dictator, taking the people’s property, as he departed for his “ancestral home” of New York. If it was up to Brown, he would have pardoned his friends in the Harris County lockup and fired cruise missiles at a Walgreen’s in Louisiana to evade attention. Brown also got council to approve two million dollars in pork to build an African-American museum. The money would be given to a committee to buy a building, allegedly owned by a former supporter of Brown. This committee reportedly has raised little money on its own and apparently lacks a solid plan (this may be the reason why they have not raised enough money). Many council members were outraged at Brown’s request. The city does give money to such projects, but never in such a large amount or as a gift. Most museums and projects like this require that the board of anticipated museum raise the majority of the money on its own. The city’s treasury is not a personal piggy bank for private interests, especially for groups that traditionally raise their own funds. The city does contribute a small portion of its hotel and car rental tax to support various projects. However, these dollars are small and come after various groups have raised eighty percent to ninety percent of the money needed. For example, veteran groups have lobbied for money for years to build a museum dedicated to those who served in our military to no avail. Councilman Mark Goldberg told ChronicallyBiased.com that he thought once Brown left office this issue was dead. But yesterday, council members started receiving a cascade of e-mails and calls to support this project. Word spread through City Hall that Mayor Bill White would support this issue and bring it before council next week. “This is highly inappropriate at this or anytime,” said Goldberg. “The city is cutting hundreds of jobs at the jail, reworking worker’s pensions and cutting other services. This is not a time to give any group two million dollars.” Goldberg’s point is valid. With the city facing a ten million dollar shortfall in the police budget alone, two million dollars could be spent more wisely on something else. The concept of the museum is admirable, but taxpayer’s money should never be used for such projects. Some in the African-American community may cry foul to anyone who opposes this idea. However, since many of the workers that will be laid off at the jail are African-Americans, ChronicallyBiased.com believes that these hard working city workers would rather have a job instead of a museum. The city could also use the money to put city sewer lines in districts D and B where many residents still have septic systems. So far, Mayor White deserves at least a B plus for the work he has done. However, if he supports this idea and gives away two million dollars of taxpayer’s money for this project, his ratings will surely drop. Then he will look no different then the rest of his big spending, liberal Democratic comrades, pandering for the support of the voters. If you agree with our position then contact the Mayor’s office at 713-247-2200 and your council representative. Tell them not to give away your tax money for projects such as these, no matter noble they may appear.

Permalink | News and Views

May 21, 2004, 06:35 AM

Letters To The Editor

By The Staff

Please click the [Read More] link to read today's Letters to the Editor

Support Our Soldiers

I am a member of Houston Marine Moms. Let me tell you a little about our Group. We are basically a support group for families with men and women in the Marines. We get together to ship care packages to our Marines and other “Adopted” Marines that don't get much support from home, that need our TLC. We are NOT an “Organized Group” or a “Non-Profit Group”. Just a group of Moms trying to make a difference for our Marines. We are also having a Military Moms care package drive tommorrow at Channel 11 studios. We are and will be having other drives and activities to support our troops as long as they are in Iraq, Haiti, Afghanistan. We got a call from our sons from Iraq, and they are in desperate need of socks. Due to a recent Sand Storm it seems that all their socks got blown away. They have the pair that is on their feet. And must wash them out and put them right back on. Is there any way you could donate some black socks to our Marines? Home of the Free Because of the BRAVE This Military Moms drive with channel 11 is for ALL military. We will be taking donations from 5 am til 7 pm tomorrow and also through Memorial day. Randalls will also have their barrels out until then. Please email us at houstonmarinemoms@yahoo.com for any info for future donations or any other info. We have many projects in the works. No one will be there to answer email tomorrow. Ginger Hester Houston Marine Moms 281-399-2616

Support Our Soldiers - 2

I am the mother of two U.S. Marines. Both were in Iraq for the start of the war. One is back now and the other will be leaving soon to go back. I think the news media needs to spend a little more time talking about the good our military is doing instead of focusing on a very few soldiers who portrayed poor judgment. Our media should also be defending our military and our country. The actions of a few do not represent our military as a whole. Our children have met the Iraqi people first hand. They have shared meals with them. They have been invited into their homes. Most Iraqi people want us there. They want their freedom. They want this all to be over. My sons, as well as thousands of other Soldiers, Marines & Airmen are glad to be there. No, they don't want to be away from their families and friends that they care about for such long periods of time, but they know they are helping the people of Iraq, as well as helping to rid the world of Terrorism. This is no easy task! For far too long we have let the terrorist groups grow and infiltrate the world. Our daughter's and son's deal with terrorist's everyday, like the ones who killed Nicholas Berg. At first, I thought it would be horrible to show this video, but now I am not so sure. Maybe people need to understand the kinds of people we are talking about terrorists. These people are cruel, ruthless cowards. These are people who will behead a man who is handcuffed and cannot fight back. Surely we haven't forgotten - the terrorist who flew planes into buildings to kill thousands of unsuspecting people! These cowards bury land mines to destroy our supply lines, knowing that innocent people will travel these same streets. Hundreds of times a week all over Iraq , people are killed by these mines. You never report on these events. The convoys and supply lines that run over land mines, or are shot at with RPG's, we hear about every one of those. Why? Because the media wants to portray only the negative. To make it seem as if the Iraqi people are trying to get us out of there. Why don't you show all of the innocent Iraqi people who walk or drive and get caught in the paths of these RPG's? Very little was said of the school bus load of children who were killed on their way to school. These are the kinds of things my sons have had to see and deal with every day. They listen to the stories from the people. There are children who watched their fathers tortured, their mothers and sisters raped. Onelittle boy, whose father refused to join the fighters and was forced drink gasoline, watched as his father was shot, and the little boy saw his father explode before his eyes. This 9 year old boy had to watch this and then he was forced to watch his mother and sister being raped. When these ruthless cowards were done raping them, they slit their throats. This young boy told my sons unit this when he was found sleeping in the streets well past curfew. My son and the other brave Marines in my son's unit took care of this homeless child for 3 weeks until he had to be turned over to the Red Cross. These Marines had a hard time letting him go (the boy had started to trust them). Another example of the kind of men and women we have in our military. There are thousands of stories like this. Our Marines, Soldiers and Airmen, face extreme horror with honor, courage and compassion. When asked how they feel about all of the negative media attention, they respond with, “This is why we risk our lives everyday so that the American people can feel safe. Many take for granted the freedom that most people around the world don't even understand.” You may want to tell these stories instead of the negative ones. You have a few soldiers who used some bad judgment and that is what you have chosen to focus on. As a mother of two sons in the United States Marine Corp., I support them. However, I spend my days worrying about them, waiting for them to come home safely. You make it all the more difficult for me and the other families of our military personnel to cope. One last comment, for all who have given the ultimate sacrifice for you, respect them by reporting on all the good they have brought to the world. GIVE THEM THE RESPECT THEY DESERVE! We have set up a web page to honor and support them, and help the many interested people who want to keep track of them. It is: www.DowellUSMC.com. Lynette Riley

Ag Exemption

Yes, the Ag exemption does save the land holders a lot of money. On the other hand a lot of this property is eventually developed for subdivisions. Without the exemptions the cost of lots would have to cover the holding cost of the seller. Therefore, the end price of housing is kept lower. Without the exemption, Texans with modest means would be replaced by large corporations and government entities. The big problem is inheritance taxes. I have relatives who had to sell the family farm to pay these taxes. Think through the process. Sen. Lindsey is within his rights to use any lawful exemptions and should not be criticized. On the other hand he needs to get the appraisal cap down to a rate that does not exceed inflation. Jim Miller

Laughable Premise

Your premise that the Chronicle will now be held accountable is laughable as your very existence is defined by the Chronicle. Also, you have no sense of accountability in your posts at all. This is a predictably right-wing rag, raging at the light or the dark or the wind or the rain or whatever imagined affront you have suffered this or any day. If 99% of your respondents are favorable in their comments and enthusiasm, it tells volumes about the choir to whom you preach. Your credibility will increase only when you take the effort and expend the capital to be a public instrument, asking questions in the public forum, in person, rather than lambasting those who do. Print this, just to let your 99% know they are not the unanimous voice. And read this and take it heart, just to give yourselves the humility you so seem to lack. Gary D. Rodgers

Permalink | Letters

May 21, 2004, 06:32 AM

Morning Show Clips

By Rob Booth

Chris Begala is sitting in for Edd Hendee this morning on KSEV. Click [Read More] to see links to stories he's been discussing. I've updated this post during the show, be sure to click your Refresh button or F5 to see the most recent links. Be sure to click your Back button after reading the stories and come back to ChronicallyBiased.com! 1. Mayor White/Budget News24Houston: Mayoral budget means hundreds of layoffs for city workers
The presses in the city of Houston's print shop will stop for good this summer as part of Mayor Bill White's budget cuts. Brenda Riggan worked there nine years — one of five employees who print business cards, letterhead and forms. “We'll be placed somewhere within the city. I'm not sure where everybody's going. I'll probably be going to City Hall,” said Riggan. Mayor Bill White's 2005 budget proposal calls for outsourcing printing services, one of his many cost-saving measures that include staffing changes.
2. Iraqi Prisoner Abuse Washington Post via MSNBC: New photograhs, video amplify prison violence
The video begins with three soldiers huddled around a naked detainee, his thin frame backed against a wall. With a snap of his wrist, one of the soldiers slaps the man across his left cheek so hard that the prisoner's knees buckle. Another detainee, handcuffed and on his back, is dragged across the prison floor.
NBC News via MSNBC: New front in Iraq detainee abuse scandal?
BAGHDAD - With attention focused on the seven soldiers charged with abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison, U.S. military and intelligence officials familiar with the situation tell NBC News the Army’s elite Delta Force is now the subject of a Pentagon inspector general investigation into abuse against detainees.
Washington Post: New Details of Prison Abuse Emerge
Previously secret sworn statements by detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq describe in raw detail abuse that goes well beyond what has been made public, adding allegations of prisoners being ridden like animals, sexually fondled by female soldiers and forced to retrieve their food from toilets. The fresh allegations of prison abuse are contained in statements taken from 13 detainees shortly after a soldier reported the incidents to military investigators in mid-January. The detainees said they were savagely beaten and repeatedly humiliated sexually by American soldiers working on the night shift at Tier 1A in Abu Ghraib during the holy month of Ramadan, according to copies of the statements obtained by The Washington Post.
3. President Bush's Poll Numbers TheHill.com: Bush slide worries the party
Republican members of Congress are growing increasingly concerned over President Bush’s sinking approval rating and the souring public mood over the war in Iraq. At the same time, many members say Bush’s poll numbers are also affecting them by coloring public opinion about the economy and other issues more directly linked to their own re-election prospects.
4. Chalabi Passes Classified Info to Iran? foxnews.com: CIA: Chalabi Possibly Spied for Iran
BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmad Chalabi (search), once a darling of the American government, may have passed classified U.S. information to Iran, Fox News has confirmed. U.S. troops and Iraqi police on Thursday suddenly surrounded and raided Chalabi's house — and police also searched offices of his organization, the Iraqi National Congress.
Washington Times: U.S., Iraqis raid Chalabi's house, offices
BAGHDAD — Armed U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police yesterday smashed down the doors of the home and offices of Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi, a longtime U.S. political ally, and seized computers and documents from the organization.
6:45 AM: Logging Off

Permalink | News and Views

May 21, 2004, 06:30 AM

Kerry is no Bob Dole

By The Staff

Two interesting items from the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal... Calling Mr. Kerry John Kerry's attendance record in the U.S. Senate is less than stellar since his run for the White House began. Some watchdog groups are calling for the Junior Senator to follow the lead of Bob Dole in '96 who vacated his seat six months before the election. A group called Citizens United is actively petitioning for Kerry's resignation. Kerry has missed 80 of 94 roll call votes for a 15% attendance record. Included in his absences is a one-vote loss for an extension of unemployment benefits. Democrats claimed the Republicans engineered a one-vote margin to embarrass Kerry, but a batting average like this normally gets you sent to the minors. Calling the bluff pays off Maryland's first Republican Governor in years balked at a plan he initially supported to raise state taxes by $1 billion and allow 15,000 video poker machines. Gov. Ehrlich's change of heart towards the close of the legislative session put his political future on the line with himself calling for massive cuts rather than new taxes and doomsday Democrat leaders convinced the sky was falling. Some members were calling for a Special Session to RAISE taxes. The gamble paid off with the Maryland economy rebounding sending tax revenues above previous pessimistic projections. “Income tax revenue is up by 9% over last year and sales tax receipts are up 8.1%. Liquor, gas, cigarette and inheritance taxes are also beating expectations.” Instead of the $800 million dollar shortfall, new estimates put the deficit near $250 million and viewed as easily manageable. You may remember that Gov. Erlich was the long shot candidate beating out a member of the Kennedy clan for the Maryland's top job.

Permalink | News and Views

May 21, 2004, 06:20 AM

More to the Story

By Rob Booth

Yesterday the Chronicle ran an AP story about an alleged deserter. There's more to the story... Chron.com: Soldier abandoned unit, prosecutor says
FORT STEWART, Ga. — A U.S. soldier who said he refused to report to duty because he opposes the war in Iraq walked away from his unit “when they needed him the most,” a prosecutor told a military jury today. Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia, an infantrymen with the Florida National Guard, is charged with desertion after failing to return to his unit in Iraq after a two-week furlough in October.
There's no Chronicle bias in that story, they didn't write it. So many papers just run AP stories, so there's really not too much room to criticize the Chronicle for that. If you, however, just rely on the Chronicle for information, you're not getting the whole picture. Alert reader Octavio, Nicaraguan native and now proud US citizen, wrote in to tell us that SSG Mejia is the son of former Sandanista officials in Nicaragua. He told us that SSG Mejia's father actually wrote the Sandanista anthem, which includes the line “...we fight against the yankee, the enemy of humankind.” People can say anything in an e-mail, so the Chronically Biased research department checked out what Octavio told us. There is much more to the story and the alert reporters at the Miami Herald wrote about it. Miami Herald: Moral objector or deserter? Dade soldier faces trial
Camilo Mejia's family and supporters see him as a once-confused teenager who joined the Army so he could go to college, then showed courage in leaving it when he became morally appalled at the “war for oil” and the treatment of prisoners.
There's quite a bit more in the Miami Herald story than in the AP story, I recommend you read the whole thing. One important factoid that you shouldn't miss. The AP/Chronicle story states:
Mejia claims he deserted his unit in part to avoid orders to abuse Iraqi prisoners. [snip] While he said publicly that he became upset after seeing Iraqi civilians hit by gunfire during an ambush on his unit, he never mentioned witnessing abuse of Iraqi detainees. He instead described those allegations in his objector application, filed March 16.
The Herald states this:
Mejia said he was disturbed by the way prisoners were treated at Al Assad Air Force Base, where prisoners were interrogated. Written more than two months before the notorious photographs of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison were made public, his application makes no mention of the sort of abuse documented in those photos. Instead, it talks about prisoners kept blindfolded and others deliberately deprived of sleep at the behest of their interrogators. “Keeping these detainees awake for periods of 24 to 48 hours required some pretty tough measures,” he wrote. Soldiers would “constantly yell at the detainees, make them move their arms up and down, make them sit and stand for several minutes. When these techniques failed, we would bang on the wall with a huge sledgehammer . . . or load a 9mm pistol next to their ear.”
That's two pretty different ways of explaining one report. Maybe which version is more accurate will come out in SSG Mejia's trial.

Permalink | Poor Chron Journalism

May 21, 2004, 06:00 AM

Re: Gas Prices - What's the Big Deal?

By Owen Courrèges

As Dan notes below, gasoline prices are indeed quite high - higher than they need to be. However, despite onerous government regulation, the oil industry has still managed to keep the price of petroleum low by historical standards, and other industries have become more energy efficient. As such, the clamor over gas prices being a 'crisis' is more than a tad overstated. This recent policy brief from the National Center for Policy Analysis explains why we shouldn't be panicing just yet:
“Nine of the 10 U.S. recessions since World War II followed spikes in oil prices,” says Dallas Federal Reserve Bank president Robert McTeer. But today there is less concern that oil price shocks will have an adverse economic effect. Three factors explain why: - Shifts in the composition of output and investments in more efficient plants, equipment, homes and vehicles have cut the energy necessary to produce a dollar of gross domestic product by more than 50 percent since the early 1980s — for example, in the airline industry, the average fuel per passenger mile has fallen by about 25 percent. - Today's price hikes aren't that severe; adjusted for inflation, crude prices would have to rise to $75 to $80 a barrel to reach their 1981 level, and gasoline would have to be $3.50 per gallon or higher. - Companies have more experience with higher energy prices and are less likely to misjudge the impact of expensive oil and natural gas on their own businesses and on others with whom they trade.
For all of these reasons, we should be thankful that we aren't still in the 1970's, when price shocks did reach crisis proportions. The situation now is far from ideal, but it doesn't justify much of the rhetoric we've been seeing, especially from the left.

Permalink | News and Views

May 21, 2004, 05:49 AM

Astros Score

By Rob Booth

Astros.com: Astros meet their match
MIAMI — The celebrated showdown between two of the National League's best young pitchers didn't provide much drama Thursday night, as the Marlins salvaged the finale of a three-game series against the Astros. The visitors' Roy Oswalt gave up three runs in the first two innings to launch the Marlins toward a 6-2 victory at Pro Player Stadium.

Permalink | News and Views

May 21, 2004, 05:46 AM

Smirk

By Rob Booth

Add me to the list of non-subscribers who woke up this morning to find an unrequested copy of the Chronicle in my driveway. Thanks!

Permalink | Humor

May 21, 2004, 05:45 AM

Three radio talk hosts step down.

By Dan Patrick

Edd Hendee, who is on an extensive tour of China, reported live from Hong Kong on my show yesterday. He shared that several Hong Kong talk hosts, who had been critical of the communist leadership, have stepped down from their job. They were told their critical commments about the communist government were no longer welcomed on the air. According to Edd, the communist government of Red China is taking more and more control of the capitalist city. The fact that the government is now clamping down on free speech is an ominous sign for the citizens of both Hong Kong and Taiwan. Our freedom of speech in this country should never be taken for granted. I believe if those on the extreme left truly had their way, many of us on the right would be silenced. We throw around the word democracy rather carelessly in this country. We take our freedoms for granted. The difference between America and China is what the real battle of Iraq is all about. A free open Iraq is the only chance at real peace one day in the mideast. Democracy will spread in that region if given a chance.

Permalink | News and Views

May 20, 2004, 11:40 PM

Seeing through the Abu Ghraib coverage

By Kevin Whited

National Review Online's John O'Sullivan takes U.S. media to task for their major failings in the last week or so. These are: Go read the whole thing. It's good.

Permalink | News and Views

May 20, 2004, 10:55 PM

Error? Not really

By The Staff

We got this letter today from a reader (Mike) who didn't leave his full name:
*Your non-biased (?) online newspaper still incorrectly states that “The Passion is the only current movie to get an F on their movie reviews page...” For a solid week (H.C. Preview supplement May 13, 2004; page 23F) Van Helsing has been rated F. So, will you take yourself to task for “reporting” incorrect information for a solid week??!!
IF we had made a mistake, we would surely point it out. A watchdog site must surely acknowledge fellow watchdogs! However, your selective quotation is deceptive and dishonest. Here's the full quote:
When The Passion is the only current movie to get an F on their movie reviews page, we're going to point that out.
That's a very important “when” that you left out of your selective quotation. You're not a Chron editorial board member hiding behind a fake email account, are you? Seriously, when we make errors — and we will, because we are humans — we'll correct them, and we'll do so publicly. But for WEEKS, that statement on our About Us page was true — The Passion was the only movie on the Chron movie reviews to receive an F. After we launched this website and called attention to it, suddenly they found another movie to give an F. Coincidence? Maybe. We happen to think they should reassign the movie to another reviewer who might give it a fair review. We won't be holding our breath for that to happen, though.

Permalink | Letters

May 20, 2004, 07:43 PM

Chron/ AP give Kerry Free Advertising

By M. Wildes

Today provided us the perfect example of a recurring trend in the Chronicle. The Chronicle selects certain Associated Press stories that are, simply put, advertisements for John Kerry and passes them off as news. I understand that the views of the opposition candidate in an election year are news, but these stories are highlight reels. The articles usually ramble on and on about several topics and what Kerry thinks about them, and they even give supporting facts. Today’s Kerry article is a small exception, being that it is an article about an interview given by Kerry to the AP. However, generally these articles are written without such an event.

Challenges are never made to any misstatements or lies, and Bush’s viewpoint is rarely included. Articles that do give Bush’s viewpoint usually only state that Bush disagrees. Do they write entire articles regarding Bush’s viewpoints? Only if it is laced with conflicting opinions or controversy.

Alas, for a brief moment I feel the Chronicle’s pain…what choice do they really have when selecting from the AP? Then, I remember they have their own writers and the sympathy dims.

Two of today’s Bush articles, written by the Chronicle's Gebe Martinez, include discussions regarding: 1) infighting among Republicans about immigration, and 2) infighting between Bush, Senate Republicans, and House Republicans on the economy, health care, Iraq, and the timing of the gay-marriage amendment announcement. Oh my, the sky is falling!

Note: There is no link to the Kerry story because Ron Fournier's article “Kerry states he's open to anti-abortion judges” was replaced with a different AP story about the same interview called “Kerry: Bush underfunding education program”. I guess the first title was too critical of Kerry. This article still proves my point.

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 20, 2004, 07:27 PM

Update

By M. Wildes

In “Story on the 50th Anniversary of Brown Becomes Anti-Bush Piece” on Tuesday, I pointed out William Douglas’s bias with the following:
“While our schools are no longer segregated by law, they are still not equal in opportunity and excellence,” Bush told a mostly white crowd of about 4,000 outside the Topeka school.
Now see the treatment fellow AP writer Rob Fournier gives Kerry in today’s article:
Kerry said Bush has damaged relations with allies to the point that only a new president can repair them. The problem is evident in Iraq, said the decorated Vietnam War veteran who promised to avert a quagmire.
Need I say more?

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 20, 2004, 05:20 PM

METRO sticks head in sand

By Kevin Whited

Credit METRO for consistency. Even as we've piled up 40 accidents in the few months the new Main Street light rail system has been running, METRO insists that nothing is wrong with the system and all of the fault lies with drivers. ABC-13, however, has discovered what seems to be a pretty UNSAFE feature of the system:
There have been 40 accidents involving METRO's light rail and at least one Houstonian predicts there will be many more if METRO doesn't fix a problem. If one section of track is ever shut down, the remaining trains are forced to share one side of the track. But the street signals aren't programmed to react when a train comes in the wrong direction. The cross traffic at an intersection gets a green light and that apparently happens even if a train is coming. Some say could lead to an accident.
Someone who doesn't live in Houston (say, listeners of the Michael Reagan show) might expect that a METRO official would pledge to get to the bottom of this obvious safety issue. Those of us who live in Houston know not to expect that:
METRO says it's not a failure and that's the way the system was designed. So far there have been no accidents as a result of the green lights.
It's this sort of attitude that is going to get someone killed by the train. Then maybe someone at METRO will be held accountable — but it will be a little late.

Permalink | Houston's Light Rail

May 20, 2004, 05:09 PM

Dan Patrick Show Clips

By Rob Booth

These are news clips related to the topics that Dan is discussing today. Click the [Read More] link. I've updated this post during the show, be sure to click your Refresh button or F5 to see the most recent links. Be sure to click your Back button after reading the stories and come back to ChronicallyBiased.com! 1. Democrat Catholics in Congress The State: Catholics in Congress give bishop a warning
WASHINGTON — Forty-eight Roman Catholic members of Congress have warned in a letter to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington that U.S. bishops will revive anti-Catholic bigotry and severely harm the church if they deny Holy Communion to politicians who support abortion rights.
UPI: Abortion advocates decry communion threat
Washington, DC, May. 20 (UPI) — The threat of some U.S. Catholic bishops to withhold communion to politicians supporting abortion rights has been challenged, the New York Times reported. A letter from 48 Roman Catholic Democratic members of Congress sent to cardinal archbishop of Washington, D.C., called the threats “deeply hurtful,” and “miring the Church in partisan politics.”
American Life League: Response to House Catholics' Letter to Cardinal McCarrick: Political Threats Don't Change Objective Truth, You Can't Be Catholic
WASHINGTON, May 20 /U.S. Newswire/ — Judie Brown, president of American Life League, issued the following response to the 48 Catholic members of the U.S. House who sent a letter warning Theodore Cardinal McCarrick to the political repercussions of withholding Communion from pro-abortion Catholic politicians: “It is outrageous that these 48 Catholic members of the House would try to hold Christ hostage in what was clearly a thinly veiled threat to the Church hierarchy. This has never been, nor should it ever be about politics. This is about the obedience that is required by all Catholics to be members in good standing- no matter your party affiliation, your job or your 'personal beliefs.
Reuters: Catholic Leader Open to Hearing from Lawmakers
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of a task force of bishops ”is open to hearing“ from Catholic members in Congress concerned that church leaders may trigger a backlash if they deny Communion to politicians who support abortion rights, a spokeswoman said on Thursday. The spokeswoman for Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C., said, however, a meeting has not yet been set and declined to predict when one might be. ”The task force (on bishops and Catholics in public life) has heard from a number of people, and it is open to hearing from them,“ said spokeswoman Susan Gibbs. ”We're hopeful we can open a dialogue,“ said Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, one of 48 Catholic members of the House of Representatives, all Democrats, who recently wrote McCarrick.
New York Times: Democrats Criticize Denial of Communion by Bishops
Forty-eight Roman Catholic members of Congress who are Democrats have signed a letter to the cardinal archbishop of Washington, D.C., saying the threats by some bishops to deny communion to politicians who support abortion rights were ”deeply hurtful,“ counterproductive and ”miring the Church in partisan politics.“ The letter is the first organized counter-punch by Democratic legislators since a handful of Catholic bishops set off an uproar in the church by declaring that they would withhold communion from politicians who favor abortion rights. [snip] ”We wanted to look at the opportunity to open up a dialogue,“ said Ms. De Lauro, who worked with Representative Nick Lampson of Texas to design a response to the bishops. ”People are really hurt by this."
2. Mayor White and Appraisal Caps Mayor's Office Home Page News24Houston: Mayor outlines budget plan for City Council members
Mayor Bill White worked late into the night on his first-ever budget — so late that copies of the proposal are still at the printer. [snip] The mayor's proposal also includes some property tax relief. In fact, the mayor wants to cap appraisal increases at seven percent per year — currently, that cap is at 10 percent.
AP via KTRK: Mayor's budget plan calls for civilian job cuts
The mayor also plans to devote $22.5 million to performance-based raises. White's budget anticipates a 3 percent increase in property tax revenue and a 5 percent increase in sales tax revenue in the fiscal year that begins July 1. City officials say those would generate almost $20 million and about $19 million, respectively.
3. Where is KSEV host Edd Hendee? ChronicallyBiased.com: A view from the other side of the world.
Edd Hendee is on an extensive tour of China. From time to time he will be checking in with us.
ChronicallyBiased.com: KSEV's Edd Hendee guest of President Chen
This article appeared in the Taiwan News. Not bad company for a burger flipper, as Edd likes to call himself.
5:50 PM (Central): Logging Off

Permalink | News and Views

May 20, 2004, 04:48 PM

Sarin Op-Ed Roundup

By Rob Booth

Many readers were kind enough to e-mail us links to William Safire's column that appeared yesterday in the New York Times, Sarin? What Sarin?. Well, if you like that one, click [Read More] to see a couple of others. From an unlikely source, the Seattle Times, here's a conservative column: Sarin discovery deserved more than a blasé response
We felt a little like we'd fallen down a rabbit hole this week on hearing that an artillery shell that tested positive for sarin had been discovered in a roadside bomb in Baghdad. It wasn't the nasty stuff itself that was curious — as Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld intimated, some stray chemical munitions could signify any number of things, or not much at all. The extraordinary part was the tizzy the media and various noteworthies were in to discount it. It hadn't been but a few hours since the news broke when former U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix grabbed a microphone somewhere to huff that the discovery meant nothing. Others briskly offered that the shell was more likely the bounty of a scavenger hunt by yahoos who didn't even know what they had.
Here's one from TownHall.com: Ignoring the WMD find
You would have thought that the discovery of an actual weapon of mass destruction in Iraq would be big news, especially since it was aimed at American soldiers. But apparently not in the eyes of most U.S. newspaper editors and network television producers, who chose largely to ignore one of the major stories coming out of Iraq this week.
And finally a new-to-me source — IndyStar.com: Dangerous clues in hunt for WMD
Our position is: Recent discoveries point to the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The discovery in Iraq of an artillery shell suspected of containing the nerve gas sarin provides one more intriguing piece of evidence in the mystery of what happened to Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.
(Update: Be sure to check out Michael Reagan's column on our features page. Michael can also be heard on our partner, AM 700 KSEV, from 6-8 pm)

Permalink | News and Views

May 20, 2004, 02:06 PM

Kudos to the Chronicle

By The Staff

This story is horrible. Yes, that's right. This stunning piece of journalism is not only self-contradictory in tone from beginning to end, but it is a masterpiece of irrelevant facts and nonsensical noteworthies. This article questions the process of nominating federal judges who have previously lost elections. If we might be so bold... even the Democratic Presidential Nominee, John F. Kerry, has lost elections in his political career. Should not the Chronicle be writing a similar story on Sen. Kerry, and perhaps even identify to whose campaigns he has contributed? However, from our staff to yours, thank you for taking the initiative to write such an inspiring story praising Senators Cornyn and Hutchison, our Governor Rick Perry, and the President George W. Bush. We realize that this was not the intent of your article, but nevertheless, the choice quotes you included made it amply clear that Texas has every right to be proud of its elected officials, and their conscientious handling of federal judge appointments. This story was great! Kindest Regards, Your friends @ ChronicallyBiased.com P.S. Whoops... we let the tone of this article change rapidly from negative to positive. We hope those first few lines didn't influence any readers against the true context of our story. We would never intentionally try to influence our audience like that...

Permalink | Humor

May 20, 2004, 09:59 AM

More Chronicle propaganda

By Owen Courrèges

(Original image found here). Come to think of it, this poster is more relevant that it lets on. You have to keep in mind that the left-wing bias of the New York Times allowed them to cover for Stalin's atrocities, essentially keeping the American people in the dark in terms of the full extent of Soviet oppression. Given this, Stalin probably did want your average American to read liberally-biased newspapers. If you'd like to know more about this issue, the National Review's Andrew Stuttaford wrote an editorial on this subject last year. It's well worth reading.

Permalink | Humor

May 20, 2004, 06:50 AM

Gas Prices: What's the Big Deal?

By Dan Patrick

I remember the mid 70's when America waited in long lines to fill up at the pump. Depending on your license plate number, you were allowed to buy gas on either even or odd days. We complained, but Americans got use to the lines and learned to live with the inconvenience. Eventually everything returned to normal at our local gas stations. I also remember when the price of a gallon of gas first went over the dollar mark. Once again, we complained but accepted it. Then we crossed the threshold of $1.50 per gallon. Once again, we complained but accepted the price. Now we have crossed the $2.00 per gallon price mark in most states and it doesn't look like the price will go down in the near future. Once again Americans are accepting this increase as something that is inevitable. Americans who drive a car or truck for a living are affected by the increase in gas prices the most. Some will be able to pass the increasing cost of gas on to their customers in the form of increased service prices. Others will not have that option and will unfortunately make less money. The airline industry, which is still struggling from the 9-11 attacks, is also feeling the pain of higher fuel prices. Continental Airlines just announced that they were adding a $20 fuel surcharge to all flights. However, for the everyday driver, the increase in gas prices is taken with stride. Why isn't the American public outraged at the President for the increased price at the pump? The reasons are many. Some have switched to smaller vehicles that get better gas mileage, so they are not feeling the increase as much. Others have decided to drive trucks and sports utility vehicles and don't mind the cost. Lastly, Bush supporters, who make up half of this country’s population, realize the increase is not his fault. They believe that the Democrats, including a wide range of liberal activist groups, have prohibited this country from having any meaningful energy policy. It is amazing to hear Democrats complain about this problem and criticize the President for not doing anything about the problem. Meanwhile, the Democrats have blocked every attempt to implement an effeicient, long term energy plan. The problem is simple. First, America has approximately 150 refineries. That is not enough. Second, the Environment Protection Agency has enacted strict controls over many of those plants which in turn limit their potential output. Third, the economies all over the world are growing and this growth is putting pressure on the price of oil. Lastly, OPEC, who is no friend of the U.S., has cut back on production. Gas prices will continue to soar in this country as long as the Democrats continue to shield efforts at an energy plan that includes off shore drilling. The price of gas will also continue to rise as long as Americans don't make any effort to conserve energy. Also, the price of gas will continue to rise until the automakers get serious and make an effort to locate an alternative fuel source. The question is how much will the cost of gasoline have to go up before the driving public get outraged? What is the magic number? Is it $3 a gallon, $4 a gallon or more? At some point the public will demand more drilling, more conservation and more alternatives. For now, Americans show no sign of outrage or change in driving habits. That means our current cost will no longer be the highest in history, but the accepted price, just as it was years ago when prices reached a buck and then a buck and a half per gallon.

Permalink | News and Views

May 20, 2004, 06:14 AM

Morning Show Clips

By Rob Booth

Chris Begala is sitting in for Edd Hendee this morning on KSEV. Click [Read More] to see links to stories he's been discussing. I've updated this post during the show, be sure to click your Refresh button or F5 to see the most recent links. Be sure to click your Back button after reading the stories and come back to ChronicallyBiased.com! 1. New Iraqi Prison Photos The photos are disturbing, please don't click the link unless you want to see them. ABCNews.com: More Photos Surface
May 19, 2004— ABCNEWS has obtained two new photos taken at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq showing Spc. Charles Graner and Spc. Sabrina Harman posing over the body of a detainee who was allegedly beaten to death by CIA or civilian interrogators in the prison's showers. The detainee's name was Manadel al-Jamadi.
2. Iraqi Wedding Party or Safehouse? ABCNews.com: U.S. Aircraft Reportedly Kills 40 Iraqis
BAGHDAD, Iraq May 20, 2004 — A U.S. aircraft fired on a house in the desert near the Syrian border Wednesday, and Iraqi officials said more than 40 people were killed, including children. The U.S. military said the target was a suspected safehouse for foreign fighters from Syria, but Iraqis said a helicopter had attacked a wedding party.
3. 9/11 Commission - Giuliani Washington Times: Giuliani: don't blame rescuers for 9/11
Washington, DC, May. 19 (UPI) — Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani warned the 9/11 commission Wednesday its criticism of rescue workers risked degenerating into blaming rescue workers. “The blame should clearly be directed at one source and one source alone: the terrorists that killed our loved ones,” Giuliani told the panel.
New York Daily News: Second-guessing our 9/11 heroes (Editorial)
Let it first be said that New York City firefighters and police officers acted heroically Sept. 11, as yesterday's hearing of the 9/11 commission demonstrated again so heartbreakingly. The men and women of the world's finest emergency services did God's work that day and are not to be faulted. Those eternal truths bear repeating in light of the panel's scrutiny of how the city responded to the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history. For lost in the focus on what went wrong was everything that went so bravely right, saving thousands of lives at infinite cost.
4. Sen. Hollings Statement WIStv.com: Sen. Hollings defends column labeled “anti-Jewish” by some
(Columbia-AP) May 19, 2004 - Senator Ernest Hollings is defending statements he made in a newspaper opinion article he wrote that said President Bush went to war with Iraq to protect Israel and appease American Jews. Read it on the senator's web site Hollings, a Democrat, refused to talk with The State newspaper in Columbia about the article on Tuesday, but his office released a letter the retiring senator sent a constituent as a statement.
Hollings.Senate.gov: Bush's failed Mideast policy is creating more terrorism
Every president since 1947 has made a futile attempt to help Israel negotiate peace. But no leadership has surfaced amongst the Palestinians that can make a binding agreement. President Bush realized his chances at negotiation were no better. He came to office imbued with one thought — re-election. Bush felt tax cuts would hold his crowd together and spreading democracy in the Mideast to secure Israel would take the Jewish vote from the Democrats. You don't come to town and announce your Israel policy is to invade Iraq. But George W. Bush, as stated by former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and others, started laying the groundwork to invade Iraq days after inauguration. And, without any Iraq connection to 9/11, within weeks he had the Pentagon outlining a plan to invade Iraq. He was determined.

Permalink | News and Views

May 20, 2004, 06:10 AM

A view from the other side of the world.

By Dan Patrick

Edd Hendee is on an extensive tour of China. From time to time he will be checking in with us. From the other side of the world - where day (here) is night (in the US)and language, customs & currency are foreign it's strange to view the US from a different perspective. Why do other countries view the US negatively? Why is it world sport to ridicule the Americans? Could it be the image that the American media is spreading around the world about their own country? A steady diet of CNN Worldwide has opened my eyes. A news organization owned and operated by CNN/Time Warner makes sport of anti-American stories, headlines, spin, and comment. It's maddening to watch the commentators almost “sneer” when they speak of the US Military & our President George W. Bush. Example: The current news of the AbuGraib prison is 24/7 on the news with CNN interviewing every 3rd world dirt street shop owner who can say something negative about the US. However the story of Nick Berg's execution by the thugs of AlQuaida has VANISHED from the news completely - not a mention. Also there is NO mention of any victory in Iraq, no mention of success, no mention of the progress in the war on terror.....just story after story about the prison scandal involving less than 8 US Soldiers currently under consideration or charges. Today I found CBS nightly news and further condemnation by Dan Rather on the US Military. The newstand at the hotel has Time, Newsweek, and the New York Times. Frankly, if I didn't know better, I'd come to the conclusion that we are a pretty lousy bunch of people too. But thank goodness we have Fox News, AM Talk Radio, KSEV, CLOUT, and now Chronicallybiased.com. Don't ever take these vital news and commentary/discussion formats for granted. They are an oasis of sanity in an unkind, anti-American world. The aggravation that they come from our own nation is depressing. No wonder the world is encouraged in their suspicion of us....we are doing it to ourselves. Frankly I have come to the conclusion (again) that CNN & the liberal press is our own worst enemy. We just need some balance over here! Edd Hendee Hong Kong

Permalink | News and Views

May 20, 2004, 06:05 AM

KSEV's Edd Hendee guest of President Chen

By The Staff

This article appeared in the Taiwan News. Not bad company for a burger flipper, as Edd likes to call himself.
President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) received the owner of a Texan steak house yesterday where Chen was treated by U.S. Congressman Tom DeLay to a steak dinner in June 2001 when he was on a transit stop in Houston. Chen met with Edd Hendee, owner of the Houston-based steak restaurant Taste of Texas, at the Office of the President and gave Hendee a scroll carrying Chen's praise of the famous restaurant written in eight Chinese characters meaning “Hendee's flavor, the taste of Texas.” Chen told the restaurateur that he had an overall satisfying dining experience at Taste of Texas and its superb steak was particularly unforgettable. The president said that he and his wife were warmly hosted by U.S. House of Representatives majority leader DeLay during a stopover in Houston June 3, 2001 en route to Taiwan following a trip to the Republic of China's diplomatic allies in South and Central America. In addition to accompanying the Chens to Hendee's Taste of Texas, DeLay also invited Chen to a baseball game and gave him a pair of cowboy boots and a hat, Chen told Hendee. Chen offered his congratulations to Hendee over the restaurant's long-term prosperity and said that the Hendee's success is worthy of emulation by other restaurant operators. Founded by Edd and Nina Hendee 27 years ago, the restaurant was ranked 40th in America's top 100 restaurants over the past 10 years. Meanwhile, Chen said that he is also aware that Hendee has enthusiastically participated in community activities benefiting public interests and at the same time has been a famous talk radio host.
We're certain that it was only an inadvertent omission that the President did not mention Edd's membership on the prestigious editorial board of Chronically Biased.

Permalink | News and Views

May 20, 2004, 06:05 AM

Houston Marine Receives Navy Cross

By Rob Booth

You've been fed a continuous diet of bad news out of Iraq. You've seen pictures of enlisted people behaving in a manner that does not meet the standards of behavior expected of people who are supposed to live by the motto of “duty, honor, country.” That is not the military in which I proudly served. I know that the people I served with are better than that. If you click [Read More], you'll see the story of one Houstonian who brings great credit to himself, to the United States Marine Corps, and he lives the motto of “Semper Fidelis.” Marine Corps News: Houston Marine receives Navy Cross
Perez, 23, a Houston, Texas, native, received the naval service's second highest award for extraordinary heroism while serving as a rifleman with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom April 4, 2003. The Medal of Honor is the highest military award. [snip] 1st Platoon came under intense enemy fire while clearing near Route 6 during the advance into Baghdad. Perez, the point man for the lead squad, and therefore the most exposed member of the platoon, came under the majority of these fires. Without hesitation, he continuously fired his M16A4 rifle to destroy the enemy while calmly directing accurate fires for his squad. He led the charge down a trench destroying the enemy and while closing and under tremendous enemy fire, threw a grenade into a trench that the enemy was occupying. While under a heavy volume of fire, Perez fired an AT-4 rocket into a machine gun bunker, completely destroying it and killing four enemy personnel. His actions enabled the squad to maneuver safely to the enemy position and seize it. In an effort to link up with 3rd Platoon on his platoon's left flank, Perez continued to destroy enemy combatants with precision rifle fire. As he worked his way to the left, he was hit by enemy fire, sustaining gunshot wounds to his torso and shoulder. Despite being seriously injured, Perez directed the squad to take cover and gave the squad accurate fire direction to the enemy that enabled the squad to reorganize and destroy the enemy. “It is unreal, it is not what I expected, it is unbelievable,” Perez said. “This is real weird for me, because, I am not big on special events,” said Perez.
Thanks to ChronicallyBiased.com reader Gil Raynor, a fellow Navy veteran, for bringing this story to our attention. This post is a tribute to Private First Class Perez, so I will just quietly note here that this story did not appear, so far as I can tell (I don't subscribe), in the Houston Chronicle.

Permalink | News and Views

May 20, 2004, 06:02 AM

Boxed in by light rail

By Rob Booth

News24Houston: Store owner blames loss of business on light-rail
Drive down San Jacinto near Highway 59 and chances are you will come across a sign that reads, “METRO has boxed me in with only one way to go.” Randy Burris put the banner up to let the public know that his store is being blocked in by the METRO rail.

Permalink | Houston's Light Rail

May 20, 2004, 06:00 AM

Chron derides special session's focus on property tax relief

By Owen Courrèges

The Houston Chronicle never misses an opportunity to bash the Republicans up in Austin, Gov. Perry in particular. This often compels them to fall out of touch with ordinary Texans and their concerns. Consider, for example, the Chronicle's staff editorial concerning the recent failure of the special legislative session on education:
To no one's surprise, the special session of the Legislature to reform school finance ended in failure Monday, two days earlier than scheduled. Guided by two politically expedient but self-defeating principles, the session was doomed from the start. The first principle, endorsed by most members of the Legislature, was the need to lower Texas' high school property taxes. The second principle, embraced by enough legislators to make it stick, was that no new, broad-based taxes would be levied to offset reductions in school property taxes and cover growing enrollment. Somewhere along the way, the desire to lower property taxes became greater than the will to replace the unworkable Robin Hood system with one that would adequately fund the public schools. Legislators never considered a state tax on personal income, which most states rely on to keep property and sales taxes in line. The best legislators could do was to agree on adding a dollar to the tax on a pack of cigarettes.
The Chronicle seems to believe that a politicized drive for property tax relief doomed the entire session. In so believing, they completely disregard the issue of just how crippling property taxes have become. It's beyond a problem — it's a crisis. It was worthy of serious focus, and the problem would not have been solved by forcing additional taxes on working Texans. Readers of Chronically Biased in particular have been writing in to express their frustration with property taxes, explaining how they are impacting them personally. Here are two of them:
[O]ur wonderful appraisal board sent me this letter: Last years appraisal was $170,900. This years appraisal is now $182,700, which equals a 7.0% increase. Since I live in the Spring area, Klein ISD, my estimated taxes are $5505.93. This is after the over 65 homestead exemption..... ($459.00 per month) Of course I have protested this increase... Larry Gallagher I bought my house last year in Tomball for 149K and now my tax is based on 163.9K figure according to the appraisal I received from HCAD. Exactly 10% increase. I did a spread sheet to see if what you said is true that within 8 years my tax would double. Yes, it would and infact, it would more than double. I am protesting. Truong Bui
I chose these letters for a reason. Both authors claim to be protesting, presumably to no avail. As such, this is not some minor issue subservient to education funding in the short-term. Substantive property tax relief needs to happen and it needs to happen now. It cannot be avoided or coupled with unrealistic plans for new taxes, a state income tax being the primary example. The Chronicle needs to start listening to the people of Houston. They've had enough of high property taxes, and they want action taken to limit them. If that means spending cuts, then so be it. Yet it should never be said that embracing lower property taxes is “self-defeating” unless combined with the poison pill that is a statewide income tax. What they suggest, in reality, is not a solution at all.

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 20, 2004, 05:58 AM

Astros Score

By Rob Booth

Astros.com: The hits just keep coming
MIAMI — Tim Redding was deprived of winning in his last outing against the Marlins, when Florida rallied for a late victory. The Astros' right-hander was more fortunate on Wednesday night. Redding allowed no earned runs in 6 2/3 innings as the Astros routed the Marlins, 10-2, before 12,122 at Pro Player Stadium.

Permalink | News and Views

May 20, 2004, 05:00 AM

Poor, deprived Metro...

By Owen Courrèges

Is it just me, or does this article in today's Chronicle start out by making it seem as though Metro is entitled to revenue from fines?
Metro police hand out hundreds of citations a week to fare evaders and motorists along the Main Street light rail line, but the transit agency never collects a cent from their efforts. Now the chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority board wants the agency to pocket at least some of the money. Under state law, Metro citations issued in the city are adjudicated through Houston Municipal Courts. Because the city and Metro don't have a revenue-sharing agreement, fines collected by the courts go into Houston's general fund. That's the case even for fare evasion.
Metro gets its funds from Houston's one-cent sales tax. That's actually fairly high for a transit subsidy, and so most agree that they get enough. It's only now that Metro is spending too much money (i.e. on light rail) that they're demanding a share of fines. The Chronicle paints this as perfectly reasonable. In reality, it's opportunism, and it saps money from Houston's other city services. Let me make this clear: Metro is not entitled to anything. Just because they collect fines does not mean the money ought to be theirs. To hold otherwise is to accept a bad chain of logic, as the Chronicle has apparently done.

Permalink | Houston's Light Rail

May 20, 2004, 04:14 AM

Letter To The Editor

By The Staff

Please send us an email if you'd like to post a Letter to the Editor. Shorter emails are more likely to be chosen for publication. We are hoping to bring back a moderated comments feature, to make this whole process a little more automated and to make it easier for folks have a chance to respond. Thanks for your patience as we figure out the best ways to do things here.

What About Municipal Pensions?

[Dan Lovett] laments the fact that David Clyde does not have a pension in baseball with 36 days less than 5 years. However, Dan Patrick, KSEV radio, and Chronicallychallengedbiased.com thinks that Houston City employees do not deserve a pension even after 20 years! Dan did say that exactly on his radio show last week before the election! Seems like priorities are a bit skewed when baseball players get more sympathy than the folks that have to keep the water and sewer operating correctly. Seems like you guys are too fat! I realize that since I am a City employee, my opinions are biased, and you will treat them accordingly. However, be aware that I live in this city, spend my money like everyone else, have plenty of friends, and can do my share of influencing like old baseball players. I do not have to choose to spend my money and time where it will benefit Edd Hendee, Dan Patrick, KSEV Radio, Chronicallychallengedbiased.com, and all the plethora of sponsors that sign on with your views. Donald Dickerson

Permalink | Letters

May 19, 2004, 11:50 PM

Sounds Familiar

By Kevin Whited

Dan Patrick on these pages yesterday morning:
Republicans fought for decades to have a voice in the affairs of Texas. They finally get that voice and suddenly have a bad case of laryngitis. There were several local Republicans who tried to make something happen, but in the end there was little statewide support to reduce the cap and cut taxes. If the Republicans in the House and Senate don't find some backbone soon, they will all be looking for work in 2006.
The Dallas Morning News lead editorial this morning:
Since 2002, when Republicans took over all parts of the state's government for the first time in 100-plus years, the Legislature has broken down into bitter fights over the state's budget, congressional redistricting and, now, school funding. If Texas Republicans don't fix this situation, then Texans will have a right to wonder if the GOP knows how to govern.
The Houston Chronicle... oh wait, I think they're still talking about Abu Ghraib or praising the Texas Dems who ran off to Ardmore or something. Who knows? But back to the original point — The Texas GOP does need to get its act together. They actually did admirable work in redistricting, even if it took Representative DeLay to corral them. But they did not acquit themselves very well this last special session, and it could cost them in 2006.

Permalink | News and Views

May 19, 2004, 11:25 PM

Staring?

By Kevin Whited

Alert reader Ted Wheeler caught this great line in the Chronicle's coverage of the Randy Johnson perfect game:
Late in the game, Johnson sat stoically in the dugout, staring at the ground with his eyes closed, appearing to be almost asleep.
Staring at the ground. With his eyes closed. That is some trick. We can't beat up the Chronicle too much, as that one came from AP. But it is a bit of inadvertent humor. Come to think of it, that might be a good motto for our Chron. Instead of Houston's Leading Information Source, they could just run with A Bit Of Inadvertent Humor. (Update) Elsewhere, reader Bill Parker caught a Chron sportwriter in an error:
In the Sports section of Wednesday's May 19th 2004 Chronicle, it was reported in Jose De Jesus Ortiz's article describing the Astro's win over Florida that: “......With two out and nobody on in the fourth, Richard Hidalgo singled to center. Berkman followed with a two-run double to left-center field.” Now, if no one was on base, how can two hits result in two runs unless the second one is a home run? A double CANNOT score two runs in the above described situation. The Chronicle can't even get a baseball game right!
I'll ask once again — does anybody edit that newspaper?

Permalink | Poor Chron Journalism

May 19, 2004, 07:36 PM

Good News From Iraq

By M. Wildes

After writing “Conservatives Must Not Lose Faith” on Monday, I decided to do a little research to find a few more reasons for Americans to hold our heads up high and avoid being duped by the mainstream doomsayers. The following is a summary of some of the good news from Iraq. This news is summarized from two United States Department of Defense, Coalition Provisional Authority /Commander’s Emergency Response Program Briefings, from January of 2004:

Spent:

•Over $126 million to improve education, health care, electricity, water and security; •Over $6.8 million to support new local governments and a legal system; •$6.4 million to rehabilitate, reconstruct and reopen all 240 hospitals, 95 percent of Iraq's 1,200 clinics, and other health care facilities; and funding has been established for 856 health projects (spending on health care is 26 times higher than it was under Saddam); •Over $29 million in education; •Over $22 million on projects to increase security; •$458 million to early stage democracy-building programs (largest amount dedicated since the end of the Cold War); •$9 million on over 1,200 water and sewer projects including clearing over 18,500 kilometers of irrigation canals, providing water to tens of thousands of farmers, creating jobs and revitalizing the economy.

Established:

•City councils in every major city (compared to none under Saddam); •A 400 court, independent judiciary (first time in 30 years); •88 neighborhood advisory councils in Baghdad; •More than 200 independent newspapers; •Educational opportunities now open, regardless of gender, ethnicity or party affiliation; •Security forces of over 230,000 Iraqis (more than half of all security forces); •68,000 policemen; •17,000 personnel in the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps; •Border police force of over 51,500; •97,000 personnel in the Facility Protection Service (infrastructure security); •Construction on over 1,000 new houses; •200 local political parties; •Sewer and water system repairs (necessary due to neglect and looting).

Further Successes:

•97,000 freshman applications to the Ministry of Education (63,000 last year); •5.9 million students are registered and attending school (more than prewar); •51 million textbooks, free of propaganda (prewar 1 of 6 students had books and they were pro Saddam and Ba’ath party); •All 22 universities and 43 technical institutes are open; •35 percent of households now have satellite dishes (illegal under Saddam); •Over 1 million privately owned vehicles (500,000 in April 2002); •Over 22 million vaccinations administered; •Pharmaceutical distribution up from 700 tons in May to 12000 tons through January 14, 2004;

•7 out of 10 Iraqis expect their country and their personal lives to be better in five years.

And this is just as of January 14, 2004… Keep your eyes on Chronically Biased, and I’ll keep you posted on the good news from Iraq…

Permalink | News and Views

May 19, 2004, 05:19 PM

Dan Patrick Show Clips

By Rob Booth

These are news clips related to the topics that Dan is discussing today. Click the [Read More] link. 1. Oil Strategic Petroleum Reserve Official Site FoxNews.com: Bush Says No to Opening Strategic Petroleum Reserve WhiteHouse.gov: President Discusses Iraq, Economy, Gas Prices in Cabinet Meeting
I am concerned about the price of gasoline at the pump. I fully understand how that affects American consumers, how it crimps the budgets of moms and dads who are trying to provide for their families, how it affects the truck driver, how it affects the small business owner. I anticipated this three years ago. I asked my team to put together a strategy to make us less dependent upon foreign sources of energy. I submitted that plan to the United States Congress. Now we want people to have it both ways, just like they've tried to have it both ways over the last couple of years. On the one hand, they decry the price at the pump, and on the other hand, they won't do anything about it. They won't take action. Congress needs to pass the energy plan. We had a very interesting discussion about capacity. For example, had ANWR been passed — had it not been vetoed in the past, we anticipate an additional million barrels of oil would have been coming out of that part of the world, which would obviously have a positive impact for today's consumers.
2. 9/11 Commission/Rudy Giuliani Newsday.com: Quotes from 9/11 commission hearings
“Our enemy is not each other but the terrorists who attacked us, murdered our loved ones and continue to offer a threat to our security, safety and survival.” — former mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
Wikipedia (free encyclopedia) Entry: Rudy Giuliani MSNBC: Will Giuliani replace Cheney in ’04?
The source adds that the selection of the former New York mayor may be overridden by Bush advisors from the far right. “Giuliani has been pro-choice, pro-gay rights, and is pretty liberal on some other social issues, but the thinking is that he might broaden Bush’s appeal.”
On the Issues: Rudy Giuliani 3. Where is Edd Hendee? Hong Kong Tourism Board CIA - The World Factbook — Hong Kong

Permalink | News and Views

May 19, 2004, 11:41 AM

The Rule of 72 that Austin can't seem to understand.

By Dan Patrick

I learned a long time ago about the rule of 72. It is a simple formula to figure out how long it takes to double your money (see below). When the legislature passed a 10% property cap in 1997, I saw that the consequence of the bill would be to double the taxes on most homeowners in 7 to 8 years. I made my prediction that this would come to pass back in 1998. Sadly, I was correct. Property taxes have doubled in the last 8 years for most Texans. At the curent cap rate the average Texan will see their taxes double every 7 to 8 years. I have tried to explain this basic math formula to our elected officials for years. They look at me like they never had a math class in their life. Recently in an interview on KSEV AM700, Senator Jon Lindsay said I was right on my predictions of taxes doubling every 7 to 8 years if my numbers were correct. If my numbers were correct? That is like saying the sun will come up if indeed the earth revolves around the sun. Facts and numbers don't lie! It is no wonder our elected officials can't solve our problems. They don't even understand them. I found these articles on the “Rule of 72” recently on Yahoo Finance. The Rule of 72 is most commonly used to estimate the length of time it would take a beginning amount of principal to double, if it compounds at a given interest rate (typically, one less than say, 20%, as higher numbers tend to work less well). For example, principal at 6% will double in 72 / 6 = 12 years. What's less well known is that the Rule of 72 is also a way for estimating retirement income. It shows, for a given rate of return, how long you must regularly invest a given sum in order to begin withdrawing that sum without dipping into principal. For example, if you invest 1000 USD per month at a 6% annual rate of return, then in 72 / 6 = 12 years, you could begin withdrawing 1000 USD per month from your portfolio without depleting your principal. In effect, so long as your funds continued to earn a straight 6% annual return, that 1000 USD per month could be your retirement income.(1) (1) See Bogle, John, Common Sense on Mutual Funds (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1999), p. 308. Note: extensive excerpts from this book are available in the Education section of the Yahoo! Finance Mutual Funds Center.

Rule of 72

Have you always wanted to be able to do compound interest problems in your head? Probably not, unless you're a sociopath, but it's a very useful skill to have because it gives you a lightning fast benchmark to determine how good (or not so good) a potential investment is likely to be. The rule says that to find the number of years required to double your money at a given interest rate, you just divide the interest rate into 72. For example, if you want to know how long it will take to double your money at eight percent interest, divide 8 into 72 and get 9 years. Interest Rate: % Calculate Years Required for Principal to Double Exact Answer: Rule of 72 Estimate: (We're assuming the interest is annually compounded, by the way.) As you can see, the “rule” is remarkably accurate, as long as the interest rate is less than about twenty percent; at higher rates the error starts to become significant. You can also run it backwards: if you want to double your money in six years, just divide 6 into 72 to find that it will require an interest rate of about 12 percent. Years to double your investment Calculate Required Interest Rate Exact Answer: % Rule of 72 Estimate: %

Permalink | News and Views

May 19, 2004, 07:01 AM

Watching the trees grow....

By Rob Booth

State Senator Jon Lindsay agreed to appear on the Dan Patrick show a while back to discuss property taxes. The subject of Sen. Lindsay's ag exemption came up and I have links to where you can see the info for yourself online. Note: I changed the time on this post so it would appear below Dan's Rule of 72 post. Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt (hereafter Tax Man) has a web site where you can research your own tax records and see whether your payment has gone through, etc. Of course, if you want to look up someone else's tax records, you can do that too. This is public information, available to anyone. It helps finding others' records if the person has a unique name. Fortunately for our research, there appears to be one Jon Lindsay in Harris County. He owns four pieces of property on the Tax Man's records, but we're only interested in two. These are the “tree farms.” The first “tree farm” is almost 31 acres. It has a total appraised value of $467,040. The Senator has a Timber Productivity exemption of $456,230, which leaves him with a taxable value of $10,810. For 2003, he owed $87.65 in property taxes on these 31 acres, which he paid on time. If you'd like to see the record for yourself, you can click here. The Tax Man's web site also has a nice chart that shows you appraised value and taxes paid over time that you can see here. The second “tree farm” is just over 17 acres. Its total appraised value is $187,310, the exemption is $181,290, taxable value is $6,020, so Sen. Lindsay paid $48.80 in taxes on that land for 2003. That info can be seen online here. So, on a total of 48 acres, a total appraised value of $654,350, the total taxes paid are — $136.45. As Dan has pointed out, Sen. Lindsay is not breaking any laws by taking this exemption. The basis for the Timber Productivity exemption can be found in the Texas Constitution:
Article 8 - TAXATION AND REVENUE Section 1-d-1 - TAXATION OF CERTAIN OPEN-SPACE LAND (a) To promote the preservation of open-space land, the legislature shall provide by general law for taxation of open-space land devoted to farm, ranch, or wildlife management purposes on the basis of its productive capacity and may provide by general law for taxation of open-space land devoted to timber production on the basis of its productive capacity. The legislature by general law may provide eligibility limitations under this section and may impose sanctions in furtherance of the taxation policy of this section. (b) If a property owner qualifies his land for designation for agricultural use under Section 1-d of this article, the land is subject to the provisions of Section 1-d for the year in which the designation is effective and is not subject to a law enacted under this Section 1-d-1 in that year. (Added Nov. 7, 1978; Subsec. (a) amended Nov. 7, 1995.)
According this paper (PDF file - 329 KB) I read this over at an Aggie web site:
To qualify for an “agricultural or timber productivity ”valuation,the land must meet standards of “degree of intensity of use” set by the local appraisal district.These standards are based on the “typical” degree of intensive use within the appraisal district.The standards vary among counties because agricultural resources and uses differ across Texas.
The Harris County Appraisal District provides these guidelines concerning the process of applying for an ag exemption in Harris County. If you're thinking about trying it, the minimum number of acres to get the Timber Productivity exemption is 10.

Permalink | News and Views

May 19, 2004, 07:00 AM

Chron chastises Perry over Patterson execution

By Owen Courrèges

The Chronicle just released a staff editorial condemning Governor Rick Perry in the harshest possible terms for his failure to commute the sentence of one Kelsey Patterson, a mentally-ill man convicted of a double-homicide. Here's the text:
Gov. Rick Perry rejected a rare recommendation from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to spare the life or delay the execution of a mentally ill convict. Perry turned down a chance to show his humanity and spare life, but he unintentionally made a compelling argument for changing the Texas criminal code. Perry said the courts had found no legal bar to executing Kelsey Patterson, 50, who was fatally injected Tuesday. In Texas, the highest court for criminal matters has ruled that innocence is no bar to punishment, so long as the defendant had a fair trial. Obviously mental illness and delusional behavior before, during and after Patterson's crime and trial would give the Texas judiciary no pause. Perry said there was no provision for life imprisonment without parole, so Patterson had to die. Why hasn't Perry asked the Legislature to provide such a punishment for the criminally insane? The governor himself seems imprisoned in a cell of indifference to justice, heated only by his desire for office.
The Chronicle ought to get off its high-horse. Patterson was held as competent to stand trial, and the litany of appeals that followed his conviction failed to change that. He was never held to be legally insane at the time of the killings. Given these facts, Perry was indeed justified in refusing a pardon. Morever, it is truly disgusting for the Chronicle to claim that Perry was motivated by political gain. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that Perry did anything other than make the decision he felt was best. Furthermore, I would have appreciated it had the Chronicle actually mentioned Patterson's crime, which was quite heinous. On September 25, 1992, he walked up to a man named Louis Oates, who was sitting at his loading dock, and killed him with a .38 caliber revolver. A woman by the name of Dorthy Harris then walked out, saw the scene, and screamed. Patterson proceeded to walk up to her, pointed the gun, and fired another round into her head. It was cold-blooded murder. Both at the scene and afterwards at the trial, Patterson displayed erratic behavior, and although the court was privvy to this, they still found him competent to stand trail and legally responsible for the crimes he committed. Accordingly, he was sentenced to death. Prior to the execution, Dorthy Harris's daughter, Michele Smith, said to the Associated Press that “I need to see this man be executed for the murder of my mother so it can finally be really and completely over and I can let myself move past this tragedy to a place where I can find peace with what has happened.” It's funny that the Houston Chronicle didn't mention any of this. I suppose it would have gotten in the way of their rantings against Gov. Perry, which demonstrates, in my mind, an “indifference to justice.” (Editor's note: Tell us what you think about this issue by voting on our poll page)

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 19, 2004, 06:59 AM

More on the Patterson coverage

By Kevin Whited

Further to Owen's point just above this post — What's even worse is that the Chron carried this same sort of editorializing on its news pages just a few days ago, as we pointed out in this post. I agree with Owen's critique of the Chron editorial. But I'm even more bothered that the Chron's editorial perspective showed up on the news pages as an advocacy piece a few days ago. (Editor's note: Tell us what you think about this issue by voting on our poll page)

Permalink | Poor Chron Journalism

May 19, 2004, 06:50 AM

Re: Cuba's standard-of-living

By Owen Courrèges

Below, our own 'Midnight Writer' brings up the issue of Cuba. This is actually a matter that bothers me particularly, because there are so many misconceptions among those on the left concerning Castro's supposed “accomplishments.” They seem to believe that socialism has met with some success there, and that a free market democracy might actually harm ordinary Cubans. They either downplay or ignore the degradation that Castro has brought to his own people by arguing the success of his social programs. Former President Jimmy Carter, for example, said that “Cuba has superb systems of healthcare and universal education” during his much-acclaimed 2002 visit to the island. He noted that Cuba is guilty of human rights violations, but then observed that “[m]y nation is hardly perfect in human rights.” However, the reality is that Castro has accomplished nothing. Ranked internationally, Cuba has actually fallen in most healthcare statistics. In 1957, for example, Cuba had a lower infant mortality rate than France and many other Western European nations, while under Castro, virtually every Western nation ranks superior. The same goes for literacy rates, which are also often cited by those attempting to find some virtue in Castro's socialism. Economic indicators, of course, are appalling in Cuba. Before Castro, Cuba ranked third in Latin America in food consumption. The people are poor under Castro; before him, the average standard-of-living was much higher. This is why today we see makeshift boats arriving in south Florida. It's why Elian Gonzalez's mother died. There are no real opportunities in Cuba anymore. So the next time somebody tries to convince you that Cuba is better off under Castro, remind them that things were actually better before. It's a lesson much of the world has failed to learn. (Statistics on Cuba in this piece come from the US State Department Bureau of Inter-American Affairs).

Permalink | News and Views

May 19, 2004, 06:45 AM

An example for Chron editor Jeff Cohen

By Kevin Whited

The editor of the Indianapolis Star recently admitted his paper blew its coverage of Nick Berg:
Readers who called or e-mailed me about the front page of last Wednesday's Star were right. We underplayed the story about the beheading of an American by people claiming to be al-Qaida operatives in Iraq.
Wouldn't it be nice if the editor of the Chron would step forward and apologize for Lucas Wall's treatment of the Sandoval story, or Rick Casey's presentation of Dan Morgan's copy without proper attribution? Instead, as some lucky readers who have been recipients of James T. Campbell emails have shared with me, the Chron just puts together what are basically press releases saying, “What, us wrong? Never!” The example above is a good one for you and your editorial board to study, Mr. Cohen. And why not give Mr. Campbell a weekly column to discuss matters like this while you're at it, a privilege any true ombudsman ought to enjoy?

Permalink | Poor Chron Journalism

May 19, 2004, 06:43 AM

So how do they count the passengers?

By Rob Booth

Houston Chronicle: Police crack down on MetroRail freeloaders
Lambert dismissed the perception of many riders that cheating is widespread and police are never checking for tickets. He acknowledged that fare inspections were rare in the first three months after Houston's first light rail line opened. Police at that time were concentrating on traffic enforcement in response to numerous collisions between automobiles and the trains, he said, and officers wanted to give a grace period to let people get used to the system.
This is related to the story I posted yesterday. If they weren't checking for riders without tickets very much in the first few months, how do they know how many people were riding? By ticket sales? OK, there are one-way tickets, day passes, and bus transfers. How do they count those? Does a day pass count for two boardings? Four? How do they know how many people are transfers from the bus? If they are not using ticket sales as a measure, are there people standing at every stop counting every rider? How much does that cost? I'd been assuming that since Mr. Bazan wasn't happy with the answers he got, I wouldn't do any better. Now that we've got this web site, maybe I should try asking Metro..... Well, this was bound to happen. Owen posted on the same story while I was writing this one. Since we ask slightly different questions, I'll go ahead and post this.

Permalink | Houston's Light Rail

May 19, 2004, 06:30 AM

Metrorail has few scofflaws?

By Owen Courrèges

Today's edition of the Houston Chronicle has an article concerning a crackdown on people who don't pay for tickets on Metrorail. As is typical, they don't appear to be asking the right questions:
Passengers boarding MetroRail better double check they have ticket in hand — police are escalating fare inspections and issuing hundreds of citations to scofflaws. Metropolitan Transit Authority officers asked an estimated 41,191 train riders in April to show their tickets, more than checked in the first three months of rail service combined. They found 420 riders without tickets, writing 306 citations and giving warnings to the rest. April's fare evasion rate of 1 percent is lower than that experienced on other light rail systems, most of which reported nabbing 2 to 3 percent of riders without tickets.
What I would be asking here is: Are Metro's numbers actually reliable? And if these numbers are accurate, why the crackdown? I'm no conspiracy theorist, but I have little expectation for Metro to be honest when reporting statistics that could reflect negatively on their pet rail system. After all, transit agencies in general often twist numbers. During the initial debates over the Main Street rail line, Metro cited how Dallas light rail had exceeded ridership projections, in spite of the fact that a former Dallas transit chief later admitted that the figures were rigged to make ridership appear more impressive. Accordingly, when I see Metro attempting to tackle what appears to be a nonexistent problem, it looks a tad suspicious. I wish the Chronicle shared my suspicions, but it apparently regards whatever Metro says as being gospel.

Permalink | Poor Chron Journalism

May 19, 2004, 06:11 AM

Morning Show Clips

By Rob Booth

Chris Begala is sitting in for Edd Hendee this morning on KSEV. Click [Read More] to see links to stories he's been discussing. I've updated this post during the show, be sure to click your Refresh button or F5 to see the most recent links. Be sure to click your Back button after reading the stories and come back to ChronicallyBiased.com! 1. Washington Times: Sivits pleads guilty in Iraq court-martial
Baghdad, May. 19 (UPI) — U.S. military policeman Jeremy Sivits pleaded guilty Wednesday to three charges at the first court-martial in the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal. The charges brought against him in an open Baghdad court were conspiracy to maltreat subordinates, or detainees; dereliction of duty for willfully failing to protect detainees from abuse, cruelty and maltreatment; and maltreatment of detainees.
2. Reuters: Israeli Troops Search House-To-House in Gaza Camp
RAFAH, Gaza Strip (Reuters) - Israeli troops carried out house-to-house searches for militants and weapons smuggling tunnels in the Rafah refugee camp on Wednesday as Israel's heaviest raid into the Gaza Strip in years entered a second day. As snipers held vantage points in bullet-pocked buildings of the camp, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon worked to revive his stalled Gaza withdrawal plan, which aides said may be presented for cabinet approval as early as next week.
3. AP via Monterey Herald: Texas Puts Mentally Ill Killer to Death
HUNTSVILLE, Texas - A convicted killer diagnosed as mentally ill was put to death despite a highly unusual recommendation from the state parole board that he be spared. Kelsey Patterson, a 50-year-old paranoid schizophrenic, jabbered about being innocent and demanded his rights just before receiving a lethal injection Tuesday evening. His last words were a plea: “Give me my life back.” Gov. Rick Perry rejected the parole board's recommendation moments after the Supreme Court also refused to stay the execution, punishment for a double slaying in East Texas almost 12 years ago.
I took a look over at the Chronicle just now, the headline on the home page is Perry lets schizophrenic killer be executed but the headline when you click the link to the story is Perry lets mentally ill man be executed. Notice the lack of the word “killer.” If someone sees what the paper copy has as a headline, please send it to us: editor@chronicallybiased.com. 4. News24Houston: Mayor announces plan to fix pension fund crisis
Houston voters chose to opt out of the state's constitutional amendment to keep cities from cutting benefits on Saturday. Today, Mayor Bill White announced his plan to restructure the city's pension plan.
End — I'm logging off at 6:45.

Permalink | News and Views

May 19, 2004, 06:02 AM

Immigration Woes

By Rob Booth

Washington Times: GOP incumbents face challenges on immigration
Immigration is turning into an election battleground among Republicans, with several challengers running primary campaigns against leading congressional supporters of legalizing illegal aliens. Rep. Christopher B. Cannon, Utah Republican and a prominent legalization supporter, failed to win 60 percent of the vote at a Republican nominating convention a little more than a week ago. Now, he faces a primary next month against Matt Throckmorton, a former state legislator who is running hard on the immigration issue. "It's the biggest issue in the race, without a doubt," Mr. Throckmorton said. Immigration emerged as an election issue particularly in California, where Arnold Schwarzenegger's opposition to driver's licenses for illegal aliens helped him win the governorship last year. Now, the issue is playing a major role in some Republican primaries."

Permalink | News and Views

May 19, 2004, 05:54 AM

Houston Astros Win

By Rob Booth

Houston Astros News
MIAMI — Dontrelle Willis' funky delivery didn't baffle the Astros the second time around. The Astros knocked around the Marlins' lefty, forcing him out of the game after four innings, and rolled to a 9-2 win on Tuesday.
In case you don't have a newspaper subscription and want to know the score.

Permalink | News and Views

May 19, 2004, 04:56 AM

Letters To The Editor

By The Staff

We're still running a little behind at getting through all of your emails, but we wanted to post a few more as letters to the editor today. Thanks as always for sharing your thoughts. Please click below to read today's letters. Index of irrational liberality There are 19 Media Bias Indicators by my count. I submit that these be used to create an Index of irrational liberality, and that Cragg Hines be the first to achieve a perfect rating of 19. Wouldn't it be horrible to never have a positive or constructive bone in your body? Wouldn't it be awful to have that much hate live forever in your heart? Warren Butler Support Our Troops I am trying to find a way to let out troops know that Americans still support them. What a few do wrong does not tarnish the rest. I worry about their safety and their morale. I have tied red, white and blue ribbons around my trees to show my support. Also sent E-mails to my friends asking them to do the same hoping that this idea might spread. If you think this is a good idea, I would appreciate your help. Just maybe, we can make a difference. My husband spent two tours in Viet Nam and I know our troops and their families need to know that America cares and supports her troops. Barbara Comee Big Bias In Chron Section D I was on my way back to the kitchen at work to heat lunch today and picked up the top section on a pile of newspapers to glance at while I waited by the microwave. What I picked up just happened to be the “Lifestyle & Entertainment” section (D) of the Houston Chronicle. The first page of the section today runs a story called “Hot opinions can put a chill on friendly conversation”, written by Claudia Feldman. WOW! I haven't read any part of a Chronicle in quite some time, and this article reminds me why. I guess I should be somehow impressed that Ms. Feldman made it to paragraph 7 before getting to the heart of her “conservatives are always wrong” agenda...ooh...and she even uses an “expert” as her front man:
For example, Hollis says, those adamantly opposed to the gay rights movement may have fears about their own sexuality. Those who view the world as Us against All of Them may be having trouble adjusting to the post 9/11 reality that the United States is vulnerable to foreign attack.“
Note: there's not one so-called ”negatively perceived“ liberal opinion in this whole piece. I also found her little message to conservatives especially enlightening:
”One of the most dangerous things in the world is moral certainty,“ Hollis says. ”It's a defense against doubt and ambiguity, but those two things are reasonable responses to the complexity of life.“ No, Ms. Feldman and Dr. Hollis, one of the most dangerous things in the world is getting blown up by Islamofascist terrorists sporting nuclear weapons. Moral relativism, however, ranks somewhere in the top 5.
I do have to say, however, my favorite thing about this particular piece of trash, er, I mean, article is this blurb about respectful debate:
”No cursing, name-calling or character assassination is allowed, Ross says. And no jingoism. Don't say “always” or “never.” Don't get personal. And if the conversation is not salvageable, it's OK to ditch out.“
I hope I am not the only person who sees the irony of these folks telling liberals, ”OK everything you typically do in a debate when you've lost the argument is off limits,“ and then in the very next sentence uses a pejorative term like jingoism” (another word libs often use to talk about patriotic conservatives). I think a better title for her article would be “Note to Liberals: If you can't win the debate on facts, here's your exit strategy...” Geez! have included the article below for your reading displeasure. Congratulations on the New Site. It is Fantastic. Thanks for what you're doing, and thanks for letting me vent. Jennifer Garrison Editor's note: Thanks to all of you emailed about this article. Good Timing We have read the old Houston Post and the Houston Chronicle for as long as I can remember. I grew up in Alvin, and my Dad was born there, in 1907. The Chronicle, today, Is nothing like the publication of bygone years. I have quit reading the editorials because of their liberal loading. The more biased and critical the writers are, the more ink they get. What I feel about those Saturday Morning Quarterbacks is, “them that can, act; them that can't, criticise.” The letters to the editors is better. Houston is not San Francisco, where the Hearst Publication offices are. We think differently here, and our values are more traditional. I'm >> tired of California influence being force fed to us. We have access to many forms of activities and recreation, including hunting, fishing and cowboy related activities. The Chronicle began refusing any advertisements to sell handguns between individuals in the want ads some time ago. We are a right-to-carry (with CHL card) state. But the Chronicle is “politically California correct” and dictating rights to us. I am suspect of the poll results printed in the newspaper. They are liberal slanted, most of the time. So much of any poll depends on the questions, how they are worded, and the validity of the poll sampling. The editorial cartoons are all jabbing and really not insightful of the issues. Here again, you may draw well, but your insight and emphasis may be off. The timing for your website is just in time. The need is definitely here. Emmett Crainer

Permalink | Letters

May 18, 2004, 11:59 PM

Thoughts from the Midnight Writer

By The Staff

Why is it that the good often seem to die young and the bad live a long life? Fidel Castro turned 77 this week. Unfortunately his doctors have given him a clean bill of health. One doctor said he could live to140. I'm sure all of the oppressed in Cuba rejoiced at that news. When you see old black and white film from the 50's and 60's, it looks like a time long ago. It was a time long ago. But the film of Eisenhower or Kennedy somehow looks like ancient history. In those old news films another leader of that era is seen, Fidel Castro. There he is looking like a relic of the communist past. Yet he is still with us today in digital living color. He has been a brutal dictator for over 40 years. Thousands have been tortured, thrown in prison or murdered under his regime. Many ask the question, how has he survived all of these years. The U.S. should have taken him out a long time ago. His own country should have overthrown him by now. Yet, he is still in power. He is the model for the energizer bunny. He keeps going and going. One day the world will get the good news that this murderer is gone and Cuba will then soon be free. Cuba has such great potential. It could be the jewel of Carribean tourism. There should be jobs for all Cubans and the standard of living should be high. Cuba could be a paradise for tourists and natives. Cubans are hard working people. They have been extremely successful in Miami and many other cities, including Houston. When Castro finally dies, the world will be a better place. Cuba will become one of the great countries in the western hemisphere when Cubans who embrace democracy and capitalism return to their homeland. The great Cuban writer and hero of the 19th century, Jose Marti, said that in the heart of every man is the desire for liberty. One day soon — he can't live forever — Castro WILL die, Marti may finally see his countrymen free.

Permalink | News and Views

May 18, 2004, 11:42 PM

Interesting company

By Kevin Whited

Dennis Prager had this interesting observation in his column today:
On the day The New York Times reported the savage murder of Berg — in the most subdued fashion of any major paper in America (just one column on the front page, with a photo, the smallest of three front-page photos, at the bottom of the column) — its lead editorial was yet another in a series denouncing the Bush administration for prison abuses in Iraq.
Hmm, where do I recall hearing about similar treatment of this issue? Oh yes, I remember. Owen pointed out that the Chronicle did the exact same thing on their editorial page. The company they keep isn't really surprising, is it?

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 18, 2004, 09:53 PM

Why read Mowbray in the Chron?

By Kevin Whited

We've been hearing rumors that Chron representatives at the various bribery stations around town (you know, the setups where they promise you free stuff if you'll subscribe to their paper) have been telling readers about all the new conservative columnists they've added. Apparently, Joel Mowbray is one of those columnists. Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall seeing his columns before in the Chron (I don't find any when I search on his name on their site). In any case, Mowbray is a good conservative voice who has written regularly for National Review. And today's column, entitled “Hersh's latest exposé has a credibility problem” is well worth reading. I just wouldn't recommend reading it on the Chron site, because it's been edited. Rather, I would suggest you read the longer version of Mowbray's article available either at Town Hall or Front Page Magazine. What the Chron cut isn't critical, but the fact is that their editorial judgment is suspect. Why trust them to edit the op-eds of conservative writers when it's clear their editors can't even keep writers like Lucas Wall and Rick Casey in line? Why trust their suspect editors when there are so many places on the web to find the uncut versions? Incidentally, what Mowbray has to say is very important. Hersh is a left-leaning hack writing for what once was a prestigious left-of-center literary journal (although every time they publish a despicable piece like Hersh's, they lose a bit more of the prestige justly earned over the years), and sympathetic media elites have, of course, picked up his story and run with it. Mowbray provides that important context in his article. It might also be added that in Hersh's earlier work, he's carried water for a number of people who are miffed at Secretary Rumsfeld and Steve Cambone for various reasons. That includes the intelligence community. Some of them despise Secretary Rumsfeld and Cambone because those two have beefed up military intelligence capabilities, and have dared question the methods of the CIA (which, we might add, failed this nation on 9-11, and during the first World Trade Center bombing for that matter). The CIA doesn't like that a bit, and they resent the meddling of distinguished civilians like Cambone (whom we're lucky to have in the DoD). It's hardly a shocker that someone would leak all sorts of nasty things to Hersh, knowing he would print it and the DoD would be weakened. Some time ago, Hersh tried to smear Cambone and other DoD policy people by insisting they were some sort of Straussian elite dedicated to Machiavellian tactics and rule by philosophical elite. The reference was to the late political philosophy professor Leo Strauss. Aside from one nutball Canadian political theory professor (Shadia Drury), most everyone with any sense had a good laugh at Hersh and moved on. Hersh didn't move on, of course, but rather waited until someone with an ax to grind would talk to him about those same targets at DoD. And the sad fact of DC bureaucracy is that someone is almost always willing to throw gas on a political enemy and hope a match is struck. It shouldn't be that way in the middle of a war, but it is. One would hope that so many journalists wouldn't jump to strike the match, but we know better, don't we? Unfortunately.

Permalink | News and Views

May 18, 2004, 06:05 PM

Story on the 50th Anniversary of Brown becomes Anti-Bush Piece

By M. Wildes

An article by William Douglas, about Bush and Kerry making campaign speeches on the 50th anniversary of Brown v. The Board of Education, should have been about Kerry campaigning and Bush honoring, remembering, and looking toward the future. Bush spoke briefly about the successes of Brown and what remains to be done with regard to race and education. Kerry did too, but he turned the event into a political stump speech.

He blamed Bush for inequalities in general and for lack of funding for the No Child Left Behind program. The article took everything Kerry said against Bush and let it speak for itself. Mr. Douglas even backed up Kerry’s comments with statements such as:

About 38 percent of black students and 42 percent of Hispanic students attend schools virtually all-minority.

After fairly steady progress in narrowing the achievement gap in the 1970s and 1980s, black students have fallen behind their white counterparts in recent years.

Mr. Douglas then attempted to portray Bush’s statements, which were in honor of the Brown decision and not political attacks or campaign stumping, as nothing more than pandering for votes:
Bush hopes to make election-year inroads among black Americans skeptical of his commitment to equal opportunity. In 2000, blacks supported Democrat Al Gore by a 9-1 margin.
I guess it could not be because Bush cares or because he wanted to honor the 50th anniversary. Apparently, Douglas knows that black Americans are skeptical of, in particular, Bush’s commitment to equal opportunity. He knows Bush’s intent, too. Even if Bush did not care, the President of the United States would attend this event anyway.

Though the article stated Kerry’s attacks on Bush’s education and civil rights policies, it could find no criticism from Bush. Bush was not campaigning.

Furthermore, Mr. Douglas attempted to discredit Bush’s neutral remarks. After printing Bush’s statement that our schools still lack equality in opportunity and excellence, Douglas wrote:

…Bush told a mostly white crowd of about 4,000 outside the Topeka school.
Bush’s speech was further degraded with statements like:
Bush spoke for about 12 minutes in Topeka before traveling to a private fund-raiser in Atlanta.
Where did Kerry go next? How long was his “speech”?

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 18, 2004, 05:57 PM

New Features Page Debuts Today

By Dan Patrick

As our editor,Kevin Whited, told you this morning, we have launched our new feature page. In the future, the feature section will be divided into a variety of special interest sections. For now, our feature section will contain articles and columns on all subjects from sports and movie reviews to finance and religion. We also feature the weekly national columns of Michael Reagan and Dick Morris. So, be sure to click to our features section every day to read what's new. And don't forget to check every night for the midnight writer. You never know when the midnight writer will appear. I have it on good authority we may hear from the midnight writer tonight.

Permalink | Poor Chron Journalism

May 18, 2004, 05:13 PM

Dan Patrick Show Clips

By Rob Booth

These are news clips related to the topics that Dan is discussing today. Click the [Read More] link. 1. That Dangerous Moral Certainty Houston Chronicle: Hot opinions can put a chill on friendly conversation
For example, Hollis says, those adamantly opposed to the gay rights movement may have fears about their own sexuality. Those who view the world as Us against All of Them may be having trouble adjusting to the post 9/11 reality that the United States is vulnerable to foreign attack. “One of the most dangerous things in the world is moral certainty,” Hollis says. “It's a defense against doubt and ambiguity, but those two things are reasonable responses to the complexity of life.”
A caller mentioned this story, I got the link from a nice reader named Jennifer from Houston. You may go to the Chronicle and read it, but you have to promise to come back here. Don't look at their advertisements either! 2. RIP Tony Randall UPI: Remembering Tony Randall
LOS ANGELES, May 18 (UPI) — Actor Tony Randall, who died Monday night at age 84, was widely regarded as a gifted comedy specialist, but within his profession he was known as a consummate, versatile man of the theater. Randall — known for his outspokenness on subjects ranging from smoking to the superiority of classical music over rock 'n' roll — was unwilling to let producers and critics pigeonhole him as a “comic” actor. “I'm an actor,” he said. “Any actor skilled in his profession should be able to do comedy parts, but that's where the similarity ends.” [snip] He went on to make a string of similarly themed movie comedies, including the Rock Hudson-Doris Day classics “Pillow Talk,” “Lover Come Back” and “Send Me No Flowers.” Reacting to news of Randall's death, Day issued a statement recalling her co-star's talent and professionalism. “Tony was so brilliant, funny, sweet and dear, that it was as if God had given him everything,” she said. “He was the funniest man in movies and on television, and nothing was as much fun as working with him.”
I'm going to date myself, but I remember when Channel 2 had an afternoon series of shows called Four on Two. They showed four sitcom reruns in a row. One of them was “The Odd Couple.” That was one of the funniest shows ever. We'll miss you. 3. The check isn't in the mail.... If you've had trouble getting your balance back from the Chronicle after cancelling, maybe contacting them through this page will help. 4. Don't Mess With Texas If the Chronicle is dropping their paper on your lawn and you consider it litter, the state of Texas advises that you should do this. I would probably try calling the Chronicle first. 5. Agricultural Exemption If you want to fill out the form for an Agricultural Exemption, you should go to this site and look for Agricultural / Special Valuation Forms.

Permalink | News and Views

May 18, 2004, 12:26 PM

How to get on the Chronicle's editorial board

By Owen Courrèges

Permalink | Political Cartoons

May 18, 2004, 06:20 AM

Morning Show Clips

By Rob Booth

Chris Begala is sitting in for Edd Hendee this morning on KSEV. Click [Read More] to see links to stories he's been discussing. I've updated this post during the show, be sure to click your Refresh button or F5 to see the most recent links. Be sure to click your Back button after reading the stories and come back to ChronicallyBiased.com! 1. Sarin Gas Story Globe and Mail: Single shell contained sarin gas
WASHINGTON — The discovery of a single artillery shell containing the deadly nerve gas sarin was confirmed in Iraq yesterday — the first scant evidence that Saddam Hussein's ousted regime still possessed any of the outlawed weapons of mass destruction cited by U.S. President George W. Bush to justify last year's war in Iraq.
Notice that the media is trying to downplay this story. “Single” and “scant” both in the first paragraph..... 2. 9/11 Commission USA Today: 9/11 commission seeking out the spotlight
By Mimi Hall, USA TODAY It may seem that commissioners looking into the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are everywhere: public hearings, news conferences, TV talk shows. That's no coincidence. They want to make sure their work isn't destined for a dusty shelf and are trying to build public support for their eventual recommendations. With two months to go before issuing its final report on the terrorist attacks, the commission is putting together a stinging indictment against virtually every government official and agency involved in protecting against terrorism. It could influence the 2004 presidential race. And commissioners hope it will result in action by Congress.
Here's the 9/11 Commission's official web site. 3. Flag Waving Fox News: U.S. Athletes Warned to Tone It Down in Athens
With a public image already damaged by the war in Iraq and the growing crisis over the abuse of prisoners by U.S. forces in the Abu Ghraib prison, American sports officials have advised athletes to curb their victory celebrations in Athens in August.
4. Dan Patrick Article ChronicallyBiased.com: Perry likely to call another special session
Last week Governor Perry was a guest on my radio show. I asked him if he would call another special session if the current session ended in failure. At the time, he indicated he might wait eight months for the next regular session to try and resolve property tax and school funding issues. Sources now tell me he will likely give the elected officials a brief break and then call them back one more time before a Travis County judge hears a case brought by several school districts against the current school funding plan. That trial is set for this August. Texans don't want a judge deciding the property tax and school funding issues. It is the responsibility of our elected officials to resolve such problems, not a judge.
5. People throwing newspapers onto other peoples' lawns without the homeowners' permission: Don't Mess With Texas

Permalink | News and Views

May 18, 2004, 06:07 AM

How Do They Count Them?

By Rob Booth

HoustonChronicle.com: MetroRail passengers decrease in April
Daily ridership on MetroRail continues to build, but when weekend trips are included, overall passengers declined in April, according to monthly statistics released Monday. Metro reported there were 14,043 average weekday boardings in April, an 8 percent increase from March. Rainy days and the lack of a major event, such as March's RodeoHouston, left plenty of open seats on April's weekend trains, leading to a 37 percent decline in total ridership. It was the first month where weekday ridership exceeded weekend.
Houston political activist Tom Bazan has consistently been asking Metro to account for how they're counting boardings and he still isn't satisfied with their answers.

Permalink | Houston's Light Rail

May 18, 2004, 06:00 AM

Letters: Light rail transit

By Owen Courrèges

Well, while scanning the letters to the editor today, I came upon this one that I felt merited a response on our main page:
I just got back from a business trip to Düsseldorf, Germany. For the cost of a monthly pass (less than $100), I was able to travel back and forth to meetings, a trade show, my apartment and restaurants using their excellent public transportation system (light rail on the street, a commuter train and a subway). This saved me money on a rental car and tons of aggravation trying to navigate unfamiliar streets in a fairly old city that is not laid out in grid fashion. I also used the high-speed rail from Frankfurt to Düsseldorf (about the distance from Dallas to Houston in about 90 minutes) so I could take advantage of cheaper, more convenient flights on our home town airline, Continental. I've also lived for extended periods of time in London and Bangkok, which both enjoy pretty good public transportation systems that I learned to rely upon. As a result, I am embarrassed when fellow conservatives speak out about the stupidity of efficient public transportation even while supporting the expenditure of billions of dollars on ill-advised highway expansion projects that alleviate congestion only as long as it takes for fools to move further away from their jobs and clog the highways with even more traffic. Can we expand the Katy to 20 lanes each way by 2050? What is the fully loaded cost of every mile driven on the Katy anyway? Besides, arguing that light rail is somehow dangerous is disingenuous in the extreme. After all, how many traffic accidents have there been on the Katy since the light rail opened? I would guess the count is far greater than fifty with a couple deaths thrown in for good measure. I'm just disappointed that our new conservative paper can be just as biased as the liberal one that's been around for too long. Thanks, Tom Cabanski
First of all, I would like to note that this is not a full-fledged newspaper. The foundation of such is most assuredly a long-term goal of this project, but we are currently a conservative web log dedicated to countering the liberal bias of the Houston Chronicle, and I can assure you, we make no claims of impartiality. But secondly, and more importantly, we are conservatives who rely on the facts to bolster our beliefs. That is why all of us oppose light rail transit. Both myself and Phil Magness in particular have performed extensive research on the feasibility of rail in Houston, and we have ultimately concluded that no real justifications exist for building rail. There are no significant upsides versus the alternatives, and many terrible downsides. Yet since we do indeed desire to rely on the facts, I will now list the three main problems with rail, along with documentation: 1. Rail is cost ineffective. A 1999 study performed by Harvard researcher Jonathan Richmond compared light rail with bus systems using data from 14 cities. He concluded that “[o]ptimistic claims that new urban rail systems would increase transit ridership, reduce congestion, while at the same time improving the financial performance of transit systems have proved incorrect in most instances evaluated here.” He also noted that “equal or better results could generally be obtained from relatively minor adjustments in fair levels and low-cost improvements to existing bus services” 2. Rail kills people. According to Randal O'Toole of the Thoreau Institute, “[f]atalities — mostly to pedestrians — per million passenger miles are much higher from light rail than from buses or automobiles.” Houston has been fortunate not to have any fatalities yet, but with the highest accident rate of any rail line in the country, it's only a matter of time before people start dying. 3. Rail has failed before. Houston has its own rail system up until the late 30's. It failed because it couldn't compete with automobiles. Keep in mind, this was prior to the construction of the national freeway system, and yet people were more than willing to abandon electric trains for a single reason — they're an obsolete technology. Street-level trains are slow and inflexible, while buses are faster and infinitely flexible. For this reason, Houston instituted a “bus moderization program” aimed at gradually phasing out the electric streetcars. Cabanski is correct in noting that adding lanes won't necessarily solve our traffic woes, but freeway expansions allow for numerous solutions that can improve mobility and reduce congestion. They allow for the addition of more HOV lanes, the creation of of HOT lanes (high-occupancy toll lanes), and the addition of BRT (bus rapid transit). In short, they allow for greater flexibility in choosing solutions that will improve traffic. Light rail, on the other hand, has never improved congestion anywhere, and in many places — including Houston — it has made traffic problems worse. As a result, taxpayers end up shelling out millions in capital funds for systems with no tangible benefits. That's bad public policy, and I won't stop pointing that out simply because somebody fell in love with German trains. I've studied this issue for too long to give credence to such a misguided emotional appeal. For more information on Houston light rail, please consult the following three articles: Rice Rail Retread, By Owen Courrèges and Phil Magness The Metrorail, By Owen Courrèges A Streetcar Named Disaster, By Phil Magness

Permalink | Letters

May 18, 2004, 05:51 AM

We're Nationwide!

By Rob Booth

usnews.com: Washington Whispers Daily: Main page
Recommendations from Paul Bedard, editor and chief reporter of Washington Whispers. [snip] www.chronicallybiased.com Site devoted to keeping taps on the Houston Chronicle
Thanks to reader Caroline from Houston who directed us to the fact that we're on Paul's Weekly Web Picks from US News & World Report.

Permalink | Staff Notes

May 18, 2004, 05:17 AM

Perry likely to call another special session.

By Dan Patrick

Last week Governor Perry was a guest on my radio show. I asked him if he would call another special session if the current session ended in failure. At the time, he indicated he might wait eight months for the next regular session to try and resolve property tax and school funding issues. Sources now tell me he will likely give the elected officials a brief break and then call them back one more time before a Travis County judge hears a case brought by several school districts against the current school funding plan. That trial is set for this August. Texans don't want a judge deciding the property tax and school funding issues. It is the responsibility of our elected officials to resolve such problems, not a judge.

Permalink | News and Views

May 18, 2004, 05:15 AM

Nothing special about this session.

By Dan Patrick

Once again our leaders in Austin have decided to pass on reducing property taxes and solving the problems of the state's school finance system. With the exception of Governor Perry, who called the special session after unveiling his plan to cap appraisals at 3% annually and reduce property taxes by almost 20%, trying to find a leader in Austin during the past four weeks was harder than trying to find a street corner where Metro hasn't had an accident. Going into the special session, Governor Perry knew he wouldn't find much help from the Democrats. However, he may have thought he could find a few good men and women in his own party. If this were the Alamo and Perry was Travis drawing the line in the sand, he would have been left alone without anything more than his sword in his hand. There hasn't been a desertion like this since the Egyptian army ran home in the 6 Day War. It is true that many Republicans in the House were miffed at the Governor because he would not support a payroll tax. But with a 126-0 vote by House members against his plan, it was the biggest stab in the back to a leader since Caesar. Over in the Senate Lt. Governor David Dewhurst continues not to impress the grassroots. Like the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz, he needs to find courage. So far, all he has done in office is to lead those who voted for him down the proverbial yellow brick road. This road is lined with rosebushes. The “rosebush rule” is the gimmick that Senators hide behind so they never have to go on the record and cast a vote. Lt. Governor Dewhurst is fond of rosebushes apparently. If he doesn't stand up for the conservatives who elected him in a close race over John Sharp, he will be back in the business world faster than Donald Trump can say, “you're fired.” Republicans fought for decades to have a voice in the affairs of Texas. They finally get that voice and suddenly have a bad case of laryngitis. There were several local Republicans who tried to make something happen, but in the end there was little statewide support to reduce the cap and cut taxes. If the Republicans in the House and Senate don't find some backbone soon, they will all be looking for work in 2006. While Austin fiddles, Texas homeowers continue to burn with yearly property tax increases that will soon force many out of their homes. During the past seven years the average homeowner has seen his appraisals nearly double along with his taxes. City and county elected officials fight any cut in the appraisal cap because they love to tell the voters they haven't raised taxes in years. Meanwhile, they get a backdoor annual 10% increase in their budgets through higher appraisals. That 10% increase is three times the rate of inflation. As I testified before the Senate this session, at the current cap rate the average homeowner will live in a home valued at more than a million dollars by 2024 and have a tax bill of over $30,000 a year. How much in property taxes are you paying now? Whatever it is, it will nearly double in 7 years. Will you be able to afford that? The numbers are real. Someone in Austin must show leadership soon or Texas will face a California style budget crisis in the very near future. As has been said by many real leaders, our elected officials need to either lead, follow, or get out of the way. Texans cannot afford to listen to them fiddle any longer.

Permalink | News and Views

May 18, 2004, 05:00 AM

Conservative activist Joe Vu dies

By Owen Courrèges

I just now received this letter via e-mail. It is news of a great loss for the Houston community:
Dear Friends, It is with great sadness that we learn today of the passing of Dr. Joe Vu,a dedicated conservative activist and Republican pioneer in the Vietnamese community. Joe succumbed to cancer this weekend and is survived by his wife and son. Joe was born in Vietnam and, at an early age, escaped to the south of that country with American assistance as the northern communists were persecuting Christians. Joe later served as a Congressman in the South Vietnamese government and was that country's last Secretary of Labor, a cabinet post he held before the fall of Saigon to the communist attackers. Following the communist occupation of Saigon, Joe and his family escaped to the United States. He once showed me a picture taken shortly after his arrival when he was greeted by future president Ronald Reagan. At that point Joe became a Republican and would spend the next three decades as an active member of his church, community, and in the pro-life movement. Most of us remember and many of us participated in Joe's vigorous 2000 campaign for the 29th Congressional District in Houston. Joe was also the first Vietnamese-American to win a major party nomination for Congress. He reported live from the 2000 Republican National Convention to several Vietnamese-language radio networks, carrying the GOP message for President Bush. Joe also worked extensively to mobilize Vietnamese Houstonians behind our ticket and in support of candidates such as Orlando Sanchez' nearly successful challenge to Lee P. Brown and maintained his dedicated support to the lives of the unborn until the end. We know that Joe's contributions will be sorely missed, yet may take example in the dignity with which he lived his life and comfort in the knowledge that we will meet again when we pass from our worldly existence. May God's will be done and may He guide us from the temptations of this world and to the everlasting life that, as with our very existence, through His love and grace we may attain. Please keep Joe and his family in your prayers.
Services will be held on Saturday.

Permalink | Staff Notes

May 18, 2004, 04:15 AM

Letters To The Editor

By The Staff

Your response to the site has just been overwhelming. While we've been reading all of your emails, we can't post them all. Here are a couple of notable ones. Thanks for visiting and for emailing us! Click below to read today's Letters to the Editor.

Defending The Death Penalty

In the article on the death penalty [Death Penalty Overload], Cardinal Oscar A. Rodriquez Madariaga is quoted as saying he hopes one day the world will respect life and abolish the death penalty. I know this is a favorite position of some who are pro life, but as one who is strongly pro life, I disagree. I think the death penalty holds life in very high regard - the life of the innocent victim. The death penalty shows how much we respect that life by saying, if you take it, you pay the ultimate price. And the society, or the state in our system, is given that obligation. Joe Henderson

On News Releases

I just came across your site and read the 'About Us' section. I haven't looked at enough articles to comment on your site as a whole, but i did notice the line 'columnists simply rewrite press releases and present them as news instead of getting out there and covering real news.' As a public relations professional, I can tell you that this is not some aberration on the part of the Chronicle, but that's how papers all over the country (even places like the New York Times) operate. In fact, a lot of PR people have switched the phrase 'press release' to 'news release' because TV people felt left out, and now you can use the same piece of paper to generate print and broadcast stories. Reporters at every newspaper really are 'out there' trying to track down stories, but there's so much news to be gathered and so little time in even a long work day that they appreciate the help sometimes. One of the reasons why PR firms recruit gifted writers is because they know that a lot of what they write is going to show up verbatim in the pages of newspapers all over the country. Whether you think that practice is right or wrong, it's the way things get done. Again, I haven't read enough of your site to comment on it as a whole, but that phrase just jumped out at me, and i didn't think it was fair to hold a common journalistic practice against one specific paper without at least pointing out that it is a common journalistic practice. I thought this might help if you weren't aware of that. Vance Kotrla

Permalink | Letters

May 18, 2004, 12:35 AM

What's your definition of mentally ill?

By The Staff

While it is common practice for newspapers to simply reprint Associated Press articles within their pages, it raises eyebrows when the story happens within your paper's home area. For example, during the Karla Faye Tucker execution, the Chronicle sent a number of staff reporters to cover the story, instead of relying on the AP feed. However, in the case of schizophrenic killer Kelsey Patterson, the Chronicle has not deemed the case worthy of sending a reporter to brave the 90-minute drive to Huntsville. This lazy journalism leads to this kind of quote, which completely dominates a legitimate news story.
“The problem is mental illness covers the waterfront and the Supreme Court has to look at it in light of like they did mental retardation,” says Joe Lovelace, executive director for the Texas chapter of NAMI, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. “They have to define what they mean by mental illness. ”It's not a black and white issue. What is your definition of mental illness? A lot of people think the president is mentally ill for going to war in Iraq. It's not an easy opinion to write on."
This quote is beyond ridiculous, and in the same vein as the comments made by Rush Limbaugh on ESPN last fall which sparked a national debate. Of course, since the byline is not under the name of a Chronicle employee, the newspaper will claim innocence. Especially since the attack on the President was couched in terms of a quote. However, we at ChronicallyBiased insist that the standards of accountability must be raised higher. The Chronicle failed in this instance to send a reporter to cover a local story of importance. More importantly, the Chronicle has presented this inflammatory and absurd quote from Joe Lovelace of NAMI for serious consideration in a grave and ongoing debate! We cannot help but wonder if this quote, indeed, if this entire AP story would have made the newspaper, if Mr. Lovelace had instead noted that many people question Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee's mental competence after asking if the Mars Pathfinder would be able to find the flag Neil Armstrong planted on the moon.

Permalink | Poor Chron Journalism

May 17, 2004, 11:53 PM

The Features Section

By The Staff

We're pleased to introduce the Chronically Biased Features section. Reader demand has been such that we've jump-started the debut of the Features section, so you'll have to bear with us as we add more content. We're an official outlet for the syndicated columns of Michael Reagan and Dick Morris, and their columns will be appearing regularly. We also have a few additional local writers lined up on various topics, and are looking for more. But rather than make our readers wait — since some of you have been very clear you want more original content — we've decided to open up and let you watch as we expand. Fortunately, we're off to a great start because we have Dan Lovett's debut posted. Dan Lovett is well known as the former sports anchor at ABC-13, and is one of the people who helped make it the powerhouse it is today. We're looking forward to regular columns from Dan, and we're delighted that he'll be sharing his wisdom and recollections on the local and national sports scene with us.

Permalink | Staff Notes

May 17, 2004, 11:50 PM

Conservative Roundup

By Kevin Whited

One of the joys of my “daytime” job is that I'm required to read a lot of news and opinion. A whole lot. I have a politics/culture weblog that's currently on hiatus while we ramp up our activities here, and that's where I normally post a roundup of the best of my daily reading. Since I'm still doing that reading and still saving the best articles, I thought I'd post that roundup here for a while. I may eventually stick it on the sidebar like the headlines, or not. If you're interested, click the [Read More] link for the articles. To open them in a new window, you can always right-click them and choose that option. The Missing Governor: Have Republican leaders lost their confidence on basic moral matters? (Hadley Arkes, NRO) The End of the Gay-Marriage Debate? (Jeff Jacoby, Town Hall) Ownership Society, Anyone? (Michael Barone, Town Hall) Muslim Silence, and Muslim Noise (Stephen Schwartz, TCS) The Horrors of Abu Ghraib: What Didn't Make Headlines (Robert Alt, NRO) Who's Afraid of Abu Ghraib? (Reuel Marc Gerecht, Weekly Standard) Saud Free Arabia (Michael Totten, TCS) Two Wrongs (Terry Eastland, Weekly Standard) Pure Politics: There's Always Another Campaign Finance Loophole (Jacob Sullum, Reason)

Permalink | News and Views

May 17, 2004, 06:40 PM

Conservatives Must Not Lose Faith

By M. Wildes

Prediction: In the wake of today’s assassination (terrorist attack) that killed the head of the Iraqi Governing Council, we can only expect the media to focus on, with renewed vigor, what it will say are the failures of Bush and the Iraq war. You will not hear enough, if at all, about the Iraqi people who will most certainly become more determined than ever to defeat terror in their homeland and establish democracy.

John Kerry, who is just getting warmed up (as the mainstream press refers to it, as if willing it into existence will somehow make it so) and his coconspirator from Massachusetts, Teddy Kennedy, will no doubt add to their Vietnam, quagmire, and “Bush is a liar” rhetoric in the coming days. Even if Kerry never gets it started, his sympathetic friends in the media will be going full force and they are just getting started. But do not worry, the only way Iraq becomes Vietnam is if Kerry becomes president.

Kennedy compares us to Saddam. It seems unlikely that even Massachusetts citizens believe that fraternity pranks and posed pictures (taken by a soldier photographer with a purposeful eye for the morbid) equals anything remotely close to the murder and torture of innocents during Saddam’s regime or the terrorists’ beheading of Mr. Berg. Even so, the media continues to call what a few soldiers did “torture” and pretend that there is a huge public outcry for Rumsfeld’s resignation. But there is not, the outcry is their own. I’ll admit the pictures are upsetting, but torture? I do not think so. Why doesn’t somebody ask Kerry how those pictures compare to what he told Congress him and others participated in back in Vietnam? I appreciate his service. I do not appreciate his later disservice. All I want is a little honesty. How can the media and Kerry attack Bush and Rumsfeld for the actions of a few, without having Kerry truly answer for his own actions? I do not know what it would be like to be in a similar situation and I give honor and respect to all of those who are serving or have in the past. Get rid of the bad seeds and maybe a general or two who were directly in charge and let it go. This is war. These pictures have many stories, none of which is torture. The hooded man on the box with the wires hanging from him was an admittedly posed shot, not something that was actually going on. Some of the others were immature soldiers that got out of control. This was a prison. A war prison. These are not just petty thieves. Interrogation is necessary, even if hooded. And if dogs are necessary to keep them in line, let us use them against those who would murder us. Let us get all of the information we need to be successful. None of this is torture. Where are the pictures of Americans building schools, hospitals, water systems and electrical grids, as well as providing medical care, all far better than Iraqi citizens have ever had?

Let’s face it, no matter how many times the media calls this “Iraqi insurgence,” we are really talking about terrorists, power players and religious extremists who are looking to take advantage of the easily swayed American masses (via our media) and the words of people like Kennedy and Kerry. They want only to set up their own nations, empires, and religious states, all accusations leveled at the United States who plans to turn over the government to the Iraqis June 30th.

Get ready for a rough campaign season and remember to stick to your guns. The June 30th handover will almost certainly have its problems and while the media is berating you with tragedy, remember that we have given a nation back to its people, in less than a year and a half, unprecedented in history. Remember that it took us years to get our democracy going strong. In addition, remember that we are still in Japan and Germany. Remember that we are still in Kosovo. It took years to calm the fighting in all of these places, even with a centrally identified resistance.

Permalink | News and Views

May 17, 2004, 05:07 PM

Dan Patrick Show Clips

By Rob Booth

These are news clips related to the topics that Dan is discussing today. Click the [Read More] link. 1. Edd Hendee is in Taiwan today and called into the show. One item he discussed was the elections in Taiwan and China's reaction to it: Bloomberg: China Warns Taiwan's Chen to Accept Mainland Rule (Update5)
May 17 (Bloomberg) — China told Taiwan President Chen Shui- bian three days before his inauguration that he must accept Chinese sovereignty or “face destruction by playing with fire.” Taiwan's stocks and the currency fell. Relations are “severely tested,” according to a statement from agencies of China's Communist Party and the State Council, or Cabinet. In Taipei, the benchmark Taiex Index dropped to a nine-month low of 5482.96, sliding 5.1 percent, at the close. The Taiwan dollar had its lowest close in almost four months.
2. Government Information Office, Republic of China (Taiwan) 3. Dan's going to be appearing on MSNBC today. You can visit their web site here, but you can listen to his appearance on KSEV. Click the Listen Now button. 4. Here's a roundup of articles relating to the chemical agent discovery in Iraq. You have to promise you'll use your broswer's Back button to return here after you read the stories! :-) Fox News: Sarin, Mustard Gas Discovered Separately in Iraq
BAGHDAD, Iraq — A roadside bomb containing sarin nerve agent recently exploded near a U.S. military convoy, the U.S. military said Monday. Bush administration officials told Fox News that mustard gas (search) was also recently discovered.
New York Times: U.S. Finds Shell With Nerve Gas in Iraq
An explosive containing sarin nerve gas was discovered by American troops in Baghdad and detonated, an American military spokesman there said today. It was the first sarin shell the American military has found since the invasion of Iraq last year, the spokesman, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, said in a televised news conference. It appeared to be the first confirmed finding of the sort of chemical weapons on which the United States built its case to go to war, according to Gary Samore, a nonproliferation expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.
Reuters: U.S. Assessing Reports of Sarin Gas in Iraq
WASHINGTON - The United States, which invaded Iraq over alleged weapons of mass destruction, said on Monday an exploded artillery shell found there will be tested further to confirm indications that it was armed with sarin nerve agent. It would be the first time any chemical weapon has been found in Iraq since the United States led an invasion of that country last year, accusing then-President Saddam Hussein of developing chemical, biological and possibly nuclear weapons.
DefenseLINK: Roadside Bomb Releases Sarin Gas in Baghdad
WASHINGTON, May 17, 2004 — A roadside bomb containing the nerve agent sarin — a substance Saddam Hussein's regime insisted it had destroyed more than a decade ago — exploded near a U.S. military convoy traveling near Baghdad, coalition officials said today. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations director for Multinational Force Iraq, told reporters in Baghdad a U.S. convoy found the 155-millimeter artillery round rigged as an improvised explosive device. The round detonated before the explosive ordnance team could render it inert, Kimmitt said, spewing a small amount of sarin gas. The release caused two soldiers to be treated for only “minor exposure,” Kimmitt said, and the surrounding area needed no additional decontamination.

Permalink | News and Views

May 17, 2004, 02:19 PM

Re: Outlook Editor Gives Slanted Outlook

By Owen Courrèges

Upon reading David Langworthy's editorial cited below, I was struck with just how meek it actually was when you get right down to it. Langworthy simply identified something as a problem, namely American dependence on petroleum, and yet failed to cite an actual, workable solution. It reminds me of Thomas Paine's legendary pamphlet, Common Sense, which was a rhetorical thrashing of the British monarchy. When John Adams first read Common Sense, he thought it to be a masterwork. Yet upon more careful reflection, Adams realized that it was more of a polemic than anything, the reason being that it didn't offer any good solutions. It suggested eliminating the monarchy, but gave nothing of substance to replace it with. Langworthy's editorial is like that. It does nothing truly brave. It is only superficially brave, ranting against dependence on oil and the Bush Administration's policies while failing to suggest a viable replacement. Langworthy could have suggested something bold. He could have stuck with a single workable notion, explaining its strengths and weaknesses, and then concluding that it should be implemented. Instead, he just gives one line with a string of non-solutions — “hyrdogen, electric or nuclear powered or some technology not yet envisioned.” Hydrogen is dependent on fossil fuels for its production. Electricity mainly comes from fossil fuels. Nuclear power (regrettably) hasn't been politically viable since Three-mile Island. And a technology not yet envisioned doesn't help us in the present. Call me crazy, but I prefer constructive editorials. Langworthy isn't giving us that.

Permalink | Noxious Chron Columnists

May 17, 2004, 01:28 PM

Outlook Editor Gives Slanted Outlook

By The Staff

Chronicle Outlook Editor and Editorial Board Member David Langworthy takes the opportunity to further the “no war for oil” rhetoric against President Bush and the war in Iraq in his editorial today. Old news? Read this quote from Mr. Langworthy...
From this vantage point, June 30 in Iraq looks like a view into the abyss. Against all odds, I hope the “day after” for the Iraqi people really does come eventually and is peaceful and prosperous, making better use of the country's bountiful oil resources for education, health care and all the other ingredients that add up to better lives. But we also ought to be concerned about what the “day after” will look like in this country. I am worried that it will look pretty much like the “day before”: Business as usual. No rational energy policy. The same old polarization between environmentalists and the energy folks. If the “day after” here looks like that, we will have lost, no matter the outcome in Iraq.
No matter what chemical agents we find in Iraq, no matter how many mass graves, no matter how many stories of success and appreciation from the Iraqi people... the liberal gameplan never changes. Special thanks to David Langworthy for sharing the first play out of the gamebook. “Scream 'defeat!', no matter how well things turn out in Iraq.” Mr. Langworthy, thank you for revealing your true colors. We look forward to your “day after” editorial on July 1.

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 17, 2004, 12:34 PM

Found: WMD

By The Staff

The New York Times ran this story earlier, and now the Chron website is running an AP version:
A roadside bomb containing sarin nerve agent exploded near a U.S. military convoy, the U.S. military said today. Two people were treated for “minor exposure,” but no serious injuries were reported. “The Iraqi Survey Group confirmed today that a 155-millimeter artillery round containing sarin nerve agent had been found,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the chief military spokesman in Iraq. "The round had been rigged as an IED (improvised explosive device) which was discovered by a U.S. force convoy.
Wouldn't this be an example of a Weapon of Mass Destruction? And shouldn't that get a little more play in the article than the fact it was found by a group charged with looking for Weapons of Mass Destruction? The Chronicle may go in and add to the story later (which they sometimes do with their web copy), but right now, that's not the focus. Indeed, even the conclusion to the posted story is a bit odd:
Antidotes to nerve gases similar to sarin are so effective that top poison gas researchers predict they eventually will cease to be a war threat.
That may be true, but it's almost beside the point. The target of terrorists isn't necessarily soldiers in traditional war settings, but civilians in unprotected settings. The chief national security issue of our time is how to deal effectively with that threat. In any case, here's more proof that Iraq had a WMD capability. For the naysayers, no amount of proof will be enough. Better this shell was discovered in the field by soldiers prepared to handle it than, say, in Houston's downtown tunnel system. (Update) To add to that last point, we'd like to call attention to this excerpt from the New York Times article:
General Kimmitt said American officials believe the weapon came from the stockpile of the regime of Saddam Hussein. Mr. Hussein had declared all such rounds destroyed before the 1991 Gulf War.
The existence of this shell means that Saddam Hussein was in violation of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions not to mention the general armistice agreements that followed hostilities in the first Gulf War. Iraq was violating those resolutions and agreements up to commencement of this war, which was justification enough for resumption of hostilities. This is simply additional proof of violations. (Update 2) Yahoo news reports that neither Hans Blix nor David Kay is overly excited about the find.

Permalink | News and Views

May 17, 2004, 11:00 AM

Non-News Notice

By The Staff

Using every opportunity to reveal their penchant for demonizing conservatives, the Chronicle editorial staff gives us a provocative headline along with this totally irrelevant news item. “Rehnquist Gets Free Flight on Electric Company's Jet” For our reader's review and for comparison purposes only, the original AP headline as it came across the wire as... “Rehnquist Takes Corporate Jet Trip to Ohio” The Chronicle takes the liberty of darkening the tone of this headline, with the words “gets free”. Arguably, even substituting the words “electric company” for “corporate” might add a certain sinister flavor in this post-Enron era. However, their headline is quickly proved contradictory to the story. Just two paragraphs in, the Associated Press clearly indicates that the Ohio Supreme Court will be covering the costs of the flight.
American Electric Power flew Rehnquist at the request of the Ohio Supreme Court, which plans to pay for the $3,800 flight, Acompany spokesman Pat Hemlepp said.
Futhermore, the story as first covered in the Toledo Blade on Friday, contained these quotes giving more details on who was paying for this “free” flight.
“AEP will be reimbursed for the cost of that,” said Ohio Supreme Court spokesman Chris Davey. “We are hoping to save a little money because AEP has agreed to do it at cost.” (skip) About 650 people have paid $75 each, for a total of about $49,000, to attend a post-dedication luncheon a block away at the Ohio Statehouse. The court believes that should cover the costs of the luncheon, the dedication ceremony to be attended by 1,100 people, and AEP's cost to deliver the chief justice to Columbus, where the utility is headquartered. The court has received commitments from charitable foundations of several Ohio metropolitan bar associations to cover cost overruns if there are any, said Mr. Davey.
Further proof of the superior job of investigative journalism by the Toledo Blade - the novel approach of asking the U.S. Supreme Court if this trip was ethical.
U.S. Supreme Court spokesman Kathy Arberg said the chief justice had nothing to do with the flight arrangements. “Arrangements for justices' travel and accommodations are made by the inviting organization,” she said. “That's provided for in the Judicial Code of Conduct.”
The city of Toledo, Ohio, pop. 313,619, appears to have a very professional staff of journalists at the Blade, who take the extra steps necessary to assure their readers of a great story. If any of our ChronicallyBiased readers are from Toledo, please forward our commendations to the staff of your hometown newspaper. Our 2 million plus citizens will gladly trade our Chronicle headline writers for your Blade feature writers, any day of the week.

Permalink | Poor Chron Journalism

May 17, 2004, 06:30 AM

Gay marriage comes to Massachusetts today

By Owen Courrèges

Today, regrettably, Massachusetts will begin performing “gay marriages.” I use quotations because, honestly, I find gay marriage itself to be a contradiction in terms. Marriage isn't merely a contractual agreement between persons; it's a complex social institution. It involves family, children, and yes, even the will of society. With gay marriage in Massachusetts, however, the public will has been subverted. Instead, the courts intervened to force their political agenda. It's an old story, but this stands as an especially egregious example of a most intolerable phenomenon. Now the Houston Chronicle doesn't quite see it this way. Rather than editorializing against the judicial usurpation inherent in the gay marriage ruling, the Chronicle instead has taken the opportunity to speak against a proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriages. This brings us to the following Chronicle staff editorial, which ran this February (link requires archival access):
Among the qualities that make the U.S. Constitution one of the most profound documents ever written is this one: When it comes to people's rights, the Constitution says not “no,” but “yes.” President George W. Bush and others opposed to homosexual marriage would seek to end this great confirmation of rights by encouraging a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex unions. That would be a senseless mistake. The country is debating whether gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry or form a civil union. But this conversation should not occur under the threat that legalized discrimination against a class of people will once again be written into our cherished Constitution. The Constitution once recognized slavery; it should not enshrine discrimination. The president announced his support for an amendment to ban gay marriage just as he kicked his presidential election campaign into gear. Even if sincere, Bush's call for an amendment distracts from more pressing issues, including the soaring federal deficit, the jobless economic recovery, Iraqi pacification and the war on terror. The granting of marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples in San Francisco without legislative authorization probably does more to harm the cause of same-sex marriage than advance it. On its own, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has recognized the right of same-sex couples to marry...
Disturbingly, that last line almost sounds approving. In the end, however, what the people at the Chronicle fail to recognize is that traditional marriage is worthy of protection, and at the very least, the will of the public as to the maintenance of marriage is worthy of deference. For both of these reasons, the Massachusetts Supreme Court erred. And that's an error we'll all be paying for.

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 17, 2004, 06:15 AM

Morning Show Clips

By Rob Booth

Chris Begala is sitting in for Edd Hendee this morning on KSEV. Click the [Read More] link to see links to stories he's been discussing. 1. NBC News' Meet the Press: Sec. of State Colin Powell
Russert: But first: Earlier this morning, I spoke to Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is in Jordan. Secretary Powell, good morning. Let me show you the headline that greeted Americans and people around the world yesterday. “Powell Says Troops Would Leave Iraq if New Leaders Asked.” What happened to staying the course? Secretary of State Colin Powell: We are planning to stay the course and we expect that the Iraqi interim government that will come into place on the 1st of July, would certainly ask us to remain and help them stay the course. Excuse me, Tim. But, basically, what we are anxious to do is return sovereignty, but it's a long way between that initial return of sovereignty and national elections. And we're confident that we will stay the course. This was in response to a specific question as to what sovereignty meant.
2. New Yorker: The Gray Zone
The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld’s decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of élite combat units, and hurt America’s prospects in the war on terror.
3. Galveston Daily News: Final vote counts occur Sunday morning
GALVESTON — A malfunctioning vote counter and numerous faulty ballots delayed the tabulation of election results for more than 12 hours, poll workers say. A final count for city council and proposition votes was not certified until 10:15 a.m. Sunday morning.

Permalink | News and Views

May 17, 2004, 06:00 AM

News 24 reports on Chronically Biased; Chronicle responds

By Owen Courrèges

News 24 Houston, Warner Cable's 24 news channel, has done a story on ChronicallyBiased. Both the video and the write up can be found here. I think that News 24's interest demonstrates the impact ChronicallyBiased is having, and will continue to have, on the Chronicle's already poor public perception. The Chronicle itself, however, has responded true to form. Instead of answering legitimate arguments against its content, it simply states a truism — that under the First Amendment, we at ChronicallyBiased have the right to speak our minds:
Representatives from the Houston Chronicle would not go on camera, but the paper did release a written statement, saying: “The Houston Chronicle supports free speech and all 1st Amendment rights. The more informed our citizens, the more vibrant our community.”
This strikes me as being very cowardly. Of course a free exchange of ideas is important; that's not the issue. The issue, rather, is that the only major newspaper in the city of Houston is both liberally biased and journalistically inept. How did the nation view Houston when the Enron story broke, and our own paper lacked the investigative ability to break any major stories? How did Houstonians react when an internal memorandum outlining plans for a series of articles amounting to character assassinations was accidently posted to the Chronicle's website? How do they continue to feel when beset by a seemingly never-ending stream of biased vitriol? News 24 is right: “[O]nly time will tell how lasting the affects of ChronicallyBiased.com will be.” However, the lasting effects of the Chronicle will certainly not be positive.

Permalink | News and Views

May 17, 2004, 05:45 AM

When a man loves a horse.

By The Staff

When a man loves a horse and wants to marry that horse, it's just a matter of time before some judge in some liberal state will say to that man that he has the right to walk hand in hoof to the altar with Mr. Ed. What wedding gift do you buy the man and horse who have everything? Hopefully they will be registered at the local Hat and Saddle store. In today's post modern culture, whatever one believes is right, is right. It doesn't matter what others say. It doesn't matter what long standing traditions and values a society has, if a person says he believes something to be so, it is so. Dr. Ed Young, pastor of Second Baptist Church, tells a story about baseball umpires to make the point of how our culture has changed in this country. The traditional umpire calls balls and strikes based on the rulebook. The ball must cross the plate between the letters on the batter’s jersey and the batter’s knees to be called a strike. The integrity of the game was built on this principle. The modern view has the umpire calling a pitch outside the plate a strike. Even though the pitch was a ball the umpire believes it to be a strike. Whatever the umpire believes is right and whatever the batter believes is also right. Neither one is wrong or right, but both believe that they have the correct view. However, in the post-modern world in which we live, an umpire calls a pitch a strike, even if it misses crossing the plate. It is a strike because he says it's a strike and that's it. The batter may again disagree, but he can't argue because the umpire is the authority figure of the game and has declared the pitch a strike. The umpire may even acknowledge the ball was outside the strike zone. The location of the pitch doesn't matter. Thus, the umpire has changed the definition of what is or isn't a strike. Once again, the umpire is right because he says he's right. Anyone who challenges the umpire's view is wrong even though in actuality he or she may be right. Today in Massachusetts, men will be able to legally marry men. Women will be able to legally marry women. Our society says marriage should be between a man and a woman. Our nation was built upon this biblical principle. The foundation of the family unit is a mother and a father. Virtually every society and culture has embraced the principle that a man and a woman are the core of the family unit. Sadly, a group of judges decided that their view was better. In our post modern world, these judges agreed with those who said that they believe it is right for a man to marry a man or a woman to marry a woman. There was no data to support their finding. No one had studied how gay marriage will impact children or society as a whole. These couples will be able to marry today based simply on the notion that they said they had the right to marry and that no one could challenge that right. Gays and lesbians have been interviewed recently and have been asked the following questions. What if a man wants to marry two or three women? What if a man wants to marry his daughter? What if a man wants to marry his horse? They shrug off the questions by saying society would not accept those types of marriages. That may be true, but if someone says that they have the right to marry either two or three women, their daughter or their horse, who can say they don't have that right, especially in Massachusetts. It will only be a matter of time before a Mormon in Utah says he should be able to marry several women. Gays and lesbians like to compare themselves to blacks and whites who were not allowed to marry each other many years ago in this country. That comparison doesn't hold up. Society has always held that a marriage was to be between a man and a woman, no matter what color the bride and groom were. The laws that existed barring blacks from marrying whites were wrong. Those laws were changed along with all of the laws that fostered a segregated society. America is going to have to make a stand in the very near future as to what kind of country it wants to be. Americans will have to stand up and fight for the values and morals they believe in and not accept the nonsense of the post modern world. On the other hand, if America wants to be a place where anything goes, where no judgments are made, where tolerance of any behavior is seen as a noble virtue and everyone has a right to re-write the rules as they fit, then this country will go the way of most great empires, it will end up in the trash bin of history.

Permalink | News and Views

May 17, 2004, 05:30 AM

James T. Campbell responds

By Kevin Whited

We've had some fun on the right sidebar at the expense of James T. Campbell, the Chronicle's Reader's Representative. It's nothing personal, but we do feel that the Chronicle needs to elevate the position of Reader's Representative to whatever level of authority it takes to improve the quality of the newspaper. I was surprised to receive an email from Mr. Campbell on Friday, as I'd never gotten a response to emails before (even the one pointing out that Rick Casey basically borrowed Dan Morgan's column in the Washington Post):
Kevin, I exist, but what is the point of discussing Chronicle issues with those who already have preconceived opinions about the newspaper? James T. Campbell, Readers' Representative
I replied to his email, suggesting that opinions aren't always preconceived, but that sometimes we come to them through experience and reflection. He replied, and I asked permission to print his reply, which he granted, and which I'm reproducing below. While we may have disagreements over the newspaper, I do appreciate the fact that Mr. Campbell didn't take our little joke too personally, and that he granted us permission to post his longer email. Here it is: Mr. Whited, I don't argue that “opinions can also come over time, with experience and reflection.” Some readers, however, only want to voice their opinions, but have no interest in hearing an explanation whether they agree with it or not. Part of my job is to discuss with readers how we gather news to demonstrate to them that there is a daily process and enormous effort to putting out a newspaper. For instance, many readers question why we use New York Times or Los Angeles Times stories to report national and international stories. Or, they might want to know our process for selecting op-ed pieces and columnists. Those are fair questions that I have no problem answering. But when people call or email me and routinely assign a “liberal” bias to the Chronicle because we published a NYT or LAT story or a column that they didn't agree with, that becomes a one-way conversation, or a “preconceived” opinion. Since accepting the job as readers' representative, I've talked to hundreds of people and answered hundreds of emails regarding issues they have with the Chronicle. Many readers make points that I agree with wholly. Moreover, I daily attend a 4 p.m. news budget meeting in which I provide Chronicle editors with a phone call and email report. I give them (Chronicle editors) the good, the bad and the ugly of what readers are saying about the newspaper that day. We engage in discussions about among others things, stories, headlines, photos and corrections. We also talk about bias. Indeed, what I do as a readers' representative is not much different than what others who hold similar positions do, save writing a column. Regards, James T. Campbell, Readers' Representative

Permalink | Letters

May 17, 2004, 05:10 AM

Conservative army comes to the aid of Mayor White.

By Dan Patrick

In yesterday's edition of Chronically Biased, I wrote that Prop 1 passed because of a united effort from various political groups. Some will say that the Mayor should get all of the credit for this victory. While it is true that the Mayor deserves great credit for taking the lead on the issue, the numbers show he was unable to rally many Democratic voters behind him. Looking at the relatively light turnout, less than 10% of eligible voters, an examination of precincts shows that the majority of votes came from areas dominated by conservative Republicans. These precincts are the heart of the KSEV listening audience in the greater Houston area. These precincts are now the heart of the readership of Chronically Biased. These precincts also form the core area where many of the more than 17,000 CLOUT members live. In short, the overwhelming margin of victory on Prop 1 was due in large part to KSEV, Chronically Biased and CLOUT support. Between these three entities, conservatives now have a major voice in city and state elections. The local television stations and the Houston Chronicle may choose to ignore it, but KSEV, Chronically Biased and CLOUT have become a major force in policy issues and elections. Conservatives now have a three pronged weapon with which to take on politicians and the issues they put before us. Our success is due to the fact that conservatives are right on the issues, our numbers are great and we stand shoulder to shoulder with a passion for what we believe. The other interesting result of the vote on Prop 1 was the lack of any organized effort by the downtown Democratic machine. The turnout on the side of Democrats was embarassingly low. What happened? The answer is simple: there was no walking around money to pay to people to get out the vote. Someone made sure that flow of cash, which ususally comes from party loyalists, was shut off. Consequently, it appears the only voters who turned out to vote against Prop 1 were probably city workers. In the end, the city was pulled back from the brink of financial disaster by those in the city who acted responsibly by voting to pass Prop 1. The Mayor led the way, but the army that followed him was not made up by members of his own party, but instead made up of conservatives. If Mayor White hopes to become a United States Senator or Governor of Texas one day, maybe he should consider switching political parties. If he embraces the liberal agenda of the Democratic party in the future, the army that followed him on Saturday will be on the other side of the political battlefield.

Permalink | News and Views

May 16, 2004, 09:22 PM

Death Penalty Overload

By M. Wildes

To add to the myriad of death penalty stories that the Chronicle regularly plasters on its pages, two stories were published this weekend about the World Court.

The first was Friday's front page story, “Oklahoma's governor spares life of Mexican; Attention shifts to 2 on Texas death row.” Whose attention will shift? The Chronicle's? This was the case of a Mexican National who was convicted of murder beyond a reasonable doubt, but had his sentence stayed by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals and commuted by the governor, less than ten days before his scheduled execution. According to the article, the decisions were reached because of pressure from the International Court of Justice, which heard the cases of many Mexican Nationals sentenced to die in the United States and determined that they were not given access to their own governments for help as is required under the 1963 Vienna Convention. The story mentions that the dissenting judges and Governor Rick Perry do not believe the World Court has any standing, jurisdiction, or binding authority in these matters. It forgets to mention that the man lived in the United States since he was 5 years old, that an American man was convicted along side him and will not have his sentence changed, and that Oklahoma courts had already reviewed the case and determined that the effect was minimal. It also mentions how happy Mexicans are with the decision, because they do not have the death penalty in Mexico.

An article in Sunday's edition was about commencement speakers asking graduates to think globally. Leading the story was Cardinal Oscar A. Rodriguez Madariaga speaking at the University of St. Thomas about his support of the Honduran government's plight to save the lives of two Hondurans on death row in Texas. The story mentions how Honduras does not have the death penalty and gets into an entire summary of the International Court of Justice's ruling on the Mexican Nationals. The Cardinal has a dream that the world will one day respect life and abolish the death penalty. I wonder why the Chronicle does not ever write a story about the Cardinal’s stance on abortion. Anyway, the story then digresses to Sheila Jackson Lee and the Iraq war---I think we know how that will turn out.

These stories were accompanied by two more death penalty stories: on Wednesday, a column by Rick Casey telling us why we should hope for the commuted sentence in the Oklahoma case, and a story on Sunday about how a murderer, who is mentally retarded, may also have his case overturned. Hoorrah!?

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 16, 2004, 11:51 AM

Texas Congressional Roundup

By Rob Booth

Here's a series of links to stories involving members of Texas Congressional delegation. I'll have the news source, a link, a quote, and perhaps a quick analysis. Click the [Read More] link to see the stories. If you follow a link to another site, be sure to click your Back button to come back to Chronically Biased. If you like or don't like this kind of feature, please feel free to e-mail the editor and let us know. 1. NewsMax.com: One Reporter's Opinion: Immigration Insanity
It is this reporter's opinion that we face a nationwide crisis, with immigration laws completely out of hand and local law enforcement looking the other way in refusing to confront millions of illegal aliens invading America. Whether it's Dearborn, Mich., or Los Angeles, Calif., too many officials are criticizing federal efforts that would require local police to assume a major role in enforcing federal immigration laws.
Further on in the story the writer mentions Rep. John Culberson and Rep. Gene Green. 2. Washington Post: GOP Set to Conquer Redivided Texas
CLEBURNE, Tex. — Texas Republicans kicked up a mighty ruckus last year with their bare-knuckled congressional redistricting exercise, prompting court challenges, a grand jury investigation, and wholesale escapes to Oklahoma and New Mexico by Democratic legislators trying to derail the plan. Now that the smoke has cleared, however, Republicans appear to have achieved exactly what they wanted: surgically redesigned districts that are jeopardizing the careers of five Democratic House members and significantly enhancing GOP hopes of keeping the House majority this fall and beyond. The Texas legislature has created districts so heavily Republican that even some of Congress's most conservative Democrats will have trouble winning reelection.
This is an overview of the upcoming Texas Congressional races all over the state. It's the Washington Post though, so take it with a grain of salt. Several grains, actually. 3. American Prospect: How Nancy Pelosi Took Control
Next, liberals Charles Rangel and Sandy Levin are explaining why their amendment will create more manufacturing jobs. Blue Dog Democrat Charles Stenholm of Texas describes why the amendment is far more fiscally responsible than the Republican alternative. Baron Hill, who represents a Rust Belt Indiana district, talks about the discharge petition he's filed to get the amendment to the floor. Chet Edwards and Brian Baird both reference another provision that will make sales taxes deductible on federal income taxes for taxpayers from states (such as theirs) that don't have income taxes. All these representatives but Rangel and Levin come from swing districts; each is conveying a message that plays well back home.
American Prospect is a left-of-center magazine. This article is a pretty interesting profile of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, which includes several references to Texas Congressmen. 4. NRI News: American House Hails NRIs’ Contribution
Washington, May 16 (NNN): The American House of Representatives on Saturday passed a resolution with overwhelming majority hailing the contributions made by Indians of American origin in the United States and the importance of working together with India to “promote peace, prosperity and freedom among all countries of the world.” The resolution was okayed with margin of 412 to 2 in a House whose current membership is 434. The only members voting against were Ron Paul and Sam Johnson, both Texas Republicans.
5. San Francisco Chronicle: Decency gets some heavy opposition / FCC urged to start regulating cable TV, but free-speechers say enough, already
The pleas from Sharp's organization are being mulled over by important Washington lawmakers. Rep. Joe Barton — a conservative Texas Republican and the head of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees the FCC — has said there's little difference between public airwaves and private broadcasts in an age when a majority of Americans get cable TV. “If I can see it on my TV and my grandson can click and watch a channel, whether it's satellite, over-the-air or cable, the same rules in terms of decency should apply,” Barton said last month in Las Vegas, where he addressed the National Association of Broadcasters' convention.
6. The Weekly Online: Collins, Linder Discuss Frequently Asked Questions About the Fair Tax Act
WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 13) - Georgia Republican Congressman Mac Collins, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, discussed the proposed “Fair Tax” legislation (H.R. 25) during a House of Representatives "Special Order" session on Tuesday evening with Congressman John Linder, (R-Georgia). For 5 years, Linder and Collins have been working to get the act passed. Collins thinks the Fair Tax Act would greatly benefit the American economy.
This story is a pretty interesting exploration of the Fair Tax proposal, which includes a reference to Rep. Kevin Brady's involvement. 7. Capitol Hill Blue: House Committee Approves Delay in Base Closings
That is exactly why the base-closings should not be postponed, said Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas. “We should not delay this any further,” Thornberry said. “Doing so just prolongs the agony and the amount of money lobbyists make out of this process.”

Permalink | News and Views

May 16, 2004, 09:07 AM

Robison's illogic on school finance

By Owen Courrèges

Houston Chronicle opinion columnist Clay Robison has an op-ed in the Sunday edition that chastizes Governor Rick Perry and the legislature for their supposed failures in the special session on school finance. This was expected, and it could be that there are more than few things worth criticizing, at least from his perspective. However, Robison attacked the legislature from a perspective that I found to be entirely irrational. Specifically, he ranted about teacher pay:
Higher teacher pay, meanwhile, hasn't been recognized as a priority by the governor and most legislators. The best they have offered is restoring part of a teacher health care allotment that shouldn't have been cut in the first place and offering selective, merit raises to teachers who turn enough somersaults or jump through enough hoops. Average teacher pay in Texas is about $40,000 a year, lagging about $5,000 behind the national average and ranking Texas about 32nd among the states.
We all want our teachers to be paid well, but Robinson fails to make the case that Texas teachers are woefully underpaid. First of all, it should be obvious that some states have to be below average in terms of teacher pay. Teachers could be paid $200,000 a year on average in this country, and we'd still have a state that ranks 50th. Accordingly, the issue is not whether or not Texas ranks below average, as Robison paints it, but whether or not it's justified for Texas to rank below average. For this issue, we need to consult “cost-of-living” statistics, which are compilations of data pertaining to just how much housing, food, etc, cost in a given state. The lower the cost-of-living, the less money you need to make. As it turns out, as of 1999 Texas ranks 48th out of 50 states in terms of cost-of-living. It's only less expensive to live in two other states. Given this fact, Texas must be ahead of the curve. Texas ranking 32nd in terms of teacher pay is actually good, at least if you look at the context. Alas, Robison denied us this valuable context and instead hoped to fool the people of Houston by throwing out a few numbers. That's not ethical journalism.

Permalink | Noxious Chron Columnists

May 16, 2004, 05:02 AM

Chronicallybiased.com prediction comes to pass.

By Dan Patrick

On Friday, in the first edition of our web paper, guest columnist Paul Bettencourt predicted that Prop 1 would pass by more than 20%. No other media outlet had predicted such a wide margin of victory. Turnout was relatively light, but Prop 1 passed 72% to 28% with 98% of the vote counted. Our position was that while the police and fire pensions should be protected, Prop 1 needed to be passed. This was one of the rare times that a wide cross section of different political interest groups merged for the greater good. Mayor Bill White, a democrat and also a guest columnist for us on Friday, was supported by conservative republicans. Clout supported the passage of Prop 1. And yes, even the Houston Chronicle supported passage. In fact, Chronicle writer Dan Feldstein deserves credit for leading the way on this issue. Chronicallybiased.com not only recognizes the liberal bias of the Houston Chronicle, but also recognizes its writers when they are on the right side of the issues. This is the type of teamwork we need in our city, state and country to solve our problems and work toward the greater good. If the Democrats and Republicans in Washington and Austin could put party politics aside in the same manner and do what is best for everyone, we could accomplish what needed to be done on behalf of the people and move Texas and this country in the right direction.

Permalink | News and Views

May 16, 2004, 02:10 AM

The Great Paraphraser

By The Staff

Let's play a game. A la “Late Night with David Letterman”, we'll call it “Rick Casey Quotes That Aren't Really Quotes”. (Cue the band) ANNOUNCER: Its the craze that's sweeping the nation! A dazzling display of disseminated declaratives, deliciously and delightfully discarded for daring and dizzying drivel. Ladies and gentlemen... the hotshot himself, Rick Casey! Tonight's installment comes via his latest column entitled A Lawyer's Case for Lawyer Tax, featuring Michael Boone - lawyer, respected business leader, past president of the Dallas Citizens Council, and for you kids playing along at home, longtime Republican Activist!
He's (Boone) a lawyer. He thinks Texas is foolish to place heavy taxes on shrinking businesses such as the oil industry and no taxes on growing businesses such as lawyers and other members of the service sector.
(polite applause)
He's convinced the state's economic future is dependent on well-funded schools. Yet we've reached the limits of funding from property taxes and are close to the limits from sales taxes. Since the state isn't ready for a personal income tax, the only choice for a reliable funding source that will grow with the economy is a broad-based business tax.
(a hearty roar - enthusiastic applause ensues)
In the rest of his spare time, Boone is traveling the state pressing business leaders to provide cover for the politicians by publicly backing a broad business tax. Dallas leaders are fully on board. He's had some success in San Antonio and is hoping for action from Fort Worth.
(the audience is rolling in the aisles)
Then, Mosbacher says, the hard work of coming up with a permanent solution involving business taxes that won't hurt the Texas economy can be addressed. Both Mosbacher and Boone say the majority of business leaders they talk with are ready to accept a fair, broad-based business tax. The issue is working out the details.
(a shocked gasp from the audience - a rare TWO-FER! - standing ovation) ANNOUNCER: And that's how you play “Rick Casey Quotes That Aren't Really Quotes”!

Permalink | Noxious Chron Columnists

May 16, 2004, 01:36 AM

One newspaper addresses its problems

By Kevin Whited

Normally, I wouldn't talk about that “other big city” in Texas here, but I think recent experience at their newspaper is instructive. According to a recent story by Sherry Sylvester of the invaluable Texas Media Watch, daily circulation of the Dallas Morning News has been down in recent years, and the biggest driver has been a drop in home circulation (down 10% since 2000). Recent reports indicate that the DMN's publisher decided that circulation was declining because the product needed to improve, and a major shakeup of the news/editorial staff ensued. New editorial page editor Keven Ann Willey seems dedicated to making the workings of her editorial board more transparent to the public. Indeed, Willey instituted a public blog where the members of the editorial board regularly post. Diverse views are represented — for example, Rod Dreher is a strong, intelligent conservative voice — and good conversation takes place among the editorialists, and also with readers who email them. Views are fleshed out, rather than mocked according to the predispositions of the staff. Minds are not necessarily changed, but the editorialists are at least exposed to the best arguments on several sides of any given issue. I think it results in a more intelligent editorial page (such as this recent lead op-ed, which wasn't even on the minds of the Chron editorialists that day). Willey and crew have also admitted on their pages that readers who perceive bias shouldn't just be dismissed as cranks, and that their newspaper needs to work that much harder to serve all of its readers. It's a refreshing position. Why am I talking so much about the Dallas newspaper? Because I'm hopeful we might see such movement from the Chron one of these days. They quietly released end-March circulation figures recently. They claimed growth over the prior six months, but it was anemic:
The Chronicle's daily circulation increased an average of 792 copies to 549,300, and Sunday circulation increased an average of 613 copies to 740,002.
Keep in mind that these numbers came out before the Chron's misbehavior on the Sandoval story, and the wave of cancellations that followed after KSEV Radio took up the cause. The number of subscription cancellations since KSEV started calling attention to the Chron's misbehavior is one of the most closely guarded secrets in town, but one suspects it's a large number. There has to be a reason that everywhere I turn these days, there's a big kiosk with Chron employees giving away free stuff to bribe people to subscribe, and so many complimentary copies everywhere, and bigger stacks than ever for the street vendors to push in traffic. The Chron counts all of those “freebies” as part of its daily circulation, and that daily circulation lets the Chron set its advertising rates, the key to profitability. A sustained drop in circulation means advertising revenues decline, and so does profitability. Declines in circulation and profitability seem finally to have led the Dallas Morning News to give serious thought to the possibility that their product might be deficient, and might need serious attention. Similar declines at the Chronicle might well give the Hearst folks the idea it's time to clean house at that place. We're going to continue to point out some of the other reasons it's time to clean house there. (05-16-2004 Update) Reader Dale Nguyen emails to point out that the Audit Bureau of Circulation does not allow true “freebie” newspapers to count in the daily circulation figures. We thank him for that correction to our assertion above. It is less clear from the ABC guidelines, however, if excess street-vendor copy counts in circulation. Under those guidelines, paid circulation seemingly includes those papers for which more than $0.01 was paid. So if they dump 100 papers on a street vendor and he only sells one at a rate of $1.00, do we assume they count one or 100 in their circulation? Also, we would note that newspapers are allowed to count delivery of canceled subscriptions up to 25% beyond the original term ordered, meaning if the Chron keeps throwing the papers to canceled subscribers, they can continue to count that circulation legitimately for a certain period.

Permalink | Poor Chron Journalism

May 16, 2004, 12:40 AM

More Chronicle propaganda

By Owen Courrèges

The original image can be found here, and another poster that I created earlier can be found here.

Permalink | Humor

May 16, 2004, 12:20 AM

Another Metrorail Accident, another News Brief

By Phil Magness

Metrorail has had another accident (#40) and, keeping with their less than stellar reporting habits, the Chronicle's only coverage is a 3-sentence news brief buried deep in the back pages. As is typical of the Chronicle, there is no mention of any substantial accident details beyond the location and time. Also note the headline, “Driver crashes vehicle into MetroRail train.” Per Chronicle reporting, MetroRail never crashes into cars - it almost always happens the other way around, at least in their minds. Granted, I am not one to suggest that the opposite is any better from a reporting perspective. Technically speaking, when trains and cars collide they are both in motion and thus simultaneously crash into each other.

Permalink | Poor Chron Journalism

May 15, 2004, 07:05 PM

Comments Feature

By The Staff

This is a short note to let readers know we'll be disabling the comments feature shortly for most posts. At the start, we wanted to give our readers an opportunity to give us immediate feedback, but we expect by next week that traffic will double over the THOUSANDS of you who visited on Friday. At that point, open comments threaten to turn the site into a message board, and that's not our focus. However, we do appreciate all of the comments left so far, and we're going to encourage you to continue to email us. The best of those emails will get posted to the weblog as Letters. Those that are brief tend to have the best chance at getting posted. Thanks again for your involvement. We're going to continue to tinker with the site over the next few days to try to make it the best experience possible for our readers. One of the first things on the to-do list is a PDA/printer-friendly feature. (Update) Comments are now disabled. Earlier comments may still be viewed. (Update 2) There are now printer-friendly versions of the front page and individual posts. Check the menu (top-left) for the PDA/Printer-Friendly link, and check the end of individual posts for the printer-friendly link (beside the Permalink).

Permalink | Staff Notes

May 15, 2004, 03:04 PM

Chronicle Helps Accuse Republicans of Racism

By M. Wildes

On Saturday, the Chronicle wrote a story about the undefeated Milby High School basketball team being prohibited from entering onto the House floor in Austin and instead “confined” to the gallery, because the team is made up primarily of African-Americans. The charge came during a debate about the “killing” of the Robin Hood school financing plan. House Rep. Joe Moreno, D-Houston, accused the House Republicans of forcing the team to stay in the gallery instead of coming onto the House floor and therefore “...hurt[ing] innocent children for no other reason than their economic standing or the color of their skin...” and going “...too far.”

While the Chronicle admits that even the families of soldiers killed in Iraq have been acknowledged from the gallery instead of the floor, because of a policy change, they insisted on writing this non-story.

In truth, the policy applies to everyone and had nothing to do with race at all.

Furthermore, the kids had no idea that anything at all was going on, but Democrat Senator Mario Gallegos, a Milby alumni, insisted on telling them about what happened. This was so they would understand it was “...just about a lot of adults fighting...” when they read it in the newspapers a day later.

Was it necessary to tell them? I guess so, if you plan on getting it into the papers. Now who is hurting innocent children? Now who has gone too far? And for political gain at that.

What do you know? The Chronicle obliged.

I congratulate the Milby High School team and apologize that the Democrats made a political issue of their enormous accomplishment, on behalf of the “adults.”

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 15, 2004, 09:58 AM

Almost like clockwork

By Kevin Whited

It works almost like clockwork. A few days go by without much news about METRO rail crashes. METRO issues some sort of statement proclaiming their little train really is safe, and Houston is just full of idiotic drivers. And a crash happens that same day. So what perfect timing for this News24 feature posted last night:
We've seen it again and again — motorists drive past a light rail train, then make an illegal left turn, wrecking both their car and the train. More than half of all light rail accidents have happened this way along the middle third of the seven-mile rail line. But new safety procedures are having an impact. “So we decided that we would institute what we call 'preemptive reds',” said Metro Board Chairman David Wolff.
The train suffered collision #40 last night. It's good to know, however, that METRO has everything under control. The Chron has a counter of crashes that gets out of date quickly, so I recommend this one. Enjoy.

Permalink | Houston's Light Rail

May 15, 2004, 12:35 AM

Weighing prop. one

By Kevin Whited

Note: Houstonians go to the polls tomorrow to vote on Proposition One. Click here to find your polling place. A number of our distinguished guest contributors have pointed out some reasons that Houstonians should consider voting Yes on Proposition One on Saturday. Paul Bettencourt has put the magnitude of the pension liability in perspective with the hardest numbers I've seen, and the potential tax increases that could be required to fund that liability. Mayor Bill White has made the case that he needs the flexibility now to get out from under new constitutional requirements that will lock in overly generous retirement benefits. I don't disagree with our contributors on either of their main points, and I'm not at all happy with how we got ourselves in this situation. It will not come as a shock to anyone that I think Mayor Brown's administration was not diligent in its dealings with the pension board, and that the Chronicle didn't really cover the issue with much detail over the last few years (when problems were already becoming apparent). And I have some real problems with the DROP and Plan C benefits as currently configured. As a conservative, I've been troubled by the opt-out vote for one major reason: I believe that we should honor promises made. Most of my friends and colleagues on the right tell me we just can't fund reckless promises, and I'll concede that I'm no actuary or municipal finance expert. Still, I'm troubled by the idea of making it easier legally for municipalities to rescind promises made in good faith short of exercising all other options (such as issuing bonds, extending the funding period, reducing benefits for future employees not currently in the plan, or even eliminating defined benefit plans for future employees in favor of defined contribution plans). But, we only get one shot at opting out, and we must decide now. The past administration has forced a tough choice between hard financial reality and honoring promises to municipal workers who have, in some ways, organized their lives around those promises. For conservatives who believe in fiscal sanity and in virtue, I don't either one is a great solution. But those are the choices we have. When you go to the voter booth tomorrow, I urge you to weigh all of those factors before casting your vote, and also to think about how the last administration helped put you and me in this predicament.

Permalink | News and Views

May 15, 2004, 12:01 AM

The Midnight Writer

By The Staff

This column is for those who like the night. The Midnight Writer likes the night. He gathers strength and wisdom from the quiet and stillness of the night. He sees with total clarity through the darkness discovering the truth where others are blind. You will never know the true identity of the Midnight Writer. However, trust that he is watching and observing a world seemingly lost in darkness. It is in the darkness that he sees the light. Watch for the Midnight Writer: “not gonna catch me now, not gonna catch the midnight writer.” What really happened at the prison in Iraq? Were soldiers out of control or acting on orders? Pfc. England says she was ordered to pose with naked and chained prisoners as a way to break them down. Now, we have learned from unnamed Congressmen that she was allegedly seen in other photos and videos having sex with a number of soldiers. These sex acts took place in front of prisoners. Was she and the others just following orders for the love of country? While democrats are trying to take this sad episode and use it against the President, Secretary of Defense and the entire military, no one is willing to talk about the real truth is in this manner. This was nothing more than a sex orgy. In the darkness and isolation of the prison, these handful of undisciplined soldiers didn't see their prisoners as dangerous terrorists. They saw these men and women as their sex slaves. These soldiers were in total command of fulfilling their deviant fantasies. Should we really be surprised at their behavior? America is a country where the left not only tolerates sexual deviants, but often celebrates their behavior. If a pop star can bare her breasts at the most watched television event of the year, should we be shocked that some apparent sexually deviant soldiers choose to perform in the shadows of a prison in front of a much smaller crowd. I wonder what Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson think about all of this. They probably see it as just another malfunction of military equipment and a few soldiers who didn't mean to embarrass anyone in America.

Permalink | News and Views

May 14, 2004, 06:03 PM

Reader Participation Time

By Kevin Whited

Reader Marjorie Westmoreland sends along this observation:
Today ... the Chron ran an editorial re: the criticism of the Houston INS office following the rumor of raids on known illegal immigrant workplaces, etc. It referred to illegal immigrants as “honest but undocumented” workers. If someone has broken an immigration law, they are now considered “honest” in spite of their crime, according to the Chronicle.
Very good catch. Thanks! The editorial she's referring to is located here, and this is the exact quote:
With all that and more to accomplish, it is no wonder that ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] agents in Houston are not raiding construction sites, schools, churches and other places where honest but undocumented workers congregate. Even the most resentful opponent of uncontrolled immigration would not wish ICE to reorder its priorities and leave the field to ever-bolder terrorists and vicious criminals.
It's an interesting trick the Chron's tried to pull off — by contrasting illegal immigration with issues like terrorism and viciousness, they try to create in the reader's mind the idea that illegal immigration is okay in contrast, that it's not dishonest. But here's a question — why can't our immigration service enforce all of the laws it's charged with enforcing? Why should it just selectively enforce laws that appeal to the sensibilities of the Chron editorial board? Let's give credit where it's due — the editorialists over there rarely pass up an opportunity to take a shot at Representative Culberson and “other conservative ideologues” as they put it in their first paragraph. Some of you have suggested we're too negative here, and too critical of the Chron. I would put it differently, and say we've just decided to push back a little bit. But please don't mistake it for bitterness. We're having fun here, and we're gonna keep on having fun!

Permalink | Letters

May 14, 2004, 05:37 PM

Mayor White on prop. one

By The Staff

The following is a guest contribution to Chronically Biased.

Vote For Prop One

By Bill White There are tough challenges to making our City Hall the most efficient and responsive in the nation. As Mayor, I need our help to solve the problem of escalating costs in the municipal Employees Pension System by voting “FOR” Prop. 1 this Saturday, May 15th. The City cannot and should not be required to either raise property taxes or make cuts in basic city services-such as fire, police and emergency medical services-to fund large increases in its pension contributions. An independent report released this week shows the shortfall in pension obligations to be $1.9 billion. That’s enough to operate the entire Houston Police Department for four years or fund the Fire Department for six years. The facts are clear - Houston cannot afford the current pension system. I urge you to Vote for “FOR” Prop. 1 this Saturday. Tell your friends and neighbors. Together, we can keep Houston moving to the next level as America's great city. Bill White is Mayor of Houston

Permalink | News and Views

May 14, 2004, 10:48 AM

Thanks Everyone!

By Kevin Whited

So far, your response has been a little overwhelming! For those of you who have sent in your James T. Campbell sightings (and lack of same), we'll post some of the best of those a little later. Thanks again everyone. You've made it well worth taking a vacation day from the real job to oversee our start. :) (Update) I understand from some readers that printing a page produces some weird results. We'll have to work on a printer-friendly version for the near future.

Permalink | Staff Notes

May 14, 2004, 10:44 AM

Chronicle Film Critic's 'Passion'

By Owen Courrèges

As Dan mentioned in his introductory piece, the Houston Chronicle gave Mel Gibson's 'The Passion' an F rating. Needless to say, this upset many area Christians. I've done some cursory research into the reviewer, Eric Harrison, who described the film as “Gibson exercising his obsession with martyrdom.” It seems he has another job besides being a film critic. He also makes animated internet cartoons. In one of his cartoons entitled 'Passion Redux,' available here, Harrison depicts himself as Jesus Christ, being unjustly crucified for criticizing 'The Passion.' Here's a picture taken from that cartoon:
It would seem to me that the only person “obsessed with martyrdom” is Harrison himself. Shame on the Chronicle for allowing this yahoo to review such an important film. UPDATE: For those of you who, like me, were upset over Harrison's claim that Pontius Pilate was “presented with a surprisingly sympathetic hand” throughout the film, I recommend my article “Q&A – Who was Pontius Pilate?”. It explains many of the historical issues involved that Gibson's critics have ignored.

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 14, 2004, 07:29 AM

Steve and Amy Walters: The Article The Chronicle Would Not Write

By Kevin Whited

I think most KSEV listeners are familiar with the Chronicle's awful coverage and worse treatment of the family of Leroy Sandoval, one of our fallen heroes. Even though Chronicle publisher Jack Sweeney personally apologized to the family, the newspaper never did print a correction, an apology, or an extended feature on Leroy Sandoval. We're honored that the family has decided to share some of their memories of Leroy Sandoval. I'm going to turn it over to them now. It's a long post, so click the [Read More] link to see all of it.

The Article that the Chronicle Would Not Write.... But We Will

By Steve and Amy Walters The journey my family has made in one year has been one of following a young man's personal triumph and tragic death. It resulted in the loss of our beloved son and brother. The personal triumphs of Leroy Sandoval, Jr.'s life were much greater than just this past year. He had always been the kind of kid that had something to smile about or could find a way to make you laugh. His friends and family will attest to that. But, for now I will stick within the parameters of our one year journey together with Leroy. Leroy's service to our country was an incredible thing to witness. Leroy decided last year in March of 2003 to get serious about the one goal that kept calling him, The U.S. Marines. He had been tired of sitting on the sidelines since September 11th. He had two very close cousins who were Marines. One had been to Iraq already and one had entered on the delayed entry program. Any opportunities he had had since high school graduation did not matter anymore and no persuasion to do anything less would be considered. “Leroy, why don't you join the Navy” I mentioned out of concern for the Marines policy of being first in and first to fight. My father had served in the Navy on an Aircraft Carrier. Seemed safer. My wife said the same thing. She included all branches of the military. She was concerned about “Boot Camp”. As we had heard how hard it was. Leroy had made up his mind. He said “I'll be fine”. To that we offered our support and told him we were 100% behind him. Leroy really wanted to make a difference. Leroy had picked a goal and he wanted to give it his best. From the start, when he first signed up, he realized he had made a serious commitment. He began to prepare. He ran around our neighborhood. He lifted weights. He began studying the Marine Information that was given to him. This was a determined young man. He was determined more than I had ever seen him before. This went on for 3 months, but always on the horizon was the infamous “Boot Camp”. May 19, 2003 arrived , the day he was scheduled to start. Leroy woke-up 30 minutes earlier than necessary to drive down to the local burger shop for his last breakfast as a civilian. 15 minutes later he came running back in the house with a 1/2 eaten breakfast sandwich and a full Coke, “Mom, the recruiter was there eating breakfast”, He said. We all laughed as his last few minutes of freedom came to an end and the recruiter showed up at our door at 5:00 am, laughing. Even Leroy was laughing. We caught up with him later that mid-morning at the local Military Enrollment office. Our whole family was there cheering him on as he and other military recruits took an oath to serve our country. Even one of his aunts was with us. We were the only family members there for anyone. That was us, always cheering him on and supporting him. We all hugged him and said goodbye once more. Well, “Boot Camp” started for Leroy that day. He received the full treatment, as Marines before and after him have received. It lives up to the legend surrounding it for as near as I can tell. The “Yellow Steps”, the bald heads, the drill instructors, and the physical (and mental) training. And the becoming a man. Almost immediately came the mail from the Marines. Your son is alright, we are training him hard, please send him letters to encourage him as he may feel depressed at times. They even had Leroy send us a handwritten letter. You may not recognize your boy when he is through with this. That is one thing I remember reading. That is when we started writing to Leroy and encouraging him. You can make it! We are behind you! We would write to him 2 or 3 times a week sometimes. And he would do the same. It was a regular event to have that familiar Marine Stationary in our mail box, stamped from San Diego, Ca. Then, came the first phone call about a month and a week from when he had left. Everyone was a “Yes Mam”or a “Yes Sir” (even his younger sister) over the phone. He was sad and sore, but overall still positive that he wanted to make it. We did our best to encourage him. Then, came the news from San Diego Marine Recruit Depot “Get ready for your son's graduation from Boot Camp. You are invited to attend his Graduation Ceremony on August 19th.” We began making plans to attend and to fly out to San Diego. I am Leroy's step-father, in case I haven't mentioned it previously. But, on the day that I saw Leroy come running-up on that base, in San Diego, with his platoon, I felt the pride that only a father can feel for a son, who has truly accomplished something great. I felt as though Leroy had worked so hard in three months to graduate there. He deserved the very best of congratulatory praises that were imaginable. My wife, Amy, myself, and two of his grandparents, screamed at the top of our lungs, “Yaahoo!, Leroy you did it!, Way to go, Leroy!”. His eyes fixed straight ahead on his platoon leader. He was told not to smile or look our way as they all ran past us that morning. We were so proud of him (this man before us). As were the other thousands of parents, who had gathered together to cheer on their child, that was graduating, as well. It was hard to hear anything from all the loud shouting. But, I saw a faint smile come across his lips as he went by us. He always had a hard time to keep from smiling. Later, when we were boarding the plane for home, Leroy was walking through the airport in his “Alpha” uniform, when this guy, with a big outdoorsman-style back pack said, “Well done, Marine.” This is the kind of respect that is generated from those who understand what a Marine graduate has accomplished. Leroy was also proud of what he had achieved and rightfully so. But, there was no time to take a sigh of relief. Leroy had signed up for Advanced Infantry and the real training was about to begin. “Leroy, Can't you sign up for something else?” we would say. “No, this is what I want to do and besides, I'm going to be fine” Leroy would say. All right, we support your decision. After a short break, after boot camp, back home with all his family, came the next leg of his and our journey, S. O. I. (School of Infantry). Here is where Leroy was prepared for the day to day toughness of combat. He was given a 25 lb. machine gun aptly called “The Beast” to carry on long hikes up and down the mountains of Camp Pendleton, Ca. Add to that 80 lbs. of gear and some extra ammo he had to carry and it made boot camp seem like nothing. Leroy was about 150 lbs. We started writing letters of encouragement all over again. “Don't stop, I know you will make it, Don't ever stop!” I wrote him this now that he had become such a man in my eyes. “Make the instructor have to run up ahead and tell you the hike is over”. Leroy told me thanks for the letter. But, he had plenty of people pulling for him. His mom would write to him in letters telling how proud she was of him and how much she loved him. His sister, never stopped writing to him about how proud of him she was and how much she loved him. There was also many groups praying for him: church, work, friends, family, friends of family members and on and on. And always came the phone calls from Leroy every weekend and evening he had off . Back and forth between his Mom. And between his sister. And even myself. Back and forth to other family members and friends, until Christmas of 2003 started to draw near. Then came the news that he would probably be sent to Iraq with his battalion to relieve Army units over there, in February 2004. That was not the kind of great news we were hoping for. Christmas time arrived finally. Leroy was home again on a well deserved break. He brought his enthusiastic spirit with him. Things were looking pretty good after enduring S.O.I. Somehow, in the two weeks he was home he managed to visit everyone in his rather large family and express to them how much he loved them. He visited and ran around with friends once more. And all in all, he had a great holiday break. One day, during the holidays, he shows me the machine gun he was trained on in one of his books. “There is one guy who directs my fire. He keeps an eye out for the enemy and one guy behind me who covers our back and hands out more ammo. I am never alone. Plus, I am a pretty good shot with this machine gun.”(He reminds me that he shot real well at 500 and 800 yards out on the range), says Leroy. You would have to know him to know he wasn't being cocky, just in his own funny way of not being modest. “Leroy, are you going to be alright with thing over there in Iraq?” I said. “I'll be fine”, came the familiar words of our Leroy. We chose to believe that Leroy would be fine. We hoped and prayed he would. But always we supported this young man and what he stood for. January 4, 2004 came and Leroy left our house for San Diego for the last time. The word Fallujah first entered our vocabulary shortly after this. None of us liked the sound of this town over in Iraq. But fortunately, January and February went by in a slow fashion. Leroy was calling us all just like before. In fact, if it wasn't for the fact that he was out in California, it would have felt like he was right there in our midst, due to the frequency of our conversations. Then, it was confirmed.... He was going to Iraq. And it would be at the end of February. And eventually, February 28th, arrived and Leroy called us before getting on the plane. He called many, many other people he knew also. Then, he took off towards Iraq, but not before calling us in Maine, Germany, and then Kuwait. We heard from him many times in Kuwait before the end of his stay there. Then, it was time to move up into Iraq. We didn't hear from him for more than a week and didn't know when we would hear again. Then, just like always came the calls. It was amazing. “Mom, I love you!, Amy, I love you!” came the words of this caring individual. “I'll be fine, don't worry, Mom!”, Leroy said. “Put Steve on the line”, he said. “Hey Leroy, How are you? I love you, buddy!” I said. “I love you, too, man. We are at our base now. It won't be too long before we get to move in to where the Army is at”, Leroy said. Shortly after that discussion, ended my last conversation with Leroy on this earth. But, on a late Tuesday night, March 23, 2004 (about 3:00 am), came one last phone call to his mom. My wife jumped to the phone, as only a mother who hopes her son would be calling, can jump that fast out of bed. “Leroy!” she says automatically. “Hey, Mom!” he says, “ I just wanted to call you!”. “Is he alright?” I mumble from the bed. “He's fine!” she says. “Hey, Leroy!” I call out loud from the bed. “Let me wake up, Amy!” my wife says, “She won't want to miss your call”. Leroy said, “That's O.K. Mom, you don't have to wake her”. My wife gives the phone to my daughter who then immediately starts talking with him. They talk for a while, then my wife starts talking once more to Leroy. “Goodbye, Leroy, I love you!” I hear Amy say. Leroy says the same thing to her. “Mom, should I get a credit card for long distance phone calls?” I hear him say. “Leroy, you know how we feel about you getting one of those. What happened to all the phone cards that everyone gave you?” she says. “Guess what? They don't work over here, Mom. You have to have a special kind. That's why I want to get the credit card.” He says and before he closes he asks his mother, “Mom, will you pray for me, we are going into a real bad city tomorrow.” My wife answered him with the love of a mother, “Son, I have always prayed for you ever since you were a tiny baby and I will always pray for you, just like I have done everyday of your life.” “Thanks Mom!” came Leroy's reply and “I love you, Mom”. “I love you , Leroy!”, she says. “Goodbye!” They both said as the phone call goes to silence in the early morning hours, in our room. And that was the last time anyone in our family would have a conversation with Leroy on this earth. On March 26, 2004 came a knock on my door. I had just arrived home from a friend's about 8:00 pm. Both the girls had gone their separate ways that evening and I was already feeling like I did not want them away from the house that night. As I pulled in to my driveway, I noticed this pick-up truck in front of the neighbor's house that I had not seen before. I went in the backdoor and someone was ringing the bell at the front door. I walked up to the door and looked out of the small glazed window at the top of it. I saw a familiar white Marine hat, followed by another one. Oh God, No! I think as my mind goes numb. I could go on and on with a lot more detail than this. There is so much to tell you about how this young man impacted so many lives. The love, the laughter, the fun, the Christ-like character of Leroy Sandoval, Jr. It impacted the lives of friends, of family, and other Marines. I could describe to you in greater detail his commitment to what he was doing. But, I think you feel it. I could tell you that he loved Jesus and that we know that we know, he is in heaven. I could tell you how terribly much that each one of us misses him. Or perhaps how many times I have cried today, long before I began to write this article. I prayed long and hard to God for what to write that the Chronicle wouldn't write about Leroy. And what God wanted you to read. I think what is important and what you could read both on the lines and between them is the sacrifice. The ultimate and tremendous sacrifice. I know I didn't fully understand the total sacrifice. Until, the moment I opened the door and there were two Marines staring back at me. We honor and love you , Leroy Sandoval, Jr. and are 100% still behind you! Steve Walters Now here is my daughter Amy.

My big brother and my best friend

by Amy Walters Leroy Sandoval Jr. is my big brother and my best friend, and I love him so much. Leroy was so awesome, he always looked out for me and made me smile. When I was with him I felt safe and so happy to be with my big brother. He was always my hero. Leroy joined the marines in May of 2003, during a time of war. He knew what he was getting into. Leroy wanted to get out in the war and fight for freedom, and he believed in what he was doing. When the Houston Chronicle wrote that President Bush failed to find weapons of mass destruction it upset me. I cried. They made it seem as if we did not support the war or the president. That was wrong and not true at all. I don't like how with war they only report the negative. They never say anything good that our troops and the other Americans there have done. They have built schools and hospitals in Iraq. Many of the Iraqi people love the Americans. People here don't know that because most of the media just want civilians to believe what they believe. The media needs to report the news. It is not their job to tell us what to think. If I thought we were in Iraq for no reason at all I would be extremely upset, but I'm not. My big brother did not die in vain. He died for the people's freedom in Iraq and for our protection in the United States. The president did not fail . We caught Sadam Hussein ,that is awesome. The world is probably 45% safer because of that. President Bush is not a failure. He is a very brave president, that takes action before it's too late. It would have been so much easier for him not to have started a war and have every one like him, but he knows he is doing the right thing. He cares for his country and the people in it. He does not want anymore civilians to die for no reason .I think it's better to be safe than sorry. All the men and women in the military give their lives for us civilians. They volunteer their lives for our safety knowing that they might have to pay the ultimate sacrifice. I do not want anyone to die but they are doing it for us and we need to support them. My big brother is a hero, I wish this did not have to happen, but he knew what he was doing. I love him so much ,and I am so proud of him. Now he is not only my hero, but he is a hero for the United States. Please let's not forget our troops all over the world who are protecting us. Pray for them, write them a letter, and let them know you care. Amy Walters

Permalink | News and Views

May 14, 2004, 02:08 AM

Chronic Pro-Metrorail Bias: the empirical evidence

By Phil Magness

It's been a year and a half since the Houston Chronicle accidentally posted the now infamous secret memo about their plan to bias news and editorial coverage in favor of Metrorail. As detailed in that document, the Chronicle's Metrorail promotion plan contains two complimentary components: a slanted editorial page that promotes transit backed by “a news-feature package with an equally specific focus,” or in other words biased news coverage. Anecdotal instances of both abound and are assuredly familiar to the watchful reader. To validate this bias with empirical evidence I recently conducted a media content study of the Chronicle's Metrorail coverage over a period between November 19, 2003 (the date of the first Metrorail accident) and mid-March 2004. The results should present little surprise to anyone, suggesting a clear and conscious bias exists in the paper's coverage of its beloved light rail system. The results are as follows: Part I - Metrorail accident coverage METHODOLOGY: For the first test I compared the depth of Houston Chronicle coverage on the first 24 Metrorail accidents to similar coverage by the local television news affiliates. This included looking at article length (Was it a full length article or simply a “news brief”?) and article depth (Did the Chronicle leave out any important information that was covered elsewhere?). FINDINGS: Part II - Source Balance METHODOLOGY: For the second test I examined 30 Houston Chronicle articles about or pertaining to Metrorail across the same time period (November to March). This study looked specifically for the number and perspective of sources quoted by the friendly reporters at the Chronicle, viz.: (1) Metro-friendly sources, such as agency spokesmen and supportive politicians, as compared to (2) all other sources, including everything from light rail critics to citizens interviewed on the street. FINDINGS: If you have perceived bias towards Metrorail while reading the Chronicle in the past you may have suspected one or more of these observations. Now you have statistical proof. Stay tuned for installment 2 - a look at the Chronicle's editorial page slant.

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 14, 2004, 12:41 AM

Bettencourt on prop. one

By The Staff

The following is a guest contribution exclusive to Chronically Biased.

Houston, we have a problem

by Paul “Taxman” Bettencourt City of Houston Taxpayers should be aware that the problem with the City's pension plan's unfunded liabilities now total at least $2.746 billion. This is Four-Times Greater than the total amount of property taxes collected by the Harris County Tax Office for the City of Houston last year! City Taxpayers need to know the importance of their vote in the City of Houston's Opt-out Election this Saturday, as Proposition 1 could cause them to pay massive property tax increases over time. The Houston Municipal employees' pension plan is under-funded by $1.9 billion, and the separate Houston Police Officers' pension system by $846 million. Even spreading this combined $2.746 billion liability over two decades, produces double-digit tax bill increases, as all property tax collections last year for the City of Houston only totaled $670.1 million. The fact that it would take doubling your residence and/or business property taxes for four years, shows the mammoth size of the problem, and why it is essential for registered voters in Houston to turn out to vote on Proposition 1 this Saturday, May 15th, from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM. The City's future financial direction hinges upon the outcome. Conservative voters are hearing this message as voters in Republican-leaning areas make up an estimated 56% of the nearly twenty-four thousand+ voters that have already cast their early ballot in this election. If joined by fiscally conservative voters in Democratic-leaning areas of town, Proposition 1 should pass by a 20%+ margin “For”, allowing the City of Houston to avoid the requirement of guaranteeing these benefits that are 80% higher than the national average of local public retirement systems. Houstonians have a potential $2.734 billion problem that can be fixed, but only with the public's engagement on Saturday. This is a one-time only election allowed by the State Legislature, so it is the only chance to be heard on this issue. This is a true red-letter day in the City of Houston's financial history, because there are two choices, either “For” or “Against” Proposition 1. A “For” vote keeps these liabilities from being effectively frozen, allowing the elected city officials an opportunity to cut costs. An “Against” vote means that these liabilities are permanently guaranteed and must be paid over the pension plan's lifetime. The choice is yours. Remember, it's all about how much you want to pay the “Taxman” on your property tax bill. Paul Bettencourt is the Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector

Permalink | News and Views

May 14, 2004, 12:25 AM

About this weblog

By The Staff

Welcome everyone. Thanks for visiting our weblog. Dan Patrick, our founder, publisher, and promoter, has posted his vision of this project below. For those of you who aren't familiar with weblogs, we thought we'd take a moment and explain a little about how everything works. As you can probably tell, the weblog is simply a series of posts, on various categories, with the most recent posts at the top. On more sophisticated weblogs, there's the ability to sort the posts by category, to search through the posts, to look at the older posts for given periods of time, and to comment on posts. You can do all of those things on our weblog, making the weblog highly interactive. Unlike a newspaper, which tends to come out once a day in print, weblogs are generally updated throughout the day. Given our affiliation with KSEV Radio, the station that is always talking about local and world affairs, we're probably also going to be commenting on current affairs — from a perspective that is quite a bit different from our local newspaper's. As you can probably tell, the main focus of the weblog is keeping an eye on the Chronicle and providing the balance they don't. We're also planning on expanding to include a features section in the near future, to add some interesting, varied content that you won't find in traditional print media. Much as talk radio is an established alternative to elite media, we think the web and weblogs compose the next real alternative media. We encourage you to keep visiting here, and we look forward to growing with our readership. Just one final note — we do encourage feedback, but we ask that you be polite. Our commenting system is open on newer entries, but we will turn on moderation or turn off comments altogether if they are abused. Some issues can get contentious, but we ask that you discuss them politely. Many weblogs like this one start with comments turned off. We'd like to see how it goes first. That's all for now. Thanks for making us a regular stop on the web! (05-15-2004 Update from Kevin Whited) One of our commenters asked below for us to explain what the Permalink and Trackback links do. The permalink link simply takes you to the permanent link for a single page. Every item in the front page blog is really a single item, and it's linkable. So if you read a post you liked and wanted to share it on your own webpage or via email, you just use that PERMAnent LINK (permalink). Blog talk. *smile* Trackback is a specification that allows other blogs to “talk” to each other and reference the conversation, via an automatic link generated by the blog software. It's discussed in detail by developers here. Unlike the Chron, bloggers tend to be more open to criticism and to discussion. Trackback is just one more way of allowing bloggers and readers to have even more sources of information on a related topic. I'll send a trackback ping to this post from my personal blog momentarily to demonstrate.

Permalink | Staff Notes

May 14, 2004, 12:18 AM

From The Publisher

By Dan Patrick

Welcome to ChronicallyBiased.com. Over the years, I've had a lot of calls on my show from listeners who wanted a conservative newspaper in Houston to challenge the Houston Chronicle. The truth is the newspaper business is not a very good business, unless you are the only game in town. If you are the only game in town, you can raise your ad rates to exorbitant levels. You can also take one side of any position or story and never tell the other. Lastly, you can get very lazy. Your writers can lift large chunks of articles written in other papers without proper attribution. You can fire your investigative reporters because they just might come up with a story that goes against the company line. Since the Houston Post closed its doors many years ago, the Houston Chronicle has done all of the above. What once was a somewhat balanced paper has become a daily propaganda publication from the liberal left who control the paper. They seldom have a conservative, republican or Christian they like. They take pleasure in supporting every liberal idea any big spending democrat can dream up. They supported the stadiums, metro and the worse Mayor in the history in Houston, Lee P (period) Brown. They attack any conservative in office. They think Tom Delay is evil and Paul Bettencourt a menace. When the facts don't fit their agenda, they seem to ignore those facts. When a family loses a son in Iraq, they take that story and politicize it for their own anti-President Bush agenda. Their attack on conservative Christians finds itself weaving its way into every section of the paper. When the Passion of the Christ opened, they called it a “bad” film. They gave it a F rating. For weeks their movie section gave only one film an F rating, the Passion. As a proud Christian conservative I've had enough of the Houston Chronicle kicking a large group of their readers in the teeth. The final straw came over the article written about the death of Leroy Sandoval Jr., who had gone to Iraq to protect the very freedom that gives the Houston Chronicle the ability promote their liberal worldview. One of their editors, called my show and showed absolutely no compassion for this wonderful proud family. It was at that moment I decided to do what I could to present another print voice in Houston. Our mission is to hold the Houston Chronicle accountable for their errors, omissions and bias that present a distorted view of the truth. Our mission is also to present articles that would never see the light of day in the Chronicle. Articles that the public deserves and in many cases needs to read. We also plan to expand our paper to be a full service web paper that will one day rival any daily newspaper. There are similar web papers, or blogs (short for weblog) as those in the computer world call them, but no one has attempted to take on a major newspaper as we plan to do. In the beginning, this will be a David and Goliath struggle. However, we have a built in audience on KSEV that gives us a great foundation on which to start. I believe we are pioneers in this new form of web newspapers. It reminds me of the days when I began KSEV in 1988. I remember when the so called “major stations” would not put Rush Limbaugh on the air. I did. The stations would not talk about controversial social and political issues. We did. Later, we were the first secular station to talk openly about faith issues. ChronicallyBiased.com will once again be a trailblazer as KSEV was many years ago. This project would not be possible without the listener and sponsor support of our radio station over the years. This venture would not be possible now without the volunteer efforts of a small group of very bright listeners who have worked day and night on this project. I want to thank two volunteers in particular, Kevin Whited and Owen Courreges, who have worked with me from day one. We are a for profit venture. I hope to be able to create jobs in the near future as we expand our staff and pay people for their efforts. I ask that you support our advertisers. If you don't need their product or service today, let them know with an e-mail that your appreciate their supporting this cause. Our paper is free to you, the reader. However, if you want to make a contribution to our effort, you may use your credit card on our PayPal tip jar on page one. We will also have a classified section in which you can buy and sell items. I hope you will support that section. We will keep the rates low. So, here we go. I told the staff that once we begin there is no turning back. We will write 7 days a weeks. We won't take a day off. We will update all day long so that you can come back throughout the day and night to read the latest from us. In the beginning some days may have more material than others, but we will always be working to see how we can improve our performance for you. Unlike the Houston Chronicle, we value our readers. We may not always agree on every issue. We will feature a variety of opinions and give the other side a voice also. However, let everyone understand, we are now the conservative print voice, joining our conservative radio voice AM 700 KSEV, in Houston. To the editors of the Houston Chronicle, I say: there's a new sheriff in town and you are no longer going to be able to get away with your liberal attack on the values and beliefs that many in this country hold close to their heart. May God bless this effort and may we always serve Him.

Permalink | Staff Notes

May 14, 2004, 12:06 AM

Re: Metro Watch

By Owen Courrèges

Below, Rob notes how a recent story from the Twin Cities Star Tribune out of Minneapolis reveals negative information on Houston's light rail that the Chronicle, due to its own irrational support of rail, has refused to acknowledge. Yet it appears that this is par for the course. I haven't seen the information contained in this story from News 24 published in the Chronicle either:
Construction to create the line interrupted business, but with most construction zones cleared, shop owners say there is still a significant loss of revenue. Managers of this all-purpose store, called “Just A Dollar,” say continued improvements on Main Street and Walker are partly to blame for a 25 percent loss in business. But, they don't expect matters to improve even when this block is construction free. The buzz on the street was that business owners would reap benefits after suffering through light rail construction. The sleek new form of transportation in Houston would draw attention to residents and visitors and, in turn, boosting business along the line. Managers at Just A Dollar say the only problem is the trains often carry few passengers and most of their customers still ride the bus. They say, for them, there is no advantage to being just feet from a major stop along the line. Store manager Amir Ali says, “They used to run a bus over here on the Main Street. We are doing good business, you know. Since they start the rail over here, they moved all of the buses in the back. There are no customers whatsoever.” But even with this so-called slump, there were still lines on a Friday morning. Managers say the difference is the lines were twice as long before the rail came into the picture. Loyal shoppers still making their daily stops there say they haven't seen much a difference, but managers say their cash registers aren't as active as they once were. Shop owners along this part of Main Street say shrinking space is fueling the sluggish business. Delivery trucks are no longer allowed to park in areas close to the stores as they once did. Managers say those delivering goods to the store aren’t willing to park further away and walk, so they have lost some vendors. The one positive point is this space alongside the store is still available.
If you'll recall, one of the Chronicle's cited reasons for supporting rail was the economic development it would bring. Complaints from local businesses during the construction citing water and power outages, street closures, etc, were supposed to be short-sighted because of the massive amount of business light rail would generate when it opened. Well, that hasn't happened, and the Chronicle isn't reporting the facts. It seems obvious why they're doing so — it doesn't fit their agenda. They've invested too much in light rail to help expose its continuing failures, ranging from its high accident rate, to its massive cost, and finally to its inability to drive economic development. It has always been my position that light rail isn't workable for Houston, and the evidence continues to prove me right. The Chronicle, for its part, has always been wrong and cloaks this fact by refusing to delve seriously into the issue.

Permalink | Houston's Light Rail

May 13, 2004, 06:37 PM

The Chron's version of “debate”

By Kevin Whited

We understand from a recent statement by editor Jeff Cohen that the Chron fancies its editorial page a progressive leader. That's all well and good for an editorial page, one supposes, but too much of that advocacy bleeds over into the news sections. Take, for example, a recent story by Mike Tolson, with the headline Debate renewed over executing the mentally ill. Generally, there are at least two sides to a debate. Sometimes there are multiple competing points of view. From reading this story, I don't see any debate. Rather, the author takes up the case of cold blooded murderer Kelsey Patterson and his alleged mental illness, and proceeds to pound home the idea that good caring readers really ought not support the death penalty in his case. There are quotes from Patterson's attorney (hard to imagine what he thinks) and plenty of speculation about the thoughts of “mental health advocates” as well as quotes. Indeed, every single quote in the article is in his defense. The author didn't find one contrarian view to present. Not one law professor to argue that the law is being properly applied. Not one death penalty advocate to argue that Mr. Patterson does need to be held to account for his actions. The Chron didn't present a debate with this article. They presented what they wanted you to think. Hit you over the head with it, actually. That's fine on the editorial pages, but the news pages ought not contain such blatant issue advocacy.

Permalink | Poor Chron Journalism

May 13, 2004, 09:01 AM

Paying for Lee Brown's mistakes

By Kevin Whited

Remember how the Chron endorsed Lee Brown over and over and over, even though the city was falling down around us and producing controversy constantly? One of those controversies was the infamous K-Mart parking lot raid, in which a police operation to crack down on street racers on Westheimer got way out of control, and a number of innocents were rounded up and arrested in the K-Mart parking lot. It was one of many black marks for Lee Brown's administration. That may explain why the Chron buried this related story in their Area Briefs section today:
Houston City Council agreed Wednesday to pay law firm Olson & Olson up to $200,000 to represent Houston Police Department officers in ongoing lawsuits stemming from the Kmart raid. In August 2002, police arrested 293 people on charges of attempted criminal trespass at Kmart and other businesses along Westheimer. The charges were later dismissed, but 127 plaintiffs are suing the city in four lawsuits. The council previously hired Winstead, Sechrest & Minick to clear the records of those arrested during the intended crackdown on illegal street racing. The city agreed to pay that firm $484 to expunge each record, at a maximum cost of $165,000. City attorneys said Wednesday that $5,000 had been spent.
The next time the Chron endorses a political candidate or position, just remember that this was one of many scandals that took place during the administration of Mayor Lee Brown, whom they supported and endorsed pretty much through his entire disastrous time in municipal politics. In my view, if they had done less cheerleading for Lee Brown and more critical reporting, we might not be cleaning up so many of his messes right now. Part of what we'll doing here is keeping a closer eye on such matters.

Permalink | News and Views

May 13, 2004, 05:55 AM

Metro Watch

By Rob Booth

This is a Chronicle watchdog site, but when I find things about Houston in other papers I like to make note of them. I came across this article and found this quote interesting. Since many people I know regard the Houston Chronicle as basically a public relations bureau for Metro, I guess we can regard them as one entity and this is appropriate to post here. Twin Cities Star Tribune: It's crunch time for Houston's light rail
HOUSTON — Houstonians have spent more than four months getting accustomed to the nation's newest light-rail line. They're doing a bang-up job. [snip] The crashes Reasons for the growing tally of crashes along the Houston rail line depend on who's talking. Ken Connaughton, spokesman for the Transit Authority, which includes Houston, said about two-thirds of the accidents have occurred along less than one-third of the line. Many drivers don't see or obey signs and signals, he said: “They jerk the wheel and expect the best.”
I did a web search on Mr. Connaughton and I can't find this quote anywhere else. So, is he only talking this way about us behind our backs? So, my fellow Houston drivers, please, show of hands: How many of you “jerk the wheel and expect the best?” How many of you like paying Mr. Connaughton's salary and having him disparage our driving habits to Minnesota newspapers? Note that, of course, he could be misquoted by a liberal reporter that wants to knock Houston. Chuckle.

Permalink | Houston's Light Rail

May 13, 2004, 05:45 AM

Re: Chron focuses on prisoner abuse

By Rob Booth

Following up on Owen's post about today's Chronicle lead editorial. Here's one paragraph out of it:
U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., declared that he and others were “more outraged by the outrage” over the prisoner abuse than he was at the prisoners' treatment at U.S. hands. But our outrage is what separates Americans from other societies that view such cruelty as a matter of course.
Sen. Inhofe's entire statement is available here. If you'll read it, you'll notice that he never advocates that we become the kind of society where we view such cruelty as a matter of course. Anyway, everyone should read the good Senator's full remarks. He's going to continue to be selectively quoted on this.

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 13, 2004, 01:19 AM

Chron focuses on prisoner abuse

By Owen Courrèges

I find it amazing that in the wake of a videotaped beheading of an American in Iraq, the Houston Chronicle still sees fit to lead off the opinion page with a staff editorial concerning the prisoner abuse scandal. This isn't to say that it's wrong, but it does reveal quite plainly where the Chronicle's focus lies. Only one sentence is devoted to a subject that has been on everyone's lips since the video was released. The Chronicle makes it appear that American conduct is the big story. Right now, I don't think it is. Thankfully, the Chronicle also ran a couple of op-eds addressing the issue. I just don't understand why they didn't address it themselves. (Update) Here's the Dallas Morning News lead editorial referenced in the comments. If they can post a responsible editorial, why not the Chron? (added by Kevin Whited)

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 12, 2004, 06:20 PM

I'll tell you the truth (today)

By Kevin Whited

A reader of my personal weblog called my attention to this snippet in Rick Casey's column today:
But newspapermen have been getting in a lot of trouble lately for making things up, so I'll tell you the truth.
At better newspapers, they get in trouble for taking copy from other writers without proper attribution, too! Anyway, my reader was right to call my attention to the fact that it's NEVER good when a columnist has to preface his column with, “I'll tell you the truth.”

Permalink | Noxious Chron Columnists

May 12, 2004, 03:25 PM

Captain Chronicle's origin story

By Owen Courrèges

Permalink | Captain Chronicle

May 12, 2004, 02:25 PM

Chron reporting on Enron

By Owen Courrèges

In reading this article from the Houston Chronicle — “Thousands from Enron's ranks to split $68 million retirement settlement” — I was reminded of the fact that the Chronicle failed to break any meaningful stories relevant to the Enron meltdown. A better news organization would have be on this. Their investigative reporters would have rooted out the corruption, thus protecting the employees from the embarassment of squabbling over a paltry $68 million. Instead, the Chron was too busy doing puff pieces on Enron execs and kowtowing to the Greater Houston Partnership to mind in the public interest. We've had a great deal of time to view the grim results.

Permalink | Poor Chron Journalism

May 12, 2004, 07:44 AM

And This Is News Because?

By Kevin Whited

Clay Robison has this bit of non-news in today's Chron:
House Speaker Tom Craddick canceled trips to Spain and Hawaii and postponed a trip to Italy last year because of the three special sessions on congressional redistricting. If this session on school finance ends in failure next week and Gov. Rick Perry summons lawmakers back to Austin to try again, Craddick could find himself grounded once more. This time, Africa will be on hold. Craddick and his wife, Nadine, have plans to leave for Africa on June 5, which could be in the middle of another school funding session. Spokesman Bob Richter said Craddick would like to take the trip but will call it off if the Legislature is in session. He said the speaker, who met with Perry for two hours on Monday to discuss education and tax issues, didn't tell the governor of his travel plans. “If there is a session, he will be here. He didn't bring it up in the meeting and didn't discuss it with the governor yesterday,” Richter said.
So, like a lot of people, Craddick has a summer vacation planned, but if work interferes, he'll cancel his plans. This is news? Maybe Robison can make this vacation update a daily feature from now on. The Chron can market it as a sleep aid.

Permalink | Poor Chron Journalism

May 12, 2004, 07:33 AM

Campbell Sighting!

By Kevin Whited

James T. Campbell, the Chron's invisible reader representative, actually had a column appear on the editorial pages a couple of days ago. That's proof he exists, we suppose. But he's otherwise an invisible reader representative, and doesn't seem to take an active role in holding his newspaper to account for its mistakes. I'll repeat a request we have posted down the right sidebar — if any reader has ever had a critical letter or email answered by this man, please leave a comment or drop us an email. He's never answered one of my emails.

Permalink | Poor Chron Journalism

May 12, 2004, 05:14 AM

Houston Chronicle: “Pro-Choice Newspaper”

By Rob Booth

Well they said it: Amarillo Globe News: Planned Parenthood luncheon draws friends, foes
More than 200 Friends of Planned Parenthood met Tuesday for their annual Spring Luncheon and awards presentation at Amarillo Country Club while outside a group of about 20 protesters stood vigil at the West Ninth Avenue entrance. [snip] Featured speaker for the event was Andrea Georgsson, editorial board member and columnist for the Houston Chronicle. Her presentation centered on reproductive rights and the media, a subject in which she said she is well-versed. “I am a journalist who has for more than a decade been outspoken on the editorial page of the Houston Chronicle in favor of women's reproductive rights,” she said. “The Chronicle is a 'pro-choice' newspaper and we have never hesitated to support women's unfettered access to abortion, family planning information, education and support. ”But if the institutional opinion of the Chronicle was Roe v. Wade was wrong, or that women should not have the right to control their reproductive health, or young people should not be allowed access to reliable, comprehensive and confidential information about birth control and safe sex, I would not have accepted the position as editorial writer.“ Planned Parenthood isn't just about abortion, it's about helping women prevent the unwanted pregnancies that can lead to the termination of pregnancies, she said. ”They all deserve varying degrees of material help and emotional support, if for no other reason (than) to ensure the children turn out all right."
Just another tidbit of information for everyone (in particular Owen) to add to their files, in case the Chronicle tries to say they're an unbiased newspaper when it comes to abortion.

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 12, 2004, 01:01 AM

Re: The Chronicle and Planned Parenthood

By Owen Courrèges

Rob, I've known about the Chronicle and Planned Parenthood for some time due to my association with the Houston Review. The situation is actually far worse than you think, as this 1999 article indicates:
The Houston Review has obtained documents showing that both the Houston Chronicle and its Publisher Richard J.V. Johnson have given thousands of dollars to Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas. Upon learning of these contributions, pro-life leaders across the state expressed outrage. The documents show the Chronicle gave between $2,500 and $4,999 to Planned Parenthood in both 1997-98 and 1996-97. In 1994-95, the Chronicle donated between $1,000 and $2,499 to Planned Parenthood. In addition to the newspaper's contributions, its Publisher Mr. Richard J.V. Johnson and his wife Belle gave between $2,500 and $4,999 in 1994 and between $1,000 and $4,999 in 1998 and 1992-93. In 1994, the Johnson's lavished between $2,500 and $4,999 on the nation's leading abortion provider. The Johnson's were listed as members of the Host Committee on the invitations to the January 1997 luncheon celebrating the 24th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The Johnson's are also listed as members of Planned Parenthood's “Cornerstone Club,” which consists of “select contributors” who regularly give $1,000 or more. The Planned Parenthood Spring 1998 newsletter features a picture of Chronicle Associate Editor Frank Michel with a caption stating, “the Chronicle Editorial Board was recognized at the luncheon [celebrating 25th anniversary of Roe v. Wade] for its strong and consistent opinions supporting family planning and reproductive rights.”
This is not some passing association. This is a major commitment that the Houston Chronicle has to promoting abortion.

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 12, 2004, 12:13 AM

They just can't help it

By Kevin Whited

For a while now, I've been complaining on my personal weblog that our local newspaper that has devoted so much staff attention to funding of anti-rail PACs and Tom Delay's involvement with PACs has been notably indifferent to the PAC designed to win passage of Proposition One on 15 May, as favored by Mayor White. Today, the Chron talked a bit about the financing of that PAC. They don't really give away any juicy details, and they don't pursue the story nearly as zealously as they've pursued their investigations of funding of PACS for causes they oppose, but they have covered this at least. Baby steps for the Chron, I suppose. Even when they get it halfway right, though, they manage to screw up:
Most of the money supporting the Keep Houston Strong campaign came from banks, energy companies, engineers and law firms that have a vested interest in the city's financial well being.
As if the rest of us don't have any interest in the city's financial well being. Come on, guys, get yourself some editors.

Permalink | Poor Chron Journalism

May 11, 2004, 08:33 PM

Website claims Houston Chronicle supports Planned Parenthood

By Rob Booth

LifeNews.com: Texas Pro-Life Group Continues to Target Planned Parenthood Funding
The names and contact information for groups that refused to sever their ties with the abortion business, even after being contacted by the Coalition for Life, have been made available through the Coalition's website. At the time of this writing that list included Hilton Hotels in College Station, The Houston Chronicle, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., LaSalle Hotel, Pfizer, and Northern Trust Bank, the City of Houston, and the National Council of Jewish Women.

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 11, 2004, 07:23 PM

The editorial page writers have learned how to read minds!

By Rob Booth

This must be a handy skill to have. This editorial indicates that the editors of the Chronicle have learned how to read the minds of thousands of people at the same time! We're so lucky to have them!
The majority of voters approved the bonds because they wanted the port to remain healthy and grow. They trusted port officials to spend the money responsibly. They also thought the idea of building port facilities at an existing port, along an existing ship channel, on land the port has owned for decades for that purpose sounded like a reasonable idea.
OK guys, quick, what am I thinking right now?

Permalink | Humor

May 11, 2004, 06:30 PM

Why I'm Here

By Rob Booth

ABC13.com: Radio talk show host launches boycott against local newspaper
(4/09/04 - HOUSTON) — A local family who lost their son in Iraq recently is upset with the Houston Chronicle newspaper. Marine Leroy Sandoval's family thinks a recent Chronicle article unfairly portrayed the family's feelings about the president. The family's displeasure has now launched a boycott of the paper by a local radio talk show host.
As readers get familiar with my political views, either from this site or my own, they'll probably notice that I think a little bit differently from Dan Patrick, Kevin, Owen, etc. All of us here at Chronically Biased have different takes on the world and on the news. We have many opinions in common. A few of which are:Apparently, I'm sad to say, our local daily sees things differently.

Permalink | Staff Notes

May 11, 2004, 06:03 PM

Come on in, the water's great!

By Rob Booth

Here is a criticism of the Chronicle from a new-to-me source: Spaceref.com: Rebuttal to Comments by the Houston Chronicle and Robert Zubrin Regarding NASA's Hubble Repair Options
I read with horror today an article in the Houston Chronicle entitled “Commissar O'Keefe's Hubble Trouble”. If the title of the article did not alert you to the nature of the upcoming article then the first sentence, proclaiming that “NASA chief Sean O'Keefe is a piece of work” would. Mr. Cragg Hines, a reporter for the Houston Chronicle begins by calling the potential for a robotic servicing “a pipedream.” He goes on to imply that any discussion by NASA of such a mission as a ruse to get an administrator who did not understand the public outcry at canceling Hubble to calm a political storm until after the election.
Now I'm no rocket scientist, but if it comes down to a disagreement between our friends at the Chronicle and someone else, I'll put my money on “someone else.”

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 11, 2004, 05:40 AM

Making Houston Proud

By Rob Booth

We're world class! Our local paper gets a nice mention in the San Francisco Chronicle:
-- According to the Houston Chronicle, the logos-on-the-bases promotion “was a brilliant marketing idea that could have brought thousands of new fans to the ballpark.” Sure. Come for the logos; stay for the dot races.
Gotta go find that article. Update: Here is the column.

Permalink | Humor

May 11, 2004, 05:30 AM

Playing With Electric Trains

By Rob Booth

Lucas Wall opens up today's Chronicle rail article with this line:
Harris County Commissioners Court, warming further to the idea of mass transit, is expected to approve today a $420,000 contract to review six more corridors for commuter rail.
and then a few paragraphs later states this:
Commissioners Court first began examining passenger train service last June, when Commissioner Steve Radack proposed the formation of a commuter rail authority to help alleviate traffic congestion in his Precinct 3. Eckels joined the call during the fall's campaign over the Metropolitan Transit Authority's light rail expansion plan, contending commuter rail would be a better alternative for many of the county's traffic-choked suburbs.
So they've been looking at the idea of commuter rail since last June. Nearly a year ago. Sounds to me like they've been warm to the idea of mass transit for quite a while, but Lucas still has to get a dig in, painting anyone who doesn't march in lock step with the Chronicle as some kind of troglodyte.

Permalink | Houston's Light Rail

May 11, 2004, 01:10 AM

Chron endorses 'morning after' pill

By Owen Courrèges

The Chronicle has published a staff editorial that chastizes the Food and Drug Administration for failing to approve over-the-counter sales of 'Plan B,' also known as the 'morning after pill.' That alone doesn't really bother me. It's simply par for the course when dealing with the Chronicle on social issues; they lean profoundly to the left. However, this one paragraph contained an error in fact that I found bothersome:
[E]mergency contraception does not cause the abortion of a fetus; taken up to 72 hours after unprotected intercourse, it prevents the implantation of a fertilized egg in the womb or disrupts ovulation to prevent fertilization.
Wait, isn't is abortion when you terminate a fertilized embryo? Why yes, it is. Ergo, 'Plan B' can and does cause abortion. Now, it doesn't always cause the termination of an embryo following conception, but the fact is that this sometimes occurs. That's more than adequate reason for abortion opponents to be up in arms, yet the Chronicle dismisses their concerns based on nothing more than a clear error. The anti-abortion movement, whether you agree or disagree with its aims, merits better attention that this dreck. Alas, I don't expect a correction, much less an apology, from the likes of the Chronicle.

Permalink | Poor Chron Journalism

May 11, 2004, 12:42 AM

Rick Casey, halfway back from vacation

By Kevin Whited

A few weeks ago, I caught hotshot Chronicle metro columnist Rick Casey effectively rewriting a Dan Morgan Washington Post story and presenting it as his own, and noted it on my personal weblog. It was certainly lazy, and was close to, if not outright, plagiarism. Shortly thereafter, Casey issued a “clarification” but never did credit Dan Morgan by name. Last week, Casey apparently took some time off, as no columns from him appeared in the Chron. In today's column, Casey was at least kind enough to give Royal Masset of the Quorum Report credit for material that makes up about a third of his column. Here it is:
It would also be bad math, as Republican political consultant Royal Masset argues. Writing for the Quorum Report, a Web site that covers the Legislature in depth, Masset made some mathematical calculations that any fifth-grader should be capable of. He takes the $1.5 billion a year Grusendorf estimates the video lottery machines (hereafter, “slots”) would raise and gives the figure a reality test. He finds: ·In order for the state to reap that much, players will have to lose $2.5 billion, the other billion going to the gambling industry. ·Based on a 2002 census estimate of 21.8 million Texans, that's about $115 a year per man, woman, child and infant. ·That's about $460 a year for a family of four. (Unless your house is worth more than $150,000, this is more than the property tax relief in the bill passed by the House of Representatives. What percentage of people playing the slots do you think will own houses worth more than $150,000?) ·If the player puts a quarter into the slot every 20 seconds, it will take about 102 hours, or just over four days, per family of four to lose that money. Quality time? ·Similarly, for 40,000 slots to raise that revenue, all of them must eat a quarter every 12.6 seconds, 24/7/365.
So, one-third of the column simply reports Royal Masset's original reporting, one-third of the column reports what Masset has to say to Casey about that original reporting, and most of the rest of the column is devoted to beating up prominent Republicans. This is the best the Chron's hotshot lead metro columnist can do? Sad, that. Now, maybe Casey's not all the way back from his vacation. Because this one seems like some pretty leisurely work.

Permalink | Noxious Chron Columnists

May 10, 2004, 01:32 AM

39th light rail accident

By Owen Courrèges

Will we hit 50 before August? We'll have to see I suppose, but it's clear to me that we're getting there:
No injuries were reported Sunday morning when a pickup truck hit a MetroRail train near the Texas Medical Center, officials said. The accident, the 39th since the city's light rail system was implemented, occurred about 6:45 a.m. when the pickup turned left at Dryden and struck the train, which was southbound on Fannin.
The Chronicle blames these accidents on Houston drivers, not poor engineering. No, we couldn't blame Metro for something that's so obviously their fault, now could we?

Permalink | Houston's Light Rail

May 09, 2004, 11:18 PM

Snide political comments on the sports page

By Kevin Whited

In the previous post, I mentioned the tendency of so many Chron columnists to sprinkle snide political comments in their copy. Still, I didn't expect to find an example on the sports page just now. But here one is, from the man with many names, Jose de Jesus Ortiz:
In a matter of 24 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday, my e-mail account had two very unwanted messages from activists. Presidential candidate Ralph Nader and some group called Commercial Alert sent baseball writers e-mails complaining about the increasing commercialization of baseball. My first reaction? Doesn't Nader have another election to ruin? My second reaction? Leave baseball the heck alone. There are serious issues right now in our country, and one of them was not Major League Baseball's poor decision to place Spider-Man 2 logos on bases for the games of June 11-13.
While I don't disagree with the man with many names, isn't it revealing of what's on the minds of those in the Chron newsroom when he mentions Nader ruining an election (since good liberals cling to the notion that Nader cost Gore the election last time)? Even better is this line later in the column:
Two baseball minds I respect greatly — Chronicle assistant managing editor Dan Cunningham and columnist Richard Justice — gave me great advice a few years ago when they suggested that I leave politics out of the stories I write on baseball.
That's some great advice. Strange that he didn't even follow it in this column, and that no editor caught it. Well, it would be strange if it weren't our Chron in action. Seriously, Man with Many Names, why not follow that advice? Leave the snide political comments out of your sports copy. They're not especially witty, and they don't belong on the sports pages.

Permalink | Poor Chron Journalism

May 09, 2004, 11:00 PM

An openly partisan bureau chief

By Kevin Whited

Does anyone besides me think it's strange that the Chronicle's Austin Bureau Chief pens editorials in which he takes seemingly partisan stands? Case in point from Clay Robison's editorial today:
But now that the Republicans are in charge (if that is the right word), there is a major difference in circumstances that could put a justifiable end to the current political agony over school finance. Unfortunately, though, the agony lingers, enhancing the opportunity for a bad result.
Leaving aside that grammatically atrocious sentence at the end and just focusing on the italicized portion — well, yes, Mr. Robison, it IS the right word. The Republicans are in charge. You may not like it, you may not like how they're running things, but it's fact, snide comments to the contrary. The rest of the column is rife with little digs at lawmakers who aren't behaving like good little liberals would behave. One of many problems with the Chronicle is that such snide comments find their way into so much of the copy. There are no editors who seem willing to slash it. Indeed, Robison is a bureau chief! He's one of the people who should be striving for fairness in reporting from his bureau! I realize this is an op-ed, but I question how a bureau chief can take shots like this on the editorial page and claim to oversee his beat with any objectivity whatever. It strains credibility (if that is the right word to use to describe the Chronicle).

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 09, 2004, 03:52 PM

Cragg Hines invokes determinism

By Owen Courrèges

Determinism is a simple notion. It holds that there is no such thing as free will; that all of our actions are due to cause and effect. Under determinism, we don't make our own decisions in any real sense, but instead we are driven to do the things we do by a combination of genetics and circumstance. Apparently, Cragg Hines is a determinist. In his newest screed on the recent revelations of prisoner abuse in Iraq, the corpulent Mr. Hines asks “should we really be surprised?” He then goes into a long description of the Zimbardo experiment. I actually took a moral psychology course while I was at Rice, so I'm familiar with this experiment. Essentially, it involved locking students from Stanford in a basement, where they were divided into 'prisoners' and 'guards.' During the experiment, the 'guards' brutalized the 'prisoners.' From this, we were supposed to assume that they had no other choice; that the situation itself drove them to be brutal. Yet this is an abdication of personal responsibility. Not all soldiers did these things. Not every soldier assigned to guard prisoners brutalized them. I don't know what went through the minds of those that did, but I won't make assumptions, either. That's second-hand psychology, and it's worthless. Furthermore, as Americans, we expect a great deal of our soldiers. We expect them to be people of courage and character, and so when they fail, we are indeed surprised. The fact that Hines is not surprised, I think, speaks volumes about his general outlook. Perhaps this is how Hines justifies his own awful behavior, such as defaming the Catholic Church and analogizing House Majority Leader Tom Delay to Satan. Perhaps Hines believes that if these soldiers were driven to brutality, then he too can justify his own foibles as an unethical provocateur. Then again, I suppose that's just a worthless second-hand psychological analysis. And we don't want that, now do we?

Permalink | Noxious Chron Columnists

May 09, 2004, 03:21 PM

Houston's housing market

By Owen Courrèges

In the post directly below this one, I note how the Chronicle intentionally oversstates the significance of data in the Houston Area Survey in order to boost light rail transit. Now I've found even more evidence that they neglected to mention. You see, it would seem that sales of single-family homes in Houston are actually increasing, something which connotes suburban expansion. This is revealed in the March Houston Housing Market Report:
Total sales for single-family homes increased 23.9 percent to 5,057 from last year’s 4,081. The median price of single-family homes grew to $130,430 in March, compared to $128,500 last March.
It doesn't sound like the urban center is really 'beckoning' people all that much compared to the suburbs, now does it?

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 09, 2004, 03:13 PM

Chron says Houston's urban center 'transformed by light rail'

By Owen Courrèges

This is most assuredly an example of one of the Chronicle's more biased pieces of reporting. Never missing an opportunity to boost light rail, the Chronicle has jumped to the conclusion that light rail is partially responsible for a shift in public opinion in the Houston Area Survey:
Houston's urban center, transformed by light rail, new housing and an array of sports and cultural attractions, is beckoning record numbers of suburbanites, the 2004 Houston Area Survey shows.
Yes, according to the Chron, Houston has been 'transformed' by the addition of Metrorail. As 'Angry Dad' said on the Simpsons, “that's opinion, not news!” But let's parse this out further, shall we? The Houston Area survey shows an 11 point increase in the number of suburbanites who responded that they would be interested in “someday moving to the city.” There's no indication given as to why the shift occurred, or as to whether they'll actually ever move. It says very little about light rail or the wisdom of building multi-million dollar sports stadiums. Moreover, the Chronicle ignores the fact that only 15% of suburbanites reported being “very interested” in moving into the city, which is the exact same percentage of city residents who reported being interested in moving to the suburbs. Given that context, the new data seems significantly less impressive. In fact, a larger proportion of ubanites than suburbanites (4% greater) are interested in switching. Why didn't the Chronicle mention that? Also not mentioned is the fact that the survey's author, Dr. Steven Klineberg, is a major booster of light rail transit and inner-city living in general. Some of his questions seem to indicate this. In one question, for example, he queried residents as to whether or not they supported “new urbanism” as important to curing Houston's transportation woes. Of course, that's a term mainly known by urban planners and not understood by the layman, so we can be skeptical of his results. The actual results from the survey are here, so you can judge for yourself. From my perspective, however, it seems obvious that the Chron's support for rail and urban density has hopelessly biased its reporting on this issue. Even worse, the Chronicle quotes David Crossley of the Gulf Coast Institute, a left-wing organization dedicated to forcing high-density living:
“I think it's terrific, but we could screw it up. It could just become unmanageable,” said David Crossley, the president of the Gulf Coast Institute, a nonprofit group seeking to improve Houston's quality of life. Crossley said Houston's leaders must find ways to direct high-density development into appropriate locations, preferably close to transit, to prevent high-rise residential towers from creating traffic and parking tangles.
“[A] nonprofit group seeking to improve Houston's quality of life?” Not likely. The Gulf Coast Institute has its own viewpoint on how people should live. Instead of leaving things up to the market, they demand government control. They think they know how Houstonians should live better than Houstonians themselves know. Far from merely wanting to “improve ... quality of live,” they want to impose a specific way of living. The Chronicle makes them appear as impartial saints with this description, when in reality, they're political hacks. Is any competing view provided? Someone that disagrees with the Gulf Coast Institute? No. The Chronicle gives no dissenting view. Crossley's ideas are presented as gospel, for the simple reason that the Chronicle agrees with Crossley. This is pure, unmittigated bias. And Houston deserves better.

Permalink | Chron Bias

May 08, 2004, 11:49 PM

Chronicle propaganda

By Owen Courrèges

Original image found here.

Permalink | Humor

May 08, 2004, 01:22 AM

James Gibbons “saw the future”

By Owen Courrèges

James Howard Gibbons, who is now notorious for having written a column misstating the entire conservative agenda, has a new column in today's edition of the Chronicle on the subject of hybrid vehicles. As is to be expected, his analysis is a tad vapid:
Mayor Bill White recently bought a Toyota Prius, a hybrid vehicle that is propelled by both gasoline and electric motors. During a presentation to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, White proposed to convert the city's fleet to similar vehicles. Experience suggests there is much to recommend the proposal and nothing in the technology to disqualify its use in many municipal vehicles.
It is remiss to speak of hybrid vehicles without discussing the issue of cost. With the city's budget stretched as it is, the added costs of purchasing and maintaining hybrid vehicles just may be too much to justify in the name in getting in the Sierra Club's good graces. Houston is also unlikely to make up these added costs in lower fuel prices. In the words of Lucy Lazarony of Bankrate.com, “Being an environmental trailblazer isn't cheap.” Do we really want to pay for this? And now of all times? The rest of Gibbons's column reads like an advertisement for the Prius. “Driving the Prius, I saw the future,” he says. He also implicitly chastises Houston for its ozone readings, as if cars are the actual culprit, rather than our thriving refining industry. In the end, however, I was left wondering why Gibbons wrote this column at all. It's simplistic, pointless, and at times manipulative. And to think: this is the man who was named interim opinion editor.

Permalink | Noxious Chron Columnists

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