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Downtown Houston

David Byrne’s piece in the Wall Street Journal is a great little write-up on what it takes to make the perfect city.

Scale is important. In London people hang out in Soho, Covent Garden, Mayfair and other areas of mostly low buildings packed closely together. The City (their financial district), like the downtown in many American cities, is full of tall offices and it empties out at night. It isn’t that bustling in the daytime either. Some sort of compromise might be more ideal—the tall towers mixed in with the modest-sized shops and restaurants.

Scale is a big problem in Houston. Downtown is a mass of tall buildings with very few people living within it, then there are warehouses, some that are still active, others that have been turned into apartments. From then on it is houses and apartment buildings until one hits the Medical Center or the Galleria, both of which are mini Metropolises with tall buildings, shops, and housing. Then it’s the suburbs, each with the same strip center as the other.

The reason it is so spread out is because we have the acreage, so builders build. The other part is probably the weather. During the summer, southeast Texas is not the most comfortable area to take a stroll, so my guess is people have become comfortable driving further distances. We wouldn’t walk even if it was close, so why make it close? Density seems to be a dirty word associated with no greenery, space, or personal identity. So we continue to move outward from downtown Houston, extending our commute and then complaining about it.

Apparently the economy has hurt the folks at NBC so much that they cannot afford a dictionary. Or maybe their time is too valuable to actually look up a definition before speaking complete fallacies.

During a report on the recent ACORN scandal Norah O’Donnell of NBC News stated that the sting videos “might be viewed as entrapment”.

No, Norah, it can’t be because as the definition states, entrapment is when a law enforcement officer or government agent induces or encourages a person to commit a crime when that person expresses that they do not want to do so. Entrapment is based on who caused the encouragement for the act.

In these ACORN tapes it is clear that the encouragement was not by the “government agents” but instead with the ACORN volunteers.

What makes this wordplay even funnier is that NBC is also the producing network of the entrapment trainwreck called To Catch a Predator. There have been numerous claims of the show’s decoys being the first to suggest sex, meaning that a show acting in conjunction with the government crossed into the fuzzy area of entrapment.

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Joe Wilson’s explosive comment during President Obama’s speech to the joint session of Congress was inappropriate. He apologized, end of story. Right? Wrong.

His two words have caused an uproar on the internet, the television and the radio, diverting attention away from the real issue; Healthcare. One blogpost writes Wilson’s comments off as poor “civility” and claims such a virtue is not one at all:

Civility is one of our favorite fake virtues. Real virtues like kindness, charity, or honesty ask something of us—but civility is satisfied so long as we speak in a certain tone and refrain from using certain words. We might spread lies that lead to unnecessary war—but we do so politely. If we grind the faces of the poor into the dust—at least we do it with well-polished boots. We are a nation of wealth and taste.

Sure, it sounds like a decent argument on the surface, but the tactic here is to add language that again, distracts from the argument. Lies are lies are lies, no matter who spreads them. The disturbing part is the recent revelation that the two examples of where healthcare failed used by the President in his speech were embellished. Ok, so he didn’t tell the whole truth, but wait, that sounds familiar if you listen to the rhetoric on Bush’s Iraq policies.

It is just more proof that neither side is better than the other and they both have their share of crooks, liars, and whackjobs. Trying to claim moral high ground on the basis of political ideology is about as dumb as looking into a gas can with a lighter. Your politics may be shaped by your morals but loose blanket statements on issues doesn’t pass the muster test. If you believe in virtues, then you have to abide by all. It’s not some moral buffet where virtues can be cherry picked when they suit a purpose.

So maybe it’s time to forget civility and try kindness, humility, temperance, charity, patience, diligence, chastity, and justice. I’m sure that out of those eight civility will become a given.

Behind all of the healthcare debates and save-face moments lies another policy proposal that is quietly making its way through the House. The Obama administration is proposing to increase its current 20% share of the student-loan origination market to 80% by July 1, 2010 and letting the remaining public sector 20% just fade away.

For decades, federally backed student loans were the most common way to borrow for college. Money was raised in the private sector, loans made and the private institutions paid a fee to the government for each loan. In return, the government covered most of the defaults which in turn, allowed the private lenders to make a regulated return. All of that changed in 2007 when Congress legislated a return so low that no private lender could make a profit holding the assets.

The administration is claiming that this will save $87 billion but there are discrepancies that the Congressional Budget Office says really only mean $47 billion in savings. Long story short, be prepared for the default rates to skyrocket and for more students to suffer as they come out of college and realize missing a single payment could cost them dearly.

Education for all! [that can afford it]