NYT Disses Houston

and it lies.

Not wanting to get in trouble with Houston readers the NYT domestic article on Houston wasn’t very nice, but wasn’t horrible. Apparently they thought neither we nor anyone else in Texas would be smart enough to find their Paris version.

Here’s the domestic version:

It begins with: “Perhaps no city in the United States is in a better spot than Houston to turn Katrina’s tragedy into opportunity. And businesses here are already scrambling to profit in the hurricane’s aftermath. ”

Here’s the international version:
It begins with: “No one would accuse this city of being timid in the scramble to profit from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. ”

I haven’t seen us scrambling to profit in the hurricane’s aftermath, but I hope we are. We’ve already taken in 25,000 evacuees. We’ve got more who say they’re coming. How will we take care of them if our businesses are not profitable?

Houston wasn’t in a nosedive financially, despite what NYT says. And believe me, Houstonians know a nosedive. We had one in 1986. This is not one. Houston is 4 million people. Even Enron wasn’t big enough to destroy us. I’m not sure, but I don’t think Katrina is either.

Houston article on the two NYT stories

the domestic NYT article

the international NYT article

Go read the international NYT article. It’s ridiculous. Only a non-thinking person would see this as profiteering.

Oil services companies based here are already racing to carry out repairs to damaged offshore platforms in the Gulf of Mexico

I hope so. We need them to get those platforms back where they need to be and up and running. Over half the refineries in the US were in this region. Does anyone want the oil services companies to stay home? Or is it just that we want the oil services companies from somewhere else to come in? Houston is the nearest large city un-devastated by the hurricane. We’re an OIL and GAS city. (Or we were in the 80s, which is why we cratered in 86.)

The Port of Houston is preparing for an increase in traffic as shippers divert cargo away from the damaged ports of New Orleans and Pascagoula, Mississippi.

There is no port in New Orleans left. And what I’ve seen of Pascagoula shows it’s the same. Where else do you want shippers to go? Why aren’t you saying the shippers are profiteering? They’re the ones coming here. Is Port of Houston responsible for the hurricane? No. Will we lose this traffic when NO is up and running again? Yes.

With brio that might make an ambulance-chaser proud, one company, National Realty Investments is offering special financing deals “for hurricane survivors only,” with no down payments and discounted closing costs.

Let’s see. They’re offering no down payments. They’re discounting closing costs. They’re not trying to sue anyone. They don’t have to do this. Full price is what everyone else has to pay. They’re not doing this just to make money. They’re doing this, at least partially, as a service for the people who have been devastated.

“Houston is positioned for a boom.”

Well, that’s true. We’re the next largest city to the west. We’re big. We have a port. We’re oil and gas based. And we have 25,000+ Louisianans living with us. I’d say that’s a boom right there.

Perhaps no city in the United States is in a better spot to turn Katrina’s tragedy into opportunity.

This is the lead sentence in the domestic article. It is true. It is not, on the other hand, negative. What should we turn it into? More tragedy? Waste? Stupidity? Opportunity is what will keep our country growing after a major disaster. Opportunity will keep our economy afloat. Opportunity will give workers from New Orleans a job. (We didn’t have 25,000+ job openings in Houston prior to Katrina.)

Long known for its commercial fervor, Houston, the largest city in the South with a metropolitan population of more than four million, has one of the busiest ports in the United States and remains unrivaled as a center for the energy industry.

There’s the truth that makes sense out of our folks rushing off to help. What is wrong with it? Nothing. But with a lead sentence like the one in the article, people are looking at the negative.

Halliburton moved its headquarters to Houston from Dallas in 2003, joining dozens of companies based here that provide services for oil and natural gas producers.

Well, that’s where all the people with their skills are. Where else would they move?

Halliburton differs from many oil services companies in that it also does significant business with the federal government.

Halliburton also differs from many oil services companies in that it offers different types of services. Ones unique to the business.

The company’s Kellogg, Brown & Root unit was doing repairs and cleanup at three naval facilities in Mississippi last week.

Exactly. The same kind of unique services that they’re doing in Iraq.

Executives at other Houston companies said they were wasting little time in carrying out repairs in the Gulf of Mexico, where at least 20 offshore rigs and platforms are believed to be damaged or destroyed.

Fisked this already. Duh. What are you thinking? We should waste time repairing offshore rigs and platforms the companies AND this country need? Don’t think so.

“I always hate to talk about positives in a situation like this, but this is certainly a growth business over the next 6 to 12 months,” said Geoffrey Hertel, the chief executive of Tetra.

I don’t hate to talk positives. We need people making money so we can pay to clean up this disaster. We need people making money so they can employ the folks who are out of jobs. We need people making money to keep this country going. And if there are positives, then let’s talk about them. There certainly are not very many.

If the storm works to Houston’s benefit, it would not be the first time a natural disaster of extraordinary size sparked some economic dynamism here.

Yeah. We keep working with our weather creator. We’ve been creating these messes, you know. It’s so good for the economic dynamism.

What the heck? What difference does it make? Houston has certainly had huge growth spurts without any natural disasters. But the implication here is that natural disasters spur on our economy. Well they do. But they’re not the only things.

The hurricane of 1900 in nearby Galveston, which killed more than 6,000 people and almost leveled the most thriving commercial city in the Southeast, paved the way for Houston, located 50 miles, or 80 kilometers, inland, to emerge as a regional center for shipping and oil refining.

Excuse me, but we were already emerging as a regional center. And a hurricane blowing away an entire town might convince people who didn’t need to that they didn’t want to live there.

I’ll go to someone else for better input on this. Historic Houston: Boom Town offers the following:

It has been said that Houston is a flourishing trade center today because of its fortunate location. John and Augustus Allen, the enterprising pioneers, chose this spot in 1836 because it was the navigation point closest to the already established settlement of San Felipe de Austin on the Brazos, which Stephen F. Austin had established as the first Anglo-American community in Texas. …

…Houston slowly began … emerging as the commercial center for nearby towns.

…Houston built warehouses and stored cotton during the 1850’s as its brokers continue to do today. The city established, in addition, a strong agricultural and lumber trade. Houston’s first rail link was laid in 1853, a turning point in the city’s development as a national marketing center.

Major products were cotton, lumber and cattle. The Port of Houston served to aid and diversify the lumber industry, since pine and hardwood were transported by way of the ship channel. As the amount of marine traffic to the East Coast increased, the channel was expanded to an average 12 foot depth by Commander Charles Morgan, who obtained a federal grant for the project. …

Until the turn of the century, Houston’s economy was largely based on agriculture and ranching. Besides cotton, cattle and timber, rice growing and fishing gained significance. All, however, were overshadowed when oil was discovered at Spindletop in 1901. The development of this potent natural resource then became the most significant layer of Houston’s economy. “Houston” and “Texas” became synonymous with “oil.” As oil revolutionized social structures and priorities at home and abroad, it served to propel the United States toward economic and political leadership in the world.

Now, Houston did grow as a result of Galveston’s disaster.

The aftermath of this disaster served to revitalize efforts to set up Houston as a major port. Unlike Galveston, the Port of Houston is located inland and is largely immune to such disasters. Congress then invested more money in waterway improvements.

But it wasn’t the only thing that caused Houston to grow. WWI and WWII also contributed.

The other event that worked in Houston’s favor was when the United States turned to Houston for the oil and fuel needed for the World War I effort. By this time, Houston had an expanded port facility capable of handling vital overseas shipments. The first deep water vessel, in fact, arrived at the Port of Houston in August, 1915, and the first refinery was set up along the ship channel in 1918. The growth of the automobile industry– the largest manufacturing industry of all time—lead to increased demands for oil.

…World War II pushed the Port of Houston to ever greater expansion. The city became the center of the explosive development in the petrochemical industry, which used oil products to manufacture such vital materials as synthetic rubber. The industry continued to expand and went on to include plastics, besides oil tools and equipment. Food processing (coffee and rice) and high-technology industries added another dimension to Houston’s economy during this period.

And foreign trade increased in the port as well.

None of that, however, makes the point the NYT is trying to make. Which is that Houston capitalizes on other’s misfortune. If we didn’t, would their misfortune be any better? I don’t think so. And, in this case at least, it would be quite a bit worse.

The article goes on with its rampant prejudice, but I’ll just fisk a couple more points.

One company that has exchanged New Orleans for Houston is Whitney Holding, the parent company of Whitney National Bank, founded in 1883 and the oldest operating bank in New Orleans. Another New Orleans oil exploration company, Energy Partners, said in a statement last week that it was also making Houston its temporary headquarters. Other companies are following suit, according to real estate brokers.

Where else would they go? We have the nearest large port. Where should they go? Should they just sit around and watch their companies go belly up because otherwise they’re helping our economy.

This article is a great example of why people should read critically. Most don’t.

Austin Bay from our state capital points the way to these articles.