SocraticGadfly: 2006

December 30, 2006

Thanks for the calls

To those who have called me so far, I do appreciate it.

Coach Williams leaving Lancaster High?

That’s the word I’ve heard, with him leaving to become a principal in Dallas ISD. It’s a good career step forward for him, if true, but another good teacher that Lancaster doesn’t need to lose.

Hussein’s death a milestone to nothing

Yes, the former leader of Iraq wantonly and deliberately killed hundreds of thousands of his own people in various ways. But, our military actions have killed even more Iraqi civilians, and are NOT a “milestone to democracy” any more than is Hussein’s death, contrary to proclamations of our own Beloved Leader, President Bush, who is still deliberately looking for the pony under an ever-shrinking Christmas tree.

Hussein’s death is only a milestone to the next milestone: The 3,000th U.S. military death in Iraq, which will itself probably occur before the end of the year.

Beyond that, Iraq is about as close to “democracy” as the U.S. is to electing a Green Party president. Whether Bush is more lying, more self-delusional or more ignorant, I’m still not sure, but I know he’s some combination of all three.

Shrub, you got your trophy head on the wall (or in the noose). Of course, evidence says that Kuwait made up much of the details, if not the entire situation, of the alleged assassination attempt on your dad in 1993. And, since Kuwait made up the 1990 stories about Kuwaiti babies being snatched from hospital incubators, with the help of Edelman PR, that fact should surprise nobody.

In any case, Mr. President, you bagged your trophy, but revenge, whether served hot or cold, often gives the server himself indigestion. (Of course, recognizing that fact requires some degree of self-awareness.)

December 29, 2006

The Euro: eroding the era of “dollar diplomacy”?

The Euro now makes up 24 percent of world foreign currency reserves, an astonishing number for a 5-year-old currency that had many detractors at the time of its introduction.

And, many countries, including China and some Gulf oil states, are looking at increasing their Euro holdings.

It sounds like more and more foreign currency traders see opportunities to leverage the two against each other. Will we have a George Soros making a major run on dollars, or Euros, instead of southeast Asian currency, in the future?

Copper theft: Not just from Dallas light poles

In Germany, thiefs’ target of choice is wiring for railroad signals, potentially even more dangerous than putting streets in the dark.

Oh, geez, science history gets further sacrificed by the National Park Service

The Bush Administration is unwilling to put “creation science” to an actual scientific test at Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees. Despite promising a prompt review of its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood rather than by geologic forces, more than three years later no review has ever been done and the book remains on sale at the park, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

“In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “It is disconcerting that the official position of a national park as to the geologic age of the Grand Canyon is ‘no comment.’”

Is it any wonder that international comparisons of high school students’ scores on standardized tests show us falling further and further behind in the natural sciences.

A Lancaster Today last will and testament on an LISD open records request

Anybody who wants to has my permission to pick up the information to whatever answers the district provides to my follow-up request on thefts at the new Lancaster High School.

1. Construction manager Elvin Lotten said in response to the Nov. 10, 2006 open records request: “Installation of the specified key cores was not performed by LISD staff.”
So, it was performed by some subcontractor under the supervision of Gallagher?
Who was this subcontractor?

2. When was this work supposed to be done?

3. If installation of the original set of cores did not start until after the start of the school year, were teachers aware of what was and was not secure?

4. When did the original, incorrect cores arrive?

5. When did work on installation begin?

6. When was it noticed that the cores were incorrect?

7. How long did it take to order a second set of cores?

8. Were they (teachers) updated as to the situation after you realized that the original set of cores was incorrect?

And, here is another one, not yet submitted, that is free game for whoever wants to file:

1. Total number of staff directly involved with the International Baccalaureate program (hereafter referred to as IB). If staff person’s primary job, or more than one-half time, is devoted to IB, such as a coordinator, please provide name and title, as well as salary.

2. Number of trips for training and other purposes made by Lancaster School District staff to IB events.

3. Number of staff attending each trip.

4. Total travel cost to the district for each trip.

5. Number of days of each trip.

Larry Lewis, meet Jeff Melcher, and vice versa; enjoy each other

You will have fun being each other’s Tar Baby with me gone.

Jeff gets to be even more obnoxious, and with one less target for his obnoxiousness, it should be even more focused.

Jeff, I would actually give money to TIGER for May electoral purposes, but not with you around on it. I’d shake hands with Hitler, Hussein or Tommy Tompkins first. I hope a CREDIBLE opponent for the next bond issue arises; if not, I’ve written enough about the school district that sensible people won’t vote for a bond anyway.

And, most the people I’ve said goodbyes to, or talked to about the school district, are also looking for that same sort of credible opposition. And, it isn’t just me; they don’t include you there either.

(Oh, good luck with getting an opponent for Carolyn; neither city nor school board seats in North Lanc have been opposed since I’ve been here, and I think since the start of single-member districts.)

Or, if you really get tired of tangling with Larry, or miss semi-slanderous and idiotic, uninformed sniping at me, you can go ahead and demonstrate just how clear-thinking you are by following through on the idea of enlisting and going over to Iraq.

(Beloved Leader is still pimping his idea of a “surge,” so warm bodies are wanted.)

Larry, meanwhile, gets to continue to try salesmanship with the mask of faith-based leadership being more exposed.

Of course, even with it being on record now that the school board knows about Richard Gonzales, and should ask questions about Lewis’ hiring decisions elsewhere, it probably won’t.

Sorry, Larry, and Nannette and the rest of the school board. Faith-based talk can’t change facts through miracles, and Fortune 500 salesmanship can’t gloss over them.

Nor does blaming problems on the small, small portion of the district that includes the city of Dallas solve anything.

Fortunately, Tommy didn’t get The Preserve passed, or Lancaster really would be in trouble.

Lancaster ISD teachers — 20 percent “voting with their feet”?

That’s the rumor on the street — as many as 20 percent are leaving as of the holidays/midyear.

And I believe teacher retention rate is part of Superintendent Larry Lewis’ evaluation.

Of course, the school board will believe whatever it hears on this issue anyway, or most of it will.

Since all seven board members have full details of Richard Gonzales’ certification revocation, I wonder if THAT will come up during the evaluation.

Bling factor in building new Lancaster High?

Is part of the reason we have things like the culinary arts program getting an unneeded and unwanted $25,000 dishwasher, or the orchestra program getting unwanted gowns bought for next year, a “bling” issue?

Remember, appearances aren’t necessarily everything, but they can still be deceiving.

December 28, 2006

Advertising myself for a job

Yes, I've committed to the Navasota newspaper, but nothing in life is permanent.

With that said, I'm posting my resume here. If anybody out there has any contacts, suggestions, etc., I'm open. Feel free to copy this, forward it, etc. Or, if anybody is interested, I can send you a Word version, properly formatted.


OBJECTIVE: A communications position using my skills and experience in writing, editing, design, management, leadership, initiative, training, communication, and analytical and synthetic thinking.

BACKGROUND: More than 10 years editing and writing experience encompassing editing, marketing, advertising, publication layout and design, policy issues and research. Strong analytical and creative abilities. Proficient with QuarkXPress, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Pagemaker, and various word processing programs. Familiar with Associated Press and other editorial styles.

- Editing - Writing - Public speaking - Marketing
- Desktop publishing - Website editing - Researching - Analyzing

- QuarkXPress - Adobe Photoshop - PowerPoint - Front Page

December 27, 2006

The lowdown on Eagle PAC, just in time for Tommy and Steve to pop up again in 2007

Somebody quite familiar with Tommy Tompkins (hope you took a long shower after being entangled with him) and Steve Topletz is spilling the beans on Eagle PAC and sticking a few shivs into others at the same time.

Eagle Political Action Committee was formed in 2005 to finance three Lancaster City Council election challengers. But, the incumbent most in the PAC’s eye was Carol Strain-Burk, because she won’t roll over and play dead.

(Actually, as far as design standards, the city is STILL one development code behind the curve, but that’s another story.)

Anyway, give Ten Mile Crook a read.

I actually agree with the National Park Service on this one

It’s called special user fees.

The NPS is now charging fees for things such as wedding photography in national parks.

And why not? It’s additional wear and tear beyond usual use, and a lot of city parks, such as the Dallas Arboretum, I believe, have similar policies.

Thoughts on the passing of Jerry Ford

A. Ford WAS a conservative, or considered so at the time. The goalposts have been moved a fair amount in 30 years, between neocons and the rise of the religious right.

That said, Ford was a decent man.

B. His pardon of Nixon was wrong. Ford started his admin with one foot ethically in the hole. Made it look like a “deal” had been cooked up even if it hadn’t. Made it even look like a deal had been cooked to get Ford the No. 2 job the year before. And, as some other bloggers have noted, it set a precedent for pardoning criminals from the late-Reagan Iran-Contra affair and more.

See the paragraph above. As someone decent, I think Ford really believed the pardon would help more than it hurt, and he miscalculated personally, professionally and politically. AND Nixon showed none of the contrition that Ford originally indicated was a precondition.

C. The Helsinki Accords on human rights in eastern Europe? Half wrong. Perhaps it was the best we could halfway expect out of the half-senile Brezhnev, but we didn’t have to publically tout them. Combine that with Ford's "no domination of Eastern Europe" statement and that probably cost him the election right there.

D. The election. 1976 may not only have marked the end of an era of older, sensible, Gerald Ford and Barry Goldwater-type conservatism, it also was the end of an era of presidential campaigning. You won’t find a race that civil, and that relatively low-dollar, today.

Sick, a bit … maybe a bit depressed, tired or whatever

I guess the reality is sinking in a bit more today. Of course, getting back to DFW Airport at 11 p.m. Christmas Day, then putting in an hour and a half at the office that night before actually getting home, probably is part of the mix.

And, I may just be thinking about people and places in Lancaster, as well as around the Metroplex, that I will miss.

If all the spammers wishing me Merry Christmas …

Were real people, I’d be surrounded by a million friends.

What a difference a week makes in nature

We have a fair-sized bur oak on the south side of our office. Last Wednesday, before I flew out to Arizona, it had about half its leaves still on it. Today? It’s bare.

But, at least I’m in Texas and not Michigan. It would have been bare before Thanksgiving.

December 23, 2006

Weather is NOT the same as climate

It never surprises me anymore when a big snowstorm hits the U.S. and global warming deniers trot this out as "proof" that global warming does not exist. Couple that with the release of "An Inconvenient Truth" by Al Gore and you have the doubters, as in a letter to the editor at the Arizona Republic, telling the former vice president to buy a shovel.

First, shorter-term weather patterns are not the same as longer-term changes in climate.

Second, climate scientists have repeatedly said the massive human-caused increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels will make weather more volatile until the atmospheric system reaches an equilibrium.

Third, the El Nino effect, which may have contributed to the Denver snowstorm, has been shown to be intensified in power, and made semi-permanent as an atmospheric and oceanic phenomenon, by global warming.

December 22, 2006

Leaking clampdown at Lancaster High?

So we hear, and that it is all related now to the cosmetology classroom state inspection problems.

December 21, 2006

Starbucks in DFW Airport, closed at 7 p.m.?

At least the one in Terminal E was. What’s up with that?

Don’t buy Hudson Books’ “Euro” coffee at DFW Airport

It tastes like Starbucks watered down one-third with Folgers and one-third with water.

Now we know why Eddie Bernice Jonson has a share in Hudson and didn’t want the Wright Amendment repealed.

December 20, 2006

Pushing 500

I sure didn’t think I’d have 500 posts in 2006 and in less than a year’s time.

December 19, 2006

Met Uncle Barky at the Pegasus News breakout party

Former Dallas Morning News television critic Ed Bark had his blog picked up by Pegasus News when they launched. I spotted him, or who I thought was him, and asked Alan Cohen to confirm for me. I followed Alan over to Ed’s table, eventually introduced myself, and we talked 10-15 minutes about various media issues.

He sounded quite relaxed now that he left Belo. He “gets” a lot of the drive behind blogging and New Media, as well. Having a background from the alt-weekly world before Belo got him, he has previous experience to apply to that new angle.

Show Dallas blues some love, courtesy of Pegasus News

I met father/son duo Jeffry and Michael Dyson from Pegasus News at the Pegasus News breakout party Tuesday night.

Blue Shoe is a non-profit created to develop a love of the blues in today’s children. This includes official education programs in conjunction with local school districts.

It also works with other folks around the area to help preserve Dallas blues, and you can learn a lot more about Dallas blues on Texas Blues Radio, which runs Monday-Friday 6-8 p.m. on KNON-FM.

For more info, visit their website or e-mail Jeffry or e-mail Michael.

Why ethanol is NOT the answer

We can’t annex half a dozen United States for the energy needs of one

As the Sierra Club reports.:
If every vehicle in the United States were powered by ethanol, only one of eight would be driveable. Already, 20 percent of the nation's corn goes to ethanol production. Replacing just one-eighth of U.S. gasoline consumption would require the country's entire corn crop.

Corn-based ethanol's contribution to fighting global warming is marginal at best. A debate is raging, in fact, over whether ethanol takes more energy to produce than it provides. Ethanol burns cleaner than gasoline, but its production relies heavily on diesel-chugging tractors and petroleum-derived fertilizers, to the tune of some 140 gallons of oil per acre. Distilling corn into ethanol is also energy intensive, and while some forward-thinking producers are processing it with methane, biomass, and other alternative fuels, most of the 190 ethanol plants now in the works will be powered by coal.

All touting ethanol does is “enables” GM to feel good about itself, which fattening the pockets of Archer Daniels Midland.

Allen Group: $3,500 for politics, not a dime for Ronnie Lowe

Allen Development of Texas, the local arm of intermodal hub developer The Allen Group, contributed $3,500 to support the November Lancaster school bond election.

But, no money for Ronnie Lowe and the Lancaster Outreach Center, despite multiple requests.

Steve Topletz had the money for $500 for the bond, but no money for the LOC, nor any money for a discount price for the new Boardwalk school site.

No, the A+ Academy is NOT better than LISD, Jeff Melcher

Sorry, Jeff, I can tell you that. Re the last graf of your latest blog post, given allegations of graft and the number of times the state has had to step in there, money can buy all sorts of things.

Of course, since I’m “on the take” for LISD press box food, I can say that I don’t know who is on the A+ Christmas bonus mailing list.

Re your previous post, Jeff, some people lie even when they’re not sleeping. We’ve already shown you’re wrong about the district actually getting bad demographic info from Pat Guseman rather than “making it up.”

Jeff, you’re one of the people I won’t miss when I leave.

The latest installment on the LHS cosmetology class

Patrick Shaughnessy, public information officers at the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation’s headquarters, said Tuesday afternoon that TDLR is sending out more staff to Lancaster High to determine just what was measured, how it was measured and more, to get to the bottom of whether or not the class was indeed out of compliance at the time of the Dec. 6 investigation.

Note 1: Relevant to the bold-faced point above, I told him that Superintendent Larry Lewis told me, in the third or fourth phone call we had Monday about the classroom, that the district was in the process of converting a storage area not being used by the cosmetology class at the time of the inspection into a cosmetology locker area.

That’s fine and dandy if it helps the class pass a follow-up inspection. However, those changes were not in place at the time of the inspection. I also noted, in my e-mail to him, that the state statute is clear in not listing bathroom space as part of classroom space.

Note 2: I told Shaughnessy to encourage TDLR’s in the field personnel who do the follow-up visit to not accept initial answers if they weren’t comfortable with them.

Is it time to get out of Afghanistan, too?

Probably so. Even if we withdraw from Iraq ASAP, many of our Army and Marine units there are too battle-fatigued to do well in what could be even rougher fighting in Afghanistan.

Fact is that we haven’t taken more casualties there because our soldiers already there, as well as those of NATO allies, don’t even occupy half the country.

And, due to almost 20 years of war, from expelling the Soviets to civil war after that and on to post-9/11 action, the Taliban is more hardened, and more battle-smart, than Iraqi insurgents.

Has the U.S. killed more Iraqis than Saddam Hussein?

Sadly, the answer is yes, if you accept the controversial estimate of 600,000 Iraqi civilian deaths resulting from the U.S. invasion.

First, I do accept the estimates, and second, this does NOT count deaths from sectarian violence.

Fact of the matter is, American “smart bombs” just aren’t that smart. Nor is artillery fire.

The battle against TXU grows

At a Dec. 14 hearing, State Office of Administrative Hearings judges approved giving the Coalition of Clean Air Cities official legal standing in battling against Gov. Rick Perry’s fast-tracking the permit process for TXU coal-fired power plants.

In the one of the central issues of the hearing, the SOAH judges allowed party status to the Clean Air Coalition of Cities, which represents city and county governments from across the state and most recently, independent school districts.

More on this issue in the Dec. 21 issue of Lancaster Today.

Steve Topletz, maybe if you, Randall Currington and others gave Ronnie Lowe more money …

You might have somewhat better PR in Lancaster.

(It would help more, of course, if you stopped using the city as a guinea pig for just how much lower in quality you can go than up north.)

But, I’m sure Ronnie, the executive director of the Lancaster Outreach Center, would love getting money from at least one developer besides Kimball Hill.

That includes apartment developers who still haven’t come through on all the verbal promises/assurances you gave the Lancaster City Council and staff, Mr. Brian Potashnik and Southwest Housing.

Another not-so-happy New Year for Lancaster: another trucking industry lawsuit?

The Lancaster City Council approved a new truck route ordinance at its Dec. 11 meeting.

Unfortunately, expect the three more-established large trucking companies in Lancaster, and the Texas Motor Transportation Association, to sue the city just like they did two years ago.

However, this time, in light of judge’s comments from that suit, the city has done an official traffic safety study. Also, I-20 access road construction, including a special truck ramp to bypass the Houston School Road intersection, should address other legal challenges.

So, will Big Trucking waste more Lancaster taxpayer money, or will it do the responsible thing?

Sorry, but some NJ teachers don’t know what the First Amendment means on church-state issues

Publicly supporting a teacher who’s already received (slap on the hand) school district discipline for teaching in class that evolution and the Big Bang were unscientific, that there were dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark and talking about how a Muslim student would go to hell is NOT a First Amendment issue.

First, courts have consistently found public school classrooms to be “captive audiences,” therefore teachers on such matters do not have the same degree of protection as they would in making their statements outside the school.

Second, union solidarity nonsense be damned in cases like this? Why is his teachers’ union supporting this guy, period.

And this is in New Jersey, not Alabama — and just 10 miles from Manhattan!!!

Apparently Harry Reid doesn’t realize Democrats won the midterm elections, domestic division

The Senate Majority Leader-elect is now officially on record as a Republican-type last-minute pork-barreling earmarker.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, who has pledged to stop “dead-of-night legislating,” did a little of his own in the final hours of this year's congressional session.

Reid slipped two home state projects into the last major bill Congress passed last week: a transfer of federal land in Nevada to state and private control that's almost two-thirds the size of Rhode Island; and a $4 million grant for a hospice. Neither had been approved by any congressional committee.

Given that Reid has stood accused in the media in the past three months of other shady land transactions, he’s off to a wonderful start.

Perhaps my title should better say: Harry Reid doesn’t understand why Democrats won the midterm elections.

December 17, 2006

Rick Perry: Wasting your tax $$$ wth Metroplex billboards

Do we really need a bunch of Trans Texas Corridor billboards cluttering up Metroplex freeways?

In a word, no.

Apparently Harry Reid doesn’t realize Democrats won the midterm elections

The Senate Majority Leader-elect is now officially on record as favoring a short-term increase in American troops in Iraq.

Reid did qualify himself by saying that should only be as part of broader withdrawal plan.

Wrong answer, Senator. Reid probably wasn’t in the military either; he doesn’t understand mission creep.

The ONLY reason something like that should be done would be as part of the withdrawal itself, to make it as safe, secure and expedited as possible.

December 15, 2006

An atheist with some integrity vs. an ethically challenged, “faith-based” Lancaster superintendent

I don't accuse other people of lying just because they don't agree with me and point out where I'm wrong.
The "faith-based" superintendent of schools?

The faith-based superintendent of schools twice accuses me of lying in the same October phone conversation. He first said I was lying in my editorial, then, as I was typing notes of our conversation, accused me of writing another editorial as we were speaking and said I was lying when I denied it.

I don’t wear a cross around my neck or carry a Bible in my hands to present an impression of piety, uprightness or honesty.

The faith-based superintendent has at least one high school assistant principal with an open Bible in her office, both violating First Amendment church-state separation and sucking up to the faith-based superintendent of schools.

I keep a company secret until somebody else lets the cat out of the bag.

The faith-based superintendent apparently lies about what happened to me, probably while dancing in celebration.

I am Steve Snyder. The faith-based superintendent of unethical behavior Lancaster schools is Larry D. Lewis.

No, I’m not perfect. But, would you prefer to trust the alternative?

And no, I do not have anything against someone else’s religion, as long as what is preached is actually practiced..

Oh, Larry? When I get back to the office, I still have my e-mails from Austin American-Statesmen reporters from when you were hired. It might just be time to post them here.

More "No, I have NOT been fired"

I'll take a good guess at who started this rumor.

The man who twice on the phone said I was "lying."

The man who said the same thing of Khalid Muhammed a couple of years back.

The man who has probably said the same about other people just because they disagree with him.

I probably don't have to name his name, but his initials might be Larry Lewis.

No, I have NOT been fired

Maybe Lancaster Superintendent Larry Lewis has started that rumor, I don't know.

Since I heard that rumor from someone at the high school, and nothing surprises me any more ...

The truth?

Lancaster Today will cease to exist after the first of the year.

And, I'm being RIF'd out of a job along with that.

I told the folks at Pegasus I would continue to blog about Lancaster to the degree people like y'all continued to feed me information.

I'ts not everything, but it's something.

I'll post more sometime this weekend.

No Lancaster schools on TEA’s cheating watch list any more

As a friend of mine said, “Obviously, they can’t be cheating.”

Pegasus News: still growing

I had the chance to talk to Mike Orrin and Alan Cohen from Pegasus News yesterday.

Expect this site to keep growing.

They said they’re getting almost as many daily website hits as The (don’t forget to capitalize that “T”) Dallas Morning News.

Of course, is that any wonder, with the Snooze’s train wreck of a website redesign? You can’t hardly find anything on there anymore, not that features like their site search worked well in the first place.

But, it’s not just because Belo is bad, it’s also because Pegasus knows what it’s doing.

Proof, on the website hits?

I have a Google News daily e-mail update with Lancaster as the key word. (Hey, either the Snooze or the StartleGram may have reports from Austin or something that get connected to Lancaster, or some federal agencies with Lancaster-related info talk only to daily newspapers. And, yes, that’s true.)

Anyhow, two of the six hits yesterday were from blog posts of mine that Pegasus has picked up.

And, they’re developing new ideas for media partnerships in the future.

Vacation time

I will be gone Dec. 21-25. However, I can check my e-mail, and comment on anything important.

Lancaster, other Best Southwest cities officially get to fight TXU

The Lancaster City Council officially approved city membership in the Coalition of Clean Air Cities, a group founded by Dallas Mayor Laura Miller to battle TXU’s plans to build numerous new coal-fired power plants in the state.

And now, the CCAC has been made an official party to the hearing protesting Gov. Rick Perry’s “expedited” speed-up of attempts to OK the plants.

From a Sierra Club press release:
A broad range of opponents showed up in Austin Dec. 14 to battle six proposed TXU coal-fired power plants in a preliminary contested case hearing conducted by the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH). Those opposing the granting of permits to build and operate the power plants included the Sierra Club and other national environmental groups, new Texas rural citizen groups, the Clean Air Coalition of Cities, the Waco Chamber of Commerce, and numerous individuals from around the state.

The Clean Air Coaltion of Cities includes Lancaster and other Best Southwest cities and other Metroplex suburbs, along with Dallas and Houston.

In the one of the central issues of the hearing, the SOAH Judges allowed party status to the Clean Air Coalition of Cities, which represents city and county governments from across the State and most recently, independent school districts. Begun by Dallas Mayor Laura Miller, the Coalition has raised litigation funds from its members and has grown in recent months to include city and county governments in many areas where the coal plants are planned.

Oh, all that coal that Texas allegedly has? Wyoming lignite will likely be the primary fuel for the plants.

Lancaster High theft story: Is Aaron Kennedy protesting on his own, or being pressured?

Lancaster High’s Aaron Kennedy had a statement from his police report quoted in Lancaster Today’s second story about theft at Lancaster High.
Oct. 30, Aaron Kennedy reported a DVD card and a video card missing from a Dell Optiplex GX620 computer, and said “the parts are easy to remove due to the fact that all Dell Computers cases are snap on exteriors and require no tools to gain access to the interior of the computer.” He also said a complete computer central processing unit and monitor was missing from the same classroom, B211. The same day, he reported another DVD card and video card stolen from the same type Dell in another classroom, C153, a video card from a Dell in classroom C205, two RAM sticks from a Dell in room C210. Nov. 9, Kennedy reported the theft of RAM from two computers in room C247.

Well, whether on his own, or because of pressure from above, Kennedy apparently didn’t like his name being in the story, with quote. He sent me an angry e-mail indicating he doesn’t know much about journalism or quoting people.
My name is Aaron Kennedy, and yesterday December 14, 2006, I was quoted in an article written by Steve Snyder in the Lancaster Today paper. I have never met Mr. Snyder, nor have I ever had a conversation with him or any form of contact. I would like you to publish a correction in your next day’s print stating that this information was false. Furthermore, I would like you to understand how completely disgusted I am that your publication could allow a writer to completely falsify information in order to further his own personal career. In my personal opinion, he has single handedly given writers, and your publication specifically, a bad name. Please ensure that this situation is handled with immediate urgency.

I simply replied that I had quoted him from a police report obtained by an open records request and that therefore no retraction was needed nor would be forthcoming.

I followed that with an ellipsised partial sentence about how I knew the district was trying to control the flow of information.

If he writes back again, he’s going to get a more snarky response.


Update on Lancaster High School theft and non-lockable classrooms

For the follow-up story on the theft, and why the Lancaster School District didn’t get locks on classrooms sooner, see, including the list of follow-up questions the school district refused to answer.

For the op-ed column on why did it come to this state, the effects on morale, and the possible effects on the district’s shibboleth save-all, the International Baccalaureate program, see.

December 14, 2006

Recently reviewed books of note

“Conservatives without Conscience,” by John Dean
Five stars, excellent book

“Regarding the Land: Robert Glenn Ketchum And the Legacy of Eliot Porter,” by John Rohrback
Excellent book by two of America’s leading environmental photographers; their exhibit is still on display at the Amon Carter. Five stars.

“State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III,” by Bob Woodward.
Best of the recent books at pinning the incompetency tail on former Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld, but why wasn’t more of this in “Plan of Attack”? Four stars.

“Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq,” by Thomas E. Ricks.
A two-star hack job that’s too apologetic for neocons, including making the claim that Bush/Cheney had no pre-9/11 designs on Iraq, despite Cheney and Jeb Bush being among the original 25 signees of the American Enterprise Institute’s PNAC. Ignore five-star reviews.

“Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11,” by Lawrence Wright.
Three-starred book of a four-star book to counteract fluff reviews. A good intro to the roots of al-Qaeda.

“Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West,” by Hampton Sides.
THE must-read new bio of Kit Carson, by the acclaimed author of “Ghost Soldiers.” Five stars.

Lancaster High cosmetology actually failed TWICE

Its 1,930 total square feet is 270 square feet, or more than 10 percent, below the state-mandated minimum of 2,200 square feet — and its laboratory space of 1,125 square feet is below the state minimum of 1,200 square feet.

More in the Dec. 21 issue of Lancaster Today.

Lancaster Economic Development Corporation doesn’t get The Preserve’s demise either

LEDC Executive Director Steve Filopowicz, in his monthly update note for the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce newsletter, says:
LHS will become a 5A school… AND we really will need a second high school within five years,

Possibly wrong on the first count (Red Oak will be 5A before Lancaster, at the least) and definitely wrong on the second.
LISD Superintendent Larry Lewis has been predicating his call for a second high school in part on expected city approval of rezoning for The Preserve, the 800-acre planned development proposed by Steve Topletz of D.R. Horton and other fame.

Well, we really didn’t have that much urgency for a second high school before The Preserve got canned; we have none at all now.

Filipowicz writes the comments as part of a semi-tongue-in-cheek “crystal ball,” but it’s clear the tongue isn’t that much in cheek, and this is serious.

Lancaster High cosmo class is officially 270 feet too small

I received my copy of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation report on the Dec. 6 inspection of the Lancaster High School cosmetology program.

TDLR says the classroom is 270 square feet short of requirement, at 1,930 square feet rather than 2,200 square feet. That's a 15 percent difference, and one which district officials allegedly knew was a problem long before the state arrived.

The state sped up what was originally planned as a January visit, perhaps in part responding to a media query of 2-3 weeks ago as to whether the new class had been inspected yet and whether or not it had a space problem.

December 13, 2006

Boy, did Scott Boras fold his tent on Matsuzaka or what?

After that $100 million bluster, he just gets $52M/6 years for him from the Red Sox.

And why, if he's really that good, did Boras lock him into a.
six-year contract?

Lancaster High School rekeying: A stab at sorting a few things out

And why building a football stadium first was part of what got us in this mess, plus a bit of speculation as to possible liability issues

In my original open records request on the matter, construction manager Elvin Lotten claimed that the school district was not responsible for rekeying classroom locks at Lancaster High School.

Contrary to Jeff Melcher’s thinking that this actually would be the case, that the district would not be responsible, I talked with a commercial architect friend the week I first heard about the rekeying problem. He confirmed that it’s the normal, standard situation for the business or other entity taking possession of such a building to do the rekeying.

That entity, in this case the school district, knows how many copies of each key should be made, who should get them, etc. A contractor, subcontractor or outside construction management company doesn’t have any idea about that.

Well, lo and behold, supposedly the district had not taken possession of the high school yet. While Lotten told us that, he didn’t tell us why.

(And I, in a bit of oversight, left that question off my second open records request. But, there’s always follow-ups to follow-ups, right?)

Well, then, what the flying firetruck was Lancaster ISD and Superintendent Larry Lewis doing opening the new high school for business in August if the district had not physically taken possession of it?

Well, that gets back to his grand scheme for the bond of building the football stadium and practice facility before building the high school itself.

I’ll admit, at the time, I believed everything that was said about the district’s “stadium first” building plan. And, some bond work I think was great, such as renovating the old, old high school for a district administration building, along with the old Rocky Crest school.

Well, it looks like you miscalculated, Larry, or else Gallagher did on its construction timetable estimates. Gallagher and its subs didn’t get the new high school done in time, but because you built it a year AFTER the football stadium, you had no choice but to occupy it even though it wasn’t done.

That, then, gets into liability issues. A couple of people here brought up the Pennsylvania Amish country school standoff, wondering about the possibility of a deranged person coming in the new high school.

But, that’s not the only issue. Think of injury from construction debris. Or an asthma attack from fumes not yet fully vented.

Meanwhile, Lewis and Lotten surely didn’t want to answer my follow-up questions because they will actually put somebody on the spot, thereby putting the next bond election in further jeopardy.

If they have to put themselves or other district personnel on the spot, well, that’s obviously trouble. If they have to name names from Gallagher or a subcontractor, well, since Lewis has already committed to continuing to use Gallagher, that kills the chance of selling the next bond to the public.

I know that. That’s why in my Lancaster Today op-ed coliumn for this week, among other things, I said:
Name names. Assign responsibility.

We shall see if any of that is actually done.

Somebody agrees with my points of view...

Or else I just read that much nonfiction.

I've cracked the top-2,500 mark now among reviewers on Amazon.

In tomorrow's Lancaster Today ...

1. A follow-up story to the Lancaster High Schoo theft/open records story of Nov. 16. That includes the information I got on the request, the fact that the request wasn't completely answered (along with Attorney General complaint and chapter and verse on the relevant part of the Public Information Act), the follow-up questions I asked Superintendent Larry Lewis and Construction Manager Elvin Lotten that they chose not to answer, and the fact that those were going to go on the next open records request, as they have.

2. A column about this, hints at other design issues, high school morale, and how all of this affects the possibility of Lewis' crown jewels -- the International Baccalaureate program -- being successful/getting off the ground.

I might just be a libertarian socialist

There are many more varieties of libertarianism under the stars, Horatio, or Mona Holland or others, than your philosophy hath room for.

Did you know there is green libertarianism? Libertarian socialism? Council communism? Anarcho-syndicalism?

I refer to Wikipedia’s overview of libertarianism.

And, I find that “libertarian socialism” might describe my political stance even better than “social democracy.” In a thumbnail, libertarian socialism believes that a socialist economic system can be established without heavy government lifting, through the actions of trade unions, guilds, councils and other voluntary federations and cooperatives.

The state is (rightly, in my opinion) distrusted as an instrument of capitalism. Most left-libertarian political philosophies, with the exceptions of green libertarianism, focus on labor issues as the key to economic improvement, including the labor theory of value.

So, left-libertarians of the world, UNITE! You have nothing to lose but the chains of rightists spinning myths that theirs is the only actual libertarianism.

I quote Wikipedia:
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who is often considered the father of modern anarchism, coined the phrase “Property is theft> to describe his affinity for the labor theory of value, a socialist value.

Seventeen years (1857) after Proudhon first called himself an anarchist (1840), anarchist communist Joseph D√©jacque was the first person to describe himself as a libertarian.[2] In United States because the word "libertarian" is now commonly used by anti-state capitalists, non-authoritarian socialists ot that country often call themselves libertarian socialists to differentiate themselves. In the rest of the world, "libertarian" is a synonym of “anticapitalist.”

We, not you Johnny-come-lately righties, were the FIRST libertarians.

Unfortunately, most Americans, even those who claim to know something about political philosophy, just don’t know what all is out there. (Wiki lists Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn as people who could be characterized as libertarian socialists.)

City manager Landon, Chamber prez Johnson just don’t get it on The Preserve

I overheard Lancaster City Manager Jim Landon and Lancaster Chamber of Commerce President Joe Johnson talking today after the Best Southwest Chamber of Commerce luncheon. (Story about ExxonMobil’s localized version of spinmeistering upcoming next week in Today Newspapers and here.)

They were discussing the aftermath of the Lancaster City Coucil’s rejection of planned development rezoning for the 800-acre The Preserve at Monday’s meeting. Both said they expected “piecemeal” development, if standard residential development 50-100 acre lots can be called “piecemeal.” Johnson said that southside residents will never get the large-lot homes they’re wanting this way.

Well, he and Landon are missing the boat in a couple of ways.

First, as long as it keeps its current agricultural zoning, it will get nothing but large lot homes.

Second, Steve Topletz refused to put build-out rate equity standards for large and small homes in his last update proposal for The Preserve. Joe, Jim, why would you trust him to build large-lot homes at all without such a restriction?

The fact that, as was pointed out in Monday’s meeting his “seniors” apartments in the proposal weren’t age-restricted to actually be seniors’ apartments, should have provided further caution to our civic leaders.

But it didn’t.

Sidebar note: Kudos to Mayor Pro Tem Carol Strain-Burk for her “cross-examination” of Topletz consultant Ted Wilson Monday. She controlled the flow of questioning, kept his answers tightly confined and otherwise did a good job.

Laughter is contagious, yes

And now, we may know at least part of the reason why

It appears to stimulate reaction in another person’s premotor cortex. Although the linked study doesn’t mention them by name, I’m guessing that mirror neurons are somehow involved.
“We’ve known for some time now that when we are talking to someone, we often mirror their behaviour, copying the words they use and mimicking their gestures. Now we’ve shown that the same appears to apply to laughter, too — at least at the level of the brain,” Sophie Scott said.

This would appear to confirm that idea.

December 12, 2006

The truth, not the bad rap, about Hamas

Former President Jimmy Carter says the Palestinian “terrorist” group Hamas has not killed an Israeli during an insurgency operation in more than two years.

As for claims that Hamas won’t officially recognize Israel, Carter says they’re open to dialogue but cannot recognize the currently occupationist/colonialist state.

So, if you’re looking for a different point of view than not only the MSM, but quasi-Zionist supporting blogs of both left and right, about what’s what in Palestine, read the entire transcript of Carter’s PBS interview.

The Baker Commission doesn’t know what’s what on the ground in Iraq

Why? It didn’t interview the the lower ranks of line officers. If it had, it might know that there are about 100,000 contractors mercenary soldiers under the flag of convenience of American service, for example.

From a non-military point of view, though, I have to disagree with Capt. Carter’s support of the Iraq Study Group’s idea of embedding American troops with Iraqi ones on a lower organizational level than is currently done.

I don’t think it will “stiffen” Iraqi troops that much more in that many cases. Instead, I think that most units will melt away just as much as before, or even turn sides. And with diminished, spread-out American force, it’s an open invitation for more of our troops to get fragged in the back.

As for “grabbing the bureaucracy by the throat,” especially since Carter approvingly quotes Eliot Cohen, I wonder if he hasn’t had a sip, at least, of neoconservative Kool-Aid.

December 11, 2006

The Preserve: “Just above the minimum” for Lancaster

But, isn’t that a part of our development code shortfall in general?

Sonia Zielke is right: maybe The Preserve needs to be put on hold until the city’s development code is updated. And, Dick Headen officially took care of that with his motion to deny Planned Development zoning to the 800-acre project Dec. 11.

You may say: Wait a minute. Didn’t we upgrade the development code just over a year ago?

Yes, and we’re still one development code behind the curve.

(Sorry, Jim Landon. But, you should know that it’s true.)

Everybody talks about how the Lancaster School District is at least one bond issue behind the curve.

But, the same is true of the city and development code.

And, arguably, that’s part of why the school district is behind the curve.

Lack of a better development code is a big reason why Lancaster has so many low-dollar houses here and had even more come in 10-15 years ago.

Wait a minute, again. Didn’t this fine city have a commercial real estate agent as it’s mayor about 15 years ago?

Apparently, Margie Waldrop missed the boat on that issue, though. Of course, people on “the other side,” like Nancy Moffett, arguably missed the boat too.

So, we sit at least one development code behind the curve, and with City Manager Jim Landon leaving, it will be three years before anything new is done.

The Preserve is dead -- blogging the Lancaster City Council meeting

Comparing apples to bowling balls

Jerry Sylo is baiting-and-switching, or comparing apples to bowling balls, to compare estate lots in The Preserve’s proposal to the five-acre A-O lots if Steve Topletz can’t get rezoning for the land. Smooth, yes, with that claim, but a 14,000-square foot lot is not a five-acre lot.

Now, that’s not to say five-acre lots would sell. But it is to say that Sylo’s comparisons aren’t even in the same solar system.

But, this is all academic, isn’t it? Thanks to Councilman Dick Headen’s impatience, or whatever, The Preserve has been pickled, sliced and diced, turned into compote and then put out for compost, by a 5-2 count.

That said, Sylo is right that city code has little in the way of design controls – if we’re talking straight zoning. But, again, let’s compare The Preserve to Mills Branch.

Because Mills Branch was also a PD and not straight zoning, it must be noted that it does have design standards, and that, IMO, these standards are superior to what Sylo is offering for The Preserve. Not to say otherwise, about Sylo’s comparing a PD to straight zoning, would be not to mention comparing oranges to bocce balls.

And, The Preserve’s acreage is larger than all three of the original Mills Branch developments combined.

Sylo talks about planting 2,300 new trees. Even throwing out all the cedars that are not on the city’s tree preservation list, and throwing out the scraggly volunteer starters, there’s still hundreds of trees in 800 acres that ARE protected.

So, this offer isn’t much beyond what is required by city ordinance.

As for Jerry Forsee, if he wants to money-drop (instead of name-drop) that his company works on $2-10 million properties, fine. But, would you really build houses worth that much surrounded by $150,000-225,000 houses? I think not. Instead of my previous Lancaster Today comment on gated communities, that putting a gate around a pigsty doesn’t change the pigsty, this would be just the opposite. You’d be gating out a pigsty while still making people living in The New Jerusalem gated community still drive through the pigsty every day.

I hadn’t mentioned the lack of age-restrictions in the “seniors” apartments, though I’ve known about it. Would be nice to have that put in place.

Hello, Steve Topletz. I hope you’re reading, listening, and if not “quaking,” taking serious heed.

And, if “The Preserve” is too fancy a name, we could always call it “Hank Haney Estates,” should you bring this back for another shot.

For more in-depth coverage from a straight news angle, see the afternoon of Dec. 14 or later.

I’m being picked up! Quasi-syndicated, if you will

Pegasus News is a combination of citizen journalism, virtual newspaper and blogger roundup for the Metroplex and it has added me to its mix.

So, comb your hair, brush your teeth and smile for cyberspace.

December 09, 2006

Mitt Romney: He was for gays before he was against them

The Massachusetts governor, already angling for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, reportedly said in a 1994 interview with a gay-oriented newspaper that he would do more for gay rights than Ted Kennedy.

He also wrote a letter to the gay-rights supporting Log Cabin Republicans stating that President Clinton’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on allowing gays in the military to stay in as along as they were “quietly passing,” rather than actively hunting them out for dishonorable discharges, was
the first in a number of steps that will ultimately lead to gays and lesbians being able to serve openly and honestly in our nation's military.

Well, now he’s getting it from both sides. Conservative groups such as the Family Research Council are calling on him to repudiate all his 1994 statements, while gay rights groups are saying he can’t be trusted.

I think I just heard the sound of some Republican presidential timber falling in the forest.

Who’s next, Giuliani? I can’t wait for his “reverse vasectomy” of Al Gore and Dick Gephardt’s dance on the choice issue, to see Rudy try to suddenly become a pro-life candidate.

This ought to just do wonders for controlling the civil war and insurgency in Iraq

Saddam Hussein’s nephew has escaped from an Iraqi prison, with the help of a police officer. He was serving a life sentence for manufacture of explosives and other charges.

Well, Baathist Party apparatchiks and other more secularized Sunnis might have a new rallying point, it would appear.

High school orchestra in public performance for Christmas

Between stolen violins and cellos never purchased, I’m wondering just what Dec. 14 will sound like. “Children First?”

As a classical music lover, I am delighted to see the orchestral interest of young students, especially young minority students.

Too bad the program isn’t getting adequate financial support from higher up in the fine arts program or anywhere else. Bless the orchestra teachers who are trying to instill a love of fine music while continually moving the rock of Sisyphus.

Nixonian leakers witch hunt at the high school? What of the First Amendment?

If this is true, I don’t think it’s the best idea in the world to use Sam Allen and the LISD Police Department as a “plumbers unit,” like Nixon’s Watergate snoopers, to track down leaks.

Whether it’s legal or not is besides the point. It’s unethical, it violates the spirit of the First Amendment (already being violated there on church-state issues, I think) and it just sent morale nosediving into the George W. Bush popularity rating levels.

I hope this isn’t what’s happening. But, if it is, the district can’t “win” this one. Certainly not in the court of public opinion

U.S.: Yaay, we’re No. 1!

Ooops, that would be for highest incarceration rate AND most total prisoners in the world

Here’s the ugly figures.
A U.S. Justice Department report released on November 30 showed that a record 7 million people — or one in every 32 American adults — were behind bars, on probation or on parole at the end of last year. Of the total, 2.2 million were in prison or jail.


In a quick phrase, the idiotic War on Drugs.

Drug arrests account for 30 percent of our prison, parole or probation population. All that happens in prison is most of them become more addicted and learn how to be better criminals.

I’ve done newspaper columns on this before. If we are indeed fighting a “War on Drugs,” it’s a Vietnam (or Iraq) and NOT a World War II. And, like Vietnam, or Iraq, part of the price has included folding, spindling and mutilating civil liberties here at home.

Just think of how shameful it is to have the world’s most total inmates.

China has a population four times ours, and is a one-party authoritarian government. And we STILL have more prisoners incarcerated.
According to the International Center for Prison Studies at King's College in London, more people are behind bars in the United States than in any other country. China ranks second with 1.5 million prisoners, followed by Russia with 870,000.

The U.S. incarceration rate of 737 per 100,000 people in the highest, followed by 611 in Russia and 547 for St. Kitts and Nevis. In contrast, the incarceration rates in many Western industrial nations range around 100 per 100,000 people.

Specifically, how ridiculous, shameful and ineffective is this?
“The United States has 5 percent of the world's population and 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population. We rank first in the world in locking up our fellow citizens,” said Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance, which supports alternatives in the war on drugs.

“We now imprison more people for drug law violations than all of western Europe, with a much larger population, incarcerates for all offenses.”

I’m seriously considering, at least at my next newspaper position, not running non-felony drug arrests as part of police reports.

December 08, 2006

Batting above .500 on LISD issues again — culinary arts

I have been told by somebody familiar with school district and state finance, budgeting and accounting practices that career and technology education classes like cosmetology, culinary arts, welding and so forth are supposed to get CATE money from the Texas Education Agency, and that is supposed to be for products, such as food, or cosmetology chemicals, or welding rods, and NOT to pay salaries. Ninety percent of this state funding — which is supposed to be based on classroom figures school district officials are supposed to supply TEA — is supposed to go toward products.

So, if culinary arts in Lancaster has no budget (as I’ve heard from multiple sources; I don’t know about cosmetology or welding), where is the state’s CATE money? Smoke and mirrors?

Where’s the equipment? Faith-based equipment supply?

Right idea, wrong person doing it

Outgoing lightning-rod Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney has introduced a House resolution calling for President Bush’s impeachment.

Great idea, and yes, it’s too bad the Democratic leadership won’t consider such an idea over the next two years, but coming from Miss 9/11 Conspiracy Theory, it’s the wrong messenger.

Plenty of guilt, including some Democratic, on Mark Foley not getting reported sooner

We establish the Congressional equivalent of the Mendoza line — the Hammer line

The House Ethics Committee has wrapped up a slap-on-the-wrist report on why page-stalking former Florida Congressman Mark Foley wasn’t reported sooner.

The bottom line?
“Failure to exhaust all reasonable efforts to call attention to potential misconduct ... is not merely the exercise of poor judgment; it is a present danger to House pages and to the integrity of the institution of the House.”

But, while more Republicans, such as lame-duck Speaker of the House Denny Hastert, are more guilty, Democrats aren’t scot-free.
The panel said it found that many people on and off Capitol Hill knew about Foley's e-mails, including members of the media. It said the communications directors for the House Democratic caucus and campaign committee had copies of some of his electronic messages last year.

House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi said she knew nothing of this. Well, if she’s serious about ethics reform, here’s her first at-bat inside her own party. We’ll see how serious she is.

And, most ludicrous of all, the panel said it found no violation of House ethics rules. No wonder Congress’ approval rating now sits at 13 percent, and no wonder Public Citizen’s Joan Claybrook is hopping mad.
“While the committee's investigation makes clear that no one alerted either the (page) board or the ethics committee of concerns about Rep. Foley's advances to pages, the report lets all of those investigated off the hook for this utter abdication of their duty.”

Well, we’ll see if Pelosi is serious enough about ethics reform to boost the Congressional approval raiting above 20 percent, or .200 in baseball batting terms. In honor of that magic mark, in reference to baseball’s Mendoza line, and in honor of one of Texas’ most “illustrious” bug-killing Congressmen ever

Lancaster High/LISD information panning out; information not panning out

So far, the high school theft claims has clearly panned out.

The high school keying issue has also panned out, though Lewis denies a connection between the thefts and the key situation.

I heard about both of those firsthand.

The claims about the cosmetology class did not pan out.

I heard about that secondhand.

The claims about TRS payments appear to have not panned out. I heard about that firsthand, but have seen a copy of Lewis’ e-mail response as well, and have, as mentioned, contacted TRS myself and heard back.

Claims about the South Carolina trip have been countered by someone else within the district and could be argued not to have panned out, at least as far as any legal issues.

In other words, we're playing about .500 ball right now.

Other high school design/construction allegations I am not pursuing further at this time until I hear firsthand information. In other words, if people claim they’ve heard about problems with the JROTC firing range, then get Maj. Mosley or Sgt. Hernandez to speak up; ditto on culinary arts or other things.

TRS accounts ARE being credited, spokesperson says

That’s’ according to Howard Goleman from TRS.

I quote from his e-mail reply to me:
The employees' contributions have been credited to the individual accounts for September and October. The November contributions were due to be sent to the Comptroller of the State of Texas no later than 6 PM on December 6th (due date). The contributions sent according to that timeline should be available to TRS on December 8th.

If anybody is interested, you can e-mail him here.

Now, should teachers and other staff be hearing differently from other people at TRS, I will have to have names of the TRS contacts to whom you have been speaking to do any follow-up, to find out why you have been getting one set of information and Mr. Goldman says your accounts are up to date.

Until I hear further information that I can, in fact, follow up on, this dog appears to be sleeping and will be let lay.

Journalists across the state of Texas must be “on the take”

Just think; there’s about 500 public high schools at just the 4A and 5A levels. That’s 250 football games a week. Allowing for the fact that in some cases, one person may be doing “double duty” on coverage, but that you may have three newspapers at other games, plus radio and occasional TV coverage, that’s 2.5 or more press people per game.

So, by Jeff Melcher’s brilliant insight, there must be 750-800 journalists “on the take” every week at Texas high school football games.

Jeff, here’s the website for the Texas Press Association; please do contact them immediately about the hordes of corrupt journalists.

Now that I know Dr. Lewis is reading

First, as noted on the right hand column here, this is not an official web publication of Lancaster Today/Today Newspapers.

Second, an observation. I don’t get to have everything go my way, 100 percent, all the time. Nobody does. Jeff Melcher doesn’t get to be the Messianic savior of the school district. I don’t get to make $30,000 a year. (Sorry, folks who believe in the rich liberal media, but I don’t get to make $30,000 a year.) And superintendents — or city managers, or whomever in governmental positions — don’t always get news reported just the way they want, or every employee agreeing with them.

Third, to issues of more substance.

1. I have not focused on “just the negative” regarding LISD, in my opinion.

2. Where rumored information has turned out to be incorrect, and I have found that out, as with the cosmetology class, I have said so, and here.

3. In another case, with the grant and the trip to South Carolina, before I even got around to investigating that, a new poster to this blog provided what appears to be more accurate information, that this was a legitimate grant, even if some people “rode on its coattails.”

4. I never printed anything from this blog in Lancaster Today until confirmed first-hand.

5. I have also pointed out where, in my opinion, some posters to this blog have not just had wrong information, but wrong presuppositions or philosophical ideas.

6. When other people post comments of their own on comment threads, I’m certainly not creating the message myself. I’m not even the messenger, in fact; I’m the sounding board.

7. For which, I’ve had one person claim I’m “on the take” with district money and another person on “the other side” tell me on the phone I was “lying” about content not here, but on the newspaper’s editorial page.

December 07, 2006

Kevin Drum gets in a huff when taken to task about troll-spam on Political Animal

How hard is it for a paid “professional” blogger to have a spam-controlling comments feature?

Apparently it’s just too much for either Kevin Drum, blogger of the political magazine Washington Monthly’s Political Animal blog, or WM’s editorial masters.

In the last week or so, his blog comments have gotten hugely overrun by long-winded trolls and thread hijackers.

I e-mailed Kevin, and sent a separate e-mail to WM contact e-mails, requesting they install some anti-spam comments features. I said that, if not, I could delink Political Animal, one of just two high-hit liberal blogs on my linkroll. And that I could post to his blog suggesting other bloggers do the same, even if the action were nothing more than symbolic.

Drum e-mailed back in high dudgeon. When I sent a second e-mail saying it was nothing personal, but that, even as a symbol, I couldn’t think of how else to stress the issue. Ironically, Drum had a blog post two days ago about how spam volume has doubled in the last year.

Well, troll comments on posts are akin to spam.

And, he and/or his masters don’t even have to pay to fix this.

I added to my blogs the Haloscan comments software, which is free, in large part because it does give me some comments control. Haloscan has a maximum length limit on comments, and … it lets me ban posters by IP address. Enough said.

So, Kevin, if you want to get all huffy, fine. I’ll go ahead and take care of the linkage issue now.

Barack Obama: Not so pristine

Read on to see how he sounds more and more like a typical Democratic Leadership Council politician, complete with K Street help and all.
Yet it is also startling to see how quickly Obama’s senatorship has been woven into the web of institutionalized influence-trading that afflicts official Washington. He quickly established a political machine funded and run by a standard Beltway group of lobbyists, P.R. consultants, and hangers-on. For the staff post of policy director he hired Karen Kornbluh, a senior aide to Robert Rubin when the latter, as head of the Treasury Department under Bill Clinton, was a chief advocate for NAFTA and other free-trade policies that decimated the nation’s manufacturing sector (and the organized labor wing of the Democratic Party). Obama’s top contributors are corporate law and lobbying firms (Kirkland & Ellis and Skadden, Arps, where four attorneys are fund-raisers for Obama as well as donors), Wall Street financial houses (Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase), and big Chicago interests (Henry Crown and Company, an investment firm that has stakes in industries ranging from telecommunications to defense). Obama immediately established a “leadership PAC,” a vehicle through which a member of Congress can contribute to other politicians’ campaigns—and one that political reform groups generally view as a slush fund through which congressional leaders can evade campaign-finance rules while raising their own political profiles.

He may have been more progressive in the Illinois State Senate. But, he didn’t have his eyes on the brass ring — or the White House — at that point.

Harper’s goes on to get it right on this issue.
The question, though, is just how effective — let alone reformist—Obama’s approach can be in a Washington grown hostile to reform and those who advocate it. After a quarter century when the Democratic Party to which he belongs has moved steadily to the right, and the political system in general has become thoroughly dominated by the corporate perspective, the first requirement of electoral success is now the ability to raise staggering sums of money. For Barack Obama, this means that mounting a successful career, especially one that may include a run for the presidency, cannot even be attempted without the kind of compromising and horse trading that may, in fact, render him impotent.

Obama goes on to say that some progressives may “trim their sails” at times. As for his effort so far, he blames the Republican Presidency and Congress for not doing more. Well, come January, it’s a Democratic House and Senate. We’ll see if sails get trimmed or not.

But, looking at some of his votes in the last two years, I’d say that the waters he has charted have been pretty cautious.

Why would we expect more from the Iraq Study Group?

There were no true progressives on the 10-person board. Instead, it was a mix of conservative Republicans (albeit realist conservatives, not neoconservatives) and centrist Democrats.

The conservative Republicans may have hesitated to call for anything bolder for fear of undercutting Bush even more than the actual report did. Meanwhile, the centrist Democrats, if not exactly “hawkish” on Iraq, certainly weren’t doves from the get-go.

The First Amendment is not absolute

For example, there is Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr’s famous dictum about how yelling “Fire” in a crowded theater is not constitutionally protected speech.

A similar situation with newspapers might be letters to the editor, but it goes further than that. Other than not printing letters that are legally slanderous, newspapers also have the right to not print letters for other reasons. We can not print them if, even short of slander, they are abusive or otherwise not decorous.

Also, a newspaper is a business. And, unlike television and radio, it is not governed by a Fairness Doctrine on something like political advertising. If a newspaper chose to accept political ads from just one political party, it has the right to do that.

A blog is not exactly like a newspaper. But, there are analogies. Blog comments might be considered equivalent to letters to the editor.

Gallagher and LISD play at Kafka

I e-mailed Gallagher Construction Management Services yesterday for information about the doorlock situation at the high school, given that Elvin's official response is:

"That wasn't our responsibility."

Jerry Gallager replied:

"Your Request for Information is acknowledged.

"However, Gallagher Construction Services’ policy regarding correspondence or requests pertaining to School Districts is the information must be provided by the District to the requestor.

"Therefore, please contact the Superintendent of Schools for Lancaster ISD, Dr. Larry Lewis."

Well, at least I have Jerry's direct e-mail and can include everybody in the circle.

December 06, 2006

You never know who might be reading… maybe even at LISD admin?

I was down at the administration building Wednesday afternoon and ran into Larry himself, Dr. Lewis.

He said, “Boy, you’ve sure got Lancaster on the mind lately. You’re writing a lot about Lancaster.”

Now, I’m supposed to be writing about Lancaster in the newspaper, not DeSoto or Cedar Hill.

So, was he referring to this blog instead? After all, I just started blogging more about local events in the last few months.

Get rid of lead pollution standards???

You have to be kidding, right?

Unfortunately, no.

The Environmental Protection Agency has officially come out in favor of eliminating Clean Air Act lead pollution standards.

Is the Bush Administration determined to do a petulant last-minute gutting of everything it can before Democrats take control of Congress?

Public Information Act DOES allow charges for less than 50 pages

Section 552.061 states, in full:
(a) The charge for providing a copy of public information shall be an amount that reasonably includes all costs related to reproducing the public information, including costs of materials, labor, and overhead. If a request is for 50 or fewer pages of paper records, the charge for providing the copy of the public information may not include costs of materials, labor, or overhead, but shall be limited to the charge for each page of the paper record that is photocopied, unless the pages to be photocopied are located in:

(1) two or more separate buildings that are not physically connected with each other; or

(2) a remote storage facility.
(emphasis added)

So, the Act has its ins and outs.

Talking to Pat Guseman about school student demographics, etc.

Just got off the phone with her.

She said her “0.8” was for all grade levels.

So, I stand by what I posted in the post immediately below this.

As for how the school district can claim 3.0 students for Meadowview and 2.57 for Boardwalk? Simple. Each student has a home address; even this school district has that much capability to do that level of figuring. I guess they don’t need any help from Meadowview residents to put pencil to paper or keyboarding fingers to Excel.

December 04, 2006

Blogging the Dec. 4 Lancaster School Board meeting

Bulging at the seams but coming up dry at the statistics well
Superintendent Larry Lewis said the demographer the district hired as part of the run-up to the 2004 bond election had projected the average new household in Lancaster would have 0.8 students.

Well, that’s not quite the case. Everybody in north Lancaster knows that new developments are child-heavy. Lewis briefly provided detailed numbers of just how off the mark his demographers were. He said Meadowview has 3.0 students per house and Boardwalk has 2.57.

How do you get that far off??

I, a non-professional demographer, could have made a better guesstimate than that, I believe. I might well still have been on the low side, but I think I would have, at bare minimum, pegged household child growth at least at 1.0, if not 1.2, 1.3 or so.

And, WHY are you still using that during the December board meeting?

The “key” to the situation?
Lewis: “I don’t think the people of this district know how blessed it is to have someone like Philip Pape.” So, was that a blessing for high school classrooms to be unlockable for three months?

That’s not to say Phil is incompetent. (That’s not to say he doesn’t have problems, either.) I have no doubt, though, that at least a fair chunk of the problem is that he is spread too thin. (That’s assuming the fault is his, not Elvin Lotten’s.)

It’s not a question of planning…
Lewis defended the district against not planning adequately for construction inflation. I myself don’t blame him or the district; I never have.

But, that’s not the issue, for people who know better. It’s a question of design and construction quality on what was built.

Vision as faith
Both Russ Johnson and Ed Kirkland spoke about operating by faith in some way. Well, if you have a demographer who screwed up empirical statistics that badly, I guess you may think faith is the only thing left.

The decertification of Richard Gonzales

I just got the information from the Colorado State Board of Education. I have not had a chance to ask Lewis about it yet.

He was found to have on two separate occasions about nine months apart to have inappropriately disciplined students while a Denver principal.

Now, the degree of severity of the inappropriate discipline was not horrendous. But it was enough for him to lose his certification.

Sorry, but the cosmetology class hasn’t flunked anything yet

I checked with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, and I have to shoot down one thing, at least in its most extreme version.

The cosmetology class at the new high school has not passed a state inspection, ’tis true. But it hasn’t failed one, either.

It hasn’t been given an inspection yet. And it probably won’t get one before the first of the year, according to the official who called me Monday afternoon in response to my e-mail.

He also explained what an initial inspection is like for a public school cosmetology classroom. He said it primarily focuses on whether there are enough sinks, etc. for all students to be able to fully participate in in-class assignments and activities.

If anybody can clarify anything from the point of view of claiming that “cosmetology can’t pass inspection” or claims similar to that. If anybody can give me more information on how this arose, I’d be interested and appreciative.

December 02, 2006

Contrary to popular opinion about Macs …

Despite the new Mac TV commercial claims to be all young and hip, it AIN'T SO, says a research company:
“Age may just be a number, but for the Mac market, it’s a fact of life according to Metafacts. A recent report from the market research firm says that nearly half of Apple’s customers are 55 or older.”

Metafacts says 46 percent of Mac users are 55 or older, compared to just 25 percent of PC users.

Read on, Mac fanatics. (If you need to, please feel free to put on your bifocals first.)

Despite Mac corporate denials, the study makes sense to me. Macs got picked up on early by aging hippie/creative types, or along those lines, for two reasons.

One, they were easy for non-geeks to use before Windows 3.1 came along with the first user interface to come close to what Apple was offering.

Two, it was a rebellion against “The Man,” specifically the IBM Man in the navy suit. Of course, Bill Gates doesn’t fit that description, and, while he may have “borrowed” a lot from Apple, hasn’t Steve Jobs, with Apple’s OS X “borrowed” a lot from Unix? (Something you won’t hear Mac users mention in anything close to the same breath as rants about “that thief Bill Gates.”)

Well, Windoze may not have fully closed the gap with the Mac OS, and the delay in release and rumblings about Windows’ Vista OS may be indicating that right now, the gap is going to remain static. Nonetheless, to compare something like apples to apples, the gap between Windows XP and Mas OS 10.1 is a lot less than Windows 3.1/Mac OS 7.

December 01, 2006

Left-lane lopers should be shot …

And buried next to people driving with pets on their laps

I drove down to and back from Waco today. The “left lane lopers” (a Phoenix-area term I’m trying to popularize here) on I-35 are ridiculous. And, a couple of them, at least, were driving with pets on their laps; I saw a couple of other dogs in front passenger seats.

Locks finally being rekeyed at high school … maybe

I heard that at least some of the unsecure doors at Lancaster High were supposed to be rekeyed earlier this week … but that got put off. Stay tuned. But it looks like maybe a publicly squeaky wheel will get at least a modicum of grease.

Yes, some people don’t want to talk about the housing slump

So says Steve Brown.. Would that include people like Larry Lewis and Jim Landon? Sorry, folks, but reality is reality.

And the teachers keep leaving Lancaster schools; last one out, turn out the admin bldg lights!

I guess the Lancaster Middle School band has probably peaked on its talent and student participation numbers.

Supposedly it’s close to career suicide, or at least something in the neighborhood, for a teacher to “walk” at the middle of the school year. I’m sure it’s even worse to do so without even waiting for the semester break.

And, with teachers going (back) to Dallas… that doesn’t sound good, either.

Just think if we had annexed Wilmer-Hutchins and then tried to keep all their schools open.

ExxonMobil: Buying off high school science teachers on global warming

The pornographic XX doesn’t want high school science teachers to be well equipped when it comes to climate science. Or, at least, it has a national group of high school science teachers worried enough about its money to engage in self-censorship.

The National Science Teachers’ Association recently rejected an offer of 50,000 free copies of “An Inconvenient Truth,” the popular film on global warming by erstwhile presidential candidate Al Gore.


Because accepting them might hurt fundraising.

And who’s a major fundraisee for this group?

Three guesses to figure out Double-X marks the spot.

Stop slouching AND stop sitting upright!

That’s the latest medical research word if you want to avoid back problems in the modern Western white-collar environment.

Instead, researchers say, you should sit neither slouched forward over your computer keyboard nor 90-degree ramrod straight. Rather, the position putting the least stress on your back is to lean back a full 45 degrees further and sit at a 135-degree angle.

Of course, you’re going to have to roll your chair a lot further forward to reach your keyboard then ― AND find a lot more room for your legs.

Deny felonious Congressmen a pension?

That’s what Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen and other groups want Speaker Nancy Pelosi to include in any new Congressional ethics bill.

And I’m hip to that.

A president can lose his or her pension should the Senate vote to convict in an impeachment trial. (The president cannot be criminally tried while in office.) That’s one of the reasons Nixon resigned rather than face impeachment.

So, why shouldn’t Members of Congress, who can be criminally tried, be subject to similar penalty? No good reason for them not to be.

Deny felonious Congressmen a pension?

That’s what Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen and other groups want Speaker Nancy Pelosi to include in any new Congressional ethics bill.

And I’m hip to that.

A president can lose his or her pension should the Senate vote to convict in an impeachment trial. (The president cannot be criminally tried while in office.) That’s one of the reasons Nixon resigned rather than face impeachment.

So, why shouldn’t Members of Congress, who can be criminally tried, be subject to similar penalty? No good reason for them not to be.

It’s a global warming initiative; of course Bush opposes it

James Connaughton, chairman of the Orwellian-focused White House Council on Environmental Quality, says President Bushopposes tighter emissions on jetliners. He then comes up with moronic ideas of why it’s both wrong and ineffectual.

He claims it’s wrong for trade reasons. Unless the World Trade Organization is either doing heavy drugs or bribed by the Bush Administration, it’s simply not going to buy that argument if it’s ever officially lodged.

He claims it’s ineffectual, especially versus a voluntary partnership to relieve congestion. Well, in case Mr. C hasn’t read the trends, air travel is supposed to do nothing but go up in the future, at least until Peak Oil, should its downslope be steep enough, provides a corrective.

November 29, 2006

Pakistan foreign minister says: Cut a deal with Taliban

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri has told various NATO foreign ministers they ought to look atcutting a deal with the Taliban, a deal that includes dumping Afghan president Hamid Karzai.

Needless to say, the NATO folks were stunned by this before objecting vociferously. But, really, should they have been stunned? Various elements in the Pakistani government and military have been “gaming” the Afghanistan war for quite some time now; this is just an early Pakistani move to try to jump the process to the endgame stage.

And, no, we shouldn’t do this. But, it shows how much we need to reassess how Afghanistan is fought, and how much we should — or should not — be working with Pakistan.

Terror finance executive order struck down by judge

Federal jurist finds it gives Bush too much unfettered executive power

U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins on Nov. 7struck down most of a Sept. 23, 2001 executive order by President George W. Bush.

The Center for Constitutional Rights brought suit against the executive order, arguing that it essentially allowed the president to create financial blacklists without any congressional or other oversight, and thus left unrestrained presidential power to produce guilt by association.

“This law gave the president unfettered authority to create blacklists, an authority president Bush then used to empower the Secretary of the Treasury to impose guilt by association,” said David Cole of the Washington-based Center for Constitutional Rights.

“The court’s decision confirms that even in fighting terror, unchecked executive authority and trampling on fundamental freedoms is not a permissible option.”

Key to the ruling, Collins also struck down a provision in which Bush had authorized the secretary of the treasury to designate anyone who “assists, sponsors or provides services to” or is “otherwise associated with” a designated group.

Collins, who struck down parts of the Patriot Act in a case several years ago, was initially inclined to rule in favor of the administration, as indicated in tentative findings in July. But she changed her mind after further filings.

She did let one part of the order stand. That would penalize people who provide services to groups the government designates as terrorist organizations, including the humanitarian aid and rights training proposed by a Tamil and a Kurdish group that were among the actual plaintiffs represented by CCR.

I’m not enough of a shadetree lawyer, let alone a constitutional one, to know how firm of legal footing this ruling ― which will of course be appealed ― has. But, the ruling is on the table, and once again, an imperial power grab by the president has duly been slapped down.

I do know that Collins’ letting stand the “services” part of the executive order seems illogical. CCR has already promised it will appeal that.

November 28, 2006

More on just how bad global warming could be

A University of Colorado professor says we need to do reverse sequestration ― actually removing carbon dioxide from our atmosphere ― to have any hope of slowing down global warming. And, even then, he’s just talking about slowing it down, not stopping it.

Tom Yulsman, co-director of the Center for Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado, provides the details of research by himself and various climate modelers:
Modeling by Tom Wigley (at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder) shows that even if Kyoto were fully implemented, including by the U.S., and all countries met their goals out to the year 2100, the impact on climate change would be minimal. So Kyoto is not nearly enough. At best, it’s a first step. …

(Jim White says): “The bad news is that climate change is on its way. And the really bad news is that you can’t stop it. It’s like a freight train. … So for the next 50 years or so, the Earth is going to warm up. … In the last few years it has become very apparent to me that simply not emitting greenhouse gases won’t work. The point of no return for climate change has passed.”

(White) says … not only will we have to remove carbon dioxide from flue gases, become much more efficient, use biofuels, switch to solar energy, etc., but we will also have to remove carbon dioxide that we’ve already put into the atmosphere.

Jim is a level-headed, serious scientist who is not prone to over-dramatization. So when someone like him says we should think about ways to remove CO2 from the atmosphere — a kind of super sequestration — then you know we’ve got a problem.

Jim joins Tom Wigley in advocating what some might regard as radical and fuzzy-headed responses. Wigley, a respected climate modeler, recently suggested that we consider adding aerosols to the atmosphere to block incoming solar radiation as a way to combat global warming. (Talk about risking unintended consequences!) I took this as an indication of the seriousness with which he views the situation. … There is an array of responses we could consider, including some that might have seemed crazy just a year or so ago.

When a climatologist talks about deliberately seeding the sky with aerosols (aerosols from pollution, such as particulate pollutants from power plants, diesel engines, etc.) have been demonstrated in climate modeling to have kept our current global warming from being even worse than it is) you know this is serious.

Victories for the West Nov. 7

As one of my favorite magazines, High Country News, points out, in January, with the swearing in of Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House and Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader, for the first time ever, Westerners will lead both houses of Congress.

But the election has many cautions.

Montana Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer, so heavily touted as presidential material by liberal and self-focused blogger Markos Zuniga, shows himself to be more and more an anti-environmentalist in many ways.

However, Schweitzer should beware. If a House committee chairman like arch-antienvironmentalist Dick Pombo could be beaten by a groundswell movement, Schweitzer could be unseated in a primary race.

11-degree global warming? Try 15 degrees

That is the prediction of British scientist James Lovelock, the man who devised the “Gaia” hypothesis that our planet acts like a massive single organism in maintaining thermal and other forms of homeostasis as much as possible.

Here’s his take on what’s coming down the pike, via an analogy:
Lovelock said temperature rises of up to 8C were already built in and while efforts to curb it were morally commendable, they were wasted.

"”t is a bit like if your kidneys fail you can go on dialysis — and who would refuse dialysis if death is the alternative. We should think of it in that context,} he said.

And here’s why he doesn’t think we can turn the ship around in time:
Lovelock said the United States, which has rejected the Kyoto Protocol on cutting carbon emissions, wrongly believed there was a technological solution, while booming economies China and India were out of control.

China is building a coal-fired power station a week to feed rampant demand, and India's economy is likewise surging.

If either suddenly decided to stop their carbon-fuelled development to lift their billions of people out of poverty they would face a revolution, yet if they continued, rising CO2 and temperatures would kill off plants and produce famine, he said.

“If climate change goes on course ... I can’t see China being able to produce enough food by the middle of the century to support its people. They will have to move somewhere and Siberia is empty and it will be warmer then,” he said.

I’m not as apocalyptic as him, or as James Kunstler is about Peak Oil.

Nonetheless, if Lovelock is a quarter of the way correct, it’s a matter of serious concern. If he and Kunstler are both a quarter of the way correct, their scenarios could play off each other enough to in fact be apocalyptic.

That, in turn, might encourage people to “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Problem is, if such merriment involves the use of carbon-generated energy sources, it actually hastens that very apocalypse.

Euros obstruct CIA rendering probe; gee, wonder why?

The European Parliament reports member nations are obstructing a probe into their parts in the
CIA rendering of alleged terror suspects.

Here’s why:
The report said Nicolo Pollari, a former head of Italy's SISMI intelligence agency, “concealed the truth” when he told European Parliament lawmakers in March that Italian agents played no part in the CIA kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric.

On the contrary, SISMI officials played an active role in the abduction of Abu Omar, and it was “very probable” that the Italian government knew of the operation, it said.

The government of Silvio Berlusconi, in power at the time, repeatedly denied any knowledge. His successor Romano Prodi last week replaced Pollari, who faces possible indictment over the Abu Omar affair but denies any wrongdoing.

Don’t expect most European countries, whether “old” or “new” Europe, to not suddenly get more cooperative.

Live by the Patrick Fitzgerald sword, die by it?

Fitz, the Valerie Plame leak/coverup special prosecutor, now officially has the
Supreme Court imprimatur to go through reporters’ phone records to try to trace protected anonymous sources.

The snarky might rejoice in Judy Miller being in hot water again, but is this really that serious, or not?

I think it’s of concern, but not earth-shattering.

First, if you’re a source, use a pay phone. After the Jim McDermnott cell-phone recording issue of several years ago, a smart source already should NOT have been using a cell phone rather than a land line; ditto for a reporter.

And, Big Media has no rights more absolute than other businesses; ditto for reporters vs. other people.

At least one new House Democrat not only drinks, but brews, the neocon Kool-Aid

New Pennsylvania Democratic Representative Chris Carney still believes in
al Qaeda-Saddam Hussein connections. He does believe that, on a 0-10 scale with o representing no connection and 10 representing operational control, he puts the degree of connection at “2 1/2.”

Of course, working under Doug Feith at the Pentagon, he may be soft-pedaling things, too.

For example, sounding like a true-blue neoconservative believer, he wants to “stay the course” in Iraq, or more, and probably dodge the issue of personal responsibility.

“Let’s win the war first, then maybe look at how we got into it,” Carney said, arguing against Democrats, now in the majority, opening a new investigation of pre-war intelligence snafus or stovepiping.

Sounds to me Carney doesn’t want to get his own stovepiping exposed to the light of Congressional day.

It’s new folks like this that mean the general public shouldn’t expect too much out of this Congress.

Again, another reason to vote Green where available.

CO2 output accelerates; will push global warming higher

The Global Carbon Project says the rate of increase of annual global carbon dioxide output has more than doubled
more than doubled since the start of the new millennium, from 1 percent pre-2000 to more than 2.5 percent per year.

Here’s why:
“There has been a change in the trend regarding fossil fuel intensity, which is basically the amount of carbon you need to burn for a given unit of wealth,” explained Corinne Le Quere, a Global Carbon Project member who holds posts at the University of East Anglia and the British Antarctic Survey.

“From about 1970 the intensity decreased — we became more efficient at using energy — but we've been getting slightly worse since the year 2000,” she told the BBC News website.

“The other trend is that as oil becomes more expensive, we're seeing a switch from oil burning to charcoal which is more polluting in terms of carbon.”

High-end temperature-change predictions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predict as much as an 11-degree rise in average global temperatures by end of this century, at the high end of models.

Given the information above, it seems certain we will hit the high end.

And for people my age, or roughly so, who want to slough this off to the future — that increase will probably be 4 degrees by 2040, when you and I are quite likely to be alive and kicking.

This is NOT a problem to pass on to the future.

November 19, 2006

I’ll pass on staying at one of their motels if I’m in the Midwest

Stony Creek Inn has pulled CNN from its 10 properties in Missouri and Iowa, claiming video coverage of an Iraqi sniper in action is “propaganda (that) supported terrorism,” in the words of parent company president James Thompson

It’s obvious Mr. Thompson doesn’t understand what modern television journalism is about.

November 18, 2006


We don’t have a full week off, but I am off Wednesday at noon for the rest of the Thanksgiving duration, so I won’t be posting here; the backcountry of Big Bend doesn’t have wireless Internet, fortunately.

Blair: I admitted Iraq was a disaster before I denied it

Going far beyond any alleged John Kerry flip-flopping and into Bush territory, British PM Tony Blair first admits Iraq is a disaster in a BBC interview with David Frost, then later tries to retract that by claiming he was just being polite enough to agree with Frost’s question before refuting it.

Don’t expect the Baker Group to produce miracles on Iraq

Certainly not when one of its leading members still advocates the use of torture

That person would be Ed Meese, former Reagan White House Chief of Staff, then Attorney General.

In an interview in GQ, summarized in the blog Talking Points Memo, he’s even OK with summary field executions.

Elsewhere, TPM reports that in official military training already back in the 1980s, our troops were being informed that waterboarding, among the more nefarious practices condoned by George W. Bush, was considered torture, in no small part because the North Vietnamese had done it.

Meese is a member of the Baker/Hamilton Iraq Study Group, which is supposed to be finding a way to do something there besides “stay the course.” And as a former AG, he theoretically knows international law better than that, but actually doesn’t know it any better than the Revolutionary War-military history he spins.

November 15, 2006

The "Queen of Persia order" ― Dr. Lewis appears to get humble

You teachers and other LHS staff have already seen this. I would obviously like your impressions from the inside.

Second, I am strongly considering running this, with my response, as my editorial column for the Nov. 23 issue of Lancaster Today, assuming my boss is OK on this.

Having already spoken about the theft issues at LHS, though not at Houston, I would like to mention what I've heard about the JROTC firing range, the culinary arts dishwasher that can't be used, the cosmetology class that won't pass state inspection, etc.

All information will be presented as "I have heard," "sources have said," etc. That includes information about construction flaws, district management flaws, high school management flaws and high school departmental management flaws.

But, I want approval of you who have supplied me with this information before I run it.

Please let me know by Friday evening.

And, with that said, for those of you NOT familiar with this letter, it follows below the break. (I have slightly changed the name of the document as it was given to me, as a bit of cover.)

And, I hope you all understand that I have asked Teri Wilson to verify the authenticity of the letter.

Dear All,
As you know, we lost the last bond election by 267 votes. Over 6,700 votes were cast by Lancaster voters for or against the bond proposal. The election was our second defeat in as many tries since passing the February 2004 bond program. I would like to get input on the election from all stakeholders and/or staff members. Please answer the following questions with information from family, friends or interested parties. All information will be appreciated. Feel free to pass this email on to parents, community and/or organizations.

Committed to Children First
Dr. Lewis

Question 1 – Why do you think the bond failed? Or Why did voters vote against the bond?

1. As a taxpayer of Lancaster, it was never proven that our taxes would not increase dramatically.
2. It was too soon after the last bond.
3. The amount was too far into the future to prove that money would be spent as detailed by you.
4. We do not trust you (Dr. Lewis) to do what you say you are going to do. You are perceived as a used car salesman who wants to be in front of the camera but your word is not trustworthy.
5. The present construction money was not spent as you said it was to be spent.
6. The excuses were rampant as to the inability of the builder to complete the project as it was spelled out.
7. Once the project was done, the things promised to the staff as to the equipment and supplies needed to run our programs were not kept.
8. Money was spent more on athletic programs than on academic programs.
9. Buildings were torn down which could have been renovated instead of building new buildings.
10. Look into the mirror-the vote was as much against you as against the buildings. You treat people of all colors with little to no respect and if they disagree with you then you put them down. You refuse to acknowledge that African-Americans are not all one flavor.

Question 2 - What do you think we need to do to pass the bond?

1. Use the two wings that are presently not being used at the old junior high school and the old Westridge campus before you try to pass a bond.
2. Sell the old administration building.
3. Treat teachers with respect and they might be more willing to help.
4. Don’t threaten teachers and abuse them and you might have more willingness to promote the bond.
5. Wait for at least a year before you push through another election.
6. Quit wasting money on elections that have no chance of passing.
7. Set your sights on more reasonable goals. If the community won’t pass a 90 million dollar bond, why in the world would you think they would pass a 215 million dollar bond?

Question 3 – Do you have any other suggestions as we move forward?
1. Put more money into the classroom and not on more administrators and then people would be more willing to help with buildings. We are tired of seeing our taxes spent on you going to Vancouver, and other places instead of into the teachers’ classrooms.
2. Get rid of some of these coordinators. A coordinator does nothing to help the classroom. It is just one more level of bureaucracy.
3. Quit bringing in people from Dallas and get rid of unqualified administrators. Excellence is not built on people who have had their certification stripped and a Director of teaching and learning that does not even have a mid-management certificate. It is my guess that you surround yourself with people who are not qualified and then you can legitimately complain when they screw up because they weren’t qualified in the first place.

Question 4 – Would you like to work on a precinct team or bond committee for the upcoming May 2007 Bond Program?
1. I have already done this and you did not listen to us the first time, so why bother when you will do it as you want to anyway.
2. The only reason to answer this questionnaire is to air the feelings of the community, and not because we have any hope that it will be given any credence at all.