SocraticGadfly: 10/15/06 - 10/22/06

October 21, 2006

One high school or two in a suburb?

At what high school size, or city size, do residents of a city think a city needs to build a second high school? If a second high school is built, do all academic programs get duplicated at both? Or does each high school take on a separate focus? If that’s the case, how do you allow open enrollment while yet restricting students from moving entirely to one high school versus the other one? Does dividing a single city into two suburbs do something to community sociology and dynamics? (I have no doubt it does, from what I’ve heard other people say, including my brother in New Mexico and my two nephews.)

Is there an ideal maximum size for high schools? Are there studies on this? Are they countered by other studies?

What about other high schools near Lancaster? Cedar Hill and DeSoto are both over 2,500. Three of Arlington’s 5A schools are over 3,000. The special case of Duncanville is at 3,800. Up north, I believe it’s Plano East that’s above 5,500.

Personally, I’d be well against a high school that size. But, what about residents of Lancaster as a whole?

These things haven’t been publicly discussed yet. If voters want two high schools, and want them sooner rather than later, fine. But, let’s get their input first.

The Fort Worth Botanical Garden goes squishy on global warming

The botanical garden recently opened a new children-oriented elevated walkway, with posters, interactive boards, etc.

At the one end is a signboard discussing global warming.

Unfortunately, it goes pretty squishy.

First, it says SOME scientists believe in the dangers of increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, rather than “a great majority” or “almost all” or similar. It then said “some” scientists believe global warming could well have beneficial effects.

Your right-wing Big Oil intimidation dollars at work, somewhere behind the scenes.

Rep. Jane Harman on FBI hotseat over Israeli-linked PAC investigation

Time says the FBI is investigating whether or not the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and Harman broke the law to get Harman reappointed as the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee.

Given that Harman is well-known in politics as a war hawk, and arguably even “neocon-lite,” I can’t see this as being anything but good news for putting the neocon movement on one more bit of notice.

Of course, with the election coming up, for Democrats, it raises the Iraq issue in a less-than-ideal way, pointing out the party’s lack of unity on Iraq, indeed its papering over of the issue.

Time also puts the issue into larger context:
The case is a spin-off of a probe that has already led to charges under the Espionage Act against two AIPAC lobbyists, whose case is still pending, and to a 12-and-a-half-year prison sentence for former Defense Intelligence Agency official Lawrence A. Franklin.

In this same investigation, the Justice Department has previously suggested that AIPAC had questionable motives in trying to help a valued government contact remain in a sensitive national security post. The Justice Department alleges in its indictment of Franklin that he asked one of the two AIPAC lobbyists to “put in a good word” for him in seeking assignment to the National Security Council. The document says the AIPAC official noted that such a job would put Franklin "by the elbow of the President" and said he would “do what I can.”

As to whether House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was off-put by the lobbying strong-arm or acceded to it, we shall see, I guess.

Jason Stark, and others from ESPN as necessary, please update yourself on St. Louis Cardinals ownership

Contrary to what you say in your World Series preview, Anheuser-Busch doesn’t own the Cardinals. It hasn’t for several years. Ask managing general partner Bill DeWitt and the rest of the current Cardinals ownership group.

More on why it’s civil wars in Iraq, and where’s Teheran on this?

As noted just yesterday at the tail end of a New York Times story and already reported more than once ago by The Guardian, it appears Moqtada al-Sadr is losing control of his own militia into what is shaping up as inter-Shiite civil war in the Iraqi south.

I’m sure part of the reason the American MSM hasn’t reported this more is that this is largely in the British/allied sector of Iraq. Nonetheless, all Americans who regularly follow the continued devolution in Iraq know who al-Sadr is, and what this portends. Combine this with the Sunni-Shiite fighting in the center, and the war of all against all that seems to be growing in Mosul and Kirkuk ― and which started when we pulled troops out of their in a futile effort to establish once-and-for-all law and order in Baghdad ― all point to the rise of civil wars in the plural, not civil war in the singular, in Iraq. This is like the post-colonial pullout in parts of sub-Saharan Africa writ even larger.

Note: A new Reuters story claims al-Sadr is still in control of his Mehdi Army.)

Everybody talks about “Iran, Iran, Iran” in the Sunni-Shiite dustup. But in the likely-growing intra-Shiite squabbles, which horse or horses does Teheran back? Or does it decide to hold back for right now?

Why you shouldn’t vote Democratic, or believe Democrats, if you really want a change

Once again, Ted Rall gets it right. Democrats ain’t touching Iraq with a 10-foot pole if they get the majority in Congress.

I only vote Green because we don’t have a full-bore social democratic party in the U.S. But, Green’s better than the option.

Agency construction management vs. construction at-risk construction management, Gallagher Construction Management Services, inflation and more

I have never blamed Gallagher for inflation-driven cost overruns. And, as I’ve said elsewhere on this blog, I expect most construction managers who do projects as big as the Lancaster School District’s 2004 bond issue to be agency management rather than at-risk management.

The nickel definition of the difference is that an agency manager doesn’t guarantee locked-in prices in case of inflationary surges, while an at-risk manager is theoretically on the hook for at least some of this, though contracts can vary from case to case. The flip side is that, the bigger the project, the more risk an at-risk manager carries. So, he or she has to have a higher base price; that’s the only way you can do that without losing your shirt. And, given the recent volatility in oil, steel and concrete prices, I doubt most at-risk managers can in any way afford to do major projects.

Indeed, speaking of this, with a brother and nephew in the Oil Patch, I have in the past defended Gallagher in specific ways.

On the other hand, Superintendent Larry Lewis, while defending Gallagher, hasn’t explained how the two different types of managers work. I’ll admit that I haven’t either, on the assumption that nobody would expect guaranteed prices on projects that big. (And, that’s true of private-sector work, too.)

But, I’m not the person who persuaded the school board that Gallagher was the company to use. I don’t know if board members have questions about this, or if they know about the two different ways of doing business.

I totally doubt this will satisfy last-ditch opponents who simply look for reasons to be oppositional. But, many in the “silent majority” might want more information.

There is a better way to build schools; unfortunately, we’re not in Arizona

Local school districts don’t sell bonds there, and they don’t build schools.

The state builds schools, the same for rich and poor school districts, which addresses “Robin Hood” issues better than here in Texas. Since Arizona is growing even faster than Texas, and it ain’t all Sun City retirees, either, the state may have to float bonds rather than pay for all of those schools out of its treasury. That said, a state can still get a better bond rate than an individual school district.

That said, this also means districts aren’t hiring consultants to justify calling bond elections. Districts aren’t hiring demographers for that, either; besides, a state government has various demographers on staff in different agencies, anyway.

On the other hand, can you blame skeptics, whether so-called “CAVE” people or not, for being skeptical?

When I first reported about this year’s citizens bond committee bond ideas, they were calling for a $211 million bond. Between my first and second stories and the actual call for an election, that had been increased to $215 million. The information I was given at that time mentioned a “southside” elementary in addition to West Main and Pleasant Run replacements. In the final version of the bond proposal, that became another northside elementary. The growth continues to be fastest on the northside, but how did the bond committee call for a southside elementary in the first place? The first phase was pegged at $61 million and came in at $62.7 million.

Phase II was originally listed at $67.7 million and finaled out at $69 million. Did land prices change in a week, or what?

These are small, around-the-edges issues, but they’re not nothing, either. And speaking of nothings, while appearances aren’t everything, they aren’t nothing, either. While it is conspiracy thinking to talk about Canadian bank diktats, it isn’t, to ask questions about the magic phrase “scope creep.”

October 20, 2006

Large schools or small schools ― which is it?

It’s interesting, at the least, for more far-out critics of the Lancaster School District bond election to complain that the school district’s plan calls for elementary schools bigger than they want, but then complain that the new Houston is too small. (And, keeping the old Houston up would solve the crowding, but, considering that as part of a single, even bigger “new/old” Houston, you’d have an elementary of about 1,000 students ― more than double the size some people in this group think is good.

So, which is it?

The emotional border between doing good research and playing “gotcha”

That border is not always easy to find, let alone to hold. It takes a lot of self-detachment, and it isn’t always done perfectly.

Thick skins are required, especially the closer one gets, or the longer one has known, the issues, people, events, stances, standpoints, politics and so forth involved.

It’s easy for people who get touched by the analysis of this research to get touchy; and it’s easy for outsiders to claim that you’re not digging enough.

Pete Sessions has a genuine, certified nutbar on his staff

For the past couple of days, a friend of mine said her office has been getting faxes from someone, with the fax transmission code saying “Pete Sessions” at the top. I saw a copy of one, saw the fax number, and went to Sessions’ website.

Sure enough, it matches the 972-392-0505 fax number for his Dallas office.

The faxer is in full blown Free Republic mode, tin hats and all. He/she literally talks about “the satellites spying on me.”

If any of y’all know Will Pryor, pass it on.

October 19, 2006

Getting Larry Lewis’ attention with the bond countdown on — my editorial, his last town hall

NOTE: For local readers, the caveat in my sidebar applies in spades. These are just my personal observations, even as they impact my professional work

The following are some notes, observations, comment and analysis on Lewis’ town hall meeting Oct. 19, and on some of his concerns about my Oct. 19 editorial.

Comment: Before anything else, if you talk to any teachers in the district, ask them if they’re being forced to either do a neighborhood get-out-the-vote walk or else man get-out-the-vote phone banks. Ask if there were any implied less-than-pleasant alternatives should neither of the two above options be found desirable.

OK, first, my meeting with

First, Lewis rejected the idea of a housing slowdown. I didn’t cite sources by name in the editorial, being as it came from another local media source, but the slowdown in existing, and in new, home sales, were on the front page of the Oct. 9 and Oct. 10 online Business section of The Dallas Morning News, respectively.

In the second story, a Metroplex real estate analyst, Ted Wilson of Residential Strategies, has in the past month pointed to declining sales in both new and existing homes. On new home sales, he specifically mentioned declines in Lancaster, citing cancellation of new home sales at rates as high as 70 percent in lower-priced homes in a price range common in Lancaster. (Wilson has been a source for the News for several years on real estate analysis.)

Information about a 30 percent increase in foreclosures, across Dallas County, was in an August issue of the News. Yahoo Real Estate, which lets you look for free rather than a paid database, listed 313 homes under foreclosure in Lancaster Oct. 19.

Lewis also complained about the paper not having information about the district’s superior rating from the Texas Education Agency’s Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas.

First, I mentioned nothing about the district’s ability to finance the bond in my editorial. So, getting the FIRST information in the paper had no relevance one way or the other to my editorial, no pun intended.

Otherwise, as people reading our paper in recent weeks have surely noticed, we have had a lot of local news. I have been holding many stories at least one week after they were written; a fair amount of them more than that.

We had three issues that went to press after the Oct. 2 Lancaster School Board meeting when the FIRST rating was announced. And, if we ran nothing but school news, time after time, article after article, people would get tired. This past week? I ran the story about you speaking to the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and ran it the first week it was up. That gave you a fair forum to talk about the district. I had the Baby Moses program story on hold for two weeks. I still have other information from the Oct. 2 board meeting on hold as another story.

Oh, yes, we print letters to the editor from people like Jeff Melcher. If he or somebody else had something slanderous, we would have removed it, or not run the letter. BUT, we also run letters to the editor from Ellen Clark. Beyond Ellen, other people who served on the bond committee have been free to write their own letters. Don’t blame me if they haven’t.

In the town hall, Lewis largely talked again about how the district had managed the 2004 bond issue, and done so well. I've never argued with that. In fact, I've defended Gallagher Construction Management Services and how they handled inflationary price increases on steel and concrete. So, we won’t cover that further.

Let’s get to what was new.

Lewis claimed 5,380 new seats, the total the new bond will fund if passed, will carry the district to 2010. Given that’s almost as big as last year’s entire enrollment, and as big as or bigger than that of 2004-05, that should be well, well more than enough. Even if the district grew at 650 students per year, more than it has in the past, that would still leave it shy of the 5,380 mark by 2015, not 2010.

He later said, “Small schools cost more money,” of not wanting 400-500 student elementary schools. Doesn’t that same logic apply to the high school, and not building a second one? Again, if residents of the district and city are OK with a second one, that’s fine by me, but it hasn't even been discussed yet. Yes, I know the Nov. 7 bond only talks about buying land for a second high school, but I doubt Lewis plans to sit on such land for too long if bought.

Lewis also said there were different definitions of what “fully funded” meant on new high school programs, in response to a question from district employee Ms. Wade. I’m sure high school teachers might have a different definition.

Lewis finished with “nobody knows what you’re going to get,” with a bond issue. True. Isn’t that more reason to give a three-part bond issue the most careful examination?

Lewis also said that Dallas Superintendent Michael Hinojosa is making noise about wanting Lancaster to take some former Wilmer-Hutchins students. Wonderful. Will Larry take them? Yes, it's noble, but noble and sensical aren’t always the same word

I retract a bit of skepticism on Mark Foley’s claims

A Catholic priest has admitted havingsome sexually charged encounters, such as giving him a massage, but says no sex was involved.

This does allow me to correct one or two myths about child sexual abuse.

First, actual intercourse does not have to happen for an abusive event to be “sexual” in a broader sense. Inappropriate touching, such as here, would be one example. Exposure would certainly be another.

Second, although a more intense level of abuse is more likely to be traumatic, that is not necessarily so. Nor is some abuse being relatively infrequent versus frequent; again, there’s a greater likelihood of trauma with abuse, but it can come from a one-time event.

Third, what is at least as reliable, if not more so, of a predictor of adult aftereffects of childhood sexual abuse is how young the child was when the abuse started.

Now, that said, it’s still not normal for someone first coming to grips with child sexual abuse, like Foley, to go blurting it out in public. In other words, one can be a legitimate victim, but still use this for personal gain.

The silent majority in the Lancaster School District bond election

The phrase of President Nixon’s was running in the back of my head as I finished writing my editorial for the Oct. 19 issue of my newspaper, Lancaster Today.

Certainly, there’s a great chunk of actual or would-be voters out there who read my newspaper who are silent. They’re certainly silent. They’re not either blindly accepting everything that Superintendent Larry Lewis says about the current bond proposal, including his claim that he will have to house students in their houses if they don’t approve the bond, nor are they believing that everything Lewis proposes is evil, wrong, unethical, has some financial inside (maybe that’s why Lewis, at the Oct. 12 Lancaster Chamber of Commerce lunch, stressed he had no personal gain from the bond issue — somebody was spreading rumors) or was suspect on nativist grounds it involves RBC Dain Rauscher, with its nefarious Canadian financing, or involved an architectural firm that doesn’t have an office in Lancaster. (So, does a leading conspiracy theorist want every school district in the state of Texas to have an architectural firm inside the district? If so, how does he propose to do this? By government regulation? And, yes, Jeff Melcher, you said one thing wrong with Corgan was it didn’t have anybody in Lancaster. If we apply your logic to the whole state — this is called analysis — that’s the logical end result, i.e., the state of Texas forcing some architectural firm or another to have an office in every school district in the state. I’m sure you, with a large-government, activist political philosophy, would willingly support that.)

(Second parenthetical sidebar: I have a friend who has a friend who works for another architectural firm that’s in school design. She mentioned nothing conspiratorial about Corgan, either, even though it could benefit her company if something were found. And, Jeff Melcher, you haven’t seen the vaunted Herb Booth or anybody else at The Dallas Morning News uncover any problems either, have you?)

Anyway, I believe the silent people who haven’t written letters to the editor from either camp represent the majority of Lancaster voters. And, Mayor Joe Tillotson estimated that three-quarters of our readers vote in local elections.

If the school bond fails, after Nov. 7, I will actually be taking the proactive step of writing an editorial for a series of bond propositions that I believe this silent majority can accept. Probably neither of the two camps mentioned above will like it, which will mean it’s a good thing.

OK, I confess — the Corgan check is in the mail; I’m on the payroll to pass the Lancaster School District bond election

I know that sooner or later, I’d be found out as being on the Corgan Schools architectural firm payroll anyway, having taken its cash to support the Lancaster School District bond election as I infer that some people are insinuating. (That editorial I wrote in my newspaper this week against the bond? A clever smoke screen, to throw people off the trail. Obviously, though, some people, with better investigative skills than mine, sharp enough to see that an architectural firm that does not headquarter in Lancaster, Texas, is a threat to the free world and the future of Jeffersonian democracy in Lancaster, have smoked me out, even though they apparently haven’t gotten their political action committee registered with the state of Texas yet.)

So, I’ll just ’fess up now and say that that autographed check for $10,000 from Don Burleson is on its way. Especially since it’s the first of five installments, I should have known better than to try to hide it.

I had to do it, because Today Newspapers couldn’t pay me the money to learn how to use the Internets, or understand what “scare quotes” are, or don’t understand the dangerous power of my own rhetoric.

Obviously I called The Allen Group “the savior of Lancaster” somewhere in an issue of my paper, too, rather than simply factually reporting about their land development plans, and forgot about it, so I need the Corgan money to stock up on ginko, or get an fMRI or whatever.

(Somebody else, though, forgot HTML links to that “thorough” Dallas Morning News investigating, even if no Canadian financing was turned up. This must be an example of in-depth news reporting digging much more thoroughly than I ever did. A quote from John Wiley Price, who would be upset primarily if his favored minority vendors weren’t getting more, is the only thing I might not have had. Herb Booth does dig in such depth as to quote Jeff Melcher’s favorite Lancaster resident, Ellen Clark, though, so he must be far superior to me.)

No, I don’t that ginko.

I need to go gallivanting out to the Pacific Northwest again so I can write haiku.

Of course, that was part of the conspiracy, Jeff; that’s where I signed the contract to get on the Corgan payroll.

That’s why I was in such a gallivanting mood when I got back. Until I discovered that the whole plan was falling to the crack surveillance of people at whose powers I can only stand back in awe. That includes their snark powers, with which I obviously cannot keep up.

These people, despite me not directly talking to them, obviously can’t stop impressing on me that they’ve lifted the lid off of the conspiracy (yes, that’s what a hidden plot is) for Canadian dollars to dominate Lancaster (NOBODY was supposed to know that Corgan staff met with the Canadian Finance Minister up in Ottawa last month), abetted by the Corgan sell-out to nefarious foreign nationals.

I may not know how to use the Internets; my snark factor may stand second to someone else’s brilliance.

But, Jeff, I know conspiracy thinking when I see it. And, no, not just me thinks that way among people who have already seen or heard about that letter. Want me to mail you a mirror? Or, do you want more from other people after they read that letter?

Liberal versus conservative blogs and the free exchange of ideas

This is a generalization that I’m about to voice; that said, I believe it has enough validity to call it a generalization and not a stereotype.

Every liberal-leaning blog I’ve read, whether focused on local, regional or national issues, has always allowed open posts/commentary by all readers.

Conservative blogs? Not nearly so consistent. Many don’t allow posting, even though, with a Blogger blog, it’s simple and easy to configure the posts setting to allow comments by all readers rather than just the owner(s) of that blog.

Hmm. Makes you wonder who really wants to have “a discussion of ideas” and who doesn’t, now, doesn’t it? And that’s also true whether it’s local, regional or national issues.

October 18, 2006

Further facts about school construction and Gallagher Construction Management, and more thoughts on the Lancaster School District bond election

Gallagher Construction Management Services has been used, and is being used now, for both school district and civic project construction in many places around the Metroplex.

There are both good and bad sides to both the agency method and the construction manager at risk method of construction management.

An obvious rule of thumb is, the bigger the construction project, the more there is that can go wrong, and especially the more higher-dollar things there are that can go wrong. Beyond “going wrong,” the bigger, and longer, a project, the more susceptible it is to inflationary spikes, material shortages, etc.

With construction manager at risk system, then, that means smaller and smaller margins. Now, I don’t have any figures, but I’m guessing that a majority of construction managers here in Texas use the agency system for that reason. For companies the size of Gallagher or larger, companies big enough to comfortably handle projects the size of Lancaster’s 2004 bond construction, I’m guessing two out of three are agency type.

If Jeff Melcher understands agency-contract construction managers, he would know that they don’t eat inflationary costs. That does make them more of a gamble if you hit inflationary spikes; on the other hand, it normally means a lower baseline for a contract. If he understands geopolitics as he presents himself as doing, he would know that the explosion of the Chinese economy, even without the oil price boom, would have spiked steel and concrete costs, and increased their scarcity. Having a brother and nephew who work in the Oil Patch, I know that firsthand. I explained that in an editorial this summer

Either Jeff doesn’t know these points, whether from not being so attentive to world affairs, failure to read my editorial on the subject, or whatever, or it doesn’t matter to him, and he’s going to fire away at Gallagher no matter what.

That said, any district that uses the agency method is rolling the dice, to be true. The Waxahachie City Council had an extensive discussion on the different methods before hiring Gallagher.

But, and not to make light of how inflation hit Lancaster — other entities gambled the same way, not just with Gallagher, but other agency-based construction management companies. International companies got caught buying short on both steel and concrete, far beyond local school districts and construction projects. There was NO CONSPIRACY with Lancaster school construction.

Also, as far as cost overruns, there’s plenty of them in private sector construction, too. Just like the private insurance industry has even more of the dreaded “waste and fraud” than Medicare, Jeff. Sorry, but governments just aren’t always the corrupt, or inept, monsters that many conservatives make them out to be.

As far as Gallagher’s specific bona fides, they were used just south of here several years ago to oversee the construction of the Waxahachie Civic Center. Several organizations from the communities of the Best Southwest have rented that place since it opened, with no complaints about its construction. As far as its construction management, I’m not familiar with details, but to the best of my knowledge, the city of Waxahachie had no major complaints about that.

Other work of the company includes the city of Farmer’s Branch recreation center, work at both Garland and South Garland high schools, as separate projects, separate times and different architects. (No, in case Jeff or anybody else is wondering, Gallagher is not a Siamese twin of Corgan.)

A list of Gallagher projects completed by the end of 2003 is here; as one can see, Corgan partnered with Gallagher on less than 20 percent of these.

And, no, the Lancaster 2004 bond issue is not the biggest project Gallagher has managed, either, lest Jeff or someone else think the company got over its head in Lancaster. (That, at least, would be a rational, non-conspiratorial argument.) Forney ISD had a total of $142 million in various projects that Gallagher oversaw.

Before getting into construction management in the mid-1900s, Gallagher was a general contractor for about 30 years.

There; there’s some research, Jeff. It includes links. Yes, the majority of them are from Gallagher’s website, but, where better to get information on actual projects they’ve done.

Given all of these different school districts and cities for whom Gallagher has worked, for a decade or better, Jeff, if it had a history of financial irregularities, The Dallas Morning News, with its depth of staff and greater ability to investigate such things (not that I haven’t done investigative journalism at smaller newspapers, Jeff) would have reported something. And, you know what, Jeff? The News hasn’t. That ought to tell you something right there — if you’re willing to listen.

Unfortunately, whether during early voting or on Election Day, for Lancaster voters, there will be just two sides on this issue; there is no “neutral, but let’s reason out something better” on the ballot. In the editorial, I deplore both the apocalyptic comments of Superintendent Larry Lewis, on the one hand, threatening to put children into residents’ living rooms, and the conspiracy thinking of people like Jeff Melcher on the other, insinuating that a Canadian bank stood posed to take over the Lancaster School District should this bond be voted in.

The third side would be the assembly of a citizens council including NO representatives from either the school district or the long-known Committee Against Virtually Everything, or C.A.V.E. people. Sorry, not my invention; I know my predecessor as Lancaster Today editor, Chuck Bloom, whose tenure as either staff writer or editor stretches back to before the 1994 tornado, used it repeatedly, though I don’t believe he’s the one who invented it, either. (Of course, C.A.V.E. could also stand for Conspiracies Are Virtually Everywhere.)

Now, I am not as harsh as Chuck; I do not totally believe in this label, and I know how labels can at times be beat-down tools. But, on an issue like this, it seems to gain more validity by the day, if not the hour.

Unfortunately, that isn’t likely to happen. Given the latest ramp-up on the conspiratorial side, including what I see as financial insinuations against yours truly in his last paragraph, I doubt Melcher will support ANY bond issue, at least as long as Lewis is here. Jeff, you’re welcome to tell me otherwise. You're certainly welcome, snark aside, to offer actual evidence of any financial wrongdoing of which you are aware

And, unfortunately, he and Larry Lewis are probably going to wind up being each other’s tar babies.

The Lancaster School District bond election — unfortunately, there’s no “third side” in the vote

In the editorial I wrote about the Nov. 7 bond election this week (link coming on Thursday), I quoted the Sufi philosopher Idries Shah, saying “There are never just two sides to anything.”

Unfortunately, whether during early voting or on Election Day, for Lancaster voters, there will be just two sides on this issue; there is no “neutral, but let’s reason out something better” on the ballot. In the editorial, I deplore both the apocalyptic comments of Superintendent Larry Lewis, on the one hand, threatening to put children into residents’ living rooms, and the conspiracy thinking of people like Jeff Melcher on the other, insinuating that a Canadian bank potentially stood posed to take over the Lancaster School District should this bond be voted in.

The third side would be the assembly of a citizens council including NO representatives from either the school district or the long-known Committee Against Virtually Everything, or C.A.V.E. people. Sorry, not my invention; I know my predecessor as Lancaster Today editor, Chuck Bloom, whose tenure as either staff writer or editor stretches back to before the 1994 tornado, used it repeatedly, though I don’t believe he’s the one who invented it, either.

Unfortunately, that isn’t likely to happen. Given the latest ramp-up on the conspiratorial side, including what I see as financial insinuations against yours truly in his last paragraph, I doubt Melcher will support ANY bond issue, at least as long as Lewis is here.

October 17, 2006

More Mark Foley spinning on his alleged child sexual abuse

He’s going to announce his abuser, but his attorney, Gerald Richman, says he won’t press charges because “We’re talking about issues that happened 36 to 38 years ago. This is all part of the healing process for Mark Foley.”

Wrong You’re not pressing charges — if this actually happened — because the statute of limitations expired long ago. How convenient. Between that and Foley privately naming the alleged priest to the Archdiocese of Miami, we have no idea whether he’s telling the truth or not, after doing something atypical of most child sexual abuse survivors and immediately and publicly fingering a specific abuser.

October 16, 2006

Another knee-jerk Democratic blog — Atrios/Eschaton — gets removed from my links list

I of course removed Kos after he banned me this summer for calling Armando a spade in spades for lawyering for Wally-World.

Well, with Spinsanity founder Brendan Nyhan getting canned by The American Prospect because Duncan Black (Atrios) bitched, “Eschaton” is off my link list also.

I’ve thought for years, not just months, that Black was among the more puerile, even sophomoric, bloggers around, and had very rarely visited his site in the last three-four months. (I had slowed down after the anti-Green flaming I got there during the 2004 elections.)

I have an account at Talking Points Memo, but hadn’t used it since Josh Marshall upgraded the site. But, less so than with the minions of Kos or Atrios, I’ve tangled a bit with him from time to time, especially when I’ve pointed out Democratic problems and it seems to me like Josh thinks I’m making a moral equivalence statement.

Now, Kevin Drum at Political Animal is less liberal than I, and though a fellow atheist, less assertive a civil libertarian. But Kevin’s always been a dignified and rational blogger.

October 15, 2006

Conspiracy thinking, Lancaster style

In his latest letter to the editor at my newspaper, Jeff Melcher, leading opponent of the Lancaster School District’s $215 bond issue, shows he’s either had to much to drink from the Kool-Aid of people like Nancy Moffett (no, I didn’t mention her by name in my original warning to you, Jeff, but you apparently didn’t read between the lines well enough), or else I misread Melcher and he’s a more natural ally of people like that than I thought.

No matter.

I’m going to touch on two points Melcher makes.

First, he notes that RBC Dain Rauscher, the district’s bond financial counsel (and outside counsel on financial matters for several years) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Canada.


I infer that Melcher thinks that means RBC, or the Ottawa government, is going to annex Lancaster ISD, or some similarly nefarious idea.

Are they also going to annex all the other school districts which they counsel (and which you noted they counsel)?

And, by that logic, President Bush ought to already have surrendered to Beijing, as Chinese buyers of U.S. bonds and T-bills have financed Bush’s illegal war with Iraq. I’m also going to take a stab that, from what I know of Melcher’s politics, he supports that war, meaning we have some inconsistency in thinking and reasoning here.

Finally, on this issue, Jeff, such nativism is unbecoming, if not downright distasteful.

Second, he says that Corgan, the district’s architect for 2004 bond projects, provides PR help for Lancaster, and other client school districts, and also lobbies agencies like the Texas Association of School Boards.

First, Jeff, and I know your conservative enough to support capitalist economic models, there’s nothing illegal, or even unethical, about lobbying an agency like TASB. In fact, if Corgan is a publicly-held firm, it would arguably be a faiulre of fiduciary duty to shareholders NOT to lobby TASB.

And, I have no doubt that Corgan isn’t the only such firm to either do PR for school districts trying to get a bond passed or to lobby TASB. If you think they are, I’ve got Arizona swampland at discount rates. Or Canadian Rivieras, if you want RBC Dain Rauscher financing.

Why electric deregulation isn’t working

Even the Cato Institute doesn’t like it, but for the wrong reasons, although it’s OK with reverting

As I can tell you from living in Texas, even though 100 percent dereg doesn’t hit here until Jan. 1, it just doesn’t work. Of course, if you want more proof, read this from the New York Times.

As for Cato? It’s complaint is that dereg still leaves the government too much in the market. Hey, Mr. “Libertarian Democrat,” Markos Moulitsas, did you hear that? Sure, the libertarians are all going to migrate to the Democratic Party. (I swear he gets more self-delusional all the time.)
But some advocates of introducing competition to the electric industry have soured on the idea. They include the Cato Institute, a leading promoter of libertarian thought that favors the least possible regulation and that concluded earlier this year that government and electric utilities have made such hash of the new system that the whole effort should be scrapped.

“We recommend total abandonment of restructuring,” Cato said. If the public rejects a greater embrace of markets, Cato wrote, the next best choice would be a “return to an updated version of the old” system.

Well, I’ll agree with the last sentence, there, which is shocking enough.

“Snow brings a flashy, Fox News sensibility to the high-profile podium”

Couldn’t have said it better myself than what Howie Kurtz said.

What other press secretary has raised the partisanship level of the position so high as to engage in political campaign fundraising? Yep, that’s the Fox “fair and balanced” sensibility, all right.

The man brings a whole new meaning to the term “Snow job,” and I suspect a bunch of the mainstream media eat it up.

Whither the American newspaper, as asked from L.A.?

The Times, wallowing under a mix of Tribune Co. bureaucracy and it’s own over-inflated self-opinion (how can you let yourself be called a national newspaper and not have a daily edition in D.C.?, and gee, doesn’t that sound like The Dallas Morning News/A.H. Belo?) figures the best way to answer the headliner tease is to assign some of its investigative reporters to look at itself.

But, as Tom Rosenstiel points out, the answer’s already been provided by similar exercises at other newspapers: More online focus.

The seven-day daily has never been the same since the AP, Reuters and AFP began providing free online content. And that genie will never be put back in the bottle.

Unfortunately, it has some fallout effect on us at suburban weeklies, slowing or stunting our own market penetration, though for the medium haul, we’re better positioned than they are. As for the long haul, that’s anybody’s guess.

Amen to outing Foley — the MSM fails again

Michelangelo Signorile has it exactly right: the mainstream media should have outed Mark Foley long ago. Sexual hypocrisy within the GOP, especially gay sexual hypocrisy, is a legitimate news issue as well as a legitimate political campaign issue.
Although homosexuality, like heterosexuality, is not inherently dangerous, repressed sexuality — whether it's repressed homosexuality or repressed heterosexuality — certainly can be harmful when the dam bursts.

Foley lived in a glass closet in Washington, where many people, we're now being told, assumed he was gay, even as he orchestrated a lie for the voters of his district with help from the media both in Washington and at home in Florida. …

The standard (for outing) should be simple: If a public figure's homosexuality is relevant to a larger story, then the public should know. Foley voted for an anti-gay law, which should have been reason enough for the press corps to expose his hypocrisy. When aspects of a public figure’s heterosexuality are relevant — past relationships, marriages, children, divorces and the like — the media dutifully report on them, whether or not the subjects approve of such reporting.

Fortunately, the growth of blogging, and the growth of in-depth, or specially focused, work by some blogs, means that the MSM’s monopoly of silence is eroding.