November 18, 2006

Holidays

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.

Watch for Lancaster Today on the racks this issue - open records

Teachers/staff posting here... if you don't buy it, please look at the top left corner of page 1... it should be out on the racks Wednesday evening; if not, look for it Thursday.

If you know of other teachers who might be interested in the open records story and aren't even aware that a newspaper called Lancaster Today exists, if I can make a marketing pitch, PLEASE tell them, too. You might be surprised how many people do not realize we have a local newspaper.

And, not just for the "hard-hitting" stuff like this, but local news coverage in general, and "feature/photo" information, as we get it, about school events/honors.

Anonymity, protection of sources, and posting here

I treat comments here on sensitive matters as being like comments to me as the newspaper editor, even though this blog is not officially connected to Lancaster Today in any way.

If you want anonymity, you can have it.

That said, if you want to use an alias, please do so. If you want to do that, but use your actual e-mail, you can do that. If you want to use an alias and no e-mail, or a fake e-mail, you can enter that in the appropriate space in the Haloscan comments.

If I need to make reference to my information at all in a story in the newspaper, I will do so saying something like … “sources familiar with the new high school said …”

I have done so with my story coming out in this Thursday’s paper, and ran that language in front of the person who was an early and primary source of information before saying anything in print.

November 14, 2006

Automakers continue to backpedal on car mileage

I was reading a new-car review of the 2007 Honda Fit.

Despite having a smaller 1.5-liter engine than my 2001 Corolla’s 1.8-liter, and a five-speed auto versus a four-speed, it only is rated at 2 mpg better on the highway, and is rated the same as a 2005 Corolla similarly equipped to mine.

A car like this should get an even 40 with its base engine that size.

And, contrary to Honda PR, this is NOT a subcompact. It weighs within 100 pounds of a 2005 Corolla and as much as mine.

The biggest problem? The engine is a cheapie. Honda only put a single cam in it.

I thought that was something just American carmakers did.

Toyota’s Yaris does better, at 39/34, with a four-speed auto; of course, it comes in 200 pounds lighter and has a dual-cam engine. Now, if Toyota would just bump the auto tranny to a five-speed.

Nissan’s Versa is the worst. It is clearly, even more than Fit, a compact, not a subcompact. It’s a foot longer and 200 pounds more than the Fit. So, it has no choice but to have a 1.8 liter engine, I guess. But, that engine, even with a dual cam, only weighs in at 28/35 on mileage.

Another “three months and it still ain’t fixed” at LHS

It’s called the phone system.

Ask a teacher how often the phones at Lancaster High School work.

Or computers, from what I’ve heard.
It’s called the phone system.

Ask a teacher how often the phones at Lancaster High School work.

Or computers, from what I’ve heard.

Further notes on The Preserve and Blogging the Nov. 12 Lancaster City Council meeting

Karen Mitchell said large lots at The Preserve would be bought by executives at The Allen Group’s Dallas Logistics Hub, University of North Texas ― Dallas and Lancaster Airport.

Well, other than the airport manager, I don’t know of ANY executives at Lancaster Airport. While many in the city, including yours truly, would love to see the airport develop into a truly executive airport, that’s a LONG way into the future, if at all.

UNT-D? As noted in this post, its growth rate continues to be slower than desired ― or initially “sold.” Let’s not put too many eggs into that basket.

The Logistics Hub? Let’s wait and see just when The Allen Group starts building, how much it builds, and how many executive jobs it has before we start believing too many promises there, either.

And, as noted here, The Allen Group may just not build out everything it has talked about.

Anyway, Lisa Stephani hit on a number of big issues. A well-organized presentation, in which she even did some nice intellectual judo on some of Ted Wilson’s own stuff.

Finally, a note or two on The Preserve vs. Mills Branch.

No, I don’t believe The Preserve should look just like Mills Branch. But, the idea that Mills Branch has “no development standards,” as Namom Hollis claims, well … “sorry.” Having sat through much, if not all, of every P&Z and City Council meeting on Mills Branch, and having editorially supported it, that’s just not true.

You residents: if it were a choice between Mills Branch standards and current standards The Preserve’s developers propose, for which would you vote?

I mean, it sounds like Hollis is comparing The Preserve to some … to some … to some D.R. Horton development.

I’m sorry.

Oh, and if you can comment on how slow Mills Branch sales are, what’s that say about the top end of The Preserve?

But, but, but … Mills Branch has build-out requirements for its different sizes and prices ranges to all be built out at a roughly equitable rate, and that aren’t segregated by neighborhood.

Now, that said, I don’t necessarily agree with every development angle residents of the southside have. I think you can add dollar value through design quality, materials standards and lot location (yes, somewhat in the general lines of Mills Branch type development) than they may think.

I also don’t like gated communities; I find them snobby, to put it bluntly. Of course, I’ll never make enough money in three lifetimes of working jobs like I do now to ever afford living in such a place.

City joins school district in going anti-union

The city approved its own prevailing wage scale at the Nov. 13 Lancaster City Council meeting, getting ready to issue construction bonds from the 2005 bond issue. It’s required to either use the federal, worker-friendly, union-wage based Davis-Bacon scale or else one of its own. Guess which option the city chose?

It’s stuff like this that keeps Texas a low-wage state.

Transportation/warehousing’s future?

People who regularly read my newspaper know that I write a semi-regular column about Peak Oil. Experts who are bearish on the issue, that is, predict worldwide oil production to be peaking before the end of this decade, say that if oil goes much over $100/bbl, the whole mode of business of folks like Wal-Mart, and Wal-Mart’s myriad suppliers, will change drastically.

The end result? Just in time manufacture, with component assembly of many subassemblies of, say, electronic items, being done in a place like Taiwan and final assembly in China, will become more and more untenable.

And that, then, in turn, will affect how much in the way of warehousing/transportation hub facilities our country needs.

Do we face a possibility of warehouse overbuilding?

Possibly.

There are other warehousing centers being built in our area besides Argent/ProLogis and the to-be-built, at some day, Allen Group site, we already have two other such sites under development.

One is in Dallas, on Hampton Road just north of the DeSoto city limits. It’s first building is about the same size as Argent’s first building, and is a month or so ahead of its construction timetable.

The second is on Danieldale Road at I-35, on the DeSoto side, in an area where Dallas city limits dips to the south of Danieldale. Work there is a month or two behind Argent.

But, if both of those are built out, and further development happens just west of Hampton Road in South Dallas, in the area behind the Wheatland Road car dealers, how much need will there be for The Allen Group to go to full buildout?

What will the future of UNT-Dallas really be?

Earlier this fall, Sen. Royce West said he would work to get the Texas Legislature to lower the enrollment requirements UNT-D needed to meet in order to start working on a second building on the site.

Of course, earlier, West and UNT-D folks worked to move downward the original baseline to get the first building built and UNT-D established as a separate university and not just a service center.

I am not a naysayer; I am just engaging in some reflecting.

November 13, 2006

Democratic Congressional leadership looking more bleah

In the House you have two moderates, one a new-aged DLC schmoozer (Steny Hoyer) and one an old-fashioned pork-barreller (John Murtha) duking it out for Majority Leader.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, Robert Byrd is set to lead Appropriations.

If Byrd and Murtha (district in southwestern Pennsylvania) are both in place, every “fixer” in Appalachia will have his pockets lined with greenbacks.

Also in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid just had his penchant for earmarks covered in detail. His explanation rings pretty hollow.

Murders and million-dollar homes

Steve Topletz just HAS to be loving the crime news coming out of Lancaster.

Not that we're going to have a murder every week, but still ...

A beautiful sunset Sunday

I think that might have been the best sunset I’ve seen in our area in more than a year.

Normally, I would post a comment like this, if I elaborated on it with a bit of poetry or something, on my non-news/politics blog.

But, I wanted to write it here, to remind people that there’s more to life than the headaches, heartaches and hassles of the world of work.

Try to detach at times, as best you can.

November 12, 2006

Dallas-area foreclosures already set record

And housing slowdown expected to continue

Foreclosures for 2006 have already gone nearly 10 percent ahead of 2005, and that’s with a month still left in the year, Friday’s Morning News reported.

Meanwhile, some Realtors’ representatives are out writing fluff that there’s “nothing to see here” and soon D/FW housing will be booming. In Saturday’s News, top local real estate analyst (Remember: analyst, not paid to write puff pieces for Realtors) scoffs at the idea, and stands behind his October comments that the local real estate market has further corrections it needs to undergo first.