SocraticGadfly: 3/4/07 - 3/11/07

March 10, 2007

Snooze getting cheaper with its PR budget now, too?

I saw that People Newspapers, not the Dallas Morning News, is now the official print media sponsor of the Fine Arts Chamber Players. (WFAA is also out of sponsoring them.)

Wick Allison gives a right hook to Belo!

Phoenix and Vegas, cutting their own throats

Air pollution appears to be lowering precipitation in semiarid areas. The story in Science magazine specifically lists the American Southwest as an area of concern.

The desert always wins, as Ed Abbey knew. It will be great to see the Southwest lose about half its population if not more. Because that’s what’s needed, and will definitely be needed with even less rainfall.

March 09, 2007

New Mexico puts irresponsible Big Oil drillers in their place

Gov. Bill Richardson has just signed into law the country’s toughest legislation on oil and gas drillers.
The law, effective July 1, requires that companies notify landowners 30 days prior to drilling-related operations, describe in detail what will go on and propose an agreement covering compensation for the use of — and any damages to — the land.

This includes landowners who don’t hold the mineral rights beneath their land and was specifically written with them in mind. And, it has some teeth, too.
At least 11 other states have some sort of surface use agreement or compensation requirement, she said.

But New Mexico's law is notable for the extensive information that must be provided the landowner, the scope of damages that can be recovered — for loss of agricultural income, or loss of land value, for example — and for the reclamation requirement, she said.

The new law also allows landowners to collect triple damages in court under some circumstances if operators enter land to drill wells without giving notice or having agreements or posting bonds.

Now, if we can get places like Texas, or Wyoming with its dirty drilling, to adopt similar measures…

My LISD bond analysis: A reluctant ‘yes’ on No. 1, at best, ‘NO, NO, NO’ on No. 2

Nos. 1 and 2 are the two main bond propositions of the six that Lancaster Superintendent Larry Lewis has the Lancaster School Board offering the public for a vote May 12.

I see the growth that will come to Lancaster, and agree with replacing Pleasant Run and West Main elementaries. That said, given that Lewis still hasn’t completed the necessary annual school district audit, it’s unknown who will permanently be the district’s financial director, and other things, if I were still there, I’d be hesitant to give him charge of even this bond proposition.

In fact, that said, if the district hasn’t completed its required audit by the start of early voting, I’ll change this to a ‘no’ recommendation, and see if I can’t get a column placed in an old-fashioned hardcopy newspaper.

Now, Proposition No 2 is the biggie.

In Lewis’s presentation, he says the district has 911 classroom seats currently available. He projects four-year district growth of 1925 seats, leaving the district at -1,014 seats without Proposition No. 1 passing.

But, later in the presentation, Lewis says Proposition No. 1 alone will add 2,434 seats. So, after its construction is done, the district would have 1, 420 vacant seats, or 515 MORE than it does now! That’s 56 percent more vacant seats than now, in fact!

Can anybody not named Larry Lewis say why the district even needs Proposition 2 — not just now, but 4 or even 6 years from now? If you’re worried about land prices that much, add the school site purchase from Prop. 2 to Prop. 1 and be done with it.

Here’s Bob Novak: Your mission? Count the lies about “pardon Libby”

Conservative columnist Bob Novak, the man who’s “outing” column about CIA covert operative Valerie Plame got Scooter Libby four counts of conviction for lying and obstructing justice, says President Bush should pardon the guy.

Here’s a few examples of deception, with my comment:
The Libby trial uncovered no plot hatched in the White House.

No, it was hatched by Vice President Dick Cheney, not Bush. BUT, as with Nixon, the question is, “What did Bush know and when did he know it?” Funny that Novak isn’t asking for that to be answered.
In fact, her being classified — that is, that her work was a government secret — did not in itself meet the standard required for prosecution of the leaker (former Deputy Secretary of State Armitage) under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. That statute limits prosecution to exposers of covert intelligence activities overseas, whose revelation would undermine U.S. intelligence. That is why Fitzgerald did not move against Armitage.

That’s not what the case was about; it WAS about perjury and obstruction of justice. (Obstruction of rational thinking, as being committed by Novak in this column, is not yet a crime.)
George W. Bush lost control of this issue when he permitted a special prosecutor to make decisions that, unlike going after a drug dealer or mafia kingpin, turned out to be inherently political.

Anybody who knows special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will attest that he, unlike Bob Novak, is NOT inherently political.

Wanna give us some more lies and deceptions, Bob?

Bush impeachment can start at the state legislature level

Proctoring Congress points out how, under the House’s own rules manual, a state legislature may force a start to impeachment proceedings rather than waiting on the U.S. House of Representatives to start the ball rolling.
In the House there are various methods of setting an impeachment in motion: by charges made on the floor on the responsibility of a Member or Delegate; by charges preferred by a memorial, which is usually referred to a committee for examination; by a resolution dropped in the hopper by a Member and referred to a committee; by a message from the President; by charges transmitted from the legislature of a State or territory or from a grand jury; or from facts developed and reported by an investigating committee of the House. [ House Rules Manual, section 603]

New Mexico is reportedly the state that is likely to get that ball rolling.

I list both Bush and Cheney in the links because both need to be impeached.

Let me also bitch about Sen. John Cornyn

His “click-through-to-website,” where web-generated e-mails, such as those from environmentalist groups to which I belong, cannot be directly sent to him from the environmentalist group’s action page but must be followed up with “clicking through” to his official website and then being posted there, is a pain in the butt.

Yes, it may slow spamming, but I have the gut instinct its primary purpose is to try to cut down on activist e-mails from people who don’t notice they now have to do the click-through action.

It’s been a while since I bitched about Mac OS X …

Safari, it’s your term.

The sub-website for the local school district’s intermediate school keeps crashing Safari. It has problems with other school district webpages, too.

Internet Explorer 6 has a few better features … coupled with the drawbacks of all its virus susceptibility, etc. (I haven’t downloaded IE7 yet.)

And there’s also Firefox, which has features neither IE nor Safari does.

March 08, 2007

NOW Bush and Alberto V-05 have done it: Pissed off John Conyers

The Michigan congressman, who just happens to be chair of the House Judiciary Committee, is steaming about the firing of federal district attorneys for political reasons.

Alberto V-05 (I’m sure W didn’t give Alberto Gonzales this nickname, but I am) has one week, according to a letter Conyers sent him, to provide whole lotsa info about the firings.

Now we’re actually going BACKWARD in Iraq, on some measures

Corruption in Iraq worse than under Saddam, Chairman of Iraq's Commission on Public Integrity Radhi Hamza al-Radhi said.

And this tidbit: In the latest corruption index of the Organization Transparency International, Iraq was found to be the fourth most corrupt country in the world.

Note: This is just Iraqi corruption; Halliburton, et al, aren’t even being factored in, or Iraq would surely be No. 1. (Nice to know BushCo has gotten Iraq to No. 1 in something as a result of the invasion.

Pelosi essentially calls Bush narrow-minded, or clueless, or something

She tells House Dems not to worry about Bush veto threats. And why not?
“I say to my colleagues never confine your best work, your hopes, your dreams, the aspiration of the American people to what will be signed by George W. Bush because that is too limiting a factor,” the Speaker said this morning in a press conference.

I hope she’s just getting warmed up…

More BushCo environmental censorship

What if a government scientist DOES without authorization call polar bears endangered, or shrinking sea ice, or global warming, at an international event?

Revoke his or her passport while abroad? Charge the person with terrorism?

(Well, actually, you never know.)

Live 20th-century classical music in College Station!

OK, that makes for a good day, and a bit more feeling of well-being down here.

A&M’s Department of Performance Studies put on a concert at a CS church. Free, to boot, and we journalists always groove on that.

A former A&M-Kingsville trumpet prof now at U. Maine, a current Kingsville piano prof performed, with an A&M main campus prof on one piece that also had a trombone part.

Four of the five pieces, including the trio, were 20th-century. That included trumpet settings of two, early, tonal vocal pieces by Alban Berg, a divertimento (the trio piece) by Boris Blacher, the great trumpet sonata by Paul Hindemith and the Slavic Fantasy by Carl Höhne, which had a bit of a quasi-gypsy, quasi-klezmer sound. Heck, try getting a chamber ensemble in Dallas to do that much relatively modern stuff!

Hindemith horns in
Trumpets each instrument
With a modern sound

Music to my ears
Introspective, pondering
As he did himself

Exiled by Hitler
His music not to Nazi style
He reflects the war.

Ramp up your Peak Oil interest: $3/gal gas will likely be back

It’s already here in parts of California and should be nationwide this summer. Please, GM, Ford, Chrysler, get more serious about it. And, Toyota and Honda, stop succumbing to short-term American tastes. (A Honda Accord does not need a 244-hp motor.)

I feel your D.R. Horton pain, Steve Topletz

Donald Tomnitz, the CEO of the nation’s largest homebuilder, expects 2007 to be on the slow side, to put it mildly.
I don’t want to be too sophisticated here, but ’07 is going to suck, all 12 months of the calendar year.

Can you put The Preserve II wayyyy on the back burner as part of this?

Seriously, Tomnitz said to expect further cuts in new housing starts.

Somebody should tell Larry Lewis, too, that his crazy “let’s flood Lancaster with kids” idea will also now go further on the back burner.

March 07, 2007

Washington Post refuses to “get it” on Scooter Libby conviction

What else to call this drivel?
It was propelled not by actual wrongdoing but by inflated and frequently false claims.

But, the Post’s “pain” is really MSM self-centered:
It would have been sensible for (special prosecutor Patrick) Fitzgerald to end his investigation after learning about Mr. Armitage. Instead, like many Washington special prosecutors before him, he pressed on, pursuing every tangent in the case. In so doing he unnecessarily subjected numerous journalists to the ordeal of having to disclose confidential sources or face imprisonment.

Fitz himself has distinguished between “whistleblower” leaks and leaks of classified information. I’ll admit that that’s not the most helpful to media organizations, as Fitz might well have tossed journalists in the stew in 1971 over the New York Times publication of the Pentagon Papers.

But, there’s always the possibility of jury nullification. If Libby’s attornies really thought this was a tempest in a teapot, they could have tried that angle.

But, they didn’t.

So, to the WaPost editorial page: shut up.

March 06, 2007

If Debbie Wade is right, and reporting what she was told right, somebody at LISD Admin is telling a whopper

From Debbie Wade’s public forum statements:
I recently was excited to learn that the board packet was to be posted on the district website. I later learned that technology had not gotten that far but only those on staff could get this information through the electronic school board. I signed up for the information as instructed and was approved soon after. The first week, I was able to pull up the information and read the packet. After a week or so, I went back into the site and a statement saying, “Not approved for public viewing” had replaced the packet. I sent an email to the superintendent’s secretary and she said it was an accident that it had been submitted to the site. I also asked why if we in the public provided our email addresses, could we not be informed of scheduled and called School board meetings prior to the meetings occurring. She wrote back and said it was against the law to email the public about the meetings. I asked for the law number and she responded that she was referring to district policy instead.

Sorry, but Joyce Brein didn’t think up something like that by herself.

I get e-mailed meeting agendas all the time, at my current newspaper and in the past. And, being a newspaper editor does not give me some special right above and beyond the general public.

Further illustration: On the city of Lancaster side, former City Manager Jim Landon started a “Friday update.” All sorts of private individuals signed up for the e-mail list.

If you have an e-mail list-serve, Supt. Lewis, anybody can be given any public information at the time it’s posted.

More on the Lancaster ISD bond, and other school board stuff

According to one person at the March 5 Lancaster ISD board meeting: The bond is going to be in six parts. The first will be for one new elementary, moving Lancaster Elementary and then new Pleasant Run and West Main elementaries, plus 30 new classrooms for the high school and additional renovations to other campsues. Cost is more than $70 million. Bond two is $63 million. Bond 3 is $5 million. Bond 4 -$2 million. Bond 5- $665.000 6-$1 million. Total $143 million.

My analysis:
Bond No. 1 sounds about right for current needs. Bond No. 2 probably has a bunch of unneeded stuff. We’ll see about bonds 3-6.

And, shouldn’t Superintendent Larry Lewis worry about being a superintendent and not a real estate analyst?

He reportedly said that foreclosures on home were good for the district because they brought in more kids and lease/purchases produce more kids.

Larry, you’re having trouble getting bonds passed as it is and you want more kids? Idiotic idea No. 1.

Second, lease/purchase types are likely to bring in more children on free or reduced lunch, etc. and otherwise burdening the district. Plus, the likely more rapid turnover burdens truancy staff, and other central administration staff needed to track students.

Potential new Lancaster city manager: sounds like a BIG mistake — fingerprinting your own city staff?

When you’re getting called “Ricky Childish” and “City Mangler,” you ain’t universally popular, or close to it, and probably with good reason

Pegasus News says it’s Ricky Childers.

He was Longview’s city manager for 7 years before becoming a consultant.

But, OOOOPPPPS! Fingerprinting your own city staff in Longview???
Sources say in March of 2000, while serving as the city manager of Longview, Childers ordered a number of city employees and department heads to undergo fingerprinting by the Longview police department. Why? Childers reportedly received a letter critical of his administration. He called the police who found a fingerprint on the letter. Childers then ordered certain city employees be fingerprinted to see if they had written the letter. Reached by phone, Childers refused to comment.

WTF are you doing??

At about 55 years old, he sounds like he would want to remain a consultant; if he wanted to move to Dallas, I would think he could pick up consulting gigs either on his own or through a government consultants’ group like Ron Holiefield’s over in DeSoto.

Also, according to this online newspaper/bulletin board, several people thought he was stiffing Longview police on pay scale/salary. The Longview City Council also allegedly hired him as a consultant, plus gave him six months’ severance, rather than go through the work of firing him.

Given the above, this doesn’t AT ALL sound surprising.

A selected comment:
Rickey Childish and A.J. "Gomer" Key abolished the Community Policing program because of the political power the citizen groups possessed. If it wasn't the brainchild of Childish or Gomer, it wasn't going to exist in this City. If it meant answering to the citizens, Childish wasn't going to stand for it. Now we're all paying for it!

Joe, Carol, anybody else on the Lancaster City Council want to comment?

But, maybe he was bored. NOT!

I wonder who else was on the list of finalists, too. Were they even worse?

Lancaster ISD bond: Six parts, $142 mil

Still too much by half, Larry. The Preserve, in whatever form or name, is NOT being approved in the near future. You don't need that many schools, and land values aren't going to escalate that rapidly.

And, six parts? Plus, you can't blame that this time on a bond committee, if the six parts are too complicated.

More later, when I get details.


On 4 of 5 counts.

Now, will Fitz move his investigation to Libby's boss, as some have rumored?

And, Fitz can’t prosecute Bush the Younger, and Speaker Pelosi already, like an appeaser, has taken impeachment off the table, so Cheney’s head will be the top prize.

March 05, 2007

Extension Service, or freelancer, needs to learn some math on wild hogs

Just got a Far South Lancaster press release that says, amongst other things:
Texas Cooperative Extension estimated in 2004 that the population of wild hogs in Texas was between 1.5 and 2 million. If there were 2 million hogs in 2004, and that number has possibly doubled three times a year for the last three years, it could mean, well, a whole lot of hogs.

If this were true exactly 2 years ago, we would have just had our seventh doubling. Well, 2 to the seventh power is 128. Multiply that by 2 million.

I'm sorry, but Texas does NOT have 250 million wild hogs.

This is a clear example of numeric illiteracy.

March 04, 2007

I guess Sierra isn’t going to publish my pro-nuke column

Last summer, after Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope railed against relying on nuclear power to reduce global warming concerns, in a summer issue of Sierra magazine, I wrote a strong, rationally and conservatively pro-nuclear letter to the editor, including mentioning the co-founders of Greenpeace saying nuclear had to be part of the equation.

The mag’s staff said was really too long for a letter, but talked about it as a guest column. Still hasn’t happened.

And, I’m said that Sierra isn’t looking at both sides of the issue more.

Hopefully, our society’s view of depression keeps advancing from 1972

Missouri’s former Sen. Thomas Eagleton, George McGovern’s original vice-presidential candidate, who resigned the nomination after stories about his hospitalization for depression emerged, has died. Hopefully, especially for men, depression shame continues to “come out of the closet.”

Bond election to be called and more at Monday’s Lancaster School Board meeting

So, how much will Superintendent Larry Lewis want this time? Will the board sign off on it without further thought?

And, Connie Fowler said she’s going to speak in public forum, and take Lewis on head-on about issues of racism and reverse racism.

Man, I wish I were going to be there.

I’d appreciate information from anybody who is there about how Connie’s comments are received by the board, as well as details of the bond.

I hate to rain on Texas mythology…

But I don’t hate it that much

The visitor center at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park, where Texians declared independence from Mexico March 2, 1836, has one glaring error.

It claims Texas is the only state to have been an independent republic before joining the Union.


Historians and avid residents in Vermont (the Vermont Republic of Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Boys) California (the Bear Flag Republic just before Anglos in northern California and an overzealous John C. Fremont heard about the U.S. declaration of war on Mexico) and Hawaii (an 1893 “pineapple republic” of Anglo planters, including old man Dole, overthrew Queen Liliʻuokalani in an attempt to force American annexation, which Grover Cleveland refused to do.) Heck, California’s state flag even says “California Republic” on it.

So, if we’re going to have Sam Houston IV at Texas Independence Day ceremonies talking about the need to get more Texas history in schools, let’s make sure it’s the right history.

Comparing Dallas, Houston traffic

With about two months away, I think I can somewhat more objectively compare the two, at least on Saturday volume. I don’t think Houston is THAT MUCH worse, at least as long as you stay away from the Katy Freeway’s construction areas. Of course, that can be a big if.

Life flashes before my eyes

Damn near got killed driving up to Dallas. I took the “scenic” route driving up there, taking Texas 6 past College Station all the way up to Waco and I-35. Didn’t know that 35 was that torn up southof Waxahachie.

Anyway, a car was broken down in a stretch of 35 where there is NOshoulder, not even a partial, on either left or right — nothing but two lines of concrete barriers. I was almost the second car, not counting the break-down, in what surely would have been a chain accident, given the amount of traffic on 35.

Thank doorknobs I have a car new enough to have antilock brakes, and that I have tires with less than 10,000 miles on them, too. I just locked up, and then, as the car in front of me realized it couldn’t stop in time and swerved into the left lane, I was able to do so as well, and miss hitting it by about a foot. I’m also grateful I was paying full attention.
And THAT is another reason never to drive while talking on a cell phone.

As for the newer car … what about poor people who don’t have the money for a car with antilocks, as well as one that doesn’t pollute as much as an older model? (People who deliberately keep boats and drive a limper spare because they’re in hock for a set of “rims” don’t get my sympathy.)

What do I want?

Chuck Bloom said he hopes to see more politics being blogged here and not just cryptic personal revelations. Well, Chuck, I’ll try to get back to politics more. Perhaps, though, that’s a sign of how I feel right now. I don’t want to say “depressed,” but let’s just say that maybe my political interest isn’t as urgent or driving right now.

And, maybe I’ll get a bit less cryptic on the personal revelations.
Anyway, the brief dash to Dallas also brings to mind the question of “what do I want?”

That has different meaning depending on whether you accent “what,” “I” or “want.”

The “what,” career-wise or personal relationship-wise, is a mess right now. I just know I want a job and career path that well uses my skills, interests and aptitudes. If that means leaving newspaper journalism, so be it. I also know that, especially as long as I’m single, I am NOT a small-town person, definitely not in this part of the world.

Who is the “I”? Well, that person changes all the time. And I’m not even sure who he is right now.

“Want”? I’m still working on figuring out all of my apparent wants, the psychological drives behind them, how I best meet them, and more. Work on that is one small reason I’ve started counseling sessions.

Visiting Dallas: brief psychological thoughts

I was just in Dallas, and other than being in the northbound lanes of I-35, never was in the Lancaster city limits. Nonetheless, it felt like I was picking at an old, partially-healed scab in some way by coming back to the Metroplex fairly soon after moving. (Yes, I can be introspective.) And, while in both classical music and art, I took in a fair amount of what the Metroplex had to offer, I realized that, even on a journalist’s pay, I may have been a bit too frugal at times. That, though, is water under the bridge, I think.

Visiting Dallas: brief psychological thoughts

I was just in Dallas, and other than being in the northbound lanes of I-35, never was in the Lancaster city limits. Nonetheless, it felt like I was picking at an old, partially-healed scab in some way by coming back to the Metroplex fairly soon after moving. (Yes, I can be introspective.) And, while in both classical music and art, I took in a fair amount of what the Metroplex had to offer, I realized that, even on a journalist’s pay, I may have been a bit too frugal at times. That, though, is water under the bridge, I think.

Getting Irish in Dallas for a day

Went to the North Texas Irish Fest in Dallas yesterday. Loved it.
Thanks, Chuck Bloom, for the freebie ducats. Chuck, if you had done that last year, when I was still living there, I would have said something in a column of mine as well as you writing that People section story.
Some great music there. The Glenngary Bhoys were definitely worth hearing, as Chuck promised. They rock. Think of a group that will remind you in some part of both U2 and The Chieftans, with perhaps a small bit of The Rogues thrown in too. Wish I had had someone else to be there with me …