We are devastated tonight by reports of the massive tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, and its tragic toll. It comes right on the heels of a recent outbreak of tornadoes last week in North Texas. Though we pray for comfort for those affected, we know that we are all God's hands when it comes to doing the work that comes from disasters like this. Some folks can help directly, and the rest of us can give money to fund their efforts. It's much more efficient and effective that way, even if it doesn't fulfill our own desires to become personally involved.
One of the easiest ways to contribute to disaster relief is with good old fashioned money delivered via modern methods. Text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 to American Red Cross Disaster Relief, which helps people affected by disasters such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, wildfires and tornadoes.
Another thing that we all need to do is to take some time to check our own disaster kits and plans. Do you know what you would do if you were separated from your family, and your home and means of communication were gone? Do you have supplies and equipment to survive a couple of days in your home if first responders cannot get to you? Do you know where in your home that you would go to have the best chance of surviving a tornado? Here is a website that can help you with your plans.
As always, we invite readers to let us know of opportunities to help. Leave a comment.
At some point, we need to stop believing in miracles, at least in education. While we're still getting over the RICO indictments handed down in the Atlanta cheating scandal comes the revelation that the success Michelle Rhee achieved as the "no excuses" superintendent of Washington, D.C.'s public schools was the product of massive cheating. Those asking why Rhee isn't under indictment just like her former colleague in Atlanta are missing the bigger question: If she's an example of its success, is the theory behind market-driven education reform valid?
Rhee attracted a lot of attention before getting the top spot in DC. When Mayor Adrian Fenty appointed her superintendent, she went from managing an education non-profit with 120 employees to running a school system with 55,000 students, 11,500 employees and a budget of $200 million. She'd never even been a principal before, and her only classroom experience was Teach for America.
She did not let seem daunted by the stage. She bragged that she only answered to the mayor and put principals on notice to get those test scores up. Rhee fired more than 1,000 teachers and 36 principals who failed to raise test scores and gave $276,265 in bonuses to employees who performed well.
Passing rates rose, and she became the "it girl" for education reform. Time and Newsweek put her on the cover. Oprah called her "a warrior woman," and Barack Obama called Rhee "a wonderful new superintendent." When Fenty lost re-election, Sec. Arne Duncan intervened in an attempt to keep her on the job because her reforms "absolutely have to continue." When Rhee quit, he issued a press release so laudatory it almost included pom-poms.
The Great Gatsby May, 2013, Directed by Baz Luhrmann Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joel Edgerton, Tobey Maguire Rated: PG-13 Review: 8 / 10
By Doug Lane
There is no better time for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 classic The Great Gatsby to be remade for modern audiences. The themes that pervaded Fitzgerald’s life in the roaring twenties are still relevant in 21st century. And who better to bring this story to a modern audience than the same man who brought Romeo + Juliet to that same audience back in 1996. Baz Luhrmann’s aesthetic choices may falter at times, but for the majority of the movie, they hit their marks with precision.
Luhrmann is a very visceral director, allowing the scenery to shape his characters. His films are always bright and vivid; they appeal to our visual sensories. Imagine seeing Oz turn to color for the first time, and that’s the atmosphere Luhrmann likes to create. This sometimes gaudy sense of atmosphere can sometimes come at the expense of the characters, but in The Great Gatsby, the two work in a mutual relationship.
Luhrmann’s film starts out slow for the first half hour, allowing the movie to settle on our disenchanted narrator Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire). Then immediately following, the movie sprints forward, perhaps leaving some of the audience disoriented. The scenes look great, but Luhrmann packs as much exposition into these following few minutes before slowing way down again. This effect creates confusion as to what's happening on the screen. While this misstep is a minor one, it’s a repeated problem.
WEST, TX – The Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives National Response Team (ATF), along with ATF Special Agents from the Houston Field Division, announce the conclusion of the scene investigation at the West Fertilizer Plant fire and explosion that occurred on April 17, 2013. Both agencies have ruled the cause of the fire as “undetermined.”
“At this time, the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the ATF are ruling the cause of the fire as undetermined,” said State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy. According to Connealy, an undetermined cause finding is made “when the cause cannot be proven to an acceptable level of certainty, which could be due to insufficient information or if multiple causes could not be eliminated." Connealy further stated that “while the scene examination has been completed, the investigation will remain open for purposes of conducting additional interviews, following up on leads, and the like.”
Robert Champion, ATF Special Agent in Charge, said, “ATF and SFMO had eliminated the following causes: rekindling of an earlier fire, spontaneous ignition, 480 volt electrical system, anhydrous ammonia, ammonium nitrate, smoking, and weather. The following causes could not be eliminated: 120 volt electrical system, a golf cart, and an intentionally set fire.”
It is Wednesday night, and normally I would be at my weekly constitutional karaoke and beer hump day celebration, but here the past few days, I've just been beaten down by pollen in the air. Today, I came home early from work, did a saline nasal irrigation (nose douche), then took a Benadryl. I tried to get some research done for my job after that, but was pretty drowsy and dozed off until 7:30 or so when Fluffy came in here and started tickling me.
I'm glad that we're getting some rain today. As of this afternoon, Lewisville Lake was at 516.84 feet, still over 5 feet below conservation pool, as 99% of the state of Texas is still in drought. I am concerned about what happens this summer. Fluffy is sitting here with me, and we're watching the weather update on TV. I should go out and move my car into the garage, but I don't think I can get all the junk out of the way right now. There have been multiple tornadoes tonight, so we're very concerned for those affected. Looks like as I type this, Cleburne is about to get hit.
Here are some miscellaneous links we've been collecting:
The Washington Post had an article explaining how the government had released data on what different hospitals charged the government for different procedures. The differences in what they charge are quite striking. For example, the diagnosis group "280 - ACUTE MYOCARDIAL INFARCTION, DISCHARGED ALIVE W MCC" (Basically a heart attack with a major co-morbid complications) would result in average covered charges of $50,390 at Medical Center of Lewisville, but at Baylor Regional Medical Center in Grapevine, it would be $33,778. At Medical Center of Plano, the same thing would be $99,451. Looking at a code of "313 - CHEST PAIN", in Lewisville, it would be an average of $26,682, whereas at Baylor in Grapevine, it's $21,777. We're not sure what accounts for the difference, but it's important to note that in an emergency situation, consumers can't exactly take the time to do some price comparison. One doctor we spoke to said that allowables for DRG vary widely and facilities have higher allowables based on regional formulas and the payor mix at the facility. These amounts are not necessarily what Medicare actually pays. I've attached a spreadsheet of all the data for Texas, since the CMS files are too large for older versions of Excel to handle.
The building in Lewisville that was formerly the home of the George W. Bush library has been sold.
Senator John Cornyn was schooled after complaining about judicial vacancies he has been partially responsible for. Here's how it's supposed to work: The democratically elected President of the United States nominates candidates for the bench based on recommendations from Senators in the state of the vacancy. The Senate should quickly confirm nominees unless there is a strong reason why a given candidate should not. Republicans have held the judicial system hostage through Obama's term in office for political reasons. Justice delayed is justice denied. It's time to fix this problem and get the federal bench filled up so that people can have their court cases heard.
Farmers Branch got its first Hispanic council member, following its court-ordered conversion to single-member districts. Farmers Branch's demagoguing politicians chose this course. Thankfully, Lewisville voters have rejected divisive anti-immigrant rhetoric by sending incumbent councilman John Gorena (himself Hispanic, but non-Latino as he likes to point out) packing.
A big story in the news right now is the reported improper scrutiny that the Internal Revenue Service applied to applications for tax exempt status by organizations affiliated with the Tea Party and other "conservative" movement organizations. So far, what we've heard is a bunch of screeching but not so much reference to the facts, so we're reading the actual inspector general report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, and thought we would provide it for our readers to peruse too. We think it best to go to the source and get the facts, rather than listen to a bunch of pundits and politicians try to spin it for their own benefit.
The faux pas bordered on sedition. The Texas Association of Dairymen sent blocks of mild cheddar to state senate offices "in appreciation for your hard work this legislative session on behalf of the people of Texas." Legislative offices often get free—and perfectly legal—swag from special interests. The problem arose when someone read the label. The company that made the cheese was based in California.
California? Get a rope.
This was such an offense against local sensitivities that a reporter called the dairymen for comment, which they declined. You might think this kerfuffle isn't newsworthy, but the worst thing you can do these days is to compare the Great State of Texas to California. You might as well call Gov. Rick Perry a vegan.
The provincial chest beating by Perry over Texas' superiority to California escalated this week when Pres. Barack Obama kicked off his "Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity" tour in Austin. Perry was polite to Obama on the tarmac but snide in a newspaper ad welcoming the president to town.
"Welcome to the Lone Star State, Mr. President," said Perry in the ad. "Because your visit is focused on the economy, we'd like to show you how we're creating jobs and opportunity in Texas. Here's a handy checklist for you to take back to Washington."
Obama's Austin itinerary neatly encapsulated his education-first, collaborative economic philosophy. First he visited a school where lower-income minority kids have access to technology and seem to be succeeding. From there, Obama stumped for prosperity at a tech startup incubator and then at Applied Materials, the nation's leading chip-manufacturing equipment maker that employs 2,500 people in Austin. Applied Materials is based in, you guessed it, California.
Memorial Day is a time to remember the fallen heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our Republic. It should be more meaningful than just a time for mattress sales and barbecuing.
We've made a yearly habit of making a personal observance at the Veterans Memorial in front of Lewisville City Hall. Again this year, we would like to invite anyone who is interested to join us at 8:00 a.m. Monday morning, May 27th.
There's no agenda, and nothing formal about it. We'll just gather around for some silent prayer and reflection, and if anyone would like to say a quick prayer or few words in gratitude to the fallen, or offer any thoughts, they're welcome to do so. But this is not about speeches, and there is nothing political about it. It's just fellow Americans taking some time to stand together in unity and honor those who have given their lives for us.
Where: In front of Lewisville City Hall, 151 West Church Street by the Veterans Memorial When: Monday, May 27th, 8:00 a.m. (Stay as long as you want; I'll probably leave by 8:30) Who: Anyone is invited. What: Informal remembrance of our veterans who have died in service of our country.
Stay tuned to the Lewisville Texan Journal this Saturday night for up-to-the-minute election returns coverage in the local municipal elections.
Update #5: 9:00 p.m.: All precincts for LISD and Lewisville are reporting. The final unofficial results are below. This will be our last update today.
Update #4: 8:50 p.m.: Now 57 of 67 precincts reporting in LISD. Welding continues to lead Shoven by 51.83% to 48.17%.
Update #3: 8:44 p.m.: Now 19 of 22 precincts reporting in Lewisville. The missing precicnts are two Dallas county precincts with very few voters, plus one very tiny precinct in far South Lewisville that may also not have any voters. LTJ calls place 4 for Greg Tierney by just 3 points or 46 votes.
Update #2: 8:20 p.m.: In the LISD Races, 39 of 67 precincts are reporting right now. Dr. Mark Welding maintains a slim lead over Paige Shoven, and Kris Vaughn and Brenda Latham have both won their races.
In Lewisville, 18 of 22 precincts have reported, and we think the other precincts are not going to have voters. Denton County is showing them all as having been counted on its map. Looks like Greg Tierney has beaten John Gorena by about 3 points, and Rudy Durham has beaten Raymond Daniels by 4.7 points.
Update #1: 7:05 p.m.: With early voting results posted, in Lewisville, Greg Tierney leads John Gorena by 5.5%. Rudy Durham has a healthy lead over newcomer Raymond Daniels with a 9% margin.
In the LISD Trustee race, Mark Welding has a slight lead over Paige Shoven, just 2%. Kris Vaughn has beaten Jared Brueckner with 76.63% of the early vote, allowing us to go ahead and call that one. Trustee Brenda Latham also has beaten her opponent Ryan Collinsworth by 17 points, we predict.
Annual bagpipes, drums concert returns to Lewisville; Killdares to Play
More than 300 firefighter bagpipers and drummers from across the country are expected to participate in the annual KTA Jam Session scheduled for Friday, May 10, on the steps of Lewisville City Hall, 151 W. Church Street.
Friday’s event in historic Old Town Lewisville will start at 6 p.m., with performances starting at 7 p.m. The Killdares will take the stage at 7:45 p.m.
The event, which has become a community favorite drawing more than 1,000 spectators, will include a series of performances and presentations by participants and instructors at the Keep Tradition Alive symposium being held that week at the Lewisville Convention Center.
Also performing that evening will be The Killdares, a Celtic-themed band retuning to Lewisville after a well-received appearance in the 2012 Sounds of Lewisville summer concert series.
Keep Tradition Alive is one of the premier training events for firefighter bagpipe and drum corps members across the country, and also includes classes for public safety honor guards conducted by the National Honor Academy. It was started by Lewisville Fire Department in 2008 and is held each May at the Lewisville Convention Center. The public Jam Session held in conjunction with the symposium has become a popular regional activity for participants and spectators.