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.
Regular readers might have noticed a dearth of postings about the local elections this year. That’s partly because of the fact that your editor has been really busy with the day job, and other things, but partly because this year there is less at stake than in past years. I had actually planned to go through each of the major issues and compare the candidates, but early voting is upon us, and I'm not done with that. Since "done" is the enemy of "posted", I'm going to post my basic thoughts on the two races without going into the issues, but I strongly encourage our readers to spend a little time reading the candidates' responses to our issues questionnaires. As always, readers are encouraged to use the comments section to start a discussion about what you think is important in these races.
Place 4: Tierney vs. Gorena - The Re-match
In place 4, incumbent John Gorena is just a flat-out embarrassment to the city, with his idiotic, wing nut conspiracy theories, identity-based politics, and racist statements. At meetings, he is constantly proving that he is not capable of keeping up. He will often ask questions that show he fails to grasp concepts just discussed. On at least one occasion, he blurted out something that belonged in closed session. Often in workshops or retreats he will re-hash and repeat his opinions long past the patience of the other council members, frequently resulting in the mayor shutting him down. While it’s important that all voices are heard, and a proper debate is had, Gorena seems to spend much of his time waiting to say his piece (again) rather than listening. If the facts of the matter support the opposite of his view, he simply ignores them. Gorena has had it explained to him numerous times in numerous ways, for instance, that the city’s debt level is the amount of principal owed, yet since it suits his purposes better to over-state it to make his point about debt, he always cites the principal plus future interest, and lumps together different types of debt, not all of which is payable by the taxpayers of Lewisville.
But Gorena is marginalized. Quite often, he is the only dissenting vote on a given issue, but on occasion, for certain issues - most notably on gas drilling, Gorena and Place 5 Councilman Rudy Durham may vote together. But with gas drilling on hiatus, and the Mayor and three other councilmen supporting reasonable gas drilling regulations, his ability to affect policy is hampered.
Greg Tierney was a very effective councilman, and was mostly on the right side of the issues, as far as I was concerned. I was very disappointed two years ago when he resigned over a DWI. I think that for the most part, he is still on the right side of the issues, so I will vote for him. While he has managed to effectively raise campaign funding, it seems that his campaign has not yet been able to effectively connect. (Campaign signs are numerous, but not very legible, and we have not seen mailers*.) Still, Tierney has built a lot of good will in the community, and has a deep base of supporters. And, we're electing a City Councilman, not a role model.
The Moon landings were faked, Elvis is alive, 9/11 was an inside job, and President Obama is a secret Muslim from Kenya. Oh yeah, and the Department of Homeland Security has bought 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition - either to prepare for imminent civil unrest, or to create shortages so that you and I can't buy any.
That last part is what has been going around in the right-wing-nut blogosphere lately. Of the outlets that link to sources, they all seem to link back to stories on "Infowars", a website run by notorious conspiracy theorist and NRA board member, Alex Jones. What may have given the theory a nudge into the mainstream is when columnist Ralph Benko wrote an editorial that appeared in Forbes magazine, decrying the "purchases".
But the truth of the matter is that in 2012, DHS only purchased a total of 103 million rounds - less than in the prior two years. Responding to a letter from Senator Tom Coburn (R, Oklahoma), The Department of Homeland Security released a list of answers to his questions, including breakdowns of the amounts and ammunition and dollar values spent. The agency says it budgets $37 million for ammunition in FY 2013.
Infowars, et al dismiss DHS's answers based on a flawed understanding of government contracts and the press release of one ammunition company doing business with the government. The writers simply looked at federal contracts that allow for a maximum purchase at a given price, and assumed that the contract was both fully executed, and for the entire maximum quantity. A simple read of the contracts being referenced would provide most readers with an understanding, but these conspiracy sources conveniently ignore the most logical explanations when they don't fit with their theories.
Since there are dozens of types of ammunition in common use with DHS' agencies, and each federal officer or agent has to periodically go through firearms training or re-qualification, it can be difficult to predict precisely the quantity of ammunition needed in each caliber on the timeframes needed for strategic sourcing contracts. So the government typically (based on the contracts we looked at) requests bids on a per-1000-round basis, with a minimum of 1000 rounds, and maximums that may vary. The government only guarantees to purchase the minimum, but holds the bidder to the price up to the maximum. Infowars errantly uses the maximum, since it suits their purposes of furthering their conspiracy theories.
As you can see in the screenshot, each item shows a quantity and a unit. The unit is shown as "MX", meaning that the units are thousands. So multiplying 100 by 1,000 yields 100,000 rounds, which is also clearly spelled out in the description. Watson goes out of his way to multiply the 100 quantity by the 100,000 in the description, ignoring units. He does that with the other items as well, not the least bit bothered by the coincidence of the quantity being 40 in the last line item, and having to multiply it by 40,000.
The Lewisville Texan Journal would like to wish all of our readers a very happy and meaningful Martin Luther King Jr. Day. King's legacy of a non-violent fight for the civil rights of all Americans lives on, and we take it to heart. As long as any American is not free to be who he or she was born to be, we are not free. We have come a long way, but sadly, even in 2013 we have not yet found the promised land. But we will get there together, changing one heart at a time. As Dr. King said, "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.*" Each of us should remember King's long and hard journey each time that we encounter prejudice in ourselves or in others, and have the courage to speak up against it.
By Steve Southwell Happy New Year, everybody! It's that time of year where everyone likes to do a little reflection on the year gone past, and dreaming of what to make of a fresh new year. For that reflection part, I thought I'd share some of our top stories of 2012, followed by a little recap of where LTJ has been and how we've done this year:
A National Rifle Association proposal to put armed police officers in every school in America could cost an estimated $714 million a year to implement in Texas alone, after a start-up cost of over a billion dollars, according to calculations by the Lewisville Texan Journal.
In a press conference today, the National Rifle Association broke its near radio silence since last week's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a gunman using an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle killed 26 people. NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre, in a 20 minute speech, blamed the tragedy on media coverage, violent video games , music videos, a lack of a national registry of the mentally ill, and society at large for failing to adequately protect our children.
"The only way - the ONLY way-- to stop a monster from killing our kids is to be personally involved and invested in a plan of absolute protection. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," said LaPierre. "Would you rather have your 911 call bring a good guy with a gun from a mile away, or a minute away?"
"With all the money in the federal budget, can't we afford to at least put a police officer in every school?" asked LaPierre, who acknowledged that police department budgets were already strained, but called on Congress to provide whatever appropriation necessary to put an armed officer in every school in America. LaPierre announced that former Congressman Asa Hutchinson would head a new program of the NRA called the Model National School Shield Emergency Response program, a plan for school security which they would make available to every school in America without charge.
In every community, there are people who go above and beyond what is expected of them, and make the community a better place. We would like to recognize them here, and pick one person who makes a difference, so that we can do something nice for them.
So, starting this year, we would like to name an LTJ Lewisville Citizen of the Year.
Here are some of the traits and characteristics that we're looking for:
- They did the right thing, when it would have been easy to do the wrong thing. - They risked their life to save another. - They jumped into action and helped someone. - They sacrificed something to help, encourage, lift up, or support a person or organization. - They gave generously of their time, money, or expertise, to the benefit of the community.
If you look around the community, and pay attention, you probably know someone who fits one or more of the above. (Nobody is going to fit all of them, and that's okay.) Maybe they volunteer their time in a hospital or non-profit. Maybe they tutor schoolchildren who are at risk. Maybe they feed the hungry, or help the jobless. Maybe they saved a life. Maybe they volunteer at a nursing home, or collect school supplies for needy children. They may or may not have been recognized for their contribution, but that is not what motivates them, because they do it for love, and as a way to give back.
So, from now until Christmas (December 25th), we'll be accepting nominations from readers. We will name someone in January after discussing nominations among the editorial group here at LTJ.
One last thing: We need to reach far and wide, and hear from a lot of voices on this, so that we can hear from more than just the usual crowd. There are community heroes out there who may not be known to many people, so the more we get this message out, the better chance we have of finding someone who knows our potential Lewisville Citizen of the Year. So, please share the link to this story with your social networks on Facebook and Twitter, or by email to anyone you think might be able to nominate someone.
On behalf of myself, my family, and the Lewisville Texan Journal, we wish everyone a happy and meaningful Thanksgiving day today. It probably sounds trite, but it also seems to be true that we live in such busy times— so overloaded with tasks, information, and distractions— that it's hard to take a breath sometimes and reflect. I'm no exception, and still haven't really had a moment yet, but I hope that sometime today we all get some time to reflect on the things and the people that we're thankful for.
At LTJ, we're thankful for you, our loyal readers - for being engaged members of the community. We're thankful for the generous donors who have chipped in to pay for LTJ's expenses and help bring you the story. We're thankful for all the people out there who bring stories to our attention. We're thankful for the people who answer our questions and provide information that we ask for. And mostly, we're thankful to live in a country where freedom of speech and freedom of the press is held sacrosanct.
I'm taking the day off to step away from the computer and spend some meaningful time with family, and will be back tomorrow with your regularly scheduled content.
Earlier this month, we published a reader survey to get an honest feel of what readers think about LTJ, and how they use it.
Google Analytics says that we've had 137,000 website visits this year by 81,000 unique visitors, serving up 231,000 page views. Readers from Lewisville generate the plurality of those visits at 21%, with the top other cities all local. 186 people read our post about the survey, and 56 people answered at least some questions, with 49 people answering all of our questions. The sample group reflects more about frequent readers than the population of sometime readers as a whole.