This topic is for links to relevant news, interesting websites, quick opinions and inane ponderings. Postings in this thread are considered "open-thread", meaning that anyone can post a comment on any of the articles, whether the comment relates to the post or not. If you have something random to say, this is the place.
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.
Yesterday was Teacher Appreciation Day. I wish we could appreciate them by paying them better, and freeing them from high-stakes testing. I wish we could free them from the constant onslaught of politicians who insist that our teachers are holding out on us, and would teach much better if we could just rate them based on standardized tests, bust their unions, outsource them to corporate overlords, or dictate their curriculum based on the religion or political ideology of the loudest voices in the room. In spite of all of that, and the low pay, long hours, and high stress, they still serve. And many of them put in so much more than they are required to.
As a dad, I want to say that I appreciate you. Now that my kids are teens, I have come to understand that although I have a great amount of influence over my kids, I will always be square old Dad, who has to be a hard-ass sometimes, and who gets onto them for things they do, and choices they make. I am the one who seemingly to them was never a teen, and can never understand them, and never wants them to have any fun. You have their attention and can get across to them and provide some diversity of thought for them that I can’t. You not only teach them the subject they are signed up for, but you model for them the way that time and people are managed. You show them how to react to problems. They just learn so much that is not in the curriculum, and that does not scare me in the least.
Teachers, you are appreciated.
LISD has a survey they would like the community to participate in regarding their communications.
A group of Lewisville High School Alumni called Farmers Paying it Forward have been raising money to buy laptops for LHS kids going to college. The past two years, they've raised enough money to buy two laptops to send with deserving students each year, but this year, they've so far only raised enough money to buy one. We've checked into it, and although the group is not a 501(c)(3), they come highly recommended, and they route the donations through Lewisville High School in order to get donors a letter acknowledging receipt of the donation for tax purposes. We've had some discussions here on LTJ about students needing access to technology, so this is one organization trying to make a difference. Please visit their Facebook page and like it, then think about sending them a few bucks if you can spare it. Wouldn't it be cool if they could be able to hook up a lot more kids?
The Dallas Corinthian Yacht Club holds its annual Corinthian Heritage Cup Regatta this weekend on Lewisville Lake. You know, I’ve never been sailing in my life (though my dad had a ski boat, and we spent plenty of time on that), and I’ve never been out on Lewisville Lake. One of these days, I might have to look into one of their sailing classes. Have any of our readers ever done that? Is it a fun thing for a couple to do?
I love Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, and Tim McGraw, but this new music video of theirs - "The High-a-way Don't Care" is just awful. It's just depressing, and sort of confusing. You sort of expect the woman to drive off the road when Taylor Swift materializes and appears in her rear view mirror.
Early voting in Lewisville is under way. There were 129 voters the first day, and 106 the second day. Brandon Cooper predicts a turnout of about 1,800 based on previous early voting trends. I’ve yet to vote because I’m in Louisiana on business again this week, and I’m frankly still undecided on a race or two. If you want to advocate for your candidate, feel free to leave a comment. I’m going to go back and re-read the candidate questionnaires later.
From a reader:
Apple issues $17B in debt financing, citing record low interest rates. In other news, Lewisville City Councilman John Gorena says Apple has no idea how to run a company, and should be operating all cash with its massive reserves. Shortly afterwards, his city-issued iPad exploded. (Satire alert...)
Well, I wish they were investing the money, but it turns out to be a tax avoidance maneuver. At any rate, the point is taken that even big debt can be preferable, and not necessarily risky when you have large reserves and a strong outlook, such as the City of Lewisville has. We take on debt financing for major improvements that add value to the community today; things with long lives and major utility like streets or parks or facilities that will long outlast the 16 year average maturity on our bonds. Growing companies in the private sector know that when borrowing costs are below the net marginal rate of return, and cashflow can be counted on, you can come out ahead with leverage. The trick is always in having the right data, weighing the risks, and proceeding with caution, knowing what the limits are.
House Bill 11 was derailed yesterday. As I understand it, the bill, providing for $2 billion from the state’s “rainy day” fund would provide the seed money to a water infrastructure fund that will *loan* money to entities in Texas wanting to improve water infrastructure. That money would have to be paid back. Texas Democrats, unhappy that school funding has not been restored, wanted a deal on using some rainy day fund to take care of the state’s obligation to its school districts. As much as I agree with the need for Texas to get proactive on water infrastructure, I think it needs to be spent, not loaned. Cities can just as easily float bonds if they need to get long-term financing for a project. This seems to me like the legislature pretending to do something, while not actually doing anything.
735,000 views, just on one website. Spend way too much time writing about important local stuff and maybe get that many page views in a year or two, but spend 5 minutes to photoshop a dumb picture, and that stuff gets around.
Rick Perry is acting with typical faux outrage to distract from his own culpability in the matter of the West explosion. Watch the right-wing nutjobs begin foaming at the mouth over a cartoonist daring to violate their special brand of political correctness. Note to Rick Perry: The cartoon in no way makes fun of or mocks the victims who died, no matter how much you wish it did. It directly goes after YOU, Rick, because your lackadaisical approach to regulation of businesses that have the capacity to harm people and the environment has consequences, and this was one of them. An explosion was almost 100% preventable, but you and the lawmakers your party elected have been derelict in your duty to protect people from the consequences of the profit-driven decisions of private companies.
Michael Burgess opposes “Obamacare”, because that would help indigent folks have basic coverage, and require working folks to buy insurance coverage in case they get pregnant, get cancer or diabetes, or break something. The personal responsibility aspect of it helps to control costs. But if a doctor prescribes “horse therapy” for a federal employee or their dependent, Burgess thinks we can find money to pay for that. I’m for whatever science says helps people, but somehow, I’m thinking that covering more people for basic things is much more important than covering people to ride horses.
Once again, I've fallen behind in updates. My brain has been mostly engaged my my paid employment, and I've been too beat down to spend as much time as I normally like to.
Saturday, LTJ's cleanup team participated in the Keep Lewisville Beautiful Spring Cleanup. We are told that our team collected 90 bags of trash. The area we cleaned up was probably the worst litter area I have ever seen, and it was in and along Timber Creek and its tributary streams. Once again, I am thankful for our 15 volunteers who turned out and not only put a way bigger dent in this area's litter problem than I thought we would, but also brought home our team's 5th trophy for large group. Thanks to the Lanes, the Simpsons, the Lindes, then Daniels, Cooper, Stephens, and Gilmore. We'll have to schedule another one for that location at some point to get the rest. Whenever we get the final stats from KLB, we'll post an article.
I only have a few links today:
Behind many major screw-ups these days is an Excel spreadsheet. It’s great software when you use it right, but if you set the formulas wrong, it’s easy to convince yourself of the wrong thing. In this case, pundits and politicians were quick to use a flawed study to justify their ideology of austerity, when the actual mathematical results (had they been calculated correctly) would have shown the opposite.
Here are my thoughts on the disaster in West: It indicates a huge failure in regulation at all levels. We don't just have regulations in place for the hell of it. Regulations are meant to save lives and protect property. What we had here was a private company with private profits, but socialized risk. We have 15 dead now, and scores injured, and many have lost their homes because materials were stored improperly.
Unlike terrorism, where there is malicious intent, and the evil will always find ways to circumvent our best efforts, these types of disasters are almost 100% preventable. You can regulate the amounts being stored together, you can regulate locations, and you can regulate safety practices and fire prevention. You can require that ammonium nitrate only be stored in areas with adequate fire protection from sprinklers.
I also have to say that this disaster should illustrate with crystal clarity WHY we have zoning laws, and why modern cities do not allow certain industrial uses within residential areas. This is why we didn't lose our heads and allow gas drilling right next to houses in Lewisville. We know the risk exists, because we have seen the outcome from other cases. The Texas City disaster should have been all the proof needed for West Fertilizer, the Town of West, and the State of Texas to put reasonable limits on that. The fact that it had happened, and did happen indicates that it was a concrete risk to be mitigated.
Those who ignorantly blather on about "we need to get rid of regulations" almost never can name any that they want to get rid of. They complain about bloated government and wrongly assert that it is "killing jobs", but then wonder why - after cutting regulatory staffing - we can't seem to get these types of places inspected, and ensure that they comply with what little regulation we have. This kind of failure is the direct and predictable result of the naive Laissez faire ideology that assumes "the market" will do the right thing. Ask yourself whether the victims in this tragedy were part of "the market" for West Fertilizer.
It is April 15th: Tax Day for those who procrastinate. But that's not the reason why today sucked so badly. I'm of course talking about the bombing in Boston this afternoon. It was hard to concentrate and finish out the day today at work after seeing the carnage, and one too many awful pictures that someone shared on Facebook. This is the kind of thing that happens every day in God-forsaken sh** holes on the other side of the world where our troops fight to survive each day. But there is something especially shocking about soft target attacks like what we saw today. I got my fill of cable news by about 6:30 p.m. today. I'm disgusted by reading some of the comments that some folks have posted on news website comments and in Twitter. Can we just wait for police and our intelligence folks to piece together the evidence before we start trying to blame one group or another?
If anything, I think we should just reflect a bit on what it means to live in a free and open society. The fact that we have soft targets is just evidence of what we value the most: our freedom. This sort of thing will happen from time to time; that seems to be the "new normal". But they will never win. They already lost when they stooped to that level. Lets do what we can for the victims, and stay vigilent, but lets not BE terrorized. Lets live life in freedom, and with no regrets. Enough about that from me for now.
Lewisville Lake, as of this morning had an elevation of 517.21 feet, or 78% full - nearly 5 feet below conservation pool. Hopefully we’ll get some more rain and catch up before summer. Texas needs to get serious about drought, and plan on this being the new normal. This New York Times article is a must-read.
The Lewisville Leader, and the Dallas Morning News both reported that Highland Village is getting $3.5 million from TxDOT to replace park land at Lewisville Lake being taken for new I-35E right-of-way.
It's Monday, April Fools day, and we're up to our usual mischief here at LTJ. Last year we brought you a story about expensive tire air and the tragic consequences of filling your tires with natural gas. Imagine what it must be like to work for one of those "news" outlets like Fox or The Blaze, or World Net Daily where they just make shit up 24/7/365? Anyway, if you've figured out this year's prank, don't spoil it.
Also, happy belated Easter to everyone.
We have video from Saturday night's roller derby bouts, and have started work on getting them ready for YouTube. Hopefully we'll have the first bout posted by Tuesday.
Lewisville Lake is at 517.04 feet, or about 5 feet short of conservation pool.
Well, shucks. Here it is Sunday night, and I'm back after a week of business travel. I've managed to squander most of the weekend, and it's just about bed time. I've been collecting a bunch of links for you, but I'll tell you - it's been a busy news week. The Legislature is in session, so I hope you're taking a look at the Texas Tribune every now and then. If you've sent me something that I've failed to post, I apologize. I'm not ignoring you, just treading water to keep up.
Texas Democrats are too weak to much affect the Medicaid debate. But if state Republicans reject federal money that could insure 1 million or more Hispanics, they could provide Democrats with an unprecedented opportunity to energize those voters—the key to the party’s long-term revival. With rejection, says Democratic state Rep. Rafael Anchia of Dallas, Republicans “would dig themselves into an even deeper hole with the Hispanic community.”
Rob Portman is no hero. You don't support civil rights just because you know someone or are related to someone who is being discriminated against. You support civil rights because you are a human being who can empathize with other human beings. You support civil rights because you have a sense of fair play, and you hope that others will support your rights.
This is not good. State Supreme Court nullifies city zoning ordinance because they say state air pollution permit pre-empts it. State standards ought to be minimum standards. Texas is a big state with all kinds of geography and a wide mix of urban and rural areas. Cities need to be given a certain amount of leeway to regulate the locations and setbacks of polluting entities from protected locations like homes, churches, and schools.
On the other hand, here's an example of a good idea: Texas Legislature passes bill to pre-empt HOA’s from restricting water-saving landscaping choices. HOAs are the refuge of the petty tyrant, it seems. Many of them restrict the types of grass and shrubs people can plant, or restrict them from planting more drought-tolerant landscaping. In case you haven't noticed, Texas' population has just about doubled in the last 30 years. During that time, the heavens have still doled out the same amount of rain each year, with just a little less these past few years of extreme drought. While it might have been feasible for everyone to have lush St. Augustine yards when our grandparents bought their houses, it is no longer true. It's a lot easier to save water than to find more.
Once again, the Onion’s satire cuts too close to the truth. Media coverage of the Steubenville rape trial was unbelievable. It's clear that our society is not thinking clearly when it comes to rape. We're all going to have to talk to our boys very frankly about what it means when a girl says no, or when a girl is incapable of consenting. Here's a short PSA:
Medical Center of Lewisville lauded for emergency room improvements. I'm glad to hear it. The measures taken seem simple, but sometimes in spite of having a bunch of professionals who care about their jobs, you need a good manager to analyze the big picture and tweak things here and there that might not be obvious to the individual team members.
DCTA reported Thursday that one of its trains was involved in another accident, striking a vehicle on N. Kealy in Lewisville. They reported no major injuries, and a 40 minute delay to clear and inspect the tracks.
Lewisville City Council candidate Raymond Daniels has a Facebook page. His opponent, incumbent Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Rudy Durham will not be doing anything online. Both candidates have agreed to complete the LTJ questionnaire.
Daylight saving time starts Sunday, so if you still have any old fashioned clocks, you need to set them forward one hour Saturday night before you go to bed. I'm looking forward to having a little more daylight left after I get off work each day.
Want a nice little sound track for today's links? Listen to Downtown Fever, covering Journey's "Faithfully" during the Sounds of Lewisville 2012 season. These guys nail it, I think.
Anyhow, we've been staying busy, and are barely keeping up. We still are looking for volunteer writers. Contact me at email@example.com.
One story we have in process is about a thriving industry in Old Town Lewisville that is drawing people into our city. I've just not had time to write it up, but maybe I'll get that done Sunday - just 2 weeks late.
Regarding our upcoming City Council and School Board Elections for 2013, I wanted to let everyone know that we've sent each and every candidate a questionnaire chock full of what we think are pretty tough questions. We hope to have the answers back next weekend. We may end up extending the deadline though, because these are pretty tough questions, and will take some time.
Here are some links we've collected for you over the week:
A University of Texas / Texas Tribune poll shows how Texas voters feel about various issues compared with the rest of the nation. One of the most interesting things is that only 29% of US voters think the country is headed in the right direction, but 45% of Texas voters feel that way.
Ugh - new Sim City game requires always-on internet connection. If you look at my college transcript, you might be able to pick out the semester when I first discovered the original Sim City. That's the semester where I stayed up all night playing the game, and made poor grades. I'm not into video games now, but I have heard good things about the new Sim City, and might be willing to try it. Then again, I am way behind on doing the stuff I need to do, so I should probably avoid it.
In a recent update, I mentioned NextDoor.com - a nice neighborhood social networking site meant more for hooking people up with their neighbors for things like crime alerts, and very hyperlocal issues. I do like the site a lot. I also mentioned that if you sign up through the link I provided, and start a new group for your neighborhood that has at least 10 people sign up (which should be very easy), we both get $50 Starbucks cards. I had a couple people take me up on that, and I just got my first $50 card in the mail today. It's free to sign up.
On this day in 1836, the people of Texas declared independence from Mexico, forming the Republic of Texas, which existed until 1845 when it was annexed into the United States. For almost 10 years, Texas was an independent nation. Then in 1861, Texas was the last state to secede and join the confederacy. Even after the Civil War, Texas has maintained at least a mindset of independence, which is mostly a source of pride, but occasionally can be a source of embarrassment, such as when our governor made comments alluding to secession, or when a bunch of numbsculls petitioned the White House to secede.
Still, we love Texas and couldn't think of having our home anywhere else. (Although it becomes awful tempting to visit our Northern states right around August) We have our Texas flag flying today, and we pause to remember all of those who sacrificed to settle our state and secure our independence from Mexico.
Very Busy - Help Wanted As you know, the Lewisville Texan Journal is an all-volunteer, community-supported publication, trying to fill in the gaps in media coverage about our fair city. I write most of the articles, but I've been pretty busy with my day job lately, and dealing with just a bit of burnout. We're coming into local election season, and I need to get on the stick about covering local elections. We're looking for volunteer writers to help cover local news. There is no shortage of stuff to cover, so we can definitely provide you the ideas if you can contribute your time. There is no pay— just the undying gratitude of an engaged public who cares about their community. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
Here are some miscellaneous links to stories we thought were interesting:
Denton County Sheriff Will Travis faces a lawsuit from two employees he terminated upon taking office. Employees are supposed to have civil service protections, but their Civil Service Commission apparently dragged its feet on getting its bylaws passed.
Some folks advocate, and many cities have now implemented bans on single-use plastic bags. Here is a creative video urging such a policy. While I'm not sure I'm ready to be that heavy-handed, I will say that I've pulled more than my fair share of plastic bags out of trees, creeks, and streams, as well as plastic water bottles. What do you think?