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's Sunday, April 13th, and we are two days away from the April 15th deadline to file federal income taxes. Although we've already filed our federal taxes, we've been procrastinating from doing our business property tax renditions, which are also due Tuesday. Honestly, I don't know why I procrastinate. It's not that hard, but maybe just a bit tedious. I guess I might just run up to the office later and work on that.
Once again, we've gone too long without an update, so a few of the links I had been saving to share ended up so stale that I removed them. Here's what we have for today:
Teacher engagement was another issue. Gallup has some background information about teacher engagement, and how that compares to other professions. Not only does general K-12 engagement exceed most other professions, but at 45% engagement, LISD’s teachers far exceed the national K-12 engagement of 28-35% (based on experience levels), and LISD teacher engagement also far exceeds the national average of all occupations, which is 30%. Despite the narrative that somehow our teachers are not engaged, and that it somehow relates to strategic design or 1:X or something else that our district leadership is doing or not doing, the numbers plainly show that LISD is different. Now, any organization of any size is going to have some that are actively disengaged, and if you listen to any of them, these folks are going to paint a picture that “everybody” is just like them.
I will tell you that my initial take on the state’s study was that it was weak. I can’t seem to find my initial analysis of the DSHS study, but if memory serves me, the level of confidence they chose - 99% meant that even though they found a given disease was twice as likely to occur in their study area, it would have had to be around 10 x more likely to occur before they could definitively say it was a cluster. I also thought the study area was too large. Of course, the existence of a cluster, if proven, doesn’t imply causality. For all we know, there could have been certain construction materials used in the homes in these neighborhoods that are off-gassing and causing problems. I just can’t say that this type of study is capable of proving or disproving much of anything with regards to causality. Back in 2010, I posted my thoughts on what may be causing health issues.
Charles Murray, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, has become one of the most influential social scientists in America, using racist pseudoscience and misleading statistics to argue that social inequality is caused by the genetic inferiority of the black and Latino communities, women and the poor. According to Murray, disadvantaged groups are disadvantaged because, on average, they cannot compete with white men, who are intellectually, psychologically and morally superior. Murray advocates the total elimination of the welfare state, affirmative action and the Department of Education, arguing that public policy cannot overcome the innate deficiencies that cause unequal social and educational outcomes.
Lets be honest here. There is only one reason why election officials would restrict access to restrooms for voters. Republicans these days can only win elections when they can suppress the turnout. They do this by reducing polling places in poor and minority neighborhoods, and making it as damned inconvenient to vote as possible. If this is what you have to do to win elections, maybe that should be a clue that your ideas just suck, and you should go back to what conservatism used to be instead of making it a haven for anti-intellectual, anti-minority, anti-poor, anti-woman, and anti-progress cranks.
Girls Chase Boys - by the exceptionally talented and beautiful Ingrid Michaelson
Today is Texas Independence Day. On March 2nd, 1836, Texas declared independence from Mexico. In honor of Texas Independence Day, we hoisted the Texas flag here at the house, cooked a pot of Texas Red last night, and drank a couple of Shiners. You might say we’re just a little proud of being born in Texas, but we thank our lucky Lone Star that Texas joined the United States of America. You can learn more about the brief history of Texas independence here.
I’ve generally considered Texas Tribune to be a decent and reliable source of news in Texas, and from time to time we re-publish their stories. We have even at times considered going non-profit to follow their model. But they've been getting some criticism for taking money from big donors who have an interest in avoiding bad coverage. The criticisms there do cause me to reflect on our own operation and how we might avoid that kind of bias. Even if you take money completely out of the equation, it is easy to find yourself thinking twice before publishing something derogatory about a newsmaker who provides you with access and information.
We recently had a big conversation on the City of Lewisville Facebook group regarding license plate recognition systems, and specifically the storage of data in them. Councilman Neil Ferguson wrote a response, which we posted here. I wanted to share with you the article from the Electronic Frontier Foundation about the national database. I would just say that I’m wary about there being too much storage of that information, and the potential for abuse. The information collected definitely is useful in law enforcement; I don’t dispute that. It loses utility the longer you keep it. At some point, the usefulness crosses below a point where it outweighs the potential for abuse. I don’t know where that point is, but I hope that Lewisville Police Department and others will keep that in mind when determining how much data to keep.
This is some interesting drama: Denton Mayor Mark Burroughs bought a condo in Dallas for some reason, and is involved in a lawsuit because he refuses to return a $175,000 piece of art that was in the unit. He bought the unit as-is, and without an inspection, but is holding the art hostage over what he considers to be defects in the unit.
As you know, the Lewisville City Council as well as surrounding cities took steps to reduce the availability of e-cigarettes to minors. This NPR article discusses the rationale (or lack thereof) for banning their usage. For what it’s worth, I don’t feel there is enough evidence of harm from second-hand vapor to justify any bans. But property owners are free to do as they wish for their own establishments.
Here is something that gets me: We left-leaning folks genuinely believe in the process of science, and we think science should not only be taught in schools, but should shape public policy. We poke fun at idiots like Joe Barton, and the people who want to teach creationism as if it’s a scientific theory with equal footing as evolution. Yet, so many of our lefties also are willing to set aside discernment and jump on all sorts of bandwagons where the science is either non-existent, or has been totally ignored. A lot of folks are familiar with the Facebook page “I Fu**ing Love Science”, but do you know about “I fu**ing hate pseudoscience”? I recommend that everyone who professes to love science follow both - especially the latter.
Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson lives on a luxury estate in Denton County near Bartonville. He has joined a lawsuit against the Cross Timbers Water Supply Corp., which is building a water tower near his home. The lawsuit claims it will be an eyesore and hurt his property value, which is the main BS argument. What had gas drilling opponents fuming, and asserting hypocrisy was the suit’s assertion that the tower could be used to supply drilling operations, and that would result in a lot of truck traffic. Here is an open letter to Tillerson from a former oil company executive who now fights against the industry’s practice of “fracking” or hydraulic fracture stimulation.
Flower Mound will not have a city election this year because none of their candidates drew opponents. This could work to the disadvantage of Flower Mound candidates in the LISD races. Those candidates usually have an advantage because of Flower Mound’s high voter turnout.
“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Excuse me if I’m appalled at the negative reaction to this sculpture by some folks who think Jesus wouldn’t be a ‘vagrant’.
The big international story right now comes out of Ukraine, where citizens ousted the Russian-affiliated leader, and Russian troops have now occupied Crimea. President Obama warned that there would be a price for Russia’s actions there. Here is a map that can help you understand the situation, and here is an article that explains some of the history behind Ukraine, Russia, and Crimea. It’s not a clear-cut situation of Russia invading because they just want it. Russia clearly has some interests to protect, but we should be concerned about the unilateral nature of their actions. I’m not sure their motives are entirely summed up by what they have stated. Nevertheless, the US has confronted them about it, and when two nuclear superpowers have words like, it concerns me greatly.
Here’s a move that I just can’t understand: The Dallas City Council put its water supply at risk by allowing the Seaway Pipeline, which will carry heavy tar sands oil, to pass through a piece of property that Dallas Water Utilities owns, and has water pipelines on. Don’t worry though: They got paid $1,600. All better now. I’m sure that any accident with the oil pipeline won’t cost any more than that. Dallas Water Utilities supplies treated and untreated water to the City of Lewisville.
This is an interesting article about Attorney General Greg Abbott prosecuting voter fraud. It seems some right-wing types were zealous about special taxing districts, and decided to claim voter registrations at a hotel so that they could legally vote themselves onto the directors of a road utility district that had been put together by developers and was in use to fund infrastructure for a business area.
Ted Nugent is a dirtbag draft-dodger, racist, and misogynist who in the past has made statements about affairs with underage girls. But Greg Abbott is traveling with him, and the two will be in Denton today. If you want to know someone’s values, pay less attention to the words they say, and more attention to what they do. Abbott talks a game about family values, and going after predators, but he’s hanging out with one today - showing that politics is really more important to him.
Kraig Parker will be performing at Sounds of Lewisville this June 3rd. Here's some video of Kraig from last year:
Apparently the audio from that O’Keefe video purporting to show Democrats laughing at Attorney General Greg Abbott’s disability was deliberately spliced to mislead. There’s a "big surprise", considering the source.
Monday is the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. We don’t have the day off work, but I will take some time to reflect on what Dr. King accomplished.
I have had this idea now for a few years, and have shared it with a few, but never pushed it. I think now is the time to put it out there. In the City of Lewisville, we do not have a street named after Dr. King. I think we should make that happen. I think that Martin Luther King Jr.’s street should be in a place of prominence in our city, rather than being hidden in a neighborhood somewhere. My suggestion is to rename Civic Circle, which runs from Main Street to Summit Ave, and crosses Valley Parkway. The new name would be “Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Circle”. The street mostly has businesses and governmental uses such as the Post Office, and the Library. It would be a place of honor. We could install some nice street signs, and maybe the City of Lewisville could place a small monument on city property at the corner of Main Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Circle. What do you think, Lewisville? Could we get this done in time for an unveiling on January 19th, 2015? If you agree, will you sign my petition, or contact a city council member? So far, I would say that based on early response to the idea via Facebook, Lewisville residents may not be ready for this. A few of the comments are actually a little sad. It's okay if you don't like the idea, but the reasoning from some carries no small amount of prejudice.
Food Court Wars recently filmed an episode in Lewisville. The series airs starting in February we are told, although we’re not sure when this specific episode will air. Many Lewisville residents were extras for the show. From the show's website:
"Food Court Wars pits two teams of aspiring food entrepreneurs against one another as they battle to win their own food court restaurant, rent-free for a year. Each week it’s a different U.S. city mall. The mall wants to open a brand-new "local" eatery in the food court that offers a fresh region-specific menu. Stakes are high as teams must test their concept, market their brand and run their outlet for a full day feeding hungry shoppers. The team whose restaurant makes the most profit wins their eatery space — a prize worth $100,000! The losing team must vacate the premises."
Here’s a little musical interlude from a talented friend of mine: Lisa Markley - Real Women, Real Songs 2 - Week 1: Vulnerable
I was thinking: Wouldn't it be nice to showcase some local musicians here each week? If you know a musician in North Texas who needs a little more exposure and has some videos online, why don't you email us at email@example.com and let us know.
The relative lack of coverage of the Fukushima nuclear disaster by the major news outlets has created a vacuum that is unfortunately being filled by a lot of misinformation from numerous disreputable outlets. The proliferation of blogs and other sites then using that misinformation as source material has made it hard to find good information about what is going on there, as well as the realistic risks to people and the environment. Here are a couple of articles from reputable sources: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has an F.A.Q on radiation from Fukushima, and Deep Sea News has an article with some various facts.
Well, we hope everyone had a nice Christmas. We had a beautiful Christmas here at our household, and we are extremely blessed. We had several generous readers chip in and donate to the cause here, and we ended up having almost enough for that new camera we’ve been needing for ages. My wife chipped in the rest, and now we have a decent camera. I took my youngest son out to LLELA today to try out the new camera, and ended up with some really nice shots. I’ll be posting some of those in the photo section here soon. Here’s my current favorite: Sniffy the Armadillo.
Kwanzaa is a fairly new holiday created in 1966 as a celebration of African heritage. It is celebrated each year for the week after Christmas. If you celebrate Kwanzaa, have a good one.
One of the results of HB5 is that the requirement for high school social studies has been reduced from 4 to 3 credits. But, as we mentioned before in the last LISD Board Meeting recap, some social studies teachers are not happy with that. While I’m a proponent of social studies, just like I’m a proponent of English, math, and science, I also think we need to have some flexibility so that students can pursue their interests. If a kid wants to take 6 credits of social studies, and only 3 credits of math, that’s fine. If a kid wants to take 6 credits of science, and 5 maths, but only 3 social studies, that would be fine too. Kids are not all the same, and we need to stop with the assembly line mentality.
Earthquakes continue in North Texas. On January 2nd, Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter will hold a community meeting in Azle. We predict he’ll trip over himself to assert that these quakes have absolutely nothing to do with injecting thousands of barrels of waste underground. But we shall see.
Speaking of the RRC’s denial of reality, the Office of the Inspector General this past week released a report responding to an inquiry by Republican members of Congress looking to shake up the EPA over its response to a water well contamination case in Parker County. The report found that the EPA acted properly and was justified in its response, ordering gas driller Range Resources to provide homeowners with drinking water. We previously wrote about that case here and here. The Fart Fairy reference, BTW, was picked up and used in a textbook about environmental rhetoric.
We grow them dumb here in Texas. The GOP will have Larry SECEDE (that’s how he spells it) Kilgore on the ticket for governor. He thinks homosexuals should be put to death because the bible and all. But don’t worry, he’s sure the gays will still vote for him because taxes and stuff.
You can honor an LISD educator by making a donation to the Lewisville ISD Education Foundation’s Changing Children’s Lives Fund in their name.
You know, I am a country music fan. I just am. Grew up on it, and just like it best. But honestly the past few years, about half of it is just total crap. There is this sub-genre that I call “Redneck Bonafides” which is trite recycled bullshit themes where these “musicians” vomit out a bunch of words that they think will appeal to an unsophisticated redneck audience. They talk about trucks, girls, cold beer, dirt roads, and any other thing they can rattle off and string together into some garbage that can be made into a music video. Country music: we can do better. Thank God for Pandora radio, where I can permanently banish the crap songs with one click.
Dallas Morning News looks at Lewisville’s recently-passed local option liquor election, and notes that so far, the only applicant for a license is Buy Low Beer and Wine. One reader wrote in to let us know that Buy Low had three TABC violations on its record. According to the document, it looked like they violated Texas’ “cash law” once in 2005, and sold alcohol to minors twice in 2008, and 2010. Our reader wanted to know whether the City of Lewisville will contest permits based on a history of violations. I’ve never shopped there, and don’t have much opinion of it one way or the other.
Today is the Winter Solstice. At 11:11 p.m. local time, the North Pole will be tipped about 23 degrees away from the sun, its farthest point throughout the year. The 10 hours, 1 minute of daylight make it the shortest day of the year, with our sunset at 5:25 p.m.
Right at midnight last night, Lewisville Lake crossed the 514 foot mark, and currently sits at 514.07 feet elevation. This is the first time since early September that the lake has been under 8 feet low.
“A cold and rainy morning is expected across North Central Texas. There will be a few embedded thunderstorms in the rain, but the severe weather threat will remain to our south and east ahead of a cold front. Temperatures across Oklahoma have fallen below freezing and icy roads there will make for hazardous travel. Rain and storms will come to an end over North Central Texas around midday as drier air moves in from the west.”
The recent Icepocalypse eased up the drought a little. But Governor Perry has renewed a proclamation extending the drought emergency. Denton, Dallas, and Tarrant Counties are not on the list this time. But our lakes are still low, and we could find ourselves hurting for water this summer without some significant recharge over the winter and throughout the spring.
Here’s a video of a song from Alabama: “Angels Among Us”. It’s an oldie, but hopefully will inspire. I just want to offer one more reminder that The Lewisville Texan Journal is still seeking nominations for Lewisville Citizen of the Year.
Last week, we mentioned the boy whose “affluenza” privileged him with just 10 years probation after killing four while drunk driving. Tarrant County prosecutors still have some charges that have not yet been prosecuted, so they will try again. There is a petition with over 20,000 signatures to remove Judge Jean Boyd from the bench. However, the Texas Constitution provides that removal of judges goes through a process, starting with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct. Making a wrong decision in a case is not grounds for a judge to be removed by the commission, which is geared more towards willful or persistent misconduct. The process to remove a judge based on their decisions being out-of-sync with community standards happens in the primaries and at the ballot box.
Lewisville is getting a First Choice Emergency Room facility at 1596 W. Main Street. The facility will be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The facility bills itself as a full emergency room, even though it is not attached to a hospital. Heart attacks and broken bones are treated, as well as asthma, pneumonia, and allergic reactions. They do not file with Medicare or Medicaid.
U.S. Sailors who were part of the Navy effort to help after the disaster at Fukushima are now finding themselves with cancers. The ship they were on was desalinating water from the ocean, and they were drinking it.
You may remember our article from last year about TxDOT possibly overpaying for land acquisition for I-35 expansion. The Denton Record Chronicle has a story now about two men who cash in on the speculation, buying land in the way of road projects in order to sell it to the state for a healthy profit. I don't know about you, but my blood pressure goes up just thinking about this again. We need to talk to our State Representatives about changing this process.
Bill of Rights Day On this day in 1791, the Bill of Rights was ratified, and white male landowners had their God-given rights codified. For the poor, and women, and minorities, those rights would come much later. Some are still waiting for their rights, while some privileged folks claim persecution because those who dare to stand up to oppression call them out for the racist, sexist, homophobes they are. Yes, the Bill of Rights is important, and is a legal basis for doing what we should already know is right. It may be written on paper, but Human rights are written on the conscience.
Weather This week should have some nice warmer weather than we’ve had last week, but it is expected to turn sharply colder at the end of the week. This is just a reminder that early in the week would be a good time to make your preparations for the possibility of being iced in again. Stock up on firewood, rock salt (for ice melting), and kitty litter (for traction). Grab an extra gallon of milk and loaf of bread to throw in the freezer. Be prepared. Here is the current thinking on this from the National Weather Service:
We are watching the next strong cold front which will arrive in North Texas on Friday. Temperatures behind this front are not expected to be as cold as our last front, but it still may be cold enough for some wintry precipitation Friday Night and into Saturday. The potential for wintry precipitation is higher for northwestern areas than it is for southeastern areas. It's too early to determine exactly where the rain and winter precipitation line will end up now, but we just want to keep you informed that there is another system to watch for. There are no indications in any of the weather data that this next winter system will be as bad as the last one. Please keep checking back for the latest forecast updates during the next week for further details.
Lake Lewisville Lake has continued to rise with the recent rain and melt-off from last week. It is now at 513.89 feet, which is just about 8 feet low.
Support the Fire Chief Lewisville Fire Chief Tim Tittle is battling Leukemia. Although he is reportedly doing well, his out of pocket medical expenses are taking a toll on his family. This Monday and Tuesday, all 3 Raisin' Cane's chicken locations in Lewisville and Flower Mound will donate 20% of proceeds to help off-set Tittle's medical costs. Just mention "Chief Tittle" when ordering..
Public Comments on CDBG Spending Sought The City of Lewisville will accept public comments through Monday, Dec. 23, on the Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report for the Community Development Block Grant 2012-2013 Program Year. A copy of the report is available at Lewisville Public Library, 1197 W Main Street, and the Planning and Community Services Division at Lewisville City Hall, 151 W. Church Street. Comments on the report also can be directed to Jamey Kirby at 972.219.3780 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christmas Tree Recycling Starting Dec. 13 and running through Jan. 17, live Christmas trees can be dropped off at the Lewisville Lake Park soccer fields (near Lake Park Road and North Mill Street) to be recycled into mulch. Recycling Christmas trees helps reduce waste, extend landfill life, provide useful compost and save money.
Trees must be stripped of all nails, wire, ornaments, lights and tinsel prior to being dropped off. Free mulch will be available at the drop-off site between Dec. 30 and Jan 17, suitable for use in yards, gardens and flower beds, walkways, around trees and shrubs or for livestock bedding.
The program is sponsored by Keep Lewisville Beautiful and Lewisville Parks and Leisure Services. For information, call KLB at 972.538.5949 or PALS at 972.219.3550.
Last week I wrote about a private ambulance service that went out of business, leaving people stranded. This week, it’s a story about a private firefighting company that showed up 45 minutes after a fire began, and were not first responders. Nevertheless, they sent the homeowners a $20,000 bill. Again, I'm thankful for the Lewisville Fire Department, and think that our modest tax bill each year is a huge bargain, given the benefits.
Greater Lewisville Cares, a community organization that matched volunteers to local programs that need them, is shutting down operations. In doing so, they are distributing numerous grants. We appreciate all the good work that GLC did, and expect that their legacy will continue in ways they can’t even know. Volunteerism has a way of being contagious, and the contacts made and people helped will likely continue to pay it forward for years to come. Please join us in thanking GLC for all they’ve done, and wishing them the best.
Take Care of Texas is a program of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that aims to help Texans learn how to conserve energy and protect our natural resources
Here is a prime example of how our laws on immigration are screwed up. This woman was an Arizona State Trooper. She just recently learned that she is not a United States Citizen because contrary to what she believed, her parents brought her here illegally.
I suppose this post will probably be the last of the Icepocalypse posts (for now). We may end up with Icemageddon around Christmas time, but we will see.
Lewisville Lake is currently at 513.77 feet, and has risen has risen 2.4 inches since the Icepocalypse began. As the ice continues to melt, we're hoping to see it increase even more. We're still about 8 feet, 3 inches below conservation pool.
Newt Gingrich remembers Nelson Mandela - and took some heat for it, but fired back. Unfortunately, many on the far right have bought into some propaganda that Republicans should view Mandela as a terrorist or communist, or whatever “ist” they’re hating this week. Mandela fought for his people, who were oppressed under the brutal regime of apartheid. Just as our country fought the British, and our founders might have been called terrorists, Mandela did what he had to do, and in the grand scheme of things, it was justified. What made him the hero was that he was the bigger man, and pushed for reconciliation, rather than retribution. It’s too bad that Ronald Reagan was on the wrong side of that.
I have never been able to understand why some people lie about who they are, and try to claim military service and recognition they never earned. But it seems to be a pretty common con, and almost a go-to tactic for pathological liars. Chrissy Axtman spun a pretty sorry tall tale.
The State of Texas gained its first statewide elected Democrat this week with the defection of Judge Lawrence Meyers, who sits on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. He is running for Texas Supreme Court, which is the highest state court for civil cases in Texas.
Via LLELA: Would you and your family like to celebrate Christmas as they did in the late 1800s? Join us for a Homestead Christmas on Saturday, December 21 from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m. Enjoy a tour of the historic Minor-Porter Log House, make a corn husk doll or an ornament to take home to your own Christmas tree, create a hand-dipped candle, make gingerbread in the Dutch oven and churn butter to put on it, enjoy music and snacks, and more. Visitors are welcome to arrive at any time during the open hours and join in at their own pace. There is no additional fee for this activity beyond regular admission to LLELA ($5/person; children age 5 years and under free). Musicians with appropriate acoustic instruments get in free to participate in a holiday jam session at the cabin—please contact email@example.com or 972-219-3930 to participate.
First Med EMS service, a private emergency medical transport service operating in 6 states suddenly shut down service last week. Reading things like this makes me so proud that in Lewisville, we own our EMS and operate it with the Fire Department. Some of these cities are screwed. Can you imagine putting your trust in a private company that may or may not be there tomorrow, and has no accountability to the citizens? I consider my tax dollars for Lewisville Fire Department to be well spent!
Tom Thumb Gas stations began offering a “cash discount” for gas, which they say doesn’t violate the prohibition on credit surcharges. Since there are only two ways to pay (cash or credit), it seems like we have an issue of semantics that either means the law is messed up, or Tom Thumb is breaking it. I don’t have any problem with a cash discount per se, and I actually like to see businesses push back against the financial industry’s de-facto “tax” on the transactions which cuts into profit and makes us all pay more.
Contrast Dasani’s story with that of 16 year-old Ethan Couch, who killed 4 people drunk driving. the judge apparently took pity on him because his wealthy parents never let him learn about consequences for his actions. That is some serious bullshit. 20 years in prison would have been too harsh, but 10 years of probation does not seem to do the trick. I do believe in redemption, and I hope the boy gets the help he needs to change his life and atone for what happened. I just would have felt a lot better if he spent some time in prison.