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by Mike Fisher    Sat, Mar 18, 2006, 06:55 PM

"Terrell,'' said Jerry Jones during Saturday's blockbuster announcement, "is emptying his bucket.'' Reporting from the Cowboys' T.O. press conference at Valley Ranch, The Fish finds out if there is anything but slime in that bucket. Click into the 'School of Fish' for more. ...

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by Tom Pauken    Sat, Mar 18, 2006, 06:15 PM

The UK Guardian newspaper reported this week that the "number of children born in Germany last year was the lowest since the end of the second world war...According to provisional figures, 680,000 babies were born in 2005, down from 1.36 million in 1964.

Meanwhile, the Muslim birth rate in Europe is three times higher than the non-Muslim one, according to Foreign Policy magazine.  The article, entitled " Europe's Muslim Street" goes on to state:  "If current trends continue, the Muslim population of Europe will nearly double by 2015, while the non-Muslim population will shrink by 3.5 percent."  Are we witnessing  the slow suicide of western civilization in Europe?

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by Tom Pauken    Sat, Mar 18, 2006, 05:48 PM

Spain's socialist government apparently is determined to carry "political correctness" to the nth degree.  An official state bulletin has declared that "the expression 'father' will be replaced with 'Progenitor A' and 'mother' replaced with 'Progenitor B'" in all new birth certificates."  The official explanation of the change is that this new edict was issued so that there would be no discrimination against same-sex couples.  It appears that the socialist regime in that country is determined to abolish the idea of parenthood in what traditionally has been a religious nation.

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by Special to    Sat, Mar 18, 2006, 05:32 PM

Economist magazine has a story this month about the "resurgent capital" city of Washington, D.C.  The authors give much of the credit to outgoing Washington Mayor Anthony Williams who has made reform of one of the worst school systems in the country a top priority of his Administration.  Williams has promoted the idea of expanding the charter school concept in the District of Columbia.  Here is what the respected British publication has to say about that approach to reforming public education:  "As a charter school, publicly-funded but free of bureaucratic control, it can shun trendy educational theories in favor of discipline, phonics and longer school hours.  Charter schools now educate over a fifth of the students in D.C., up from none in 1996."  And the results are nothing short of sensational:  "in 2003-2004, its first year of operation, its (D.C. Prep's) pupils advanced on average 1.7 'grade equivalents' in reading (i.e., they learned as much in one year as a child is expected to learn in 1.7 years) and 2.3 in math."  Isn't expansion of the charter school concept something we need to implement here in Texas?

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by Tom Pauken    Sat, Mar 18, 2006, 03:22 PM

GOP Chair Tina Benkiser
While Glen Maxey and Boyd Ritchie battle it out for Party Chairman on the Democratic side, Texas Republicans are expected to have their own contest for State Chairman this June in San Antonio.

Incumbent Tina Benkiser is expected to run for re-election as Texas GOP Chairman and will be challenged again by lawyer and businesswoman Gina Parker. Former Dallas GOP Chairman Nate Crain also has been mentioned as a possible candidate for State Chairman. Crain has been a very vocal critic recently of the financial condition of the Texas GOP.

Chris Davis, a state committeewoman from Dallas County, waded into the debate over party finances with a newsletter she sent out to party activists after a recent State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) meeting. In her missive, Mrs. Davis was quite frank in discussing the problems with the state party. She quoted outgoing Vice Chairman David Barton as saying that the party had never been in better shape, that fund raising was right on target … "better than any time in his nine years with the party." She also quoted Barton as saying that recent articles in the Dallas Morning News and emails by Nate Crain critical of the Party’s finances were "completely unmitigated financial fabrications".

However, Mrs. Davis goes on to cite Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings as evidence that the State GOP is deeply in debt. She states that, as of February 16, 2006, the state party had "cash on hand that" less than $50,000 while the debt had "reached $484,654.38". Mrs. David stated in her mailing that "our state party debt now almost exceeds the net debt of the other 50 State Republican parties combined." Mrs. David also bemoaned the low turnout in the Republican primary in Texas this year.

There was more bad news for the state GOP this week as reports out of  Austin say that the Texas Republican Party failed to file a financial disclosure report relating to its involvement in a special election in the Austin area. Apparently, the Party spent some money on behalf of the losing Republican candidate Ben Bertzin and failed to report it properly. The State party already is under an agreement with the Travis County Attorney’s office limiting its use of contributions because of what purportedly were improper uses of corporate money in previous campaigns. The County Attorney’s office is investigating the failure to report.

One thing is obvious. The vaunted conservative, grassroots organization built up during the Goldwater/Reagan eras and sustained throughout the 1990s (as Republicans took control of Congress and the state government) is gone. Former allies within the Republican Party of Texas are fighting among themselves just like our elected state officials can’t seem to get along with one another.

The best thing that Texas Republicans have going for them these days is the woeful state of the Texas Democratic Party, but that may not be enough for them come November if they don’t get their act together soon.

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by Tom Pauken    Sat, Mar 18, 2006, 01:00 PM

Clay Robison of the Houston Chronicle once again scoops his colleagues who cover the battle over school finance reform by reporting today on John Sharp’s complaint that Texas’ major law firms "are trying to scuttle tax overhaul because they want property tax relief without paying their share of public school costs."

Sharp adds, "They want everybody else to pay for it. That’s where the lines are going to be drawn."

The spokesman for the coalition of eighteen major law firms, Glen Rosenbaum of the Vinson & Elkins law firm, said that Sharp’s plan was unfair to Texas law firms. Under Sharp’s proposal, a "company, such as a law firm, could deduct payroll, healthcare, pensions, and other employee benefits up to $300,000 per employee." According to Rosenbaum, "Sharp’s proposal would be more acceptable if the compensation cap were raised to $500,000 or $550,000 per employee."

In the Chronicle article, Sharp responded to the big law firms campaign to avoid paying the expanded business tax: "What these guys really want is to distribute all their money to their partners and come back with nothing to pay taxes on. There is no way we or the Legislature can justify letting lawyers pay themselves $500,000 before paying any taxes, while they get the same property tax relief everyone else gets."

Meanwhile, two of the big law firms leading the fight against the Sharp school finance plan raised the salaries of their first-year associates just out of law school, according to the Texas Lawyer. A Vinson & Elkins first-year associate in Texas will now earn $135,000 in a base salary while new lawyers in Washington, D.C. and New York will be paid $145,000. Another major law firm opposed to the Sharp Plan, Andrews Kurth, matched the Vinson & Elkins pay increase for first-year associates.

I imagine that means the billable hour fee being charged their clients by both of those firms will be going up as well. The complete list of the big law firms fighting the Sharp proposal follows:

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, LLP
Allen Boone Humphries Robinson, LLP
Andrews & Kurth, LLP
Baker Botts, LLP
Bracewell & Guiliani, LLP
Cantey & Hanger, LLP
Carrington Coleman Sloman & Blumenthal, LLP
Doyle Restrep Harvin & Robbins, LLP
Fulbright & Jaworski, LLP
Gardere Wynne Sewell, LLP
Hunton & Williams, LLP
Jackson Walker, LLP
Jones Day
Meadows Owens Collier Reed Cousins & Blau, LLP
Strasburger & Price, LLP
Thompson & Knight, LLP
Vinson & Elkins, LLP
Weil Gotshall & Manges, LLP

To read the entire Clay Robison article, link here.

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by Trey Garrison    Sat, Mar 18, 2006, 12:56 PM

Acclaimed Texas pastor Joel Osteen, the 'smilin' preacher' who graced the cover of Texas Monthly just a few months back, has inked a $10 million book deal with Free Press for his next book.

As they say over at FrontBurner on such occasions, nice.

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by Special to    Sat, Mar 18, 2006, 12:33 PM

A new Gallup poll found that 58% of Americans believe that the war in Iraq has had a negative effect on life in the US.  That is a reversal  from the results immediately after the war began in which 52% of Americans said that the war had a positive effect on life in the United States, according to a story in Editor & Publisher.  The story goes on to say that, when asked in the Gallup poll "how the war in Iraq has affected their personal lives, Americans are nearly three times more likely to say it has had a negative (39%) rather than a positive (14%) effect."

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by Special to    Sat, Mar 18, 2006, 12:29 PM

The AAA gas price survey shows that Texas gasoline prices at the pump rose for the second time in two weeks.  The average jumped 7 cents from the previous week to an average price of $2.34 per gallon.  It looks like the AAA survey may be a week behind because it is hard to find regular gasoline at less than $2.49 a gallon in the Dallas area.

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by Trey Garrison    Sat, Mar 18, 2006, 01:34 AM

We first reported on Wednesday that Assistant Fire-Rescue Chief Roland Gamez was fired for sexual harassment for an incident that allegedly happened in January.

Tonight, WFAA News 8 scooped us (we're big enough to admit that) in getting Mr. Gamez's side of the story. In an exclusive interview, he told Channel 8 that the allegations for sexual harassment against him stemmed from two disgruntled employees that he says were unhappy with merit raises they received in December 2005.

Gamez went on to tell the TV news crew that he believes he did not get a fair hearing from City Manager Mary Suhm - described by some city staffers as running her department through "fear and intimidation" - because he was loyal to former Dallas Fire Chief Steve Abraira, who was suddenly ousted last year by Ms. Suhm over conflicts between the two.

Of the two accusers, Eddie Goldsmith and Johnnie Ortiz, Goldsmith resigned from his position effective March 14, 2006. Ortiz was cleared of any wrong doing and she has returned to work at the city's 911 center.

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