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by Scott Bennett    Sun, Oct 23, 2005, 10:42 pm

Texas drilling rig
There was a time, not all that long ago, when the Texas economy moved up and down with the rig count (the number of rotary oil and gas drilling rigs) in the state.  No more.  Now the vast majority of Texans would be much happier with oil at $10 per barrel than $60.  Given the overall decline in production a buzzing rig count has only a marginal impact on the state's overall economy.  Still, lots of drilling does mean tax dollars and economic boom times for many parts of Texas - and in the long run it will mean lower gas prices as new supplies come on line.

Last month the drills were indeed buzzing.  There are currently 669 operating drilling rigs in Texas (according to Hughes Tool).  That is up from 562 only nine months ago.  And it is up from the all-time low point for Texas which was 186 in April 1999 but a long way from the all-time high of 1445 in August 1981.  There is every indication the count is headed much higher.  According to the Texas Railroad Commission there were 1222 drilling permits issued in the state last month.  The last time permits were than high was 1986.

As of today there are a little over 72,000 active gas wells in the state and 44 billion cubic feet of proven gas reserves.  That is the highest number of active wells ever but the high point of proven reserves came in 1968 when reserves topped 125 billion cubic feet.  Producing oil wells in Texas peaked at 210,000 in 1985 and today stand at 151,000.  Crude oil reserves in the state have toppled from a high of around 114 million barrels to only about 4 million barrels today.  Given the rapidly increased rate of exploration these figures will likely begin to move up again as new technologies enable the capture of reserves from locations previously too difficult or uneconomic to reach.

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by Rufus Shaw    Sun, Oct 23, 2005, 10:32 pm
Rufus Shaw
On November 8th, Dallas voters will get the chance to vote to strengthen the Mayor’s role in our city government by voting yes to Proposition1. For the record, the vast majority of African-American voters South of The Trinity are voting “No” to Proposition 1. Proposition 1, better known as the alternative to the defeated Blackwood Strong Mayor Plan, will give, starting in 2007, the Mayor the power to hire and fire the city manager, the police chief and the fire chief among other new powers. Proponents of the measure, mostly white North Dallas voters and the white news media, believe that strengthening Laura Miller’s power will somehow move the city forward. African-American voters strongly disagree with that premise.

There is a conspiracy theory afloat that says key players in Mayor Miller’s political camp are using their influence with the white media to incite white voters to the polls by using the FBI corruption probe of city hall. The way the theory works is the white media, especially the Morning News, continues to write negative stories about the African-Americans who have been subpoenaed by the FBI Since all of the Black city council members have had their records subpoenaed, the implication is a strong mayor with more power would eliminate the power of “those people” to corrupt city government. Very little is made of the fact none of “those people” have committed crimes or been indicted of a crime as it relates to this FBI probe.

But that has not stopped the Dallas Morning News. One recent story in the paper featured some known associates of Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill who have had trouble paying their bills or keeping permanent business addresses. The story was written to infer that there must be something illegal going on because “those people” cannot be found when the Morning News reporters wanted to find them. For those of us South of the Trinity, there is another take on this. If indeed the people in question were criminals who have stolen boatloads of money, wouldn’t they have money to pay their basic business expenses? And then there is this take: what if they are like thousands of other small business owners who are trying to keep their businesses afloat while operating with a limited cash flow? Is that a crime?

If using your city council member to help small business owners get business contracts is somehow against the law, I wonder if it’s against the law for the Mayor, city council members, and city staff to go on business development trips with white corporate leaders to drum up business for the companies present on the trips. I mean this is certainly a common business practice. And it is no less common for many of these same major white businesses to strongly lobby these same African-American council members who are the subject of the FBI probe. Is that against the law? And why hasn’t the Morning News written stories about these relationships?

If using your city council member to help one get contacts or selectively paying some of your business expenses to keep your business alive become a crime, then small business owners and all of our city council members, not just the Black ones, should become subjects of an FBI probe and some investigative journalism by the Dallas Morning News.

By the way, I got this conspiracy theory from a well connected white conservative political operative in North Dallas. This theory did not come from a South of the Trinity Black barbershop. I say that because from a South of the Trinity perspective, too many North Dallas white voters believe all white folks are for Laura Miller. The white conspiracy theorists I have talked to believe that by keeping the FBI probe alive in the minds of white North Dallas voters, these same voters will vote for Proposition 1. The white media has erroneously linked a stronger mayor with corruption free government. Let me say right now I do not know for certain if any crimes have been committed by the people involved in the FBI probe. Nor do I believe that the many law abiding citizens South of the Trinity would condone such criminal behavior if it indeed does exist. What those of us South of the Trinity do know is none of what we have heard or read in the white media regarding the activities of our 4 Black council members constitutes a crime.

I have no doubt that white North Dallas voters who have been inundated with twisted and lurid accounts of small business people not paying their bills and Black elected officials trying to help their constituents get business contracts now believe that giving the mayor more power will save our city. Never mind that no crime has been committed. Never mind that none of the activities by the African-American city council members can be linked to any of the city’s major problems. Never mind that Mayor Miller has presided over and indeed been a major part of some of the city’s worst political decisions. Never mind that none of the African-American council members will campaign for the measure. Conspiracy theorists insist we are all being manipulated into giving away the political power that 14-1 bestowed upon us by strengthening the mayor. That’s what it looks like from South of The Trinity.

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by Scott Bennett    Sat, Oct 22, 2005, 11:24 pm

Flu virus
A lot of people visit Dallas County's excellent Web site  Most are trying to pay something and avoid a trip downtown, expensive parking and a long line.  Few visit the portion of the Web site that deals with public health.  In fact, few county residents probably realize that the County has responsibility for public health.  Given that these folks are responsible for the response to a bio-terrorist attack or an outbreak of a killer flu virus it would probably be better to pay some attention.

The Dallas Health and Human Services organization produces something worth reading:  a monthly newsletter available on-line that provides a lot of very valuable information for keeping a family healthy.  This month's issue is particularly useful in that it provides detailed information on this year's flu problems and a Q&A on the Avian flu. 

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by Scott Bennett    Sat, Oct 22, 2005, 11:52 am

Jim Schutze
For my taste the best reporter working the Dallas beat today is Jim Schutze of the Dallas Observer. He is the most entertaining writer as well. Why is this talent stuck in an alternative paper between ads for the Gentleman’s Club and Condom Sense? I imagine his gusto in goring sacred cows has something to do with it.

Now, Schutze isn’t perfect: He occasionally takes a bit too much poetic license for a reporter. Worse his conclusions frequently differ from mine (others may not see that as a flaw). A case in point is his story in this week’s Observer (on the stands now). Most of Schutze's story deals with last week’s hearings by a panel of state reps on how the City of Dallas abuses law abiding citizens. It is a perfect Halloween story. It should scare the hell out of you.

Toward the end of the story he sort of switches gears to question the deal just done with Ray Hunt to get his companies to stay in downtown Dallas, and a pending deal that would swap a parking lot Hunt owns for Reunion Arena and the adjacent land. Mr. Schutze allows that he has no idea whether the deals are good or bad. However, he did think her Honor made good points by pointing out that a) the City would have to pay of the remaining $20 million debt on Reunion and b) still pay to demolish it. Schutze asks rhetorically why Hunt shouldn’t pay for improvements as well land (Reunion Arena). The answer is because Reunion Arena is not an improvement it’s an Albatross.

Before tackling Reunion let’s tackle my house. It is a 40-year old Dallas rambler sitting one a third of an acre lot with lots of trees. With reasonable maintenance it should last another 40. It is somewhat “updated” so it should easily be livable for another 40 too. So what is my home worth? Possibly zero.

How can this be? My home is worth what someone is willing to pay me and it is very possible no one would pay me anything for it. No, it doesn’t sit on a toxic waste dump. That’s the problem. It sits on a very nice lot which is worth a good bit. I might well be able to sell the lot for the same amount without the house as I can with the house. That is because whoever buys the lot will likely not want a 40-year old rambler but a brand new house with an upstairs and twice the square footage. But unlike similar homes in Frisco it will have trees.

That is the problem with Reunion. The land has value but the White Elephant sitting on it has none. That is because the Arena lacks what economists call “economic utility.” That means there is nothing you can do with it that will make you money. Unless the Feds make it a full-time disaster shelter it will set empty through eternity – at a cost to the City of $1 million per year for eternity.

So, yes, Ray Hunt wants the land (beats me for what, but this is why he is rich and I am not) but not the anachronism sitting on the lot. It has no economic utility. Just because Dallas owes $20 million on Reunion doesn’t mean its worth $20 million. But then the City will have to pay the $20 million whoever the owner is. Tearing it down probably makes more sense than paying upkeep on a junk pile. Schutze wonders if we couldn't find someone willing to pay to tear it down.  If we did, they sure wouldn't have a check that could clear.

The Mayor seems to think Hunt should be a good citizen and pay anyway. Well, if Ray Hunt has $20 million for charitable purposes I would suggest demolishing Reunion would be way down the list of needs.

Yes, I sure wish my lot were worth more with my house on it and I wish Reunion Arena had “economic utility,” and I wish downtown Dallas were what it was when I was a kid. And I wish Schutze was goring sacred cows for a real newspaper.

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How Belo Found Tech Immortality
by doug bedell    Sat, Oct 22, 2005, 09:48 am

redpussycat.jpgAs part of its ten-year anniversary, writers at the tech portal have come up with a list of the Top Ten Worst Products of the Decade. It should be of no surprise to those involved, but a Dallas-made product came in No. 2, right behind that dreadful, hokey Microsoft operating system, Bob.

That’s right, it is the Cue:Cat – the incredibly stupid handheld scanner developed with an investment of more than $40 million Belo Bucks.

This appliance is aptly reviled to this day. Entire Websites like were devoted to ways of smashing, exploding, shredding and generally torturing the little red-nosed pussy cats. The thing never worked right on notebooks, it trampled user privacy and, although it was handed out free, it contained the most draconian end user agreement ever foisted on the public.

So how does a major media company like Belo get involved in such a pickle? How did its leaders wind up fleeced and permanently embarrassed? And why, pray tell, weren’t people sacked in the aftermath?

The answer to all these questions is found in three words.

1) Arrogance. The corporate leaders, decidedly dumb about technology, believed they could force computer users to allow them to track their activities online, then sell them advertising. They had no respect for the public intelligence.

2) Deafness. IT folks, the entire tech team, just about everyone with a lick of savvy in the newsroom ... they all said it was a stupid idea. Nobody listened.

3) Deceit. Belo editors and hierarchy ordered up an embarrassing array of self-serving stories. Reporters were told to "use normal coverage considerations," and "write it straight." Yet nothing "straight" was allowed onto the air or in print at any of the Belo media outlets. Locally, Channel 8 featured three long days of myopic 'Cat glorification. The DMN attempted to force its tech writer (moi) to approve a completely lobotomized version of my initial story package. Its final form, under no byline, excluded nationally prominent personal technology experts who talked about the fundamental (and oh, so obvious) Cue:Cat design and conceptual flaws.

It's one thing to be dumb. It's quite another to be arrogantly deaf, dumb and deceitful.

Unfortunately, all the major players in the sad Cue:Cat saga are still basking in the power and glory of the Belo Death Star.

At any right-thinking organization, they'd be out on the Young Street sidewalk ... alongside the poor Circulation Department worker bees who took the whack for another set of stupid, arrogant, deaf and dumb Belo management decisions.




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by Scott Bennett    Fri, Oct 21, 2005, 06:35 pm

Paul Kix writing on D Magazine's Blog, Front Burner, points to the Laura Miller web page as an example of unfinished business.  At the risk of appearing to kick the Mayor around over the trivial it is really an interesting metaphor for unfinished business.  Take a gander:

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Whoa! I Say WHOA!
by Bill DeOre    Fri, Oct 21, 2005, 06:22 pm

As Yosemite Sam would say, "Them's fightin' words!"

While I couldn't agree more with Carolyn's assessment of the state of journalism today, blaming Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh or any of the plethora of broadcast bigmouths for this demise is, at best, misplaced.

"Responsible journalism"? "Fair and balanced"?... It is the very irresponsibility, unfairness and imbalance in print journalism that has spawned today's crass ravings from the right and left in the first place.

O'Reilly to blame? Hardly. He's just one more aftereffect of "journalism gone wild".

No matter how you want to look at it,  we know which came first.

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"Get a Doctor, This Man's Critical"...
by Bill DeOre    Fri, Oct 21, 2005, 05:29 pm

...The immortal words spoken by every T.V. hero after he'd dispatched the bad guy.

Lately, these words are falling on deaf ears. Now our hero might have to resort to extolling "make an appointment with a doctor that can see this guy before next week".

Recently, I received a letter stating that our family doctor was retiring. The let down was made a little softer by inserting the business card of a perfectly willing and capable replacement...Fine...

Fine until your kid gets sick and needs to see said doctor. I made the call to the new guy's office on Monday and was told the sick one could see the doctor the following Friday. I explained that we were former patients of Dr. so-and-so and that Dr. such-and-such had been referred as his replacement.

"Oh, in that case,you'll have to come and meet the doctor for an 'introduction visit'. You can do this anytime".

OK...Here's where we are... My kid's sick and can see the doctor in 4 days but I'm not sick and can see the doctor anytime?... Oh, by the way, it will be treated as an office visit and you'll be expected to pony up a co-pay...

Newest line by our T.V. hero. "Body, heal thyself".

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by Scott Bennett    Fri, Oct 21, 2005, 03:42 pm

Lance Storer begins his community Blog on wine today.  Lance is the Wine expert of Centennial Liquors and an expert of breadth, depth and great good taste. hopes you enjoy Lance's Blog and get much enjoyment from his advice.


Wine City Blog with Lance Storer


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OPINION: The problem is O'Reilly -- not Hernandez
by Carolyn Barta    Fri, Oct 21, 2005, 01:11 pm

Bill O'Reilly
Some of you may have noticed a shootout underway between FOX News’ Bill O’Reilly and the DMN’s new columnist Macarena Hernandez. Check out her column today.

Hernandez riled O’Reilly earlier in the week with a column that mentioned Tifton, Ga., residents objecting after the town’s mayor, Paul Johnson, flew a Mexican flag as an expression of sorrow for six Mexican farm workers murdered in Georgia. She asked, in her column:

Were the complainers angrier about the red, white and green Mexican flag fluttering in the Georgia air than they were about the horrific murders? Do they watch Fox's The O'Reilly Factor , where the anchor and the callers constantly point to the southern border as the birth of all America's ills? (Sample comment: "Each one of those people is a biological weapon.")

She continued: It is one thing to want to secure the borders and another to preach hate, to talk of human beings as ailments. Taken literally, such rhetoric gives criminals like those in southern Georgia license to kill; it gives others permission to look the other way. In this heightened anti-immigrant climate, what Mr. Johnson did was not only a welcome gesture, but a brave one, too.

O’Reilly took umbrage, as only O’Reilly can do. He vilified Hernandez, the Dallas Morning News and its publisher, James Maroney (sic), in his “Talking Points” memo of Oct. 19.

He noted that he’s been on record time and again as sympathizing with Mexican workers, and then showed a video clip as “the proof that Macarena Hernandez is a liar.” He goes on to say that Ms. Hernandez suggested that “we encourage murder without checking anything out. Talk about promoting hate.”

O’Reilly accuses Hernandez of going “far beyond the limits of responsible journalism.”

Excuse me, but much of the problem in journalism (and politics) today can be attributed to guys like O’Reilly who use TV and radio for their shout-fests and to incite people to action against not what they know but about what they hear on the air from a particular talking head or talk show host.

Hernandez mentions in today’s column receiving “thousands of e-mails” after O’Reilly posted the DMN e-mail address, so his followers could “tell the Dallas Morning News exactly what you think.”

“American journalism is deterioriating quickly,” O’Reilly says, and “there are few standards anymore,” to wit: “Left-wing ideologues like Ms. Hernandez, who has a master’s degree from California Berkeley, are running wild with hateful invectives…”

Again, excuse me. With the proliferation of talk radio, shout TV and the blogosphere, newspapers offer one of the few places where there still are standards in journalism. Where you still can find “fair and balanced.”

A commentary on the op-ed page, such as that by Hernandez (who also graduated from Baylor University before she went to Berkeley), is supposed to have an opinion. That’s what distinguishes it from news stories. But as a former editor of the DMN Viewpoints page, I know that the paper has always sought to publish opposite viewpoints that would provide the kind of balance that would allow readers to form their own opinions.

O’Reilly’s venum is just that…malicious, spiteful and reflective of the kind of poison that is causing the deterioration of journalism.

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