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Total Recall
by Bill DeOre    Wed, Oct 12, 2005, 05:18 pm

Carolyn's right in her assessment of Mayor Miller's "weird" stance on Ray Hunt's bid to build a new downtown headquarters.

Let's jump back in time and recall then writer Miller's stint at the 'Observer'. She routinely drug Hunt through the dirt in her column citing his "shady business tactics".  Do we smell an agenda here...and what could it be?

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by Scott Bennett    Wed, Oct 12, 2005, 04:02 pm

Tom DeLay's lawyer is wasting no time trying to discredit Travis County DA Ronnie Earle as a partisan public official who is biased in the extreme and abusing his power.  He has issued a subpoena for Earle insuring that it is the DA who will be first in the dock and the defensive.  Deguerin has 12 questions he wants answered.  They make interesting reading (You must have Adobe 6.0 to open these files):

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Keliher revving up re-election campaign
by Carolyn Barta    Wed, Oct 12, 2005, 02:56 pm

County Judge Margaret Keliher
Republican  Margaret Keliher postponed her formal announcement for re-election as Dallas County Judge because of the unexpected demands of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. But she's now seeking endorsements of folks around the county, by letter and by e-mail, to use in her campaign materials. As part of her recruitment effort, she calls attention to a Dallas Observer article by Robert Wilonsky describing the county's efforts in those early hours and days to meet the needs of hurricane evacuees. Most of the local daily's coverage centered on efforts by the city and Mayor Laura Miller. Keliher says she's "very proud" of the way Dallas County met the challenge. She also mentions other challenges facing county government: Access to healthcare, clean air, homeland security, and revenue and budget concerns. She expects to announce her candidacy "in the next few weeks." Democrats hope to field a candidate, but no names are circulating yet.

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What's with the Mayor,,,
by Carolyn Barta    Wed, Oct 12, 2005, 09:51 am

...on the Hunt deal?  For months, in speeches around town, Laura Miller has been touting the entertainment district in the Reunion area as an integral part of the Trinity River redevelopment. Now she balks at tax incentives for Ray Hunt to build a new downtown headquarters there as part of a land-swap deal. "I just want us to do good business deals," she said, according to the Dallas Morning News this a.m. So, was it a good business deal when Dallas lost the Cowboys stadium to Arlington? It would seem that this deal makes more sense, at less loss to the taxpayers in the long run, than rebuilding a Cotton Bowl that serves two college game and a non-top-tier bowl game. She likes that deal.

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by William Lutz    Tue, Oct 11, 2005, 03:11 pm

Austin DA Ronnie Earle
The real question behind the indictment of Tom DeLay is not whether Ronnie Earle is playing politics. (Everyone in Austin knows Earle is a politician first and a lawyer second.) The real question is can Team Earle convict Tom DeLay?

Based on Earle's track record, I seriously doubt it.

Make no mistake about it. The stakes are high here. If Earle convicts, DeLay will have to resign in disgrace, and the Democrats will gain seats in Congress and the Texas Legislature. But if he fails, the Republicans will have all the moral authority they need to do what they wanted to do for years -- take the investigation of state government and ethics charges away from the Travis County District Attorney's Office.

Here is a preview of what is going to happen the next few weeks:

Tom DeLay has hired first class legal representation. By taking on DeLay, Earle has attracted national money and legal talent to the fray. It's one thing to indict three campaign fundraisers. It's another thing entirely to take on the Majority Leader of the United States House of Representatives.

Dick DeGuerin, DeLay's chief legal counsel, has beat Ronnie Earle before. He successfully represented U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison when Earle tried to prosecute her.

The looming question, however, is does Earle have a legal team that can go head-to-head with DeLay's attorneys.

Already, Earle's office has made what appear to be some procedural blunders. Earle indicted DeLay for conspiracy. DeLay's lawyers are now arguing the indictment is defective becuase the conspiracy statute did not apply to election code violations in 2002.

Then Earle reindicted DeLay for money laundering -- just in case. None of these indictments spells out specifically what role DeLay played in the alleged money laudering or conspracy.

Additionally, Earle waited until right before the statute of limitations ran to indict, and even had to pressure DeLay into waiving the statute for 30 days. If Earle really had a case, why wait so long?

Against Dick DeGuerin, any mistake Earle makes will be dutifully exploited.

The way to beat Ronnie Earle is to make him battle in the legal, rather than the political arena.

What do most politicians whose careers Earle ended have in common?

They cut pleas.

Here's Earle's usual M.O.: He announces an indictment or an investigation into a politician when that politician is facing re-election. The politician then caves, sometimes cuts a plea, and does not seek re-election or resigns.

What do all both politicians who beat Earle (Hutchison and former Attorney General Jim Mattox) have in common?

They aggressively denounced Earle's prosecution as a political witch hunt and demanded he show his hand in court.

In both cases, Earle folded.

DeLay is obviously following Mattox and Hutchison's game plan.

For DeLay, one of the keys to success is to get this case out of Travis County. Austin is a liberal Democratic enclave in a conservative Republican state. Judges and jurors here are sympathic to legal and moral arguments about reducing the influence of big corporations over campaigns.

Two key events helped DeGuerin win the Hutchison case -- the usual Austin judges were replaced by John Onion, a retired presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and the venue was changed to Tarrant County (Fort Worth). If this case is tried by a non-Travis County judge outside of Austin, DeLay has a much better chance of winning.

Even if DeGuerin is stuck in Austin, the relevant appellate courts in Texas are now Republican. Any questionable procedural rulings will likely get reversed on appeal.

Earle and his staff will become a legal, as well as a political target How come The Austin American-Statesman's Laylan Copelin usually seems to find out what the grand jury does 24 hours before it happens?

The morning before the grand jury issued the first DeLay indictment Copelin not only accurately reported who did get indicted but also who didn't. Rick Perry and Hutchison have both condemned the frequent leaks from the grand jury.

Add to that allegations, which Earle denies, that he improperly entered the debate of the grand jury to encourage them to indict DeLay. The documentary being made on the Texas campaign finance prosecutions and the level of access granted to the filmmakers will also be questioned.

DeLay's attorneys will make Earle's conduct an issue, both legally and politically. The only question is whether they can prove their suspicions and whether they can make any of their charges of legal misconduct stick.

In other words, Tom DeLay won't be the only person whose actions will be placed under a legal microscope.

Ronnie Earle accomplished one of his goals -- becoming a national figure -- when he indicted Tom DeLay. If history repeats itself, however, DeLay stands a good chance of acquittal, which would likely neutralize Earle as a political force in Texas.

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by Scott Bennett    Sun, Oct 9, 2005, 01:43 pm

I did something this weekend I bet no one else in America did: I read HR3893 the just passed and so-called "Gasoline for America's Security Act" by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis). It passed the House last week on a 212 vs.. 210 vote with nary a Democrat voting "yes" and a handful of Republicans voting "no."

Rep. Barton passed an Energy Bill earlier in the year that I didn't read. It simply got too large a bipartisan vote. In my experience "bi-partisan" is another term for "got pork." People I trust in Washington DC say it will do some good someday but agree it was mostly a porker intended let congressman claim they did something.

But this was close and deeply partisan vote so it surely did a lot of good or a lot of bad. Having read the bill I would recommend that every American get on the phone to their US Senator and demand they support the bill or face retirement. Yes, detractors are right in saying that the price of gasoline and home heating oil won't budge a penny upon passage. But they will budge a lot in a few years. Fail to pass this bill and they will be up and away.

The reason America has high energy prices is that it has limited refinery capacity. The US consumes 21 million barrels of oil per day but has the capacity to refine only 16 million - on a really good day. The US hasn't built any new refineries in 30 years. This isn't by accident. The environmental lobby seeks to starve the economy of energy just as conservatives once sought to starve the Federal government of tax revenues (to Bush conservatives tax revenues no longer seem to have a bearing spending). Bottlenecks drive up prices and higher prices cut consumption. If you are looking for a conspiracy driving high energy prices look not further than the Greens and the national Democratic party.

Joe Barton's bill opens the gates to rapidly enlarging the nation's refinery capacity and that opens the doors to lower prices - much lower. Barton's act does provide tax subsidies to refiners and that steams many Democrats who think oil companies are making enough to build these refineries on their own. Yes, today the margins on refining are decent but only a few months back they were thin to non-existent. More, the permitting process to build a new refinery was purposely onerous. The refinery business is a bad business. Investment will come only when investors believe a legal and economic regime exists that gives them a fighting chance to make a fair return. That is all Barton's bill does.

Actually it does do more. It addresses conservation in real terms. It also opens Alaska National Wildlife Reserve to drilling. Personally I have never understood such concern over keeping a place pristine that no one will ever see. But more sensitive souls than me who are not otherwise committed Greens see the value. It also appears that this oil will do us no real good. It is simply a line in the sand that Democrats will not cross and Rep. Barton would do well to remove it.

This is clearly the bill of the session and probably the election. If Republicans can convince Americans that this is a real chance to achieve lower prices they can overcome all their current problems. No wonder Democrats are willing to claim the bill is nothing but a fat hog for big oil. That they do so is to their disgrace.

NOTE: The bill allows the President to build a refinery specifically to provide gasoline to the Armed Forces. Why not a provision that would allow the nation's airlines to jointly own and operate a refineries dedicated to jet fuel. A national asset is going under because of jet fuel refinery costs approaching the cost of the oil itself. Let the airlines control their own future.


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by Carolyn Barta    Fri, Oct 7, 2005, 12:58 pm

wei071.jpgWho can deny that Michelle Wie has the most beautiful golf swing of any player in golf today – male or female. But turning pro at 16 – well, five days short of her 16th birthday – is a foolish move, perpetrated by a society that values money more than maturity.

Wie has yet to prove herself as an amateur, having won only one big amateur event. She talks about upping the stakes and having more fun as a pro. What about the fun of finishing her normal growing up?

I’m sorry, but I have to disagree with those who say Wie is making a savvy business move. She’s bowing to greed – that of business, family, agents, herself…whoever. It’s all about branding and selling product. It's another example of the corporate takeover of sports.

Those who urged Wie to turn pro have sold her short – for one reason. Bingo, bango, buck-o.

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Mayoral madness...already?
by Carolyn Barta    Tue, Oct 4, 2005, 05:18 pm

Mayor Miller
It’s early, of course. The next mayor’s election is not until May, 2007,  but the wanna-bees are already buzzing around Madame Mayor, Laura Miller.

In the “Give Me a Break” category is Terrell Bolton. He couldn’t run a police department – much less a city. But some of the others have good credentials and could be substantial candidates, depending on which ones can collar the financial support.

Councilman Gary Griffith
Phil Ritter
Gromer Jeffers Jr. dropped the name of Phil Ritter in a recent Dallas Morning News column but didn’t give Ritter as much play as he might have. A senior vice president at Texas Instruments, Ritter plans a campaign next year and is already touting his business and leadership skills. Folks in the know say Ritter is well connected and could be the “establishment” candidate – if there is an establishment in Dallas anymore.

A couple of current council members and one former member could be interested. They include Gary Griffith, who represents the Lakewood-White Rock District 9, and Bill Blaydes, in the adjacent Northeast-Lake Highlands District 10. Banker and former council member Max Wells, a member of the D/FW Airport Board, also might take a look.

Other potential candidates include Rick Douglas of Staubach Co., onetime president of the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce who has served on the board of the United Way. And Darrell Jordan, the former Dallas Bar Association honcho who lost to former Mayor Ron Kirk.

An embarrassment of riches, I’d say – although all of them obviously won’t end up as candidates. Still, it’s encouraging that this many able folks would even consider the job.

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Deep pockets needed
by Carolyn Barta    Sun, Oct 2, 2005, 06:27 pm

226177-180894-thumbnail.jpgTo anyone who hasn’t been watching: The cost of living in Dallas made a quantum leap over the last fortnight.

Both the city and the county approved tax hikes for next year. The average Texas homeowner can expect to pay 50 percent more in home heating costs this winter, as demand for natural gas exceeds supply -- a problem exacerbated by Katrina and Rita. And gasoline is hovering around the $3 mark. Whew!

It’s hard to fault county commissioners for their 5 percent increase. They’ve only upped the ante one other time in 10 years, and they had to beef up the sheriff’s department and add jobs to bring the county jail into state compliance and pay for past under-funding.

As for the city, it will be adding more police, cop cars, doubling the economic development department and putting funds into the Trinity River project – all good causes, no doubt. Still, where does it stop?

North Dallas Councilman Mitchell Rasansky may have the reputation of a crank, but at least he’s looking out for folks on fixed incomes. At last week’s council meeting, he questioned passage of a budget that has gone up 14.3 percent in two years. Widows and retirees, he noted, can’t afford another $100 or so a year.

Oh yeah, the trash fee also went up by a buck.

Welcome to 2006!

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Dallas News lifetsyles section...a work in progress
by Carolyn Barta    Sat, Oct 1, 2005, 09:08 pm

Everywhere I go lately, I hear grumbling about the recent changes in the Lifestyle sections of the Dallas Morning News. Maybe that’s to be expected for someone who spent most of her career at the DMN.

As if I could do anything about the makeover…other than to be a sounding board for acquaintances who are not happy.

226177-180464-thumbnail.jpgMy hairdresser grabbed my ear today. Stuff in Over the Top is two or three days old, she complained. It’s already been on TV and the Internet. Weekend movie box office figures released on Monday were used in Over the Top on Friday. Alan Peppard might as well take a hike; his column items are so small.

One rationale for changing to a tabloid section is that younger women -- soccer moms -- said they wanted to save the section until they had time to read it. Or take it with them on the road.

My hairdresser observed: “Soccer moms aren’t sitting in the carpool lines doing the crossword puzzle. They’re on the cell phone.”

What to do? The DMN is trying to attract younger readers, and for good reason. What will happen when old-time readers pass on? Still, the News can’t slap its established readership in the face.

Here’s my opinion on the new sections. The type face in GuideLive looks like a supermarket tabloid. Get rid of it. The type in Over the Top is too small, and then it’s screened, making it even harder to read. (Same problem as on the right-hand column on the front of Sunday Points.)

Other than that, I don’t have a problem with the new Lifestyles magazine section every day. But the journalist in me has to say: News is all about the content – not the packaging.

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