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IT MUST BE HALLOWEEN - JR RISES AGAIN
by Scott Bennett    Mon, Oct 24, 2005, 11:21 AM

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Tommy Lee Jones
If you go to Google and type in “who will play JR” you will come up with 173 Web sites where that subject is under discussion. A month ago, when public speculation with specific names on that weighty subject surfaced, you would have found 13. A perusal of a sample of these sites would say it is John Travolta but Mel Gibson and Tommy Lee Jones are still in the hunt. Surely Dallas native Tommy Lee would be a hands down favorite if he wanted it?

Now if you Google “who will play Sue Ellen” or the name of any other character you get precisely226177-195252-thumbnail.jpg
John Travolta
zero sites. It appears evil pays. But there is informed speculation: Mama Ewing? Would you believe Jane Fonda? Sue Ellen? Catherine Zeta-Jones tops the list (for real type casting why not her hubby Michael Douglas for JR?) but Demi Moore and Jennifer Lopez are still in the hunt (I vote for Demi). Bobby? Matthew McConaughey and Owen Wilson head the list. And finally for LucyTexan Jessica Simpson is considered the inside favorite along with Lindsay Lohan.

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Jane Fonda
At this point no one knows when the movie will be out. The real question here is why is anyone making this movie and why do all these high-powered stars want to be in it? Jane Fonda?

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DALLASDA.COM - BILL HILL IN HIS OWN WORDS
by Scott Bennett    Sun, Oct 23, 2005, 11:40 PM

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Dallas DA Bill Hill
Dallas County District Attorney Bill Hill has launched a Web site entitled reasonably enough www.dallasda.com.  The site appears to be a work in progress as several of the links lead to very little.  Hill's welcome says he wants to better inform the public about what his office does and how they do it.  If you have ever wondered exactly what a Grand Jury does and where it comes from dallasda.com's information section will fill you in.

The most interesting, maybe even odd, section of the site is to be found under "media."  Hill says that the Dallas DA has tried a lot of interesting cases over the years and continues to do so.  He notes that the Court Rooms are open to the public and that the public is welcome.  He even urges schools to bring students on down.  Then he provides guidance to interesting cases they might like to observe.

The current case is a murder case that was scheduled for October 11th so the DA may want to keep the site more current.  But what is really late is the trial; the alleged offense occurred four years ago.  Still, the DA's picks for "interesting cases" should be, well, interesting.

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UP, UP AND AWAY
by Scott Bennett    Sun, Oct 23, 2005, 10:42 PM

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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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SOUTH OF THE TRINITY: THEORIES OF A CONSPIRACY By Rufus Shaw
by Rufus Shaw    Sun, Oct 23, 2005, 10:32 PM
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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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FLU QUESTIONS?
by Scott Bennett    Sat, Oct 22, 2005, 11:24 PM

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Flu virus
A lot of people visit Dallas County's excellent Web site www.dallascounty.org.  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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COMMENTARY: SCHUTZE, HALLOWEEN and REUNION ARENA By Scott Bennett
by Scott Bennett    Sat, Oct 22, 2005, 11:52 AM

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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 Cnet.com 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 Killcat.com 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.

-=drb

 

 

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FRONT BURNER FINDS A LOST LINK
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:  www.lauramiller.com

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