From the Dallas Morning News: Bill Clinton, remembering Ann Richards, spoke at the Capitol yesterday, saying, “We loved her. We loved her because we knew she loved us, and because she made us bigger…. I love that she never gave up on Texas.”

–Mr. Former President, you may not understand this, because you come from Arkansas, a state that has a long history of providing reasons for people to give up on it–ever heard of “Gone to Texas?”–but Texans do not give up on Texas. Ever. It would never have occurred to Ann Richard to do so. She was Texan to the core: tough, funny, big-hearted, optimistic. She knew Texas was a conservative state. Her choice was to make small changes that could lead to big changes. Your successor in the White House understood this. That’s why he said, yesterday, “She empowered a lot of people to want to participate in the political process that might not have felt that they were welcome in the process.” Next time you come down here, run your speech by Begala first. He could save you a lot of embarrassment.

From the Austin American Statesman via the Associated Press: President Bush and Republicans want to convince voters the unpopular Iraq war is central in the anti-terror fight. Democrats argue they can win control of Congress if voters view Iraq and the continued bloodshed there on its own.¶ The latest Associated Press-Ipsos poll found Republicans haven’t made their case despite a sustained effort to link the conflicts; a majority of the public views the two as distinct. ¶ Seven weeks before congressional elections, the poll of 1,501 adults conducted Monday through Wednesday showed that the GOP offensive has helped Republicans gain some ground. ¶ Bush’s public support has increased — 40 percent of likely voters approve of his job performance — and Republicans have erased an advantage Democrats had last month on the measure of which party would best protect the country. Voters now view Republicans and Democrats as equally capable…Despite the marginal gains, Republicans still risk losing their grip on Congress. ¶ By a 14-point margin, likely voters say they are more inclined to put Democrats in control of the House after a dozen years of Republican rule. ¶ That’s narrower than last month but still a wide gap….

–It’s no mystery why the Republicans haven’t made their case. The president is currently trying to argue for military tribunals in which some evidence would be kept secret. I don’t know the nuances of the law, but the nuances of the politics couldn’t be clearer. When John McCain and Colin Powell–two of the most admired figures in America–are on the other side, anyone who takes them on is risking his credibility. Or what’s left of it.

From the Taylor Daily Press: The Texas Wildlife Association recently joined a group challenging how the Williamson County Appraisal District assesses land that qualifies for agricultural tax exemptions. ¶ The Texas Wildlife Association, a statewide advocacy organization that promotes the conservation and management of wildlife on private lands, has joined the non-profit group Concerned Owners of Rural Texas Land. That group has filed a challenge against the WCAD on behalf of 220 county property owners. David Braun of Braun & Associates, a law firm representing the group, claims owners of dozens of agriculture and wildlife-exempted properties in Williamson County are being unfairly taxed on the one-acre home site portion of their land. The home sites are appraised anywhere from $25,000 to $60,000, while the rest of the land is valued at $4,000 to $6,000 per acre, he said. ¶ “The appraisal district is unfairly inflating the value of an arbitrarily designated home site on ag land, whether a home or building exists or not, by sometimes 10 times the value of the surrounding land or more,” he said. ¶ Kirby Brown, executive vice-president for the Texas Wildlife Association, said the appraisal method is fundamentally unfair, and is “contrary to the will of Texas voters.” ¶ “Texas voters overwhelming approved an amendment to the Texas Constitution in 1995 that allows landowners with ag use in traditional farming or ranching to use active wildlife management as another practice and retain their agricultural ad valorem property tax valuation on that land,” he said in a written statement. “Williamson County’s appraisal method essentially overrides the Texas Constitution by over-taxing a part of the land that is used for wildlife management.” ¶ According to Braun, in Texas, if a rural landowner files for exemption under the agricultural tax exemption law set by the legislature and they can prove their land is used for farming, ranching or wildlife preservation, the property is appraised at its income potential and not the market value. That number often is far lower than the market value of the land. ¶ All other property in Texas is taxed at its market value….

–I’m probably going to get in trouble with my ag friends here, but . . . rural land owners enjoy a huge array of tax breaks and subsidies. They can run a few cows on their land and claim an agricultural exemption, which allows their property to be taxed not on its market value but on its productive value. In places like Williamson County, a fast-growing suburban area north of Austin, that can make a huge difference. Ag landowners get tax breaks for open spaces and for wildlife management. They can avail themselves of low-interest bonds for water conservation. If they need advice, they can turn to Texas A&M’s agricultural extension service. If they have trouble with coyotes, the state will send bounty hunters to get rid of them. If they are worried about poachers, they can call on game wardens. They can buy tractors to be used in productive areas without paying sales tax. Animals, fertilizer, defoliates, seed, fence wire and posts, and many other products are likewise exempt from taxation. The state does get a benefit from these programs, but it also gets a benefit from what you and I do, too, except that we have to pay taxes on our urban and suburban homesteads at full market value, and the last time I checked, I had to pay sales tax on my computer. Williamson County isn’t trying to do away with the ag exemption. It is valuing the taxable value of a home higher than the value of unimproved property. Considering the high property taxes people in urban and suburban Texas have to pay on their homesteads, I don’t think it is unfair or unconstitutional for Williamson County to ask rural landowners to pay their fair share on the small fraction of land occupied by their home?

From the Dallas Morning News: Here’s the deal about Kinky Friedman: The man’s funny, seriously funny. Quotes about crackheads aside, the Kinkster can light up a room. And his style works. Some polls show the gubernatorial candidate running second in this year’s race to lead Texas. But here’s the other thing about Kinky: Texas’ 23 million residents have a lot at stake if he becomes governor. Their economy, schools, colleges, roads, air and water depend upon a governor knowing what he’s doing. Pappy O’Daniel taught us way back that we need someone who can do more than entertain. We raise this for two reasons. First, there’s Kinky’s disastrous interview on WFAA-TV this week. He started out telling interviewer Brad Watson he’s not serious about some issues. Then, he belittled candidates who present long plans for various problems. And he made it clear it really didn’t matter what he proposed because he couldn’t do worse than Austin’s corrupt politicians…etc, ect.

–I suppose the media considers that its duty is to warn us that Kinky isn’t serious about some issues, but do we really need to be warned? I’d read a story about what issues he IS serious about. That would be news. This is dog bites man. Kinky is, after all, a candidate whose supporters are driving around in cars with bumper stickers that say, “How Hard Can It Be?” and “Why the Hell Not?” He may lose a few votes for saying things that sound dumb, at least by the standards of the media, but the core of his support doesn’t care. They have already written off the other candidates.