Life doing a bad imitation of art
When Buzz ran across the name Delvin J. Diles as one of two suspects charged in the abduction and murder of Plano stockbroker Frank Meziere, we did a double take. Delvin J. Diles. Where had we heard that name before?

As it turns out, Diles had recently been mentioned by the Dallas Observer in a different section of the paper--the theater column. Diles had co-written, along with director Lisa Lee Schmidt, a successful adaptation of Franz Xaver Kroetz's drama Homework for the Undermain Theatre.

Undermain company member Schmidt works every summer with Creative Solutions, a program to steer juvenile offenders into the arts. That's where she met Diles in 1996. Impressed by his writing, she enlisted him to help her adapt an English translation of the German playwright's script.

It was Diles' ear for urban language that made the story's transplant into South Dallas so seamless. And--in the tragic irony that abounds in great theater--what was Homework about? How poverty leads a desperate black man to commit murder.

Rumor patrol
For the record, DISD board candidate Frank Hernandez says he is not being backed by bad-boy lawyers Bickel and Brewer in his bid to unseat Kathleen Leos.

Nope. No way. No how.
"That's a bunch of foolishness, isn't it?" Hernandez tells us. "Obviously, it's a bunch of lies."

Maybe so, but they're lies that have gained a life of their own, even cropping up on an Internet discussion forum at The Dallas Morning News. One rumormonger even had the firm arranging to retire Hernandez's outstanding $45,000 debt to the IRS. (Note to B&B: We here at Buzz recently did our taxes. We can be bought. Cheap. Note to Hernandez: Pay your taxes, for God's sake.)

William Brewer, one of the founding partners of the firm that represented former DISD chief financial officer Matthew Harden, also tells us that the firm isn't backing Hernandez.

So where did the rumors get started? Hernandez says he doesn't know, but surely B&B's fairly transparent efforts to become political king-makers in Dallas' minority communities had something to do with it. Bickel and Brewer also were caught red-handed trying to woo DISD trustee Don Venable when he ran for office last winter. Leos, not coincidentally, was one of the targets of Harden's lawsuits. Bickel and Brewer also admit to meeting with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in their efforts to win friends and influence people.

For his part, Hernandez says he doesn't need B&B's help to "pop" Kathleen Leos.

"I don't have a problem with Kathleen Leos," he says. "It's not like we're enemies. We have a difference of opinion as to her effectiveness."

It's early yet, Frank. If your campaign holds true to DISD form, you'll be enemies soon enough.

An unapology
If you want to jump into the News' Internet forums and see for yourself the talk about Hernandez, forget it.

The newspaper disabled its discussion groups last week after someone posted a threat to set off a bomb in the Cathedral of Hope's parking lot last Sunday. The church's congregation is predominantly gay and lesbian. The message was a hoax.

Buzz supposes we should feel contrite, because not long ago we encouraged people to go to the News' forums and say something rude after the paper threatened to censor the discussions. Granted, a bomb threat wasn't exactly what we had in mind, but then contrition just ain't our bag.

As longtime 'net geeks ourselves, we'll say it again: the Internet is the last unregulated marketplace of ideas--good, bad, and ugly. Frankly, we'd rather see the homophobes, wackos, and assorted nutcases exposing themselves there than scurrying in the underbrush.

But then, astute readers will note that the Dallas Observer doesn't offer discussion forums on its Web site. That's not as inconsistent as it sounds: Unlike the News, we'd rather not invite the discussion if it means we'd have to serve as 'net nannies.

Nolo contendere
Big newspapers aren't the only ones willing to engage in a little free-speech regulation. Lawyers are too.

Nolo Press, a California-based publisher of legal self-help books and software, is being hauled before a Texas legal committee looking into whether the company's products constitute an unauthorized practice of law. Nolo offers publications and software that help people prepare legal documents.

Silly us. We, along with Nolo Press, thought that sort of thing was protected by the First Amendment.

Jeffrey Lehmann, chairman of the Houston subcommittee of the Texas Supreme Court's Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee, wouldn't comment on Nolo's case specifically, but says the court has the authority to prevent non-lawyers from giving advice on how to conduct cases.

The committee could seek an injunction against the publisher if it concludes Nolo is giving legal advice to its readers.

"People who use our books have choices," protests Steve Elias, Nolo's associate publisher. "Do we tell them what's best for them? No. Do we tell them what to do and how to do it? Yes."

Buzz wonders who'll be next on the hit list of Texas professionals trying to protect their franchises. Are shrinks going to sue self-help gurus Deepak Chopra or Tony Robbins?

Elias suspects Nolo products that help people produce living trusts have drawn fire from Texas attorneys.

Lawyers generally charge upwards of $2,000 for the relatively simple documents.

"I think it's a scandal," he says. "Lawyers charge a fortune, and it's just an outrage."

Elias, by the way, is a lawyer.

--Compiled from staff reports by Patrick Williams

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