Thursday, March 30, 2006

Prof Ramos Strokes His Goatee, Shows His Flag

We see the Houston Chronicle (and perhaps other local news media) finally noticed all the Mexican flags those heroic teen truants have been waving about during their class-cutting “walkouts” from the free public education a good number of them persist in squandering.

“Opinions split over read, white and green: Mexican flags divisive topic as principal shows his support for student protests,” read the headline over the page one Chronicle story, referring to the clueless Reagan High principal who ran the Mexican standard up the school flagpole after being asked to do so by students (why not just turn the entire asylum over to the inmates?).

Standing up in opposition to the Mexican flag-flaunting was one Bruce R. Wing, identified by the Chronicle only as a “52-year-old Missouri City resident.” Mr. Wing, bless ’im, was no doubt offered up as a representative of the Angry White Man, Potential Minuteman Recruit Division (although being from Missouri City he could easily be an Angry Black Man), who either e-mailed or called the newspaper (our guess) with the following observation: "The whole thing just makes my blood boil. I want them all out of here." Mr. Wing went to say the Reagan High principal should be fired, then was quickly dispatched to the Dustbin of History, where he’ll be forever immortalized as a 52-year-old Missouri City resident.

Trotted out to defend the flag displays was Raul Ramos, the professor of Texas history at the University of Houston whose op-ed piece in the Chronicle galvanized opposition---let’s give blame or credit where it’s due---to naming the city’s new Major League Soccer Franchise “Houston 1836.” In addition to teaching history, the professor apparently dabbles in cultural psychoanalysis:
Calling HISD's decision [ordering the flag removed at Reagan High] a reaction to cultural anxiety, he said, "it's important for the school to make efforts to identify with the student body," not vice versa. "The school, after all, reflects the ethnic identity of the students sitting in its classrooms."
Well, that’s the first we’ve heard of that---that schools should reflect the ethnic identity of their students. We thought this was still America---E pluribus unum and so forth---where the schools traditionally have served as an assimilating agent for all comers. That’s all that’s part of our culture hereabouts (or “culture,” as the Chronicle once put it, in quotation marks as if such didn't exist, in an editorial previous to this fanciful bullshit.)

We’ll turn the tables on Prof Ramos and offer this armchair analysis: He’s consumed by self-loathing because he’s drawing his taxpayer-funded check from a university named after a city named after the villain of 1836 …

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Teen Martyr Jesse Quintero Shows His Flag

The local news coverage of the student walkouts from Houston high schools to protest stricter immigration law has been almost uniformly celebratory, sappy and unquestioning.

Not that we expected more.

As for as we can tell, none of the local media outlets has bothered to ask the protestors why, when the supposed aim of the walkouts is to protest federal legislation that might make it harder for the students and their parents to stay in the United States (in addition to being a good excuse to miss Algebra II), they persist in waving the Mexican flag. Hell, we haven’t even seen or read one report that bothers to point out the presence of the Mexican standard, even though the pictures the media are broadcasting (or, in the case of Tuesday’s daily newspaper, printing on the top of the first and last pages of the A section) clearly show the flag being front and center in the protests.

News consumers all over town (Irish-Americans, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Asian-Americans, whoever) are sitting at home wondering, “Why the hell are they waving the Mexican flag if they want to stay in this country?” But the sorry-ass local media is to P.C.-constricted, too incurious, to ask even the obvious (might offend someone).

(We’ll ask, though. We overhead a lad we know, a 14-year-old whom we’ll call Jose [’cause that’s his real name], telling his friends about how he planned to attend the big rally in downtown Houston wearing a Mexican-flag headband and a Mexican-flag T-shirt. He only glared when we inquired whether he had some Mexican-flag underwear, too. But when we turned serious and asked him why he wouldn’t be waving a U.S. flag, he looked at us like we were crazy. “Why?” he said. “That’s not my country.” Jose, who’s open about his illegal status, is sharp and has a fair command of English, but one of the things he and many of his cohorts don't like about the United States is that pesky law that ensures he’ll have to stay in school until he’s 16 … and improve his English, learn a little bit about this [not his] country’s history, etc.)

The Houston Chronicle found the initial walkout from Eisenhower High School to be of such interest that it devoted two stories to the protest, one a profile of the protest organizer, 18-year-old Jesse Quintero. For some reason both stories quoted Maria Jiminez, the super-strident “immigration rights activist” who named her two kids after Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong (you’d think the newspaper, with all its resources, could scare up another "immigration rights activist" who hadn’t named her or his children after two of history’s most prolific mass murderers).

If you bothered to read it, you may have noticed there was a bloody, gaping hole in the profile of the protest organizer: Nowhere in the story was it clearly revealed whether young Jesse Quintero himself is in the country illegally … or not. You are told that his father “came to the United States … more than two decades ago … to find a better life,” but whether he came legally or illegally, or has since been legalized, is a question left to the reader’s imagination. The student’s mother, meanwhile, is described as having been born in the Rio Grande Valley, meaning, we’d presume, that she’s a natural-born citizen in good standing. So the protest organizer has a U.S.-born mother and a father who came to this country before he was born … we’d say the chances are about 100 percent that Jesse Quintero is a pure-dee fully legal citizen of this country. We’re guessing, but we shouldn’t have to. It’s not an inconsequential point, at least within the context of the story.

The Chronicle also reports that Jesse’s mother sees a “bleak future where ‘I’m going to have to show my I.D. to prove my nationality’ ….” We can’t tell whether “bleak future” is the reporter’s phrase or was employed by Margie Quintero (we presume it’s the former’s), but either way it’s a rank distortion of the language. Having terminal cancer portends a bleak future; having to show an I.D. card to prove your citizenship status (which ain’t gonna come to pass anyway), would be a mere annoyance or inconvenience.

But wait: the Chronicle suggests that life has already turned bleak for Jesse Quintero:

Young Hispanics with immigrant parents, many born in the United States and citizens, "will remember [stiffened immigration law] as a personal attack on their families. They will vote," Jimenez said.

Quintero has already felt the attack personally. As he and about 150 other students marched toward an immigration office nine miles away on Monday, a passer-by in an automobile yelled out to the group, "Go back to where you came from," Quintero said. He retorted by saying Hispanics "were here first."

Whoa, Jesse. Actually, Spaniards---European colonialists--- were “here first,” not “Hispanics,” although to get technical about it, Native Americans were “here first,” the six tribes and whatnot that Jesse might have learned about in the 4th or 7th grades---if he had been paying attention, which would’ve enabled him to retort intelligently when being personally “attacked” by a loudmouth passer-by in an auto. (The whole “we were here first, you stole our land and now we’re going to get it back” attitude is widespread among immigrant youth, not that you’d ever know it from reading or watching the local media.)

We think Jesse Quintero and his marching buddies need to get their butts back to class. As for the local media … they’re in dire need of schooling, too.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Moonlighting with Carol Alvarado

The Houston Chronicle’s Lori Rodriguez, in a profile of under-siege Council member Carol Alvarado, drolly noted that

Alvarado has taken well to the more rewarding side of public service. Beyond her $50,000-plus annual council salary, she supplements her income with consulting fees primarily for advising out-of-town Hispanic-owned businesses on the how-tos of seeking public contracts.

Hmmm. An elected public official counseling private businesses on how to snare public contracts. The beckoning vista for potential conflicts would seem to be broad and wide. Should we just presume that Alvarado is not taking fees for advising these firms on how to do business with the city of Houston (which we guess would be like Pete Rose NOT betting on baseball)? And that she does not conduct this sideline business out of her council office(s)? Here’s hoping one of the daily newspapers in town will fill us in on Alvarado’s extracurricular endeavors.

Rodriguez also quotes the apostate Hispanic politico Gabe Vasquez, formerly of the Houston school board and the city council, offering a jaundiced view of both Alvarado and the political milieu in which she operates. He calls it the "Chicago ward-boss model" of politics and adds: “It's about power, authority and control.”

Yep. That, at bottom, is the root of Alvarado’s problem (except for the authority and control she didn’t exercise over her bonus-taking employees at the mayor pro tem’s office, if that indeed is the beginning, middle and end of that story, and we’ll stand by until the tale is fully told). Vasquez forgot to mention the perks---the travel opportunities, the free food you get to shovel in at all those luncheons and evening functions, the deference and kowtowing to which you’re routinely subjected, etc., even for holding a wholly meaningless and redundant office such as mayor pro tem. But we suppose that falls in the “power” category.

Meanwhile, on an unrelated subject, Slate blogger Mickey Kaus, not trusting his local newspaper’s reporting, took in the big anti-immigration legislation rally in Los Angeles and determined (with his own eyes) that the number of protestors waving Mexican flags was about equal to those carrying U.S. flags (which he says organizers had instructed marchers to bring). We noticed that the kids who walked out of Eisenhower High School in Houston’s Aldine school district on Monday were also into the Mexican flag thing.

This sort of display used to puzzle us. But now we recognize the flag-waving as a manifestation of the aggressive sense of entitlement/resentment harbored by a growing number of illegal immigrants. You see the same sort of attitude from 16 year olds who walk around in those Yo Soy Mexicano T-shirts with the pictures of Zapata or whoever (they don’t say Yo Soy Mexicano-Americano). When we see one we’re always tempted to ask the wearer, Well, why don’t you roll on back there, although we fear such a show of insensitivity might earn us the censure of the Upper West Siders on the Chronicle editorial board.

As we’ve written, we’re of two (or possibly three of four) minds on illegal immigration, but we do think that as long as you’re in this country you ought to make an effort to be a part of this country (including buying car insurance, learning English, ensuring your kids don’t mar the entire town with graffiti, losing the nostalgie de la boue, etc. ).

Kaus suggests the Mexican flag-waving only serves to harden anti-immigrant sentiment and will result in even tougher legal measures ... perhaps even a wall. We think he’s right.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

… And All He Had to Do Was Act Naturally

We feel comfortable in predicting that Hollywood will never make an Oscar-nominated biopic of Texas native Buck Owens. An astute businessman, never publicly addled by drink or drugs, Owens sorely lacked the mystery and unknowability that made Johnny Cash a posthumously hot box-office property. While Cash dressed in black, gobbled speed and imbibed Dylan on those jingle-jangle mornings, Owens wore his electric Nudie suit to the London Palladium, cut harshly beautiful duets with the immortal Rose Maddox* and albums entitled Live in Scandinavia, and had the genius to sing of having the “hongries” for a woman’s love and profess his abject willingness to stand waitin’ in [her] welfare line for a mere handout. Cash brought Dylan and other hipsters on the summer replacement show he hosted for the Smothers Brothers (the first time we saw Dylan perform); Owens spent eons self-consciously stroking his hambone with Roy Clark and Grandpa Jones on Hee-Haw, and growing hugely rich in the process.

Yet Owens’ talent and way with a song was at least equal to if not greater than Cash’s: There were few country singers outside of Hank Williams and George Jones with a more expressive voice, and no one did more to rock country music, to return it to the wild environs from whence it sprang, than Alvis Edgar Owens and his great fiddler-guitarist Don Rich. Owens was a true crossover phenomenon: most of his big country hits in the ’60s made their way to the top of the Top 40 charts, where they sounded right at home among the Stax-Volt, Motown and British rockers that were played one after another during that brief, glorious flowering. Mostly, we liked Buck Owens ’cause he always made us smile.

This is a pretty good appreciation from Salon (even though they got his first name wrong), while Rhino’s The Buck Owens Collection (1959-1990) has all the Buck you need plus a handsome booklet with much background and many fine photos (including a classic of Buck and the Buckaroos at the Astrodome not long after it opened).

* The duo’s Mental Cruelty from the early '60s was a hilariously deadpan, noir-ish slice-of-life in which Rose asked a judge to grant her a divorce on grounds of men-tal cru-el-ty, while Buck, pleading ignorance to the charges, suggests it’s all a loaf of bullshit the plaintiff has baked in an attempt to slip the bonds of matrimony. Words cannot describe its sublimity.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Fairly Astounding Figure Discovered Deep in Our Zoned Section of the Daily Newspaper

Newspapers report the darndest things.

Take this fer instance we stumbled across in the weekly Alief/Southwest section of Thursday’s Houston Chronicle, in a story on the latest get-together of the Alief school board. The story opened with the “news” that the district trustees had voted to nominate their superintendent for the “Superintendent of the Year” award given by the Texas Association of School Boards. The board deemed the super to be deserving of the honor partly because of the district’s acclaimed welcoming response to the flood of Katrina evacuee students into its schools.

The story ambled on in this vein until the 17th or so paragraph, when it allowed that one “concern” of the Alief Community Coalition, an area support organization for the school district, is Alief’s “burgeoning homeless population.”

That one pulled us up short, but we hit the wall at the next paragraph:
According to [an Alief ISD administrator], the influx of hurricane evacuees elevated Alief’s homeless population from 435 in 2005 to more than 4,000 in 2006.
Jumpin’ Jesus, stop the presses! If that were true---and we’re skeptical---shouldn’t that be all over the front page of the daily paper, rather than buried inside a story in a zoned section that no one but us and 12 or 13 other damned souls will bother to read?

It was just last Sunday that an advocate for the homeless was warning on the paper’s op-ed page that the city’s homeless population could rise from 14,000 to 18-20,000 after the FEMA rent subsidies for evacuees run out, but elsewhere in the paper a few days later it’s suggested that Alief is already crawling with the un-homed (and wouldn’t such an explosive increase of street wanderers in a rather small block of the city be noticeable to the naked eye?)

(This kind of reminds us of the classic on-deadline story/review in the Ye Long Gone Houston Post of a Rolling Stones concert at the Astrodome, which mentioned in the last paragraph that the crowd had been peaceful and full of good vibes, except for the two homicides on the premises that police were investigating at press time.)

Of course, we’ve never believed any purported census of the homeless could be very reliable (we’re even suspicious of the official government census of those with fixed addresses), but, for discussion’s sake, let’s say that even half or a third of the increase reported by the Alief ISD administrator is accurate (and where’d she get her figure?).

We think the daily newspaper still missed the lede.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Everything’s Covered by a Fine Gold Dust

You leave
You return

To a dead car battery
That won’t hold a charge
And oak pollen everywhere
Blown into piles in every corner
And coating the car with the
dead battery.

For a year or so in the latter stages of his Alzheimer’s
my father was confined
to a bed with railings on the sides.
and my mother and the woman who helped her
couldn’t get him to the pot.
So they strapped him into huge highly absorbent adult diapers
A final indignity (or maybe the second-to-last)
But they did the job for which they were intended.

He had grown up in labor camps
with Mexican kids
as his father moved
from coal mine to coal mine
in East Texas.

“A very unsettled life,” my mother observed.

He feared poverty (a lot, I think)
but was uneasy with affluence
and quietly contemptuous of
ostentatious display
of all kinds.

Madness was not something he considered (I’m guessing).

After he died there was a big box of adult diapers left,
and my mother asked me to get rid of them.

But I didn’t, thinking I could make use of them or
give them away, except these diapers were huge.
You could wrap six babies in them, at least.
And how do you “donate” adult diapers?
So I kept them, and occasionally
they’ve come in handy.

Like today, when I went into my trunk
and took out the last one
and used it wipe the fine gold dusting
off of the car with the dead battery.

It’s what my father would’ve wanted.

And hell, I wrung it out and might use it again.
Because it’s highly absorbent.

You leave.
You return.

Catching up on ... A very pointed (and it’s about time!) takedown of Sherron Watkins, the Enron “whistleblower” whose lips never wet a whistle … while Jim Kunstler puts the “Mommy” and “Daddy” parties on the couch (so true, so true).

Friday, March 10, 2006

We'll Be Away from Our Desk For a While

“¡El Lugar de Slampo es cerrado!” declared our erstwhile reader representative, Hidalgo Hidalgo, just moments after we had clamped the padlocks and repositioned the razor wire at the Slampo’s Place compound in southwest Houston and headed out in his Dodge Caravan.

We think that means “Slampo’s Place is closed!”

At least through Spring Break.

We’ll be accompanying Hidalgo on his annual “Spring Break in Nuevo Laredo” package tour. For some reason, we are his only customer this year. “You’ll have the place to yourself,” he has promised.

Good Lord willin’, etc., we will return the week of March 20.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Funniest Damn Thing We’ve Heard All Week

The Houston Chronicle’s Matt Stiles, who’s pursuing documentation of bonuses given to city of Houston employees last year, reported today that the city has a very special reason for denying the public that information about one city department:
Employees in the Houston Airport System also received bonuses, but the city's legal department so far has resisted releasing those payroll summaries, saying disclosing information about personnel at the airports could pose security and terrorism risks.
[Insert your own glib comment here.]

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Joe Strummer's Ashes Are Blown on the Wind, But the Clash Will Never Die

Three synchronous recent events that lead us to believe that The Only Band That Matters may be getting a posthumous second or third wind. Or maybe they never went away.

1. Leaving our Y in southwest Houston last weekend we found our self walking behind two giggly young adolescent girls, maybe 12 or 13, when one starts singing to her buddy: “This … is … the Radio Clash … on pi-rate satellite…” We were tempted to compliment the youngsters on their refined yet somewhat anachronistic musical taste, but we kept walking lest we be falsely revealed as old and strange.

2. Watching a few nights later, we were snatched from our torpor when David Corn began quoting the ancient wisdom of Joe Strummer to Robert Wright: “As the Clash said, ‘Let fury have the hour, anger can be power.” This was apropos of we’re not sure what, as we were doing two other things at the time and had the videoblog on as lulling background noise. But like Adorno, Clampdown can be cited to illuminate a variety of subjects.

3. Stopped at a light and spacing out while driving back from our post office late yesterday afternoon, we realized the college radio station was playing London Calling. We had the windows down and noticed some Southwest Cholo types, or more likely would-be Southwest Cholo types, giving us the Hard Eye as they loitered in front of a storefront that the last time we drove past was a taqueria but now appears to be a cell phone-eria. We turned the music up real loud and sang along: “The ice age is coming, the sun's zooming in/ Meltdown expected ... Etc.” As the light changed we considered flippin' off the loiterers but then remembered that we had seen Crash and it was possible we were misreading their signals ... they might be Clash fans!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud

Just as Houston prepares for its solemn observance of Fastow Week, Newsweek offers a workman-like look at the city’s “compassion fatigue” from dealing with hurricane evacuees. The magazine reports that
as devastating as Katrina has been for the [Bush] administration, its impact has been far more visceral in those communities that received tens of thousands of evacuees overnight. In cities stretching from Atlanta to San Antonio, good will has often given way to the crude reality of absorbing a traumatized and sometimes destitute population … perhaps no city has been as convulsed as Houston, which took in the greatest number of survivors.
There’s an unsettling observation from an HPD patrolman on the evacuees’ impact:
''It seems like the face of crime has changed in Houston," said Officer Brandon Brown one night last week as he patrolled the sketchy Fondren area of the city, where many of the arrivals have settled. "It's more tense, more violent."
And bad news on the medical front:
Already burdened by a high proportion of uninsured people before Katrina, Houston has had to contend with thousands more. The problem will likely only get worse: on Jan. 31, more-generous Medicaid rules for Katrina victims expired. As a result, countless patients who had been receiving treatment in doctors' offices may now turn to overwhelmed emergency rooms. "Our hospitals are struggling financially to get by, and this doesn't help," says David Persse, Houston's EMS medical director. "Hospital CEOs are about to have coronaries." Worse still, infection rates for sexually transmitted diseases are increasing—possibly an outgrowth of high rates in New Orleans, city health officials say.

Sounds like it’s developed into our very own real-life version of Crash.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Al Edwards’ Last Booty Call?

Al Edwards is like the utility pole in the back yard: it’s there, always, yet we never have cause to think about it or even notice it until the transformer blows or it takes SBC three tries to properly string a new line through the neighborhood.

Edwards has spent much of his career in the state House trading on his sponsorship of the bill that made Juneteenth a state holiday (which is fine with us: Juneteenth is a day deserving of commemoration, and we’re for all the state holidays we can get). His other notable deed was the “booty bill” to ban lewd cheerleading routines at public schools---his very own blown transformer, replete with dead squirrel---for which he was derided by cosmopolitans the world over and which earned him an appearance on The Daily Show, where, surprisingly, he didn’t come off looking too much like a crank. (Yes, there was some other business about chopping off drug dealers’ hands and allowing prison guards to spank inmates---Al’s Old School, as in the 13th Century, but we guess you could argue that he’s just responding to constituents’ concerns).

Emboldened by the knocking-off of seemingly entrenched incumbent Rep. Ron Wilson two years ago, two guys with shaved heads, facial hair, presentable credentials and the ability to scare up a little money are challenging A.E. in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. One is lawyer Al Bennett, who’s gotten the Houston Chronicle endorsement (which may actually help a little in a three-way state rep race, especially among moderate white Democrats in the district) and whose bona fides include being the son-in-law of Harlem Globetrotter legend “Tex” Harrison. The other is Borris Miles, an insurance guy and former law officer who’s one of only three African-American males in Houston named “Borris,” according to the 2000 Census.

(We should disclose at this point that Edwards is our state representative. Our U.S. representative is John “Kid” Culberson. When it comes to representation, we’re covered.)

Interestingly (mildly), both Bennett and Miles are dogging Edwards with an almost identical bill of indictment: that he’s not a “real” Democrat, he’s too cozy with House Speaker Tom Craddick, voted to cut the CHIP program, etc. Ordinarily, we’d see these proclivities as evidence of an independent, think-for-yourself politician … except it’s Al Edwards.

The incumbent, it goes without saying, has the support of the usual suspects: Sheila Jackson Lee, Al Green, Sylvester Turner, labor leaders and so forth. The phone calls and mailings have been assailing us at steady clip for the past two weeks or so, although we still haven’t gotten a call from Sheila (but we know it’s coming!)

From the little we’ve heard and read about the race, we’d probably be going with Bennett, if we were gonna vote in the Democratic primary, which we’re not, but we’ll be keeping an eye on the returns Tuesday night to see if voters can trim away some more deadwood on their own, without term limits.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

More Tales from the Great Southwest

There was a palpably plaintive tone to the comments of Fondren Southwest (and nearby) residents who went before the Houston City Council earlier this week to plead, literally, for a heightened police presence in the crime-besieged area. They told the same sort of stories we’ve been hearing for months now---that things were getting bad crime-wise along the Fondren Corridor before the Katrina evacuees arrived, but since then the area’s been inundated by a tide of random gangsta-ism, and all the short-handed police can do is grab a pail and bail.

One resident used the terms “under siege” and “war zone,” and from the descriptions he and others offered, it didn’t sound like rhetorical overkill.

We didn’t hear any animosity directed at the mayor over this turn of the events, at least during the part of the meeting we caught on The Municipal Channel, but you can bet that it’s simmering there below the surface. We’d presume that White’s smart enough to have figured that out and is moving to get serious about the predicament, lest he jeopardize that bright political future he no doubt envisions for himself.

Meanwhile, we lost all respect for Council member Ada Edwards after watching her high-hat (with barely concealed exasperation/disdain) the president of the Maplewood West Civic Club over his entreaty that somebody please do something about the problem. We understand that the councilwoman is backing one of the Two Guys Who Aren’t Al Edwards (no relation, we think) in next week’s Democratic primary, and her performance made us briefly consider (but just briefly) casting our lot with Al, whose quarter-century in the state House is testament to the truth of the G. Harold Carswell Maxim that mediocre people deserve a little representation, too. (Very little, in Al's case.)

… And in case you missed it, check out the truly wonderful sidebar to the Houston Chronicle’s Thursday Enron coverage, wherein the paper suggests that Jeff Skilling may be sharing digs, or at least a mailbox, with college buddy Jim Dent, the wastrel, drinking-and-driving author of The Junction Boys (a good idea for a book), who, somewhat to our dismay, has already been sprung from the state corrections system. This is a coupling that's almost too good to be true. Perhaps Skilling is assisting Dent with his rehab (and if so, that’s good!)

We couldn’t find this story in the online version of the Chronicle, but it’s worth digging the Thursday paper our of the trash, if you have to.

Or maybe we just dreamed this ...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Kinky’s Punch Line: Soffar and Doc Farb (Melody by Billy Joe)

We’ve written on several occasions of our incremental disenchantment with Kinky Friedman’s gubernatorial bid (disenchantment sort of being our m├ętier here at Slampo’s Place), although we’re not sure exactly what we expected from Friedman in the first place besides a little entertainment and an upraised middle finger at the status quo, neither of which has been issuing forth in abundance from the candidate (we’ve been drawing breath long enough not to hold out for a truly independent candidate with a coherent and independent critique of things-as-they-are and a willingness to pursue innovative and potentially controversial solutions to public policy questions, and so forth).

We initially figured we might save our self for Kinky and forgo voting in either next week’s Democratic or Republican primaries so we could sign the petition to get him on the ballot (although by doing so we’d miss out on some interesting primary races, including a Democratic one involving our state rep, Al Edwards, and Two Guys Who Are Not Al Edwards). Now we’re thinking we might keep it tucked in for Ma Barker, since we believe in competition and independence and whatnot and deplore the Repubocrat ballot monopoly, but only if someone promises to drop by our house with her petition, as we won’t be wasting a drop of $2.07-a-gallon gas to get her on the ballot (kind of a moral stand we’re taking there). (Harrumph … )

We’ve now thrown in the towel on Friedman after learning of his testimony on behalf of Max Soffar during the punishment phase of the twice-convicted triple murderer’s latest trial, which could end up with Soffar again being sentenced to death. Prior to his testimony, Friedman had said repeatedly that he favored the death penalty but was against the execution of the wrongly convicted (in Texas it doesn’t hurt to articulate that addendum), so his longheld interest in Soffar’s case, subject of a Friedman column in Texas Monthly that was repackaged in one of his countless books, was based on the candidate’s contention that Soffar is innocent, despite his early-on confession to the 26-year-old crimes.

Friedman apparently based his belief on the “evidence” compiled by the lawyers who unsuccessfully represented Soffar at his second trial---evidence whose narrative was about as thin and incoherent as the plot line of a Friedman book (we think there was a one-armed man in there somewhere, and, oh yeah, Soffar had rough life)---and the indisputable fact that Friedman had actually traveled to Death Row and looked Soffar in the eyes while the convict professed his innocence. Or something like that.

A second jury disagreed, but Friedman was not deterred. Not only is he now against the death penalty, but he’s posited a new standard of innocence for Soffar:
"I said he had a higher innocence, an earned innocence, an achieved innocence. Like a guy who comes back from Iraq or Vietnam, from a war. He's struggled withhis demons and has conquered them."
OK, we’ll be getting off here. We didn’t think “independent” meant “independent of reality” (and how insulting is this to a “guy” who came back from Vietnam or Iraq?).

A relative of one of the people Soffar killed accused Friedman of pursuing a “political agenda” by testifying on Soffar’s behalf, but we don’t see any political profit at all in Friedman’s court appearance. Just the opposite. In fact, it shows Friedman to be a man of conviction, albeit one who’s under the misimpression that he’s still writing fanciful songs and books instead of running for governor. It’s just not our conviction.

We realize that by abandoning Friedman we may be jeopardizing the possibility that Texas will get to see and hear lots more from Dr. Carolyn Farb, who’s apparently glued herself to the Kinky campaign like one of those pilot fish we used to see sucking on the side of the crew boats we worked on in the Gulf. We kinda envisioned Farb as first lady material for the unmarried Friedman, or perhaps as the governor’s Chief Spiritual Adviser or Assistant Deputy Looker-in-the-Eye.

Doc Farb seems to be handling some of Friedman’s media chores, as evidenced by this “A Peek Inside” column written by some anonymous wise guy for the West University Examiner, a weekly paper that is on the enclave city of West U like brown on rice. Some excerpts that bear repeating …

the Kinkster is a hard man to get a hold of these days, whereas Dr. Farb answers her voice mail personally and quite early in the morning.

“Hello, this is Carolyn Farb. Is this too early? If you’re up this early, I bet you’re at the gym.”Betting otherwise we responded, “No, actually the Laundromat.”

The doctor recognizes different delivery styles:
… Hey, what do you think of the Kinky dolls?” we inquired. Another silence ensued, but this time only after Farb had excused herself. The next voice we heard was that of a plastic Kinkster saying something we can’t print without offending, well, pretty much everyone.“It makes people smile,” Farb said. “I don’t personally prefer someone speaking like that, but everyone has a different delivery style.”

She’s got an ear for music, too:
Farb has been inspired by her candidate and knows not only his position on the issues, but also his music, likening his band “to rapping in its use of social commentary.”At a fund-raiser for Friedman at her home a couple of weeks ago, Farb chatted with a couple of the candidate’s friends, “Jerry Jeff (Walker) and Billy Joe (Shaver),” as she knows them now. They inspired her as well.“I’ve written a song,” she said. “Billy Joe is working on the melody.”
God Bless Billy Joe and Doc Farb.

God Bless Kinky.

And God Bless Texas.