Friday, May 26, 2006

All Hail, the American Boy(s)!

The jury has spoken.

The judge has spoken.

The commentators have spoken.

The whistleblower who continued working for Enron long after she blew her barely perceptible whistle has had her say.

The ex-employees who “lost it all” have spoken, secure in the knowledge that their own greed and suspension of their critical faculties (assuming they had any to begin with) had nothing to do with their losses.

Even Greg Hurst has spoken.

“When you rise to the top of the ladder in corporate history,” declared the Channel 11 anchorman, “it’s a long fall to the bottom.”

Yes indeed. The '90s are officially over.

The predictable witticisms about Lay and Skilling being involuntary anal-receptive partners in impending jailhouse sex acts (“quips” that have even edged their way into the margins of mainstream media) also have reached a quick crescendo and abated, leaving the suggestion that the private unmanning of these two order-barkers will be the true and fitting punishment, the real justice served. (For some reason, in these “quips” the penetration of Lay and Skilling’s special-purpose entities is always carried out by large black convict [America can be such an unforgiving place, on so many levels!].)

As we’ve said before, there’s no other way to view the Enron story except as farce. Not to be cruel, but a failure on such a colossal scale that produced only one known suicide rates nowhere near tragedy. It only suggests what a cosseted society we have become, and the degree to which shame has been banished from the public sphere.

No shame. God has another plan.

(We will say, however, that Skilling seemed to greet his fate with shrugging resignation, equanimity even---perhaps a sign that he had come to grips with and acknowledged his guilt, or, more likely, had acquired a prescription for whatever pharmaceutical that seemed to keep Mrs. Fastow floating forward).

We, of course, were wrong from the outset, having figured that Lay might walk and Skilling would be nicked, but what did we know. As the trial wore on, (and we only followed it sporadically, as it continued to tax our meager attention span), it became apparent that the government just had almost too much material to work with. We realized the butt-fucking jokes were imminent when one of the defense lawyers thundered at one of the prosecutors: “Don't come to Houston, Texas, and lie to us."

Yes, we didn’t need these slick out-of-towners coming down here and befogging the locals with their lies and fabrications. But the jury proved reasonable and astute, reconfirming our sometimes shaky faith in the common sense of the American middle-class, just as the jury that refused the government’s demand for the execution of the hapless Moussaoui did.

A few weeks ago the Chronicle columnist Loren Steffy, killing time while awaiting the trial’s conclusion, wrote of the Enron parallels to be found in the corpus of American fiction. One Steffy reader reached back and suggested The Confidence Man, perhaps the most perceptive and difficult novel by our most perceptive and difficult novelist, while Steffy invoked The Great Gatsby, which seems to be a misreading of Gatsby’s motivation (or perhaps our view of the book has been forever colored by the Robert Redford movie).

But that’s OK, as Steffy, as far as we know, was the first commentator type to offer what now seems to be the obvious description of Lay as Nixonian (a comparison that had crossed our mind about Lay during a news conference he staged back in the mid-’90s while campaigning for the public funding of what would become Enron Field----maybe it was the way all that barely suppressed anger seemed to center in the lower jaw, or, more superficially, the 5 o’clock shadow he had at 2 o’clock; nonetheless, we were working at the time to corral our reflexive habits of mind and quickly expunged the comparison from our files).

Our choice would be A Cool Million by the brutally sardonic hotel clerk Nathanael West, with Enron investors and employees and the media as the innocent Lemuel Pitkin, he of the unshakeable belief in his own goodness and faith in God’s design, who winds up shorn of teeth, an eye, a thumb, is dismembered, shot through the heart, etc.

Or maybe Lay is Pitkin.

Having been written in 1936, the book contains not even a veiled suggestion of homosexual rape (that we can remember).

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Bentsen, RIP

It’s unlikely that Lloyd Bentsen figured that the one devastatingly memorable line he delivered---a riposte that was as casual and spontaneous as your everyday barroom pick-up line---would be the most oft-cited achievement in his obituaries. But Bentsen, over the course of his long careers in business and politics, must have developed an abiding appreciation for the cruel ironies that life can bring. That the line was delivered in the service of Michael Dukakis, a much lesser individual, in every sense, who embodied pretty much everything that was (is) wrong with the Democratic Party, and that it was delivered against Dan Quayle, a much lesser individual, in every sense, who nevertheless attained the high elective office that eluded Bentsen, no doubt only deepened that appreciation.

Bentsen delivered another short, scripted monologue in the early 1950s, during the brief first phase of his political career, when as a South Texas congressman he stood on the Capitol steps and urged the U.S. nuking of North Korea (which, in retrospect, might have saved us some future bother). This episode triggered no contemporaneous reverberations and was lost to history until unearthed for the 1982 documentary Atomic Café. The film clip proved that while Bentsen had learned to moderate his rhetoric in the ensuing 30 years, he had done little to enliven his audience-sedating public persona.

We leaned something we didn’t know or had forgotten about Bentsen by reading this online biography: He had provided one of the voices for the PBS miniseries The American President in 2000. It was that of William Henry Harrison, the 9th president, who famously refused to wear a coat for his inauguration, caught pneumonia and died after only a few weeks in office, barely rating a footnote in U.S. history.

Yes, Bentsen was an ironist.

Cleaning out the garage the other day we ran across the front section of the Sept. 29, 2001 New York Times, which around that time we must have used as a liner in a cardboard storage box. “President Says U.S. Is ‘In Hot Pursuit’ of Terror Group,” read the headline over the play story, which began:
President Bush said today that the United States was “in hot pursuit” of both Osama bin Laden and the Taliban forces harboring him in Afghanistan.

Seems like another place. Definitely another time.

Yet we’d be surprised if the pursuit weren’t cranked to the scorching white-hot level at this very moment. Snaring bin Laden---he’s the decider, apparently, and he decides---would be about the only development capable of goosing that favorability rating above 35 percent.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Go Barry!

Sports fandom: A.) refuge for the willfully innocent, B.) asylum for the incorrigibly cynical, C.) haven for the hopelessly addle-pated or D.) all of the above.

We’ve got to go with ‘D’ after watching Friday’s pretty decent 6th game of the Spurs-Mavericks playoff, in which San Antonio’s Michael Finley, who gave the best years of his exemplary career to Dallas, was introduced to loud boos from the Mavs fans, apparently for getting in the way of a below-the-belt jab administered by Dallas’ Jason Terry as the teams wrestled for the ball near the end of Game 5, an indiscretion that resulted in Terry’s one-game suspension and the Mavs' probable loss of the series.

This followed close on the heels of the ovation Astros fans bestowed on Russ Springer for hitting Barry Bonds with a breaking ball, an indiscretion---or maybe an accident!---that resulted in Springer’s four-game suspension. Following the Bonds plunking one local TV station interviewed fans at Minute Maid, including a balding, prosperous-looking white guy who related that his dislike of Bonds was based on “his attitude---just the way he carries himself.”

We switched channels before the guy could add, “We took that uppity nigger down a peg!”

We’re sure he didn’t say that, but it always sounds like that’s an element of the underlying sentiment toward Bonds among the sportswriting clergy and those pious, asterisk-demanding fans, who, despite much evidence to the contrary, strike a pose of suspended disbelief and pretend to view baseball as if it’s the same pure, uncomplicated game it was when they were 7 and The Mick and Maris were battling to break Ruth’s record.

We were that 7-year-old, and we remember that summer, a little---the Maris-Mantle derby being the first prolonged public drama of which we were aware (a year before the Cuban Missile Crisis). And we had the privilege, as a 10-year-old, of seeing Mantle hit the first homer in the Astrodome. We held no one in higher esteem, save for our father and, perhaps, Elvis.

As we got older, and our interests broadened, we of course learned of The Mick’s difficulties with alcohol and women and other people in general, yet we were able to incorporate that knowledge into our view of the man without damning him with boos for eternity, just as the knowledge that Jerry Garcia, Mickey's deathmate on one of those days the music died, was a hopeless junkie can’t dim the pleasure we still get from one of his guitar solos.

We’ve never got much of anything from Barry Bonds, yet the opprobrium that’s greeted his quest makes us want to root for him---715, 756, 800! Then Bonds should refuse to speak publicly about the matter until he passes, and in the meantime continue telling everyone to kiss his large, rich and most-likely chemically enhanced black ass.

Meanwhile, Houston sports fans should consider how one of our former home teams figures in The Sopranos plotline regarding Vito Spatafore, Tony’s gay underling, as played by actor Joseph Gannascoli.* According to what Gannascoli told the New York Observer, a good day for Bud Adams forced him out of the restaurant game and into the acting racket:
One football Sunday in 1990, Mr. Gannascoli lost $60,000 on a game between the Houston Oilers and the Pittsburgh Steelers, when the back-up Oilers quarterback helped upset favored Pittsburgh. “I owe Cody Carlson my career,” he joked.
Not many of us can say that.

In the same piece, Mr. Gannascoli, who in real life is married, to a woman, shows Observer reporter Sara Vilkomerson a picture of his younger and much thinner self and recalls that back in the day, “I got more ass than a toilet seat.”

We can never get enough of that line.

Correction Corner: Reader T.A. recently wrote that our “belief” that John Wayne’s The Green Berets came out in 1966 was incorrect, and that the movie in fact was released in 1968. We double-checked with Leonard Maltin and T.A. is right. As always, Slampo’s Place regrets the error, sort of.

*Due to our cheapness, we have only read about this development and not seen any of the current season’s episodes. Last we saw, the menacing Vito was coming up after apparently going down on a security guard at that construction site where Meadow’s college boyfriend was “working.” On the off-chance that anyone reading this is duplicating these shows and would like to share them with us, we certainly would accept the charity. While you're at it, we'd also like the second season of Deadwood.

Friday, May 19, 2006

One Good Yank Deserves Another

We were baffled as to the whys and wherefores of a profile the Houston Chronicle mysteriously presented earlier this week of Evan Smith, the Texas Monthly editor. The story, which could charitably be described as “slurpy,” followed a tried-and-true narrative arc: native New Yorker assumes editorship of stale Texas institution, initially meets resistance and gathers critics but eventually triumphs by returning magazine to its “hard-hitting yet cheeky roots” (evidence of which is supplied solely by a superior and a subordinate at the magazine, as well as by Smith himself), etc.

Still, there was something odd about the story, perhaps because there was no apparent news peg on which to hang its appearance, or perhaps because the daily newspaper generally doesn’t do profiles---even of people who actually live in Houston and might have some impact on the city.

We scanned the piece and moved on, having learned only that the writer appeared to take the Texas Monthly editor almost as seriously as he seems to take himself. Then correspondent Il Pinguino reminded us that Evan Smith was the author of an equally fawning profile of Chronicle editor Jeff “A.M.” Cohen that appeared in Texas Monthly shortly after Cohen’s arrival at the daily (and before the loathing in which he is reportedly held by a large part of his newsroom had fully set in). It was also pointed out to us that the wife of Cohen's No. 2 man at the paper works for Smith at Texas Monthly.

That’s how it is in the big-media world: Incestuous. And incest breeds … well, you know.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Sleeping, Dreaming

The “debate” over illegal immigration has spilled into the chambers of Houston’s City Hall. Or oozed in. Maybe it dribbled. In any case, as with much of the verbiage expended on the subject, the exchanges between members of the city council only served to underscore the speakers’ tenuous toehold on reality.

The “debate” was prompted by Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, who once supported the city’s funding of day-laborer gathering places but now, as a candidate for Tom DeLay’s congressional seat, has come to the staggering conclusion that these taxpayer-funded sites encourage illegal immigration and believes the city should have no hand in their operation. This sudden change of, um, heart allowed none other than Rusty Hardin-represented Councilchick Carol Alvarado to seize the slightly lower ground and recall that Sekula-Gibbs---who is indeed an opportunist of the highest order---had first run for council under the Hispanic surname of her late celebrity husband, a name she summarily ditched upon hitching herself to a new, live one.


Then along came Councillady Ada Edwards to issue forth with what the Chronicle described as a “tirade” that included the observation that Sekula-Gibbs and others on council who sought to delay funding for a Second Ward day-labor site were guilty of the “closet thing to fascism I’ve seen since I’ve been on council” (for, like, four whole years). She went on to invoke Hitler and Franco, two serious killin’ fascists now residing in the Lake of Fire for their refusal to fund day-labor sites for illegal workers (and the latter of whom rarely receives any play at a Houston City Council meeting).

However you feel about illegal immigration, you’ve got to agree: These are some mean bitches we’re electing to city council!

Following up with the 1-2-3 punch was Councilgal Sue Lovell, who sort of accused Sekula-Gibbs of the dread sin of profiling: “It’s really an unfair leap by the councilwoman to say because you go [to a day-labor site] seeking work that, first, you’re an immigrant, and, second, that you’re illegal.”

Yes, that might be, except we’d challenge the rookie councilperson to visit a day labor site and locate just one job-seeker who wasn’t first, an immigrant, and second, an illegal one.

In justifying her position, Sekula-Gibbs claimed, “The president of the United States says we’re not supposed to be employing illegal immigrants …” We know that's what the law says, but now that she mentioned it we can’t remember our president ever making such a bold, simple declaration (and we’d be interested in learning who mows Sekula-Gibbs’ grass and cleans her house, if she’d be so kind as to share that information with us [email address above left]).

But we’re not sure what Bush said Monday during his big immigration speech, as we made the mistake of stretching out on the couch to watch and conked out shortly after his crisp opening summation of the problem. When we awoke the dark and bustacious wife of The King of Queens appeared to be in the act of dining and dashing from a restaurant, in the company of a surly teenager. We felt disoriented, as we often do when forced to consider illegal immigration. (Contributing to this feeling was our belated recognition that all the restaurant help on The King of Queens seemed to be white, and our faint recall as we dragged our self back to waking consciousness that the King himself, a lovable moke with Kramden-esque appetites and insecurities, is an unskilled worker with a union job. Or so we think, having never watched an entire episode.)

We hastily switched from CBS to MSNBC to see what we had missed. There was much talk of the 6,000 Guardsmen Bush wants to deploy on the border. A retired general whose name we believe was Jacobs genially parried Olberman’s suggestion that the deployment might be stretching the Guard thin, saying the president could find many eager volunteers among our citizen soldiers to pull what sounds like maintenance and clerical duty. But hold on: These likely would be “unemployed or underemployed” Guardsmen, and therefore a great many of them were likely to be Hispanic or black, not “Euro-Americans,” and thus somewhat reluctant to enforce border law.

This, too, did not comport with reality as we know it, so we went back to sleep.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Sidewalk Breakdown

We rolled the old air conditioning compressor out to the curb and left it there. Heavy trash pick-up was still a few weeks away, but we figured one of the scavengers who cruise the neighborhood with an eye for any marginally profitable discard would happen by and take it away. There had to be $30 or $40 worth of copper and aluminum in there …

But a week went by and nobody came. Going into the second week we thought we’d better get the hand cart and roll the rusted hulk back to the side of house, before one of the neighbors phoned Neighborhood Protection and we wound up on the short end of the city of Houston’s revenue-enhancement program. But late on Monday afternoon we were informed that a man and woman were out front trying to pry the unit apart. We moseyed out a while later and noticed they hadn’t made much progress. There was lots of banging and grunting and animated conversation in Spanish. The couple had three kids---twin girls who looked to be 18 months or so, strapped into car seats that had been placed on the sidewalk, and a boy of maybe 3, also in a restraining seat but still in the back seat. He looked hot and miserable and was pulling hard on one of those sippee cups.

The man, who wore paint-speckled pants and looked to be in his late 20s, had a small screwdriver, a pair of pliers and rubber mallet. The screws on the casing were rusty, and he was struggling. The wife took a turn, also for naught. We went into the garage and returned with a big screwdriver and, after everybody went at it for a round, the three of us had the covering off. But there was no way the enmeshed copper coiling was going to fit in the suitcase-sized trunk of the guy’s Sentra (which bore, near the gas cap, one of those decals of a rat in baseball cap taking a piss). We retreated to the garage and this time came back with a sledgehammer, a large ax, two hammers, some wire cutters and a buck knife (why we don’t know).

For the next 45 minutes or so the three of us went at it, chopping and whacking and hammering and jumping up and down on the cold metal. The work was sweaty and the guy soon asked us for “Waaa …,” which we correctly took to mean agua, and as we headed off to the house we heard the wife instructing him: “War-ter. War-ter.”

The bebés wailed the entire time, and at one point our next-door neighbor ambled over to observe, “The copper cockroaches are here,” but the couple did not take offense, as they appeared to understand no English (we did elicit the fact that the family was Salvadoran). Finally, we had the apparatus chopped and folded into three jagged-edged slabs that the couple stuffed into the trunk. We snipped the wiring and broke off the rest of the copper and tossed it in.

Cuántos dólares” were in it for the family? we asked. “Quince,” the man replied, after apparently first thinking that we were charging him for the privilege of busting his ass in our front yard. The couple washed up with the garden hose, strapped the bebés back in the car and were off. “Thank you my friend,” the man said. “De nada, mi amigo,” we said.

Ordinarily, the conclusion of such an episode would be occasion for us to pat our white-liberal self on the back for another public display of virtue: we had worked up a good sweat (nothing like swinging an ax on a concrete sidewalk to tone up the pecs), we had recycled, and, as our daddy used to often sing, we had helped someone along life’s way.

For some reason, though, that feeling of smug satisfaction escaped us.

There's lots of things we wouldn't do for $15, and that was one of them.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Truly Desperate

Leave it to Smilin’ Jack Sweeney, publisher and president of Houston’s leading daily newspaper, to once again dig down deep and pull out a shiny nugget of good news from the dark abyss down which his product’s circulation seems to be disappearing.

Sweeney, of course, is renown across Harris County (and parts of Chambers) for his unparalleled ability to declaim long, meaningless passages laden with numbers and newspaper jargon. For some reason his newspaper insists on slapping these fulsome gusts of nouns ’n’ verbs between quotation marks, in violation of the sound journalistic tenet that quotes should be used sparingly, for punctuation or elaboration, and that boilerplate or explanatory information is best taken out of quotes and paraphrased. But check out the verbal dexterity Sweeney demonstrated in explaining that although the Houston Chronicle’s audited circulation did decline 3.6 percent in the six months ending March 30, the “overall reach” of the paper is on the rise:

"On an average Sunday, 1.7 million Houstonians read the paper and on weekdays 1.2 million. Online, ranked No. 7 among the country's newspapers in monthly page views, averaging 49 million page views and 5.7 million unique visitors each month," he said.
Whew. We’re winded just reading that. But the good news:

"That's more weekly unique visitors than Desperate Housewives TV viewers," Sweeney said.
Well, that's good enough for us.

ADDENDUM: No, actually, it's not. Our sharp-eyed colleague Il Pinguino points out that Sweeney presumably means Desperate Housewives viewers in Houston, as the show attracted a national audience off 22 million or so during its first season. "I guess this was meant for the advertisers," notes Il. Yep, forget the reader---that's the secret of circulation-building!

A more clinical examination from blogHouston, and a self-referential citation ...

Sunday, May 07, 2006

It Went South, Along With Our Whole Country

So sayeth Merle Haggard, in an interview with something called Connect Savannah (via Expecting Rain):

Connect Savannah: If there’s someone reading this who’s never considered themselves a country fan, what’s the one album Merle Haggard would encourage them to pick up that would serve as a great example of the very best country that’s ever been recorded?

Merle Haggard: Well, I don’t know. I don’t even consider myself country anymore. I identify more with what’s happening in rock and roll right now, and it’s the rock people who seem to identify with me the most, and treat me with some sort of respect. The country people are out to use my name for different things if they can, and the rock and roll people seem to just like me for who I am. To hell with country! That’s the way I’m feelin’ about it.

Connect Savannah: Why do you think that is? I remember when Johnny Cash was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Roseanne Cash said it meant much more to him to be accepted as a peer by those folks than it ever did for him to receive praise from the country music business.

Merle Haggard: Well, the rock people are coming from the heart and soul, and country people are always tryin’ to use you.

Connect Savannah: That’s so strange: Rock and roll always gets tagged as the shallow, callous genre, while country made a name for itself as being a more traditional and spiritual form of music that’s linked to the heartland and the whole compassionate conservative movement.

Merle Haggard: I think it went south along with our whole country. See, the whole situation of life has changed. What they’re calling country is about as country as downtown New York! It’s got nothin’ to do with actual country music. Country’s supposed to be about people who find their way from the soil to the microphone — instead of bein’ shaped into some kind of phony perfection with computers like they do nowadays. I mean, who can sing and who can’t? You really can’t tell anymore.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Gulf Is Wide Indeed (Or So Some Say)

Every so often we tell our self that we need to unplug from the “news” once and for all---stop reading the papers, turn off the television when Greg Hurst beckons, and get back to that copy of Finnegan’s Wake we gave up on more than 30 years ago.

Then we run across something so fine, so wondrous, so truly superlative, that it becomes impossible for us to just let go. Something like this sentence, which greeted us this morning as we tried to spoon the prune-laced oatmeal down our aging gullet, from a front-page story in the Houston Chronicle that sought to somehow link Cinco de Mayo (apparently a Mexican holiday commemorating the creation of tacos al carbon) with the ongoing debate over the tightening of immigration law. The story notes that Cinco de Mayo is one of the busiest days for Mexican restaurants in Texas, then adds:
But those on opposing sides of the immigration debate are unlikely to be sharing chips and salsa today, some say.
It’s not just the walkin’-with-a-crutch metaphor, it’s that some say that caused us to dribble oatmeal down our chin. We can easily imagine what should have followed, if the Chronicle were pretending to be even-handed and objective and all:
However, the conviviality generated by repeated replenishings of a basket of chips and several bowls of salsa (rojo y verde), supplemented by pitcher after pitcher of syrupy margaritas, could possibly bridge the seemingly unbridgeable chasm separating those on opposing sides of the immigration debate, others say.
We still can’t believe our local newspaper would slander America’s favorite appetizer on a Mexican holiday.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

“A Day Without Immigrants” Was Like …

… a day on which we encountered much less traffic on our late-afternoon drive home. Or so it seemed.

Despite the exertions of the sentimentalists and hype artists in the local media (especially the television stations) to elevate Monday’s boycott into a colossally influential and meaning-packed event, the entire to-do was much less than advertised---a negligible impact, you might say, unless you owned a restaurant or were among the footloose souls who had the time and inclination to dine in one on a Monday.

Proving again, for those who haven’t had the epiphany, that life isn’t like the movies.

Why was that? For starters, the protest attracted only a small percentage of the area’s illegal workers. Many had to work, or preferred to work, or were afraid not to work. Others---and this is pure speculation on our part---may have been put off by the anti-Americanism that oddly percolates around the edges of the “immigrants’ rights” movement.

We suspect that most decent citizens, in their hearts, have a good deal of respect and sympathy for the workers. These are people you run across every day, at least in Houston, and in our experience they’re just like everybody else---most are good (even the masses who for some reason don’t grasp the concept of littering), some are bad and best avoided. But these various protests and walkouts and boycotts, staged mostly for the benefit of the excitable and soon-to-lose-interest media, have wholly missed their intended targets, if they ever actually had any.

It wasn’t just the Mexican flags, now nowhere to be seen, or the goofy Spanish-language rewrite of the Star-Spangled Banner (a more tortured composition than the English-language original, apparently), or the other emanations of separatism and confused allegiances. What’s been most off-putting is the chest-beating and foot-stamping of the so many would-be Subcomandante Marcoses who’ve pilot-fished on to the, uh, movement---the academicians, tacticians, journalists and other professional chin-strokers, comfortable citizens all, we suspect, who are taking advantage of their First Amendment right to wave their rhetorical Che banners. (Take this speaker, conveniently left unidentified in a Houston Chronicle story on a Saturday forum on immigration at TSU, who characterized the United States as a “hellhole.”)

That is, of course, their absolute right, just as it’s our right to point out that it’s all a bit creepy.

But the entire issue has become so blurry that it’s hard to tell what the issue is anymore. Is it “immigrants’ rights?” Or a simple desire for amnesty? A general demand for recognition, self-validation? In the meantime, the debate appears to have moved hardly at all.

Practically speaking, it’s hard to envision any change that does not include some form of amnesty---at the risk, as critics have warned, that it will only encourage further illegal immigration, as the 1986 amnesty did. And it will be a thumb in the eye to immigrants who have entered or are trying to enter legally (we recommend this near-poignant commentary from a green card-holder that we heard this morning on NPR).

The one sure way to deter future illegal immigration would be to impose crippling fines on businesses that hire workers sin papel. It is argued that such would be unfair to employers, effectively shifting the burden of enforcement to them. On that premise you could also argue that businesses shouldn’t be required to withhold Social Security or income taxes.

But it’s time to move on. We understand the national “Day Without Gasoline” is up ahead, and that’s really gonna be a bitch, gringo.