Friday, January 12, 2007

It’s a Legal Matter, Baby

The crew at blogHouston has noted the latest installment in Houston Chronicle soccer columnist Glenn Davis’ campaign to get somebody---probably you there, Mr. and Ms. Taxpayer---to build a soccer-only stadium for Ollie Luck and the Houston Dynamo. We can only add that the $250 million deal to bring washed-up matinee idol David Beckham to the Major League Soccer doubtless has brought renewed pressure on Luck, the former Harris County-Houston Sports Authority director, to deliver a new stadium.

After all, we can’t have a celebrity of Beckham’s stature and financial wherewithal squatting in dingy, artificially turfed Robertson Stadium, can we? Besides, somebody’s gotta cough up for Beckham’s salary (probably you there …). We expect Luck’s other agent at the Chronicle, John Lopez, to weigh in shortly with coy hints of a deal that’s probably being cooked up behind closed doors at this very moment. As soon as he gets Luck’s OK.

So we’ll turn our attention to another Chronicle crooner who stepped up to the microphone this week to unlimber some bu-bu-bu-boo on behalf of yet another prospective World Class venue for our town. This one was flagged for us by our colleague Il Pinguino. The estimable IP was righteously torqued by a line in the Thursday column by Ken Hoffman, in which the paper’s resident funnyman (not much competition on that front, unless it’s some of the anonymous authors of some of the paper’s editorials) made a strange and out-of-character endorsement of casino gambling. Il calls it “one of the all-time dumbest sentences ever printed in a major daily newspaper.” There is heavy competition on that front, but you be the judge:
Gambling already is legal, so it's not a moral question.
“Right,” says IP. “And equal rights for blacks was not a moral issue in 1955, because segregation was legal.”

As IP notes, it appears that the Drive-Thru Gourmet was saying that because bingo and horse and dog racing are already permitted in Texas, any moral questions about casino gambling have been resolved. The law just needs to catch up.

We say tell it to the Baptists.

Hoffman stumbled on with one of the all-time great unattributed paragraphs we’ve seen in a daily newspaper:
I could list all the potential benefits of legalizing casino gambling, like $3.2 billion in tax revenues for the state, with $1.6 billion helping send kids to college. Cities and counties would get $800 million. Thousands of people, including Wayne Newton, would find work in Texas.
Well, as our coozan George Will would say from between pursed lips.

Hoffman must have been mighty busy with his calculator, or, most likely, cutting and pasting somebody’s talking points. Do tell whose. It's SOP.

The whys and wherefores of Hoffman’s sudden interest in public policy are both a mystery and a puzzle. Along with Leon Hale, the last known survivor of The Alamo, Hoffman anchors the front of the Chronicle’s ghastly Star section and from what we remember usually devotes his inches to dashed-off updates on professional wrestlers, Jimmy Buffett and the whereabouts of second-tier local TV news personalities, and whatnot. He, of course, is wildly popular and easily the best-remunerated journalist in Houston and perhaps the entire state, at least on a dollars-to-hours-actually-worked basis. We can assume he’s not getting comped at Harrah’s.

Can’t we?

One of Hoffman’s arguments is that because next-door Louisiana has casinos, Texas must follow suit or continue to lose out on all that revenue … and fun!

Yes, the legalization of casinos has done so much for Louisiana. People from all over the country are banging on the door to live and work there.

We suppose casinos are inevitable in Texas, although we hope the state will hold out as long possible, the way we used to hope that formerly home-owned Randalls would never sell booze, just on principle and for no particular moral reason (us=sentimental sucker). They’re just another necessary component of our cheap credit, debt-fueled, Easy Motoring and Commodification of Risk economy that will rumble well along, until it won’t. Or, as the union boss Frank Sobotka observed just before his violent demise in the second season of HBO’s very sharp The Wire, an elegiac and morally complex (Dostoevsky level) exploration of the self-enabled selling-out of America’s white and black working class, “We used to make shit in this country. Now we just stick our hands in each other’s pockets.”

Along those lines, and in keeping with our Slampo’s Place Mission Statement Point No. 14 to “always give credit where due,” we must gratuitously commend the daily newspaper's Loren Steffy, a bona fide grown-up, for slipping one into the media punchbowl that flowed for Apple’s rollout of its iPhone.* Whatever the legal niceties, the backdating of stock options for Steve Jobs and other Apple executives is certainly a moral question.

*As with many Americans eligible for membership in AARP, our only question about all these incessant new technological marvels is how long will it be before we have to break down and buy one so that we can remain a marginally functioning member of society, and what new password or PIN or personal identity confirmer will we have to add to the lengthy handwritten list of such that we keep stashed between our mattress and boxspring.