Sunday, January 27, 2008

Mrs. Rosenthal Writes: My Erectile Dysfunction is Nothing but an Insane Inference on Your Part

A new character emerged from the wings over the weekend to briefly command center stage in the ongoing public spectacle of the Chuck Rosenthal Saga, a house with way, way too many mansions for us to fully enumerate in this limited space. It was none other than the previously unvoiced and possibly cuckolded Cindy (Mrs. Chuck) Rosenthal, who took pen in hand to author a very long letter to the Houston Chronicle in which she defended her husband the D.A. against what she claimed were “insane inferences” apparently assembled by the media out of thin air. Mrs. Rosenthal’s handiwork took up a sizable amount of space on the paper’s Saturday op-ed page---a volume of newsprint usually given over only to letters from flacks for trade associations who believe their products have been defamed, or to potential libel plaintiffs (a category that excludes both Mr. and Mrs. Rosenthal)---and it was hard to tell whether the writer’s presumed audience was the general public or the newspaper’s editorial leadership, or whether she was just muttering to herself (which we have been told can be therapeutic).

In case you were up in Lufkin on Saturday and couldn’t find a Chronicle, you can read the letter here---and it’s well worth a minute of your time---but we feel obligated to call attention to two of the choicest excerpts. For some reason Mrs. Rosenthal was moved to take issue with what seemed to us to be the media's fairly straightforward coverage of the $11,000 raise for Rosenthal executive secretary Kerry Stevens, the object of those recently revealed semi-amorous emailings from the district attorney, a raise which he recommended last year (pre- Saga) and which took effect a week or so ago. Mr. Rosenthal has acknowledged carrying on an affair with Ms. Stevens in the 1980s when he was married to an earlier wife, pre-Cindy, but has denied that he and his secretary have of late been conjoining in a manner that would violate the 7th Commandment, despite the intimate tone of his electronic communications to her. Mrs. Rosenthal, a former FBI agent who is, at the very least, the victim of emotional cuckoldry, will brook no suggestion that her husband showed favoritism to the Other Woman. (We previously noted that Stevens’ $78,000 salary did not seem too far out of line for the executive secretary of a big-city D.A., but close to $90,000 … that’s just too much). The very notion, in fact, is “ludicrous,” Mrs. Rosenthal wrote ( meaning, apparently, that the media should have ignored it altogether), and besides
… no one has the right to be upset about my husband's relationship with his secretary but me. I was the party aggrieved — no one else. Not once in any of these sensational inferential stories did anyone complain about the job Chuck did as district attorney for eight years (after all, Teddy Kennedy and Bill Clinton still did their jobs and still do!). It all relates to personal issues, and Chuck and I are dealing with those. Shame on the Chronicle and the tone of the media today, which only want sensational stories and not factually news-related stories.

I told friends that the only way to get Chuck out of the news was to bring Britney Spears to Houston because her life struggle seems to be of more interest to all of the media. But, the fact of the matter is, neither should be newsworthy. People's personal lives are not what newspapers should be about!
You’ve got to admit that it takes a peculiar talent to draw Clinton, Kennedy, and Britney into the Rosenthal orbit.

Then there was this:
… six to eight out of 1,100 to 2,800 e-mails (both numbers have been reported) are "questionable." The media is complaining about six to eight e-mails that Chuck did not originate or draft. What is the deal? I defy anyone at the Chronicle to pull out a pristine hard drive. We all get that junk all of the time. If the Chronicle looked at my hard drive, they would infer I had a serious case of erectile dysfunction! We cannot control what people send us, and, to me, six to eight out of those numbers is pretty darn good! Sometimes I get six to eight bad jokes or chain e-mails in a day! Instead of focusing on the six to eight that are bad, focus on the fact that 2,794 are good!
One thing we can safely infer from Mrs. Rosenthal’s letter is that she definitely does not have a case of erectile dysfunction, serious or mild.

Monday, January 21, 2008

All Hail the Prolerizer!

The Jan. 14 New Yorker includes a fascinating (yep) article on the globalization of the U.S. scrap metal business. Originally the province of itinerant Jewish immigrants who plied the 19th century countryside scrounging castoff farm implements, today the business of recycling scrap is evolving from a “hodgepodge of mom-and-pop junk yards” into a rapidly consolidating and highly lucrative industry. According to writer John Seabrook
In 2006, two of every three tons of steel made in the U.S. came from recycled steel … The U.S. steel industry is not the world leader it once was, but no one produces more junk than we do---scrap metal was among our most valuable exports last year.
We had no time to savor the small irony of our used-up crap fueling the economic expansions of China and India, because as it turns out there is an important Houston angle underpinning the story. It seems the device that pulverizes our old pick-ups and commercial refrigerators and transforms them into small balls of steel was realized right here:
This type of machine, which was invented by the Proler brothers---
, Sammy, Jackie and Izzy---in Houston in the late nineteen-fifties (they called it the Prolerizer), is standard equipment these days in any medium- to large-sized yard.
Who knew? as Hymie himself might have said.

Here’s a description of the Prolerizer prolerizing, from the book Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash by Elizabeth Royte (as quoted in a New York Times review):
''The Prolerizer has a 6,000-horsepower synchronous motor and enormous blades that can convert whole cars to fist-sized chunks of scrap in 30 to 60 seconds. . . . Cars plummeted onto the shredder's spinning rotor, which bristled with 32 bow-tie-shaped blades that weighed 300 pounds each. . . . They were 30 inches long, and though made of a steel-manganese alloy, they lasted a mere 24 hours, such was the ferocity of their labors.''
Whoo-weee! We can’t recall reading of the Proler brothers in any of the official histories of our city, but we have no doubt that when the books are finally balanced on the ledger of time it will be the Prolerizer, and not the Weedeater or the world’s first air-conditioned stadium, that will be considered Houston’s greatest contribution to Western Civilization.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Houston Demands It: Chronicle’s Teen Columnist MUST Stop Her Shameless Huckstering on Behalf of Charles Bacarisse

Yes, this is “olds” as the funsters over at blogHouston call anything that’s been hanging around longer than 15 minutes, but then again we’re “old” and our reflexes are diminished and we’ve been beset by persistent problems in accessing the Internet since our 13-year-old went to the site Besides, as we told our wife about this “repainting the kitchen” project we were to finish over the holidays, we get around to things in our own time.

What has us looking back to those long-forgotten days of last week is yet another vexing work from the Houston Chronicle’s stable of Metro columnists (a smallish stable, housing two, we believe). We’re not referring to the Rick Casey column of Jan. 8, 2008, wherein he reported that Texas Democrats were “giddy” over the prospect of Barack Obama becoming their presidential nominee. This column read as if were written based on pollsters’ forecast of an Obama victory in the New Hampshire primary, and it appeared on the same day that the paper’s front page carried news (or “olds”) of Hillary Clinton’s unexpected besting of the Illinois senator in that contest. According to unreliable sources, Mr. Casey had tucked himself in early on Monday evening and could not be roused to adjust his work when things didn’t pan out as predicted. Another explanation, one we’ll attribute to “observers,” is that the old boy "just doesn’t care." Whatever the case, we certainly don’t hold this column against him: As noted above, we’re not really into “timeliness” our self.

So, no, it isn’t Casey’s “Dewey Beats Truman” moment that has us in a nostalgic mood, but rather the following day’s offering from Chronicle stablemate Lisa Falkenberg, who seems to be brazenly using her column to promote the candidacy of District Clerk Charles Bacarisse in the Republican primary for Harris County judge. How else to explain Falkenberg’s reporting that Bacarisse has been calling on the Harris County Hospital District to press “sponsors” (that is, family members) of documented (that is, legal) immigrants for payment of delinquent bills that the immigrants have run up with the district. (Imagine that: a politician who wants people to pay their bills to a government agency! Outrageous!) As Falkenberg notes

a decade-old federal law allows the hospital district to hit up [a legal immigrant’s] sponsor for the money, under certain circumstances.
… it is true that each sponsor signs an "affidavit of support" promising to take financial responsibility for immigrant family members in an attempt to keep them off the dole, so to speak.
So to speak. But Falkenberg is a wily sort. Employing the craft and cunning she honed as the star columnist of the newspaper’s Yo! page (we think that's right), she brilliantly disguises her shameless promotion of Bacarisse as criticism. We’ll turn it over to Falkenberg here (’cause we’re up for no further paraphrasing, due to the fact that we’re actually lazier than Rick Casey). Referring to an earlier column she had written "attacking" Bacarisse for, as she put it, “attacking documented immigrants,” Falkenberg writes

After a few months of reflection, and recent developments on the issue, I have determined that I erred — not in my criticism of Bacarisse, but in not kicking him more swiftly in the rear the first time I took him to task.

It still seems that his focus on this issue has more to do with polls, political hot buttons and winning over a group of voters whose blood boils at the mere mention of the word "immigrant," than it does with his concern for taxpayers and good public policy.

Turning to the supposed matter at hand---sponsors’ failure to keep their commitment to support family members---she continues

Bacarisse has accused these "deadbeat sponsors" of shirking their duties and has taken aim at the county for not beating down the doors of these sponsors to recoup the money. Months ago, when I queried county officials about the problems Bacarisse had cited, they had no idea what he was talking about.

But Bacarisse's campaign asked the hospital district to tally the net cost of care provided to documented immigrants since 2005. The grand total — about $263 million, a substantial sum, though much less than the cost for illegal immigrants and only a fraction of the cost for citizens, who received more than $1 billion in free care over the same period.

Last month, Bacarisse issued a news release, touting those statistics and singing his own praises for getting results.

"Hospital District starts process for recovering funds and enforcing the law," read part of a headline.

Indeed, because of Bacarisse's inquiry, the hospital district has requested from immigration officials a database of sponsors so they can begin hunting down the sponsors to collect the money. They're just now beginning this process. So, it turns out the "deadbeat sponsors" probably weren't even asked to help pay the doctor bills before they were deemed to be shirking their duties.

This is terrible … the guy’s getting results and he hasn’t been elected yet.

As for Falkenberg, we have determined that she is more than qualified to flaunt her make-believe moral hauteur by virtue of the fact that, according to appraisal district records, she owns no property in Harris County, at least under the name that she affixes to her columns, and thus pays no taxes to support the Harris County Hospital District (NOT ONE GODDAMN DIME). It also appears she is not registered to vote in the county, although there’s still time for her to get her name on the rolls so she can vote for Bacarisse (assuming she hasn’t gone giddy for Obama, and is actually a legal resident of the jurisdiction). Talk about commitment.

We’re pretty sure Bacarisse isn’t paying Falkenberg to write these columns, but we hope he’ll be listing them as in-kind contributions on his next campaign finance disclosure (estimated value: $3.73).

Thursday, January 10, 2008

“They’ll Hunt Me Down and Hang Me for My Crimes, When I Tell About My Dirty Life and Times”

A week-ending quiz on current events, specially prepared for you, the discerning and erudite reader …

1.) During Roger Clemens’ Monday news conference, lawyer Rusty Hardin passed Clemens a note that read

A. “Please, please, don’t throw a broken bat at any of these sportswriters.”
B. “Lighten up.”
C. “Tighten up, but don’t you get too tight.”
D. “Don’t look now, but there’s a third ear growing out of your forehead.”

2.) Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal’s forwarding of an email he received at work in which Bill Clinton is called “the closet thing to a black president we’ve had” (because he “smoked weed” and “had his way with ugly white women,” etc.) confirmed that

A. Rosenthal possesses a second-rate intellect.
B. Rosenthal possesses a third-rate intellect.
C. Rosenthal is eminently qualified to be chief prosecutor of the nation’s third-largest county.
D. Rosenthal secretly wishes he were black.

3.) In that email the Clinton “joke” is attributed to

A. Nipsy Russell
B. David Duke
C. “A black comedian in Canada”
D. “A black comedian from the Congo”

4.) Dr. Sam Siegler, husband of made-for-TV assistant district attorney Kelly Siegler and Rosenthal’s personal physician, passed along to Rosenthal an email with an attachment that showed

A. Men pulling down the blouses of unsuspecting women
B. Men pulling down the pants of unsuspecting women
C. A man “wagging his weenie” at unsuspecting women
D. “Hot Latina-Asian Foot Worship”

5.) Following disclosure of the Siegler email, Kelly Siegler, who is seeking to replace her boss as district attorney, said her husband

A. “Cusses like a sailor …”
B. … Has a crude sense of humor.
C. Is a “total asshole.”
D. “… is one funny son of a bitch …”

6.) According to Roger Clemens, over the years Roger Clemens has been given many injections of painkillers and Vitamin B12 in the buttocks by

A. “Ken Caminiti”
B. “A faded, jaded junkie nurse …”
C. “Dr. Sam Siegler”
D. “… trainers, nurses, doctors ...”

7.) Before storming out of his own news conference, Roger Clemens professed a desire to enter “the private sector” to, as the New York Times put it, “avoid ever dealing with further questioning” about his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs. The most likely “private sector” occupation open to Roger Clemens after his retirement from baseball will be

A. Pulling tractors with his teeth at county fairgrounds in Mississippi and Arkansas
B. Breaking a 4-foot stack of concrete blocks using his forehead
C. Strutting around a wrestling ring in tight shorts
D. Anger-management consultant

8.) Should Chuck Rosenthal resign or be removed as Harris County district attorney, which private sector occupation is he likely to pursue?

A. Bit player in remake of The Shaggy D.A.
B. Geriatric model for Darque Tan and/or diversity consultant
C. Vaudeville humorist and/or radio talk-show host
D. Pulling tractors with his teeth at county fairgrounds in Mississippi and Arkansas

9.) Which of the following comments was made by Brian McNamee, Roger Clemens accuser and former trainer, during a phone conversation that Clemens recorded last week?

A. “I love you, man.”
B. “You turn away every time I try to share my feelings.”
C. “I can’t open up to you the way I want to---and I know you can’t.”
D. “You had the softest cheeks, Rocket Man.”

10.) An email discovered among those in District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal’s inbox included an attachment that, according to Channel 13, “shows a black man passed out, surrounded by watermelon and fried chicken” and is titled “fatal overdose.” Other food and drink traditionally enjoyed by rural black Americans* that would have been appropriate to reference in the email include

A. “Red pop”
B. Chitterlings
C. Hog jowls and gravy
D. Collard greens

BONUS: At the heart of the Chuck Rosenthal email scandal lies

A. Arrogance
B. Hubris
C. Stupidity
D. Insularity and in-breeding

Answers: B, B, C, A, A and B, D, D, D, C, All, All

*If you haven’t check out the comments on this posting at Lone Star Times, where, in an “I am Spartacus” moment, Caucasians and African Americans weigh in on their love of watermelon and fried chicken.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Je Suis La Ville, La Ville Est Moi

We had seen the picture of Bill White sporting that pimpolicious Stetson (apparently bequeathed to him by the Red Foxx estate) at his inaugural, and we had read how the mayor quoted the theme song from The Jeffersons to underscore the direction in which Our Town is headed (“on up,” we believe it is). Yet we had no idea what an interesting speech the mayor had delivered until we went to the city’s Web site today looking for a nearby location where we could dump our Christmas tree for recycling and came across the text of his address. Although el alcalde failed to mention the indispensability of Carol Alvarado to Houston’s continued well-being, he did make a fairly extraordinary claim regarding his own stewardship of the city:

We gather on land first settled by dreamers and drifters and slaves.* They forged a new community in raw wilderness, just a half dozen generations ago.

From those humble beginnings Houston grew with unprecedented pace and prosperity.

Yet there has never been anything like the amazing progress made by this City since several of us first took this oath four short years ago.

Wow! Never? That’s a long time, my friend, but the mayor had some fun with numbers to back up the boast:
In little more than 200 weeks our urban area has added a quarter of a million new jobs.** Consider this: we have added about four times more jobs than our total population a century ago; the total new jobs we have added in four years is more than the total number of jobs within the city limits at the end of World War II, and even more than the total number of cars in the Metropolitan area back then.
… Even more than the total number of cars in Houston in 1945? Well, whatever. But we do enjoy The Jeffersons invocation. Come to think of it, Houston has always reminded us of George Jefferson: a short, balding dry cleaner trying to cover up his insecurities with strut and bellicosity.

Then there was the following, which we can only interpret as an offer of help to our love-besotted district attorney:
To my elected colleagues I issue a challenge: let us rush to help one another when we stumble on matters not affecting the public trust, and stumble we will. Let us remember that the large number of uncontested or lopsided City races and City bond issues in the last two elections reflects in part public perception of our effectiveness as a team.

Helping an elected official who stumbles may sound like a risky proposition. But remember the lesson that Dr. King taught in the sermon before his death. He said that the Levite who passed the wounded man without helping asked the wrong question. He asked himself, “If I help this man, what could happen to me?” The Good Samaritan asked, “If I don't help this man, what could happen to him?”
Or maybe that was the Alvarado reference.

He also mentioned Houston being home to Beyonce, which is always a crowd-pleaser.

*That is, real estate speculators and cheap labor.
**City government, of course, was responsible for the creation of all 250,000.