Saturday, November 28, 2009

Attention Dave Wilson: Annise Parker Is Claiming to Be “Sensible,” and You Know What That Means! (Doncha?)

We learned today that during our two-week hiatus from blogurbatin’ the Houston mayoral race has gotten downright meta-, with one of the two remaining candidates exploiting familiar stereotypes to win votes. That candidate is, of course, Annise Parker, who has sent the Slampo family a mailing –– we’re pretty sure ours was not the only household to have gotten it –– declaring, most proudly and unashamedly, although rather prosaically, “There’s Nothing Wrong with Sensible” (not even an excitement-inducing exclamation mark –– how sensible is that?!). Beneath that declaration for the ages is a full-color picture of a pair of scissors and a passel of clipped newspaper coupons, possibly the most unexciting visual accoutrement in the history of direct-mail political advertisements.

We presume this is the Parker campaign’s sly, tongue-in-check riposte to those (supposedly) 35,000 mailings that our old pal Dave Wilson sent out week before last warning Republicans of the plagues that will befall Houston should it elect a lesbian as mayor on Dec. 12. (Dave would have been better off doing something sensible with his money, like taking a book of numerology with him to the dog track.) Parker, in fact, seems to be touting her, ah, whatyacallit, sexual orientation, as proof that she'll be a trustworthy steward of the public purse.

As all of our wised-up cosmopolitan readers know, “being sensible” is a sure sign of lesbianism, perhaps the hallmark sign of lesbianism. You see it in their choice of comfortable footwear, in the low-maintenance, non-gas-guzzling SaturnsSubarus they drive to the softball field, in their cost-conscious, no-frills buzz-cut hairstyles, in their proficiency with hammers and screwdrivers and do-it-yourself projects, in their love of that godawful straight-ahead heartland rock ’n’ roll of Melissa Etheridge, in their ... and so on.

It’s a wild, crazy lifestyle, as Dave Wilson will tell you.

We personally find nothing wrong with “sensible,” having recently been forced to come to grips with our own inner lesbian. Not only do we clip coupons, often finding that experience the highlight of our minutes spent with the local Sunday newspaper, but for many years we, too, drove a low-maintenance, non-gas-guzzling Saturn. We like to keep our blades sharpened and our tools in order. We spend no more than $10 to have our remaining hairs cut, although we throw in a nice tip if the Vietnamese lady barber administers a brisk scalp massage, and we always wear the most comfortable and unfashionable shoes we can afford (although we don't wear our Crocs outside of the house, and wish you wouldn't, either). And, no, you can’t smoke on our porch. Go stand in the street. (We may have crossed the line from sensible to “stodgy.”)

It was not always thus. Many years ago, in a Hub City barroom near the break of day, we set our T-shirt on fire, not by accident, to impress a girl (she wasn’t, or maybe she was ...). But we have lived, and we have learned, belatedly, that there is nothing wrong with sensible.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sins of Omission: As “Gay Panic” Hits Runoff, Still No 1040s From Locke, While Chronicle Soccer-Stadium Story Manages to Leave Out the Good Parts

Following an interesting and informative Bradley Olson story on Saturday documenting a potential unholy alliance between Gene Locke and, as Olson describes it, "staunch social conservatives who are either actively planning on attacking [Annise] Parker's sexuality or strongly considering it,” the Chronicle on Sunday offered a look at the runoff candidates’ positions on the city’s contributions to a new soccer stadium that was notable for a glaring factual error as well as the germane context that it left out.

The paper erroneously described Locke as a former chairman of the Harris County Houston Sports Authority, which presumably has a hand, or would have a hand, in structuring and administering whatever financing arrangement emerges from the apparently stalled negotiations over the facility. Actually, the law firm in which Locke is a partner, Andrews Kurth, is the general counsel to the publicly funded authority, and Locke himself acted as its lawyer at least until April (if not beyond), when, as the doughty Texas Watchdog put it, he gave up “the $640-an-hour fees that went with the job” to run for mayor. And Locke, as far as can be discerned from the public record, is still listed as a partner in Andrews Kurth, meaning he’s still benefitting from whatever work the firm is doing for the authority (as well as other tax-funded local government entities). All this has been batted around fairly extensively in the ground-level media, most notably by Texas Watchdog but also occasionally in this space, when the Lord grants us the time to perform our important community work, and other places as well. Yet nowhere in the Chronicle story is the name “Andrews Kurth” mentioned, nor does the report point out that Locke, as of his last campaign finance disclosure to the city, had received a total of $7,500 in contributions from the Dynamo’s owners, including $3,000 from California billionaire Philip F. Anschutz, and another $2,000 from Dynamo president and former sports authority executive director Oliver Luck (who is identified in the Chronicle story as a fund-raiser for Locke). These contributions, of course, would be wholly irrelevant to the stadium question and were made simply because the donors are concerned about good government in Houston. (Sleepy Chronicle columnist Rick Casey –– hey, we were thinking the other day, what happened to his cuz and onetime Chronicle stablemate, Whitney Casey? –– did report that former welterweight champ Oscar De La Hoya had given $2,000 to Locke, but Casey cited this act of selfless generosity as a “celebrity” donation and failed to mention that the Golden Boy has been reported to have a minority ownership stake in the Dynamo).

(The Chronicle story did include –– you saw this coming, right? –– some contextual fluffery from none other than Bob “You-Need-A-Quote” Stein of Rice University, the yeoman journalist’s bestest friend, whose son-in-law, it is disclosed, works for the Locke campaign, a factoid that only gives rise again to perhaps the most pressing civic question facing Houston today: Is there nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide, from Bob Stein? [Of course, we can’t argue with the CW that Stein dispenses to the paper, but the dude needs to start screenin’ his calls .])

All of this makes a nice set-up to the Locke campaign’s refusal to even respond to Texas Watchdog’s request that he and Parker make public their households’ IRS returns for the past three years (Parker has released returns for both herself and her partner).

As for the emerging gay-panic narrative –– and how predictable was that? –– we will for the time being forgo the temptation to pound out 2,000 or so choice words on the subject and instead direct all concerned citizens to the succinct deboning of the non-issue by blogHouston’s Kevin Whited.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Weird Timing: Nat'l Enquirer Touches the Shroud of O'Quinn, in Passing; Stand By for Further Deets

We see that John O'Quinn has achieved a scale of world-class post-mortem notoriety that eluded him in life: He made the National Enquirer! Twice, if you count the follow-up with new "deets" –– that apparently means "details" in Enquirer-ese –– posted today on the paper's Web site. (It is, as they say in the news biz, "developing.")

Unfortunately for the late O'Quinn, he's the distant Second Banana in thee stories, whose aim and purpose appears to be the continued rending of the once-holy garment of his fellow plaintiffs' lawyer, the boy evangelist John Edwards, whose dallaince with and probable fathering of the child of a woman maned Rielle Hunter was so ably pursured and exposed by the Enquirer when the MSM willfiully (and wrongly, BTW) ignored what apparently was almost right in front of them.

The headline tells the tale: "Mystery Shrouds Death of Edwards Contributor" Oh, the ignominy, to be reduced in death to a mere "Edwards contributor." The "mystery shrouds" formulation would seem to to hint at nefarious and secret doings, possibly on the part of the former presidential candidate, but all that's delivered beneath is the news that O'Quiin was being "considered" for possible testimony to the grand jury investigating whether campaign funds were illegally funneed to Ms. Rielle to keep her quiet. Considered!
John O'Quinn was one of Edwards' biggest contributors and also a close friend of Fred Baron, who was Edwards' national finance chairman.

Baron allegedly paid hush money to Edwards' mistress Rielle Hunter and to Andrew Young, Edwards' former loyalist who took part in the cover-up surrounding the ex-senator's out-of-wedlock baby with Rielle.

Said the government source: "While there's no indication of wrongdoing in O'Quinn's death, it's weird timing that he was suddenly killed with the grand jury still investigating whether Edwards had broken any campaign finance laws when paying Rielle."

Edwards has denied paying hush money, but O'Quinn's violent death adds yet another strange twist to the incredible saga of the slick politician's rapid fall.

"There's absolutely no indication that Mr. O'Quinn did anything wrong - or knew about hush money or even knew John Edwards was having an affair," the DC insider said.
We noticed the Enquirer made no mention of such prosaic details as speeding on a winding, rain-slick road while wearing no seat belt and possibly text-messaging or speaking on a cell phone, or both, but there's not much in the way of enshrouding mystery there.

HOLD THE PHONE: The follow-up with the promised new "deets" revealed that O'Quinn, who died in a car crash, collected ... cars:
It's ironic that O'Quinn - a man who loved cars more than anything else -- would die ALONE in a one car crash. [Emphasis added; so much for the Enquirer's fact-check process.]
Now that O’Quinn has been formally ushered off to his final reward, to the strains of Danny Boy and under the able direction of the Rev. Ed Young, we suppose we wouldn't be breaching the bounds of good taste by pointing up the nature of the O’Quinn enterprise (and that of the boy evangelist as well): He was simply another practitioner, a very able and generous practitioner (as well we know), of the art of Victimology, that narrative mix of grievance and entitlement which holds that a woman who willfully chose to have a doctor sew wads of silicon in her chest –– something that just a half-century ago probably would have been considered evidence of mental illness –– was entitled to recompense when things didn’t go as planned, or that an ol’ boy who continued to smoke three packs a day, long after the dangers of such were writ on the sides of those very packs, was entitled to recompense after suffering the inevitable consequences.

This, of course, is the prevailing orthodoxy in most precincts of the academy, the media and the legal profession, and just how deeply and unconsciously entrenched it is could be gauged by the Houston Chronicle’s follow-up story to O’Quinn’s death by auto accident, which posed the question, apparently in all seriousness, “Was it the road’s fault?”

We await the Enquirer's possible revelation of new and tangy deets on the road-blame factor.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

It's the White Lesbian Vs. the Formerly Angry Black Man. What'll the Neighbors Say?*

Self-promotion is not our thing, either here at Slampo's Place or back in the real world, which is why we always turn promotional tasks over to Hidalgo Hidalgo & Associates LLP., whose namesake's rise from $6.40-an-hour illegal yardman to $640-an-hour world-class publicity-mongerer is the quintessential Houston story affirming Our Town's embrace of both "opportunity" and "diversity." So, in a Peter Brown-like effort to get our full money's worth, we'll turn our space over to this morning's press release from HH & Ass., which he promises will be winging its way to you soon "if I can figure out how to get this dang Fax deal workin'."
Of all the bloggers, joggers, bum-smackers, fact-checkers, booty-snatchers, sack-scratchers, dog-catchers and other "observers" of the 2009 Houston mayoral race, it appears that Slampo's Place was alone in correctly "calling" the results. As Sr. Slampo wrote back on Oct. 24, after viewing the final televised debate between the candidates and ingesting a large plate of Indian take-out that he says left him "a bit gassy" ... "We still think it’ll be Locke and Parker in a runoff, with the black vote (and what else?) breaking monolithically for Locke and Parker beating the bushes to get her diehards to the polls, but either of those two and Brown wouldn’t surprise, and in any case it’ll be close, 3-5 points separating the three but Morales doing better than expected ... "
Thank, you Hidalgo. We couldn't have said it better ourself. However, we must point out that we were a little (or a lot) off in setting the spread among the top three candidates, as the difference between top finisher Annise Parker and Out-of-the-Money Brown was a full 8 points (we figured that Farmer Brown would top out at about 25 percent), and, in truth, we thought Roy Morales would be lucky to crack 18 percent (rather than the 20.4 percent he got –– did the additional 2 or so come out Brown's instant "base" of not-so-committed TV watchers?).

OK, so we weren't that close. And we should also point out that most knowledgeable types whose forecasts came to our attention at least had Parker in a runoff, if not leading. That most knowledgeable of knowledgeable observers, the Bob Lanier Professor of Public Policy at the University of Houston, in his undercover guise as Prof 13, called the "advantage" for Parker and pretty much predicted that she would meet Locke in a second round.

So what happened to Farmer Brown? While we can't quite embrace Sr. Rick Casey's in-so-many-words assertion that Brown's finish proves money can't buy an election –– hell, this is America, you can buy any damn thing you want, at all hours, especially out on Harwin Drive –– it is true that there was much less than met the eye to Brown and his campaign, starting with the constant flurry of plans and proposals the Friends 'n' Family Candidate issued forth to project an aura of substantiality, if that's an actual word. The high point of his effort was the front-runner status he was accorded in late-breaking polls issued by the Chronicle and Channel 11/KUHF, both of whose "screen" of voters who claimed they would go to the polls for the very low-interest election seemed a bit suspect (you know how it is –– you catch some people-pleasing registered voter/respondent at home who's only vaguely aware there's an election and has no history of participating in past municipal election but has seen a PB commercial just recently so she's down for PB, at least for the moment). But PB gained no traction, no momentum from the attention delivered by these polls; instead, we suspect, they caused people who were unsure of their choices to look a little closer or go ahead and throw in with Morales, the other non-black, non-openly gay candidate (unless of course they were black themselves and had somehow been unaware that Locke's black, too, and upon having had that salient fact brought to their attention fell quickly in line so as to adhere to the rule laid out in the Unofficial Guide to Being an Authentic Black Person in America: that is, a black person can only vote for a black candidate, when given that choice). The general lack of widespread interest in the electoral doings basically brought the contest down to committed and informed voters, proving, again that low-turnout elections are to be preferred (the lower the turnout the better; our ideal neo-Platonic electorate would consist of just us –– me, myself y yo.) We believe, however, that PB might have fared better had he not come across in public as a Brooks Brothers-clad combination of Hee Haw's Grandpa Jones and Mr. Haney of Green Acres.**

But the dogs bark –– hear them baying, out in the abandoned graveyard, site of a future high-density loft-apartment development –– and the caravan moves on, although there appears to be some back-up on I-10 due to an overturned tractor-trailer blocking the left two lanes. As to that future, we suppose that either of the runoff choices would be OK and the election of neither would cause some great tragedy to befall the city, although we personally will be casting our second vote for Parker on Dec. 12. We believe that those who say there isn't much difference between the two are wrong, and that Parker will be willing to say "No" at least occasionally, or more often than Locke, although such ability is not one that translates easily into a snappy 30-second TV commercial. As usual, though, we're willing to be disappointed.

As charitable contribution to this great metropole of ours, we're waiving our customary $640-an-hour fee and offering the following advice, free of charge, to each candidate:
1. Locke: Get some white folks out at your next big party, so it doesn't appear to be the nearly all-black affair that the cameras revealed (perhaps falsely) when panning your victory celebration Tuesday night. Couldn't any of those honkified lawyers or engineers who gave you the maximum $10,000 husband-and-wife contribution show up and mill around for a while, for diversity's sake?
2. Parker: Get some males, guys, dudes to stand directly behind you next time you're on TV and up at the podium speechifying; the two gents you had behind you Tuesday night were placed way to far in the back to project on-camera. If need be, Hidalgo Hidalgo is available, for diversity's sake, to mill around behind you and smile, at his regular $640-an-hour rate (meal not included).

Next: M.J. Khan Shocks the World; Reveals Plans to Spend "Three Consecutive Nights" Inside City Limits!
AND: Chronicle to Resolve Runoff Dilemma by Endorsing Peter Brown and Roy Morales, Publisher Says

* Headline borrowed from the New York Times, which belatedly decided that it was "unfit" for even their on-line editions.
**Outdated Baby Boomer-vintage TV references, possibly not even accurate.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Late-Breaking Election News: Scooter Khan Nabs Key Endorsement, Is No Longer a Campaign Finance Scofflaw (Or at Least Not as Much of One)

It had gotten so that every day for the past couple of months, after dragging our weary carcass back to the domicile we claim as a homestead for tax purposes, we'd pause at the mailbox and wonder, with a rise of no small expectation we found difficult to suppress, "Did Khalid Khan send us any mail today?" This semi-regular haunting of our mail receptacle by the District F council candidate was, for us, the high point of the current, rather drab municipal election season.

We were sad to realize that the mail loped to a stop last week after we were the recipient of a personal "Dear friend" missive from Mehreen Khan, who apparently is conjoined in holy matrimony to Khalid and who, if she's the same woman pictured on several of the many previous mailings we'd received from KK, is a looker, as we aging metrosexuals say (yes, we are the sort of superficial fellow who tends to think better of a guy if he's got a good-looking wife or girlfriend––shows initiative, among other things). Anyway, Ms. Khan wrote to inform us that her husband is not only a successful businessman but a great humanitarian, doting dad and all-around excellent role model. "I guarantee you will be pleased with his work performance," enthused Mrs. Khan, who appears to have affixed her personal signature to the letter.

You may snicker, but as far as we know we've gotten no similar endorsements from the spouses and/or significant others of any of the other six candidates vying in District F, a political jurisdiction that offers an almost too-perfect confirmation of Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam's theory regrading the deleterious effects of "diversity" on community. (Watch how low the turnout is in this one.) And we have received no similar letter, nary a one, from the wife of Peter Brown (whose full name, we believe, is Schlumberger heiress Anne Brown), or the wife of Gene Locke, or the partner of Annise Parker. Or even Roy Morales' significant other.

Certainly a letter from a candidate's wife urging a vote on his behalf is much preferred to a letter from a candidate's wife urging a vote against her husband, or a vote for another candidate (now that would get our attention).

In addition to the public support of his wife, last week brought more salutary tidings from Khalid Khan: He's finally gotten his campaign finance reports to comport with reality (or close enough), with his latest and yet another amended version of his earlier one now showing he had spent about $92,000 on direct mail through Oct. 24. (Khan, however, still hasn't listed the occupation of even one of his contributors, including one-named $1,000 donor "Nash" of LaPorte, who must be the guy who doles out political money from the convenience store parking lot.)

That strikes us as an absurdly high figure for a very low-interest election in a demographically inchoate city council district. We now belatedly realize that we had grievously underestimated Khalid Khan, who may in fact be the Peter "Farmer" Brown of our humble District F, layin' down the Astroturf and harvestin' the vote.

Enough of this micro-hyper-local palaver. Do we have a prediction on the mayoral race? Yes, we do. It's gonna be Parker and Locke, unless it's Brown and Locke or Parker and Brown. Personally, we're voting for Parker. You go with who you like, and let a hundred flowers bloom o'er this grand metropolis of ours, from the Ship Channel to Highway 6 and beyond, if the city limits stretch that far.

We forgot to vote early, so we may see you at the polls, unless we forget again (if we don't, please refrain from handing us any push cards, especially if they're for Khalid Khan).