Not Rocket Science

NASA can get political -- for Tom DeLay

The August 18 internal memo to all NASA personnel at Johnson Space Center seemed innocuous enough.

"With the party political conventions in full swing," wrote JSC chief counsel Bernard Roan, it was time to restate NASA's policy on employee campaign activities. Included was a warning against any political activity while on duty, and "on duty" could be defined as any time when an employee was wearing a NASA pin.

Then someone at NASA apparently realized that: 1) U.S. Representative Tom DeLay was being honored at an August 24 reception at nearby UH-Clear Lake; 2) Redistricting has put JSC in DeLay's district; and 3) NASA needs to do some serious kissing of the DeLay ass to keep getting funded.

So on August 19 a new memo went out. "It is my determination that it is in the Agency's interest for NASA [employees] and their guests to attend this event," deputy chief counsel Daniel Remington wrote.

The second memo alarmed some NASA workers. "I couldn't believe they'd do something like that," says one veteran employee. He said a co-worker had e-mailed to say he'd never seen anything like it in 30 years at JSC. "It just didn't pass the smell test," he said.

An anonymous complaint has been filed with NASA's inspector general, but somehow a ruling didn't come down before the DeLay event.

At the event, by the way, the number of protesters almost equaled the number of attendees.

We're hoping protesters removed any NASA pins they might have been entitled to wear. We're sure that's one investigation the inspector general would get right on top of.

Promoting Failure

Lawrence Allen, the principal of Jones High School, would seem to have a spotty résumé for higher office -- after all, the Houston school district once removed him from his post because of mismanagement; after he was reinstalled, a scathing report described Jones as unsafe, unorganized and uninspired. Not to mention that Allen's educational philosophy apparently involves installing video games, including one called Street Killer, in the cafeteria.

On the other hand, his mom is Alma Allen.

Alma Allen is the State Board of Education member who warmed the hearts of local Democrats by beating pseudo-Dem State Representative Ron Wilson. Basking in that glow, Ms. Allen lobbied to have her son named to fill her unexpired term on the SBOE.

She succeeded, but it wasn't easy. Precinct chairs from Allen's state board district in Harris and Fort Bend counties chose delegates who met August 27 to select someone to put on the ballot this November.

The Harris County delegate supported former cop and Democratic activist Michael Harris; the Fort Bend delegate had instructions to support Allen -- in part because Harris never appeared before the Fort Bend group to ask for its support.

After grilling the candidates for 90 minutes -- including point-by-point questions about Houston Press articles on Allen -- the two delegates deadlocked.

A coin flip was then proposed, but Harris objected. So the two delegates caucused again for 90 minutes and finally picked Allen.

We assume -- well, we hope -- Allen won't be bringing to Austin an agenda of "Video Games in Schools! And No Damn Accountants!" On the bright side, the state board is so dominated by right-wingers that Allen is sure to be marginalized.

So he'll actually have less effect on kids in the new job. Sometimes Mom does know best.

Narc Me Out

Lyle Lovett got his start hanging around the smoky environs of Montrose's Anderson Fair nightclub, where much of the smoke wasn't coming from Marlboros.

Now that he's gone all uptown -- an August 29 encore gig at the posh Hobby Center -- it seems he's forgotten his roots.

Lovett performed this summer at the Ottawa BluesFest in Canada, and one witness says Lovett went far to harsh the vibe, as the hip, young, drug-addled dopesters say.

"After the first song, Lyle said that he don't smoke no marijuana and he don't want to breathe no secondhand marijuana smoke," said the attendee, who prefers anonymity to being labeled a pro-dope commie. Lyle then asked "if the 'hippies' down front here could please put out that joint."

The crowd laughed, thinking he was joking, but Lovett "actually pointed out the offenders to security, who came over and told them to put it out. I heard people who've never smoked in their life say they thought it was a bit much."

Lighten up, potheads -- Lyle's a proud ambassador of George W.'s Texas, spreading the good word about our Christian ways. You don't like it, you can move to Canada.

Oh…never mind.

Is This Job Worth It?

When you get elected mayor of the country's fourth-largest city despite being charisma-free, you tend to be thankful to the guys who ran your ad campaign. And Houston Mayor Bill White certainly is.

So when those ad guys -- the company sports the precious name ttweak -- put together a pro-bono PR campaign to boost Houston's image, you would think most city bureaucrats would say it's just wonderful.

That's not, however, what Jordy Tollett did. Tollett, the head of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, has been giving a cold shoulder to ttweak's "Houston -- It's Worth It" campaign. He told the Houston Chronicle the campaign's point -- listing things like heat and traffic, then saying the city is still Worth It -- only highlights negative aspects of what he prefers to call Space City. He later refused to talk to a New York Times reporter for a story on it.

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