Beer and Porn

Once again, the TABC tries to ruin bachelor life

We knew someone who was a hard-core regular at Rudyard's, and he once told us a sad tale. One day he needed some cigs, so he went next door to that nondescript convenience store that's been there forever. And as he walked in, he stumbled into another hard-core Rudz regular, who was paying for a copy of a magazine called Ass Masters.

"After that," he said with a shudder, "I could never look at the guy without thinking of Ass Masters."

The irrevocable loss of such deep friendships is obviously a concern to the folks at the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. For a long time they have been diligent, in that unique TABC stormtrooper way, in confiscating porno magazines and videos from convenience stores.

The only trouble is, says a Houston federal judge, they've been violating the Constitution as they do it.

New U.S. District Judge Gray Miller, in one of his first rulings since taking the bench, has barred the TABC from doing what it has so blithely been doing: seizing obscene material on its own, without going through all the hassles of asking a judge to get involved. (We envision the Gray Miller household -- little wide-eyed Gray Jr. asking, "Daddy, Daddy, did you make your first ruling yet? What was it about?" "Ummm, errr...go watch some TV, kid.")

"The thing is," says attorney Michael Lamson, who represented the distributor of the material in question, "that [the TABC] knows most of the time a judge is going to go, ÔYou know, who cares?' and just because you think it's obscene doesn't mean it's against the community standard."

And that applies even if, as in this case, one of the magazines confiscated carries the ever-so-subtle title of Dorm Cunts.

TABC spokeswoman Carolyn Beck says no decision has been made on whether to appeal the ruling. Lamson, though, says he expects the agency to do so.

(Chutzpah Time: Lamson's client, Carico Distributing, filed suit to get the TABC to stop seizing its property. The TABC tried to convince the judge that Carico had no standing to sue -- even though its inventory was being taken away -- because the company didn't have a liquor license.)

So the good news, porn freaks, is that you can still pick up your evening reading while getting beer and cigarettes. The bad news: You'll still be paying big bucks.

Lamson says Carico sued only to stop the TABC practice, not to get financial damages. "To tell you the truth, the markup on the items is so high...You recover for your inventory costs, and the inventory costs on these wouldn't be all that high," he says. "It wasn't worth it."

What -- price gouging in porn? Who knew?

Not That There's Anything...

So apparently people closely read Josh Harkinson's piece on Martha Wong's re-election campaign ("Changes in Attitude," July 27). Wong, of course, defeated longtime State Representative Debra Danburg in 2002.

How do we know folks read the piece closely? Because they couldn't help pointing out to us the sentence deep in it that began "Danburg, a lesbian, inhabited liberal Montrose..."

It wasn't quite the equivalent of People magazine having Lance Bass shouting "I'm Gay!" on the cover, but it was close. Except that unlike the Bass thing, it isn't true.

We got calls and letters from several people, but not Danburg. Harkinson has since moved on to a job with Mother Jones, but someone had to call up the former rep, who now lives in Galveston.

Luckily, she was pretty much laughing her head off about it.

Hair Balls:It's, ummm, kind of embarrassing, but one of our writers has done a story and -- have you been told about this?

Danburg: Yeah, yeah -- my husband is calling all of his friends telling them he's sleeping with a lesbian.

Hair Balls (relieved she's not pissed): So hey, I guess it's adding some spice to the marriage, right?

Danburg: He says I'm pretty good for a dyke.

Danburg, who was of course a leader for gay rights during her legislative stint, didn't ask for the piece to be corrected ("It's no big deal," she said), but The Truth must be served.

Her biggest surprise, other than finding out she's apparently a lesbian? That the writer was male.

"Usually," she says, "the guys think I'm straight and the women think I'm gay."

Leaky Borders?

The Washington Times is the archconservative daily owned by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. It doesn't make a habit out of taking on right-wing organizations, but it did July 20 when it printed a long story questioning the finances of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, those glorious guys who patrol the U.S.-Mexican border on behalf of xenophobic Americans everywhere.

The Times wrote that "a growing number" of Minutemen "are questioning the whereabouts of hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of dollars in donations."

We asked Minuteman spokeswoman Connie Hair about it. "It's a non-story," she says.

Hair says the story had "been pulled from the Washington Times Weekly national edition, as the editors and board members now are very concerned that the entire article contains no factual allegations, only rumor and innuendo."

That was news to Times national editor Ken Hanner, who seemed genuinely surprised to hear of what the Minutemen were saying. "We haven't backed off the story in the least," he says.

Hmmm. It's probably all the Mexicans' fault anyway.

No Defense

The Houston Press story on the craziness of the zero-tolerance policy at Hightower High School in Missouri City ("Cut Short," June 29), brought forth a ton of response. (Even more than the whole "Danburg's a lesbian!" thing.)

People called and wrote in, wondering what the hell the Fort Bend school district was going to do about principal Patricia Paquin, who is to zero tolerance what Donald Trump is to publicity -- someone who takes the "extremism is no vice" road at full throttle.

Since many of these folks were FBISD residents, it seemed natural to ask the district to respond to the outcry the story provoked.

Natural to us, maybe; not to FBISD.

We tried to get district superintendent Manuela Pedraza and school board president Steve Smelley; they wouldn't return our phone calls. So we contacted FBISD spokeswoman Mary Ann Simpson to be sure our messages were getting through.

"Both of them have asked that we refer you to Ms. Paquin for any follow-up questions," Simpson replied.

(Apparently we were supposed to ask this question: "Ms. Paquin, pretend you're the elected head of the school board -- are you thinking about talking with Ms. Paquin about all these complaints?")

When told we preferred to speak to an elected official answerable to the public, or the head of the district, FBISD fell back on the old dodge: "It is inappropriate," Simpson wrote, "for board members or the superintendent to discuss personnel issues about any employee with you or anyone else."

Now that's zero tolerance. For responsibility.

AlmostMySpace

If a suspected murderer can have a MySpace page, why can't the chief of police? HPD's Harold Hurtt, you're first up in our new effort to explore the limits of MySpace pages that should exist somewhere, even if they don't. Click here to view.

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