Thanksgiving is especially memorable this year, not only because it comes on the heels of the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination, but also because it marks a year of truly historic Texas turkeyism.
We need look no further than Governor Rick Perry's expected quixotic repeat run for the White House. For at least a few months, the country will once again be subjected to the sputtering misfires of the World's Worst Debater, a man who, like a petulant only child, stomped his feet and called for multiple special legislative do-overs until his abortion laws passed. Quite simply, Perry was not going to rest until he and state Republicans had their paws on every uterus from Amarillo to Galveston.
Jumping in to show that Lone Star legislators can just as efficiently kill decent bills as rubber-stamp rotten ones, Friendswood Senator Larry Taylor put the kibosh on a bill that would have aligned state regulations with a federal law making it a crime to hunt sharks only for their fins. We're not really sure which special interest group this could have possibly appeased, but we're guessing it might be that small but powerful grass-roots movement called The Directorate Of Unified Conservative Houston Executives (D.O.U.C.H.E.), which we understand has a satellite office in Taylor's living room.
Find out more about our Turkeys of the Year: Ted Cruz: Sen. Ted Cruz Will Stop Being Canadian, ASAP Gary Kubiak: Finally, Gary Kubiak Is Right. It's on Him. Armed Citizens Project: Purportedly Nonpartisan Houston Nonprofit Seeks to Arm Neighborhoods, Observe Effects Roots Bistro: Roots Bistro Makes Tasteless Domestic Violence Joke on Marquee to Sell Beer Kanye West: The Kanye/Rothko Chapel "New Slaves" Fiasco Hunter Todd: W[t]F? WorldFest Founder/CEO Hunter Todd Searches Fest Attendee's Bag "Because She Is a Muslim."
That contingent also has an ally on the Houston City Council, in the form of one Helena Brown, whose brave stance against the Old Testament's cockamamie commandment not to steal was illustrated by her opposition to the Council's proposed anti-wage-theft ordinance. In this respect, she was echoing German theologian and pastor Martin Niemöller: "First they came for the greedy jerks, and I didn't speak out..."
But one thing that sticks out as an especially turkey-esque move was the vote to obliterate the Astrodome. Sure, it is a crumbling husk of a once-great monument that cost the county more than a million a year in utilities, but it's still an important part of Houston's history, and it's not like the city is suffering from a glut of historic preservation.
So as we wave good-bye to an icon of our identity, let us also look back at the infamous feathered flock of gobblers whose idiocy reigned supreme. Fix yourseld a mimosa and pull up a seat while we grab the carving knife and dig into the 2013 Turkeys of the Year.
TURKEY OF THE YEAR:
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz
If you're a politician, it's just too damn easy to tick off members of your opposition. It takes a surgeon's skill to reap bipartisan disdain. There's obviously a large faction of Texans who admire this maverick's moxie — his refusal to play by Washington's rules, his resistance to compromise. Such chutzpah might actually be something to applaud had the dude actually accomplished anything in the last year beyond bringing the federal government to a screeching halt.
If Cruz has proven anything, it's that he's awesome at building brand recognition. He's the "outsider." He's the one who listens to the people, not the special-interest groups. Okay, now that we've got that out of the way, what's next? Dude held the legislative branch of the U.S. Government hostage for 21 hours — knowing that, constitutionally, the tactic would yield bupkis — including a reading of Green Eggs and Ham. He talked about an inspiring speech delivered by the great philosopher and orator Ashton Kutcher. Overall, Cruz proved that he was in many ways just like the entrenched Beltway politicos he pillories — he can sometimes hit the right notes; he's just not interested in following through.
"We need to do a better job of listening to the people," he said within the first hour of his showdown, when there was a glimmer of hope that, crazy as it might sound, maybe the guy had a plan. "If the top priority of the American people is jobs and the economy, I am going to suggest the top priority of Congress should be jobs and the economy."
We would agree with that, and you'd think a senator with laser focus on "jobs and the economy" would introduce legislation to that effect. Instead, we get these: a bill regarding government liability "for certain third-party claims arising from commercial space launches"; a bill calling for Iran to release political prisoners; a bill adjusting how private employers dole out comp time; a bill to rename a federal courthouse in Sherman, Texas; and bills regarding abortion and voter-ID requirements. As far as we can tell, the only legislation he's proposed that relates to the economic welfare of Texans is a bill that would authorize the U.S. Secretary of State to offer a $5 million award for information regarding the Benghazi attack — who knows, perhaps some struggling, unemployed Texan will hit that jackpot.
Call us jaded, but we get the feeling that this man elected to represent the people of Texas seems a tad more concerned about representing himself.
When Senator Rand Paul, during the 21-hour monologue, asked Cruz if he wanted to "shut down the government, or would he like to find something to make ObamaCare less bad," Cruz responded by telling a story about his black ostrich skin boots.
We don't criticize Cruz for his stance on the Affordable Care Act. It's a colossal clusterfuck bordering on outright disaster. Barack Obama made promises about it that he knew at the time were simply not part of the legislation, which is unforgivable and inherently more appalling than Cruz's futile non-filibuster. Cruz could have followed up Green Eggs and Ham by telling his fellow senators for the next 16 hours that he had a wocket in his pocket, and it still wouldn't have made him as terrible as Obama. But this is the Houston Turkeys of the Year, and — as most of Cruz's supporters would tell you — Obama is from Kenya.
We must point out, however, that Cruz claims to have a bare-bones outline of an ObamaCare alternative: He wants consumers to be able to buy insurance policies across state lines; he wants to expand health savings accounts; and he wants to cut the cord between insurance and employment. Cruz has promised to actually flesh this out and package it into a bill in coming weeks, so he's pretty confident that, ten months into the gig, he can persuade his colleagues to repeal a massive federal program and implement his own. Good for him. In the meantime, we're going to try to get that $5 million Benghazi bounty. We figure our chances are about as good as Cruz's.
SPORTS TURKEY OF THE YEAR:
Gary Kubiak, alleged coach of NFL franchise
Kubes has taken a worse drubbing this season than his team's defensive line. The man's under a tremendous amount of pressure. Apparently, not enough pressure to actually figure out how to win a freaking game, but pressure just the same. When he suffered a ministroke and collapsed on the field in front of millions of viewers, it was an important reminder that Gary Kubiak is not just a coach, but a mortal human being. At the end of the day, he's just a regular guy who puts his pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us. Sure, he goes out and makes a bunch of terrible calls and loses a shitload of games after he puts those pants on, but still. That's why, even though he clearly deserves to be this year's Sports Turkey, we didn't want to pile on the hate. We figured we'd let the man's very own to-do list — provided by a source close to the Texans organization — do the talking for us.
POLITICAL TURKEY OF THE YEAR (Group category):
Armed Citizen Project
The reason we dislike this group, which provides free shotguns to people in "mid-high crime neighborhoods," is that it doesn't go far enough. For one thing, there appears to be a one-gun-per-household limit, and if you live alone, that's practically rolling out the red carpet for bad guys.
Say you're in the bathroom when one of those people (we think you know who we're talking about) breaks in, but you, like any normal person, keep your Mossberg under your pillow. You're toast, buddy.
According to the group's Web site, "If a gang of four breaks into your house, it is best for your wife to be equipped with 30 rounds of .223 if possible, and we fully support the decision of firearm owners to be prepared for all eventualities."
If the ACP were truly interested in helping homeowners prepare for "all eventualities," it would have partnered with similar civic-minded nonprofits, like Grenades for Grandmas, in order to supplement its home-protection mission. And for goodness' sake, how is a five-year-old supposed to effectively fire a shotgun at a home invader, or aren't our precious towheaded children worthy of protection as well? At the very least, the ACP could offer automatic pistols to kids under 12. (For example, a Ruger LCP weighs only 9.4 ounces and is small enough to fit in an Easy-Bake Oven.)
Also, statistics show that shotguns alone are no match for ninjas. Sure, a 12-gauge might work against your garden-variety punk, but when you have an agile assassin clad in a skintight black suit wielding a chigiriki and more throwing stars than you can shake a stick at, your shotgun is about as handy as a water pistol. If you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of such an intruder tiptoeing down the hall, but by the time you point and shoot, the sneaky bastard is hanging upside down from the chandelier behind you, and, oh, hello, is that a blowgun in his mouth?
Seriously, Armed Citizen Project. Go big or go home.
TURKEY OF THE YEAR:
If there's one thing we can all agree on, it's that domestic violence is inherently funny. In fact, we'd rank it just one cut above the Holocaust and one below childhood leukemia on the LAFF-O-METER. Surprisingly, not everyone agrees, which is why Roots Bistro caught some flak when they posted the message "Beer should be like violence: domestic" on their marquee in April. The manager told the Houston Press that the sign was up for only ten minutes, but we're actually more curious about how long it took to create the sign in the first place.
We all say things we immediately regret; usually it's garbage that has slipped through our mental filter in a moment of emotional weakness. But it's the rare person who's afforded the luxury of watching an offensive remark literally crystallize letter by letter before his eyes. We wonder if there was any form of risk analysis, some thinking along the lines of, "Okay, this is sure to be a hit with wife-beaters — who are known the world over for being staunch vegetarians — but could this somehow backfire and negatively affect our bottom line?"
After suffering the backlash of those wet blankets who don't unleash a hearty guffaw every time a woman dons sunglasses to hide blackened eyes, the restaurant fought back, this time posting "Seriously, focus your energy on equal rights." Sadly, management capitulated to the PC-police and followed that up a few days later with an actual apology.
In an entirely unrelated event, the restaurant closed for business two months later.
TURKEY OF THE YEAR:
Dave Wilson, Houston
Community College Trustee-elect
This jive turkey triggered a domino effect of dickery so jaw-droppingly insane that we still aren't convinced it's not all a giant piece of performance art.
Wilson, a hate-spewing, homophobic candidate for Houston Community College trustee — who happens to be white — insinuated in campaign literature to a predominantly black voting base that he was African-American. He accomplished this masterful feat of duplicity by — as KHOU reported — ripping photos of black people from Web sites and slapping them on mailers, underscoring the purloined pics with slogans like "Vote for Our Friend and Neighbor." One especially misleading flyer carried an endorsement by "Ron Wilson," a name shared by both a black former state representative and Wilson's cousin in Iowa. So, see, it's not really a lie.
Ever the classy gent, Wilson went out of his way to point out that two candidates running in another district were gay and said that, as childless gay dudes, they "have no concept of the cost of raising a family." (When he ran for mayor in 2011, his Web site stated, "Dave Wilson believes that one should choose a candidate based on their capability, not on their sexual preference.")
Incredibly, most voters in his district fell for Wilson's ruse, ousting an actual, real-life black person for a hate-spewing white guy.
The Houston Chronicle denounced Wilson's actions in an editorial, opining that "Wilson's gleeful misrepresentation of himself and his positions was a pathetic low." Meanwhile, a columnist for the paper, Lisa Falkenberg, decided to approach Wilson with cautious optimism, offering up this mind-melting assessment: "Trickery aside, there's something honest about him."
However, we did agree with Falkenberg's concern over how voters can be so easily duped. Did supporters of fake-black-HCC-trustee-candidate Wilson not know that he was also real-white-bigoted-mayoral-candidate Wilson, or did they not care?
This isn't the first time Wilson has set out to hoodwink voters. In 2002, after a political action committee called the Conservative Republicans of Harris County mailed its list of recommended run-off candidates to registered Republicans, Wilson created a bizarro-world entity called the Conservative Republicans in Harris County. He then sent nearly identical slate cards to the same voters, recommending the candidates the "real" Conservative Republicans did not endorse.
That would be akin to us saying that Dave Wilson is an outspoken African-American homosexual who was among seven same-sex couples who were plaintiffs in a landmark marriage equality case. It's technically a true statement. Dave Wilson is a proud, married gay man, has served on the board of gay rights groups and is an influential voice in the black queer community. (It's just that it's not the same Dave Wilson; the Dave Wilson we're talking about lives in Boston and was part of a Massachussetts gay rights group called MassEquality.)
Wait — did saying, "Dave Wilson is gay" make you think of the other Dave Wilson? Oops. But hey, nothing we wrote about that was a lie.
TURKEY OF THE YEAR:
To promote the release of his album Yeezus, Kanye launched a series of public screenings of a video for a track called "New Slaves" — it was to be projected on 66 landmark buildings around the world. The Houston venues were to be the central Houston library, the George Bush monument on Buffalo Bayou and, for some reason, Rothko Chapel.
Unfortunately, the fates were not on the fans' side, as a combination of technical difficulties and police intervention nixed all three screenings.
The Rothko's executive director subsequently issued a statement saying that chapel representatives "had no prior knowledge of Mr. Kanye West's event and had not authorized the gathering." She explained that the meditative space "does not function as a public venue for outside organizations or individuals to use without permission."
This was made abundantly clear to the eager folks who showed up for a much-needed Kanye fix that night, only to watch three HPD cars roll onto the grass with their lights flashing. Officers told Yeezus's disciples to move along unless they wanted to be busted for trespassing.
It was a tremendous letdown, and something that could have been avoided had he hired people who actually knew what they were doing. It's almost as if Kanye didn't really care about his Houston fans as much as he did about creating buzz — but that couldn't possibly be. Could it?
TURKEY OF THE YEAR:
Founder/CEO WorldFest International Film Festival
We've got this great idea for a movie, and it's based on a true story: It's about this guy who runs an international film festival in a major American city. The festival, which has been around for nearly 50 years, seeks to showcase artistic endeavors from a variety of truly independent, unique filmmakers. Like, the festival is about more than movies — it's about promoting the city's "cultural tourism."
Our main character — he's named after the great biblical hunter Nimrod — is blessed not only with a nose for auteurs, but for danger. There are certain things that might appear benign to the average person but that raise Nimrod's hackles — cowboys in black hats; men who hang around railroad tracks while twirling their mustaches; loinclothed pygmy chieftains with bones through their noses. He's got a sixth sense for suspicious characters like that. (We need a strong and silent type for him, like Ryan Gosling in Drive, or Chewbacca.)
Okay, so we're nearing the end of the festival, and Nimrod is in a hotel conference room overseeing a scheduled lecture. There are approximately 200 people in the audience. Everyone's just going about their business, but it's quiet — too quiet, if you ask Nimrod. Then, just as Nimrod's extrasensory perception kicks in, he hears the wailing of a fire alarm. He's thinking: It's on.
After a few moments of confusion, the attendees depart to the lobby, where they're informed by hotel staff that it was a false alarm. As they trickle back into the conference room, Nimrod's Spidey-sense kicks back in. He sees an attendee he didn't notice before, a lone figure wearing what Nimrod likes to call a Muslim muumuu; the individual's head is cloaked, save for an eye-slit — like a pillbox gun turret. Sure, it's traditional female garb, but he understands that some terrorists are cross-dressers. And then, all of a sudden, boom, there it is: a motherfucking backpack. (Cue sound collage of ululating calls to Islamic prayer, ticking clock, screeching jets and, for some reason, an old-timey car horn.)
The backpack is visibly full, weighed down with...what? Could be anything, Nimrod knows. Could be books. Could be bombs. Could be bombs disguised as books. Could be books about how to build bombs and then disguise them as books.
Nimrod's thinking: This is it.
He can feel his pulse in his ears now. Only a few days earlier, some maniac had bombed the Boston marathon, killing three people and injuring hundreds. Is he just supposed to sit idly by while everyone in the room is blown to bits?
Everything he's learned about threat assessment, disarming improvised explosive devices and jihad comes down to this very moment. For a split second he can picture it: a crowd of cheering citizens gathered around him, pumping their fists, chanting, "Nimrod! Nimrod! Nimrod!"
Slowly but firmly, as if the lives of everyone in the room depend on it — because they just might — he commands the spectral figure to reveal its cargo. At first, the figure just shows Nimrod her festival-issued VIP pass, but he's not falling for it. As one of the festival architects, no one knows better than he does how easy those credentials are to forge.
Sensing that the jig is up, the interloper concedes: The backpack's compartments are unzipped to reveal several bottles of water.
Nimrod thinks: You win this time, Haji.
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But at least he got his message across. It will be a dark day before a terrorist slips into his international film festival with a backpack full of dynamite. Your goofy getup won't get you a free pass on Nimrod's watch, pal.
Is he Superman? No, just a patriot. You don't have to call him "hero." Just call him Nimrod.
Let us now give thanks for these delicious turkeys displayed before us. They are sure to be a bountiful feast, and we honor their sacrifice. We just pray to Yeezus they don't give us indigestion.