Former president George Bush (he's the Iraq-invading Bush who didn't duck wartime service) granted a rare interview recently, resulting in a cover story in Texas Monthly.
The Q&A session included Bush telling Monthly editor Evan Smith that media claims about differences between him and his son were "all bullshit."
"We can edit that out," Smith immediately said; "You can print it," Bush replied.
Quickly offering to edit out the offending phrase -- as opposed to, say, agreeing after Bush made a request -- struck some people as being a little too cozy. Other reporters who had a former president with an on-the-record "bullshit" wouldn't have been so generous.
Smith disagrees. His offer, he says, "was politeness and graciousness toward a former president -- nothing more, nothing less."
Considering the utterance a slip, Smith said he was going to "give him one, as I would give everyone else one, but not more than one."
Of course, some would argue that Smith's offer was completely in character with Texas Monthly's treatment of the Bushes, which includes glowing articles on W., Laura Bush and Karl Rove. (In a Web extra about the interview, Smith said Bush might have agreed to sit because "We just did a Karl Rove story that was viewed as evenhanded.")
Smith says claims of pro-Bush bias are "an old complaint and an old canard You'd be hard-pressed to find a pro-Bush slant; we've been pretty much down the middle."
We'll umm edit out our response. -- Richard Connelly
Two Equals One
Tryouts at Texas City High School for the Stingarettes drill team stung African-American students and their parents last spring. About 80 girls tried out. None of the seven who were black were among the 52 who made the squad.
Some of the African-American girls said the results only confirmed what they had been saying: that many blacks don't even bother to try out because they believe they have no chance of making the white-dominated team (see "Stung" and "Teamwork," April 24 and May 1).
While Stingarettes say there is no discrimination, frustrated black parents complained to the school about the all-white judges. The administration responded by calling in an ethnically balanced judging panel and scheduling another round of tryouts for an expanded team. Officials said they wanted to avoid any perception of bias at the school, which is about 18 percent African-American.
The results of the new tryouts: One of the seven African-American girls was added to the team, said Karl Columbus, who is black. His daughter Kristi didn't make it either time.
"We are very disappointed and frustrated," Columbus said. "We still believe it is racism. We are going to do something about it. We are just not sure what yet." -- Zoe Carmichael
Plenty of Drive
Houston, undeniably the most transit-challenged urban area in the state, has had the guts to beckon other Texas residents with ads headlined: "Do more. Drive less."
There's the photo array to justifiably attract tourists -- kids frolicking on the beach, pro sports action, Museum District artwork, shows, amusement park rides and so on -- everything but the construction cone zones. The idea is to draw motoring vacationers in this era of closer-to-home trips.
Of course, travelers zigzagging around from Galveston and Kemah to The Woodlands might wind up with nearly as much mileage as if they'd just steered the station wagon straight for California.
The ads -- they appear in other Texas metro areas -- and special deals are the latest brainchild of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. With the economic doldrums, the bureau's campaign is designed to put fresh tourist cash squarely in the depressed visitor industry of the Houston area.
So help the local economy. Sign up for "Houston Getaway" packages with the bureau's authorized agent, Dan Dipert Travel and Transportation.
You'll find them at 709 West Abram -- in Arlington, Texas.
Visitors bureau president Jordie Tollett says there simply weren't any local companies available to handle the range of services at the modest rates. "It would be great if a Houston company could do it as cheap as they do it," he says. -- George Flynn
On July 5, the Houston Chronicle ran an editorial cartoon by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Mike Luckovich that showed Lester Maddox being greeted in heaven by St. Peter, who told him, "See this Afro comb? It belongs to God." In that week's Time, the same cartoon showed Maddox and Strom Thurmond, the ferocious racist who died June 26 and had attempted an image makeover as times changed.
Had the Chron bought into Strom's PR campaign and erased him?
No. Luckovich drew two versions of the cartoon. The one with only Maddox was sent to Luckovich's syndicate to distribute to papers nationwide, but was held from being published in Atlanta because it was scheduled to appear the day of the former governor's funeral.
By the time it ran, Thurmond had died, so Luckovich added him. "But I didn't send that one to the syndicate because I was heading out on vacation and I was just lazy," he says.
He even drew a third version after hearing Jesse Helms was on his deathbed. But, unfortunately for folks who hate racists, Helms wasn't able to make it a trio. -- R.C.
Heat for Ice
Pius Vinton Smashed Ice sought leniency last week after pleading guilty to the January murder of Indian activist Standing Deer (see "Ghost Dance," July 10).
In the sentencing hearing, defense attorney Randall Ayers urged state District Judge Belinda Hill to allow Smashed Ice to follow in Standing Deer's footsteps by turning his life around and becoming a leader for his people. Without comment, Ayers also introduced photographs of dildos and porn movies found in the dead man's apartment the night of his stabbing.
Standing Deer's youngest daughter, Vickie Larsen, held an Indian necklace as she told the judge how her children had been looking forward to meeting their grandfather for the first time -- and how she had grown closer to him in recent years.
Smashed Ice had rejected a 50-year offer from prosecutors earlier. Hill sentenced him to the maximum of life in prison. The 38-year-old Lakota will be eligible for parole in 30 years. -- Craig Malisow
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Bust to Boom
Our old friend Carmen, who set up a Web site to pull in enough contributions for a boob job, has gone and increased her bust (see "Dreaming of Bigger Things," March 13). Just a few months ago, she'd received only $29.49 in donations, but that quickly ballooned to almost $5,000. Carmen herself put up the other $2,000 for the surgery.
"My old bra size was 36B, and now I am a small 36D," she says. "They look so great, and for the first time, a few days after surgery, I was able to go out without a padded bra on and not worry about how I looked. It was a wonderful feeling." Give her time to heal, she says, and she'll post photographic proof of her new pride on her Internet site: www.donateboobs.com.
Appropriately, Carmen gives thanks from another part of her anatomy -- the "bottom of my heart" -- as the requests for donations continue. "Remember," she writes, "I am in serious need of new bras for these boobs, so donating a buck or two will really help me out in that department!" Victoria's Secret stock -- and, most likely, some other things -- just shot way up. -- Cathy Matusow