It was Friedrich “The ’Stache” Nietzsche, the great German philosopher and Catskills comedian, who warned, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.” The same could be said for Turkeys of the Year — those dangerously dimwitted creatures who do their best to make Texas look as bad as Florida, and often succeed.
Sometimes, these foul fowls are easy to spot, as if they have a giant flickering neon “STUPID” sign above their head, where the sword of Damocles should be. Take, for example, Kristen Lindsey, the Brenham veterinarian who practically begged to be nominated for Turkey of the Year when she bragged on Facebook about shooting a cat in the head with a bow and arrow. The smiling rube posed for a pic, hoisting the dead tabby in the air, beneath a caption stating, “My first bow kill lol.” She may as well have written, “I’m a big dumb turkey lol brb ttyl smh imho yolo #ironyfan.” Other times, they’re masters of disguise whose cray-cray is camo — you don’t know much about them, like Houstonian Elizabeth Enderli, and then boom! they’re arrested for moseyin’ on into New York City’s 9/11 Memorial Museum with two loaded pistols.
That’s why, this year, the Houston Press reached out to the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (Feathered Felon Division) to prepare a forensic profile to help identify the turkeys lurking amongst us. These are the traits they told us to look for:
• Inability to fly
• Fleshy wattle hanging from beak
• Delicious when coated in rosemary and orange zest and roasted at 375 degrees, ten minutes per pound
• Might be attorney general
This, of course, is not a complete list of characteristics but a thumbnail sketch. For a more exhaustive analysis, we must refer to the FBI’s in-depth report, which addresses a subcategory of turkeyis runneruperis, or “Turkey Honorable Mentions.” This includes a rafter of turkeys (not to be confused with A Flock of Seagulls) who engaged in a shootout at a Waco Twin Peaks, a restaurant franchise whose motto is “Come for the Boobs — Stay for the Bullets.” The May fracas involved a meeting of motorcycle clubs that erupted in a hail of gunfire once the Waco Police Department got involved, killing nine bikers and injuring 18 others. Nearly 200 other bikers were jailed on identical pro-forma charges, with bonds set at $2 million, even though it’s still unclear how it started and who shot whom.
We wonder if that melee would have occurred had those bikers been at the University of Houston’s graduation ceremony only a few days earlier. Because that’s when The Chosen One Himself, Matthew McConaughey, delivered a commencement address for the ages. Actually, we don’t remember what he said; we just remember UH’s asinine negotiations to get him there in the first place: Instead of dealing directly with the actor’s representatives, university officials somehow wound up contracting with a mysterious character named Glenn Richardson, who ran a business called Celebrity Talent International out of his home in Carlsbad, California.
Although Richardson had no actual ties to McConaughey, he somehow managed to convince the Tier One institution that he did, and university officials paid Richardson $20,250. The disclosure came after weeks of stonewalling — UH claimed that its contract contained a weird secrecy clause that prohibited revealing how much McConaughey and Richardson were being paid. (We’re currently in negotiations with UH for next year’s commencement — we assured them we could provide Steven Seagal for a cool five grand.)
Another honorable mention could potentially cause thousands of Texas students to grow up to become turkeys themselves: We’re talking about The Texas State Board of Education’s valiant and successful struggle to force textbook publisher McGraw-Hill Education to, if not rewrite history, at least purty it up a little. Thus, all those African natives who crossed the Atlantic for the U.S. were simply “workers,” and no longer slaves. (The company said that was an error and vowed to get its slaves employees to correct it.) The books downplay segregation, play up Moses’ influence on the Founding Fathers, spit-polish commie-hunter Senator Joseph McCarthy into a hero, and call for questioning the separation of church and state. Other, less-publicized historical revisions found in the new textbooks include: Colonial Native Americans were generously compensated for their land before they all moved to Boca Raton; Japanese-American internment camps had soft pretzels and go-karts; and Jesus was the first man on the moon.
We’ll have to wait for the next textbook revisions to see how the State Board of Education will tackle the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in June that legalized gay marriage in all 50 states.* Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton (picture Bert and Ernie made out of hate instead of felt) immediately informed county clerks across the land that they did not have to issue marriage licenses if doing so went against their religious beliefs. (Paxton then hipped the clerks to a great deal on a timeshare in Cut and Shoot.)
Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart, eager to let the public know he existed, announced that his office couldn’t issue licenses because it didn’t have the proper forms. (In Stanart’s defense, he may have believed that each new gay marriage license document was sprinkled with glitter and shaped like a precious snowflake.) Thus, Houston was left in the dust while the progressive hotbeds of Dallas and Waco saw a bunch of dudes getting hitched right away.
In the end, though, while the FBI’s Turkey Profile was a big help this year, we must urge caution and remind you of the second half of Nietzsche’s admonition: “If you gaze long enough into an abyss — or a turkey’s dum-dum face — it will gaze back into you. And it will say, ‘Gobble, gobble, y’all.’”
*According to the new Texas textbooks, the scientific community is split over the actual number of states, with some experts placing the true count between 25 and 30.
State Attorney General Ken Paxton
Kenneth Paxton Jr. was ushered into office by the Tea Party and indicted on securities fraud charges about four seconds after he took the oath. Prosecutors say Paxton pitched investments in a tech company called Servergy without disclosing that the company was paying him. K-Pax (who was played by Kevin Spacey in the movie of the same name) claimed he’s the target of a liberal conspiracy. This conspiracy could put him behind bars for 99 years, although it’s kind of a weird conspiracy if it allowed him to get elected in the first place.
But before all that, Paxton proved his legal bona fides by essentially telling county clerks it was okay to violate a recent Supreme Court ruling by not issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Paxton shared his enlightened beliefs in a June tweet, stating, “No court, no law, no rule, and no words will change the simple truth that marriage is the union of #1man1woman.” Take that, Justice Kennedy!
He further showed his deep commitment to keeping Texas in the dark ages by launching an investigation into Planned Parenthood, after videos (later discredited) surfaced that allegedly showed Planned Parenthood staffers auctioning off aborted fetuses for top dollar on Ebay.
“The true abomination in all of this is the institution of abortion,” Paxton told a state Senate committee in July, right before passing out promotional brochures for an investment opportunity in abandoned saltpeter mines.
The Planned Parenthood investigation went nowhere, but Paxton racked up points with his conservative base, and continued to do so by coming out against Houston’s HERO ordinance extending local non-discrimination laws.
“Thank you Houston for taking a stand against political correctness,” Paxton tweeted after the proposition tanked. (Apparently, “...and for taking a stand against veterans, the elderly, and religious minorities #bathroombill” was too much to tweet.)
We just hope, for Paxton’s sake, he’s found not guilty of securities fraud, so he can get back to conducting the solemn duties of the state’s top law enforcement officer. And by that, we mean advancing narrow-minded religious ideology.
Cold Comfort Turkey of the Year:
Blue Bell Ice Cream
In March 2015, Brenham’s beloved Blue Bell issued its first recall in 108 years, after federal and state health officials found that three of its plants were lousy with listeria. By April, ten people in four states contracted the bacteria, and three of them subsequently died. The company, which projected a folksy, familial image, laid off 1,450 of its 3,900 employees and furloughed another 1,400.
Turns out that it wasn’t Blue Bell’s first dance with the pesky pathogen, which had been reported in the company’s Broken Arrow facility in 2013 and 2014. And that was just the tip of the icky iceberg. But the troubling thing was not the contamination itself — no food producer, major or minor, is immune to such problems — but how the company handled it.
As we wrote in June, “Each time listeria was found in a product, the company only shut down the production lines directly tied to listeria contamination and issued narrow recalls.” Only after the outbreak was it reported that Blue Bell’s idea of making sure its plants were free of gross stuff was by testing equipment and surfaces that didn’t have direct contact with ice cream.
FDA inspection reports from March-May 2015 showed that condensate was dripping from hoses into stainless steel molds that were then filled with mixed berry and mint chocolate chip ice cream. An inspection of the blending room found that “the underside of the hopper lids were caked with emulsifiers and stabilizers which had mixed with the humidity found in the room.” Yum — two scoops, please!
Still, Blue Bell management didn’t take action until it absolutely had to. We couldn’t help wondering if the company’s Marketing & Disease Control Division was trying to spin the contamination to its advantage by launching new flavors like Cookies ’n Cream ’n Cryptococcus and E. Colime Pie.
And we’re pretty sure Blue Bell’s loyal supporters would’ve grabbed ’em by the gallon — if there’s one thing we learned, it’s that these die-hard fans were willing to actually die.
But for their sake, we’re glad that at least some flavors are making it back to the shelves — mostly the classics, like vanilla bean, but we’re looking forward to next year’s unveiling of the brand-new Mooo-nonucleosis Bars.
Conspiracy Theory Turkey of the Year:
Jade Helm 15 Nuts
For the tinfoil-hat set, this multi-state military exercise was the Paranoia Perfect Storm; it was as if Bigfoot were touching down in a chemtrail-spewing flying saucer, built by the Illuminati and co-piloted by one of those little gray anal-probe-fetish aliens.
In actuality, Jade Helm 15 (we totally slept through the first 14) was like an Armed Forces version of little boys playing cops and robbers, a seven-state playground for soldiers to hone their shoot-’em-up skills. Its presence in other states didn’t spark nearly as much response, but that’s because those states lacked a vigilant troop of truthin’ turkeys who saw Jade Helm for what it really was: a nightmarish federal takeover ordered by a ruthless Kenyan Marxist bent on taking people’s guns and forcing them into FEMA Death Camps. (We would be remiss not to point out that “JADE HELM” is an anagram for “DJ EEL HAM.” Need we say more?)
Conspiracy theorists took to the internets to crow about abandoned strip malls suddenly retrofitted with “guard towers,” and suspicious “Saudi Civil Defense” trucks traveling south on I-45 toward Houston. They suggested that Walmarts in Livingston and Midland purportedly closed for plumbing problems were actually being used as hubs for a series of underground tunnels to move troops and supplies, and that FEMA storm-safety facilities were actually “death domes” for insurgents who dared stand up to the New World Order.
In fairness, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Jade Helm’s organizer, essentially rolled out the red carpet for this type of lunacy by 1) giving it a creepy motto in “Master the Human Domain”; 2) warning the public of an “increased military presence,” which is the sort of phrase that should be used in referring to U.S. involvement in unpronounceable, oil-rich desert provinces, not American soil; and 3) announcing that Texas would be considered “hostile” territory for the purposes of the exercise.
Language like that, along with an instinctual tendency to placate the lunatic fringe of one’s voting base, caused Governor Greg Abbott to publicly vow that the Texas State Guard would monitor this mysterious operation, “to ensure that adequate measures are in place to protect Texans.”
We were actually kind of bummed when the loony predictions didn’t come to pass. But, hey, there’s always Jade Helm 16 — and we hear that JFK’s real killers will be making a cameo!
Discriminatory Door Policy Fiasco
In September, three African-American attorneys say, they were asked to pay a $20 cover charge to enter the Midtown bro-asis known as Gaslamp, while white patrons were let in for free. One of the men, Brandon Ball, vented on social media, and the brain trust behind the club responded with idiocy on a level so profound that we can’t entirely decide if this isn’t all really some weird Andy Kaufman-esque put-on.
First, a Gaslamp bouncer suggested on Facebook that the men were not asked to pay because they were black, but because they were “old, out of shape, with no girls dorks lol.” (It’s the lol that really drives it home.)
Then the club’s lawyer, Tim Sutherland, told the Press that the bouncer was at least partially accurate, explaining, “Our club doesn’t allow multiple males with no females,” and that while there is no specific bimbo-bro ratio, “you’d want at least one for a group of three, and a one-to-one ratio is better.” We understand that, according to the Official Gaslamp Chick-Dude Chart, a one-four ratio is acceptable as long as the woman is at least six feet tall, and that blonds actually count double, but a redhead will cancel out a blond, which is why they must remain in the club’s attic with the manikins and feral cats. (There’s also a curious chapter on the “Three-Fifths of a Person Rule.”)
Feeling it’d be best to capture the club’s essence of douche on video, Sutherland appeared in a cheesy spot in which he first looked as if he were about to say, “Ask your doctor if Testigrow™ is right for you,” but then just launched into how proud Gaslamp is to cater to snobs. He acknowledged that a discretionary door policy “can blur the lines as to whether someone is being mistreated due to their race, or just because we’re a bunch of assholes. We prefer it to be the latter.”
A month later, KPRC aired the results of an undercover investigation of Midtown club cover charges that showed Gaslamp charging African-American and Hispanic men, but letting two white bros in for free — and giving them a pair of VIP passes to boot.
In November, the three African-American men who were charged a cover filed a discrimination lawsuit against the club’s owners in federal court. The suit is pending, but as far as we can tell, one verdict is already in: Gaslamp’s people are guilty of being douches.
Fearmongering Turkey of the Year:
The Anti-HERO Campaign
Houston drew national attention — and not in a good way — for the transphobic campaign against the proposed HERO non-discrimination ordinance. What seemed like a no-brainer local law barring discrimination based on things like race, national origin, disability and age was turned into a fire-and-brimstone fear-fest warning that women’s restrooms would become open season for sexual predators.
Instead of thoughtful, intelligent debate, the discussion was hijacked by the likes of make-believe mayoral candidate Ben “Bathroom Bill” Hall, who, with the help of investigative journalist-turned-shill Wayne Dolcefino, helped portray the bill as part of some wicked agenda to give the key to the city to any creeper with a white van and a pocketful of candy.
Of course, no voices were as vicious as those of former Harris County Republican Party chairman Jared Woodfill and Technically-a-Doctor Steve “Evidence-Based Medicine Is for Losers” Hotze. They were the anti-HERO movement’s biggest propagandists; think of Joseph Goebbels, only not as reasonable.
Hotze’s always had something against the gays, in a way that’s not suspicious at all, and while he dropped out of the original lawsuit filed against the city over HERO, he really ramped up the rhetoric in his lectures and newsletters. The ordinance — which he dubbed “The Sexual Predator Protection Act” was just part of the gay agenda, of course. Homosexuals wanted to indoctrinate children practically straight outta the womb — soon, Hotze warned, sodomy would be taught in kindergarten (presumably before naptime).
Woodfill became the figurehead for the “Campaign for Houston,” the entity that produced the infamous black-and-white TV spot apparently set in a dystopian future where HERO has become law. A ponytailed, doe-eyed girl walks into the world’s bleakest bathroom, like where the Grim Reaper might go to pee, complete with ominously flickering overhead bulb, where she becomes prey to a pederast who was able to breach the bathroom door only because of HERO.
As usual, playing to the lowest common denominator worked: The ordinance was pummeled at the polls, and no doubt Hotze and Woodfill went home election night smiling ear to ear, boasting to their wives how they really licked those gay and trans folks. How they gave ’em a real reaming. The gays rammed their agenda down Hotze’s and Woodfill’s throats, but it didn’t gag them. No, they took it on the chin. Those two proved they can take whatever’s coming — they showed they may bend, but they will never break.
Rabid Open-Carry Enthusiasts
Surprisingly, before Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill at a Pflugerville shooting range, Texas was one of only six states prohibiting the open carrying of firearms. Texas may fall behind the pack in other areas — education, health care, environmental protection — but, by God (who, by the way, was Abbott’s campaign treasurer), the governor was not going to let the Lone Star State be left in the dust on this one.
There are probably valid reasons for wanting to openly rock that Glock — concealed guns tend to make your shirt or sweater bunch up, plus, how else are you going to prove to the world that you have a big penis? Our problem here is not the law itself but the way some of its proponents felt the need to open-carry their crazy: Like the Open Carry Texas Brazoria County Monthly Education Walk, where dedicated patriots paraded through Pearland with assault rifles on their backs and (presumably) shootin’ terrorists on their minds.
The group announced the walk on Facebook, telling folks, “Meet in rear of Home Depot parking lot. (Look for American Flag),” which is an allusion to the original draft of the Second Amendment, which stated, “a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, shall not be infringed, but shall meet behind a suburban big-box store and then maybe hit Ye Olde Sonic afterward.”’
For good measure, the group’s Facebook administrator cautioned, “Guns need to remain on SAFTEY unless the need arises. (We’ll do SAFTEY CHECKS).” Yes, but not spell-checks. We’re not sure what they meant by “unless the need arises,” but it sure seems like their trigger fingers were itchin’, which had us concerned. For a while there, the open carry movement was targeting (hey-oh!) Chipotle and other businesses, and we didn’t want to have to put our lives on the line for a quesarito.
The craziness came to a head when the Houston branch of Open Carry planned to march through the largely African-American Fifth Ward. A bunch of well-armed white yahoos marching through a predominantly black neighborhood — what could go wrong? Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, and the rally was nixed. Instead — we’d like to think — they stayed home and inculcated their spawn with My Parents Open Carry: An Open Carry Adventure, a children’s book that follows the Strong family, who never run Saturday morning errands without first getting their gats. One illustration shows a pistol on patriarch Richard’s hip as he surveys a supermarket produce section with his 12-year-old daughter Brenna. (An odd choice, since recent FBI statistics show that most violent crimes occur in the frozen-foods aisle.)
“Dad would always say, ‘Brenna, there is evil in this world, and we want to protect you the best we can,’” the book states. “Mom would add, ‘We are responsible for our own safety, and, as an adult someday you will be responsible for your safety.’…They both liked to say, ‘When seconds count, the police are minutes away.’”
We’re sure parentally planted paranoia and a sweeping dismissal of law enforcement will have no lasting effects on Brenna, who will no doubt grow up to be a person who gauges a cantaloupe’s freshness with one hand while cradling a Colt with the other. Which is fine — just as long as we don’t run into her at Chipotle.
Crime Turkey of the Year:
The Idiot Who Got Eaten by an Alligator and the Dude Who Killed That Alligator
Since Texas became a state, man and alligator have peacefully coexisted. For more than 150 years, there was not a single recorded instance of a fatal alligator attack. This harmony was tragically interrupted in July, when 28-year-old Tommie Woodward, eager to prove Darwin right, shouted “Fuck the alligators!” and jumped into alligator-infested waters off Burkart’s Marina in Orange.
In his bid to play chicken with an alligator, Woodward ignored posted warning signs and an employee’s pleas. (We’re guessing the marina worker didn’t want to spend the afternoon cleaning up regurgitated bones and bits of No Fear tanktop.) Texas Parks & Wildlife classified this as an alligator “attack,” but we consider it “suicide by reptile.”
But that wasn’t the end of the story.
A few days after Woodward’s demise, a man who would become identified in media reports only as “Bear” vowed to avenge the young, chromosomally challenged man’s death. Bear told reporters that he took his boat into that heart of darkness and, with a chicken as bait, blew the 400-pound monster’s hide off with a shotgun.
“He had to go,” Bear told the Beaumont Enterprise. “That’s what happens when you kill someone.”
Really, Bear? If a Big Mac walked up to us and demanded to be eaten, we might at first freak out that a sandwich had become sentient and learned to speak, but we’d still eat it. And we wouldn’t expect an alligator to turn down an appetizer that practically jumps into its mouth. This was not an alligator who stalked humans at night, slipping through open bedroom windows and covering its tracks by applying model airplane glue to its claws so as not to leave behind any prints. There was no need for Bear-brand vigilante justice.
In the end, Bear avoided criminal charges, even though officials suggested that he was guilty of illegally harvesting an alligator, which is a Class C misdemeanor.
But if there’s one thing we know, it’s that violence breeds violence and that somewhere, there’s a bad-ass gator nicknamed “Human” obsessing over Bear and doing prison pull-ups like De Niro in Cape Fear, patiently awaiting his chance to exact revenge. We hope, for his sake, that Bear sleeps with one eye open.
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White placed an Israeli flag on her desk and told her staff to ask any Muslim visitors to “renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws.” But that’s not all — we understand that White also posted a set of instructions on the wall that didn’t receive as much publicity. We got a copy of the document and are happy to share.
We hope this year’s FBI-assisted profile of feathered foolishness proved worthy. Sure, Thanksgiving is a time for celebration with loved ones, but it’s also an opportunity to reflect upon the good fortune that’s guided us through another year — our spouse, our children, our probation officer. But most of all, you can give thanks that, this year, you only carved a turkey — you did not become one.