Tomato Surprise

Austin Dispatches No. 177 Aug. 23, 2014

Obama, vowing to overcome the slings and wisecracks in Austin Dispatches, visited town for the umpteenth time to raise funds for the Democrats and give a free speech about economics before an adoring crowd.[1] In other words, Austinites whose heads were already soft stood around in the Texas summer heat to obtain tickets to hear Obama speak on a subject he clearly does not understand, given his record:[2]

During his dinner with the historians, Obama indicated that he had a preference for a corporatist political system in which the economy would be collectively managed by big employers, big unions, and government officials through a formal mechanism at the national level.[3]

Furthermore, Obama’s speech at the Paramount Theatre bumped the summer movie schedule, thereby antagonizing cineastes.[4]

As if to prove my point, afterward Obama stopped by a popular barbecue joint, cut in line, and offered to pay for the meal of the people behind him. Then he was shocked at the size of their order: six pounds of meat. According to the Austin American-Statesman:

The presidential order came to almost $300 – not including the Finstads’ order. Realizing that the wad of bills he pulled from his pocket was a little light, Obama paid with a credit card.[5]

That’s social democratic programs in a nutshell: Make a grandiose offer, express surprise at the bill, and go into debt to be paid later.[6]

Why couldn’t my fellow Austinites have given him the Rick Perry treatment before election? The Travis County attorney’s office persuaded a Texas grand jury to indict the governor “on felony charges arising from his effort to force the resignation of District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg after she was arrested for drunk driving.”[7] Perry has subsequently brought up Lehmberg’s conviction while addressing the court of public opinion.[8] Among journalists, even supporters of the indictments tend to frame the story as a snarky tale of politics settled in the courtroom instead of the parliamentary chamber or the ballot box.[9] Too bad they can’t both lose.[10]

As to the substantive legal questions in this matter, in previous such disputes, an examination of the statutes reveals exceptions, exemptions and qualified clauses that give public officials, be it a district attorney or a governor, considerable leeway in fulfilling their duties. Whether that’s because the laws have to be written that way for the officials to even function, or whether the laws are written that way to encourage litigation, I don’t know.

Meanwhile, a Travis County prosecutor fired by Lehmberg is suing for wrongful termination, so now the county’s paying an outside lawyer $600 an hour to represent it in the case.[11] The City Council OK’d a record $1.25 million payment, to the family of a man shot by a police detective, to avoid trial.[12] Two separate residents have filed suit against city police officers for “excessive force.”[13] The Austin Fire Department has penalized the sixth fireman in 18 months for drunk driving.[14] A city councilman had to pay more than seven grand in back taxes.[15]

City officials blame dog and wildlife feces for the high bacterial content in Austin streams. However, their proposals don’t including banning dogs and eliminating wildlife to solve the problem. I don’t understand, since that’s their usual method. Look what they did to smoking in bars.[16]

In an Aug. 10 feature, the Statesman’s Ben Wear points out that the mass transit schemes of Portland, Ore., have more problems than Austin’s admirers realize or admit.[17] The July 11 Chronicle squandered a good question – why so few sidewalks in Austin – to tread familiar themes we at Austin Dispatches have in turn frequently critiqued. Also, the Chronicle story omits mention of Cedar Park, which does have extensive sidewalks.[18]

The Aug. 18 Statesman reports that Austin Community College ignored Mayor Lee Leffingwell’s request to delay its bond proposal, for fear that that it could jeopardize the city’s light rail bond proposal at the ballot box.[19] Already a county commissioner and former Capital Metro chairwoman, not known for being flinty, has declared opposition to the latter.[20]

The Travis Central Appraisal District wants almost $3 million more for its next budget so it can fight property owners challenging their property tax bills. In turn, this will likely cause the Travis County Commissioners Court and Austin City Council to hike property taxes to pay for the budget increase.[21] Speaking of infringement on private property, the Chronicle reports the “rewrite” (i.e., tightening of the screws) of the zoning code has been plagued with an ethics complaint and a vote of no confidence by the Planning Commission. Usually those problems occur after the zoning’s imposed.[22]

The new chancellor of the University of Texas system is a Navy admiral who commanded commando units,[23] but so far I haven’t seen any criticism of letting someone from “the murder end" of the corporatist, managerial-therapeutic, warfare-welfare state run one of its major indoctrination centers.[24] Even Robert Gates, Iran-Contra participant turned CIA director turned president of Texas A&M in College Station turned Defense secretary, received some objections.[25] Regardless, within that corporatist paradigm McRaven faces the challenge of mastering a different type of corruption.[26]

Elsewhere at UT, the football coach fired two players whom Austin police charged with sexual assault.[27]

The FCC fined Liberty 90.1 FM $15,000 for operating without a license.[28]

Neighborhood News

A young man in a ski mask robbed the Chase bank branch at The Domain on Aug. 6.[29]

On July 10, I witnessed two women in the left turn lanes of Parmer Lane and MoPac Expressway nearly cause a multi-vehicle pile at the intersection, by being typical woman drivers. Since no deaths, injuries, or even damages occurred, I doubt they learned anything from the near miss. Then they drove off to continue being threats to everyone on the road. Later that day, I witnessed two drivers repeated the same type near-collision on the flyover connecting ramp between MoPac and Highway 183.

The July 24 Community Impact News reports the new total of 11 grocers within two miles of the Arboretum makes it the most such saturated area in Norwest Austin.[30] On July 19, during a slow stretch at the local H-E-B, the checkout scanner was equally slow to register a marked-down, “limited-edition” gel air freshener with a scent called Melon Calypso. “Probably because it can’t decide whether it’s an air freshener or a Jimmy Buffett song,” I quipped to the cashier.[31]

Ownership of the Stonehollow Apartments has changed.[32] The North Austin Medical Center plans additional, off-site parking at 2515½ Park Bend Drive, according to a notice from the city planning department. Mangia’s returned to the Gracy Farms Center strip mall.[33] At The Domain, a cosmetic store has opened and a clothing store has closed. A microsurgery clinic has expanded.[34]

Cultural Canapés

The Chronicle manages to be simultaneously clueless, patronizing, and subprovincial when it exclaims delight at the number of diverse eateries in the suburbs, i.e., Round Rock, Georgetown and Hutto – something I could’ve told them about for the past 14 years.[35] Meanwhile, club owners are fleeing downtown and its obstacles for Austin’s outer neighborhoods.[36] In other words, Austin is turning into Houston anyway, despite the proclamations of its self-appointed spokesmen.

A co-founder of Rhino Records has written a history of the reissue label, up through its becoming part of the Time Warner media conglomerate, full of incompetent, backstabbing, deadweight executives who frustrated the founders’ efforts to release quality product.[37] This explains the post-founders’ botched Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons box set, with missing and mislabeled tunes.[38]

To my surprise, the late James Garner reiterated his self-identification as a “liberal Democrat” in his autobiography. He didn’t give that much explanation for this, other than perhaps the influence of his wife,[39] nor did he attempt to reconcile his beliefs with his hobbies – auto racing,[40] and golfing around the world with his old pals from Oklahoma, all of whom seem to have become oil multimillionaires[41] – or his work, much of which conveys libertarianistic views. In particular, “The Rockford Files” essayed an extended critique of the corporatist, managerial-therapeutic, warfare-welfare state Obama likes, including Californian Progressive Era institutions showing severe signs of rot by the ‘70s.[42]

The Singapore government attempt to ban an Archie comic book series for breaching the country’s “content guidelines” by depicting the eponymous character shot and killed while attending a homosexual friend’s wedding. Politically, censorship is, of course, deplorable.[43] Esthetically, however, the Singapore government is showing more good taste than the comic’s creators, who also overlooked a better final plot twist for the 73-year-old creation. The homosexual, a former soldier turned U.S. senator, experiences post-traumatic stress at the altar and double taps Archie for attending his wedding in a business suit with sneakers.[44] Besides, only wavo musicians can get away with that look.

Knick Knack Paddywhack

As part of a belated effort to read books about the JFK assassination – so many people writing frequently revised and retitled books that you must consult a printed bibliography the size of the Dallas phone book – I finally read one by someone I knew from the Fourth Turning discussion forum. Though he can write, David E. Kaiser suffuses “The Road to Dallas” with the pompous, hectoring tone of a court intellectual:[45] “Hundreds of books on the Kennedy assassination have appeared, but this is the first one written by a professional historian who has researched the available archives,”[46] even though for all his huffing and puffing, Kaiser merely reaches the same conclusions as John H. Davis (“Mafia Kingfish”) about 20 years earlier.[47]


Home Archives


[1] AD No. 176n27 (July 6, 2014); Tilove, Jonathan. “Obama to the GOP: ‘Do Something’ Now.” AAS 11 Jul. 2014: A1+.

[2] Norquist, Grover G., and John R. Lott Jr. Debacle: Obama's War on Jobs and Growth and What We Can Do Now to Regain Our Future. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2012.

[3] Klein, Edward. The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House, rev. ed. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 2014: 64.

[4] The Paramount & Stateside Theatres. “Special Event: President Barack Obama, Film Cancellations & More!” E-mail to Dan Eisler et al., 7 Jul. 2014.

[5] Lindell, Chuck, Clara O’Rourke, and Nicole Chavez. “President Surprises Austin Diners.” AAS 11 Jul. 2014: A1+.

[6] King, Michael et al. “Obama Eats, Bumps, and Leaves.” AC 18 Jul. 2014: 20.

[7] Plohetski, Tony, and Tilove. “Perry Indicted for Veto Threat.” AAS 16 Aug. 2014: A1+.

[8] Tilove. “Perry: I Stood for ‘Rule of Law.’ ” AAS 18 Aug. 2014: A1+; Whittaker, Richard. “Perry’s Aggressive Defense.” AC 22 Aug. 2014: 24.

[9] Herman, Ken. “The Odd Path to Perry’s Indictment.” AAS 16 Aug. 2014: A9.

[10] AD No. 43n7 (Nov. 23, 2002); AD No. 100n9 (Sep. 3, 2007).       

[11] Plohetski. “Outside Attorney Hired for County.” AAS 7 Aug. 2014: A1+.

[12] Plohetski and O’Rourke. “$1.25 Million Jackson Settlement Approved.” AAS 8 Aug. 2014: A1+.

[13] Jankowski, Philip. “Cops, City Sued Over 2012 DWI Arrest.” AAS 18 Aug. 2014: B1+; O’Rourke. “Austin Man Sues City and Officer Alleging Excessive Force, Taser Use.” AAS 23 Jul. 2014: B1+.

[14] Hoffberger, Chase. “Last Call for DWIs at AFD?” AC 1 Aug. 2014: 20.

[15] Rockwell, Lilly. “Council Member Billed $7,300 for Unpaid Taxes.” AAS 22 Aug. 2014: A1+.

[16] AD No. 79n8 (May 22, 2005); Price, Asher. “The Dirty Truth: Creeks Have Too Much Bacteria.” AAS 7 Aug. 2014: A1+.

[17] AD No. 152n44 (July 4, 2012); Wear, Ben. “Looking to Portland.” AAS 10 Aug. 2014: A1+.

[18] Whittaker. “Where the Sidewalks End.” AC 11 Jul. 2014: 20-23.

[19] Chang, Julie. “ACC Still Pitching Bonds Despite Austin’s Pressure.” AAS 18 Aug. 2014: A1+.

[20] Wear. “Ex-Cap Metro Chief Won’t Back Rail.” AAS 20 Aug. 2014: A1+.

[21] Lim, Andra. “Appraisal District May Add Scrutiny.” AAS 23 Jul. 2014: A1+.

[22] Smith, Amy. “A Double Whammy for CodeNEXT.” AC 1 Aug. 2014: 12.

[23] Haurwitz, Ralph K.M. “McRaven Seen As Humble to a Fault.” AAS 2 Aug. 2014: A1+; Haurwitz. “Regents Unanimously Vote McRaven As UT Chancellor.” AAS 22 Aug. 2014: B1+; Kerr, Jacob. “McRaven Named Sole Finalist for System Chancellor.” DT 4 Aug. 2014: 1-2.

[24] Rockwell, Jr, Llewellyn H. Speaking of Liberty. Auburn, AL, Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 2003: 139.

[25] Shane, Scott. “Pentagon Pick Returns to City He Gladly Left.” NYT 19 Nov. 2006: A1; Walsh, Lawrence E. Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters, Vol. I: Investigations and Prosecutions. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, 1993: Ch. 16.

[26] Fitzgerald, A. Ernest. The Pentagonists: An Insider’s View of Waste, Mismanagement, and Fraud in Defense Spending. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1989; Nisbet, Robert A. The Degradation of the Academic Dogma: The University in America, 1945-1970. New York City: Basic Books. Rpt. The Degradation of the Academic Dogma. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, 1997.

[27] Castillo, Nick, and Wynne Davis. “Two Texas Receivers Charged With Sexual Assault.” DT 28 Jul. 2014: 8+; Davis, Brian. “Players Face Sexual Assault Charges.” AAS 25 Jul. 2014: C1.

[28] Watson, Brandon. “FCC to Radio Pirates: $15,000 Arrgh!” AC 11 Jul. 2014: 19.

[29] “Man Robs Bank, Drops Cigs.” AAS 7 Aug. 2014: B3.

[30] Denney, Amy. “New Grocery Stores Open Access to Food Options.” CIN 24 Jul. 2014, Northwest Austin ed.: 1+.

[31] Elliot, Bruce. “Jimmy Buffett.” Retro Hell, 28.

[32] “Deal of the Week.” ABJ 15 Aug. 2014: 10.

[33] AD No. 156n80 (Sep. 22, 2012).

[34] “Impacts.” CIN Jul. 2014, Northwest Austin ed.: 6-7.

[35] Wood, Virginia B et al. “Dining Beyond the Chains.” AC 18 Jul. 2014: 40-43.

[36] Hoffberger. “There Goes the Neighborhood.” AC 25 Jul. 2014: 42+.

[37] Bronson, Harold. The Rhino Records Story: Revenge of the Music Nerds. New York City: SelectBooks, 2013: Ch. 9, 13, 18.

[38] Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. The Classic Albums Box. Rhino 8122795939, 2014.

[39] Garner, James [James Bumgarner], and Jon Winokur. The Garner Files. New York City: Simon & Schuster, 2011: Ch. 5; Rice, Lynette et al. “James Garner 1928-2014.” People 4 Aug. 2014: 75-79.

[40] Garner and Winokur, op. cit., Ch. 6.

[41] Ibid., Ch. 8.

[42] EAD No. 10n7 (Nov. 22, 1999); Garner and Winokur, op. cit., Ch. 7; Martindale, David. The Rockford Phile: Behind the Scenes: The Unofficial Casebook of The Rockford Files. Ed. Hal Schuster. Las Vegas: Pioneer, 1991; Robertson, Ed. Thirty Years of The Rockford Files: An Inside Look at America’s Greatest Detective Series, rev. ed. New York City: ASJA Press, 2005.

[43] Tham, Alex. “Decision to Pull Archie Comic Incongruous With Singapore’s Market Economy.” Today 19 Jul. 2014: 13; “What’s Trending?” The Prince George Citizen 15 Jul. 2014: 2.

[44] Jenkins, P. Nash. “Singapore Has Banned an Archie Comic for Depicting a Gay Wedding.” 17 Jul. 2014 <>; Solis, Gary D. “The Law of Armed Conflict: International Humanitarian Law in War.” New York City: Cambridge UP, 2010: 330.

[45] AD No. 97n41 (March 13, 2007).

[46] Kaiser, David E. The Road to Dallas: The Assasination of John F. Kennedy. Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard UP, 2008: 7.

[47] Davis, John H. Mafia Kingfish: Carlos Marcello and the Assassination of John F. Kennedy. New York City: McGraw-Hill, 1989: Ch. 21-41, 44, 49-50, 59; Kaiser, op. cit., 414-421.