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The news headlines of the past year – if not the last eight – have sometimes seemed like footage from some ’50s B-movie thriller, where logic is the first casualty and bad actors open doors on one inexplicable horror after another. Dick Cheney’s Ghosts seemed like a good title. What’s behind this door? Aaagh! Global warming! Run, run, the interrogator from Guantanamo is coming. Wait, what’s lurking in the corner? It’s the massacred corpses of our civil liberties and international respect! Not to mention the monster looming over it all: the Thing That Ate the Economy.

But one actual Hollywood flick also kept coming to mind: Se7en, in which Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman stumble around in a series of dark rooms where they refuse to flick a light switch – and, of course, keep missing the obvious truths that everyone in the audience has figured out long ago. The number in the movie’s title refers to the so-called seven deadly sins, and it seems an excellent metaphor for that ponderous, deeply researched review of the past year that we like to call the Turkey Awards. Like the Saw guy and Freddy Krueger, we just keep coming back – with the 2008 edition, in this case.

So, yes, sistren and brethren, it’s true. Fort Worth Weekly, that reading-room of iniquity, of naughty ads and blasphemous reportage, is daring to preach on the subject of sin – the deadly sins no less and even to invent some new categories. To all ye who have already been enticed by the devil into opening this fowl publication, the elders say, “Read no more of these unholy skewerings of public officials and the drilling of the sainted Tommy Lee Jones. Poison not your mind with the dastardly epistles in which even the fathers of the church are laid open to ridicule. Not to mention the treatment given to the Top Turkey in all this land. These handmaidens of Lucifer have so far transgressed as to mention his knickers.” (Umm, strike that. Turns out Handmaidens of Lucifer is one of those late-night TV programs the elders keep warning us about.) Is there no rule they will not break? No, no, don’t look.

Main St Arts Rectangle

But wait, is it not your duty as the keepers of our community’s standards to read perhaps a small selection of this Satanic prose, so as to more adequately warn those more susceptible readers about just why the Turkey Awards are so dangerous to their funny bone and perhaps their self-righteous bone, too? Well, perhaps just a page or two … Bless me, it’s worse than we thought. … More research required … Oh, Lordy … . – Gayle Reaves

The Annual Big Bird to …it’s a tie for Pride!

The Big Bird, our annual fowl de resistance, is a bloated two-header this year, having been fed on a rich diet of arrogance, insolence, and conceit, all mixed with a hearty splash of hubris. Picking the winners was, pun intended, a no-brainer: Tarrant County College Chancellor Leonardo de la Garza and former John Peter Smith Hospital CEO David Cecero.

“Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall,” warns Proverbs, but de la Garza and Cecero both must have felt that this axiom didn’t apply to them. Of course that’s exactly how pride works, once it’s got you in its clutches. It makes you think you are above the laws that govern the rest of society, that you know more than the average bird, and that you are not accountable to anyone – even if you are feeding at the public trough.

Cecero – his pride and haughty spirit in shreds, but not his pocketbook – was finally forced out by the Tarrant County Hospital District board this year after almost a decade of running the county’s charity hospital as his private serfdom, cynically creating a culture that cut out the very people the hospital was designed to serve while piling up an obscene cash surplus of more than $97 million and going on a building spree that added tons of brick and mortar but little in the way of more and better healthcare for the county’s growing numbers of poor residents. He showed only disdain for his critics (many of whom were the overworked and underpaid doctors and nurses trying to hold the rapidly unraveling system together) until a series of investigations by this paper and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram exposed the hospital district’s most egregious failures in providing healthcare to the poor, as well as Cecero’s arrogant disregard of his duty as a prudent steward of the public’s money. Those stories finally forced the board to take action. But not to worry, Cecero’s fall was pretty soft. The board rewarded him for overseeing the near-destruction of the countywide health network with a consultant contract that runs through the summer of 2009 at a salary of $775,000.

De la Garza, the other bobbing big-head on this scrawny neck, is still on his throne as head of the county junior college district in spite of the fact that he has overseen what may turn out to be the greatest waste of taxpayer dollars in Tarrant County’s history. He has spent or committed to spend more than half a billion public dollars to buy and build a downtown campus that he promised in 2003 could be built for around $135 million and would be bustling with students by 2005. It ain’t open yet. The chancellor strutted around town promoting his ambitious vision of an architectural wonderland that would spring up on both sides of the Trinity River near the courthouse. He insulted Fort Worth citizens by allowing – with no public warning much less input – a huge chunk of the historic river bluff to be carved out for construction on the south side of the river. And he oversaw a staff so incompetent – intentionally or otherwise – that they let at least two historic structures be bulldozed before the cultural significance to the city could be researched, both acts that outraged city and state historians.

What’s more, de la Garza ignored warnings from the state’s cultural historians and the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers that the college would need a permit from the Corps for its plans to build in the Trinity floodplain and on the levee. Failure to get that permit resulted in further construction delays and sent costs spiraling past $350 million. Then, overnight, de la Garza announced that the original plans would be scrapped and the “new” downtown campus would be the RadioShack HQ, which the district had secretly purchased for more than $250 million, again with no citizen input or discussion. The chancellor’s dream is now the taxpayers’ nightmare. His penalty: a three-year contract that will give him a cool million for his disservices by the time he finally (maybe?) retires in 2011.

As for the board members who were so generous in rewarding these modern flimflam men, they should have gotten their own bird, if there were a category of sin called “felony failure in public service.”

GREED:

1. Gas drillers and neighborhood groups: fighting over
the carcass

Oh, the promises. Natural gas underneath our fair burg was going to make everyone rich. The drillers thought the shale would last an eternity, and they were going to shoot those horizontal wells down into the bedrock with impunity.

Homeowners would get bonuses and royalties for their little inconvenience, dear Tommy Lee Jones told us. But the drillers didn’t read the market quite right. They failed a basic economics lesson, that the more product you have in the pipeline without an increase in demand, the lower the price you can get for the product. And the neighborhood associations misread things as well. They formed alliances and forced bonuses for mineral rights up from a few thousand dollars an acre to more than $25,000. But those terms, too, proved unreasonable from a business standpoint, and now the offers are being pulled off the table for those who didn’t sign by the end of August. We don’t blame the homeowners much, but one can see how the deadly sin of greed kept a lot of bonus money out of the little people’s pockets. The juicy turkey turned out to be a scrawny, Tommy-Lee-faced bird, and the drillers and the property owners are now fighting over the scraps.

2. A pin-striped classic: bankers

Could any list of sins this fall fail to make the classic connection between bankers and greed? A 1930s depression-era portion of thin turkey soup, served up in a tin cup, to Fort Worth area bankers, mortgage brokers, and bad-debt bundlers who are all partly responsible for the terrible mess we’re in financially, thanks to their deceptive practices, hidden balloon payments, and all the other tactics that they knew were going to bury working-class people – especially the predatory loans, written to get the maximum interest yield from people who were no more going to be able to actually pay for the house long-term than the man in the moon. Now Tarrant County faces an unprecedented 16,000 foreclosures by year’s end, despite a (for now) robust local economy, with lots more trouble on the horizon.

SLOTH

1. Drumsticks for doofuses

WFAA-TV news clowns Dale Hansen and Pete Delkus started doing their Dale-n-Pete fat-cat bit a few years ago, tossing those friendly insults at each other to close the Channel 8 newscast. You know, such funny and intelligent banter and repartee about Hansen’s lack of hair and the Chia-Pet style ‘do on Delkus’ noggin. Yuk-yuk-yuk. But the station went overboard this year, with commercials in which the sports and weather guys play characters based on the hit TV show Boston Legal. They reprise the spot at the end of the show where full-of-themselves lawyers Denny Crane (William Shatner) and Alan Shore (James Spader), drink whiskey and smoke cigars out on the balcony of their office. Dale is the Crane character, and Pete is Shore. “We’re two sides of a coin, Dale,” Delkus says. “And I’m tails,” smirks Hansen. Then they talk about having a “sleepover” (Boston Legal fans will get that one). What we don’t get is why anyone is interested in these guys being so charmed with themselves. We suggest that if Channel 8 wants their sports and weather guys to play characters, maybe they can be the apes in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Instead of beating on people with bones, Hansen and Delkus could bash each other’s skulls with turkey legs.

2. No E for effort in public budgeting

A. The rush-hour traffic on busy Bryant Irvin Road just off Camp Bowie Boulevard was moving slower than usual. Topping a rise, motorists discovered the reason: Drivers were having to slow down and change lanes to avoid what looked like … hmmm, a lawn mower or maybe a grocery cart left in the right-hand lane. As cars got closer, however, the obstacle was revealed to be, omigod, a person in a motorized wheelchair, with a sunshade on the back, trundling along while cars zoomed past. Why in the world didn’t the person use the sidewalks? Ah – no usable sidewalks for a very long stretch on this very busy and hilly street. There are sidewalks for part of the way, to be sure, but without curb cuts and with broken concrete to be negotiated every few yards – not to mention the dead tree that has been blocking one corner for many months. It’s just one of the many neighborhoods in Cowtown where handicapped folks have to take their life in their hands to get from one place to another.

A roadkill bird, then, to city planners and transportation honchos who, Weekly staffers can testify, have been known frequently to rip up what seem to be perfectly fine stretches of pavement in order to redo them more groovily. Yes, there’s probably some policy that allegedly explains this travesty. Is it an acceptable reason? Not by a long chalk. Handicapped groups ought to be down at city hall screaming every week. Why not just force baby carriages and tricycles to use the interstate? It’s about the same thing.

B. In June, the Fort Worth Public Library unveiled a bunch of shiny new features, including Wi-Fi access at all locations and online payment of library fines. They even unveiled a colorful new logo, and for some reason dropped the word “Public” from their name. That name change soon became sadly apt, as budget cuts in September forced the library system to severely reduce hours. If you work a 9-to-5 job, good luck catching your local branch on the one or two days a week when it’s open “late,” meaning until 8 p.m. The library is an invaluable resource for citizens who don’t have the money to buy books and CDs or rent movies, especially when the economy has tanked. Where else is there to go to research the city’s history or page through back issues of the local papers? Yes, budget shortfalls mean that hard choices have to be made, but shrinking people’s access to the library system impoverishes the city’s intellectual life in ways that can’t be measured. We’d suggest a recipe for cooking this brainless bird, but it’s in a cookbook in a library we can’t get into.

GLUTTONY

1. The Jerry-bird: force-fed with public dollars

The Dallas Cowboys owner began this season with a ton of promises. Jerry Jones’ team was going to the Super Bowl. His new Taj Mahal of stadiums was going up in Arlington. Pacman was going to be the cover guy. TO was going to pop the corn. Romo was going to stay out of Mexico. But Jones’ act is wearing thin. This supposedly great team has cratered and may not even make the playoffs. And off the field, the team is covering its share of the cost of the new stadium by selling personal seat licenses for 55,000 seats ($2,000 to $150,000 per seat), which will bring in about $735 million. That’s even before actual tickets are sold, and those prices will be going up as well. The City of Arlington gave Jerry’s World $325 million in tax money (costing the city about $650 million with interest). Jones will also make another $390 million by keeping income from a tax on parking and tickets. So it looks like Jerry gets about $1.2 billion (the expected cost of the stadium), before the team takes the field for the first time. You’d expect him to be sitting pretty, but now comes word that he will have to borrow $350 million to cover stadium cost overruns. And do it in the credit crunchy market. So a fat yellow bird (the kind even Bo Pilgrim wouldn’t sell) to the team owner, who thinks of fans only as suckers to be plucked.

2. A Lucifer-bird to Luminant

Luminant is the successor company to TXU, the Texas energy giant that, between 1997 and 2006, exceeded federal limits on its coal-plant emissions nearly 650 times, spewing more than 1.3 million excess pounds of deadly sulfur dioxide into the Texas air. Our suggestion: Roast a bird atop each Luminant coal-plant smokestack, preferably when it’s spewing illegal amounts of pollution. Share the resulting hell-scented feast with company officials and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which has failed miserably to exercise any regulatory control over TXU or other companies, giving Texas the foulest air in the country. Please serve downwind of Texas air-breathers.

LUST

1. Now that’s fellowship

Televangelists might not wallow in all seven deadly sins simultaneously, but let’s just say history has proven many of them to be a lustful, greedy, and prideful – not to mention creepy – bunch, including plenty from this area. (Remember Dallas-based rip-off reverend Robert Tilton, whose infomercials encouraged viewers to send him money to ensure good karma would come their way? He’s still around, by the way, several different wives, churches, investigations, and changes of location later.)

Now comes the Rev. Ed Young of the nondenominational Fellowship Church with four locations in North Texas and one in Florida, who is encouraging congregants to have sex for seven days in a row, beginning this past Sunday. The unusual request produced days’ worth of news reports and plenty of attention for Young’s church, TV show, and fund-raising efforts. On the church web site, “SEVEN DAYS OF SEX” is printed in big letters on a bright pink banner above the slogan referring to a church with “five diverse locations that meet you where you are.” It almost sounds like an escort ad from the back of the Weekly.

The web site, with a photo of Young smiling through ridiculously white teeth, suggests a $35 donation and also promotes Young’s self-help books and $30 DVDs designed to convince listeners to be generous – and what better way to show your generosity than to send Young your money?

2. Wattling toward defeat

How about lust for power? That award goes this year to Kim Brimer, Republican state senator from District 10, whose tactics against rival Wendy Davis, Democrat and former Fort Worth council member, showed he was willing to do almost anything (except, in this case, to actually appear in front of the press or large groups of voters) in order to keep his senate seat. Instead of talking about the issues that separated himself and Davis, Brimer spent his time in legal maneuvers trying to get her knocked off the ticket. He lost at every turn. But his campaign lost too. While he was in the courthouse, Davis was out shaking hands and kissing babies. Brimer refused to debate Davis, failing to show up at scheduled forums put on by such nonpartisan groups as the League of Women Voters and Fort Worth city employees. Brimer also shut out the press, refusing to answer questions or allegations raised by Davis, while putting out some pretty vicious campaign literature of his own. The difference: She responded to the charges, he didn’t. Brimer even filed an ethics complaint against her with the state, pretending it had been filed by some ordinary citizen. In the end his dirty-bird tactics made him into a lame duck.

WRATH

1. Fire and flim-flam

If Bishop Kevin Vann (left) of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth is correct, hell got a lot more crowded after the polls closed on Nov. 4. According to Time magazine, 53 percent of U.S. Catholics voted for President-Elect Barack Obama. Those results flouted the verbal strong-arm tactics used by the Catholic Church – that is, open letters from bishops across the country, who aimed their wrath at Catholic Democrats.

Bishop Vann and Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell released a joint statement to the North Texas faithful during the weekend of Oct. 18-19. To be fair, the letter didn’t explicitly threaten Obama supporters with eternal shorefront residence on Big Flame Lake. It didn’t even mention Obama. But it did declare ominously that support for gay marriage and, especially, legal abortion access was freighted with “intrinsic moral evil.” To vote for a candidate who “supports the intrinsic evil of abortion … would be to cooperate in the evil – and therefore, [would be] morally impermissible,” fire-breathed the document.
There was nothing new here, but timing made all the difference. A few priests maximized the soul-twisting and fear-mongering by reading the statement aloud during Sunday Mass. Some churchgoers walked out. What party planner would advise calling the guests “evil” before the wine and crackers are served? Temper tantrums, especially from people wearing miters, are so unattractive.

2. Mikey stamps his little claw

State Sen. Kim Brimer gets his own bird (see “Lust”), but our bobble-headed mayor also added a feather to his considerable turkey portfolio during this political season. After years of warning other Fort Worth City Council members not to get involved in partisan political races, Mayor Mike “Benedict Arnold” Moncrief managed to turn his back on a former council member and his own party when he threw his support behind Republican Brimer’s re-election bid. Former councilwoman Wendy Davis won the election, despite the mayoral endorsement. His knickers were probably crisped on election day, and his hypocrisy was as rich as giblet gravy.

ENVY

A green-eyed gobbler

In an aggressively right-to-work state like Texas, unions aren’t held in high regard. It doesn’t help, then, when a union local stages a misleading and obnoxious protest against a struggling arts organization. Granted, the embattled Texas Ballet Theater created the crippling budget shortfalls with its own administrative gaffes. Their efforts at triage included the cancellation of season performances and contracts with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra to provide live accompaniment. But the ballet company hardly deserved what it got from Dallas/Fort Worth Musicians Association, Local 72-147 of the American Federated Musicians, which represents FWSO artists.

Association president Ray Hair inserted himself like a burr into the TBT codpiece. Denouncing the ballet’s decision to use pre-recorded music for its season-opener at Dallas’ Majestic Theatre, Hair issued a statement that read: “By using recordings instead of professional musicians, the Texas Ballet Theater is cheating its patrons out of a legitimate ballet experience. Patrons’ tickets reflect the price of a live orchestra, and they should get what they paid for.” He accused TBT of “artistic fraud.”

The union’s consumer-advocate pose was unconvincing, since Hair neglected to mention that the Majestic Theatre doesn’t have a full orchestra pit and that TBT had performed there many times with canned music and without ticketbuyer complaint. Hair and fellow union members formed a pointless picket line outside the Majestic performance, using a large inflatable rodent as a clumsy symbol for “ratting out” Texas Ballet Theater. Patrons largely ignored them. The musician protesters weren’t deterred by the fact that TBT dancers had worn out their pointe shoes in grassroots fund-raising events just to keep the company going. Was this just a fit of pique over the ballet getting good publicity (for some mighty hard times) without the musicians? Whatever happened to artistic solidarity?

As it turned out, seven sins weren’t quite enough to cover the waterfront this year. So we added a few to the list.

STUPIDITY

1. And from under the turkey’s far-right wing . . .

The statement by Cynthia Dunbar, a few days before the presidential election, really did take the turkey this year.
On a religious-right web site, Dunbar, a Richmond Republican, wrote that if Barack Obama was elected president, the United States could expect a terrorist attack “by those with whom Obama truly sympathizes” within the first six months after his inauguration and that he would declare martial law nationwide. Given a chance to say that she had misspoken, Dunbar declined. “I don’t have anything in there that would be retractable,” she told the press.

It’s true. Stupidity is not retractable. Thank the goddess that Dunbar is not in a position of responsibility, where she could pass on her twisted worldview to impressionable people. Oh … hmm … that’s right. Dunbar is one of the people who want to teach creationism in Texas classrooms. She’s a member of the State Board of Education, responsible for figuring out what kind of curricula will be taught to Texas schoolkids in various areas – including social studies. Quick, where’s that turkey-feather fan? We feel faint.

2. He could have had a scary raven of a movie but settled for a … well, you know

It was no surprise that movie producers finally stumbled onto the sad, stranger-than-fiction 2001 Fort Worth crime saga in which nurse Chante Mallard hit homeless resident Gregory Glenn Biggs with her car, lodging him in the windshield, then let Biggs bleed to death in her garage while she made frequent visits. (Mallard was convicted of murder and will be eligible for parole in 2027.) The tragedy was so gruesome, the psychological dynamics unfathomable – here was fodder for indie-film explorers of the dark side, like Neil LaBute or John Dahl.

Except that Stuck, released in September on DVD after a split-second run in national theaters, takes the lazy road straight to drive-in exploitation. It’s true that director Stuart Gordon, who helmed the cult classic Re-Animator, knows how to build a suspenseful story, but the grindhouse embellishments were stomach-turning for anyone who followed the already-horrific real events. White American Pie hottie Mena Suvari was cast as the Mallard character – presumably for maximum, pointless exposure of her bare breasts – and then given improbable cornrow braids as a concession to the fact that the real-life perpetrator was African-American. (Why not just hire a black actor? Leading roles are scarce for African-American women in the industry.) Also, the body count was inexplicably higher in Stuck than in real life – who needed that scene where someone gets a pen through the eye? Or – spoiler alert – having the Mallard character burn to death in a gasoline fire. We doubt the Biggs family drew any comfort from the gesture.

HEARTLESSNESS

1. A turkey quill to the heart

Yes, newspapers are black and white and bleeding red ink all over. No, it wasn’t the fault of Fort Worth Star-Telegram honchos that they were forced by their corporate chieftains to undertake rather breathtaking layoffs this year. But yes, it certainly was their fault that long-time respected employees, with more than 20 (and in some cases up to 40 years) years’ service, including award-winners, found out they were being let go when an unsigned form letter landed on their desks. Yet another explanation of why the term “corporate loyalty” has become such a joke. May the S-T bosses’ turkey be dry and bitter this year and stuffed with shame.

2. Why people love cops

Fort Worth police are tested before they’re given badges and guns, aren’t they? Let’s consider this sample test question:
“You stop a car for going over the speed limit and notice the driver is wearing a mechanic’s uniform and carrying equipment used for auto inspections. You notice the car’s inspection sticker is out of date. The easygoing mechanic behind the wheel admits the speeding but explains he is inspecting a customer’s car, shows you his testing equipment, and tells you he owns an auto repair shop a couple blocks away and can easily confirm everything he’s said. Afterward, you:

A. Thank the motorist for his courtesy, write him a speeding ticket, and allow him to continue with his car inspection;

B. Tell him you’re feeling extravagant that day and give the guy a break by issuing a warning ticket only; or

C. Grumpily write three tickets – for speeding, outdated inspection sticker, and failure to show proof of insurance, even though the mechanic doesn’t own the car he’s driving.”

If you’re one of the motorcycle cops who regularly work the University Drive speed trap near Greenwood Cemetery, you choose C – and prove yet again that some cops are long on attitude, short on common sense, and carrying a heart the size of a quail gizzard.

3. Da Fo Woe Was Us

About a year ago, as part of the Star-Telegram’s ongoing transformation from newspaper into TV station, the big cheeses tapped a couple of photogenic kids to create and star in Da Fo Wo Show, a Daily Show-ish program webcast on the Star-T’s web site. (The “Da” stood for Dallas; the “Fo Wo,” Fort Worth.) The jokes were OK, and the attitude was appropriately disaffected, but the subject matter had nothing to do with Fort Worth people, politics, or places – it was all national. Who in his or her right mind would tune into an nth-generation rip-off when the original is just a mouse click away? Evidently, nobody. Da show was canceled in October. A dodo-like portion, fittingly, for the daily paper bigwigs.

LYING

Ye shall know the truth, but not by listening to Chesapeake

The Chesapeake Energy PR folks deserve to choke on a turkey bone – if only momentarily – for their TV commercials. Under the guise of honestly explaining how the Barnett Shale gas drilling is done and how safe it is, the “Chesapeake Production Tour” spots are just as full of it as commercials promising that you can eat ice cream and still lose 20 pounds a week. One spot that’s particularly irksome is about salt-water injection wells. The trustworthy-looking narrator explains that, when high-pressure water is sent into the well bore to fracture the shale formation and extract the natural gas, the salt water, “called production water,” comes back up the hole. That water, we’re told, is too salty to use and so is allowed to evaporate, and what’s left is injected deep into the earth, harmlessly.

What the narrator ignores – read “lies about” – is that the water goes into the well with an unknown number and volume of possibly dangerous chemicals, and when it comes back out, it includes benzene, toluene, barium, radon, arsenic, and a host of other goodies, all poisonous. Calling it “salt water” when it’s really a very dangerous toxic waste is akin to calling a pig a hockey mom – or putting lipstick on a tom turkey. Whatever it is, it just ain’t true.

COWARDICE

Maybe it should be Chicken4-TV

Fox4-TV officially fired Rebecca Aguilar in March after suspending her in October 2007 in the aftermath of a contentious on-camera interview with an old man over his shooting of a burglar. Aguilar could have conducted the interview with a little more finesse, but most neutral media outlets and watchdog groups who saw the videotape concluded that she had done nothing wrong. That wasn’t how it went down with the type of people who use the internet to spew racist and sexist blather – before being removed by Fox4, the clip of the interview on YouTube had a headline identifying Aguilar as an “Anti-white mexican [sic] reporter.” The suspension and subsequent firing in response to the incident sent a very bad message. The complaint the reporter filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in April (still unresolved at this writing) put her firing down to personal differences with her superiors. From the outside, though, it sure looks like the station bosses caved in to the bigots in their audience. We’re sure that all the troglodytes who showered Aguilar with the b-word and other pleasantries are thrilled, having learned that if you just lob enough racial abuse at reporters of color, the TV stations will remove them from sight. Aguilar hasn’t disappeared, though – she surfaced during the recent presidential campaign, reporting via webcast for the site Latinalista.net. A neutered bird to the station for letting angry, prejudiced viewers win the day.

GENERAL NASTINESS

Five Star: Perfumed by perfidy

Nothing says Thanksgiving like the smell of turkey and pecan pie. Of course, for those unlucky people who live next to Five Star Custom Foods on East 1st Street, it’s hard to smell anything besides the noxious fumes emitted by the company’s food-processing plant on many days. The plant, under several different owners, has been polluting the air and sewers in that neighborhood since the 1980s. The current owner, Bobby Cox Companies of Fort Worth, has done its part to uphold that stinky tradition.

After neighbors complained about the smell a few years ago, inspectors found potentially lethal levels of hydrogen sulfide – created by bacteria – in Five Star’s grease pit. Ever since then, the company has followed a pattern of cleaning up just enough to satisfy inspectors and then letting the bacteria come back to roost. The company also has a habit of harassing whistle-blowers and threatening neighbors.

A company spokesperson said the smell was “a matter of personal taste” and that some people just don’t like the smell of meat in the morning. So a big spare-parts, processed canned turkey, expiration date unknown, delivered at home to Five Star Custom Foods honchos for really making their presence in the neighborhood something memorable.

No. 5: Not as smelly as the web-turkeys

It was a year to forget for Josh Howard, the Dallas Mavericks’ talented forward. He was held to an anemic 12.6 points per game in Dallas’ first-round playoff loss to the New Orleans Hornets. During that time, his admitted fondness for smoking weed came to light, and he threw a birthday bash for himself despite his coach’s ban on partying while the series was going on. Then a fan with a cell phone recorded him dismissing the national anthem during a charity flag football game. (Maybe the saddest part of that was that Howard was blatantly trying to impress a nearby rapper whom most of us have never heard of.)

No. 5 deserves a turkey for being a knucklehead, but he didn’t deserve the beyond-the-pale racial abuse that internet posters lobbed at him on Mark Cuban’s weblog after the latter incident. No wonder the Mavs’ owner decided to shame them by (briefly) publishing their names and e-mail addresses. People who pollute our public discourse like that shouldn’t get to hide behind their anonymity. Here’s some pressed turkey for those posters to take when they crawl back under their rocks.

UNFUNNY WEIRDNESS

Put that shirt back on

At first, we hesitated to give a Turkey Award to Brian Loncar, since the local attorney was critically injured on May 15 after a fire engine struck his car in Dallas. But (1) he’s better now; (2) he’s a loudmouthed personal-injury lawyer who calls himself the “Strong Arm”; and (3) he’s just so egotistical and laughable we can’t help ourselves. For his 2007 Christmas cards, Loncar posed with wife and children for a photograph mailed out to the masses; recipients couldn’t help but get the willies while looking at a middle-aged, shirtless man flexing his muscles, while his family around him was fully clothed. Not the kind of card most people want to find in their mailboxes, but hardly surprising from a guy who could probably convince Rudolph to sue Santa for harness sores.

TAILFEATHER

This one (more) is for W

According to an environmentalist online magazine, the Bush administration is continuing its assault on the public’s right to know right up until they’re kicked down the White House back stairs. The magazine said officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture have shut down the only federal program that keeps up with the chemical pesticides and fertilizers being used by farmers. The USDA’s annual surveys are important tools for regulators and environmentalists to track the poison quotient on American farms. But last year, officials ordered staff to narrow their data gathering to only two crops. For the 2008 growing season they collected no data at all, citing budget constraints. Makes you feel so safe about all that meat and produce you bought for the Thanksgiving table.

It’s a fitting farewell (from the Weekly) for an administration that, as Turkey Awards went, provided eight years of shooting birds in a barrel.

In fact, since W loves nicknames, here’s one for him, inspired by a certain medieval painter. In honor of the endless sins you’ve committed in our name – so long, “Hieronymus” Bush.

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