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August 25th, 2002:

Let’s take Iraq!

This Thadeus & Weez comic says it all.

Hatch Chile Festival

It was the final weekend of the Hatch Chile Festival at Central Market, which we discovered as we pulled into the parking lot this evening. The place was packed, but it was worth it because they were giving away lots of free samples – mostly of dishes made with the Hatch chiles – and everything we sampled was yummy. They had a pot of Hatch chile stew, complete with recipe, that was sufficiently good we altered our shopping list to include everything needed to make the stew ourselves. I’ll post the recipe after we’ve tried it.

Central Market has been one of the best reasons to live in Austin for a long time. Fortunately, parent company HEB decided to build one in Houston last year, and it’s been a big hit. If you consider yourself a foodie and you live within driving distance of a Central Market, you really need to check it out. (Note to Mom and Eileen: Make sure we take you there next time you visit.)

Now if we could only get an Italian grocery store like Pastosa’s on Staten Island, I’d officially be in heaven…

Letters to the sports editor

Not too surprisingly, Val Ackerman’s decision to keep playing Game 3 of the Comets-Starzz playoff series after the collapse of referee Bill Stokes has drawn a mixed reaction from Comets fans. Like I said, whatever she did someone was going to criticize.

On a side note, the third letter is from someone who also understands why football has “competitive balance” and baseball supposedly doesn’t. Nice to know I’m not the only voice crying in the wilderness.

K-Mart Kiddie Roundup: Aguirre Suspended

Well, Captain Mark Aguirre has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of an internal investigation into the K-Mart Kiddie Roundup. As Kevin and Ginger have noted, it looks like Aguirre will ultimately be the fall guy for this debacle, as even the Houston Police Officers Union has backed away from him.

(On a side note, will someone please explain to me the difference between “suspended with pay” and “extra vacation”? I realize that this is likely leading to Aguirre’s dismissal, and even if it doesn’t the suspension will go on his Permanent Record, but still, how exactly is paid time off a punishment?)

Kevin has already noted the similarities between the sidebar story on Aguirre and this prescient feature from the Houston Press, so I’ll just point to this Chron op-ed piece which asks some of the questions that we’ve been asking since the shinola first hit the fan, and to this somewhat self-serving op-ed piece by Houston Police Officers’ Union President Hans Martuciuc, which blames poor staffing for the raid.

One thing that has struck me about the whole Aguirre case has been the disparity between his popularity with the people in his precinct and his popularitywith the brass. Aguirre is apparently a proponent of broken-windows policing, which was used with wide success in New York City in the early 90s. Given the longstanding problems that the Houston inner city has had with nuisance crimes, it’s no surprise to me that the neighborhood associations love Captain Aguirre. I’m less clear on why this is a problem with the powers that be, though I suppose anyone can be abrasive enough to overshadow their successes.

Of course, as the TNR article linked above notes, when broken-windows policing turns into zero-tolerance policing – and the K-Mart Kiddie Roundup is a clear case of zero-tolerance policing – community support can drop off in a hurry, precisely because more innocent bystanders get swept up with the bad guys, sometimes with deadly results. I hope that when and if Aguirre is shown the door that HPD and the mayor’s office recognize that the problem was as much personal as procedural and that they shouldn’t abandon proven tactics as a response to overzealousness. On the other hand, given HPD’s longstanding reputation for being out of control, this baby may have to be sacrificed with the bath water. One way or the other, I suspect we’ll all be a little worse off.

Why first to market is important

Remember that Enron made-for-TV movie I mentioned a few days ago. The Sunday Chron has a review of the book on which it’s based. I wouldn’t prepare an Emmy speech if I were Brian Cruver. Here are a couple of bits from the review:

Cruver’s writing relies heavily on cliché and superlatives, however, as he talks about his new colleagues.

“These people had money. Lots of money. And soon I would have lots of money, too.”

He later gushes about the extremes of wealth and debauchery at the company: “It was top-down sports cars and top-off dancers. It was river rafting trips and River Oaks Country Club. It was the American dream to an extreme.”

I’m trying not to giggle.

A co-worker, Liz, is used to introduce Enron’s cultural history, such as the sexual proclivities of top executives, the large bonuses and how the infamous “rank and yank” employee review program works. Bernie Bickers, a stock-analyst friend who calls frequently to complain to Cruver about Enron’s confusing accounting, serves as the voice of warning throughout.

And a character named “Mr. Blue” is used to impart the moral of the story: Don’t sell your soul for money. Mr. Blue, a senior Enron executive Cruver knows from his pre-Enron days, meets with him over drinks throughout the book to warn him about the financial and spiritual decay of the company.

Anyone want to bet that the movie will use narrator voice-overs? I can already hear some of it. Get the popcorn ready, this could be as entertaining as one of the Poseidon Adventure sequels.