Ebola, Chikungunya, Jerry Jones and the Other Dick Pic Guy: Looking Back Sickly at 2014
It's that time of year when Buzz gives the real reporters a break and takes a look at the top stories of the past 12 months. This year, we're changing things up a bit and offering recognition to the many unsung heroes and events that made the year memorable -- at least until December 31, when we plan to drink enough to kill any memories of the year along with any wayward viruses. Because if 2014 taught us one thing, it's that if you don't have your health, you always have an endless variety of beer.
Unfair Park also will be taking a couple of days off, which we will busily spend knocking over crèches, plugging chimneys, shouting "happy HOLIDAYS dammit" and generally doing our part in the media's war on Christmas. On the off chance we lose the war -- again -- we hope you have a happy one. See you Friday.
The story was tragic and horrifying. Thomas Eric Duncan, an African man who came to Dallas from Liberia, dies of Ebola in October after medical staff at Texas Health Presbyterian hospital at first misdiagnose his illness. The Presby staff work courageously to save him as federal and state officials leap to action, urging Dallas to remain calm despite the crazy leaping and teams of doctors jetting in from Atlanta. Soon, when two nurses treating Duncan also contract the disease (they survive), the city's mood teeters on a knife's edge.
But hard facts, free-flowing information and solid advice are the cure for fear, and that's why we salute you, the watchdogs of the Internet, for keeping an anxious public loaded with up-to-the-minute information on the science of infectious diseases. Where would we be without your ceaseless typing and unique depth of knowledge?
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We're talking to you, elderly Aunt Mavis on Facebook, for your helpful guidance on the value of natural vitamins and a gluten-free diet for boosting the immune system. And for suggesting we avoid cooking in aluminum pans, getting vaccinated and "coloreds."
And you, stlthxoppers84, for informing us that Ebola is in fact an escaped U.S. bioweapon and that stocks of vaccine were readily available in a secret bunker that also houses Ayn Rand's frozen head.
And you, unnamed columnist for an alternative newsweekly, for reminding us that when the government says "don't worry," the proper response is to poop bricks.
And you, assorted science guys who went on cable TV and the Internet and pointed out that viruses notoriously mutate and that it's only a matter of time before Ebola becomes airborne and we're all royally corn-holed, so we might as well poop more bricks.
And finally, we want to give special thanks to our own business staff here at the Dallas Observer for arranging for Purell sanitizer to be brought to our offices during the crisis. Purell may go down a little harsh unless you mix it with tomato juice, but we can say from experience that if you drink a quart of it, you will be very, very calm.
Times are hard; despite record stock market gains, many of us find ourselves limping along in a still-soft economy. But the American worker isn't looking for a handout. He just wants a chance to pull himself up. Give him an opportunity and he'll do anything to thrust through this rough patch.
Nothing in 2014 affirmed this more than the unnamed man who, in March, emailed a job application to Texas Workforce Solutions, a state agency that connects job seekers with potential employers.
As any job counselor will tell you, it takes more than a run-of-the-mill resume to get the attention of an HR manager these days. You must find a way to get your head above the crowd. But it was no simple sans-serif font on his resume or clever "knock-knock" joke to open his cover letter for our hero. No, he included a picture of his dick.
At least we presume it was his penis in the photo opened by a 25-year-old caseworker at TWS' Alpha Road office, who called police, who totally failed to send a CSI forensic squad to do a cock match. Instead, after drying their eyes and catching their breath, the cops said they would ticket the man for "obscene display or distribution," a Class C misdemeanor. Small price to pay when you're looking for a j-o-b.
It was, Mayor Mike Rawlings insisted, the perfect time and the perfect place to inaugurate Dallas' long-delayed bike-share program: a 33-degree November afternoon in windswept Fair Park. "We want them all over Dallas, but this is the perfect place to start," Rawlings told benumbed reporters after he tottered about briefly on one of the city's new blue rental bikes, which users can grab from one of two automated racks for $2.50 per 30 minutes and return to either rack when done. (On January 1, the charge for the first half-hour will jump to $5 - you know, once everyone is hooked.) Sure, critics carped about the wisdom of planting both rental stations in Fair Park, a 277-acre expanse that is a popular hotbed of absolutely nothing when the State Fair of Texas isn't going. But Rawlings, a successful businessman, knows how to think outside the box to create new paradigms and exploit untapped markets. Any fool could have kicked off a bike-share program on a warm day in a place filled with people who like to ride bikes (White Rock Lake, for instance) or who might find them useful as a mode of transportation. Lucky for us, when it comes to promoting outdoor recreation, Dallas leaders are no ordinary fools. (See: White Water Rapids of Death, Equestrian Center of WTF, Trinity Parkway of Inevitability.) Starting slow, in a place where few people go and even fewer would rent bikes, will allow Rawlings' vision of city streets filled with shared bikes to blossom over time. One, maybe two centuries should do the trick.
In July, federal authorities indicted Dallas County Commissioner John Wil ... oh, pardon Buzz. Must have read that wrong. Hang a mo' while we check the paperwork. Lessee, John Wiley Price, his assistant Dapheny Fain, political consultants Kathy Nealy and Christian Campbell ... uh-huh ... $1 million in bribes ... check ... tax evasion, etc. ... natch ... on what the? July 23, 2014? Can that be right? We could have sworn that it was in summer 2011 that federal agents conducted widely publicized raids of his home and office, seizing more than $230,000 in cash from his safe and later laying claim to another $230,000 from a land sale. Has the sword been dangling over his head for three years?
Just this fall, a judge put the feds' attempt to keep Price's money on hold until he's maybe, actually convicted of a crime. In the meantime, Price was denied a court-appointed attorney after being hauled into court in manacles and leg irons for arraignment. In the three years since the raids, the feds have bagged Price's money, what's left of his reputation, and his dignity. And when his trial rolls around in January 2016, they have a chance to convict him of something. The wheels of justice grind slowly, but they certainly grind. Maybe someday they'll grind out charges against one of the companies that allegedly paid Price all those bribes to get the inside track on county contracts. In any event, we say "way to go" U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Texas for accomplishing not one but two seemingly impossible tasks this year: You got Our Man Downtown in cuffs, and you made us feel kind of bad about that.
This summer, health officials braced for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne, Caribbean virus that made its Texas arrival in Williamson County in July. Could it be another West Nile, fearful Texans asked? Should we buy DEET by the barrel? What would ... HOLY CRAP! EBOLA! RUN! And just like that, it was all over for the scrappy little arboreal virus with a name like a Creole stew.
We caught up with chikungunya outside Georgetown, where the down-at-its-heels virus is working as the on-site manager of a trailer park. "Ebola, man. Fuuucking Ebola," chikungunya said, pausing at its work spearing litter at the park's graveled entrance. "This was supposed to be my big year, ya know? Everyone was like, 'Ooo, we gotta spray. Here comes chikungunya.' I was in all the news, riding high on the Internet, and then bam! Mr. Killer African Bat Virus rolls into Dallas, and ol' Chickie can't even get a text returned. OK, so I'm not deadly, but I can make you hurt for months, man, for months. But these days, you don't make somebody bleed out their bung and die, you don't get no respect."
What does the future hold for chikungunya?
Bless you, Jerry Jones. No man in Dallas did more this year than you to persuade sinners to step back and reassess their relationships with the Almighty. Bishop T.D. Jakes? A lightweight. The Reverend Robert Jeffress? A mere preacher to the choir. But you, Jerry Jones? You made the city's reprobates, lust-besotted chasers of tail and dwellers of fleshpots pause on the primrose path.
No, it wasn't the sexual assault lawsuit filed by a former stripper that did it. Her suit, in which she claimed you groped her genitals, made her rub your penis and forced her to watch as you received oral sex from a different woman, was dismissed in October. You escaped the noose there, Mr. Jones, a fact that might have encouraged the city's horndogs to continue in their wicked ways, but for one thing: the photos that surfaced with the case. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but that blurry image of your elderly, lizard-like eyes, heavily lidded with lust as a young woman rubs her face against your crotch, was worth just one -- "ick."
Nevertheless, it did more good than a whole shelf full of sermons or a lake of ice water dashed into the crotches of the city. How many aging Cowboys fans -- not to mention strippers -- got a look at that, saw a reflection of themselves and pushed away their $9.95 steak-and-tits Sunday-brunch plates to head off for a dip in a baptismal font? One? Perhaps, but "are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God." You are heaven's joy, Jerry Jones. And that other place's too.
We don't know what softened Dallas Police Chief David Brown's heart. A summer vacation in Colorado? (The mountain vistas are very spiritual.) A nighttime visit by Marley's ghost? (Bob, we mean.) Perhaps he woke up one morning, spied a calendar, smacked his forehead and said, "What the? It's 2014!"
Or maybe, more simply, he finally realized that hauling people to jail for possessing small amounts of marijuana, rather than just ticketing them as Texas law has allowed municipalities to do since 2007, is a pointless waste of police resources (not to mention a dick move).
Brown didn't talk to reporters about the change his department initiated with the county. But whatever the reason, we salute you, David Brown, for going back on your vow to keep jailing potheads until the Legislature made you stop and instead adopting cite-and-release for possession of less than 2 ounces of marijuana. Once the program takes effect come January, stop by the Observer's offices and we'll bake up a tasty batch of Chief Brownies in your honor.
Shelley drowned in the Gulf of Spezia at age 29, possibly haunted by the ghost of his dead child. Keats succumbed to tuberculosis at 25. Bad heart, lungs and a whole lotta opium nailed Coleridge. From great suffering comes great poetry, so we say chin up to our poet of the year, former Duncanville High School English teacher Vinita Hegwood. As if teaching high schoolers English wasn't misery enough, Hegwood was forced to resign from her job after unappreciative Philistines failed to grasp the inherent power and beauty in her stirring piece of blank verse, "Duck Ass Crackers," which she tweeted out in a cri de coeur vis à vis society's response to the racial tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri:
Who the fuck made you dumb duck ass crackers think I give a squat fuck about your opinions about my opinions re: #Ferguson? Kill yourselves.
We seek her here. We seek her there. That Schutze-y seeks her everywhere! Is she in planning? In the lady's room? That damned, elusive Mary Suhm. Oh, Mary Suhm. How we'd all miss you, if only you'd go away. Things certainly have been the same at Dallas City Hall since you retired as city manager in 2013. It's almost like you never left. In fact, it's exactly like you never left.
Sort of reminds us of that guy we all knew in high school. You know, the one who graduated last year, but there he still is in the student parking lot across the street, sitting on the hood of his beater and smoking cigs every damn afternoon at 3:15. That guy was a loser!
You did, however, add a touch of mystery to City Hall's otherwise mundane doings, flitting about like a ha'nt, driving our own, poor Jim "Ahab" Schutze to distraction chasing down Suhm sightings each time a rumor surfaced that you were still working to save some top-secret project there. How we laughed, until Jim's eye got a little twitchy and we started to worry, but then up you popped for real this summer, still in harness, doing your part to rescue the Trinity toll road from those who would give it the chop. Gosh, we were impressed. That Suhm, we said, she's a loyal one when it comes to the Trinity project, as faithful as a Prince Charles spaniel, or that dog in Proverbs 26:11.
When it comes to good ol' fashioned, homespun hospitality, pert near everyone knows that even your old grannie can't hold a candle to the folks at the NRA. Oh, we reckon they might get "het up" some once in a blue moon, when some dad-blamed idjit peppers a few school children with his lawfully obtained sporting rifle, and some Nazi and/or commie-lovin' liberals take that as an opportunity to talk about infringin' on our constitutional rights. But that's no call to say they're extremists.
Why, just look at what the NRA did when folks from Open Carry Texas -- fine people, mind, just a bit "country" in their manners -- walked into a Chipotle in Dallas this summer carryin' their AKs and ARs (as the law allows, God bless the NRA). Chipotle asked folks to please stop doing that, because it scares the customers so -- pantywaists and females, we reckon, not even 'Merican enough to put the contents of their boo-reeto in a tor-tiller. But along comes the NRA, which up and sides with Chipotle, if that don't take the rag off the bush. "Let's not mince words ... it's downright weird and certainly not a practical way to go normally about your business while being prepared to defend yourself," the NRA said about the Open Carry folks. "It makes folks who might normally be perfectly open-minded about firearms feel uncomfortable. More to the point, it's just not neighborly, which is out of character for the big-hearted residents of Texas. Using guns merely to draw attention to yourself in public not only defies common sense, it shows a lack of consideration and manners."
Darn tootin', NRA. If there's anything the gun lobby in the U.S. of A. stands for, it's common sense, consideration and manners.
Fair-weather friends turned their backs. Prominent architects and journalists who once supported it stuffed their hands in their pockets, rolled their eyes to the ceiling and whistled when its name was mentioned. Its enemies even held a mock funeral in Oak Cliff. Is 2014 the year the Trinity toll road finally turned up its toes?
The road's enemies are sounding pretty cocky these days, but let's recall Grigori Rasputin, Russia's mad monk. Legend says he downed a dose of cyanide-laced wine (he drank it and smiled), took a bullet through the liver and lungs (he got up and bolted for the door), and then took a few more bullets and a good beating before his killers bound him and tossed him in an icy river just to make sure. It takes a lot to kill a bad man, but a really bad idea? Those never die.
No, they just get "tweaked." Consider: The plan is to spend $1.5 billion (give or take) we don't have on a road that does nothing for traffic and that will kill a proposed park that lots of people want next to a river that floods regularly, and every word ever said in its favor has been shown to be at least 90 percent a lie. And we've known every bit of this for a long, long time. Nevertheless, Mayor Mike Rawlings has arranged for secret donors to pay a panel of prominent designers who don't live here to "tweak" the road plan. Meanwhile, Michael Morris, transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, said recently that maybe the road would only cost $1 billion or so and perhaps unnamed private investors would chip in. Secret donors, unnamed private investors and tweaks, they said, out in public in front of everybody. Maybe we can save money on cement and pave the road with brass and gall.
Still, the road's opponents remain optimistic. They're organizing not one but two political action committees -- everyone knows political unity in campaigns is way overrated -- to help elect City Council candidates who are against the road next May. Which would make the road's future seem pretty dire, if only one could forget that Dallas voters have always elected the council, and just look at how that's turned out. So let's hold off on scheduling the toll road's wake until sometime after May. We'll bring the wine.
In October, the state veterinary board suspended Tierce's veterinary license for five years and ordered him to seek mental health counseling to determine whether he is still fit to practice. The fools! Petty, unimaginative bureaucrats, mere insects incapable of grasping the scientific mind, which must grapple with inconceivable mysteries to ensure the march of man's triumph.
Yes, yes, the Fort Worth vet took in two ill dogs from pet owners with promises to euthanize them, but instead kept them alive in cages for months, allegedly draining one for blood transfusions and experimenting on another. And for this they dare suggest he's mad! MAD! In their small-mindedness, the mewling rabble even indicted Tierce on charges of animal cruelty and the two owners sued him for $1 million each, as if minor moral considerations or mere money can deflect the mind that stares into the maw of creation itself. Understandably, Tierce scoffed and dismissed those weaklings on the veterinary board during a hearing, telling them that he treats animals like family and ... whoa. Wait. What? Like family? Dude, that's fucked up. Seriously, has anyone seen this guy's family lately? Anyone?
It takes a big man to admit a mistake, so we say bravo to U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro. For years, investigators with the agency poked and prodded, tediously gathering data supporting the damning accusation HUD fired in 2013: that Dallas officials had systematically spent federal housing money in ways that increased racial segregation. City officials denied the charges, but it looked for months like Dallas could be on the hook for millions.
Thankfully, former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, just three months into his new job at HUD, was able to digest four years of work by investigators with lightning speed and issue a momentous ruling: "Never mind." Under his new leadership, the agency withdrew the charges and admitted it had made unspecified mistakes. Privately, the agency attributed its errors to the "emotional roller coaster" it had ridden since becoming hooked on prescription painkillers four years ago after pulling a hammie in an intramural touch football game with the Department of Defense. The agency said it was in counseling, but didn't feel ready at this juncture to follow through on any heavy commitments involving housing practices in Dallas or any similarly situated, largely Democratic Texas city.
Yeah, we know. He's not from Dallas, and all in all, Rick Perry had a pretty mundane 2014. But he's not going to be governor anymore, and just imagine what will happen if he decides not to run for president in 2016 -- besides snowball fights in hell, we mean. The man who gave us "oops" and dead coyotes and talk of Texas secession and the rape-by-implement of Texas women seeking abortions might slip off into the sunset without us having time to say adios.
So, on the off chance Perry hits the dusty trail instead of the campaign one, let's look back to this summer, when the governor was on a trip through California attempting to win friends and lure businesses. "People have choices in life," Perry said at the Commonwealth Club of California, when asked his thoughts on homosexuality. "Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle you have the ability to decide not to do that. I may have the genetic coding that I'm inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that. I look at the homosexual issue the same way."
This was in San Francisco, a city known for its trollies, rice dishes and other things that escape our memory at the moment. Of course, the governor was making an analogy -- unless he really has a hankering for a stiff ... drink -- which is a pretty tricky level of rhetoric, considering the source, so let's give him snaps for that.
In fact, we'll just say it: Please, God, let this man get elected president. If the country's going down the crapper anyway -- all signs point to totally! -- let's at least have some laughs as we swirl around the bowl. Just imagine it, Texas: President Rick Perry, stepping off the plane in Tel Aviv for his first Mideast peace conference, bearing gifts in the form of a smoked country ham and a bottle of blue-corn whiskey. It's the sort of dream to keep hope alive in 2015.
It's a free country, we suppose. If Clay Jenkins wants to go around attending church and professing to be a Christian, who's to stop him? Just look at the man's actions before you judge, we say.
For example, when hordes of Central American immigrant children started pouring across the Texas-Mexico border this summer thanks to Obama going soft on illegals, right-thinking, God-fearing Christian conservatives -- friends of Jesus to a man, no doubt -- looked into their hearts and knew just what to do. Call up the Texas Guard and paint up some signs telling those little law-breaking moochers to go home, that's what. Unlike Jenkins, they understand that America is God's country. Moses wrote our Constitution, and Jesus signed the Declaration of Independence, as any student in Texas knows. It's our duty to stand at the door of God's favorite country and lift the velvet rope only for the right kind of people. That's tradition.
But apparently that's not good enough for Judge Jenkins, who up and offered every rag-tag and bobtail shelter in Dallas County. God had his eye on us, though, and we didn't have to shelter any of them after all. Shows what prayer and protest from a good Christian can do.
Jenkins didn't stop there, though. There he was up on the TV during the Ebola outbreak, urging calm and compassion and helping to "manage the crisis." Hah. If it were up to him, by now we'd probably be up to our eyeballs in illegal African immigrants bleeding out of their eyeballs.
Blessedly, the Man Upstairs looked out for us once again and shipped the disease off to New York Gomorrah City.
But how long can that last? Do not tempt the Lord thy God, the good book says. If Jenkins keeps suffering the little Honduran children, lifting up the meek and comforting the afflicted, pretty soon the Almighty's going to be pretty sore at us.
That's why we say thanks to all those true-blue, America-first, sign-waving conservative believers who fought back. They know that God helps those who help themselves.
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