Friday, July 31, 2009

Imagery problem

The Saints have begun their first practice of the 2009 training camp this morning. And while I'm sure their minds are focused on all the hard work ahead of them, I'm more concerned with the fans and media at this point. Some of them seem to have reported a bit out of shape.

Last night, for example, a caller to WWL radio expressed his hope that this season the Saints' defense would, "step up to the plate." Yes, technically it is still baseball season but the only way I could envision Saints defenders stepping up to the plate would be if Deion Sanders were on the roster. However, the Saints roster continues to feature Jason David in the defensive backfield. Nobody is mistaking Jason David for Deion Sanders.

This morning, Peter Finney presented his first column of Saints Camp '09. It begins,

At a time the innards of Saints fans are always at an immeasurable fever pitch -- we're talking about the opening of training camp -- I'll never forget that 2006 gush of euphoria that was oozing, not from some youngster, dressed in black and gold, waiting to get an autograph, but from none other than Drew Brees.

First of all, ew. Second of all, do we really want to start this season on a feverish innards and gushing ooze note? And if so, why isn't this a story about Jeremey Shockey in Vegas?

Always the gross-out artist, Finney follows this up with a typical-for-him hagiography of the Saints' front office and coaching staff which would have made me feel sicker than the oozing innards did if I hadn't built up an immunity to his schtick over the years. Although the fact that Finney threw in a bit about prosthetic limbs had me wondering for a minute if he was actually doing it on purpose. Certainly this paragraph was intended to, if not nauseate, then at least dizzy the reader a bit.

Now it's Season 4 for Brees, also for Coach Sean Payton, and I'm sure they'll tell you as sky high as the fever was for a changing of the guard in '06, it has kept right on climbing, even though the regular-season numbers have gone from 10-6, and a victory shy of playing in a Super Bowl, to an also-ran 7-9 and 8-8.

What the hell does that even mean? The "fever for a changing of the guard" was "sky high". That sounds like people were upset bout the state of things; ready to "change the guard" in 2006. Okay good. But if Finney is saying that this fever "kept right on climbing" then shouldn't that mean the fans are even angrier? I guess that could be the case since, as Finney says, the team's record hasn't been anything to get all gushy oozey about over the past two years. But Finney's phrasing implies that the "fever" for getting rid of the coach is "climbing" despite the crappy win-loss results. Confused? I know Finney is.

All I can say is thank God this is the first day. But it's not too early to start assigning extra wind-sprints to some individuals... provided they keep their innards hydrated.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Okay I think I'm ready for football season

Now that Grandmaster Wang has summed up the Saints' offseason for me.

I really didn't care much about the Stormy Daniels people

Until they started with this "car-bomb" bullshit.
Brian Welsh’s story isn’t quite adding up. He keeps describing the incident as an “explosion” that lifted the car’s roof five stories in the air — which differs from what the New Orleans Fire Department has told us.

Nobody could have predicted... okay well somebody kind of did. Greg's initial reaction was "$20 says he did it himself" At this point I'm kind of hoping this is true only so that we can award Welsh the Douche-of-the-year trophy for 2009.

Either way, Varg has already identified the year's most amusing quote.

“I really wish this had not happened,” Welsh, 38, said. “I need a car.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Drew Brees is Deathly Hollow

Only days before the start of training camp, and coming on the heels of some encouraging news from Reggie Bush, the freaking quarterback has to go and tip the karmic scale waaaay back in the other direction. Jeff Duncan reports:

Off the field, he's a terrific ambassador, not only for the organization, but for the NFL and city of New Orleans. That's why he's asked to represent various organizations on trips like the U.S.O. tour he went on earlier this summer to the U.S. Naval base in Guantanamo Bay.

After the visit, Brees conducted several interviews to discuss the trip, including one with the Times-Picayune's Mike Triplett and one with San Diego-based radio station, XX1090-AM.

I was on vacation at the time of the radio interview on July 10, but I'm surprised his comments about the controversial facility did not raise more eyebrows locally or nationally.

"I can say this after that experience -- the worst thing we can do is shut that baby down, for a lot of reasons," Brees said. "But I think there's a big misconception as to how we are treating those prisoners; those detainees over there. They are being treated probably 10 times better than any prisoner in a U.S. prison."

Brees made some other eye-opening statements:

"I mean, they're allowed to call and write letters home, and receive letters and calls. They get five opportunities a day to pray, and they have arrows in the prison pointing towards where Mecca is. And the prison goes dead silent so these guys can have their religious time. They have rooms where they can watch movies and play Nintendo Wii. So I think that just goes ahead and says it right there."

Washington Post, July 23

UNITED NATIONS -- The Obama administration has declined requests from U.N. human rights investigators for information on secret prisons and for private interviews with inmates at the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, U.N. officials said, dampening their hopes of greater U.S. cooperation on human rights issues.
I mean, since, geez we sent Drew Brees and he seems to think we treat these folks pretty well. Like when they let the guys have their Wii and "religious time" and stuff. Never mind that people are being held indefinitely through extra legal means and to dubious purpose. We gave them a friggin' TV room. What else do you want?

Naomi Wolf reports on a recent visit to GITMO in the Times of London And YES she does indeed find the TV room. Here's the passage where it comes up.

There in front of me was a shower stall fully fronted with glass, facing into a public central hallway where military men and women passed regularly. It forced male prisoners daily into a state of public nudity, which is illegal according to US and international law.

The guards showed us a demonstration cell: it was spotless. Hooks folded down so that no one could hang himself; there was a toilet in a corner, a plastic wedge of a bed, and high-tech mechanical doors that shut of their own accord. No sun, no sightlines, no natural light. I noted the guards’ use of facemasks. “Facemasks are to help protect soldiers,” our tour guide said. “We do have assaults — spitting, throwing faeces and urine.”

Another diorama was set up in another cell, of “comfort items”. It looked unchanged from photos of Guantánamo that I had seen in the Bush era. Here was a Koran; toiletries; a padded mattress the thickness of a yoga mat, for those who “co-operated”; a thinner mattress, fewer “comforts”, for those who did not.

Opposite this room was yet another cell, which the military handlers were most proud of. “The TV room is a big change,” one of the handlers said. There was a big blue squishy sofa facing a nice big flat-screen TV. We were told that the detainees get to watch TV three hours a day; that their favourite TV show is The Deadliest Catch, about fishing; and that they also love Harry Potter. There was a tray table where prisoners could eat baklava while watching Harry Potter — and there, at the base of the sofa, were leg shackles, bolted to the concrete floor.

At the end of the hall I opened a door. Before me was an unused cell, packed halfway to the ceiling with hundreds of cans of Ensure, the liquid nutrient used in force-feeding. (Jen Nessel, of the Centre for Constitutional Rights, had told me that 24 detainees were being force-fed daily, in restraining chairs, because they were on hunger strike.) Lieutenant Fulghum came to get me, annoyed. “No one is supposed to go this far down the hall,” he snapped. I asked if anybody was on hunger strike. “We are not allowed to say. The medical staff handles that,” Lieutenant Fulghum said.

The tour guides also managed to let Brees in on the "feces and unrine" bit. Here was his reaction.
"And you just talk to all the guards that are Army and Navy personnel, they'll tell you stories about how these prisoners, they'll be walking the cell blocks as they're keeping an eye on these guys and they'll be throwing the feces and urine in the faces of the guards as they walk by and the guards are not allowed to do anything. They're not allowed to physically retaliate or do anything hardly to try to restrain these guys at all. These guys get away with whatever they want."

I'm sure Brees wasn't quite as nosy as Wolf but if he had managed to sneak a peek into the force-feeding room, I'm sure he could have told us about how the detainees were "getting away with" awesome first-class nutrition.

But never mind that. The detainees like Harry Potter! Hey, I like Harry Potter too. I have to say I'm a bit disappointed in the most recent films in the series. Sure, the acting is getting better and the art direction is spot-on but the screenwriters just seem to be going through the motions in their handling of key plot elements that worked so well in the books. A central mystery in the sixth book is the identity of the "Half-Blood Prince" The story climaxes at the moment when that mystery resolves itself. The movie handled this clumsily, treating a crucial part of the narrative architecture like a minor afterthought. It's a shame. I'd thought that book would have made the best film especially since, as we've discussed previously, (here as well) the series really goes downhill from there. I guess it's because of my frustration with the sixth movie that I've taken to re-reading the seventh book. I pretty much hated it but since these movies are rendering the books so poorly, I have renewed hope that this could actually improve things next time around and I'm trying to figure out how.

Anyway, I guess it's because of this that when I read Wolf's description of GITMO's... um.. courtroom I couldn't help but think of how it might please Delores Umbridge.
There a new set of handlers showed us another sterile portable cell where detainees conferred with their lawyers. I asked our guide if there was lawyer-client privilege, or was the cell under surveillance? “I can’t answer that,” the guide said. (The defence lawyer Wells Dixon said that he always assumed that his conversations with his client were being listened in to.) We were taken in to the state-of-the art “courtroom” itself, where the ill-starred military tribunals meet. It is unbelievably expensive-looking: rows of gleaming wooden tables for the lawyers of the detainees — and seats with shackles at the base for the detainees at the end of each table; a raised dais where the “panel” — about 20 members of the military — sits facing the tables; and a raised platform in the front of the room, where the “judge” sits in the middle and on one side sits the detainee and on the other, the witness for the defence. Two contractors showed me around. One, “Mo”, showed me how you can put a $5 note under a light on a desk and it shows up onscreen behind the judge’s chair much magnified. I looked up: “In God We Trust”, the motto read.

Then he showed me the stop-motion button system on the audio feed that means that a censor can redact any information that comes out that he wishes to cut — so the press in the galley area behind glass at the back of the room, and down in the hangar, will never know what was redacted. The button system is in the same area as the “witness chair”, which seemed odd to me.

I asked if the chair had ever been used.

“Well ... no,” he said. Not to his knowledge. Then he showed me again with great pride the live feed that was hooked up directly into the “courtroom” that could “transmit witness testimony into the courtroom from anywhere in the world”.

“Has it ever been used to transmit actual witness testimony?” I asked.

“No,” he replied. “But we have the capability.”

I'm starting to wonder if the detainees ever really use their Wii either. But I can see why they like Harry Potter movies so much. They too depict a world of hypocritical idiot celebrities and a cruel arrogant officialdom where things often aren't what they appear to be.

Update: When I first saw the Brees story, I momentarily thought about a way to weave in something about his crazy mother but it didn't seem related. Luckily she just happens to be back in the news!

Wait. What?

"Medium-sized" 58,000 gallon oil spill in the Gulf. T-P prints an eedey beedey blurb. If the spill itself were eedey beedey, would the T-P print it in the classifieds or as a clue in the Jumble?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The textbook committee decided to leave it all out

Taibbi on the gutted mass of goo that should have been health care reform
Make no mistake, this has nothing to do with Max Baucus, Bill Nelson, or anyone else. If the Obama administration wanted to pass a real health care bill, they would do what George Bush and Tom DeLay did in the first six-odd years of this decade whenever they wanted to pass some nightmare piece of legislation (ie the Prescription Drug Bill or CAFTA): they would take the recalcitrant legislators blocking their path into a back room at the Capitol, and beat them with rubber hoses until they changed their minds.

The reason a real health-care bill is not going to get passed is simple: because nobody in Washington really wants it. There is insufficient political will to get it done. It doesn’t matter that it’s an urgent national calamity, that it is plainly obvious to anyone with an IQ over 8 that our system could not possibly be worse and needs to be fixed very soon, and that, moreover, the only people opposing a real reform bill are a pitifully small number of executives in the insurance industry who stand to lose the chance for a fifth summer house if this thing passes.


Could it be there's hope that the kid will turn out ok after all?

If you're the sort of football fan who likes to read a team's so-called intangibles, this might make up for the Uncle Rico scandal.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

High comedy

Why do I miss all the fun stuff?

Today's haul

Random items recovered during the process of putting the library back together after a program.

Lost treasures

The more traffic we get the more random things we seem to accumulate. Once they're left here, they tend to remain unclaimed and then we have to figure out what to do with them. A few years ago, I assembled a set of miniature characters like our friend the dinosaur here and affixed them to the dashboard of the Tercel. (If I remember correctly, they were a fish, a turtle, another dinosaur, and a ladybug.) I would tell people they were a band which we came to call Plastic Jesus for... um... obvious reasons.

Eventually they all sort of disappeared as mysteriously as they arrived. I wonder what they're doing now. Maybe we should get VH1 involved.

Bars and churches on every other corner

I never did understand why the presence of religious charlatans in the neighborhood was allowed to dictate whether or not I could by a beer at the grocery.
NEW ORLEANS – Some neighbors of the Louisiana Meat Market are mystified. How can one corner grocery at Louisiana and Loyola be selling alcohol? It appears to violate an ordinance that forbids alcohol sales within 300 feet of a church.
You know, I have dubious feelings about people who drink cherry-flavored Dr. Pepper. There's something unsavory about luminescent rust-colored fizzy liquids that I don't trust. Could we look into restricting that activity to beyond 300 feet of a library? What the hell kind of a medieval thinker do you have to be in order to justify such an absurd law? Other than the Stacy Head kind, I mean.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Jindal likens health reform to 2005 hurricanes

''Why do we think more government involvement in health care is the answer, here in Louisiana we saw what happens when you've got a government monopoly. We saw what happened with FEMA after Katrina and Rita,"
Exactly! If only there had been no Federal Emergency Management program at all, then everything would have been fine. That's freaking brilliant, PBJ. But you're the expert, I guess.

Next week: Jindal compares public option to dynamited levees, suggests Obama wants to replace every doctor with Anna Pou.


If it so happened that Michael Steele needed to "empathize right on your behind" can we assume that he would take care not to "break anything"?


Pretty funny Rose column

Monday, July 20, 2009

Regulatory capture:The first bad omen of the 2009 football season

Outside of the occasional feature, say at the beginning of football season, sports was not previously a regular beat at the Gambit. I always thought that this was a mistake since you really can't claim to cover life in this town (particularly its Arts and Entertainment scene) well without, at least, keeping a close eye on the Saints. And now that the Hornets are starting to establish themselves a bit, it makes all the more sense to keep up the coverage.

One of my favorite things about the Gambit's blog site is that it has allowed the weekly paper a place to do more sports. Clay Smith and Alejandro de los Rios post there frequently. Rios is the author of a Saints preview featured on this week's cover. The article is titled, "Guys Who Make Passes". Not something I would have recommended, but there it is. Rios's analysis is well-informed but a little conventional. Drew Brees is pretty good, the defense is still a question mark. I do like that Rios raises the question of Sean Payton's job security. I think another 8-8 or thereabouts result this year should not be enough for Payton to skate by on, but you don't see that discussed very often. Meanwhile Smith is already giving us game-by-game 2009 predictions at the blog. This is also not something I'd recommend but, again, there it is. At the Yellow Blog, we've improbably nailed the Saints' win-loss prediction for two consecutive seasons now. It's doubtful that this trend can continue but we're not going to risk blowing it in mid-July. Anyway, I'm glad to see Gambit give us another outlet for professional sports writing in New Orleans.

One reason to support such a development is the crucial role an effective journalist can play in the local sports landscape. Even in matters as seemingly frivolous as football, it's important to have a press corps that, in the best tradition of Buddy D, isn't afraid to speak truth to power. When Ray Nagin tries to tell you that we can't see what's in his email, then somebody needs to keep after him and call bullshit. When Sean Payton tries to kill your grandmother by calling a stupid reverse at the end of the game, then someone needs to handle that too. There are still some very good sports reporters out there (I happen to think that The T-P's Jeff Duncan does a particularly good job) but the trend is toward too much cheerleading and not enough questioning of the party line.

Some of this is attributable to laziness, but a lot of it is just plain old star-f&*%ing where the reporter sees him or herself as a part of the establishment rather than its watchdog. For example, what else but clubby coziness can explain Sports Illustrated's Peter King's decision to hand over the reigns of his "Monday Morning Quarterback" column to Sean Payton for a day? Just like the head of Goldman Sachs isn't supposed to be running the Treasury department, the freaking enemy isn't supposed to be writing the football column. If a coach or athlete wants to get his side of the story out there, he can get in the Tweeter Tube right behind Jeremey Shockey's hatred of necks and Shaquille O'Neal's modeling aspirations. Unfortunately, King elected to grant Coach Soupy an inappropriately larger platform. It's a classic case of regulatory capture. The results were not pretty. Some reactions:

  • Of course we wouldn't expect Payton to touch on the Uncle Rico scandal. But, in light of the ongoing controversy, it's probably not a good idea to mention an occurrence of his team cutting a long-snapper... even if it is a different long-snapper... and even if it is a joke.

  • Payton tells us that recently murdered former Titans quarterback Steve McNair, "had one of the warmest smiles in our business." This is a bizarre phrase as it suggests that Payton has done some comparative analysis of the NFL's warmest smiles. It would have been fine if he had written, "McNair had an uncommonly warm smile" or something like that but, as written, it seems more an implicit comparison of the smile to those of other football players... as though it were a statistic. He may as well have said, "McNair led the league in smile warmth".

  • Payton writes that Lance Armstrong has "has trained and ruthlessly pushed his body into top form" Given the persistent allegations of doping made against Armstrong, I'm not sure we'd want to use any form of the work ruthless in reference to his training methods.

  • There's a baseball anecdote
    While I was enjoying the Cubs game against the Twins, outfielder Milton Bradley caught a routine fly ball and proceeded to throw the ball into the bleachers. The problem was there was only one out, and a run scored. In that scenario, Bradley is paid to know the situation. He quickly became the poster child for the importance of being aware of your situation. That is precisely why we practice game situations every week, so players know what to do.
    Comforting. At no time during the 2009 season will Sean Payton allow the Saints lose count of how many outs are remaining.
The rest is a combination of plugs for vacation spots in Chicago and Fort Walton Beach, Fla. and shout-outs to homies. Payton congratulates King for being awesome enough to let him write a column for him, Tom Benson for being his boss, NFL Films supposedly for filming his good side, and a few others just to fill space.

But the most disturbing bit is this.
Kenny Chesney has owned the summer concert business for the past several years. No other entertainer is remotely close. Growing up, many of us went to stadiums to see our favorite performers, such as Bruce Springsteen, REO Speedwagon and Journey, but these days no one does stadiums anymore except for Chesney. Even in a bad economy he is sold out at every stop. He attracted 65,000 strong at Soldier Field last month. Unbelievable.

Okay, forget about the Journey thing for a sec. This Kenny Chesney business needs to be stopped. Of all the annoying too cute by half things Payton has done during his tenure, burying trophies, writing screenplays about his Xbox, drafting a punter, to name a few, the worst of these is inviting Chesney to practice with the team during each of the past two training camps. Could it be that... besides the curse of the black pants, of course... the Saints have fallen victim to a Kenny Chesney jinx? If I say we can't afford to take that chance. If big time media outlets like SI aren't going to stand up for the fans, then we need to stand up for ourselves. It's time to get the Chesney-free training camp movement off the ground now. Call the Saints' offices and demand that the coach dis-invite his faux-cowboy friend from this year's practices. The fate of the 2009 season might depend on it.

Update: At the Gambit blog Alejandro de los Rios is offering fans an opportunity to submit questions for him to ask Saints coaches and players. I..uh... I think you know what to do.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


On the one hand we have Shelley Midura who 1) defeated the biggest tool on the previous Council, 2) led the fight to establish the Inspector General's Office, and 3) made a significant move to help push Eddie Jordan over the rail but is being referred to in various quarters as, "not politically savvy".

On the other hand we have Stacy Head who pretty much just goes around needlessly pissing people off but is just as often referred to as a "tough-minded reformer".

So I guess my question is... shouldn't that be the other way around?

Some jokes just write themselves

When you're frustrated with too much sunshine....

Earlier this month, (Louisiana Technology Council President Mark)Lewis and one of his associates held a news conference at which they said that an unknown tech-savvy person intentionally removed the mayor's e-mail inbox from the server. Nagin lashed out at the non-profit afterward, arguing that assigning blame "is not their charge."

Nagin also suggested that the non-profit technology council his administration hired to find the data, not only was eager for "15 minutes of fame, " but also was in over its head. "I just hope that this is not a case where . . . we did not get the company with the expertise that we needed," the mayor said.

The city has hired a new firm, SunBlock Systems of McLean, Va., to continue searching for the missing e-mails, according to a city news release and SunBlock's founder.
Sunblock? Really?

Update: Looks like Clancy Dubos thinks it's funny too. Although I have to, once again, disagree with Clancy's Nagin-Nixon analogy. As I've said many times, Nagin's stoogey pseudo-businessman-turned-pol idiom likens him more to George W Bush than to Nixon.

Cosimo Matassa is not dead yet

I did not know that. For those of you who don't know this, much of the music that first came to be called rock and roll was more or less created in New Orleans. And most of it was recorded by Matassa.
As a self-taught engineer and studio operator, Matassa, 83, was pivotal in developing the New Orleans sound during the fertile rock and R&B era of the '50s and '60s. He has a more modest take.

"There were great musicians everywhere you turned," he says. "They made me look good."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Midura out

It would have been an uphill battle.

Update: Much more at NOLA.com

Dem young kid dey got all dat technology

Pretty funny

In case you didn't know

Matt Taibbi's Rolling Stone piece on Goldman Sachs is can't-miss stuff.
...any attempt to construct a narrative around all the former Goldmanites in influential positions quickly becomes an absurd and pointless exercise, like trying to make a list of everything. What you need to know is the big picture: If America is circling the drain, Goldman Sachs has found a way to be that drain — an extremely unfortunate loophole in the system of Western democratic capitalism, which never foresaw that in a society governed passively by free markets and free elections, organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy.

If you're so special, why aren't you dead?

You know you're getting old when the first two people to wish you a happy birthday each give you some permutation of, "Please don't die before me". Next year, I expect they'll just go the whole nine and chip in to get me that Hoveraround.

Besides, who ever said that hanging around the longest is any sort of accomplishment anyway? Each year, I'm tempted to look back through the growing list of people who actually did things with their lives within a shorter span of time than I've been allotted.

But, really, fuck those overachieving douchebags. Robert Pollard was 36 when his band finally got enough attention that he could finally give up teaching 4th grade. And although there is some conflicting evidence, it is generally assumed by most fans that Homer Simpson is supposed to be 36 years old.

What does all this mean? Well since Homer and Bob are more or less my numbers 1 and 1A sources of inspiration, it could mean that I'd better do something big in the next year or else it's all downhill from there.

Meanwhile, Happy Frickin' Birthday to me, I guess.

Title reference since many of you may be too fucking young to get it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Happy Bastille Day


Earlier this year, Menckles and I spent a week in Paris. While there, we were accosted by crazy drivers, malevolent Gypsies, eco-terrorists and some truly bizarre television programming. In other words, we had a blast. I blabbed about it here.

Local rags

A few days ago, I read and loved but had little of use to add to this post from Athenae about the New York Times' consideration over charging for online content. I mean, what does one add to this?
Instead of being happy with their $237 million, which may or may not be the total across multiple newspapers but STILL, the Times wants to alienate its online readership with a stupid, counterproductive $5-per-month online subscription charge that is so small as to convey to those who pay it that said content is only worth $5 per month so why bother.

Which move would likely drive current page counts down through the basement all the way to at least the second circle of Hell, and as a consequence alienate the very online advertisers presently providing that $237 million in an effort to reach the Times' readership.

I used to think the problem with our current newspaper conversation was that the people talking had no idea how the Internet worked. In the past six months I've come to understand that they don't know how newspapers work. You use the size of your audience to sell people on reaching that audience. The bigger your audience, the more you can charge people for access to it. Publishers are pimps, that's all. All the changes in technical whatsits have not altered this formula one bit.
I thought I'd throw that up there now, though, because this month's ANTIGRAVITY features a full-page commentary from Leo McGovern on the business of print. You can download the full issue here in PDF, or better, just pick one up at your local coffee shop or other hipster hideaway. Leo has a several points worth mulling over but, in the interest of tying it together with Athenae's post, I wanted to draw particular attention to the following bits I have cut out.

Newspapers are failing right now for a number of reasons. It’s partly
because Craigslist eats up a great chunk of classified ads that daily and weekly papers relied on as a revenue stream. Also contributing, obviously, is the general economic situation, which has made spending money on advertising difficult for businesses. Part of the problem is circulation going on a downward spiral, meaning print readership in general is dwindling. Part of it is that as media ownership rules were de-regulated, corporate entities bought up newspapers (and radio stations, but that’s a different op-ed piece all-together), so as circulation and therefore ad revenue decreases those conglomerates have chosen to cut staff and page counts to meet a new (and lower) bottom line rather than, you know, focusing on quality and trying to drum up new readers by putting out a product people might actually want to read. The Times-Picayune is turning into a downright depressing read, in terms of quality and thickness (I know, the old saying comes up: “The food was horrible, and there was so little of it, but the two are related).

And then a bit later (yes, I know this is a lot of cutting and pasting)

Google “Who owns the Times-Picayune” and you’ll be led to Newhouse Newspapers. Google “Newhouse Newspapers” inturn and you’ll find a MediaOwners.com listing as the top result (what Google lists as the actual Newhouse Newspaper website, newhouse.com, seems to be the website for the National Federation of Republican Women), which says that Newhouse Newspapers is owned by Advance Publications (the CEO of which is someone by the name of Samuel I. Newhouse Jr.), which publishes The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Parade and more. A murder’s row of publications for sure, but it’s sensible to wonder how far down Advance Publications’ list of priorities a shrinking newspaper in a small market can be. It should be noted that, as far as I know, every major monthly or weekly publication in the New Orleans area is locally owned.

Like I said, there's a lot in Leo's commentary I'm leaving out, including some interesting speculation as to what might make for a better T-P both in print and online. But the operative question here is, to what degree is the T-P's ownership structure a detriment to the quality of the paper it puts out? I'm pretty sure it explains why NOLA.com is such a crappy website but am unsure about how it has influenced some of the unfortunate recent decisions regarding the print edition. And there have been several of those; shrinking the Monday opinion page, dumping some favorite columns, reducing the Food section to near nothing, running a pointless and nationally focused "People" feature on the front of the Living section, just to name a few. How would you go about fixing this?

This is all well and good but what do we think of Bruno?

Eh.. I already said it in Adrastos's comments.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Some judges really can "empathize right on your behind"

Samuel Alito, for example, would appear to be one.

Yay for NOLA.com

I'm well aware of how we all feel about some of the ugliness that goes on in NOLA.com threads but the discussion below this article about the North Claiborne expressway fantasy is actually pretty good. Anyone familiar with the way preservationism tends to favor the powerful in this city will recognize this argument, for example.
Those who deride "Generic, suburban development" also known as strip malls with national chains:

Do you not realize that the commercial development on Claiborne in the 50s was not unique to New Orleans? Every downtown area in major American cities had similar districts. What you idolize in some romantic retelling of the past was then what strip malls are today. They were how businesses were built. That's how all American cities looked. The difference is that in New Orleans, the past was preserved.

Talk as you will about how preserving that economy was good for New Orleans. It was and is great for the wealthy. St. Charles, Magazine, Carrollton, it's great for them because it's a tourist attraction and an enjoyable, throw back way of life. It was, however, devastating to communities that could not afford to be boutique, places like Treme and Central City.

Economic progress in today's world will make life more equitable in New Orleans. Preservation and attempts to return to how it was will continue to keep New Orleans divided economically.

The rich want to keep it the same because for them, life in New Orleans is great. Change? Modernize? HELL NO, because they moved to New Orleans for the funk and the old times. Progress be damned. Moving the depressed areas forward? HELL NO if it means modernization.

IT IS AS IT WAS AND IT SHALL ALWAYS BE AS IT WAS. This is how the "liberal" white New Orleanians champion their cause of the truest reactionary conservatism in America today. It's all a vacation for them.
I'll venture to add that nobody likes "generic suburban development" architecture and many (though not all) of us are less than thrilled with the commercial (and cultural) homogenization implied by the presence of national chain retailers. But these are primarily aesthetic matters* and usually are inconsequential to the actual health of the neighborhoods preservationists often presume to be protecting. But you can't urban plan your way out of a depressed economy.

Besides, if the Claiborne expressway is torn down, what will replace it? Rather than the North Claiborne of 30 years ago, we're likely to end up with the North Claiborne of today minus the overpass plus maybe a few more Dollar Generals and an Urban Outfitters or two.... and, of course, a ridiculously inconvenient means of getting across town.

But, as I said yesterday, none of this makes any difference since it's not going to happen anyway. It's just a bit of funny talk thrown in to guard against any last-minute opposition to the master plan which, I am told, also includes a provision for granting each New Orleanian his or her own personal monorail.

*A large part of the impetus behind "Buy Local" movements is born of economic and environmental concerns. But more often than not, the "solutions" coming out of such movements are fundamentally conservative in nature, focusing on policing individual lifestyles and opposing major economic development.

Update: Cousin Pat lists (maps, really) multiple things that he thinks "would have to change should New Orleans remove its I-10 over North Claiborne Avenue." It's.. um.. a lot of things... which serves as further indication of how poorly thought out the Big Idea here really is.

Upperdate: One more thing regarding the "Buy Local" movement. This week's Gambit cover story looks at ways in which national chains are attempting to co-opt the word "local" in their ad campaigns.
Surveys and anecdotal reports from business owners suggest that these initiatives are in fact changing spending patterns. A survey of 1,100 independent retailers conducted in January by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (where I work) found that, amid the worst economic downturn since the Depression, buy-local sentiment is giving local businesses an edge over their chain competitors. While the Commerce Department reported overall retail sales plunged almost 10 percent over the holidays, the survey found independent retailers in cities with buy-local campaigns saw sales drop an average of just 3 percent from the previous year.

None of this has slipped the notice of corporate executives and the consumer research firms that advise them. Several of these firms have begun to track the localization trend. In its annual consumer survey, the New York-based branding firm BBMG found that the number of people reporting locally produced products are "very important" to them jumped from 26 to 32 percent in the last year. "It's not just a small cadre of consumers anymore," founding partner Mitch Baranowski says.

 "Food is one of the biggest gateways, but we're seeing this idea of 'local' spread across other categories and sectors," says Michelle Barry, senior vice president of the Hartman Group. A report published by Hartman last year noted, "There is a belief that you can only be local if you are a small and authentic brand. This isn't necessarily true; big brands can use the notion of local to their advantage as well." Barry explains: "Big companies have to be much more creative in how they articulate local. ... It's a different way of thinking about local that is not quite as literal."

Funny stuff.

Addington Administration

Something pulled Billmon back out from behind the curtain. The updated post concludes,
God knows I'm all in favor of shedding more light on the CIA's dirty laundry. But there doesn't seem much point in passing a new law unless we're willing to prosecute the people who made mincemeat out of the old one.
Which is to say that the ball is in Eric Holder's court. That is, if you assume that we have a politically independent Justice Department. Otherwise, you can consider it Obama's problem.
Holder might well do the right thing. He is an able lawyer who knows how to run an investigation. And, despite the bashing he would take from the pro-torture right, the Attorney General could come out of the process as an American hero -- a lawman committed to the rule of law, as opposed to the Constitutional wrecking crew that occupied the Department of Justice when Dick Cheney was calling the shots.

But the Attorney General will not do that right thing without a go-ahead from Obama's White House. The president and his aides have been highly resistant to probing the abuses of the previous administration. That stance may be softening.

But don't expect Holder to force the president's hand. The Attorney General is neither so legally nor so politically adventurous.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


One distinguishing characteristic of the post-Katrina period upon which historians will remark for years to come has been the stellar performance and vision provided by the leadership.
Aiming to maximize federal grant money and offer proof of his city's recovery, Mayor Ray Nagin is urging Hurricane Katrina victims still living elsewhere -- and longing to return -- to record New Orleans as their home when the U.S. Census Bureau conducts its decennial head count next spring.

Problem is, that strategy doesn't mesh with census rules, federal officials say.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Things that aren't going to happen

It's a nice thought and all but, in addition to a massive amount of disruptive construction work accross the heart of the city, removing the Claiborne overpass would also require a compensating investment in public transit infrastructure in order to mitigate the resulting traffic nightmare.

Anyway none of this matters since the "project" is only being talked up right now to combat any potential last-minute political threat to the final Master Plan. Think of it as another one of those Big Shiny Ideas that distract the public discourse for a time but aren't really meant to be implemented. It's not Ray Nagin's idea, but I'm sure he appreciates the maneuver.

Also see: In early 2006, I posted this set of photos from under the bridge where I watched an "All-star second line" make it's way through a still largely broken city.

"We need like some name tags with our picture on it, all laminated and what not. I mean, we gotta look legit man. "

Louisiana Film Studios' Wayne Read laminated up some name tags for Uncle Rico.
Houser last year became an enthusiastic promoter of the newly formed film studio project, which operates in a former Winn-Dixie warehouse on a 25-acre site in Jefferson Parish's Elmwood commercial area. Read said Houser and his wife, Kristen Houser, "shared a vision and a real commitment to this film studio and were part of the LFS team." The couple traveled with Read to the Sundance Film Festival in Utah to help spread the word.

Read said he gave the Housers studio business cards and studio e-mail addresses. Those things were unsolicited by the Housers and they did not use them, said Kevin Houser's attorney Rob Couhig.
I like that the Housers had Rob Couhig deny that they ever touched the tainted business cards and email addresses.... particularly the email addresses which we know can cause all sorts of trouble, especially if you bring your Blackberry to Wal-Mart.

Also of note in this article.

The property is owned by developer George Ackel and a family trust controlled by businessman John Georges, which received the money for the purchase option and for rent. Georges said Read has "not been able to perform under our contract."

Georges has a track record of support for the Saints, buying out empty seats to prevent local TV blackouts of games. He said he tried to help resolve the recent problems among the various parties. But the ongoing legal dispute between Read and lawyers representing the Housers has made it difficult to intervene, Georges said. The family trust does not wish to take an active role in the project, Georges said.

"However, there are many parties interested in taking Mr. Read's position if things don't work out," Georges said.
"The property" referred to in this passage is the converted Winn-Dixie warehouse which serves as Read's studio. From a July 4 T-P story, we learned that Read had originally concealed the fact that he was not the actual owner of the property from his investors. The article states that Read had planned to purchase the building from Ackel but, like so many other aspects of the scheme, that didn't quite work out.

So far, in addition to the numerous Saints players and officials, what I am calling the Uncle Rico scandal has turned up the names Rob Couhig, Ron Forman, and John Georges. Two of those names have been thrown around in the early rounds of handicapping the 2010 Mayoral election. Is "Hollywood South" beginning to rival City Hall as a potential free money and patronage factory? This will continue to hold our attention as the lawsuits start piling up and as we get further into campaign and football season.

Friday, July 10, 2009

NOLA.com is just plain weird

Jeff Duncan's recent column on the Uncle Rico scandal has generated 586 comments on NOLA.com as of this afternoon. At first I thought, wow a lot of people are interested in this tax credit boondoggle. But then it turns out that most of it is just smack talk coming from Detroit Lions fans of all people. The Saints face the Lions in the 2009 season opener September 13. Apparently, this match-up between two teams who won a combined 8 games in 2008 (the Lions didn't win any) is a much bigger deal than anyone could have predicted. Maybe it's a Christians and Lions thing....

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Trees we hate

Following upon previous comment threads in which we aired out our repressed antipathy toward the Chinese Tallow Tree and the Crape Myrtle, I'd figure now is as good a time as any to find out what we hate about the Magnolia Tree.


Okay we're a long way from this becoming a reality but it's nice to think it might actually come back.
A Baton Rouge amusement company has reached a preliminary agreement with Nickelodeon to redevelop the Six Flags theme park in eastern New Orleans, according to an article in Wednesday's Baton Rouge Business Report.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Shrimp and White Bean Soup

Since we were reminded recently of the impending end of shrimp season, we were motivated to check our local Rouses where they were selling the super huge head-on critters for $3.50 per pound on Monday. After a bit of agonizing over what to do with them it was decided that, since we'd already done the best Shrimp Creole ever, we'd try instead to replicate a soup we'd tasted at Cochon a year ago. We were fairly pleased with the results. This recipe is actually pretty similar to the Shrimp Creole recipe with a few differences and, sadly, fewer pictures this time.

  • Start by peeling and deveining your huge shrimp. Reserve the meat in the refrigerator. Place the shells in a stock pot along with some basic soup vegetables (I use onion, garlic, and celery), lots of black pepper, salt, and a little crab boil. Bring the pot to a boil and then simmer for as long as you can get away with to make a nice rich stock.

  • Once your stock is about ready, start building your soup in a separate pot. Begin by frying enough bacon to render a decent amount of cooking grease. Into the grease add, 1 onion, 1 clove of garlic, 2 or 3 stalks of celery, 1 green bell pepper and 1 or 2 leeks all diced.

  • Once the vegetables start to cook down slice and add 3 or 4 large tomatoes. Allow them to liquefy in the pot. Add a liberal sprinkling of salt, black pepper, white pepper, and a little cayenne.

  • Add one pound of Camelia Brand white beans. Stir to coat and then begin ladeling your shrimp stock into the soup. If you were just cooking white beans, you'd just want enough liquid to cover them but we're looking for something much thinner here so fill the pot up. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat a bit. I'm likely to add more pepper here and a handful of dried thyme.

  • Cover but keep checking the pot to keep it simmering and to add stock as needed until the beans are cooked. This will take about 40 minutes.

  • Retrieve your peeled huge shrimp from the fridge and add them to the pot. Cover and simmer for about 6 to 10 minutes to cook the shrimp.

  • Spoon it out and take one crappy phone picture just to show that you were there.

Shrimp and White Bean Soup

This must mean that Arnie's in, then?

Mitch Landrieu Says He Won't Run For Mayor

Suspiciously over-dramatic victimhood

At least they didn't call a press conference to announce it.

A local computer analyst who claims that his recent work at City Hall revealed the intentional deletion of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's e-mail and other material told authorities his Metairie home may have been vandalized last week as a "scare tactic" related to his public contract.

According to a Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office incident report, Louisiana Technology Council President Mark Lewis arrived home on June 30 to find all four of the exterior doors to his home sealed shut. Nothing inside the home had been disturbed, and no one had been home all day.

But then, again, they must have leaked it to the paper somehow, which seems to be about the same thing to me. But I'd at least take it half-seriously if it weren't for this bit which looks like an overreach to me.

Lewis, who eventually entered his home through a window, told deputies that "a similar incident occurred to the public relations associate Cheron Brylski when she was handling a sensitive matter involving a New Orleans Church in Jan. 2009."

Brylski, who handles public relations for Lewis' nonprofit technology group, confirmed that she found the exterior locks to her home sealed shut on the same day her husband received a criminal trespass citation from New Orleans police for refusing to leave a Catholic church set to be shuttered by the local archdiocese.

So we're supposed to believe that the same shadowy figure is out there retaliating (in an oddly passive manner) against people hired to search the Mayor's computer AND people protesting the Archdiocese's church closures. While there isn't much to connect the supposed motivations of the actor in these supposed acts of vandalism, there is a connection between the parties claiming to have been vandalized upon. These individuals, and this article by extension, are getting into some pretty stupid conspiracy theory here.

Caveat, Douchebag

Our friend Poochie has a Tweeter Tube too.
you think your (sic) buying LA film tac creits. but the fuckn snapper didnt... wow this is a fucked up world we live in
If you really are that impressed with your inherent superiority to the "fuckn snapper" maybe you could demonstrate that by taking the initiative to do some research on the "LA film tac creits" before blindly throwing your money into Uncle Rico's helmet.

Eliminate Unnecessary Words

Shorter descriptions applied to the establishments on the Gambit's "Top 50 Bars" list for your convenience.

  1. Hipsters

  2. Frat boys

  3. Tourists

  4. Tourists

  5. Yuppies

  6. Uber-hipsters

  7. Yuppie-hipsters

  8. Frat-Yuppies

  9. Never Been There

  10. Hipsters

  11. Yuppies

  12. Tourists

  13. Hipsters

  14. Hipsters

  15. Hipsters

  16. Yuppie-Hipsters

  17. Hipsters + Old People

  18. Frat Boys + Old People

  19. Frat Boys + Beer Snobs

  20. Tourist-hipsters

  21. Yuppies + Frat Boys + Beer Snobs

  22. Yuppie-tourists

  23. Hipsters

  24. Yuppies + Hipsters + Tourists

  25. Hipster-tourists

  26. Rednecks + Old People

  27. Tourists

  28. Rednecks + Yuppies + Old People

  29. Hipsters

  30. Hipsters

  31. Yuppies + Frat Boys

  32. Yuppie-hipsters

  33. Yuppies + Tourists

  34. Yuppie-hipsters + Frat Boys

  35. Hipsters + Old People

  36. Hipsters

  37. Tourists + Frat Boys + Rednecks

  38. Hipsters + Yuppies

  39. Never been there... looks like Hipsters + Gay (Update: What's up with the conspicuous lack of gay bars on this list, BTW)

  40. Hipsters + Yuppies

  41. In Metairie

  42. Hipsters + Yuppies

  43. Yuppies who think they are Hipsters + Me when I'm hungry

  44. Hipsters + College Kids Who Aren't Necessarily Frat Boys But Just As Annoying If Not Moreso + Me on trivia night

  45. Yuppies + Frat Boys

  46. Hipsters + Frat Boys + The Odd Redneck

  47. Never Been There

  48. Never Been There but looks Hipstery

  49. Hipsters + Tourists + Old People + The Odd Redneck + Me on many a Sunday afternoon

  50. Hipsters

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

"We also need some way to make us look official, like we got all the answers. "

Last week we asked whether former Saints long snapping specialist Kevin Houser was a small-time Bernie Madoff who suckered Saints players and coaches into a ponzi-like investment scheme based on the promise of state tax credits available from a local film studio. But based on this story we read in the T-P Saturday, we're not sure that's quite right. The Madoff character in this situation is Louisiana Film Studios owner Wayne Read.
While more than two dozen Saints football players and coaches fear they may have lost nearly $2 million they entrusted to Louisiana Film Studios owner Wayne Read, they are not the only people in the New Orleans area who say the motion picture executive owes them money.

The financial dealings of the Elmwood film studio that have come to light in the past week show that Read accepted cash payments from the Saints members without returning the tax credit investments or explaining what happened to their money.

After signing a contract for construction work on the studio that he later canceled, he is also being sued by the contractor for $681,000 in unpaid invoices. And St. John the Baptist Parish is still waiting for Read to pay $100,000 that local officials say he owes for bills related to his use of the parish's civic center for a movie production in 2007.

Louisiana's "Hollywood South" film industry sprang up virtually overnight when the state instituted its tax credit finance scheme in the early 2000s (Jesus that's sort of a long time ago now). The state grants tax credits to film production companies who raise cash by selling them at a discount to brokers or directly to investors who can apply them against their income tax liability.

While the tax credit scheme may have helped attract Hollywood star power to Louisiana, it's the back-end trading in taxpayer-financed investment vehicles that has attracted so much local talent to the game. Opportunistic lawyers like Read and former LIFT Productions CEO Malcolm Petal suddenly became studio executives with the power to distribute lucrative tax shelter opportunities to the well-off. According to the T-P, Ron Forman's son was President of Read's firm for a time proving once again that the Formans know a thing or two about making a buck off of government financed entertainment amenities.

But apparently that business model with regard to the film industry is still in need of some tweaking. Petal pleaded guilty last year to bribing a state official for inflating the value of tax credits allotted to LIFT. Read, meanwhile, seems to have been accepting "investments" in tax credits he hasn't been able to deliver.

Kevin Houser, who was dismissed Monday as the long snapper for the Saints, became a point man for Read's effort to raise money among the team's current and former players and coaches. In November, 27 men with ties to the Saints -- including coach Sean Payton, quarterback Drew Brees and former quarterback Archie Manning -- paid large sums of money with the expectation that by the end of March they would get back about $1.33 in tax credits for every dollar of their investment.

In correspondence to Houser in December, Read said he planned to spend $12 million to buy the property and $13 million on reconstruction, and that the credits would be delivered by the end of March.

"No risk to you all," Read wrote.

By the deadline, Read had not even applied for the tax credits from the state film office and had not met at least two important requirements to qualify for them.
So it seems that Wayne Read and not Kevin Houser is running the (somewhat sloppy) Madoff-like enterprise of misleading investors until more investors can cover their investment. Which means that Houser, as the sales stooge, is more like Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite.

Kevin Houser (T-P photo)

Uncle Rico imagining tiny little seahorses

Think about it. Rico is an ex-(sort of) football player who sells crappy Tupperware and herbal breast-enlargement products door-to-door. Houser is an ex-(sort of) football player who sold products of a similar value to his teammates in the locker room. Rico liked to make home movies of himself throwing a football in an unusual fashion to nobody in a corn field. Houser wanted to make movies and was often seen throwing a football in an unusual fashion (between his legs) to nobody (Saints' punters) on the football field. Both men thought they had a quick way to make some "sweet moola". Both really really wish they could go back in time now.

Saturday, July 04, 2009


Let's assume for one second that Sarah Palin's decision to "Go Galt" yesterday really was, as she put it, a move to spare her constituents the apparently inevitable "waste" of her lame-duck status. Does that mean we should have asked Nagin to quit the day after he was reelected?

Alternatively, let's assume that Palin's decision to quit really was, as conservative pundits are putting it today, a clever move to strengthen her status in the Presidential race, then shouldn't Bobby Jindal follow this example before he falls too far behind the Palin juggernaut?

Thursday, July 02, 2009

I wonder if they say "Don't be Economic Girly Men" on the back

Coffers Empty, California Pays With I.O.U.’s

Fun quote of the evening

Kevin Houser interviews Kevin Houser about being cut

"Was I prepared for it? No. Was it heart wrenching? Yes. did I lock myself in the bathroom and cry like a baby? Sure," Houser said.

"An evening with the right people can alter the debate"


Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth said today she was canceling plans for an exclusive "salon" at her home where for as much as $250,000, the Post offered lobbyists and association executives off-the-record access to "those powerful few" — Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and even the paper’s own reporters and editors.

The astonishing offer was detailed in a flier circulated Wednesday to a health care lobbyist, who provided it to a reporter because the lobbyist said he felt it was a conflict for the paper to charge for access to, as the flier says, its “health care reporting and editorial staff."


"Underwriting Opportunity: An evening with the right people can alter the debate," says the one-page flier. "Underwrite and participate in this intimate and exclusive Washington Post Salon, an off-the-record dinner and discussion at the home of CEO and Publisher Katharine Weymouth. ... Bring your organization’s CEO or executive director literally to the table. Interact with key Obama administration and congressional leaders."

The flier promised the dinner would be held in an intimate setting with no unseemly conflict between participants. “Spirited? Yes. Confrontational? No,” it said. “The relaxed setting in the home of Katharine Weymouth assures it. What is guaranteed is a collegial evening, with Obama administration officials, Congress members, business leaders, advocacy leaders and other select minds typically on the guest list of 20 or less. …

Imagine if there were a social event in New Orleans that brought together "business leaders, advocacy leaders and other select minds" along with various political folk and the publisher of the Times-Picayune and.... um... that's the Rex Ball, isn't it?

Is Kevin Houser Bernie Madoff?

Who can blame the T-P, really? When a story drops into your lap that ties together the Saints, the motion picture industry, financial scandal, and Rob Couhig can you really do anything but blow it up all over the front page?
BATON ROUGE -- Archie Manning, Drew Brees and coach Sean Payton are among more than two dozen people with ties to the Saints who together put nearly $2 million into an Elmwood film studio that has failed to return their investments as promised.
Louisiana's film industry is financed through a program which grants tax credits to studios and production companies who then sell them at a slight discount to wealthy investors (professional athletes being one example) for cash. The investors can then apply the credit to their state income tax liability and end up coming in between 30 and 40 percent ahead on the deal. In this case, state tax dollars would reimburse Saints players for fronting the money to make movies. This taxpayer financed system of wealthy individuals shifting money back and forth is the lifeblood of Louisiana's "Hollywood South" film industry. Facing competition from other states, the Legislature extended and increased the credit in the recently concluded session. And while he isn't too keen on crucial mental health services for New Orleans residents, the governor is unlikely to veto this appropriation.

In addition to attracting film production to the area, the tax-incentive program has also caught the attention of the FBI on occasion. Late last year, attorney and LIFT Productions CEO Malcolm Petal pleaded guilty to bribery charges stemming from a scheme to acquire more value in tax credits than he intended to spend on film production.

Bribery is one way to game this system. Another would be fraud.
Manning and an attorney for one of the players said Wednesday that they thought they were taking part in a routine tax credit program offered through Louisiana's motion picture studio incentives until they discovered that the studio project never received state authorization for the credits and that their money was at risk.

"They weren't approved -- there was no reason to think they would not be, " Manning said.

Manning said he had received a telephone call from an FBI agent seeking information about the studio's investment plan.

Wayne Read, chief executive of Louisiana Film Studios, said that he was not aware of any federal investigation and that the Saints investors would get their money back as new financiers are brought into the project, which he said could happen in two weeks.
Read (another attorney-turned-movie mogul, by the way) intends to repay the Saints players, not with tax credits, but with money acquired from "new financiers." Not that Read is actually running a Madoff-like ponzi scheme but we'll easily forgive these Saints players if they continue to squirm over these next "two weeks." In Read's defense, since he hasn't obtained any tax credits, we can reasonably assume that he hasn't tried to bribe anybody.

On the other hand, I know these guys are pro-athletes and all but man this is... not smart.
(Recently released deep snapper Kevin) Houser and the other Saints members made their investments in late 2008 and were due to receive their tax credits by the end of March, according to a tax credit contract and Houser's attorney, Rob Couhig.

The studio has yet to obtain the credits, Read said. Studio officials are talking to potential long-term investors for the project, and an announcement could be made in two weeks, he said. The money from the new backers would be used to return, at a minimum, the original amounts paid by the Saints investors, Read said.

Read said that although he received money from many of the Saints members, he had contact only with Houser. In some cases, players invested money without signing agreements, Read said.
Is this true? Did Saints players and coaches (Sean Payton was an investor) simply drop their five and six figure sums in a hat (helmet?) that Houser and Couhig passed around the locker room? Did they even tell them what it was for? Maybe they just told them they were getting into show-biz. We already know that Payton has been trying to sell a screenplay. Was this his way of getting his beak wet in the industry?

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


Senator Landrieu's D.C. office line: (202)224-5824

New Orleans office: (504) 589-2427

Bucking the paid labor trend

Over the past few years, headline writers at City Business and The Times-Picayune have promoted a pet myth of a recession-proof New Orleans "recovery" economy "bucking the trend" of national hard times. The loosely implied thesis is based on two ideas. The first part of the theory holds that since the local job market is heavy on T-shirt & booze pedaling and light on manufacturing or technology or finance it isn't as vulnerable to the kinds of shocks that have affected other parts of the country. Or, since there aren't many real jobs around here in the first place, there aren't that many to lose either. And while that may be kind of true, it seems an inappropriate cause for cheering in the business pages.

The second major tenet of trendbuckery asserts that because the Federal Flood left us with so much shit to either knock down or rebuild (but mostly knock down) we're in the midst of an unparalleled construction boom. This is also partially true but, again, less than cheering when one takes into account the degree to which it relies on a system of slave labor.
About 80 percent of wage laborers in New Orleans, mostly Hispanic, report they have been stiffed. New Orleans has the highest incidence of wage theft by far in the South, according to a survey by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

"This isn't a few bad apples," Gonzalez said. "It's systematic."

Neither does it affect only the 30 or so members of the Congress of Day Laborers, affiliated with the Center for Racial Justice, who showed up to the council meeting in work clothes and boots, wearing Spanish and English "Stop wage theft!" stickers over their hearts.

Darnell Parker, a black U.S.-born day laborer, said one contractor waited until a grueling job was finished to tell him he was being paid less than expected. The only explanation offered by the contractor was that he changed his mind.

Licensed union contractors also lose out: They are at a disadvantage if they have to compete against freelance contractors who can underpay laborers without facing penalties from a union or the police, experts said.

Wage thieves drive "honest businesses out of business," said Ted Quant, director of Loyola's Twomey Center for Peace through Justice. Homeowners lose out at that point because the pool of contractors available for jobs thins, Fielkow said.
Thanks should go to Councilman Fielkow for hosting that hearing, by the way.

Meanwhile, also not magically insulated from the national recession is the local financial sector.
NEW YORK — Continued problems with repayment of mortgage loans in Whitney Holding Corp.’s Florida markets has led Fitch Ratings Service to downgrade the company's ratings, and its forecast is that the situation is not likely to improve in the near future.

Investors refer to Fitch ratings to gauge the perceived health of the company.

Fitch lowered Whitney’s long-term Issuer Default Rating to BBB from BBB+ to reflect the bank’s increased level of nonperforming assets.
Whitney Bank is a subsidiary of Whitney Holding Corp. It's unclear to me just how insulated Whitney is from its parent's investments but suffice to say there's almost no such thing as a local bank anymore. If you're a lending institution, chances are you've been affected by "troubled assets" in one way or another.

Now if Whitney happened to have a friendly Senator or two lying around someplace, things might be a bit different.

Sen. Daniel K. Inouye's staff contacted federal regulators last fall to ask about the bailout application of an ailing Hawaii bank that he had helped to establish and where he has invested the bulk of his personal wealth.

The bank, Central Pacific Financial, was an unlikely candidate for a program designed by the Treasury Department to bolster healthy banks. The firm's losses were depleting its capital reserves. Its primary regulator, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., already had decided that it didn't meet the criteria for receiving a favorable recommendation and had forwarded the application to a council that reviewed marginal cases, according to agency documents.

Two weeks after the inquiry from Inouye's office, Central Pacific announced that the Treasury would inject $135 million.

Now there's how you go about bucking a trend.

We don't really need a legislature in this state

After months and months of wrangling over New Orleans Adolescent Hospital, Jindal vetoes the funding anyway.

High comedy

John Labruzzo is a guest this morning on WBOK.