Saturday, June 30, 2012

Designed to fail

I've never read or heard about a house moving project like this one where anyone was satisfied with the results.

In a blow to housing preservation efforts, the nonprofit owners of a home that was moved from the new Veteran’s Affairs Hospital site to Treme recently asked for permission to demolish the historic house. The city spent $35,000 to move the house and donated it to Providence Community Housing. After The Lens and our reporting partners at FOX8 began asking questions about the demolition request, Providence officials backtracked and said they now are working to form a new partnership to save the house.
The house moving scheme, initiated as a means of placating preservationist protest over the clearing of the hospital site, was never going to satisfy anybody. Except the contractors, of course.  Not that that should surprise anybody.  In fact, it's likely that way by design as anyone who did the math at the time, like Tim here, could have pointed out.

Simple math tells me this program will fail.

$4.2 million divided by 73 houses is just $57,500 each.

No way you can prep the house, move it, build a foundation, and repair the house for that amount of money. And the cost land at the new location? What other funding or potential funding is provided to get all this done? If all they have is the $4.2 million.

Quote of the Day

The 25 year old graduate student doing FTC's digital privacy enforcement job for them:

"I don't think it's controversial to note that they seem to be understaffed," Mayer said in a phone interview between classes. "I think that's pretty clear."
See also:
Internet and phone firms are preparing to install "black boxes" to monitor UK internet and phone traffic, and decode encrypted messages - including Facebook and GMail messages.

Naming rights

Before there was the Ho-Zone fiasco, there was Councilman Arnie Fielkow's plan to make "city assets" such as buildings, parks, etc. available for sponsorships.

The Governmental Affairs Committee on Thursday agreed to recommend that the full council consider Fielkow's suggestion that Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration solicit advertising and marketing firms to figure out what city assets might best attract paid sponsorships.

"I believe we have the chance to market and sell everything from advertising on local governmental access (cable TV) channels to potentially some naming rights for some of our city-owned buildings to a whole slew of inventory, " Fielkow said.

While it seems that any piece of public property -- from playgrounds to city vehicles -- could be on the block, Councilwoman Susan Guidry insisted that Carnival is not for sale.

"For anyone who's concerned that we're going to sell Mardi Gras, that it's going to be 'Mardi Gras by X Corp., ' that's not what we're looking at here, " she said.

Guidry added, however, that commodities connected to Carnival might well be up for grabs. One suggestion: "That when 'Joe Six Pack' beer company puts up a billboard saying that they are the beer of New Orleans Mardi Gras 2013, the city gets some revenue from that, " she said.

Ultimately, city officials would get the final word on what brand names could get slapped onto city property, the council members said.
Admittedly the Hospitality Zone situation was worse. There we saw tourism magnates hold street repair funds hostage while demanding their own private governing board.  That's different from making city infrastructure maintenance dependent on its potential ad revenue but only by a degree.

So far the only examples of Fielkow's concept in action I can name have been Coca-Cola's spray paint guerrilla marketing campaign during the Final Four which, despite being very much in the spirit of Fielkow's policy, seemed to anger everyone in town,  Mr. Peanut Park on Simon Bolivar Avenue which most people still don't know much about, and this football field in Joe Brown Park which glorifies an international conglomerate who profits from sweatshop labor.

This week, the basketball court at Laurence Square (Napoleon Avenue at Magazine Street) was given a makeover.  The court was pressure washed, covered in blacktop, and then painted in blue and grey.

Blue and grey

New glass backboards have been installed along with yellow striping.  Note the three point line which, finally, brings the court up to date for 1980s era regulation play.

Painted court

The color scheme, however,  which mimics that of the NBA's Hornets may not be current for much longer. Below we see the Hornets' NOLA logo sketched onto the court.  We assume they're going to keep that design no matter what happens to the rest of their uniform.

NOLA Hornets logo

I've been digging around trying to find out if Tom Benson had anything to do with the renovation here.  I'm guessing the Hornets chipped in something. And good on them for doing so if that is the case.  Meanwhile, at center court, please enjoy this message from our other sponsor.

Richard's Disposal Court at Laurence Square

Thursday, June 28, 2012

3 Dimensional Etch-a-Sketching

Mitt goes backwards in several directions at once.



President Obama rode the same emotional rollercoaster as millions of Americans watching cable news on Thursday, as the first reports to reach him via CNN and FOX erroneously declared that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate had been struck down. 

I believe we have a photo of those tense moments as the President and his advisers watched CNN and FOX screw up the news this morning.


Shit my Jackie says

It's been a while since we've had a satisfying bon mot from Jackie Clarkson.

Jackie is talking about a late maneuver by Council this afternoon where they altered the agenda midway through their meeting in order to approve the new Costco.  I don't know how many villages it takes to build a Costco, but if you're wondering how many mayors it takes to browbeat a city council into overruling planners' recommendations regarding surface parking spots, the answer is one.
The Costco project was slated for a presentation led by company vice president Jackie Frank on Thursday morning, but before it began, Mayor Mitch Landrieu appeared before the City Council. After spending several minutes describing progress in the city, Landrieu said that Costco’s treatment will be critical to New Orleans’ image for other businesses, and urged the council to give the project immediate support.

“They want to come, and they want to come today,” Landrieu says. “Please do not let this get caught up in other issues that might be affecting us.”

The Costco presentation then followed similar lines to the community meetings it has held since last fall, describing the company’s size, its business philosophy, its employment practices and its charitable endeavors. Officials then described the few design issues on which it differs with the City Planning Commission — most notably, its request for a 670-space parking lot rather than the 499 spaces city planners recommend.

I don't have anything against the Costco, by the way.  I'm sure it will be very nice.   But our city government is still very much a clown show.

America doesn't want to be Jack Kingston's friend anyway

The conservative freak out over the Supreme Court ruling is pretty funny. Maybe they'll all up and move to Canada where health care policy actually makes some semblance of sense.

Update: Also "Traitors!" and also "Nullification!" and, of course, "911!"

Serpas Signal

Now that the Health Care Law has been upheld I suppose we can start calling these "rolling death panels" the way Serpas always intended.

Tonight, the New Orleans Police Department’s Traffic Section will conduct a Sobriety Checkpoint beginning at approximately 9:00 P.M. and concluding at approximately 5:00 A.M. in the Uptown area.    Motorists will experience minimal delays and should have proper documentation, i.e., proof of insurance, and a valid driver’s license if requested.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fractured Fairy Tales: Pay for performance program

It started out one afternoon when Ray Nagin was relaxing in his office with his copy of  Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine which he had been using as a how-to manual for governing post-Katrina New Orleans. Nagin would later offer this review of the book in an interview with Ethan Brown.

“I understand exactly the premise that they’re presenting,” Nagin says, holding the book aloft, “that’s for sure. Look, man, after this disaster there is big money! The shock-and-awe piece of what they’re talking about is absolutely correct.”

Nagin was reaching for his highlighter when Jonathan Vilma and Gregg Williams burst into the room and slammed an envelope down on his desk. Audio provided by filmmaker Sean Pampilon (who was following Williams around constantly at the time) reveals the following exchange.
"You want it?" Williams asks. "[Expletive] no," a voice answers, as others in the room applaud. "OK, it's $200 – you got it for a 'whack,' " Williams says. The rest of his words are drowned out by loud cheers.
We believe the "others in the room" at the time may have been Kip Holden and Bob Ellis although the only thing we're certain of at this point is that "Public Official A" is definitely Nagin.

Curiously Williams appears to have misspoken on the tape.  As it turns out, the money was actually distributed in $10,000 increments by somebody named Fradella.  Furthermore the money was not awarded for "whack" hits but instead for "cart-offs" of Fradella's granite.
During Nagin's tenure at City Hall, Fradella also donated "numerous truckloads" of granite -- the document does not say what its value was -- to the Nagin family's countertop business, Stone Age LLC.

Immediately upon leaving office, Nagin began working for Fradella as a paid consultant, according to the document, which is signed by Fradella. Fradella paid him $10,000 a month, an arrangement that lasted until March 2011, roughly 10 months after Nagin exited City Hall, it says.
None of these inaccuracies should surprise us, though, since anyone who watched the final minutes of the Saints-49ers Divisional Round playoff this year is aware that Gregg Williams never has any idea what he's doing or saying.

We're told that there may have once been some supporting evidence for the Nagin-Fradella pay for performance program at the bottom of an email to Nagin ,allegedly sent by Mike Ornstein but the email was subsequently erased by Greg Meffert.  Meanwhile Jonathan Vilma is suing Roger Goodell for having been implicated in this business at all.

Also due to some unfortunate internet commentary leveled by members of the totally not legitimate media, NFLPA spokesman, Fred Heebe, has already asked that the US Attorney in New Orleans recuse himself.

So everything seems pretty murky at this point. But Pamphilon, for his part, wants to remind us to please think of the children which he'll be available to do via any outlet that will give him air time.

Getting too old for this shit

New election season, same losing strategy. I keep hoping for a situation where either 1) Democrats perpetually crashing and burning in this fashion would perhaps learn something from it for once or 2) The big scary librul bogeyman administration they're trying to distance themselves from was actually the big scary librul administration they say it is. Sadly neither of these things ever happens.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The company owns you

Sooner or later your employer will get to tell you what to think too.

Ten NBC stations are enforcing strict guidelines on what their employees can post and share online, even on personal social media accounts not affiliated with the network. As TVNewsCheck’s Diana Marszalek reports, everyone at these ten stations — “from interns and production assistants to reporters and anchors” — is prohibited from engaging in or posting “anything that compromises the integrity and objectivity of you or NBCUniversal.”

Like we've been saying

Payton and Williams haven't challenged Goodell because they don't get to challenge Goodell. For the same reason, any statement from either of them has to be understood as coerced and can't be used to buttress the NFL's argument.

But you haven't heard much from the coaches who have been affected, namely Sean Payton, Gregg Williams and Joe Vitt (though Vitt has made more noise than the other two). And Saints quarterback Drew Brees has a pretty good idea why.

"I have pretty good knowledge and feel like I've been informed that a lot of those coaches feel like there are further sanctions that are being held over their heads if they don't quote-unquote cooperate with the investigation," Brees said Tuesday on Dan Patrick's radio show. "Even though punishment has already been levied on the coaches and already been determined ... I think they feel if they speak out on behalf of the players, that's being held over their head."

Turning down free money

Alan Blinder in yesterday's WSJ 

Unlike private investment, inadequate public investment is part of the problem. America's infrastructure needs are so huge, and so painfully obvious, that it's mind-boggling we're not investing more. The U.S. government can now borrow for five years at about 0.75% and for 10 years at about 1.7%. Both rates are far below expected inflation, making real interest rates sharply negative. Yet legions of skilled construction workers remain unemployed while we drive our cars over pothole-laden roads and creaky bridges. Does this make sense?

We're turning down free money because we've decided the problem is people aren't suffering enough. 

Medieval medicine

Jared Bernstein interviews Joseph Stiglitz about his new book among other things.

Let’s talk for a second about current events. So much economic policy today both here and especially in Europe, seems like medieval medicine: bleed the patient, and when she gets worse, add more leeches. In other words, “austerity.” 

Let me put it very forcefully: No large economy has ever recovered from an economic downturn through austerity. It’s not going to happen in the United States and it’s not going to happen in Europe.

This goes back to what we said yesterday about purposefully unlearning things.  We know that mass economic hardship cannot be resolved by imposing additional hardship.  But our policymakers are choosing that anyway.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Thank you, may we have another

Matt Taibbi and Yves Smith were on Bill Moyers' show the other day.  You can watch it here at your leisure but for now, just this passage should tell you something about who's in charge.

BILL MOYERS: A very curious thing happened when the House hearings opened. Some members of that committee felt that Dimon should be sworn in. But the chairman of the committee, a Republican from Alabama, Spencer Bachus, said, no, that wasn't necessary. Am I making too much out of that?

MATT TAIBBI: I thought that was an incredible moment for a couple of reasons. Obviously, the reason there was a hullabaloo over that was because of what happened when Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, came and testified before the Senate a couple of years ago. There later was a controversy over whether or not he had perjured himself in those hearings.

So the question was if, you know, Jamie Dimon is going to be sworn in, whether he would have to tell the truth, would be obligated, or whether it would just be a friendly conversation. But what was amazing about that, was that it Spencer Bachus who came to Jamie Dimon's defense. Spencer Bachus is the congressman for the Birmingham, Alabama, region which has been decimated by the Jefferson County swap disaster, which was caused by Chase, which was fined $700 million by the SEC.
So here's a guy who represents the county that has been most affected by Chase's bad behavior, and he comes to Chase's defense in the hearing, which I thought was-- it set the tone for the whole thing.
They wouldn't even ask Dimon to pretend he was going to be honest with them.  For background purposes, here's Taibbi's Rolling Stone article about Jefferson County from March 2010.

Unlearning what we already knew

Stephen Breyer:
“Even if I were to accept Citizens United, this Court’s legal conclusion should not bar the Montana Su­preme Court’s finding, made on the record before it, that independent expenditures by corporations did in fact lead to corruption or the appearance of corruption in Montana,” Breyer wrote. “Given the history and political landscape in Montana, that court concluded that the State had a compelling interest in limiting independent expenditures by corporations.”
The Montana case specifically refutes the  Citizens United  assertion that unchecked corporate spending does not lead to corruption by providing a real life example of precisely that having happened.  But the court chose to unlearn that lesson.

Defining characterisitc of sovereignty?

I don't think this is what "most would consider the defining characteristic of sovereignty" but Scalia does seem to want everyone off his lawn so.... okay, then.

Update:  Scalia adds:
Notwithstanding “[t]he myth of an era of unrestricted immigration” in the first 100 years of the Republic, the States enacted numerous laws restricting the immigration of certain classes of aliens, including convicted crimi­nals, indigents, persons with contagious diseases, and (in Southern States) freed blacks. Neuman, The Lost Century of American Immigration (1776–1875), 93 Colum. L. Rev. 1833, 1835, 1841–1880 (1993). State laws not only pro­ vided for the removal of unwanted immigrants but also imposed penalties on unlawfully present aliens and those who aided their immigration.
In other words, Justice Scalia just cited the good old days of "Sundown towns" in defense of Arizona's immigration policy.

Upperdate: I should add that Scalia, in addition to endorsing laws of racial exclusion, is confused about where most of these laws were written.  Take a look at James Loewen's database of Sundown Towns and compare the Southern States with those in the Midwest.  Freed blacks weren't being shoved out of the South, they were leaving out of their own volition only to find themselves classified as aliens in the "sovereign" northern states they migrated to.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Kicking you off the internet

Sooner or later they're going to figure out how to do it whenever they want.  They're pretty close now.  Which is why Newhouse's position as "legitimate" digital media will continue to be solid.

Bucking the trend

T-P reports the metro area lost 500 jobs between May of 2011 and May of 2012.  Obviously this number does not include the additional 200 jobs eliminated by the T-P in June of 2012.


Actual footage from NOLA Media Group's orientation video for new hires.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

See no evil

Two more things about Sean Cummings' party for Gomer the Destructor last night.

First, Gambit has updated the story to include the mayor's statement that Gomer is lying about their meeting.  Take that for whatever it's worth.

But more telling is this passage where the room full of entrepreneurial "tech experts" were given an opportunity to  voice their concerns to Gomer about his robust news site.

After Mathews and O’Byrne made their case, they opened up the floor to questions. “What are your main concerns about the website [NOLA.com]?” O’Byrne asked.

“The venomous nature of the comments that follow articles,” a woman replied immediately. “It’s really sort of hateful at times.”

“It’s terrible,” said another man.

“We’re trying to moderate that,” O’Byrne told them. “Certainly it’s been venomous against us,” he added, jokingly.

“It’s not just you,” the woman told him. “It’s any article that’s out there.”
Another man spoke up. “I will not go to your website -- and I won’t send anybody there -- because the comments section is so vitriolic, and there’s so much thinly veiled racism --”

“That’s not their fault,” someone pointed out.

Look, I've been through my share of NOLA.com comment threads.  I know the kinds of things idiots like to write there.  But I also understand that sort of thing is going to happen if you're aiming to operate a truly open forum on the news of the day. 

If you believe in the value of public input and discussion, then you're inevitably going to have to tolerate a fair amount of coarse and vulgar behavior in order to get to it.   What can we say? Many people are coarse and vulgar. (Not you, of course. You're actually quite nice.) But free and open democratic discourse demands that we confront.. or at least allow ourselves to be confronted with the fact of..  such people. 

The fact that these entrepreneurial leaders would prefer to solve the problem by simply shutting all the unclean people up somewhere so they don't have to worry their pretty little heads about them tells you all you need to know about where they're coming from.

Ricky Matthews' very own Excellence In Recovery banquet

Now that he's all done firing people, it's nice to see Gomer the Destructor come down out of his Windsor Court suite and start meeting with the public.. you know.. so the healing can begin. And who better than developer and entrepreneurial special person Sean Cummings to throw him a welcome party when he does.

Mathews and NOLA.com editor James O’Byrne were the guests at a small after-work group hosted by entrepreneur and real estate developer Sean Cummings. Cummings had invited the techies to Loa, the bar in his International House hotel, for a meet-and-greet where Mathews and O’Byrne could explain the NOLA Media Group’s strategy to shift to a three-day-a-week Times-Picayune and a beefed-up online presence at NOLA.com in a new digitally-focused company.
As we've already seen, Cummings understands entrepreneurship which is good because O'Byrne and Matthews have just finished entrepreneurialy firing 200 people and were eager to talk shop.
“This is an enterpreneurial effort on our part,” O’Byrne told the New Orleans tech group, which was enjoying light hors d’oeuvres and complimentary craft cocktails by mixologist Alan Walter. “Because of the leaks that happened in The New York Times, we lost control of the narrative, and for two weeks we really had to focus all our efforts on what we had to do as a company [which] was to tell all our employees where they stood.
But that's not all. Cummings is also an expert at cultivating a robust selection of  Creative Ones who, according to Matthews, are precisely the people who will be sympathetic to... well shit like this.

“We’re going to create a Google-Nike kind-of-vibe work environment,” Mathews told the group. “It’s our goal to create a world-class digital work environment for the journalists who are going to work for us, because we can attract the best and brightest from around the country. They’re going to want to come to New Orleans when the real story starts to get told. … We’re going to be a cutting-edge new media company with a print component that is still extraordinarily powerful. That’s our goal. So that narrative’s not been fully told yet; it will get told. You don’t tell it by being defensive, you do it by doing it.”

The "narrative" is that, by firing half of their newsroom, NOLA Media Group is creating a "Google-Nike kind-of-vibe" No I'm not sure what that means. I think, by "Google-kind-of-vibe" he means that maybe they'll have a pool table and a Ms. Pac Man in the newsroom or something.  But then "Nike-kind-of-vibe" conjures a different sort of work environment altogether. Maybe Matthews has in mind a sort of Foxconn of news where the suicide net is actually a super-awesome trampoline.

Obviously I don't get it.  But then I never really learned how to think excellence.

Cummings urged the crowd to think excellence rather than to be wed to a particular news model.
I don't know what that means either. As Leigh suggests, it must be similar to being urged to "Smell Greatness" only in this case the bounties are real and they are collected for "cart off" hits on 200 employees.  Either way it's good to see the "tech expert" attendees lobby for a website "worthy of the people who write for it," however many of them are still actually doing that.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Today Joe Vitt said...

Should be a regular feature as the year goes on.

Clearly upset with the fact that the suspended Saints coaches, players and management don't have a chance to clear their names in an open forum, Vitt said,

"The bylaws of the National Football League supersede the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights."

In Mitt's science class, Nessie rides on the roof

Mitt proposes we Jindalize all the schools.

This is an actual White Paper, by the way, not an offhand comment like the one he made about how much he likes firing people who provide teaching to you. You will be shocked, just shocked, to learn that the “ideas” in this 35-page-long White Paper are about the same as the ones that John Sununu said on TeeVee, and can be succinctly summarized as follows.
  1. Privatize K-12 education to give people Choices and whatnot.
  2. Loosen regulations on for-profit college education to stimulate Competition and the subsequent lowering of prices.
  3. Destroy Teachers’ Unions because they are Communist, basically.
Does this mean Jindal is back in the running to be (totally not) vetted for VP?  Probably not.  But since his program is going nationwide, maybe he can be secretary of School Choice and/or Demonology or something.

Update:  One wonders if the Louisiana reforms would have even been possible had the Orleans Parish School Board not gotten the ball rolling with these illegal firings in the wake of the 2005 flood. Yet another way we're all still suffering.

Vitt smash!

You know some shit is up when people start double dog daring the polygraphs into action

ESPN says Joe Vitt called Roger Goodell this morning to tell him he never offered any bounty money and the allegations against him are false.

Schefter says that Vitt told Goodell he will take a lie-detector test to prove innocence or sign sworn affidavit that he never participated in bounty program.

ESPN quoted Vitt as saying, "They're lies. What is on that paper (shown to NFLPA and media) is false. How can anything else on that paper be considered?"
Update: Meanwhile, this should help free up some of whatever Brees is still asking for right?  Or at least I think that's how this works.

Delivering deluxe information

It's touching that Dambala cites his Creative Commons license in this post. Quaint notions like that are going the way of the dodo in the era of robust reporting.

If it is the policy of Newhouse or any other local MSM entity not to cite blogs or acknowledge the information we uncover....then I fully expect them not to use the information we uncover.

If Newhouse is convinced the future of journalism is online, they should probably take note of the common courtesy online entities show for one another and if that doesn't ring a bell for them perhaps they should read the stipulations of the creative commons license attached to this blog and many others their employees may choose to data mine.

But it isn't the failure to cite that people like Dambala should be worried about.  That's really only the beginning. Once the professionals are all delivering content online their next step is to kick you off altogether. Which is what the end of net neutrality and the dominance of mobile technology via the app model of content delivery is going to facilitate.

That's the motivation behind copyright disputes like this one for example that people like David Simon are championing.

It's also the subtext of the whole Perricone affair. They're letting one commenter on NOLA.com define every non-professional user of the internet in order to discredit anyone who isn't in the club.

And, of course, also there's this.

In a blog post, Google senior policy analyst Dorothy Chou characterizes requests to limit political speech as troubling. "We noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services," said Chou. "We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it's not."

According to Chou, some of these information removal requests come not from authoritarian regimes but from Western democracies. She points to Spanish regulators, who asked Google to remove 270 search results linking to blog posts and newspaper articles referencing public figures, specifically government officials. She also notes that an unnamed public institution in Poland asked Google to remove links to a website that criticized it. 

The Arab Spring is over, literally and figuratively.  The internet is going to change from a tool of democratic insurgency to a tool of autocratic institutional control. And it's going to happen very quickly.

Update:  This CJR reaction to Ricky Matthews' front page column this week addresses Advance's strategy.

Edmonds estimates that the Times-Pic’s print reduction will actually lose the paper money, at least initially: slicing revenue by 22 percent and costs by just 17.5 percent.

So why are they doing it? Because gutting the news budget by an estimate half, would save up to 7.5 percent of overall costs, making the idea slightly profitable. And when I say “slightly” I’m talking about two or three million dollars a year, based on Edmonds’s fairly generous assumptions.
It is easy to see why Advance, so far, is nearly alone among news organizations in taking this plunge.

Again, the primary problem here is not the reduction in print, but the decimation of the Times-Picayune’s newsroom. In other words, disinvesting in journalism behind a digital smokescreen, as I wrote last week.

Advance's plan isn't about finding new revenue streams through a robust digital business model. It's about leveraging its monopoly brand along with the "print is dead" meme to massively cut costs by putting people out of work. By electing to jump to digital they run the risk of incurring new kinds of competition from other kinds of small new media companies or from independent actors like AZ, for example. But I think they're betting they'll be able to impose a new kind of monopoly position as the infrastructure of the internet becomes more and more favorable to actors with money and influence.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Big lizard in my back yard

Bobby Jindal, the biology major who doesn't believe in evolution, presents your 21st Century Louisiana educational curriculum.

One of the schools cleared to receive substantial new funding through LA governor Bobby Jindal’s voucher program is Eternity Christian Academy, in Westlake, LA, which according to Independent Weekly writer Walter Pierce,
…has been approved to accept 135 new students. That’s a considerable uptick in enrollment, which at the end of this school year stood at 38 — a more than 300 percent increase. Talk about buttressing the budget; $1 million in tax dollars will be diverted from the public school system to Eternity Christian, a school that, according to its mission statement, offers “a quality faith-based curriculum that is soley [sic] based on principles from the Bible …
According to the Eternity Christian Academy website, the school uses the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum. So, what’s in the ACE curriculum?

An August 29, 2009 story in the Times Educational Supplement, a British publication for teachers, provides an excerpt from an Accelerated Christian Education science textbook:

Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence.

Have you heard of the `Loch Ness Monster’ in Scotland? `Nessie,’ for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.

Could a fish have developed into a dinosaur? As astonishing as it may seem, many evolutionists theorize that fish evolved into amphibians and amphibians into reptiles. This gradual change from fish to reptiles has no scientific basis. No transitional fossils have been or ever will be discovered because God created each type of fish, amphibian, and reptile as separate, unique animals. Any similarities that exist among them are due to the fact that one Master Craftsmen fashioned them all.”

Below is a sample photo of "Nessie" taken from one of Jindal's approved and state funded science textbooks.

Ooops! Wait, no, sorry that image is actually from a completely different Bobby Jindal academic publication.

No apology necessary

I have no idea why anyone should have taken this as an insult to US service members. It's actually an apt critique of our professional media's chronic slowness to question authority. But I guess it's tough when you feel like you have to apologize for anything that comes out your mouth which doesn't happen to be a paid product placement.

If anything Brees should be commended for breaking the sponsored monotony of his Twitter feed which, despite its overwhelming popularity, continues to receive bad reviews from the intelligentsia. 

On Brees’ twitter account

JUGE: “His sponsored tweets are out of control and he does that stuff WAYYY more than any other pro athlete. In a way it insults my intelligence because part of me wonders if he counts on his fans being stupid enough not to ‘get it’.”

AWD: “The twitter account is terrible. TERRIBLE. But it does work. It does sell stuff to the ‘Drew Brees can’t do wrong, and if you disagree you’re less of a fan’ crowd.”

WANG: “I haven’t seen any of the sponsored tweets because I don’t follow Drew (or any celebrity) on Twitter, but I agree that sponsored tweets are obnoxious. Especially for a guy who has as much money as Drew already has, not to mention the giant novelty check for upwards of $50MM he’s about to get. It comes off like he’s dumpster diving for chump change, which is obnoxious, and that he doesn’t give a shit that it annoys his Twitter followers, which is also obnoxious. Then again, lots of people take Twitter way too seriously. If it’s annoying, unfollow his ass. Meantime, I’ve got a shiny nickel that says all that #spon money probably gets thrown on the pile that’s destined for charity anyway. And if so, I respect him for deciding that trumps annoying a few people on Twitter.”

Monday, June 18, 2012

Hazzards of taking football coachspeak too seriously

Robert Pollard in a 2005 interview with Magnet
My good friend Billy Dixon was my center in football from 7th grade through 12th grade. One day during practice, our head coach yelled, “If anybody sees anybody standing around with his thumb up his ass doing nothing, run over and knock him on his ass.” Five minutes later, Coach was standing on the sidelines drinking a cup of coffee. Billy ran over and knocked him on his ass. I learned that day that, for the most part, we’re all just standing around with our thumbs up our asses.
On a similar note, Peter Ginsberg, who is my new spirit animal, laid into Roger Goodell today.

“You have taken words that Gregg Williams used, colorful words like cart-offs and wax and [kill the head] and have chosen publicly to distort the meaning of those words notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Williams and others ha told you that those terms in no way relate to illegal hits or any bounty program that you have decided, sir, to misrepresent what those words, in fact, mean,” Ginsberg said.
Whatever Williams' meaning, Goodell has certainly managed to have him "carted off."  And so it's nice to see Goodell momentarily "knocked on his ass" so to speak.

Multiple sources tell PFT that Ginsberg’s remarks were “heated,” and one source present at the session perceived that Goodell’s face turned red during Ginsberg’s rant.

You're welp-come

Among the many news bits to come from today's Bountygate suspension hearings is this slideshow the NFL has produced mostly from crap Gregg Williams distributed during team meetings.  Surely there will be much to say about the implications of these documents as far as the league's case is concerned.  But that's not what's important right now.

What is important is that the slides are hilarious.  Reading them gives one the feeling of having friended Williams on Facebook only to discover that all he does all day is post insanely stupid GIFs and memes that talk shit on a 7th grade level.  Pure gold. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

We're all out of old Times-Picayunes. What will we use to build the flood protection we really need?

The New York Times  this week takes a look at the just (well, just about) completed flood protection system (in practice as well as name?) surrounding New Orleans.

When Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, the city’s hurricane protection system became a symbol of America’s haphazard approach to critical infrastructure. The patchwork of walls and levees built over the course of 40 years was still far from complete when the storm came, and even the Army Corps of Engineers admitted that this was “a system in name only.” Flood walls collapsed, and earthen levees built from sandy, dredged soils melted away. 

What has emerged since could come to symbolize the opposite: a vast civil works project that gives every appearance of strength and permanence. No other American city has anything like it. “This is the best system the greater New Orleans area has ever had,” said Col. Edward R. Fleming, the commander of the New Orleans district of the corps.
 "No other American city has anything like it," perhaps, but is what we have anything like what we actually need?  The article, to its credit, admits that it isn't.

The new system was designed and constructed to provide what is informally known as 100-year protection, which means it was built to prevent the kind of flooding that has a 1 percent chance of occurring in any given year. That standard is used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to determine whether homeowners and businesses must buy flood insurance to qualify for federally regulated or insured mortgages.

But New Orleans has seen storms far more damaging than the 100-year standard. Katrina is generally considered to have been a 400-year storm, and rising seas and more numerous hurricanes predicted in many climate-change models suggest harsher conditions to come.

“It’s what the country will pay for; it’s what FEMA insures for,” Mr. Doody said. “But our thought and belief is that we all need to be behind protection that’s greater than that.”
New Orleanians who have spent nearly seven years following the contentious process which gave rise to the new defenses are well aware that their inadequacy is baked in to the design limits imposed by Congress.  No doubt the national audience for the NYT piece will be confused about that by the breathless description of the $14.5 billion project "too vast to take in at once, except perhaps from space."  As impressive as those figures are, the truth is they may end up being a massive investment in failure if further action isn't taken.

Furthermore any standard of protection is an elusive moving target as long Louisiana's decaying wetlands continue to erode.  Last month, the legislature approved the state's  50 year master plan for coastal restoration.  The plan is estimated to cost around $50 billion although, given the optimistic pricing of some of its component projects, we can probably expect that figure to rise along with the sea level over the coming half century.

As... um.. luck isn't the word... fate, perhaps, would have it, the state is expecting to tap a significant source of seed money for this fund

Baton Rouge -- Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed legislation that will direct money Louisiana receives from the Deepwater-Horizon-BP oil spill to coastal protection and restoration programs. Jindal's office said late Thursday that he signed House Bill 838 by Rep. Simone Champagne, R-Jeanerette, one of the last bills passed in the waning hours of the legislative session that ended June 4. The bill became effective when Jindal signed it.

Champagne's bill calls for any money the state receives from the federal government as a result of fines imposed under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, associated with the April 20, 2010 spill, to be placed in the state treasury and used for "integrated coastal protection efforts, including coastal restoration; hurricane protection and improving the resiliency of the ... coastal area affected" by the spill.
The new state law anticipates passage of the so-called "RESTORE Act" as part of a federal transportation bill creeping its way through Congress.

Both House and Senate bills include language that would return 80 percent of the fines BP will ultimately be required to pay for violating oil spill provisions of the Clean Water Act to the Gulf Coast states for coastal restoration purposes. Fines could potentially run as high as $20 billion, meaning after the first $2.7 billion is taken off the top and returned to the oil spill liability trust fund to replenish funds withdrawn during the initial cleanup, almost $14 billion would be set aside for the Gulf Coast.

Coincidentally, $14 billion is precisely the amount of annual losses the Gulf Coast faces today as a result of extreme weather events, according to a report from America’s Wetland Foundation and the energy company Entergy.
For Louisianans who have argued for years that, as the parties most responsible for eviscerating our coastal wetlands, energy companies like BP should be made to pay to cost of repairing them, this bill represents only a late and modest nudge in that direction.  Just how modest is yet to be determined, by the way, as BP continues to fight to minimize the size of the amount in damages they'll ultimately have to pay the feds.

BP hopes the U.S. Justice Department will accept less than $15 billion to settle the government's civil and criminal claims for the 2010 Gulf oil spill, the Financial Times reports. Citing an unnamed source "familiar with the discussions" between the oil giant and government negotiators, the London-based newspaper said "negotiations were accelerating" but the amount BP is seeking is far shy of the $25 billion in fines and environmental damage claims the Justice Department wants.
It's beyond shameful that it takes a megadisaster like the 2010 Macondo oil gusher to spur the Louisiana legislature, the US Congress, and BP to make even this slight movement toward ensuring the future of our coastal population. In this regard, we see a direct echo of the events that brought about the flood countermeasures profiled in the New York Times as the article linked at the top of this post observed.

More important, Congress voted the $14.5 billion —nearly three times the annual civil works budget for the agency — up front instead of the usual incremental dribbling out of appropriations. “Full funding of the program gave us lots of flexibility,” said Michael F. Park, the chief of Task Force Hope, the special corps entity created to oversee the projects. 

Mr. Wagner, who lost his home as did other family members in Katrina, said with chagrin, “It feels terrible to say, but it takes a disaster to get that kind of funding.”
And so the question now becomes, what kind of disaster will it take to get the funding we actually need?

Afterthought: Another aspect of the Corps' work the Times completely skips over involves the status of the city's outfall canals and the "temporary" pumps installed at their mouths. The pumps are well beyond their intended term of use as it is and the quality of their installation has been an ongoing source of controversy.

Matt McBride at Fix The Pumps has been reviewing the work along the outfall canals in a series of posts.  The latest looks at the Orleans Avenue floodwalls including complications presented by debris found inside or beneath the remediated sections of berm including tree stumps and concrete chunks and other junk (but no newspaper this time, apparently).

These only represent what was found at the sections into which they dug. Are we seriously supposed to believe that the sections of levee untouched by this project are pristine after reading this stuff? 10'x12' stumps and concrete light pole foundations do not make for reliable levees.
In the event of a major storm, even with the giant surge gates closed and all the new expensive hatches battened down, the city will still depend on the temporary pumps to clear the outfall canals of rainwater and on the floodwalls to hold it back until they do.

Counting the days until Roger Goodell's resignation Day 2

PFT's Mike Florio on what we're beginning to call Un-Bountygate.

If Vilma truly offered to pay $10,000 to anyone for injuries to be inflicted on Favre, Warner, or any other opponent, someone presumably heard Vilma say it.  If the NFL doesn’t produce that person to testify at Monday’s hearing, how can Vilma ever obtain anything remotely resembling a fair opportunity to prove his innocence?  Coupled with the league’s likely refusal to make available coaches who would have been in the room when Vilma said what he said — coaches who possibly would say “I never heard Vilma said that” — the process becomes a sham.

Instead of giving the players a chance to get to the truth, the league seems to be relying on the same “take our word for it” approach that has characterized its entire handling of the pay-for-performance/bounty scandal.  It’s an approach that was launched the moment the league duped the media on March 2 into thinking there had to be conclusive proof of a bounty system, and that has lasted through each subsequent effort not to share evidence but to characterize and/or summarize it in a way that was skewed toward the league’s desire to hammer the Saints for using bounties, presumably to serve as the ultimate warning for any other players or coaches who may be tempted to use bounties in the future.

Meanwhile, the good folks at NOLA.com are looking to hire a digitally focused, SEO expert, to help cover their newly robust Saints beat. 

If you think you've got what it takes, please submit your application (including... I shit you not.. "Your most searchable keywords") according to the format provided here

Friday, June 15, 2012

Counting the days to Roger Goodell's resignation Day 1

The NFL is bringing jack and shit as far as "evidence" is concerned to its player suspension hearings on Monday.  There's a report up at the robustest website in New Orleans on this topic which reads in part.

Thus far, the review of the evidence has turned up nothing to support the scandal's most trumpeted charge - that Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma offered $10,000 to any teammate who took out an opposing quarterback in the 2009 playoffs.

It also does not appear to include any documents showing a 'bounty ledger,' the existence of which had been reported by Yahoo! Sports, nothing backing up the league's contention former Saints defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove lied to league investigators, and none of the complete set of 2010 defensive meeting videotapes the NFLPA asked for in a Friday letter to Goodell.

Curiously, the packet did contain two items that could not possibly have been used as evidence by Goodell when he imposed the unprecedented discipline because at the time Goodell did so the documents did not exist. Those are a May 31 on-line screed published by documentary filmmaker Sean Pamphilon and a column by The Times-Picayune's Mike Triplett based on an interview with Saints linebacker Scott Fujita. That article was published on June 6.

Furthermore, according to a source cited by the T-P's James Varney, the NFL has no document or recording that refers to a ledger full of "cart-offs" and "knock-outs" or that money was exchanged for any such thing.

And then there's this from Jonathan Vilma's attorney Peter Ginsburg.

Ive made a huge mistake by alexis711

Thursday, June 14, 2012

How about.. The New Orleans Gulf Walruses

With Tom Benson officially taking control of the team this week, read this Atlantic Cities article about the Hornets naming exercise we all know will end in disaster.
"I am fascinated and madly in love with several of the options," says Chris Trew, who is the Hornets’ unofficial team comedian (which is to say he is both a Hornets season-ticket holder and a full-time comedian who tends to show up at team events to film basketball-related sketch comedy). "And I’m terrified," he adds, "of some of the options as well."
It’s tough to cram any city’s identity into something that fits on the back of a basketball jersey. But this challenge is all the more awesome in New Orleans because… well, how to put this?
New Orleans "loathes those things that aren’t authentic," says writer Brett Michael Dykes, who's better known locally as the Cajun Boy. "That’s one of the things that so many people love about New Orleans, it’s one of the most real places you will ever visit."
And so we submit to Tom Benson that it is quite possible to screw this up in New Orleans in a way that’s not possible when you’re branding a sports franchise in, say, Reno or Kansas City. These people are absolutely not going to accept anything that’s boring, camp, or imperfect.

Update: I was thumbing through the comment thread under that article where some of the contributors suggested that "Hornets" fits better in Utah (the "Beehive State") than in Charlotte. This is dumb for a number of reasons but primarily because Hornets (much like "Fighting Tigers") has a historical origin not many people know about.
Originally, the new team was going to be called the Charlotte Spirit, but a name-the-team contest yielded "Hornets" as the winning choice. The name was derived from the city's fierce resistance to British occupation during the Revolutionary War,[2] which prompted the British commander, Lord Cornwallis, to refer to it as "a veritable nest of hornets." The name had been used for Charlotte sports teams before, including a minor league baseball team that was located in the city from 1901 to 1972, as well as a World Football League team that played there from 1974 to 1975. In addition, the Charlotte 49ers and Davidson Wildcats of the NCAA play annually for the Hornets' Nest Trophy.
Also, interestingly enough, Benson may very well tag the team with the once-rejected "Spirit" after all.

Ethics gold standard

One of Jindal's BESE reformers doesn't quite pass.

The proposed opinion, which the ethics board will consider in July, says (Kira) Jones isn’t allowed to work as local director of Teach for America and serve as a state board member. That’s because the state education board approved a near $1 million contract with Teach For America last year – and they’re likely to approve a similar one this fall.
This might qualify as a "whoopsie" if Jones hadn't been promoted by Team Jindal specifically because she represented TFA.

Update: Meanwhile Jindal has another legislative critic stripped of committee assignments.


So the Levee is going ahead with this joke.  Which is good but everyone's done it by now.  I was hoping they'd talk about the Corps trying to stuff floodwalls with iPads but this is fine.


Anyway the story seems to write its own excuse for being late with the joke.

As the digital world has evolved, so too will we, finally. Beginning in the fall, the newspaper that so many of you rely upon will start publishing on a reduced schedule of Jan. 15, Aug. 1, and Black Friday. Our marketing department tells us these are the easiest dates to sell ads on, which should indicate our priorities going forward pretty clearly.

In many ways, these three annual papers will be enhanced and more robust than each of your monthly newspapers is now. For example, since they will come out so long after anything important has actually happened, they should have a “timeless” quality. Instead of chasing the headlines, our writers will sit down, focus, take a long nap, get a second job, and then write about something that they thought was funny when they were in college. Or from their childhoods. Also: puzzles and comics, which our marketing department assures us is all you actually read.

 Look for enhancements to our award-courting ListWatch and Gogo Geaux coverage. In this case, “enhancements:” means “they will come out much less frequently.”

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Bad timing, or just bad taste?

The video below was just posted on NOLA.com this afternoon.  It's the latest in a series of endearing episodes in which Times-Picayune food columnist Judy Walker teaches Times-Picayune crime reporter Danny Monteverde how to cook something.

Yesterday Monteverde was among the staff fired by Advance while Walker was retained.  NOLA.com went ahead and posted this video anyway because... well.. what the hell.  Kind of takes on a dark meaning, though, watching Monteverde try to learn a new skill like this.

And now the argument in favor of killing newspapers

David Brooks

Looks like we picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue

Or maybe it's the wrong week to start doing anything. Anyway, good to know they're being thorough over there.

Those who were invited to stay with the newly christened NOLA Media Group, which will oversee NOLA.com and the thrice-weekly Times-Picayune, now have two weeks to decide whether to accept the "conditional offer" (which includes a background check and drug testing) or opt for severance. Several of those who spoke to Gambit tonight said the offer didn't include even the most basic details of the new jobs, down to whom they would be reporting or what their specific duties would be under the NOLA Media Group.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


What sucks about the NBA Finals is that none of this stuff is Kevin Durant's (who I like to watch play) or James Harden's (whose beard I like to watch play) fault. And yet it's all true and plenty reason to root against OKC.

For non-NBA fans, as recently as 2008 the OKC Thunder were the Seattle Supersonics, a team of great tradition, flare, and fan support. They were Slick Watts’s headband, Jack Sikma’s perm, and Gary Payton’s scowl. They were a beloved team in a basketball town. Then the people of Seattle committed an unpardonable offense in the eyes of David Stern. They loved their team but refused to pay for a new taxpayer funded 300 million dollar arena. Seattle's citizens voted down referendums, organized meetings, and held rallies with the goal of keeping the team housed in a perfectly good building called the Key Arena. Despite a whirlwind of threats, the people of Seattle wouldn’t budge so Stern made an example of them. Along with Supersonics team owner and Starbucks founder Howard Schultz – who could have paid for his own new arena with latte profits alone - Stern recruited two Oklahoma City based billionaires, Clay Bennett and Aubrey McClendon, to buy the team and manipulate their forcible extraction from Seattle to OKC.

Stern is a political liberal who has sat on the board of the NAACP. Bennett and McLendon are big Republican moneymen who hobby is funding anti-Gay referendums. Yet these three men are united in their addiction to our tax dollars. In Oklahoma City, where rivers of corporate welfare awaited an NBA franchise, Stern, Bennett, and McClendon had found their Shangri-La.
Meanwhile LeBron James is vilified for playing in the city of his choice.   In principle, I am fine with that.  But I still think the ridiculous spectacle he made of THE DECISION was disgusting.  So while I agree that LeBron is in the right and David Stern and the owners of the Thunder are assholes, I still don't like LeBron very much.  Is it ok if I'm not rooting for him?

See also: America's sports talk radio personnel hate LeBron for taking advantage of free agency.  And yet, franchise free-agency, in which billionaire owners play municipal tax bases against one another, is alive and well in pro sports.

Killing journalism

In a timely op-ed published at The Lens, Stepehn Ostertag looks at the decades-long practice of media consolidation and deregulation that culminated in the firing of 200 plus people by Advance/Newhouse at the Times-Picayune today.
The decline of newspapers is rooted decades earlier in FCC changes in media ownership policies and the economic models that seek to generate maximum profit from news.  In the name of deregulation and under the guise of greater competition, changes in media ownership policies allowed one company to own more and more media outlets and control a greater share of regional markets across the U.S.  In the continued search for profit, they increase their income by acquiring more and more media outlets and reducing their expenses by producing cheaper, less costly content (e.g., a news story that reports merely what was said at a press briefing rather than one that investigates the truth of those claims), reducing production frequency, laying off journalists and closing entire papers.
Perhaps the most animating cause behind the rise of the "blogosphere" over the past decade has been the reaction of the readership to this dumbing down of the news by conglomerates like Newhouse.  The internet has afforded individual consumers of the news an opportunity to vent their frustrations with clearly identifiable gaps in coverage left by the Newhouse model.  The "news story that reports merely what was said at a press briefing rather than one that investigates the truth of those claims" has never been good enough. But only recently have readers had access to the tools with which to, at the very least, complain, and often work together to fill in the gaps themselves. Sometimes professional journalists have seen this phenomenon as a threat but in truth what they're looking at is an audience that values the core mission of their profession. 

But now that the Newhouses of the world have "the internet" as a convenient scapegoat which they are quite content to use as they fire everyone en masse and pretend like the whole thing was some cosmic inevitability.  Meanwhile some of the specific people the Newhouses are screwing in this process, (David Simon, Jed Horne, numerous others) will  continue to shout downward at the "incivility" or the "freeloading" of their supposed social and intellectual inferiors.

And that is the sad but, of course, completely predictable way this is going to end; with the guys who managed to make it just a little bit blaming the people they were supposed to be defending rather than the people responsible for blowing up the whole thing. 

Sometimes what goes robust comes robust

From Gambit December, 2004

It's a scene that's as far removed from New Orleans -- geographically, physically, socially -- as they come. But the two cities currently share a connection, at least in the newsrooms of their papers of record. The non-union Times-Picayune is reportedly leading the charge among a handful of newspapers owned by media conglomerate Newhouse News Service that are coming to the aid of Vindicator management by recruiting newspaper employees as temporary replacements for striking Vindicator staffers.

A T-P employee, who agreed to be interviewed on condition of anonymity, says staff members were promised generous incentives to go up to Youngstown and cross the picket line. '[You would get] your pay here, plus at least the pay of the person you're replacing in Youngstown, plus travel and living expenses in Ohio,' says the employee. 'It's only rumor, but there's talk going around that a bonus would be paid as well. Certainly, doing a favor for Ashton (Phelps Jr., publisher of The Times-Picayune) is an intangible benefit.' Four T-P staffers have gone to Youngstown, the employee says; three of those have returned, and two more are scheduled to leave.
Not sure how many strikebreaking T-P staffers were fired by the Newhouses today out of gratitude. The only employee identified by name in that Gambit article was Dan Shea.

Newhouse's New Orleans newspaper apparently has been the most supportive of the Vindy. Times-Picayune managing editor Dan Shea has been in Youngstown for several days, according to sources in Youngstown, as well as the anonymous T-P employee. 'Four people went up: Dan Shea, two managers and one non-manager,' the employee says. 'All are now back, except for Shea. Two more are scheduled to go up there; at least one of them is management.'

 Last week, a call to the T-P newsroom produced only the information that Shea was out of town for a couple of weeks. Contacted by email, Shea declined comment for this article.

And today .. welp,

Managing editors Peter Kovacs and Dan Shea also were not given offers to work for the new company.  

202 people fired

Not thrilled about linking you over to Robust Kingdom for this but that's where the numbers are posted.

Managers at The Times-Picayune are informing more than 200 members of the newspaper staff today that their last day at the company will be Sept. 30. The Times-Picayune, according to documents given to employees, is shrinking its overrall staff -- including news, advertising, circulation and other departments -- by 32 percent, or 202 employees.
Also nearly 50% newsroom staff fired.  According to Gambit the heaviest hits came in news and business while lifestyle staff fared better.  I'm curious about the sports department but haven't seen any news yet. Maybe it was sold to Tom Benson.

Meanwhile Dambala has already started the larger discussion about what it all means and what comes next here and here. As for efforts to "save the T-P" through locally organized action, I basically agree with this.

This descent to the The Some-Times-Picayune is certainly an economic decision but at its core I believe it's really a legal maneuver to eliminate liability.  Newhouse doesn't care as much about the damage they're doing to the Times-Picayune brand as they do eliminating contracts and potential legal threats.  They are willing to throw the legitimate baby out with the bathwater while keeping the bastard, ADHD child hoping they can just pump it full of Adderall and everyone will love it just the same.

It's called capitalism.  No local, socialist movement is going to stop it.  No local advertisers are going to stop it because they don't have enough financial prowess to make a difference to Newhouse on a national level.  I hate to sound fatalistic but this situation really is fatal. 

The only remote possibility here is a completely new locally owned company set up to compete with what's left of the T-P but I doubt such a thing is possible or if possible wouldn't be "locally owned" by anyone I'd trust to run it the right way.

Digitially focused news gathering organization blocks digital news content

Mighty robust of them

Nola.com has so far been mum today on news about what is happening across town at the TP, perhaps auguring what kind of reporting is not to come. I've heard (but not confirmed) that newsroom employees have been blocked from accessing bestofneworleans.com, the online site for Gambit, which has been rigorously covering the TP situation.
Update: Rumor not confirmed, of course.

I could have guessed that.  I spend enough time all day watching people freak out because "THE INTERNETS ARE BLOCKED!" when in fact they are trying to view the internet via Microsoft Word or they don't know how to double click or whatever. 

Firing our way to robustness

From Newhouse/Advance's announcement of its new "digitally focused media company"

Mathews said the changes coming in the fall were necessitated by revolutionary upheaval in the newspaper industry. These changes made it essential for the news-gathering operation to evolve and become digitally focused, while continuing to maintain a strong team of professional journalists who have a command of the New Orleans metro area.
And of course phase 1 in the maintaining "a strong team of professional journalists who have a command of the New Orleans metro area" program happens to be firing them.

By 10:30 a.m., Friends of the Times-Picayune Facebook page had a list of several of those leaving the paper, including James Beard Award-winning food critic Brett Anderson and news reporter Danny Monteverde. Others leaving the T-P are Cathy Hughes, Patricia Gonzalez, Barri Bronston and Katy Rechdahl along with Dennis Persica.

According to Times-Picayune newsroom employees, meet with supervisors for one-on-one, 15-minute sessions were staggered throughout the morning.


This morning Newhouse/Advance is putting a lot of people out of work.

Monday, June 11, 2012

After 20 years America's question still unanswered

That question: WTF Laettner?

Robust website of the day

Rickygohome.com is a protest site set up in support of efforts to keep the Times-Picayune in print. It compares the "paper"'s new publisher Ricky Mathews to other infamous villains familiar to New Orleanians.
Its opening page features a slideshow of new publisher Mathews along with a rogues' gallery of New Orleans' enemies (former FEMA director Michael Brown, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the Atlanta Falcons, a mosquito and Edward Pakenham, the director of British forces during the Battle of New Orleans)
It's likely the humor and quite possibly the references are all lost on the Newhouse family.

As for Matthews, who knows what he does and doesn't get?  In this robust Al.com post, he tells us what "we have every reason to believe" about Gulf seafood in the years to come following the Macondo oil disaster. 

We already knew that Gulf seafood is the best-tasting in the world. And now we have every reason to believe that it is the most safety tested and monitored. That should only enhance the Gulf brand. People will someday soon seek out Wild Caught Gulf of Mexico Seafood, and they will pay more for it.

Before we write off Matthews as overly credulous, let us consider that maybe we're not giving him enough credit. Maybe he understands there is a difference between "the most safety tested and monitored" seafood and "the safest" seafood.  The key difference there being whether you care to mention the results of that testing.

Choosing the right words there is certainly one way to "enhance the Gulf brand" anyway.  We look forward to Matthews' work enhancing the T-P brand along similar lines.

"One of the 'Jewel Boxes of America"?

That there is quite a robust phrase.

Major advertiser Ray Brandt, CEO of Ray Brandt Automotive Group, said, “New Orleans is a unique city, one of the ‘Jewel Boxes’ of America. To deprive its citizens of the daily publication of their beloved Times-Picayune would be a mistake of unmeasurable proportions.”
 Meanwhile, this week T-P staff are expected to learn their fates.  Slabbed has some speculation as to how that might come down.

This is a new world into which the Newhouse family is taking their business and it is clear the beat journalist is endangered, especially the experienced ones. Who will Mathews keep, seasoned journalists like Becky Mowbray that sport salaries on the top end of the pay scale or newbies just starting out? Will there still be 3 guys on the Jefferson Parish beat or will it be cut? Will Mathews pull resources out of St Bernard Parish like they did Plaquemines a few years ago?

Make no mistake at the end of this we’ll have less news for consumption not more and therin lies the most daming criticism I’ve heard of the Newhouse family: They are not investing in their business. This more than anything else should tell everyone what kind of future awaits the Newhouse chain as rumor has it the family does not have a crushing debt load like Gannett and McClatchy that prevent new investment at those outlets.

Why does Jeff Landry hate robustness?

Today's T-P editorial page criticizes Rep. Landry's proposal to ban a standardized method the Corps of Engineers has put in place for determining mitigation requirements for developers who destroy wetlands.

If the final version of the bill is adopted with the ban in place, the corps will have to come up with an alternate method or go back to its previous way of deciding how much mitigation is required, a judgment call that was less precise. Col. Ed Fleming, commander of the corps' New Orleans district, said that approach resulted in an underestimate of damage.

That's simply not in Louisiana's best interest, even though a Louisiana lawmaker is pushing it, with the support of local officials. U.S. Rep. Peter Visclosky of Indiana pointed out the inconsistency when he argued against Rep. Landry's amendment.

"If it doesn't work, I do not know why in 2006 and 2007 the New Orleans District worked with its federal and state partners to modify the Charleston Method so it better reflected the unique conditions found in southern Louisiana,'' Rep. Visclosky said.

What's driving the proposed ban is an effort to avoid the higher cost of more robust mitigation.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

No popcorn for me

I honestly wish I could enjoy the coming robust era of Nagin schadenfreude.  But since he's gone anyway, there's much less to be gained going after the guy now that the damage is done. It's no longer a question of whether he'll get away.  Even if he goes to prison, he's already gotten away with mismanaging New Orleans during a crucial period of need. We never get that time back. We just keep living with the consequences.

Worry about the people who are currently in power and abusing you.  Otherwise you'll just be on to watching them get punished while the next group is selling you out again.  And on and on like that forever.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

The New York Times Sunday Business section features this story about South Carolina's public pension program which, is a particularly egregious example of the fact that states have learned exactly nothing from the 2007-present financial crisis. In fact, it would appear that, in a shrinking market for suckers, high stakes investment scams are focusing more on publicly funded pension funds.

THE South Carolina Retirement Systems fund manages money for 530,000 public employees, retirees and their beneficiaries. It owes these people $38.8 billion. 

Not long ago, this fund was about as boring as it gets. Before 1999, it was largely invested in a mix of United States Treasuries and corporate bonds. The fund moved into equities just before the technology bubble burst in 2001. By 2005, some state leaders were pushing to give the fund more leeway, arguing that South Carolina’s money should work harder. State laws were changed in early 2007 to let the fund put money in a broad mix of private investments. 

But to make that work, pension officials needed a money manager wise to the world of private investments. That’s where Bob Borden came in. 

A fighter pilot’s son who grew up on military bases all over the world, Mr. Borden would acquire experience in managing investments before heading up the Louisiana State Employees’ Retirement System, commonly known as Lasers, from 1995 until early 2006. There, he would move 11 percent of the fund’s assets into alternative investments. In the three years through fiscal 2006, the fund’s annualized return was an enviable 13.3 percent. 
Borden then jumped ship to South Carolina where he was given more room to invest large chunks of the state pension fund in volatile but potentially high return vehicles.  Results were good for a while and then not so good.

“I remember going wild,” recalled former Gov. Mark Sanford. South Carolina piled into the stocks, as well as hedge funds, private equity and other alternative investments, at the top of the market. It raised its projected rate of return in July 2008 — just before the worst of the financial crisis hit. “South Carolina,” Mr. Sanford said, “is the dumb investment state.” 

As the overall market plunged in the fall of that year, South Carolina’s pension fund was no exception. It would drop 28.7 percent for the year as a whole.

Borden went on to earn a half million dollar salary managing the fund. The fund continues to perform erratically but it pays out hundreds of millions of dollars in hedge fund management fees on its high risk investments which is really the point of all this in the first place. At the end, Borden defends himself simply by telling us the problem is he isn't a "bureaucrat"

“Everybody wants their cake and to eat it too,” Mr. Borden said. “They want high returns at low risk and low cost.” 

Asked if he thought that he had made any mistakes in South Carolina, Mr. Borden paused, and then replied, “I have an entrepreneurial spirit, and I was in a bureaucratic job.”

State retirement funds aren't venture capital.  They represent real money deducted from modest paychecks belonging to people who trust they'll have a modest benefit in their later more vulnerable years.  A trust like that isn't supposed to managed in a way that shoots for the moon in order to maximize earnings.  Its primary goal is to keep its members' money safe.  Somehow we've lost sight of that and instead given license to "entrepreneurs" like Borden to follow their muse using other people's money.

But nevermind that. The important thing to remember is there's always another free market solution lurking around the corner.  Bobby Jindal has proposed privatizing the Louisiana equivalent of Borden's office altogether which would not only free up the "entrepreneurial spirit" of the person entrusted with the members' money but any pretense to the contrary.

In Clancy Dubos' piece I linked to in the post below, he dubiously listed state employees as "winners" in the recent legislative session, I suppose, because things could have gone worse for them than they actually did regarding their retirement benefits. Given all of the above, I guess that's true.