Bribes in the Soviet Union, Jesus Christ on PBS and Gavin Newsom at La Strada

The oil business ain't pretty

There may be people who think the oil business is a sedate, classy industry, full of stolid professionals who quietly earn their companies well-deserved billions.

Those people probably shouldn't pay any attention to a recently filed federal lawsuit with several Texas connections. (They probably also shouldn't ask anyone for the real story of Santa Claus, but that's another matter.)

Jack Grynberg, a Denver oilman who owns a few Texas companies, is suing — among others — the former head of British Petroleum who's been accused of slashing maintenance budgets prior to the Texas City refinery explosion.

Grynberg isn't suing over that, though; instead he's going to court claiming BP and other companies used his money to bribe officials in the former Soviet Union. In a related criminal trial in New York, prosecutors allege dollars flowed to fund jewelry, speedboats and plain old-fashioned payoffs.

We thought that was what Texans call "doin' bidness," but Grynberg has other ideas.

"If I am part of the bribery, the U.S. government can come after me," he says. "I need to protect myself. It was all unbeknownst to me and I had nothing to do with it. They used my money without my permission."

The various defendants reached by Hair Balls mostly refused to comment; one, a Norwegian company called Statoilhydro, said through a spokeswoman the claims are "completely groundless."

But Grynberg has showed himself to be a shrewd user of the court system in his fights against giant oil companies. And it sure sounds like there will be some entertaining testimony if the case goes to trial.

Maybe Texas City folks can find out just what happened to all that money that formerly went for maintenance at the BP refinery.

For Crissake

KUHT recently showed the Public Broadcasting System's taping of the Sondheim musical Company. Local viewers were left scratching their heads when one of the lines in a song — "...and Jesus Christ is it fun" — came out as "...and Jesus (Bleep) is it fun."

Did the prissy faint-hearts at KUHT think Houstonians would get the vapors if they actually heard old JC's full name? And what sort of sophisticated analysis goes into deciding whether to bleep the first name or the second?

It turns out KUHT had nothing to do with it.

We "didn't bleep anything, and had it been left to us there is very little in that production we would have sanctioned bleeping," says KUHT program director Ken Lawrence. He said the reason behind the decision "is beyond me."

Lawrence directed us to Carrie Johnson, director of publicity for PBS prime time.

"It has been PBS long-time practice to bleep either "Jesus" or "Christ" when the words together are not used in prayer," she says.

Jesus Bleep, that's bold. But at least we can take pride that the idiocy involved was not a local thing.

Employees of the Month

The Houston Chronicle offered up a full-page house ad March 7 honoring their award-winning journalists.

"We're Making Headlines, and Much More, For You! Award-Winning Journalism in Print & Online" blared the headline, over a collection of mugshots of the winners.

Winners of the paper's in-house contest, that is. Not the chain-wide Hearst contest, just a competition among the Chronsters. Including Peer Awards, voted by fellow employees.

This all seems one step above reporting on this year's Secret Santa operation, but the Chron thought it deserved a full page of space so readers could "join us in giving this year's recipients a big round of applause."

And so, the four people who put together the gardening blog, we salute you. And are grateful for the opportunity to read about your award.

Talking Out of School

Sunday brunch at La Strada in Montrose is usually dedicated to rehashing the revelries of the night before.

Except when it be­comes a political ­battleground.

Brunchers were happily nursing their mimosas March 2 when suddenly the music stopped. An eager, well-dressed guy, accompanied by a similarly clothed posse, had walked in, climbed up to the DJ booth, grabbed the microphone and launched into a speech urging people to vote for Hillary Clinton in the March 4 primary.

He didn't get too far.

NO ONE interrupts the ritual that is La Strada on Sunday morning, as the speaker found out.

The owner of La Strada, Aldo "I Don't Use My Last Name," ran to the booth, took the microphone away and ushered the speaker out as the crowd cheered.

The speaker offered an apology and handed Aldo his business card. Showing him to be Gavin Newsom, mayor of San Francisco.

Who hopefully has learned that in Houston, you don't fuck with brunch at La Strada.

Dog Days

Reveille VII, the collie that has served as a mascot for Texas A&M University for seven years, is retiring. Purely as a protest for the firing of Dennis Franchione, we’re sure. A&M has appointed a committee to determine whether the next Reveille should be a collie too, or whether it’s time to go with a different type of dog. We're here to help.

 
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