Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Proposed Litmus Test

For years various people have suggested there are litmus tests for Democrats or Republicans or African-Americans or Liberals or Conservatives on one issue or another.

Let me propose a litmus test for all politicians.

When someone says something controversial, before reacting to imagine that the polar opposite politician had said the same thing.

John Gresham in his book A Time to Kill used that simple device in a summation. I'm not a big Gresham fan, but there it is.

Imagine, for example, David Vitter had said before any audience;
I want to make sure that when you're firing your bullets because you're dissatisfied you fire them at the right folks
Do you think there would have been calls to lynch him?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

I just can't let this one go by.

I've been writing about Road Home for months. I have been trying to take an objective view.

I've lost my objectivity. It's personal now. I want what has been promised and I ain't gettin it. The hillbilly in me is up.

C. B. Forgotston said it better than I could.

It's been six weeks sent we sent them a certified letter and have yet to get any response.

In fact we have never gotten a response from Road Home. No one seems to have, without keeping in constant contact with them. Constant contact and political influence seem to result in no information but it does seem to move you to the top of the list.

I'd expect in the end we will need to file a law suit. I'd expect we won't be alone.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Man burns down trailer in online feud

Man burns down trailer in online feud. I sure hope nobody is that mad at me.

I wonder if it was a FEMA trailer?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Guess Who's Comming to Town

On my flight I sat next to a guy who confirmed something I had been hearing but wasn't really sure of.

Macy's is coming back to New Orleans.
Immediately after the storm Macy's made announcements that they would be back, their plans kept getting pushed further and further in the future. Many people speculated that they would not be back.

In 2006 Macy's began changing the names of many old line department stores such as Riches (Atlanta) Foley's (Houston) Marshall Fields (Chicago)and Burdine's (Florida) it had acquired over the years to Macy's, with a few high end stores becoming Bloomingdales. The parent company formerly named Federated Department Stores, on June 1, 2007 the name was changed to Macy's Incorporated.

I was always puzzled by their apparent abandonment of New Orleans. If the goal was to build a single national brand to maximize the reach of their marketing, why leave New Orleans?

If my informant is correct the Esplanade Mall store will be renovated and new stores constructed at Lakeside and Oakwood Malls. The Esplanade store will be open for Christmas 2008. I wonder if a North Shore store is in the offing.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Little Good News

Every once in a while something good happens here.

Lakefront Airport
AP Reports,

Permanent air traffic control service is set to resume for the first time since Hurricane Katrina at an airport near downtown New Orleans.

'Hopefully, everything's on track and it will open up Monday,' airport aviation director Randy Taylor said Wednesday.

Service is set to be limited, with workers initially relying on radios and cell phones _ without the radar equipment in place before the August 2005 storm, said C.W. Baker, president of the local National Air Traffic Controllers Association. Hours of operation also will be reduced, Baker said.

Lakefront logged the most flights since Katrina in April, increasing to 4,000 that month. That's comparable to nearby Louis Armstrong International Airport.

Federal aviation officials hope to restore tower operations, with radar coverage and landline telephones, by the beginning of next year, said Roland Herwig, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Original Lakefront Terminal

Even better news is that Taylor plans on restoring the original terminal to its Art Deco glory. I just hope the Levee Board Consolidation doesn't screw it up.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Look Who jumped on the Saint's Bandwagon.

The Saints opened their 2007 training camp today at Millsaps College in Jackson Mississippi.

I can't believe all of the people who have gotten behind them.

For many years I have given Her gifts from Mignion Faget. At first simple silver bracelets starting with the classic red bean. Every girl and woman over 15 in New Orleans should have one.

Last year she introduced a line of Fleur de Lis jewelry, exactly correct for the Upton Matron or Junior Leaguer to support our boyz.

I gave Her the Champagne Glasses prior to the NFC championship game, they were it turned out a consolation prize.

This Year is Next Year!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

What a Load of Garbage

Well, I finally did it. I signed up for my new Garbage Can on the City of New Orleans website.

I filled out my form and it said I was registered. I even printed out the PDF. The PDF had all of the correct information. I just don't trust that the city will deliver my can. It might be because just after the city we said we were registered they said the delivery date for my new can was:

I was also given pause by the city Sanitation FAQ:
What happens if my collection cart is stolen?

The household or small business at each location is responsible for the lost cart unless it obtains and presents a police report to the city for the theft. Once the theft is reported and documented each vendor is responsible to locate the bar coded cart by use of a tracking system. If the cart is not located within seven (7) days, the household or small business will be responsible for the cart replacement fee.
I wonder why the cans aren't fitted with Lojack. I have a report from a friend that his mother has had 3 stolen so far.

What type of collection cart will I receive?

Each household and small business will receive one (1), 96 gallon standard collection cart free of charge. The 96-gallon cart has the capacity to hold 250 pounds of household garbage. Special consideration is being given to seniors (65 yrs of age and older) and persons with disabilities. Those who qualify for special assistance may request the smaller collection carts, 32 gallon or 64 gallon cart.

Can I continue to use bags?

No. All trash must be placed inside the collection carts for collection on residents designated trash collection days. If residents place trash outside of the cart, they will receive a notice recommending that the resident purchase an additional collection cart.

In the seventies I lived in Atlanta for a time. While I was there Atlanta implemented a similar system, They went from back yard garbage pickup to these big cans on wheels like we have now. It caused an uproar. Some people took to calling the cans Li'l Maynard after the Mayor, Maynard Jackson. I think I'll call mine Li'l Clarence.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Come to Rising Tide - Cheap

Airtran is having a Sale

Book your tickets by Wednesday, August 1, for travel through November 15, 2007. Their lowest sale fares are available for travel on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and additional sale fares are available for travel on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. These fares require a 14-day advance purchase and are not valid for travel on Fridays or Sundays.

Sale fares between New Orleans and:

All fares are one-way, no roundtrip required.

Chicago (Midway)$94
Daytona Beach$89
Ft. Lauderdale$94
Ft. Myers$94
Kansas City$99
Las Vegas$149
Los Angeles (LAX)$159
Minneapolis/St. Paul$99
Moline/Quad Cities$94
New York (LaGuardia)$99
Newport News/Williamsburg$94
San Diego$159
San Francisco$159
Savannah/Hilton Head$79
St. Louis$84
Washington, D.C. (Dulles)$99
Washington, D.C. (Reagan National)$99
West Palm Beach$94
White Plains$79

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Tide is Rising - Again

Rising Tide 2 - is scheduled for August 25-27 2007

Last year on the eve of the first anniversary of the Destruction New Orleans by the Federal Government there was an extraordinary event. A small group of Citizens came together "to dispel myths, promote facts, share personal testimonies, highlight progress and regress, discuss recovery ideas, and promote sound policies at all levels."

Bonded together by the common experience of a major disaster and its aftermath the organizers sought to come together to share experiences.

Rising Tide for me is not about politics or organizations it is about individuals acting at a personal level to improve the city we all love. Everyone involved in the conference shares a deep love and appreciation for our home, New Orleans and we all want to see it a better city rise from the flood.

The conference last year was extraordinary in so many ways. The people involved, the obstacles that were overcome and the quality of outcome.
This year on the second anniversary of the Destruction New Orleans by the Federal Government we are still experiencing extraordinary difficulties in New Orleans but a least the Air Conditioning at the New Orleans Yacht Club works, last year it was repaired the afternoon before the conference. We literally turned temporary air conditioning away in the parking lot.

The Conference this year will be even better than last year. We will be announcing additional events as they are finalized, but plan to come now . The people are the event and they are here.

If anyone needs assistance to get here or get registered please contact me or the Rising Tide website and we will see what can done to help.

The party alone will also be worth it.


First let's define Francophilia.
Francophilia - an excessive interest in or admiration for French history, culture or politics.
Certain elements of American political culture have tended to accept France as the leading political culture of Europe which is obviously the preeminent political culture of the planet.

This American tradition is rooted in the assistance the French Monarchy gave to our revolution. We often fail to acknowledge that this help, as crucial as it was, was given in the context of a global struggle between the French and British empires.

We lionize the Marquis de la Fayette. He was, at least in the beginning, an adventurer with some military training. His impact on The American Revolution was significant. He ultimately became, (I like to think as a result of his association with Washington and other American Patriots) a force for reform in the French Monarchy and later for moderation after the French Revolution. In short a statesman.

All of that was or should have been swept away in the the Napoleonic Wars of conquest.

With our disentanglement from European politics after the War of 1812, The United States became self-absorbed, growing into an isolated economic power for almost century.

In the late nineteenth century the United States, acting under the guise of liberation and revenge freed Cuba from the decrepit Spanish Empire and took over administration of the Philippines and Puerto Rico in 1898. US committed to Philippine Independence in 1916 and eventually established a date for independence of 1946 in 1935.

With the start of The Great War, the United States initially tried to stay out. We Americans decided to let the Europeans fight it out among themselves. Eventually the United States was dawn into the fight on the side of Britain and incidentally France.

In spite of Pershing's famous statement “Lafayette, we are here!” indicating a spiritual debt to The Marquis de la Fayette, It was not a happy collaboration. American troops were originally slated to become replacements for French units who had lost troops in combat. It should be noted that the troops Americans were initially slated to replace were French colonial troops (often Africans). They were little regarded by the French High Command but courageous in combat. Ultimately this didn't happen and American units were sent into action under American command. They also distinguished themselves in combat.

As a result of the Great War, many people, especially in England but even more in America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia developed a deep distrust of the continental politics. Few People realize that for example Canada only sent volunteers overseas during the Second World War and Australia recalled its troops from the Middle East once the Japanese started to move South. The large and well trained Indian Army largely sat out the war as well.

The Second World War did little to enhance the reputation of the French. After the declaration of war one of the largest and best equipped armies in the world failed to stop the Germans, in spite of it's superiority in men and equipment. The early capitulation of France, without continuing the war from their overseas possessions, as for example the Dutch did, heroically joining Great Britain and the US resisting the Japanese invasion of Asia, significantly lengthened the war.

As an aside it seems appropriate to briefly recount the actions of the country over which the Second World War actually started, Poland.

After receiving guarantees from France and Great Britain the Poles fought the German invasion. There was precious little the Brits or the French could do immediately. The French might have started military operations against Germany but didn't. In any event the Poles were screwed.

The Germans invaded, the Russians invaded slightly later from the other direction. The Russians also took many Polish soldiers prisoner. They executed many of the officers. In the Katyn Forest massacre estimates exceed 15,000 executions. In 1941, after the German invasion of Russia, Polish POWs were released from Russian prison camps and set up an army headed by General Anders. Many civilians were taken under the protection of this army which was allowed to make its way (walked) to Persia (modern-day Iran). The Brits then transported them on to Egypt and equipped the Poles.

The Poles also formed the Armia Krajowa (the Home Army) in Poland with 400,000 members it was one of the largest organized resistance organizations and effectively resisted the German Occupation.

Polish fliers contributed to the Battle of Britain. In Normandy a Polish armored unit may well have saved the invasion. In Belgium Polish paratroopers saved many British paratroopers a considerable risk to themselves during Operation Marketgarden.

In 1943 a Polish division was formed in Russian and fought on the Eastern Front. Poles took part in every campaign of World War II and distinguished themselves.

After the war many of the expatriate Polish units returned to Poland from the west with their equipment. These units formed the nucleus of the reconstituted Polish armed forces, leading the Russian distrust of them for the entire cold war.

On the other hand French armed forces (except for a few individuals) largely surrendered. as ordered The Germans held many thousands of prisoners for many years. The largely intact and powerful French Navy sat out the war, except for the ships the British sunk and those resisting the Allied invasion of North Africa. Rather than joining the crusade for liberty, the French Navy eventually scuttled their ships at Toulon.

The Best French General of the war, Philippe François Marie, comte de Hauteclocque (Jacques-Philippe LeClerc), was an early adherent to the Free French. He campaigned in West Africa and liberated French West African colonies with largely colonial (black) troops. After the conversion of French North Africa, LeClerc's Army was purged of African troops, so 'Frenchmen' could liberate the "sacred soil of France".

The French, especially DeGaulle, seem to have been Eisenhower's special cross to bear. DeGaulle was arrogant, demanding and entirely subsidized by the US. Various French officials in North Africa like Henri Giraud, Francois Darlan and Alphonse Juin seemed more concerned with personal position and command of the the US subsidized French army than the liberation of the "sacred soil of France". It's hard to imagine any significant American, British, German or even Russian officer acting in such a manner.

After the war DeGaulle demanded restoration of French colonies in Southeast Asia and a piece of the occupation of Germany in return for French mobilization of a modern army (paid for by the US). This demand was basically blackmail because Truman, Eisenhower and DeGaulle all knew the French had the only sizable pool of military age manpower in Europe available to offset the Soviet threat. The French economy and population, due to the limited combat on French soil, was also largely undamaged during the war. These decisions of course ultimately resulted in the the Vietnam conflict. In 1954 the Viet Minh defeated the French Army at Dien Bien Phu, ending French colonial ambitions in Southeast Asia.

After the Second World War the French also tried (unsuccessfully) to hold onto their possessions in North Africa. The Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962) resulted in the French loss of their possession of Algeria.

In 1956 the French and the British seized the Suez Canal, aggravating the Middle East situation. Ultimately the seizure was reversed due to pressure from Canada, the UN and the US.

Since the loss of Algeria the French have become ardent anti-colonialists.

Later, in a what some saw as a betrayal of trust, the French military was withdrawn from the NATO command structure, without relinquishing any of their participation in the occupation of Germany which by that time was limited to Berlin. Most people simply hoped if the Soviets invaded the French would fight, but like the Soviets with the Poles no one was really sure.

Recent French efforts have been largely directed at attempts to dominate the EU, including coopting the distracted and relatively compliant Germans and blunt the impact of America.

The French political tradition is opposed to American political traditions on so many levels it is difficult to articulate. The American tradition come from the philosophy of Locke and the Scottish Enlightenment developed on the English common law concepts of freedom and liberty. The French concepts have evolved through the lens of Roman Law and Napoleonic statism. In the American tradition freedom is a natural right. In the French tradition it is the largess of the state.

I find much more to admire in the English tradition our laws are based on or in the Italian tradition of high art. I was once told that 80% of all significant works of art are in Italy. The Japanese history of cohesiveness and adaptation is also attractive.

Friday, July 13, 2007

You Want How Much for Green Bean Salad, Mac and Cheese, and Succotash?

After our Fourth in D. C. I had reserved a night at the Inn in Little Washington for us on the Fifth.

The Inn at Little Washington.

It is widely regarded as one of the finest Inns and Restaurants in America. It is also in the town where my father went to high school. Located in Rappahannock County Virginia, Little Washington is one of the oldest towns in Virginia. It was laid out by George Washington in 1749, and exists much as it was laid out.

My father's mother, according to family history, was descended from Revolutionary War General Nathan Greene. The farm at Massies Corner, just outside Little Washington was where my father lived while attending Washington High School. I had as a child visited the then abandoned farm house and walked through the disused house, spring house, and ice house. The smoke house I had heard so much about was completely gone. The spring house was where my great great grandmother hid the family silver from the Yankees.

We spent the morning traveling through the Virginia countryside and the afternoon exploring Little Washington. Janet at the Rappahannock County Historical Society was very helpful to us, even if we weren't very helpful to her. I promised to check our family records and get back to her.

The real reason most people stay at The Inn is to eat dinner. I figured it was something I needed to do for Her and it might be fun.

Just before going to D. C. I heard Tom Fitzmorris say the "Washington in a great restaurant town but not a great food town. They just don't get it."

My father always told me he remembered it as a Ford garage. It now looks more like an English country home with low ceilings.

I prepared for dinner like I imagine a gladiator or a bull fighter would prepare for the main event. It was also a little like preparing for the prom. Just before the appointed time we walked down the stairs and into the living room. We had a cocktail, a Daiquiri with dark rum.

I noted a momentary look of astonishment in our waiters eyes. He recovered and I think decided to figure out what we ordered. The drinks delivered were just excellent (I know purists think there should be no cocktails before dinner).

Our Table, Second From the Left.

We were given personalized menus and selected two for Column A and one from Column B. A slight twist on the old Chinese menu.

The dinner started with amuses-bouche consisting of four tastes;
  • A beet mouse,
  • A shrimp with avocado,
  • Tuna in pastry shell
  • Something else I can't remember
I ordered;
  • Green Bean Salad
  • Macaroni and Cheese
  • Rock Fish with Succotash
Dinners includes dessert.

I had the Seven Deadly Sins which includes seven miniature deserts with lots of chocolate and ice cream. The last and best (for me) was a mint ice cream with a shell chocolate topping.

The coffee was excellent, and not included in the prix fixe.

I am having a little fun with the menu, but every dish was beautifully and elaborately prepared with a range of exotic ingredients. The food was very good and the dinner was memorable. The attention to detail was phenomenal. The service included personalized menus and a carnation for my lapel. They said they did it for all their male guests. I think I read the dining room seats about 80, there are twenty something rooms in the Inn. I guess many people stay in the three or four bed and breakfasts in town. I doubt many people drive back to Washington and there really isn't much around, its really out in the country, but its very beautiful country.

It was by far the most expensive dinner for two I've ever had.

I could hardly fail to notice the people around us were a little strange since the tables were only about twelve inches apart.

On my left was a Japanese man dining alone. He had the tasting menu with wine parings. He apparently spoke little English but photographed every dish as it was served.

On my right was a couple women, obviously celebrating one's birthday. They were staying 3 nights. I'm not sure what you do in Little Washington for two days. Since they had started dinner before us so we didn't see their entire meal. What we saw looked great. They're why I got the Seven Deadly Sins.

Our Dinner was wonderful and the Sommelier was very cordial and attentive even though She ordered a very modest, though tasty, Virginia wine.

The Inn was however a little dissonant. There were constant nice touches, like when we went to Diner we left a bottle of champagne in our room for later. When we got back upstairs there was the Inn's traditional little flask of port with two glasses. The champagne had also been placed in an ice bucket and two glasses. That was nice. They also kept leaving us little gift cards for $25 off at their gift shop across the street. I wasn't sure if that was a promotion or an gift. I sometimes found the service a little oppressive. I'm not sure I want to be greeted by name and asked if there is anything they can do for me every single time I walked down the stairs. Everyone knew me by name and every time we left our room 'they' cleaned up. The front of house staff lurked about and seemed a little too eager. The maids seemed almost terrified to see a guest.

I though it just a little creepy. She loved it.

An American Going Forth on the Fourth

On July 4, 2007 we were in Washington D. C.

We had contact with a lot of different people.
  • The Cab Driver from Reagan National was a turbaned south Asian.
    • He spent the entire drive talking on his cell to his children about their plans for celebrating the 4th.
    • He seemed genuinely proud his children were "100% American".
  • The Doormen at the hotel were African, from which country I couldn't tell.
  • The desk clerks were all middle eastern.
  • We had a Pakistani (I think) cab driver rescue us from a raining tornado warning when the mall was closed and returned us to our hotel, even though he was off duty and going home.
Later, after the tornado warning was lifted and after changing into dry clothes we returned to the mall, with the help of another south Asian cab driver, very nice and helpful.

On the mall I was disappointed to find the World War II Memorial was closed. I wanted to look at it and decide whether it was the correct decision. We couldn't walk through it but were able to settle just across 17th Street from it. We had a great view and were able to listen to the concert while we waited for the fireworks.

I laid out on the grass. It was surprisingly dry considering the downpour earlier in the day. We listened to the concert and waited for the fireworks. The most interesting thing was the people around us. They were all polite, and there were many families. Most surprising was the makeup of the crowd. There were lots of families with children, there were lots of young couples. I counted at least 4 different languages spoken around us including Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese and at least one Indian sub-continent language, judging by the sound and look of the people. Unlike most people we didn't have chairs, too much luggage.

The fire works were amazing. There were thousands of shells. Some of the displays I had never seen before including shells which created the shapes of five pointed stars and hearts, most spectacular were the displays of giant gold cascades of overlapping each other.

Located between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial we were almost directly below the detonation point of the fireworks. The detonations drowned out the music. We also had a great view of the thousands of people gathered on the rear steps of the Lincoln Memorial.I think it's very close to the Greatest Free Show on Earth.

If you haven't been go, and take the kids.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Stupidest Thing Nagin Ever Said.

This has to be the stupidist thing Nagin ever said;

"I want to make sure that when you're firing your bullets because you're dissatisfied you fire them at the right folks,"

Considering the level of gun violence in the city and the national attention it has gotten, not to mention the pain and suffering of the people directly affected, for Hizzhonor the Chocolate Domed Oneder to even mention anything remotely related to shooting anyone is incredibly insensitive, stupid, reckless and disgusting. I just can't fathom it or him.

He said this at a housing forum.

I came across this in my Headline Service. WWL reports an AP story about Crime that quotes former NOPD Police Chief Richard Pennington extensively;
Pennington said. "In 1994 there were 427 murders in New Orleans and 180 of those were in the housing projects, so that's where we put our officers."
There were about 6-7,000 public housing units then compared to probably 175,000 housing units in the city. 4% of the housing units more than 40% of the murders.

I can't imagine there aren't huge cries of outrage from the African-American community so affected by gun violence.

I can't imagine the lefties aren't excoriating him.

I am so angry at the caviler manner he invokes the blood soaked streets of our city.

I guess we got the Gangsta Mayor.

She says he either needs to get off his meds if he's on them or get on some meds if he's not.

Credit to Editor B for pointing this out to me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Economic Development vs. Real Estate Development

I have been thinking that the city is focused too much on Real Estate Development in the recovery and not enough or Economic Development. New Orleans' White-Collar Exodus in Time resonated with me. It emphasized the crisis situation "according to the local business weekly CityBusiness, the metropolitan area has lost 12 of the 23 publicly traded companies headquartered here".

When you look at Blakely's list of 17 target projects;
  1. New Orleans East Plaza
  2. Lower Ninth Ward
  3. Carrollton Avenue at Interstate 10
  4. Harrison Avenue (Canal Boulevard to City Park)
  5. Gentilly Boulevard at Elysian Fields
  6. St. Bernard/ AP Touro at North Claiborne Avenue
  7. Broad Street at Lafitte Greenway/Treme
  8. South Claiborne Avenue at Toledano
  9. Canal Street (Downtown)
  10. Broadmoor (R. Keller Center and Library)
  11. Tulane Avenue at Jeff Davis (Comiskey Park)
  12. O.C. Halley Corridor
  13. Bayou Road/Broad Street Cultural Corridor (Market Building)
  14. St. Roch Street (Market and neutral ground)
  15. Freret Street (Farmers Market)
  16. R.E. Lee at Paris Avenue (Lake Terrace Center improvements)
  17. Alcee Fortier Street (Street Beautification)
Most are Neighborhood Centers, anchored by small scale retail. Some are public facilities. A number are residential developments. A few, including Harrison Avenue and Robert E. Lee at Paris, would probably have come back with no help at all. Just as the centers at Canal at Robert E. Lee and West End at Robert E Lee are coming back. In fact Blakely's list may have delayed redevelopment in some cases. The Shopping Center at Robert E Lee and Paris was for sale last time I drove by.

What is missing is astonishing to me, not one project on the list is likely to bring one new permanent job to the city. Any incentives afforded these projects are simply a subsidy to the real estate development industry.

We still seem to be engaged in an Urban Planning exercise, not an economic recovery. The City needs Economic Development now more than ever in its history. We may still have a window of a couple of years to make an impact before recovery funding runs out. That opportunity is slipping away.

Economic Development, simply put, is bringing new permanent jobs to an area. No other definition really matters, everything beyond that is targeting or noise. There may be some jobs an area might not want for different reasons. An area may not even want economic development at all, the existing population may fell the existing quality of life is perfect and bound to deteriorate if any change is made. Many in New Orleans feel that way if they would look deep inside themselves and be honest. They are simply wrong. We cannot continue to wind down as we have for the last fifty or more years.

According to Time "Donna Addkison, Nagin's chief economic advisor, says. 'There are over 16,000 businesses in the city, and I can tell you that this calendar year we have made 16,079 contacts with businesses'." No one called me, obviously at least 80 people got called twice.

Real Estate Development follows and feeds on Economic Development. If there is sufficient Economic Development there is no real need for government assistance in Real Estate Development, all government needs to do to shape the development by riding the economic current and channeling the flow for the benefit of all of the population.

In New Orleans and Louisiana we have long had a heavy handed government, allied with a cult of personal power. There has been an implicit thread of corruption running through the public's interactions with government. People often feel they they need an "edge" to accomplish their goals.

I am, for example, considered by some to be an expert in codes. I have always had a positive and constructive relationship with the different agencies involved yet I routinely lose out to people "who have a personal relationship" with this or that agency. I consider the people I work with in those agencies professional colleagues, although I do count a few as personal friends. I haven't seen these personal relationships result in different outcomes. The opposite seems to be true. The project's interests have sometimes been sacrificed to maintain a relationship.

The City should be seeking to build a local middle class through aggressive efforts at attracting new well paying business to the city. Back in school we were told that one job in a basic industry created ten jobs in in the local economy. That is obviously an oversimplification , but jobs in Basic Industries (those industries which bring money from outside into the economy) create secondary jobs in retail, construction and services. New Orleans basic industries have been declining for decades.

The port, although strong no longer employees the number of people it did and has shifted from "break bulk" to "bulk" cargo. The importation of high value cargo lead to the development of New Orleans as a center of the coffee industry and agricultural imports. As other types of high value cargo developed New Orleans failed to attract that cargo and the secondary industries associated with them.

The Energy Industry has been consolidating for decades. They have consolidated to Houston. These high paying jobs have been leaving the city every year.

Banking was at one time a major regional focus here, antiquated state laws prevented local banks from expanding and now only one old New Orleans bank still exists and it is widely rumored that in time it too will be sold out the Megabank Corp.

Who is working to replace these good jobs? Where is the impulse to create new ones?

Yet in our recovery efforts there seems to be an explicit desire to divert as much of the recovery into the hands of the usual suspects, by hand picking the recipients of the governments largess. Usually behind closed doors. I don't suggest that every single dollar be distributed by referendum, nor do I agree with all of the special interest groups, business, citizens, neighborhood, preservation, or political.

The process should be more open. Public officials should make their decision in public for the good of all of the people not just a favored few. Public Officials should have the courage to tell the truth. Everyone they can't have everything they want. No one gets everything all of the time except, it seems, the usual suspects in New Orleans.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Three Amendments that Changed America

I am a structural determinism. I believe that the way things are structured largely determines the outcome. I believe that the inherently inert structure of the Federal Government has allowed it to endure. The Framers wanted a government which was capable of action, but could not act except in times of great consensus, which practically meant great urgency or peril. They built a structure which was to lay lightly over the state governments and allow the government closest to the people do most of the work.

Over time we have evolved away from that, partly due to the needs of a larger more complex society and a more tightly integrated economy, much to our individual detriment.

I have this theory of the United States Constitution that three amendments to the Constitution substantially changed the nature of our country and concentrated previously diffuse power in the Federal Government. In one case this was I believe substantially aided by the interpretation of one of the amendments by the Supreme Court. I've told a few friends of this theory and one encouraged me to write about it. Today Seemed a good day for it.

Most of my theory is based on the change in the relationship between the Federal Government and the States.

The first major change was as a result of the Fourteenth Amendment, the applicable portion is quoted below.
The Fourteenth.

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
The Fourteenth amendment was intended to insure that the former Confederate states could not impose restrictions on the newly freed slaves. It ended up going much much further.

The Supreme Court interpreted the Fourteenth Amendment as it applied it to the states and extended the effect of the First Amendment to the States. The First Amendment was unique in that it previously applied only to Congress, and therefore only to the Federal Government. Prior to the Fourteenth amendment, or example, the states were free to establish a religion (which many of them had at the time of independence) or impose restrictions of the freedom of the press or speech. Although most states had similar guarantees in their own Constitutions this amendment allowed Federal Judicial Constitutional review (something not actually in the Constitution and assumed by the Judiciary by judicial fiat), to the states for the first time.

I think the unintended consequence of this action is the extension of Federal Judicial oversight into areas the framers never imagined. Things like public prayer, abortion, marriage, capital punishment and more.
The Sixteenth.

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration.
The Sixteenth gave Congress the unfettered power to lay an all encompassing tax on all residents. This tax was so enormous in its effect it gave the Federal Government the power to coerce the States into all sorts of things. It allowed the States to forgo raising taxes directly as the Federal Government, aided by inflation, economic expansion and Income Withholding to tap a tsunami of cash, which could then be used to bribe the states into all manner of things, some good and some not so good. Additional revenue was necessary to support the national government but the previous restrictions on Federal Taxes served to keep the government small and tending to its own business.
The Seventeenth.

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislatures.

Previously Senators had been selected the state legislatures.

Article I

Section 3.
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.

Losing the anchor to the State legislature, and insulated by long terms in office every Senator became an Independent Operator. Their long tenure and the lack of accountability to anyone except, occasionally, the voters allowed Senators and the Senate to pursue their own agendas for much of their terms. The primary effect was to deny the states any direct participation in the National Government.

Interesting that both the Sixteenth and Seventeenth amendments were ratified in 1913.

"I could be wrong now, but I don't think so."
Randy Newman - The Title Theme from Monk

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Stench

I have recently been thinking that the future of New Orleans has become balkanized.

The various factions of the 'Ancien Régime' have divided up the carcass of the city and are prepared to feast on its rotting entrails, before moving on.

I hope I'm wrong, but see nothing that disproves the theory. If anything the political class is bolder and hungrier.

In fact the polito-sphere is rife with speculation that vulture-in-chief is looking for new carcasses to feed on.

I recently told some friends of my nightmare with some negative "push-back".