Monday, December 29, 2008

We're 35 Today!

Thirty five years ago taday at St. Catrins' in Metry we wuz married up.

It's been great. I'm really looking forward to the next thirty five years. I'm lucky to have the best wife and girlfriend all in the same person.

Thanks to everyone who helped along the way.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Our goose is cooked!

It's not really cooked yet, but it will be.

One of the hoary Christmas clich
és is the Christmas Goose. Many of our traditional Christmas songs have the image of goose. I don't know where that tradition comes from. I have always supposed it was English, probably from the Dickens stories, but I don't really know.

This year I decided to actually roast a goose, I've never had one.

I still haven't eaten one, I will later today. I hope it comes out good. I hope I like it. More important I hope She likes it.

One of the interesting things about having a blog is seeing what people read. I put stuff out there and the things that get attention are always surprising. One surprise is that for the last several months my most popular post has been my Christmas post last year. I think someone linked to the picture, which I still really like.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Where have all the people gone?

According to da papa in November;
4.5 percent fewer passengers left Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport on commercial domestic flights and 8.2 percent fewer arrived.
That seems to indicate more people left than came originally or returned. If traffic was merely down then the numbers should be nearly equal.

According to Airport Statistics for November 2008 318,453 passengers enplaned 304,819 passengers deplaned, a difference of 13,634.

Year to date 3,648,424 deplaned 3,654,010 enplaned a difference of 5586.

Where are they going?

I wonder where everybody went. These statistics show that until November more passengers arrived in New Orleans than left.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Weaning from the public teat

Yesterday Inspector General Robert Cerasoli released his report on the Administrative Fleet of the City of New Orleans. Our Mayor was later shown on TV saying he was attempting to wean the city from take home cars. I wonder how many fewer cars there are now compared to 6 years ago? It seems the records were lost in the flood.

Here's a similar situation.

A friend of mine used to run the cable TV system in a major southern city. They determined that employees were misusing their take home vehicles, creating additional liability, costing money and in some cases using company equipment, tools and material for their after work sidelines.

She held group meetings with everyone assigned a take home vehicle and told them the new policy. She took questions and explained the policy. But when one person said "I have a problem". She said "It's been nice working with you".

This car stuff has been going on for many years, far too long. It's improper and we don't have the money for it (in fact we never had it). It's time to end it and end it now.

This new found gradualism is odd for a man of action like our Mayor. He could simply order the changes to be made, like he's ordered so many other things.

He had no trouble arresting all of the workers at the Brake Tag stations. At the time he said ''It is very clear that this type of behavior has been going on for many, many years,''. He had no trouble laying off most of the city employees. “I wish I didn't have to do this. I wish we had the money, the resources to keep these people,” Nagin said. He had no trouble discontinuing sanitation services to the French Quarter. "This will eliminate the enhanced, Disney-like services, such as street sweeping and power washing in the Vieux Carre and downtown areas of the city," Mayor Ray Nagin said in a news conference. According to SDT that move will cost 75 people their jobs.

Let me tell you how to do it. It's very simple. Make a list of the 50 city employees you think should have One Car to take home and tell the other people to bring theirs back, tomorrow. He should start with his second one.

Cerasoil Strikes.

The new New Orleans Inspector General Robert Cerasoli has issued his first report.

Robert Cerasoli, Inspector General

The report with the catchy title "Interim Report on the Management of the Administrative Fleet" is a dry read, but every citizen, voter and taxpayer of New Orleans should read it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Running buisness like a government

According to GM they need billions and billions of dollars to stay in business. Government seems willing to give it to them provided GM "restructures" and builds "greener cars".

I once owned a green car, a 1974 Chevy Vega station wagon.
It was a very nice color green.

I haven't bought an American made car since. Not that I disliked my Vega, I kind of liked it. I just never liked anything I've seen since well enough to buy it.

Unfortunately as far as I can tell no one actually makes much money selling "green" cars. Toyota claims to have made money on every hybrid since 2004. But however efficient they are at burning gasoline, I'm not sure hybrids are such green cars anyway. There are enormous economic and environmental costs embedded in the proper disposal or recycling of the batteries.

Recently GM employed around 266,000 people world wide including about 84,000 blue collar workers in North America. They have already announced their intention to layoff 13-15,ooo workers and close a number of plants.

Currently by most measures GM makes cars a well and anyone. They got into this trouble partly by making the high profit cars and SUV's people wanted. They didn't get where they are today by not investing in "green cars", which would have lost money on every sale for a while and cost a lot to develop. Right now even Toyota isn't selling many cars.

They also did fail to plan ahead by underfunding their retirement programs. They had Union help in that one, if the Unions were truly looking out for their members they would have negotiated fully funded, actuarially sound retirement programs, in lieu of higher wages and more benefits, short sighted management and union officials both failed in their responsibiities there.

It's pretty much the way Social Security works. Fortunately Social Security doesn't depend on selling cars to fund it, and it isn't in that great a shape.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Goodby Bettie Page

Bettie Page the all time queen of pinup passed away today. She was famous, and notorious for her nude and swimsuits glamor photography during the 50's. But the bondage, and domination pictures really set her apart and made her the object of a cult following.

She completely vanished from public for many years before resurfacing in the early 90's

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Don't Have a Cao, Man!

Within the echo chamber of the Intertube Joseph Cao has provided a little of comic relief, some celebration and a lot of discussion. It's probably time to leave him alone and let him see if he can figure out Washington. I'm really pulling for him.

Camelot Redux

I've had a feeling for some time that Obama and the Democratic Establishment has been cultivating the cult of Camelot II or Kennedy, dark.

It'll be confirmed if Michelle conducts a televised tour of the White House and shows up in public wearing a pill box hat.The symbolism is powerful, but the substance of the myth somewhat lacking.

I may be wrong but I recall JFK holding back on civil rights legislation to preserve the the unholy coalition of Liberals, Southern Segregationists and Northern Unionists, the latter two united by their discrimination against blacks. Invading Cuba, a mission that ended badly.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Holy Cao!

Dollar Bill Jefferson was defeated by a hurricane. The Veteran Congressman was defeated in a a general election delayed by hurricane Gustav. It just goes to show that even a wily corrupt politician can't mess with mother nature.

Jefferson had what seemed to be a foolproof strategy, let all of the viable African-American candidates defeat each other in the primary and ride Obama's coat tails to re-election. Gustav caused the election to be postponed making Dollar Bill the only guy on the ballot. Jefferson fatigue and motivated opposition unseated him.

Joseph Cao is an impressive guy and I wish him well, but he ought not plan on staying in Congress more than two years, unless he can pull a very large rabbit out of his hat.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I can't believe he said that.

We all know our mayor has a distorted view of reality, he seems to have brought Police Chief Warren Riley under control of his Reality Distortion Field. According to the Times Picayune;

Riley repeatedly criticized the study as being a money-maker for CQ Press, which examined statistics for six major types of crime in nearly 400 cities and found that, with more than 19,000 incidents of crime last year, New Orleans ranked number one, ahead of Camden, New Jersey, and Detroit, Mich.

"In the 1870s, New Orleans was considered one of the most violent cities in the country," Riley said. "Is it the water in the Mississippi? I don't know what it is...We know right now that crime is down in this city."

I wonder if the 1870 quote is correct. I wonder if he meant 1970 or if it was a misquote. If it is right Riley has reached a new apogee in historical unconsciousness and comparing apples and mangos. For the record New Orleans had a population of 191,418 in 1870, about 50% lower than it is now. I don't think the FBI was gathering crime statistics back then.

It's interesting to look at how our former Chief responded to a similar report on Atlanta in 2004. According to an L. A. times report;

Chief Richard Pennington, releasing an audit of police practices Friday, warned that Atlanta is the most dangerous city in America and criticized his department for routinely underreporting crime.

Pennington said he was shocked to find that Atlanta residents consider traffic a more serious problem than crime.

In addition, according to the report, police work is often shoddy. One Atlanta resident interviewed said she once placed 14 calls to the 911 system to report a burglary and that it took police 68 minutes to arrive.

The denial of the current administration is so obvious and predictable the the authors of the CQ Press "City Crime Rankings" issues a separate Note on New Orleans. It addresses indirectly the population shell game Nagin and Riley have ben playing.
Because of the year-to-year differences in New Orleans’s population, City Crime
Rankings reports the city’s crime numbers and rates for 2007 but does not compare those rates to 2006 or 2003. Finally, it should be noted that New Orleans would have the highest city crime comparison score even if the 2007 Census Bureau population estimates were the basis for the scoring.
I'm sure Nagin has some super secret numbers from Greg Rigmar, indicating that crime in New Orleans is in fact lower than it has been at any time in the past, especially 1870.

What is more troubling than the numbers is the apparent lack of concern on the part of the Chief.
He apparently thinks all that is needed a little adjustment.

Riley said that NOPD will "assist the judge with additional investigators" and will "tweak a little bit and just move forward" when it comes to any problems with bringing cases from arrest to conviction.

"The problem in the past is keeping them in jail," said Riley. "Identifying them and capturing them isn't the problem."

Chief, we need more than a little "tweaking".

How can he be so clueless? If he has no idea how to address the crime problem perhaps he should step aside and make room for someone who does have some ideas. Clearly more of the same isn't working.

Monday, November 17, 2008

We was Played by Ray - Again

I watched the infamous Garbage Hearings from end to end on Cox 11/17/08.

It was interesting. The news reports only scratched the surface of the weirdness that happened.

The hearing started calm enough. Veronica White made the obligatory Power Point presentation covering her department and budget. The Budget Committee listened, probably bored and waiting for the chance to ask questions.

Her presentation was followed by a fairly professional presentation by the consultant hired for $250,000 to determine how much the garbage contractors should be paid. They are apparently building a database of every household in the city of New Orleans, using tax records, voter records, utility billing Sewerage and Water Board billing and other data. It seems like serious overkill. One of the major Sub-Consultants is GCR, Greg Rigamer's company.

There were few questions. Apparently everyone was warming up for the Main Event.

After the presentation Veronica White took the mike again. She was immediately asked about news reports that Jefferson Parish was paying far less for garbage pick up than Orleans Parish. White almost giddily exclaimed "I have that". She pulled out a piece of paper and passed copies around. She presented her analysis of the differences as a series of bullet points.

Here are the ones I remember;
  • Jefferson pays $13 + up to 5% CPI Adjustment + fuel surcharge.
  • Orleans pays 3 contractors $18, $22 or $32 with no fuel adjustment or CPI.
  • Jefferson is 10 miles from the dump Orleans 20 miles.
  • Jefferson uses manual collection New Orleans Semi Automated collection.
  • Orleans provides cans, Jefferson doesn't.
There were a a lot of other things which were included in the list, but almost all of them applied only to the French Quarter and CBD (the area serviced by SDT) , for which we pay a substantial premium over Metro and Richards.

This is where it started getting weird. As Veronica White read the list she became increasingly animated, louder and the pitch of her voice rose. Almost as if she were delivering a summation or was becoming more and more stressed by the presentation, or the confrontation she expected. It was very odd.

If it shows up on Cox again watch the whole thing it's very enlightening.

When she finished her recitation Jackie Clarkson began working through the detail to try to make sense of it. As Clarkson tried to point out that many of the costs applied only to the CBD and French Quarter, White kept referring to the total budget and how they couldn't be compared. They were talking past each other and White was becoming more emphatic.

There was a discussion of why we should pay to have semi automated pickup, when Jefferson gets manual pickup so much cheaper. Garbage Guru Veronica White said she could go on and on about the advantages ot the city, but only really came up with a few items including fewer complaints and better sanitation. Jackie Clarkson disputed that and attributed the reduction of complaints to the new city supplied cans.

Next up was an exchange not usually shown on TV. Stacy Head quoted the contract and asked why we weren't getting the lists required by the contract. Veronica White insisted that the contract was being followed. White was becoming progressively more and more animated. Then Veronica White dropped the bombshell. She announced the City had got a list every month and could send them to Stacy Head to prove it. There was a shot of Stacy Head's reaction, her jaw dropped, she was speechless, for a few moments.

Then there is the part we've all heard.

Next there was a break between rounds.

One of the striking things about White's performance was her disjointed use of language. Clakeson and Head, the two active questioners obviously had trouble following her. She jumped for phrase to phrase, barely connecting a thought or finishing a sentence.

After the break Jackie Clarkson said the Department Head out of order. Jackie Clarkson reiterated the need for apology. She also confirmed that the Council had asked for the garbage information repeatedly.

Mr. Cary Grant danced around Stacy Head's questions for a while, including reference to meeting minutes from April 2008 where White had said no system is in place. The Council was given binders in paper form as the only record available.

The oddest thing (besides Veronica White) was two rows of guys in orange jump suites. I wonder who paid for them to be there and who queued the applause.

No substantive questions were ever answered nor were any commitments made to provide additional information. Nagin's incendary email permanently ended any constructive engagement.

The question I'd like answered is "Why is New Orelans paying at least $5 per household more than Jefferson Parish?"

Some of the reasons offered by Veronica White make some sense. Like the distance ot the dump and the lack of price escallation provisions. Although it doesn't seem these are worth cost. (5% CPI escallation is only $0.65 increase per year)

There are other, unstated reasons. The burdensome special requirements placed on all city contracts are also part of the reason. DBE requirements escalate cost, with benefit for only a few favored "Disadvantaged" Business Enterprises. You have to question how disadvantaged two African-American millionaires are in a city that is predominately African American. There are prescriptive requirements for new equipment, which escalate cost when a performance standard would be a more effective. Unmaintained new equipment will eventually fail to perform and well maintained old equipment may perform well.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Did You?

I voted this morning did you?

In spite of all of the dire warnings of long lines, faulty machines and my vote went very quickly and smoothly.

Our polling place in back in a garage where God intended it to be for the first time since Katrina. After Katrina our precinct was moved into the Greek Church on Bayou St. John. I was told that the church didn't want to "host" voting anymore. I never liked voting there anyway, it was too crowded and the parking lot was too small.

Voting in a person's home seems to be something of a Louisiana thing. I know when my parents moved here they had never heard of such a thing. In their experience voting was always at some government building, a school, fire station or the like.

I like it.

I like to opportunity to see a few of my neighbors and cast my vote. I like the opportunity to check on how its going and hear firsthand what the turnout is. I would have volunteered my garage, except we have a carport and couldn't deal with security for the voting machines or inclement weather.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Gutav Report Card - Part 1 - The Pols

I been watching and participating in the Gustav Media Circus and I think it is time to give a citizens eye view of the circus.

First I'm not going to deal with the evacuation. As far as I can tell it went very well, despite long lines of cars on the Interstates leading out of town. It was no doubt the best organized mass evacuation in US history. In fact we are getting pretty good at this. The Second Best Evacuation was three years ago for Katrina. That evacuation would have been the model for all subsequent evacuations, if the levees had held.

The first group to be graded is our Political Leadership. I could only grade three groups, City of New Orleans Jefferson Parish and The State. The grades are primarily based on their public statements over the several days before and more importantly after Gustav.

State Leadership B+

Bobby Jindal's press conferences have been a blizzard of facts and figures. He clearly has a head for numbers. He has called FEMA out on their failure to keep promises and pulled a few rabbits of of his hat, including purchasing generators for local governments and ordering schools to prepare hot meals for people and bringing in large commercial food service operators to do the same. My only reservation is whether these were real improvisations or existing contingencies he simply activated. He presented them as new ideas, I sense he's showboating a little. Whatever the actual facts his confidence, energy and apparent command of the situation.

Jefferson Parish Leadership C+

Aaron Broussard ran regular public briefings. They were professional and included his entire team. Parish President Broussard laid out facts and responses. The Parish seems to have been caught flatfooted by the lack of commercial power, leading to water conservation orders due to the lack of sewage pumping capacity. He did keep residents informed of the situation, without panic hyperbole. His decision to allow residents home soon and without restrictions jump started Jefferson and probably prevented the Mayor from locking the city down for a longer period.

City Of New Orleans Leadership D

Ray Nagin's communications were typical of his personality, confused, confusing and full of high drama. They also seemed randomly scheduled making it difficult for evacuated citizens to hear. Whether his early emotional appeals for evacuation or his confused clarification of when the city would actually be open for residents to return, the Mayor drowned out everyone else while he hogged center stage. Called out by Arnie and Stacy on his delay in opening the city he lashed out, gave in and then clarified that he didn't actually give in. He has taken credit to the evacuation of the city, trumpeting his own achievements, while failing to provide information the 250,000 citizens who evacuated on their own needed. If you listened to him you might believe that everyone in the city was bussed out and put up at his house, instead of the 20 - 30,000 or so people with special needs or without transportation the city did evacuate.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Let the Mismanagement Begin

True to the tradition of fighting the last war. The City of New Orleans' governing class high fived over The Most Effective Evacuation Ever. It was better than The Second Best Evacuation Ever, the evacuation of New Orleans before Katrina. In the Second Best Evacuation more that 80% of the population voluntarily evacuated with no help from the government. This time 90+% evacuated and much of the difference was the people the government should have helped first time.

If the levees had not failed due to improper design the Katrina evacuation would have been hailed as a great success. We would have been back in our homes within a few days and no one would have put armed soldiers at the borders of New Orleans.

This time everyone played by the script, except Gustav who largely bypassed New Orleans leaving Geraldo loose on the streets. Gustav however managed to severely damage the electrical infrastructure. But more than that he allowed the petty bureaucrats of the Mayoralty of New Orleans to hold uncommon power of their vassals.

A couple of disaffected minor nobility have now challenged the Lord Mayor and his minions. Council members Sir Feilkow and Dame Head have issued a statement that our Lord Mayor should have followed the lead of his fellow nobels in adjacent realms and coordinated his schemes with theirs.

The Duchy of Jefferson has allowed its subjects to return at noon on the morrow. The Lord Mayor only deigned to allow his vassells back at the stroke of midnight. No one seems to have noticed that Jefferson has about 50% more subjects than Orleans and more that twice as many hovels without electricity.

The cost of it all.

I got this email from a relatively new employee this evening;
I regret to inform you but I will not be returning to New Orleans. This weekend my husband and I made the decision to remain in Texas. We placed a down payment on a new house and will return long enough to make arrangements with our home. We have wanted to return to Texas since Katrina and this time we decided to make the move.
I am sorry for the inconvenience and without notice, but I have to do this for my family. Thank you for the opportunity it has been a learning experience. Again accept my apology.
I wonder if there is any hope for New Orleans.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Cerasoli is a Rock Star

Tonight Ray Nagin was presented with an award for "Award of Distinction for Recovery, Courage and Leadership" at an event called "A Tribute to the Recovery of New Orleans". A number of people protested at the site of the award.

Later in the evening at Buffa's Robert Cerasoli strode into a room full of bloggers like a Rock Star.

Robert Cerasoli, Inspector General

I was surprised that he came, there had been rumors he might come, but I was skeptical. I was even more astonished that he reads our blogs, almost all of them apparently. When I introduced myself he commented on my recent posts. I'm a fan. I was impressed with his command of the blogosphere. Many others had similar experiances.

Nagin spent the evening with sycophants and Cerasoli spent the evening with concerned citizens of New Orleans and a few amateur investigators.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Rising Tide Shitrs are in.

The Rising Tide III tee shitrs are in. They are another fabulous design by Greg Peters. Come on out and get one (or six).

Friday, August 08, 2008

Dumbass of the Week

City Attorney Penya Moses-Fields

Recently City Attorney Penya Moses-Fields sent a letter to City Inspector General Cerasoli. In that letter she demanded Cerasoli inform her when he initiated any investigations. Cloaked in a lot of legal mumbo jumbo, Ms. Moses-Fields entirely misconstrued the plain language of statues she quoted. They were clearly intended shield the files of the Inspector General from her and her colleagues in City Hall. None of the statutes cited in Ms. Moses-Fields letter make any mention of public records.

Inspector General Robert Cerasoli

The Inspector fired back that he had no intention of sharing any information with the City Attorney (She should have read the laws she quoted) and the furthermore - she has a legal, ethical and moral obligation to provide public records to the citizens of New Orleans.

Game, Set to Cerasoli. The Match has yet to be decided.

One thing is clear from this exchange, Ms. Penya Moses-Fields is not friend of the citizens of New Orleans. Nor is she the sharpest tack in the box. In fact it would not be hard to conclude that she is not a very capable attorney and should be dismissed from her position.

She definitely deserves a dumbass award. Her later attempts to "explain" her initial stupidity only dig the hole deeper.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Cars, Planes and Boats - Upper Left Hand Corner Version

I haven't written any about any of our excursions lately, because we haven't been anywhere together lately.

Over Memorial Day we took a family excursion. She and I took with her 82 year old mother to Whidbey Island, Washington for a family wedding. It was a quick trip. We left early Friday morning Memorial Day weekend and returned late Monday, the same weekend. I was sure it was worth the effort for her mother. I wasn't sure it would be enjoyable.

Friday 5:00 AM CDT Wakeup.

Typical weekend breakfast. English muffins, and poached eggs.

Friday 6:00 AM CDT The Mother-in Law Arrives.

Friday 6:30 AM CDT Leave for the Airport.

Mother in Law is met by a Skycap (are the still called that(?) with a wheel chair, you see she doesn't get around very well.

Friday 8:00 AM CDT Departure.

Friday 9:30 AM CDT Arrive Dallas.

The arrival at DFW was without incident. However we had a significant trek to make from Terminal A to Terminal D in less that two hours, with an elderly disabled passenger.

Plane is met by another Skycap(?) and wheelchair and we traverse DFW almost diagonally from one corner to the other. We used two wheel chairs, 3 electric cars and 2 elevators.

It took every bit of time we had to get to the gate and we barely had time to purchase some bag lunches before pre-boarding the flight.

Friday 2:30 PM PDT Arrive Sea-Tac Airport.

Again we were met by a Skycap(?) and transferred to a rental car shuttle and eventually to our rental SUV for the 90 minute drive to our rented house, with a stop ar a grocery store for provisions.

Friday 4:00 PM PDT Arrive waiting line for the Mukilteo - Whidbey Island Ferry.

2 hour wait for the ferry on an holiday weekend. We later heard that one of the wedding guests had "cut line" and others called ahead so they were forced to go back to the end and start over.

Friday 6:00 PM PDT Disembark the Mukilteo -Whidbey Island Ferry and find the way our bay side rental cottage.

Friday Evening the bride's extended family (of which we are part) gave a party at the Lodge they rented. A nice time was had by all.

Washington State style Gumbo and Shrimp Etouffe was served. That was interesting. No roux at all and the Gumbo had carrots in it. We wondered if Paul Prudhomme was even known there.

Saturday 10:00 AM PDT Breakfast.

Typical weekend breakfast. English muffins, ham, and poached eggs.

She and I had a chance to get out and see some of the Island. We went to a Local Seafood Market and Farmer's market. We bought a bunch of stuff for a planned special meal for the next day. We even managed to visit a winery.

Saturday 4:00 PM PDT Wedding.

Outside, overlooking a pond. The Groom and groomsmen in Navy Dress Whites.

Saturday 4:30 PM PDT Reception.

The reception was in a renovated barn, just steps away from the wedding. An early evening and great nights sleep.

Sunday 10:00 PM PDT Breakfast.

Typical weekend breakfast. English muffins, ham, and poached eggs.

We spent much of the day simply exploring the area around our house, walking the pebble beach and enjoying the views.

After Lunch we took a driving tour of the island visiting several picturesque touristy little towns and their shops. Including a trip to the north end go the island and Deception Pass State Park.

Sunday 6:00 PM PDT Dinner.

Fresh pacific salmon, poached in Whidbey Island wine and fresh dill. With a fresh herb salad, organic asparagus and more Whidbey Island Wine.

Monday 7:00 AM PDT Wakeup.

Monday 8:00 AM PDT Breakfast.

Typical weekend breakfast. English muffins, ham, and poached eggs.

Monday 9:00 AM PDT Leave the Cottage.

Reverse the arrival process.

Monday 9:30 AM PDT Board the Ferry.

Monday 11:00 AM PDT Arrive Sea-Tac Airport.

Monday 2:30 PM PDT Depart.

Monday 8:15 PM CDT Arrive DFW.

Monday 10:00 PM CDT Depart DFW.

Monday 11:30 PM CDT Arrive New Orleans.

Tuesday 1:00 AM CDT Go to Bed.

It was a very enjoyable trip. Went to work the next day.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The FED Declares War on the Self Employeed

I have been following the "Housing Crisis", which as far as I can tell was largely triggered by lenders willing to lend money to anyone with a pulse for a transaction fee. Aided and abetted by the residential Real Estate industry and some political interest groups and politicians under a variety of excuses to expand home ownership.

The recent announcement by the FED to require "proof of income" is a major change and impediment to free markets. In effect the only "proof of income" will become a "proof of tax".

Taxes will set you free.

I am a victim of previous policies which discriminated against the self-employed. Prior standards implied that unless you had a "steady job", (which could end at any moment) you were a credit risk, regardless of your FICO score, your history of paying off loans or cash in your business, regardless of how long your business had been in operation (in my case more than 20 years). The whole process was/is stupid and offensive.

I wonder why employees of mine who have a year or less of tenure are able to get mortgages much easier than I can. It seems perfectly clear to me that if my business goes south, I am the last man standing. It also seems obvious that my history as a self-employed person is less important than anyoneelse's W-2.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Are They Rationing Gas?

This morning I pulled into a Shell station to fill the nearly empty tank on my Swedish Land Yacht.

The 21 gallon tank was almost empty. Swiping my trusty Shell card and entering my ZIP code. I was expecting to put about $75 in. I was surprised when the pump shutdown at exactly $50,00. As I drove off I realized the tank was not full. I don't know why it stopped. I wonder if the station was trying to limit drive offs or if there was some other explanation.

I tried calling Shell but their Credit Card Customer Service was closed.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Rewriting History

It seems to me that everyone ignorant of history is doomed to rewrite it.

Tonight, sitting in my trailer I watched a movie Geronimo: An American Legend. It was sort of interesting, until the epilogue. The protagonist expressed his regret that a way of life that had endured a thousand years ceased to exist.

The problem is that the horse culture of the Apaches and other Plains Indians could not have existed for a thousand years.

Horses were once native to North America but became extinct long before humans colonized the continent. They were only reintroduced after Europeans established contact. The exact process is the subject of lot of debate, but clearly if the earliest modern horse in North America was around about 1500, the horse culture could not be a thousand years old. It had to be less than half that, probably much less.

The larger Euro-centric view is that native americans (themselves immigrants a few thousand years earlier) were somehow a static, peace loving group of noble savages, except for the intervention of the evil Europeans.

That is a gross distortion, if not a downright lie. The prevailing view romanticizing and generalizing a group of people covering thousands of tribes speaking hundreds of different languages in vastly different environments sharing common cultural traits is absurd. The truth is some of them practiced the most appalling rituals including cannibalism, torture and slavery.

By the way Geronimo was a Christian, his name being Spanish for (St.) Jerome.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Rising Tide - The Threequel

The same Krazy Krewe that brought Rising Tide I and II is at it again. We can't get enough it seems.

Mark you calendars for the week end of August 22 through 24. Begin making plans to attend what promises to be another thought provoking and energizing weekend.

Watch the New Orleans Bloggspace as events develop we will be letting the cat out of the bag.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

On small snippet of the Mayor's State of the City speech jumped out at me.
Downtown office occupancies are the highest they've been since the 70s oil and gas boom.
That is by almost any measure a Damn Lie. It is also a statistic. I work with downtown office space every day. To say that occupancy is higher that the 70's oil boom is at best selective and deceptive, if not downright dishonest.

For a brief time occupancy rates were high in the 70's, and remained fairly high throughout the 80's as more space was constructed. By the mid 80's the new construction had caught up with demand and the oil business was beginning to slow.

During the late 70's and early 80's a number of large new office buildings were built mostly along Poydras street. These include;
  • Pan American Life Center,
  • The Texaco Building,
  • The Mobile Building,
  • The Entergy Building,
  • The Amoco Building,
  • The LLE Building,
  • The CNG Tower,
  • Canal Place,
  • Poydras Center,
  • Place St. Charles,
  • 1515 Poydras,
  • 1555 Poydras, and
  • 1615 Poydras.

With the exception of Pan American Life and Entergy* every named tenant on those buildings has left the city and no similar tenant has replaced them. Pan America has sold their building and is giving up space.

Office space is about at the same level it was in the early 70s with many old office buildings either closed (225 Baronne, New Orleans Centre, the Saratoga Building and the Original Pan American Building) or converted to hotel or residential use. I doubt true occupancy rates are as high as they were then.

The list of high rise buildings either already converted or under conversion includes;
  • FNBC Building
  • Fidelity Building
  • 925 Common
  • American Bank Building
  • Pere Marquette Building
  • Maison Blanche Building
  • Masonic Temple Building
  • Maritime Building
  • Queen and Crescent Building
  • The Old Texaco Building
  • Carondelet Building
  • Southern Savings Building
  • Richards Building
  • Commerce Building
  • 210 O'Keefe
The last major office buildings constructed in the CBD (The LLE Tower and CNG Tower) were built almost twenty years ago. The amount of office space has actually been shrinking since then. It will continue to shrink for some time yet.

To think the downtown office market is healthy is nothing short of delusional.

*as Scott pointed out in a comment Entergy is still here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I Fought the Death Star and Survived.

Not that one, I'm no Luke Skywalker. This one.We have been long time customers of ATT Mobility, and Cingular before that and BellSouth Mobility before that all the way back to $1200, 15 pound under the seat analog car phones. I always had a positive impression of their customer service, until now.

For the last few months I've been looking to upgrade my cell phone. It is a very old one but it worked and I don't use it that much anyway. In fact we have over 4,000 rollover minutes. Recently my phone has started shutting down in mid call, not dropping the call completely shutting down. My search became more urgent.

In an effort to make my life simple I made getting a new phone complicated. You see the two of us divide our time between three cars and three residences and a significant amount of out of town travel. She has a tendency to forget to charge her phone leaving her out of communication while she is on the road or traveling.

All of this leads to problems selecting a new phone. I tried a lavender Razr on her.

It came in lots of colors. It was too cute. It was expensive and all of Her friends had Razrs.

Next I located the Plum LG CU515.

It was different, professional, cheap and I could get a black on . Problem solved.

If only it was that easy. I went online to order the upgrades, just like I did last time around.

NOLUCK. As a business account I had to use the "new" "special" ATT business website.


OK. Maybe I'll get some better pricing. I went there but couldn't get my account login to work. It seems I needed a special master agreement to use the ATT business wireless site.

NO LUCK. I had to agree to all sorts of draconian rules to get to see if I was going to get a discount. I read the fine print, bills were my personal responsibility and I didn't get discounts unless I had 5 phones. I only have two and a wireless Internet thing.

I decided to spend Saturday going to an ATT store in the burbs.

NO LUCK. The kid in the store wouldn't sell the phone without a data contract I didn't need didn't want nor that he could explain. He also insisted on telling me the phone didn't come in black. But as I was leaving he did mention it came in charcoal. At least she actually got to see the plum phone in person. It is darker and cooler than the pictures.

I decided I'd just call. Surely we could find a person at the 8o0 number who knew how to accomplish the simple task of signing up two long time customers for two more years.

NO LUCK. We were back to signing some kind of agreement and going through the website I had been through and decided wasn't worth the effort.

I was ready to go to almost any other carrier, dump all of my rollover minutes and potential for future bundles since I have phone and Internet service through ATT. I called several other carriers and found out they were as stupid as ATT.

Finally I remembered that my fairly recent purchase of an Sierra Wireless Aircard for the ATT wireless network was reasonably painless. I decided to risk going back to the their downtown ATT wireless store in Place St. Charles.

I walked in and a much too cheerful young woman asked if she could help. I said - "Probably not, I'm willing to bet you can't do what I want to do." She said she could so I told her, "All I want to do is upgrade two off contract phones to LG CU515's. One black and one plum." She said "I can do that". I said, "We'll see".

It took an hour, two coworkers and a couple of trips to the back but I walked out of there with two new phones, properly configured and working.

Jesus H. Christ. Why are big companies so stupid, or is it just New Orleans?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Today is Jimmy Stewart's Birthday

It's the 100th anniversary of his birth. He's always been my favorite movie star. He always seemed to represent the best things about America, whether playing Mr. Smith or Tom Destry or Elwood P Dowd. or Paul Beigler or Charles Lindbergh.

Happy birthday Jimmy (although he was usually credited as James Stewart)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

You Can Observe a Lot by Just Looking

I run a pretty slip-shod operation here. I don't keep track of many things.

I was astonished to learn that this is my most popular post, by almost four to one over the front page. I wonder how that could happen.

It's not a post I particularly favor or even think was very good.

There's no accounting for Google.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day 2008

Today we had my mother-in-law and brother-in-law over for a late barbecue. The filets wrapped in bacon were great. She selected the meat and did the grilling.

I was reduced to preparing the salad, steaming the broccoli, making the bernaise sauce and preparing desert.

I particularly liked the desert. We had poached pears, served with ice cream, whipped cream and shaved chocolate. It turned out very well. It's also fairly easy as deserts go.

I saw my own mother last week. We visited her in her new apartment. She had recently relocated from rural East Texas to Dallas.

I want to live in her apartment. For a substantial rent she gets two meals a day. Lunch and dinner are served with a menu, white table cloths, and service on a par with many restaurants. She also has a reserved space for her car and "free" transportation anywhere within five miles. There is a major mall with a Nordstrum's directly across the street. Love Field is less that 20 minutes away. I could do that.

My mother spent the weekend with my sister, my sister's adopted daughter and her children in their new house . Everyone seems to have had a great time.

I also took my first swim of the season.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Baby Powder

I'm not much of an athlete. I have fairly good hand eye coordination. I can play a game like ping-pong or pool. I can even shoot foul shots or hit a baseball. In any game requiring movement in anything but a straight line I am hopelessly slow and inept.

My Dad always quietly encouraged me to participate in sports, I was always reluctant. The one good memory is when I was what is now called a tween. I was eleven or twelve, too young for Little League, anyway I couldn't make the try outs, so I played what was called Minor League baseball. I wasn't very good.

At tryouts I ended up on a second rate team sponsored by a local hardware store. They were a second tier sponsor. The team was one of the integrated teams and about two thirds of the players were Negroes as African-Americans were called back then.

The best player on our team was Benjy, I don't think I ever knew his last name. He was a wonder. He was younger than most of the kids on the team, including me, but he could out hit and out throw and out field everyone else. He was also a nice guy from a modest family.

As it happens our assigned practice field was a dusty diamond backing up to a little stream just behind Benjy's house. His Mother would come over her back fence and bring us lemonade and ice water. I never actually met his Father, but I knew who he was. Like my Dad he was always at work when we practiced after school. He was often in the stands when we played on the weekends. My Dad knew him somehow, possibly he worked at the Plant. Anyway my day always exchanged greetings with him out of earshot of us athletes.

Benjy had a younger brother who always hung around when we practiced. He would chase the numerous foul balls and generally followed his big brother around like a puppy. Benjy tried to teach him, except his little brother had a handicap, he was left handed. I was the only other player on the team who was left handed and had an appropriate glove.

One day after practice Benjy asked me if he could borrow my glove for his little brother, he said he would return it tomorrow for practice. I said "Sure, but I have another glove at my house I'd be happy to give him" since I had outgrown it. I asked "Could you come over to my house after practice and get it?". The three of us walked the six or eight blocks from the practice field to my house and after we had determined that the glove was suitable, my Mom gave us all Kool-aid and cookies.

Our games were usually on Saturday Afternoon, there would be several six inning games in a row. Before one of our Saturday afternoon games I went to Gillispe's Barber Shop to get a hair cut. My Dad was initiating me into the rites of manhood. "Pop" Gillispie (or Ernie or the other guy we called the 'new barber') cut my hair and added some Fitch's Hair Tonic. It slicked my hair back. It also had a distinctive odor. When I got to the game Benjy promptly dubbed me "Baby Powder", because he thought that's what it smelled like.

He and his friends called me that for the rest of the season, much to my embarrassment. If I'd stayed it might have become my "street" name, I might have even grown to like it.

The next summer we moved to Louisiana. I never saw Benjy or his brother after that. I heard Benjy became a big high school football and baseball star. I also heard blew out his knee in college. I hope he made out OK after that.

I never understood how I ended up on that particular team. My Dad always seemed to be very happy with that particular part of my life. He seemed particularly proud of the glove incident. Many years later I began to wonder if he arranged it on purpose but I never got around to asking him about it. I'm sorry I didn't.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Dead Young Black Men

Last week every news outlet in town devoted significant coverage of a police shooting of a Lakeview Doctors dog. There was a lot of video of the dead dog.

The police were responding to a false burglar alarm.

I may be in the insensitive minority but I wonder about the news media devoting so much time to the killing of a black dog owned by white doctor when so many young black men are killed in our streets that no one bothers to keep track of the number any more.

According to the AP
There were 54 murders in the first quarter of this year, compared to 59 last year, Riley said. Of those, 60 percent have been solved and 30 people arrested. The national average for clearing homicide cases is 55 percent, Riley said. Of the remaining open 2008 cases, nearly 90 percent have possible suspects and are close to being solved, he said.
The chief cites the reduction from 59 to 55 as progress, doesn't seem like it to me. The Time Picayune says there were only 42 murders in the first quarter. I wonder where the difference comes from. It's not an insignificant discrepancy. Thanks to M. D Filter for pointing that out to me.

We also have the trial of the accused killer of Dinerral Shavers. David Bonds was exonerated by a jury of his peers.

That trial was, it seems to me, a perfect illustration of everything wrong with New Orleans criminal justice.

A witness recanted under apparent pressure from her family and possible intimidation from the accused.

The police apparently failed to find witnesses necessary for the prosecution.

The public defender seems to have been given latitude to suggest all sort of things without any proffer of proof.

Reports say the jury voted 11-1 to convict.

Every component of the criminal justice seems to have failed.

A seriously and deeply divide citizenry with no confidence in a police department with a history of incompetent leadership, brutality and corruption.

A prosecutors office historically more concerned with its own reputation than protecting the community it serves.

An elected judiciary that fails to impose discipline on an out of control system.

Guy McEwan a witness in the trial was murdered not much later. Many have called it revenge, I'm not so sure. McEwan had drug charges pending so his killing might have been over something else.

It seems a murdered black dog is more likely to get justice than a murdered young black man.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

I Love You, Man

Ashley Morris passed away suddenly last week. It was a shock. We all lost a friend, whether we knew him or not. My mother used to say my sister never met a stranger, neither had Ashley.

New Orleans has lost it's proudest, loudest champion. He literally wore his love of his city on his sleeve, or at least where his sleeve should have been.

I've been searching for a way to say something about him and never felt anything was enough. Others friends more able were closer and knew him better. His friends have posted tributes to him all week. It is far beyond my ability to add to what they have said.

Ashley working the sound board at Rising Tide with chicken.

Like many other bloggers I met Ashley through the Rising Tide Conferences. The picture of Ashley from Rising Tide shows his two most visible contributions, working the sound and hooking us up with Dunbar's fried chicken. There were other less visible and more substantial contributions.

At the second conference for some reason every time Ashley passed near me he said "I Love You, Man".

I have no idea why he said that, but back at ya, I Love You, Man.

Remember Ashley Morris.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Home Movies

My brother recently arranged to have all of my fathers home movies transfered to 5 DVD's. I just got my set. My mom and I have been watching some of them. They span the time from when I was about five or six until after I was married. They seem to stop about the time my sister graduated from High School.

It's fascinating what you forget.

One of the things I remember was being at Superbowl IV in Tulane Stadium.
My dad took some home movies of that game from our regular end zone seats. He also had some movies of an early Saints game in the stadium as well. I'll have to look closer to figure out exactly which game it was.