Friday, January 30, 2015

Quality of Life

We moved back to New Orleans two months ago after over seven years in Cincinnati.

We are having house guests from Cincinnati this month and next. To prepare we have been playing tourists, spending time in the French Quarter, Garden District and Magazine Street. We have also taken in some jazz at Snug Harbor, and gone to a concert and the theater.

I recommend that natives of the greater New Orleans area sample the many treats we have for visitors. It is easy to see why the area is such a popular tourist destination.
I do have concerns, however, about the overall quality of life in the city.
Certainly the crime problem is well publicized, enough to put a drag on tourism, but worse still is the effect it has on everyday life in the city. We are concerned about choosing places to take our visitors where we feel we are not at risk. Fortunately we are old enough that we turn in pretty early, before most perps are on the streets.

What troubles me is that there is not much confidence that things will get better soon. The NOPD is under a consent decree with the federal Department of Justice. On its website, the City recognizes that the Decree “encompasses sweeping, department-wide reforms” and that these “may require years to accomplish fully.” Consent Decree monitors have reported displeasure with the results so far.
This is not a problem that developed recently, or the changes would not have to be “sweeping.” Why has it taken so long to recognize and address these problems? Certainly there have been budgetary limitations, but where are our priorities?

Another serious deterioration has occurred at the state level. Governor Jindal has sacrificed Louisiana’s higher education system to his presidential ambitions. I’ll go out on a limb and say that he is wasting his time and the state’s future.
Perhaps Jindal thinks that becoming the darling of the right could lead him to the vice-presidency. His pandering has led to his closing several options to achieve some relief because they are not “revenue neutral” as conservatives demand. His ability to balance the budget with one-time revenues has run out, leaving a mess for the next governor.

The state ranks 49th in most measures of quality of life bettering only Mississippi, which will reverse this before long.
Where is the citizen outrage over this? Why do we continue to elect legislators who roll over to the governor’s failed proposals? Why are the city and the state always being “reformed” without ever getting there? People who have lived elsewhere know that it doesn't have to be this way.

I would appreciate your comments.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

For the Week Ending January 24, 2015

Celebrity Watch

Worthy of a headline in the New Orleans media:
Bo Dollis, longtime Big Chief of the Wild Magnolias Mardi Gras Indians, has died.
Pope Francis: Catholics Shouldn't Breed 'Like Rabbits'

Vocabulary Watch

adjective: Giving opinions beyond one’s area of expertise.
noun: One who gives opinions beyond one’s area of expertise.

Again, only in New Orleans would this be a major headline:

WHAT??!!! West Coast labor dispute could lead to Mardi Gras bead shortage, television station reports

For many folks, no Mardi Gras season can be called a success unless bags and bags of beads have to be toted up the attic stairs after the parades have all passed. But a labor dispute across the country could spell trouble for getting some of those beads into the hands of the people who toss them off the Carnival floats, a WWL news report says.

A New Orleans Soap Opera:

Tom Benson’s gambit to remove Saints, Pelicans from heirs’ trusts could fall flat

As the estranged daughter and grandchildren of Saints owner Tom Benson seek to have him declared mentally unfit, a second drama is playing out that also has the potential to undermine his effort to wrest away future control of his sports franchises and award them to his wife.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

For the Week Ending January 17, 2014

Celebrity Watch

Vocabulary Watch

A.Word.A.Day -- bildungsroman

The opportunities to use this cumbersome word appear limited. It is a great example of why English is the most voluminous language, because it easily assimilates words from other languages -- but wherever I could use this word, I would prefer to call it a “coming-of-age” tale or something simpler.

The News

Bobby Jindal for President

This is excerpted from an article on why Bobby Jindal will never be president

Bobby Jindal’s narrative will be — and try not to laugh as you read this — that he is the architect and builder of The Louisiana Miracle. 

For example, Louisiana still depends heavily on the federal government. Jindal runs against Washington and advocates smaller government, yet he consistently proposed state budgets consisting of more than 40 percent federal funds.

In 2007, the year before Jindal took office as governor, Louisiana ranked 30th in per capita income. In 2012, the latest year for which U.S. Department of Commerce figures are available, we ranked 29th.

Then there are the quality-of-life metrics. Louisiana ranks 50th among the states in overall health, and we have some of the nation’s worst healthcare stats: the highest infant mortality rate; the highest diabetes-related death rate; the highest rate of death from breast cancer; and third-highest rate of cancer deaths overall; the 6th-highest rate of children born to teenage mothers; the 8th-highest rate of teen pregnancies; and the 2nd-highest rate of low- and very low birth weight babies.

Jindal also touts his bona fides as an education reformer. Here’s the truth about public education under Bobby Jindal: Louisiana has the nation’s fourth-highest high school dropout rate (5.7 percent), and our high school graduation rate ranks 45th in the nation.

Jindal’s biggest vulnerability, however, is his record on fiscal management. When he took office, the state had a surplus of at least $1 billion. Before he leaves office in 2016, Louisiana will have an ANNUAL budget hole of $2 billion or more — and that’s after he cut state support for higher education by 80 percent and consistently used one-time money to pay for recurring expenses. 

All in all, Jindal’s only “miracle” is the fact that his voter disapproval ratings aren’t higher. A little over a year ago, President Obama had better numbers in Louisiana than he.

The first Republican anointed to respond to President Obama was Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in January 2009. Jindal popped up to the camera in the vestibule of his gubernatorial mansion in Baton Rouge, managing to seem impertinent, immature and self-important all at the same time. Widely panned, he receded into a secondary role in his party's national affairs.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

For the Week Ending January 10, 2014

Celebrity Watch

Roberto Gomez Bolanos:

Best known by his nickname "Chespirito," Gomez worked as a screenwriter, playwright, composer, actor and director. He created unforgettable comedic characters that were staples of Latin American television. He was 85.

In honor of Kate's birthday, we're looking back at some of her best hairstyles ...

Vocabulary Watch


noun: A novel concerned with the maturing of someone from childhood to adulthood.

It was an easy test, though I struggled with parts of speech. What is a “connecting verb?” Following is their report on the results:

“Exemplary, my liege! Your mastery of American English is unparalleled (not unparalelled as so many would believe) and your abundant knowledge is greatly appreciated (what, with there being a societal deprivation of such). Your innate intelligence is applied dutifully and naturally to such concepts as predicates, complements, objects, nouns, verbs, adjectives, and -GASP- spelling words correctly and/or using them in proper context! We bow to you, Grammar Master! Carry thy banner high and mighty!”

The News

The offices of the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo had already been firebombed when the editor talked about defying threats from extremists. “It might sound a bit pompous to say so,” Stephane Charbonnier told Le Monde in 2012, “but I’d rather die standing up than live on my knees.”

Secretary of State John Kerry responded to attacks Wednesday by terrorists on a Paris-based magazine during which 12 people were massacred by gunmen, hailing the slain journalists as “martyrs of liberty” despite previous remarks by the White House that the magazine’s satirical cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammed  were “deeply offensive” and that it had “questions about the judgment” of the magazine to publish such images.

The administration’s initial comments raise the question of what constitutes good judgment. If we promise to say only good things about the extremists and their religion would they agree not to kill or maim outside the war zones?

Challenge to Boehner as House Speaker

The Republican alternatives included Representative Ted Yoho, the large-animal veterinarian from Florida who once argued that the Affordable Care Act was “racist” because it includes a tax on tanning beds. Another candidate was Representative Louis Gohmert of Texas, who warned that Muslim extremists were sneaking pregnant women into the United States to give birth to babies who “could be raised and coddled as future terrorists.” The rebel who got the most support, Representative Daniel Webster of Florida, was nominated by Steve King of Iowa, the guy who complained about young undocumented immigrants with “calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

I am surprised that Boehner prevailed over such learned and articulate competition.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, January 04, 2015

The Road Map

Celebrity Watch

Beverly Hillbillies(The Times-Picayune) Donna Douglas, who played the buxom tomboy Elly May Clampett on the hit 1960s sitcom "The Beverly Hillbillies," has died.

(People magazine) Demi Lovato has embraced her body – and wants her fans to do the same.

Vocabulary Watch

The News

(Washington Post) THE 113TH Congress, which wrapped up at the end of 2014, was not quite the worst in history. According to one measure — the raw number of initiatives passed — it just barely beat the 112th, which set a modern-day low well below that of the do-nothing Congress Harry Truman beat up in 1948. Suffice it to say that the past four years have been pretty dismal on Capitol Hill.

I find it interesting that pundits use the number of bills passed as a measure of congressional productivity. I would be more worried about the damage that would have been done if some of the proposed legislation had passed.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

War and Bigotry

Minor Celebrity watch

Voice actress Christine Cavanaugh, who brought to life characters including Babe and Chuckie on Nickelodeon cartoon Rugrats, has died aged 51.

U.S. Ends Its War in Afghanistan

TIME Magazine, by Mark Thompson, December 28, 2014

The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan ended its combat mission Sunday, marking the formal—if not real—end to the longest war in American history.

American warplanes began bombing the country on Oct. 7, 2001, less than a month after the 9/11 attacks. Their goal was to drive the ruling Taliban from power, after they had given sanctuary inside the country to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, which had plotted the terror strikes.

That was accomplished on Nov. 13, 2001.

The U.S. and its allies have remained since then, trying to build up Afghan military and police forces sufficient to defend their country without outside help. Despite Sunday’s bowing out, the U.S. will remain involved in Afghanistan’s fight against the Taliban for years to come.

A total of 3,485 allied troops died in Afghanistan over the past 13 years, including 2,356 Americans. The war cost U.S. taxpayers, past, present and future, about $1 trillion.


Is it really over? Is the Taliban “defeated?” We have been training the Afghan army for 13 years. How far along are they? Not very, judging by their performance against ISIS. Will our 3,000 troops there be enough to prop up the government? Let's take those troops home. Is it a “real” government? Are they on a course to democracy? What else might we have done with the trillion dollars spent there?

David Duke, ex-KKKer, warns GOP: Back Steve Scalise, or I’ll name names.
By Cheryl K. Chumley, The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 31, 2014

David Duke, the former head of the Ku Klux Klan, sent out a somewhat ominous message to Republican Party operatives to treat Rep. Steve Scalise fairly, or he’ll start naming names of others in the political arena with whom he’s met and maintained ties.

“If Scalise is going to be crucified — if Republicans want to throw Steve Scalise to the woods, then a lot of them better be looking over their shoulders,” Mr. Duke said, Fusion reported.


Scalise spoke to a white supremacist group in 2002, and is receiving a lot of criticism about it. Scalise is Republican whip in the House. Is he in trouble of losing his job? Perhaps Duke’s threats will save him. 

How many candidates and office holders conferred with Duke over the years? He won an election as state representative, got a majority of the white vote in three statewide races. I am sure his voter list was valuable to conservative candidates. I am also sure that some of what he says still appeals to bigots across the states.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Louisiana in the news, and more

Celebrity bird visits Louisiana

A bird rarely seen in Louisiana was among 130 species heard or spotted on Grand Isle during the National Audubon Society's annual winter bird count.

A Lucy's warbler, which normally lives in the U.S. Southwest or in Mexico, was the exciting find of the day on Grand Isle, said Chris Brantley, who organized the count on Louisiana's only inhabited barrier island and one of nearly 30 planned around Louisiana between mid-December and Jan. 5.

A minor TV role makes one newsworthy forever

Dustin Diamond, who played Screech on the 1990s TV show ''Saved by the Bell,'' was charged Friday with stabbing a man during a bar fight on Christmas.

Diamond, 37, faces charges of felony second-degree recklessly endangering safety, disorderly conduct and carrying a concealed weapon.

What is “Good Science?”

The Louisiana Science Education Act lets teachers bring in "supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials" to promote "open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied included, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming and human cloning." Supporters in the Legislature wouldn't admit that the Louisiana Science Education Act was religiously inspired. To the contrary. Sen. Ben Nevers, author of the legislation, said, "This bill has nothing to do with creationism. This is about letting teachers teach good science."

Gov. Bobby Jindal expressed agreement with that position, and the highly accomplished biology major from Brown University affixed his name to legislation that outraged so many scientists and science educators.

Local control beats Common Core every time, at least with GOP donors

U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., has joined Gov. Bobby Jindal in changing positions from support of Common Core educational standards to opposition.

In an email to supporters Monday, Vitter, who is running for governor in 2015, noted that just four months ago he expressed support for "strong standards like the Common Core standards Louisiana has adopted."

"After listening to literally thousands of parents, teachers, and others since then, I don't believe that we can achieve that Louisiana control, buy-in, and success I'm committed to if we stay in Common Core," Vitter said. "Instead, I think we should get out of Common Core... and establish an equally or more rigorous Louisiana system of standards and testing."

Vitter crosses the aisle

The connection was forged a couple of years ago, said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, in a hearing of the House Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on the regulation of big Wall Street banks and other financial institutions.

At the other end of the committee's semicircular dais, where the minority Republicans sat, David Vitter took his turn to quiz the witness, a high-ranking official, on steps the federal government was taking to avoid a repeat of the 2008 financial meltdown that triggered the Great Recession.

''I started listening to his questions,'' Brown said - and he liked what he heard from Vitter. So when the hearing ended, Brown recalled, ''I just walked over and said, 'We should work together on this.' '' So was born an unlikely partnership, between Brown, a liberal Democrat from Ohio, and Vitter, a conservative Republican from Louisiana. But when it comes to fighting the moneyed interests, that's not the only collaboration for Vitter that goes against type.

As Congress hurtled toward approval, just before adjourning earlier this month, of the $1.1 trillion ''cromnibus'' package to fund most federal agencies and prevent a government shutdown, Vitter teamed with left-wing icon Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, in a failed Senate effort to save a regulation limiting trading in financial derivatives - the kind of financial instruments implicated in triggering the recession.

''I think this is subsidizing and protecting - at taxpayer expense - risky business that should not be in a commercial bank,'' said Vitter.

Enhanced interrogation techniques as mismanagement  

While the Senate report on the CIA's interrogation program and the spy agency's official response clash on almost every aspect of the long-secret operation, both reports largely agree the agency mismanaged the now-shuttered program.

The reports differ sharply on various aspects of the program, from the brutality and effectiveness of its methods and the agency's secret dealings with the Bush White House, Congress and the media.

The 525-page summary from the Senate Intelligence Committee paints a chaotic landscape of bureaucratic dysfunction, showing an agency unprepared to take control of terrorist prisoners, unqualified field interrogators who overstepped their legal authority and CIA bosses ignorant about exactly how many detainees were warehoused in their overseas prisons. CIA oversight, the Senate committee found, ''was deeply flawed throughout the program's duration.''

The CIA agrees in its official response that ''the agency made serious missteps in the management and operation of the program.'' But it said the breakdowns came in the program's early days and that internal changes corrected much of the disarray before President George W. Bush ordered the ''black site'' prisons emptied in 2006.



jbv's Competitive Edge