Thursday, March 31, 2005

New Orleans DA Guilty of Bias…

Adam Nossiter of AP, via Yahoo! reports on a momentous verdict:

New Orleans' first black district attorney discriminated against 43 whites when he fired them en masse and replaced them with blacks upon taking office in 2003, a federal jury decided Wednesday. The jury awarded the employees about $1.8 million in back pay and damages.

The jury — made up of eight whites and two blacks — returned the unanimous verdict in the third day of deliberations in the racial discrimination case against District Attorney Eddie Jordan.

Jordan acknowledged he wanted to make the office more reflective of the city's racial makeup, but denied he fired whites just because they are white. In fact, he said, he did not know the race of the people fired.

Under U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval's instructions, jurors had to find Jordan liable if they concluded the firings were racially motivated. The law bars the mass firing of a specific group, even if the intent is to create diversity.
Jordan, stoic in the courtroom as the verdict was read, told reporters he was disappointed and will appeal.

"We thought the facts as well as the law favored us. I still maintain that I did not use race as a factor in my hiring practices," he said.

Jordan said the District Attorney's Office, which is liable for the award, cannot afford to pay the verdict. It was not immediately clear whether state or city, or both, would ultimately be responsible for paying the money.

Plaintiffs' attorney Clement Donelon said he was elated. "The plaintiffs' civil rights, every single, solitary one of them, were violated," he said.

"You may be able to fire people, but don't do it because of race. That goes both ways," the attorney said.

Clemens Herbert, a former investigator who among those fired, said: "What I wanted was a win. Money was not the issue. He was trying to disguise racial discrimination through politics, and the jury saw through it."


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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Syrup mill injury list lengthens...

Can you stand another Bob Odom story? Laura Maggi reports in the T-P:

Seventeen Agriculture Department employees have been injured since July at the sugar syrup mill the state agency is building in southwest Louisiana, the Senate Insurance Committee was told at a hearing Monday, almost twice the number of injuries previously reported at the state-run construction site.

Out of the seventeen employees that the state Office of Risk Management thinks were injured doing construction work at the Lacassine mill, only four had construction-related jobs at the Department of Agriculture and Forestry, said J.S. "Bud" Thompson Jr., director of the office that handles the state's workers' compensation claims. The other thirteen employees normally worked nonconstruction jobs, but likely were helping do menial construction work at the site.

Since the late 1980s, Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom has used his workers to help with construction, from revamping the agency headquarters in Baton Rouge to putting up regional offices. The department now is working on its most ambitious project yet: a $45 million syrup mill that proponents say will help struggling sugarcane farmers at the edge of sugar country in southwest Louisiana.

But the project isn't without controversy, in part because since construction began on the project last year, Odom at some point has diverted about a third of his 831 employees from their regular jobs to help with the less-skilled construction work, such as laying concrete molds or installing rebar. These workers, who are all men, include agriculture inspectors, environmental specialists and even highly paid, white-collar employees such as assistant commissioners, the state veterinarian and a lawyer.

Thompson said that injuries reported to his office could range from "first aid" situations to more serious problems. He could not tell the committee how much money in medical costs has been paid out, but said that two of the claims involved employees who could not go to work for more than a week. For example, the construction site manager, who is a pesticide specialist, was injured in a fall last summer and missed six months of work.

One reason for the injuries could be that the agriculture employees have a "general lack of awareness" of the hazards of a construction site, Thompson said.
"That's part of the problem you have with nonconstruction employees who are part of a regular crew," he said.

Thompson's office previously had said there had been nine injuries at Lacassine since October and another during the summer. Odom disputes the office's figures, saying that he has counted only eight injuries at the Lacassine site.


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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Bible Thumped...

Bidisha Banerjee reports in Slate magazine on a debate going on in the Blogosphere:

Bible thumped: Yesterday, the Colorado Supreme Court preserved "a lower court's decision throwing out the sentence of a man who was given the death penalty after jurors consulted the Bible in reaching a verdict." The court said that jurors should have decided the fate of Robert Harvey, who raped and murdered a woman 10 years ago, "without the aid or distraction of extraneous texts."

On's Hit & Run, Jacob Sullum writes, "Unless there is evidence of corruption or bad faith, respect for jurors' independence should preclude an inquiry into the source of the moral values they bring to bear in making their decisions. (Surely biblical wisdom often plays a role--acknowledged or not, read from the text or recalled from memory--in death penalty deliberations.)" Anti-death-penalty Christian blog agrees: "Excluding religious texts - which really relate to a philosophical perspective or worldview - seems to be an arbitrary exclusion. Do we likewise exclude non-religious philosophical debate over the death penalty?"

"Hey, sorry. Rules are rules. Just because you're a bible-thumper doesn't mean you're exempt. 'No outside materials' includes the bible, just as it'd cover any other collection of ancient parables and myths," shrugs stickler "This decision shows that the Consitution, not the Bible, rules in criminal court," crows liberal crime blog Noting that jurors consulted the "eye for eye" sections from Exodus 21 and Leviticus 24, liberal claims, "The purpose of the ancient Hebrew texts was to restrain retaliation, not encourage it. But let's not ever let fake fundamentalism interfere with scholarship." Pro-jury insists that "the courts more and more are overturning the work of juries" because "juries get in the way of what the court wants to do."


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Monday, March 28, 2005

Corruption watch, N.O. insurance dealings…

Gordon Russell of the T-P publicized a patronage system that is shameful at best. We can only hope for a steady and embarrassing drumbeat for correction as schemes like this come to light:

Over the past decade, various agencies of New Orleans city government have paid political operative Philip Baptiste hundreds of thousands of dollars for his advice on insurance matters.

What makes Baptiste's earnings remarkable is that they easily outstrip those of many full-time insurance agents. Not bad for a man known mainly for his political activism and his stewardship of a local housing and job-training nonprofit group. In fact, an observer might have a hard time figuring out that Baptiste, who in the 1960s became one of the first African-Americans in Louisiana to get an insurance license, is in the business at all these days.

Consider this: Baptiste's insurance brokerage is not listed in the phone book, nor is there a sign marking its physical location in Baptiste's Pontchartrain Park home. By his own estimation, he spends three or four hours per week on insurance, according to a recent court deposition.

How has Baptiste managed to do so well in the insurance business with so little effort? The answer is classic New Orleans: political connections and a Byzantine insurance-buying process designed with patronage in mind.

Instead of seeking competitive bids or hiring a professional risk manager for a flat fee, New Orleans installs political insiders on so-called insurance "committees," which are composed of up to 12 people who are at least nominally in the business.

Traditionally, one member of a committee buys policies for the city and splits the commissions with his peers. The amounts each member receives can range from about $10,000 to $60,000 per year, for a total that amounted to about $500,000 last year.

Traditionally, mayors have given committee seats to supporters, who return the favor by making campaign donations.

"It's insider dealing as only Louisiana can do it," said Paul Equale, a Washington, D.C., consultant and former head of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, the country's largest brokers' association.

The system dates back decades, perhaps longer, and though once common in many cities, it has fallen out of favor in most.


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Sunday, March 27, 2005

Spam-Blogging, continued...

Guest article by Priya Shah

The SEO "black hats" are always far ahead of the technology and safeguards that these services can put in place.

Take down a few spam-blogs and hundreds more will arise.

Blogging evangelist and PR guru, Steve Rubel, sums up this dilemma rather well on his Micropersuasion blog.

He believes that its human nature for people to exploit new technologies, and that it's really up to the search engines to help put a stop to these by undercutting the economics of blogspam, much like they did with nofollow and comment spam.

But the trade-off is that such a move would also reduce any impact that blogs have on search results.

Fact: The more you abuse a technology, the less effective it becomes.

Spam blogging will force search engines like Google to change their ranking algorithms and eventually assign less value to links from blogs.

Unless they put in safeguards to prevent robots from taking over, its safe to assume that blogging will become less effective as an SEO tactic over time.

Of course, the spammers will then just have to find new avenues and means to spam the engines.

But why ruin a good thing in the first place? Blogs are much more than just tools for search engine optimization.

A blog can be a great tool for personal branding and building relationships with your website visitors and customers.

Instead of using blogs for spam, focus on building content-rich sites and getting high-value links to them.

Don't restrict yourself to just the SEO benefits of blogging.

Appreciate the value that blogs can add to your marketing and public relations strategy and use them the way they were meant to be used.
Priya Shah is the CEO of eBrand360. She writes on internet marketing, search engine optimization and business blogging. Subscribe to her
Article Source:


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Saturday, March 26, 2005

Will Spam-Blogging Be The Death Of Blogging?

Guest Article by Priya Shah

Technorati reports that 30,000 - 40,000 new blogs are being created each day.

According to David Sifry, part of the growth of new blogs created each day is due to an increase in spam blogs.

What are spam blogs? They are fake blogs that are created by robots in order to foster link farms, attempted search engine optimization, or drive traffic through to advertising or affiliate sites.

They contain robot-generated posts made up of random words, with the title linking back to the blogger's own pages.

Many bloggers see them as a way of getting their pages indexed quickly by Google and other search engines.

Sifry estimates that about 20% of the aggregate pings Technorati receives are from spam blogs. Most of this fake blog spam comes from hosted services or from specific IP addresses.

Those in the SEO world are well aware of this. There are even services like Blogburner that encourage creation of spammy blogs and spam-pinging to get your sites indexed quickly.

As a blogging evangelist, I wholeheartedly recommend blogging as an SEO tactic. But I also emphasize that you should use your blog for more than just SEO.

At the Spam Squashing Summit, blog services decided to collaborate to report and combat blog-spamming.

Technorati currently claims to catch about 90% of spam and remove it from the index. They also notify the blog hosting operators.

But I believe that they are fighting a losing battle. As I write this there are software and robots being created that will create spam-blogs more efficiently and in ways that will be harder to detect.

The SEO "black hats" are always far ahead of the technology and safeguards that these services can put in place.

Take down a few spam-blogs and hundreds more will arise.

Blogging evangelist and PR guru, Steve Rubel, sums up this dilemma rather well on his Micropersuasion blog.

He believes that its human nature for people to exploit new technologies, and that it's really up to the search engines to help put a stop to these by undercutting the economics of blogspam, much like they did with nofollow and comment spam.

We'll finish this tomorrow...


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Friday, March 25, 2005

In-your-face patriotism,,,

Below is the rest of the press release that we started yesterday. You can see the decal to which they refer in the original article by clicking here. Yesterday they stated the problem; today they suggest a solution.

Look folks, contrary to popular belief domestic energy sources have always been here, just waiting for people to notice, support and demand. Ethanol, solar, wind, hydrogen fuel technology. Politicians have an obligation to protect their friends interest. The “friends” that fund their reelection campaigns. Americans can use their collective clout to tip the energy marketplace in their favor. FOIL – the Foreign Oil Independence League – is leading the campaign.

Before it’s too late, jump on and help make alternative energy happen faster. None of us has to go it alone. With citizens banding together in a grassroots campaign, we can begin to cut America’s dependence on oil and replace it with patriotic, made-in-the-USA energy resources.

We can no longer let the politicians off the hook with denial of our foreign oil dependency and an energy bill that benefits nobody but big businesses here and abroad.


Pressure works! Thorough American history, the White House and Congress responded time and time again to in-your-face patriotism. But, only when they're convinced the people are serious. Minimum wage laws, workers compensation, child labor laws, women’s right to vote, higher education assistance, occupational safety and health, unemployment compensation, civil rights - they are just a few of the accomplishments that came out of public debate and protest.

We need to start a new political protest at home, to help bring about recognition everywhere that average citizens needs to help themselves when it comes to fuels and energy. ”Get Off Your Gas” decals are good start. They will make a social statement to spread ideas, pro-mote causes, urge conservation of resources, sway public opinion and unite people. With decals on their cars, the public together can do something constructive with their anger over high gas prices and the war raging in Iraq.

The public must put the pressure on wayward politicians that are selling us out and giving money to terrorists is simply petro-suicide. And it’s got to stop.

The sale of decals will help fund the biggest anti-terrorism billboards in history -- and help the public make the connection between terrorism, foreign oil and politics. Something politicians don't want to have happen.

With your “Get Off Your Gas” decal, you can symbolically shake your fist in the face of the disbelievers – terrorists, polluters, political hacks, bland non-profits and Wall Street money grabbers – and 4 3/4” x 4 3/4” vinyl static cling decal that is placed inside vehicle windows. Easy to attach and remove.


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Thursday, March 24, 2005

Strangled at the Gas Pump...

Below is part of a press release I thought you might enjoy. You can see the decal to which they refer in the original article by clicking here. Today they state the problem; tomorrow's installment will cover their proposal to address the problem.

Reaching Washington politicians with a message should be easy. But it’s not – particularly if you’re trying to bring about a fundamental change in the American energy marketplace. The public is not up in arms about high gas prices the way they should be. Despite high gas pump prices, the public is not getting in the face of politicians that are in Big Oil’s pocket. So we made it easy. 31 seconds to rub on a decal.

Rancho Mirage, CA (PRWEB) March 23, 2005 -- Gasoline prices are up and still soaring. If you’re looking for a reason, just take out your wallet. Blame those wrinkled papers with pictures of presidents on them – if you have many of them left. So what's the price of gas got to do with the shrinking Yankee dollar? Everything.

Your elected politicians will offer “cover-up” platitudes and stuff the public with phony rationalizations. Demand is up. Refineries are switching from winter blend to summer blend. Etc., etc. If you buy that, you’ll believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.

Here’s the real deal. In the worldwide marketplace, the dollar is being hammered and has taken an embarrassing crap because of political games with the budget, billions dollars per month war spent on Iraq with no end in sight, growing government waste, pork barrel politics and a totally out-of-control deficit spending right here in the USA.

America's credit is plummeting – along with its respect by other countries. Everything is going to cost more. Just wait. The $75 a barrel price and $3 per gallon prices are just down the road.

With certainty, as the dollar goes down in value, the foreign oil cartels who control most supplies want more dollars to compensate themselves for their “dip” in windfall profits.

In the meantime, China is building up its industrial complex. And without a war to divert its cash, that nation is on a revolutionary roll. India as well.

With their new found prosperity at America’s expense, they’re cranking out cars and buying more oil, too.

Welcome to the new world of competition for foreign oil that America never had to deal with. But when the price of gasoline goes up, it attracts a whole hell of a lot of attention. But we are still fed the same kind of political lip service we were fed when the Arabs embargoed oil in the70’s, when gasoline lines stretched for miles around stations across the country and even when terrorists struck the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, by terrorists financed by America haters flush with oil profits.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Tribal News…

Alan Sayre of AP, by way of the Sun Herald, reports on the Jena Choctaws’ ongoing pursuit of approval for a casino. I find this story more interesting than the usual gambling story because of the feud it is causing (or simply playing out)between the Governor and our new Senator. This not to say that I ever thought that Blanco and Vitter were going to form a constructive alliance, but to exchange shots via public letters is a bit unseemly. Somebody get them each other's phone numbers!

Here are some excerpts from Sayre’s report:

Although the Jena Choctaws may be able to get a limited casino without state approval, the tribe is asking Gov. Kathleen Blanco to negotiate a deal to allow it to have a full-blown gambling hall in central Louisiana.

The tribe has failed in two previous efforts to enter Louisiana's gambling market. In 2002, Gov. Mike Foster signed an agreement allowing the tribe to have a casino in Vinton, near the Texas border in southwestern Louisiana, but federal officials struck down the deal.

Another proposal to build a casino in DeSoto Parish, in northwest Louisiana near the Texas border, was being studied by Foster when his term expired in January 2004. The proposal died after it was handed over to Blanco, who has said she is opposed to expanding gambling.

Now, the tribe is pushing for a casino in Grant Parish. If the tribe decides to have only electronic bingo machines, instead of slot machines and casino table games, no state approval is necessary, according to the National Indian Gaming Commission.

Facing public pressure from U.S. Sen. David Vitter, Blanco on Monday responded to a letter sent by the Louisiana Republican in which he demanded that she oppose the casino. Blanco said she was not negotiating with the tribe - and called on Vitter to push federal legislation that would give states more say in blocking tribal gambling.

In his letter, Vitter, R-La., said it was clear that Blanco did not have to sign a compact with the Jena Choctaws, citing a 1996 U.S. Supreme Court ruling involving a Florida tribe that wanted a casino. The Jena Choctaws, a small tribe which has yet to establish a formal reservation, had similar bids rejected in Mississippi before it moved its effort to Louisiana.

Vitter, a longtime public opponent of legalized gambling, recently said he unwittingly accepted political help in 2002 when he was campaigning against the Vinton casino proposal from a group linked to the Coushatta tribe, which runs a reservation casino at nearby Kinder.

In 2003, the Coushatta's Washington lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, organized a fundraiser for Vitter. The Coushattas have said they plan to file a lawsuit to get back the $32 million they paid Abramoff, whose dealings are now being investigated by a congressional committee and a federal grand jury.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Jordan’s day in court…

New Orleans First Black District Attorney Defends Firings in Race Bias Suit

From AP, by way of ABC News and, Adam Nossiter reports:

New Orleans' first black district attorney took the stand in federal court Friday to defend himself against charges of discrimination, turning away suggestions his replacement of whites with blacks in 2003 was racially motivated.

"I didn't care about people's race. I simply wanted people who cared about me as the new leader of the DA's office," District Attorney Eddie Jordan said.

One of New Orleans' most visible political figures and the man who successfully prosecuted the corruption case against former Gov. Edwin Edwards Jordan was testifying for the first time in a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by 44 white ex-employees of the prosecutor's office.

The plaintiffs, who seek back pay and damages, are among 53 whites non-lawyers who worked as investigators and clerks summarily fired to be replaced by blacks when Jordan took over as district attorney in January 2003.

Jordan says he acted within his rights in picking his own staff, and pointed out he kept the white lawyers who had worked for his predecessor, Harry Connick Sr., the piano-playing father of jazz musician Harry Connick Jr.

"I asked all 56 white assistant district attorneys to stay in the office. That's not behavior consistent with racially discriminatory intent," Jordan said.

Many of the whites who were fired have already testified, and all have painted a similar picture: suddenly jobless, in late middle age, after years of working in law enforcement agencies.

The plaintiffs' lawyers have spent much time demonstrating that many of the whites who were fired had far more experience, and scored far higher in job interviews, than blacks who were either hired anew or kept on.

Jordan and a top deputy who testified earlier have conceded the point, saying experience wasn't necessarily their top consideration. Instead, they have made it plain they were looking to populate the office with loyalists. And Jordan, in particular, portrayed himself as more focused on the legal staff than the support staff.

The plaintiffs' lawyers have pointed out repeatedly the percentage of blacks among non-lawyers in the district attorney's office doubled, to over 80 percent, in little over a month.

"There's nothing wrong with that, there's nothing illegal about that," Jordan responded, "if you had no intention to discriminate on the basis of race."


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Monday, March 21, 2005

A Corruptive Culture…

See if you can find the common thread in these two stories. OK, here is my take. State government is viewed as such a big “honeypot” that people take from it with both hands and see nothing wrong about that. Tell me if you think I am overreacting.

Insurance chief gets luxury truck
Fully loaded Harley-Davidson Ford F-250 costs state $40,000

MICHELLE MILLHOLLON in the Advocate reports that the state bought a Harley-Davidson designer edition luxury truck that sports red flames, heated seats and a 6-disc CD player for Insurance Commissioner Robert Wooley. The $40,000 Ford F-250 pickup replaces the 2004 Eddie Bauer-designer edition Ford Expedition that the state bought for Wooley a little more than a year ago.

His spokeswoman, Amy Whittington, said that Wooley simply wanted a new vehicle. "He saw the truck and he liked it and that's the one he wanted to get," she said.

Statewide elected officials are exempt from a law that prohibits most state workers from getting luxury vehicles on the state's dime. Officials can chose a car or a car allowance.

16-year legislative fiscal officer quits
Panel probing his pay, car allowance

Ed Anderson in the T-P reports that even appointed officials got in on the act. Legislative Fiscal Officer Johnny Rombach, whose fiery criticism of state tax and spending practices for the past 16 years frequently rankled lawmakers and governors, resigned Thursday as a legislative committee was probing retroactive pay and a car allowance he gave himself.

Last fall Legislative Auditor Steve Theriot issued a report saying Rombach may have illegally given himself an extra $12,270 in back pay, a $7,200 annual car allowance and thousands of dollars in per diem pay. Rombach said he did not do anything wrong and only granted himself the back pay and other benefits that other state officials have gotten over the years.

"What I did was poor protocol" by not getting the prior authorization of the budget committee, he said.

Is that what they call it now, "protocol?" Here’s a small bonus:

Candidate in arrears on child support
He chases deadbeat parents for DA's office

Frank Donze in the T-P reports that First City Court constable candidate Richard Chambers Jr., a top district attorney's aide who is responsible for investigating and sometimes arresting deadbeat parents, acknowledged Thursday that he is more than $11,000 in arrears on his own child support payments.

Chambers, a former New Orleans police officer who has held the post of chief investigator in the child enforcement division since District Attorney Eddie Jordan took office in January 2003, said in an interview that he does not dispute any of the charges in a lawsuit filed against him March 9 by his ex-wife.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Corruption Watch, Bob Odom Edition…

In “Hammer-swingers and empire-builders,” James Gill does his usual masterful job of framing behavior that we should find outrageous (but seldom do anything about):

Let's hope that sugar mill Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom is building in Lacassine doesn't turn out to be so jury-rigged that it collapses on a heap of bagasse.

That would seem the obvious danger when Agriculture Department employees, hired for expertise in, say, eastern equine encephalitis or the Shrimp Trade Adjustment Act, are yanked from behind their desks and put on a plane to Lacassine, where they are magically transformed into construction workers.

Hundreds of them have been put to work for which they have no training and, probably, little relish. Even assistant commissioners, a lawyer and the state veterinarian have been subjected to the indignity of menial labor.

By the time it is all over we may wind up with the leaning sugar mill of Lacassine.

Perhaps not, however, for many Agriculture Department employees do have some experience of construction work. It has been Odom's policy for many years to divert his minions from their proper tasks whenever, like some mad Bavarian prince, he gets the itch to build.

Some of those employees, moreover, must actually like construction work. A few years ago, for instance, a gang of them volunteered to build a house for Odom's son on their own time. This was all entirely spontaneous, of course, because it is inconceivable that a Louisiana politician would ever coerce his unclassified employees.

Although one-third of Odom's staff has been assigned to Lacassine at one time or another, agricultural interests have apparently not been neglected. Staffers are taken away from their regular duties only during "slack times," according to a department official.

Taxpayers might conclude that, if employees have enough slack time to go build a $45 million sugar mill, perhaps there is a case for trimming the department payroll.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Lowest rated vendor? Not to worry…

We’re back on the “politically connected” beat; this one qualifies as a moment of “I thought those days were over.

Martha Carr in the TP reports that New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has awarded a politically active company with no experience in the criminal justice field a contract to create a home monitoring program for municipal offenders. In a lame justification, the Nagin administration says the deal could save the city hundreds of thousands in jail costs this year alone.

The mayor passed over two higher-scoring bidders to award a one-year contract with five one-year extensions to Community Based Corrections LLC, a local, minority-owned company created in October 2003 by Burnell Moliere, Jimmie Woods and Ray Valdes. All three have close political ties to District Attorney Eddie Jordan and former Mayor
Marc Morial.

A three-person selection committee gave Community Based Corrections the lowest score of the three qualifying bidders, city documents show. The company's price also was the highest, but the mayor allowed CBC to rework its proposal to bring costs more in line with the other two bids, records show.

The contract is capped at $3 million, but the value depends on how many offenders are ordered to enroll.

Neither of the two competing bidders, which included another local, minority-owned firm, was allowed to resubmit their proposals for the Municipal Court job.

The city did renegotiate, however, with minority-owned Total Sentencing Alternatives Program, which received the second highest score, to provide electronic monitoring in Criminal District Court under a separate contract. That contract has yet to be finalized.

Because the contracts are for professional services, Nagin is not required by law to select the lowest bidder.

While the mayor previously has clashed with some of the politicians that CBC's officers are close to, campaign records show that companies owned by Moliere and Woods have begun contributing to Nagin since he took charge at City Hall.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Friday, March 18, 2005

Breathe easy, workers…

In an article subtitled “A brightening labor market could make this the time to look for a new job,” Matthew Benjamin of tells us that the jobless recovery is indisputably over.

Some 262,000 new jobs were created last month, with almost every sector of the economy contributing, including manufacturing. That's icing on the cake after January, when the U.S. labor market at long last recouped all of its losses from the 2001 recession. There are now about 300,000 more people working than in February 2001, the pre-recession peak.

Throw in the recent drop in jobless claims and a spike in help-wanted ads, and this very well may be a good time to remind your current employer of your value, consider a new job, or refresh that search for one if you're out of work and have been discouraged about hiring prospects. "All of these forward indicators of labor-market activity are pointing in the same direction: a more robust labor market this spring than we've seen in 12 to 18 months," says Ken Goldstein, an economist at the Conference Board.

But this job market differs from those of the past. The biggest gains in jobs are occurring south and west, with workers following the sun in pursuit of careers and employers chasing favorable regulatory and tax environments. Manufacturing, meanwhile, continues its long-term employment decline. The mobility of work that depends less on the availability of natural resources and more on human and computer brainpower is intensifying the shift of payrolls away from the Northeast and Midwest.

Nowhere is the job boom stronger than in Florida. The Sunshine State generated 291,000 new positions in 2003 and 2004; that's 11 times the average of all states. An influx of pre-retirement baby boomers as well as current retirees, immigrants, and others, is driving the economies of Florida, Nevada, and Arizona.

According to a study by the Milken Institute, an economic think tank in Santa Monica, Calif., seven of the top 20 job-creating metropolitan areas in 2004 were in Florida. Four were in Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. Other high-ranking metro areas include Boise, Idaho and Fayetteville, Ark., which have been helped by strong entrepreneurial activity and proximity to research universities. A few large metropolitan areas also did well in the ranking, including the Phoenix-Mesa and Washington, D.C., areas, where government spending, especially on defense and homeland security, has sparked a job boom.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Louisiana's priorities...

Emily Metzgar, in the Shreveport Times, reports on a ranking of the states on livability. My thanks to C.B. Forgotston for bringing our attention to this article as he tracks what he calls the “misery index.” We try to stay positive about Louisiana, but when there is substantive information from a presumably objective source we have to bring it in to the equation:

For the second year in a row, New Hampshire is ranked the nation's "most livable" state. For the fifth year in a row, Louisiana is ranked the nation's second-least livable state. Sorry to say, the rankings are based on objective numbers and can't be blamed on some sort of perverse bias against Louisiana.

When Morgan Quitno Press began releasing its national rankings in 1991, Louisiana was ranked the least livable state. If it weren't for Mississippi, that's where Louisiana would still be today. But states aren't permanently condemned to their rankings with only small opportunities for change.

Consider these improvements in performance between 1991 and 2005: New Jersey improved from 34th most livable to 8th, Virginia from 15th to 5th, Wyoming from 18th to 4th. But for Louisiana it was a move from 50th to 49th. That's not much to brag about.

Why the continued poor performance for the Bayou State? It's how the numbers -- regularly referenced, statistically legitimate, officially collected numbers -- stack up. On 10 of the 44 indicators considered for the rankings, Louisiana's performance is among the nation's four worst.

That includes things like median household income, percentage of population not covered by health insurance, low birth weight babies as a percentage of total births, and percentage of population that has graduated from high school. The state's most favorable ranking comes in the category of warmest daily mean temperature -- fourth behind Hawaii, Arizona and Florida. And by August that won't seem like a good thing after all.

In some categories, Louisiana's performance is the worst in the nation. It has the country's highest infant mortality rate -- more than double that of the overall "most livable" state, New Hampshire. Louisiana also has the highest percentage of its population receiving food stamps. At 16.4 percent that's approaching twice the national average.

One of the most startling rankings highlighted by Morgan Quitno is Louisiana's distinction as the state with the highest state prisoner incarceration rate -- nearly double the national average -- and this without the accompanying nation-leading crime rate. The national incarceration rate is 430 state prisoners per 100,000 people. But Louisiana's rate is 801 per 100,000. This raises serious questions about crime and punishment in Louisiana, issues which get too little attention in public policy discussions and media coverage and which certainly can't be separated from the state's troubled indigent defense system and growing record of overturned capital cases.

The bottom line is that while Louisiana leadership deems construction of reservoirs, hotels, and sugar mills responsible use of taxpayer money, the state remains deeply troubled in both relative and absolute terms. Increased opportunities to fish, to house phantom conventioneers and to process the product of an already struggling industry aren't likely to improve Louisiana's performance on the things that really matter.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Big Easy Wins Another Convert...

David Brooks wrote a recent op-ed piece for the New York Times that poked fun at the national obsession with a superficial health consciousness while delivering a backhanded compliment to New Orleans. We offer enough here to pique your interest, and hope you click here to read the entire article. Take it away, David:

Let me tell you a story to illustrate that we are living in a pusillanimous age. I was in New Orleans last Saturday night, dining with a wonderful group of people at a culinary landmark called Antoine's. Our host had arranged for a remorseless avalanche of delicious food, served in prodigious 19th-century style. There were about six appetizers, including oysters, foie gras and various lobster confabulations. There were main courses aplenty - fish, then crab, then steak.

Then dessert floated onto the table: a meringue pie roughly the size of a football helmet. And with it came coffee, but not just any coffee. It was called "devil's brew." A copper bowl was put in the middle of the table with some roiling mixture of brandy-ish spirits inside. Coffee was poured in and the concoction set aflame.

The waiter thrust a ladle into the inferno and lifted up long, dripping streams of blue fire, hoisting the burning liquid into hypnotizing, showy cascades. He poured out a circle of flame onto the tablecloth in front of us. It was a lavish pyre of molten, inebriating java and then, when he swung around to where I was sitting, I turned and asked the climactic question:

"Is it decaf?"

I was sitting there in an orgy of excess. My head was fogged with wine, bourbon, conversation and a couple of hours at the craps tables at Harrah's, but strong is the power of the zeitgeist. So I did what all of us middle-aged Prufrocks do when coffee follows dinner. I asked, "Is it decaf?"

If 18,000 calories and four kinds of booze didn't kill me, there was no way a smidgen of caffeine was going to keep me awake. And yet we live in the age of the lily-livered, in which fretting over things like excessive caffeination is built into the cultural code.

I blame the people at the top for setting the tone…


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

It’s a Wireless World…

CTIA, which has gone through several name changes, now says the initials stand for “The Wireless Association.” They are meeting in New Orleans this week, and talking wirelessly I assume about how annoying other peoples cell phones are in restaurants. They should also wonder aloud why people even want to “chat” by thumbing cell phone buttons. They issued the following press release in conjunction with the meeting:

CTIA-The Wireless Association™ released its semi-annual industry survey today showing that estimated wireless subscribership had grown by 21.7% in 2004. The total number of wireless subscribers in America now exceeds 180 million, a penetration rate of more than 60%.

“The wireless industry continues to grow because it has proven its worth to the consumer,” said CTIA President and CEO Steve Largent. “Wireless phones have become a lifestyle tool, allowing consumers to communicate and connect how they want, when they want and where they want.”

The data released this morning at CTIA WIRELESS 2005, the world’s largest wireless trade event, painted the picture of a vibrant and growing industry. Key indicators such as revenue, capital investment, employment, cell site construction and minutes of use registered impressive increases over the previous year.

2004 become the first year that Americans used more than 1 trillion wireless minutes, a jump of nearly 33%. At the same time, the average local monthly bill grew by only 1.5% to $50.64. In fact, the FCC recently reported that the real price of a wireless minute had fallen by 81% in the ten-year period ending in 2004.

“The wireless consumer continues get more service for less money,” continued Largent. “These valuable consumer benefits are the byproduct of a commonsense wireless marketplace that to date has encouraged innovation and competition.”
The report also demonstrated the wireless industry’s continued commitment to network expansion and upgrade. Total capital investment in 2004 reached nearly $28 billion. This figure is more than the first ten years of wireless investment combined.


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Monday, March 14, 2005

Manic Nation…

Bill Sardi asks, on his web site, whether we are all destined to become manic. A recent survey indicates that the mood swings of bipolar disorder may be far more prevalent than previously reported. More alarming is another study that indicates the entire U.S. population may be vulnerable to manic states over their lifetime.

Actually, manic states are part of a spectrum of mood swings that range from euphoria to depression. Those afflicted by bi-polar disorder can swing from one side (pole) to the other.

Oftentimes bipolar disorder is misdiagnosed. One of the problems with getting diagnosed with these symptoms is that a person may be subjected to life-long drug therapy which often is as problematic as bipolar disorder itself. There are over 100 drugs that are commonly prescribed for bipolar disorder. None of the approved drugs for bipolar disorder address the origin of the problem, they only mask the symptoms.

Only 6.5% of the adults diagnosed with bipolar disorder were on drug therapy in a recent study. Up to 70 percent of patients placed on antidepressants don’t fill their prescriptions. Modern medicine is obviously dissatisfied with current drug therapy for bipolar and depressive states.

In 1999 Harvard Medical School researchers reported that omega-3 fish oils work “in a manner similar to some drugs for bipolar disorder.” Over a four-month period, “Omega3 fatty acids were well tolerated and improved the short-term course of illness in this preliminary study of patients with bipolar disorder.”

Psychiatric researchers in New York found that seafood consumption is predictive of lifetime prevalence of bipolar disorder. Below 50 pounds of fish consumption per capita per year dramatically increases the risk for bipolar symptoms. US seafood consumption is only about 15 pounds per year!

Fresh fish is not commonly consumed in the home in the U.S.; more than 70% of fish consumption is in restaurants. Sales of fish oil supplements are rising rapidly with reports that it is a healthy type of fat.


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Sunday, March 13, 2005

Americans Nervous About Retirement …

Will Lester of AP reported on a recent AP-Ipsos poll of 1,000 adults that showed that almost half of Americans who haven't retired say they don't think they're doing a good job of getting ready for that time in their lives. Many say they're not confident they'll have enough money to live comfortably after they quit working.

"People are trapped in a dilemma," said Robert Blendon, a polling expert at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. "They know they're not saving enough."

Among the millions who are uneasy about retirement finances are some who acknowledge they find the situation scary. Maureen Jones, a 46-year-old wife and mother in Detroit, said she can't save money and her situation makes her uneasy.

"Something's got to be done. Social Security doesn't seem to be working," she said. "My husband is concerned for his Social Security, we're both concerned. We haven't got an IRA right now. And the job situation stinks so much there's no way to put anything away."

Some other poll findings:

One in five hope to retire at 55 or younger; nearly half plan to retire in their 60s and 10 percent say they will retire at 71 or older or never retire.

About two-thirds of current workers plan to keep working after they've retired. Some want to make enough money to make ends meet; others want money for extras or just a way to stay busy.

In this uneasy climate, Bush's plan to allow personal accounts within Social Security hasn't caught fire with the public. The plan calls for to letting younger workers put part of their Social Security payroll taxes in private investment accounts.

More than half of Americans, 55 percent, say they oppose his plan to create personal accounts, while 39 percent say they support it. Support for the plan drops among Democrats and independents when it's described specifically as "President Bush's plan."

Two-thirds of those who say they're doing an excellent job of preparing for retirement support Bush's plan to create personal accounts, while those doing a good job are evenly split. Two-thirds of those doing a fair or poor job of preparing for retirement oppose his plan.


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Saturday, March 12, 2005

Lunch with Fidel…

UPI reports on Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco’s meeting with Cuban President Fidel Castro just before the end of her three-day trade mission to the island nation. Blanco was invited to a private lunch Thursday with the Cuban leader as she and her delegation were visiting an historic church, the New Orleans Times-Picayune said.

Upon her return late Thursday, the governor said accepting the invitation was in the state's best interest after signing $15 million in trade agreements. "We didn't want to jeopardize that by perhaps insulting the president of the country," she said.

Blanco said the meeting covered a wide range of economic and trade issues -- everything but politics. She was joined in the meeting by several Louisiana state officials. "He's a little bit frail," the governor said. "He had an accident, fell back in November. He broke his arm and leg, so he had a little trouble moving… But he was very, very talkative."

A recent PBS special, American Experience: Fidel Castro, was produced by Adriana Bosch who experienced the beginning of the Castro era:

“I left Cuba at age 14... I lived through nine years of that revolution as a conscious person, and I have vivid experiences and vivid memories, not only of what the process was like, but what it felt like and what people around me felt like, on both sides of the issues. My parents were initially very, very much enamored with Fidel Castro, as were most Cubans, the vast majority of Cubans. And, in a very short period of time, became deeply disillusioned.”

Over the next few decades, by the force of his personality and the might of his Soviet benefactor, Castro turned himself and Cuba into significant players on the world stage. He did so while surviving the hostility of ten consecutive U.S. presidents, an invasion, several CIA assassination attempts and an economic embargo.


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Friday, March 11, 2005

Your Trusty Compass…

Michael Perlstein in T-P reports that New Orleans Police Superintendent Eddie Compass “dropped a bombshell” by advocating a temporary suspension of the long-standing rule that compels officers to live within the city limits.

Compass, who has remained largely neutral on the issue during his three years as chief, said he is convinced the time has come to wade into the choppy political waters of residency as "a matter of public safety."

"I've done everything possible as police chief to recruit from within the city, from outside the city, outside the state, on college campuses, on military bases, from other police departments," Compass said. "I've tried to recruit from within by going to churches and community organizations. And you know what? We just don't have the numbers. We just don't have a large enough pool of applicants to keep up with attrition."

Compass said that over the past four years, the department has remained at a standstill, employing about 1,685 officers, despite largely failed measures that included $5,000 signing bonuses, a recruiting blitz of Louisiana colleges and an attempted raid of the Cleveland Police Department. The NOPD's budgeted troop strength stands at 1,885 officers.

Compass said he favors a two- or three-year suspension of the law as a test of how such a move will boost the recruiting pool. He said any suspension would be aimed at luring veteran officers from neighboring law enforcement agencies. For existing officers, Compass said, he would push to lift the ban on promotions of those who live outside the city.

While Compass' announcement heated up the political grapevine, the chief said he will leave lobbying to politicians. A majority vote of the City Council is required to repeal the rule, which was placed on the books in the early 1970s but wasn't actively enforced until 1995, when former Mayor Marc Morial made it a cornerstone issue. In its current form, new recruits must live in the city, while veteran officers cannot be promoted unless they prove they maintain a New Orleans residence.

"I can't go by a consensus one way or the other on this," Compass said. "I'm a police officer and I'm out there on the streets and I can tell you we need an influx of officers and we need them quickly. For me, it's a matter of public safety."


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Thursday, March 10, 2005

New Orleans Installing Surveillance Cameras...

From the AP by way of the Las Vegas Sun:

The man marched down the street in daylight, armed with a paintball rifle that had been converted to shoot with lethal force. He then blasted a newly installed camera in hopes of freeing the drug-ridden neighborhood from police surveillance. But the shooter's image was saved on the camera's hard drive.

"All it did was get him arrested," chuckled New Orleans' chief technology officer, Greg Meffert. "The camera immediately notified the police and tracked him until he was caught."

And when they got him, they found he was wanted on a murder warrant. The arrest was the first success story from a sophisticated new crime-fighting system of cameras that New Orleans is installing citywide.

The bulletproof cameras can monitor an eight-block area, communicate with the authorities and provide evidence in court. Police hope the system will catch crooks in the act and serve as a crime deterrent in a city long plagued by drugs and murders.

Civil libertarians are calling it Big Brother in the Big Easy, expressing concern about an invasion of privacy and the potential for misuse by police. The American Civil Liberties Union believes there are better ways to fight crime.

"They would be much better off to use the money to hire more officers and train them to interact with the public," said Joe Cook, Louisiana's ACLU director.

City officials insist there are tight controls, and they are encouraged that dozens of community groups have signed up to pay $5,000 apiece to get cameras installed on their street corners.

"Maybe the ACLU doesn't have people dealing drugs in their neighborhoods 24 hours a day," said Lisa Martin, who has a camera in her neighborhood. "We asked for a camera, we wanted it. We don't want to be afraid to go outside."

A few cities, including Chicago and Los Angeles, have started similar programs. But some cities, such as Oakland, Calif., have scrapped plans to use cameras after finding they were not effective.

So far, about 240 of the proposed 1,000 cameras are in operation. Mounted at the height of a street light, the cameras conduct 360-degree "virtual patrols" continuously. Their high-resolution lenses can produce recognizable pictures in all light levels and can read a license plate up to 400 feet away.

Police see them as one answer to the growing problem of witnesses being too intimidated to testify.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

New Orleans D.A. target of race bias suit...

From the AP, by way of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune:

The New Orleans prosecutor who put ex-Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards behind bars finds the tables turned this week, as 44 ex-employees have hauled him into federal court on accusations of race bias.

As the U.S. Attorney here in the 1990s, Eddie Jordan had one of the highest profiles in the city: the man in the trademark homburg hat who successfully matched wits with Louisiana's gambling governor.

Now, as the local district attorney, he's the target of a federal lawsuit by whites who worked for his predecessor. They say he fired them for racial reasons, immediately after taking office in 2003, to replace them with blacks. Jordan kept 96 percent of the blacks, but only 32 percent of the whites.

In a racially divided city where power-sharing between blacks and whites is a work in progress, the suit puts in play one of the most volatile issues around. The target: a black man who jailed a white politician, Edwards, well-liked by Louisiana blacks.

Jordan is the first black district attorney in a city where blacks have slowly accumulated the top political jobs over the last quarter-century. The mayor is black, and so is the sheriff.

Appointed U.S. Attorney by President Clinton in 1994, Jordan is widely credited with helping orchestrate the surprise triumph over a flamboyant governor who dominated state politics for nearly three decades. During Edwards' 2000 trial, he called the ex-governor the "head of a criminal enterprise."

"This is not discrimination, this is a political effort to create diversity," his lawyer Philip Schuler told the jury of eight whites and two blacks. "This case is about politics, not about race discrimination."

In New Orleans, the workforce is overwhelmingly black, the lawyer noted - nearly 70 percent. Jordan merely wanted to "have a workforce more reflective of the community," he said. "If Eddie Jordan is racist, how is it that Eddie Jordan retained 57 white assistant district attorneys," Schuler asked. "These were his key positions."

Among the non-lawyers, the number of blacks nearly tripled, while whites in the office declined by about two-thirds.

Last year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission made a preliminary finding of race bias in the case.


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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The “Compleat” Story…

Following is from a cool web site that I just discovered, “World Wide Words, Michael Quinion writes about international English from a British viewpoint:”

[Q] From Dallman Ross in Germany: “Are compleat and complete really two separate words, as the American Heritage Dictionary seems to say? Or is the former merely an alternate spelling of one meaning of the latter? While compleat is said to mean ‘quintessential’, one meaning of complete is closely related as ‘skilled; accomplished’.”

[A] In Britain, compleat is archaic, used in writing only as a bit of whimsy, and at that rather rarely. It is more common in North America, though often equally whimsical; a quick search of the Web turned up more than 40,000 instances, of which all those I sampled were from the USA.

The Oxford English Dictionary says that compleat is just an archaic spelling of complete. It died out around the end of the eighteenth century. One of its last appearances was a reference to George III in the US Declaration of Independence: “He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny”. The OED also says that one sense of the word (in either spelling) is the one you quoted—referring to a person who is accomplished, “especially in reference to a particular art or pursuit”.

This sense died out in Britain in the early nineteenth century but was reintroduced in the archaic spelling at the beginning of the twentieth. For this we have to blame Isaak Walton, the author of The Compleat Angler, or the Contemplative Man’s Recreation; Being a Discourse of Fish and Fishing, not unworthy the perusal of most Anglers. Writing in 1653, he naturally used the older spelling of complete and modern editions retain it.

Because Isaak Walton’s book title has remained so well-known, one unexpected result has been that the word in that spelling and in that old sense has been taken as a model in modern times. For example, when Messrs W and A Gilbey published a book on wine in 1953, they couldn’t resist calling it The Compleat Imbiber. You may also find phrases like compleat actor, for someone who has all the skills and qualities of that craft. And the science-fiction writer Ben Bova wrote in his book Mars in 1992: “Jamie realized that his father had become the compleat academic: nothing really touched him anymore; he saw everything in the abstract”. This usage, as I say, is more common in the US than in Britain.

So the short answer is that compleat and complete were originally different spellings of the same word, but under the influence of Isaak Walton’s book title the older spelling has taken on a distinct meaning, especially in modern American English.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Monday, March 07, 2005

A more perfect pastry…

Bryan Curtis wrote an entertaining article in Slate this week. Some excerpts:

Something is amiss at Dunkin' Donuts. The store's loyal constituents—cops, firemen, construction workers—report disturbing sightings of soy milk. The Boston Globe says that the doughnut titan has hired a professional chef—trained in Europe—to perfect its new steak, egg, and cheese sandwich, which features "a higher-quality piece of meat and scrambled eggs instead of a fried egg."

Some Chicago-area Dunkin' outlets are dabbling with wireless Internet, which had previously been the domain of high-end joints like Starbucks. One could be forgiven for thinking that Dunkin' Donuts, home of the blue-collar masses, purveyor of some of the most frightening fast-food on the planet, was angling for middlebrow respectability.

Dunkin' Donuts still boasts some gruesome pleasures: "The Great One," a 24-ounce coffee chalice, and the Double Chocolate Cake Donut, which carries 310 calories and has the texture and density of igneous rock. But over the past five years the chain has sought to burnish its pastries with a glaze of class: Dunkin' Donuts is reinventing itself as an upstairs-downstairs coffee house. It wants to lure more white-collar customers while tending to its loyal base of proles. As its chief executive officer, Jack Shafer, boasted in 1998, "Our average customer would be as likely to pull up in a BMW or Lexus as they would be to pull up in a pickup truck or on foot."

The middlebrowing of Dunkin' Donuts reverses a half-century of blue-collar bona fides. For years, Dunkin' Donuts embodied the working-class ethos of its founder, Bill Rosenberg, who was raised in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood during the Great Depression. Rosenberg had a reputation as a hustler and street fighter. He had little use for a formal education—he dropped out of school in the eighth grade—but was wont to enter dreamy reveries over baked pastry. His 2001 memoir, Time to Make the Donuts, is testament to their inebriating power. "Boy, those big jelly donuts, yeast raised with granulated sugar on the outside, were so loaded with jelly that when we took a bite out of one, it would squirt. It was fantastic! … This great experience left an indelible memory of how donuts meant so much to me."


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Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Gang who often shoots less than straight…

The latest week on watch with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin showed his administration tidying up some after the previous administration, while making a few moves that they will leave to the next administration to repair.

The week began with an article in the T-P summing up the recent parking meter deal with “Nagin's administration is paying 62 percent more for the space-age parking meters cropping up on downtown streets than it would have paid for similar meters proposed by another company, a review of bid documents shows.”

A later article by the TP suggested some weakness in the way parking meters were bid in the first place. “When Mayor Ray Nagin's administration sought proposals for high-tech parking meters, officials clearly weren't specific enough about what they wanted to see.”

Later in the week, T-P could proclaim “It's official. The Regional Transit Authority has handed over a $650,000 settlement check to its former consultant, Glenn Haydel, whom the agency has accused of systematically defrauding the transit system for nearly a decade.”

Administration’s relations with the City Council may be getting a bit strained. One example of their not apparently being on “the same page” relates to a law passed last summer by the Council. It was designed to crack down on people in the French Quarter and other neighborhoods who regularly rent rooms, apartments or houses to visitors by the night or week in violation of zoning laws and without paying hotel taxes or passing city inspections. The administration has yet to prosecute even one case.

One movement that all can get behind is the city’s "Imagine It Clean" anti-litter effort in conjunction with the state's "Zero Tolerance for Litter" campaign. "Litter isn't just ugly, it's also bad for our environment," Nagin said. "I encourage everyone to take part in building a cleaner, more beautiful city for all of us."


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Saturday, March 05, 2005

How our mobile phones are evolving…

Michael C. Pousti, Chairman and CEO of, Inc. has some interesting ideas on where the ubiquitous cell phone is taking us:

Isn't it interesting how our mobile phones are evolving? Just a couple of years ago, handsets were used exclusively for voice communications. Now, we are seeing the latest mobile phones also utilized as digital cameras, as personal music players and even as personal computers. What's next? Get ready, because your mobile phone is now morphing to become your personal banking system.

Imagine, in the foreseeable future, there will be no need to carry a wallet or purse. Every transaction you make will incorporate your mobile handset. When you purchase groceries at the local market, you will simply input a few dedicated numbers into your mobile keypad (called a short code) and the applicable charges will either appear on your monthly service statement, or they will be immediately debited to your pre-paid phone card.

When your favorite musical artist is performing in town, you'll buy concert tickets and CD-quality music using your phone. And as for your personal banking needs, you will be able to manage everything directly from your mobile phone! All of this and more is possible because mobile operators are positioning themselves as being the banking institutions of the future. Mobile operators have always been master micro-billers and as they are able to extend their expertise to include higher tariffs, they will become non-expendable as an extension of what was once your wallet or purse.

I am making a rather bold prediction that the use of mobile phones as a payment mechanism for consumers will render the traditional credit card obsolete within 10 years. In the meantime, you will see more and more purchasing opportunities arise, using your handset.

Stay tuned, as continues to change the way the world communicates. Perhaps you saw the news that International Data Corporation (IDC), one of the world's premier market intelligence and advisory firms covering the information technology and telecommunications industries, recently named, Inc. to its prestigious "10 Emerging Wireless Players to Watch" list for 2005. will continue to travel around the world, representing you as host to the largest community of mobile phone users on the planet.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Friday, March 04, 2005

Internet addiction…

Edited guest column by m6net.

The Internet is fast becoming just another part of everyday life, much like the TV and the computer itself. What started as something amazing, exciting, and often out of reach, has become commonplace and freely available. The Net has become integrated into our lives, as people are becoming dependent on its services. This has its threatening side though, as some people are becoming addicted to the online world.

A recent news story reported that the Finnish army has sent some of its conscripts home due to the fact that they are unable to handle the compulsory six months in the army without access to their computers. When computers and the Internet are becoming integral components or even the main focus of leisure, education, and work time, it’s not hard to see how losing access can really affect someone.

Internet addiction comes in many forms. The common areas of Internet addiction that are often listed are cybersex, cyber-relations, gaming, information addiction, and the simple addiction to computers and Internet in general.

Information addiction is an interesting concept. The sheer volume of information freely available online has lead to some people desperately ‘needing’ to find out more and more. To me, getting people obsessed with learning seems like a good thing, but it does seem that it can form a similar sort of mentality to drug addiction where the user is always searching for their next ‘hit’ which becomes harder and harder to find.

Do you find that when you get offline you’re frequently surprised by the amount of time that has passed? Do you find yourself staying home because you’d rather use the Internet than do something else? Do people comment on the amount of time you spend online? If this is ringing a bell then you may have to look at what you’re doing.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Mayors under the microscope...

The following is a brief excerpt from a book prospectus. The working title is "Black Mayors/White Mayors: Performance, Race and Approval:"

All elected executives seek approval from their constituencies. This is true of presidents, governors, and mayors. Even though they may deny its importance, they almost universally realize that citizen approval is a kind of political capital that can be enhanced or squandered. Approval ratings are a running tally of how citizens view their elected leader. These ratings are watched carefully by a number of political actors to judge the range of political activity that is possible.

Most of the existing research on executive approval is based on a performance model, which emphasizes citizen evaluations of conditions in the country or state, most commonly economic conditions. There is ample evidence that economic evaluations directly affect presidential and gubernatorial popularity.

The key question in this research is whether and how the performance model of executive approval applies to the local level. Oddly, this model has rarely been extended down to the third level of executive office, mayors.

Consistent with the research on national and state executive approval, a city’s economy can be one basis for judging mayoral performance. However, there are some qualitative differences between the local vs. the national and states contexts that, taken together, suggest that a performance model may be even more applicable to mayors than to governors and presidents.

First, the concept of “performance” has a richness and complexity at the local level that is not possible at the two higher levels of government. Citizens can evaluate their cities in terms of the level of crime, the quality of policing, the availability of jobs, recreational opportunities, conditions of streets, public transportation, the schools and a myriad of other factors affecting the quality of urban life. In contrast, the factors comprising “performance” at the state and national level are likely to be much more limited in scope.


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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

A National Treasure...

It is always difficult to find guest speakers who can challenge and interest an MBA-level class in Entrepreneurship. My class at Tulane the other night was spellbound by a septugenerian and hyper-entrepreneur named Joseph Wolf.

Joe is a co-creator of what might be the largest movie franchise in history, Halloween. Halloween is touted as the largest grossing picture dollar for dollar. To date Halloween has grossed over One Hundred Million Dollars in box office sales alone.

Upon the completion of Halloween, Joe looked for a distributor. After being turned down by all of the major distributors and studios, Joe and his partners released the film nationwide and own the film and its ancillary markets outright.

Joe was also a pioneer in home video. He had the foresight to license movies for home video use, owned and served as Chairman of the Board of one of the first independent videocassette distribution companies, Media Home Entertainment, Inc. Media became one of the largest independent videocassette distribution companies in the world.

Another successful franchise that Joe was responsible for is A Nightmare on Elm Street. New Line Cinema submitted the screen play to Media Home Entertainment for a co-production deal. After reviewing the property Joe decided to go ahead and co-produce the movie with New Line.

Needless to say that co-production deal and Joe’s insight helped to make New Line Cinema the company it is today. Joe later sold Media Home Entertainment, Inc. to Heron, Inc. Joe continues producing and distributing motion pictures, with credits for over 25 feature films for theatrical distribution and home video distribution.

Joe's current project is producing the first ever gay horro-slasher film, HellBent. Before the picture was even in the can, HellBent was and is receiving lots of attention. Look for it in theatres in June 2005. You can catch a promo now.

Today Joe is sought after on a daily basis from consulting for various entertainment companies to public speaking engagements at Universities. His expertise and knowledge have put Mr. Wolf in the category of a ‘Hollywood legend.’

Joseph Wolf holds a degree in Business Administration from Tulane University; he graduated from the New York University School of Law and is a member of both the New York and California State Bars.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Dissecting the anonymice…

Jack Shafer, in, introduces us to the term “anonymice” with a colorful metaphor:

“Like insatiable vermin eating and rutting their way through a bulging grain elevator, anonymice continue to multiply in the pages of the top dailies. This proliferation comes despite the public promises made by some newspapers to stamp out—or at least reduce—the number of anonymous sources quoted.”

Shafer points out that last year, for instance, the New York Times and the Washington Post amended their anonymous source guidelines with tighter, more restrictive language. "The use of unidentified sources is reserved for situations in which the newspaper could not otherwise print information it considers reliable and newsworthy," asserts the Times policy. "We must strive to tell our readers as much as we can about why our unnamed sources deserve our confidence. Our obligation is to serve readers, not sources," reads the Post's.

Yet not long after the Times reformulated its policy, Daniel Okrent, the paper's public editor, charted an increase in the number of anonymice in the paper. Erik Wemple of Washington City Paper documented a similar explosion of unnamed sources at the Post following its new edict.

Journalists traditionally defend anonymous sourcing with vague assurances that blind comments 1) provide readers with valuable news unobtainable by any other means or 2) give the public a deeper understanding of the issues of day. In Shafer's words "But for all the promises of red meat, newspapers mostly serve hair balls."

Before a lengthy list of examples, Shafer asks us to scan the excerpts and ask ourselves “ How newsworthy are the anonymous comments? My quick reading? Not very. Then why do newspapers fill themselves with the vapid mouthings of "senior administration officials" every time the president or the secretary of state goes on tour?

Check the article and give us your opinion.


jbv's Competitive Edge