Sunday, July 31, 2005

Senator Clinton and SCEP ...

In an article in Slate, Jacob Weisberg tackles the pressing question: “But Why Can't Hillary Win?” He deflects several opinions about the cause of Senator Clinton's “electability problem,” or SCEP, but still comes to the conclusion that 2008 will not be her year. Whatever your politics, the article is a stimulating read.

“Political insiders mostly agree: Despite being an early front-runner for the 2008 Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton faces long odds of ever being elected president.”

Weisberg offers a few of the reasons currently being given for SCEP. “One facile argument, often voiced by Hillary-loathers on the right, is that she's too far to the left. An unhedged supporter of the war in Iraq, Sen. Clinton stands at the hawkish, interventionist extreme of her party on foreign policy. … and she's a confirmed free-trader and deficit hawk.”

In fact, Sen. Clinton's political positioning couldn't be better for 2008. Despite being a shrewdly triangulating centrist on the model of her husband, she remains wildly popular with the party's liberal core.

So that’s not it. Well what about the related objection, which one hears from various corners, that Hillary is "too polarizing" a figure to win? “But a disciplined centrist who can unify her side while leading her own base into furious battle—the way Ronald Reagan did—may be just the kind of polarizer who can win.” Did he just liken her to Reagan?

What, then, of the complaint that Hillary is “doomed by association with her husband, or perhaps by their marital issues?” Did you stand in line as long as some friends of mine to get Bill’s signature on his bloated and overpriced autobiography? Bill is still good at getting attention, and it’s not anywhere near being all negative. Weisberg weighs in with the opinion that “Swing voters feel positively about his presidency, and increasingly about his post-presidential role.”

Weisberg adds “Another theory that doesn't impress me is that misogyny would keep Hillary out of the White House. On what basis do we assume that the country wouldn't elect the right woman? the primitive misogynists would surely be outnumbered by those eager to smash the ultimate glass ceiling.”

Just as I began to thing Weisberg was going to declare her the winner, he winds up conceding that she “does face a genuine electability issue, one that has little to do with ideology, woman-hating, or her choice of life partner. Plainly put, it's her personality.”

“Democrats lost in 2000 and 2004 with candidates Main Street regarded as elitist and aloof, to a candidate voters related to personally. Hillary isn't as obnoxious as Gore or as off-putting as Kerry. But she's got the same damn problem, and it can't be fixed.”


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Carefree sleaze and mirth …

Looking for some info about the NOPD, I found out that it doesn’t necessarily mean the New Orleans Police Department. It could be the Northern Ontario Plant Database or even Online Northern Professional Development (they gave us our bobby approval).

Today’s title comes from “MetroBlogging New Orleans," posted last month by Chris Martel.

“One of today's top stories is Eddie Compass supposedly taking the police department in a different direction. He wants more emphasis on building trust within the community and less emphasis on hassling the little guy. They admit that checkpoints, traffic stops, and shaking down random people on the street have not been effective at combating crime, and have actually served to create mistrust and tension between the police and the community.

"The "new" police force will create a bond between the community and the police and foster an environment in which people won't be afraid to step forward and help solve crimes. Along with this comes a greater focus on combating serious and violent crimes, meaning less enforcement of petty "quality of life" laws. At least that's how I understand it.

"Let's hope the NOPD can genuinely follow through with this change instead of just offering lip service. I'll certainly rest easier in knowing that the cops are not out to bust me for committing certain moving violations, and that one day we may actually see prostitutes, in broad daylight, walking Tulane Ave. Maybe a return to the glory days of carefree sleaze and mirth is ahead? Probably not, but it sure would be nice."

Anonymous brought up some good questions resulting from our last post

"What do you think about the job the police are doing? It seems the NOPD has gone from one of the more improving to one of the most ineffective under this chief and the cronies he has installed in command assignments.

"Why has the NOPD lost the respect and cooperation of a substantial portion of the population? Is it the business management they have brought to the NOPD? Or the fact that even the top commanders under this chief have been suspended numerous times for various serious infractions. . .

"How can they enforce discipline, order and effective police work when their subordinates know the commanders got their jobs through political connections and deals, despite the tarnished disciplinary record of the commanders?

"The NOPD is a mess, and Nagin blew his political support by trying to erase anything at all with Pennington's fingerprints on it, no matter how worth the reforms may have been. Unfortunately the Mayor is not what we thought we elected. He is a mediocre manager and an immature and insecure politician. Too bad, because he had the best chance to really change things in more than a generation. He instead has focused on fighting imagined enemies and other phantom adversaries, rather than fighting crime with a disciplined, accountable NOPD."

What do you think? Let us know...


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Be Safe …

Excerpts from two e-mails I received today:

About 12:45 on Wednesday night my daughter was followed home by a white van. The van started trailing her on Palmetto. While we each try to teach our kids to be careful, she knew someone was behind her, following her she just did not realize that she could be in danger.

She pulled into the driveway and the van pulled up behind her, blocking her in. A man got out of the driver's side and the door opened on the passenger's side. Fortunately, she did not get out of the car but had the presence of mind to reverse and cut across the neighbor's lawn to get away. She then called her father.

When she spoke to the police yesterday, she was told that her actions probably saved her life. With all of this I have come to a realization regarding our children (ourselves and our friends). We try to teach our children to be careful and to call the police when they see suspicious activity. My daughter is 22, I probably have not reinforced that in at least 10 years--- we are going to have a 'family meeting' with our girls and reinforce what we know they know.

… don't be lulled into false security. Most of you know that we have moved and while we love our new neighborhood, we may have become lulled into a sense that we were safer. We are not, you can be followed to anywhere from anywhere.


My dear friend called tonight to say she was robbed at gunpoint today outside her daughter's shop on Metairie Road. A male, about 25 years old, accosted her as she was getting out of her car at the shop. He took her very nice jewelry and purse, shoved her back into her car and held the gun to her. She was sure he was going to kill her.

He then left her in the car and walked down Friedrichs Avenue. An Entergy bucket truck man saw the perpetrator walking down the street with a gun in one hand and my friend's pink purse in the other and followed him until he escaped. The Entergy man then went back and found her.

The Jefferson Parish police told her that these thugs are looking for nice looking women with expensive jewelry and nice cars. They are following them from the grocery stores and robbing them.

Ladies, take off your jewelry and please be careful.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Net Success?

From an eMail I received in April:

"I am a freelance writer and am writing my second book a follow up to “Net Success Interviews” about new start ups and successful companies, which is due for publication in November 2005.

If possible I would like to interview you for my book. I understand your time is very valuable therefore the interview can be carried out via email. I will not call you or trouble you in any other way.

The book is based on interviews with people running or founders of successful companies to see what they have done, how they became successful and a day in their life.

If you decide to reply and take part in this interview, your interview will be included in the book under it's own chapter, with a brief history of your company...

Eric Locken"

Pardon the self-indulgence, but here is my response to the first of several questions:

Your company / website vision statement / goal:

My vision, at 63 years old, is guided somewhat by life stage. I have been fascinated with computers since a few started to arrive in the New Orleans area in the early 1960's. About 25 years ago I founded a wholesale business which I recently sold. Over the seven years since I sold the business I wrote two books (on entrepreneurship) for major publishers, and just acquired an MBA (37 years after having gotten a Ph.D). I don’t think I can ever work for someone else, and no one else seems to be trying to hire me.

My motivators are professional stimulation, and earning enough to pay the bills. On a more operational level, I am gearing up to, hopefully, become a major player in the Internet marketing world, and in the blogosphere. My muddledconcept (mud) site is the center of my marketing efforts, selling some original product and lots of affiliate products.

The blogs are just to keep plugged in. NOBulletin, on politics, represents my major non-business interest. SecondFortune is a collection of examples of the excesses of Internet marketing, where all they sell is “their secrets,” which range from the obvious to the hackneyed. Semi-retirement is still in formation, and may displace as a vehicle of self-expression.

I'll try to stay more on-topic next time.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble ...

We are selling our house. This article is not an ad, but if you are looking for the nicest house in New Orleans East then check it out at's Daniel Gross writes about "Bubble Over Troubled Waters: Why the real estate bubble could be good news for the economy." He refers to "what many are already calling the successor bubble to the dot-com fiasco: the U.S. housing market."

On the positive side, Northern Trust economist Asha Bangalore notes that "the performance of the housing market has played a visible role in payroll growth." Gross adds that “Spending on housing flows into a remarkably wide range of sectors—and the overwhelming majority of the spending is local.”

So are these people out of their jobs when the bubble bursts? Gross suggests that it is “possible that housing was the bridge that helped us get over the post-bust job chasm.”

In a Greg Thomas article entitled “Up, Up, and Away” in today’s New Orleans Times-Picayune (TP), the subtitle reads “N.O.-area home prices keep soaring, leaving some to wonder if a market tumble is on the horizon.”

Greg reports that “Sales prices of single-family homes in the metro area continued their skyward trajectory during the first six months of the year, climbing 11 percent compared with the same period in 2004. Some experts say it could be the highest jump in local home prices in at least 50 years.“

So I am buying and selling in the bubble. The TP shows that where we are selling, prices are up 34% over last year, while where we are buying they are only up 10%. Could I have timed this transaction just right? I will keep you posted.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Thursday, July 14, 2005

No harm, no foul …

In an AP story that we picked up from Acadiana’s KATC-3, we read about a political hurricane accompanying Hurricane Dennis.

On Friday morning, Dennis was forecast to hit around the Florida-Alabama state line Sunday evening but the New Orleans area was still in the margin of forecast error. Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard held a late morning news conference saying he had asked the state to implement contra-flow at midday and that the state had refused. He called for a voluntary evacuation of all of Jefferson Parish beginning at noon.

Broussard wore the “leader under hurricane conditions” uniform of slicker and baseball cap. He was rather light-hearted about the voluntary call, suggesting that residents turn it into a mini-vacation. It was the request of the state police that ruffled feathers around the metro area.

Broussard was criticized on several fronts for calling for contra-flow before conditions in a multi-parish plan were met. Broussard sent a letter to Governor Blanco saying that following the state plan would have meant a late-night evacuation for many of his residents. Broussard said he let leaders of other parishes know of his plan in advance and none of them objected at the time.

Tempest in a teapot? Broussard tried to deviate from the plan, but the system worked. The state police did what they were supposed to do in refusing his request. Did he earn political capital in Jefferson for trying to save his constituents a good night’s sleep? It’s hard to say.

Is it time to drop the whole thing? Well there are lessons to be learned on any “dry run.” Perhaps we will be better coordinated for the next time a storm approaches.

I'm encouraged. How about you?


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Dennis nears U.S. …

Today’s top story today will certainly be Hurricane Dennis (HD) and inevitable comparisons to last year’s Hurricane Ivan, which traveled a similar path.

In related news, “Big News” carries a UPI story that “Severe weather conditions forecast because of approaching Hurricane Dennis forced singer Kelly Clarkson to postpone tour dates in Louisiana and Florida.” I assume that many of you know, and buy tickets to see, Ms. Clarkson.

More front and center, CNN’s pre-dawn report was that HD had “strengthened to a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 135 mph, brushed by Key West, Florida, on its way to a predicted direct hit on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

At Category 4, Dennis is stronger than Hurricane Ivan, which pounded the Gulf Coast after it came ashore last Sept. 16 near Gulf Shores, Alabama, as a slightly weakened Category 3 hurricane.

Forecasters predict Dennis, which has been blamed for up to 32 deaths in Haiti and Cuba, will strike Sunday between Pensacola, Florida and Mobile, Alabama... Some 10 million Americans are potentially in Dennis' path, according to federal officials. "

Meanwhile, WWL-TV expressed N.O.’s greatest concern: “The City of New Orleans asked for the public's help in picking up debris left by hurricane Cindy.

Homeowners and property owners are asked to personally dispose of debris on their property, including leaves and larger debris like fallen limbs and trees. Place small debris and leaves in garbage bags and put on the curb for regular garbage pick up. Do not place yard debris on neutral grounds."

For more information, we are advised to contact the Mayor's Press Office at (504) 658-4940. Seems like a call to Sanitation might be more appropriate. Of course my two-weeks ago call to their message recorder, about their refusing to take old paint cans, has not yet been returned.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Thursday, July 07, 2005

A Case Study of the Evangelical "Business" ...

This is based on a recent Business Week article, "Earthly Empires:"

The evangelical sector is growing rapidly while overall church attendance in the U.S. is fairly stable. Leaders of many of these churches have read the social and cultural trends well enough to gather those feeling alienated by traditional churches, and the formerly uncommitted, with their prosperity gospel, and entertainment-oriented services.

They are beginning to flex their muscles as a very conservative voting bloc. They are well-positioned for an aging America, since spirituality generally increases with age. On the religious side, their “theological flexibility” and the absence of any central coordinating force may allow some to compromise religious principle for “production values.”

Business models, core business

The core business of many of these churches seems to be making people feel good about themselves. The business model is to offer upbeat messages of hope, self-help programs with a positive message, serve consumer needs like counseling and advising on a wide range of topics, including a Christian approach to personal finances, for which their “clients” should be willing to tithe.

Corporate strategies

Many churches hire MBAs for their business offices, practice niche marketing (cowboy churches, biker churches, “Bible-zines”), build brand loyalty, and franchise proven concepts. They use professional market research (e.g., pinpointing Phoenix as underserved by effective churches), and keep their fingers on the pulse of contemporary culture.

Business / competitive strategy

These churches target “untapped masses” who have never belonged to churches or are drifting away from the “mainlines,” satisfy demands not met by traditional churches, and make services more positive and stimulating. They work across media to build awareness by advertising, televising services, and writing books. They actively recruit membership, pursuing rapid growth.

State of the industry, attractiveness

Generally, barrier to entry is low. Without belonging to any world-wide headquarters, they can open when and where they wish and practice a “flexible” theology. A new mega-church is formed in the U.S. every two days. Once they begin to get significant economies of scale, profits can be huge.

It is a very attractive industry. One very telling statistic is that where the traditional church has less than 200 members and a budget of around $100,000, mega-churches, defined as 2000-plus weekly worshippers, on average work with budgets on the order of $4.8 million.

Ethical conundrum

I suppose the IRS will tell us when a mega-church is more a business than a religion, and is to be taxed as such. The BW article mentioned one “preacher” who drives a Rolls-Royce while many of his congregants are struggling to give him their tithe. If the income is that far out of proportion to the services provided in that “business,” it should mean that more good works can be done.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Monday, July 04, 2005

Independence and a new publication schedule ...

I hope you are having a wonderful Independence Day.

This is to announce that we will now only have new issues on Sundays and Thursdays. On the other days, we may do an occasional "breaking news" thing, or a "what's up with that?" For the most part though, you can count on "NO Bull" twice a week, and I can finally get a little sleep.

Stay in touch.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, July 03, 2005

The Story Behind the Facts ...

Adam Nossiter seems to be the AP writer in charge of corruption stories in these parts. He found enough time to do a story behind the facts piece entitled "New Orleans corruption: narrative versus facts,” and showed some serious wordsmanship:

"Three associates of ex-New Orleans mayor Marc Morial, fine suits amidst the shackles of Orleans Parish prisoners, had just pleaded not guilty to a kickback-and-skimming scheme: restaurateur Stan "Pampy" Barré, businessman Reginald Walker, and Morial's city property manager, Kerry De Cay."

He had this to say of defense lawyer Buddy Lemann:

“Lemann, perhaps the most unbridled member of the New Orleans criminal defense bar, put the government on notice: its 37-page indictment, with its careful listing of 125 separate transactions, was now up against a force possibly more powerful than any number of inflated invoices and dubious checks.

"Carefully, the defense lawyer raised the specter of a white prosecutor out to get a local black political hero. He evoked the history of white persecution with two powerful images, in case anybody missed the point.

"The federal case, Lemann said, is a "poorly disguised attempt by the acting Republican U.S. Attorney to lynch the Marc Morial administration." Morial "would be their ultimate trophy," he said. "I think it's pathetic," Lemann went on: "instead of having the local town support him, we've got this tar-and-feathering investigation."

He also has an interesting take on what it takes to win in court:

"If a New Orleans-area jury hears that story line, the government has its work cut out for it. The feds often think they can win merely by dumping the FBI's notebooks and recordings into the jury's lap, week after week. But in the courtroom, a compelling narrative trumps a prosecution that seems to have the facts on its side, but isn't capable of telling a good story -- every time."


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Trash Talk and the LSP ...

One of today’s stories in grabbed my interest. It’s an AP story announcing that “The Little Sisters of the Poor" (LSP), an order of Catholic nuns that has served New Orleans for 137 years, will close their residence for the elderly and leave the city.”

I am not sure if I ever had any contact with the LSP, but their name was used quite often in the days of my youth. They might or might not have appreciated the usage. “Trash-talking” 50 years ago consisted largely of saying “you guys couldn’t beat the Little Sisters of the Poor.”

“Sister Maria Christine Lynch, the order's mother provincial, said declining vocations among prospective nuns, and severe structural problems with the six-story home forced a decision to end the order's ministry in New Orleans.”

Nuns taught me through lower school, followed by Brothers at Holy Cross. Though much different in style, Nuns and Brothers all managed to teach various subjects very well, while slipping in some values that would be useful later in life. Religion was not the purpose of the subtle “brainwashing;” it was more about reaching your potential, basic ethics, and unselfishness.

“The nuns and officials of the Archdiocese of New Orleans said they would help the 95 residents of the Mary Joseph Residence for the Elderly find new homes in New Orleans or elsewhere.

Nuns in the Little Sisters of the Poor dedicate their lives to the service of the elderly. The order says it works in 30 countries.”

Like many of my contemporaries, I went to a “pagan” university. We were a little overdosed on Catholic instruction. But as I enter my declining years, I would love to taken care of by the LSP.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Friday, July 01, 2005

Wrinkled Robe ...

An article by AP, by way of USA Today, reports that “La. judge convicted of mail fraud.”

The facts are that state District Judge Alan Green “was convicted late Wednesday of mail fraud involving two $5,000 cash payments he took from a bail bonding company. A mistrial was declared on four other mail fraud counts, a mail fraud conspiracy count and a racketeering conspiracy count that a jury could not agree on.”

Green is the second judge from Jefferson Parish to be convicted as the result of the government's "Operation Wrinkled Robe" investigation. Former state district judge colleague Ronald Bodenheimer is serving a 46-month prison sentence.

Green left any comments on the verdict to defense attorney Frank DeSalvo who said, philosophically, "We're disappointed, but that's life. It ain't real good. And it ain't real bad."

So where are we in our quest to stamp out public corruption? One more down, and who knows how many to go. The cozy relationship between Judges and bail bondsmen was due for an airing.

Testimony in this trial drew a picture of one corrupt judge, “in bed” with a local bail bond company, and trying to get in bed more literally with a female principal of the firm. Green was the first of the group caught in this sting to decide to go to trial rather than “cop a plea.” What was he thinking? This was a crushing public humiliation.

Beginning with a self-righteous attitude, the Green camp devolved into a “nobody is perfect” stance, to “well, he badly handled campaign funds,” to “you don’t have to like him to find him innocent.” None of this was said as such, but the quotes can serve as captions to the defense posture.

DeSalvo said the defense would be discussing its next move, including a possible appeal. U.S. Attorney Jim Letten called the one guilty verdict "a resounding victory," and said that prosecutors would have to decide whether to retry Green on the deadlocked charges.

The AP article closed with “Louisiana Supreme Court spokeswoman Valerie Willard said this week that if Green were convicted of a felony, the high court likely would put him on interim disqualification pending sanctions, including removing him from the bench. Green is currently suspended with pay.”


jbv's Competitive Edge