Sunday, February 24, 2008

Momentum Makes a Comeback ...

CINCINNATI - Here in Ohio, next week's primary is considered pivotal. Here is Slate Magazine's take on the current state of the Democratic race:

It’s been more than a year since Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton announced their exploratory committees. Ever since, Democrats across the country have been dragged through 19 debates, $200 million-plus in fundraising, and 40 primaries and caucuses. After tens of thousands of handshakes, thousands of stump speeches, and hundreds of meet-and-greets, Democrats are tired. They want one candidate—and that candidate is going to be Barack Obama.

We don’t have to look any further than Texas and Ohio to see the exhaustion firsthand. Rasmussen polls had him down by 16 points in Texas eight days ago (post-Potomac, pre-Wisconsin). Now he trails by only three points. The newest Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that Texans like Clinton more than Obama on the issues that matter most—health care and the economy. Yet he’s in a statistical tie with her overall. Why? Because 47 percent of the state’s Democrats believe he has the best chance of getting elected president in November—thirty-six percent say that’s the case for Clinton. In Ohio, there’s an even larger disparity between whom Ohioans favor—Clinton—and whom they think can win in November, Obama.

For all of the talk about the primary fight going all the way to the election, it was probably never possible—especially not once a Republican nominee was selected. The two electorates originally treated the candidates as they would shiny toys—with wide-eyed attention, which then faded to boredom. But once the Republicans decided on their favorite (not so new) toy, the Democrats realized playtime was over.

Electability was bound to rule the decision-making once the GOP forced the Dems’ hand, and Obama effectively spun his head-to-head poll numbers into momentum. Remember momentum? It used to be that useless, easily derided metric because it was so unreliable while both races were unsettled. Now it’s likely to decide the nomination.

Which brings us to today—on the verge of Texas and Ohio. At this point, Obama’s momentum leads to Clinton supporters’ resignation. Texas and Ohio Democrats could prolong this battle, but they’re tired of not knowing who the nominee will be. The Democrats want what the Republicans already have—a candidate they can call their own. If that means some Democrats have to go to bed with their second-best, then so be it.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Can-do spirit revives Big Easy ...

From an article by Robert Novak in the Chicago Sun-Times:

The imposing presence of Robert A. Cerasoli as the city's first inspector general is the clearest sign that changes wrought by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans were not limited to physical devastation. By declaring war on municipal corruption, Cerasoli has signaled that life in the Big Easy no longer will be so easy.

I spent two days here with Donald E. Powell, federal coordinator for Gulf Coast rebuilding. Physical reconstruction is slow, and the city never will regain its former size or appearance. But civic leaders I met agreed that law enforcement, criminal justice, education and health are better than before Katrina.

Louisiana politicians grumble that the flow of about $120 billion from Washington is insufficient, and they mourn for about 180,000 New Orleanians who have left the area. But that does not worry the rebuilders. ''We don't want to rebuild an old New Orleans,'' insurance executive and civic leader John Casbon told me. School reformer Sarah Usdin said improvement in schools "never would have happened'' save for the storm.

At the heart of the Katrina-inspired revival is a transformed mind-set in a city traditionally more interested in good times than good government. For the first time, New Orleans elites are concentrating on something other than Mardi Gras.

A sign of change that transcends federal dollars was the arrival last August of Cerasoli, the nation's foremost inspector general, who served 10 years as Massachusetts inspector general. ''I was amazed when I arrived to find that just about everybody I met had been the victim of a holdup,'' Cerasoli said. He wondered why crime was much more rampant in New Orleans than in Atlanta, a larger city with a smaller police force.

Cerasoli is working closely with U.S. Attorney Jim Letten to crack down on corruption. In a city whose good-time image belies the high murder rates and violent crime that preceded Katrina, the new local district attorney, Keva Landrum-Johnson, and police chief Warren Riley are bringing reform to the law enforcement system. As founder of the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation, Casbon has led business community pressure for reform in the district attorney's office.

This spirit of reform seems to have eluded re-elected Mayor Ray Nagin. He is not tarred with corruption in a city where his former possible successor, Councilman Oliver Thomas, last year pleaded guilty to taking bribes and 85 other officials have been convicted or indicted recently. But neither is Nagin considered a reformer at city hall. There, the new spirit is typified by City Council President Arnie Fielkow, elected in 2006 after running the New Orleans Saints' front office.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Of Monroe, Sleep, and SCORE ...

Recently we visited our son Matt in Monroe MI, which is just a bit north of Toledo OH. The four-hour drive from Cincinnati was rather effortless though we stretched it out a bit since Susan is only good for about an hour’s driving at a time.

Matt is very gainfully employed as a database administrator for a steel company. He enjoys the work considerably, and has achieved some recognition for his efforts.

The time spent with Matt was very enjoyable. We made a trip to a very nice mall in Toledo to purchase some items to bolster Matt’s professional wardrobe. Other than that we had lively conversations over dinner the three nights we were there.

Monroe’s restaurant scene left much to be desired, but we made the best of it. If you visit Monroe be sure to try the Michigan Bar and Grill. Be sure not to stay at the Del Rio on Elm Street.

Monroe is of some interest with an old town, a couple of museums and a statue of the town’s favorite son, General Custer. As I recall, he was not one of history’s great generals.

On another topic, I took a sleep test a couple of weeks ago which revealed that I have a mild case of sleep apnea. I get very little REM sleep, and wake up seven times an hour. In a follow-up test, with a mask and humidifier apparatus I slept much better.

I now have the apparatus, called a CPAP, at home. I must not have the hang of it because I seem to be sleeping less with it on than I was before.

In my other activities I have gotten a little busier than I intended to in retirement. My activities with SCORE, a business counseling agency, have become far more demanding than I expected. In addition I will be a speaker at an Internet Marketing seminar later this month and the preparation has been intense.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Of Mardi Gras and Super Tuesday ...

We will miss Mardi Gras this year, not that we participated much when we lived in New Orleans. Susan usually went skiing in Colorado. I could usually find a party that did not require that I battle the crowds. Call us Scrooges, but I have more or less participated in 60 or so Mardi Gras and they begin to look the same after about 30 times.

This year we are in Cincinnati, interested more in “Super Tuesday” than the festivities in New Orleans. The presidential race this year is a bit more interesting than in recent years, though I can’t stand one more debate.

Today’s related story comes from AP, via KATC-3 in Lafayette:

That happy, sing-song sound heard on Bourbon Street is trickle-down economics at its best as hundreds of thousands of Carnival season visitors spend themselves silly before Fat Tuesday.

The city's tourism industry, getting back on its feet after Hurricane Katrina, is counting on a big weekend crowd to fill restaurants and hotels leading up to Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) on Feb. 5.

The payday may be big for the hotels and restaurants _ hundreds of millions of dollars in a typical Carnival _ but for rank-and-file workers it's a chance to fatten the purse with the payoff from a healthy helping of hospitality.

At Rick's Cabaret in the French Quarter, income from tips could rise 30 percent over a typical weekend for Phoebe, who snaps up tips for her dances from a largely male crowd that wanders in to eat, drink and behold the charms of scantily clad women.

"You get a lot of people who ride in the parades who will come in, party, get loose, getting ready for their rides," said Phoebe, who for privacy reasons would only identify herself by her first name. "They're happy, in good spirits and income does go up."


jbv's Competitive Edge