Sunday, June 29, 2008

Of “Do Downtown” and Trailer Parks …

We continue to try to take advantage of all the activities that Cincinnati has to offer.

A couple of weeks ago we went to “Homearama,” an annual showing of new upscale homes, generally in suburbia. The homes are obscene, approaching 10,000 square feet and fitted out to the max. Apparently, people who can afford $1M+ homes also like basements that approximate a sports bar. All had outdoor dining and BBQ pits to die for.

This past weekend we went to “Do Downtown,” (Cinci Skyline pictured) a good concept but poorly executed. For a fixed price of $20 per person one gets a small appetizer form each of ten downtown restaurants, all within easy walking distance. The poor execution was that the portions were so small, and not indicative of the restaurant’s fare; one was contained by a small cup, like the ones from which we take cough syrup. It was basically a miniature piece of watermelon.

We also went to an open house of downtown condos. Our interest in housing seems to create a source of many early summer outings. The condos were interesting, offering a wide array of layouts and pricing. Living downtown is attractive and seems to be undergoing a growth spurt. Perhaps it’s the high price of gasoline.

Our last activity of the weekend was the “Trailer Park Musical” at the Ensemble Theater downtown. It was a low-brow comedy with good music and an excellent cast.

The two series of plays we subscribed to have ended their seasons. In coming weeks we are attending a Billy Joel concert at Riverbend, and an amateur presentation of “Oliver.” Susan’s nephew is one of the rowdies in “Oliver.”

The first week of July we are visiting New Orleans, renewing friendships and enjoying the town. In August we cruise to Alaska.

I continue to enjoy my volunteer activities. They range from business counseling to assisting an arts organization to politics.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, June 22, 2008

There she goes again ...

This is extracted from an article I wrote about the race for the House of Representatives in Ohio District 2. I hope you don't mind this double dip:

Being from Louisiana, I know about political incompetence, bad judgment, and corruption. Our congressional delegation includes two stars of the genre, "Dollar Bill" Jefferson and David "caught with his pants down" Vitter.

Disclosure: I volunteered and voted for Republican Vitter because I thought he was an effective senator when he ran on a family values platform. I also thought his good example might combat the perception of Louisiana politicians as corrupt. Ha!

Apparently Cincinnati area voters have their own embarrassment in Jean Schmidt. I knew about the Murtha gaffe even before coming here, but now that I vote in her district I have gotten the pleasure of seeing her up close.

On the Ohio Daily Blog, commenter “Jeff” got a bit overheated as he brought us up to date on Schmidt. Jeff's comment, with minor editing, follows:

Amazing Rep. "Mean Jean" Schmidt (R-Loveland) is on an absolute tear of outrageous fabrications, and the latest one is on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

We all know Schmidt's history of playing fast and loose with the truth -- for example, lying about meeting Tom Noe, lying on her resume, claiming endorsements she didn't have, and plagiarizing an op-ed piece from a colleague's letter to constituents. Recently Schmidt sent out a fund-raising letter falsely asserting that Dr. Victoria Wulsin "participated in grotesque medical experiments," although Schmidt's press person later tried to lie away the lie by saying that she "wasn't suggesting Wulsin participated in the experiments."

Here comes another big one. On June 5th, the truth-challenged Schmidt took her misspeaking skills to the floor of the House, denouncing federal limitations on drilling for oil by declaring that China is currently drilling off the Florida coast.

This very day there is indeed drilling activity off of our country's coast. Not by our U.S. companies. That would be illegal. Instead, the Chinese are drilling off the coast of Florida with their new energy partner, Cuba.

The only problem with Schmidt's unequivocal assertion is that -- you guessed it --- it is false. Western diplomats in Havana tell McClatchy that to the best of their knowledge, there is no Chinese drilling in or around Cuba.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Jindal is blackmailed ...

I thought Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana would be different. Here are some comments on the mammoth pay raise that the legislature is giving itself, and Jindal's failure to put a stop to it:

From the Louisiana Action Council:

"We are extremely disappointed that the Louisiana House of Representatives chose to pass a pay increase that resisted the ultimate will of the people. Despite the fact that the House members reduced the pay raise from 300% to 200%, there is still no exception for disregarding the thousands of phone calls, letters and emails from residents all over the state pleading for legislators to stand up against this self serving increase in their annual salary."


“Maybe it was just too good to be true. A hugely popular governor getting pretty much everything he and the voters asked for in the way of ethics reform. A move which has put a new face on Louisiana, sweeping behind decades of corruption, greed, and backroom deals.

Governor Jindal says he doesn't like the pay raise. It's overboard, but he says he will not veto this outrageous affront to the voters.

Legislators asked us to give them their jobs fully knowing what the pay was. Everyone whose fingerprints are now on this awful legislation should hang their heads in shame and turn in their political badges. Many of our people are struggling with wages they can barely get by on.

Our legislators should be ashamed of themselves. We urge Governor Jindal to veto SB 672. It's the right thing to do.”


From Baton Rouge’s WBRZ Channel 2 and the Advocate, Comments (158):

"Gov. Bobby Jindal said Wednesday he would let a bill that would triple legislators’ pay become law rather than use his veto pen. Jindal said he did not want to give legislators a reason to sidetrack the bills he wants passed.

Asked if he had been threatened by lawmakers, Jindal said he would not discuss private conversations with legislators.

House speaker Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown, said he has urged Jindal to stay on the sidelines. “I have never threatened the governor,” Tucker told House colleagues Wednesday after a political Web site said he had threatened Jindal with a “government shutdown.”

SB672 would increase legislators annual compensation package to about $70,000 and top legislative leaders to the $100,000 mark. The pay raise would cost taxpayers $5.34 million more annually when it goes into effect July 1.

Senate Finance Committee chairman Sen. Mike Michot, R-Lafayette, said there is no money in the budget for the pay raise. The legislation would tie state legislators’ pay to a percentage of that of U.S. congressmen, which is $169,300 today. It would give lawmakers a boost now and guarantee them an increase every time congressmen hike their pay.

The base pay of a legislator would increase from $16,800 to $50,790 — 30 percent of congressional pay. The Senate president and House speaker’s base pay would hit $76,185 under the plan — 45 percent of congressional pay.

Legislators would also continue to get $6,000 in annual unvouchered expense allowance, which is considered income by the federal Internal Revenue Service, as well as per diem payments that sit at $143 for each day they are in legislative session, attending non-session committee meetings or other transacting other legislative business.

The combination translates into a $70,000 a year pay package for rank-and-file lawmakers. The average, full-time state employee’s pay in Louisiana is $36,104 annually. The average Louisiana worker’s pay is $37,946, based on the 2006 census data.

Louisiana legislators’ base pay would be the eighth highest in the nation with the change, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.”


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Busy, Busy ...

I use to say that I was unsuccessfully retired, but I have changed my tune. My retirement is now stimulating, largely because I am busy.

It's amazing how much one's services are in demand when you give them away for free. I now have three agencies for which I volunteer.

In SCORE I do free business counseling (we are the counseling arm of the SBA). I also write and revise short business reports (called "briefs"), and, next Tuesday will team teach a seminar on "Web Site Fundamentals."

For the Fine Arts Fund I am assisting a client ("Catacoustic Consort"), primarily applying for grants. This is a fascinating organization, specializing in putting together concerts of "early music." As I understand it, early means before about the year 1800.

The director is Annalisa Pappano and she plays several of the early instruments. As you might expect, money for such a specialized form of music is tight, and we hope the grants we receive will allow CC to be on sounder footing.

I am also a political volunteer for Victoria Wultsin, who is running for Congress. She is trying to trying to oust 2nd district Representative Jean Schmidt (R-OH). I have done office work, assembled signs, driven the candidate around, did some phone-banking, and last week helped clean up the office.

Wultsin is a terrific candidate who lost to Schmidt in 2006 by a whisker. This time she is out there earlier, better organized and funded, and doing a lot more "retail" politics.

"Vic," as she is called, is at every fair and festival in Greater Cincinnati. We are asked to go also and "show the colors." Last week the major event was "Taste of Cincinnati" where you can get a sample dish from many of the area's finest restaurants, and some not so fine.

So I am busy (maybe too busy) and feeling productive. I guess that can be called a successful retirement.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Of “Jersey Boys” and Hurricanes ...

Today we are going to the Aronoff Center to see “Jersey Boys.” This is the last play of our “Broadway across America” series, and for the most part it has been very enjoyable. It started off schmaltzy, with “My Fair Lady” and “Camelot,” and picked up some steam with “Wicked” and “The Color Purple.” “The Drowsy Chaperone” was a dud, and “Sweeney Todd” was disappointing.

On another subject, today begins hurricane season, and Susan will be on high alert through November. Below are excerpts from a couple of articles on the subject:

Tropical Storm Arthur, by the Associated Press.

Tropical Storm Arthur, the first storm of the 2008 Atlantic Hurricane Season, is producing heavy rain as it moves west across Mexico's southern Yucatan Peninsula.
The National Hurricane Center says the storm is producing heavy rains early Sunday morning. But it's disorganized and is expected to be downgraded to a tropical depression later in the day.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for the eastern coast of the peninsula from Cabo Catoche, Mexico, south through Belize. Forecasters say the storm could drop 5 to 10 inches of rain and cause flash floods and mud slides.

Get a "Gameplan" to Prepare for Hurricane Season, by Laila Morcos of New Orleans' ABC 26.

The latest Mason-Dixon poll shows that 56 % of those surveyed wouldn't be prepared if a hurricane comes our way.

Governor Jindal says, "Let's not wait till you're watching on TV and seeing that it's two days off the coast because it will be so much more difficult to find the supplies to gather the medicines, the food the water the batteries. I guarantee you that stores will run out of those supplies."

He also says with high gas prices, an evacuation plan is especially important. "We actually do now have contracts in place for public transportation, but I don't want people to become dependent or complacent with that as their first line of defense."


jbv's Competitive Edge