Monday, January 30, 2006

Anyone who just saw the Countdown segment on charitable giving for Katrina victims might have noticed that Lisa Myers repeated the $85B spin point. I'm afraid that it's become an accepted talking point, but it couldn't hurt to email Countdown. There's a link on the Countdown link, or you can email them directly: Show repeats at 11

Updated Tues 1/31
correct link for last night's Countdown.Closing line of segment:

The federal government has designated $85 billion, and many believe even that won‘t be enough.

The segment wasn't about federal Katrina spending, but I'm afraid that the doubly inflated (the $67B wasn't all relief and reconstruction, that was padded by $18B) $85 figure has gained general acceptance. It'll make it that much harder to get more funding.

Friday, January 27, 2006

A few random thoughts and observations to get back into things. Since the computer problems and personal matters/obligations that have hampered my blogging since around Christmas caused me to take over a week off, some of these will be on old (relatively) topics.

Link for the last Laura Bush/Joker photo that I mentioned in a comment on People Get Ready. The rest were old; you can find more by googling "Laura Bush Joker", if they're new to you. Should have typed in the html in the comment, but with blogger comments not always letting you preview, I'm always a little hesitant to.

When did George Bush give up drinking, reputedly? I ask because I first began waiting tables in the mid-eighties, but I still remember an incident from early in my waiting career. One night, we needed to combine all my tables into one table for a large group of obnoxious drunks and their wives. The party occupied my station for the entire night, acted obnoxiously, ran me ragged, and ran up a bill of several hundred dollars. They seemed to be discussing something on their way out, when I heard the most obnoxious one say: Well, I'll remind that waiter that ten dollars is a lot. When I looked at the table, I saw some crumpled ones and some change that seemed to add up to less than ten dollars. A coworker looked and couldn't figure out how it added up to ten dollars either. But the same coworker looked at the bill and concluded that the jerk seemed to think that he was giving his waiter both the tax and the tip. The explanation made me feel much better.

One thing that I think was lost, or at least under emphasized, in the brouhaha over Nagin's speech last week: the mayor has given a speech after every single Martin Luther King day since the holiday was inaugurated. When I emphasized the political reasons for Nagin's speech, I should acknowledged that the mayor needed to say much more than New Orleans wants all its people back. I also agree with Polimom that he was feeling a racial pull as much as much he was making a racial push (hope I'm not oversimplifying or misreading her post too badly). To what degree he was motivated by the city's need to reassure its displaced Black citizens and to what degree he was motivated by his need to shore up his Black support is irrelevant. The fact is, he knew that he was making a speech that day. It was, or should have been, a prepared speech. That's why I couldn't understand all the commentary I heard and read that talked about things like "his tendency to speak extemporaneously," or "forgetting that's he's in front of a larger audience," or speaking off the cuff, or whatever. It's also why I really question either his judgments or his motivations, or both. Of course, I also think that a lot of the white outrage was overdone and misguided. Misdirected rather. White New Orleanians shouldn't care that he used MLK day to address the concerns of its Black citizens, at least I don't. I do care that he seemed to be putting his re-election above the city's rebuilding.

Despite the first paragraph, that's all the dead horse flogging I have time for tonight. Sorry.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Something I missed in the uproar over Nagin's Speech:

This Saturday, January 21 at 11am join us at the levee (Carrollton side) near the US Army Corps of Engineers building on River Road between Carrollton Avenue and Broadway. Be considerate of neighbors when parking. You can park at Uptown Square. We will be "walking on the levee."

More here. If I hadn't noticed a yard sign, I wouldn't have heard of it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A link for that item I mentioned in yesterday's Picayune. From the Houma Courier actually (AP story):

Mathews said he worries that a "national obsession" with New Orleans will cost Mississippi its fair share of federal aid, private investment and help from volunteers.

Ricky Matthews is the publisher of the Gulfport Sun Herald. Actually, the article by itself wouldn't be that alarming, I just wish the publisher of the Gulfport paper would worry about the fact that Bush seems to be making false claims about how much aid each state is receiving(see da po'blog as well as this earlier post)rather than which state is getting its fair share.

Would it be adding to the La. vs. Ms. rancor to point out that La. is getting the worse deal by any honest measure? Of course it would be, but how does one not?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Just a quick point, Peggy "I don't understand" Wilson will never be elected mayor. Even the most uptowny white Republicans that I know thinks she's dumber than mud. Some, maybe most of them, will vote for her but very few will actively support her. If Fahrenholtz were elected without strong black support it would be very divisive, but I'm waiting for a fourth known candidate to enter. Anyway, I hope that it's not fear of a Mayor Wilson that's muting support (need to proofread better, obviously that should have been criticism) of Nagin. Does anyone even think that could happen?

Still to difficult to do real blogging with links, but everyone should pay attention to the story on p. A-11 of today's T/P. Seems they're still sucessfully playing La. against Miss. and the rest of La. against N.O. The publisher of the Gulfport Sun Herald really should know better.

Monday, January 16, 2006

About that last post, it really was seeing the wait to get into permits that prompted me to look into the mayor's personnel decisions. What I found made me think that it's a seriously neglected issue. It would be wrong to post about it without disclosing my personal interest.

A friend of mine had this to say in an email:

Your rant on Nagin (which I agree with, from my distant perspective) reminds me of an old tech joke.

The IBM rowing team kept losing races. IBM brought in a top-dollar consultant to figure out the problem. The consultant interviewed everyone on the team - all ten "callers" who sat in the boat shouting to the rower what to do and the one "rower" on the team. With all the data in, the consultant reported back the answer: the rower isn't working hard enough. IBM put the rower on a performance plan, but ultimately had to fire him.

(You have to know how competitive rowing works to get this joke, btw. A real rowing team has one caller and a bunch of rowers. I'm guessing you figured this out.)

Very light posting until I solve my winhound problem.

I don't believe that there's no place for religion in politics, as long as it's as a basis for general principles. But with a few exceptions ( some conservatives on abortion, I respect the pro-life position, I don't agree with it, some liberals on the death penalty) if you try to claim that god has an opinion on most specific details you sound either nutty or insincere. Or both, like Pat Robertson. So which was Nagin today? Or to put it another way, do you think the fact that his main opponents are white had anything to with his statements today?

-- the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans, This city will be a majority African American city. It's the way God wants it to be. You can't have New Orleans no other way. It wouldn't be New Orleans.

I know, some might consider me a little suspect after my NIMBY posts, but get real. His speech would have been totally different if he had needed white support against black opposition. For the record, I think the city will be majority black again and I have no problem with that. I'd also hate to see a white mayor elected in a potentially divisive manner. I don't care if the city ends up with a black mayor or white mayor; right now, I'm in the anyone but Nagin or Wilson Camp.

But this was ridiculous. N.O. wasn't N.O. until the seventies? God wanted all the vanilla people to move to the suburbs? It took God 200 yrs to work his will with regard to New Orleans? Yeah, it's uncomfortable territory for a white liberal, but if you're going to be quiet when a Nagin claims to know the will of God, don't you give up the right to object to a Robertson claiming to know the will of God?

Of course, I do have a personal prejudice against Nagin. It's not racial though, I'm prejudice against bosses who layoff workers without doing everything possible to save those jobs. He couldn't have saved my job (I was too far down the totem pole), but he could have saved more jobs than he did.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

From today's Times Picayune:

the city's woefully understaffed Department of Safety and Permits remains a major bottleneck in the effort to repower the city.

The department went from 10 to two electrical inspectors in the weeks after Katrina, while permit applications soared 80 percent, said Greg Meffert, Mayor Ray Nagin's chief technology officer. The staffing problem was not the result of mass layoffs after the storm. Instead, some inspectors failed to return to work, and others have quit, Meffert said.

After several false starts, the department last week hired a private firm to resupply the depleted electricity inspector ranks. The department should have 10 inspectors working by the end of the week and more on the way, Meffert said.

That's certainly good news, but it doesn't change the point of Tuesday's posting. If the city had consolidated upper level positions or eliminated upper level pay raises from 2002*, the city could have hired more inspectors when it first announced layoffs in October. In the past three months, how many letters to the editor have we seen from New Orleanians who were ready to throw in the towel because of the wait for inspections?

The problem goes deeper than electrical inspectors. The city seems to be trying to retain the same number of upper level employees (at the same salaries) as it had for a city of 460,000 even though everyone estimates that its population will be about 250,000 for the foreseeable future. Because of that, it can't afford the lower level employees needed to provide basic services for its estimated current population of 150,000.

I suppose it's possible that the mayor started cutting staff at the bottom to maximize the number of cuts and pressure the federal government. If so, it didn't work. If the new realities are forcing the city to examine what areas will be re-settled, shouldn't they force the city to examine how to best use its resources to help the recovery? Or is the mayor too busy vacationing in Jamaica to bother with minor details?

Note: I'm most definitely not talking about the across the board 5% raise that all employees received two years ago. I'm referring to the substantial increases that top employees received when Nagin first took office. If Nagin announces that he's dealing with budget problems through a temporary 10% across the board pay cut, it will be his biggest cop out yet.

Winhound has infected my computer, from now on I only use explorer for known sites, mozilla for anything new. I first noticed it a couple of weeks ago but thought I had gotten rid of it. Since I know next to nothing about computers and always need help with technical matters, I should have known that it wasn't going to be that easy. Anyway, earlier this week, a popup informed that my start page and search page had been changed, etc. Kept getting redirected. My brother was able to take care of that, but the virus (hope I'm using the right terms, I'm not technically minded at all)has gotten into the registry and won't let itself be deleted or something. I have confidence that we'll (or he'll) get the problem solved, in the meantime the computer is operating extremely slowly and occasionally shutting down. Makes it very difficult to blog.

Here's the really strange thing: I had no problem making the one link in the text of my last post. But a redirect keeps appearing in the link box below the ttle box on blogger. So that when I tried to title the last post, it kept reading as a link to some other site. Don't know if any other blogger users have encountered this virus or spyware. That's the least of the problems, it's an unpleasant virus all around. Careful what links you click, esp. on explorer.

Friday, January 13, 2006

From the President's speech in Bay St.Louis yesterday:

Signing all the legislation I've signed, the federal government has committed $85 billion so far to helping folks and to help rebuild the Gulf Coast of -- (applause.) Of that $85 billion, about $25 billion has been spent. So $85 billion is available, $25 billion of it is already in the pipeline -- that's $60 billion more coming your way.

Leaving aside the issue of how much of the money is actually going to "helping folks," how did the President arrive at the $85B figure. Actually, when I heard the speech, I thought that he said $86B and immediately thought that I understood the weird combination of dishonesty and bad math that led to that figure. First there was $62B, then there was another $29B, but, of course, it ended up that only $5B of the $29B was new appropriations. So, I figured that he dishonestly added the $29B to the $62B and got $91B (something that I believe every local/regional blogger has warned could happen). Now if he somehow subtracted the $5B that actually could have (somewhat) honestly been added to the $62B, it would have led to a figure of $86B. I can't figure out the $85B figure. Am I missing something?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Question: What's wrong with this editorial?

Answer: See the previous post.

Time to Give Nagin the Ultimate Cut

I can understand the reluctance to criticize Nagin when so many in Washington are looking for any excuse to cut back on aid to the city. I also know that in criticizing the mayor on NIMBY, I had fallen in with a rather bad crowd. Hell Nagin was right on the big picture there; I just thought that he was probably wrong on some details--we couldn't be sure because he wouldn't answer questions about details. Let's face it, saying (in effect)"I'm right, but I won't tell you why I'm right," ain't exactly leadership.

Anyway, I can understand the reluctance of Democrats and liberals to criticize Nagin on NIMBY--who wants to get bed with racists? But I can't understand the general reluctance on the part of Democrats to criticize him at all. It's common knowledge that Nagin had been a registered Republican before changing registration to run for mayor and that he endorsed Bobby Jindal for governor. And I'll always wonder what he was thinking during his Meet The Press appearance last September. He was, at best, naive and misguided; at worst, simultaneously naive and cynical.

The attempt to mend fences with the White House was understandable, but the scapegoating of Blanco was inexcusable. Even if he truly believed (at that point) that the state was at more at fault than the federal government, he should have gotten all the facts before speaking publicly. If he thought that he could work out (or had worked out) a deal with Bush to scapegoat Blanco, one can only shake one's head--even if he thought he could get better treatment for the city that way. How he could not have realized that the administration was pursuing a divide and conquer strategy? At any rate, he didn't seem to appreciate that he and Blanco needed to present a united front until after the national GOP started to attack him. In the meantime not just he and Blanco were made to look bad, the state and the city were as well. But that's not sufficient grounds for voting Nagin out of office.

To elaborate on a previous post, Nagin's biggest failure has come in his handling of the layoffs caused by the city's budget crisis. When the layoffs were announced, the savings seemed suprisingly small for a 2/3 reduction in civilian workforce.* At the very least, the layoffs had to have been concentrated at the bottom of the pay scale. I'll return to that in more detail in a future post. But if the layoffs are "pretty permanent," one has to wonder why most, if not all, of the upper management has been retained. One obvious question that this article in last month's T/P should have raised is: how did NORD go from having a staff of 404 to having 20 employees, yet retain both its director and deputy director? Is this case across city government? The library has gone from 213 to 19 employees, yet we still have both a city librarian and assistant city librarian. Does the Mosquito Control Department still have both a director and deputy director (combined salaries of over $185,000, p.14 of the pdf file)? If the layoffs were expected to be temporary, maintaining all the upper management might be standard procedure. As it is, it seems incredibly wasteful.

More wasteful than the failure to consolidate upper level positions, is the refusal to consider pay cuts for upper level employees. In 2002, salaries in the mayor's office were increased by 17-84% for a total of over $420,000. Soon after, another $440,000 in pay raises were sought for eight civil servants; all told, the mayor "proposed substantial raises for nearly three dozen high-level positions in city government". As far as I can tell, the bulk of these raises were granted.* At any rate, during Nagin's first three years in office, upper level pay in city government has increased well above the 5% across the board increase for all city employees granted in 2004. For example, the pay of the city librarian has inreased from $68,058 to $83,024 while the director and deputy director of mosquito control received a combined $75,000 in pay increases. The same level of savings could have easily been achieved with far fewer layoffs.

Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't expect the average citizen to have much interest. In a city where tens of thousands have lost their jobs, what are a few dozen needlessly laid off city workers, more or less? But these aren't normal circumstances. The city's recovery has been severely hampered by the delays that home and business owners have faced with inspections and permits-- the city only has two electrical inspectors. With the just that $420,000* in increased pay in the mayor's office, the city could do much to shorten the wait: assume the cost of a fully loaded employee to be three times salary (business texts give a figure of 2-3), assume also a salary of $40,000 for an electrical inspector (listed hiring rate $38,914 for an inspector III, lower for I and II). With $420,000 the city could hire three more electrical inspectors with $60,000 left to hire another clerk for the permits department.

If the math doesn't convince you, go to city hall and take the elevator to the seventh floor. If the line to get into permits doesn't convince you, try reading the letters to the editor in the Picayune:

I love New Orleans, but can't take the banana republic mentality anymore. I've accepted a job out of town and my wife, my three kids and I are leaving. That's it. I'm done.

I have loved the city for its uniqueness of character and its joie de vivre. But the frustration of waiting for an electrical inspector at my rental property, in an area Uptown off St. Charles Avenue that's long had juice, has put me over the edge.

Mayor Ray Nagin has pleaded with folks to come back. But he won't even see to it that a major American city has a streamlined way of turning on electricity to individual houses that weren't flooded.

I've had enough! Good-bye!

Yet the mayor scoffs at the idea of pay cuts, and dissmissively suggests that voters can give him the ultimate cut. Good Idea.

Notes: The reduction in city workforce is usually listed as 40%, however if one excludes police officers and fire fighters the figure is about 63%.

Exact figures for city payroll are almost impossible to obtain on line and, of course, the library system and city hall are not yet fully operational. Also, the city hasn't released figures on what positions have been eliminated, or retained, and at what salaries. From what I could find (through internet, newspaper files and emails), the bulk of the pay increases were granted.

The $420,000 figure for increased salaries includes $150,000 for the newly created position of chief technology officer. Even retaining that position (at that salary), leaves $270,000. More than enough to double the number of electrical inspectors.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Apparently that Gambit link only works for the current issue. Didn't want to take up current space so I erased an old draft, here's a cut and paste job on that Dubos' piece until I figure out a better place to put it.

So now Audubon Nature Institute CEO Ron Forman is running for mayor. That really changes things. Forman will formally announce this week. Don't underestimate him.
Even the strongest candidate will have a difficult time winning this election, and that includes incumbent Mayor Ray Nagin, for whom Forman's wife, Sally, worked until Forman declared his intentions last week. Difficulties aside, Forman brings his hallmark energy, vision and salesmanship to the campaign. That and the $1.6 million he reportedly has in cash and commitments make him a formidable candidate.

Forman has a long track record of tackling tough assignments and getting them done. Think turning one of the world's worst zoos into one of the best -- and when he began he knew nothing about animals. Think Aquarium of the Americas, which he carved out of highly coveted Dock Board space at the foot of Canal Street -- when he knew nothing about being a developer.

In those instances, and others, Forman started with a vision, a network of committed contributors and professionals, and his own determination to bring the best team available to the task. He's as persistent, and as resilient, as any man you'll ever meet.

Now he's tying to bring that same formula to the mayor's race. He says he has assembled an A-team of backers not only to help him win the election but also to serve in his administration. He plans to announce his "team" during the campaign, which is unusual. In the current environment, that's not a big gamble. Imagine Forman standing amidst some of the best-known names in the business, professional and civic communities and telling voters, "Here's my team. Compare them to Ray Nagin's team. Which team do you want at City Hall?"

Of course, he'll have to acknowledge that his bride was an integral part of Nagin's team for the past few years -- particularly during the past few months -- so criticizing the Nagin Administration poses some personal and political risks for Forman.

Speaking of Nagin, he had a peculiar (I'm being kind) reaction to Forman's candidacy. He told WWL-TV that New Orleans can't afford to bring in someone who will need 12, 18 or 24 months of on-the-job training. He even said a new mayor could slow the city's recovery by up to two years.

If that analysis weren't so disingenuous -- especially coming from Nagin -- and if New Orleans weren't so desperate for something that resembles leadership, it might be just a really bad joke. Does Nagin think voters have forgotten what an amateur he still is -- after more than three years on the job? Does he think the pace of the city's "recovery" could actually be any slower?

On the other side of the campaign coin, the onus now is on Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu to decide if he's in or out. Landrieu left open the slightest possibility that he would not run, but my gut tells me he's running. He may even move up his announcement to this week.

Meanwhile, Forman's candidacy muddies the waters a great deal. For starters, it increases the likelihood that the race will boil down to, well, race. That plays into Nagin's hands -- as long as he remains the only major black candidate. That, too, could change. Forman's candidacy also cuts off Republican. Peggy Wilson at the knees. Her chances weren't very good to begin with (unless her goal was to get Nagin re-elected), but with Forman in the race, she's a virtual non-starter.

Qualifying isn't until March 1. Look for more big doings in the weeks to come.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The End of NIMBY?

From this story in today's T/P, it appears that the trailer site impasse may be over. If so, kudos to Oliver Thomas, Gov. Blanco and everyone else who made it happen. Hope I'm wrong, but I'm still skeptical:

"About 10,000 apartments -- it could be more, it could be less -- could be brought up relatively quickly," Blanco said. Nagin said some of the units could be ready in one to six months, adding that some groups he has been in touch with estimate that as many as 20,000 apartments may be available in that period.

I hate to put a downer on things, but six months from now will be almost a year after Katrina. More importantly, one has to wonder where those 10,000 apartments will come from. Will using them insread of trailers really help solve the housing shortage? I hope I'm wrong, but it almost sounds like an accounting trick to me.

It seems that once again, after starting out being too stubborn to even explain his position, Nagin was forced to back down:

The mayor promised that the district council members who represent the areas where the remaining 7,000 trailer sites will be located will have veto power over the proposed locations. But he said council members who object to a site should come up with alternatives in their districts.

In effect, the city coucil members will have the ultimate say over where the trailers go. The individual district members will have it, not the council as a whole. In other words, the council's most sensible member (IMO), Oliver Thomas, will have less input than Batt or Clarkson.

What I can't figure out is why the mayor refused to answer specific objections when he was obviously right on the big picture. His refusal to communicate caused the impasse to drag on and embarrass the city needlessly. Ultimately, it caused him to cave. Notice, I said communicate rather than compromise. If you're right, just explaining your position should eliminate the need for all but minor compromises. If you won't explain yourself, you might as well be wrong.

In this case, a self-indulgent, bone headed move might have further weakened the mayor's position. When I heard the mayor say that he had emergency power to overrule the council, I thought that he probably gave up all his emergency powers when he a took a post-Katrina trip to Jamaica, not legally but politically. One has to wonder whether that was used against him.

At any rate, I hope that I'm wrong and today's news is as good as it seems to be. I'll still think Nagin is inept because of the city lay offs. Obviously, a lot of city workers had to lose their jobs, the mayor just seemed to maximize the number of lay offs rather than pay roll savings. That's a weird way of getting the most bang for the buck-- maximize the bang: size of announced lay off, minimize the bucks saved. It's not just laid off city workers affected; I'll return to that in my next post.

God, that last post was embarrassingly bathetic. I'm not ready to give up on the city, just the local leadership-- for reasons I've already discussed,here and here. The difficulty is criticizing Nagin or Blanco without furthering the arguments of the truly reprehensible and the unbelievably stupid. That shouldn't be too much of a problem, as I indicated in my comment on Blagueur. I really don't believe that there's any honest answer to the arguments that I made in the (untitled) political boxing post (see previous posts). There's no reason that we can't demand both improvement here and fair treatment from Washington.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Today's King Cake Day. That fact actually occurred to me when I saw the date on today's Rude Pundit. Hard to say which was more depressing-- the realization or the posting. An excerpt:

For the will and energy needed to put this metropolitan area back together are too much for the state, too much for a Washington, DC too concerned with wars and corruption to look back to 2005's ravages. It's too much to ask for responsible environmental policy, and too much to ask for real attention to poverty, and too much to ask for an end to tax cuts so it can all be realistically funded, and too much to ask for a state that was started, in essence, by a pirate, Jean Lafitte, to give up its corrupt ways. It ain't gonna happen. The people here know it. It's a dulling, bludgeoning kind of knowledge, that they've been abandoned. And this crosses party lines for blame

Read the whole piece. I'm not ready to throw in the towel yet, but I'm all too inclined to agree with him. It sure doesn't feel like the first day of the Mardi Gras season.

A Letter to a Union/Community Organizer

Dear Mr. Rathke,

As a laid-off city worker (Library Associate 1), I was curious whether the pay raises you discussed here
were finally approved. I couldn't find any follow up stories throughinternet searches. Did sixteen top city hall employees actually receive atotal of $860,000 in pay raises? Were these pay levels maintained after the post-Katrina lay offs?

At the time that Nagin announced the lay offs two things struck me. The first was that Nagin was throwing in the towel awfully early; the second was that the projected savings for the number of lay offs seemed awfully small--the city was laying off more low salary employees rather than fewer high salary employees. I wondered whether the mayor was trying to pressure the federal government into coming up with a better aid package; more cynically, I wondered whether he was using Katrina as an "opportunity" to scale back the city work force. I understand that lay offs usually begin at the bottom, especially if they're expected to be temporary. It's harder to replace the more skilled workers, armies decommission enlisted men before officers, etc., but remember, Nagin announced that the lay offs were "pretty permanent." I can't understand getting rid of so many Indians and keeping so many chiefs, esp. at full pay.

A glance at the library system may be instructive. In Oct., the NOPL lost 194 out of 213 positions. The Library wasn't told to cut payroll by a certain amount; it was told that it could retain 19 positions. Of the 19 retained two were the City Librarian and Asst. City Librarian-- presumably at full salary, there's been no transparency. The salary for NOPL employees can be found on pg. 12 of the following pdf (the hiring rate fig. is more
accurate than the annual minimum, at least in my case):
Of the remaining 17, I know of one associate retained. From what I've seen (again no transparency), the rest are Librarian II or III, branch managers, bureau chiefs or,in one case, executive assistant to the library board doing the jobs of associates or librarian I's. An educated guess would be that the average salary in the library system doubled when the staff was cut to
19. If other city departments are similar to the library, a lot of the cuts were made carelessly and needlessly.

The unnecessary loss of jobs would be bad enough if it only meant that perhaps a few dozen to a couple of hundred more people than necessary lost their jobs. But the Dept of Safety and Permits laid off 50 out of 109 employees. When I went down to City Hall to make my Jan. COBRA payment last Thurs., the line to get into permits was unbelievable. The city also says that it can't
afford to hire more electrical inspectors. Am I totally misunderstanding the situation, or has the mayor's insistence on no pay cuts at the very top and the failure to consolidate upper level positions throughout city government slowed down the entire city's recovery?

I mailed the above last night, because of the email form, I'm not sure if it went through. It's difficult to find much information about the city's payroll, but I do know that the mayor obtained large pay raises for top officials early in his administration and that he scoffed at the notion of a pay cut for top administrators when he announced the post Katrina lay offs. In the meantime, home and business owners face a ridiculous wait for electrical inspectors or to get into the permits office because the city can't afford to rehire more laid off staff.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Hunter Thompson 2000 election

By Hunter S. Thompson
Page 2 columnist

"(This is) not the work of a wise man, but only a player and a scribe with a dangerous gambling habit. ... That is a risky mix that will sooner or later lead you to cross the wrong wires and get shocked, or even burned to a cinder. On some days you will be lucky and only break your fingers and make a fool of yourself. But luck is a very thin wire between survival and disaster, and not many people can keep their balance on it.

I have never believed much in luck, and my sense of humor has tended to walk on the dark side. Muhammad Ali, one of my very few heroes, once took the time to explain to me that "there are no jokes. The truth is the funniest joke of all."

Ho ho. It takes a special kind of mindset to believe that and still have smart people call you Funny. I have never quite understood it
. -- Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in America

This eerie Presidential election has been a painful experience for Gamblers. Almost everybody Lost. Even if you were crazy or dumb enough to bet on a dead-even Tie, you Lost, because it was 537 votes short of it. The many Losers don't feel the pain yet, because they are still in Shock & Denial. There are rumors in Washington that Gore's most trusted advisors have sealed him off so completely that he still firmly believes he Won. ... Which is True, on some scorecards, but so what? Those cards don't count. ... George W. Bush is our President now, and you better start getting used to it. He didn't actually steal the White House from Al Gore, he just brutally wrestled it away from him in the darkness of one swampy Florida night. He got mugged, and the local Cops don't give a damn.

Where did Gore think he was -- in some friendly Civics class? Hell no, he was in Florida, arguably the most Vicious & Corrupt state in the Union. ... Not only that, but he was brazenly invading Florida, trying to steal it from right under the noses of the whole Bush family. It was a bold move & brilliantly done, in some ways -- but then so was Lee's decision to invade the North & attack Gettysburg.

Gore was Doomed in Florida, and he knew it about halfway through Election night. The TV wizards had already given the state & its 25 precious Electoral Votes to Gore, which gave him an early lead and caused wild rejoicing in Democratic headquarters all over the country.

My own immediate reaction was bafflement & surprise, and I think I almost believed it. ... But not really. The more I brooded on it, the more I was troubled by waves of Queasiness & shudders of Gnawing Doubt. I felt nervous & vaguely confused, as if I had just heard a dog speak perfect English for 30 or 40 seconds. That will get your attention, for sure. ... Some people get permanently de-stabilized by it: Nothing they see with their own eyes will ever look quite the same to them again. As in "I know that the object I'm looking at is an Egg -- but I also know that if it talks to me like a person, it is not an Egg."

There was one exact moment, in fact, when I knew for sure that Al Gore would Never be President of the United States, no matter what the experts were saying -- and that was when the whole Bush family suddenly appeared on TV and openly scoffed at the idea of Gore winning Florida. It was Nonsense, said the Candidate, Utter nonsense. ... Anybody who believed Bush had lost Florida was a Fool. The Media, all of them, were Liars & Dunces or treacherous whores trying to sabotage his victory.

I knew better. Of course Bush would win Florida. Losing was out of the question. Here was the whole bloody Family laughing & hooting & sneering at the dumbness of the whole world on National TV.

They were strong words and people said he was Bluffing. But I knew better. Of course Bush would win Florida. Losing was out of the question. Here was the whole bloody Family laughing & hooting & sneering at the dumbness of the whole world on National TV.

The old man was the real tip-off. The leer on his face was almost frightening. It was like looking into the eyes of a tall hyena with a living sheep in its mouth. The sheep's fate was sealed, and so was Al Gore's. ... Everything since then has been political flotsam & Gibberish.

The whole Presidential election, in fact, was rigged and fixed from the start. It was a gigantic Media Event, scripted & staged for TV. It happens every four years, at an ever-increasing cost & 90 percent of the money always goes for TV commercials.

Of course, nobody would give a damn except politics is beginning to smell like professional football, Dank & Nasty. And that's a problem that could haunt America a lot longer than four years, folks.

I am watching more NFL football this year, but enjoying it less and less. There is something wrong with the game, something vital is missing, but I can't quite say what it is. No weekend goes by without at least one wild & exciting game, plus one or two shocking upsets -- but somehow they all seem vaguely meaningless, like watered down wine or weak whiskey.

I thought I had solved all my problems when I found a way to watch every game, every Sunday, all at once or separately. I had everything, right at my fingertips. I missed nothing. My friends called me "toggle-boy," because of my expertise with the channel switcher. They dropped by every Sunday to drink & mooch & gamble. It was like an impossible dream come true. Fred Exley would have loved it.

But still there was something wrong. Even reading the Sports section began to give me a Queasy feeling. I came to secretly dread the coming of Sunday, although I never admitted that to anybody. It was too weird.

Only after long brooding & extended medical analysis did I discover the obvious answer. It is the dangerous thinning of the NFL talent pool, a problem not totally unknown to the world of presidential politics. There are too many teams and not enough quality players. The League is destroying quarterbacks faster than the colleges can churn them out. Every pro team must have two quarterbacks, because one of them is certain to get crippled or mashed by some steroid-crazed monster who weighs 388 pounds and runs faster than Deion Sanders and is desperate to hurt people. He will lose his job if he doesn't, and his obvious target is the Quarterback.

Isn't there one patriotic football coach out there brave enough to point him in the direction of Dubya? That might be enough to restore my faith in luck, if not pro football.

There may be Parity in the NFL these days, but it is the same kind of parity that you find at bush-league Racetracks and Arena Football League games. The next MVP of the Super Bowl is just as likely to have been a full-time grocery store bagger last year as a Heisman Trophy winner. The teams change names & locations every year. Even winning coaches go crazy with angst or get fired on the whim of a new owner. Players come & go like substitute teachers or half-bright fashion models. They took to beating their wives in public & and getting arrested for Murder. But the games go on like clockwork and the money keeps pouring in. ... Most stadiums are sold out every Sunday. But only rich people can afford to attend the games in person. It's not much different from getting involved in National Politics.

posted 12/12/06 in the space of a discarded draft. Realized a great article was no longer available online, unless you paid for it.

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Old Favorites
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