Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Bittersweet Chocolate (pt. 1)

Got back from New Orleans Sunday evening around 7:30 pm. Drove back most all the way in rain and it seemed most appropriate for the trip. Can't explain how good it was to be back in the City. Saw friend Phil. He's produced a new CD of songs written while he stayed on after Katrina. It's called Hurricane Romance and I really enjoy a few of the more poignant tunes on it. While there we spent two afternoons driving around looking at the conditions existant 4 1/2 months after The Flood.

Reflections from the visit:

The French Quarter is as clean as I've ever seen it.
The City; however, is a dirty as it has ever looked.

I can not imagine the magnitude of cleanup and reconstruction left to accomplish.

The spirit of the City still exists and so it will remain.

Mayor Nagin's career dissipation light has exceeded overtime and is running at warp speed.

Lakeside will rebuild and it will be a very long process.
The Lower 9th Ward won't, simply because it can't. The devastation in the Lower 9th is beyond description.

Daughter had been to a panel discussion the evening we arrived and came away with a pretty positive attitude. There is so much to do, to consider, and so many opportunities to make New Orleans a better City; that it will require leadership with tremendous vision, integrity and ability to do the job properly. All classes and social strata will need to be willing to compromise in order to get the job done right. But, New Orleans finds itself in the position of being able to finally rid itself of a great portion of its gang element, its utterly inadequate public education system, its corrupt Police Dep't., and all other facets of corruption that exist within the political power structure. Also some of its worst poverty. There is concern that illegal Guatemalans and Hispanics flooding into the City for "minimum wage" jobs will irreversibly alter the existant culture. I hope that it will only enrich it. These people are taking the jobs that no one else will and doing work that has to be accomplished to move forward.

For the most part the "Tourist" portions of the City are fine and as soon as lower wage employees (those in the service industry) and adequate accomodations are readily available, New Orleans will once again be a tourist mecca.

Tried to attend Sunday Worship at The Cathedral but they had altered their Sunday Schedule from its norm. Didn't bother to check before going (a mistake that will not be made again) so spent a few moments in prayer and then slipped off to begin our return journey. While there picked up a copy of "reflections" of the parishoners and was struck by one person's thoughts in particular. Paraphrasing the author: "Around 2:00 AM one sleepless night; I realized for too long now, I've been beginning all conversations with 'The worst thing was...' and each time it was a different worst thing. It's now time to start beginning with: 'The best thing was...'."

Yeah, the spirit of the City does remain; as does my NOLA.

Ford Layoffs

Listening to the news this morning one of the topics was Ford Motor's layoff. They went on to explain Ford's program for "terminated employees."

In discussing the places these employees might look for new work, they listed Healthcare (due to the aging of 'Boomers'), Construction (Katrina and Rita aftermath) and Foreign Car Assembly in the U.S. as prime segments for pursuing reemployment. They indicated that 40% of the cars currently sold in the U.S. are foreign. However, a drawback to working at these foreign assembly plants was that the laid off employee could take as much as a 20% pay cut. Foreign manufacturers U. S. assembly wages apparently aren't as high as those of American producers.

A thought then occurred. Is it possible that this disparity in wages, presumed to be at least in some part due to Union collective bargaining practices, could be what caused Ford to need to lay off these workers?

Economics say that most spending decisions are based on cost and perceived value. American vehicles are generally no longer considered to be as good a bargain as imports. Import quality and accessory packages now equal or exceed those of domestic brands, frequently at more attractive pricing. Ergo, what's the reason to "Buy American?" Is the Auto Workers Union (which has aggressivly pursued securing benefits for their members) the reason Ford felt the need to make cuts to remain in business and be competitive? If so, then the Union Stewards appointed and paid to represent the workers are in actuality responsible for costing them their jobs. I don't believe that these foreign plants have the same Union issues that the American ones do. Otherwise, why wouldn't foreign plants be at the same wage scale?

Where I'm going with this thought is that one should always be careful: "Not to kill the goose that lays the golden egg."

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Chocolate City

Heading to "The Big Easy" tomorrow. Staying at the Pontchartrain so will get to visit my friend Phil and hopefully see some of the regulars at the Bayou Bar. It will be the first time to overnight there since Katrina and are hoping all goes well. Going to take our pups with us. The Hotel allows pets (I didn't know that 'till I asked. Got to wonder if in part it's not because of the upheaval from the storm). This trip will be an experience. The pups are well trained and quiet but neither are small dogs (a Lab and a Rhodesian Ridgeback) and I guess I'll spend quite a bit of time "babysitting" them.

Mayor Nagin has caught bo coups flack over his Chocolate City reference and accusing God of attacking New Orleans. Listening to the radio this AM, someone jokingly asked if you've ever been in NOLA in the Summer saying, "It's not the Chocolate City but more like Chocolate Fondue."

Chris Rose is a columnist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune and wrote a piece about Nagin's speech. It's one of the best works of satire that I've seen in quite some time. Catch it at http://www.nola.com/living/t-p/index.ssf?/base/living-5/1137567673272460.xml if you need a spot of humor in your day.

Seriously, I really want to see the City back to the "good way" it was before the storm. It won't be exactly the same, no place ever hit by a natural disaster of any magnitude ever is. Buildings, merchants and support services come and go, with or without disasters to move them along. However, it is my fervent prayer that the New Orleans I know and love retain all the character and people that make it what it was and is; and sooner rather than later, I get to see it whole again.

BTW: I'll enjoy a Muffaletta from Central Grocery and Coffee and Beignets from Cafe du Monde while I'm there. Quoting Justin Wilson, "Ah garrontee!"

Monday, January 16, 2006

Book of Daniel

Haven't watched The Book of Daniel on NBC and don't intend to. Not that I'm falling in line behind any particular group that tells me what I should think or how I should act/react to any given situation. I personally felt the premise was degrading to Clergy in general and without good moral direction. I've known a lot of Clergy in my day and understand they are human, just like everyone. But, I don't think in my 58 years here on Planet Earth I've ever met anyone (much less any Clergy) with the plethora of issues as portrayed in the series. And, at this juncture in my life I'm looking for true reality.

As such I choose not contribute to rating points on television programs which seem to me as without merit; or to box office receipts in the case of films that I feel fit into the same category. Therefore, I will not see Munich, Brokeback Mountain, The Terrorist, Transamerica nor anything else that supposedly pictures the beauty, passion or rightness of a point of view which I see as contrary to the principles which form the basis for our culture. Seems to me that's a rather insidious way to move us further toward the acceptance of "anything goes" behavior.

Have read and heard several revues from more enlightened individuals than myself regarding Daniel and every one is in agreement that though they wanted to like the series, "It was just bad!" Chalk one up for the good guys.