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January 19th, 2013:

Saturday video break: No More I Love Yous

Song #35 on the Popdose Top 100 Covers list is “No More I Love Yous”, originally by The Lover Speaks and covered by Annie Lennox. Here’s the original:

I’m familiar with the song because we have the Annie Lennox CD that contains the featured cover version, but that’s the only version of the song I’d heard before now. It’s pretty standard 80s stuff, if you ask me. Here’s Annie Lennox:

I have no idea what’s up with those Mickey Mouse ears, but she’s Annie Lennox and I’m not, so what do I know. I prefer her voice to the other singer’s, and I agree with the Popdose writer that the backup vocals are better in this version, too. A clear win for the cover. What do you think?

Cornyn says relax, we won’t do it

Texas’ senior Senator reassures us that Republicans won’t destroy the global economy in order to gain political leverage.

Just kidding

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the Republican whip, said in Houston Thursday that Congress will not allow an impasse over raising the debt ceiling to result in the federal government defaulting on its spending obligations.

“We will raise the debt ceiling. We’re not going to default on our debt,” Cornyn told the Houston Chronicle editorial board.

[…]

Cornyn said that paying bills on a pro rata basis or delaying payment on some bills until the debt ceiling issue is resolved may be possible, “but my hope would be that we would not even go there.”

In an opinion piece in the Chronicle last week, Cornyn wrote that shutting down parts of government may be necessary if the White House and Congress cannot agree on a deal to slash spending.

“It may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal well being of our country, rather than plod along the path of Greece, Italy and Spain,” he wrote. “President Obama needs to take note of this reality and put forward a plan to avoid it immediately.”

The senator did not provide details, either in the article or in his interview with the editorial board, about what areas of the government might be shuttered or for how long. He frequently has said, however, that Republicans should use the debt ceiling and the forthcoming debate over the continuing resolution necessary to finance government as leverage to cut spending on entitlement programs.

[…]

Cornyn, asked whether his statement Thursday represented a change of position from the views expressed in the op-ed, said the article represented something of a negotiating ploy.

“You sometimes try to inject a little doubt in your negotiating partner about where you’re going to go, but I would tell you unequivocally that we’re not going to default,” he said.

And so after Cornyn’s retreat from his earlier threat, the Chron saw fit to give him a wet, sloppy kiss for acting all statesmanlike and stuff. I can only hope that the part of their conversation that led to his admission went along Blues Brothers lines:

“You lied to me.”

“It wasn’t a lie, it was just bullshit.”

I haven’t figured out how to work Carrie Fischer and James Brown into it, but it’s a start.

Alexan Heights on Yale

If you live in my neck of the woods you’re probably interested in the news (via Swamplot) of the new apartment complex being planned for the empty lot on Yale between 6th and 7th. The RUDH January newsletter has details.

Trammel Crow Residential is planning its first project in the Heights, at the corner of Yale and 6th Streets. At their request, Council Member Cohen invited RUDH to discuss our questions and possible concerns. We prepared a three-page document outlining concerns that ranged from potential traffic impacts, streetscape greening and sidewalk connectivity, safe signalized crossings for pedestrians and cyclists, proposed connections to existing bike trails and park spaces and a desire to ensure the appropriate architectural style to fit the fabric of our neighborhood. RUDH also coordinated with the landscape architectural firm that proposed designs to facilitate converting the new drainage detention pond into community park space (south of the hike and bike path and next to Rutland). At the moment, there are currently no plans in place to make the new drainage detention pond into useable green space.

The good news from the meeting is that Trammel Crow is interested in working with RUDH and community leaders to transform this drainage detention pond into a public green space amenity. The developer also communicated their interest in investing in the surrounding streetscapes and infrastructure in a manner that promotes mobility and creates safe connections for pedestrians and cyclists.

Trammel Crow Residential has committed to share their traffic and drainage studies with RUDH when they become available and stated they would perform mitigations as required by the City. We are hopeful this positive collaboration will lead to a sustainable development and mitigate any newly created problems.

The bit about turning the detention pond into usable green space is interesting and encouraging; see this Swamplot post for more on the pond, which has been under construction for awhile. I don’t know why it is that 6th Street doesn’t go through to Shepherd, but given that it doesn’t a well-landscaped community park is an excellent use of the space. I hope RUDH and the neighborhood folks can help make it happen.

The epic fail of utility deregulation

Surely no one is surprised by this.

The winners and losers in the nation’s wave of utility deregulation are clear.

The winners? Shareholders and executives. The losers? Customers and workers.

Over a decade of deregulation, the frequency and duration of outages have crept up, maintenance of aging infrastructure has been deferred, line workers have been laid off – and CEOs’ salaries have risen an average of 150 percent nationwide, a Hearst Newspapers investigation has found.

[…]

During a five-month investigation, Hearst Newspapers found four primary and interrelated factors – cited again and again in interviews, studies and other research – that drive investor-owned utilities’ problems with reliability:

» Aging infrastructure

» A shrinking workforce that has curtailed both maintenance and response to storms

» Persistent failure to trim and remove trees near power lines

» A culture change that has placed profits above reliability

Investor-owned utility CEOs’ pay packages are increasingly based on profit and stock performance, with very little or none of their compensation dependent on reliability for ratepayers.

Between 2000 and 2011, the 150 percent increase in CEO pay packages at investor-owned utilities brought the average to more than $6 million a year, according to a survey conducted for Hearst by Longnecker & Associates, a Houston compensation consulting firm.

From 1999 to 2002, utilities cut their manpower costs by shedding 13,000 electrical power-line installers and repairers, one-fifth of the total, according to data obtained by Hearst from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of utility linemen remains well below pre-2000 levels.

“We’ve gone from having dependability and reliability being the gold standard of the companies to profitability and money,” said Jim Hunter, director of the utility department at the Internation Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Washington D.C.

“There needs to be a national inquiry into the reliability and efficiency of our electric supply,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

The story has a national focus, but it most certainly includes Texas, where deregulation hasn’t lowered anyone’s utility bills. There doesn’t appear to be much political will to do anything about this, though, so I’m sure we’ll be reading the same story in another five or ten years. I don’t know what it will take to make this a real issue.