Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Did you know that air conditioners are only supposed to lower the temperature of a house by about 20 degrees? If you push the thermostat lower, your AC unit will not shut off. It will just keep running. So, if it's 100 degrees outside, your AC's effective cooling range is around 80 degrees. That's what I heard.
Sunday, September 25, 2005
We stand to gain from changing the status quo in some areas. We also stand to gain by the benefits of massive reconstruction. And we stand to gain from the release of cash into the production of assets. You will see why, precisely, we should spend billions of dollars to rebuild our battered cities. This article will rely on some of the basic economic lessons that you receive from your first of second year of college or even high school economics.
Let us begin with the discussion of how the hurricanes will affect the status quo. First, let me explain which status quo. Louisiana is known for being different from the rest of the United States in several aspects. We will focus on how things get done there. It has become public knowledge that corruption is an accepted practice in Louisiana. If you want to do business, you have to accept that you will need cash to pay your way. Graft is common. You have those in power, who pretty much control everything and get richer. Then you have everybody else who is trying to get by or lives off government assistance. Of course, for those who live off government assistance, it is beneficial to receive more government assistance. This is how the politicians are able to get elected. Promise more benefits and services than your opponent and your constituents will re-elect you. In a state where a majority of the population is poor, that's a great status quo. A politician does not have to do anything to help people get out of poverty. All he or she has to do is keep bringing on the freebies. After all, if you actually help people out of poverty, then increased government assistance won't sway them to vote for you.
The hurricane and flooding that has affected the poor, as is reiterated so much and often by the press, is a good thing for the poor, long-term. Those who have moved out to other cities have been forced to do something that they would not have done otherwise. You will see that many of them will move into housing at their new locations and finding opportunities that did not exist where they were before the storms. They will see the different attitude towards success that permeates the rest of the country. At best, the relocated poor will be infected with the idea that their new environments offer them opportunity; and they will take advantage of the opportunity. We have already read many stories in which evacuees have stated that they don't want to return to New Orleans. They like the new cities where they are. At worst, they will be forced to remain in their new homes with government assistance just as they were back home, being unable to afford moving back to their original home or having nothing to which to return.
So, who will go back? At first, you will see that people who have a stake in rebuilding, business owners and home owners, will go back. The poor have nothing for which to return. Going back would mean having to rebuild. If they don't own anything, there is nothing to rebuild. If they at least owned a home, they wouldn't have the money to rebuild anyway. The poor who are set on rebuilding will have the motivation to work hard to save money to rebuild their homes back in Louisiana. So, in the beginning, we'll see the influx of people who run the clubs, factories, hotels, and other businesses. They will have to rebuild in order to continue their operations. I think, at first, hospitality businesses will open up. This won't happen to serve tourists, rather to house and feed the people who are going to carry out the rebuilding. So, you'll see property owners with the means to rebuild and people with the skills to do the rebuilding. So, in elections, you will see a change of leadership. Politicians won't be able to pander to the poor like they did in the past because the poor won't be around in the same numbers. The poor are out of state making lives for themselves where there are better opportunities. With the influx of professionals, you will see a change in the quality of public officials. To put it simply, the status quo will be changed.
There are many benefits to rebuilding the areas affected by the hurricanes. History shows that mass-scale reconstruction is tough on a country at first, but ultimately results in an advantage. There are two examples that come to mind. The first is post World War II Europe. The second is post World War II Japan. Both suffered great damage to their infrastructure after the war and were forced to rebuild. Europe was able to maintain some of its old factories and other means of production. After all, Germany wanted to take over the countries and add them to the empire, not render the countries useless. Japan was just beginning to enter into industry. Europe had a mix of old and new factories while Japan built all new factories. In later years, you can see the competitive advantage that Japan had with new factories. They were able to build better products at a lower cost than American and European factories. We clung to our old and inefficient plants and got behind in the race. You'll see that production facilities in New Orleans and other areas that need to be rebuilt will get the same competitive advantage that Japan got when they were forced to start from scratch. Keep in mind that Japan and Europe recovered from their problems thanks largely to American investment.
Another benefit of massive reconstruction is the increased value of properties that results from newer, modern buildings. When you buy an old building, particularly for business, it's expensive to remodel and bring it up to code. When you buy an old home, the same thing factors in if you plan to do some remodeling. The building will sell for less in order to discount the cost of the added work. If you have a brand new building that was built according to the latest building code and uses more modern materials, it will more likely appreciate in value than the perpetual fixer-upper of 100 years ago. An added advantage for business is that the newer building can be depreciated versus the old building that does not have any more depreciation left. One disadvantage is that the increased property values will drive out the poorer residents or force them to sell their flooded homes or empty lots at discounted prices.
Finally, the hurricanes have resulted in the release of money that would have been unproductive. We are all aware of the Federal Government's penchant for spending money unwisely. We also know that insurance companies hoarde money to use for claims. Obviously, insurance companies take in more money than they pay out. In any case, they do need to keep a large reserve of money. Both of these are sources of money for reconstruction. In the case of the government, the money would have gone towards salaries and few productive assets. Keep in mind, the government doesn't produce anything, it just pays others to do or not do things. In the case of insurance companies, they take your money and invest it; so, they don't make or do anything with it either. By releasing the money for reconstruction, the government is increasing tax revenue. Insurance companies don't fare as well. They are betting that you will pay them more money than they will pay you. In this case, they lost. Gambling is like that.
You may be wondering how the government would increase tax revenue by rebuilding a city. Generally, the government pays salaries to its employees and pays out benefits to people. Salaries are taxed once. Then, those people go and buy groceries, pay mortgages, and spend money here and there on non-durable goods and services. In the case of government programs or asssistance, non-profit organizations don't pay tax. Poor people don't pay tax. That immediately cuts a source of revenue for government. Poor people generally spend a major part of their money on basic needs like food and shelter, which aren't taxed. So, by shifting money away from these freebies towards rebuilding, the government will see a better return. Here is how.
You, the homeowner receive money from FEMA to rebuild. You hire an architect or buy plans for a home, the designer is taxed. You hire a contractor to build your home, he is taxed. The contractor pays his crew, and they are taxed. The contractor buys building materials, which are taxed. The aggregate demand for building materials for the whole reconstruction effort will increase sales and profits of the supply companies, which will pay taxes in addition to their employees income taxes. Think about it. You will have clean up crews, demolishing crews, architects, foundation layers, contractors, framers, finishers, roofers, painters, carpet layers, tile setters, plumbers, electricians, landscapers, pavers, inspectors, and so many other professionals involved in the reconstruction, all paying taxes. The suppliers of the contruction materials for the massive effort will also benefit the communities where they are based. Lumberjacks, manufacturers, truck drivers, and all other people involved in getting raw materials for construction from their sources to the Gulf coast will benefit.
Multiply this by the thousands and you will see that it is inevitable that New Orleans and other areas affected by the hurricanes will not be the same once they are rebuilt. The whole region will be newer and much of the population will be new. Being poor in the region will not be same as it was before the storm. The face of the hurrican stricken areas, particularly New Orleans, has changed forever.
It is sad that so much heartache and loss of life has happened as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The economic impact is severe. It will take years to recover. On the other hand, the destruction has forced many things to happen that may not have otherwise have happened. Mostly good things. It has forced people to move, who may have otherwise not moved from a place that was not good for them. It has spurred on new construction of an aged infrastructure, and has forced an inflow of capital that will change the composition of the electorate in the region around New Orleans. In the years to come, we will see that the experience will make us stronger.
Menudo is a spicy soup. The spiciness varies from family to family. The menudo contains beef tripe, hominy, and menudo mix. Menudo mix is simply a blend of spices that gives the menudo its spicy flavor. In appearance, menudo is a reddish orange. Some families add pig feet to the menudo to add something on which to gnaw. When you think about it, menudo sounds disgusting. Beef guts and pig feet are hardly commonly eaten parts of the animals. Comedian Paul Rodriguez jokes that menudo contains parts of the pig the pig doesn't want back. In fact, a buddy of mine who went to Minnesota on an internship tells me that slaughterhouses up there throw away the beef tripes and heads. People up there don't eat these. Well, we do.
You eat menudo with chopped onion, chopped peppers, rolled up tortillas, and you add lemon juice to your taste. You can also garnish with cilantro. So, when you order menudo at a local restaurant or are served at somebody's home, you will see a bowl with onions and peppers, a stack of tortillas, and cilantro and lemon halves. You add these to taste. If there are pig feet in the menudo, eat these last. Pig feet are slippery and will ultimately slip out of your grasp and splash you if your bowl is not empty. Menudo stains. If you must eat the pig feet first, get another dish to catch whatever falls. The hominy is generally soft and easy to chew. The tripe varies in toughness. Sometimes the tripe is so soft that it dissolves easily; other times it is tough to chew and leaves stringy pieces between your teeth. It's all good. I generally eat all of it, except the pieces with fat. I cut off the fat with my spoon and eat the meat. By the way, menudo is like most Mexican foods, high in fat and cholesterol. That's another reason you should only eat it once a week.
It is common and customary to eat menudo on Sundays after church, although not exlusively. Menudo can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner any day of the week. Due to the amount of time it takes to cook menudo, it is not eaten so often except in restaurants where it may be served every day. Generally, mom will set it to cook overnight. It takes anywhere from 3 to 6 hours to soften the meat. Menudo is also served the day after a big wedding or other celebration because of its magic in helping with hangovers. Speaking from experience, it somehow manages to stay down. You'll see us Mexicans eating menudo with pounding headache, upset stomach, and insatiable thirst. It helps somehow.
There is a variation of menudo known as pozole. Pozole is also a spicy soup, but it does not have tripe. There is more hominy in pozole; and, if there is meat, it's shredded pork or beef. You also eat pozole with onion, peppers, lemon, and tortillas. Some people garnish with lettuce or cabbage. Cilantro is also acceptable as garnish. Pozole is not as popular in the Rio Grande Valley as menudo.
Saturday, September 24, 2005
Thursday, September 22, 2005
The latest runs of two key computer models, the GFS and GFDL, now indicate that
the trough of low pressure that was expected to pick up Rita and pull her
rapidly northward through Texas will not be strong enough to do so. Instead,
these models forecast that Rita will make landfall near Galveston, penetrate
inland between 50 and 200 miles, then slowly drift southwestward for nearly two
days, as a high pressure ridge will build in to her north. Finally, a second
trough is forecast to lift Rita out of Texas on Tuesday. If this scenario
develops, not only will the coast receive catastrophic damage from the storm
surge, but interior Texas, including the Dallas/Fort Worth area, might see a
deluge of 15 - 30 inches of rain. A huge portion of Texas would be a disaster
area. We'll have to wait for the next set of model runs due out by tomorrow
morning to know better.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
I got gas early while the price is still low. Last hurricane, we went up almost 50 cents overnight. I don't fear a shortage, I fear the price increase. Tonight, there were lines at gas stations in Mission, Edinburg, and McAllen. There were probably lines elsewhere in the Rio Grande Valley too.
Sometimes, in this rarified air of popularity contests, you will see cliques form and do some of the most vicious things to those out of favor. In today's paper, we are seeing the reinstatement of Irma Elizondo as Place 6 Commissioner in Pharr, Tx. The story is generally that Pharr Mayor Leo "Polo" Palacios did not like Irma Elizondo, so he and former city attorney Michael Pruneda orchestrated her removal. They essentially coached a local contractor to sue the city to have Elizondo removed because of a conflict of interest between her business, a bakery, and the city. Most politicians, in my observation, are successful business people of some sort who can make a crapload of money to support the popularity contest. As long as an elected official does not vote on issues where the conflict of interest is, there should be no problem. Going back to the story, the person bringing the lawsuit has since confessed to being used by the Mayor and his buddies. Now that it is out in the open, commissioners who sided with the Mayor in ousting Elizondo are changing their opinion.
Here is the full story: http://www.themonitor.com/SiteProcessor.cfm?Template=/GlobalTemplates/Details.cfm&StoryID=9261&Section=Local
I have no problem with politicians being in business. I don't think that a 9 to 5er can afford to be a politician. You need a lot of money, free time, and connections to get elected. Most working stiffs don't have any of those. On top of that is the fear of public speaking and the possible humiliation of defeat. Politicians are a special breed that manage to be the popular kids and have talents.
What is really disturbing is seeing officials abuse theirpopularity and positions to carry out personal agendas. That is not right. Hopefully, next election will see Palacios ousted. I'm not from Pharr. Simply, the Rio Grande Valley does not need that type of person in office.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Monday, September 19, 2005
Reminder to all 1971 McHi Seniors in this area and beyond. We are
meetingSaturday, Sept. 17, 1 PM, to discuss plans for our 35th reunion.
Anyone have a particular time of year you want to meet?Nuevo Leon's
Restaurant1501 E. 6th Street (easier if you go east on 7th street, and then turn
right to get to 6th street. Call me if you get lost. Cell #
512-466-0207.I hope to see all of you there!!!Carmen
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Friday, September 16, 2005
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
In the Rio Grande Valley, you will see restaurants such as El Zarape, Taqueria La Mexicana, El Pato, and, yes, even Taco Bell. There is also the Laredo Taco Company, which is in most of the local Circle K convenience stores, in addition El Tigre and Aziz convenience stores. All of these places sell tacos. Even Texas' greatest restaurant, Whataburger, sells breakfast tacos. You would think, why are there so many places to get tacos if you are a bunch of Mexicans in the Rio Grande Valley and can make your own?
The problem is that there are many variations in tacos. If you are not from this area, you may think that tacos are spicy ground meat in a tortilla shell with salad and cheese sprinkled on top. Tacos are much more than that. Tacos, my friend, are a concept. A taco is, essentially, food wrapped in a tortilla. You can choose between corn or flour tortillas for your tacos. The filling can be anything. I repeat ANYTHING.
In general, breakfast tacos have scrambled eggs in them. Of course, all general statements are incorrect, except for this one. The breakfast tacos that have egg can have mixtures of egg, beans, cheese, chorizo, potatos, chile, bacon, sausage, machacado, and other breafast goods. Two breakfast tacos that fall outside of this realm are barbacoa (one of the greasiest and delicious meets around) and chicharron (pork rinds) with chile. There is no hard rule that states that breakfast tacos must be made with these things. Normally, if you have time to sit down for breakfast, these things would be on a plate and eaten with a fork or with a tortilla. If you are on the go, these breakfast items are transplanted from plate to tortilla to make a taco. Breakfast tacos are great because you can eat on the go. A well made taco only requires one hand to operate whilst you drive or ambulate around.
Lunch tacos are also not a set standard. For all intents, lunch tacos consist of anything you can slap on a tortilla. You will commonly see tacos made from fajita, chicken fajita, carne asada, picadillo, barbacoa, beans, rice, bistec (chopped steak), trompo, and so many other meat preparations. Generally, lunch tacos have a meat in them. Common toppings are grilled onions and bell peppers, avocado, salsa, and pico de gallo. Mmmm, delicious.
Dinner tacos are usually the textbook shell, meat, salad and cheese variety. You make those when you have time to fool around with frying the tortillas and stuff them. For most Mexicans, however, dinner tacos happen when you miss dinner. You simply heat up a couple tortillas and pile on the leftovers. You may also have tacos if you are invited to a cookout or barbecue. It is common to have guys stand around the fire chatting with a taco in one hand and a beer in the other.
Faux Pas-False Step-Falso Paso
You absolutely never, ever have or suggest a vegetarian taco. Not only is this as undefined as division by zero, it's downright insulting to Mexican sensibilities. That's saying a lot as Mexicans are not known for sensitivity. If you want a salad, ask for a salad. A taco without some protein base is not done. If your host invites you to share a taco, you will be well fed and you will enjoy it. The phrase, "ven, hechate un taco" is only said to liked guests. You can say, "perhaps another day" or "I'll just have one". Otherwise, you may never be invited back. Especially if you ask for a vegetarian taco. It's simply not done.
Tacos are a big part of life in the Rio Grande Valley where a majority of residents are of Mexican descent. Yes, we do love our tacos. They are fast, easy, portable, and have so many different combinations that you'll never be bored with the same thing. We love our families too. Spouses may leave and children will leave the home. Tacos are forever.
Gary Rodriguez? He worked for 107.9 for a while before going to KURV and then entering politics.
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Sunday, September 04, 2005
In any case, we should probably buy gasoline at non-Citgo locations. Just a thought. Every gallon you buy contributes to the corruption in Venezuela. I love Circle K, but I think I will buy another brand of gasoline.
County Decides To Keep Same Tax Rate Of 59 Cents
By BARBARA KING
Expect the Hidalgo County commissioners to receive congratulations at their meeting next week. They voted, 4 to 0, at the Tuesday, August 30, meeting, to keep the same tax rate of 59 cents per $100 valuation for 2005.
County Judge Ramon Garcia was absent (out of town) but he indicated recently he favors the action. In his absence, Precinct 1 Commissioner Sylvia Handy presided.
This year, if the tax rate exceeds the effective rate (56.80 cents), two public hearings are required. The court set them for September 13 and 20, both Tuesdays, at 9 a.m. in the administration building. This rate is estimated to generate $115,801,176 from the property tax levy at an estimated 92 percent collection rate. Other revenues add $14,924,560 and after $12,933,790 is deducted for debt service, the net total is $117,791,946.
Before the matter was brought before the court by Tax Assessor-Collector Armando Barrera Jr., two members of OWLS (Objective Watchers of the Legal System) spoke during the Open Forum part of the meeting. Most anyone could have figured their remarks would be about adoption of a tax rate for the county.
"If you are considering raising taxes, you have got to be kidding," Virginia Townsend said. "Remember we had a huge new appraisal and that should be enough. If it’s not enough, you need to go back to the drawing board. Everybody can’t have everything they want. I don’t think people will stand for it."
She added if the Appraisal District had not reappraised property values, it might be understandable.
Fern McClaugherty said she had been told that any non-profit group approaching the county court could count on getting some help from the court. "I’m here for the children of families who can’t pay their taxes now. Please don’t make them spend more money that they could spend on school clothes," she said.
Townsend also told the court that she had received several phone calls from concerned citizens wanting to know if the new Rio Grande Valley Health Services District in the process of getting established would have taxing power. Since it was a Public Forum item and no answer is required, she said people should call their own precinct commissioner.
For more click here.