Thursday, December 29, 2005

LG&E -- Lousy Gougers and Estimators

We've all heard about the 43% increase in Louisville Gas & Electric's gas prices. Like my own natural gas, something smells about this story. I did the math on my own bill, the gas rates alone, and game up with a 56% increase over the rates on my bill last year.

THinking I misheard something, I went to the Courier Journal, where I came across this story:

State approves LG&E gas price revision
The Courier-Journal

Kentucky regulators Monday approved Louisville Gas & Electric Co.'s application to pare its December-January natural gas price increase.

The company says the new rate will save typical customers using 8,000 square feet of natural gas about $18 a month, compared with November gas price. The rate will be about 43 percent higher than last winter.

LG&E asked the Kentucky Public Service Commission for the adjustment last month after determining that wholesale prices from its suppliers wouldn't be as high this winter as the company had expected. Gas companies are normally allowed to pass on their supply costs to customers, but aren't permitted to make additional profit.

November's typical bill was up 64 percent from a year ago, reflecting natural gas price spikes brought on by higher demand, lower production and fall hurricane damage to production and transmission equipment on the Gulf Coast.

LG&E normally files its prices, based on wholesale natural gas costs from its providers, every three months. The company said it asked for an interim adjustment to reduce the sharp increase in heating bills customers are expected to face this winter.

I e-mailed the CJ's editor, Pam Platt, about the story, and got a response that the 43% was actually on the "typical bill". What the hell is a "typical bill"? How is it figured? Given the fact that there are now numerous stories about business owners and homeowners going into shock over their bill, even AFTER being prepared, I'm wondering if the news outlets weren't too willing to accept LG&E's comments at face value.

I fear that Louisville Gas & Electric, now that they're shifting to their foreign owned parent company, will wind up moving from a proud locally oriented concern to just another profit center for a larger company.

In the mean time, I gotta buy some long underwear.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Cheesecake Factory -- A pleasant combination of expensive and average

For years I've heard coworkers rave about visiting Cheesecake Factory in other cities, and so when I heard one was opening here, I was anxious to visit. I finally got my chance a few weeks ago. Color me unimpressed.

First.... the location. Located in perhaps the worst spot for parking in the entire Mall St. Matthews, Cheesecake Factory occupies the old Fashion Shop / OG Wilson spot. Because it is on the corner right near the Shelbyville Road entrance, EVERYONE wants to park there, guaranteeing it's tough to get near the restaurant at any time. Of course, if you want to, you can valet park next to the restaurant in some of the primo spaces that the valet parkers have commandeered for themselves.

Second.... the decor. A far cry from the basement museum decor of most restaurants with huge menus, Cheesecake Factory looks fancy enough, and the interior was obviously expensive, with custom designed ceilings, seating, and decorations. It's huge, nicely done, and makes the place look fancier than it truly is.

Third.... the menu. It's huge. Ranging from Pizza to Breakfast, the menu covers most everything you would want to eat. In a tacky nod to commerce, the menu features many ads for items and stores unrelated to the Cheesecake Factory. The prices are a bit outrageous. Note the $6.95 for a Grilled Cheese.

Fourth.... the service. The waitstaff was efficient, and worked everyone's tables, not just their own, which definately is a plus. Our waitress was a little too unattentive for lunchtime, when many people want to get in and get out. One thought..... why do they have people wear white? Having waited tables, white is the WORST color because everything shows and you wind up having to buy several outfits a year because you keep ruining everything.

Finally.... the food. There were six of us in our party, and everyone seemed to enjoy what they had. And while the food was certainly acceptable, the prices, in my mind, were not. You're paying for the experience, decor, and probably the rent. My Tomato, Basil, and Cheese pizza was good, but was nothing outstanding compared to other restaurants I've eaten at. My coworker's omelet was good, she said, but she also thought it was nothing special for the price you paid.

Of course, nobody goes to the Cheesecake Factory for just the food, you have to have a Cheesecake. In that respect, I'm still unimpressed. While the volume of cheesecake to choose from is huge, both selections I've had there, the Tiramisu, and White Chocolate Carmel Latte were good, filling, but nothing much better than specialty cheesecakes I've had for far cheaper in other places.

Of course, Louisville loves its high concept restaurants, so I predict that Cheesecake Factory will enjoy a long successful run, at least until the Mall rent goes sky high or the prices kill the people used to a cheap meal at O'Charley's.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Crooked Beak Can't Serve -- Supreme Court

The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Laura Dern's uglier sister, Dana Seum Stephenson, can't serve in the 37th district election for state Senate, and neither can Democrat Virginia Woodward. In the meantime, the guy with the small heart and even smaller guyparts, homophobic Senate President David Williams sat in the wings and fumed because for once a Republican wasn't allowed to step all over the constitution and do whatever the hell he pleased.

I personally think the election should work like the Ms. America pageant. If the winner is disqualified, the runner up should take her place. The idea that because Dana Seum Stephenson chose to try and work the system in Indiana and try to claim residency in Louisville, the city/state should have to hold yet another election is just beyond me. At the very least, she should be held liable for the entire cost of both elections, since the first was a waste and the second was the result of her blatant disregard for rules. I'm just glad that daddy's name didn't get her the result she wanted.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Thou Shall Not Beat a Dead Horse

Once again we have Kentucky Legislators asking for bills to allow the 10 Commandments to be displayed. Can we stop the madness? Do we really need to tie up public money fighting a losing battle over something anyone can see if they walk 20 feet to their bookshelf or use a search engine?

But hey, it beats actually doing work for the good of the public.

Two lawmakers -- one Democrat and one Republican -- have filed bills aimed at returning Ten Commandments displays to public buildings, sparking a battle over which party will claim ownership of the issue for political purposes.

State Republican Party chairman Darrell Brock said the bills would show whether Kentucky Democrats can separate themselves from the national Democratic Party, which he perceives as too liberal for most Kentuckians.

"I believe this will be one of the first tests of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, who seems to be running the state House," he said.

But state Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Lundergan said he believes the Ten Commandments belong in public places and said the "golden rules" shouldn't be the subject of political partisanship.

Lundergan said the "days are over" when Democrats allow themselves to be painted as lacking in moral values.

"We will no longer allow the Republican Party to identify themselves as the only political party that is considered to be a party of people of faith," Lundergan said. "The Democrats are standing up and saying hey, this is an issue that we should probably be joining hands on."

He accused Republicans of using religion as a "wedge to win elections."

Brock said the issue would prompt voter interest, bringing citizens to the state House to lobby their legislators. But Brock denied Lundergan's charge that Republicans are using the issue as a way to mobilize voter support.

"In my view, the Ten Commandments transcends politics," Brock said.

The proposals
One of the bills, filed by Republican Rep. Stan Lee of Lexington, would authorize the posting of the Ten Commandments at the state Capitol in Frankfort, as part of a broader display that includes other historical markers.

The other bill, offered by Democratic Rep. Rick Nelson of Middlesboro, proposes a constitutional amendment to allow the Ten Commandments in any public building, but Nelson is rewriting it to add the provision about other historical markers.

The proposed bills follow this summer's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that courthouse displays of the Ten Commandments in Kentucky's Pulaski and McCreary counties were unconstitutional. But in a separate ruling, the court said an exhibit in Texas could remain because it included other historical markers and had been in place for about 40 years.

Analysts said such legislation could serve the same political function next year as the gay-marriage amendment did last year, defining the parties.

Kentucky House Democrats had initially resisted allowing a vote on the amendment, but eventually relented and then went on to lose seven seats in the 2004 elections. The gay-marriage amendment's presence on the ballot – in Kentucky and 10 other states – is widely credited with contributing to Democratic losses.

Joe Gershtenson, director of the Center for Kentucky History and Politics at Eastern Kentucky University, said for state Democrats, proposing a Ten Commandments bill would inoculate the party against Republican attacks over social issues.

"We know where public opinion is on this, and it is lopsided," said Gershtenson, a registered Democrat. "There's very strong political incentives for the Republicans to do it. For Democrats, there's some incentive to do that as well."

ACLU opposition
Democratic and Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate say they expect some form of Ten Commandments legislation to pass during the session that starts next month.

David Friedman, general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, who argued successfully to have the Kentucky counties' displays struck down this year, predicted such bills would also be struck down in court if they're passed.

The legislature already passed a similar bill to bring the Ten Commandments to the Capitol, which included a preamble with overtly religious motives, which was struck down in 2000, Friedman said. The courts would view the new bills as a "rather thinly veiled" attempt to achieve the same end, he said.

"We sued last time they did it, we won last time they did it," Friedman said. "It's just an incredible waste of taxpayer dollars for the citizens of the commonwealth to keep paying the ACLU to strike down these unconstitutional laws."

Democrats' dissension
The bills originated in the House, which the Democrats control by a margin of 56-44.

Some Democrats were dismayed by the quickness of Democratic leaders to support placing the Ten Commandments in public places.

Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, said lawmakers should focus on "bread and butter" Democratic issues such as caring for the needy and paying for public education.

"I think it's a big mistake to try to out-Republican the Republicans," Marzian said. "The voters of Kentucky are not stupid, and they can see through that for what it is, which is just using religion for political opportunism."

House Speaker Jody Richards said he expects to support a rewritten version of Nelson's bill that House Majority Caucus Chairman Bob Damron, D-Nicholasville, is helping to draft.

Richards denied that House Democrats' efforts are aimed at neutralizing a potentially divisive political issue in an election year.

"I think it's pretty crass to think of the political benefits of doing something like this," Richards, D-Bowling Green, said. "What we want to do is what the people want, and to do it in a constitutional way."

Senate President David Williams said he expects to see similar legislation filed in the state Senate. He predicted there would be "broad support" in the legislature.

"I think there are a lot of people that feel like that the Ten Commandments are primary documents, and they played an important part in the development of our country," Williams, R-Burkesville, said.

Lee's bill would require that the Ten Commandments be returned to the Capitol as part of a package of historical markers commemorating "important people, ideals, or events in the history of Kentucky."

The bill attempts to conform with the Supreme Court's ruling in the Texas case, Lee said.

Asked what other historical markers he would add to make a Kentucky Capitol display pass constitutional muster, Lee said, "whatever we can find."

"No sane thinking person, in my opinion, can dispute that the Ten Commandments have formed the basis for many of the laws that we all now rely upon," Lee said.

Nelson's bill proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow the Ten Commandments to be posted in any public building. The amendment would require voter approval.

But Nelson said that with Damron's help, he's rewriting the bill to make it a statute, which would not require ballot approval, and to incorporate other historical monuments, in keeping with the Texas ruling. He said that approach would be quickest, easiest and most likely to be found constitutional.

Damron said Democrats are just trying to provide legally acceptable guidelines for communities that want to voluntarily display the Biblical rules.

"It's not a requirement that anybody do it," Damron said. "It more or less is informative and instructional."

Elisabeth Beardsley can be reached at (502) 875-5136

Friday, December 16, 2005

Holiday Shopping Shout Outs

Some local people I'd like to give a shout out to this Christmas Season.

The jackass who "designed" the parking lot for Mall St. Matthews (which has always struck me as pretentious). The entire front perimeter going left is a mass of blind spots that require you to stick your front end out to see if its okay to get out, and the lack of speed bumps guarantees that you'll have to enter the main ring of traffic at highway speeds or die.

The guy who backed into my mother in law's new car at the Hurstbourne Wal-Mart and didn't leave a note. May you be rear-ended by a bullet train with a spear in the front, and not while you're in a car.

The idiots at city/county zoning who allowed an entrance every 27 inches along all major shopping roads in eastern Jefferson county, but only giving about five car lengths of turning lanes at major intersections, thus ensuring bottle necks.

The twenty five people in line for Wal-Mart's layaway. Still don't understand layaway, especially at Wal-Mart. Why not just start a savings account and save some money and THEN buy it. It's like buying something new at a pawn shop. So bless you for being patient to buy your own stuff this year.

The Salvation Army guy at the Hurstbourne Wal-Mart. Your Ho Ho Ho made me smile. It's cold, people are cranky, and HE's still happy. God bless YOU!

The idiots who put lights at major intersections WITHOUT turn arrows. There's nothing like that near fatal mating dance of two cars meeting at an intersection wondering if they can trust the lack of a turn signal to mean that they're both going straight. A special shout out to the guys who put the lights in at Hurstbourne and Stony Brook and the five second light that lets out traffic from Pier 1 and Cherry Springs at Hurstbourne.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Les Nessman Newsreader Award of the Day

Teresa Peyton of 84 WHAS didn't quite get a Chy Chy Rodwegweez, but it was close. Today she referred to John McCain as John Mc Cann (as in Thom McCann). How is it that these people so readily screw up names that have been in the news for years?

Build it and they will come.... Hopefully

One of my daily rituals with my daughter is to watch an episode of the Simpsons in reruns. One recent rerun involved the building of a Springfield Arts center with architecture by Frank Gehry. The center is built and quickly closes after everyone realizes they hate classical music, and the city of Springfield is thrown into debt. Why did this remind me of the plan to build a downtown arena in Louisville?

Once again, I have to think that somebody's palms are being greased. The proposed location and the fairgrounds location both, to be polite, suck in terms of economic development. If you're going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars, you need to pick a site that is near other economic development and entertainment (like say.... the Water Company site), and put it there. As for Fletcher's assertion that the LG&E plant is an eyesore, I'd say it's a thing of beauty next to many of the dilapidated buildings that line Main Street.

Fletcher says Senate backs plan for arena
Jefferson House caucus still needs to be won over

By Joseph Gerth
The Courier-Journal

Gov. Ernie Fletcher said yesterday that he has been assured that he has the votes in the state Senate to spend $75 million on a new downtown arena in Louisville -- and he believes the House will follow suit.

Fletcher, in town for Humana's announcement that it has leased three floors of Waterfront Plaza to house new employees, said the arena is among his top priorities.

"I'm going to do everything I can," Fletcher said. "I spoke to (Senate President) David Williams, who said in the Senate the support is there.

"You have support from the governor's office -- it's going to be firm and strong. We've got support from the Senate, so I give it pretty good odds for passing."

A Williams spokeswoman didn't return a call yesterday.

The biggest hurdle appears to be in the House, where Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, D-Okolona, has questioned Fletcher's financing plan and has said he favors locating an arena at the fairgrounds.

Rep. Tom Burch, D-Buechel, said that he doesn't know whether he'll support the proposed location but that he, like Clark, favors a fairgrounds site. He said Fletcher needs to get to work winning over the Jefferson County legislative delegation if he wants to build the arena.

"If the Jefferson County delegation is not united for it, it will not go," Burch said. "The votes are not there unless we're for it."

Last week, the Louisville Metro Council sent a letter signed by 25 members asking legislators to support the downtown site.

Local legislators have been slow to respond.

"I think we probably have some work to bring the local Louisville-Jefferson County caucus together," Fletcher said. Later, he said he "couldn't imagine" Jefferson County legislators not supporting the arena.

Rep. Scott Brinkman, R-Louisville, said that he supports the downtown arena and that several other Republican members of the Jefferson County delegation have told him they support it.

Brinkman said the key to getting broad support from House Democrats may be persuading Clark to support the plan.

"I know Larry has said publicly he has some concerns," Brinkman said. "Larry's a member of leadership, Larry's very powerful … and I know members of the majority caucus have deferred to him on matters unique to Jefferson County."

Rep. Denver Butler, D-Louisville, said he would oppose the arena if the vote were today -- largely because he doesn't trust Fletcher's numbers. "It's kind of like a shirt that doesn't fit," he said.

He agreed that Clark could influence whether House members support the arena. "Larry has a strong input on it," Butler said, noting that Clark served on a committee that Fletcher appointed to make recommendations on the arena.

Clark didn't return a call yesterday.

Fletcher said he hopes a revised financing plan due soon will show the arena will generate more than enough tax revenue to pay for the state's share.

Louisville Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson has pledged $100 million that would come from increased tax revenue spurred by the arena, as well as additional parking fees.

Yesterday Abramson and Fletcher walked around the proposed arena site on Main Street between Second and Third streets. Fletcher said it was the first time he has taken a close look at the location.

"It's really a pretty good arrangement," Fletcher said as Abramson explained how the complex would be designed.

When Fletcher looked at the Louisville Gas and Electric Co. power station that will have to be moved, he said that the station "needs to be out of downtown anyway."

The station needs upgrades and is an eyesore that harms economic development, the governor said.

Joseph Gerth can be reached at (502) 582-4702.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

How to attract people to your blog.....

I was looking at search statistics for this blog and saw that the vast majority of hits revolve around Carrie Weil and Kevin Harned. It seems nothing interests people more than a little local gossip. Now the mystery, judging from my search terms again, is "Where is Carrie Weil." I asked my wife the same thing the other day. I wonder if she's looking for a way out of WAVE.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Snow Snow Snow

Well, the brine is down in Louisville and once again city officials are overconfident about their ability to handle snow.


The brine will wash off with rain, meaning thousands of dollars were wasted. Salt trucks and plows will start an hour or more too late. Rush hour will be a mess. Thousands of Louisville residents will be stuck in traffic or worse. Everyone will ask what the hell the city is doing.

Hey.... Nice interactive map though!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Note to the CJ -- It's Time for Tom Dorsey to retire

Being a TV junkie, I confess to reading Tom Dorsey's column in the CJ. It used to be for information, now it's for a wicked form of fun in which I try to determine which shows Tom actually watched and which ones he read the press release for.

What irritates me the most is that Tom is not truly a critic, or even a reporter. His name gets a nice picture and plenty of space, but only on a rare occasion does he write something that can truly be considered criticism. And many times, he misses the mark completely.

Consider his column on Barbara Walters 10 Most Fascinating People. My comments are in bold.

Walters' list of 10 most fascinating people includes some duds

Besides Christmas shows, bowl games and basketball tournaments, the end of the year always means a flurry of TV specials reviewing the people and events that made news.

Barbara Walters, who is semi-retired from ABC, has been doing her "10 Most Fascinating People" of the past year since Bill Clinton's first year in the White House. Julia Roberts and Tim Allen were hot that year.

Every year Walters leaks the names of some of the celebrities to get people to tune in and leaves out the rest of the bunch to tease the audience into tuning in to see who they are. That means the folks used as bait probably aren't going to be crowned Most Fascinating. That's a good thing, because Tom Cruise and Teri Hatcher are two of those whose names have been released ahead of tonight's show at 10 on ABC. So here we have a column based on the fact he's not seen the show, but read the press release.

Why Cruise? Not for "War of the Worlds," which was less than a box-office blockbuster. WOTW made $234 million domestically to date in a down box office year, and is, according to Box Office Mojo, the number 2 movie this year and 43 of all time. I guess Tom was looking for #42. Additionally, it's Tom's biggest grossing movie. So it must be for hooking up with Katie Holmes, who is young enough to be his daughter. But, as my wife and Oprah Winfrey keep reminding me, he still looks pretty good to them. I think that means better than I do. Interesting to me that he fails to mention the second most compelling reason that Tom Cruise is fascinating (read: A train wreck), his devotion to Scientology and his nutty interview with Matt Lauer and Extra.
The showbiz couple seem happy when he stands on tippy-toes to kiss her. Now that I've got that cheap shot in, I'll just say that when the lists of who's in and who's out are made for 2006, I think Cruise will wind up being out unless Holmes saves him by delivering a lot of cute baby pictures. But come on, Cruise is one of the 10 most fascinating of the year? I don't think so. His story is certainly more interesting than alternatives Tom mentions below.

Hatcher is last year's news too. She was on everybody's magazine cover and interview show last season for being one of those "Desperate Housewives."

"Housewives" is already slipping in the ratings while "Grey's Anatomy" is on the rise at ABC. Ellen Pompeo, the cutie doctor in training on that series, is the hot star of the moment. She is? Either her or Hugh Laurie, as the anti-physician hero on Fox's "House."

There are some TV guys Walters is overlooking, too, for their comebacks. Topping the list would be Mark Harmon on "NCIS," followed by David Caruso on "CSI: Miami," Mandy Patinkin on "Criminal Minds" and William Petersen of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation." They might have made the list if they had married women young enough to be their daughters or if their shows were on Walters' network. The comment about ABC is probably deserved, but three of those shows predate Desperate Housewives by several years and with the exception of David Caruso, I wouldn't say any of these people really made a "comeback".

Walters herself has made some top 10 lists. Check out, one of those Internet sites that prove there's room for anything on the World Wide Web. Interestingly, it appears that she's NOT on the top 10 list here.

She was deemed irritating for posing softball questions. Why? Just because she asked some celebrity what kind of a tree they'd like to be? If Tom had done some research, he'd have found that the celebrity was Katherine Hepburn and the question was asked of Kate in response to HER saying she'd like to be a tree. The Web site also faults her for tap dancing as a kid under the alias Babs Elliot and for insisting she be photographed only on the right side of her face-lift. Oh, yeah, she also pronounces "R" like "W." And you thought I was hard on Cruise? Yeah, you were terrible.

I e-mailed my criticisms to Tom and the paper and got this response.

Thanks for your input...I was referring to the critical reaction and reviews of "War of the Worlds" ...I did do an Internet search on Walters and the tree comment. The sites I saw said Walters initiated the tree exchange,. What's a crutrnacker?

I can't remember a time when I've heard blockbuster used to qualify critical response, but if that's what he meant, so be it. As for the tree exchange, I will admit it is tough to find the full story of the tree, and most sites portray it as though she asked the question without prompting. But, I was able to find the story I read easily and quickly in the Wikipedia. And reading the story, I remembered Barbara showing the full clip on a special she had, which made it clear that Katherine Hepburn caused her to ask the tree question as a follow up.