Friday, May 26, 2017

A half-century after Sgt. Pepper, Abbey Road on the River is underway in Jeffersonville.

From George Martin all the way to Mike Moore ...

Yesterday I was delighted to help out for a few hours at the Clark-Floyd Counties Convention Tourism Bureau's information booth, situated by the Pearl Street entrance to Abbey Road on the River.

The Big Four Bridge is open for transit, with the ramp descending to street level adjacent to the fest gate. If you decide to walk, Budweiser wants you to keep moving.

Presumably no listening, either.

The festival takes up the whole rectangular expanse of the park built around the bridge. There'll always be first-year jitters, but yesterday it appeared that the fest's infrastructure had been well-planned.

As always in autocentric America, parking stands to be the biggest issue, thought there are hotel shuttles to help with out-of-town guests. Use the damn walking bridge, Louisvillians.

Of course, me being me, the biggest question is how much the city of Jeffersonville is budgeting for five days of Beatlemania. Recalling the reluctance of City Hall in New Albany to openly discuss how much Harvest Homecoming actually costs, it's an answer I'm unlikely to receive.

But just imagine being able to house all of Harvest Homecoming inside the expanse the size of Big Four Station, engineered precisely for this purpose (and others). No merchant would be blocked, and the independent businesses nearby would be in a position to enjoy the best of both worlds.

A boy can dream. Thanks to the bureau for having me -- and by the way, it's fazed, not phased.

Abbey Road on the River starts off cloudy, but recovers, by Danielle Grady (All Things Bright and Jeffersonville)

JEFFERSONVILLE — The first day of Abbey Road on the River’s first year in Jeffersonville didn’t start out perfectly.

Rain the day before pushed back the gate opening for The Beatles festival from noon to 4 p.m.

By late-afternoon on Thursday, however, temperatures had risen into the 60s and a small crowd of Abbey Road-die hards had gathered at the foot of the Big Four Bridge awaiting the five-day festival’s beginning.

Suzie Atkins, a six-years-or-so veteran, was among the not-phased.

“There’s always bad weather the first day and things get pushed back,” she said.

Abbey Road on the River, which was previously held in Louisville for 12 years, moved across the river to downtown Jeffersonville for 2017 after the festival founder decided to look for a different spot.

Good points aplenty: "The big urban mistake: Building for tourism vs. livability."

Team Gahan and Develop New Albany should be locked into a room together.

That'd be enough in itself, but they shouldn't be allowed to come out.

Okay, at least not until each one of them has read this article and are compelled to comment publicly.

As we know, they're unlikely to read this or any other essay, so sound off, fellow dissidents. How is Dear Leader doing according to the criteria herein? I'm sure the upper echelons at Flaherty and Collins have a point of view.

Public housing residents likely do, too. Thanks for the link, MW.


... I’m painting with a bit of a broad brush, but essentially what so many cities are currently experiencing is the dilemma of whether to invest in large urban draws that will bring outside money in, or invest in a growing and changing downtown residential population that yearns for investments in keeping them there. To put it simply, do cities invest in big projects that create an entertaining space that grows tourism, or do they invest in the people that have already taken a risk by moving back into their long-dormant downtowns?


City leaders, this one’s for you. You can either cater to your new residents by going into the downtown apartment buildings and listening to real people, or you can hop on the big ticket project train en route to a revolving door downtown. You can either build for livability or build for fleeting, often overrated promises of tourism revenue. You can facilitate local small business and community development, or you can create a short-lived wow-factor by opening the floodgates to developers and business interests who take money out of our communities. You can empower and invest in your new downtown residents and let THEM be the ambassadors for our growing urban paradises, or you can ignore them and build casinos and other flashy complexes that cater to the outsider and likely line the pockets of someone beyond the boundaries of the community.

The choice, as always, is yours to make. Choose to invest in your residents and local business owners… the people that invested first… tourism, development and financial success will likely follow. Empower your people, honor the risk they took by taking one yourself, and like happy employees of a strong company, they will take care of everything else.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

ORBP: "Massive expense, big tolls, fewer cars than ever. Even if way down the road these bridges fill up, this project is a financial boondoggle of epic proportions."

From 2011.

I'll lead with Aaron Renn's answer to a question asked in the comments section.

The toll revenue from the system is being split 50/50 between Indiana and Kentucky. Previous analysis indicated that 80% of the tolls will be paid by Indiana residents, so that’s who is paying for the project, ultimately.

One Southern Indiana is delighted. Evidently not a single humanities major was consulted.

Conversely ...

Louisville Spent $2.4 Billion on New Bridges While Traffic Fell Sharply (Urbanophile)

The initial figures are in and the new Louisville bridges are on track to be as big a failure as predicted.

ON THE AVENUES: Welcome to wherever you are, and come to think of it, Ljubljana will do nicely.

ON THE AVENUES: Welcome to wherever you are, and come to think of it, Ljubljana will do nicely.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

May 15, 1987 … Trieste, Italy

I returned to the train station in early evening with a slight glow from cheap Italian table wine, and promptly suffered the first noticeable lancing of an otherwise sanguine seaside mood.

Rounding the litter-strewn corner to an isolated side platform, I saw the rusted, elemental Yugoslav train waiting for the ride to Ljubljana. There were only three passenger cars, and they had no frills left to give.

In 1985, my first brief glimpse of communism had come from the vantage point of a sleek Finnish tour bus. Now this unadorned vintage Balkan rolling stock hinted at what was to come during the next few weeks roaming southeastern red-starred Europe.

A port and border town, Trieste’s geographical resting place was much in dispute following World War II. Yugoslavia's Marshall Tito (Josip Broz, a Croat by birth) eventually acquiesced in his demands, and Trieste remained Italian, which it had been for only three decades after forcible detachment from the defunct Austro-Hungarian Empire at the close of the previous war.

Consequently, a sizable population of ethnic Slovenes living in Trieste's suburbs and hinterlands became Italian citizens overnight. Their descendants appeared to be my fellow outbound weekend passengers, probably visiting relatives on the other side.

They began boarding the so-called "express," many encumbered with multiple bags, bundles and boxes. No one was speaking Italian. It was almost as though the dilapidated Trieste rail siding was an extension of Yugoslav sovereign territory.

The train finally began rumbling slowly to the east. We lurched toward the border, into the blackened mountains for which the Balkans are both celebrated and feared, although the forested heights seemed less imposing when brightened by a setting sun.

At the border, my passport merited little more than a glance. The visa inside was duly stamped by the youthful, uniformed guard with the rifle slung over his shoulder. It all seemed unusually relaxed, a condition not always to be repeated in the Bloc during my journeys later that summer.

The locals had it somewhat harder, and their packages were inspected closely. Once inside Yugoslavia, the train began emptying as we stopped in one small town after another. After three and a half hours, just shy of 22:30, the express that never was shuddered to a halt at Ljubljana's central station.

Excited, I bounded down the worn metal steps into a warm and humid night, hoisted my pack, turned to follow the crowd, and was greeted by a full-scale reprise of an Animal House bacchanal, minus the togas.


Unsteady chorus lines of drunken young men were chugging bottled beer, the liquid streaming down their faces as they stumbled across the rails singing verses of unknown songs, with nary a female in sight.

To my right, a group of them were merrily urinating on a rail yard wall. Some were shirtless, half-heartedly wrestling. Others were projectile vomiting.

Although obviously harried by the mayhem, train station personnel looked on it with remarkably equanimity, as though the performance had been seen many times before.

And so it had.

Two days later while in route to Zagreb, a seismologist from Skopje explained that what I’d witnessed was a semi-regular occurrence throughout Yugoslavia. The revelers were the latest cohort of military draftees, celebrating their final night of freedom before shipping out to serve the motherland for two years.

Upon arrival in Ljubljana, I didn't know any of this.

Rather, standing on the platform transfixed and appalled, watching the crazy party, a question occurred to me.

Why the hell had I come here?

As throngs of thoroughly inebriated future Yugoslav soldiers milled through the debris in Ljubljana's otherwise unoccupied train station, I found myself an object of curiosity and attention, perhaps the lone western backpacker.

It must be said that the scrutiny wasn't threatening, and the general mood remained one of revelry. Gingerly picking my way gingerly through the ranks of the fallen, taking care to avoid evil smelling puddles, I scanned the strange directional signs in an effort to locate a safe path into the station's nerve center.

Two of them stood out: "Informacija" (information) and a pictogram of bank notes and coins.

Money was the first priority, as I'd passed from lira to dinars. In pre-Euro times, every border crossing required exchanging the previous nation’s currency into the next one. In 1987, there were few ATMs even in Western Europe, much less the East Bloc. Similarly, the credit card in my neck pouch would be almost useless in socialist locales outside of special "hard currency" shops.

Back then, you changed money the old-fashioned way, with actual dollars or American Express traveler's checks. The man behind the only populated window miraculously spoke a bare minimum of English, and was able to answer my questions.

Yes, he would cash a traveler's check.

No, he could not help me find accommodations.

No (gesturing at the cacophony), the baggage check room was quite full.

Bureaucratic scribblings followed, and he began slapping down those one hundred dinar notes, again and again, until the pile was at least two fingers high.

Not a bad exchange rate: $100 per inch.

Public transportation had shut down, and so my search for lodgings commenced on foot. There was a chronic scarcity of streetlights, but I managed to navigate a half-mile to the first university-affiliated youth hostel listed in the guidebook.

There were cobwebbed padlocks on the door.

The second hostel defied all navigational efforts. It was dark, the streets were deserted, I was soaked with sweat and it was well after midnight. Reversing course back toward the train station area, I made for the first standard hotel.

The night clerk eventually responded to repeated buzzing, sleepily offering non-negotiable terms of one night in a single-bedded room for roughly a quarter-inch of my hard-earned dinar wad, or three times the rate I expected to pay in a hostel. Exhausted, notions of showers and naps were cheering. It was a splurge -- and a deal.

On Saturday morning, flooded in blessed daylight, the youth & student travel bureau was easily found, and an inexpensive bunk quickly booked in a three-bed student hostel toward the city center. The weekend was free for exploring Ljubljana – sister city of Cleveland, Ohio – and drinking a few delicious Union lagers.


May 25, 2017 … New Albany, Indiana

It is the 30th anniversary of my lone visit to the country formerly known as Yugoslavia. From May 15 through May 31 in 1987, I visited five Yugoslav “republics” that are independent countries today: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Macedonia.

The sixth republic, Montenegro, wasn’t on my 1987 itinerary and neither was Kosovo (ethnically Albanian but part of Serbia at the time). However, during a day spent in the city of Ohrid, the presence of Albania could be vividly sensed, lying twelve miles away across the waters of Lake Ohrid.

Other Yugoslav cities that I passed through were Zagreb, Sarajevo, Mostar, Kardeljevo (now Ploče), Dubrovnik, Belgrade and Skopje. I exited Yugoslavia on the Bulgarian border, somewhere around Gyueshevo.

Even for those with a moderate grounding in European history, these place names still appear mysterious and vaguely eastern. Yugoslavia was a multi-ethnic country made up of Christians, Muslims and Jews, and speaking a half-dozen languages (in two alphabets). Over the centuries, the inhabitants of these regions were the subjects of various foreign empires, including Rome, Venice, Hungary, the Habsburgs and the Ottoman Turks.

The cultural kaleidoscope was calculated for sensory overload, and looking back on these scant three weeks in my life, my time in Yugoslavia seems almost otherworldly. Naturally I wouldn’t trade it for anything, and yet I’m fully aware of how much was missed or only partially digested. In truth, I was still in training, learning the ropes.

However, one thing about Yugoslavia has stuck with me. The people I met were amazingly hospitable, unfailingly friendly and invariably helpful to this flailing American in spite of the many language and cultural barriers.

These pleasant memories made it all the sadder for me during the 1990s, amid the murderous, decade-long Yugoslav civil war, when numerous barroom discussions began or ended with someone asking me if I could see the conflagration coming, all the way back in ’87, when I was there.

No, I didn't. Not at all.

But those men and women who’d been so nice to me – what had become of them?

I didn't know then, and still don't.

It's a melancholy feeling, indeed.


Recent columns:

May 18: ON THE AVENUES: Are dissidents born or made? A humanities major examines his life and locale.

May 11: ON THE AVENUES: Would a Canon candidacy compromise Deaf Gahan's and Mr. Dizznee's shizz show? A boy can dream.

May 4: ON THE AVENUES: Under the volcano in Catania, Sicily (Part One).

April 27: ON THE AVENUES: Dear Mr. Dizznee: Can you hear me now?

Two-way paving: "During this time of highly-anticipated construction, please add signage that instructs the drivers on what to do in the meantime."

Hannegan Roseberry has an excellent letter in the Hansonator.

Among other unintended "interim" outcomes, she can see that a newly paved, unstriped Spring Street will result in yet another 5-10 mph bump in vehicular speeds (the first came after upper Spring Street was narrowed and the toll bridges opened).

In short, without bike lane markings to narrow Spring Street's ridiculously wide lanes, we'll be seeing drivers passing on the right and motorcyclists five abreast.

On a related note, since Dear Leader's sadly belated two-way street project began last week with paving on Spring Street, the social media airwaves have been choked with lamentations and venom.

In what might serve as this blog's mission statement (or its epitaph), it remains that you're entitled to your own opinion -- just not your own facts. Before taking a look at Hannegan's letter, let's indulge in a reprise.

The Return of the Two-Way Street: Why the double-yellow stripe is making a comeback in downtowns.

The Many Benefits of Making One-Way Streets Two-Way.

Why we fight: In 2014, Jeff Speck told us how street design impacts our city.

Traffic myths that won't die.

Watch the video of Dr. John Gilderbloom's two-way streets presentation last night.

Now, over to the neighbor.

Signage needed to help drivers in New Albany

As a resident of downtown New Albany and a Spring Street dweller, I am thrilled that the implementation of two-way streets has begun at long last. However, I do want to make a serious safety request. The traffic cones marking various work areas are causing serious and potentially dangerous traffic confusion, as there is no accompanying signage denoting what the cones mean. Meaning, the cones sort of look like lanes and cars appear to be making their own decisions as to what the cones mean ...

How did Estonia become a leader in technology? "By ditching legacy technology and betting on education."

It's been a year. Can we go back?
It's one of the few instances where being so very far behind turns out to be an advantage.

The Economist explains: How did Estonia become a leader in technology?

By ditching legacy technology and betting on education

WHEN Estonia regained its independence in 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, less than half its population had a telephone line and its only independent link to the outside world was a Finnish mobile phone concealed in the foreign minister's garden. Two decades later, it is a world leader in technology. Estonian geeks developed the code behind Skype and Kazaa (an early file-sharing network). In 2007 it became the first country to allow online voting in a general election. It has among the world’s zippiest broadband speeds and holds the record for start-ups per person. Its 1.3m citizens pay for parking spaces with their mobile phones and have their health records stored in the digital cloud. Filing an annual tax return online, as 95% of Estonians do, takes about five minutes. How did the smallest Baltic state develop such a strong tech culture?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Like the jaywalker said: "People don’t obey the rules when they’re driving. Why should I?"

Yes, we've been here before.

MONDAY, JUNE 20, 2016
A contrarian asks: Should there even be "walk" signals for pedestrians?

FRIDAY, APRIL 22, 2016
Blaming walkers for street danger is like blaming the unarmed for gun violence with the shooter right in front of you."

The Modern Moloch": When cars were viewed as child-eating gods to be appeased.

Video: "The Real Reason Jaywalking Is A Crime."

Walking is not a crime: Dunman and others on the scourges of jaywalking in auto-erotic America.

Jaywalking isn't a crime. It's a defense mechanism to circumvent wheeled stupidity, plain and simple.

Fearless, defiant, detested: Meet the Boston jaywalker, by Maria Cramer (Boston Globe)

... The long-running tension between the city’s drivers and its pedestrians spilled into City Hall last week after Mayor Martin J. Walsh took to the radio and suggested people pay more attention when they walk and bike around the city. He was instantly slammed by cycling and pedestrian advocates who accused him of victim blaming ...

On the topic of annoyance versus causation:

“Boston is without question the most lawless city when it comes to pedestrians,’’ said Peter Furth, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northeastern University. “It’s an annoying thing, but that is not the cause of our fatalities.’’

He said that Walsh’s comments that pedestrians should remove their headphones and quit darting in and out of traffic are undercut by data that show that at least four of the 15 pedestrians killed in Boston last year were older than 65. Two others were children under 3.

“The idea that pedestrians jaywalking makes for an unsafe environment is not borne out by the data,’’ Furth said.

In fact, a 2014 study that looked at 51 major metropolitan areas ranked Boston as the least dangerous city for pedestrians. The city’s chaotic streetscape, which lacks a traditional grid pattern makes the city safer for pedestrians, in a way, because cars are forced to drive more slowly, Furth said.

NAHA's board of cherry-picked and abjectly groveling sycophants assigns dictatorial duties to Irving Joshua.

Cappuccino wants it so bad he almost wet himself.

Wait -- it's not "dictatorial," is it? It's directorial. An easy mistake to make, here in New Gahania.

New Albany Housing Authority Board assigns directorial duties in absence of a director
, by Danielle Grady (Make Alabama Pensioners Great Again)

Commissioners continue their search for interim replacement

NEW ALBANY — As the New Albany Housing Authority Board of Commissioners continues its search for an interim director, the board voted to assign a couple of duties normally taken care of by the executive director to the board president and a NAHA staff member.

At a special meeting on Tuesday night, the board unanimously voted in Irving Joshua, the president of the board, as an interim contracting officer, giving him the ability to sign documents for NAHA staff that NAHA’s executive director normally would have taken care of. Board member Bob Norwood did not vote as he was not present at Tuesday’s meeting.

Joshua said he was already signing documents for NAHA staff, but that the board wanted to make his duties official.

Tjentište War Memorial, Yugoslavia, then and now.

It's just a few days shy of thirty years since I boarded a bus in Dubrovnik, bound for Belgrade. I'd already been to Ljubljana, Zagreb, Sarajevo and Mostar, which at the time were located in Yugoslavia. The country ceased to exist after the civil war, which began in 1992.

The bus trip took something like ten hours, traveling on roads that weren't interstates. Every few hours, there'd be a pit stop, and one of them was at the Tjentište War Memorial, in the middle of nowhere. My photo from 1987 is above, and a more recent one below (via Atlas Obscura's article).

At the time, I had no idea what this sculpture represented, only that it seemed strange enough to photograph.

The two fractal walls of the memorial were erected in the 1970’s to remember Operation Fall Schwarz, otherwise known as the Battle of the Sutjeska. The military action took place during World War II and saw Axis forces attempt to rout a group of Yugoslavian forces and capture their leader.

This and other monuments from defunct Yugoslavia now seem calculated to produce melancholy.

These structures were commissioned by former Yugoslavian president Josip Broz Tito in the 1960s and 70s to commemorate sites where WWII battles took place (like Tjentište, Kozara and Kadinjača), or where concentration camps stood (like Jasenovac and Niš). They were designed by different sculptors (Dušan Džamonja, Vojin Bakić, Miodrag Živković, Jordan and Iskra Grabul, to name a few) and architects (Bogdan Bogdanović, Gradimir Medaković...), conveying powerful visual impact to show the confidence and strength of the Socialist Republic. In the 1980s, these monuments attracted millions of visitors per year, especially young pioneers for their "patriotic education." After the Republic dissolved in early 1990s, they were completely abandoned, and their symbolic meanings were forever lost.

The view in the opposite direction, back in 1987? Just more of those seemingly endless mountains.

Karem's Meats is up and rolling on Plaza Drive.

Karem's Meats has reopened at the store's new location: 3306 Plaza Drive, off Grant Line Road and a stone's throw from NABC's Pizzeria & Public House. Thanks to Matt Lorch for the purloined photos. They're so good I just had to use them.

SHANE'S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS: We may not be able to fight City Hall, but characterizing it is another matter.

There's an old saying. I'm not sure I believe the overall gist of it, but it's somewhere to start during the course of exploring the meaning of things.

(You) can't fight city hall.

Fig. There is no way to win in a battle against a bureaucracy.

Bill: I guess I'll go ahead and pay the tax bill.
Bob: Might as well. You can't fight city hall.

Mary: How did things go at your meeting with the zoning board?
Sally: I gave up. Can't fight city hall.

This term transfers the seat of city government to a more general sense of bureaucracy in any sphere. [Mid-1800s]

A bureaucracy comprises bureaucrats, and while we abhor bureaucracies in a general sense, in my view we do so in the understanding that individual bureaucrats aren't necessarily to blame for the design of their habitat. Rather, they're merely foot soldiers, following orders from higher-ups.

Their bosses "higher up" are the crux of the matter, and during the life of this blog, I've often used "City Hall" as representational shorthand to signify the upper echelon of elected and appointed officials who set policy, make decisions, give orders and divert the cash-stuffed envelopes.

There is nothing unusual about this usage, and we commonly see similar ones, as in the Kremlin, the Pentagon, the White House, and No. 10 Downing Street. Importantly, janitors work at each of these institutions, but we're not speaking of them, are we?

The Kremlin has refused to comment on the situation in Syria.

In this sentence, we're not referring to the kitchen staff, housekeepers or gardeners at the Kremlin. Rather, it's an amalgamation of the power structure surrounding Vladimir Putin.

City Hall isn't interested in the fair enforcement of downtown parking regulations.

In like fashion, this sentence obviously doesn't imply that ordinance enforcement officers out on the street aren't interested in doing their jobs. Rather, they take their orders (and their cues) from higher-ups, just like anyone on the shop floor, an aggregation also known as the rank and file.

Exceptions inevitably occur, but in the main, I've never been interested in calling out the rank and file. Their bosses are responsible for their performance. My personal theory of business management is that when things go right, the shop floor gets the credit. When they go wrong, management (or owners) take the blame.

Of course, politics tends to work a bit differently. Ultimate responsibility rests with the highest ranking official, but he or she typically fires an underling or institute a purge of minions to avoid responsibility.

The city of New Albany might well posses the ablest and hardest-working municipal parks department in the entire state. However, it has almost nothing to do with the the shop floor if we enter into a public debate about the parks department's role in civic life, or its annual budget.

Asking questions about such priorities is to expect the answers from those who set them, not those whose job it is to implement them.

In a situation where the highest officials typically refuse to engage in debate, eschewing transparency and preferring to issue diktats in the fashion of a despot, all the while constructing a cult of personality demanding requisite play-acting from the rank and file ... admittedly, this scenario might encourage a significant degree of cognitive dissonance in the minds of those inhabiting the shop floor.

But that's nothing to do with a mere blog, is it?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Post-trutherism: "We have become passive consumers of bullshit."

Three new books, each with a variation on a theme of George Orwell: “The moral to be drawn from this dangerous nightmare situation is a simple one: don’t let it happen. It depends on you.”

'Bullshit is a greater enemy than lies' –​ lessons from three new books on the post-truth era, by Stuart Jeffries (The Guardian)

From Trump’s phoney claims to the Brexit ‘£350m a week for the NHS’ promise, we have become mired in a sea of bogus truths. But what can we do about it?

Bullshit is having a moment. A spate of new books, including Newsnight presenter Evan Davis’s Post-Truth: Why We Have Reached Peak Bullshit and What We Can Do About It, Buzzfeed correspondent James Ball’s Post-Truth: How Bullshit Conquered the World, and political journalist Matthew d’Ancona’s Post Truth: The New War on Truth and How to Fight Back are all premised on the notion that we are in a new era.

A bit about each book. First:

Post-Truth: Why We Have Reached Peak Bullshit and What We Can Do About It, by Evan Davis

What’s the big idea?

Western societies have become rather like the Soviet Union “in being characterised by a pervasive tendency of those in authority to overstate their case. They bombard us with messages that are disconnected from reality as we see it. In the Soviet case it was the reality that was shameful; in ours, it is the communicators.”


Post Truth: The New War on Truth and How to Fight Back, by Matthew d’Ancona

What’s the big idea?

Post-truth came into being long before Trump, d’Ancona concedes. Anthropologists say we have been lying since early humans organised themselves in tribes. But in the 20th century humanity went shamelessly beyond just lying. French postmodernists argued there was no such thing as truth and objectivity, only power and interests. Unwittingly, the likes of Jean-François Lyotard were paving the way for Trump’s senior aide Kellyanne Conway.


Post-Truth: How Bullshit Conquered The World, by James Ball

What’s the big idea?

We mustn’t just focus on new technologies in explaining the rise of bullshit. We should follow the money. Old media outlets are suffering falls in ad revenue, which results in fewer reporters, which results in a journalistic ecology wherein regurgitating what politicians say is more cost effective than digging into what they’re saying. Fake news sites take this economic imperative to its conclusion: if a story is going to be unchecked or exaggerated, why not just make it up altogether and reduce production costs to next to nothing? The end result of this ecology, Ball argues, is that we give no more weight to the BBC or the New York Times than to a Facebook status or American Patriot Daily.

Even major news sites have sponsored links at the foot of their stories, often linking to fake or hyped news. As a result, Ball, argues: “Traditional media boosts and profits from fake news even as it tries to fight it.”

ASK THE BORED: A progress report on paving, two-way streets and the crosswalk on Main at W. 1st.

From the BOW meeting of May 16, in their own words, an update on downtown grid paving and the crosswalk project at Main and W. 1st.



PRESENT: Mickey Thompson, member, Cheryl Cotner-Bailey, member, and Warren V. Nash, president. 

OTHERS PRESENT: Fire Chief Juliot, Fire Marshal Koehler, Mike Hall, Sandy Boofter, Chris Gardner, Bryan Slade, Sidney Main, Larry Summers, David Hall, Jessica Campbell, Police Chief Bailey, Alicia Meredith, Courtney Lewis and Mindy Milburn

(excerpt follows)

Sunny Dickerson, HWC Engineering, reported on the progress of the two-way conversion. He explained that the underground conduit is in on Spring Street as well as the pit bores for the detector houses. He stated that they are starting on Elm Street today and they should be done with that by the end of the week. He added that the work will be contingent upon MAC completing their paving work but as of right now everything looks to be on schedule.

Wes Christmas explained that the south side of the milling is completed and they are already working on the north side, so it should be completed today. He stated that there may be a few side streets that need to be finished but they plan to start paving tomorrow. He explained that the plan is to have all the paving work completed by Thursday and Friday if the weather cooperates. He stated next week is an off week for paving activities while they wrap up the underground work, and the week of May 30th they will begin the same process on Elm Street.

Mr. Nash asked about the temporary markings that will be put out.

Mr. Christmas explained that it will be the same configuration as it is now and will not change until all the new signage and signals are complete.

Mr. Nash asked if Market would be done after Elm

Mr. Christmas replied yes and explained that all paving is anticipated to be complete before the end of June. He added that Police Chief Bailey suggested installing additional signage to let the residents and businesses know what is going on so they have small signs every 30 feet down the corridor as well as an additional message board.    

Mrs. Cotner-Bailey asked if they could have door hangers.

Mr. Christmas explained that they haven’t done it in the past but they could check on that if they need to.

Mr. Nash asked if the signs have been working.

Police Chief Bailey stated that there hasn’t been a tremendous problem and they have the few incidents under control. 

Mr. Summers asked Mr. Christmas to touch on the West 1st and Main Street project.

Mr. Christmas explained that this is for the bump-outs and pedestrian crossings and the work is under way. He stated that the majority of the concrete is poured on the southeast corner and they started demo on the southwest corner. He explained that once the south side is done they will jump over the north side and do the other two corners. He added that beyond the intersection the only work that is being done is the addition of a few trees.

Mr. Nash commented that some of the trees on State Street look too big for the bump-outs.

Mr. Christmas stated that the trees were suggested by Greg Mills and are supposed to be of a smaller variety. 

Death to chains, by the numbers -- "The Multiplier Effect of Local Independent Businesses."

The obvious question: If local independent business recirculates more revenue locally, why do the local government economic incentives and abatements inevitably flow to the chains?

The most recent example is Summit Springs. City Hall happily bills itself as a partner in this development, and city funds will be used to make it a reality. There'll be two hotels, both chains, along with three restaurants (need we ask?), on a commercial strip already dominated by big box retail.

In effect, in this and other projects like it, the city overlooks the multiplier by subsidizing the businesses most likely to recirculate less revenue locally.

The Multiplier Effect of Local Independent Businesses

Clearly communicating the importance of the local economic multiplier effect or “local premium” is a key part of effective “buy local” and public education campaigns. The multiplier results from the fact that independent locally-owned businesses recirculate a far greater percentage of revenue locally compared to absentee-owned businesses (or locally-owned franchises ... in other words, going local creates more local wealth and jobs.

I can hear the excuses now -- except I can't. City Hall doesn't publicly discuss matters like this, does it?

And that's the real problem, isn't it?

Meanwhile, even the area's premier publication for chain glorification gets the memo.

Chain restaurants only do three things better than independents, study says, by David A. Mann (Louisville Business First)

Independent restaurants seem to have an advantage over their chain counterparts in a number of different operational and emotional metrics, according to a new consumer study.

The study came from industry consulting firm Pentallect and research partner Critical Mix. Consumers give independents the edge in 12 of 15 metrics being surveyed.

Independent restaurants seem to have an advantage over their chain counterparts in a number of different operational and emotional metrics, according to a new consumer study ...

Monday, May 22, 2017

Urban, suburban and UniGov: "Municipal consolidation will only amplify the underlying fragilities inherent in our development pattern."

I'm going to repeat something written two years ago during the pirate's mayoral campaign, but first, the 2011 article that prompts it.

, by Charles Marohn (Strong Towns)

... Consolidation is a response to the notion that our problem is essentially one of efficiency. The idea is that local governments are not efficient enough and therefore we can increase efficiency by combining them into fewer governments. Like the banking sector, fewer players means more efficiency, and like banks, fewer players will amplify fragility.

Take school consolidation as an example ...


... Our biggest problem as a nation right now is that our places are generally all vulnerable to the same things. That is because we have all used the same cookbook (standard zoning) and the same Mechanisms of Growth (government transfers, transportation spending and debt) to get to where we are now. Fundamentally, our cities are all pretty much the same. When gas prices rise, our cities struggle. When growth slows or stalls, our cities go into decline. When government aid goes away, our places start to implode. This lack of resilience will only be covered up by consolidation, the day of reckoning pushed off and made more difficult as a result.

Instead of consolidation, we should embrace the core strength of our system; an ability to innovate. This means loosening the controls we have placed on our cities and towns thus allowing local officials to try different solutions to the problems they face. The correct response is not to become more parochial, it is to become less ...

Indeed, county government no longer is "starved" of cash since last year's sale of Floyd Memorial Hospital. But the pattern of development remains exactly the same.


Urban, suburban and UniGov.

Hoosiers typically refer to combined city-county government as "Unigov," this being the catch phrase that originated 45 years ago when Indianapolis and Marion County undertook a "consolidation" of government pushed by then-mayor Richard Lugar.

What this notion of "combining" governments implies to me is an economy of scale -- but not the one we usually hear mentioned. We're told about the myriad small efficiencies to be derived from reducing or eliminating overlap, and while I don't contest these in every instance, what I see is a different kind of efficiency, or more accurately, inefficiency: Compact urban expenditures versus suburban sprawl subsidies.

It's the 800-lb gorilla in the room, as illustrated and explained here.

Sprawl Costs the Public More Than Twice as Much as Compact Development, by Angie Schmitt (Streetsblog)

How much more does it cost the public to build infrastructure and provide services for sprawling development compared to more compact neighborhoods? A lot more, according to this handy summary from the Canadian environmental think tank Sustainable Prosperity.

To create this graphic, the organization synthesized a study by the Halifax Regional Municipality [PDF] in Nova Scotia, and the research is worth a closer look.

Halifax found the cost of administering services varied directly in proportion to how far apart homes were spaced. On the rural end, each house sat on a 2.5 acre lot. On the very urban end, there were 92 people dwelling on each acre. Between those two extremes were several development patterns of varying density.

It costs more to "service" infrastructure for a few houses five miles off the main road outside Greenville than it does multiple homes located on a city block downtown. Precisely for this reason, Floyd County government is starved for money. Sprawl costs more, and revenues aren't sufficient to cover it. Somewhat surprisingly, the News and Tribune recently editorialized in favor of higher taxes to make up the difference, although the newspaper's editorial board didn't trace the need to the root cause: Sprawl costs more.

Of course there are areas suitable for sharing and cooperation between city and county government. These can and should be explored.

There's also a fundamental difference in settlement patterns between more and less densely populated areas, with ramifications for the cost of services and infrastructure maintenance. The latter represents a serious discussion we have not had.

Shall we begin?

FLASHBACK: My career as a double naught capitalist.

Amid paranoia, Kool-Aid and the circling of wagons, I mustn't forget to thank them for reading. As for one of many reasons why I continue to doing so, there's this from October 22, 2015.


ON THE AVENUES: My career as a double naught capitalist.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

"(Roger’s) never done anything in a positive manner to help the city of New Albany”
--Jeff Gahan, during the mayoral debate at Silver Street Park

During the opening phases of Rich O’s Public House during the early- to mid-1990s, with Oasis and Nirvana playing in the background, we often pointed to Kentucky license plates in the parking lot as proof of things working out just as we had hoped.

Back then, apart from South Side Inn and a downtown liquor store or two, New Albany wasn’t much of a draw for residents of the Commonwealth. Fortunately, we were ahead of the curve in terms of better beer, and it was encouraging to know that “location, location, location” was bunk.

Niches and knowledge mattered, too. Aversions were overcome. How often did I read or hear comments like this one?

"It’s a really great place … and believe it or not, it’s in New Albany!"

25 years after drifting into the food and drink business, primarily on the strength of knowing more about beer than most other hospitality biz people did at the time, it’s a bit easier for me to be philosophical about the hardscrabble beginnings. There were far fewer epiphanies than daily, upward slogging.

In 1990, I’d worked at a package liquor store, and occasionally bartended, but didn’t have any food service experience. My objective was for us to be a world class beer bar in a locale where very little was aligned to accommodate such dreams. Like so many other aspects of life, we got by, learned by doing, and built gradually for a better future.

From the outset, it already was clear that pubs were my favored habitat, and usually the only truly comfortable places for me outside home and hearth. What I learned was that working in one is edifying, too – especially the sort of establishment evolving according to a particular, highly personalized plan.

Moreover, there is a fundamental honesty to preparing and serving meals and drinks for public consumption. Most of the time, the gratification is immediate. You know the customer liked it, or didn’t. When they return, it’s a wonderful feeling.

The television series Cheers had it right. We humans look for third spaces, these places where everyone knows your name. Social media is a way of connecting, but breaking bread and drinking beer with other people, all seated at a table in a room filled with others who are pursuing precisely the same goal, bring forth the possibility of genuine bonding.

They’re the days we’ll always remember, and do.


In a space this brief, it would be impossible to recount the many life lessons I learned during the past quarter-century, though one springs to mind: When business life is good, the employees get the credit, and when there are problems, it’s all on the owners.

The rank and file, and the workers on the shop floor – cooks, servers, dishwashers and staff members – do the heavy lifting and define the atmosphere. They’re the face of the business, and its esprit de corps. The job of the owner is to organize and manage them so they can thrive, and in turn, so the entity can succeed.

Yes, naturally there are exceptions. Firing someone isn’t fun, though occasionally it must be done. Employees make mistakes, and so on. The point to me is that so many of them, the vast majority, have been top-flight individuals, both before and after working for NABC.

We’ve had our share of teachers, media professionals, artists and musicians working as part-timers, supplementing their income with shifts. With IU Southeast just down the street from the original Pizzeria & Public House locations, there have been hundreds of students receiving W2s as they worked their way through school.

Just think of the local multiplier effect, for more than 25 years.

What’s more, so many of them have gone on to solid careers. If we had an NABC Alumni Association, it would include doctors, writers, sailors, lawyers, real estate moguls, gardeners, bar and restaurant owners, chefs, entrepreneurs, brewers, entertainers and distillers.

I see many of them on social media, raising their families and living their dreams. I’m pleased as punch to have played a part, however brief, in their formative lives.

In fact, seeing as I’m transitioning from company ownership into the “former” category of fogey datedness, I believe we should have such an NABC alumni organization.

Depending on the outcome of the election, I’ll get right on it come early November.


Being a democratic socialist does not imply being a non-capitalist, and while I may have chafed at the term in the past (hi, Mark), it isn’t something I bother disputing.

For the past 25 years, I’ve been engaged in capitalism of the local variety, this being the business of making waves: Starting with tiny ripples by serving a beer here and a pizza there, then accepting payment from generally satisfied customers (otherwise, we wouldn’t still be in business), and finally repeating these actions until they added up to a greater whole than the sum of their parts.

Independent local businesses of numerous stripes, engaging in every conceivable form of commerce, follow the same pattern as NABC. It is reckoned that one-third of the business activity in America is generated from enterprises like these with fewer than 50 employees.

In New Albany's historic downtown business district and the neighborhoods immediately surrounding it, this percentage is likely far higher. These are the businesses widely understood to have done the most in sustaining the city’s core during the lean years, and then boosting the revitalization of a formerly moribund area with a fresh wave of food, drink, retail and service businesses to complement the survivors of a previous era.

Not chains, not Flaherty and Collins, and not the Disney Corporation. Rather, local independent businesses, which keep a higher percentage of money in the local economy, do the capitalism thing, and grind it out all year long ... not merely during special occasions.

The pizzeria was founded in 1987, so I can honestly say that since the Reagan administration, NABC’s owners and employees have been privileged to serve hundreds of thousands of regular folks. We’ve paid taxes, dispensed wages, brought visitors to town, filled bellies and created memories.

Granted, while much of the volume has come from functioning as an on premise restaurant and bar, our two breweries, while small-scale and artisanal, also constitute manufacturing. We take raw materials, assemble them, pay taxes, and sell the finished product outside our immediate vicinity.

It’s nice having friends in other places, too.


Soon I'll be leaving NABC. For 25 years, I’ve wondered what I might do when I grow up, and at 55, it may at long last be time to find out.

There are a few hands I might have played differently, and decisions that were questionable in retrospect, but in the main, I'm proud of what we've achieved.

Speaking for myself, I put every bit of skin I possessed into this game, and I busted my ass in the process. What I get back from the business monetarily will be only a fraction of what was put into it, primarily because we’ve always reinvested proceeds, and refrained from extracting value.

I’m serene about NABC’s future. New blood and fresh ideas will step to the fore, as they usually do. The business itself will continue doing what it's always done, in as positive manner as humanly possible, fully contrary to the mayor’s somewhat uncomprehending utterance at the debate.

These folks involved with economic development at the municipal level ... have any of them actually ever owned a business?


Didn't think so.


Postscript: According to community economics advocate Michael Shuman, mainstream economic development today is a scam.

"A street is the framework upon which we build places. It’s not about speed. It’s not about 'getting there.'"

Over and over again, these notices pop up.

For the most part, driving on the surface streets of Vancouver is easy but walking or biking around the city is often another matter entirely. In an effort to make Vancouver’s roads safe, convenient and more comfortable to a broader array of users, the city is in the works of adopting a Complete Streets policy to guide future road development and upgrades.

Until ours is sensible, it won't be, and so I'll continue making the point.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A CITY STREET?, by Sarah Kobos (Smart Growth Tulsa)


What is the purpose of a city street?

It’s not something that most of us think about very much.

If you said, “to move cars from point A to point B in the least amount of time,” you are not alone. Heck, you may even be a city traffic engineer. Especially in car-oriented places like Tulsa, city streets tend to be seen as a conveyance, allowing us—as long as we have a car—to get where we need to go.

Having attended the national Strong Towns Summit in Tulsa a few weeks ago, I can’t stop thinking about a different definition of city streets.

Why? Because our future depends on it.

To better understand what I’m talking about, we need to clarify the difference between a street and a road.

Think about a road as a way to get from place to place. It should be fast and convenient, maximizing efficiency and helping you reach your destination in a timely manner. Notice how the definition of a road includes the idea of a “place.” A road connects places.

A street is not a road. A street is the framework upon which we build places. It’s not about speed. It’s not about “getting there.” If you’re in a place, you’re already there. Thus, it’s imperative that streets serve the people in a place, not the cars speeding through it. And because places generate jobs and taxes and opportunity, we should start thinking of streets not as conveyances, but as a platform for building wealth.

SNIP to the conclusion.

By focusing our energies on older places that are inherently walkable and already served by existing infrastructure, we can increase quality of life along with tax revenues while building great places people love.

"President Mike Pence is proud to serve the white and Christian population of America for more than two decades."

As I've been saying ... When the GOP elders get what they want from Trump, he's gone -- and with him the blame.

They're happier with Pence, anyway.

President Mike Pence? Dems should be 'careful what they wish for', experts say, by David Smith (The Guardian)

The idea of Pence taking over from Donald Trump has lately gained traction, but his conservatism and his likely effectiveness pose a threat to the left

Visitors to discover an elaborate spoof website for “Mike Pence: the 46th president of the United States”. A banner at the top asks: “Are you a homosexual? If yes, click here.” (It links to A campaign logo refers to Pence and his running mate Christ with crosses and stars. “President Mike Pence is proud to serve the white and Christian population of America for more than two decades,” the page says.


“You might now have created your worst problem because that might end up being a very productive president. You also are putting somebody in who is very socially conservative. So whereas Donald Trump talks about social conservatism but basically he can be talked out of almost anything by his daughter, Mike Pence actually walks the walk.”

Sunday, May 21, 2017

THE BEER BEAT: It should be in a museum, but the original Public House keg box has a new, loving home.

It has been grabbed; thanks, MW and crew. If this keg box could talk ... I'd have been compelled to sell her for scrap.



It spawned a craft beer revolution in this city.

In 1992, a keg of Guinness was the first to be tapped at the Public House formerly known as Rich O’s. Next came Carlsberg (later Pilsner Urquell), and then the “third (or center) tap” was installed. It was intended to rotate, and the inaugural occupant was Oldenberg Outrageous Bock.

These pioneering efforts were made possible by the keg box currently reposing in my garage, where it has been resting since 2007, when it was decommissioned after 15 years of service. 

It was dubbed the Jouett Meekin Memorial Keg Box. For a while, I kept beer tapped to drink at home, and used the keg box for Harvest Homecoming Parade parties and occasional social gatherings. I’m quite attached to this hunk of metal and draft lines, but the time has come to find her a better home.

The keg box currently is configured for three standard kegs (three towers), with three draft lines and three couplers (standard Sankey; there’s also a spare German slider). The CO2 tank and regulator are included.

Caveat: The keg box was retired from the Public House because there had been persistent leaks in the drip tray housing, causing beer to soak into the insulation. This eventually led to an irrevocable problem with fruit flies, making the unit unusable indoors, though not for patios or outdoor bars.

After ten winters in the garage, this problem may have been “frozen” away; however, I don’t recommend the keg box for indoor use without extensive troubleshooting and close attention to the drainage. The late Kevin Richards installed a new sheet metal floor covering prior to decommissioning.

The keg box last worked properly circa 2012 or 2013. It stopped cooling, and I let it ride. I’m not an HVAC kind of guy, and I wasn’t drinking enough beer at home to make the repair costs worthwhile. The keg box may require a major repair, or a minor tweak. Takers may wish to calculate accordingly.

For this reason, and because my sole objective is finding a good home for this epochal piece of local beer history, the keg box is all yours to come take from my garage exactly as it is.

Once you’ve restored the unit to working condition and know the full extent of your investment, simply pay me what you think it is worth to you – in cash, barter, beefsteak, porter or nothing at all.

The original price of this keg box was $300 in 1992, as transacted with the legendary Herb Brodarick, who was running the Toll Bridge Inn in Portland (Louisville) at the time.

First come, first option to haul.

Thank you for your consideration.

"The study concludes that roughly one-quarter (26 percent) of Americans likely do not believe in God."

It's like I've been saying. Why go out and annoy folks by proselytizing when Big Mo's on your side, anyway?

Of course, the flip side is that one needn't believe in god to practice religion. Even Torquemada understood that.

Way More Americans May Be Atheists Than We Thought, by Daniel Cox (FiveThirtyEight)

... The authors of the study, published earlier this year, adopted a novel way to measure atheist identity. Instead of asking about belief in God directly, they provided a list of seemingly innocuous statements and then asked: “How many of these statements are true of you?” Respondents in a control group were given a list of nine statements, such as “I own a dog” and “I am a vegetarian.” The test group received all the same statements plus one that read, “I do not believe in God.” The totals from the test group were then compared to those from the control group, allowing researchers to estimate the number of people who identify as atheists without requiring any of the respondents to directly state that they don’t believe in God. The study concludes that roughly one-quarter (26 percent) of Americans likely do not believe in God.

While this result is fairly stunning and not consistent with any published survey results, there is good reason to suspect that more direct measures significantly underestimate the number of atheists.

Gentrification and the art of the restaurant review.

The review is worth it for the preface about gentrification. Just yesterday, I saw a comment elsewhere to this effect: "Working class people can't always afford to eat at local restaurants."

I have no glib reply, but there's a discussion waiting to happen.

Plot, London: restaurant review, by Jay Rayner (The Guardian)

As the gentrification wave reaches Tooting in south London, a new diner makes itself at home in the local market

It would be a mistake to write about Plot, a sliver of a restaurant serving terrible cocktails and great food in one of south London’s traditional covered markets, without first rehearsing the arguments around gentrification. It demands that context. We know where the G-word starts: with a bunch of self-serving fiscal policies which attract oligarchs and other non-doms up to their nipples in filthy cash into London. They buy up all the property, forcing the merely well-off out to the inner suburbs, who in turn force up prices. Each socio-economic group goes further and further out of the centre.

Those on lower, but still good incomes, come in search of cheaper property, and with them come businesses to service their needs. High streets which were once full of shops selling things that people actually need become infested by men with beards making pulled pork. Suddenly there are artisanal coffee shops, and clashing food concepts fusing the traditional dishes of Cambodia with, say, those of Wales.

Caricature aside, there have generally been only two ways to view this. Either all economic activity is good and to be applauded. Yay, for pulled pork and so on. Or gentrification makes everyday life prohibitively expensive for the traditional populations of these areas, who are on lower incomes and deserve better. The reality lies somewhere in the middle. What matters is an enlightened approach by landlords and local councils to managing the high-street economy. Get it wrong and a neighbourhood really can disappear up its own gilded fundament. Get it right and there’s more money for the council to run its services.

Tooting High Road is going through the process right now and, for the most part, it seems to be working ...

328 Vincennes Street, and those things that make you go hmm.

This little tiny box amid all those tears in the fabric.

Thanks to JN for the tip. I've no idea what Diamond Jacks is, or if it's anything at all, but now I'm gripped by melancholy.

Of bagmen and mad hatters -- or, the business of electoral residency?

A reader writes:

I see David Duggins bought a house across the street from you. Do you think he's trying to establish residency to run for office?

Somewhere in this question, there is impenetrable satire on the topic of property values, but in spite of my reputation, I seldom drink whiskey before breakfast. Let's play it straight. Following are two passages from the 2015 Indiana Candidate Guide.

It makes no mention of term limits for bagmen.

Does HWC Engineering do rehabs?

From Berlin to Budapest to New Orleans: "Historically, Confederate symbols have appeared at times of racial discord."

A concise, yet comprehensive essay about symbolism.

‘They were not patriots’: New Orleans removes monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, by Janell Ross (Washington Post)

NEW ORLEANS — They are all gone now. On Friday, the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee became the last of New Orleans’s four contested monuments to go, an end to more than 130 years of publicly honoring a man who embodied Southern pride and racial oppression.

Getting down to the heart of the matter:

Carol Anderson, a historian and professor of African American studies at Emory University, says that the various reasons given for defending Confederate monuments and symbols share a common underlying expectation — that even in an increasingly diverse democracy, power and influence should remain unchanged.

Speaking personally, my feeling for the "heritage" argument runs to a temperature far less than zero.

However, I'll concede to a shade of appreciation for the "landscape-defining art" defense, because while in East Berlin in 1989, I was intimately acquainted with an example of it.*

Lenin was removed shortly after German unification, and this is how it looked in 2014.

At the time, the multi-story apartment building would have been among the sleekest and most modern in East Berlin. The statue was placed to be framed by this structure, with the greenery of the adjacent public park softening the harshness of the concrete. The plaza and postwar Communist buildings facing Lenin's statue were all of a piece, flowing outward from the statue.

It may have been totalitarian, but there was a unity of purpose in design. When Lenin was toppled, there remained a pedestal with nothing, like a missing limb. You wouldn't need to know a statue stood in this spot without feeling something is missing.

Is there symbolism in omission?

A fair number of neighborhood activists opposed the statue's removal on precisely these grounds of landscape-defining art. They also made an argument worthy of reasoned consideration: we can't scrub the past entirely clean, and shouldn't try. Reminders of bad times are needed, so as to avoid their repetition.

Had the Lenin statue remained in place, would it have served as a shrine for remaining Communists? Perhaps, though it might also have been deployed in the manner chosen by the Hungarians. In 2002 while in Budapest, my tour group visited Statue Park (now apparently rebranded as Memento Park).

Memento Park in Budapest

Displayed in the Park are 42 pieces of art from the Communist era between 1945 and 1989, including allegorical monuments of “Hungarian-Soviet Friendship” and “Liberation”, as well as statues of famous personalities from the labour movement, soldiers of the Red Army and other gigantic pieces: Lenin, Marx, Engels, Dimitrov, Captain Ostapenko, Béla Kun and other “heroes” of the communist world. A favourite with visitors is the Liberation Army Soldier. A hammer-and-sickle flag in its hand and a cartridge-disc machine pistol hanging in its neck make the statue complete. This 6-meter tall statue of the evil-eyed Soviet soldier once stood on the top of Gellért Hill in central Budapest, well-seen from every direction.

When facing it, the main entrance bears the image of a monumental classicist building. Looking behind it, though, it resembles a 12-meter high, under-propped communistic scenery ? a perfect introduction into the nature of dictatorship.

The words of architect Ákos Eleőd, the conceptual designer of Memento Park serve as its motto: “This Park is about dictatorship. And at the same time, because it can be talked about, described and built up, this Park is about democracy. After all, only democracy can provide an opportunity to think freely about dictatorship. Or about democracy, come to that! Or about anything!”

Here are two photos from our visit, taken from the Tom Henderson Collection.

Ironically, the late Jim Scott (second from the right) lived in New Orleans.

For now, New Orleans will store the four Confederate monuments in an undisclosed location, due to threats made against city officials, activists, contractors and work crews involved in taking them down. City officials announced late Thursday that an unspecified water feature will replace the Lee statue, and an American flag will fly where the Davis fixture once stood. Nonprofits and government agencies will eventually be allowed to submit plans that would put the statues on private property. City Park officials will decide what will replace the Beauregard statue.

Symbolism matters, but at the same time, if we're determined not to learn lessons from 152 years ago, symbolism just might be the least of our concerns.


* The oft-told story of how I came to be in East Germany in 1989 can be found at these links.

Pilsners with Putin: 1989 Revisited (Part One).

Pilsners with Putin: 1989 Revisited (Part Two).

Pilsners with Putin: 1989 Revisited (Part Three).

Pilsners with Putin: 1989 Revisited (Part Four).