Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Summers sez: The two-way street project I've been recommending for 12 long years may finally be starting.



I'l believe it when I see it.

Meanwhile, the reporter surely intended to write it this way: "Elm Street and Spring Street between State and Vincennes streets."

The program provides for the conversion of these streets to two-way traffic:

►Market Street from First to Vincennes streets.
Elm Street from Spring Street to between State and Vincennes streets.
►Pearl Street from Elm to Main Street.
►Bank Street from Oak Street to Main.

NA Confidential has been advocating two-way streets since at least 2005. We'd like our congratulatory plaque to be placed at 1112 East Spring Street, please -- facing toward the house if possible.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

New Albany to begin conversion of one-way streets to two-way, by Sheldon S. Shafer (The Courier-Journal)

Seven years since a study first proposed the initiative, the city of New Albany, Indiana, is on the verge of beginning the conversion of several of its key one-way downtown streets to two-way traffic.

Preliminary construction work, including some borings and pavement markings, is starting this week, New Albany City Engineer Larry Summers said in an interview Monday.

The $1.9 million contract — all federal money — signed with Ragle Inc. calls for completion of the street conversions by Sept. 30, he said.

Work and twerk session: Adam averts Democratic eyes from Gahan's public housing fiasco by yelling "fire" in a crowded school board.



The Floyd County Democratic Party's delightfully hypocritical cognitive dissonance jalopy went into clank-clank overdrive yesterday.

As Deaf Gahan's channeled his inner Trump via the undemocratic Monday Night Public Housing Massacre (the mayor remained home with his prized toy soldier collection), Mr. Disney took to the facewaves to tout a non-binding school board work session.

Kirsten Clark's C-J coverage recaps the evening, including what we're assuming is the city's official position on the work session, given that the quote is from a city employee and all.

Courtney Lewis, a 31-year-old member of Floyd County Young Democrats who graduated from the district said given how difficult it was to get last year’s referendum passed, the district shouldn’t consider gifting money to Community Montessori. She added that some of the schools within the district are in “disrepair” and need whatever capital project funds are available.

“It just rubs me the wrong way that we would even entertain giving money to an entity that isn’t one of our public schools in the way that the rest of the schools are,” she said.

Monday Night Massacre: Deaf Gahan again absent from his own power grab as Joshua, Duggins seize NAHA and appoint Coffey to new post as "Luxury Trumps Poverty" czar.


Elizabeth Beilman provided excellent newspaper coverage of the Monday Night Massacre. Her tweet below is a classic of understatement.


In the end, there wasn't a politician in town apart from Dan "I'm Back on Payroll" Coffey with the courage to so much as notice Gahan's Public Housing Putsch, much less place themselves within sight of it it.

John Gonder would have taken part, but Gahan kneecapped Gonder, didn't he?

In short, mythology wins. Misconceptions about public housing are almost totemic in New Albany, and Gahan vigorously scratched this anti-intellectual itch, even if it meant compromising every democratic principle he has ever pretended to support.

It's slightly encouraging that for the first time during Gahan's Reign of Error, a handful of key Democrats suddenly found themselves jolted by the reality of the mayor's vapidity.

Consider this vignette, as captured by Beilman.


Or, one leering, semi-literate functionary is seen reading words written by a nattily attired out-of-town consultant for an inexplicably absent (again) mayor. Democrats should retain this image, and never forget the fundamental crassness of a man who almost never bothers attending the beheadings he initiates in his own name.

Will they remember? Probably not for as long as star sycophant Adam Dickey is at the reins, but the fact remains that the NAHA imbroglio has weakened Dear Leader. Walking dollar signs are cute, but it doesn't mean they can lead. Local Democrats have placed themselves in the position of praising Gahan for the very same vile tendencies they denounce in Donald Trump.

Even in perennially confused America, hypocrisy of this magnitude cannot long endure. Gahan's public housing power grab is organic Himalayan salt rubbed vigorously into the local party's self-inflicted wounds.

We can only hope that more of the party's adherents begin feeling the pain borne unto it by Gahan's ego trip.

Board opts for New Albany's public housing vision, passes plan, by Elizabeth Beilman (Jeffersonville News and Tribune)

Plan calls for demolition, rehab of public housing units

NEW ALBANY — The New Albany Housing Authority Board of Commissioners initiated the first step Monday in embarking on a plan to demolish and rehabilitate hundreds of public housing units.

The board approved a plan with the city of New Albany on Monday aiming significant changes to the state's third largest public housing authority in an attempt to better leverage a backlog of federal funds and decentralize the city's low income pockets. Only commissioner Kent McDaniel voted against it, saying he needed more time to study the plan.

The board's move strays from recommendations of the housing authority director and instead takes up the vision of New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan, whose administration proposed the partnership and changes.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Back by popular demand: “Never trust anyone wearing a suit.”

I don't hate on men (or women) just because they wear suits.

It's just that one's fundamental humanity need not be reflected by the price of his or her clothing. Many very intelligent people wear t-shirts. Perhaps they do it as a conscious blow against ostentatiousness, although there's always the possibility that jeans are more comfortable.

Come to think of it, as someone who hasn't endured a suit since 2009 ...


... how do I even know the meaning of a word like ostentatiousness? Is it a fluke? Can one even be a wordplay poseur while swaddled in a hoodie?

Why ask why?

Because it's a great time for a repost, that's why. From 2015 by way of 2011, here's "Suit yourself. Plaid?"

---


It's 2015, and I'm reading a biography of Václav Havel: Havel: A Life, by Michael Zantovsky.

The secret police also came for the philosopher Jan Patocka, Havel’s fellow Charter 77 spokesman. Patocka did not survive interrogation, and Havel dedicated what became his most famous text to his older friend’s memory. “The Power of the Powerless” tells the story of a greengrocer who every morning obligingly puts the sign “Workers of the World Unite” in his shop window. Of course neither the greengrocer nor the passers-by believe the sign. Even the Communist regime no longer believes the sign. Yet everyone goes on pretending. Pretending is in the greengrocer’s interest, for it allows him to live in peace. If one day he were to take down the sign, he would be harassed, perhaps arrested. And yet, Havel points out, if one day all the greengrocers were to refuse to hang their signs, that would be the beginning of a revolution. Therefore the powerless greengrocer is not so powerless; on the contrary, he is responsible and therefore guilty: By failing to “live in truth,” he makes it possible for the system to continue.

Rather like New Albany persisting in pretending that its Democrats really are, although we're not entirely powerless. They can be voted out.

In 2011, during my unsuccessful city council campaign, I offered this opinion of suits -- the clothing. Looking at the photos in Zantovsky's fine book, Havel always seems more natural when dressed as an artist, playwright and dissident. In point of fact, I do own a suit. Since losing weight, it's too large, and so a trip to Sew Fitting is in order -- which is not to say I cherish the thought of wearing it.

---

A Candidate’s Progress (11): Suit yourself. Plaid? 

(April 19, 2011)

The Woodstock festival took place in 1969, when I was only nine years old -- too young to completely understand what was occurring in America amid the generational upheavals depicted nightly on the tube, and yet capable of registering their impact in my evolving consciousness.

Something was happening, and not unlike Bob Dylan’s musical Mr. Jones, I didn’t know what it was. But it was exciting, if for no other reason than an older generation’s (read: those of my parents’ age) often expressed annoyance and exasperation with it.

One of the mantras of a turbulent period devoted to letting it all hang out struck me at the time as enduringly valid advice: “Never trust anyone wearing a suit.”

Obviously, the powers that be – the wielders of capital, the exploiters of the proletariat – all wore suits, and insofar as the middle and lower classes inevitably imitated the mores of their wealthier “betters,” it was a form of unwitting obeisance better avoided than indulged.

Bizarrely, here was a topic on which both the Baby Boom hippies and my Great Depression father should have been able to agree, had it not been for his inability to move past the length of their hair and listen to what they actually were saying.

If my dad owned a suit, it was reserved for weddings and funerals, and worn grudgingly even then. He was a working man’s populist to the very core, and usually as suspicious of moneyed elites and polite society as any bandana-wearing revolutionary. In a different country than the United States, one with more than two political parties to channel belief, his course in life might have been profoundly altered.

However, like so many others, in striving arduously for his sought after place in a middle class perhaps already doomed, even in the late 1960’s, he was inexorably steered by those very same besuited powerbrokers into emulating them by craving a modicum of their material trappings.

In fairness, a vast majority of the rebelling hippies at Woodstock eventually discarded their own youthful principles, taking the same materialistic path, but diverging from my father’s way in one very important sense: The Baby Boomers aged and became steadily more selfish, to the point that they’re now refusing to pay taxes.

Meanwhile, to the end, my father retained his agrarian communal instincts. Somewhere else, he might have been one hell of a socialist. We’ll never know, and that’s a shame.

---

Resolved: Never trust anyone wearing a suit?

Never?

Ever?

No, not really. It is not a matter of trust, and I trust plenty of people who wear suits. Conversely, I seldom ever wear one, because I don’t have to. Comfort, personal preference and an active desire to enjoy what I do and not feel constrained by unnecessary adornments have conspired to result in an absence of suits in my closet. You’re free to dress as you please – or as you must. Just leave me out of it, please.

While it is true that for a brief period during Junior High School, I took an active interest in dressing according to society’s restrictive expectations, a candid assessment of acne-laden adolescent gawkiness led me to realize that a life of high fashion was not my likely destiny.

So be it. Know thyself; when you dispense with redundant fantasies of a GQ modeling gig, you’re free to use your entire brain, unbound by convention, custom and prejudice. It’s almost as liberating as Woodstock, and there are times when it still infuriates the unreconstructed Nixon generation.

That makes me very, very happy.

---

There are many reasons why the craft beer milieu “suits” me as a job and avocation, and one of them is the casual nature of its dress code, which “suitably” contrasts with assumptions about the genre’s dynamic, expansive business success.

Huh? Say what? Growth nationwide … during a recession … and seemingly none of you wear appropriate business attire so as to buff and fluff the share holders? How on earth is that possible?

It’s because it matters far less what we look like than how we conjure our performance in the marketplace, and besides, if we had conformed to the expectations of what fuddy-duddies believe beer should be, there’d be no craft beer business at all.

Craft beer creates interest where there was none. It adaptively reuses, and leaps ahead of habit. It is vibrant, evolutionary and exciting. How many rock stars wear suits on a regular basis? Aside from Bryan Ferry and perhaps David Bowie ...

I dress casually for the requirements of my job, just the same as those bankers and lawyers with whom I transact company affairs, and who, at their first opportunity, gleefully change into shorts and a t-shirt to come drink some of the craft beer that’s brewed thanks to all of our labors, suited or otherwise. The wonderful part of my career is that I can dress the same way working, drinking, or all of the above. It simply does not matter what I wear, nor should it.

A college professor friend, himself a veteran of the Age of Aquarius (and who may be reading this essay), used to greet unsuspecting new sociology students in the guise of a custodian. With the class still awaiting the arrival of the instructor, he’d enter the room clad in work overalls, lope around, dust a shelf and empty the trash can -- and then begin talking about sociology.

You can imagine the students’ collective reaction, gleaned entirely from conditioned responses to mere appearance, as opposed to content: Who does that lowly janitor think he is talking to us about sociology? What could he possibly know? As it always turned out, he knew quite a lot – if the listener chose to look past the hair, beard and coveralls.

Given that I entered the race for at-large city council as an outspoken contrarian already thoroughly loathed by those discredited Dixiecrats pretending to be Democrats, it is perhaps inevitable that the oldest of these perpetually irrelevant fogies will criticize me for not looking the part of a politician, whatever that means, even while they excuse the typically slovenly appearance of their antebellum, regressive darling, Steve Price.

It is hypocrisy, but I do not begrudge it. They wouldn’t vote for me under any conceivable circumstance, whether I’m clothed in an Armani suit, Newt Gingrich’s loincloth, a hoop skirt or medieval armament, so why does it matter, apart from another opportunity to remind myself that while I might age, I won’t let my attitudes grow old and stodgy like them?

For the rest of you, those capable of discerning thoughts and ideas, we’ve been having a marvelous discussion for quite a few years, and we’ll continue to do so – win, lose or draw.

If you’ll kindly excuse me, I have a load of “These Machines Kill Fascists” t-shirts to wash. One of them needs to be clean and tidy for my next public appearance, at IUS on Friday evening. Hope to see you there.

(Note: A few minor corrections have been made. Your words never seem to read quite the same when time has elapsed.)

There goes the hood. Now I'm getting all nostalgic for redlining.


How could the neighborhood association allow this to happen? Wait -- I forgot. City Hall owns the neighborhood association.

Look, just give me that cool million Doug promised, and we'll leave. It might be just enough to buy a house in Northampton MA -- or 25 slumlord properties in NA.

Refresher course: “Let’s become a place where people want to be. And if we achieve that, everything else should follow.”

Just waiting to be proven right. Patience, grasshopper.

At times of exhaustion or dissipation -- hell, it's even been known to happen while sober and well-rested, but why risk it? -- there'll be a merry bout of free association.

Here is mine for Monday, April 24. It begins with yesterday's post about the attractions of river mud.

Mud-struck New Gahanian anchor seal marketing ... and Rhode Island's disastrous state branding campaign.

This is not a "marketing piece", a "branding image" - it's not a progressive symbol, it doesn't imply a growing and vital city. An anchor? Who designed this?

A reader left this comment.

Ms. Marshall's article's most relevant point that applies to New Albany's effort:

5) Make it sellable in the first place

Finally, the secret sauce to place branding: the place. “If the community doesn’t have infrastructure, doesn’t have enough beds to attract new tourists, or it doesn’t have a qualified workforce to offer, then from a business perspective and marketing perspective, your money should go toward improving the community,” says Pryor.

It ain’t worth advertising if there’s nothing worth selling.

Then there's this, also from yesterday.

I've just finished reading Jaron Lanier's book, "You Are Not a Gadget."

Funding a civilization through advertising is like trying to get nutrition by connecting a tube from one’s anus to one’s mouth. The body starts consuming itself. That is what we are doing online.

This brings me to the left hook. The author's interview with Jeff Speck provides a useful reminder of the point appearing in bold, italic and enlarged font. It's about becoming a place where people want to be each and every day, not during scattered one-off celebrations. That's why a two-way street grid matters.

City Hall insists it's coming. I'll believe it when the trucks that shouldn't be on Spring Street in the first place begin traveling in two directions.

Urban designer Jeff Speck on walkable cities and economic development, by Rudolph Bell (Upstate Business Journal)

“Let’s become a place where people want to be. And if we achieve that, everything else should follow.”

Jeff Speck is a city planner, urban designer, author, and lecturer who advocates for more walkable cities. He advises municipalities and real estate developers through Speck & Associates, his consultancy in Brookline, Mass. Speck is the author of “Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time” and was previously director of design at the National Endowment for the Arts.

UBJ interviewed Speck on April 12 while he was in Greenville for a speaking engagement at the downtown offices of Clemson University’s MBA program. The event was sponsored by the Greenville chapter of the American Institute of Architects and 21 other groups.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Mud-struck New Gahanian anchor seal marketing ... and Rhode Island's disastrous state branding campaign.


Among the questions we've been asking since 2015, or maybe 2014 ... say, exactly when did the junta seize power, anyway?

Branding mud-struck: Why did the city of New Albany steal Anchor Brewing's seal?

We receive comments, like this one here.

It's sadly fitting they've chosen an anchor as a graphic representation of the city. An anchor fixes a potentially moving object to a place. It gets stuck in the mud and silt and keeps things from moving. That's why it's called an anchor.

This is not a "marketing piece", a "branding image" - it's not a progressive symbol, it doesn't imply a growing and vital city. An anchor? Who designed this?

This is "marketing" just like offering seven MILLION dollars to Pillsbury AFTER they said they they were leaving - that wasn't a "plan to attract businesses to the city" either. Too little and much, much too late.

And another by e-mail.

In going through files recently, I noticed that the city's new "branding logo" has replaced the old city seal on mundane printed things such as the city sewer bill.

I'v also noticed the inclusion of the city's new "branding logo" on the new street signs.

Questions abound:

1) How can the city seal be changed without public discussion and vote by council?

2) Why wasn't someone with real graphic design experience used to create versions of the logo that could be easily seen at various distances or in various uses?

The artwork is much too "thin" and confusing when seen in reverse, at a distance on street signs.

Who designed it, why and at whose request? Was a fee paid?

Back when Dan Coffey was on the mayor's payroll -- before he wasn't, and now he's back again -- there was an entirely normal city council meeting, during which these questions were answered, except they weren't.

As McLaughlin dozes, Coffey expresses his dislike of fuddy-duddy steamboat seal-bearing visitors.

The city's economic dishevelment facilitator, David Duggins, at long last became interested in the melee, and vaulted forward to volunteer this: The new symbol is a "marketing piece" and "branding mechanism," and not a new official seal. Branding and marketing. By executive order. Small wonder we remain anchored.

To avoid further instances of brain death, let's consider the case of the anchor-like millstone around Rhode Island's neck.

The Anatomy of a Disastrous State Branding Campaign, by Aarian Marshall (CityLab)

After Rhode Island’s epic screw-up, a five-step guide to doing better.

 ... Are place branding campaigns ever worth it? It’s hard to figure out, because campaigns are difficult to divorce from the actual city. Is that spike in jobs due to that sweet ad your commerce board put out two years ago, or because Large Company X liked the cut of your (empty office park’s) jib? Are tourists abandoning your boardwalk because your logo deeply offended their aesthetic sensibilities, or because the best funnel cake place closed last year? Still, as the state of Rhode Island points out, there’s definitely a bad way to do it. CityLab talked to marketing experts to figure out what went wrong—and what cities, states, and regions can do better next time.

Rejuvenating contemporary classical music? Count me in.


Our flight from Detroit landed at 9:00 p.m. on Saturday night. Thunder Over Louisville's fireworks began promptly at 9:30 p.m., and I was grimly determined to be home as quickly as possible.

Once securely barricaded and with whiskey in hand, I laughed out loud at my social media feed. It appeared that most of my friends under the age of 45 loved the locally themed music during the fireworks, or at least grasped the merit of it, while those my age and older were bitterly critical.

Aw ... would more classic rock help y'all feel better?

Speaking only for myself, since Thunder is an annoying distraction far beyond its musical component, which quite likely is the display's only redeeming quality, I was thrilled to know Teddy Abrams was involved.

Finally, something sensible.

Teddy Abrams is stepping up his role with Thunder Over Louisville, by Carolyn Tribble Greer (Louisville Business First)

Now we know the theme for this year's Thunder Over Louisville — "Thunder: Local & Original." The theme will help direct the soundtrack for the fireworks display, which will feature the music of Louisville and Kentucky natives ...

... Teddy Abrams, conductor and music director for the Louisville Orchestra, will collaborate with Thunder's producer, Wayne Hettinger. Abrams researched and created dozens of music tracks for this year's soundtrack, according to the release. The Louisville Orchestra also will be included in the soundtrack.

Coincidentally, this soon-to-be-forgotten tempest in a spittoon accompanies an article from The Economist I'd previously slated for a link.

For my money, Abrams is doing a great job of taking "classical" music to the masses, as it were. As Prospero's essay concludes, "What classical music—especially the contemporary kind—needs to thrive among 21st-century audiences may not be pre-concert cocktail receptions or other incentives. It may simply need a completely different concert format."

Rejuvenating contemporary classical music, by Prospero (The Economist)

Different concert formats may help to attract new fans

... Yet (Steve) Reich enjoyed an attentive crowd in Tallinn; chances were they didn’t realise they were listening to contemporary classical music. “People want to hear things that have a concept attached to them,” explains Kristjan Järvi, the Estonian conductor who performed the pieces with his Baltic Sea Philharmonic. Mr Järvi’s idea for the concert, where Mr Reich’s unusually crowd-pleasing interpretation of Radiohead songs formed the centrepiece, was to create an all-round experience of music and light design. The performance took place not in a concert hall but in a former power station now functioning as a creative hub. “Concert hall lighting has all the atmosphere of a dentist’s office,” Mr Järvi says. And, he argues, “traditional classical concerts only appeal to a certain crowd, people who have been introduced to classical music by their parents.”

"After 70 years of this thing we call pop, are the chances of writing something brand new mathematically fewer?"

I've just finished reading Jaron Lanier's book, "You Are Not a Gadget."

Funding a civilization through advertising is like trying to get nutrition by connecting a tube from one’s anus to one’s mouth. The body starts consuming itself. That is what we are doing online.

Lanier is a musician (among other skills), and he has fascinating things to say about the absence of innovation in popular music; he believes rap and hip hop represent the most recent "new" trends, and while they're tired, too, at least their practitioners continue to punch against the constraints of the cage.

I feel this way myself.

By the way, this blogger wouldn't know an Ed Sheeran song if it sauntered up and bit him in the butt, but there'll be a new Paramore album in a couple of weeks, and that's genuinely exciting.

Has pop finally run out of tunes? by Peter Robinson (The Guardian)

Ed Sheeran has reached a £16m settlement over his song Photograph in the latest claim over pop plagiarism. So are songwriters out of ideas? Time to call in the musicologists

This week, Ed Sheeran, a pop star whose stranglehold on the UK Top 40 is so extreme that his Star Wars name would be Chart Maul, avoided a lengthy legal trial by settling a $20m (£16m) copyright infringement claim out of court, for an unspecified sum. Two writers behind Amazing, a song by X Factor hat-botherer Matt Cardle, had spotted something familiar in Sheeran’s song Photograph and, represented by the legal team who annihilated Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams in the controversial Blurred Lines case, filed a lawsuit.

This settlement comes two weeks after the writers of TLC’s No Scrubs were suddenly added to the credits of Sheeran’s Shape of You (the precise circumstances of that addition are unknown, but it is fair to speculate that Sheeran didn’t just do it for a laugh) and it follows a claim last year – apparently ongoing – that Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud copied Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On.

It is not just about Sheeran. Whether it is Mark Ronson adding Oops Upside Your Head’s writers to Uptown Funk or a shift in the law allowing for a case against Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven (which the band won), alleged musical kleptomania seems more heavily patrolled than ever. There are many questions here. Are songwriters increasingly lazy, or arrogant, or simply incompetent – or are they being unfairly chastised for a warm homage to the music they, and we, grew up with? Is plagiarism itself on the increase or are ambulance-chasing legal teams becoming more aware that many artists will quietly settle out of court to avoid public legal proceedings? And after 70 years of this thing we call pop, are the chances of writing something brand new mathematically fewer?

Means-testing in New Gahania? It's highly doubtful that neighborhoods can be revitalized without gentrification.



Can you so much as imagine Jeff Gahan leading the Floyd County Democratic Party in a discussion of Community Land Trusts, when CLTs wouldn't benefit the same old suspects?

After all, New Gahania has strict principles of means testing.

A means test is a determination of whether a for-profit development is eligible for government assistance, based upon whether the developer or corporate entity possesses the means to donate to a local politician's re-election campaign.

Cooperative, schmo-operative. They simply don't wet sufficient beaks.

Can Neighborhoods Be Revitalized Without Gentrifying Them? by Michelle Chen (The Nation)

Baltimore’s new housing plan could provide a form of neighborhood uplift that benefits communities, not developers.

 ... Under the CLT’s cooperative ownership structure, the resident owns the property, while the community retains the land. The resident pays an annual leasing fee, plus other mortgage and maintenance expenses. When the property is sold, price is controlled through a prearranged agreement with a community authority, with representation from neighbors and “public stakeholders” such as local officials or community-development organizations. The homeowner can share in any appreciation of the sales value.

When these community controls are leveraged against market forces, neighborhoods can ensure a communally managed recycling of ownership, and avoid the frenzied churn of renters and developers commonly associated with boom-bust speculation and gentrification.

The model could also be applied to commercial properties, including self-sustaining small businesses in struggling neighborhoods. Or it could help establish community space, as East Baltimore’s Amazing Grace Lutheran Church has already done by stewarding a recreational green space known as the “sacred commons.”

Wouldn't you love to know which D.C.-based putsch consultant wrote Deaf Gahan's "luxury in our time" public housing statement?


Those high-dollar D.C. flacks probably were laughing to themselves as they cut and pasted the boilerplate, safe in the knowledge that no one in a position of authority at a "local" chain newspaper would bother checking its origin.

On Monday, there'll be a minutely choreographed meeting of the New Albany Housing Authority's board, which Mayor Jeff Gahan merrily neglected and starved before packing it like tinned sardines with craven bootlickers, all the better that they might huddle in the nether reaches of the Down Low Bunker, concocting the essentials of a socially-engineered property takeover designed to address poverty by attacking the impoverished -- and if valuable land cleared of poor people might then be devoted to luxury-based campaign finance enhancement, well, that's just a happy coincidence, isn't it?

You've already read Nick Vaughn's eloquent rebuttal.

Vaughn: THIS Public Housing Plan Will Improve the Community.

Some of our elected officials would rather tear down these affordable housing units because we have done our fair share as a city of housing low income individuals for Southern Indiana and Louisville. Instead of this sentiment, we need to empower our low income and poverty stricken neighbors and help them regain their footing and be able to rise above their standards. They cannot do this without a strong community and city government behind them helping them.

They won't be getting such leadership from Gahan, who fancies himself a Democrat, though we've seen seen almost no lower-case "democracy" from him for the past 64 months.

Following is the link to the statement written for Gahan by a PR operative who was remunerated with taxpayer money. However, ghostwriting is the least of it. I might yet go through the scentless manifesto, line by line, so as to extract details from a thicket of subterfuge, inconsistencies and outright whoppers, but there is one huge point beyond which it isn't necessary to travel -- even if Gahan's purely imaginary world were accepted as gospel, not the enduring and delusional Disney-think it genuinely is.

Notice that throughout Gahan's behind-the-scenes public housing putsch, he and his minions have spoken with seemingly everyone ...

I have met and discussed the challenges facing public housing with officials from HUD, the New Albany Redevelopment Commission, the Salvation Army, Southern Indiana Housing Initiative (SIHI), Hope Services, and others.

... except the public housing residents who are precisely the ones to be affected. 

They've been allowed to exist in a state of fearfulness as Gahan waited until four days before a prix fixe board meeting to make his first public statement of intent.

You know, the one he didn't even bother writing himself.

And then there's this: Monday's board meeting has been delayed twice. Would Deaf Gahan have said or written anything at all if not for public statements by a handful of customarily sycophantic Floyd County Democrats, who indicated that even they think he's gone too far?

(After all, neither Gahan nor NA's prominent DemoDisneyDixiecrats ever read this blog, so we cannot claim credit for any of it, but just for the fun of it: It's #OurNA, all right: "New Albany attempting to purge itself of the poor" ... so, are local Democrats finally catching on to the Gahan shell game?)

That's not vision, Deaf.

It's cowardice, and when gutlessness is combined with avarice to create institutionalized mayhem, it's a very sad time for our city.

By the way, your ghostwriter's a hack, too.

A Message from Mayor Gahan Regarding the Future of Public Housing

Dolt supremacy: Remembering Bill O'Reilly's role in the assassination of Dr. George Tiller.

The White Supremacy of Anti-Abortion Extremism

Occasionally when provoked, this 2010 column comes to my mind.

ON THE AVENUES: Abortion? Wichita, or maybe Targu Mures.

It's just a bonus to be able to tie, Bill O'Reilly, Mike Pence, Nicolae Ceausescu and anti-abortion terrorists together in one big ball of "go away -- preferably to another planet."

Bill O'Reilly's Dangerous War Against Dr. Tiller, by David S. Cohen (Rolling Stone)

O'Reilly waged an unflagging harassment campaign against the abortion provider before Tiller was murdered in 2009

On May 31st, 2009, Scott Roeder assassinated Dr. George Tiller. Roeder had been waiting patiently that morning in the pews of Tiller's church. Right after Tiller finished his job as an usher, Roeder walked into the church foyer, pressed a gun against Tiller's forehead and shot him. He died from the single gunshot wound.

Roeder killed the doctor for one reason, and one reason only: Tiller was a prominent abortion provider – maybe even the most prominent in the country at the time – and Roeder wanted to stop abortion. No one questions that Roeder's radical anti-abortion views were responsible for Tiller's death.

But this, the day Bill O'Reilly was ousted from Fox News, is a good time to remember O'Reilly's role in the Tiller tragedy – especially in the context of newly released statistics showing that harassment of abortion providers in various forms is on the increase.

O'Reilly had waged an unflagging war against Tiller that did just about everything short of urging his followers to murder him.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Opioid crisis denier Bob Caesar won't be reading, but the newspaper's "Crossroads of Crisis" series continues.


These links are from Weekend Three of the News and Tribune's ongoing series. I'll call out the chain newspaper when it errs, but also praise it for efforts like this. At times, they're one and the same.

The Crossroads series is needed, and it serves another purpose, as a valuable counterweight to Bob Caesar's career in persistent civic incomprehension.



Vaughn: THIS Public Housing Plan Will Improve the Community.

By Nick Vaughn. Apologies for the quirky formatting. Blogger just doesn't like iPhones.
-- R

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The members of the New Albany Housing Authority Board have a big decision to make at their upcoming meeting on Monday, April 23rd. The proposed plan spearheaded by Mayor Gahan would effectively demolish nearly half of the affordable housing units in New Albany in the hopes that low income housing becomes less centralized. I am against this proposal and I am writing in the hopes that not only the Housing Authority and city officials see this, but also to help my fellow New Albanians become more aware of the growing crisis in our city called poverty.

I think most people will agree that the centralization of low income housing has negative effects on those living in those units for a few different reasons. The biggest reason is that around the nation, pockets of poverty and low income housing is placed right in the middle of food deserts (places where there are not many options to buy food. Most options are fast food). I acknowledge this flaw and I support the idea of ending the centralization of poverty, however the plan put forth forces low income individuals with little hope and fewer options to up and leave their homes with effectively no place to go.

Our city government simply has not done enough to prevent the traps of poverty from engulfing many of our low income neighbors throughout the city. To put it bluntly, our city government has not prioritized the prevention of poverty. But our issue is not a culture issue, I know this because of the people I meet and see everyday around town. New Albanians are the best people in the country. Our problem is how we tackle the issue of preventing poverty. Some of our elected officials would rather tear down these affordable housing units because we have done our fair share as a city of housing low income individuals for Southern Indiana and Louisville. Instead of this sentiment, we need to empower our low income and poverty stricken neighbors and help them regain their footing and be able to rise above their standards. They cannot do this without a strong community and city government behind them helping them.

So in contrast to the proposal being put to a vote at the New Albany Housing Authority, I suggest some alternatives that the city can be doing to help not only improve the standard of living for individuals but also end the cycle of poverty by taking a two-generation modeled approach that helps both adults in low income situations and children.
  1. Having a stronger investment in local education. Many people may not realize this, but Indiana is one of the only states in the country that puts the cost of supplies and textbooks onto the local school districts. One thing our city can do is invest in our children’s education by creating a city-wide voucher program for those most in need to cover books and supplies for our school children. This would take the pressure off of families who are deciding on buying food or school supplies. 
  2. Job training partnerships. This program would cost little money and would allow the city to partner with local businesses in our community to provide those most in need with proper training for jobs so that low income families can gain important skills that will allow them to enter a higher level of the workforce and begin to support their families as well as transition out of HUD housing.
  3. Contracts for local businesses. New Albany is blessed to have an explosion of development in industry and entertainment. The city should be utilizing our local businesses for contracts as opposed to companies in other states. This would allow our local businesses to expand and offer employment to those benefitting from the Job Training Partnership program.
  4. Realizing our assets. Our low income neighbors deserve to be able to live acomfortable life and not worry about being able to put food on the table consistently for their kids. Just because their economic situation is not the same as others does not mean they are not assets to our community. Anyone can be an enormous asset to a community if they are only given a chance. We need to start realizing our assets and give them a chance.
I hope that my suggestions are ample counter proposals and that the Housing Authority Board as well as our elected city officials will take a hard look at what I have outlined here. I also am extending my helping hand to any city official who would like to meet with me and discuss what can be done at a city level to end the cycle of poverty and help our low income neighbors. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Craig Hodges: "The Triumphs and Struggles of an NBA Freedom Fighter."

Hodges is roughly 45 days older than the senior editor, who remains fascinated by the confluence of politics and sports. Hodges was blacklisted, but NBA owners routinely play politics with arena construction. Why not boycott THEM?

Craig Hodges: 'Jordan didn't speak out because he didn't know what to say', by Donald McRae (The Guardian)

He was one of the NBA’s finest sharpshooters and a two-time champion alongside Michael Jordan, but was run out of the league for his outspoken views. A quarter of a century on, Craig Hodges is still fighting the good fight

“I’m sad to say that one of our players was shot on Monday,” Craig Hodges reveals after he has spoken for an hour about his brave but tumultuous career in the NBA. Hodges fell out with Michael Jordan, confronted George Bush Sr in the White House and won two championships with his hometown team, at a time when the Chicago Bulls were venerated around the world, before he was ostracised and shut out of basketball for being too politically outspoken.

At home in Chicago, where Hodges and one of his sons, Jamaal, now coach basketball at his old high school, Rich East, his urgency is tinged with pathos. “He’s in surgery right now,” the 56-year-old says of his wounded player. “He got shot in the hip. He’s only a freshman so he’s just a 15-year-old. It’s stuff like this we’re battling every day. A few weekends ago in Chicago, five people got killed, so it’s terrible. There is so much injustice, but it’s just a matter of time before we win these battles.”

Hodges has told his compelling life story with fiery passion, looping around a cast of characters stretching from Jordan, Magic Johnson and Phil Jackson back to Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, before returning to the present. Sport and politics are entwined again in a country where Donald Trump is president and Colin Kaepernick remains locked outside football as an unsigned free agent who had the temerity to sink to one knee during the national anthem. And teenage African American boys, just like they were when Hodges was trying to shake up the NBA, are still being gunned down.

Hodges always wanted to voice his opposition to injustice. In June 1991, before the first game of the NBA finals between the Bulls and the LA Lakers, Hodges tried to convince Jordan and Magic Johnson that both teams should stage a boycott. Rodney King, an African American, had been beaten brutally by four white policemen in Los Angeles three months earlier – while 32% of the black population in Illinois lived below the poverty line.

As he writes in his new book Longshot: The Triumphs and Struggles of an NBA Freedom Fighter, Hodges told the sport’s two leading players that the Bulls and Lakers should sit out the opening game, so “we would stand in solidarity with the black community while calling out racism and economic inequality in the NBA, where there were no black owners and almost no black coaches despite the fact that 75% of the players in the league were African American”.

Jordan told Hodges he was “crazy” while Johnson said: “That’s too extreme, man.”

Thunder THIS ... a 2017 reminder.

(First published in 2016. Contrarians of the world, rise up!)

It's the least wonderful time of the year
With the fighter jets screaming
And everyone drinking the shittiest beer
It's the least wonderful time of the year

It's the dumb-dumbiest season of all
With those circle jerk fireworks and throngs of stone drunk jerks
When Thunder Day falls
It's the dumb-dumbiest season of all

(with apologies to Andy Williams)

I'll be in or near the perimeter of the 1117 E. Spring Street Neighborhood Association, guarding the premises with a bottle of gin in one hand, vermouth in the other, and recalling what it was like during the London blitz.

Move on ... mind the gap (in consciousness) ... nothing to see here.

Previous outbursts at NAC:

"These aircraft ... are normally used to do stuff like carry troops, bomb buildings and kill people."



Thursday, April 20, 2017

ON THE AVENUES: The Weekly Wad? It was a modest start.

ON THE AVENUES: The Weekly Wad? It was a modest start.

The following column about the Weekly Wad originally was published in the Tribune on March 24, 2010, and was repeated here in 2013. The column is dedicated to the memory of the late David Roark, whose boundless wit so enlivened those times.

---

Not so long ago, an old friend observed that my meek and unobtrusive writing style – as displayed over thirty years in letters to the editor, a beer appreciation newsletter, Internet blogs and finally newspaper and magazine columns like this one – can be traced back to baby steps at the Weekly Wad.

I’m not entirely sure he meant it as a compliment.

For the record, the inaugural Weekly Wad was an underground “newspaper” of four crudely mimeographed pages. A dozen Floyd Central freshmen collaboratively wrote and “published” it in 1975 by purloining paper and supplies from the audio-visual department, running off 200 illicit copies, and distributing them free of charge to a subscriber list made up of friends we trusted not to tell on us.

The first Weekly Wad is widely remembered for a front page illustration depicting our principal as wearing a Nazi armband and giving the requisite Hitler salute. Seeing that he’s now on the school board, and recently voted for neighborhood school closings, the mature adult in me is resisting the temptation to draw obvious parallels.

Another feature of our first born was an open advocacy of beer consumption on the part of a group still well short of legal drinking age. There were a few unflattering references to fellow students and teachers, and a music review of a group long forgotten, or elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or neither – maybe both.

Floyd Central’s corridors were teeming with excited readers when one of our distribution associates was collared by the heat. After a brief round of water boarding, he was coerced, sans Miranda Rights, into a full confession. In short order, the entire staff was taken into custody. Parents were called, suspensions were plotted … and then the scandal became even more bizarre than before.

Much to our surprise, our folks (two of whom were teachers, including my mother) took the case full bore against the somewhat befuddled administrators, arguing that for 15-year-olds like us to seek creative literary and journalistic outlets apart from the pre-ordained curriculum surely denoted abject failure somewhere in the chain of educational bureaucracy, and that we might better be rewarded for educational initiative rather than punished for illegality.

After all, we were writing, albeit poorly, and not painting graffiti on the walls.

There was the small matter of materials we’d appropriated in the name of the revolution, and so after a cooling-off period, cursory wrist-slappings and assorted pieties intended to channel our youthful energies into more conventional artistic directions, we were permitted to remunerate the school corporation for its dead trees and resume our journalistic careers, so long as we had a faculty advisor and refrained from A-V pilferage.

Belated thanks to you, Mr. Neely, for agreeing to sponsor the “new” Weekly Wad, circa 1976, and to my mom for letting me use her 1950’s-era manual typewriter to compose screeds against cafeteria food, undemocratic cheerleader selection processes, and turncoat hall monitors. These were cut out with scissors, pasted into place, and when an adult was available to play taxi, taken to a long-departed business in New Albany called Pronto Press.

Our allowances and odd job monies were pooled to pay for these sporadically released opuses, which decreased in frequency as we advanced toward graduation. A final farewell issue planned for the autumn of 1977 was completed and printed, but never released owing to the possibility that the athletic department might object to the strident tone of an expose on individual versus team sports.

It has become known as the “Lost Wad,” and occasionally pops up on Ebay at vastly inflated prices.

Throughout the 1980’s, during my tenure as part-time clerk at the late and lamented Scoreboard Liquors, I staged periodic revivals of the Wad. Most of these were undertaken with the help and connivance of my primary co-conspirator Byron, whose colorful accounts of high life in low places appeared under the banner, “And Now for the Truth,” which I believe we lifted in its entirety from a Herbert W. Armstrong religious tract.

My favorite episode detailed an unfortunate incident with a loaded taco on a crowded Market Street during Vodka-Thon, an annual walkabout through the bedlam of Harvest Homecoming’s Saturday night booths, when we’d be armed only with plastic cups of Stolichnaya previously passed through the shadow of a Rose’s Lime Juice bottle to produce the best ambulatory Gimlet in town.

During this second Weekly Wad era, with the subject matter turning toward topical downtown New Albany issues like the stone-deaf construction of the canvas-topped waterfront Trinkle Dome, I first took to referring to the Wad’s newsroom as occupying an opulent suite high atop the glittering Elsby Building.

More than anything else, these developments foreshadowed endeavors to come. When the NA Confidential blog was founded in 2004, it stemmed from an escalating personal interest in the downtown area. Recalling my nascent interests in the topic during the late eighties, and how these peeked through the nebulous haze, I almost named the blog the Weekly Wad before changing my mind at the last minute.

It’s stupefying and quaint to consider the history of an underground newspaper in that dusty, pre-wired era. Kids today build interactive web sites at the age of five – that is, if they haven’t already abandoned the Internet for sophisticated journals of cultural critique disseminated by their handheld mobile devices.

My generation had subversion in our brains, and larceny in our hearts. If the Internet had existed then, we’d probably still be in jail.

Recent columns:

April 13: ON THE AVENUES: Ain't it funny how we all seem to look the same?

April 6: ON THE AVENUES: On swill and tornadoes, circa '75.

March 30: ON THE AVENUES: Our great and noble leader is here to stay, so let's break out the țuică and make a joyful noise.

March 23: ON THE AVENUES: Cataloguing my consciousness on a warm spring day.

March 16: ON THE AVENUES: It's all so simple, says Jeff Gahan.Remove the impoverished, and voila! No more poverty!

7 Days of Piketty: Thursday, or "Squeezing the rich ... if the world introduces a Piketty Tax."


I'm publishing seven days of links to web material about Thomas Piketty and his book, Capital in the Twenty-first Century. Piketty has been criticized for having no "solution" to inequality apart from a global wealth tax, deemed impractical by most observers.

Today it's back to The Economist for an examination of the prospects and effects of such a tax. This brings me to the conclusion of the "7 Days of Piketty," and let me tell you -- I'm ready for a nice novel.

Squeezing the rich ... if the world introduces a "Piketty Tax" (The Economist)

Thomas Piketty, a superstar economist, favours the introduction of a global wealth tax. Its impact might be surprisingly small

IN A speech in 2013 Barack Obama labelled inequality “the defining challenge of our time”. A few months later a book on the subject by Thomas Piketty, an economist at the Paris School of Economics, became an unlikely bestseller. It walked readers through centuries of data and a theory of inequality before leaving them with a bold policy recommendation: to prevent a dangerous rise in the concentration of wealth, the world’s governments ought to co-operate to enact a global wealth tax.

Egalitarian themes remain popular on campaign trails, but the wealth-tax idea has so far failed to gain ground. Yet in the right circumstances, might a “Piketty tax” emerge from the messy world of democratic politics?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

I resemble this remark: "Idlers of the world unite."

It's the perfect read while on holiday.

Idlers of the world unite: Why the work ethic needs to be resisted, by Joe Humphreys (The Irish Times)

Unthinkable: The problems of modern labour call for a ‘collective and structural solution’, says David Frayne

The myth of the modern workplace is that new technology and an increasingly educated workforce is redefining labour for the better. Monotonous, manual work can be done by machines, freeing humans up to do creative, value-added, entrepreneurial activities. So we’re told.

The truth is there has been an explosion in what anthropologist David Graeber calls “bullshit jobs”. The knowledge economy compels us to communicate more – even when we want to switch off. And, as individuals come under pressure to stand out from the crowd, there emerges what sociologist David Frayne calls a “culture of gratitude” where labour is given without charge in return for “profile” or imagined networking benefits.

“In this hyper-competitive context,” he writes, “it has almost become a matter of bad taste to fuss about issues like contracts, payment, and working conditions. You should just be grateful to have an opportunity in the first place.”

Frayne has mapped these modern changes to the labour market in his book The Refusal of Work, which his part sociological study and part polemic. Valiantly, he takes up where the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson and Bertrand Russell left off in offering a defence for the dosser.

7 Days of Piketty: Wednesday, or "Piketty's Three Big Mistakes."


I'm publishing seven days of links to web material about Thomas Piketty and his book, Capital in the Twenty-first Century.

Today, another critic.

Piketty's Three Big Mistakes, by Noah Smith (Bloomberg View)

 ... Rognlie has three observations that cast doubt on Piketty’s big thesis.

The first is that Piketty doesn’t take depreciation into account. As capitalists accumulate more and more machines, buildings and other hard assets they have to pay more and more to maintain that physical capital. Trucks need new tires. Offices need renovation. What Rognlie notices is that this upkeep cost has been increasing over time.

Nowadays, more than in the past capital goods are often in the form of computers, software and other high-tech products that go obsolete very quickly. That means that capitalists have to spend more money replacing these things. A lot of what looks like more money going into owners’ pockets is really just an increased cost of doing business.

Rognlie isn't the first to make this point -- it has been made by James Hamilton of the University of California-San Diego and by Benjamin Bridgman of the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

But Rognlie adds two other important points ...

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

ASK THE BORED: A footnote about wetted beaks.

An an addendum to the historical record, we see David Duggins discussing a subdivision marker (huh?) improvement contract with the Board of Public Works on Tuesday, April 11.


At roughly the same time, Ginkins was being appointed to the New Albany Housing Authority board in preparation for Jeff Gahan's annexation.

I'll just leave this here for posterity's perusal.

Al Knable: "Today, I officially filed my paperwork establishing an exploratory committee for seeking the office of Mayor of New Albany."

A self-explanatory post. It's official: Things have gotten very interesting a full two years before the primary.

---

AL KNABLE for MAYOR (?):

Today, I officially filed my paperwork establishing an exploratory committee for seeking the office of Mayor of New Albany. I'm 

Although many exploratory committees are formed with the intent of fundraising, for now I am focused on the word "exploratory" and I need your help.

I have a vision for our city and look forward to sharing it, but for the time being I'm more concerned with hearing from you. Where is New Albany getting things right? What can we do better? How can our elected officials make life better for all our constituents?

I look forward to a dialogue with the community over the next several months after which time Jessica, the kids and I will make a final decision as to the 2019 election.

In the mean time, catch up with me on FB, over coffee, down at the Farmer's Market (or Kroger's). I might even be knocking on some doors. You get the idea.

I'm all ears!

Thanks and- PLEASE SHARE THIS POST.

7 Days of Piketty: Tuesday, or "Egalitarianism’s Latest Foe: a critical review of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century."


I'm publishing seven days of links to web material about Thomas Piketty and his book, Capital in the Twenty-first Century. Prior to reading the book, my friend Brandon warned me that it wouldn't improve my mood.

It didn't, and reading the book evidently did nothing for Yanis Varoufakis' mood, either. Varoufakis gives a leftist economist's reply to Piketty here. Just know that the fundamental point is the difference between wealth and capital, and the truths flowing from this difference. Pour a stiff drink first. It took me a while to get through it.

I'm still interested in pitchfork acquisition.

Egalitarianism’s Latest Foe: a critical review of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by Yanis Varoufakis (Paecon)

The commercial and discursive triumph of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century symbolises this turning point in the public’s mood both in the United States and in Europe. Capitalism is, suddenly, portrayed as the purveyor of intolerable inequality which destabilises liberal democracy and, in the limit, begets chaos. Dissident economists, who spent long years arguing in isolation against the trickle-down fantasy, are naturally tempted to welcome Professor Piketty’s publishing phenomenon.

The sudden resurgence of the fundamental truth that the best predictor of socio-economic success is the success of one’s parents, in contrast to the inanities of human capital models, is undoubtedly uplifting. Similarly with the air of disillusionment with mainstream economics’ toleration of increasing inequality evident throughout Professor Piketty’s book. And yet, despite the soothing effect of Professor Piketty’s anti-inequality narrative, this paper will be arguing that Capital in the 21st Century constitutes a disservice to the cause of pragmatic egalitarianism ...

Monday, April 17, 2017

THE BEER BEAT: Sometimes compliance takes a labyrinth.

Attention, oppressed Indian(a) ATC permit holders.

Why This Bar Built a Labyrinth Outside Its Front Door, by Cara Giaimo (Atlas Obscura)

The bar is now, technically, over 500 meters from the street.

... The employees of Aiswarya Bar—located 150 meters from Highway 17, in Kerala—saw a third option. A few days before the law went into effect, they began building a small maze out of prefabricated concrete walls, leading from the building’s entrance to the street. When they finished, the distance from barstool to road had stretched three times its original length.

7 Days of Piketty: Monday, or "The Geography of Populist Discontent."


I'm publishing seven days of links to web material about Thomas Piketty and his book, Capital in the Twenty-first Century. Prior to reading the book, my friend Brandon warned me that it wouldn't improve my mood.

He was right.

Pitchforks, anyone?

We continue with a consideration of inequality's contribution to populist discontent.

The Geography of Populist Discontent, by Richard Florida (CityLab)

“There are times when rational, well-educated societies lose a sense of perspective,” says urban scholar Josef Konvitz. The global populist backlash represents one of those times.

 ... The current discussion focuses primarily on stagnant or declining real incomes, and hence on widening disparities between most people and the top 1 percent or 5 percent by income. Productivity is increasing at a lower rate. And, as Robert Gordon argues, we seem to be living off innovations that are decades old. Thomas Piketty’s Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century and Angus Deaton’s The Great Escape, both published in 2013, emphasized a long historical perspective, the importance of cultural values, and the impact of meta-events, usually overwhelming catastrophes, that separate one phase, often lasting decades, from another. These studies, however, look at large social categories and the unit of the nation-state, ignoring spatial variations within countries or in the distribution of social and cultural groups.

The decline of the middle class and the broken escalator of social mobility are no fiction. Before the 2016 U.S. election, Le Monde published maps about the geography of disparities in the U.S. Did you know that the size of the middle class shrank by more than 7 percent between 2000 and 2013 in New England, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, the Carolinas, Mississippi, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona? Some of these were red states, others blue. But the trend shaped the political narrative.

Another map showed that the chances of a child born into a family at the lowest level of poverty ever reaching the upper level of income were under 6 percent in virtually all parts of the South, as well as much of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.

The spatial perspective comes into sharper focus when we look at indirect measurements such as the higher cost of rental housing, declining real incomes, the burden of debt for home ownership, the cost of commuting by car, pressure on infrastructure capacity—things that matter in daily life and for which people have no elasticity, meaning that they cannot find better or less expensive ways of doing things. Pressures build up. These indirect indicators highlight how the organization of housing and work in particular places can generate problems that accumulate. As Jane Jacobs famously said, when this happens, problem solving has broken down.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

7 Days of Piketty: Sunday, or "Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic."


I'm publishing seven days of links to web material about Thomas Piketty and his book, Capital in the Twenty-first Century. Piketty generally has been praised for the sheer depth of his research, and criticized for failing to offer a solution to the problem of inequality apart from a global tax on wealth, which strikes most observers as unlikely.

Pitchforks, anyone?

We continue with a consideration of another book, this one about inequality's potential threat to our system of government.

It’s Not Just Unfair: Inequality Is a Threat to Our Governance, by Angus Deaton (New York Times)

THE CRISIS OF THE MIDDLE-CLASS CONSTITUTION
Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic

By Ganesh Sitaraman
423 pp. Alfred A. Knopf. $28.

President Obama labeled income inequality “the defining challenge of our time.” But why exactly? And why “our time” especially? In part because we now know just how much goes to the very top of the income distribution, and beyond that, we know that recent economic growth, which has been anemic in any case, has accrued mostly to those who were already well-heeled, leaving stagnation or worse for many Americans. But why is this a problem?

Why am I hurt if Mark Zuckerberg develops Facebook, and gets rich on the proceeds? Some care about the unfairness of income inequality itself, some care about the loss of upward mobility and declining opportunities for our kids and some care about how people get rich — hard work and innovation are O.K., but theft, legal or otherwise, is not. Yet there is one threat of inequality that is widely feared, and that has been debated for thousands of years, which is that inequality can undermine governance. In his fine book, both history and call to arms, Ganesh Sitaraman argues that the contemporary explosion of inequality will destroy the American Constitution, which is and was premised on the existence of a large and thriving middle class. He has done us all a great service, taking an issue of overwhelming public importance, delving into its history, helping understand how our forebears handled it and building a platform to think about it today.

As recognized since ancient times, the coexistence of very rich and very poor leads to two possibilities, neither a happy one. The rich can rule alone, disenfranchising or even enslaving the poor, or the poor can rise up and confiscate the wealth of the rich. The rich tend to see themselves as better than the poor, a proclivity that is enhanced and even socially sanctioned in modern meritocracies. The poor, with little prospect of economic improvement and no access to political power, “might turn to a demagogue who would overthrow the government — only to become a tyrant. Oligarchy or tyranny, economic inequality meant the end of the republic.”

Saturday, April 15, 2017

New England 2017: Saturday in South Portland, not to neglect the Great Lost Bear and other wonders.

A deadly roundabout on a Portland back street. 

As is my usual custom, I'll be posting photos, commentary and links about our trip; the daily accounts will be back-dated to coincide with their occurrence. It won't be the most thrilling reading, but in addition to whatever else NAC may or may not have become over the years, it's still a personal blog, and you're fully entitled to views of our holiday.

Our timing for spring break in Maine was fortunate. Friday and Saturday in Portland were largely cloudless and temperate; as noted earlier, it had snowed only two weeks before our arrival.

After another round of doughnuts from Tony's down the street, we drove to South Portland, a separately chartered city. As situated across the water from downtown Portland, it is vaguely reminiscent of Jeffersonville in the sense of awakening to the possibilities of revitalization -- and having a nice view of its bigger brother.


These view are from Bug Light Park. The first time I saw the name, it appeared to me as Bud Light Park, and nausea was suppressed only with difficulty. However, it was a false alarm, because Bug Light is shorthand for the Portland Breakwater Light.



At the Cia Cafe, we had coffee and read for a while.


After a stroll, it was already time for lunch. Having already scouted the options, Foulmouthed Brewing was the obvious choice. The name derives from nearby Falmouth, pronounced FAL-muth ... from which "foulmouthed" naturally rolls off the tongue.





Beer, food and hoodies at Foulmouthed Brewing were exemplary. After lunch, it was time for a ten-minute drive to the town of Cape Elizabeth for an examination of the Portland area's most famous lighthouse: Portland Head Light. The lighthouse lies within Fort William Park, and I'm glad we weren't visiting during high season.









A plan was forming for the remainder of the day. Jason Tredo used to be regular at the Public House, and was a member of FOSSILS. Then he moved. Now the Tredos live an hour away from Portland in New Hampshire, and Jason proposed to drive down for a beer at the Great Lost Bear.

The pub is less than 20 minutes by food from our Airbnb room, and that was all right by me, as walking promotes thirst.


I've been to this nationally famous pub only twice, but it's in the upper echelon for me. A delicious sub-4% Best Bitter from Airline Brewing was on the hand pull, and yes, I had more than one. If anyone reading knows the Great Lost Bear's chili recipe or has a reasonable facsimile, please pass it along. The wings are sublime, too.

Invigorated, we headed north for a rendezvous with Diana's friend from high school, Tiffany.

Note the ice!


Tiffany is the proud owner of the Carousel Horse Farm in Casco, Maine. She'll take you trail riding or for carriage ride outings. In winter, there's a sleigh. I'm not the equine sort, but rest assured there's ample wilderness for viewing on horseback. From her website, here's a view of a beach ride.


After a brief visit, the town of Naples was the scene for an excellent evening meal and beers at Bray's Brew Pub & Eatery. The casual roadhouse ambiance seemed more than appropriate, considering that we'd be hitting the highway on Sunday morning, in route for Massachusetts.