Sunday, February 16, 2020

There'll be a merchant meeting on Tuesday morning, 8:30 a.m. at The Root.

Develop New Albany says:

"Join other local merchants monthly as we discuss what's going on in our community and share ideas and best practices. This event is free and open to all local merchants and employees."

Business owners definitely need to meet each other and discuss pertinent issues, preferably in the form of an autonomous independent business association, because otherwise business owners run the risk of being co-opted into political agendas, especially during the run-up to Sherman Minton Bridge repair work -- this being an existential issue for downtown New Albany.

Full stop.

I realize not all of you appreciate obvious truth, although consider that the wonderful thing about both Tiggers and obvious truth is that each stands on its own. Indie business owners can stand on their own, too. See you bright and early Tuesday morning.

"Bernie Sanders isn’t a radical — he’s a pragmatist who fights to un-rig the system."

It's so very tiresome having to explain these matters again and again -- to Democrats, whose prefer keeping the system rigged, and whose idea of "resistance" is to become as much like their opposition as humanly possible while expressing dismay that nothing ever changes. Then it's back to the imaginary Star Wars and Marvel canons, and another half-decade of decline.

Opinion: Bernie Sanders isn’t a radical — he’s a pragmatist who fights to un-rig the system, by Mark Weisbrot (Market Watch)

 ... He is a “socialist,” his opponents cry, leaving out the first part of the term “democratic socialist” that Sanders always uses when this issue is discussed. There is much room to induce confusion here because the term “socialist,” in English, has a number of different definitions that have all become common usage over the years.

It can be used to mean anything from “communist,” as in the former Soviet Union, to the European social democratic or socialist parties that have governed for much of the past 70 years in countries such as France, Germany, Spain, and the U.K., not to mention the Scandinavian countries.

It should be clear to anyone who is not trying to frighten voters that Sanders is a social democrat of the latter, European variety. There will be no U.S. government takeover of the means of production under a Sanders administration.

The biggest expansion in government will be in public funding of health insurance. Like traditional Medicare, where less than 2% of expenses are administrative costs, public health insurance will be much more efficient than the current six times as much spent by the private insurance industry. And we won’t have 8 million people falling into poverty every year due to medical expenses, or worse, tens of thousands actually dying because of lack of access to affordable health care.

Sanders’ program is targeted at correcting a very harmful transformation of the U.S. economy that has taken place over the past 40 years ...

"From V-J Day 1945 to this has been, my fellow countrymen, a perfect nightmare."
-- Gore Vidal (1987)

Saturday, February 15, 2020

On being an exile in one's own community (thanks, Jan Morris).

Not Mussolini.
It has been only a few months since I wrote about Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere, "a meditation on the crossroads city of Trieste" (in Italy) by the Welsh journalist and writer Jan Morris, who was born in 1926 and remains with us.

We visited Trieste just after Thanksgiving, and I became enamored of this amazing place, although it must be said that my geographic promiscuity is legendary in this regard. Trieste is one of several hundred European cities, towns and goat crossings in which I'd live happily ever after if afforded the chance -- or rather, if I could afford it, having dedicated my life to pro bono pay scales in pursuit of various windmills.

La Mancha? I'd live there, too.

Back to Trieste. Morris's book is history, travelogue and social commentary all at once, canvassing Illyrians, Austrians, Italians, Slovenes and Jews; long-term expatriate resident James Joyce's fondness for whorehouses and ill-fated Emperor Maximilian's unfortunate career choice in Mexico; Karst limestone topography, native Bora winds, the Glagolitic (old Slavic) alphabet and young Sigmund Freud's failure to determine how eels copulate; mediocre opera, excellent coffee and various movable landmarks; and not to exclude robust viewpoints about racism and nationalism (unsurprisingly she's decidedly against them).

She offers this summary, incorporating a few words about exile.

“There are people everywhere who form a Fourth World, or a diaspora of their own. They are the lordly ones. They come in all colours. They can be Christians or Hindus or Muslims or Jews or pagans or atheists. They can be young or old, men or women, soldiers or pacifists, rich or poor. They may be patriots, but are never chauvinists. They share with each other, across all the nations, common values of humour and understanding. When you are among them you will not be mocked or resented, because they will not care about your race, your faith, your sex or your nationality, and they suffer fools if not gladly, at least sympathetically. They laugh easily. They are easily grateful. They are never mean. They are not inhibited by fashion, public opinion or political correctness. They are exiles in their own communities, because they are always in a minority, but they form a mighty nation, if they only knew it. It is the nation of nowhere, and I have come to believe that its natural capital is Trieste.”

A noted last year, while Morris has not visited New Albany, she knows exactly what it feels like to exist here amid the reign of the mediocre charlatans. Internal exile, New Gahania-style, means being confined to quarters because it's too dumb to go outside.

The first mention at NA Confidential of Nawbany's congenital anti-intellectualism came in October of 2005, courtesy of long-forgotten 19th-century Hoosier writer and pedagogue, Bayard R. Hall:

In 1843, Hall wrote of frontier Indiana that "(w)e always preferred an ignorant bad man to a talented one, and hence attempts were usually made to ruin the moral character of a smart candidate; since unhappily, smartness and wickedness were supposed to be generally coupled, and incompetence and goodness."

Remarkably, Hall foresaw the 2000s, prompting the query: Why am I still here, continuing to live in New Albany, when I might be residing in another part of the state, country or world?

(Reader’s note: The axiom known as Thrasher’s Razor fully applies to this rumination, because now more than ever, we’re all here because we’re not all there.)

As the missus reminds me on widely scattered occasions -- basically, every morning at breakfast -- I’ve never been much in sync with the sort of polite poseur’s society values craved by the underachieving likes of Bob Caesar. They're far too banal an ordeal for me.

What's more, I’ve never been able to swim a lick unless it’s against the metaphorical tide. Contrarianism fits me like a well-tailored suit, which of course I’d subsequently refuse to wear, because you can’t trust anyone who does. Suits are little more than costumes to facilitate hiding behind.

Wouldn’t I be happier elsewhere, in a place with a cultural climate more in keeping with my personal value system, as opposed to one that prompts severe allergic (read: aesthetic) reactions? Haven’t “they” always told me to leave town if I didn’t like “their” toxic farrago of ignorance?

To which I’ve always succinctly replied: “You first, my dear Gaston.”

All this being said, for the first time since the 1980s, the notion of living elsewhere is being tossed around my dusty cranium. The forthcoming "60" seems a nice, round age to begin contemplating future options. If I'm lucky, two quality decades remain, with maybe some pocket change before eternity.

Is an open air museum where the life of the mind is shunned like a displaced coronavirus sufferer really the final stop for me -- for us? I don't know. All I know is it's worth thinking about.   

"Why I Call Myself A Socialist," by playwright and actor Wallace "My Dinner with Andre" Shawn.

Wallace Shawn is an Obie Award-winning playwright and a noted stage and screen actor.  Unfortunately Shawn has no dialogue in the video clip I've chosen above, from the film My Dinner with Andre (1981), which altered my consciousness during a drunken evening with cousin Don in 1986.

For more on the film, scroll to the end of this page.

Shawn's essay Why I Call Myself a Socialist (Is the World Really a Stage?) dates to 2011. Intriguingly, the word "socialist" does not appear save for the title. It's a lengthy essay, so let's begin after the beginning.

 ... In the old days of the Soviet Five-Year Plans, the planners tried to determine what ought to happen to the babies born under their jurisdiction. They would calculate how many managers the economy needed, how many researchers, how many factory workers. And the Soviet leaders would organize society in an attempt to channel the right number of people into each category. In most of the world today, the invisible hand of the global market performs this function.

I’ve sometimes noted that many people in my generation, born during World War II, are obsessed, as I am, by the image of the trains arriving at the railroad station at Auschwitz and the way that the S.S. officers who greeted the trains would perform on the spot what was called a “selection,” choosing a few of those getting off of each train to be slave laborers, who would get to live for as long as they were needed, while everyone else would be sent to the gas chambers almost immediately. And just as inexorable as were these “selections” are the determinations made by the global market when babies are born. The global market selects out a tiny group of privileged babies who are born in certain parts of certain towns in certain countries, and these babies are allowed to lead privileged lives. Some will be scientists, some will be bankers. Some will command, rule, and grow fantastically rich, and others will become more modestly paid intellectuals or teachers or artists. But all the members of this tiny group will have the chance to develop their minds and realize their talents.

As for all the other babies, the market sorts them and stamps labels onto them and hurls them violently into various pits, where an appropriate upbringing and preparation are waiting for them. If the market thinks that workers will be needed in electronics factories, a hundred thousand babies will be stamped with the label “factory worker” and thrown down into a certain particular pit. And when the moment comes when one of the babies is fully prepared and old enough to work, she’ll crawl out of the pit, and she’ll find herself standing at the gate of a factory in India or in China or in Mexico, and she’ll stand at her workstation for 16 hours a day, she’ll sleep in the factory’s dormitory, she won’t be allowed to speak to her fellow workers, she’ll have to ask for permission to go the bathroom, she’ll be subjected to the sexual whims of her boss, and she’ll be breathing fumes day and night that will make her ill and lead to her death at an early age. And when she has died, one will be able to say about her that she worked, like a nurse, not to benefit herself, but to benefit others. Except that a nurse works to benefit the sick, while the factory worker will have worked to benefit the owners of her factory. She will have devoted her hours, her consideration, her energy and strength to increasing their wealth. She will have lived and died for that. And it’s not that anyone sadly concluded when she was born that she lacked the talent to become, let’s say, a violinist, a conductor, or perhaps another Beethoven. The reason she was sent to the factory and not to the concert hall was not that she lacked ability but that the market wanted workers, and so she was assigned to be one.

And during the period when all the babies who are born have been sorted into their different categories and labeled, during the period when you could say that they’re being nourished in their pens until they’re ready to go to work, they’re all assigned appropriate costumes. And once they know what costume they’ll wear, each individual is given an accent, a way of speaking, some characteristic personality traits, and a matching body type, and each person’s face starts slowly to specialize in certain expressions which coordinate well with their personality, body type, and costume. And so each person comes to understand what role he will play, and so each can consistently select and reproduce, through all the decades and changes of fashion, the appropriate style and wardrobe, for the rest of his life.

This must be read in full, but here's the conclusion.

... If we look at reality for more than an instant, if we look at the human beings passing us on the street, it’s not bearable. It’s not bearable to watch while the talents and the abilities of infants and children are crushed and destroyed. These happen to be things that I just can’t think about. And most of the time, the factory workers and domestic workers and cashiers and truck drivers can’t think about them either. Their performances as these characters are consistent and convincing, because they actually believe about themselves just what I believe about them -- that what they are now is all that they could ever have been, they could never have been anything other than what they are. Of course, that’s what we all have to believe, so that we can bear our lives and live in peace together. But it’s the peace of death.

Actors understand the infinite vastness hiding inside each human being, the characters not played, the characteristics not revealed. Schoolteachers can see every day that, given the chance, the sullen pupil in the back row can sing, dance, juggle, do mathematics, paint, and think. If the play we’re watching is an illusion, if the baby who now wears the costume of the hustler in fact had the capacity to become a biologist or a doctor, a circus performer or a poet or a scholar of ancient Greek, then the division of labor, as now practiced, is inherently immoral, and we must somehow learn a different way to share out all the work that needs to be done. The costumes are wrong. They have to be discarded. We have to start out naked again and go from there.

Friday, February 14, 2020

If you identify as "Democrat" and are enamored with Bloomberg, you're just running scared -- and you're not a "democrat."

"Swapping kakistocracy for oligarchy will not undo the damage of the Trump presidency. It will merely calcify the rot."

Kakistocracy via Trump: "government by the least suitable or competent citizens of a state."

Oligarchy via Bloomberg: "a small group of people having control of a country, organization, or institution."

ABAT: "As bad as Trump."

It isn't only that moderates identifying as "liberal" really aren't liberal. Apparently they're also clueless and terrified, positing that "liberalism" is devoid of meaning, and something to be discarded because after all, it isn't as if there exists reasons to be "for" something instead of merely "against" something else.

Inequality borne of capital accumulation is the problem. There are far more withouts than withs. Pitchfork lube?

Now you're talking.

Michael Bloomberg Isn’t a Smug Technocratic Centrist. He’s Something Far Worse
, by Ross Barkan (Jacobin)

An admirer of dictators, a lowbrow misogynist, an unfiltered bigot — Michael Bloomberg is the only Democratic contender who might actually be worse than Trump.

... Oligarchy Personified

The best way to understand Bloomberg is to study his twelve years leading America’s largest city. Let’s get the obvious out of the way: there were things to like about Bloomberg’s New York, particularly if you were white and carried a degree of wealth. He was, to his credit, an early supporter of same-sex marriage. He cared about protecting the environment. It was a good thing when smoking was banned from restaurants and bars. Bloomberg stuck up for pedestrians and cyclists. The 311 system simplified the process of lodging complaints.

All of this is easily negated by the pain and terror he wrought. If you were a Muslim in Bloomberg’s New York, the NYPD was deployed to spy, without cause, on your mosque. Bloomberg’s police infiltrated Muslim student groups and put informants in mosques. The blanket surveillance, the NYPD would later admit, didn’t produce any tangible leads. Three lawsuits were eventually settled after Bloomberg left office.

Around the time Bloomberg announced his presidential campaign, he cynically ventured to a church in a black Brooklyn neighborhood to apologize for his police department’s maniacal abuse of stop-and-frisk tactics. Under Bloomberg, police stops — which overwhelmingly targeted black and Latino men — increased from 97,296 in 2002 to a peak of 685,724 in 2011. The stops, for these young men, were traumatizing, as heavily armed police officers stalked and then aggressively searched their bodies for no justifiable cause. In 2013, a federal judge ruled the practice unconstitutional.

Rather than accept responsibility, Bloomberg fought back, appealing the ruling. “There is just no question that stop-and-frisk has saved countless lives,” Bloomberg thundered in 2013. “I worry for my kids and I worry for your kids.”

Bloomberg was unrepentant. Police power could do no wrong. In 2011, armed police stormed Zuccotti Park in the middle of the night to forcefully break up Occupy Wall Street, a movement that kicked off a public reckoning with America’s surging income inequality. The protest ultimately offended his sensibilities. “I don’t appreciate the bashing of all the hard-working people who live and work here and pay the taxes that support our city,” Bloomberg said at the time.

Bloomberg’s total lack of interest in staunching his own city’s spiraling inequality fueled homelessness and displacement. Rezonings in formerly working-class neighborhoods spurred luxury development and increasingly unsustainable rent hikes. His lavish donations to Republicans in the State Senate ensured New York’s laws protecting tenants would remain in a weakened state as long as he remained in office. Public housing further crumbled under his watch. And in 2011, Bloomberg killed a housing subsidy program for homeless families, directly triggering the homelessness crisis New York is still grappling with today ...

Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Root Cause Research Center and Actor's Theatre are bringing Ananya Roy to speak on "Housing Justice: Racial Banishment & a Right to the City."

First, the event. Then we'll define a few terms. The Root Cause Research Center is partnering with Actor's Theatre of Louisville to launch "Root Cause Radical Thinkers: A Movement Science Speaker Series."

On Saturday, March 7 at 10:45 a.m., Ananya Roy will be speaking about Housing Justice: Racial Banishment & a Right to the City. Roy's talk at Actor's Theatre is free of charge but you must reserve a place because seating is limited. Go here to do so.

Ananya Roy is Professor of Urban Planning, Social Welfare, and Geography and The Meyer and Renee Luskin Chair in Inequality and Democracy at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is inaugural Director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA, which promotes research and scholarship concerned with displacement and dispossession in Los Angeles and and seeks to build power to make social change. Previously she was on the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, where she received her Master’s in City Planning (1994) and Ph.D. in Urban Planning (1999).

Ananya’s research and scholarship has a determined focus on poverty and inequality. Her work has focused on urban transformations and land grabs in the global South as well as on global capital and predatory financialization.

Going a bit deeper ...

Three research and policy priorities are central to Ananya’s current commitments. First, she leads a National Science Foundation funded research network on Housing Justice in Unequal Cities. Building a shared terrain of scholarship across universities and movements, this network is concerned with advancing ideas, practices, programs, and policies of housing justice in Los Angeles as well as in other cities of the world. Second, Ananya’s research is concerned with “racial banishment,” the pushing out of working-class communities of color from urban cores to the far peripheries of metropolitan regions. In collaboration with housing justice lawyers and movements in Los Angeles, she studies the role of municipal ordinances in such processes of banishment. Third, since 2017, she has been actively involved in scholarship about sanctuary cities and cities of refuge. As evident in her recent article, The City in the Age of Trumpism: From Sanctuary to Abolition (Environment and Planning D), she seeks to expand practices of welcome and hospitality in order to take account of the long histories of settler-colonialism, imperialism, and slavery.

Here's a snippet about the Root Cause Research Center.

We believe that the people most impacted by an issue are best positioned to discover the root causes and solutions of that issue. They are the ones with the firsthand experience, social context, insights, and networks that are necessary to fully unearth the whole story behind a deep-rooted problem.

The Root Cause Research Center works alongside and trains community members to investigate and report community concerns. We bring together impacted community members and train them in community organizing, research, and design--all to help them tell their own data stories to the public, to policymakers, and to other connected stakeholders. We partner with local grassroots leaders to launch Community-Based Participatory Research projects. We also design inventive and interactive visuals that break down complex information for policy change.

The Root Cause Research Center is a policy-focused, grassroots-led institution grounded in Data Equity, Movement Science, and Abolitionist Planning (see Definitions below). We are actively building a new system in the American South that provides an alternative to the traditionally hierarchical and classist model of research. We lean into transformative justice by creating community-based alternatives to dehumanizing and inaccessible research institutions that use impacted community members as test subjects rather than co-investigators.

And a video.

New Albanians with memories of a time before taco walks will recall the Root Cause Research Center's co-investigator Joshua Poe, who lived here in New Albany a decade ago. Here's a forgotten piece he wrote in 2010 for the long dormant New Albany Bicycling Coalition blog. It actually was reprinted at Broken Sidewalk.

From contributor and New Albany resident Joshua Poe: "Observations about biking from New Albany to Louisville."

And, a few more links about Poe's work.

Joshua Poe explains how those "public input" meetings are kept meaningless to maintain pre-determined outcomes.

“It feels like planners in the U.S. sort of exist in a history vacuum. It’s important for them to look at this information and understand that a lot of city planning really involves dismantling systems like zoning and redlining.”

Poe: "The design seems better suited to simply facilitate crime than livability."

GREEN MOUSE presents NAWBANY WEEK IN REVIEW for 14 February 2020.

Overheard by the Green Mouse at a otherwise deserted local hangout: "Gahan's like a kidney stone -- he, too, shall pass."

Let's hope, but as we observe Valentine's Day 2020, it remains that 46 idolatrous months are left to go amid Gahan III: For the Love of Money. It's never too early to begin handicapping "next," so let's look at the presumptive favorites should our monetizer-for-life decide to take a pay cut and make this term his last.

With Courtney Lewis unexpectedly decamping for a job in Louisville -- women and minorities need not apply for advancement in Newbany given Dear Leader's white male goon ol' boy network -- one springboard lies vacant, and Deaf Gahan has a position to fill as assistant to the city attorney.

After all, it takes two people to lift the typical bond bonus.

These days most of the gratuitous propaganda and photo ops are being handled by redevelopment's Josh Staten, although this has more to do with the city's invisible communications director than intentional campaign prep. Staten would be the ideal purely technocratic candidate, except that four-syllable words like "technocratic" are banned in Nawbany by ordinance (one of the few we actually enforce).

Jason Applegate has two months under his belt as an at-large city councilman, which is enough time to have sold Extol advertising to every municipal vendor. He'll be ambitious, whether from internal or external sources, and he previously has run a city-wide political race, which is important.

So has David Brewer, current township trustee. He's probably the oddsmakers' favorite to follow in Gahan's wake, at least at this point. Second most likely to aspire to power is current police chief Todd Bailey. Has the chief managed to escape the stain of his support for Irv Stumler in 2011? Bossman Jeff has a long memory when it comes to perceived slights.

These are your mayoral contenders for 2023, but only the Shadow (Squire Adam) knows for sure, and he's busy lining up Deaf's photo-op with Michael Bloomberg.


A month ago the Green Mouse asked why three street lights on the orphaned south side Market (between State and Pearl) had been non-functional since well before Harvest Homecoming last year.

Lo and behold, the sacred gatekeepers appear to have been listening, and the job has been passed to Duke Energy.

Yes, it was a slow news week. Still, there were two headlines.

Pillar Awards: It's high time Develop New Albany recognized downtown businessman Todd Coleman.

9 million tons of Duke Energy's coal ash, the EPA's proposal to loosen regulations about it, and Earthjustice's lawsuit against the EPA.

As an aside, Recbar 812 was packed all last weekend in terms of physical space, even as expert denizens of cyberspace continued to complain bitterly that no one goes there owing to crappy parking. Similarly, as local media fawned over the announcement that 190+ apartment units will fill the former StemWood site on Grant Line Road, no one asked about the details or the subsidies, just decried the effect on traffic.

It's Valentine's Day, and many of you will celebrate it by washing your damn car.

In closing, at Curbed is a commentary about a phenomenon that Greg "Indiana Landmarks" Sekula recently discovered: "Public meetings are broken. Here’s how to fix them."

Held at times of day that can make it hard for many people to attend without missing work, usually without day care options, and sometimes in locations not favorable to those with disabilities or who rely on transit, these meetings already exclude many groups before they even start. Then there’s the matter of format: Experts and officials typically sit behind a table and give speeches and make presentations, with a microphone set up to take comments from neighbors who can spare the time to spend hours waiting for a few minutes on the mic. No surprise that a Knight Foundation study from 2010 found that attending a public meeting didn’t make residents feel more or less connected to their communities.

Join us again next week as New Agony prepares for an early spring.

Pillar Awards: It's high time Develop New Albany recognized downtown businessman Todd Coleman.

Nearly every field of human endeavor has a regular prize. And nearly every prize seems to regularly go to a clearly undeserving winner. Woody Allen’s character complained in Annie Hall, “They’re always giving out awards. Best Fascist Dictator: Adolf Hitler.” If an award like that really did exist, though, they’d probably end up giving it to Mussolini.
-- Jonathan Chait, writing in The New Republic (2009)

Just to ensure the usual suspects don't willfully misread the preceding quote, kindly note that I AM NOT comparing any local person to Hitler or Mussolini, although the Market Street North Side Only Median beautification project probably would win an award for "Best Ceausescu Knockoff" in the Totalitarian Architecture Awards (they're not the Oscars, but the Ta Tas).

Rather, I'm here to file a nomination for Develop New Albany's Pillar Awards, even though I'm aware of the ironic implications, given that the Pillar Awards are almost meaningless; I don't care about them and neither does my nominee, but fair's fair and it's time the beautiful people boarded the damn train and gave some credit to people outside their narrow field of vision.

To be specific, Todd Coleman should get a Pillar Renaissance Award. He probably also should get a Pillar Foundation Award. 

I'm not going to belabor the point or get frilly about it. Just this: Todd would be a deserving winner.

Todd has owned properties downtown for decades. He has successfully run Classic Furniture downtown for just as long. He hasn't always marched in lockstep with the expectations of newcomers, but maybe -- just maybe -- Todd has been savvy enough to wait and see if other improvements are deep-rooted or ephemeral before reaching into his wallet. 

Now Todd has reached into his wallet, and he's doing work on all his properties. I don't know how many windows he has replaced on these properties. To be sure, he received money from the Horseshoe/Caesar's Foundation to facilitate this work, but I know he's also spent a pretty penny of his own. The entire facade improvement process was weighted to provide maximum assistance to Schmitt Furniture, but Todd has done more improving with less assistance in a shorter period of time.

Yes, it's true; awards like these are hokum in the main. But to repeat, fair's fair. Todd Coleman deserves recognition for his perseverance, as well as his decision to upgrade his properties. Let's hope DNA finally "gets it," if not this year (noting the "finish by" requirements), then the next.

From DNA's website:

Pillar Renaissance Award
The Pillar Renaissance Award is intended to recognize an individual, business or organization that has made a significant investment in physical improvements to the downtown and uptown areas. One to three awards will be granted in any one year.

The investment might be in renovating historic structure, building a new structure, or renovating a non-historic structure and should have been substantially completed in the previous year ending May 31st. The number of awards granted will be determined by the Directors of the award program based upon nominations received.

Pillar Horizon Award
The Pillar Horizon Award recognizes a new or emerging business or organization. Nominees should have been in downtown or uptown areas five years or less.

Pillar Foundation Award
The Pillar Foundation Award recognizes a business or organization that has proved to be a foundation to the downtown or uptown areas.

Nominees must have been in business for 10 years or more

Pillar Achievement Award
The Pillar Achievement Award recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to the downtown or uptown areas. The contribution may be through one significant project or through years of ongoing service.

Examples Include:​

  • An individual in public service who has demonstrated commitment to the business districts.
  • An individual affiliated with a business or non-profit organization who has personally contributed to the downtown or uptown areas.
  • An individual who has been responsible for a specific renovation or development project.

ON THE AVENUES: War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.

A digression in three vignettes.

A semblance of perspective should not be surprising with advanced age. If you’ve lasted 60 years and can’t muster an insight or two about the human condition, this absence must rank as a major disappointment, right up there with watching all the futile votes people insist on casting for interchangeable demopublican flunkionaries.

However, it actually is a bit strange to be awakened by thoughts of a documentary film series last viewed way back in the fine Orwellian year of 1984, which happened to me on Tuesday morning. The show was called War, written and hosted by Canadian journalist and historian Gwynne Dyer. I videotaped the eight-part series when it aired on PBS, and later read Dyer’s book of the same name.

The title was intended neither as subtle nor ironic. War (upper case) considered the history and evolution of war (lower case), and as the reviewer at Kirkus describes Dyer’s book, it is “an anthropological and psychological account of the human propensity for organized murderous mischief.”

You know, like shopping for hard seltzer at the Family Dollar on Vincennes.

Dyer’s context admittedly is 1980s-oriented, centering on the future of warfare against a backdrop of potential nuclear annihilation. Obviously battlefield conditions have changed since then with the advent of computers and improved technology for killing, but the nuclear component has not. Dyer’s work still matters.

Given how much alcohol I consumed at the time, it’s no surprise that much of Dyer’s instructional material is hazy to me, and yet I recall quite well the second episode, titled “Anybody’s Son Will Do,” which dealt with military indoctrination in the form of basic training. Dyer focused on boot camp in the US Marine Corps, but emphasized that these techniques are the same the world over, “since the psychology of male young adults is largely the same the world over.”

(Female too? As a side note, women account for 8% of today’s USMC, which is the lowest ratio of women in America’s military service branches.)

Dyer’s findings aren’t exactly a shock. The object of basic training in the military sense is to rewire recruits to obey orders, kill on command, and ask no questions about it. Since this sort of mindset does not come naturally to most people, it must be created, or as cynics like me might prefer, to be pulled from the mists of the human subconscious where a preference for violence has lurked all along.

The process of military indoctrination is meant to tear down and dehumanize an individual, then build him or her back into a more pliable instrument. One’s personality must be shocked, destroyed, subordinated to collective need, and then purposefully reconstructed for maximum effectiveness on the battlefield -- whether using a bayonet or guiding a drone strike with the push of a button.

One part of Dyer’s analysis struck home, and has stuck with me for almost 40 years. After the brief yet intense experience of boot camp is over, the soldier receives specialized training and serves his or her tour of duty. Eventually military service comes to an end, whether or not active combat was a part of it, and civilian life resumes.

But the psychology of boot camp remains, stored away in the brain’s shadowy recesses, capable of quick recall if necessary should the former soldier’s bones and tissue be needed again to preserve robber baron capitalism.

As an aside, by now we all understand the issues experienced by soldiers who return home after direct experience of war. Dyer suggests the reason why these problems weren’t as prevalent in previous epochs was a much higher rate of mortality. In short, fewer soldiers came home psychologically damaged because fewer came home, period.

Irrespective, what we seldom think about is the way military indoctrination remains embedded. It may or may not be reanimated, and yet it’s still there.


This said, the older we get, the more useless and resistant to training we become as potential soldiers. Whether a recruit is male or female matters less than he or she being young, because youth cannot yet fathom mortality. The psychology of basic training purposefully relies on a certain level of immaturity, which can be molded far more easily according to military design.

This isn’t to suggest that gullibility is restricted to youth. Rather it’s about the best conditions for a process of control to attain its desired end, and this works more efficiently with young people. I suppose the same methodology would work with religion, Develop New Albany or used car sales, just without the guns.

And of course my comprehension of this entire topic exists outside of first-hand familiarity with the military, given that I did not serve. America’s presence in Vietnam had finally ended by the time I was in high school. Army recruiters approached me during my senior year, dangling the prospect of a career in military intelligence.

But even then I knew that military intelligence is a contradiction in terms.


The classic Marx Brothers film Duck Soup is a satire about war and the ridiculousness attendant to propaganda and posturing on the part of the people who’ll have no direct involvement at the battlefield. The fictional conflict between Fredonia and Sylvania seems utterly absurd; that is, until you recall the way World War I began, or read your Twitter feed and find the current national genius babbling about Iran.

There also are valuable observations in Duck Soup that range beyond war, as when a telegram arrives for Ambassador Trentino. Harpo grabs the telegram, briefly scans it, and then rips it to shreds in a rage. Chico nods, explaining this behavior.

“He gets mad because he can’t read.”

I can read, though I’ve never undertaken to read the Bible -- a bit too much violence for my blood -- yet as a reasonably well-educated adult who hasn’t played a video game since the original Pac Man, certain biblical passages are vaguely familiar, like this one from Ecclesiastes (or then again, maybe it was Bazooka Joe):

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

Center of the target, that Ecclesiastes fellow. However a supernatural seal of approval isn’t required to judge the accuracy of this statement. Right here in New Gahania, where stopped clocks are right roughly twice a day, people who are unable to crawl their way through “Dick and Jane Go Gentrifying” tend to go full frontal jihad against the genuinely literate whenever given the opportunity.

They always have, and they always will. How could it be otherwise? Truncated attention spans don’t lend themselves to study, discussion and debate, and yet these activities preface achievement in a truly civil society. They’re how we arrive at consensus, and help us come to viable, supportable answers.

That is, unless one’s primary objective as a jackbootlicker isn’t truth, but mounting the nearest available soapbox in defense of public officials who begin telling lies each morning before their feet hit the bedroom floor -- served with a side dish of reinforcing one’s membership in whatever cadre of aspiring local elites currently is demanding we admire their essential coolness.

I must say the idea of loving where I live is interesting, if irrelevant, because pesky reality has a way of correcting made-up dreamscapes. Love isn't the point. Paying attention is. Yes, it’s okay living here in Nawbany, and if I can help make this community better short of ingesting Kool-Aid from a bong better used to facilitate beer consumption, that’s peachy, too.

I’ll even assist in encouraging others … to think critically, be logical, ask questions, and save words like “love” for their loved ones, where it belongs, and not as a synonym for blind allegiance to anything.

If daily life in Nawbany made me feel bad, I’d rewrite the script, but the real world actually doesn’t produce cognitive dissonance in my own life. The real world inspires me to improve myself. It drives me to further the dialogue, even when mouths are shut. It compels me to seek truth wherever it might be found, and not just where the self-appointed arbiters of cool tell me to look.

There is good, bad and indifferent in life’s rich pageant. They’re to be juggled into different configurations every single day. Some days are better than others. Cupidity, stupidity and self-delusion don’t thrill me, although if they work for you, feel free to carry on. People do the best they can with what they can, and with what works for them -- until they can’t do it any longer.

By the way, I hear there’s a job open as “assistant” to the city attorney. 

Mr. Starr, can you close out this one?


Recent columns:

February 6: ON THE AVENUES Alas, New Albany is less of a place without a bookstore.

January 30: ON THE AVENUES: Dear Holocaust deniers: If you don't like this post, unfriend me now.

January 23: ON THE AVENUES: Running over the same old ground.

January 16: ON THE AVENUES: I won’t belong to any Dry January that would have me as a member.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Bernie Sanders is "the only authentic voice for change."

The morning's Economist Espresso e-mail provides this update of yesterday's New Hampshire primary on the Periodically Democratic side.

Democrats voting in New Hampshire’s presidential primary picked Bernie Sanders as their favourite candidate, giving him more than a quarter of their ballots. Pete Buttigieg, who pipped him in Iowa’s caucuses last week, took nearly as many and Amy Klobuchar finished a respectable third. Joe Biden trailed badly, again. Andrew Yang and Michael Bennet dropped out of the race.

Time, then, to dispense with the Twitter-driven "BernieBro" myth and focus instead on reality?

Why does the “BernieBro” myth persist? Because pundits don't understand how the internet works, by Keith A. Spencer (Salon)

A misunderstanding of social media is driving media elites to keep pushing an easily disprovable stereotype

... Why do some myths persist, or remain uncorrected by the media, while others dissipate? The short answer seems to be that when they serve a media narrative, or play on existing stereotypes, they grow to possess a power that goes beyond fact or truth. To this list of indefatigable myths, one might add the pernicious "BernieBro" — so ubiquitous a concept that it has its own Wikipedia article. The self-explanatory neologism was coined by Robinson Meyer in an Atlantic article in 2015 before being distorted by the Twittersphere and the punditry — something that Meyer later came to regret, as he felt the term he reified suffered from "semantic drift."

But that was five years ago, before we had as much data on Sanders' support base — which, as it turns out, should be sufficient to debunk the stereotype that Sanders' support base consists entirely of a mythic tribe of entitled, pushy young millennial men. To wit: young women make up more of Sanders' base than men. He polls especially high with Hispanic voters, far more so than with white voters; Hispanic voters also donated more money to him than any other Democratic candidate. Polls consistently show that nonwhite voters prefer him over the other candidates. Notably, the demographic group that likes Sanders the least is white men.

Moreover, of all the candidates, Sanders has taken in the most money from women. Many of Sanders' female supporters bemoan how they are ignored by the mainstream press. "The 'Bernie Bro' narrative is endlessly galling because it erases the women who make up his base," writer Caitlin PenzeyMoog opined on Twitter. "To paint this picture of sexism is to paint over the millions of women who support Sanders. Do you see how f**ked up that is?"

Of the three, only Sanders follows the money to show how the Money defeats ordinary Americans every single day. Time yet to stand for something, DemoDisneyDixiecrats?

Three Old White Guys: Bernie, Biden and Bloomberg, by John Davis (CounterPunch)

... The DNC itself has inaugurated a kind of junior league plutocracy whereby its presidential hopefuls must be validated by their supporters sending them cold hard cash. Money as a proxy for voting is the oligarch’s foundational gambit and the anti-democratic forces of the DNC have now substantiated it in their farcical presidential primary process.

Just as the elite in Britain use the emotional ballast of royal regalia to deter rebellion, the wealthy ruling class in the U.S. call upon the trappings of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the flag – all conflated in the notion of American democracy – to quash radical action that might challenge them. Even as its universality has been squeezed hard, the sop of voting – the lure of having one’s voice counted – has been remarkably effective in guaranteeing the quiescence of the people.

The bastion of capital, which affords a dictatorship of the rich and the immiseration of its subject population, is supported by the twin pillars of neo-liberalism, the Republican and Democratic parties. Its walls are battle-hardened against rogue outliers such as Bernie, while the likes of Biden have spent their careers augmenting its fortifications. But there have been moments in that dictatorship, when chinks of humanitarian light have shone through its fortress walls. Its hostility to the wellbeing of its subjects is not necessarily guaranteed. Enter our third old white guy, Mike Bloomberg, flying the standard of the Democratic Party, but refusing to play by the DNC’s rules.

At least since Jackson, America has been built on just enough democracy to ensure that the masses retain their Horatio Alger dreams – believing the myth of equal opportunity and the chance to strike it rich – but never enough to challenge the power of the wealthy. Hard work has been replaced by education as the base material of these dreams, but the latter obscures the debt peonage its achievement often requires and the low-level work it typically enables. Trader Joe’s, the supermarket chain, requires all of its staff to have a college degree. Hard work counts for little in an age when the buying power of minimum wage has atrophied into insignificance. Voting, despite the purging of the rolls and other impediments to its practice, remains for many a feel-good way to connect to the grand mythos of America, inflating the self-worth of those who are otherwise victims of its deceits.

Material wealth, first as stolen land, then as industrial capital, and now as control of information (which today drives the forces of production through algorithms fed by real-time consumer desires, or clicks) is at the heart of the American pathology of exploitation, extraction, subjugation, oppression and the devastation of the natural world. Our putative democracy has been entirely enfolded into this ongoing historical project. It is an enabler of these crimes against humanity. It is an ideological co-conspirator.
His is the only authentic voice for change.

SHANE'S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS: Gorilla, guerrilla and other curious attributes of urban narcissism.

A fine 1973 single by Hawkwind, with Lemmy on rhythm bass. Meanwhile the words gorilla and guerrilla have quite different meanings, but have been known to serve as a litmus test for self-indulgence.

Choose Your Words: gorilla/guerrilla

You might see a gorilla in a zoo, but a guerrilla (sometimes spelled with one "r"), is someone who belongs to a group of independent fighters. If you remember your high school Spanish, you'll know the difference.

A gorilla is a type of large African ape. Sure they fight, but that's not why they're called gorillas. When they show up in the news, they're usually just monkeying around.

A guerrilla, on the other hand, is a fighter who's a part of a rebellious group that's battling a government or other authority, and likes to raid and ambush. The word has picked up a casual meaning of describing anything that's meant to take you by surprise.

So how will knowing your high school Spanish help you keep them straight? Guerrilla comes from the Spanish word for a war made up of skirmishes. That guerilla is related to guerra for (you guessed it), war. If you remember that guerra is war and guerrilla is little war, you'll remember that in English, independent fighters are guerrillas, no matter how hairy they are.

It's been only a year (March 11, 2019) since NAC's celebration of National Gorilla Suit Day, but what the hell.


Here's Don Martin's classic National Gorilla Suit Day, soon to be a DNA fundraiser.

One Fine Day in Front of Jimmy's Music -- with apologies to the late, great Don Martin.

I missed National Gorilla Suit Day this year. Actually I've missed it every year for decades because when you're 6' 4" and 250 lbs, it's hard to find such a costume of any sort.

Just now, after picking myself up off the floor after dissolving in the deferred laughter of 40+ years, Diana accuses me of regressing to childhood. Maybe, but a resistance leader needs a good clean laugh, especially in New Gahania.

As all gorilla suit aficionados know, National Gorilla Suit Day is the invention of the late Don Martin, once known at "MAD's Maddest Artist;" the holiday featured prominently in his 1963 paperback collection, "Don Martin Bounces Back" in which he told the tale of the aforementioned Mr. Bestertester's opposition to the festivities and the carnage that is visited upon him as a result. The story features people in gorilla suits, gorillas in people suits, gorillas in gorilla suits, and some of each in various other disguises, in a 56-page extravaganza full of Martin's trademark absurd violence and giggle-inducing sound effects.

I may have spoken too soon.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

BEER WITH A SOCIALIST: Better to support Tailspin Ale Fest, your LOCAL beer festival, than fluff those carpetbaggers from afar.

Okay, listen up. Personal point of view, and nothing to do with the people who pay me.

The last time I wrote anything in this space about Tailspin Ale Fest was in 2017.

THE BEER BEAT: Tailspin Ale Fest returns to Bowman Field on Saturday, February 18.

In my view, Tailspin Ale Fest has become Louisville's premier beer festival, and it's the brainchild of New Albany's own Tisha Gainey.

There are two primary reasons for this period of evident neglect. First, in complete candor, I'm not such a beer festival goer these days. Moreover, Tailspin has been a spectacular success, and who needs to hear me tout it, anyway? After all, it's been a while since I had a Top 10 beer hit.

Tisha assures me that ticket sales for 2020 are on track, and the reason I know this is because I messaged her to ask -- and the reason for that was the advent of something called Louisville Beerfest this weekend. It's a festival presented by out-of-towners, and it's taking place on what seems to me the weekend previously used by Tailspin.

I wrote them to ask about it.

What I haven’t seen addressed in recent media accounts about your new beer festival is the timing for early February, a time slot most of us from Louisville have come to associate with the Tailspin festival, which is run by a woman who has lived and worked in Louisville for a long time. I notice that Tailspin attributes its new March slot as resulting from the scheduling conflict with your festival.

Was all this the result of cooperation between the two entities? That’s not the way it sounds, but I’m hesitant to make assumptions without asking. I’d like to think it was discussed up front.

This was two weeks ago. The schmucks haven't answered. The company behind this venture seems to have been dumping tickets, and while it's just my opinion and mine alone, the whole thing leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.

You know, the way drinking Coors Light does. 

Here's the latest notice from Tailspin. Lots of events act as lead-ins for this local festival, and this Against the Grain/Tailspin Tapping at Crescent Hill Craft House is one of them.

Saturday, February 15 from 6 - 8 p.m. at Crescent Hill Craft House

Enjoy a tapping of Against the Grain Beers at Crescent Hill Craft House and a chance to WIN tickets to Tailspin Ale Fest. No purchase necessary to win, but gain extra entries by enjoying Citra Ass Down IPA, A Beer or Pile of Face. Ticket drawing will be at 8:00 p.m.



Tailspin Ale Fest
March 7, 2020
Louisville Executive Aviation Center

If you're going to attend a beer fest in Louisville this year (Keg Liquors Fest of Ale is in SoIn, natch), isn't Tailspin the one you should be selecting? Tisha and here team always have great beers. It's not 95 degrees outside. And, the part of importance to me whether or not I show up, it's a local show.

Consider it, and have fun.

Monday, February 10, 2020

FLASHBACK: "Blog of the Year NA Confidential's press release takes third straight top press release award in its own competition."

Headline: "This is the fifth time in the past nine years that the News and Tribune has been designated Newspaper of the Year for CNHI."

I can't believe it's been five+ years since CNHI's "homer" awards annoyed me enough to comment. Gadzooks, I may be maturing or something. Let's revisit the acrimony (in 2013 and 2014).


March 26, 2013

NA Confidential press release takes third straight top press release award in its own competition.

1117 EAST SPRING STREET NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION — NA Confidential was named Blog of the Year for the third consecutive year in the Best of NA Confidential blogging competition for 2012.

The blog — with offices in the aging laptop belonging to the senior editor — competed in the “Only New Albany Blog That Matters” category, which is the only category awarded, and was honored by itself for comprehensive coverage of the devastating errors found in CNHI publications based locally but owned from afar. Individually honored in the “only New Albany blog that matters” category were Bluegill, who was named Junior Editor of the Year in his most recent year at the blog, and Senior Editor Roger A. Baylor, who was named polemicist of the year for the third time in the past four years of voting for himself after precluding other entrants.

NA Confidential received praise from a team of NA Confidential judges for “breadth of coverage, strong photography and initiative” in everyday news and civics coverage, but especially in the aftermath of the latest offenses against taste and decency committed by the CNHI publication based locally but owned from afar, which dreadfully bored readers in Floyd County, Clark County and surrounding areas, according to an NAC news release.

“During the CNHI publication’s reign of terrors, I watched as our reporters, photographers and designers did some incredible work documenting a horrific time in this area’s journalism history,” said NA Confidential’s Roger A. Baylor. “They went about their business as clock-punchers, but what really struck me at first read, though, was how everyone did their work with such devotion to posting Bible proverbs.”

"Now if you'll excuse me, I have a pop-ad to foist on unsuspecting on-line readers."

Baylor, who has worked in blogging for 10 years and in five states of booze-addled consciousness, added, “The residents of Clark and Floyd counties are served by some of the best and brightest producers of birdcage lining anywhere in the country. I’m so happy for the parakeets able to use that as a target and for their aviaries.”

The NA Confidential blog has won Blog of the Year each year a competition has been held for itself, run by itself, and with nary a merger in sight.

NA Confidential serves more than 130 readers housed in at least 23 separate New Albany street addresses. The annual Best of NA Confidential recognizes the individual and collective works of the company’s two contributors and sole voters.


December 10, 2014

NA Confidential wins "General Cantankerousness" at HSBA awards in Birdseye.

There wasn't an award for Best Twitter Parody.

NA Confidential won 12 awards — including General Cantankerousness in its division — at the 48th weekly Hoser State Blog Association Foundation Better Blogging Awards on Saturday at the No Tell Motel in Birdseye.

General Cantankerousness is based on the number of welts administered.

I’m really proud that the great work of the NA Confidential staff was recognized by our bile judges,” said Editor Roger A. Baylor. “Winning General Cantankerousness shows the depths to which we’ll descend to match what other chain photographers, reporters, designers and editors produce every day, and we’re excited to win six first-place HSBA Foundation awards. It’s one of our best showings in the weekly contest in my nine relatively sober months of paying scant attention to awards.”

NA Confidential competes in division four against blogs of similar size:

Freedom to Screech
Kitchen Linoleum
Laryngitis of the People

But in the spirit of déjà vu ... haven't we been here before?

Why yes, we have. Let's return to March 26, 2013 ...

NA Confidential press release takes third straight top press release award in its own competition.

The NA Confidential blog has won Blog of the Year each year a competition has been held for itself, run by itself, and with nary a merger in sight.

NA Confidential serves more than 130 readers housed in at least 23 separate New Albany street addresses. The annual Best of NA Confidential recognizes the individual and collective works of the company’s two contributors and sole voters.

Although Bluegill was a bit annoyed.

I'm just bummed NAC didn't snag a web design award this year. The site template it shares with so many others couldn't be any more innovative and effective, even if the person at Blogger HQ who actually designed it tried really, really hard. I'm proud to work with them.

No biggie. We'll keep calm and carry on as the New Albany blog no one reads.

ROGER'S DIARY OF THE END TIMES: Brewpub kombucha and chain atrocity proposals.

Conniving censorial and prohibitionist local do-gooders might continue to drag me into the fray now and then, kicking and screaming (but always factual), but my stated goal is to devote my sabbatical to exploring other nooks in the periphery.

As Democrats and Republicans exhibit precisely the same behavior and expect (accurately) that we'll continue to choose one and reject the other, when their corruption is all-inclusive ... well, obviously we're living in the end times.

Last week it was designer ice for your high-end hootch. This week, just two small items relative to taste, or the absence of it.

Josh Noel writes about beer (and other beverages) for the Chicago Tribune. If you're interested in beer and you frequent the Twitter neighborhood, he's a good follow Noel reports the ongoing degradation of better beer's once bright promise.

It gets worse. My fellow males always have embraced cluelessness as a birthright, but who knew that Valentine's Day proposals at Olive Garden are a thing?

As legendary baseball manager Casey Stengel is reputed to have asked his woefully inept 1962 New York Mets, "Does anybody here know how to play this game?"