Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Baron Hill to visit this Thursday’s meeting of Drinking Liberally at the Public House.

I have learned that Democratic congressional hopeful Baron Hill will make an appearance during the weekly meeting of Drinking Liberally (New Albany & Southern Indiana) this Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m. at Rich O’s Public House.

Posted by Picasa Posted by Picasa

Hill’s bid to recapture his seat in a third epic electoral slugging match with Mike Sodrel is being watched throughout the country as a key indicator in the mid-term election.

In expectation of a larger than usual turnout for Drinking Liberally, we’ll be moving the meeting to the Prost special events room. DL organizer Lacy Davis has given me the okay to spread the word, and all readers are cordially invited.

As a counterweight, albeit small, to the prevailing crackpot sentiments of theocratic fascism washing over Indiana's (and the nation’s shores), I’m delighted to host the group and the candidate, and to serve Progressive Pints to those in attendance.

As a reminder, Drinking Liberally is:

An informal, inclusive Democratic drinking club. Raise your spirits while you raise your glass, and share ideas while you share a pitcher. Drinking Liberally gives like-minded, left-leaning individuals a place to talk politics. You don't need to be a policy expert and this isn't a book club - just come and learn from peers, trade jokes, vent frustration and hang out in an environment where it's not taboo to talk politics.

Bars are democratic spaces - you talk to strangers, you share booths, you feel the bond of common ground. Bring democratic discourse to your local democratic space - build Democracy one drink at a time.

(Crossposted at The Potable Curmudgeon)

The NBA is back tonight!

With only four days elapsed since the end of baseball season, tonight is the tip-off for the 2006-07 NBA season.

That’s a relief.

My preferences run to professional sports, as these are absent the hypocrisy of “amateur” games that pretend not to be about money when they obviously are about money, but hey -- to each his or her own. I fully realize that most readers will be living and dying with local university basketball teams, and that’s fine.

The NBA’s just better for me. Basketball may have started in the sticks, but now it is thoroughly cosmopolitan – the urban game, fast moving, athletic but strategic. For my money, NBA players are the finest athletes in the world in terms of the strength, speed, stamina and finesse required at such a high level of performance.

I’ll be watching to see how Ben Wallace does with the Bulls, whether the Big Aristotle has another championship run in him, and if Dirk Nowitzki can bounce back from Dallas’s finals collapse against the Heat.

Along those lines, America’s recent run of disappointment in international basketball competition encourages me, because it means that the cultural diversification of the NBA will proceed apace. As one unaffected by the inanity of thoughtless patriotism (nor, for that matter, by the thoughtful variety), there can be nothing but good to come from the ever escalating global popularity of basketball.

But the NBA isn’t just about individuals, contrary to the prejudices of those who never watch the league and the tendency of network television to focus on individual match ups.

Balance, teamwork and coaching systems are necessary to build the winning squads, just as in other levels of play. San Antonio perhaps has been the best example of this for a decade or more. More recently, Phoenix has emphasized a team concept of speed and versatility, handed the ball to Steve Nash (a Canadian), and gone to the races.

It helps to have a plan, but even when the plan breaks down, the entertainment possibilities afforded by the NBA are endless.

Ray Allen’s purity of shot.
The wingspan of Tayshaun Prince.
The way that Steve Nash runs the floor.
Elton Brand and a relentless work ethic.
Clutch as redefined by Dwyane Wade.

LeBron James? If you haven’t watched the man play, you’re simply missing it. He does it all, and for once, you can believe the hype. Barring injury or misfortune, King James might prove to be the best ever. Will the Cavs put together a complementary roster to make his reign a reality?
I’ll be watching, and report back next year when the playoffs start. After all, no sense in waiting for March for madness to begin.

(Photo credit: Net cribbed)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Say it ain't so, John.

With all due respect to the victorious St. Louis Cardinals, there are two things I’ll always remember about the 2006 World Series, and neither has to do with the Redbirds.

First are the numerous and comical errors by the losing Detroit Tiger pitchers, and second is “Our Country,” the new John Mellencamp song that was used to tout Chevrolet during each and every break in the action.

The memory of the jarring Tiger meltdown is far less galling than the tune still jangling in my head, and the part that’s really grinding my teeth is that it’s precisely because Mellencamp and Chevrolet wanted it that way.


During the period of time that passed between the conclusion of the NBA Finals in June and the commencement of the baseball playoffs in October, my eyes rested upon no more than eight hours of domestic television, and I continued to hold the view that if given the choice of voting for a Seymour native to serve in Congress, I would opt for Mellencamp over Baron Hill.

Now that Hill has shown healthy signs of an overdue pulse and Mellencamp has broken with his longstanding custom by licensing a song to an advertiser, I’ve changed my mind. Hill’s my man. Mellencamp? He’ll be judged by his forthcoming album.

Verily, there has ceased to be resistance to the notion of using popular music to promote products. Attitudes surely have changed since the 1980s, when baby boomers were quick to condemn the use of the Beatles’ “Revolution” to sell sneakers. Most of my favorite performers have done it (see: U2 and “Vertigo”), and there aren’t two-dozen people under the age of 40 in the entire country who care either way. Neil Young might be the last holdout, and maybe Pearl Jam.

(Speaking of the liberal icon Young, is there anything in the partnership of pop music and advertising quite as weird as KFC’s use of a loop snipped from Lynyrd Skynyrd's “Sweet Home Alabama” to sell fried chicken? Are those distorted sounds that accompany the music really whole fryers merrily clucking along the assembly line? Did anyone tell Yum!’s resident Wonder CEO Novak that Tyson is from Arkansas, not Alabama?)

But I digress.

It is true that Mellencamp has a reasonable excuse for accepting a check from Chevrolet. According to a United Press International report:

BLOOMINGTON, Ind., Oct. 20 (UPI) -- After years of saying no, Indiana rocker John Mellencamp is allowing his new single to be used in a television commercial for trucks.
Mellencamp licensed "Our Country," a song celebrating the durability of the American dream, to Chevrolet for a spot advertising its trucks. Mellencamp referred to the ad, which features images of disgraced U.S. President Richard Nixon and Hurricane Katrina, as "my new video" and says it's an effective way to promote the song.

"I want my records to be heard; that's why I write 'em," said Mellencamp, who has rebuffed numerous ad requests for other songs. "Radio's not gonna play 'em now. MTV doesn't even play videos anymore. How do you get it out there and ... stay relevant?

"This is what (artists) are going to have to do if they're not 21 years old and they want people to hear their music."

The fact that “Our Country” remains on inadvertent heavy rotation in my cranial jukebox might be said to grudgingly prove Mellencamp’s point, and furthermore, it’s worth noting that he has conceded (to Billboard) that the Chevy song’s conscious “Pink Houses” vibe isn’t at all representative of his forthcoming album:

John Mellencamp's new single, "Our Country," will be on his next album, but he tells Billboard.com it's hardly indicative of what the rest of the album will sound like. "It's pretty interesting," Mellencamp says of "Freedom Road," due in January via UME/Universal Republic. "It sounds very 1966, but it sounds now. 'Our Country' is the most John Mellencamp-sounding record on it.

And so, it all becomes clear: Mellencamp provides Chevrolet with a ready-made advertising anthem. He gets paid. People hear the song and are tricked into buying the album, exposing them to the artist’s new music. Case closed?

Well, not exactly.

For what seemed like a millennium, although it was probably far less than a decade, Chevrolet used Bob Seger’s “Like a Rock” as the musical tag for its television ads, transforming a pedestrian number by a respected rock ‘n’ roll veteran into perhaps the single most overplayed song of the current generation. As much as I like “Vertigo,” it’s probably a distant second.

If the use of pop music in Chevrolet’s advertising is about defining the company’s potential customer base, the car-maker’s mishandling of Seger's tune suggests a maddening tendency to simply murder an otherwise average song through serial overuse, which in turn implies that its target buyers are either undiscerning or tone deaf … or maybe both.

At least the news that “Our Country’s” licensing agreement runs only through 2007 is a source of hope and optimism.

Of course, it could be worse – and in fact it is, so don’t touch that dial, pop open an ice-cold longneck and stay tuned as “Toby Keith Plays With His Guitar And Spews Forth An Amerigasm Of Song About Ford Trucks.”*


* You think I’d make that one up? As Grandpa Jones always said, truth is stranger than fact, so visit the singer’s web site to see why he’s “built Ford tough.”

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Another incremental gain for local anti-smoking advocates.

A Tribune front-page story from last Tuesday described stricter smoking rules for school grounds, which were approved on Monday evening by the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corporation Board of School Trustees.

The article has not been archived at the newspaper’s web site.

In essence, the school board voted to prohibit smoking at all times on school grounds, but with an exemption granted to faculty and staff, who may continue to enjoy the privilege of shielding their nicotine habits from view in “designated areas” during the school day.

At Floyd Central, this used to be called the “smokers’ lounge,” or sometimes the “faculty toilet.”

Tribune writer Nicholas Wiselogel attributes the following words to MeriBeth Adams-Wolf, executive director of Our Place Drug & Alcohol Services, Inc., who attended the school board meeting as a representative of the Floyd County Tobacco Prevention and Cessation:

As a learning institution, the benefits of setting a good example for our children speaks for itself.

Sounds like a dangerous precedent, but I mention Ms. Adams-Wolfe and the FCTPC here not to belabor the nuances of the school corporation’s newly altered smoking policy, but to call the attention of readers to the impending influence of the local anti-smoking coalition, and the likely outcome of this blossoming.

Consider this plank from the FCTPC mission statement:

Issuable objectives include: Increase proportion of Hoosiers not exposed to secondhand smoke by increasing number of smoke free policies for employers, schools, restaurants and bars.

Also recall this excerpt from a November, 2005, Courier-Journal article by Alex Davis on the topic of smoking bans, in which New Albany city council member Larry Kochert features prominently:

Larry Kochert, a member of the New Albany City Council, said he is encouraged by Jeffersonville's move to limit smoking.

He said he considered a similar ban for New Albany about five years ago but dropped it after realizing that support wasn't there.

Kochert said public opinion about smoking has changed, though, and he predicts that the momentum from bans in Louisville and possibly Jeffersonville might be enough to turn the tide in New Albany.

Since this article was published, the Jeffersonville ordinance has come into effect, and a similar loophole-ridden metro Louisville ordinance has been considerably tightened.

Although I’m unable to attribute it, it seems that Ms. Adams-Wolfe has since commented in one or the other local newspaper that the groundwork for a smoking ban push awaits the resolution of next year’s city council elections, presumably so as to provide a different council temperament.

If I’m misrepresenting her strategic aims, I apologize, although the point remains the same: We’re probably next in line, and sooner than we may think, for the divisive conflict that has characterized just about all community debates on the topic of smoking in public places.

Given the steady progress of such campaigns, it does not require a fully charged crystal ball to predict that Ms. Adams-Wolfe and her anti-drug coalition partners will be in the vanguard of the local anti-smoking movement, and that in the end, it is likely that they will carry the day and succeed in persuading a future council into implementing some variety of a smoking ban in New Albany.

It’s just my opinion, but smoking ban opponents might want to consider a tactical move now to propose a compromise position to the city council before the sides harden into the familiar all-or-nothing dichotomy that generally has proven to be the prelude to certain defeat for the anti-ban side.

As frequent readers already know, it’s a very tough call for me. I’m inclined neither to support nor to fight any proposal for a smoking ban, because I regard it as inevitable in the current climate.

As an occasional cigar smoker, I’m accustomed to being chased from rooms that are blue with cigarette smoke, and in spite of the obvious hypocrisy, it’s not a problem for me to wait for another time or to smoke on the porch.

At the same time, I strongly believe that the prohibitionist instinct lies at the heart of the anti-smoking movement, and unsurprisingly, there can be no good to come from it for a person who sells beer for a living. Smokers first, drinkers next. Ireland may have banned smoking in pubs, but the countries that comprise the EU are far too civilized to touch the beer flowing from the taps inside.

America? Hard to tell. Any country voting for the likes of George W. Bush -- twice -- is suspect, especially since Prohibition's already been tried once.

(And you were wondering how I'd squeeze a dig at the regime into an article about smoking? Where there's a will, there's a way.)

Either way, it would be instructive and highly entertaining to view the city council’s Gang of Four as currently numbered grappling with a smoking ban. We know that CM Kochert's for it. Is CM Coffey? Coffey's Conjoined councilman Price? If Ms. Adams-Wolfe and associates are intent on waiting for a better moment for action, then perhaps seizing the initiative with a watered-down proposal is the best idea.

Give a little, and get a little. Have we forgotten how to do that here?

Conversely, smokers might consider hitting the patches now to avoid the 2008 rush.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Not too loudly -- the Republican National Committee might use one of them.

This reader comment is so good that it deserves a marquee slot.

It was posted in response to yesterday's "C-J endorses Baron Hill; condemns Mike Sodrel's "meek fealty to the Bush administration," and is from our friend Feel the Paine:

At 11:12 PM, Feel the Paine said ...

I anticipate that this week we will see Sodrel and his proxies unleash the final blitzkrieg, which will doubtless include: a photoshopped Hill presiding over a gay marriage ceremony; disclosure of a grainy video in which Hill dons turban and prostrates himself for Muslim prayers; erection of billboards on I-64 displaying a black latex-clad Nancy Pelosi in stilletos leading a dog-collared and leashed Hill in a San Francisco transgendered parade;and an affidavit from a Hill Seymour High School classmate alleging that Hill's basketball records were the result of performance enhancing drugs.

Hilarious to be sure, but sadly, not outside the realm of RNC possibility.

Friday, October 27, 2006

C-J endorses Baron Hill; condemns Mike Sodrel's "meek fealty to the Bush administration."

Editorial endorsements may or may not carry weight in today’s world, and yet today’s Louisville Courier-Journal provides a succinct summary of the case for former 9th District congressman Baron Hill and against incumbent Mike Sodrel in this year’s hotly contested rematch.

Hill for Congress in Indiana's 9th District.

The C-J distills the argument here:

But the key issue in this race is a number: 97. According to CQ.com, Rep. Sodrel voted to support the President's positions 97 percent of the time in 2006 -- the highest figure for any member of the Indiana or Kentucky delegations.

The troubled state of the nation demands far more than meek fealty to the Bush administration.

The CJ’s endorsement also cites an important position of Hill’s that we’ve quite frankly missed here at NAC:

(Hill) favors federal funding of stem-cell research with embryos that are going to be discarded anyway and says he would have voted against federal intervention in the Terri Schiavo case.

In an on-line reader comment that follows the C-J’s endorsement, Hill predictably is savaged for supporting gay marriage, abortion and (gasp) Planned Parenthood. The reader curiously omits Hill’s presumed flag burning fetish. As time runs out, expect Sodrel’s operatives to accuse Hill of preferring NBA basketball to the purer collegiate variety, of eschewing Coor ight for Heineken, and of laughing out loud at those clever Monty Python skits that always eluded the sitting congressman's grasp.

And so it goes, because the Sodrel congressional campaign, and by extension the Republican establishment nationwide, is bereft of sensible policy content, but refreshingly beset with inconvenient scandals and a purely sordid record of incompetence so damning that even Louisville’s Representative Ann Northup now finds it useful to throw Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld under the rapidly disintegrating bus.

Of course, Northup’s carefully calculated call for Rumsfeld’s resignation comes at least two years too late, and owes to nothing deeper than her commitment to say whatever must be said in order to be re-elected, but of course our own Mike Sodrel is capable of nothing remotely similar in majestically limited scope, trusting instead that the residents of the 9th District are sufficiently parochial and bedazzled with patriotic imagery and religious extremism that they’ll fail to comprehend the magnitude of a number like 97% and what it devastatingly portends in matters like the economy, foreign policy and civil liberties:

See “Cultural despair, the "poisoning" of Habeas Corpus -- and why Mike Sodrel should be sent home.”

The C-J closes:

Rep. Sodrel is a likable fellow, but Indiana and the United States need change and independent minds in Washington. Baron Hill can help get the nation back on track. We enthusiastically endorse him.

“Independent minds”? Now that’s a truly revolutionary call -- and something we can be for.

See yesterday's NAC postings:

Scenes from the Thursday rally ... from the cheap seats.

Local Democrats rally today as extreme radical wing meets in yonder bread box. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Scenes from the Thursday rally ... from the cheap seats.

 Posted by Picasa

Local Democrats rally today as extreme radical wing meets in yonder bread box.

As noted two days ago, in lieu of a last-minute invitation to attend the Saturday GOP redshirt rally in Sellersburg, NA Confidential opts instead to see blue this afternoon as Evan Bayh and Baron Hill come to town.

Here's the official press release from the Floyd County Democratic Party:

(New Albany) - U.S. Senator and potential Presidential nominee Evan Bayh will join Democratic Congressional Candidate Baron Hill in Floyd County today for a rally at Democratic Headquarters and the White House Center at 221 Pearl Street in New Albany.

The rally, which will be held at 4:00 p.m., is an effort to help motivate the Democratic base prior to election day.

"This is a great opportunity for citizens to meet two energetic political figures - Bayh and Hill - that are working to make our nation and our local communities a better place," stated party chairman Randy Stumler.

He added, "With the popularity of Evan Bayh and his potential run for the White House, there may be no better time for Hoosiers to show their support and meet these individuals."

In connection with the event, the local Democratic Party will have refreshments. Pearl Street will be closed during the event due to security considerations.

Anyone with questions on the event should contact Democratic Headquarters at 812.207.7941.

Speaking of the party chairman and candidate Stumler, how's this for an endorsement in his race for County Commissioner?

County Commissioner, District #1– Randy Stumler (D)

Randy has demonstrated leadership skills, especially in the area of financial controls, in addition to a track record of independent thinking. This coupled with his stand on proper development in rural Floyd County, and the rebirth of New Albany itself, sets him well above the competition. Only one note of caution. As Chairman of the Floyd county Democrat Party, should Randy fall in with the extreme radical wing of his party, all bets for future support are off. I find this prospect, however, highly unlikely.

It's from the NA Unrestricted blog, which is sporadically published by the pseudonymous blogger known as Blogspastic.

Readers, is there really such a thing as an "extreme radical wing" of the local Democratic party?

If anyone finds it, please let us know. We'd like to join.

Looking for the back story in the Smith's auction "bust."

Scuttlebutt has long held that the building(s) is in poor condition, and those responsible decades ago for painting the exterior walls black have yet to be captured and brought to justice, but it’s still a surprise to learn …

Smith’s auction a bust in New Albany; Former furniture store still on the market, by Eric Scott Campbell (News and Tribune).

When auctioneer Lincoln Crum opened bidding at $300,000, no one bit. He gradually dropped the amount by $25,000 at a time, but no one flinched, and it quickly became apparent that the auction might be in vain.

“Maybe everybody’s here just to watch,” Crum wondered aloud when he dropped the opening bid to $125,000.

Once no one showed interest in $75,000 as an opening bid, that was that.

What’s the untold story?

A source suggests that the seller in this instance may have intended the auction as a sort of helpful calibration device to winnow the field of potential purchasers and to help establish the building’s true worth. Barring the unexpected arrival of an extremely wealthy rube with a check for $400,000 in his pocket, the result of the non-auction would be the identification of serious investors, a collective gathering of information, and many further negotiations to follow.

Emphatically, this is not to insinuate that the auction was somehow staged or rigged. However, it is to concede that since most readers have never gone about selling a building appraised at half a million dollars, certain aspects of the process are sure to remain elusive. Readers, any helpful thoughts on the matter are appreciated, either posted below or privately mailed.

It remains that another furniture and appliance store is not needed at the Smith’s location*, but the expense of rehabbing the buildings into street level retail with apartments and offices upstairs stands to be considerable. We believe that the “busted” auction is a mere prelude to the building’s eventual purchase for a price below the Louisville metro norm. The question is, what will be done with it, and when?


* The needs of business centers - smaller blocks, more through street connections, ancillary facilities such as restaurants, easier connections to transit, sidewalks and bikeways, and higher landscape standards - are much different from those of warehousing and industrial areas.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Taking the low road? It's a Republican family tradition.

It’s understandable that fundamentally decent people treat election season with a revulsion normally reserved for war criminals, plague bacilli and Adam Sandler movies.

Much of the disgust owes to the prevalence of television and radio attack ads, generally financed by money coming from well outside the election arenas. Most people grasp that these noxious defecations atop the carpet of our body politic are a symptom of a much larger malady, namely the vast sums of cash that are required of any person seeking to participate in the allegedly level playing field of American-style democracy-for-hire.

Apart from the merrily ringing cash drawers of the media outlets airing them, no one benefits from the process as currently constituted, and yet the fact that it continues unabated must indicate that for a certain segment of the voting public, attack ads remain viable. This probably serves as sufficient proof that the attitude of Americans toward education remains the greatest impediment to social progress and economic self-sufficiency in this nation.

That’s a debate for another day. Let’s glance to the political battlefield of southwestern Indiana for a particularly repugnant example of the attack ad, one certifiably in the arsenal of every threatened extremist Republican, though perhaps not voiced as openly … yet.

After all, it’s probably only a matter of days for us. Consider the subtext of our 9th District congressman Mike Sodrel’s comments, as quoted here by USA Today:

Sodrel, a wealthy trucking company owner, manages to be folksy even while wearing tasseled loafers, aiming barbs at (Baron) Hill and quoting Johann Goethe (the 19th-century German writer). He reminds his listeners that Hill's first vote, should he win, would be to make ‘the lady from San Francisco, Nancy Pelosi,’ the new House speaker. ‘God help us,’ a volunteer calls out.”

If the 9th District race remains in a dead heat, look for "Baron (Hill) of Castro Street" attack ads on behalf of Sodrel, with candidate Hill's face on one side of a split screen, and the bath houses circa 1978 on the other.

But we digress. Back to Indiana's 8th District:

'Dirty Harry' warns voters of gay agenda; Hostettler ad targets Democrats, by Ryan Lenz (Associated Press).

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — An embattled Indiana congressman is invoking Dirty Harry and the Old West in a new campaign warning that a vote for his Democratic opponent could trigger a shift in House leadership and advance a "homosexual agenda."

In the one-minute radio ad, paid for by Friends of Rep. John Hostettler, an announcer impersonating Clint Eastwood says a vote for challenger Brad Ellsworth would be a vote for California Democrat Nancy Pelosi as House speaker.

"Pelosi will then put in motion her radical plan to advance the homosexual agenda, led by Barney Frank, reprimanded by the House after paying for sex with a man who ran a gay brothel out of Congressman Frank's home," the narrator says.

Recall that the well documented incident involving Frank, a self-described “left-handed gay Jew” who has served his Massachusetts congressional district since 1981, actually occurred in 1990. Remember that in another time, the “homosexual agenda” might have been subordinated to “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” or a similar Jewish conspiracy theory. The intent is the same, and it is inexcusable.

Just as rain periodically falls in Death Valley, political campaign ads occasionally transcend the peddling of hate and prejudice that passes for a platform in the tortured minds of people like Rep. Hostettler.

We turn again to the Associated Press:

Actor Michael J. Fox Ad Touts McCaskill.

His body visibly wracked by tremors, actor Michael J. Fox speaks out for Missouri Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill in a television ad that promotes her support for embryonic stem cell research.

"As you might know I care deeply about stem cell research," says 45-year-old actor, who has struggled with Parkinson's disease for more than a decade. "In Missouri you can elect Claire McCaskill, who shares my hope for cures."

McCaskill has made support for the research a key part of her campaign to unseat Sen. Jim Talent. The Republican incumbent opposes the research as unethical, saying it destroys human embryos.

Alas, and predictably, even the diseased are now to be excluded from the GOP’s intellectual flea circus, presumably because they offended the God of the evangelicals and brought the wrath of Parkinson's upon themselves. The story continues:

… The spot was the subject of widespread discussion on Monday after conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh claimed Fox was "either off his medication or acting" during the ad.

"I think this is exploitative in a way that's unbecoming either Claire McCaskill or Michael J. Fox," Limbaugh said on his syndicated show.

Al Franken is left. And he was right.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

One and out for Hot Wheels: Vote for Baron Hill for Congress.

Remember last January, when we briefly were teased with the thought of President George W. Bush coming to New Albany?

Even if the President did still drink, I wouldn't serve him, but I'd consider a cream pie in Dick Cheney's face (January 6, 2006).

Now, many months later, with our current 9th District GOP representative having exhausted his seemingly endless and purely banal supply of “my Democratic opponent is a gay lovin’, flag burnin’, terrorist coddlin’, tax ‘n’ spend, John Kerry look alike, liberal wussy,” the ever creative Mike Sodrel finally brings to us the commander-in-chief in the war against civil liberties, albeit to the high school gym in Sellersburg, and not to the far friendlier confines of the Grand.

The proximity of the Grand to bNA’s Progressive Pints undoubtedly is to blame for losing the presidential contract.

President to hold Saturday rally for Sodrel, by Lesley Stedman Weidenbener (Courier-Journal breaking news).

It will be the first presidential visit to the district since Lyndon Johnson visited Clark County in 1964, said (campaign manager Cam) Savage.

“It’s a great opportunity right before the election to energize the base,” Savage said. “People are going to hear directly from the president about how important this election is, how important keeping control of Congress is to win the war on terror, keep taxes low, and keep the economy moving in the right direction.”

I suppose this is as good a time as any to announce that on November 7, I’ll be voting for Sodrel’s challenger, former congressman Baron Hill.

It may come as a surprise to those readers who think they know me, and who’ve consequently made the mistake of confusing stylistic brassiness for dissipated insolence, but my political musings to date have not been posted for the purpose of grandstanding, and have not been intended solely as rhetorical pot stirrers. These issues are ones that I take seriously, and the publicly voiced conflict of conscience within me is – and continues to be – genuine.

My left leanings are obvious and sincere. At the same time, I've grown weary of the absence of a true, ideological alternative to the radical right, and demanded that the Democratic Party toss me some semblance of a bone to earn my allegiance, rather than continue to function only as the sole tenable alternative to the GOP. The absence of this bone might yet embitter me, but first, there's work to do.

During our discussion at NAC yesterday, Randy “All4Word” Smith wrote:

Hill. If only on the assumption that when in the majority, Baron Hill will be free to vote his conscience without regard to election year shadings. If only to guarantee Democratic control of the House. If only to prevent a Bush rubber-stamp.

Hill MAY not be as "blue dog" as he makes himself out to be, but Mr. Sodrel is an automatic Bush vote. Anything is preferable, and a vote for Schansberg IS a vote for Sodrel.

Pastor John Manzo added:

We can debate the system and our options until we turn purple. Sometimes we have to live with what we have and work for change. But this election is too critical to worry about the system and more about who is in office.

Of course, Randy and John are right ... and I'm with them on this one.

At the same time, I’ve no intention of letting the Democratic Party off the hook. It’s too bad that Floyd County’s Democrats have done precious little to earn my support, a development all the more galling considering the party’s “dream team” leadership slate, which has tolerated the continuing existence of political charlatans like the conjoined councilmen, Dan Coffey and Steve Price, and other obstructionist Democrats who’ve been permitted to run rampant in opposition to progress and revitalization.

Meanwhile, state and national Democratic establishments likewise have missed ample opportunities to articulate progressive alternatives to the right-wing extremism espoused by the neo-con and evangelical elements in America. The intrinsic feebleness of the two-party monopoly is yet again offered as triumphant proof of the superiority of our democracy, and I’m not buying into it.

But … there’ll be time for that debate later, and until then, the dictates of a reality-based world strongly suggest the viability and utility of pragmatism as a permissable salve for the tortured conscience. Let’s worry about the common foe now, and return to our other issues later.

To each his, or her, own. Vote “for” Hill, or vote “against” Sodrel by supporting the candidate (Hill) most likely to defeat the incumbent. To join in deposing Sodrel is to vigorously repudiate the failed policies of the worst President in American history, and perhaps to begin a process of restoring balance and sanity to the nation.

As a card-carrying, anti-Republican operative, I’ve absolutely no chance of being invited to accompany Auntie V. to the Bush league pageantry in Sellersburg on Saturday. It looks like the best option for me is to wander down to Pearl Street on Thursday (October 26) at 4:00 p.m. and have a look at Baron Hill.

Make no mistake: It is something that I intend to enjoy for its own merits.

Photo credit: Internet crib.

Monday, October 23, 2006

How best to cast our votes against Mike Sodrel?

First, a tip of NAC's hat to David Mann (News-Tribune), whose piece covering this same ground appeared in the Saturday, October 21 edition of the Tribune:

Professor X: Libertarian is the ‘x’ factor in a 9th District race; Every vote counts in this neck-and-neck congressional battle.

In a campaign in which U.S. Rep. Mike Sodrel, R-Ind., has spent more than $1.1 million fending off threats from the political left, a previously unforeseen hazard has been growing on the political right.

Mann beat us to it, and more thoroughly, but since the article already had been written ...


It is obvious that the 9th District Congressional race is going to be a tight one. Only 1,500 votes separated loser Baron Hill (D) from winner Mike Sodrel (R) in 2004, and recent polls show the rematch too close to call.

Money is pouring into the district from afar, negative television ads make the daily case for moving to a civilized nation where such electoral shilling is banned, and the overall prognosis for coherent democracy is gloomy.

NAC previously has expressed its dismay with Hill’s centrist tendencies, our concurrent disgust with Sodrel’s Republican “values,” and our deep, dark depression and excessive misery over the complete lack of genuine choice inherent to the two-party system. There is no need to revisit these themes. They make us quite disillusioned already.

However, with the election only two weeks away, there is an urgent need to examine the election prospectus from a tactical standpoint. In short, it’s time for the unaffiliated to decide for whom to vote so as to induce the least guilt and self-loathing.

Bear in mind, the author has yet to formulate an answer to these questions. Readers, please assist by contributing your comments.

Is it possible for Libertarian challenger Eric Schansberg to muster enough support to influence the outcome?

If so, which major party candidate stands to be hurt the most by votes cast for Schansberg?

Will these votes be coming from likely Hill voters, or likely Sodrel voters?

Speaking personally, it’s the logic of the Great Emancipator, paraphrased and updated for modern times, during which the Republicans have come to embrace the “logic” of the Old South and a Seymour-based Democrat seems determined to offend us as deeply as his Republican opponent by means of a headlong rush to the right side of the divide:

"If I could vote for Hill to beat Sodrel I would do it and if I could vote for Schansberg to beat Sodrel I would do it and if I could leave all of them alone and skip the election to beat Sodrel I would do that. The thing is to beat Sodrel.”

Can a vote for Schansberg help beat Sodrel?

Or, are we best to grit our teeth, swig vigorously from the bottle of bonded previously secreted to circumvent the election-day ban on alcohol, and scratch the oval for Hill?


From the Sunday edition of the Courier-Journal (apparently not archived on line) comes this closing citation, courtesy of James R. Carroll’s “Notes from Washington” column. It is taken from Esquire magazine's current list of political endorsements:

Indiana District 9

Mike Sodrel (R)
Baron Hill (D)

Mike Sodrel is spending more time talking about his problems with the Democrats than about his own achievements. That's an argument for his opponent in itself, but suggesting that a vote for Hill—a conservative Democrat and former congressman—is a vote for "San Francisco" betrays his (Sodrel's) stupidity and utter lack of distinction.

Esquire endorses: Hill.

In fact, the assocation of "San Francisco" with "Baron Hill" is the best reason yet to vote for Hill, isn't it?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Scribner Place groundbreaking scheduled, opponents vow to "boo."

Scribner Place clears last hurdle; Groundbreaking is set for Nov. 6, by Matt Batcheldor (Courier-Journal).

After four years of political wrangling, a groundbreaking date was set yesterday for New Albany's downtown Scribner Place project.

It will be held from 11 to 11:30 a.m. Nov. 6 at the southwest corner of State and Main streets.

That’s a Monday, futurists. Lunch and a Progressive Pint at the Bistro afterwards?


In related news, New Albany’s congenital obstructionists have announced that they will gather at the Scribner Place job site for a mass self-immolation in protest of the project, the administration, and an uncooperative 21st century – and NA Confidential will be there, distributing a case of souvenir matchbooks.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Cultural despair, the "poisoning" of Habeas Corpus -- and why Mike Sodrel should be sent home.

Recently perusing the New York Times Sunday Book Review, I came across Can It Happen Here?, by Tom Reiss (October 8, 2006).

It is a review of “Five Germanys I Have Known,” a memoir by historian Fritz Stern, and while they’re no substitute for the original piece, here are brief excerpts:

In November 2005, Fritz Stern received an award for his life’s work on Germans, Jews and the roots of National Socialism, presented to him by Joschka Fischer, then the German foreign minister. With a frankness that startled some in the audience, Stern, an emeritus professor of European history at Columbia University, peppered his acceptance speech with the similarities he saw between the path taken by Germany in the years leading up to Hitler and the path being taken by the United States today …

… Stern was of course not suggesting an equivalence between President Bush and Hitler but rather making a more subtle critique, extending his idea that contemporary American politics exhibited “something like the strident militancy and political ineptitude of the Kaiser’s pre-1914 imperial Germany.”

… the value of Stern’s work is precisely that it has refused to keep Nazism safely on the other side of a historical and geographic chasm. His first book, “The Politics of Cultural Despair” (1961), is one of the durable masterpieces of 20th-century history because it seems to locate the roots of a peculiarly modern malaise. As he explained in a later edition of the work, “I attempted to show the importance of this new type of cultural malcontent, and to show how he facilitated the intrusion into politics of essentially unpolitical grievances.”

Rather than looking for obvious parallels among contemporary dictators who ape the style of the Nazis, Stern looks for the nihilistic undercurrents in our own educated, commercial societies. Hunger and poverty have little to do with the politics of cultural despair. It thrives especially well at moments of plenty and prosperity, when people have enough social advantages to dwell on their inner alienations and resentments.

I confess to not having read Stern’s original work on cultural despair, but I hope to do so soon. It meshes with something that has nagged me for years, namely, why is it that the well-heeled denizens of the exurb seem increasingly to turn toward right-wing political radicalism and the strident advocacy of an American evangelical theocracy that mirrors that of the Muslim variety they claim to abhor?

A point worth pondering, at least.

Here is a link and another excerpt, this time to an article written by Stern (October 10, 2005):

A Fundamental History Lesson: The rise of National Socialism proved politics and religion don’t mix.

My hope is for a renewal on still firmer grounds of a trans-Atlantic community of liberal democracies. Every democracy needs a liberal fundament, a Bill of Rights enshrined in law and spirit, for this alone gives democracy the chance for self-correction and reform. Without it, the survival of democracy is at risk. Every genuine conservative knows this.

In turn, this brings me to Keith Olbermann’s recent chilling but masterful commentary, Beginning of the end of America:

For, on this first full day that the Military Commissions Act is in force, we now face what our ancestors faced, at other times of exaggerated crisis and melodramatic fear-mongering: A government more dangerous to our liberty, than is the enemy it claims to protect us from.

My congressman, Mike Sodrel, a rubber stamp for the regime, voted for this legislation.

That’s merely the most persuasive reason (of many) to vote against him on November 7.

What remains unclear is who to vote for. We’ll discuss that question on Monday.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Duh: NLCS Game Seven, or Gang of Four?

It was an obvious choice in the limited pantheon of “no-brainers,” so I spent last evening on the couch munching peanuts and watching a taut, exciting pitching duel from which the St. Louis Cardinals eventually emerged victorious on an unexpected 9th inning homer by the team's light-hitting catcher.

From the Courier-Journal’s perspective, last evening’s city council meeting appears to have been the type of gathering that only the Potty Police could love.

When today’s Tribune appears on line, the newspaper’s city council coverage will be linked here.


And now, a musical interlude.

With apologies to the Gershwins and Fred Astaire, here’s a lyric for fellow blogger Blogspastic:

Things have come to a pretty pass
Our romance is growing flat
For you like this and the other
While I go for this and that

Goodness knows what the end will be

Oh I don't know where I'm at
It looks as if we two will never be one
Something must be done:

You say epithet and I say compliment
You say socialist and I say fascist
Epithet, compliment … socialist, fascist
Let's call the whole thing off.


Back to baseball. The World Series begins Saturday evening, with the Cardinals traveling to Detroit to face the Tigers, who are the game’s top story this year. Losers of 300 games the past three years, Detroit now will play for the championship with well-rested players and the home field advantage.

The last time the two teams met in the Series was 1968, and Detroit’s victory in seven games that year stands as my first Series memory, primarily because my father was a Tigers fan. Then as now, Louisville was a fervent National League town, and American League followers were regarded as curiosities at best. Dad’s contrarian loyalties in the realm of baseball certainly played a part in my becoming a supporter of the Oakland Athletics, who in suitably ironic fashion lost to the Tigers in this year’s ALCS.

He died five years ago, but I’ll be cheering for his team on Saturday night. Nothing against the Cards ... but I just can't go along with the stadium name.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

No free riders: Why responsibility and accountability matter when it comes to freedom of speech.

Why am I doing this?

It's a fair question, and I’ll try my best to answer it.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, NAC published two strong opposing viewpoints pertaining to the Freedom of Speech blog, to its pseudonymous creator, and to her disingenuous patron.

Just leave the bag where it is, prof ... and no one gets hurt.

Another cowardly FOS posting ... but who's counting, Auntie?

It may seem to some that by doing so, I am somehow “stooping” to the same level as those who are being subjected to scrutiny, or at the very least, making a mountain out of a dunghill.

I disagree with this assessment. Those who consistently have chosen the low road are demeaning the very nature of responsible free speech, and consequently it is they who are in need of the cleansing light of transparence. If for no other reason than an interest in simple fairness, NAC aims to provide the sunlight, because if we don’t, who will?

As for the argument that the scale of the offense does not merit the tone of the response, such a rejoinder ignores the most famous expression of preemptive rhetoric, Deputy Fife’s advice: "Nip it. Nip it in the bud.”

It is pure hypocrisy of the basest order when one waving the banner of free speech insists on doing so pseudonymously. In spite of the best recurring efforts of agenda-laden apologists to defend this reprehensible practice of anonymous sliming, it remains disreputable, cowardly and inappropriate in a genuinely civil society.

For those among us who comprehend and believe in concepts like free speech, accountability and justice, there is every bit as much of an obligation to expose the less principled vendors of spiteful enmity as there is to locate the bacteria that cause disease. Legitimate discourse is one thing, and a persistent pattern of politically motivated character assassination quite another. To expose the disseminators of anonymous propaganda is to subject them to scrutiny by those of us hereabouts who have retained a basic sense of human decency.

And, accordingly, I remain confident that most people in this city possess such an ethical sensibility. Most people still understand the difference between a whistle-blower and a disgruntled failure, between free speech and unchecked malevolence, and between rosy cheeks and a devil’s horns.

It is not my intent to deny or suppress freedom of speech. Rather, it is to elucidate the principles of responsibility and accountability without which free speech is degraded into nonsense. I call upon the originator of the blog to dispense with her “professor of political science” disguise, and to stand openly alongside her words. And, I call for her patron to dispense with the rampant disingenuousness that has characterized her periodic denials of involvement in the blogosphere.

Barring these unlikely events, perhaps all of those participating in the Freedom of Speech charade would like to explain to us the exact dimension of the practical lessons offered to future generations in New Albany by anonymity, viciousness and deception, and how these practical lessons can be viewed as healthy ... without the use of hallucinogenic substances.

Go on. We’re waiting.

But not holding our collective breaths, and speaking personally, I'm finished with the topic, at least for now.

Bulldozer Wednesday: Scribner Place activity.

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Just leave the bag where it is, prof ... and no one gets hurt.

*Hi, it's 'Erik'™ from Freedom of Speech. You may have heard that I want to run for an at-large city council seat in 2007, but those corrupt and just plain mean Garnerites won't let me register under my 'pretend' name.

Now, tell me: How can I support free speech if I'm forced to be who I really am? Next thing you know, they won't honor my Bazooka Joe University diploma (thanks Danny), and there goes my 10% discount down at the commissary.

It just isn't fair, so it your favorite councilman's name begins with 'Steve,' then please write or call him and demand that the city council change these stupid rules so I can serve alongside those pillars of accountability and manly virtue on the right side of the table -- especially since my cherished protector, Auntie V, is going to be this city's next mayor, and of course I'll get to go with her to Indianapolis to see the governor, then go shopping in all those trendy boutiques that usually won't even let me come in the door.

Ooh, it just makes a girl -- uh, I mean a guy -- giddy.

Freedom of Speech says, don't forget to vote for the bag lady in 2007!!

Note: For more information on the candidate, read "Another cowardly FOS posting ... but who's counting, Auntie?"

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Another cowardly FOS posting ... but who's counting, Auntie?

Go here to see the Freedom of Speech blog photo posting that is being discussed below.

The New Albany blogosphere continues to be enlivened, and the level of syntax impoverished, by the wacky and hysterical antics of the pseudonymous stubbed crayon rant blog that does business as Freedom of Speech.

Last week a photograph showing Mayor James Garner and his family during the Harvest Homecoming parade was inscribed with a disparaging remark and affixed to the FOS marquee for the better part of five days, not unexpectedly coinciding with the climax of New Albany’s annual autumn celebration, which ostensibly is the time each year when the city shows its best face to the world.

FOS’s auteur, “Professor Erik,” apparently didn’t receive the memorandum, but there’s a reason for that.

He doesn’t exist.

As noted previously, "Erik" is in fact Vicki Denhart. At city council meetings, she's the one seated in the back row, loudly conversing with businesswoman and future political hopeful Valla Ann Bolovschak, who has provided covert succor to the bizarrely worshipful Ms. Denhart as the latter has regularly savaged Mayor Garner within the tiny-tot confines of the FOS spitwad blogyard.

You are reading this today because I strongly believe that irrespective of one’s opinion about Mayor Garner and his performance in office, to parody his family in a tactless and typically anonymous blog attack – and to do so during Harvest Homecoming – constitutes the height of tasteless cowardice. While such twisted antics may be what we’ve come to expect from that particular corner, the predictability of Ms. Denhart's publicly flaunted symptoms should not preclude our basic human decency to strongly object to something that is plainly misguided, injurious ... and gutless.

And so, that’s what I’m doing today -- in public, on the record, and with my name on display for all to see.

Let posterity show that I'm objecting, and I'll take whatever heat that comes from doing so.

I'm objecting to the childishness, the pettiness, the animosity, the absence of boundaries, and Ms. Denhart's scurrilous practice of small-minded, small-town malice as usual.

But ... perhaps there are extenuating circumstances, after all.

Just as it isn't really the leashed dog's fault that her master permits the public sidewalks to be soiled with canine feces, so it is that Ms. Denhart’s laughable academic fantasies and embittered personal vendettas would be relatively harmless if not for the ongoing support, either implicit or explicit, of certain of her betters who possess sufficient stores of intelligence and resources to act responsibly, yet chooses instead to empower a pathetic Internet troll.

Consequently, I publicly challenge Ms. Bolovschak to disassociate herself from this FOS nonsense and from its discredited originator.

Enough's enough, isn't it?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Another smoking ban perspective in the Sunday edition of the Tribune.

Those readers who have taken a side in the great smoking debate probably won’t change their minds after reading this Sunday guest column in the Tribune, but I found it refreshing to see a European perspective in our local newspaper.

Why so slow to ban smoke? New resident wonders what’s taking so long to approve the bans, by Aidan Kelly, local guest columnist.

Ireland became the first country in Europe to totally ban smoking from the workplace — including pubs and restaurants — in March 2004 and was also the first in the world to bring in a nationwide ban. There were a couple of exceptions but they wouldn’t be places considered by most to be too much fun to hang out in — prisons and mental hospitals among them.

While owners now talk of closed pubs and lost jobs, the Irish public and bar workers talk of good health and cleaner air.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Why one prayer and not another?

There will be a New Albany city council meeting next Thursday (October 19), and when it is called to order, there will be an invocation.

The city’s daily rulebook, otherwise known as the Code of Ordinances, explains the proper procedure for the invocation, which in this sense is best defined as “a form of prayer invoking God's presence, esp. one said at the beginning of a religious service or public ceremony.”

The following order of business shall be observed by the Common
Council at its meetings:
(A) Invocation. To be given by ministers, if present of different faiths.

Readers, if you’ve ever attended a city council meeting, you know that the invocation is not offered in this manner. Instead, the established custom is for all persons in attendance to stand like so many bashful schoolchildren and collectively mumble the Lord’s Prayer.

As a contrarian, pagan and atheist, I’ll confess that it makes little sense to me to mandate a public display of personal religious commitment. Doesn’t it demean whatever value there is to the notion of prayer to require its recitation? Does it count for more that way than if observed silently? Does reverence follow audible volume?

Granted, New Albany’s voluminous Code of Ordinances is routinely ignored, often with results far more deleterious to the city than the potential for embarrassment implicit in a long held habit of invocation that sadly and mistakenly assumes Christianity to be the only faith worth citing.

It’s also true that in this case, the ordinance is poorly and ambiguously written. Is the invocation to be said only if ministers are present, or perhaps only if ministers of different faiths are present?

I believe the passage in the ordinance implies an obligation to allow ministers of different faiths, if present at the council’s biweekly meetings, to offer invocations – including, perhaps but not necessarily restricted to, the Lord’s Prayer. Nothing in the wording suggests an obligation on the part of those in attendance to do any more than listen, if that.

As currently practiced, the council’s invocation is a de facto rejection of cultural diversity, yet significantly, the ordinance itself need not be changed. It merely need be enforced.

Animists, Muslims, Wiccans, Confucians … we need you to attend a city council meeting and to insist that your version of an invocation be heard in the manner described by the original ordinance.

Diversity would be more entertaining. However, holding your breath is not recommended.

Friday, October 13, 2006

One week, two great beer events. Are we still in New Albany?

The following appeared earlier in the week at my Potable Curmudgeon blog, which generally is devoted to beer and beer-related topics. PC is permitted to spill over into NAC when the imperatives of shameless self-promotion dictate, and why not? At least I'm not inflicting an ill-disguised candidacy on you.

The beer garden on Bank Street is up and running, and I hope to have photos on Saturday.

Press release: Bistro New Albany, New Albanian Brewing Company, North Vernon Beverage Company and good beer in downtown New Albany during Harvest Homecoming.

Meanwhile, here's the ...

Lupulin Land Harvest Hop Festival starting lineup and schedule.

One thing is for certain: I'll be doing no driving this weekend. Here's the reprint.

It will not have escaped the notice of regular readers that the coming week boasts two signature beer-related events in New Albany, one that directly pertains to the city’s annual Harvest Homecoming celebration, and one that was instituted five years ago as a sort of reaction to it.

When I first concluded that a draft “hop fest” on a harvest theme would be a good idea, it seemed natural to begin it on the same weekend of Harvest Homecoming’s “booth days,” when the streets downtown are filled with food vendors. For many years, it struck me that a good-beer-related (off-site) alternative to the seething mass of humanity gnawing on elephant ears and rolled oysters would be appropriate.

Consequently, this year’s Lupulin Land Harvest Hop festival at NABC’s public house and pizzeria was organized to begin, as always, on the Friday evening (October 13) that coincides with the second day of booths in downtown New Albany.

The variable that proved impossible to take into account was the advent and success of the Bistro New Albany, which will be embracing the notion of good beer somewhat near Harvest Homecoming and transferring it to the parking lot adjacent to the restaurant’s patio. The Bistro’s beer garden will run from the 12th through the 14th, offering food, entertainment and NABC beer (with other micros and imports courtesy of North Vernon Beverage Company).

If the Bistro New Albany project is a success, Lupulin Land 2007 might be moved forward a week so that it begins on the Friday preceding the Harvest Homecoming parade, or back a week to miss Harvest Homecoming entirely.

Either way, it’s pleasing for once to be in the position of having more than enough good beer during Harvest Homecoming rather than having terminal shortage. Is Philistinism in New Albany finally on the run? Will the Bud and Lite drinkers visit the Bistro’s beer garden? Will hops alone be enough to save us from the terrors of Velvet Elvis?

Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

"Drinking Liberally" with Dr. Schansberg, and other ruminations.

Random thoughts ...

Each week on Thursday, the Southern Indiana contingent of Drinking Liberally meets at the Public House.

Tonight there'll be special guest: Dr. Eric Schansberg, the Libertarian running against incumbent Mike Sodrel and former congressman Baron Hill in the 9th District race for Congress.


The more the two principle 9th District candidates prattle on about "Hoosier values," the more I find myself contemplating which "values" are worthy of embracing.

Bob Knight's chair throwing?

The once powerful Indiana Ku Klux Klan?

The infamous lynchings in Marion?

Or just the usual, relatively humdrum expressions of unthinking piety and casual faith-based discrimination?


For the second night in a row, I watched as the Detroit Tigers mauled my Oakland Athletics. It can't be denied that the Tigers are beating us fair, square and convincingly, but even though it's tough to watch your team fail, it's just as difficult to cheer against the Tigers. They're baseball's great post-season story -- and my late father's favorite team.

My idea of family values is toasting my dad with a beer while I watch his team play for the American League pennant, and knowing that in spite of our many differences, we harmoniously agreed on the importance of baseball and the eternally insipid nature of the propaganda disguised as political discourse in an election year.


I'm going to be busy the next few days, with two signature beer events running simultaneously in New Albany:

One week, two great beer events. Are we still in New Albany?

Much of my day Friday will be spent at the Public House as our annual hop festival commences, while on Saturday, I hope to see many of you at Bistro New Albany's Bank Street beer garden.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

UPDATED: Another eatery downtown? New cafe planned for 135 E. Market.

(Updated at 11:25 a.m.)

There was a hopeful article in the Tuesday edition of the New Albany Tribune pertaining to the prospects for another new eatery downtown.

Updated link: Bakery to face bistro on downtown block, by Eric Scott Campbell.

Teresa Clancy, wife of Bistro New Albany’s Chef Dave Clancy, plans to open a café called Treet in the ground floor of the 1870’s-era building at 135 E. Market Street (across from the Grand and bNA), which is being rehabbed by Matt and Jessica Bergman.

Forgive me for being inexact, but I left the newspaper at home this morning. One passage in the article that engendered hope in the Confidential household referred to plans to serve espresso drinks at the new establishment, which may be open in November.

At some point in the life of New Albany, there’ll be an espresso machine downtown and someone who knows how to use it properly. I’m sure of it, and my guess would be that Teresa does. When it finally happens, our patronage is assured.

See the Tribune’s Downtown Diligence in New Albany for more information about the building.

Also, see this previous article about activity on the other side of the block from the Bistro:

Twin sisters open cafe in downtown New Albany; Breakfast, lunch, dessert served in former Main Street Grind building, by Eric Scott Campbell.

REWIND: A personal rant from the author (newly updated for October).

A friend once observed that I’ve successfully made a career out of annoyance, and I suppose that’s true.

My annoyance with the culture of insipid mass-market beer was a direct impetus to fashion a business out of the alternative, and now, having branched out to specifically local issues with the assistance of the global information superhighway, I can share my many and varied annoyances with hundreds of readers each day.

Judging by the number of hostile reviews that
NA Confidential
continues to receive at the spitwad blogyard and Erika’s playhouse, it is apparent that even those who disagree continue to read – and that’s the whole point of the exercise.

As confided on numerous occasions since the inception of
NAC in
2004, a powerful but latent annoyance with the state of affairs in New Albany had suddenly come crashing to the surface the previous year, when my wife and I purchased a house downtown. Only then did New Albany’s inexcusably degraded condition finally made the impression that it should have long before, as I drank my way through lost years in the suburbs, managed to built the beer and brewing business, and generally ignored the remainder of the city.

In retrospect, 2004 was the pivotal year. Diana and I became involved in the neighborhood association, began reading and discussing “creative class,” New Urbanism and strategies for renewal, and most importantly, began making (and remaking) friends with like-minded people. Almost overnight, an unofficial constituency for progress coalesced, for all intents and purpose uniting numerous city residents into a bloc of potentially forceful influence.

Two years have passed. Have we really achieved unity?

As one well versed in the multitudinous manifestations of annoyance, the most frustrating and self-defeating cuts of all have been a consistent and paralytic inability to get locals who otherwise openly agree on broad community goals to surrender just a smidgen of autonomy for the sake of the discipline that would enable the progressive bloc’s potential strength to take form.

As Yogi Berra surely would say, recent weeks have been “déjà vu all over again,” and accordingly, I’m reminded of an earlier bout of discontent that prompted the following. I've been sitting on this "rewind" for a while, and now seems like the proper time to purge lest Harvest Homecoming leads us into an artificial sense of accomplishment ... and, with elections approaching, it's a fine time to contemplate the good and the bad emanating from political clans.

It was originally published on March 30, 2006.


I try to cultivate a semblance of detachment when it comes to these chronicles of the life and times of New Albania, not so much in the sense of refusing to take sides (as you’ve no doubt noticed, I do this on widely scattered occasions, mostly when bored), but owing to a recognition of imperfection in the world.

Which is to say that although we humans may strive for qualities like objectivity and fairness, we come into the game from the scorer’s table knowing that these ideals are elusive at best. With hard work, diligence and commitment, attainment can some times be reached – but not always.

People are social creatures, and they love to talk … some people plan ahead, while others don’t … there are leaders, and there are followers … and so it goes, on and on, as we navigate the highways, byways and the random muddy path of the varied human tapestry that surrounds us.
Detachment, accompanied by an appreciation of nuance, a dash of contemplation, and a resigned acceptance of random absurdity, can assist in the endless endeavor of determining ultimate meaning from the multitude of daily experiences.

But there are times when you’ve no choice except to throw your hands in the air and express exasperation with the seemingly random vagaries of human experience.

Now is one of these times, at least for me.

At the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin is said to have observed, “Ay, we must all hang together, else we shall all hang separately.”

Apocryphal or not, it is a sentiment to be carefully considered by every person in New Albany who truly wishes to make the city a better place.

From the inception of NA Confidential, I have held that irrespective of previous experience, even a stopped pre-digital clock is right twice each day. Accordingly, owing to a confluence of circumstances, a window has been left ajar, and the citizens of New Albany must determine whether they will make an effort to crawl through it in search of the achievement and the success that has for so long eluded the city.

Unity of purpose is the key to any game plan of sustainable action with a remote hope of facilitating renewal and revitalization, and unity is utterly dependent on communication. We – myself included – tend to pillory our elected and appointed officials for their failures in communication, even as we commit the very same mistakes and pay little heed to the damage that such dysfunction does within the circle of residents who want to believe they can make a difference.

Alas, while it may be the saddest and most inexcusable cliché in all of sports chatter, nonetheless, it’s entirely true: There is no “I” in “team.”

Right now, we have one whale of a reformist “tiim,” and not much of a “team.”

Consequently, I’m sick to death of “he said, she said, they said” being offered as a reliable substitute for dialogue between presumed equals – and be aware that I’m not referring in this instance to our so-called “adversaries” at places like the spitwad blogyard.

I’m referring to those people who have the capabilities, intelligence and talents to spearhead the urban renaissance … if they would just raise their games, check their egos at the door and make a genuine effort to be a little less like the malign problem that has characterized New Albany for so long, and a little more like something that resembles a feasible solution.

Those in New Albany whose preferences are with the moribund status quo – because it’s profitable, because it’s the only way they know, or because they lack the imagination and vision to see another way – surely must revel in the inability on the part of those fancying themselves to be reformists to eschew the gossip, the backstabbing, the impulsiveness and the overall lack of cohesiveness and discipline that to this date have prevented the “movement” from gaining anything approaching critical mass.

The elements for success in our quest to make New Albany a better place to live and work are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that must be fitted together – not separately. Make no mistake; all the pieces to the puzzle are here, waiting to be linked.

It isn’t about political parties, social classes and petty feuds. It isn't about who gets credit. It is about what each of us is prepared to do toward accomplishment, improvement and progress.

I’m not at all sure what it will take to forge this consensus: Banging heads together, gentle persuasion, locking us in our rooms until the homework is complete, bringing new blood into the fold, ritualistic public embarrassment, a show trial or two … or maybe just another cup of coffee.

But right now, it isn’t working the way it should, and the clock’s ticking. Are we going to run an organized, patterned offense with the ultimate goal of winning the game, or are we going to dribble and shoot fall-way three pointers? Is there going to be a coach, a plan, a strategy – or a series of movements with no coordination? Long-term, or whim? Do we want to win, or not? Are we going to start acting like we do?

Discuss if you wish ... I'll be examining my own conscience for clues as to how I can improve my performance with respect to the topics considered in this admitted rant.

Go to your corners … and come out thinking.

Or risk losing.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Press release: BNA, NABC, NV and good beer in downtown New Albany during HH.

New Albany’s critically acclaimed Bistro New Albany is joining with the New Albanian Brewing Company and North Vernon Beverage Company to host a downtown New Albany beer garden to coincide with “booth days” at the city’s annual Harvest Homecoming festival.

The beer garden will be located on Bank Street adjacent to bNA’s outdoor patio, and opening hours will parallel those of the booths on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, October 12-14. The Bistro is located at the corner of Bank and Market Streets in downtown New Albany.

The New Albanian Brewing Company has brewed a special amber lager, which will be served exclusively at the Bistro’s beer garden. Other NABC microbrews (Croupier, Elector, Bob’s Old 15-B) will be served, as will a selection of craft and imported beers (Upland Wheat, Upland Oktoberfest, Sierra Nevada, Newcastle, Stella Artois), the latter courtesy of North Vernon Beverage Co.

A short menu of food will be served daily in the Bistro’s beer garden, and musical entertainment will be provided on Friday and Saturday evenings with performances by Sativa Gumbo, NABC brewer Jared Williamson’s popular local four-piece band.

The Bistro’s beer garden is neither affiliated with Harvest Homecoming, nor is a sponsor of any officially sanctioned event during Harvest Homecoming, which is by far New Albany’s largest annual civic celebration, drawing tens of thousands of natives and visitors to the city.

NABC is overjoyed to help the Bistro and North Vernon Beverage in providing good beer to festival attendees, and we look forward to this birth of a vibrant new October tradition in New Albany.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Al Sur music and dance ensemble will perform at the Public House on Saturday, October 21.

We all have too much on our plates this week, even before the food booths open at Harvest Homecoming. Here's advance notice of a special event we're hosting at NABC. Al Sur includes an old and dear friend, Sidney King of the Louisville Orchestra (and a resident of New Albany).

"Al Sur is a music/dance ensemble specializing in the performance of original and traditional Spanish Flamenco art forms. Featuring some of the finest performers in the region, . . . al Sur presents high-octane dance, vocal, and instrumental numbers firmly rooted in the rich Andalusian gypsy tradition. Most numbers are original works composed by the ensemble and feature timbre colors ranging from expressive, exotic vocals and traditional dance footwork to frenetic guitar, throbbing percussion, and the plaintive tones of the bowed contrabass."

Read more about the group on their web site.

Go here for contact information: Al Sur music and dance ensemble will perform at the Public House on Saturday, October 21.

Pardon the insurrection: The NAPP has your effluent, baby.

Sometimes the Paris sewer took a notion to overflow, as though this misunderstood Nile were suddenly seized with a fit of rage.
--Victor Hugo

This is Biff Sprawlton, reporting live from New Albany’s Robert E. Lee Lift Station, where two members of the "New Albany Potty Police" have gotten themselves firmly wedged into sewer pipes.

But first: Thanks to our sponsor, Bass Pro Shops, for providing me with these rugged but stylish Hodgman Hip Waders. My producer, Marlon Perkins, will be enjoying a fine, craft- brewed NABC ale from the luxury of our Sky Team helicopter while I rappel down into the sewer plant to interview the ladies. Ready? Here goooeeeeesssss …


Biff Sprawlton: Ladies, are you staging a symbolic protest against the inefficiencies of the sewer utility?

Ms. Queasy: No, not really. We just plain got stuck. It’s the mayor’s fault, you know – either him or that lawyer fellow. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be in this fix.

Ms. Dawkston: We don’t like either one of them. They’re a disgrace to the hallowed operating procedures of the sewage treatment plant. You know, seeing a properly run sewage treatment plant is like going into one of those cathedrals. You feel warm and fuzzy inside. That’s why we sued ‘em that time.

BS: Did you win the suit?

Ms. Q: No, we got whupped. I was so depressed that I stayed in bed for a month, reading my favorite book over and over.

BS: What book is it?

Ms. Q: It’s called, “The Secret Life of Sewage.”

BS: I see. So, what are you doing down here?

Ms. D: I was watching the Sewer Channel on Pay-Per-Spew, and there was a documentary about that Miserable book, where the Frenchies go down in the sewers and chase each other.

Ms. Q: And we said heck, we’re a lot more miserable than those darned Frenchies, so we thought we’d go down there and commence to plotting against Garner and the pergessives. Baron Hill was supposed to be here.

BS: What exactly are the “potty police”?

Ms. D: Well, no one else cares about sewage as much as we do, and we know more about it than those pointy head professionals, so we’re on duty, watching.

Ms. Q: We watch a lot. Watching’s fun. I like it. We made up badges and everything.

BS: Uh oh -- bad news, ladies. It’s starting to rain.

Ms. D: No, that’s great news! A little bit of an overflow, and we’ll come shooting out of these pipes just like fireworks on the 4th of July (POP).

Bystander 1: Whoa, thar she blows. From down here, she looks almost like a dancing manhole cover.

Bystander 2: Yep, now she’s coming down. Looks like she’s gonna do the Cannonball over at the Scribner Place pond.



Bystander 3: There goes another one – or maybe it’s a parachute shaped like a petticoat.


Bystander 4: The second one gets an 8.5, but only because here legs weren’t properly aligned when she hit the mud.

Bystander 5: That’s a letdown, for sure. I had high hopes for the Potty Police in this year’s Wastewater Olympics, but now I’m not so sure. Say, let’s go down to Hugh E. Bir’s for an ice-cold Budweiser.

Ms. Q: Hey, wait for me. Soon as I change into something more comfortable … aw, hell, they'll never notice down there. Warm me up a stool!

BS: That’s all from New Albany. Stay tuned for “Dork and Mindy,” a fable about puppy love and political queenmaking – exclusively at Freedom to Screech. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Time for just one more -- beer, not parade float.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by the Confidential household to watch yesterday's Harvest Homecoming parade, which turned out to be the biggest parade ever (109 entries) even if Davy Jones of the Monkees was unavailable to reprise his early 1970's appearances as grand marshall -- surely a high water mark of New Albany's annual celebration.

A clown was spotted masquerading as 3rd District councilman Steve Price.

Libertarian congressional candidate Eric Schansberg also was in the parade. Several onlookers concluded that Democrats should donate money to Schansberg's campaign in the hope that he'll drain a proportion of evangelical Christian support from the Republican, Mike Sodrel.

By the way, it simply isn't true that the senior editor "mooned" Sodrel, although some in attendance threatened to launch a scurrilous rumor to that effect. By definition, one cannot "moon" without showing some cheek, and this I did not do. Rather, I showed the incumbent my back as a form of protest against his persistent and damaging wrongheadedness.

Here is one awfully big fireman ...

... and the float from the East Spring Street Neighborhood Association.

We'll do it again next year. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, October 07, 2006

It's Harvest Homecoming Parade day, and NA Confidential will be watching ...

For the third year running, NAC’s friends and fellow travelers will monitor the progress of the annual Harvest Homecoming Parade from the porch of the senior editor’s Spring Street homestead.

Readers and pals, stop by and visit if you're in the hood. The parade begins at noon at New Albany High School, and will pass NAC’s impromptu reviewing stand a short time later. As in years past, the format is strictly open-house; stay for a few minutes, or all day. It's your choice. There'll be no protocol.

Here is a view of the cast and crew from last year's second-place East Spring Street Neighborhood Assoctaion parade float:

There will be a pot of vegetarian chili, small batch sodas from Milwaukee’s versatile Sprecher brewery, and a selection of draft beer courtesy of the host's New Albanian Brewing Company.

Those planning to make a day of it, please bring beer snacks or suitable sides. We encourage walking and bicycling; parking places are limited (none on the street), so if you drive, be creative – and arrange a designated driver.

Maybe this year the delegation of undersized, masked exiles from the Land of Misfit Trogs will come calling. We brought wee glassware out for them in 2005, but alas, none attended.