Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Infuriated by artsy fartsy alley proposals and skulldugginsry, Irv vows to form new nin-com-PAC: "Alleyways for 18-Wheelers."

It was November 29, not July 4, but low-grade, Chinese-made fireworks flew at Tuesday's meeting of the Bored with Public Works and Safety, as City Hall revealed hitherto top-secret plans for top-down changes to two neglected downtown alleyways.

The News and Tribune's steno-of-the-day was on hand to merrily chisel the boilerplate.

At this morning’s Board of Public Works and Safety meeting, the Board accepted an agreement between the City of New Albany and Michell Timperman Ritz Architects for improvements to the alley that runs from Spring Street to Main Street.

The alley and surrounding area currently has a few murals painted by local artists, and the City wants to expand on this idea and transform the alley into an inviting and distinct pedestrian pathway. Planned improvements include drop lighting, murals, sculpture pads, planter boxes, and resurfaced decorative pavement. The City of New Albany is partnering with Develop New Albany and the New Albany Floyd County Schools Art Department on this exciting project.

Amid the random shuffling yawns of meeting attendees, one member of the public rose to denounce the proposed changes in the most strident and unyielding of terms.

"What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder," thundered Irv Stumler, an advocate of heavy industry who resides in a neighborhood (Silver Hills) where heavy industry is prohibited.

"If people can't afford cars and insist on walking, there's a place for that," said Stumler. "It's called the sidewalk. Everyone except Jeff Gahan knows that alleys are meant to be filthy, dangerous places where our heroic trucking fleets unload things."

According to Stumler, "gussied-up" alleys will result in the displacement of dumpsters, with potentially tragic consequences.

"You see where these dumpsters will be moved to, don't you? Right there, out on the street corner, where my combination flower urn ashtrays used to be. Coincidence? I think not ... and what happens when a monster rig with so much erotic horsepower you don't even need Viagra comes to one of these newfangled two-way intersections and hits the dumpster making a turn?"

After the nice men from Placid Acres Care Village had finished tidying up, the meeting resumed.

"I'm disappointed that we can't spend even more money on this project," stated David Duggins, the city's economic dishevelment director.

"Unfortunately, our campaign finance sluices just won't fit in tight spaces, and fortunately the architect is willing to work with us, so we divert as much as possible, call it good, and throw back a few ice cold Bud Light Limes."

Duggins, recently appointed by Mayor Jeff Gahan to the new position of Artistic Allegiance Arbiter (AAA), stated that designs for the alleyway decorations and murals are being left to the imagination of participating students, with one key exception.

"We really need to have this one on a wall somewhere," said Duggins, who pulled a torn and frayed sketch from his wallet.

"Sorry about the stains," added Duggins. "We were scoping it out over lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings."

The project's conceptual designer praised the city's decision to relentlessly channel artistic expression through the vise-like grip of usual suspects like his firm.

"With this municipal contract, we've topped this year's fundraising goal, and not a moment to soon," commented an anonymous spokesman for Michell Timperman Ritz Architects, who remarked "I can see the future, and it's located on the slopes in Aspen. God, but I do love Fat Tire."

Prior to the bored's rote approval, the city's ruling hologram offered more of the same, authored by another, emitted from a blue screen unfurled over in the corner by the last remaining wall socket.

“This project will not only enhance the safety of this corridor, but will add another unique and inviting pathway for pedestrians in our downtown,” stated Mayor Jeff Gahan. “I’m thrilled that Develop New Albany and the New Albany-Floyd County Schools Art Department have chosen to partner with us on this downtown improvement.”

SHANE'S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS: Hospital ... and the Knights Hospitallers (Knights of Malta).

Welcome to another installment of SHANE'S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS, a regular Wednesday feature at NA Confidential.

But why all these newfangled words?

Why not the old, familiar, comforting words, like the ones you're sure to hear when asking the city's corporate attorney why the answers to my FOIA/public records request for Bicentennial commission finances, due to be handed over on July 8, still haven't arrived on November 30?

Bicentennial commission financial trail? What's two (yawn) weeks (shrug) after 463 days?

November 30 update: Make that 21 weeks since the FOIA record request's due date and 595 days since I asked Bullet Bob Caesar to tell us how many coffee table books were left unsold, and how much the city's 200-year "summer of love" fest actually cost us. It's with Indiana's public access counselor now, and a verdict is to be rendered no later than the first week of December, so perhaps "compliance" would be a word for our friend's future consideration.

No, it's because a healthy vocabulary isn't about intimidation through erudition. Rather, it's about selecting the right word and using it correctly, whatever one's pay grade or station in life.

Even these very same debased, paving-bond-slush-engorged municipal corporate attorneys who customarily reap handsome remuneration to suppress information can benefit from this enlightening expansion of personal horizons, and really, as we contemplate what they knew and when they knew it, all we have left is plenty of time -- and the opportunity to learn something, if we're so inclined.

Most of us know the meaning of this week's word, but you may not know the word's origins, or its relevance to a place the Confidentials just visited for the very first time: Valletta, Malta.

Thanks to JB for his timely reminder.




1. an institution in which sick or injured persons are given medical or surgical treatment.

2. a similar establishment for the care of animals.

3. a repair shop for specific portable objects: violin hospital; doll hospital.

4. British. an institution supported by charity or taxes for the care of the needy, as an orphanage or old people's home.

Origin of hospital

1250-1300; Middle English hospitale < Medieval Latin, noun use of neuter of Latin hospitālis hospitable, equivalent to hospit- (see hospitium ) + -ālis -al

And now to the Mediterranean island between Sicily and Africa.

Malta: The hospital of The Knights of St. John (The National Trust of Malta- Din l-Art Helwa)

 ... The plaque reads in Maltese “The anatomy and surgery school was started in this building by Grand Master Cotoner 19th December 1676”. So, I decided to write this short blog on this building.

The Knights of St. John, also known as the Knights Hospitallers or Knights of Malta were set up primarily to provide care for the sick. They came to Malta in 1530 after they had been driven out of Rhodes by Suleiman the Magnificent. Following the Great Siege of Malta (1565) which, though a decisive victory of the knights over the Ottomans saw them almost driven out of Malta, Grand Master Jean Parisot de La Valletta set the wheels in motion for the building of a fortified city. He laid the first stone in Our Lady of Victory Church in 1566 (Incidentally that same church is now being lovingly restored to its former glory by our organisation). Sadly he was not to see the city built as he died in 1568 and was buried in that same church and later moved to the magnificent St. John’s Co-Cathedral (completed in 1577).

Robert Reich has an "8-Point Plan for a New Democratic Party," and I fully expect Floyd County's Democrats to whittle it down to less than zero.

Has a single local ranking Democrat had anything intelligible to say since the debacle on November 8?

Donald Trump ran roughshod, but roughly 40% of the county opted for Hillary Clinton, and it stands to reason that these people might be interested to know what's next.

(crickets chirp)
(pins drop)
(somewhere, a dog forlornly barks)
(the flutter of this passing moth's wings is deafening)

I resent being proven wrong again; after all, I thought local Democrats couldn't display any fewer leadership skills.

But when the going gets tough ... water park!

Robert Reich's 8-Point Plan for a New Democratic Party, by Tessa Stuart (Rolling Stone)

Former labor secretary says the party must be rebuilt from the ground up, and has some ideas on how it should be done ... "the entire organization has to be reinvented," Robert Reich says of the DNC.

During the 2016 primary, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich was an outspoken supporter of Bernie Sanders. When he threw his weight behind Hillary Clinton's bid in the general election, he did so while also calling for the formation of a new progressive party to take up Sanders' cause after the election. In the wake of Democrats' humiliating defeat in November – not just for the presidency, but in a number of Congressional races – the UC Berkeley professor and co-founder of Inequality Media says the Democratic Party must be rebuilt from the ground up, and he has some ideas about how it ought to be done ...

... This requires a completely different kind of politics in response, and the Democratic Party needs to think at a much, much larger and more ambitious level than a lot of the Democrats I've been talking to over the last week have been. Here's Reich's blueprint for the future of the party."

To learn the details, click through. Here is the title list:

1. Overhaul the DNC
2. Embrace populism
3. Mobilize, energize and educate the base
4. Expose Trump as a fraud
5. Focus on 2018 now
6. Look to the state and local level
7. Protect groups threatened by Trump
8. Failing all else, look outside the party

Look outside the party? That's interesting.

"All I can tell you at this point in time is that millions of people are afraid of what's to come. They want to know what to do. They want to be engaged and involved. They want to be part of a peaceful resistance army, with regard to what they expect to happen over the next months or years. And that expectation it is, it seems to me, justified and realistic. The Democrats would be wise to take advantage of this upsurge in public concern, and this desire to be directly involved."

The problem for our local Democrats is when you've been this bad for this long, even Santa Claus isn't returning your calls.

But look, they're already hard at work mobilizing, energizing and educating the base!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

ASK THE BORED: They have a plan to prevent toll dodging, and have scheduled it for completion one year after tolling begins. Yay!

I haven't attended a Board of Public Works and Safety meeting since before the unpleasantness of November 8, when the local political party branch responsible for appointments, patronage and a gently pervasive wetting of beaks -- in fact, for these very prized seats on BOW -- was handed a vicious, epic bloodbath of a beat-down.

Consequently, the Green Mouse reports newfound popularity for this fashionable statement of beans, franks and whiplash. You can bet that if HWC Engineering offered orthopedic body gadgets, the contract already would have been signed, sealed and sluiced.

By the way, kindly note that Team Gahan's campaign finance lube jobs with HWC are so comforting that the engineering firm is opening a branch office right across the street from City Hall. Now, THAT's service with a smile -- and an invoice.

Two weeks ago, and by its own publicly stated reckoning, BOW struck a heroic faux blow for presumed preparedness in the face of the traffic diversions and dodging sure to follow the implementation of bridge tolls.

In short, a tragically butchered two-way street plan edited to the very edge of insensibility (but campaign finance ready!) was formally approved, and the back-slapping commenced.

UPDATE: Two-ways streets in downtown New Albany are a go; Switch to be in place by end of next year, by Elizabeth Beilman (News and Tribune)

 ... "It's a shame it couldn't be done this year, but jumping through all the hoops with federal dollars and all — it's worth the wait," Warren Nash, board of works president, said.

The Federal Highway Administration will fund about $2 million of the project, leaving the city to pay $400,000.

My, my. What's even more shameful than a political time-server's breathtaking insincerity is the project's price tag of almost $3 million, for what amounts to an omnibus paving project with one (!) bicycle lane and the same old cluelessness from suburban-think city officials, who never have understood what Jeff Speck was saying, not once, and never will.

But the overarching point is summarized by this meme, encapsulating a question that has failed to occur to several dozen local newspaper reporters.

Verily, if the Downtown Grid Modernization Project (DGMP -- nice acronym, and the word for "poop" in Mongolian) is intended as a means of taming toll dodgers, and if the curative project won't be finished until a year after tolling begins, then WHAT'S THE PLAN FOR THE INTERVENING 12 MONTHS?

In order to be answered, the question must be asked, and you know the reaction if NAC tries to ask it.

What we'd surely get would be Team Gahan's tried-and-true boilerplate:

"You want answers? (Yawn) I'll check the Gahan for Next account, and if your name's not there, I'm sure the Indiana Public Access counselor has room on his schedule."

Two-way streets and one-way mentalities. What could possibly go wrong?

Before I drift into unconsciousness, here's a link where you can learn more about the advent of Kerry Stemler's auto-erotic tolling boondoggle, with an added bonus of an economic development study that didn't include independent local businesses, as well as typically incoherent testimony from State Senator Ron Grooms, who has been trying for five years to explain why he never grasped the impact of tolling during the time when he performed yeoman's service as One Southern Indiana lapdog.

But damn, those royalty checks come in handy when it's time to buy groceries, don't they, Ron?

Drivers brace for start of bridge tolls, by Madeleine Winer (Courier-Journal)

With the arrival of the holiday season comes colder weather, family gatherings and this year, for Kentuckiana, bridge tolls.

For the thousands of drivers who cross the Ohio River daily, that also means toll dodging or buying a transponder and setting up an account with RiverLink, the electronic tolling system that could cost them more than $40 a month.

"My relatives in Maine are deplorables. I cannot write on their behalf. I can write in their defense."

NAC modification of cartoon by Mr. Fish, from the article.

Bring out your dead ...

Denial is not a river in Egypt, although in Nawbany, you'll hear it played more often than "I'll Be Numb for Christmas."

We Are All Deplorables, by Chris Hedges (TruthDig via Common Dreams)

My relatives in Maine are deplorables. I cannot write on their behalf. I can write in their defense. They live in towns and villages that have been ravaged by deindustrialization. The bank in Mechanic Falls, where my grandparents lived, is boarded up, along with nearly every downtown store. The paper mill closed decades ago. There is a strip club in the center of the town. The jobs, at least the good ones, are gone. Many of my relatives and their neighbors work up to 70 hours a week at three minimum-wage jobs, without benefits, to make perhaps $35,000 a year. Or they have no jobs. They cannot afford adequate health coverage under the scam of Obamacare. Alcoholism is rampant in the region. Heroin addiction is an epidemic. Labs producing the street drug methamphetamine make up a cottage industry. Suicide is common. Domestic abuse and sexual assault destroy families. Despair and rage among the population have fueled an inchoate racism, homophobia and Islamophobia and feed the latent and ever present poison of white supremacy. They also nourish the magical thinking peddled by the con artists in the Christian right, the state lotteries that fleece the poor, and an entertainment industry that night after night shows visions of an America and a lifestyle on television screens—“The Apprentice” typified this—that foster unattainable dreams of wealth and celebrity ...

 ... I finished my book with a deep dislike for megachurch pastors who, like Trump, manipulate despair to achieve power and wealth. I see the Christian right as a serious threat to an open society. But I do not hate those who desperately cling to this emotional life raft, even as they spew racist venom. Their conclusion that minorities, undocumented workers or Muslims are responsible for their impoverishment is part of the retreat into fantasy. The only way we will blunt this racism and hatred and allow them to free themselves from the grip of magical thinking is by providing jobs that offer adequate incomes and economic stability and by restoring their communities and the primacy of the common good. Any other approach will fail. We will not argue or scold them out of their beliefs. These people are emotionally incapable of coping with the world as it is. If we demonize them we demonize ourselves.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Democrats seeking an alternative to Trump: "You won’t have a choice but to try something new."

Trump-ready balconies?

"Whatever the cause, something is different here. One age is dying, and another is rearing its head."

Dan O'Sullivan writes like the love child of Alexander Cockburn and Hunter S. Thompson, and the result may be the single best summary I've yet seen of the recently concluded presidential election, as well as a thoughtful (and delightfully florid) assessment of where we are are, as a nation, right now.

Vengeance Is Mine, at Jacobin

Chaos reigns … fascist stooge finds his balcony … the resistible rise of Donald Trump … bomb crater America finds its Dauphin … Hillary Clinton: 10.0 Richter scale failure … the pinko revolt begins … digging ourselves out of the collapsed gold mine

(SNIP) The results will be radioactive. There is a perverse and hideous gift here. While the madness of a Clinton interregnum would’ve proceeded according to standard operating procedure, a banal yet sickening continuity with that of Obama and Bush, the colossal weirdness of Trump’s movement does represent something of an innovation. Frankly, Trump is too fucked up to ignore, and his core gang of freaks will make this country an extravagantly worse place.

You won’t have a choice but to try something new.

So, what is to be done?

For one thing, face the "alt-right" for what it really is, take a lesson from Bernie Sanders, and promote a genuinely alternative vision.

They may be loud and sinister; they may harass and impugn and assault those weaker than them. They are also cowards, emboldened by their tangerine stalking horse. I know them; they are young losers who crave the attention otherwise denied in life. Their will is as weak as their leader. Stop giving them for free what they dream of all day long.

No more of this narrow view of either wooing or abandoning “the white working class,” either. The zero-sum, emotionally bankrupt thinking on race that has dominated this country — one in which African-Americans see their voting rights stolen, while white Americans are incited against “welfare cheats” and other euphemistic scapegoats while further immiserated themselves — must be smashed. It is time to defend and support the entire working class — the black working class, the Latino working class, indigenous Americans, and the white working class.

There is no need to pick and choose between helping one group to the detriment of another; an alternative vision will answer Trump’s bigotry with an abiding antiracism, a radical compassion capable of freeing all Americans from the indignities of life today in this country.

There can be no dealing with this man. Bernie has lain down a gauntlet Trump cannot meet. Now, every day, and in every way, it is time to say “go fuck yourself” to Trump and his ilk, until the weapons capable of destroying him can be perfected.

Trump is, for all his monstrosity, just a symptom; as daunting as the challenge of frustrating Trump and the GOP’s agenda at every turn will be, of even graver importance will be constructing an alternative vision capable of contending with the crisis of American life.

It is impossible to select meaningful excerpts from an essay of this length, so please click through and read it all. You too, Adam.

Yo, Chairman Dickey: "It is crucial that our cultural elite, most of it aligned with the New Democrats, not be allowed to shirk their responsibility for Trump’s success."

But Uncle Walt typically had better years.

It starts right here, at the grassroots, and the Floyd County Democratic Party, the only entity hereabouts with an existing structure capable of being retrofitted for some semblance of a purpose, might actively seize this revolutionary moment by initiating dialogue aimed at the future.

So here is our silver lining. This is a revolutionary moment. We must not allow them to shift the blame on to voters. This is their failure, decades in the making. And their failure is our chance to regroup. To clean house in the Democratic party, to retire the old elite and to empower a new generation of FDR Democrats, who look out for the working class – the whole working class.

To be blunt, in the three weeks since the New Democratic Order had its clocked clean locally, regionally and nationally, our Floyd County Democratic leadership cadre (with apologies to leaders who actually heed the literal definition stipulating "one who leads") has emitted little more than the whimpering of lashed curs, a few stray platitudes, and the stench of utter bullshit.

Whether one is inside the local party or outside it, and assuming that the party itself lacks the chutzpah to gift party chairman Adam Dickey with a pink slip, it's obvious that Dickey must resign. Mayor Jeff Gahan is the highest ranking Democrat left woozily wobbling. He actually has a record of winning elections, and so it's his party now -- not that he has any idea what to do with it, just that this is the way politics works following a debacle like 2016.

It is doubtful that more than a handful of local DemoDisneyDixiecrats grasp the immensity of the task ahead.

(Bill Clinton's triangulation) heralded the Obama years, as the New Democrats continued to justify their existence through a focus on social causes that do not threaten corporate power. Or as Krystal Ball put it so powerfully: “We lectured a struggling people watching their kids die of drug overdoses about their white privilege.” Add to this that we did it while their life expectancy dropped through self-destructive behaviors brought on by economic distress.

Nevertheless, the window is cracked open. Can a local political party that finds competitive discourse so highly distasteful that it rigidly censors its own social media platform, thus all but ensuring a culture of losing, look deeply into the mirror and commence the 12-step program for reversing rot and recapturing roots?

It's doubtful. Is there a doctor in the house to check the corpse for a pulse?

Clinton & co are finally gone. That is the silver lining in this disaster, by Hazem Salem (The Guardian)

... Hillary Clinton has given us back our freedom. Only such a crushing defeat could break the chains that bound us to the New Democrat elites. The defeat was the result of decades of moving the Democratic party – the party of FDR – away from what it once was and should have remained: a party that represents workers. All workers ...

Lest we forget:

In a capitalist democracy, the party of the left has one essential reason for existing: to speak for the working class. Capitalist democracies have tended towards two major parties. One, which acts in the interest of the capitalist class – the business owners, the entrepreneurs, the professionals – ensuring their efforts and the risks they took were fairly rewarded. The other party represented workers, unions and later on other groups that made up the working class, including women and oppressed minorities.

This delicate balance ended in the 1990s. Many blame Reagan and Thatcher for destroying unions and unfettering corporations. I don’t. In the 1990s, a New Left arose in the English-speaking world: Bill Clinton’s New Democrats and Tony Blair’s New Labour. Instead of a balancing act, Clinton and Blair presided over an equally aggressive “new centrist” dismantling of the laws that protected workers and the poor.

Responsibility? What a seldom-seen concept locally:

This is not to deny the reality of structural racism or xenophobia or the intolerance shown to Muslims or the antisemitic undertones of Trump’s campaign. I am myself a person of color with a Muslim-sounding name, I know the reality and I am as frightened as everyone else. But it is crucial that our cultural elite, most of it aligned with the New Democrats, not be allowed to shirk their responsibility for Trump’s success.

So let us be as clear about this electoral defeat as possible, because the New Democratic elite will try to pin their failure, and keep their jobs, by blaming this largely on racism, sexism – and FBI director Comey. This is an extremely dangerous conclusion to draw from this election.

I love the smell of purge in the morning. Now, please.

An "artsy" refit for the waterfront skate park? Sure, but why has City Hall allowed it to become an "eyesore," anyway?

You know, adjacent to the neglected amphitheater. 

With no disrespect to the Carnegie's Daniel Pfalzgraf, who has identified a viable opportunity in Nawbany's forever neglected riverfront skate park, and by doing so is thinking so far outside our self-imposed local boxes that he might as well be curating the museum on Saturn, the place to start at the skate park is repairing and improving what already is there, then moving forward with more costly ideas -- and (dare we mention it) connecting these ideas with something approximating a Riverfront Amphitheater master plan.

Conversely, if City Hall remains aloof to waterfront possibilities, preferring its newer shiny objects to the daily grind of maintaining existing facilities, far better to cut it out of the plan as much as possible, and "placemake" independently.

Pfalzgraf is on to something, and in moving forward there is one absolutely huge imperative, one the city customarily ignores: None of these ideas should begin gestation without the direct participation of those currently using the space.

They should be asked, and any plans should pass their approval. If they're asked and decline participation, then let the inevitable campaign finance monetization begin.

Absent the public aspect of placemaking, we'll have yet another imperfect target for excessive expenditure that looks peachy keen on the outside, to the detriment of its intended functionality (see Park, Bicentennial).

FROM EYESORE TO OPPORTUNITY: Carnegie Center talks artsy plans for New Albany skate park; Carnegie curator hopes to create a skate-able work of public art, by Danielle Grady (News and Tribune)

... (Daniel) Pfalzgraf also hopes to ask for proposals from artists, local or regional, detailing their ideas on how to make the park look unique.

He wants passersby to have the same experience looking at the renovated skate park as they would looking at any other work of art, he said.

If nothing else, Pfalzgraf just wants to repair what’s already at the park and maybe give it a paint job.

“We’d love to make it a huge event and completely revamp it, but we’ll basically do whatever’s possible,” he said ...

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Our Sicilian interlude in Catania was a back-to-the-future experience.

From the conclusion of last year's pirate-for-mayor campaign to this foggy post-election Sunday in late November, 2016, I've been a bum.

Not a lazy bum, mind you, because my strange pro-bono life has been active, if unremunerated. After 25 years of trench warfare in business, there has been a sabbatical of sorts, with time to reflect. It must come to an end soon, and the process of grieving already has started.

Temporarily freed from the necessity of analyzing spread sheets to amuse villainous bankers (among other distasteful self-abnegating human tricks one must perform in the service of capitalism), those sectors of my mind as yet operating functionally after all these years of high living seem intent on disgorging a steady stream of personal interests and fascinations submerged during the NABC era.

Among these are volcanoes, which led directly to our decision to skip American-style Thanksgiving for an Italian respite in Catania, Sicily, and proximity to Mt. Etna. We've returned from the journey, and I find myself contemplating vexing questions:

  • Why has it taken me 27 years to return to Italy?
  • In 31 years of European travel, how could I have ignored Sicily?
  • Now that Italy possesses as many as 1,000 craft breweries, does any other European country honor cultural hedonism to such a wonderful extent?

In Catania last week, we lived like it was 1987, when I was fortunate to spend two weeks of early summer enchantment in the hill towns of central Italy, managing to eat, drink and sleep on a budget while absorbing art, architecture and ambiance ... and sacrificing very little of what passes for modernity. It was glorious.

My last previous visit to Italy came in 1989, in Rome and Pisa. Precisely because it was a more hurried itinerary, the impression of timelessness wasn't as vivid. Later, owing primarily to beer geography, the focus shifted northward. I haven't gotten close to the Mediterranean in 16 years. It's a regrettable omission.

At the moment, I must confess to being overwhelmed by the Catania experience. Honestly, there was at least one moment each day when a feeling of gratitude and thankfulness gripped me, and I was on the verge of falling to my knees and shedding a few joyful tears.

Being a good disciple of Northern European restraint, I kept it together and refrained, but maybe next time, the flood gates will be breached, because plate tectonics might explain more than Mt. Etna's looming volcanic presence. Shift happens in one's own consciousness, and it's happening right now with me. I've no idea where it leads, and that's the best part.

Following are two books that explain the whys and wherefores of Italy. The links are an introduction, not a conclusion, rather like the swirling inside of my noggin. First, published in 1964, and previously read prior to my first Italian visit in 1985, Luigi Barzini's book remains a go-to.

The Italians: A Full-Length Portrait Featuring Their Manners and Morals, by Luigi Barzini

In this consummate portrait of the Italian people, bestselling author, publisher, journalist, and politician Luigi Barzini delves deeply into the Italian national character, discovering both its great qualities and its imperfections. Barzini is startlingly frank as he examines "the two Italies": the one that created and nurtured such luminaries as Dante Alighieri, St. Thomas of Aquino, and Leonardo da Vinci; the other, feeble and prone to catastrophe, backward in political action if not in thought, "invaded, ravaged, sacked, and humiliated in every century." Deeply ambivalent, Barzini approaches his task with a combination of love, hate, disillusion, and affectionate paternalism, resulting in a completely original, thoughtful, and probing picture of his countrymen.

More recently, in his book The Italians, John Hooper supplies an update, perhaps striking a more topical note with Americans.

All the more reason for taking a second look, which is exactly what John Hooper, a veteran British journalist who covers Italy for The Economist, has done. It is fitting that the dust jacket on his version of “The Italians” features a graphic depiction of a cup of espresso; like the beverage, his book is brisk, bracing and to the point. While it stands up well enough as an independent work, it is even more useful as a kind of updated appendix to the Barzini original, taking in subsequent economic, social and political developments such as the collapse of traditional Italian communism, integration into the euro bloc and the rise of the flamboyant right-wing demagogue Silvio Berlusconi, which Luigi did not live to see.

There'll be more photos as I sort through three cameras, and a bit of writing once thoughts are organized. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading.

In Sicily, too: Put down your device and pay attention to driving.

The Sicilian debriefing might take a while, but in the interim, I'll simply note that our Mt. Etna excursion driver/guide offered scathing comments about the encroachment of distracted drivers in his neck of the woods. Given that driving in a place like Sicily involves a good deal more negotiation than we're accustomed to indulging in L'America, my hunch is that enforcement there eventually will be as draconian as the drunk driving laws, which typically involve zero tolerance.

Biggest Spike in Traffic Deaths in 50 Years? Blame Apps, by Neal E. Boudette (New York Times)

The messaging app Snapchat allows motorists to post photos that record the speed of the vehicle. The navigation app Waze rewards drivers with points when they report traffic jams and accidents. Even the game Pokémon Go has drivers searching for virtual creatures on the nation’s highways.

When distracted driving entered the national consciousness a decade ago, the problem was mainly people who made calls or sent texts from their cellphones. The solution then was to introduce new technologies to keep drivers’ hands on the wheel. Innovations since then — car Wi-Fi and a host of new apps — have led to a boom in internet use in vehicles that safety experts say is contributing to a surge in highway deaths.

After steady declines over the last four decades, highway fatalities last year recorded the largest annual percentage increase in 50 years. And the numbers so far this year are even worse. In the first six months of 2016, highway deaths jumped 10.4 percent, to 17,775, from the comparable period of 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“This is a crisis that needs to be addressed now,” Mark R. Rosekind, the head of the agency, said in an interview ...

Saturday, November 26, 2016

1960s activists on modern politics: "I hate cynicism; you have to fight."

You say you want a revolution? If so, it's time to begin defining your terms.

'I hate cynicism; you have to fight': 1960s activists on modern politics, by Sarah Marsh and Guardian readers

From Donald Trump to Brexit, the world is changing rapidly. Here, those who lived through the transformative 1960s give their view on changing times

Since becoming the US president-elect, Donald Trump has left some people worrying about their rights. He has vowed to roll back on abortion freedoms and deport millions of illegal immigrants with criminal records. He has also appointed Steve Bannon, who has been labelled a “white nationalist”, as White House chief strategist.

Many of the liberties being challenged were fought for and won in the 1960s. The women’s liberation movement, for example, battled for abortion to be made legal (it happened in the UK in 1967 and the US in 1973). In America, the civil rights movement, led by Martin Luther King, campaigned for racial equality and against discrimination.

So how do those who stood up for these freedoms feel about Trump? We spoke to activists in the US and the UK about the 1960s and whether they believe what they battled for is now at risk. We also asked their advice on dealing with political uncertainty and standing up for what you believe in.

Friday, November 25, 2016

An excellent documentary about Paul Carrack's musical voyage.

For a quicker overview, see the Paul Carrack biography at Allmusic. Carrack's musical résumé is uniquely varied, and his voice simply timeless.

Paul Carrack: The Man with the Golden Voice (2012)

Sheffield's Paul Carrack has slowly and subtly become a national institution who can spend nearly three months touring around the UK as he will this winter around his latest album, Good Feeling. The golden voice of Ace's 1974 blue-eyed soul hit How Long, Squeeze's Tempted and Mike and the Mechanics' The Living Years, Carrack is a journeyman of British rock, soul and pop whose career has unfolded slowly and steadily until he has become something of a national treasure.

This affectionate documentary traces Carrack's musical journey from Warm Dust and Ace through Squeeze, Roxy Music and Mike and the Mechanics to his successful latter-day solo career, with intimate access to the likeable, somewhat diffident yet determined Carrack and thoughtful contributions from friends, family and peers including Nick Lowe, Chris Difford and others.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

1959: The year before I was born changed jazz, but not much else.

In a documentary ostensibly about jazz in 1959, the narrative never veers very far away from the state of race relations in America.

That's right, 1959.

Or 2016.

The decline of jazz appreciation may be the only significant difference.

1959: The Year That Changed Jazz (Open Culture)

1959. It was a pivotal year for jazz. Musicians started breaking away from bebop, exploring new, experimental forms. And four absolutely canonical LPs were recorded that year: Kind of Blue by Miles Davis; Time Out by Dave Brubeck; Mingus Ah Um by Charles Mingus; and The Shape of Jazz to Come by Ornette Coleman. 1959 also found America on the cusp of great social and political upheaval. Integration, Vietnam, the Cuban Missile Crisis — they were all coming around the bend, and sometimes figures like Mingus and Coleman commented musically on these events.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Welcome to another installment of SHANE'S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS, a regular Wednesday feature at NA Confidential.

But why all these newfangled words?

Why not the old, familiar, comforting words, like the ones you're sure to hear when asking the city's corporate attorney why the answers to my FOIA/public records request for Bicentennial commission finances, due to be handed over on July 8, still haven't arrived on November 23?

Bicentennial commission financial trail? What's two (yawn) weeks (shrug) after 463 days?

November 23 update: Make that 20 weeks since the FOIA record request's due date and 588 days since I asked Bullet Bob Caesar to tell us how many coffee table books were left unsold, and how much the city's 200-year "summer of love" fest actually cost us. It's with Indiana's public access counselor now, and a verdict is to be rendered no later than the first week of December, so perhaps "compliance" would be a word for our friend's future consideration.

No, it's because a healthy vocabulary isn't about intimidation through erudition. Rather, it's about selecting the right word and using it correctly, whatever one's pay grade or station in life.

Even these very same iniquitous, paving-bond-slush-engorged municipal corporate attorneys who customarily are handsomely remunerated to suppress information can benefit from this enlightening expansion of personal horizons, and really, as we contemplate what they knew and when they knew it, all we have left is plenty of time -- and the opportunity to learn something, if we're so inclined.

Many readers already know about the Calumet Club in New Albany. There are also Calumet rivers, regions and towns. But what is a calumet as a noun? It's a Native American pipe.

Tobacco, indigenous to North America, followed Indian trade routes throughout the continent long before Columbus arrived, and pipe smoking took on a ritual and religious importance in many tribes. Naturally, the crafting of pipes became equally important.

The most famous Native American pipes are the long calumets or "peace pipes" of the Sioux and other Plains Indian tribes, which were made by attaching a wooden stem to a bowl carved from catlinite or "pipestone." (Pipestone is native to Minnesota, but due to intertribal trade was available throughout Native North America.) Other native pipe-making traditions included the smaller one-piece stone and ceramic pipes of the Iroquois and Cherokee tribes, wood and antler pipes of the Southwest Indians, and the post-Columbian tomahawk pipes with a metal pipe bowl and hatchet on opposite ends of the stem.

Calumet Club Dates in History, courtesy of the Calumet Club, illustrate that it was a thriving social institution on post-WWI New Albany. Finally, from the library's Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room comes this memento of times long gone.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Mt. Etna in Sicily: "Amazingly the mountain grows and shrinks as the years roll by."

When I was a kid, volcanoes fascinated me. For about forty years, the interest was dormant, but during the past year, many things have come bubbling up from the subconscious -- as this link earlier in the year attests.

Lava lighting up the Sicilian sky as giant ash clouds spew, latest eruption of Mount Etna is caught on camera, by Francis Scott (Daily Mail)

... Mount Etna is located on the east coast of Sicily and prior eruptions have been elevated to at least seven kilometres above the summit, mainly due to prevailing winds.

The volcano is nearly two times the size of Mount Vesuvius, and remains in a state of almost constant activity.

Amazingly the mountain grows and shrinks as the years roll by.

Recently an animation from Nasa, which captures the volcano's activity using radio satellite imagery, went viral thanks to social media.

The natural wonder appears to 'breathe' over the course of a decade in the incredible video results.

Etna and the city of Catania, foreground. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Phil Collins is back. Deal with it.

That's Phil in the middle.

I remain a defiant, unreconstructed and resolute fan of Phil Collins, both as a member of the band Genesis and as a solo performer.

In the open air with Genesis and U2, 1987.

Then again, I've never been one to dismiss the value of "pop" in popular music. It can be done well or badly, just as in every other style of music. When Collins was "pop," it was generally done well, although as followers of Brand X might note, he could perform jazz/fusion, too.

No hating on Phil here, folks.

Why the World is right to fall in love with Phil Collins again, by Chris Roberts (Team Rock)

For years Phil Collins has been the butt of every joke, but his comeback has been greeted by an enormous wave of affection. This is why he deserves to bask in that warmth ...

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A pistachio gelato sandwich for breakfast? But of course. You're on holiday, after all.

From the linked article. 

It isn't that unusual. We all ate ice cream sandwiches when we were kids, right?


 ... My morning routine has been rather confusing the last few weeks. From my favorite Marocchino alone, to adding Nutella-filled hot cornetti (Italian croissants), back to a sparse coffee on repeatedly late mornings, to eggs, English sausage and toast, to French pain au chocolat and crepes and omelettes, and back to my Marocchino. My stomach was enjoying all the skipping around and the varied fare and the meals that lasted after midnight. It’s understandable that it’s confused and now fights with me when I tell it we’re going back to a lone coffee in the mornings.

But this morning, this particular morning, my stomach wants this: A fresh brioche stuffed to the gills with Sicilian gelato ...

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Documentary: "Steve Winwood: English Soul."

For those of us raised with Traffic album tracks on FM radio, Steve Winwood's synthesizer-laden 1980s hits were jarring at their time of release. Now they sound like a refuge, tuneful and melodic. Hindsight is a bizarre phenomenon, but those Traffic cuts till sound great.

Steve Winwood: English Soul, BBC Four, by (The Arts Desk)

Almost like an inverted echo of Stevie Wonder over in Detroit, Little Stevie Winwood was a Brummie teen prodigy who scored an early dose of stardom with the Spencer Davis Group at age 15. Raved over for his amazing soulful vocals and effortless instrumental skills, he went on to form Traffic before joining “supergroup” Blind Faith with Eric Clapton.

Friday, November 18, 2016

"Rural identity has come to be largely defined as an us vs. them mentality, with the them being people who live in cities."

As a side note, this is the 1,250th post of the year at NAC. This is a new world record, at least for this blog. Can someone out there suggest how I might earn a few farthings for all this pro bono work? Now to the point ...

So it goes: Fire and brimstone evangelicals vote for a crass libertine, the poor for a paragon of wealth, and resentful anti-urban rural cadres for the ultimate city dweller.

Is there racism, xenophobia and homophobia in these expressions? Of course, but to focus on these to the exclusion of other economic and class factors steadily building up steam since America first met Archie Bunker in 1971 is to avert one's eye from the ball that matters, if not one more so than the other, then equally.

Call me a Marxist if you wish. I remain convinced that economic considerations play a huge part in these instances, and understanding what just happens is crucial. I'm not there yet. It has taken us time to arrive at this juncture.

Listen up, folks: As for this rural resentment described below, whence I came. I may not have physically moved very far away from my roots, but psychologically, I've spent the past 35 years stuffing these developmental markers into a trunk and throwing it into a mine shaft, from where it has now emerged, gloriously intact, ascendant.

We may be past the point where thinking and facts even matter, and probably my insistence that we all go find a mirror for necessary introspection is the stuff of childlike escapist fantasy – and lest we forget, to echo my pal Ignatius, veneration of Walt Disney is one of the roots of our current intellectual stalemate.

It's simple. Leaving aside the inadequacies of the Democratic "opposition," it should be obvious that I wouldn't vote for Donald Trump in a million years, and probably a clear majority of my high school classmates just did. Understanding why they did might help me understand why I didn't. It won't change the world to learn the answer, though it might change me.

The Reality of Rural Resentment, by Sommer Mathis (City Lab)

One of the biggest themes to emerge so far from the 2016 U.S. presidential election is a widening rural vs. urban divide.

... (Professor Kathy) Cramer's new book, The Politics of Resentment, traces the rise of conservative Governor Scott Walker and the political evolution of Wisconsin. What Cramer says she found is that a strong sense of rural identity in the communities she visited has become a key driver of political motivation in Wisconsin. And over time, that sense of rural identity has come to be largely defined as an us vs. them mentality, with the them being people who live in cities ...

This Sullen Hoosier Heart ... with apologies to the Manics.

You can't ever be sure when a song will come out of nowhere and grip you. It might be the melody, the beat or the words; of course, it might be all three. "This Sullen Welsh Heart" is a current example of such an ear worm, although the words I'm hearing are "This Sullen Hoosier Heart."

I came late to the band called Manic Street Preachers, just shy of my forties in the late 1990s, but the depth of my subsequent attachment parallels David Kitching's:

The Manic Street Preachers have always occupied an unusual place in this continuum. I encountered them as I entered a phase of my teens wherein I sought answers to explain the world around me, as well as the correct questions to ask. I was a fairly bookish kid with a love of music and a nascent interest in how the world was run. For a kid with too many questions, the Manics had something to say. They demanded that we take up arms. Yet this arsenal was not to be composed of bullets, batons or blades. One felt compelled, rather, to build and borrow from armaments of ideas; to read and become better; to cultivate the mind in such a way as to understand the world but still have an emotional resonance with it …

In 2013, the Manics released an album called Rewind the Film, stating that a companion piece, Futurology, would follow in 2014. These songs were recorded in the studio all at once, with guest vocalists brought on board to augment the singing of guitarist James Dean Bradfield, but the mood of each album is strikingly different.

Rewind the Film is acoustic, somber and introspective, while Futurology is electric and clamorous. Numerous arguments have been advanced that Rewind the Film represents the "old" Europe and Futurology the "new," which if true suggests that the group's post-Brexit work will be very interesting. indeed.

Construction time again: The renewal of Manic Street Preachers at festival No. 6, by Craig Austin (Wales Arts Review)

 ... When Bradfield performs the acoustic, and magnificently titled ‘This Sullen Welsh Heart’ it only accentuates the band’s inverse portrayal of fatalistic despair: ‘I don’t want my children to grow up like me / It’s just so destroying, it’s a mocking disease’. In this sense, Manic Street Preachers stand determinedly defiant in their self-imposed pariahdom as the ‘anti-U2’, or as Wire best positions it in a recent interview with John Doran of The Quietus, ‘like a version of The Fall that just happens to play arenas’. Where U2 have perpetually revelled in the earnest mythologising of triumph over adversity, and the supposedly redemptive power of love over hate, the Manics still see no justifiable reason to deviate from their time-honoured palette of turning boredom, alienation and fatalism into an art form; the emancipating gift of personal autonomy, to ‘love your masks and adore your failure’.

In this Quietus interview, bassist/lyricist Nicky Wire elaborated about "This Sullen Welsh Heart":

"The first line, 'I don’t want my children to grow up like me, it’s too soul destroying, it’s a mocking disease', sets the tone for the kind of cruel self examination of the album. It’s about looking in the mirror and realising we’re all 44, and while we’re still deeply enthralled and still in love with the delusion of being in a band and playing to people, and all those brilliant rock cliches which we’ve always specialised in - we probably can’t do it any more. That line, 'I can’t fight this war anymore, time to surrender, time to move on', I don’t want to be like that but I think… it’s better if we are. It’s The Holy Bible for middle aged men - the horror of realising you’re in charge, you’re the grown up. I think our generation hangs on to being young more than any there’s ever been, but it’s fucking hard. Musically it’s very tender, we wanted something very Leonard Cohen-ish with Lucy [Rose] adding those beautiful textures. I think it’s the most sparse start to a Manics album."

There's a lot swirling through my head as I consider the song: Age and the passage of time, demographics and authoritarian America about to be implemented, my own role and perennial status of "pariahdom."

It goes on and on. What I love most about music is the way it can make you think, and sometimes, when the thinking gets to be too hard, the very same music can be a means of escaping thought.

Perhaps as the music plays, the word "Hoosier" supplants "Welsh" because in the context of origins and belonging, I feel like I'm without a home. I've lived in Indiana my entire life, and now I'm as much of an alien here as the numerous preferred targets of emerging Trumpism. And yet, as a straight white male, I might blend choose to collaborate and in with the Falangists, mouthing whatever platitudes are necessary for their amusement.

Fuck them.

Welcome to Indiana,you poor bastards.

We May Write In English But Our Truth Remains In Wales, by Richard King

‘Yes,’ said Alun, enthusiastically this time. ‘Impressive fellow, I thought. He knows his job all right. Very professional.’ Charlie seemed rather doubtful of that one, but then raised his glass. ‘Here’s to us all. Welcome to Wales, you poor bastard.’
-- Kingsley Amis, The Old Devils

‘This sullen Welsh heart
It won’t leave, it won’t give up
The hating half of me
Has won the battle easily’
-- Manic Street Preachers, "This Sullen Welsh Heart"

In The Old Devils Kingsley Amis illustrates, through a series of alcohol-debased set pieces, a glass half-empty stoicism that has curdled with age into misanthropy. Set in a fictional Lower Glamorgan, the narrative follows the return of Alun (born Alan) Weaver to his native Wales as he reacquaints himself with his past lives and the friends who populated them. Amid scenes of relentless and dissolute lunchtime drinking that conclude in half-cut walks through inevitable drizzle, is a keenly observed South Walian humour:

“Don’t let’s think how long it’s been,’ (Alun) said to Peter, genuinely enough. ‘Now drinks.’ While these were coming he went on, nodding at Peter’s paunch, ‘I don’t know how you do it. I suppose it’s just a matter of eating and drinking anything you like.’

‘Yes, (said Peter) but it’s the slimline tonic that turns the scale.’

What all these ruminations seem to address are a handful of knotty questions that have been asked since the dame of time. Who am I, and what do I stand for? Where do I belong? How does the past reflect the future?
Complete lyrics:
This Sullen Welsh Heart

I don't want my children to grow up like me
It's just so destroying, it's a mocking disease
A wasting disease

I don't want my children to grow up like me
It's just so destroying, it's a mocking disease
A wasting disease

Some times I wake up with love still alive
I just want to go to sleep, but I can't, I close my eyes
I can't, I close my eyes

I can't fight this war any more
Time to surrender, time to move on
So line up the firing squads, kiss goodbye to what you want
Go with the flow, go home
You can keep on struggling when you're alone
When you're alone

This sullen Welsh heart
It won't leave, it won't give up
The hating half of me
Has won the battle easily

This sullen Welsh heart
It won't leave, it won't give up
The hating half of me
Has won the battle easily
The battle easily

The act of creation saves us from despair
A phrase that keeps repeating in my head
In my head

It's not enough to succeed others must fail
My unhappy mantra I wish I could escape
I wish I could escape

I can't fight this war any more
Time to surrender, time to move on
So line up the firing squads, kiss goodbye to what you want
Go with the flow, go home
You can keep on struggling when you're alone
When you're alone

This sullen Welsh heart
It won't leave, it won't give up
The hating half of me
Has won the battle easily

This sullen Welsh heart
It won't leave, it won't give up
The hating half of me
Has won the battle easily
The battle easily

This sullen Welsh heart
It won't leave, it won't give up
The hating half of me
Has won the battle easily
The battle easily

This sullen Welsh heart
It won't leave, it won't give up
The hating half of me
Has won the battle easily
The battle easily

Five key points: "Class trumps gender, and it’s driving American politics."

Polish Duck Blood Soup.

This is one of the finest pieces I've read on the topic, although it omits mention of the role of religion, especially evangelical voters who voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump is spite of his ... well ... you know.

Then again, we already knew evangelicals were rationality-challenged. I can't do justice to this article with an excerpt alone, so please click through and read the entirety.

What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class, by Joan C. Williams (Harvard Business Review)

For months, the only thing that’s surprised me about Donald Trump is my friends’ astonishment at his success. What’s driving it is the class culture gap.

One little-known element of that gap is that the white working class (WWC) resents professionals but admires the rich ...

... Class trumps gender, and it’s driving American politics. Policy makers of both parties — but particularly Democrats if they are to regain their majorities — need to remember five major points ...

Thursday, November 17, 2016

ON THE AVENUES is on holiday. Is the party chairman ousted yet, or do I have to go get your Bernie?

Next Thursday (November 24) already was intended to be an "off" day for the column. Not only is there some sort of holiday, one that seems somewhat misplaced given The Year So Far, but I'd be out of town.

Today I just couldn't get it together; too many words, not enough time, and no inclination to post a rehash. Just remember, there were two columns last week, so quota is still being met.

Below are the usual links to "most recent." ON THE AVENUES returns on December 1. There are five Thursdays in December.



November 17 & 24: (BYE WEEKS, literally and figuratively)

November 11: ON THE AVENUES: Kind-a full-a you know what, but now we're going to find out whether Jeff Gahan has any cattle under his hat.

November 10: ON THE AVENUES: Don't be a Dickey, local Democrats. The verdict is in, and it's time for a change.

November 3: ON THE AVENUES: It’s our big fat Hibbardendum, and Jeff Gahan is carrying the superintendent across the threshold as Metro United Way tosses rice and One Southern Indiana steals all the liquor.

October 27: ON THE AVENUES: It's NAC's 12th birthday, and the beatings will continue until morale improves.

October 20: ON THE AVENUES: Key events in the New Albanian rebirth, but first, a piccolo of grappa, per favore.

I've joined Strong Towns, and encourage you to check it out.

For quite some time, I've been reading and sharing material from Strong Towns, and many thanks to Jeff Gillenwater for drawing my attention to this movement.

It's member drive week at Strong Towns, and I've finally got around to joining this 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

As indicated elsewhere recently, one thing we can surely do during these tumultuous times is use our support dollars wisely, whether for the cause of principled journalism (The Nation, The Guardian, CounterPunch), public television and radio, and organizations doing the nitty gritty of what's going to be needed more than ever, like Planned Parenthood, Freedom from Religion Foundation and the ACLU.

Needless to say, the Strong Towns mission and that of local governance as usual, as we experience it on most days in Nawbany, are somewhat at odds; there are a few precious points of convergence, but not many, and this needs to change.

I'm in a position like so many others, in that since the recent election, the precise course of action and opposition isn't yet clear apart from continuing an emphasis on localism. Until the fog lifts, we're supporting principled advocacy where we can, as we can, and Strong Towns fits the bill. A final thought: If you're of conservative inclination and believe Strong Towns is some sort of left-wing conspiracy, check it out -- but prepare to be very surprised at what you find.



For the United States to be a prosperous country, it must have strong cities, towns and neighborhoods. Enduring prosperity for our communities cannot be artificially created from the outside but must be built from within, incrementally over time.


There are no universal answers to the complex problems America’s cities, towns and neighborhoods face. At Strong Towns, we seek to discover rational ways to respond to these challenges. A Strong Towns approach:

  • Relies on small, incremental investments (little bets) instead of large, transformative projects,
  • Emphasizes resiliency of result over efficiency of execution,
  • Is designed to adapt to feedback,
  • Is inspired by bottom-up action (chaotic but smart) and not top-down systems (orderly but dumb),
  • Seeks to conduct as much of life as possible at a personal scale, and
  • Is obsessive about accounting for its revenues, expenses, assets and long term liabilities (do the math).

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Floyd County government and illegal dumping: Who knew, and when did they know it?

The Green Mouse has been working on this one in his fleeting spare time, and the ironies are wondrous, as just today the News and Tribune's chief eulogist Chris Morris honors commissioners Steve Bush and Chuck Freiberger, who retired from office and was defeated in a re-election bid, respectively.

SPOILER: Their names appear in the report below.

But let it be said here first that the two made positive impacts on the county through their action and inaction. They both, for the most part, were always professional and courteous to those they dealt with at meetings, including old reporters. They also answered every question I asked through the years, whether after a meeting or on their own time. They always treated me with respect, and while I know the media is used and played at times by elected officials, I never felt that way with these two.

Oddly, the Green Mouse is told that the newspaper's Morris wasn't interested in pursuing this potentially important environmental abuse story. File under: Things that make you go hmm ...

What appears below, verbatim, is available for public scrutiny at the Virtual File Cabinet of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management's web site.

IDEM Virtual File Cabinet
Search Document #: 80370320

There may be a discrepancy in this document, in that the impound lot is located at 1706 and 1610 Hwy 111 on properties owned by realtor Pat Harrison; 1738 is former mayor Doug England's house.

These tangled webs aside, it's fascinating reading. Positive impact? The jury's out on this conclusion, Chris.




TO: Heitkemper Property/New Albany

DATE: 08-31-2016
Impound Lot, VFC File

FROM: Lori Freeman

THRU: Theresa Bordekecher, Chief Industrial Waste Compliance Industrial Waste Compliance
Compliance and Response Branch
Office of Land Quality

SUBJECT: Tempo Complaint # 66455; Green Road and Hwy 11 (.45 mile West), Elizabeth, IN
47117 and 1738 Hwy 111, New Albany, IN 47150

Office of Land Quality (OLQ) Site History:
On August 8, 2016, IDEM received a complaint (Tempo Complaint #: 66455 and 66501) alleging that Floyd County deposited cinders in two locations (one in Harrison County and one in Floyd County). One of the locations was a sinkhole where they allegedly placed approximately 50 truckloads. The complainant also stated that there is a spring approximately .25 mile across the field from where the cinders were placed. On August 12, 2016, Mr. Bob Frederick (Complainant) emailed copies of aerial maps of the “sinkhole” site from 2010, 2011, 2014, and 2012 (see attached). Mr. Frederick indicated that in the 2010 aerial you could see the pile of cinders that had recently been placed at the site.

Inspection Findings:
On August 31, 2016, IDEM staff (Lori Freeman and Theresa Bordenkecher) met with Mr. Bob Frederick (complainant) in Georgetown, IN. Mr. Frederick then proceeded to give background information on the cinder dumping. Below is a summary of the information Mr. Frederick provided verbally on August 31, 2016.

Approximately five years ago, Floyd County was in the process of switching from using cinders on the roads in the winter to salt and needed to remove stockpiled cinders. The cinders were probably fly ash and were obtained from the Jewish Hospital in Louisville, KY. There are two places with cinders and Terry Lawson might know of a third location. One of the locations was a “sinkhole” on Green Road and the other was the Police Impound Lot in New Albany.

Mr. Frederick got several calls about cinders being hauled to the “sinkhole” by citizens five years ago and looked into the issue. Mr. Terry Lawson told Mr. Frederick that he spread and hauled the cinders to the “sinkhole” location. A company called CCE also hauled cinders to the impound lot and county employees helped CCE. Approximately 700 tons were put into the Green Road site and more were placed in the impound lot site. Steve Hall (consultant for the county) and Kevin Fedders (former county employee) were aware of the problem. Mr. Hall said that cinders could be a big problem.

Mr. Frederick claimed that dirt was placed over the cinders in the “sinkhole” but he didn’t know where the dirt came from. Mr. Heitkemper bought the portion of the property with the “sinkhole” where the cinders were placed. Mr. Frederick does not believe that Mr. Heitkemper knew about the cinders. Donna Heinze lives on the corner from the “sinkhole” site and she didn’t know that cinders were bad but Mr. Frederick heard she was now very upset about it.

Theresa Plass works for Don Lopp, Floyd County Manager, and she knew about the cinders. Ms. Pass stated that they tested the cinders and there was nothing in the cinders. When Mr. Frederick asked about seeing the results, Mr. Lopp came in and said to never talk about it again.

Mr. Frederick believes that someone called the DNR about the cinders and used his name. Mr.
Frederick also thinks someone from the DNR called Floyd County and said they had a complaint. Mr. Frederick didn’t mention the cinders again for about 4 years while he worked for the county.

In addition to the cinders, Mr. Frederick claimed that the county has had other issues in the past. One of the incidents was a fire at the county highway department garage. During the fire, paint cans burst and went to the oil/water separator. Mr. Frederick believes it was pumped out and dumped into a creek. Mr. Frederick spoke with the Fire Marshall about the paint but Mr. Seabrook yelled at him for mentioning the paint to the Fire Marshall. Mr. Codwell ran the pumper truck for the county. Some oil barrels were dumped in a fill site on private property by the county. The fill site was called Hintner’s Dump.

During the conversation with Mr. Frederick, he also provided a list of people who had knowledge
of the cinders, these are:

  • Terry Lawson: Former county employee who was involved in loading, hauling, and spreading
  • the cinders, (502) 310-2489,
  • Ron Quackenbush: Floyd County Highway Department Superintendent,
  • Don Lopp: Floyd County Manager,
  • Mark Seabrook: Floyd County Commissioner,
  • Steve Bush: Floyd County Commissioner,
  • Chuck Frieberger: Floyd County Commissioner,
  • Steve Hall: Former consultant for Floyd County with FMSM,
  • Kevin Fedders: Former county employee, (812) 285-6476 ext. 2225,
  • Theresa Plass: Employee for Don Lopp who stated that they tested the cinders,
  • Jeff Thomas: County employee, (502) 523-8564,
  • Sandy Dooley: County employee, and
  • Cindy (Mr. Frederick was unsure of last name): County highway department employee.

After Mr. Frederick provided the background information, he led staff to the Green Road site. The area where Mr. Frederick stated the cinders were placed was now a corn field (see photo 1). Mr. Frederick stated the “sinkhole” was located near a utility pole labeled as Harrison County REMC pole #E4 106.1. Mr. Frederick then led staff to the fill site he called Hinter’s Dump (540 Old Corydon Ridge Road) to show the location where he stated oil barrels were buried. Information about the fill site was provided to the Solid Waste Compliance section. After viewing the fill site, Mr. Frederick asked us to wait for him at the corner of Old Corydon Ridge Road and Corydon Pike while he obtained a video from Mr. Lawson’s wife. Mr. Frederick stated that the video recorded a conversation between Mr. Jeff Thomas and Mr. Lopp that covered many topics including the cinders.

Mr. Frederick provided a copy of the video to IDEM staff, who forwarded it to IDEM’s Office of Legal

Mr. Frederick then led staff to the impound lot in New Albany. While there, IDEM staff spoke with a New Albany Police Officer who asked not to be named. He stated that he was aware of the cinders and knew that the Floyd County Highway Department kept a large pile of cinders that they  obtained from a hospital in Louisville. He also stated that they county used to receive 3 loads/day from the hospital and that there were approximately 20 tons/load. Mr. Frederick then pointed out some areas where he believed you can see the cinders through the rock cover (see photos 2-4). There was a black material mixed in with the rocks that could be cinders but IDEM staff is unable to verify this by appearance alone. Mr. Frederick also stated that he thinks some of the cinders could have been washed into the river.

After viewing the impound lot, Mr. Frederick then provided some final information to IDEM. Mr. Frederick stated that he believed the cinders at the Green Road site are ~three feet below the surface. He also stated he believed it to be a “closed sinkhole”. He said the “sinkhole” wouldn’t hold water but that he believed the cinders are still there. Mr. Frederick again stated that he is concerned about the drinking water at the Green Road site. Mr. Frederick requested that IDEM staff call Mr. Lawson as he wanted to speak to IDEM.

On September 1, 2016, IDEM staff spoke with Mr. Lawson. Mr. Lawson stated that the county used to have two cinder piles that were larger than the current county salt barn. He stated that he was the one who loaded the cinders into trucks that were taken to the impound lot. Mr. Lawson stated that he didn’t know that they were also going to the Green Road site until a truck turned over on the road to the site. Mr. Lawson stated that he loaded trucks for approximately 1 week and that for three or four days the truckloads were going to the Green Road site. Mr. Lawson also stated that he loaded CCE trucks with cinders and that those trucks were sent to the impound lot. Mr. Lawson stated that the truck was turned over by Kevin Southern and that Mr. Southern still works for the county. Mr. Lawson stated that he was then sent to the Green Road site to level out the cinders. Mr. Lawson said that he didn’t think much about the cinders until he learned that they could be dangerous in large quantities. Mr. Lawson also said that he did not know who put the dirt on top of the cinders. Mr. Lawson also stated that he was told that someone reported that the cinders were going to the impound lot.

Mr. Lawson also stated that Mr. Quackenbush dumped two (300 gallon) oil tanks at the Hintner’s property. Mr. Lawson did not know if the tanks were full or empty.

Conclusions and Recommendations:

IDEM staff was unable to ascertain if cinders were at either location. IDEM staff did see a black material at the impound lot that could be cinders. IDEM staff will be forwarding the information received to IDEM’s Office of Drinking Water Compliance to determine if further action is needed as Mr. Frederick expressed concern about drinking water wells around the Green Road site.