Thursday, August 31, 2017

ON THE AVENUES: On a wig and a prayer, or where's the infidel gardening column?

ON THE AVENUES: On a wig and a prayer, or where's the infidel gardening column?

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

Lately I’ve been giving the News and Tribune a hard time about the newspaper's recent doubling of column slots for religious advocacy, from one to two – or, approximately two times as many as needed.

What about an “equal time for pagans” weekly bell ringer, or even better, the long overdue humanist food column, as suggested by the estimable Goliath?

Guys, I’m tanned, rested and ready -- and unlike Nancy Kennedy, I actually reside here.

Each week, I’d begin by refuting a theist’s fallacy, end by laughing at an effigy of Ken Ham, and fill space with tips on how to make the perfect Reuben sandwich out of leftover Tex-Mex.

But no. Instead, we get the same dreary inspirational tracts. In the customary absence of newspaper management participation on Twitter in any substantive give and take, one of the reporters offered this:

A large portion of our readers are Christian. If you have specific questions or complaints, I would advise you contact our editors via email.

(Arms folded ... me, complain?)

In terms of catering content to pre-existing conditions, probably a large portion of newspaper readers use their kitchen microwaves far more often than a Lynx Sedona 42-Inch Built-In Natural Gas Grill With One Infrared ProSear Burner And Rotisserie L700PSR, now only $3,399 at … and yet, there’s a regular barbecuing column, isn't there?

Besides, why can’t we have the column conversation in public? You know, the new give-and-take, not the old five-and-dime. Amid the secrecy, it's just frustrating imagining what might be possible with just a dollop of creativity.

Bill Hanson seems intent on transforming his fading newspaper into a vehicle for Christian proselytizing, while I enjoy rebutting proselytizers even as I remind them to #getoffmyporch, using a lighted cigar for emphasis.

You’d think Bill and I could develop a nice Saintly Christian versus Ghastly Atheist shtick, but alas, the publisher’s sense of humor simply doesn’t approach that of Rollen Stewart’s – at least before the voices in Stewart’s head began outnumbering the ones cascading from the heavenly firmament.

"God wants me to block your view of this play."

Older readers may recall Stewart’s brief, shining career of athletic venue-style religious advocacy. For a decade or more, you couldn’t watch a major sporting event on your rabbit-eared, non-digital television set without seeing the man with the crazy rainbow Afro, always seated somewhere near the middle of the most prominent camera angle (behind home plate, under the basket, in the end zone), always holding a sign touting John 3:16.

For the blessedly uninitiated, this name and number refer to a Bible verse that provides a handily terse defense of Christian doctrine, one designed to encourage all of us to sign on the dotted line and begin Osteen Vision Level tithing.

But the Afro was a mere wig, and Stewart himself proved to be even more of a nut job than most lucre-vangelists. In due time, his fanatical religious fervor regressed to the point of stink bomb attacks on the ungodly, and in 1992 – presumably in celebration of one or the other impending raptures – he was ingloriously arrested after an attempted kidnapping.

Because of this and other less-than-holy offenses, Stewart currently resides in prison, perhaps in California, but more likely on Fantasy Island. As one wag observed, “Jesus saves, but he can’t get Rollen Stewart out of jail.”

Just for old times’ sake, I’m considering an official Rollen Stewart model rainbow Afro for the next city council meeting, along with a placard espousing a random passage selected from the wit and wisdom of Robert’s Rules of Order. I’m serenely confident that the increasingly pious (or is it porous?) Dan Coffey won’t recognize what he’s never so much as once risked reading.

Except the third floor lacks television cameras.

If the meetings were filmed and Coffey’s antics disseminated to the world at large, at least Rollen Stewart’s religious dysfunction would be supplanted by the equally frustrating political variety celebrated within the friendly confines of the Open Air Museum of Ignorance, Superstition and Backwardness.


Meanwhile, for atheists like me, the calendar pages may turn, but the conversation rarely changes.

It still surprises me when my theistic friends respond with annoyance whenever an atheist has the unmitigated gall to come out of the closet and seek equality in discourse. That’s just a bit hypocritical, isn’t it?

Think of every religious adherent who has ever come knocking at your door while you’re busy eating, drinking, sleeping or fornicating in the privacy of our home.

Think of the transformational zeal of generations of ravenous Christians, traveling overseas for the sanctified purpose of subduing decadent native cultures, and conveniently spreading Western diseases even as they blamed the dying natives for falling sick, and urged them to immediately find God as the cure.

Think of how so much of the history of organized western religion is one of evangelical outreach, and by its very nature, how evangelism is invasive and intrusive with regard to the physical and intellectual space of non-believers.

Not only that, but in the ever widening search for market share, evangelists from one sect freely target those who ascribe to differing versions of ostensibly the same supernatural. You’d think that believing in any God would do, and yet it’s never enough for them.

Either way, if an atheist dares to attempt an explanation of why he or she doesn’t believe in any of it, out comes the fear-mongering rhetoric – and sometimes worse.

Granted, in some senses I spent many years evangelizing for good beer. If my pal Fred in Michigan hadn’t already taken the name, I’d probably call myself a beervangelist, though whether non-believer or beervangelist, it isn’t like I’ve ever gone door to door creating a public nuisance.

Not once have I posted myself at the entrance of a Christian church on Sunday morning in protest the worship therein, or flashed a team pennant at a devout John 3:16-er.

Never have I sneaked up into the cathedral balcony and menacingly waved my portrait of Bertrand Russell at the minister, demanding that he repent from sin -- or whatever Nancy Kennedy and Tom May insist on calling it.

That’s why, in the final reckoning, it would be somewhat hard to write an “atheism column,” because atheists offer no positive claims with respect to knowledge derived from outside the realm of human experience and perception. We’ve got nothing to sell, and that’s the whole point.

In the absence of verifiable evidence, atheism is a negation. It is the theist who is obliged to prove that God exists – not the other way around.

Perhaps it’s true that some atheists go a step further and proselytize in the manner of the religionist, but the percentage surely is small.

During the past two thousand years, far more people have been asked to convert to religion at the point of a bayonet, routinely dying as a result of their refusal, than have been forcibly “converted” to atheism.

In my experience, atheists generally just want to be left alone, and prefer that religious belief remain a matter of private conscience and not a public policy lever.

They respect a separation of church and state precisely because history makes it abundantly clear against whom this public policy stick is wielded, generally resulting in a sad continuation of war, violence and strife accompanying organized religion throughout human history.

It’s too bad, albeit perfectly in keeping with past practices, that Hanson isn’t interested in his readers hearing another side of the story. It’s a shame he doesn’t grasp the interests of the smaller portion whose viewpoints differ. Have the portions even been counted?

These readers pay, right? If so, shouldn't their needs be considered?

In closing, here's the gospel truth: that $30 George Foreman Grill in our kitchen does a damned fine job, and the $3,369 we saved is more than enough to enjoy a nice, humanistic European holiday.

(Portions of this column were previously published in 2009 and 2012)


Recent columns:

August 26: ON THE AVENUES SATURDAY SPECIAL: One-ways on the way out, because with downtown at a crossroads, they simply had to be exterminated.

August 24: ON THE AVENUES: PourGate (the Great Beer Pour War of 2013) and Dr. Tom's prescription: "Kneel and Kiss My Ring, You Degraded Alcoholic."

August 17: ON THE AVENUES: Love in the time of choleric Coffey, though it's nice of Deaf Gahan to support the K of C's political agenda.

August 10: ON THE AVENUES: Super Tuesday shrapnel – or, tiptoeing through the tulips with Dan Coffey, now THE face of historic preservation in New Albany.

August 3: ON THE AVENUES: On the importance of being ancient.

With potentially valuable redevelopment property at stake, Bob Hall and Jeff Gahan plot different paths to the same "go the hell away" outcome.

Remember the reader comment from a few weeks back, outlining Deaf Gahan's instructions for bag man David Duggins v.v. the latter's probable "stewardship" of the New Albany Housing Authority?

Duggins is getting a nearly 40% raise, not 30% which means that he is basically doubling his salary.

Oops. I meant this part:

Next thing to look for: Duggins will let maintenance slide and push the units into a state of total disrepair by neglect. Then they will have to be torn down. Some residents also expect that their now quiet and safe environment will suddenly be filled with problem tenants so that crime will increase, making the housing developments a broader negative public concern.

Different tactics in Charlestown, same overall aim. At least in Bob Hall's case, he's a Republican and doesn't pretend otherwise. Let's look first at the conclusion of Elizabeth's Beilman's report.

(Charlestown) officials have claimed the ordinance was designed to eliminate unsafe housing. Neace Ventures' redevelopment plan entails demolishing all homes in the neighborhood and building homes similar to those in Louisville's wealthy Norton Commons.

Whether it's New Albany or Charlestown -- Gahan or Hall -- there's potentially valuable property at stake, and absolutely zero ethical sensibility. Humans? Just do what you have to do to move them out, because luxury's on the way.

UPDATED: Charlestown officials, developers privately met on Pleasant Ridge redevelopment, documents show, by Elizabeth Beilman (Hanson's Cornucopia of Christianity)

Documents to be used as evidence in suit

CHARLESTOWN — Charlestown Mayor Bob Hall met in private and communicated via text message and email with developers to discuss redevelopment of Pleasant Ridge, documents supplied to media show.

An email between Neace Ventures developers as well as papers that appear to be notes taken from a meeting last summer suggest part of the plan entailed driving down property values in order to set lower prices for acquiring homes through eminent domain.

These notes, which are being attributed to Hampton taken during a meeting with Hall, state under a section labeled "plans" that "[boarded] up homes will lower values."

"If they talked to the mayor and got an impression that something might or might not happen, they're entitled to their impressions, their beliefs," city attorney Mike Gillenwater told the News and Tribune in a phone interview Wednesday. "You're talking about the note that [Neace Ventures agent] John Hampton took. Those are his impressions."

These documents — which include emails, text messages and meeting notes — were released by the Institute for Justice, which is party in a lawsuit against the city by residents of the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood. The documents were obtained during discovery portion of the lawsuit.

GREEN MOUSE SAYS: Is it true Deaf Gahan won't sign the littering ordinance?

The Green Mouse has been told that Mayor Jeff Gahan has refused to sign the littering ordinance recently approved by city council, which voted 9-0 in favor on the ordinance's first two readings, and 7-1 (Coffey against, Blair not present) on the third and final reading.

Coffey lands a role in Game of Drones as council passes littering ordinance, though not before an appearance by the ghost of James Stockdale.

If memory serves, the ordinance originated with council Republicans Al Knable and David Barksdale, with Democrat Matt Nash also appearing as "co-sponsor." In theory, this suggests bipartisan support (as well as a veto-proof majority).

City council déjà vu ... could this anti-littering ordinance be the dream that might come true?

Previously an insider suggested that after initially favoring the measure, Gahan had concluded that it would be associated with potential mayoral rival Knable, and therefore decided to go full frontal petty for fear of the positive association.

Deaf Gahan mulls bringing King Larry out of retirement to toss a spanner in council's littering ordinances.

Will Gahan divulge his reasons publicly, or trot out a minion's press release?

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

SHANE'S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS: Salmoning, shoaling -- bicycling, to be exact.

On Monday, the word "salmoning" appeared at NA Confidential for the first time in our 13-year history.

Why it’s safer for bicyclists to ride with traffic - not against it.

However, is this type of riding actually safer than following traffic flow? In a word, no. There are a number of risks associated with salmoning ...

To tell the truth, I was completely unaware that "salmoning" was a word, although it makes perfect sense.

Following are definitions of a few other cycling terms. As a public service (seriously), I'm reprinting the complete 2014 article from National Public Radio, and hope it doesn't mind my doing so.


Don't Salmon, Don't Shoal: Learning The Lingo Of Safe Cycling, by Marc Silver (NPR)

Alec Baldwin, you were salmoning!

The actor was ticketed in New York on Tuesday for riding his bicycle the wrong way on a one-way street.

Cyclists use the term "salmoning" to describe a biker going against the stream on a one-way bike lane. Surely the definition can be broadened to include Baldwin's infraction.

While salmoning is a funny word, it's a dangerous action. In a bike lane, it can bring on an unwelcome game of chicken when a wrong-way cyclist heads toward cyclists going the proper way. Salmoning also creates a potential hazard for motorists crossing a bike lane via a legal cut-through. They'd assume they only need to scan in one direction for incoming pedalers. Some cities discourage salmoning with clever signage, like this in London: "If you can read this you are biking the wrong way."

In honor of National Bike to Work week, I've collected a few examples of cycling jargon that's all about safety.

Door zone: That's the space right next to the parked car lane. If a motorist opens the door, a passing cyclist can get "doored." Cyclists have been severely injured or killed from hitting the door or being bounced into traffic.

In many municipalities, it is illegal to open a door into traffic, which includes bicycles, says Greg Billing, advocacy coordinator for the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. When riding in a bike lane up against parked cars, "ride on the outermost third of the lane, nearing the white line," he suggests. In other situations, keep 3 to 4 feet from parked cars, putting you out of the zone, or at least far enough away that you can take evasive action if a door opens.

Sharrow: A cyclist is riding in a bike lane. The bike lane ends. In the middle of the lane of traffic ahead sits a stenciled cyclist and a couple of chevrons. That painted symbol is a "sharrow" –- a shared lane arrow. It's only been around a decade or so, reminding motorists there will be cyclists ahead, says Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists.

Of course, cyclists have the right to ride in any lane; skeptics worry that drivers might think they don't have to share the lane if there's no sharrow. "The jury's still out on some of these signs," says Clarke. As a commuting cyclist, I share the sharrow view of D.C. commuter Evan Wilder: "I imagine the motorist thinking, 'Oh, right, it's OK that the biker's in the middle of the road.' "

Bike box: That's a box painted between the crosswalk and the white line that shows motorists where to stop, with bikes stenciled within its borders. The benefit: A cyclist can easily switch from one side of the street to the other to make turns. This kind of arrangement is called an "advanced stop line" in the Netherlands, where it began, and the bike-loving Dutch actually have two traffic signals at intersections: one for bicyclists in the box, to give them a head start, followed by the signal for motorists.

Ninja: That's a night rider who wears dark clothes and eschews bike lights. Not only a bad idea, but against the law in every state — a white front light and rear reflector or light are required.

Shoaling: A shoal is a school of fish. Or a collection of cyclists at a red light. That's where shoaling happens. A cyclist comes up to the light, eyeballs a cyclist already there, thinks, "I'm faster than that person," and moves ahead.

But who can truly judge a cyclist's speed potential? Maybe the person you've shoaled is faster than you and will want to pass you once the light changes. To avoid triggering such unnecessary passes (not to mention road rage), "it's safer for people to wait at the light with everybody else and make the pass in the lane," says Billing. Or if you're really in a rush, just ask the other cyclist: "Hey, I'm late, is it OK to get in front of you?"

Idaho stop: Since 1982, Idaho law has given cyclists the right to treat a stop sign as a yield (slow down and roll through if traffic allows) and to treat a red light as a stop sign (look both ways and proceed if no cars are coming). That's the Idaho stop. It's the law only in Idaho, although there are a few local variations. Several Colorado towns have adopted the "stop sign = yield" portion. And in some states, if a red light only turns green when a sensor senses a car, a cyclist can proceed after 120 seconds or so.

The Idaho stop is hotly debated. In Idaho, notes Clarke, "the sky has not fallen, there's not a terrible crash rate. It probably legitimizes what's already happening."

Then again, in a world where drivers think bicyclists are renegades, Clarke thinks a big push for the Idaho stop would not go over well. "Red lights should be inviolate," he says, but "the mechanics of stop signs are different -– having to put your foot down at every stop sign is often pointless. Most cyclists can roll through without any harm."

Meanwhile, I bet Alec Baldwin has done his share of Idaho stops. In fact, I bet just about every cyclist has, except maybe the cyclist who once yelled at me for doing an Idaho stop at a light: "You're making cyclists look like they don't obey traffic laws!"

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

THE BEER BEAT: YAY (effing) YAY -- my friend Patti and her pal Cindy get some serious ink, and I'm not talking tattoos.

Between the photo and the article, everything should be quite clear. Patti and Larry and their friends from Dayton (including Cindy) began coming down for Gravity Head so long ago that I can't remember exactly when, though perhaps the second or third edition.

Here you go, Patti -- your fifteen minutes of beer fame, although honestly, it's fifteen years. You've been a rock star all along.

Hunter/Gatherer #18 — Patti and Cindy at Jackie O's Brewery in Athens, OH, by Kyle Kastranec (Good Beer Hunting)

As the line was starting to form outside Jackie O's for their calendar page bottle release, I stopped in the pub to grab an early lunch. The place was busy and starting to fill up, no doubt with folks that were eager to get back outside and into the line themselves.

A few minutes after I was seated, the four-top next to me turned over. The first thing I noticed about the new quartet was the woman's hat, catty-corner to me: a vibrant pink cap with a large, bedazzled flamingo pinned to the front. The second thing I noticed was how picky she was about her beer.

Filling out a flight card, she thought out loud as she moved down the draft list. Most choices were eliminated with a curt, "Had that!" or, "Nah!" the latter meaning it didn't fit in with the flavors she was curating. To be clear, every beer on the list that day was rare, and fairly phenomenal. When she finally penciled in the last slot, she held the card afar as if to admire her work.

After the server walked away, I leaned over and asked with a wink, "Are you hanging around for the calendar pages?" Patti didn't skip a beat and replied, "Fuck yeah."

D-Day for Two-Way: The newspaper's Morris inches toward the reversion bandwagon.

Somehow they didn't crash.

Chris Morris does a good job with his column, especially considering his previously stated opposition to two-way streets.

Moris seems to be developing a belated appreciation that vehicular speed kills, which should be axiomatic for a runner, as with someone like me walking and biking. But we've all observed for years that automobile-centrism has a corrosive effect on sensibility, and I'm happy to see him in recovery. Been there, done that.

I can help him with this point:

Let’s face it, none of us has ever had to look in both directions of Spring before crossing the street. So we all are going to have to get used to that. To me, only having to look in one direction for oncoming traffic seems easier and safer. But with vehicles traveling at a slower rate of speed, maybe it won’t be too difficult to get used to.

When I see comments like this, I try to find credible instances of a counter-argument, preferably based on research as opposed to opinion. Then again, I'm just a blogger -- not a journalist.

The explanation of why conventional wisdom is mistaken begins on page 10. Hint: it has to do with conflict sequences.

Downtown Streets: Are We Strangling Ourselves on One-Way Networks?

The conventional wisdom has always assumed that one-way streets were safer and more comfortable for pedestrians to cross than two-way streets. Superficially, it would seem that crossing the single direction of traffic on a one-way street is always preferable to crossing a two-way street. As is often the case, the conventional wisdom is wrong. In fact, crossing a one-way street presents greater difficulties to the pedestrian than crossing a two-way street.

Make no mistake; it's a very good effort from Morris. If true, his summary, "I think the majority are more like me — we accept it and hope it works out for the best and takes New Albany to another level of success," works just fine for me. It is reminiscent of Kadar's Axiom: "If you're not against us, you're for us."

MORRIS: Buckle up — New Albany street conversion begins today
, by Chris Morris (News and Tribune)

NEW ALBANY — I have to admit I was never a huge fan of converting downtown streets in New Albany from one-way to two-way traffic. Maybe I am too stuck in the past, or just a little skeptical how it will benefit businesses.

I am still a little bit hesitant to jump on board the two-way street conversion bus. But I am open to it and hope it turns out to be all that it is supposed to be.

I do know one thing it will do — slow traffic. We all have gotten a taste of what Spring Street will be like in recent weeks with only one lane of traffic open to drivers heading west. And as someone who walks and jogs along Spring Street regularly, that is a good thing. Three lanes of traffic heading in one direction did resemble a speedway on occasion. Hopefully the traffic lights will keep traffic flowing and not cause congestion during rush hour. We don’t want people to avoid our downtown because of traffic issues.

D-Day for Two-Way 2017 is underway on Spring Street.

I'm happy to witness the end of the beginning on Spring Street. Ironically, the first object I saw moving eastbound was a bicyclist. There's something hopeful about that.

If I didn't have to drive to Indianapolis, I'd start drinking now.

Terrified populace braces for 2-way apocalypse, coming later today, only a decade too late.

I went immediately to New Albany City Hall to check today's streets plan. The last post was dated August 8.

Then, City of New Albany Government at Facebook. The last mention of streets came on August 22.

Maybe Develop New Albany could be of help. Needless to say, neither streets info nor repentance is to be found there.

However, we're told that today at some as yet undefined juncture, Spring Street will revert to two-way traffic after a half-century in captivity.

Pearl and Bank are to follow tomorrow, then Market, and finally Elm. September 30 is the deadline for erasing the city's damaging one-way mentality, albeit it with anchors symbolic of stasis marking every corner.

Imagery never was their strong point. As luck would have it, I'll be in Indianapolis the next two days. On social media, my co-conspirator Jeff Gillenwater (who is welcome to post in my absence) summarized the end of the beginning.

The gist of the arguments seems to go something like this: Spending money to redesign streets is a waste because it will have no positive effect. People driving cars will not slow down and pay more attention no matter what you do. However, if there are any problems on those streets in the future owing to those drivers not slowing down and not paying more attention, they can be attributed pretty much entirely to the redesign.

From the inception of the city's grandiloquently fashioned "Downtown Grid Modernization Project," I've tagged it with snark as a rumor. You would, too, had you spent more than a decade listening to barely cognizant local politicians assure you that progress was just around the corner, and when the corner proved to be as distant as free beer tomorrow.

All I have to say in closing is this: It's about goddammned time, laggards.

Monday, August 28, 2017

James Baldwin, the second part: On understanding reparations.

(James Baldwin, the first part)

James Baldwin, speaking at Cambridge University's Union Hall in 1965 during his debate with William F. Buckley.

You are thirty by now and nothing you have done has helped to escape the trap. But what is worse than that, is that nothing you have done, and as far as you can tell, nothing you can do, will save your son or your daughter from meeting the same disaster and not impossibly coming to the same end. Now, we’re speaking about expense. I suppose there are several ways to address oneself, to some attempt to find what that word means here. Let me put it this way, that from a very literal point of view, the harbors and the ports, and the railroads of the country–the economy, especially of the Southern states–could not conceivably be what it has become, if they had not had, and do not still have, indeed for so long, for many generations, cheap labor. I am stating very seriously, and this is not an overstatement: *I* picked the cotton, *I* carried it to the market, and *I* built the railroads under someone else’s whip for nothing. For nothing.

The Southern oligarchy, which has still today so very much power in Washington, and therefore some power in the world, was created by my labor and my sweat, and the violation of my women and the murder of my children. This, in the land of the free, and the home of the brave.And no one can challenge that statement. It is a matter of historical record.

On August 16, an article in the Louisville Eccentric Observer caused heads to explode on social media.

White people, here are 10 requests from a Black Lives Matter leader, by Chanelle Helm

[This article is part of a package covering Louisville’s reaction to Charlottesville. Check out the other pieces, including Ricky Jones’ column “Black People Should Arm Themselves Now!” and Erica Rucker’s “America… where are you going?”]

Some things I’m thinking about that should change (in that Southern, black grandmama voice):

1. White people, if you don’t have any descendants, will your property to a black or brown family. Preferably one that lives in generational poverty ...

I've been aware for some time that there is a persuasive argument for reparations, and thankfully, Erika Rucker was right there in LEO the following week (August 23) to help explain.

On understanding reparations

When Chanelle Helm penned “White people, here are 10 requests from a Black Lives Matter leader” for LEO’s last issue, many readers were unprepared to hear or decipher what she meant. Helm’s piece was satirical, but the point she expressed is serious — America needs to start talking about how to help families who live in generational poverty and make racism and racists uncomfortable. America has to fix these issues.

This message was lost for some in the hyperbole, but, sometimes, to wake people up, shaking them up is the best method. This piece was effective. The reactions were a mix of confusion and outrage. White readers were polarized and frightened. Many reacted emotionally, instead of trying to figure out what Helm was really saying.

America has no idea what it means to create restorative justice, or to institute reparations. Too many believe that reparations means sending everyone in an oppressed group a check, or that a black family would have the rights to move into your personal home as repayment for historical slavery and systemic racism. Reparations is a debt, not a handout.

Americans have missed the point for a long time ...

Then I read this article in The Guardian with interest, although finding myself a tad puzzled by the search term "utopian thinking" affixed to it.

Is it really?

The west’s wealth is based on slavery. Reparations should be paid, by Kehinde Andrews

If the countries and companies that became rich by exploiting human flesh paid their debts, the world would be a radically different and fairer place

The west is built on racism; and not in some abstract or merely historical way. Genocide of over 80% of the natives of the Americas in the 15th and 16th centuries paved the way for the enslavement of millions of African people and the conquest of the world by European powers. At one point Britain’s empire was so vast that it covered two-thirds of the globe, so large that the sun never set on the dominion. The scientific, political and industrial revolutions the British school system is so proud to proclaim, were only possible because of the blood, toil and bounty exploited from the “darker nations” from across the globe. Colonialism left Africa, Asia and the Caribbean underdeveloped, as the regions were used to develop the west while holding back progress in what we now call the global south.

Any discussion of progress in racial equality in Britain or the rest of the world has to acknowledge the damage that the west has inflicted on the former colonies and their descendants. Malcolm X explained that “if you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, that’s not progress. If you pull it all the way out, that’s not progress. The progress comes from healing the wound that the blow made”. Instead of attempting to fix the damage, we are completely unable to progress on issues of equality because countries such as Britain “won’t even admit the knife is there” ...

... Make no mistake, the knife is still planted firmly in our backs and it is time we not only removed it, but healed the wound. The only way to do this is for reparations to be paid to wipe out the unmistakable debt the west owes.

Reparations have been routinely dismissed by British leaders, including David Cameron who told Jamaica that it was best to “move on” rather than expect so much as an apology. But as dismissive as Cameron was, there are plenty of precedents for the repayment of historical and economic debts.

I've only excerpted these links. You owe it to yourself to read them all in their entirety. I feel like I understand the concept of reparations far better than before, and Erika's right: It's going to take a very long time, but of course we have to start somewhere, at some point.

We can scream, wail and wave fists, but it's hard to contest the fundamental veracity of these positions -- and to conjure a glib way to end this post.

James Baldwin, the first part: I Am Not Your Negro, a documentary film.

I'd posted about the film, but not viewed it until yesterday. All I can say is the documentary was exceedingly difficult to watch -- and you need to do so right away. It's on Netflix and perhaps other portals. Here's a review.

(James Baldwin, the second part)


The legacy of James Baldwin.

Mead, Baldwin, and the general problem of capitalism.

Why it’s safer for bicyclists to ride with traffic - not against it.

As a side note, just imagine if the city's promotional expenditures for parks, concerts, ceremonial anchorages, signature events and the mayor's cult of personality were shifted instead to education about daily realities.

I understand that a certain proportion of the population always will remain distracted or oblivious, for good reasons and bad, and yet I persist in thinking such a shift would be helpful.

Here's one we haven't touched on for a while. Note that I'll be returning to "salmoning" on Wednesday in SHANE'S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS.

DEBUNKING WRONG-WAY RIDING, by Michael Tatarski (Bike Easy)

A pedicabber breaks down why it’s safer to ride with traffic - not against

At Bike Easy, a question that we often get is whether or not wrong-way cycling (also called salmoning) is safer than riding with traffic. As a pedicab driver, I’ve personally noticed that salmoning seems to be fairly popular here in New Orleans, especially in the French Quarter, with its myriad one-way streets. I regularly see riders going down the wrong way down Royal and other east-west roads, jostling for space with horse-drawn carriages, other bicycles, tourists and taxi drivers. Both sides of this argument have their reasons; let’s begin by taking a look at what proponents of wrong-way riding have to say.

As children, many bike riders were taught by their parents that riding against traffic was the safe way to go. You could see drivers coming, and they could see you, instead of having to worry about cars coming up from behind. Intuitively, it does seem like it would be better to be able to see what is coming, rather than constantly wondering if someone is going to blast by you with inches to spare.

Another common point brought up in favor of salmoning is convenience: why should I cycle some circuitous route following the flow of traffic, when one shortcut down a couple blocks in the wrong direction could get me to my destination much faster? As a pedicabber in the French Quarter I know full well the frustrations of dealing with one-way streets – they can turn three-block jaunts into eight-block marathons.

However, is this type of riding actually safer than following traffic flow? In a word, no. There are a number of risks associated with salmoning ...

Councilman Bob Caesar releases statement on the advent of two-way streets, vows continued one-way thinking.

A carrier pigeon deposited this note into the Green Mouse's hand as he was waiting for Pastime to open, just in time for Day 2,228.


This is Bob Caesar, your student council city council representative from beautiful District Silver Hills, which is a cool, leafy and lofty paradise looking down on the remainder of you lookalike schmucks in the flood plain, so don’t you even think about coming up here, got it?

Not even for a picnic. Now, where was I?

Oh, yes. I'd like to explain briefly why you can't blame me for the approaching two-way apocalypse.

In 2011, I … Tiberius Severus Octavian Elagabalus Septimius Augustus Claudius Hadrian Gluteus Maximus Caesar-- Protector of Fitting and Proper Scribnerian Values, Deliverer of all Downtown Datedness, Master of the Ex-Mercantile, and Guardian of the Gates – promised to you, my loyal subjects, that I would resist two-way streets to my very last sincerely labored book-free breath.

(Honestly, I’m a bit confused myself, because two-way streets are here and I’m as yet alive, still working diligently to shield governmental decision-making and finances from the prying eyes of anti-establishment rabble-rousers like The Drunkist. I suppose Evan Bayh decided that it just wasn't my time, quite yet.)

Admittedly, I may have lost this opening round in the struggle against modernity – actually, I flipped it as a favor to Mayor Gahan after he promised that Shane would protect me in that whole bicentennial commission expenditures unpleasantness -- but believe you me, I’ve only just begun to inflict my antediluvian values on the rest of you.

Both today and in 2024, when I expect to be appointed your Exalted Mayor after my single favorite human being Jeff Gahan is promoted to Cigar Store Governor, I urge you to join me in our shared struggle to restore the undisputed grandeur of our forefathers, who saw clearly that “affordable” housing is just another word for lazy sloths who can’t be bothered to wear a necktie, and who have no business residing atop Silver Hills in the first place.

When it comes right down to it, if you’re too poor to buy jewelry, then you definitely DESERVE two-way streets. I tried to help, but you were to stupid to listen. Suffer the consequences, rabble -- and remember, Silver Hills is a no-fly zone for anyone without a bank account.

Thank you and God bless,


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Long read, must read: "Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world."

I've been holding onto this one in the hope that I'd come up with something glib to add, but I haven't. It's one of the finest summaries of "neoliberalism" I've have read this year.

Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world, by Stephen Metcalf (The Guardian)

The word has become a rhetorical weapon, but it properly names the reigning ideology of our era – one that venerates the logic of the market and strips away the things that make us human. 

 ... Peer through the lens of neoliberalism and you see more clearly how the political thinkers most admired by Thatcher and Reagan helped shape the ideal of society as a kind of universal market (and not, for example, a polis, a civil sphere or a kind of family) and of human beings as profit-and-loss calculators (and not bearers of grace, or of inalienable rights and duties). Of course the goal was to weaken the welfare state and any commitment to full employment, and – always – to cut taxes and deregulate. But “neoliberalism” indicates something more than a standard rightwing wish list. It was a way of reordering social reality, and of rethinking our status as individuals.

Still peering through the lens, you see how, no less than the welfare state, the free market is a human invention. You see how pervasively we are now urged to think of ourselves as proprietors of our own talents and initiative, how glibly we are told to compete and adapt. You see the extent to which a language formerly confined to chalkboard simplifications describing commodity markets (competition, perfect information, rational behaviour) has been applied to all of society, until it has invaded the grit of our personal lives, and how the attitude of the salesman has become enmeshed in all modes of self-expression.

In short, “neoliberalism” is not simply a name for pro-market policies, or for the compromises with finance capitalism made by failing social democratic parties. It is a name for a premise that, quietly, has come to regulate all we practise and believe: that competition is the only legitimate organising principle for human activity.

Fearing an auto apocalypse on two-way streets? Why not have a drink, pop a Valium, and relax.

I asked Jeff Speck the hottest question in town.

Roger: Has there ever been credible evidence documenting a tsunami of crashes and deaths in the wake of a two-way street changeover?

Speck: The only studies I have seen document improved safety from 2-way.

Waiter, I'll have a Caesar Salad with the grilled crow, and a side of humble pie. No, not for me. Take them over to that sad looking man in the corner booth with the bicentennial book.

The magic number is 2,228 ... days since Bob Caesar vowed to protect Pearl Street against the damned pergessives.

Speck's noteworthy New Albany Downtown Street Network Proposal was submitted to the city of in December, 2014. Following is a passage from the study briefly rebutting some of the claims I've been forced to endure ad nauseam on social media these past few days.

As a side note, it's interesting to contemplate that while Speck's study deals at length with tolling pass-throughs, the level of ORBP refugees hasn't been as high as most of us imagined. There was a palpable increase, just not an epic one.

At first during the run-up, City Hall used the predicted tolling dynamic as a cover argument in favor of the street grid changes, but then implementation was delayed until after tolling began, suggesting that even as thick-headed a luminary as Jeff Gahan saw at least some merit in the many ancillary benefits of two-way streets beyond deterring toll dodgers.

If so, that's a rare check in the mayor's favor. He simply wouldn't be undertaking this reversion if he thought there were more votes to be lost than gained.

Now, to Speck.


Potential Outcomes

To be intelligent, this political discussion must be informed by two other discussions. The first concerns urban vitality, while the second concerns relative impacts.

Urban Vitality

Few people will argue that, in the heart of a city, the desires of commuters just passing through should trump the safety of pedestrians and the success of businesses. 

However, there are many people who reasonably fear that slowing down traffic might create such congestion that the city fails to function properly, and that all residents and businesses will suffer as a result. While this fear is reasonable, it is not based in fact. 

The experience of many dozens of cities all across America has been consistent: there is not a single record in the extensive annals of urban planning of a city’s vitality suffering in any way from a one-way to two-way conversion. To the contrary: there are many reports of business success and a rebirth of street life, but never has the additional traffic friction presented by two-way streets caused a city to perform less well socially or economically.

Relative Impacts

For the above reasons, this discussion becomes a simple argument between those who want to get through the downtown as quickly as possible, and those who want a downtown worth arriving at. While only those who prioritize speed over vitality can argue for the former, it is worth considering what the true speed impacts are likely to be.

Here we must revisit our earlier discussion about the Proper Number of Lanes. As noted, unless the planned tolling regime for Ohio River bridges is changed, New Albany can expect to have a considerable increase in traffic downtown. That traffic will fill the space allotted, and behave according to the cues that it receives from its environment.

If this traffic continues to be funneled down multi-lane one-way streets, drivers will continue to think of downtown New Albany as a highway, and use it as such. More drivers will be drawn to these downtown streets. They will not think about stopping to shop or eat, and their principal impacts to downtown will be more pollution and increased danger to pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers. 

If instead, downtown is reverted back to its original two-way grid, a few things will happen differently. 

First, a less expedited path through downtown will cause fewer drivers to take the New Albany detour. 

Second, the distribution of these drivers among two-way streets, with fewer opportunities for lane-jockeying, will result in a safer environment for all. 

And, finally, the more comforting “main street” experience offered to these drivers, and the time spent lingering at intersections, will make them more likely to shop or dine. Experiencing New Albany as a place, and not just a conduit, they will be more inclined to spend a little time and money there.


These past few days have been wearying, indeed -- but what about Harvest Homecoming?


What about it?

30 years ago today: (May) The unique towers of San Gimignano.

Previously: 30 years ago today: (May) Vivid views in Siena.


Day 24 ... Saturday, May 9
Siena. Day (in) San Gimignano

San Gimignano is like nothing you've ever seen. Small wonder that my first stop was a farmers market for winemakers. Sustenance, you know.

I'll be relying entirely on words you can read at the website of San Gimignano, "city of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage of UNESCO." My own experience was one of bedazzlement and wonder, and instead of recapping the delirium, let's learn what made San Gimignano into what we see today.

"San Gimignano mainly developed in the first three centuries of the Millennium, thanks to its favourable geographical position. In High Middle Ages the Via Francigena, first traced by the Lombards, became the route of pilgrims who travelled to Rome, mainly from France. The detour to the port of Pisa grafted in San Gimignano, and the town, settled around the hillside variation of the Via Francigena, became one of the most important transit and stopping sites for all travellers."

"The economic, architectonic, and cultural boost of San Gimignano stopped around the first half of the fourteenth century, when the Commune submitted to Florence.

"After 1348 San Gimignano would never attain again the economical and demographical previous levels. Drastic depopulation and economical decline, together with the loss of political autonomy, produced a clear breakdown: towers fell down, or they were cut off, the palaces got damaged, and due to the general decay no trendy events took place in San Gimignano for centuries. This is why the historical centre of the town remained unchanged and escaped the influences of the different styles that would follow till the end of the nineteenth century, when the "gothic renovation" took place. From the fifteenth century onward there were few urban additions: the Rocca di Montestaffoli, a fortress built by the Florentines with defensive purposes against Siena, a few buildings, some small churches, unimportant maintenance works."

"San Gimignano rises on top of a hill 334m above sea level, clearly visible in the distance with its many towers. Today 13 towers remain of the 72 towers of the fourteenth century, when every well off family built a tower to show its economical power (many of them are still visible in the buildings, even if they were cut off).

"The first towers rose wide apart in a rarefied urban fabric looking very different from the nowadays compact centre. Towers were used in a different way. Rooms were very narrow, generally 1x2m; there were a few openings, and the walls, about 2m thick, assured cool temperature in summer and hot in winter. Almost all the towers were built next to other buildings in perishable materials such as wood and earth. In medieval times the tower was the higher symbol of power, mainly because the building process was not simple or cheap at all. Materials needed to be dug and transferred to town, and the building site arranged. Only the richest families of merchants and moneylenders could afford the works of construction.

"The house occupied just part of the tower. The ground floor consisted of workshops, the first floor of bedrooms, and the higher level of the kitchen. The destination of each room followed the simplest security rules. The kitchen, where a fire was usually lighted, was located on the highest live-in room, to escape in case of accidental fire."

"During the twelfth century the changes in the buildings were mainly directed to improve the daily life. The need of larger inside spaces and of wider openings brought to new building models, which mainly involved the towers.

"The reference model for the towers built between the first half of the twelfth century and the first half of the thirteenth century is the so-called Pisa model, exported from the famous Tuscan maritime town. According to this style, buildings had one or more high and narrow openings on lower levels, which cross the tower from side to side. The openings that stretched for several levels were shared inside by wooden floors, which corresponded to outside full-wide wooden balconies. With these balconies inner spaces were expanded outside the walls of the buildings."

"From the end of the twelfth century, the towers built according the same model were sided by other buildings of lower height that may be already defined palazzi. From the second half of the twelfth century, bricks appeared, and they were used in total or in part to erect buildings.

"Since the first half of the thirteenth century towers were not built anymore, whilst palaces were built according to the most up-to-date and fashionable trends of that time. Since the first half of Duecento, the major Tuscan art towns such as Florence, Pisa, Lucca, and Siena developed some peculiar architectonical features, different for each town. This is not the case for San Gimignano, where architecture developed according to eclectic features, merging different styles and influences from different towns the Commune had come in touch with. The outcome is a very original and peculiar architecture."

By early evening the bus had returned to Siena and a final night at the hostel. I've ever returned to Siena or San Gimignano in three decades since these days in 1987, and while details may have eroded, impressions are still very vivid.

Next: Perugia, Assisi, Gubbio and a farewell to Italy.

30 years ago today: (May) Vivid views in Siena.

Previously: 30 years ago today: (May) Florence, La Botteghina Rossa, The Decameron and some quality time in Italy.


Day 22 ... Thursday, May 7
Florence → Siena. Boreass day

Day 23 ... Friday, May 8
Siena. Around town

It is only 80 kilometers from Florence to Siena, which took two hours by train in 1987. Both cities struck me as self-conscious, though in radically different ways not pertaining strictly to disparities in size. There had been many tourists in Florence even for May, and far fewer in Siena, but I found the latter more interesting.

Sienna (from Italian: terra di Siena, "Siena earth") is an earth pigment containing iron oxide and manganese oxide. In its natural state, it is yellow-brown and is called raw sienna. When heated, it becomes a reddish brown and is called burnt sienna. It takes its name from the city-state of Siena, where it was produced during the Renaissance. Along with ochre and umber, it was one of the first pigments to be used by humans, and is found in many cave paintings. Since the Renaissance, it has been one of the brown pigments most widely used by artists.

Size was part of it. As best as I can determine, I stayed at a hostel called Casa del Pellegrino (Santuario di S. Caterina) at via Camporeggio 31. The price was circa $7.50 for a bed in a dorm room, and the location fairly central. A 20-minute walk took me completely out of town, into the fields.

In significant respects, Siena now is the result of centuries of forethought as to exactly what Siena should be, and how it might remain that way.

Siena is the embodiment of a medieval city. Its inhabitants pursued their rivalry with Florence right into the area of urban planning. Throughout the centuries, they preserved their city's Gothic appearance, acquired between the 12th and 15th centuries. During this period the work of Duccio, the Lorenzetti brothers and Simone Martini was to influence the course of Italian and, more broadly, European art. The whole city of Siena, built around the Piazza del Campo, was devised as a work of art that blends into the surrounding landscape.

To reiterate, with inexpensive hostels customarily closed for cleaning (the "lockout") from mid-morning into the afternoon, there was no possibility to loiter around one's hotel room. In my case, this meant hours of wandering, learning, resting, reading, and in general, just taking it all in.

I believe this is why Siena remains with me as a feeling more than any specific memory. The colors, the architectural preservation, and the brilliant, clear skies during my stay. It's a dreamy sort of recollection, and upon reviewing the photos for the first time in two or more decades, I'm struck by the abundance of churches.

This view was just a few steps from the hostel door. The Basilica Cateriniana San Domenico is to the right, and the Duomo di Siena (Siena Cathedral) on the hill.

As was my habit during those early trips, I proceeded directly to whatever portal existed to ascend for the best view, whether a hilltop castle, church steeple or Siena's 334-ft high Torre del Mangia.

The tower was built to be exactly the same height as the Siena Cathedral as a sign that the church and the state had equal amounts of power. Literally meaning ‘Tower of the Eater’, the name refers to its first bellringer, Giovanni di Balduccio, nicknamed Mangiaguadagni (‘eat-the-profits’, or, ‘profit eater’) for his spendthrift tendency or his idleness or gluttony.

Up the stairs I went for an incredible vantage point. The Duomo is first.

Then the Basilica di San Francesco (right) and Insigne Collegiata di Santa Maria in Provenzano (left).

Below the tower is the Piazza del Campo.

Popularly known as 'Il Campo', this sloping piazza has been Siena's civic and social centre since being staked out by the ruling Consiglio dei Nove (Council of Nine) in the mid-12th century. Built on the site of a Roman marketplace, its paving is divided into nine sectors representing the number of members of the consiglio and these days acts as a carpet on which young locals meet and relax.

I missed Il Palio, but it sounds fascinating.

The Piazza del Campo is also a theatre for one of the most time-honoured, sporting events, not just in Italy, but the world: Il Palio. The Palio is a competition that looks like an equestrian merry-go-round and its origins are medieval. The race - traditionally called the carriera - is held twice a year.

Here is a borrowed image from the preceding web site.

Returning to my lofty perch, I'm reasonably confident this church on the edge of town is San Niccolò al Carmine.

What strikes me about these photos from the top of the Torre del Mangia is the contrast between the sienna of Siena and the countryside just beyond.

Back at ground level, three views of the Duomo.

After climbing to the top of something, I was fond of photographing where I'd been. The Torre del Mangia towers over the Piazza del Campo, where I may have consumed a single beer in an outdoor cafe (budgetary restrictions, alas).

I'm not sure where my vantage point was, but it's a view of the city center looking south, with Basilica Cateriniana San Domenico in the foreground.

On my third Siena morning, I was off to the bus station for a day trip to San Gimignano, one of the most unique towns I've ever been.

Next: San Gimignano's unique towers.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The magic number is 2,228 ... days since Bob Caesar vowed to protect Pearl Street against the damned pergessives.

Don't hold your breath, but I'm about to prove Mayor Jeff Gahan wrong by doing something "positive" for the city of New Albany.

That's because it's positively hilarious to recall July 26, 2011, when Bob Caesar rose from bed, fondly recalled his pivotal role in protesting the anti-establishment hippies at Woodstock, and vowed to resist any attempt to inflict modernity on his street.

On August 30, when Pearl Street is restored to two-way traffic, it will have been 2,228 days since ranking city council "Democrat" and future mayoral hopeful Tiberius Severus Octavian Elagabalus Septimius Augustus Claudius Hadrian Caesar-- Protector of Fitting and Proper Scribnerian Values, Deliverer of all Downtown Datedness, Master of the Ex-Mercantile, and Guardian of the Gates -- uttered these immortal words:

"I am for change. Change every street to two way (but) not Pearl Street. Pearl Street will NOT be two way. It's more convenient for people to park without having to drive around the block."

Alas, Endris Jewelers closed on Valentine's day, 2015, but in the years since, Caesar has resisted all requests to divulge Bicentennial Commission records, enthusiastically endorsed aesthetic and environmental atrocities like Summit Springs, carried Gahan's jockstrap with all the aplomb of the sycophantic bootlickers on our sardine-packed housing authority board, and in general, opposed any and all progressive proposals at every turn.

As a Democrat.

Happy 2,228 days, Bobby. Can you please leave now?

Here is a lightly edited reprint of the historical record. Don't expect to see it in the News and Tribune.


July 26, 2011Merchant Mixer notes (2): Empty storefronts, Harvest Homecoming and Bob Caesar's all-way street confusion.

Here's the second part of my notes on this morning's Merchant Mixer meeting.

Previously: Merchant Mixer notes (1): New businesses, landscaping, parking, signage and dog poop.


Two-way streets: John Rosenbarger explained that the city has procured a Federal street conversion grant subject to various Federal restrictions, which must have a 20% match from the city: $1.6 million from the Feds, and $400,000 from the city. Mayor England volunteered that while it’s “no slam against the council,” it would be the council’s job to find the money, which might come from EDIT.

Councilman, jewelry dealer and part-time Roman centurion Bob Caesar responded by defending the council, and added (italics mine): 

“One-way is the way to move traffic through a city; it is proven by numerous studies all across the country.”

The discussion continued, with the owners of Preston Art Supply joining Caesar in defending the inviolable sanctity of Pearl Street’s one-way flow, and this led to Caesar stating bluntly, unprompted and aloud:

“Pearl Street will NOT be two-way.”

I asked him how he could say this; he looked away and did not respond, but after the meeting, he walked past me and we had one of the most useless discussions in recent memory. If I were to have stated that 2 + 2 = 4, I'm certain he would disagree.

In short, after I asked him why he invariably opposes change and new ways of thinking about downtown areas, Caesar denied it, and explicitly permitted me to divulge this exact quote:

"I am for change. Change every street to two way (but) not Pearl Street. Pearl Street will NOT be two way. It's more convenient for people to park without having to drive around the block."

Don Preston added that all police departments support one-way street grids. Previously, Kathy Brennan had warned that if streets are two way, big trucks will park in traffic lanes to unload ... and what then? Throughout, listening to it, you'd think that cities are scary places, indeed, and meant for dashing into and away from as quickly as possible, in a car ... always in a car.

I realized (yet again) how so many of the older generation of merchants sincerely believes that whatever works out yonder in the soulless exurb should be implemented downtown, whereas the way I see it is that whatever can be done to create the polar opposite atmosphere downtown – including people-friendly, slower-moving traffic to accommodate humanity, and alternative modes of transportation apart from the automobile – should be the desired goal.

NAC has extensively and exhaustively made the case for two-way streets: Two-way traffic: A city permitted to function as designed is good for business.

All Bob Caesar and a handful of downtown reactionaries can offer in response are “numerous” studies, which he has so far failed to produce, and the admittedly honest (and I believe amazingly self-serving) stance that because he personally regards a one-way street as critical to his business (as though people cruising past a jewelry store are slamming on the brakes when they decide, spur-of-the-moment, to park next to the Endris front door and buy some bracelets), he will damn the torpedoes and impede potential two-way solutions in the same manner as he denounced the aborted proposal to divert the Harvest Homecoming Parade down Pearl Street ...