Sunday, March 31, 2019

An unlikely pairing of Rod Serling with craft beer narcissism -- and a glance back at 2013.



14 years and 13,727 posts into this writing experiment, I've long since given up trying to remember what I wrote and when I wrote it. Often I'll get a brilliant idea about a topic, start writing, then become overwhelmed with deja vu. Upon closer examination, it will be revealed that I certainly have "been there" before, perhaps ten years ago, often using an eerily similar pattern of words.

Earlier today I referenced a craft beer commentary.

BEER WITH A SOCIALIST: Pokemonification? The beer market is plenty big enough for legacy brewers to benefit from segmentation.


The rest of the day something indefinable kept nagging at me. It wasn't until 9:00 p.m. that my YouTube feed disgorged the link (above) about the new Twilight Zone series, which in turn prompted me to search NA Confidential for the article about Rod Serling that I seem to have remembered writing.

I found it, and my leitmotif was "narcissism," or the very word that kept occurring to me as I read the Pokemonification screed. Consequently, I've been plunged into one of my familiar moods of contemplation with regard to then versus now. 

Obviously the world was a very different place for me in April of 2013. Trench warfare at NABC Bank Street Brewhouse was ongoing, and in retrospect the craft beer world outside our besieged perimeter was a confusing and fog-shrouded landscape.

Re-reading my words almost six years later, I stand by them. What I didn't know at the time was my eventual decision to deal myself out of the war and sidestep the narcissism (the Pokemonification?), resolving to navigate a course backward to the egg -- to hop off the tilt-w-whirl and find a quiet, clean, well-lighted spot to contemplate the universe with a mug of Pilsner Urquell or Fuller's London Pride.

As John Lennon sang, "I just had to let it go."

In 2016, I kept repeating to people that comebacks are impossible unless you go away -- and I did just that. While I was away, metaphorically, there was enough time and space to rediscover who I really am, as opposed to the role I was expected to play in an off-Broadway production of Craft Beer Nation. It was a role I'd become weary of performing, because my beer-related interests (along with numerous other topics having little to do with beer) were elsewhere. 

Every now and then we must shed our skins and evolve into the next iteration. The process can be gratifying and painful in equal measure, and my only complaint is that in the overall scheme of things for me, time is running short. How many reinventions are left?

Just the same, these past few tumultuous years have been worth it, all the births and deaths, ups and downs, and agonies balancing ecstasies. Most importantly, being involved with Pints&union has helped me understand that my life experience is still useful.

I'm not exactly fashionable, but I don't care. At the age of 58, I can show up with mismatched socks and not give a damn. Apart from a sliver of new music, popular culture utterly eludes me. The historic preservationists can deal with their buildings, and I'll embrace beer and beer-related culture. The re-educational "legacies" mission has only just begun.

Narcissism still annoys me, as it did Rod Serling. He's been gone for a very long time. I hope to stick around a while longer. Here's the column from April, 2013. 

Heavens, what a photo.

---

ON THE AVENUES: You gaze at your own reflection, all right.

“The ultimate obscenity is not caring, not doing something about what you feel, not feeling! Just drawing back and drawing in; becoming narcissistic.”
-- attributed to Rod Serling (1924-1975)

Science fiction isn’t my forte, but no matter. Even if I seldom indulge, it is evident to me that the genre has its strengths, among them the ability to harness the otherwise far-fetched to the greater cause of allegorical relevance.

Consider, if you will, Rod Serling’s scripts for the Twilight Zone television series, many of which remain fresh and thought-provoking a half-century after their inception.

Serling’s personal mission, one that he pursued with considerable skill, was to befuddle white-bread network censors by disguising progressive commentaries as seemingly harmless manifestations of the macabre – tales regarded as inhabiting the science fiction canon, with commensurate camouflage.

As Serling pithily observed, “Things which couldn't be said by a Republican or Democrat could be said by a Martian."

To which I’d add: Things which couldn’t be said by a Republican or Democrat or a Martian might be said by craft beer, but not if we insist on a narcissistic self-absorption.

---

Lately I’ve been thinking about Serling’s admonition to reject narcissism. A talented man possessing strong viewpoints and pronounced beliefs, he came of age as a writer in the 1950s, precisely at a time when the mass hysterics and delusions of McCarthyism rendered the intellectual climate quite dangerous for those with contrarian viewpoints. It may well have been a nadir for progressivism, even by America’s remarkably low standard in such matters.

And yet, Serling possessed the innate strength of character – a sheer, contrarian stubbornness – to find a way of speaking his mind during a time when the presumed ideal of “free” speech was being honored primarily in the breach. He found a way, because to him, narcissism wasn’t a career option. I couldn’t agree more.

As others did at the time, Serling might have chosen to withhold his talent and wait for the inevitable thaw, perhaps opting for self-exile in an entirely different professional venue. Rather, he resisted drawing back and inward, and continued challenging viewers by painting the corners of the plate with nuance.

What if Serling had shrugged and gone strictly commercial, eschewing the artful for the straightforward, indulging the low common denominator all around him, and giving television audiences more by-the-numbers entertainment? Then as now, safety is easily rationalized, and in the mainstream, there’s a greater probability that the paychecks won’t stop coming.

I’m not judging others, merely noting that for whatever reason, Serling elected not to follow the easiest path. He persevered. The message got out, converts were made along the way, and these many decades later, we’re still able to learn from his experience.

---

My chosen profession is craft beer, and I’m no happier seeing it corrupted by shoe-gazing narcissism than Rod Serling -- in his world, during his heyday, and according to the parameters of his calling.

Craft beer means many things to many people, and that’s as it should be. Speaking for myself, it’s a hobby that eventually grew into an occasional paycheck; it tastes great even though it’s often more filling; it is a wonderful device for promoting the life of the local pub; and it’s the final, best hope for sustaining local pub culture.

But to me, precisely because I’m not narcissistic, there is more to craft beer than just those attributes. Naturally, self-interest as a business owner brings with it certain promotional necessities and instances of self-aggrandizement, but these are not to be confused with staring at one’s reflection in a pond filled with Barrel Aged Black Kolsch while reaching for the Kleenex ... and not because one needs to blow his nose.

Beer, as writ large, may very well be a commodity suitable for the Financial Times, but craft beer specifically also is a symbol, an analogy – a metaphor. Craft beer’s very founding principle is active and points outward, not passive and shrinking toward the inside. It is expansive in the market sense, but more importantly, in profits from the larger sense of community consciousness.

Craft beer is revolutionary, the overt rejection of an established order commonly known as mass market beer, which profits by accumulating capital for the express purpose of thwarting competition in purely Mafioso capitalistic fashion, and substitutes slavish conformity for the broad panoply of life’s possibilities.

When craft beer lapses narcissistic, and whenever the circle geeking starts, we as a presumed culture of appreciation are only providing the multinational mockrobrewing hegemonists with head space to mislead the larger segment of the market, which we haven’t yet reached. The established order we first rebelled against hasn’t gone away. It’s fighting back, and the best way to confront the Goebbelsian lies it deploys is to break away from our narcissism, stop looking in the mirror, and engage those folks standing just beyond the tent flap.

That’s because many of them want to come inside. Let’s give them a reason to do so.

I can’t be sure that Rod Serling would have appreciated craft beer, but I believe he would quickly see the merit in purging narcissism from the culture of craft beer appreciation. It’s repellant, even to those of us who already get it.

"Domicology" is a new way to fight blight before buildings are even constructed.

I'm sure this number will jump out at you, too: "The U.S. reached a record high of 7.4 million abandoned homes in 2012."

Homelessness and a housing crisis, and yet ...

There is much to think about in this essay. Obviously "domicology" is a practice that must take hold on the front end of the building process; it will be decades down the road before the real benefits are felt. 

(cue the symphony of nail guns on the matchstick construction)

Domicology: A new way to fight blight before buildings are even constructed, by Rex LaMore, George H. Berghorn and M.G. Matt Syal (The Conversation)

Detroit has been demolishing about 200 vacant houses per week since December 2014, with a goal to take down 6,000 houses in one year. Much of the demolition work is concentrated in about 20 neighborhoods where the blight removal is projected to have immediate positive effects of improving remaining property values and clearing land for future development.

While Detroit may be an extreme example, economic decline, disinvestment, racial segregation and natural and human-made disasters have left other American communities with unprecedented amounts of structural debris, abandonment and blight, too.

As scholars who focus on understanding the complex circumstances that have led to blight, we also have some ideas about potential solutions that could prevent this cycle the next time around.

We’ve coined the term domicology to describe our study of the life cycles of the built environment. It examines the continuum from the planning, design and construction stages through to the end of use, abandonment and deconstruction or reuse of structures.

Domicology recognizes the cyclical nature of the built environment. Ultimately we’re imagining a world where no building has to be demolished. Structures will be designed with the idea that once they reach the end of their usefulness, they can be deconstructed with the valuable components repurposed or recycled.

Thinking about the end at the beginning

The U.S. reached a record high of 7.4 million abandoned homes in 2012. When people leave homes, the local commercial economy falters, resulting in commercial abandonment as well. The social, environmental and economic consequences disproportionately affect already struggling communities. Abandoned buildings contribute to lower property values and are associated with higher rates of crime and unemployment. Due to the scale of the problem, local governments are often unable to allocate enough resources to remove blighted structures.

All human-made structures have a life cycle, but rarely do people embrace this reality at the time of construction. The development community gives little thought to the end of life of a structure, in large part because the costs of demolition or deconstruction are passed on to some future public or private entity.

Currently, publicly financed demolition and landfilling are the most frequent methods used to remove abandoned structures, but these practices generate a huge amount of material waste. Upwards of 300,000 houses are demolished annually, which generates 169.1 million tons of construction and demolition debris – about 22 percent of the U.S. solid waste stream.

Here’s where a shift to a new domicology mindset can help. Unlike demolition, deconstruction is a sustainable approach to systematically disassembling buildings, which can result in up to 95 percent material reuse and recycling ...

BEER WITH A SOCIALIST: Pokemonification? The beer market is plenty big enough for legacy brewers to benefit from segmentation.


I wrote these words three years ago.

---

Food and drink lend themselves to constant reinvention, and yet it cannot be denied that there are eternal “classics” amid the bedlam. Clichés become such precisely because they contain an element of truth, and certain aspects of the human experience stand the test of time, whether an umbrella, mouse trap or De Koninck.

If I were to start over, conveniently ignoring pesky realities like rent, logistics and aching knees for the mere sake of conjecture, my plan of operation would be just this sort of time-tested, sustainable, “Classic Beer” programming, the fermentable equivalent of Stairway to Heaven, twice daily.

At my former business, we eventually incorporated our own brewery, guest taps, and hundreds of bottles into a bloated beer program that eventually had to be aggressively pruned to avoid capsizing itself.

I’ve no such grandiose ambitions in my dotage, and I don’t care to run a brewery, ever again.

Rather, my contrarian instincts tell me that the beer climate is ripe for a modest, thoughtful return to basics, emblemized by a relatively small list of classics on draft, and in bottles and cans, to be accompanied by some good, old-fashioned beer education, which seems to have been tossed aside in the era of mile-wide, inch-deep “craft” fandom.

Interpreting songs written by others may be the best singing I ever did, or might yet do.

---

The following essay got some measure of play on social media, perhaps owing to the clever title use of Pokemon, a phenomenon that means almost as little to me as mowing the lawn or visiting Disney World.

Kendall Jones is a well-established beer writer and appears to be an old guy, which I appreciate. This said, I'm finding his argument urging legacy brewers to embrace the logic of the kaleidoscope a tad fallacious, in the sense that Jones seems to accept his conclusion as a foundational premise -- short attention spans are the only conceivable beer market -- then argues his way back to supporting the premise as conclusion.

But is this really true? I think the premise bears examination.

The flagships may be down, but they're hardly out. Numerous beer lovers in America as yet snag a six-pack of Sierra Nevada or Anchor Steam from a supermarket shelf while doing the weekday shopping. Legacy brewers are making beer for a mindset and a generation that has decided it doesn't need bells, whistles and season tickets to the tilt-a-whirl in order to find enjoyment. 

We're eight months into Pints&union, and while there are numerous tweaks still to be addressed, my basic beer program strategy of emphasizing classics and saving the Purple IPAs for periodic seasoning seems to be working.

And for this I am grateful.

THE LEGACY BREWERY BLUES AND THE POKEMONIFICATION OF CRAFT BEER, by Kendall Jones (Washington Beer Blog)

The independent craft breweries that deserve so much credit for starting and fueling the craft beer revolution of the past 30-plus years are facing a challenge these days. I call it the legacy brewery blues. If I had to draw a line, I’d say that any brewery nearing the 20-year milestone, or older, qualifies as a legacy brewery. Some would draw that line to include 10-year-old breweries, but that seems a bit unreasonable to me.

Some legacy breweries, like Deschutes Brewery, for example, are refusing to go down without a fight. They aren’t alone. Most legacy breweries are working hard to remain relevant as the craft beer industry that they created and nurtured charges headlong into the future. The breweries that are not at least trying to keep up will inevitably fall behind the ever-growing herd and face extinction ...

As with INDOT: "Good intentions get subordinated, on project after project, to destructive business-as-usual practices."


Reading this essay you begin to grasp the nature of the problem.

The same old engineering and design vendors who play the game by stuffing Jeff Gahan's pockets with cash are the ones operating by INDOT template, institutionally reinforcing mistakes over and over, and yet they're hired over and over again even as the Zombie Mayor chants "walkability," which surely cannot occur in any substantive form when the same old engineering and design suspects are car-centric, declaring drivers the victors, not people seeking alternative mobility options.

Thus Gahan's pronouncements about walkability can be viewed only as propaganda touts from a shill primarily concerned with campaign finance, not genuine solutions.

Why State DOTs Keep Making the Same Mistakes... and How to Break That Cycle, by Daniel Herriges (Strong Towns)

You know the saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?”

No; we’re not saying the people who work at most of our state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) in the U.S. are insane. But advocates for safe, welcoming, vibrant urban streets just might be if we think we can achieve our goals without comprehensive institutional reform within these agencies. That’s the message of a fascinating new blog post series by our friends at Smart Growth America, called How to Build a Better State DOT.

You can read the whole series here, and it is well worth reading. Smart Growth America’s insights here are not superficial, but come from people with a wealth of accumulated experience within these agencies, and a deep understanding of how good intentions get subordinated, on project after project, to destructive business-as-usual practices.

Some key insights ...

Saturday, March 30, 2019

The 1117 E. Spring Street Neighborhood Association supports David White. You should, too.


Hugo and Nadia no doubt would approve.

I'm sure the block captains soon will erect a garish Rhode Island-sized billboard in their yard, but it's still nice to steal an occasional march on the ruling elite.

For the coming week in our bid for Jeffxit, be sure to read ON THE AVENUES this Tuesday for a profile in mayoral retribution. Also, don't forget Saturday's forum at the library.

“David White for Mayor” Town Hall Meeting is at the library on Saturday, April 6 at 10:30 a.m.


By this time most readers know I'm supporting David White in the primary, and I urge all voters within city limits to cast their votes for David. Let's end this intemperate reign in the spring, and at long last have a genuine conversation about policy for the fall.

I'm working on a detailed endorsement, so stay tuned for that, too.

#SlowTheCars: "We need to design our streets so that drivers feel unsafe driving at speeds that are unsafe."


Our urban streets will not be safe until we slow cars. We won't make a significant dent in slowing cars if our toolbox is a combination of signage, more enforcement and driver education. Those are all nice, but the primary hurdle we need to overcome is our propensity to over-engineer, to apply highway thinking to local streets.
-- Charles Marohn

An oldie (2015) but a goodie. Last week while walking to work down the south side of Spring Street at around 10:00 a.m., I paused to watch the digital display by Williams Plumbing, situated just after the horrendous curve at 10th Street. For almost five minutes the sign continuously read "too fast, slow down," or whatever the words.

Gahan botched the two-way reversion, and now, beginning next year with a different mayor and a new council, it will be time at last to find ways to repair the short-sighted damage. 

---

Slow the cars, by Charles Marohn (Strong Towns)

Yield in the crosswalk, sure. Outside of the crosswalk....well, good luck mate.

For those of you that drive, I’d like you to start taking note of something. I’d like you to mentally document the way that pedestrians act at crosswalks. When you approach a crosswalk and there is a pedestrian walking across the street, look at how they respond to your presence.

If they are like most people, they will do something to pick up their pace and clear the intersection more quickly. They’ll walk faster. They might even run. I’ve even seen people retreat back to the side of the road then wave me – the driver – through.

Now think of approaching that same intersection except, instead of a pedestrian crossing, there is someone in another car. What does that other driver do? Do they pick up their pace to clear the intersection for you? Do they retreat whence they came and wave you through? Of course not.

Why the difference?

The obvious answer would be the asymmetry of danger between the pedestrian and the automobile driver, the former being far more vulnerable. That might be the case in some instances, but you can observe pedestrians rushing across the street even when the car is fully stopped, the driver has made eye contact and there is no real risk.

I think a more pernicious reason for this behavior is that many – perhaps most – Americans today have accepted the notion that streets are for cars. Period. Anyone not in a car might be allowed in this space as a courtesy, but the paved street is – first and foremost – the dominion of cars.

Last week someone sent me this video on pedestrian safety from the Des Moines police department. While very well-intentioned, especially considering (insert your own crass SWAT team and/or militarization reference), I found the premise to be incredibly disturbing. First, they state that there is confusion over who has the right-of-way at “intersections and at crosswalks.” Okay, but then they add this (0:48):

The biggest problem drivers face is being able to understand all the different types of pedestrian signs.

Say what?

Now, to cut the police a little slack, their role in this crazy system is to maintain order. There is nothing more orderly than a bunch of signs and a plethora of laws telling us where each type is to be deployed and how everyone is legally required to act at said deployment. I’m not shocked that the Des Moines police department might view this as a regulatory problem.

Still….drivers are having trouble understanding the signs? So, if every driver clearly saw and understood the signs but pedestrians were still getting mowed down – or, more likely, people were simply choosing not to walk because they did not feel safe or comfortable doing so – that would be okay? It would be orderly, but that is clearly not the optimum outcome.

One of my twin hometowns – Baxter, the fully suburban one – took this thinking to the next illogical step in a recent project they completed. Along their expanded stroad are not only signs for a pedestrian crossing just in case one encounters that sub-variant species rarely found in suburbia, Homo Sapian Carless, but they actually each have a preceding sign telling you there is a sign coming up. Very orderly. Very dumb.

Just the Federal Highway Administration
defining a street as a highway.

This is all to be expected, however, for a centralized system like ours. While there are many local projects that don’t get state or federal funding – the small ones – the outside resources for the rest is what drives the mission and focus of all these local street departments. For instance, the bible for placing signage is a book known as the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The Federal Highway Administration version of the MUTCD – think of it as Patient Zero – defines a street as “see Highway” (no joke). It then defines a highway as:


Highway—a general term for denoting a public way for purposes of vehicular travel, including the entire area within the right-of-way.

Is it any wonder people don’t feel safe crossing a street outside of car? The mentality of our entire system – and subsequently everything we communicate to driver and pedestrian alike – is that the street is the sole dominion of the automobile. Everything and everyone else is an interloper to be tolerated, at best.

And if you think that is too harsh, consider this paradox: When we design for fast-moving traffic, we go to great lengths to remove obstacles from the clear zone; anything that won’t give like a tree or a wall. Anything we have to place in this clear zone we then design to be “breakaway” so that it gives way when a car collides with it. I’ve even seen state DOT’s demand that retailers remove sandwich board signs on the sidewalk, not because it was distracting but because the signs could damage a vehicle if the vehicle went off the stroad and hit them (note the sign was four feet from the actual building, which might also cause some damage if struck).

We go through all this trouble to make things safe for vehicles and their drivers, but then we allow – and sometimes even design for – pedestrians to be in this space. We put sidewalks right on the edge of roadways that we post at 45 mph, even knowing that most people will drive 55 mph. Regardless, a pedestrian struck at 45 mph is just as dead. Perhaps traffic engineers are not offended by this as pedestrians are technically “breakaway” as well.

So we tolerate pedestrians, essentially at their own risk. If we wanted to build streets to not just tolerate pedestrians but to actually accommodate people – who, by the way, are the main indicator species of a financially productive place – what would we do differently?

Last week someone sent me one of those articles that details the history of automobile/pedestrian interaction. This one was in Collector’s Weekly and, despite the unnecessarily provocative title, was a great read. The most amazing part – and the answer to making streets that are financially productive once more – is the different attitude towards pedestrians. From the article:

Roads were seen as a public space, which all citizens had an equal right to, even children at play. “Common law tended to pin responsibility on the person operating the heavier or more dangerous vehicle,” says [Peter] Norton, “so there was a bias in favor of the pedestrian.” Since people on foot ruled the road, collisions weren’t a major issue: Streetcars and horse-drawn carriages yielded right of way to pedestrians and slowed to a human pace. The fastest traffic went around 10 to 12 miles per hour, and few vehicles even had the capacity to reach higher speeds.

As the article went on, it detailed things such as “silent policeman” and “traffic turtles” that essentially thwarted the speed ambitions of drivers so as to keep the public realm safe for everyone. The expectations were different:

“If a kid is hit in a street in 2014, I think our first reaction would be to ask, ‘What parent is so neglectful that they let their child play in the street?,’” says Norton.

“In 1914, it was pretty much the opposite. It was more like, ‘What evil bastard would drive their speeding car where a kid might be playing?’ That tells us how much our outlook on the public street has changed—blaming the driver was really automatic then. It didn’t help if they said something like, ‘The kid darted out into the street!,’ because the answer would’ve been, ‘That’s what kids do. By choosing to operate this dangerous machine, it’s your job to watch out for others.’ It would be like if you drove a motorcycle in a hallway today and hit somebody—you couldn’t say, ‘Oh, well, they just jumped out in front of me,’ because the response would be that you shouldn’t operate a motorcycle in a hallway.”

Forgiving design principles that traffic engineers employ have replaced the “that’s what kids do” burden on the driver with a “that’s what drivers do” burden on all of society. If we want to make our cities prosperous again, we have to return that burden to the driver. Not just at intersections. Not just where there are properly specified signs. It is their burden, their responsibility, everywhere, all the time. Period.

Now here’s the catch: we need to design our streets to reflect that reality. We need to design our streets so that drivers feel unsafe driving at speeds that are unsafe. That’s an entirely different America than the one we live in now, but one that’s actually less expensive to build and more financially successful once completed.

Ballparks, too -- or "Preserving the Legacy of Black Baseball in Detroit’s Hamtramck Stadium."

Street view, Google map.

Ever since the old baseball parks began coming down in the 1960s and 1970s, even when I was very young and knew little about the world, I've been wondering why the notion of historic preservation didn't extend to them, too. Shouldn't Wrigley Field and Fenway Park be National Historic Parks? 

Preserving the Legacy of Black Baseball in Detroit’s Hamtramck Stadium, by Anna Clark (CityLab)

An effort to restore one of the last remaining Negro League ballparks uncovers a hidden history of America’s pastime.

Only a few are left.

Negro League ballparks were a vibrant centerpiece of African-American life in the early 20th century, when black people were banished from the major leagues. Their venues read like a map of the Great Migration: at one end, places like Jacksonville, Atlanta, and Hot Springs, Arkansas; at the other, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Cleveland.

It’s taken more than a century, but the historic-preservation movement is finally reaching this neglected part of the cultural landscape. And it’s about time: By one measure, only five still stand.

They include Hamtramck Stadium, where the Detroit Stars played. After sitting as essentially a vacant lot for two decades, it’s gotten a big restoration push recently from local champions of baseball history, family members of a former star player, and also, of all people, Jack White. The rescue campaign interrupts the pattern of preservation tending to favor the structures built by dominant wealthy white people, a pattern that presents a distorted view of the past.

The field and remaining wooden grandstand are in Veterans Memorial Park in Hamtramck, Michigan—a small, dense, and famously diverse community that is bordered on almost all four sides by Detroit. As the home field of the Stars, many of the league’s shining lights played here, including Satchel Page and Josh Gibson. Turkey Stearnes, the Stars’ center fielder and an intimidating left-handed batter, is one of the best to ever play the game. Altogether, 18 people who played at Hamtramck Stadium are in the Baseball Hall of Fame, including Stearnes ...

The good news is that our local contingent of historic preservationists was ahead of the curve as it pertained to saving African-American history; the restored Division Street school is something we all can be proud was restored.

The bad news is that especially since last year's Reisz Mahal shenanigans, these same preservationists have allowed their leadership to over-reach, binding them to the specific political aspirations of a power-hungry dullard of a mayor. It's too bad, but at least we have the chance to fix it -- by firing the mayor.

What are the other "black-history sites" in New Albany?

Some might say the Hartman House on State, currently being remodeled as part of the Reisz Mahal fix; after all, the house was a black-owned funeral parlor for decades until relatively recently. This one is complicated, though, as the original owner Mr. Hartman was a German immigrant, albeit uncharacteristically helpful to the African-American community.

Balance in the cultural landscape? I'm for it.

 ... Brent Leggs is the director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, a campaign launched in November 2017 in the wake of violent unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia. The plan: to help preserve 150 black-history sites, and in doing so, to bring balance and depth to how the American story is told in our cultural landscape.

By preserving the tangible evidence of the past, Leggs says, “we allow the public an opportunity to interact and engage with these complex and rich stories in American history.”

Even as the preservation movement in recent years has been working to be more inclusive, he says, traditionally, preservationists have favored the structures associated with wealth and whiteness: the homes of famous industrialists, say, and former presidents. Leggs cites numbers that, in his view, underscore the significant gaps in resources to preserve these places: In the last 15 months, the fund received 1,000-plus proposals from nearly every state, requesting a total of $140 million dollars. “That affirms that African-American historic places are underfunded and undervalued,” he says.

Hamtramck Stadium was built on a former lumberyard ...

Friday, March 29, 2019

This Barksdale campaign yard sign is misplaced and needs to be moved ASAP to a better location. BTW, we have a suggestion.

This yard sign placement is egregious, don't you think?


Ah, but the Reisz Mahal Luxury City Hall, which Barksdale's critical fifth council vote enabled, is a much better location for political self-advertising when it comes to surveying the at-large councilman's legislative legacy of extravagant expenditures for wants, as opposed to needs.


All those bright, shiny, nicely perfumed objects,  and yet somehow we still have so many neighborhood properties like this one on Oak Street in Greg Phipps' 3rd council district.



Barksdale doesn't do much to help in these messy situations, and neither does Phipps, who also voted to rescue city employees from inhumane air-conditioned workspace.

The neighbors living around this house are struggling to contain the blight, without much help from the city.

Maybe if they were government workers ...

Amid Gahan's penchant for opulent municipal luxury, do we even have a word for this vista at 1730 E. Oak Street?

Estonia's Lennart Meri cleaned house in the foreign ministry, and that's why brooms will be so important for New Albany on January 1, 2020.


It's been just shy of three years since we visited Estonia, and I think about it all the time.

All the Estonia links are here, in one place.


Since our trip I've been following Estonian World on Facebook, finding something fascinating on an almost weekly basis. This story about Lennart Meri offers lots of chewable thought morsels.

Lennart Meri, the president many loved, and everybody respected, by Sten Hankewitz (Estonian World)

... “When he became foreign minister, the most important thing he did, which was something that other countries didn’t do, was get rid of all the commies,” Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who himself was foreign minister when Lennart Meri was president, explains. “Because the so-called ESSR (the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic – editor), the ministry of foreign affairs was just a KGB outfit. That was a policy later followed by other Estonian ministries. Not all of them, but the ones who were successful, (cleaned) house.”

I found myself thinking about the transition soon to come here in New Albany. One of the first things mayoral candidate David White did when announcing his campaign was to assure rank and file city employees that they needn't fear losing their jobs -- but ranking Gahanite appointees and a department heads might be wise to peruse the want ads at our captive "local" newspaper.

That's as it should be. As Meri did with the Estonian foreign ministry, those currently helping Gahan to administer his system of pay-to-play political patronage need to be swept clean. What's more, we all know a Mayor Seabrook or Mayor Coffey would do exactly the same. I can think of one, maybe two potential exceptions, but starting from scratch remains the optimum result.

There is no more reason to defend the current occupants of the third floor in New Albany than Meri had to condone former Communist seat holders. To cite just one example, the flood control department's workers already know how to do the job. The point of a clean sweep is to de-politicize the $60k-yearly job of managing the department.

There are plenty of talented people in this community, and many of them have spent the past eight years stifled by Gahan's control-first insularity. Give them an opportunity to step forward and participate -- and listen to them, this being something White is particularly adept at doing -- then get out of the way and watch the results.

I recommend a vote for White in the Democratic Party primary. We can take back this thing, and put New Albany's people first, as opposed to an engineering company from Indianapolis.

#FireGahan2019

Whither rails, trails and the CSX track from the K & I Bridge to Sazerac Indiana?


For help in understanding the life and times of New Gahania, formerly known as New Albany, it helps to apply a sort of litmus test to any PR release emanating from Dear Leader's burgeoning propaganda secretariat.

Can it be used to polish Jeff Gahan's personality cult?

Can the money be followed to special interest campaign finance donors?

From railbanking to mountebanks, or compensation for landowners in rails-to-trails projects.


When Big Daddy G began nonsensically babbling about his pivotal role in a made-for-self-enhancement rails-to-trails project from Sazerac (formerly Pillsbury) to Bedford, Louisville-area media representatives fell over themselves to praise Dear Leader, with nary a single one of them asking two important questions:

1. How can a New Albany mayor in control of only 4.5% of the project area take credit for work to be done almost entirely outside his city?

(He can't, but it's an election year)

2. Why focus on the area lying outside the mayor's direct control to the north and west when the stretch of track to the south, connecting the IU Southeast campus to the Ohio River Greenway, lies entirely within city limits and makes far better sense in terms of mobility options? 

(Maybe because the railroad's not entirely finished using it)

While Gahan advocates replacing railroad track with a path, a Facebook group of railroad buffs called Save the Monon is taking exactly the opposite approach.

This group supports the Monon railroad line from New Albany IN to Bedford IN, to make a awesome scenic dinner/excursion train ride.

Following are two recent comments at the Fb site, lightly edited. The first comment refers to the photograph above at the intersection of 15th and Beeler.

CSX is going to be suing New Albany for taking up the track when they replaced the sewer in the city. They never got authorization from CSX, and Norfolk Southern is into it with New Albany about the amphitheater. Sazarac was told they (could use) the rail line and Gahan didn't tell them they tore the track in two places; Sazarac talked to CSX about getting cars in and CSX saw that the track is destroyed! This Democratic mayor has pissed off a lot of companies, not to exclude the Federal Government.

More recently:

I have learned from a source of mine who works for CSX in the road maintenance department in Louisville that Sazarac wants to use the rail from the K&I Bridge to its plant. CSX is looking at repairing the line but the city of New Albany is saying they will not pay for new asphalt after CSX does the work. CSX says the asphalt is the responsibility of the city.

But has CSX considered a persuasive $10k donation to the Gahan4Life fund? Prior to the Louisville budget crisis, Mayor Greg Fischer had started making noises again about the K and I's utility as a river crossing. We'll keep an eye on this one.

PINTS & UNION PORTFOLIO: Amazing Czech lager from Pivovar Kout na Šumavě, and a side-pull tap for Pilsner Urquell.


First things first: Evan Rail is my idol.

Originally from California, Evan is a long-term resident of Prague, where he writes and researches travel, food, and drink, mostly for the New York Times, as well as other publications. He generally covers central and eastern Europe, but also places like England, Italy, France, and Switzerland.

No other European locale has impacted me in quite the same way as the country now known as Czechia.

Next morning after breakfast I embarked on my orientation stroll in the nearby woods, returning to find a dirt-smudged and grinning Uncle Vlasta waiting for me, fresh from a session in the garden. He held up two oversized brown earthenware pitchers and motioned for me to follow him.

We exited the front gate and walked along the rutted dirt road, our ultimate purpose lost to me owing to our language differences. After a quarter-mile or so, we came to a battered, 1930s-era building clad in chipped stucco, residing in the shade of old, leafy hardwoods. It stood next to the terminus of a single branch rail line, one that seemed to exist solely for use by the many holiday weekenders in the vicinity.

It became clear that the structure tripled as railway ticket office, grocery store … and pub. Spying the tap inside, it made perfect sense to have a creamy draft lager and quench my thirst after the morning walk, but as an inexperienced American accustomed to cans and bottles, I still couldn’t quite fathom why we’d lugged the two big pitchers along.

Uncle Vlasta chatted with the friendly barman, who began filling them with cool beer for the journey back. Or, growlers the old-fashioned way. Some of the liquid didn’t make the trip home.

Imagine that.

Evan Rail's words and photos by Michael Kiser in a story about the Czech brewery called Pivovar Kout na Šumavě (coat nah shoe-ma-vyeh) summarizes just about everything that ever spoke to me about this part of Europe.

It's ironic that my pal Bluegill posted the link on Facebook, because at roughly the same time I received an e-mail from Starlight Distribution asking for Kout na Šumavě pre-orders, as a batch of kegs are coming in June from Shelton Brothers, the brewery's American importer.

Beyond the Pale — Pivovar Kout na Šumavě in the Czech Republic (Good Beer Hunting)

 ... Beyond the forest legends, the brewery has its own weird stories: its lagering cellars were carved underneath a church where a blind beggar foretold the future to Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia Charles IV in 1362. Even the crumbling brewery walls are noteworthy: they were partly built with stones and Gothic arches recovered from the ruined castle of Rýzmberk, which had been sacked by the Swedes in 1641. Supposedly the thick brewery walls had also hidden the ancient brewing log that gave Kout its secret recipe.

When a group of writers—myself included—traveled out to Kout, I remember explaining why I had my doubts about the book, and why I tell people I’m not sure it exists today: mostly because Czech beer isn’t about recipes. A good Czech Světlý Ležák is usually pretty close to what homebrewers refer to as a SMaSH, a beer made with a single malt (100% pilsner) and a single hop (100% Žatecký poloraný červeňák, otherwise known as Saaz). It’s brewed with a double or triple decoction mash, fermented cool with a Saaz strain of Lager yeast at 7-11º Celsius (45-52° Fahrenheit), then conditioned at close to freezing for one to three months. That’s the recipe.

These kegs are on the pricey side, but damn it, we only live once. We need choices like this in downtown New Albany, and I'll try to keep half-liters as reasonable as possible. If necessary, five or six of us will drink all of it, the way we used to, even if Kevin's no longer here to carry the weight of two men.

There is other news. Diligent readers may recall some months ago when I spoke of installing a side-pull tap for Pilsner Urquell draft at Pints&union.

If You Know, You Know — The Secret Handshake of Side-Pull Taps (Rail; Good Beer Hunting)

 ... Na Parkánu is the flagship pub for Pilsner Urquell in the brewery’s hometown of Pilsen, Czech Republic, and it’s worth noting that side-pull taps are used in all of Pilsner Urquell’s high-end European tank bars, which serve an unpasteurized version of the classic pale Lager from massive tanks instead of standard kegs. Stateside, side-pull faucets are also used for many important Pilsner Urquell accounts, often sitting next to the traditional beer taps pouring American craft beers.

Bryan Panzica is a national rep for Pilsner Urquell in the U.S. who installs side-pull faucets and trains bar staff to use them on a daily basis. (He got his job after coming in second, by just one point, in the international finals of a Pilsner Urquell tapping competition in the Czech Republic.) I ask him to describe the difference between a traditional beer tap in the States and side-pull faucet from the Czech Republic.

“An American faucet is an on-off switch. It’s either on or it’s off. That’s it,” Panzica responds. “The side-pour faucet is more like a dimmer switch. You can get various degrees of foam. If you open the faucet 15 degrees, you’ll get straight foam, but if you open it 90 degrees, you get straight beer.”

I felt it prudent to delay taking this step until the Midwest's most powerful wholesaler finally got around to ensuring we wouldn't run out of Pilsner Urquell kegs -- which took only six months of patience on my part.

Now we'll be getting the side pull done, then learning all over again how to pour a beer the right way. It's yet to be seen if anyone will want a Mlìko, but who knows? It makes as much or better sense than milkshake IPAs.

Mlíko: In the Czechia, a foamy beer is a sweet and creamy treat (Atlas Obscura)

Residents of Czechia drink the most beer per capita of any nation on Earth. Its residents gave the world pilsner. And when beer fans in Prague order a cold one, they aren’t just tasked with choosing favorite brew—they can select their preferred pouring method, as well. Mlìko, or milk beer, is a style that renders a whole beer white and foamy, resembling a tall glass of milk.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

GREEN MOUSE SAYS: Deaf Gahan may be juiced to the bejeezus-belt on donor cash, but he's not getting any votes from the Mt. Tabor Road construction zone, is he?


As a preface to what follows, the Mouse suggests you take another look at the concluding chapter of NA Confidential's series surveying the vast sums of money being channeled from out-of-town companies doing business with the city -- as exemplified by the grandly Orwellian "Mt. Tabor Road Restoration and Pedestrian Safety Project."

The Jeff Gahan Money Machine, Part 20: Buying and selling a city? Our master list of 59 Gahan wheel-greasers is a pornographic potpourri of pay-to-play.


What this neighborhood is going through is incredible. We begin with explanations, and follow with photos.

I was quite disturbed by what I found when walking through the construction site on Mt. Tabor yesterday. People should know what is happening to our neighborhood.

1 – The storm water “pipe” along the road is just a small corrugated pipe that has been duct-taped together.

2 – The exit drains to the creek do not run down the hillside. They shoot water (and street garbage) into the creek.

3 – In many areas. The rip-rap that is supposed to slow the water extends only a few feet beyond the exit drain, not the full length of the hillside.

4 – No measures have been take to collect the garbage that will flow out the drain.

The creek is being turned into a landfill!
















There can be only one conclusion: #FireGahan2019

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As an addendum, NA Confidential has been unable to confirm whether New Albany Mayor Jeff M. Gahan or anyone working in the city's administration is under federal investigation or indictment for corruption, bribery or racketeering. It is standard policy of the U.S. Justice Department to refuse to confirm or deny the existence or non-existence of investigations or subjects of investigations. A similar policy exists at the F.B.I.

Courtesy of Dan Coffey, the Grant Line Road annexation map that Jeff Gahan doesn't want you to see.


Current councilman and forthcoming mayoral candidate Dan Coffey (Independent) has made public the map showing the Grant Line Road area north of IU Southeast being projected for annexation by Jeff Gahan's monetization cadres.

This is the area the city is looking to annex. While we are told not to openly discuss this with the public, I believe we should have an open and transparent government that allows public input to help make a better and informed decision.

Absolutely right. I agree with Coffey and thank him for the map. Here's a closer look at the pertinent data.


Coffey is correct in observing that much of the annexation discussion so far has been strictly back-channel.


However the topic began leaking out when the NA-FC school corporation's administrators recently informed the school board, seeing as the corporation must voluntarily accept Grant Line Elementary's inclusion.

This was the first time most folks became aware of the proposal, although an overview of the annexation plan was discussed at last week's city council meeting, with all involved stressing that nothing can occur in 2019 because annexations aren't permitted by the state during pre-census years.

Even yurt-dwellers in Mongolia can see that Team Gahan lusts after the $1.85 million yearly tax haul, but at last week's meeting Scott "Coulda Been a Contender" Wood explained if the annexation becomes official, there's a period of three years during which residents in the annexed area are obliged by the state to form some undefined manner of participatory committee and to designate uses for the tax revenue in question; it does not go automatically into city coffers until the fourth year.

Presumably such committees choose for infrastructure improvements designed to bring the suburb into line with the city's urban "norms." The word "sprawl" was not mentioned, and personally I'm waiting for this future committee to be immediately infiltrated and neutralized by Dear Leader's operatives, with these three years of infrastructure cash inevitably going to pay for the projects already planned by Gahan's campaign finance donors for the vicinity.

Then again, I'm a cynic.

GREEN MOUSE SAYS: Deaf Gahan wants to annex Grant Line Elementary School. Why didn't the Redevelopment Commission discuss this at its last meeting?


At the end of the day it's just another example of Gahan's pathological need for secrecy, and his preference for conducting as much pre-planning as possible outside the public's eye so the ensuing process is subject to full personal control with no meaningful effort to glean public input. 

Folks living along Mt. Tabor Road, and others attending last week's Colonial Manor top-down debacle already know this. Fortunately, there's an antidote to the toxic effects of cash-stuffed envelopes, Rice Krispies Treats and Kool-Aid: #FireGahan2019

---

By the way, if you're not following Deaf Gahan on Twitter, you're missing out: https://twitter.com/DeafGahan


Brutal satire for a city allergic to it, but still.

PINTS & UNION PORTFOLIO: Central State Brewing Night is Thursday, April 4 at 7:00 p.m.


Next week we're shining a spotlight on Central State Brewing out of Indianapolis. There was a lineup packaging change after the graphics were done, so beginning on Wednesday April 3 there'll be cans ...

Garden (Leipziger-Style Gose Beer with Lemon Peel)
Table (Rustic Blonde Ale)
Butterfly Kisses (Farmhouse Ale w/Hibiscus Flower)


 ... and two special draft beers. Garden and Table are everyday ales, and the others will be gone when depleted, at least for 2019.

Stay Out of the Forest (Hazy India Pale Ale w/ Blood Orange & Lactose Sugar)
Barrel Aged Bashi Farmhouse Barleywine (Farmhouse Barleywine Style Ale Aged in Wine and Bourbon Barrels)


On Thursday, April 4 the Central State crew takes over the upstairs room at Pints & Union for a conspiratorial and enlightening evening with a selection of Smoking Goose Meatery meats and local cheese.

Central State: the only brewery in the state of Indiana focused primarily on the wilder and farmhouse sides of fermentation. Specializing in farmhouse beers, sours and eccentrically hopped IPAs.

Here's a good bio of Central State's co-founder and head brewer Josh Hambright.

Starting at the bottom and working one’s way up is Hambright’s recommendation for getting into the brewing business. That way you are exposed to all aspects of the craft. In addition to his experience and reading, he says that collaborations with other brewers have been a valuable source of information. Working for a day in someone else’s space, or having someone work a day in his space affords the opportunity to compare notes and learn different approaches to brewing.

I met Josh six or seven years ago when he was working at Flat12 in Indianapolis, and I know he'll try to make it down next week if at all possible. Count me as a fan, and come down to Pints&union on the evening of the 4th and see why Central State is so highly regarded by beer enthusiasts.

LIVE TO EAT: Opening day in Cincinnati, a Skyline Chili Cheese Coney giveaway and my recipe for Vegetarian Cincinnati Chili.


Baseball is back, and finally life makes sense again.

I wrote a brief post over at Food & Dining Magazine's web site about chili and baseball: Score a Free Skyline Chili Cheese Coney.

My mantra often is misunderstood. It's "Death to Chains, Except for Skyline," and that's because we all have our exceptions in life. I've never been a Reds fan as such, but a ballgame in Cincinnati with Skyline (or other local options discussed below) and Hudepohl (okay, maybe Little Kings Cream Ale) touches all the traditional bases for me in some inexplicable but fulfilling way.

And: It's a style of chili, so spare me your outraged blather. While traveling in Central Europe I've had dishes called goulash served in a variety of ways, united only by the use of paprika. So it goes with chili powder. The article link is followed by my recipe for Vegetarian Cincinnati Chili, which is a year-round mainstay of the 1117 East Spring Street Neighborhood Association.

Play ball, damn it.

Is Cincinnati chili actually chili? A dive into the city's most famous dish, by Nick Kindelsperger (Chicago Tribune)

You can order Cincinnati chili with just spaghetti (chili spaghetti or a 2 way), but most people go with at least a 3 way, which adds shredded cheddar cheese. Go with a 4 way, and you can add either diced onion or beans. A 5 way includes both. Nick Kindelsperger toured Cincinnati's chili houses, coming up with these five recommended versions. You'll find they look all alike, but the differences are clear when you plunge in your fork.

By any reasonable definition, Cincinnati chili is not chili. It's served on a plate. You eat it with a fork. It's ladled on spaghetti and topped with an avalanche of shredded cheddar that blankets the entire top, concealing almost all the chili underneath. Most damning, there are hardly any chiles in the mix. And isn’t that why it’s called chili in the first place?

If this all sounds like the beginning of an epic slam against a beloved regional Midwest dish, the kind we've been exploring all month, set down your freshly sharpened pitchforks. I've been a fan since my first bite in college. When I lived in London for six months, my mom regularly mailed me cans of the stuff to tide me over. I am a convert.

But until I swung by Cincinnati recently for a madcap, 24-hour chili tour, I'd never really considered just how little the dish had to do with what most people consider chili ...

And now, the recipe.

---

Vegetarian Cincinnati Chili

4 – 6 “medium” servings, which translates to 4 for us

This recipe is from my late mother’s file, via the Mulloys, her next-door-neighbors. I've revised it to use kidney beans in place of the ground beef, so if you take your Cincinnati-style chili with meat or without beans, this recipe may not be for you.

Chili fixings

Olive oil or other cooking oil

2 medium yellow onions, peeled and chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

Approx 24 to 26 ounces of liquid. My mother's recipe called for water, but this isn't the way I cook. After many years of experimentation, I've settled on 12 ounces of beer and a 14-oz can of veggie broth. American Pale Ale works well, as does just about any malty beer. Feel free to be creative.

1 & ½ teaspoons apple vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 & ½ teaspoons allspice
1 & ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 can Rotel (habanero; 10-oz)
1 can Rotel (green chili; 10-oz)

3 cans (16 oz) of dark or light kidney beans, rinsed

---

Saute chopped garlic and onions in oil until tender; a few minutes.

Add the remainder of the ingredients except kidney beans. Bring to a boil, then lower the temperature and simmer for two hours.

After two hours, add beans, again bringing chili to a boil before reducing temperature to simmer. Cook for another 45 minutes.

To serve

Boil and drain a box of spaghetti
Grate some cheddar cheese
Chop a couple of onions
Have on hand some hot sauce on the Skyline model, or Tabasco, or something in that vein. Be sure you use oyster crackers

Serve the chili atop the spaghetti and dress it out.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Russiagate: "The question now is, has the Mueller report finally freed up the rest of us to challenge the more insane flights of fantasy?"

But was it consummated?

As usual The Onion wins.

Shocked Vladimir Putin Slowly Realizing He Didn’t Conspire With Trump Campaign (The Onion)

‘Who The Hell Was I Working With Then?’ Asks Russian President

MOSCOW—Saying that he had been “totally blindsided” by the revelations from the recently released findings of the Mueller investigation, a shocked Vladimir Putin reportedly came to the realization Tuesday that he didn’t conspire with Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign after all ...

... "I spent so much time emailing back and forth with DonaldTrump46@hotmail.com about compromising the democratic voting process, and now it turns out it was all fake?"

America spent the Cold War exaggerating the capability of our Soviet foes, so I suppose we might as well travel the same path with Putin and today's Russians. Concurrently I loathe Trump, but persist in believing we must do things for the right reason -- or it's just more fake news. 

This essay from an old Russian hand amid the journalistic ranks hits all the correct notes. Russiagate has been a massive distraction from discussions that should have been taking place since The Donald became president.

Russiagate: The Great Tragic Comedy of Modern Journalism, by Matt Bivens (Medium)

 ... I was not surprised to see politicians up on their hind legs, panting mindlessly about Russians. But to see journalists at CNN, The New York Times, NPR, MSNBC, competing to be even dumber … hot on the trail of a non-story, recklessly discarding fairness and professionalism … dragging us gleefully down every rabbit hole … applauding the collateral damage to bystanders, as they indulge their collective rage against Donald Trump, their hysterical certainty that he must be a Russian asset … What can I say? It’s been heart-breaking.

I know of smart, progressive-leaning journalists who politically oppose Donald Trump, but who feel like strangers in their own newsrooms, afraid to speak out against this mob psychosis. When I meet old colleagues, we have to feel each other out cautiously, until with relief we realize: Thank God, you’re not one of them — not one of the pod people from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” that might point at me and scream.

I would hear their tales of the lunacy in their journalistic operations, shake my head in concern, wish them the best. And then I’d go back to my job in the emergency department, taking care of people with heart attacks and strokes and broken bones.

Watching from afar, I would cheer on those few brave enough to ask questions — people like Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept, Aaron Maté of The Real News, John Solomon of The Hill, Masha Gessen at The New York Review of Books, and my old friends Leonid Bershidsky at Bloomberg and especially Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone. And I would wait for the madness to end. But it didn’t.

And then Stephen Cohen of The Nation, another voice of reason, sent me a copy of his book, “War With Russia?” It’s a collection of his heretical writings about our new, unnecessary Cold War, and the opening essay, adapted from a talk he gave in Washington D.C., made me ashamed of my silence.

“Some people who privately share our concerns — again, in Congress, the media, universities and think tanks — do not speak out at all. For whatever reason — concern about being stigmatized, about their career, personal disposition — they are silent. But in our democracy, where the cost of dissent is relatively low, silence is no longer a patriotic option,” Cohen wrote, adding, “We should exempt from this imperative young people, who have more to lose. A few have sought my guidance, and I always advise, ‘Even petty penalties for dissent in regard to Russia could adversely affect your career. At this stage of life, your first obligation is to your family and thus to your future prospects. Your time to fight lies ahead’.”

Well, what was my excuse?

Special Prosecutor Robert S. Mueller has now turned in his findings, and there’s not much there. For weeks beforehand, mainstream media warned about this — exhorting readers against succumbing to feeling “disappointed”.

Disappointed? I guess, as my friend Taibbi has noted, it would have been an immense relief had the U.S. president been found to be a high-level traitor. We could have all brought picnic lunches to his execution.

Right before the species-ending war with Russia.

In their fanatic loyalty to the narrative, what used to be my favorite media have stridently reminded us that, Mueller aside, “it’s not over!” The “focus of the investigation” will move now to the New York prosecutors, to House committees. The American intelligentsia will continue to dream up wild theories — they’ll be Scotch-taped on every vertical surface, connected by bits of yarn and magic marker scribbles and hyperverbal mania.

The question now is, has the Mueller report finally freed up the rest of us to challenge the more insane flights of fantasy? Or is it instead so close to the 2020 presidential elections — and so legally dangerous for some of the intelligence insiders who have tried to bring down the president — that skeptical journalists more than ever will be bullied to keep silent?