Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Straight up and simple, it's David White versus Jeff Gahan in the debate Gahan refused to have.

First, the challenger. David White, people or politics?

Mayor Gahan, do you care to reply?

I think this says it all.

ON THE AVENUES: Greg Pennell tells his story.

Greg Pennell is proud of his career as a police officer with the New Albany Police Department.

During 29 years of NAPD service Pennell never once was suspended, even briefly. He won a medal of valor in 2009 for capturing an armed shooter who’d murdered a co-worker at the Pillsbury plant; Pennell pioneered the NAPD’s computer crimes unit along with his and his colleague, Sherri Knight.

Perhaps most impressively, during his police career Pennell conducted himself according to a personal value system of constant accountability to the public.

“As a police officer my boss always was the population of this city,” Pennell says. “I worked for the citizens of New Albany, in my mind and my heart.”

Recently I spoke with Pennell by phone from his home in Florida, where he moved after retiring from the NAPD in mid-2016. When I asked Pennell to explain why he chose to leave the police department when he did, his answer came clear and crisp.

“I supported David White for mayor in 2015.”

Evidently freedom of speech and association had ramifications for Pennell, as it has for others in New Albany, before and since.


White’s announcement came on September 12, 2014 at the Scribner House in downtown New Albany. Pennell attended the short kickoff in the company of several city employees, including longtime street department workers Donnie Blevins and Clifford Swift.

Pennell remembers glancing across the intersection of Main and State Streets to the sidewalk by Wick’s Pizza and seeing three of Mayor Jeff Gahan’s closest City Hall associates standing there, intently studying the crowd at White’s gathering.

Missy Sarkisian Stotts also came to White’s announcement at the Scribner House. She had worked for many years for the city prior to being downsized in early 2012, less than a year after the 2011 Democratic Party mayoral primary, when she supported the candidacy of one of Gahan’s opponents.

Once Gahan became mayor, Stotts lost her job. She harbors no doubt that picking a primary candidate other than Gahan cost her employment.

Ron Grainger knows, too. He lost his job early, in late 2011, because someone had to be cut to allow the mayor’s future son-in-law Chris Gardner to become flood control director without the slightest relevant experience or qualifications.

Blevins and Swift were pressured and bullied subsequent to their support of White in 2015. They were long-term city employees with exemplary work records, but both opted for early retirement rather than risk being fired from their jobs.

Blevins’ own conclusion about Jeff Gahan is sweeping and comprehensive in its brevity.

“Jeff is a bully.”


“In 2012 I didn’t know much about Gahan,” says Pennell, who at the time had the merit rank of captain and was the NAPD’s chief of detectives.

The incoming Gahan administration formed a committee and opened a process for officers to interview for the jobs of police chief, assistant chief and major. Pennell decided to interview for the assistant chief’s job. He was offered the position of assistant police chief and accepted it.

Pennell served in the position of assistant police chief for two years, until May of 2014, when he asked to be reassigned back to chief of detectives. His request was concurrent with Knight stepping down as chief.

News reports during this period reveal the NAPD suffering from several internal controversies, with allegations of misconduct and discrimination, merit board decisions and an investigation by the Indiana State Police. In September of 2014, Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson announced that no criminal violations had been found.

“I no longer had confidence in the Gahan administration,” says Pennell, who prefers not to go into further detail.

White’s campaign launch at the Scribner House occurred one week after Henderson’s press conference, and coincidentally, almost immediately thereafter the former police chief and then-current day shift captain Merle Harl retired from the force.

Normally this would have created a vacancy for a new captain to be promoted from the waiting list of sergeants. However, Chief Todd Bailey – Gahan’s choice to replace Knight – called Pennell into his office.

“He asked me to take the day shift captain’s job instead.”

To Pennell, working as day shift captain might as well have been a demotion compared with being chief of detectives. “Why not promote a sergeant?” he asked Bailey – and there was a long silence.

With pins dropping and crickets chirping, it quickly occurred to Pennell that Bailey wasn’t giving him a choice in the matter.

“I could see the handwriting on the wall,” Pennell said. With no options, he resolved to accept Bailey’s decision and also to insist that the chief put into writing what was happening: the day shift captain’s assignment was temporary, and there would be a clear timetable for Pennell’s return to chief of detectives.

Bailey seemed reluctant to produce such a letter but eventually he did. It stated Pennell would return to being chief of detectives by October 12, 2015.*

Reassured, Pennell performed his daily duties as day shift captain and as the date drew near, he prepared for the mandated transition back to chief of detectives.

Then came another plot twist. Shortly before the October 12 deadline a fellow officer alerted Pennell to a message posted by Bailey to the NAPD’s messaging system, stating that the position of chief of detectives was being eliminated – effective immediately.

This was an unexpected and shocking development. As Pennell points out, there had been a chief of detectives in the NAPD for as long as anyone could remember: “It goes back at least to the 1880s, and maybe to the beginning of the police department in New Albany.”

Clearly, Pennell couldn’t return to a position that no longer existed. Upon reading the message he drove to police headquarters to discuss the matter with Bailey, and as luck would have it, the chief was seated in an adjacent squad car as Pennell pulled into a parking spot.

“Todd, do you have a minute to talk about the message?”

Stammering and visibly uncomfortable, Bailey replied that he had only a quick minute, so Pennell got straight to the point and asked about the signed agreement for his return to chief of detectives.

Bailey told Pennell he could go back to the detective division, but not as a captain, meaning Pennell would have to give up his merit rank of captain, which he had earned through the testing procedures put forth by the New Albany Police Merit Commission.

According to Pennell, the police chief “just walked away.” Pennell had the written evidence and still possesses it, and yet he’d been outflanked and knew it.

“I had the letter, and I could have hired an attorney, but what good would an empty promise do?”

So much for trust.


Pennell concedes that Bailey’s abrupt elimination of the chief of detectives position was upsetting, as was the police chief’s overall attitude toward him.

“Not many things bother me,” says Pennell, “but this one did.”

Recalling Blevins’ account of workplace harassment at the hands of Gahan’s subalterns, as well as those of other former city workers who still fear what might happen if they publicly tell their stories, it’s a familiar and destructive cycle.

What are the effects of bullying? Targeted employees can experience fear and anxiety, depression, and can develop a kind of post-traumatic stress disorder -- leading to psychological harm and actual physical illness. This leads to absenteeism and turnover as bullied employees avoid or flee the torturous workplace.

For Pennell, the mental stress exacerbated pre-existing physical conditions, and eventually he took sick leave to try and get better. He was off work for a long period. In mid-2016, Pennell chose to retire rather than continue in an unmanageable situation.

“I didn’t want to string out sick leave, and that was that.”

So it transpired that for Gahan’s purely political reasons, the NAPD lost a highly skilled, veteran officer.

Our chat concluding, Pennell recalls that the work he and Knight were doing at the computer crimes unit was noticed by none other than the Secret Service, which deputized him as a federal marshal from 2007 through his retirement in 2016.

“I think Bailey disbanded the computer crimes unit,” chuckles Pennell.

“Maybe he brought it back after I was gone.”



* Ironically, Bailey himself is a rare survivor who probably can attest to the whims of Gahan’s vindictiveness. He was chief of police at the end of Doug England’s third term, and chose to support England’s handpicked successor, Irv Stumler, in the 2011 primary. Gahan handily defeated Stumler, and Bailey was removed as chief when Gahan took office in 2012. The private terms presaging Bailey’s subsequent comeback remain unknown, but he has since become a frequent Gahan campaign contributor who is willing to openly campaign for the mayor during election season.


Recent columns:

April 23: ON THE AVENUES: Gehenna, Franklin Graham, Jean-Paul Sartre and Fred Astaire lead us straight to Hell.

April 16: ON THE AVENUES: Amid Deaf Gahan's "victory" over grassroots activists at Colonial Manor, the toxic paranoia is no less rancid.

April 9: ON THE AVENUES: It's time for a change, and David White understands that change begins with a whole lotta scrubbing.

April 2: ON THE AVENUES: Donnie Blevins tells his story.

Clean Socks Hope to NA Social: "There’d Be No Us, If Not for Them."

This is one of the nicest and most hopeful things I've read in a while. To learn about what Clean Socks Hope (8th Street Mission) and 8th Street Pizza are doing, go here.

You probably already know about NA Social, which is winding down: NA Social's about to be dead, so "Long Live NA Social."

It's a heckuva going-away testimonial from Clean Socks Hope. To Kelly and Beth: thank you, ladies.

There’d Be No Us, If Not for Them, by Jeff Minton (Clean Socks Hope; 29 April 2019)

There is certainly enough heartbreak to go around. I get to see it first hand every day. I see the cruelest acts and the most profound. On Sunday April 7, 2019 our friends Kelly and Beth wrote of their final chapter of their social media page New Albany Social. In a few days they’ll be gone.

What a shame, what an absolute shame.

We’ve done ministry for 11 years and beginning year 8 in New Albany and I can say without a doubt that there would be no us had it not been for a chance encounter with a mutual friend and an introduction to Kelly and Beth.

And because of Andrew Nicholson, a skateboarding throwback from the 1960’s, who loves eclectic and loves people he introduced us to the world and to Kelly and she did what she does and wrote about us.

We blew up.

We were in the newspaper, 3 local TV stations featured us, MSN picked up our story which caused a staffer on the nationally syndicated Bobby Bones show to talk about it and finally because of all that love they saw us in Cincinnati and the media group the hosts Louisville Pizza Week invited us to be part of that week.

We became legit. We have street cred all because a girl from the city loves her hometown and wrote about an extremely small idea to help feed the homeless. Pay it forward. Kelly and Beth have become the epitome of that concept.

In December, when our Midtown Christmas Store leadership realized that we were in the weeds we put a call out to Kelly and Beth and they along with others shopped—with their own money—and provided 80 hard working families Christmas. Their love impacted the lives of 241 adults from 4 counties in 2 states and 308 children! Thanks to their heart, 35 of you shopped, some multiple times and over 100 different families donated.

That one act of generosity created a “Love Thy Neighbor,” phenomenon this past Christmas that most social justice workers have never seen. #lovelocal

So, in closing, I just want to say that you both have become a light for us at 8thStreet and your impact and legacy will never be repeated. WE owe you.

You both are the women that we pray our sons will marry and the hope for our daughters to become.

My grandfather had a friend who was a famous politician that you both are probably too young to remember. He had a saying that I have used as my mantra most of my adult life.

It is simply, “I have been booed by bigger and better crowds.” I hope that spirit, that moxie stays with you always!

I don’t know who the hate mongers are who hide behind their little blue light screens and produce bile and hurt, but we love them anyway because Kelly, Beth and the socialites know that, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” ~John 1:5

Ladies, thank you for all you have done for us and this place we live and work. We love you. And PLEASE don’t go changing!

Jeff, Shelly and the entire 8thStreet Family

#lovelocal #neighborslovingneighbors #pizzaforgood #nasociallives

Monday, April 29, 2019

BEER WITH A SOCIALIST: Three closely related and completely unrelated news items about craft beer growth -- or not.

The first sentence in a Brewbound report from the recent Craft Brewers Conference strikes me as accurate. At some point, "slower growth and increased competition" simply had to become new norms. With 7,000 American breweries in existence and 2,500 more in the planning stages, it would seem the time is now. Obviously, preconceived notions on the part of beer sales strategists are the first to be mangled.

CBC: Slowing Growth in 2018 was ‘Not a Blip’, by Justin Kendall (Brewbound)

Slower growth and increased competition are the “new normal,” Brewers Association (BA) leaders hammered home on the second day of the trade group’s annual Craft Brewers Conference (CBC).

“This is not a blip,” BA chief economist Bart Watson said during Wednesday’s State of the Industry presentation. “This is the new normal.”

Watson and senior vice president of the professional brewing division Paul Gatza took a deeper dive into craft beer growth numbers released earlier this month. According to Watson, craft’s 4 percent volume growth — about 1 million barrels — last year was the lowest per brewer growth rate since the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“This is where the pain point really is,” he said. “That’s not a lot of growth and many companies built brands and business models that built in the idea that there would be more growth than this.”

Watson suggested that brewery owners look beyond craft’s existing 13 percent share of the market to capture the other 87 percent of non-craft consumers. If they don’t, the per brewer growth rate will continue to decline, he added.

“If we can get 1 million new craft drinkers to drink one pint a week, that’s 200,000 incremental barrels,” he added. “Five million new drinkers drinking just one pint a week of small and independent brewed beer is a million barrels.”

Future growth is likely to be sliced up even more thinly as an increasing number of breweries open up shop. Last year, 1,049 breweries opened and an estimated 2,500 breweries are in planning, Watson said.

“This is a trend that’s not going away,” he said. “It’s a reality that everyone should be prepared for.”

Nevertheless, the 219 brewery closures in 2018 were an all-time high, Watson said. However, the three percent closure rate is still “shockingly low,” even if the number of closures are expected to rise as the industry becomes more competitive and new breweries open.

Over the last three years, 3,194 new breweries have opened. Much of craft’s growth is coming from those breweries that opened between 2015 and 2018. Last year, those companies grew by a collective 872,000 barrels.

As for breweries that opened in 2014 or earlier, those companies grew by just 105,000 barrels, Watson said.

Microbreweries (breweries making fewer than 15,000 barrels) continued to be the fastest growing set of breweries, Watson said. Those companies increased production 16 percent last year, to more than 5.8 million barrels. Meanwhile, brewpubs have maintained steady growth, increasing production 13 percent, to 1.6 million barrels.

The BA’s newly created taproom brewery class (companies that sell more than 25 percent of their volume on-site and do not offer significant food service) grew 40.2 percent — to 809,000 barrels in 2018 — and represented 24 percent of total craft growth.

Growth was flat for regional breweries (companies producing more than 15,000 barrels) last year, as those companies produced more than 18.1 million barrels. Watson called 2018 the “slowest growth for distribution of craft in a long time,” which he attributed to retailers not expanding shelf space and bars and restaurants not adding tap handles.

According to Watson, established brewers need to think about building “flagships of today and tomorrow, not of yesterday” in an effort to meet consumer desires ...

The more breweries there are, the less sensible for them to try selling beer via the clogged three-tier distribution system, itself a concept mutating rapidly amid brewery self-distribution and tap room sales models.

In short, it quickly gets weird, because previously absent regulatory pushback begins emanating from the lobbies representing other alcohol sales venues.

In this article, a "craft beer store" franchise is beset with charges and countercharges. Is it a faulty franchise setup? Inept franchisee performance? Backlash against lesbian corporate ownership?

Maybe its the ongoing three-tier mutation itself. Recall that a century ago, blacksmithing no longer was a growth industry.

First, the introduction.

For some Craft Beer Cellar franchisees, it’s a bitter taste after jumping in, by Janelle Nanos (Boston Globe)

For nearly a decade, the Craft Beer Cellar in Belmont has been a beer lover’s paradise. Its founders, Suzanne Schalow and Kate Baker, placed a shrewd bet on craft beer just as it hit the mainstream and set about creating the country’s first national chain of specialty beer stores. They now boast 30 locations across the country.

“Our trinity,” Schalow said, is “amazing beer, hospitality, and education.”

But that early business acumen hasn’t translated into success for many of the franchise owners who were persuaded to buy into their brand. A number of franchisees say they raised money from friends and family, gave up a job, or sold a house to cover the costs of opening their own stores — only to now find themselves facing mounting financial pressures that may cause them to fail.

Aggravated relationships between the founders and some of their franchisees have boiled over into sharply worded e-mails and online screeds. The aggrieved franchisees accuse the owners of providing them with overly rosy financial projections, and of belittling them instead of offering guidance when the numbers didn’t pan out.

Last spring, the owners went so far as to sue 20 unnamed franchisees in US District Court for defamation for posting anonymous complaints on the website Glassdoor.

“The best advice I can give prospective franchise owners is to run,” said one of the postings, according to the federal court filing. “Most franchises are not profitable, and the majority wish they had never signed on.”

The Glassdoor lawsuit was dismissed, and in December, after a second attempt in court to stop franchisees from criticizing them online, Schalow and Baker, who are married, asked members of the Massachusetts Brewers Guild to contribute to a GoFundMe campaign to raise a $125,000 legal fund. Their request implied that some of their detractors were motivated by homophobia ...

Then the passage that strikes me as most relevant.

“Bottle shops may be somewhat a victim of craft’s broader success,” said Bart Watson, chief economist of the Brewers Association.

Grocery stores now carry pallets of craft brews, and brewery taprooms are siphoning off bottle sales.

“Taprooms are changing the beer industry in an enormous way right now,” Schalow said. “Between breweries and taprooms, how does a store survive?”

At times it gets even weirder.

I'd missed the following controversy at Schlafly (thanks, J), but as usual Bryan Roth has it covered. It seems that the guy from the venture capital company that bought controlling interest in Schlafly melted down, went rogue and began distributing a paper newsletter maligning fellow brewers.

Old school paper, but new school slimy.

I'm told that original owner Tom Schlafly is putting together a package of investment to regain control of the brewery. He's a classy man and I wish him well.

In keeping with the theme of preceding thoughts, perhaps the major factor in the Schlafly episode is stress: more expense, less volume.

So, why is this happening now? Things have not been good for Schlalfy, which had declines in barrel production of 13% in both 2016 and 2017, according to estimates by the Brewers Association. After reaching a high of 60,000 barrels three years ago, it was down to 45,000 last year. In fact, 2018 will be a third straight year of declines in IRI-tracked off-premise sales for the brewery. Through Nov. 25, Schlalfy had sold only 73% of the volume it moved in all of 2017.

Brewing always was a business. For a few years, we pretended it wasn't. This column wouldn't be called BEER WITH A SOCIALIST if not for the author's classic disclaimer: "I'm a reluctant capitalist at best."

It's not a bad thing to wake up one morning and find yourself older, with something approximating perspective, and harboring far less pure adrenalin. More power and good luck to those of you still in the trenches, but I've no regrets for pole-vaulting out of them.

Schlafly’s Parent Company Apologizes After Executive Attempts to Sabotage 4 Hands, by Bryan Roth (Good Beer Hunting; December 9, 2018)


In a surprise announcement late Friday, The Saint Louis Brewery—the parent company that produces the Schlafly line of beers—issued a public apology to fellow St. Louis business 4 Hands Brewing. The apology was released in a press release that also revealed a former Schlafly executive made secretive attempts to sabotage the reputation of 4 Hands.

While not confirmed as the specific source of a print newsletter called Brew IQ in the Lou, James Pendegraft resigned as CEO on Wednesday, two days before the apology was issued. In a statement to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the company confirmed Pendegraft’s departure, but offered no additional information. In its public apology, Saint Louis Brewery wrote that the executive responsible had resigned, but didn’t name the person.

The anonymous newsletter was mailed to an unknown number of bars and restaurants and also included “deceptive online postings and a phone survey to local bars and restaurants in the first half of the year,” according to the statement.

In a column that has been identified by media outlets as specifically meant to call out 4 Hands, an anonymous Brew IQ writer tries to connect the brewery to the Me Too movement in a derogatory way, claiming with no evidence that “a certain large brewery’s dilemma of how to reposition itself continues to grow” because “[n]aming your brewery after a sex act provided at a massage parlor no longer feels as good.” It also claims that a beer made by the then-mystery company, now recognized as 4 Hands, was named “after the lube needed for such a service.”

“Leave glamorizing a pimp's wad of dollars to The Deuce,” the column reads, referencing the hit HBO series. “Maybe it was all that gin? The ladies are becoming woke and are starting to ask questions. We'd like to give them a hand, but think the four are proving to be too many.”

These kinds of innuendos are not new to the beer industry, but still present an unfortunate side that is continuously being addressed by the Brewers Association and private companies alike.

“We were embarrassed to learn of these actions and sincerely apologize to 4 Hands Brewing Company,” Tom Schlafly, chairman of Saint Louis Brewery, said in a statement. “Such actions are inconsistent with the core values on which we were founded and which have defined Schlafly for 27 years. The craft brewing industry in St. Louis was built by a closely-knit group of breweries that mutually respect one another. There’s no question that 4 Hands has earned its reputation for community involvement, civic pride, corporate responsibility, and inclusiveness” ...

Pinocchio Gahan doubles down on his deceptive "balanced budget" boasts and financial rating fudges.

Bluegill helpfully explains.

"New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan keeps sending extremely misleading messages to the public, crediting himself for a balanced budget and an A+ financial rating.

"What he doesn’t explain, of course, is that state law demands a balanced budget from every mayor and that, when one views the financial rating system on the whole, an A+ actually ranks as fair to middling. Each time a citizen intervenes to explain the above so the public actually understands what they’re looking at, their 100% factually accurate comments are deleted.

"Gahan not only lies but works hard at keeping others from telling the truth. Those of you who vote for him are voting for that. Here’s to hoping you get to experience a lot of similar behavior in your professional and personal lives. After all, that’s what you want, isn’t it?"

He also reminds us that partial truths reveal Gahan's lack of ethical bearing, just as much as outright honking whoppers.

"For anyone interested in understanding/refuting Gahan campaign lies, here’s a handy reference chart showing the actual bond/credit rating system. It runs not from A to F as most people are familiar but from AAA to AA to A to BBB. An A+ is a much lower grade than people are being led to believe."

In fact, we're only a step above "speculative grade." Ouch.

Long-Term Investment Grade Credit Ratings (Standard and Poor's)

Borrowers are rated by S&P on a scale from ‘AAA’ to ‘D’. Investment grade ratings are securities with higher ratings of ‘AAA’ (highest) to ‘BBB-‘. These represent bonds with the highest creditworthiness.

Speculative grade bonds, also known as non-investment grade, represent securities with lower ratings from the S&P (‘BB+’ to ‘D’).

Below is an outline of each grade and what it means in terms of financial commitments and credit viability.



Debtors with an ‘A’ municipal bond rating have a strong ability to meet their financial obligations. However, they are more vulnerable to economic and circumstantial changes that could affect their overall repayment strength.

‘A+’ debtors are upper-medium grade with a low credit risk. Their susceptibility to economic changes keeps their ratings from the ‘AA’ and ‘AAA’ ratings. ‘A’ debtors also represent a strong ability to repay short-term debt but lack the same strength in long-term obligations.

I asked Bluegill if there was a ready definition for "economic changes."

"I’ve never seen anything that specifically defines them, though it would depend on how the debt and repayment are structured. Since our debt is mostly TIF based, anything that could negatively impact property tax assessments or projected increases in assessments would be a factor, especially since we live in a state with property tax rate caps."

Something like another recession? it would be interesting to see how we shape up today interms of overall debt and exposure versus 2008.

Ponder the happiness of our State Street corridor while reading about "The Causes of Traffic and Congestion."

File under:

"Attempting to address congestion with solutions that make it easier to drive can make the problem worse by continuing to make the car the preferred way to get around."

Alternatives, anyone?

The Causes of Traffic and Congestion, by Andrew Price (Strong Towns)

There are many misconceptions in my local conversation about what does or does not induce motor traffic. Some of these misconceptions are:

  • Single family homes do not increase traffic. If all we build are single-family homes, this will forever stay a quiet neighborhood.
  • Commercial development does not increase traffic, because it does not add more residents.
  • Congestion is bad, and we should treat avoiding it as a priority.

Let's dive into it: traffic, what causes it, and what we can do about it.

The Role of the Street Network
The largest contributor to congestion is the hierarchical road network. This is where you have local streets feed into collectors that feed into arterials that feed into highways.

The Strong Towns article on Dealing with Congestion explains why this is bad. We are funneling all traffic through a small number of streets, giving us a lower vehicle capacity as well as fewer redundancies for when things go wrong (creating a fragile road network where one clog can grind traffic to a halt), and artificially spaces things out by reducing what you can reach in a given distance (sometimes stupidly so as in the case where two houses share a backyard despite their front doors being 7 miles apart).

A highly connected street network (this can mean a grid, but can also take non-geometric forms such as the street network of a medieval city) is better because there are a ton of redundancies (a street closure does not matter if you have countless alternative routes from A to B) and distances are shorter as you can take a more direct route from A to B. Because the load is distributed over the many redundancies, we are no longer funneling all of the traffic over a small handful of collectors or arterials, so you are going to encounter less traffic along your way, even if all else (population density, amount of travel) remains equal.

Designating a main thoroughfare, with higher speed and greater capacity, to funnel traffic through is bad, even if it is part of a street grid. This thoroughfare will attract all of the traffic until it is so congested that it no longer offers a speed advantage over alternative routes (such as parallel side streets), and all people will do is complain how congested it is. This holds true any time we deal with funneling a flow: getting all cars to take the same road, asking all spectators to leave through the same stadium door after a sports game, making all travelers at the airport to go through a single security line, pushing all commuters onto a single transit line, getting all permit approvals to flow through a single queue, and so on. It does not take many people for it to feel crowded when everyone is concentrated in one place.

Snipping through to the conclusion.

Is congestion really a problem?
At the end of the day, we should not worry too much about congestion or traffic. Congestion is part of the solution, not the problem. Congestion is feedback that we have built a place people want to be. The response to congestion should be to allow that Mexican restaurant to open up 3 blocks away rather than 2 miles away. To create bus lines and bike lanes that give people alternative ways to get around. The incorrect response to congestion is to build faster and wider streets, because that just reinforces car dependency and all of the negative consequences that come with it.

To summarize:

Development can add traffic. However, development that brings amenities and people closer together and reduces the need to travel so far can actually reduce traffic. With a mixture of uses, you can achieve a high population density with very little motor traffic.

A highly-connected street network (either a street grid or organic) with many redundancies better distributes the load of traffic and is more resilient to disruptions.

Designated thoroughfares and bypasses create an illusion of traffic because they funnel the traffic through a single point (and with this comes the fragility of a single point of failure that can bring down the system).

Attempting to address congestion with solutions that make it easier to drive can make the problem worse by continuing to make the car the preferred way to get around.

We should not worry too much about congestion, because it creates demand for other modes of transportation and for amenities to be closer.

Lisa Gill's clueless anti-Semitism? It's in the water -- and the most offensive term of all just might be "politician."

I've never met Jeffersonville city council representative Lisa Gill, but last week she pushed the wrong button -- more than once.

Anti-semitic slur used by Jeffersonville City Council member during meeting, by John Boyle (Summa Theologica)

During an Jeffersonville City Council meeting April 15, Vice President Lisa Gill used an anti-Semitic phrase while discussing price negotiations for a new service truck for the fire department.

"Gill asked 'did you mention that you actually called about that truck and actually, what I call Jewed them down?'"

Gill's choice of words is what I call amazingly dumb, and although she quickly passed through the ritual cycle of apology there wasn't the slightest indication she understands why she needed to do so.

I would like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to Kathy Dixon and the citizens of Jeffersonville for carelessly making a comment to describe negotiations of a maintenance vehicle during a public meeting. As a public servant, I consider myself a strong steward of taxpayers’ money and that is the context in which I made my comment in reference of the negotiations.

Those who know me understand my professional and personal life is one of commitment and dedication to all people of my community regardless of their ethnicity, their culture, or their social-economic status.

Please know that my intent was not to offend or hurt anyone and in the future I will gauge my words carefully. This has been a valuable learning experience and once again, I apologize.

Gill's apology might actually be more clueless than her original statement, although admittedly these rote, by-the-numbers templates generally fall flat because the person deploying them has no idea why any of it is happening; such is the thoughtlessness of the entire process.

At any rate, hundreds of comments have been made, perhaps a majority of which were in defense of Gill. From where I'm seated way out in the left field bleachers, Dan Canon's thoughts hit closest to the target's center. They were initially tweeted in a thread, and I've combined them.

Imagine thinking that saying something like this is A-OK, and you'll understand the mindset of the people who make the rules for Indiana.

I think I actually believe this is, in a way, totally innocent. Like this brand of anti-semitism is such a deep stain in the fabric of Jane Q. Indiana's collective consciousness that they don't even see it, and there's no real mens rea*, it's just a "thing you say."

Should she know that's not a nice thing to say? Yes, of course. Does she actually know it? No, no fucking way. She genuinely does not know. It's even more chilling that way, actually.

The goddamn truth of it is: you're only likely to be slightly better than the slimy, bigoted culture you came up in. It takes work to break out of it in any meaningful way. It's worth it, of course, but most of us just don't put in the work. Work is hard.

Of course, thoughtful and responsive people already know that "Jewed" is an offensive term straight out of the anti-Semitic glossary, one indicative of everyday racism, casual racism or just plain racism -- and that's why another aspect of Gill's utterance is worthy of close examination.

Think about her unthinking prelude: "What I call ... Jewed them down."

As though she was expressing pride at coining anti-Semitic usage that's probably been in circulation for a couple thousand years, if not longer. This is a special kind of historical ignorance, coupled with stunning non-self-awareness.

So, let's briefly go over what Gill failed to learn in kindergarten.

jew (jo͞o)
tr.v. jewed, jew·ing, jews Offensive
1. To bargain shrewdly or unfairly with. Often used with down.
2. To haggle so as to reduce (a price). Often used with down.

I didn't bother looking for the etymology of "Jewed," because to repeat, for as long as there has been prejudice directed at Jewish persons, there have been references to Jewish prowess (and trickiness) when it comes to money -- and Christians should know that this form of anti-Semitism historically was encouraged by governments based on ... that's right ... Christianity.

Among socio-economic factors were restrictions by the authorities. Local rulers and church officials closed many professions to the Jews, pushing them into marginal occupations considered socially inferior, such as tax and rent collecting and moneylending, tolerating them as a "necessary evil". Catholic doctrine of the time held that lending money for interest was a sin, and forbidden to Christians. Not being subject to this restriction, Jews dominated this business.

Consider it another excellent reason to keep church and state separate.

Most of us grew up amid pervasive ignorance about such matters, and we thoughtlessly repeated the shit our dads and moms said, while in all likelihood being unable to explain the first thing about what it actually meant.

But ultimately that's an excuse for a child, not an adult. Echoing Canon's incisive comment about putting in the work necessary to learn, I've certainly not been immune from the casual everyday racism. The struggle is real, and it never ceases. You have to think about what you're doing and saying, and as Dan noted, thinking is hard.

For a long time I referred to my ancestry as "white trash" potato diggers in Pomerania. Two things happened to change this description, and only one of them was the discovery that the German component of my DNA probably comes from areas closer to the Rhine River than the Vistula.

However the first was a belated and frankly embarrassing realization that "white trash" is derogatory on multiple levels. As a person who tries his best to be thoughtful and responsive, throwing terms like "white trash" into the air is indefensible -- so I resolved not to say it any longer.

Simple as that. Wish I could do the same with those harder-edged profanities I learned from my father the US Marine. Maybe some day.

But of more interest than the preceding is the way Jeffersonville's city council representatives circled the wagons to protect one of their own. 

As Bluegill and the Bookseller both have observed on numerous occasions, a political candidate elected to any council or similar body requires mere weeks (days?) to learn that when outsiders criticize insiders, the very first thing you do is preserve your privileges.

President Ed Zastawny and Councilman Nathan Samuel, neither of whom were present during the meeting, said that they do not believe Gill meant for her comments to be malicious, nor have they known her to intentionally label any group in a negative manner.

"When you speak on the record in a public forum like this, you make mistakes sometimes and you misspeak," Zastawny said. "I’m sure she didn’t mean to demean or hurt anybody’s feelings in any way. I think it’s one of those situations where she just slipped up.”


Another of Gill's colleagues was only slightly less tepid.

Councilman Dustin White said that he was caught off guard by the slur, noting that it's important for public officials to always be aware of the implications and derogatory nature of such comments.

"It was unfortunate that a statement like this was made," White said. "There have been some things that have happened around the country that have heightened awareness, like the tragedy in Pittsburgh. I'd like to think that there was no harm in the statement, but we have to be careful to not make statements like that that can disparage people. Whenever we are faced with situations like this, I think it's important to speak out and condemn such phrases as inappropriate."

But White added something I find bizarrely inexplicable.

According to White, no intercultural learning events have taken place during his time as a councilman, adding that he is open to the idea.

"In my three and a half years on the council, we have not had any sort of diversity training or listening sessions," White said. "As a proponent of civil rights, that's obviously something I would welcome."

Anyone heard of DIY? Is there a council by-law preventing White from organizing diversity training?

What's he waiting for, Donald Trump to organize it?

As always, this Gill scandal will be quickly forgotten. Nothing much will be learned. When stupidity from without seems hard-wired from birth, the only rational conclusion one can reach is to improve from within, and to hoe the closest rows.   


* intention or knowledge of wrongdoing

Sunday, April 28, 2019

David White for Mayor videos: State of the City #3, Parts 1 and 2 on the general theme of economic development.

Viewers and voters are free to agree or disagree with David White's points about economic development, but what can't be denied is that if Jeff Gahan actually has an economic development plan apart from pay-to-play, we know next to nothing about it after eight years.

Gahan's first quarter CFA-4 has been filed, and it's another massive, quivering edifice of pay-to-play cash.

Like so many other aspects of Gahan's reign, his economic development strategies are to be coded and kept safely hidden, so when something positive actually happens, no criteria exist to determine whether Team Gahan had anything to do with the result -- as with HMS Maritime's upgrade, which is almost entirely the work of One Southern Indiana, not Dear Leader.

HMS Maritime's downtown expansion is a positive development, one largely omitting City Hall.

David and I have spoken often about grassroots economic development strategies of the sort espoused by the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA) and the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE). There are many ways to achieve cooperation between local government and local entrepreneurs, short of prom planning and Taco Walks.

Although first, City Hall has to want to be cooperative. That's something I'm confident you'll see quite a lot more of during David's time as mayor.


Democratic mayoral candidate David White understands that change begins with a whole lotta scrubbing, and NA Confidential advocates just such a deep civic cleansing. 

After eight years on the job, Mayor Jeff Gahan's list of stunning "achievements" is long, indeed: tax increasesbudgetary hide 'n' seekself-deificationdaily hypocrisy, public housing takeovernon-transparencypay-to-play for no-bid contracts, bullying city residents and bullying city employees. Eight years is enough. It's time to drain Gahan's swamp, flush his ruling clique and take this city back from Gahan's Indy-based special interest donors. 

NA Confidential supports David White for Mayor in the Democratic Party primary, with voting now through May 7

The blog that dares not speak its name, although this doesn't prevent the professional from asking the amateur for help.

Deaf to Bill, 2019.

A polemic (/pəˈlɛmɪk/) is contentious rhetoric that is intended to support a specific position by aggressive claims and undermining of the opposing position. Polemics are mostly seen in arguments about controversial topics. The practice of such argumentation is called polemics. A person who often writes polemics, or who speaks polemically, is called a polemicist.

With voting underway, and election "day" just around the corner, you'll have noticed that the News and Tribune has had almost nothing to say about the candidates and issues.

This has been true about New Albany, the newspaper's most consistently neglected coverage area, as well as for races in Clark County, where the newspaper now allocates most of its sadly flagging energies.

Let's delve into double standards, but first, as a citizen polemicist, I don't mind being held to a higher bar when it comes to submissions. Still, the hypocrisy gets to me at times.

My letters to the editor, which are not allowed to bear a signature that includes "NA Confidential" as identifier, always are subject to scrupulous editing for proof and evidence -- even as Bill's and Susan's Excellent Adventure runs two weekly Christianity columns and permits numerous Christian advocacy letters to the editor, one imagines without the same scrupulous fact checking, because if such were to be applied to the absence of facts ... well, you know.

It's faith, isn't it?

At times even an "online comment" merits a follow-up, hence an amusing exchange from March. I'd mentioned Jeff Gahan's pay-to-play corruption in this comment about Chris Morris' abortion column.

Note the irony of the first example in this definition of corruption.

1. dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.

"the journalist who wants to expose corruption in high places"

synonyms: dishonesty, dishonest dealings, unscrupulousness, deceit, deception, duplicity, double-dealing, fraud, fraudulence, misconduct, lawbreaking, crime, criminality, delinquency, wrongdoing, villainy

2. the process by which something, typically a word or expression, is changed from its original use or meaning to one that is regarded as erroneous or debased.

synonyms: alteration, falsification, doctoring, manipulation, manipulating, fudging, adulteration, debasement, degradation, abuse, subversion, misrepresentation, misapplication; rarevitiation

"these figures have been subject to corruption"

Corruption is a many-splendoured concept, gloriously mutable for the purpose of polemics. Less so any newspaper blithely content to be a feel-good lifestyle publication to the exclusion of its duty to afflict the comfortable while comforting the afflicted.

Here is our cyber trail.


From: Susan Duncan
To: Roger Baylor
Cc: Bill Hanson - NT

Mar 22 at 3:40 PM


Your online comment references “corruption,” indicating criminal wrongdoing. Where is your proof?



From: Roger A. Baylor
To: Susan Duncan
Cc: Bill Hanson - NT

Mar 22 at 5:48 PM

Don’t worry, guys. I protected your star mayoral $ advertiser by not mentioning his name. I could be talking about any mayor, couldn’t I? Now can you give us a reporter, as opposed to a crusading anti-abortionist steno?


From: Susan Duncan
To: Roger A. Baylor
Cc: Bill Hanson - NT

Mar 22 at 6:45 PM

You could be referencing any mayor; however, you posted the comment on a column by our assistant editor based in New Albany.

I’m not worried about advertising money from anyone, including mayors — nor do we make coverage decisions based on who does or doesn’t advertise in the newspaper.

If you have any evidence of criminal wrongdoing by any mayor in Southern Indiana, we would be interested in looking at it.

Susan Duncan


From: Roger Baylor
To: Susan Duncan
Cc: Bill Hanson - NT

Mar 22 at 8:54 PM

Wearily ... and if I have such evidence, why on earth would I share it with the News and Tribune? How could I ever trust you to do anything with it?

In spite of my antipathy amid indefensible blathering like Morris' abortion piece today, for almost 15 years I've been linking my readers to your newspaper, thereby exposing them to the contagion of Gahan's self-congratulatory daily newspaper ads, and yet not once has anyone at the newspaper said something along the lines of "thanks for the traffic - here's a complimentary on-line subscription."

You said it yourself a while back: you're just not giving free blurbs to a mere blogger. That's hunky dory, but know that it's fairly obvious to the blogger and HIS readers when your reporters get their ideas from perusing my material. I'm down with it, too; at least (the reporters) will engage in conversation and be human, and as a former business owner, I've generally refrained from critiquing the shop floor, because the buck stops with management.

As it does in this instance. To reiterate, if I had solid evidence of criminal wrongdoing, why would a degraded alcoholic blogger like me give it to the News and Tribune when it's the News and Tribune's job to do things like that -- you know, reporting -- in the first place?




Here's the thing. I understand perfectly well that as a blogger, there are natural limitations.

I'm solo, pro bono and periodically loco. Conversely the newspaper's readership may have declined precipitously, but it's still more broadly distributed across various segments of the local populace than NA Confidential's -- though I surely have a loyal audience here, too. Just think about these two conditions, working together.

I do, often. They don't, ever. That's too bad, isn't it?

At any rate, we might spend the remainder of the day arguing about the meaning of journalism, and whether blogger can be journalists, and what a newspaper like the News and Tribune can be expected to accomplish in this day and age. I suspect the day would be wasted, and I'd be drinking by 5:30 p.m.

The point remains: If they won't allow me to identify myself as the NA Confidential blogger in a letter to the editor of the News and Tribune, it's some massive cheek to ask me to share "evidence of criminal wrongdoing" when I've put lots more time into exploring the preconditions of this topic than their entity has -- and they're far better placed to find it than me, given our respective economies of scale and potential magnitude of our bully pulpits.

I contend, and I will continue to contend, that in a time when local governments hire PR fluff firms to purchase advertising in newspapers, while continuing to pay classified rates for mandated notices and announcements, any insistence by a newspaper editor to the effect of revenue streams having no bearing on editorial decisions is disingenuous at best.

Although perhaps it's not indicative of corruption, only deferring to financial reality. Who knows? After all, I'm merely a blogging polemicist -- and the supposed local newspaper of record is allowing another election cycle to pass in a position of supine disengagement.

Here's a thought. Maybe if they find evidence of criminal wrongdoing, it will be shared with NA Confidential, the blog that dare not speak its name in the News and Tribune?

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to look for "proof" in today's multiple religion columns. Not holding my breath, though.

Deaf Gahan's ultimate zoning bait 'n' switch: Slumlords certify themselves to be in compliance with rental property codes, then cut "thank you" checks to Gahan.

Boeing is having a bit of a problem with this notion of safety self-certification, but enough about airplanes. A few weeks ago I snapped these screenshots on social media.

Meanwhile, addressing a topic that I can't recall Deaf Gahan or his team ever once embracing publicly, Richard Florida concludes:

How Poor Americans Get Exploited by Their Landlords (CityLab)

American landlords derive more profit from renters in low-income neighborhoods, researchers Matthew Desmond and Nathan Wilmers find.

Do the poor pay more for housing?

That’s the question at the heart, and in the title, of a detailed paper published in the American Journal of Sociology on the actual housing costs paid by Americans in low-income urban neighborhoods. Its two authors, Princeton’s Matthew Desmond—who wrote the award-winning 2016 book Evicted—and MIT’s Nathan Wilmers, track the rent burdens and levels of exploitation faced by those living in concentrated poverty. They also uncover the staggeringly high profit margins made by the landlords who own properties in these areas.

It's an election year in New Albany, and I've yet to find an instance of Mayor Jeff Gahan or any sitting city council member being asked, "What ever happened to rental property inspections?

However, City Hall's flourishing propaganda division has funded Extol Magazine and other "lifestyle" publications to run ads like this.

Hmm. Weren't rental property inspections supposed to be the crucial second phase of our revised rental property ordinance?"

New Albany rental property ordinance revised, by Jenna Esarey (March 8, 2016)

NEW ALBANY — An ordinance to regulate rental properties in New Albany was amended after a contentious city council meeting Monday.

A standing-room-only crowd packed the third-floor assembly room to voice opinions about the ordinance, which required property owners to obtain a rental permit for each property and register their contact information with the city no later than Jan. 31, 2017.

Under the ordinance, a Rental Housing Code would establish minimum maintenance standards; set the responsibilities of owners, operators and occupants of rental buildings and rental units; and provide for administration, enforcement and penalties ranging up to $2,500 for repeated infractions such as failure to obtain a rental permit or violating provisions of the code. The ordinance also called for the inspection of rental housing properties based on a complaint as permitted by ordinance and state statute.

After more than two hours of discussion, Councilman Greg Phipps, who proposed the ordinance, agreed to split the ordinance, and the amended measure, containing only the registration portion, passed unanimously. The deleted provisions will be addressed at a later date. The amended ordinance faces a third reading March 17.

A committee working on the ordinance did not have rental property owners or renters as members, but a news release from New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan’s office indicated an unidentified real estate agent served as an adviser.

“I’m pleased to hear that the City of New Albany is moving forward by passing legislation to require rental registration for all rental properties within the city limits," said Gahan in a news release following the meeting. "Rental registrations and inspections have been under consideration by previous administrations and city councils for over a decade. This action is a major step toward improving living conditions for all residents and property owners in New Albany. Unfortunately, the rental property inspection component was stripped from ordinance G-15-05.”

City attorney Shane Gibson addressed a work session on the ordinance immediately before the council meeting.

“Our police and fire departments spend hours trying to track down owners when there’s a problem," he said. "Registration is the biggest aspect.”

City Building Commissioner David Brewer spoke in support of the ordinance during the work session, saying, “We’re a 200-year-old city. We’ve got buildings that deteriorate every time it rains. I deal with them every day. I’ve some of the worst of the worst.”

During the council meeting, the majority of the more than 25 residents signed up to speak expressed support for the registration of owners, but held deep concerns with other aspects, such as fines and penalties and the inspection rules.

Speakers expressed concerns about the city’s ability to handle the number of inspections called for by the ordinance, the perception of many landlords that they are being targeted while problem tenants are not being addressed and the fact that only rental properties are included.

Russell Kruer, a broker/owner with RE/MAX Results, spoke against the ordinance, citing issues he has faced in getting the city to address some concerns at properties he owns.

“I am tired of taking care of the city’s issues when they’re not taking care of mine,” he said. “I can’t get the city to return my calls.”

Sandy Hamish with Hamish Properties said her company manages over 100 properties in New Albany.

“Owners have told me they want no part of this. They will sell. Tenants have told me they’re going to move” because they don’t want their privacy invaded by an inspection.

Kindly note the three years of complete silence since the preceding was published.

To be sure, language delineating rental property inspections now exists, but it's unclear where it is and how it works. The following passage, which details a self-certification mechanism whereby rental property owners can make just like the barons of the air at Boeing, comes from Zoning Ordinance, the 238-page masterpiece produced by Gahan campaign donor 11th Street Development (and linked at the city's official site).

I was under the impression all this legalese was approved by city council last year, but not everything in it jibes when compared to the Code of Ordinances on-line, where the registration process is detailed but not the inspections.

d. Self-Certification Program.

i. Qualification. A rental housing property shall be placed in the Self-Certification Program if all the following circumstances exist:

1. After the last inspection conducted pursuant to this Section, the Code Enforcement Officer determines no violations exist on the property or violations identified were abated within thirty (30) days.

2. The Owner and Local Contact Representative comply with all applicable provisions of this Section; and

3. The Owner is not delinquent on any payment to the City of property or other taxes, fees, penalties, or any other monies related to the property.

ii. Removal from the Program. A rental housing property may be removed from the Self-Certification Program if any of the following circumstances occurs:

1. The rental housing property is in violation of this Section or any other provision of law, even if the violation is abated within thirty (30) days: or

2. Any of the circumstances set forth in Section 6.17(D)(4)(d) cease to exist.

iii. Self-Certification. Owners of rental housing properties that are in the Self-Certification Program shall certify, under penalty of perjury, that each rental housing unit on the property is in compliance with all building, housing, and sanitary codes annually by no later than January 31, and upon each change in tenancy. Self-certification shall consist of the following:

1. The Owner, or his or her designee, shall inspect all Common Elements and each unit that becomes vacant since the prior certification for compliance with the requirements of SelfCertification as provided by the City;

2. The Owner shall repair immediately any conditions necessary to achieve compliance with the Self-Certification requirements;

3. The Owner shall complete the Self-Certification documentation and submit the form to the City and to the occupants of the corresponding rental housing unit.

4. In the event any rental housing unit cannot be self-certified due to conditions of the property or an inability to repair conditions, the Owner must immediately notify the City.

iv. Random Inspections. The City may inspect rental housing properties and vacant Rental Housing Units in the Self-Certification Program on a random basis, but not more frequently than once per year.

Are Gahan's Kool-Aid drinkers on board with self-certification mechanism?

They're eager to overlook their idol's proposed gutting of public housing, while still pretending to honor the Democratic Party's commitment-in-the-breach to the community's most vulnerable.

They're eager to give a pass to the sheer inanity of David Duggins insisting his NAHA commercial property purchases on State Street are aimed at providing desperately needed extra parking for Riverview Tower, which he's just as busy depopulating.

How much gentrification and luxury enhancement can one veneer-topped mayor pursue before SOMEONE in his own party raises a timid hand and asks what he's doing to give a boost to the folks living paycheck to paycheck?

Because: if you don't pull back the curtain and see what's behind the propaganda, you're just allowing yourself to be duped, aren't you?

Saturday, April 27, 2019

#CultureOfCorruption: Consider the privileged arrogance of Gahan's clique, planting political signs in spite of being asked not to do so by the Election Board.

We have DemoDisneyDixiecratic Party chairman Adam Dickey's own words.

"Some vote center sites such as area churches have expressed concern about candidate signs being placed on their property and, in particular, signs being left after voting hours. In response, the Election Board is asking candidates to not place signs at vote centers."

Seems clear enough, but as we already know, Gahan and his brown-nosed lickspittles don't believe they need to play by the same rules as the rest of us. That's why it's Tricky, Dickey.

Can they get any more arrogant?


Early voting locations today and next Saturday. Let's #FlushTheClique and #FireGahan2019

EARLY VOTING SATURDAYS - April 27 and May 4, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Floyd County Clerk's Office
311 Hauss Square, Room 235

4-H Fairgrounds
2810 Green Valley Road

Sojourn Church
2023 Ekin Avenue

Floyd County Library
180 W. Spring Street

Silver Street Park
2043 Silver Street

Trinity United Methodist
2796 Charlestown Road

St. Mary’s Catholic Church
415 E. 8th Street


Democratic mayoral candidate David White understands that change begins with a whole lotta scrubbing, and NA Confidential advocates just such a deep civic cleansing. 

After eight years on the job, Mayor Jeff Gahan's list of stunning "achievements" is long, indeed: tax increasesbudgetary hide 'n' seekself-deificationdaily hypocrisy, public housing takeovernon-transparencypay-to-play for no-bid contracts, bullying city residents and bullying city employees. Eight years is enough. It's time to drain Gahan's swamp, flush his ruling clique and take this city back from Gahan's Indy-based special interest donors. 

NA Confidential supports David White for Mayor in the Democratic Party primary, with voting now through May 7

Friday, April 26, 2019

Buttigieg, housing and homelessness? This Twitter thread by Luke Savage is a must-read.

Luke Savage writes for Jacobin.

"This week I did some research on Mayor Pete Buttigieg's administration and South Bend. There's a lot more work I need to do on his policies overall, but specifically I looked into his approaches to housing and homelessness - both of which I think both deserve sharp criticism."

Read the whole thread here. I was struck by this tweet.

Hmm, where have I heard the name of Barnes & Thornburg? Was it in a Marx Brothers movie?

"Reaganomics killed America's middle class," and "the old deal that held US society together started to unwind."

Photo credit.

Following are two topics raised during the Tuesday "Chew On This" discussion about what divides Americans.

Tuesday night, we chewed on THAT.

Starting the conversation here.

A return to Piketty: "Reaganomics killed America's middle class."

There’s nothing “normal” about having a middle class. Having a middle class is a choice that a society has to make, and it’s a choice we need to make again in this generation, if we want to stop the destruction of the remnants of the last generation’s middle class ...

... Capitalism is not an economic system that produces a middle class. In fact, if left to its own devices, capitalism tends towards vast levels of inequality and monopoly. The natural and most stable state of capitalism actually looks a lot like the Victorian England depicted in Charles Dickens’ novels.

Continuing it here.

Decline and fall: how American society unravelled, by George Packer (The Guardian)

Thirty Forty years ago, the old deal that held US society together started to unwind, with social cohesion sacrificed to greed. Was it an inevitable process – or was it engineered by self-interested elites?

 ... The large currents of the past generation – deindustrialisation, the flattening of average wages, the financialisation of the economy, income inequality, the growth of information technology, the flood of money into Washington, the rise of the political right – all had their origins in the late 70s. The US became more entrepreneurial and less bureaucratic, more individualistic and less communitarian, more free and less equal, more tolerant and less fair. Banking and technology, concentrated on the coasts, turned into engines of wealth, replacing the world of stuff with the world of bits, but without creating broad prosperity, while the heartland hollowed out. The institutions that had been the foundation of middle-class democracy, from public schools and secure jobs to flourishing newspapers and functioning legislatures, were set on the course of a long decline. It as a period that I call the Unwinding.

In one view, the Unwinding is just a return to the normal state of American life. By this deterministic analysis, the US has always been a wide-open, free-wheeling country, with a high tolerance for big winners and big losers as the price of equal opportunity in a dynamic society. If the US brand of capitalism has rougher edges than that of other democracies, it is worth the trade-off for growth and mobility. There is nothing unusual about the six surviving heirs to the Walmart fortune possessing between them the same wealth as the bottom 42% of Americans – that's the country's default setting. Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates are the reincarnation of Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie, Steven Cohen is another JP Morgan, Jay-Z is Jay Gatsby.

The rules and regulations of the Roosevelt Republic were aberrations brought on by accidents of history – depression, world war, the cold war – that induced Americans to surrender a degree of freedom in exchange for security. There would have been no Glass-Steagall Act, separating commercial from investment banking, without the bank failures of 1933; no great middle-class boom if the US economy had not been the only one left standing after the second world war; no bargain between business, labour and government without a shared sense of national interest in the face of foreign enemies; no social solidarity without the door to immigrants remaining closed through the middle of the century.

Once American pre-eminence was challenged by international competitors, and the economy hit rough seas in the 70s, and the sense of existential threat from abroad subsided, the deal was off. Globalisation, technology and immigration hurried the Unwinding along, as inexorable as winds and tides. It is sentimental at best, if not ahistorical, to imagine that the social contract could ever have survived – like wanting to hang on to a world of nuclear families and manual typewriters ...