Wednesday, April 30, 2008

County council candidates, progressives, progress and an open thread for discussion.

(Corrected on May 5 to reflect the omission of Tonye Rutherford's answer)

The Tribune’s various local candidate surveys are welcome contributions to the process, and can be found here.

As was already observed in other Internet locales, it is interesting that the newspaper has chosen to ask whether office seekers consider themselves to be “progressive.”

Following are the answers as submitted by candidates for county council.

Note that not all candidates bothered submitting answers to the Tribune’s survey, which in my opinion disqualifies them for public office. Note also that only one (Fessel) who answered the "progressive" question didn’t use the words “progress” or “progressive” in his answer. Perhaps he doesn’t know what the word means or, more likely given the record of his previous council service, is offended by it.

Striegal, who is another Democrat (a term used with remarkable elasticity hereabouts) insists that progress is somehow conservative in nature, while Republican incumbent Fendley goes for the tiresome welfare abuse jugular in reminding us that, “Government action is sometimes a hinderance to change and social improvement.”

And, thanks to the newspaper's resolve to print the answers as submitted, we see that Fendley and a couple of others have failed to grasp the innovation of spell-check.

Thoughts, anyone? Consider today as our open discussion time for county council prospects.

Do you consider yourself a progressive? How would you define progress? What gets left behind in your vision of progress?


Jeff Fessel
“We need new businesses and new homes in Floyd County for our tax base. We must also maintain our roads and rural communities and protect them from overcrowding.”

Brad Striegel
“I do encourage progress and progress brings about change. Sometimes change is hard to embrace. In this county progress is a way of life. My goal is to help people understand that some progress is beneficial and necessary, and should be dealt with in a conservative matter through budgetary conscience.”

Ted Heavrin
“Yes. Doing things to improve living conditions for the community. When money runs low progress will be slowed down until funds become available.”

Thomas Lenfert
“I do, I am a go getter. This county has to progress or the taxes will run you out of this county. We have to have businesses or else this city will be a ghost town. People who wants this county not to change, we have to move ahead to make progress.”

Carol Shope
“Yes, I consider myself a progressive, looking forward to the future. People need to develop a vision for their community. Infrastructure, an industrial park in the county while retaining the rural atmosphere and developing community cohesions are vital to our well being.”

Randy Stumler
“Change will occur whether on not we want it to happen. Hopefully, being progressive means taking the challenges we are facing, weighing the options thoughtfully, and acting toward the greater good. This is how I approach my responsibility to the community.”

Candidates(s) listed on the ballot that did not submit questionnaires by deadline include: Donald Blevins, Greg A. McCartin and Joe Schindler, all of New Albany.


Rocky Cambron
“Government’s must look to the future through long term planning. The communities best interests must be the deciding factor for change. Progress is fueled by new ideas and the ability to adapt to the changing enviroment. change is sometimes viewed negativley, but it is often needed and the results may not appear for sometime down the road.”

Dana Fendley (see NA Shadow Council for another reaction to this answer)
“According to Webster’s Dictionary, A progressive is a person believing in moderate political change and social improvement by government action. I think that term is ambigous. Government action is sometimes a hinderance to change and social improvement. a good example is the abuse of our welfare system. I define progress as moving forward with new ideas while cleaning out your old ways of doing things. In my vision of progress, what gets left behind is the old style partisan politics in government.”

Harry Harbison
“Planning ahead to direct an area that should either be commercial or residential and presenting it to the planning commission so they can be progressive for the county.”

Tonye Rutherford

“I do consider myself progressive, however progress comes with tough decisions, lets not mistake progress and growth. progress for the community is good as long as we weight all options as it comes to progress, by all options we should first consider how it benefits the community.”

Larry Summers
“I would definitely consider myself progressive because it is my goal to improve the county and the communities within this county. By definition in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, progress is gradual betterment or a forward/onward movement. It is my goal that we, as a community, better ourselves and that the politicians that represent the people better the community via their initiatives.

Candidates(s) listed on the ballot that did not submit questionnaires by deadline include: William Fender III of Greenville.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Local GOP Chair Matthews responds to platform request.

Floyd County Republican Chairperson Dave Matthews responded via email to an earlier NAC request for platform information. Other than some extra paragraph breaks to ease blog reading, his response is presented verbatim.


Thanks for your email requesting platform issues. I have taken so long to respond to you because I wanted you to have considered and well-thought out answers, not just ones that could be answered in a few minutes.

Obviously, it is very difficult to answer your questions about platform issues from all of the candidates' perspectives. Even within our own Republican Party, we have some strong differences in what our actual platform should be.

I attended the Indiana State Republican Platform Committee meeting last weekend when the committee was here at the IUS campus. I was extremely pleased to hear so many Republicans eloquently express their ideas about what the State platform should be. The committee members stated that our party is the only one that actually takes public input to the platform in open sessions.

I just hope that our State Platform Committee takes some of the well expressed ideas and actually incorporates them into the platform. However, if the State follows the lead of the national party, I fear that many of the principles that helped us identify more with the ideals of average Americans and win lots of elections in 2000 will continue to be eroded and cause us to lose elections like we saw in 2004. We'll see.

Much of how I feel I must relate to your questions about issues and Republican Party platforms can be reflected in a brochure produced many years ago by the national party titled, "I Am a Republican because...."

Let me state a few of those principles. Republicans believe that the proper function of government is to do for the people those things that have to be done but cannot be done, or cannot be done as well, by individuals, and that the most effective government is government closest to the people. We typically believe that free enterprise and the encouragement of individual initiative and incentive have given this nation an economic system second to none. We believe that sound money management should be our goal.

Republicans believe in equal rights, equal justice and equal opportunity for all. We believe that Americans value and should preserve their feeling of national strength and pride, and at the same time share with people everywhere a desire for peace and freedom and the extension of human rights throughout the world.

Republicans believe that we must retain the principles of the past worth retaining, yet always be receptive to new ideas with an outlook broad enough to accommodate thoughtful change and varying points of view......however, I believe we also believe in some fundamental, conservative values that because of religious and ethical beliefs are frankly, not open for compromise. I'm sure you know quite well what some of those issues are.

Now, after such a broad brush of values from a more general perspective, let me try to apply some of those principles to the specific problems and situations in New Albany and Floyd County that you asked about.

Code enforcement, and all law enforcement for that matter, is definitely one of those areas where government must do for people those things that cannot be done by individuals. I would specifically point to the application in Floyd County of Zoning Ordinances and Codes. We have a fairly newly developed zoning ordinance now (finally after thirty years) which, in conjunction with the Comprehensive Plan, points to where we as a County want to be five, ten and twenty years from now.

Although variances to the ordinance would be necessary on occasions, if variances are given routinely and without specific application to the overall view of the Comprehensive Plan, we are diluting the ordinance to the extent that it becomes a worthless document again. The attractive, somewhat rural nature of Floyd County makes our area attractive as a place to get away from the increasingly urban environment of Louisville. If, however, we turn New Albany and Floyd County into an equally urbanized environment, we will potentially lose some of the unique nature that makes our county special. I think we need to pay closer attention to this area, especially in terms of development and housing.

Obviously, the issue of "smart growth", as you have termed it, can help make sure we develop the county without sacrificing some of that valuable rural atmosphere that has characterized us and made our environment special. A better term for this might be "wise development." No one is suggesting no further development of the county or a move toward harming the business of our developers and builders. It does become necessary, however, at some point in the argument, to draw a line between wise growth and development that is so dense, or intense, that it sacrifices the "personality" of the county or the surrounding community altogether. I believe our party promotes wise development as a core issue.

With regard to revitalization of our historic downtown business district and surrounding neighborhoods, I believe the issue itself touches on the unique balance between the governments of the city of New Albany and the county government of Floyd County. These two entities have at some times been at odds with each other. I believe there needs to be a "team attitude" toward government that draws from the limited resources made available to us to make sure that neither government nor communities are sacrificed for the other.

This is probably one area, however, where some of those "new ideas" previously mentioned need to be considered. The cost of duplication of services such as fire and police protection and sewage and waste disposal often make government spending wasteful and inefficient. Revitalization of downtown New Albany falls specifically under the authority of city government......yet often relies on financial assistance from county government. There is much disagreement about combined city and county government, county wide sewer systems and fire and police protection. However, with potentially decreasing financial support from our State Government in the future, only an irresponsible county government would totally disregard discourse on these issues in its future planning.

Conversely, attraction and retention of a creative, entrepreneurial community is an area where joint governmental perspective and teamwork is essential. In many ways, our Southern Indiana region has been seen by those in other parts of the State as backward and beyond help when the issue of entrepreneurial progress is discussed. These views and opinions must change.

We certainly enjoy many of the innovative advantages that come from being part of the Kentuckiana Metropolitan area. I believe that Floyd County needs to join not only with Clark County and other Southern Indiana regions, but also with Louisville in developing innovative programs that technologically bring us into the twenty first century.

Floyd County has state-of-the-art health care in Floyd Memorial Hospital. In some areas, we actually have shopping and services that compete well with Louisville. Yet in other areas, we are so far behind that improvement will not happen without a shared teamwork approach with our surrounding neighbors. These are areas where local and county government can improve and certainly must make stronger efforts to do so.

One of the areas that our candidates and political parties must improve on is communication with our citizenry.......especially in the area of incorporating innovate ideas of our younger generation. That message came through loud and clear in the New Albany city elections of last year.

I'm thrilled when I see the discourse, debate and even arguments over issues and events in our community through editorials, letters to the editor in our newspapers, commentaries on television programs and blogs and other discussions through the electronic media. Such forums allow us to share ideas and potential solutions to our community's problems that should not be ignored.

I have in no way provided all the solutions to the issues we face in New Albany and Floyd County in our future. But I know that by encouraging such debate and participation in our government process, we can find ways to improve our community that we probably never would have thought of otherwise. Especially in this arena of blog communication, I would encourage your readers to reach out to those who are older than you and sometimes fearful of the reliability of new medias to get their perspectives, without retribution, and work toward achieving solutions to our common problems that meets the needs of everyone. That kind of sounds like the role of government.......we all need to be involved in that process.

Thanks for letting me be involved in this one. Let's keep up the debate.


Dave Matthews
Chairman, Floyd County Republican Party
Candidate, Floyd County Commissioner

Thanks to Mr. Matthews for responding. County Democratic Chairperson Randy Stumler's response will likewise be posted, if received prior to the primary. In the meantime, reader comments are encouraged in order to, as Mr. Matthews suggests, keep up the debate.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The yard signs of candidates for coroner -- and whether any of it matters.

Although I haven’t discussed it with Bluegill, it would seem appropriate to devote at least part of the week to a consideration of the local races on next week’s ballot.

As a toss-up, and in an effort to begin the week on a local note, here are just a couple of idle observations. First, with regard to Greg Balmer’s run for coroner, here are two of his yard signs:

Strictly speaking, isn’t Balmer the unelected incumbent by virtue of being selected by a Democratic caucus to fill out the term of his wife, who died unexpectedly in 2006? As such, he’s not really up for re-election, is he?

One of the candidates Balmer defeated in the 2006 party caucus was Leslie Knable, but you wouldn’t know it by the yard signs, which refer to her as "Dr. Knable."

(photo will be added later today)

Am I mistaken to be annoyed by the use of her professional title in this fashion, to the exclusion of her given name?

It might surprise you to learn that in the coroner’s race, I’m supporting a Republican: John Click, a longtime friend and customer, and my dentist. The Tribune's candidate Q & A for Balmer and Knable is here, but there is none for Click because his race is uncontested.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

They're not like us, so just get over it, okay?

C'mon, really: How can you insult Indiana voters by being an elitist when these same voters consistently vote 60-40 in favor of Republicans?

Seeing as most of the voters themselves aren't wealthy, and that the GOP regularly acts against their already stunted economic interests, there must be another factor at play so that the chickens will continue voting for Colonel Sanders in spite of all available evidence to the contrary.

Certainly one of the most dully repetitive aspects of the American dumbocracy is the requirement that every four years, candidates for the presidency must go to any length to convince large swaths of the voting public that the candidates are no more intelligent than ordinary people on the street.

In short, that they're just as stupid as voters who observe money and opportunity pouring from their pockets and react by proclaiming that God doesn't want gays to marry. Phenomenons such as that are as grassroots as ragweed, and about as meaningful.

Why the enduring spectacle? Does anyone reading really believe that most of the ordinary people that one encounters every day (myself included) have any business running a country of 300 million people? Or does the very fact that you can read this essay disqualify you from the discussion?

With surreal results, Hillary Clinton has been slugging back shots of redeye and talking about the joy of shooting varmints. Barack Obama went bowling and says he'll think about each and every one of us every day while in office. John McCain charms us with roguish folksiness, but has a wife who earns millions from a disgusting swill dealership and won't let us see the tax returns to prove it.

Perhaps I'm alone in thinking that you shouldn't be commander-in-chief if you're not bright, and if you're bright, you should act bright and not act dumb.

Furthermore, if the pilot of a jet airliner welcomed me aboard by insisting that he's just as ignorant, superstitious and untalented as the people streaming through the gates, I'm turning back to visit the car rental arcade. I know I can't fly the plane, and have no aptitude whatsoever for the skills required to do so; consequently, what I need the pilot to do for me is demonstrate that he can, and does. Don't pander to me by insisting that anyone can man the controls, because I know that's not true. Does that make me an elitist?

If eight years of the village idiot enthroned in the Oval Office doesn't make you seek an above-average skill set to earn the job, then I'm not sure anything can. George W. Bush, the worst president in American history, managed somehow to dumb himself down even lower than the electorate … and the catastrophic results speak for themselves.

I support Barack Obama, but I've nothing against Hillary Clinton, and although John McCain is a Republican and thus ineligible for my vote, he's a war hero and an intelligent man. All three are bright. Can someone tell me what's to be gained from making them dig ditches and quote wretched sit-com dialogue before declaring them worthy?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Obama Block Party for Change: Today at the Public House, beginning at 12 noon.

(Reprinted from yesterday)

1:20 p.m. update:

I have a few more details about the Obama Block Party for Change on Saturday at the Public House. It will run from Noon to 5:00 p.m., and there'll be free pizza and soft drinks, with the bar available for those preferring the random Progressive Pint. The organizers, who are arranging live music and a raffle, would like for you to RSVP Meghan at 317-503-9772 if you're planning on attending. Keep in mind that from the standpoint of the Obama campaign, they'd like to meet people who wouldn't mind donating a bit of time to the cause; early voting takes place tomorrow at the clerk's office, and there's canvassing to be done. This is going to be a fun afternoon, so plan on stopping by.

The earlier posting:

After dropping into Obama HQ for further information, I'll be back a bit later to update this announcement, but for now know that we'll be throwing an Obama Block Party on Saturday, April 26 in the Prost room at Rich O's Public House (3312 Plaza Drive). Starting time is circa 12:00 noon.

Below is the default text of the statewide e-mail. Check back later for details.

Dear Friend,

I wanted to let you know about the Block Parties we're organizing in communities across Indiana this Saturday.

Indiana's primary is less than two weeks away, and supporters are coming together in their neighborhoods to share their enthusiasm for Barack.

Check out the Block Party map and find the one near you

These potluck Block Parties are a great way to get to know fellow supporters in your area and relax with some food, music, and fun.

Everyone will be welcome at the parties, where we'll take a little time to connect with each other and chat about why we're supporting this movement and what we can do to Get Out The Vote in Indiana.

And if you're registered to vote, we'll have information to help you find your polling place. Early Vote locations will be open on Saturday, so we'll have details about that, too.

If you want, bring your family, a friend, or your favorite dish -- and RSVP now for a Block Party.

See you on Saturday!

Mitchell Kent
Indiana GOTV Director
Obama for America

Friday, April 25, 2008

Neighborhood clean-up Saturday morning, April 26.

From ESNA:

This is a reminder that the East Spring Street Neighborhood Association, S. Ellen Jones Neighborhood Association and Main Street Preservation Association will hold their neighborhood clean-up tomorrow morning, Saturday the 26th. There will be a dumpster located at the corner of 11th and Spring.

Please come and meet at the corner of 11th and Spring at 10:00 a.m. to meet with Mayor England, city workers who will be helping and for donuts and juice!

If you have a neighborhood association shirt please wear it. Bring any addresses you want to bring to the attention of city officials with you as well.

Thanks for doing your part to help keep our neighborhoods and city beautiful!

Courtney Paris
Love Where You Live

(Updated) Obama Block Party at the Public House TOMORROW.

1:20 p.m. update:

I have a few more details about the Obama Block Party for Change on Saturday at the Public House. It will run from Noon to 5:00 p.m., and there'll be free pizza and soft drinks, with the bar available for those preferring the random Progressive Pint. The organizers, who are arranging live music and a raffle, would like for you to RSVP Meghan at 317-503-9772 if you're planning on attending. Keep in mind that from the standpoint of the Obama campaign, they'd like to meet people who wouldn't mind donating a bit of time to the cause; early voting takes place tomorrow at the clerk's office, and there's canvassing to be done. This is going to be a fun afternoon, so plan on stopping by.

The earlier posting:

After dropping into Obama HQ for further information, I'll be back a bit later to update this announcement, but for now know that we'll be throwing an Obama Block Party on Saturday, April 26 in the Prost room at Rich O's Public House (3312 Plaza Drive). Starting time is circa 12:00 noon.

Below is the default text of the statewide e-mail. Check back later for details.

Dear Friend,

I wanted to let you know about the Block Parties we're organizing in communities across Indiana this Saturday.

Indiana's primary is less than two weeks away, and supporters are coming together in their neighborhoods to share their enthusiasm for Barack.

Check out the Block Party map and find the one near you

These potluck Block Parties are a great way to get to know fellow supporters in your area and relax with some food, music, and fun.

Everyone will be welcome at the parties, where we'll take a little time to connect with each other and chat about why we're supporting this movement and what we can do to Get Out The Vote in Indiana.

And if you're registered to vote, we'll have information to help you find your polling place. Early Vote locations will be open on Saturday, so we'll have details about that, too.

If you want, bring your family, a friend, or your favorite dish -- and RSVP now for a Block Party.

See you on Saturday!

Mitchell Kent
Indiana GOTV Director
Obama for America

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Far better photos from yesterday's Obama visit to New Albany.

That's because I didn't take them. They're either by an anonymous donor or TS. First up is an excellent view of Floyd County party chairman Randy Stumler.

The remainder are of the guest Senator from Illinois. Pick Barack, or select Hillary, but one thing's crystal clear: The GOP catastrophe of eight years running bears immediate correction. Show trials, anyone?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Today in New Albany: Barack Obama and a full house.

Barack Obama was in New Albany today, appearing for a "town hall" meeting in the Activities Building at Indiana University Southeast. I took a few photos, few of which are presentable.

Progressive Pints were absent, but so was good ol' country cookin', so it was a wash in that department.

There's going to be an Obama event at the Public House on Saturday afternoon. Since the event is still being organized, I can't tell you any more at this point. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Barack Obama in New Albany Wednesday.

From the Obama campaign:

Join Barack Obama at a Town Hall in New Albany on Wednesday, April 23rd.


Indiana University Southeast Activities Building
4201 Grant Line Rd.
New Albany, IN 47150

Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Doors Open: 10:45 a.m.
Program begins: 12:45 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public. However, seating is limited and tickets are required. Admission is on a first-come, first-served basis. Please RSVP using the form here to receive a free e-ticket via email.

For security reasons, do not bring bags and limit personal items. No signs or banners are permitted.

Tickets for this event can also be picked up beginning at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, April 22 at:

Clark County Location
530 E. Court Ave
Jeffersonville, IN 47130

Obama for America Floyd County Office

203 E. Main St
New Albany, IN 47150

He's still embalmed and on display ... and so is she.

Today is the 138th birthday of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, a.k.a. V.I. Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union, and the man whose face gazes out at craft beer drinkers from the back wall of the Red Room at Rich O's.

April 22 also is the official Earth Day, and Wikipedia provides this explanation of the "connection" between Red and Green. I'm a bit wary of relaying this antiquated information for fear that the noted local Clintonite pseudonymously known as "Professor" Erika might somehow tie it to Barack Obama's visit tomorrow, but so be it. Seems I'm a risk-taker after all.


April 22, 1970 was the 100th birthday of Vladimir Lenin. Time reported that some suspected the date was not a coincidence, but a clue that the event was "a Communist trick," and quoted a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution saying, "Subversive elements plan to make American children live in an environment that is good for them."

J. Edgar Hoover, director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, may have found the Lenin connection intriguing; it was alleged the FBI conducted surveillance at the 1970 demonstrations. The idea that the date was chosen to celebrate Lenin's centenary still persists in some quarters, although Lenin was never noted as an environmentalist.

Monday, April 21, 2008

When in doubt, why not just ask?

In an effort to inform voters beyond a seemingly practiced silence, I sent the following email to local Democratic Chairperson Randy Stumler and his Republican counterpart, Dave Matthews, this morning.


As the primary approaches, voters throughout the county are actively engaged in the process of deciding for whom to cast their votes. In order to aid NA Confidential readers in that endeavor, I thought it might be helpful if the two of you, as county chairpersons, could provide an outline of your parties' respective platforms concerning local issues so that I might share them online in your own words.

Of particular interest are issues of code enforcement, smart growth, revitalization of our historic downtown business district and surrounding neighborhoods, and the attraction and retention of a creative, entrepreneurial community. If you could provide insight into the specific strategies your parties currently advocate in relation to those issues or any others you judge to be organizational priorities, I'm sure a large percentage of our roughly 1,500 weekly readers would be grateful.

Thank you,
Jeff Gillenwater
NA Confidential

Responses will be shared as received.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Questions for Sunday coffee.

At least today's NBA playoff games begin in twenty minutes.

Let me see if I get this straight.

According to various reports, some 30-odd percent of Hillary Clinton supporters threaten to vote Republican in the fall if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee for President.

Now, is it mistaken of me to imagine that those falling into this camp have stated a preference for Clinton precisely because, at some level, she is not George W. Bush?

And yet, at the same time, whatever his personal idiosyncrasies, Republican nominee John McCain’s policy platform is essentially inseparable from the one ruinously pursued by Bush, indisputably the worst chief executive in American history. So, in essence, if Obama is nominated, many so-called Democrats will abandon the party to vote, again, for Bush III?

Help me here. These people are Democrats … how?

And, tell me: How does such craven behavior inspire thinking people like me to (a) take their cognitive abilities of turncoats seriously, and (b) view their preemptive electoral tantrum as anything other than the self-defeating decision of the chicken to vote (again) for Colonel Sanders?

Can they be drummed out fast enough?

How many of the local Democratic power elites professing support for Clinton intend to vote Republican if Obama is the nominee? If the answer is more than “one”, isn’t this yet another indictment of the local Democratic party’s inability (or unwillingness) to articulate a coherent policy position on anything at all?

At a deeper level, doesn’t this prove yet again that the two-party system is completely inadequate to represent the diversity of opinion in a nation of 300 million people?

Take your time. There won't be a quiz. Are you ready for that Lakers-Celtics final?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

On smelling (and not fining) rats.

Shadow considers the Thursday council meeting, and touches on a point near and dear to the senior editor’s professional heart. Here’s an extended excerpt.

When the Mayor's Away... from the NA Shadow Council blog.

The most intriguing legislative action of the evening was the unanimous rubber-stamping of a Floyd County ordinance raising the annual restaurant permit fee. Even the smallest food service establishment (something like the breakfast bar at the Hampton Inn) would now be required to pay $125 each year to remain in business. Inspections that result in violations and that require repeat visits could cause those small establishments to be "fined" half of that again.

Consulting the 2002 economic census data, New Albany has about 140 establishments that you would ordinarily consider to be subject to health department food regulation. Restaurants, bars, convenience stores, groceries, bars, bakeries, confectionaries and ice cream shops that you and I would all want to be inspected. Then, of course, the Health Department has to guard us against food poisoning at fall's Harvest Homecoming! and similar temporary vending opportunities.

Like you, I suspect, I wondered why in the world the city council would even be addressing an ordinance regulating food services when it is a Floyd County Health Department function. A cursory investigation indicates that within the incorporated limits of New Albany, the city has exclusive and dominant jurisdiction unless it explicitly delegates it to the county. I can't verify that, but I have no reason to doubt that.

The city council rapidly ratified the county's new ordinance - unanimously and without debate. The Pride of the 3rd District indicated his wish that restaurant inspection fees be used to fund city mosquito abatement efforts. The health department majordomo replied that he wanted the city to pay for same. D4 added his two cents, making it clear that he wasn't going to be happy if the county health department didn't do something in his home district, and soon.

Shadow5's question is this: What in tarnation do restaurant permit fees have to do with skeeter abatement?

But more seriously, how does the health department justify imposing a minimum $125 annual fee for restaurant inspections. Fees should have a rational basis to the cost of the service rendered, a service rendered primarily to the public, but also to the dining establishments.

What I can't figure out is the rationality of this fee increase. Combined with a recent sales tax increase that is decimating our local economy, not to mention a property tax "relief" program that dumps the cost of government onto businesses at a ratio of three to one, it seems clear that Indiana, Floyd County, and New Albany are bound and determined to drive business away, making New Albany nothing more than a bedroom for a vital and growing Louisville.

My personal response to this measure was aptly summarized by my colleague, Bluegill, in a comment appending the preceding:

Given the ease with which inspection fees were unanimously doubled, what excuse is left for not passing a rental property inspection ordinance immediately?

Eating with rats is bad but living with them is OK?

Is it just me, or are we now seeing the initial surge of enthusiasm for progressive action in the area of code enforcement begin to take the sadly inevitable turn toward slumlord appeasement that any long-term city residents regards as residing in the gene pool? After all, it’s a habit of such long standing that skeptics will yet again point to the tainted water fountains in the city county building as the likely source of liquid-borne contagion, producing degenerative spinelessness in successive generations of public officials and political “leaders.”

Speaking for my own food service interest, rest assured that we’ll pay. We always do. However, will someone please tell me why rental properties in this city are not regulated and inspected as businesses, in the same fashion as mine, and furthermore, why the ongoing absence of discernable cojones toward such matters is a state of affairs to be further tolerated?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Durbin effusive, Hill mum at Obama rally in New Albany.

Senator Richard "Dick" Durbin (D-IL) and our own Representative Baron Hill (D-IN) spoke at Barack Obama's New Albany headquarters earlier today.

Sen. Durbin made a strong case for his colleague, while Rep. Hill was conspicuously careful not to say anything that might be construed as an endorsement either Obama or his opponent, Senator Hillary Clinton.

That's okay ... for now. I'll still vote against Mike "Hot Wheels" Sodrel when the magical time comes to reduce the number of Republicans in Congress.

Here are some more photos from the event today. First is Megan Maher, the local Obama coordinator; second, city councilmen Pat McLaughlin and John Gonder showing their Obama stripes; and finally, the front of the Parthenon.

See you there: Senator Durbin for Barack Obama, this morning, the Parthenon at 11:30 a.m.

Reprinted from councilman John Gonder's blog:

Senator Durbin in New Albany Friday for Barack

The senior senator from Illinois will be in town Friday for a town hall meeting on behalf of that state's junior senator's presidential campaign.

Richard "Dick" Durbin, one of the Democrats who opposed Bush's war in Iraq from the start, will speak at the Obama headquarters. Senator Durbin will be at the Parthenon at 11:30 AM this Friday, April 18.

This is an opportunity to meet one of the Senate's most distinguished members. It is also an opportunity to show your support for Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

Stop by the headquarters, or call Megan Maher at (317) 503-9722 for additional information.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Cheese or cheesy? Choices on a Thursday evening in April.

The city council meets tonight, and 3rd district councilman Steve Price would like your help in locating grandma's cookie jar so he can gaze yet again upon the big picture.

Visit the city clerk’s website for the meeting agenda, and read previews in the Courier-Journal and Tribune.

Meanwhile, the senior editor will be pouring NABC beer, munching goat cheese from Capriole Farms and exchanging gossip at tonight’s "Exclusively New Albany" fundraiser for Develop New Albany and the Auxiliary of the Padgett Museum, which begins at 6:00 p.m. at the at the Zinsmeister House at 1420 E. Market.

Here’s the April 2008 Develop New Albany newsletter.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

More on scentless apprentices.

Do newspaper reporters do it on purpose?

New Albany to address funding; Budget shortage concerns council, by Dick Kaukas (Courier-Journal).

Councilmen Steve Price and Dan Coffey said the council should be included as the administration determines the best financing tools to pay for road repairs and other needs.

"The council and the mayor need to discuss options," Price said yesterday. "We need to look at the big picture."

You think to yourself: Surely the 3rd district's uncouncilman said something during his interview with Kaukas that was more specific, or profound -- hell, just pick your own descriptor -- than "look at the big picture," which to Price is as hoary (and meaningless) an observation as Henny Youngman's "take my wife -- please."

The big picture is this: At a time when it appears that the commercial area in Price's council district is slowly coming to life, he can only contribute rote babbling about "cuts," and after more than four years in office, he has no more idea of what it takes to make the pie bigger than our four cats ... combined.

When's the next election?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Market Street Fish House to open on Wednesday.

The Green Mouse says that Dave Himmel is opening the Market Street Fish House at 133 East Market (location of the now defunct Treet’s Bakery Café) on Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. Here's the scoop:

"Dave is serving your no-trans-fat deep fried favorites. Fish, shrimp, oysters, clams, scallops, fries, rings, hush puppies. Accompanied with your favorite homemade remoulades and homemade cole slaw.

"I had the privilege of sampling Dave's cooking today. It's fresh seafood hand battered right here on Market. No cutting corners on quality or taste! The hours of operation are Monday - Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., with Saturday hours to be announced later."

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ladd to Moss: A reception worthy of first and ten.

New Albany's Urban Enterprise Association, in existence for eight years, is finally getting some legs. Running the ball is only part of any successful offense, though.

Luckily, as the Courier-Journal's Dale Moss reports, a few passing routes seem destined for the play book as the group expands on its tax break packages and building facade grant programs.

The Urban Enterprise Association also offers grants, with a $5,000 maximum, to subsidize activities of neighborhood groups. The association is also buying covered swings for New Albany's riverfront. It plans to pay for landscaping and also wants to put in new trash receptacles and bike racks. A fitness trail is also being considered.

Group ready to help urban New Albany by Dale Moss, the Courier-Journal

UEA Director Mike Ladd undoubtedly deserves credit for advancing the ball, with board members likewise recognized for waking to the possibilities of putting some points on the board.

As Board Member Brenda Scharlow notes in the article, "...the days of urban sprawl may be over." That acknowledgment alone, coming from a New Albany development organization, is progress enough to warrant a perusal of game day ticket prices.

For information about the UEA, call 944-3454.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Red Stars, Black Mountains: Sarajevo on $10 A Day (Part 6).


In 1987, the most recent translation of the Bible – that most valued of possessions otherwise known as the Thomas Cook European Timetable – showed a main line running from Zagreb to Vinkovci, then another line branching off southward Sarajevo, through Mostar, The map showed trains finally reaching the Adriatic at Ploce, although for some reason I remember the terminus as Kardeljevo, where I’d been told a bus could be taken to finish my journey to Dubrovnik, the famous walled city widely known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic”.

Sarajevo and Mostar were projected as stopovers for me after departing Croatia’s biggest city, where’d I’d stayed for only a day owing to the youth hostel’s unavailability. In truth, I was eager to move toward the sea … and time wasn’t at all an issue. It was still May, I had only to be in Budapest, Hungary by the last week of June, and there was still Bulgaria and maybe even Romania to explore before that.

Safely aboard the train, and foraging from the sandwich cart, it soon became evident that mile after mile of the route through Bosnia-Herzegovina would be filled with jagged, unforgiving mountain terrain, evoking stories of the murderous internecine conflict between ideologically disparate partisan forces fighting against the German invaders during the Second World War, and as frequently against each other in the bloody positioning for postwar supremacy.

Marshall Tito’s Communists eventually triumphed, and a non-aligned Yugoslavia became a well-known player on the Cold War stage, but as we all too sadly know, the full bill didn’t come due until the cataclysmic civil war of the 1990’s, which brought with it the disintegration of the nation as well as wanton death and destruction in Sarajevo, Mostar and many other towns and cities too numerous to name.

As a foreign visitor in 1987, there was no indication of the approaching conflagration, and in fact, memories of my time in Sarajevo are fleeting. As noted previously, my primary reason for visiting was to examine the place where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914. It was a bonus that the city, the center of Muslim life in Bosnia, had a historic reputation for tolerance, and housed mosques, various Christian churches and synagogues. Reputedly, budget accommodations were easy to find, along with burek, pleskavitsa (local delicacies), strong espresso-style coffee and pivo (beer).

It will surprise you to learn that I didn’t write a journal back then, although some photos were taken, but unfortunately, the film later was developed into slides, not prints, and these snapshots are no longer easily accessible without resorting to a 30-year-old slide projector that has a tendency to mangle to precious relics. It’s true that whenever I drank a different brand of beer, I’d record it, and the list documenting my drinking record survives intact, helping to explain where the money went.

In a scrapbook there is somewhat of a paper trail, because as a card-carrying packrat, ticket stubs, receipts and the like have always been stashed – even before they became the basis for tax deductions. These receipts show that on the chilly and overcast May afternoon when I stepped off the train in Sarajevo, I took a bus or streetcar to the vicinity of the central tourist office.

As was the case throughout my early travels, the very first objective when arriving in a new city (after the imperative to get there as early in the day as possible) was to master local logistics, and most important among these considerations was finding a place to stay, one in my price range, which at the time was no more than $10 a night. In Yugoslavia, this could be achieved in two ways, both of which were legal (although the same could not be said for all the countries in the Bloc), and involved accepting the offer of what was called a “private room” for tourists.

On way to accept this offer was to book the room formally through the local tourist office, which kept the officially sanctioned list. The other way was to haggle with the housewives who typically met train and bus arrivals for the purpose of housing visitors and making a bit of petty cash on the side. In Sarajevo and Mostar, I chose the official route. Later, in Dubrovnik, the unofficial path was taken. All of them worked out quite well.

Naturally it was important to be oriented and to have a map, and one was acquired at the same office, along with directions to the high-rise building where I’d be staying. It was within easy walking distance, but as was often the case for an unworldly non-urbanite, navigating the perplexingly numbered system of buttons for ringing the occupant took some time. My initial rings were not answered, so I went window shopping nearby for a while, sniffed around the entrance of what appeared to be a tavern, returned to the building, and had better luck the second time around.

And so, after climbing w few flights of stairs, I stepped into the tiny foyer of an equally miniscule apartment occupied by a man nicknamed “Mickey,” whose coffee table boasted copies of tourist phrase books in English, French and German, and whose first words after greeting me and looking at my receipt was to ask whether I’d like slivovitz. Before I could answer, and in a fashion that I would come to regard as routine in the Balkans, the bottle and glasses already were place between us on a tray. With the help of the distilled plum juice, we were briefly acquainted.

I was shown to my closet-sized room, and noticed immediately that nearby there was a washing machine. This was critical for a shoestring traveler who had been rinsing articles of clothing in Woolite and hoping they’d dry before the next morning, a system that usually works with t-shirts, socks and underwear, but fails miserably with jeans and larger items. Mickey was happy to start a load of laundry for me, and he gave me perfect directions to a restaurant down the street where I could grab a meal, it now being early evening and the slivovitz settling queasily on an empty stomach.

At the eatery in question I was introduced to an institution that would be a constant throughout my ensuing Eastern European travels: The thoroughly egalitarian institution of the Socialist state-owned self-service cafeteria, a place where a foreigner was just as welcomed as the natives, and could point with ease to foodstuffs without the bother of an indecipherable menu … and, usually, a place that served cheap draft beer. I recall the lettuce being brown, the meat gray, and the beer sufficiently cold; moreover, the price for a plate of passable grub and a couple of half-liter mugs came to less than $2.

Sated and sleepy, I returned to my lodging to study the map and get a good night’s rest, because on the following morning, there was much Franz Ferdinand lore to indulge.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Mike Farris to perform at the Public House, April 18.

We've seldom undertaken to book entertainers of Mike Farris's magnitude, but visit the artist's site, listen to the song samples, and you'll understand why we did. Tickets will be on sale next week, and seating in Prost is limited. E-mail the senior editor for more information.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Read. Print. Distribute. Live. Repeat.

We and thousands of others have written it thousands of times. It's not complicated, but people concerned about taxes, prices, and lack of jobs continue to ignore it and we all pay for it. My previous personal favorite foot shooting, union bumper stickers on the vehicles of Wal-Mart shoppers, was surpassed last week by the phrase "U.S. Marine Combat Veteran" emblazoned across the back of a bright red Hummer. The disconnect is sometimes unfathomable.

The good news is that our current level of ignorance leaves a lot of room for improvement. If that improvement is shared, even in small amounts, among a majority in the community, our local economy will be bolstered by millions of dollars.

Self-reliance? I wonder if that means anything to a Marine.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rich O’s Public House CLOSED, Sportstime Pizza OPEN on Saturday, April 12.

Louisville’s annual exaltation of phantom male potency, otherwise known as Thunder Over Louisville, will bring a half-million people to the banks of the Ohio this Saturday (April 12) in orgiastic expectation of a raised middle finger of a militarized air show and an unspeakably garish fireworks extravaganza that will allow them to forget – if only for a brief span of time – that the dollars in their pockets are increasingly worthless, and that there’s a NASCAR race under way somewhere in the last, greatest hope for mankind.

No, I’m not a fan of Louisville’s foremost annual celebration of bread and circuses, which inaugurates Derby Festival and signals the beginning of mint julep season in the metro area. However, I know that the majority of my friends and acquaintances enjoy the pomp and circumstance, and so be it.

We’ve long since learned that there’s no sense in staffing both dining areas at NABC/Rich O’s/Sportstime on Thunder day, and we’ll not be doing so again this year. Rich O’s will be closed all day with the exception of a special private party in Prost. Sportstime will be open with all the usual food and beer available from 11:00 a.m. to (circa) midnight.

Here are links to two special events near Thunder’s epicenter, both of which will be serving craft beers in the midst of what is otherwise a sea of swill. Have fun. I’ll be with the NABC brew crew in St. Louis to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Prohibition’s demise.

BBC (Main & Clay) aged bourbon barrel stout ... and Thunder plans.

NABC, Buckhead, craft beer and Thunder Over Louisville, April 12.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

New Albany Horizons: Speculation solidifies around potential downtown development.

The Tribune reports that the Redevelopment Commission's approval yesterday of a small land sale will help move a circulating rumor one step closer to reality.

Investors hope they have crossed the final preconstruction hurdle in getting a mixed-use development — worth an estimated $30 million to $35 million — approved for downtown New Albany.

Editor's note: The Tribune added to the story and then changed the headline and link. It's been updated here.

Offices, restaurants and hotel in the works in New Albany by Daniel Suddeath

Well-known downtown entrepreneurs Carl Holliday and Steve Goodman, along with Trish and Doug Wampler, hope to include retail, restaurants, a hotel, parking garage, and residential expansion in a Main Street project.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

An open letter to another concerned citizen.

Dear Pastor Evans,

Thanks to you and the Jones Memorial AME Zion Church for hosting the town hall meeting this past Saturday. It was a worthwhile afternoon that I hope, as suggested that day, will grow to become a regular event.

As an East End resident, it was encouraging to hear that West End residents share many of the same goals expressed by their cross-town neighbors. We all seem to agree that enforcement of city laws, proactive citizen involvement, and cooperation are necessary to carry our city forward with increased opportunities for us all.

Quite frankly, I talk a lot and sometimes it’s just good to listen. Thanks for the opportunity.

It would’ve been nice had your district’s City Council Representative, Dan Coffey, seen fit to attend the meeting. Perhaps you noticed his absence as well. Based on his performance as your representative at last night’s City Council meeting, it would seem that Mr. Coffey could’ve benefited from just such a listening opportunity.

During the council’s proceedings, Coffey complained that people in his district are expected to pay for the parking tickets they receive when parked illegally. He complained that people who renovate in historic districts without getting the proper legal approvals are told to stop. When asked his opinion of a redistricting concern by the council-created committee charged with redrawing political boundaries, Coffey refused to answer, still insisting his ego, wounded while defending the previous council’s defiance of state and federal election laws, is more important than a fair election process.

When Council Member At-large John Gonder proposed that the council put the legal framework in place to establish citizen committees and commissions to advise the council about issues in their neighborhoods, Coffey warned against such citizen participation in government, lest some concerned group of voters actually become knowledgeable and start making recommendations to the council he doesn't like.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. This is the same Dan Coffey, after all, who once proclaimed that he'd never be dictated to by a bunch of citizens.

Perhaps that's why he skipped last Saturday's meeting. I’m not sure, but it might be worth asking him.

Jeff Gillenwater

Monday, April 07, 2008

Wouldn't want one of those things going off near a meth lab, would you?

From the perspectives of rational civic governance, a semblance of hope, and some remote modicum of human dignity, the disintegration of the city council’s Gang of Four after last fall’s municipal election was a long overdue development, but when it comes to sheer entertainment value, the dawning new era in the council chamber offers little more than the same cold and machinating Coffey and Stevie Priceless’s incoherent, lonely and clueless jihad against all of modernity.

And that’s a good thing.

We had grown too fond of watching the spectacle, gauging the performance and forgetting the manifest travesties of Kochertization when applied to the political process.

With this in view, we dip a hesitant toe in the tepid water and resolve to attend tonight’s first April council session, mindful that unfortunate conflicts in work and life have been standing in the way of what once was a must-see in the Confidential household. For fans of the surreal, topping the list of tonight’s agenda items is this one:

G-08-04 Benedetti 1
An Ordinance Amending the New Albany Municipal Code by Adding New Section 94.30; providing for Restrictions on Novelty Lighters

The cited precedent for this ordinance is a similar one enacted by Jeffersonville, and a cynic (surely not I) might point to numerous other areas of the human experience ripe for regulation in this manner, some of which Jeffersonville also has undertaken, and that have to do with fire in an indirect manner.

The Tribune’s council meeting preview is here,

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Do true believers like heretics? Only if they're properly cooked.

I personally am tired of being constantly told to compromise my Christian values to accommodate others. These beliefs I will never compromise and you should not either.
-- Posted at the We the People (a.k.a. I Am Curious Theocrat) blog

A stubborn unwillingness to compromise on questions that have tended to result historically in people cutting each other’s throats (or worse) in the name of their own unknowable “god” strikes me as mightily totalitarian in nature.

Then again, I’m just one of those contrarian communistic freethinking threats to human decency … and damned proud of it.

Certainly I’m not the first person to place a tattered bookmark in my cherished copy of Christopher Hitchens’ "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything," make an espresso, and proceed to the computer to search for images of Francisco Goya’s "Los Caprichos" series of 18th-century etchings.

That’s because in chapter 14, Hitchens specifically refers to Plate 43 of Goya’s series. It is called The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, and shows a "man in defenseless slumber … hag-ridden by bats, owls and other haunters of the darkness."

The author’s actual point in citing this effective visual aid is to take a view contrary to that of the etching’s originally intended symbolic properties, namely, to offer that human reason always is the subject of fear and distrust when viewed through the distorted lens of man’s religious impulse, and that human reason is derided accordingly throughout mankind’s damaging religious experience.

Damaging? Of course. Just ask the “heretic” who was burned for believing what science in time confirmed.

One aspect of my upbringing for which I’m eternally grateful was the near complete absence of religious instruction. There was an old book in the house about the lives of the saints, and it included some fairly frightening scary drawings depicting the various ways that these saints were tortured and scourged, though they were not to Goya’s level of artistic proficiency. I recall another volume of illustrated children’s Bible stories, and of course a Bible itself, presumably awarded my parents on their wedding day, and duly ignored by my father forever after.

Beyond these three seldom consulted sources, there was nothing else on the topic of religion, and I was permitted to grow to maturity with the luxury of making up my own mind absent indoctrination. When I became immersed in philosophy as my degree choice in college, it merely confirmed what I already suspected all along.

Hitchens reminds us that Blaise Pascal is famous for supporting belief in god by means of a wager, or more appropriately, a conscious effort to cover the spread: If you believe in god and god exists, you win. If you believe in god and god doesn’t exist … well, what does it matter, anyway?

Bertrand Russell is equally famous for refuting this wager by positing that if, after he died, he unexpectedly met a god of one sort or another, he would chide the "supreme being" for providing insufficient evidence. Hitchens follows suit by stating his own version of Russell’s words.

My own reply: Imponderable Sir, I presume from some if not all of your many reputations that you might prefer honest and convinced unbelief to the hypocritical and self-interested affectation of faith or the smoking tributes of bloody altars. But I would not count on it.

I wouldn’t, either. It’s interesting to me that in some measure, Goya was right, and my own personal demons spring from my reliance on reason. But that’s encouraging, because it means that reason, properly applied, can scatter and dispel them.

There is no other choice, is there? Here is an excerpt from Hitchens as he summarizes his case.

Religion has run out of justifications. Thanks to the telescope and the microscope, it no longer offers an explanation of anything important. Where once it used to be able, by its total command of a worldview, to prevent the emergence of rivals, it can now only impede and retard – or try to turn back – the measurable advances that we have made. Sometimes, true, it will artfully concede them. But this is to offer itself the choice between irrelevance and obstruction, impotence or outright reaction, and, given this choice, it is programmed to select the worse of the two.

Enjoy a beautiful Sunday, and I promise that the next installment of the Yugoslav travelogue is coming very soon.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

On the normal majority.

Back in high school, an of age friend used to pick a few of us up on Friday nights in the car he bought with money earned by dropping out of college and going to work for $6 an hour. With a precision usually exhibited only by the type of foreign watches that cost more than the car, we'd hit 65 South at Hamburg, crack open beers, and guzzle like goats, racing to see who could down the most units before we hit the Kennedy Bridge.

The only thing worse than tunneling into the gymnast-sized back seat of that Camaro, gasping down four half-warm cans of swill to the point of watery eyes, and coming in last was knowing it would happen before my ride ever even showed up. That there’d be eight more cans left in my half of a shared case was both comforting and horrifying.

Other than that previously mentioned, two things at all certain were that I’d end up watching for cops while peeing in a parking lot and we’d eventually end up at the Maze.

The Maze was an all ages club in St. Matthews, built from the remnants of a failed laser tag business. The sticky carpet ran up the walls, the secret passages and strategic hiding places were still there, and the exhaled smoke was enough to fairly accurately reproduce the fog from the special effects machines that used to be there. If I hadn’t previously started having seizures while watching films in junior high, I’d probably think it was the throbbing lights of the place that did me in for the next few years.

Robert Fulghum may have done his learning in kindergarten and Roger may have educated himself on the other side of the bar, but I know what I know from late in the night, trying not to puke while some cute girl, searching for a place to hide herself amongst the Maze’s architectural recesses but finding me instead, would begin to wishfully reinterpret my fear as sensitivity and my verbal economy as thoughtfulness rather than nervous struggle.

When you’re young and drunk enough to relive your life in less than an hour, a second date is of no concern and kisses are for goodbyes. It's when you find out what clichés really are, usually as you're trying to retract them.

Luckily, the beer’s much better now and comes in smaller doses. The cute girl, too, has changed into a beautiful woman who makes it a point to look for me. But sometimes I still miss those moments, when two strangers tell each other the truth because it’s the only thing that matters.

It’s only recently that I’ve begun to consider the parallel between then and now. Maybe it’s why I appreciate poetry. Maybe it’s why I still believe in redemption.

Or just maybe it’s what attracted me to New Albany and this overly personalized, unnecessarily politicized revitalization business in the first place, where corruptive disingenuousness, bad actors, and avoidance are too often the norm and poetry and redemption will only come when strangers can find some honest corners.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Open Thread: The sickness unto Obama and Clinton.

All apologies to Kierkegaard, but there was much observable activity in New Albany last night.

With the Obama and Clinton campaign offices holding grand openings and "Sicko" showing to a packed house at the New Albanian Public House, the human condition was (or at least should've been) well engaged.

This writer was unfortunately restricted to other venues. So, what happened?

Help me populate the candidate web site links area.

I've finally gotten around to adding a "political and candidate" links section on NAC's sidebar (right). This is intended to comprise links to candidate web sites pertaining to elections in 2008. Readers are invited to make me aware of links that might be added to this section.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Lee Hamilton: Barack Obama has the ability to "redesign the contours of American politics."

From the Gannett wire service, as published in today’s Courier-Journal, comes former 9th district representative Lee Hamilton’s endorsement of Senator Obama.

Hamilton for unity, endorses Obama; 'Consensus builder' is visionary, he says.

WASHINGTON -- Former Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana, an elder statesmen and foreign-policy leader in the Democratic Party, said yesterday that of the presidential contenders Barack Obama has the best chance of bringing more unity to the country.

"He really does speak the politics of consensus building," Hamilton said in formally endorsing Obama.

He also praised the Illinois senator's "extraordinary appeal" to new voters and ability to "redesign the contours of American politics."

Happily, this afternoon also marks the official opening of New Albany’s Obama campaign headquarters, which in a delightful twist befitting the legacy of Demosthenes, is located in the Parthenon building. The C-J goes on to preview the event:

A New Albany-Floyd County campaign headquarters for Obama is scheduled to open at 5:30 p.m. today at the Parthenon building, 203 E. Main St. in New Albany. John Wilcox, who recently retired as an administrator for Mayor Doug England, will be among the speakers. Wilcox is a volunteer for the Obama campaign.

You have the makings for a progressive Thursday evening, with the Obama opening at 5:30 p.m. downtown, and Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan's screening of "Sicko" at 7:30 p.m. at the Public House. Work obligations will preclude my attendance at the former, but I hope to see many of you at the latter.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan will screen "Sicko" Thursday night at the Public House.

Earlier in the week, CM John Gonder previewed Thursday night's (April 3) film event at the Public House, and rather than write my own description, I’m taking the lazy way out and reprinting John’s in its entirety. Note that last summer, I mustered the energy to write about the movie: Moore's "Sicko" another must-watch.


Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan will offer a free showing of Michael Moore's "Sicko" this Thursday at Rich O's Public House 3312 Plaza Drive.
The movie will be shown at 7:30 PM in the Prost room. Seating is limited, and is available on a first come, first served basis. It is suggested you arrive about 6:30.

Since the venue is being provided gratis by the proprietor of Rich O's, you can thank him by buying beer and pizza. Consider it your investment in bringing healthcare to the last major industrialized nation on earth lacking such a basic human right.

The group's purpose is to give political leaders the confidence that H.R. 676, a national single payer health plan, truly represents the will of the people. H.R. 676 is co-sponsored by Louisville's John Yarmuth and others but our representative, Baron Hill, has not signed on yet. You can help him find the strength. For more information about the single payer plan, check

Also, don't be fooled by last week's LEO. LEO's announcement of the movie said a showing of Roger Moore's "Sicko" would be shown. So far as I know, Roger Moore has retired, and Michael Moore as 007 just doesn't work for me.

"Chasing Jose" -- by the great Pat Jordan.

If you're a sports fan and are still unfamiliar with the work of Pat Jordan, you're missing out.

Jordan is a gifted writer who only happens to write about games, and by doing so, he invests the normally mundane topic with a depth and universal applicability seldom seen in the genre, as in a recent piece (linked below) on baseball star, steroid abuser and supposed screenplay writer Jose Canseco's inability to return a telephone call.

It is wickedly funny, but at the same time, Canseco's nihilistic self-absorption is revealed as far more sad than anything else. Jordan's question is left unstated: Why do we idolize such flawed men?

Chasing Jose

I tried to picture Jose writing his book and his movie. Hunched over, his broad shoulders casting a shadow across his desk like a raptor's wings, his brow furrowed in concentration, his massively muscled body tensed in anticipation of that torrent of words about to flow out of him like urine for one of the many steroid tests he'd been forced to take during his baseball career. I wondered, just how does Jose write? Like Shakespeare, with a quill pen on parchment? Like Dickens, wearing a green eye shade while seated at a clerk's desk? Like Hemingway, standing at a lectern in Finca Vigia, with a stubby pencil and unlined paper? Like Thomas Wolfe, in his Victorian house in Ashville, pounding away on a tall, black, manual Underwood? Or maybe the words flow out of Jose in such a torrent, 10,000 an hour, that he can relieve himself adequately of his thoughts only by tap-tap-tapping on a lightning fast computer, like Stephen King?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Out and about: At long last, a staggering admission.

But the whole point of liberation is that you get out. Restructure your life. Act by yourself.
-- Jane Fonda

Writing should be about the intimate link between personal liberation and public defiance, shouldn’t it?

This certainly was the case prior to television. In earlier times, when something important needed to be said, you were expected to compose manifestos, polemics, confessionals and apologetics. Like Martin Luther, these were intended to be nailed literally or figuratively to the cathedral door.

In the current age of solipsism, you need do no more than post a self-made YouTube video, sit back to count the hits as word circulates through e-links, and calculate the extent of your newfound notoriety.

It just isn’t the same … is it?

No, it isn’t. My topic today is difficult, but it’s the right time to discuss it, and what better way than in writing … especially since I don’t know how to make an Internet video.

I can’t remember when it first occurred to me that I was different from the others. There was neither a singular epiphany nor an earth-shattering revelation, only a dawning recognition that my attractions and desires were directed toward other places than those classified as "normal."

For more than twenty years, I’ve known the truth, but the immensity of it overwhelmed me, and the implications blinded me to the realities of the situation. I kept going both directions, back and forth, never willing to admit that my life’s orientation might be other than that considered typical for a male of my upbringing in a small Southern Indiana town and in a conservative, traditional society.

As a youth I wanted nothing more than to be like my friends, and after all, we were not readily exposed to alternative lifestyles as part of our formative educational experiences. You might read about such matters in books and see them on television, but here, where you were born and raised? It was the sort of thing that dared not speak its name aloud.

I was tormented by the usual doubts and questions. Nature or nurture? Had I done something wrong? Was I being punished? Did I have control over my real feelings and possess the ability to change them, or were they hard-wired and non-negotiable?

To be blunt, I can’t go on this way.

After much soul searching and heartfelt discussions with loved ones, dear friends, longtime customers, local politicians, cherished teachers, and even that dude whose name I can’t remember in White Castle the other day, I’ve come to a momentous decision, and I’m able finally to reveal it to you and the world.

I’m really a … a … European.

There, I’ve said it.

European. Not American. Apparently the stork erred, and I’ve spent 47 thoroughly depressing years trapped in the body of a hamburger-eating, swill-slugging, mindless patriotic church-going, NASCAR-gazing idiot (sans savant), one reviled throughout the civilized world and for fairly good reason.

It is profoundly unfair.

I should be riding on affordable public transportation through thoughtfully planned, human-scale communities to important soccer matches; vacationing in Libya or Bali or Cuba; drinking Belgian ale and Greek ouzo and Spanish wine from their sources; gratefully choosing between many more than two political parties, and ones that actually might reflect my own belief system; enjoying competent and universal cradle to grave health care; having no reason to fear the harmful encroachment of a fundamentalist Christian theocracy or to argue for the usefulness of religion apart from those pretty church buildings; refusing to own a firearm because my status as genuine citizen and "real man" isn’t predicated on it; speaking a half-dozen languages fluently; and understanding that my tax burden, while high, is being distributed to the benefit of my community as a whole.

I need a document of authenticity.

Anyone seen that damned negligent stork?

(Note: The preceding was originally blogged over at the author's MySpace site, where he's been rehearsing new material on a smaller stage. You're cordially invited to peek in.)