Sunday, August 31, 2008

Anger management? No, thanks. I’ve had all the placid acceptance I can stomach.

I’ll begin this essay with a promise. This is my final posting on the topic.

And, an observation.

Thanks to New Albany’s Greatly Unnecessary Smoking Debate of ’08, I know conclusively that in spite of numerous personal differences, which I’m only now, this year, in the process of resolving, I am in fact my father’s son.

It may not seem like the sort of revelation designed to hang one’s rhetorical hat, but considering the year I‘ve had, it’s huge.

And if it means parting ways with my progressive brethren by sneering at orthodoxy, so be it. It’s healthier to sneer at orthodoxy than it is to dip snuff or smoke cigars, wouldn’t you think?

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Several hundred people visit NAC on a daily basis. Among regular readers of this blog, there is a smaller, select group composed of true friends. Among this group, there are fewer still with whom I’m very close, and they know what a challenging year it’s been in my world. I’ll leave it at that, as background information.

Looking at it objectively, during the past month I’ve expended a disproportionate amount of time and energy in vigorously and vociferously contesting the city council’s smoking ban decision, and yes, that fact may seem counterintuitive to casual acquaintances, given that I’ve never smoked cigarettes, am not enamored of the odor they generate, and have little desire to be a pariah on my own side of the fence.

It’s just that the effete stench in this case isn’t emanating from an ashtray.

Furthermore, it certainly isn’t that I have ample time to devote to this particular struggle. Like many other people, I’m working two jobs: I’m helping my partners run our existing business, and I’m trying to start a second business. I’m serving on two volunteer boards. I’m married, and we own a home, and there are four cats and a 25-year-old truck in need of an oil change. The list goes on. Quite a few people out there have it far worse than me, and because I know that’s true, I’m not going to make it into a federal case, but if you haven’t owned a small business, you have no idea how difficult time management can be.

Or how much it pisses you off to be told that you obviously don’t know how to manage your own affairs.

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Recently, the Bookseller asked me about my frequent disparaging of “out-of-towners” during this discussion. His unspoken question has been, “Why are you taking all this so personally?”

Fair enough, and I’ll try to explain why the professional cessation lobbyist’s comments during the last city council meeting grated on my nerves so thoroughly with each passing moment (lest we forget, many moments past the previously mandated “one”) that I felt compelled to speak aloud from my front row seat with reference to the unfolding travesty, and to remind the pusillanimous council president to follow his own stated “rule” … and to be ejected as a result of my insolence … and, just for the hell of it, what all this has to do with my father’s life.

At its most basic, I reacted the way I did out of pure instinct, because just like my father before me, I simply can’t resist throwing in my lot with the underdog, and as the smoking spectacle has stupidly proceeded, it’s become increasingly obvious that the truest underdog is the dude sitting on a barstool smoking a cigarette I’d never smoke, and drinking a beer I’d never drink, and probably watching a NASCAR race that I’d never watch.

Why do I so resent the presence of the paid professional anti-smoking lobbyists, the carpetbaggers from afar, and the associated health fascists who’ve descended on the city, then decamped just as quickly for further adventures in expense account living in other unfortunate burgs down the lonely Interstate from here?

It’s because they don’t have to do more than one thing at a time, while I don’t have the time to do anything, and what they’re being paid to do is intolerable from a standpoint of basic human fairness.

To me, they’re the health fascist obermenschen, these nannying, passionless people who are paid to perform one task and one task only sans the endless multitasking that fills my days, and that task is to demonize cigarette smokers, to the exclusion of anything and anyone else, and it infuriates me, because my fellow bar owners, who by the admirably frank admission of prime anti-smoking campaigner John Gonder must now cope with ground unexpectedly “shifting” beneath their feet, don’t have the luxury of spending 40-hour weeks defending their interests from predatory attack.

They’re peasants armed with mere sticks, squinting through the clouds at bombers cruising 20,000 feet or above … and the cluster bombs are hurtling through the air.

These bar and restaurant owners have next to no time to take away from their labor-intensive business creations, and no kneejerk lobby to level a playing field tilted against them from the start. They must scramble during rare off-hours to protect conditions that they genuinely perceive as important to their livelihoods, to rally their workers and customers (who’ve no time, either) to fight against something that was sprung on them without substantive warning, with not a solitary soul on a suddenly non-reactive council preparing them for the unexpected.

Just deft politics?

Pfui.

The speed of the council’s smoking represents cowardice by any reasonable definition.

Frozen in the headlights, with indignity piling atop indignity, and in the almost complete absence of clear public communication from the pro-ban bloc (how long will Jeff Gahan use his president’s chair as a shield from scrutiny?), these hard working business owners attended as many of the incredibly scant public hearings as possible, and were compelled to limit their comments to one minute, graciously complied in the main, and then were forced to listen with mounting frustration as they were lectured like dawdling kindergartners by Tim Filler, the carpetbagging cessation lobbyist from another city, who of course couldn’t possibly have any clear notion of how to run the businesses these people have operated on a daily basis, in some cases, for decades.

Want to respond? Sorry, suckers – you already had your minute … and by the way, Mr. Filler, just keep talking. Keep demeaning. Keep insulting. To hell with science. Just make these redneck bar owners look bad.

Mr. Filler, you can have as many minutes as you like to call honest people liars, to dispute their professional acumen, and to denigrate their comprehension of their own business, of their own interests, of their own customers – including that non-confrontational fellow on the barstool who wants above all else to have a few minutes away from it all, and can’t understand why we’re yelling about smoking when the street outside remains unpaved.

Detecting a wee bit of anger?

I won’t deny it.

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It should make you angry, too, to have two sets of rules, and to have someone you’re never met speak with a theatrically straight face about your own inadequacies as an operator. Gee, how did I ever keep a business open for 16 years knowing as little as I do?

Anyone possessing a shard of empathy and a trace of solidarity with people engaged in the same pursuit as yours would feel the same way as I do, but this is different. This is the smoking “debate,” which manages to muddy the scrum comprehensively without my tossing buckets of water on the pitch.

So tell me, fellow fair-minded progressives, what part of any of this is fair to these extremely hard working people?

I may be a progressive, but what part of importing a for-hire suit to tell people they don’t know how to run their own businesses makes sense to you?

Why must smokers and operators be demonized in such a manner?

Wasn’t it supposed to have been about workplace safety?

Why did Jeff Gahan permit the “debate” to devolve into anarchy?

Why is John Gonder the only council pro-ban advocate to have basic human respect for the other side, while the other four remain as ziplocked as the barbecued bologna sandwich in Dan Coffey’s Bazooka Joe lunch box?

Take your time before you answer – but no more than a minute, because another important point that we’ve been taught by the smoking ban debate is that when it comes to social engineering campaigns undertaken by ward heelers, debate really isn’t necessary at all. Lip service to disposable principle is it, and nothing more.

Perhaps this oppressive absence of meaningful discourse will go down in history as the King Gahan Doctrine, and maybe we’ll be extremely lucky and the council will retain some semblance of a “progressive” bloc to enforce limited debate on slumlord abatement to the barest minimum necessary to appear civilized, but somehow I doubt it. Coffey will scurry when the time is right ... and then what?

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Why did it come down this way?

You see, neither that quiet guy on the barstool, nor the bar owner serving him, have anywhere near the lobbying clout that rental property owners have, and in the end, that’s why the pro-ban council bloc decided to schedule them first for the ritualistic ostracizing. It’s because sitting there, minding their own business, they couldn’t see it coming.

They were easy marks, and at a low, low price.

It’s because the out-of-towners would do the heavy lifting, the council members voting in favor would have three and half years for people to forget about it, and the socially unacceptable smokers with no organized resistance would be chased into the street to pitch their filthy nicotine-stained pup tents in the unrepaired pot holes that this council hasn’t had the guts to address, primarily because there’s no money, just like there’s no money (and likely, no will) to enforce the non-smoking mandate.

Y’all feel better about yourselves now that you've solved a purely cosmetic problem by disenfranchising people who did nothing to provoke it?

Not so fast, Jeff, John, Pat, Dan and Bob.

That question is aimed at my fellow progressives, not the council.

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And what of my dad?

My father spent his life chasing populist windmills, and most of the time he got burned, but his instincts were noble. He looked at any problem from the perspective of the guys like him, and guys like him were the underdogs, and yeah, while it’s true that I’ve spent most of my adult life distancing myself from getting hurt by believing in something so much that losing it would matter to me, sometimes I guess blood is thicker than water.

I asked the council why this, and why now? Gonder tried, and I appreciate it, but in truth, there has been no answer. Yet.

The Bookseller asked, why this issue and not another?

It’s because there’s something so repugnant about this, and that cuts at such a deep level, that I’m forced to do something I seldom sanction, and that’s douse the lights and start swinging. Sorry if it offends you. Like my dad before me, I'll get over it ... but not before I'm finished having my say.

We didn’t always get along, but my dad taught me that two wrongs don’t make a right. In my view, a smoking ordinance that purports to protect defenseless workers has achieved its aim only by targeting and vilifying business people and their customers, because in the end, at closing time, no one really wants to talk about science at all.

Science simply can’t be trusted to assuage individual prejudices, to scratch irrational itches, and to make us fear dying any less. At the same time, substituting one prejudice for another strikes me as hypocrisy of a very high order. The hypocrisy is what I'll remember when I'm standing outside the building I own, smoking my cigar, and wondering if Sam will run again for the sixth in 2011 ... and whether redistricting will have been achieved by then for the first time since 1992.

This hasn’t been a fair fight, and my dad taught me that fights should be fair, even if the outcome is preordained.

And that’s why I’m angry about it.

Thanks for asking.

Yes, I’m being feisty, prickly, disputative and contrarian about something that the majority of my own friends and acquaintances would prefer me to let lie and peacefully move on to other issues, but damn it, the more you see rigid orthodoxy enveloping you, the more someone – anyone -- has to try to state an opposing viewpoint.

That is what I’ve tried to do. At least I’m open and fully transparent about it. Jeff Gahan and the council pro-ban bloc has chosen opaqueness and subterfuge. Let history be the judge of which has shown more integrity in the process … and I accept the verdict.

Just don't limit me to a minute. That's just plain insulting to an intelligence seldom valued in this town.

Making your own dirt: Why not evangelical atheism?

It used to be that you couldn’t switch on an old-fashioned non-digital television set and watch a major sporting event in peace without seeing a man with a crazy rainbow Afro, always seated somewhere squarely within the most prominent camera angle, and holding up a sign touting John 3:16, which for the uninitiated, is a Bible verse that provides a handily terse defense of Christian doctrine so that we, too, can sign on the dotted line.

Accordingly, Wikipedia tells the story of Rollen Stewart.

Rollen Frederick Stewart (born May 20, 1944), also known as Rock 'n' Rollen and Rainbow Man, was a fixture in American sports culture best known for wearing a rainbow-colored afro-style wig and holding up signs reading "John 3:16" at stadium sporting events around the United States in the 1970s and 1980s.

Apparently at first just in it for the publicity stunts, Stewart became a born again Christian obsessed with "getting the message out" via television.

His first major appearance was at the 1977 NBA Finals; by the time of the 1979 MLB All-Star Game, broadcasters actively tried to avoid showing him. He "appeared behind NFL goal posts, near Olympic medal stands, and even at the Augusta National Golf Club" strategically positioned for key shots of plays or athletes. Stewart's fame led to a Budweiser beer commercial and a Saturday Night Live parody sketch, where he was portrayed by Christopher Walken.

Stewart was briefly jailed by Moscow police at the 1980 Olympics. Other legal troubles followed. In the late 1980s, he began a string of stink bomb attacks. Targets included Robert Schuller's Crystal Cathedral, the Orange County Register, the Trinity Broadcasting Network, and a Christian bookstore. The stated intent of an attempted attack at the American Music Awards was to show the public that "God thinks this stinks."

Stewart was arrested in 1992 after a standoff in a California hotel during which he entered a vacant room with two men he was attempting to kidnap and surprised a chambermaid who then locked herself in the bathroom. Reportedly, Stewart believed that the Rapture was due to arrive in six days. During the standoff, he threatened to shoot at airplanes taking off from nearby Los Angeles International Airport, and covered the hotel room windows with "John 3:16" placards.

Rollen is currently serving three consecutive life sentences in jail on kidnapping charges. He became eligible for parole in 2002, but was denied as recently as September of 2005. After this conviction, he was found guilty of four stink bomb attacks.

Rollen Stewart’s career of religious advocacy came back to me in vivid Technicolor after I read a recent guest column in the Tribune.

DeKAY: Latest import — New Atheism, by Peggy DeKay (local Tribune columnist)

What's new about the New Atheism? The New Atheism, and its believers, aren't satisfied to deny the existence of God, or even condemn the belief in God, but they are out to destroy our “respect for our belief in God,” in short, they want to make atheism “cool.”

They paint believers with a broad, harsh brush.

(Richard) Dawkins is an atheist; but he is not content to be an atheist, he wants converts and lots of them. His killing field is comprised of agnostics and non-committed non-believers. He, and his fellow British atheist, Christopher Hitchens represent the New Atheists religion.

DeKay offers the usual tired arguments in favor of theism in general and “intelligent design” in particular, but what seems to annoy her the most is that atheists would have the unmitigated gall to go out in public, write books, and attempt to convince others that there is no supreme being.

That’s breathtakingly hypocritical.

Think of Rollen Stewart. Think of every Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon who has ever come knocking at my door while I’m busy eating, drinking, sleeping or fornicating. Think of the transformational zeal of generations of ravenous Christians, traveling overseas for the peaceful purpose of subduing decadent native culture and spreading Western microbes even as they blame the dying natives for being sick and urging them to find God as a cure.

In short, the entire history of Peggy DeKay’s preferred religion is one of evangelical outreach, to put it mildly, except that it’s seldom anything but intrusive, amounting to incessant interference in the space of non-believers as well as believers in other forms of supernatural fiction. And yet, she’s aghast that an atheist would dare to explain why he or she doesn’t believe, and ask other to consider the evidence?

Most readers know that I’m an atheist. I don’t go door to door, and I don’t show up at the front gate of Christian churches on Sunday mornings to protest the delusion residing therein. I don’t go to the balcony and swing my Oakland A’s pennant or, even worse, wave my portrait of Bertrand Russell at the minister and demand the honcho repent from sin -- or whatever that other columnist, the prison lawyer, wants to call it.

Peggy DeKay needs desperately to get a clue. Until she does, here’s the reprint of a piece I wrote a year or so ago on much the same topic.

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No better day than Sunday to be a gadfly.

A few weeks back, as Tribune syndicated religion columnist David Yount wrote carefully erected a straw man out of atheism before predictably and delightedly bashing it to bits, he ventured, “It is no more credible that there is no God than that God indeed exists.”

I submit that this statement is at best an example of logical sleight of hand, and at worst, downright nonsensical.

If I were to write, “It is no more credible that there is no Blue Speckled Hungadunga than that a Blue Speckled Hungadunga indeed exists,” it is quite likely that any rational person would demand an immediate definition of a Blue Speckled Hungadunga in order to proceed with the discussion.

Moreover, lacking persuasive proof for the existence of the Blue Speckled Hungadunga, there would be no need for further debate, and subsequently no need for a syndicated religion columnist to utter a statement that is at base invalid, for it assumes the existence of a conjectured entity, then uses this assumed (and as yet unproven) existence to impugn the allegedly faulty perception of those who insist in pointing to the obvious nature of the theist’s logical fallacy.

In fact, atheists don’t “believe” there is no God; rather, they are absent such a belief. As with the Blue Speckled Hungadunga, the responsibility for proving the existence of God lies with the one advancing a positive belief in the conjectured deity, not with the one who has no belief.

Atheists offer no positive claims with respect to knowledge presumed to derive from outside the realm of human experience and perception. As Yount correctly notes, some atheists go a step further and proselytize in the manner of the religionist, but it’s a very safe bet that during the past two thousand years far more people have been asked to convert to religion at the point of a bayonet, and died as a result of their refusal, than have been forcibly converted to atheism.

After all, if religious belief really remains a matter of heart and soul, isn’t it impossible to “convert” anyone to atheism? Outward symbols and pageantry are superfluous with regard to inner feeling, aren’t they?

In my experience, atheists generally just want to be left alone, and prefer that religious belief remain a matter of private conscience and not a public policy stick. We respect a separation of church and state and take such a division at face value precisely because we’ve studied history, and we know against whom that public policy stick inevitably is wielded – against us, to be sure, but far more often against other religionists who believe in their variant of the supernatural entity just as much as the ones shooting at them from a nearby trench.

The result is a sad continuation of the war, violence and strife that has accompanied religion throughout human history.

To summarize, atheism is a negation in the absence of verifiable evidence, and it is the theist who is obliged to prove that God exists – not the other way around.

With apologies to the Tribune’s youthful, periodically published “natural law” guest writer: “It is no more credible that there is a necessary higher power than such a necessary higher power does not exist.”

At The NewAlbanist.

There's a new blog portal: The NewAlbanist. The most recent posting is What’s really going on, and here's an excerpt. For the complete text, hit the links.

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First off, I’m as befuddled as the next gal at the New Albany City Council’s decision to make now the time to address workplace smoking hazards. Not that now isn’t the right time (it is). But where in the world did council president Jeff Gahan get the idea that this was the most necessary legislation for the council to take up?

On this holiday weekend, an amateur drama is being rehearsed. The curtain will rise for the public and the mainstream media on Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. But those who’ve seen the previews have informed my understanding of the game that is afoot.

Mayor England has painted himself into a corner with his pledge that Sept. 2, 2008 will not become a memorable day in New Albany’s almost 200-year history. He has promised far too many people that he intends to veto the workplace smoking ban, passed 11 days ago by a 5-4 city council vote. It is beyond credible to think that England will agree to the comprehensive ordinance.

I believe the mayor is trying to leverage this issue in exchange for support for some of his initiatives. Some of those are initiatives that I favor. Some are ones I’m suspicious of. And to pretend that politics is not “political” is naive.

Gamborg Gallery on-line exhibition: Soviet electrification.

My dear friend Allan Gamborg, who hails from Arhus, Denmark, and formerly made his late and much lamented orange couch in Copenhagen available to me on too many occasions during my youthful European jaunts, currently is an art dealer in Moscow. He sent me this e-mail earlier today, and I thought I'd share it.

Allan's taste for art of this nature is simply incredible.

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Dear Friends,

We have a series of new exhibitions on the Gamborg Gallery on the web:

THEMES:
Electrification of the Whole Country - http://russianart.dk/exhibition.asp?e=293
One of the more famous quotes by Lenin is “Communism equals Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country” (Коммунизм - это советская власть плюс электрификация всей страны). The slogan was used from the 1930s and through the 1960s when bringing electricity to the remote regions through the construction of hydro power plants for example in Bratsk, and nuclear power plants. In the arts, the slogan was illustrated in posters, prints and oil paintings

ARTISTS:
Tatyana Livshits (born 1925) - http://russianart.dk/exhibition.asp?e=290

Boris Rybchenkov (1899-1994) - http://russianart.dk/exhibition.asp?e=294

Ivan Tsarevich (1908-1992) - http://russianart.dk/exhibition.asp?e=295

Ivan Staroselskii (1914-1980) - http://russianart.dk/exhibition.asp?e=289

Viktor Semyonov (1942-1980) - http://russianart.dk/exhibition.asp?e=288

The Creamer Theorem: Is there any reason for this being part of the smoking debate?

That is, apart from shameless (read: irrelevant) propaganda value?

This one really baffles me. Like a can of light beer, it’s an example of something that may seem significant at first glance, but doesn’t survive scrutiny (or, in light beer’s case, actually swallowing the insipid liquid). As a prelude to what follows, I know who Gary Creamer is, but I don’t know him personally.

New Albany mayor urged to sign smoking ban, by Dick Kaukas (C-J).

Gary Creamer, a New Albany resident, said the city is losing restaurant business because residents have so few smoke-free places to go for meals.

Creamer said he and a group of friends eat together once a week and spend $17,000 to $20,000 annually. He said he and his friends have gone to New Albany restaurants only twice during the past year because so few are smoke-free.

Admittedly, that’s a lot of money to pump into Little Chef’s coffers, given that it might be the very last restaurant hereabouts that doesn’t actually have a non-smoking seating area. There may be others, but of course the obvious question is this:

Given Gary Creamer's eagerness to publicly advertise the amount of money that his group withholds from still-smoky New Albany restaurants, are those establishments really the sort of place that Creamer’s party wants to be seen patronizing?

Consequently, it seems fair to ask why on earth Gary Creamer and Company’s discretionary spending habits have been made part of this noble campaign to protect workplace health?

Is there even the remotest connection between worker safety and conspicuous consumption of this sort?

I’m searching in vain for a causal relationship, and I’m open to assistance in locating it. Surely it’s fair to ask: Where and to whom is Creamer’s party constrained from transferring wealth because of second hand smoke? To put it bluntly, if Little Chef suddenly was smoke-free, would Creamer's party be dropping dollars therein?

And: Isn’t is somehow unseemly that even the ban’s proponents can’t stick to their own magic bullet of science, and must instead hoist an example of personal preference for us to lacerate?

Why again is it that in the midst of scrum of this magnitude, political interpretations are somehow off limits to contrarians?

I’ll have more to say a bit later on that particular angle.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Health fascism, healthism, and other purely amateur renderings from an unpaid homeboy.

I’ve been asked to explain my previous references to “health fascism.”

To the best of my recollection, I first encountered this term in the late 1980’s. I believe I read it in The Nation, as used by Alexander Cockburn in one of his “Beat the Devil” columns.

To Google “health fascism” is to find numerous British Isles references. To judge from the Wikipedia entry on “healthism,” the latter carries equal weight, too. Here's an excerpt.

(Petr) Skrabanek: the threat of health fascism

According to Skrabanek, "healthism" begins when the government begins to use propaganda and coercion to establish norms of health and begins to attempt to impose norms of a "healthy lifestyle." All human activities are weighed in the balance of their real or imagined effects on health: all human activities are divided into "healthy" and "unhealthy", prescribed and proscribed, approved and disapproved, responsible and irresponsible, based on this measure.

In Skrabanek's view, "healthism" goes hand in hand with what he calls "lifestylism", another neologism, which Skrabanek uses to describe the view that most diseases are the result of unhealthy habits or behaviour. Skrabanek notes that while "lifestylism" is ostensibly founded on a basis of mathematics and statistics, it nevertheless has a strong moralistic flavour. Skrabanek cites a British epidemiologist, Geoffrey Rose, as expressing the belief that most people live "unhealthily" and constitute a "sick population". But since (according to Skrabanek) this message would lead to a fatalistic rejection of the lifestyle doctrine, it must be recast to be socially and politically acceptable, quoting Rose for the view that the "sick" society must be re-educated in its "perception of what is normal and acceptable."

Ultimately, Skrabanek claims that "healthism" either leads to, or is a symptom of, incipient totalitarianism. Skrabanek claims that healthism justifies racism, segregation, and eugenic control; for the healthist, what is "healthy" is moral, patriotic, and pure; while what is "unhealthy" is foreign, polluted, and impure. The doctrine of "lifestylism" suggests that state actions to prescribe what is healthy or forbid what is unhealthy are limitless in scope, and offer no grounds for privacy.

That’s a lot to digest. Luckily, I believe the following comment, made on councilman John Gonder’s blog earlier in the week, actually makes the case for the existence of “health fascism” with little additional testimony required.

I freely admit to being condescending toward smoking ban opponents and their "reasons" because I have facts and evidence on my side and they have none.

That's even more frightening than second hand smoke, don't you think?

I stand corrected.

Previously I implied in this space that certain local politicians are hypocrites, but one of me friends sent me this, and I'm now suitably penitent.

Roger

Certainly aware that the statement, “Politicians are hypocrites,” is a tautology in rhetorical terms. In other words, you have committed a redundancy!


I’m sorry, and I apologize.

Friday, August 29, 2008

If it's good enough for zoning ...

On the topic of polling data, today I decided to conduct a sampling in my workplace. The error rate for this informal questionnaire was plus or minus 6.2% abv.

This question was posed to 25 customers: Would you rather the city council ban workplace smoking, or take action to pave the streets?

The results were 7 in favor of a smoking ban, 17 in favor of paving, and one who said that our progressive pints cost too much. He was a Republican, so I threw him out into the street, where the smokers soon will be expected to congregate.

Coupled with the irrefutable evidence of the last council meeting, when twice as many people spoke publicly against the ban than in favor, I believe we have a fair reading of the people's will.

Lies, damned lies ... and what?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Veto the smoking ordinance, yer Honor. You’ll survive squawking that primarily comes from afar.

Here it is: The resident contrarian’s case in favor of mayoral intervention in the Greatly Unnecessary Smoking Debate of ’08.

(After all, I wouldn’t want to use the word “veto” … so, sticking to my principles, I’ll happily persist in doing so.)

I’m told that Mayor Doug England will hold a press conference next Tuesday morning circa 10:00 a.m. to reveal whether he’ll put the kibosh on the city council’s controversial smoking ordinance, or permit it to stand on its wobbly feet.

None of us on the outside will ever know the full depth and range of Mayor England’s thought processes in making this decision. I imagine he’s being pelted with advice from all angles (see below for mine), and predictably, outside interests already have weighed in with a full page advertisement in the Tribune, as referenced in today’s Courier-Journal:

Opponents and supporters have continued to lobby England in an attempt to win him over.

One of the latest efforts was from the American Heart Association and Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, which took out a full-page ad in today’s New Albany Tribune.

The ad said second-hand smoke causes heart disease, cancer and other health problems, that bar and restaurant workers are at greatest risk and that most area residents support the ordinance.

The ad, which asked if England would stand for “all workers and the public” or “big tobacco and its allies,” urged people to contact the mayor and ask him to sign the measure.

The money spent on that ad alone might have purchased a working toilet or two for a rundown rental property, don’t you think? But I forget so very quickly that the professional public health lobbyists don’t have a dog in the slumlord abatement fight.

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Me?

I believe the mayor should veto the ordinance, primarily because there has yet to be a telephone poll that asks the truly pertinent question: Would you rather the city council ban workplace smoking, or take action to pave the streets?

I’m guessing that such a poll would return a majority in favor of smoother driving surfaces, and one well in excess of that portion of the populace favoring a smoking ban in the absence of substantive progress in other areas.

I believe the mayor can make a perfectly logical case that far from being a measure assisting in the furtherance of public health, the ordinance in fact is little more than frivolous in nature – that it is yet another in a series of unfunded mandates of the sort that usually emanate from Indianapolis or Washington, D.C., except that this time around, it comes from our own council. The ordinance as written is unenforceable, and as such, frivolous isn’t too strong a word to describe it.

I believe that the mayor can plausibly connect the smoking issue with economic development by noting that the city council, having established a changed condition of daily business operation that will require fair and equitable enforcement, has made no provision for such enforcement apart from expecting the businesses that stand to be hurt most by the ordinance to pay for its accommodation by constructing elaborate outdoor smoking areas that surely will be the next target of an insatiable (and perpetually carpetbagging) anti-smoking lobby.

I believe the mayor can accurately decry the transparently shambolic nature of council president Gahan’s somewhat less than deft guidance of the smoking “debate,” which in the end comprised a solitary and inadequate public meeting and two catastrophically truncated public “speaking” allowances, all of which amounted to the council’s pro-ban bloc honoring the need for discourse only in the barest of minimum permissible breaches, and not in such a manner as to allow anything remotely approximating sufficient discussion pertaining to a topic destined to divide the citizenry.

Yes, these may be viewed in some quarters as procedural technicalities. I’m not a lawyer, but it is a regular, recurring and fully justified feature of the American system of governance that we expect important decisions to be made in a way – in the “right” way -- that involves people, and not excludes them, and yet the unprecedented speed with which an eternally dormant council moved to facilitate legislative action that was nowhere to be seen or sighted in any council candidate’s platform during the last election.

This largely underreported aspect of the current situation is perhaps the most annoying of all.

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Does anyone else wonder why an issue now being portrayed as critically important did not produce a blip on last year's electoral radar screen?

Does anyone else remember when King Larry Kochert, then the council president, announced that 2007 would be the year when his cherished smoking ban finally came into effect, and the same reactionary who did so much for so long to keep New Albany rooted in the 19th century would suddenly leapfrog the moribund experience of long decades by the magically simple act of chasing smokers from their bar stools, into the streets, to disappear into unrepaired pot holes?

Remember how the smoking ordinance unceremoniously died almost on the spot, and how none of the council members at the time – and none of the candidates challenging them – uttered so much as a peep about smoking as the 2007 election loomed?

How not one of them campaigned on a platform of smoking as the issue most deserving of immediate action in 2008 -- for that matter, was it even in the Top 10 of any candidate's published list of aims?

Was it ever mentioned publicly on the campaign trail one single time?

Actually, to be fair to the candidates, not a one of them offered a decipherable platform of any sort, smoking or otherwise, but I digress.

Which brings me to the primary reason I hope Mayor England vetoes the smoking ordinance. As my high school baseball coach was known to say, the covert way all this has come down, and the timing of it coming down, is chickenshit, plain and simple, and I’m not using that word because I want to spare Steve Price the indignity of being the only potty mouth hereabouts.

Rather, this legislative spectacle was transformed into political theater early on, and it has been bereft of political courage from start to finish. Why this, and why now? No one has provided a satisfactory answer, and until they do: Mayor England, muddy the scrum and veto this ordinance.

Give ‘em a year under strict supervision to do something genuinely progressive, and to undertake it sans the subterfuge that has been such an alarming aspect of the smoking travesty, and I’m quite willing to visit the smoking issue again, but not under the current discredited terms.

I know that quite a few of you disagree with my thoughts, and that’s fine. In the end, given my personal interests and my chosen vocation, perhaps I’m overly sensitive to the historical atrocities wrought by the prohibitionist instinct in America. They’re documented, and they’re real. Given that experience, the legislative bar needs to be higher, doesn't it?

Wow, redux.

It's impossible not to be awed by the crowd in Denver. The MSNBC camera just panoramically scanned the crowd. I keep expecting a football game to break out, and yet, incredibly, the people are there for a presidential candidate.

Senator Richard Durbin, who was in New Albany at the Parthenon back in May, will introduce Barack Obama soon.

Eight years of idiocy, really about to come to a close? I can only hope.

Downtown parking permits (thumbs up) but waivers (thumbs down), says City Clerk.

Thoughts and discussion, anyone?

New Albany City Clerk disagrees with waiving outstanding tickets for downtown parking passes, by Daniel Suddeath (News and Tribune)

City Clerk Marcey Wisman likes the idea of downtown parking permits in New Albany, but is opposed to waiving unpaid tickets for those who purchase a pass.

Wisman made her concerns known during Tuesday’s Board of Public Works and Safety meeting, reading aloud a letter she drafted questioning whether Mayor Doug England’s administration realizes the ramifications of waiving outstanding tickets.

“No one is ever happy about paying a parking ticket, but to change the rules to benefit a few makes it even more difficult to justify the need to pay to many others who receive them,” Wisman said.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Kucinich rocks the DNC.

Hillary Clinton made the "Democrats for McCain" look like the disreputable turncoats they are ... and Dennis Kucinich made Clinton look tame. Even when they're scripted right down to the restroom breaks, major party conventions can still make for compelling viewing.

Just for the record, anatomically speaking.

Getting "permission" to publish is one thing, and refusing to attribute sources quite another. When the forum for non-attribution is a cowardly trognonymous blog, then the bar is raised higher.

So it goes. If Screech had integrity, we'd be discussing this in the comments section there, but alas, it doesn't exist.

Grow some balls, "Erik".

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Klingons, run-ons and put-ons ... but please, don't take off your hoods.

I confess that I still read Freedom to Screech for amusement. Lately, the blog’s chief writer has been making the case for Hillary Clinton to exact revenge for her loss to Barack Obama by throwing her party “under the bus” at the onging convention in Denver.

It’s been hilarious. Not only is the blog as trognonymous as ever, but suffice to say that any pretense of a male voice at Freedom to Screech has been abandoned, and the longtime fiction that it is written by a never-before-seen professor of political science and history has largely been jettisoned, too. Nowadays it's an angry female voice, only, and Hillary's defeat has her feeling like she's ready to rumble ... with another's words, of course.

Hello from Denver

Freedom of Speech Goes to Denver

It may be true that "Freedom of Speech Goes to Denver,” but I thought I’d go to a blog called Free Me Now to see where Erika’s stealing her recent commentaries.

Yep. That'd be the place.

For more on the embittered and perhaps unemployable former teacher behind the mother lode of Erika’s plagiarism, go here and here.

With posts like these recent ones, it is shuddering to think that Republicans like the calcified John McCain are the least of Obama’s worries as the meat of the campaign looms. Aren’t you glad you’re not in Denver? On the other hand, after a few gallons of Great Divide Hibernation Ale ... anything's possible.

Open thread: To veto, or not to veto?

Should Mayor England veto the smoking ordinance? What are the reasons for and against a veto? What do you think?

(Note to potential posters: Our usual rules of non-anonymity apply. Photo credit goes to Christopher)

Reading comprehension and the New Albany Syndrome.

At the rental registration and code enforcement meeting on Saturday, I heard one rental property owner state that he is "taxed twice."

Later, on another blog, a trogonymous correspondent claimed that rental property owners pay higher property taxes than "business" owners. Leaving aside the fact that rental property ownership is a business, irrespective of how effectively one's Indianapolis lobby extracts legislative concessions and in the process twists common English into semantic pretzels, here's one reference among many (from a South Bend real estate blog) that explains the property tax situation following the "reform" bill earlier this year.

The passed bill retains the “one-two-three” percent caps on property that is residential and owner-occupied (1%), rental or agricultural (2%), and commercial (3%) but requires more than a few asterisks ...

That seems fairly clear to me. You?

Monday, August 25, 2008

8664: Who killed the study?

A press release from 8664 today revealed a Kentucky Transportation Cabinet secret:

(click on photo for larger version)




8864's letter to Kentucky Governor Beshear offered to help pay the $3,654.31 needed to complete the study and release the results.

If I were running for governor in Indiana, I'd be on the phone right now getting to the bottom of yet another voluntarily induced yet inexplicable quagmire. If I wanted to win the southern counties, I'd make a point of letting voters here know that I cared enough about them and the eastern bridge to not let a few East End financial concerns dictate transportation policy to the state of Indiana.

Current Governor and candidate Mitch Daniels has referenced that dastardly influence but has yet to act. Will he or Jill Long Thompson be the one to finally inject Hoosier interests and fiscal responsibility into the situation?

The C-J is reporting that the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet will now complete the study but quotes an official as saying it will focus on two new bridges rather than one while examining the concept of a ground-level parkway where the downtown portion of I-64 now stands.

You can almost hear it now: The state will claim that 86'ing 64 won't work based on some gerrymandered inability of a misrepresented parkway to function in the shadow of a 23 lane Spaghetti Junction. That junction, of course, would be greatly simplified by the actual 8664 plan, as would the current bottleneck at the intersection of I-64 and I-265.

8664 is the only plan that would rework that Indiana merge point. The Bridges Project, which aims to inject much more traffic onto I-265 as well, doesn't address it at twice the cost.

Greenpeace, solar truck, and Happy Feet on the riverfront this Sunday.

Received from the local Greenpeace reps ... seems we need beer there, right?

---

Don't miss a free, solar-powered showing of the movie Happy Feet! Join us at the Riverside Amphitheater.

Hello!

We are excited to announce that, in conjunction with the City of New Albany, the New Albany Farmer’s Market, and Develop New Albany, Greenpeace’s Global Warming Story Tour will be at the New Albany Riverside Amphitheater this Sunday, August 31st at 7:30 pm. Greenpeace's "Rolling Sunlight" solar truck will power a viewing of Happy Feet, free of charge!

Local vendors will also be there to sell ice cream and smoothies, and the solar truck will be used to make free popcorn for all! Greenpeace volunteers want to also ask you about how global warming is impacting your life. You will have an opportunity to record a video, write a postcard, or send an email to our candidates for Congress to demand action to end global warming.

Bring your entire family to watch "Happy Feet" outdoors, tell your story about why you care about global warming and learn more about renewable energy! It's a great family activity close to home this Labor Day weekend! So save some gas money and join your community members this Sunday! To check out the trailer for the movie please click here.

Location:
Riverside Ampitheather, New Albany, IndianaNew Albany, IN 47150

Date:
Sunday, August 31st 7:30pm

Let us know you're coming: RSVP. Also, we still need a couple of volunteers to help out at the event! If you are interested please e-mail me (Edyta) at esitko@greenpeace.org.

Background on the Rolling Sunlight: The tour is powered by the Rolling Sunlight, a demonstration and educational vehicle that runs on biodiesel and is equipped with 256-square-feet of solar panels that supply enough energy to power three homes, concerts, and events without creating any pollution. The solar power will run an action tent featuring a video station for visitors to learn more about global warming and computers wired to the Internet so they can send emails to Congress. Global warming will be a key issue this election year. Already, dozens of community members this year have joined with Greenpeace in asking the candidates for Congress to commit to ending the crisis.

To learn more about the Rolling Sunlight tour please visit: http://us.greenpeace.org/site/PageServer?pagename=PHS_Rolling_Sunlight

See you soon!

Greenpeace
702 H Street, NW Suite 300
Washington, D.C. 20001 (800) 326-0959

Steve Price on rental registration and code enforcement: "This is a bunch of (expletive deleted) (expletive deleted)."

Before we document the 3rd district uncouncilman’s revealingly ill-tempered sex-act-and-defecation outburst at the library on Saturday -- that's right, within whispering distance of the kiddie section -- let’s look back at a bit of pertinent information posted here last week.

---

Or maybe it's a religious ritual?

Owning a rental property is more than an investment — it's a business. You have to be willing and able to commit the time and resources necessary to run your business successfully.
--
GMAC Mortgage website

Did you know that to search the Internet for “rental property” +business is to generate more than 3,000,000 hits?


---

Yesterday, my colleague Bluegill documented the scene following Saturday’s first rental registration and code enforcement committee meeting. In the comments section, Gina had asked if Price really lost it, and Jeff replied:

Yes, G, (Price) said it, apparently right after he told Lloyd that he'd do whatever he could to fight it (rental registrations).

He played most of his in-meeting comments to the landlords in the crowd, bemoaning what a tough business rental property is, which I'm sure you saw.

It's paraphrased but here's the gist:

After the meeting, an already angry Steve interrupted my conversation with another committee member.

"You're wrong. Rental property ain't a business", he said.

I told him that it is and asked what he did for a living.

He then went into a semi-intelligible tirade about how it wasn't. I asked him what he did for a living.

He told me my house (which serves as a family residence only) was a business. I asked him what he did for a living.

He hollered that he didn't want to pay any more taxes. I asked what taxes he was talking about since there hadn't been any additional taxes discussed. And then I asked him what he did for a living.

When he started to say something else unrelated, I told him to answer the question about what he did for a living.

"I'm barely breaking even", he said. "I'm living off my council salary."

"Just because your business is struggling," I said, "it doesn't mean it's not a business."

With that he turned for the door, repeated some of the stuff he'd said earlier about people wanting guys with clipboards running around, and then finally pronounced "This is all a bunch of fucking bullshit" as he headed out.

The funniest part to me is Price's unintentionally candid (and ever elastic) definition of "business": It's a business if you're making money, but not if times are hard. Price isn't making any money off my rental properties, therefore, they no longer constitute a business. Right. It hasn't stopped him from incorporating a business entity, has it?

I'm guessing Price's state of affairs has more to do with business expertise and the normal cycle of business than the nature of business itself, but perhaps I'm misunderstanding him. That's an easy thing to do. Listening to Price speak publicly is rather like trying to read a goat path map of Tibet -- upside down.

But those priceless expletives … well, the meaning is clear. Ironically, taken together, they also aptly describe the quality of the “work” Price has done during his tenure as councilman.

The same general attitude also helps encapsulate our eternal gratitude that council president Gahan has appointed the transparently biased Price to the rental committee. Before this, Gahan gifted the Urban Enterprise Association board with precisely the same befuddled personage (attendance record: 3 "present"and 5 "absent" so far this year).

Thanks, Jeff.

Actually, "fucking bullshit" describes Gahan's recent attitude toward the community in general just as pithily as it does Price's historically cavalier disregard for his 3rd district neighbors.

Perhaps, then, we should file this under "be careful what you wish for," because having asked for consistency, Gahan's now giving it to us.

Good and hard.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I am, we are, he was.



Saturday, circa 12:00 p.m.

Accidental 3rd district councilman and full time landlord Steve Price, as he stomped out of the room after the first meeting of the council's rental registration and code enforcement committee, of which he is also a member:

"This is all a bunch of fucking bullshit."



-----





Saturday, circa 10:30 p.m.

Iamis, just before their set in conjunction with a viewing of German U-boat film Das Boot:

"Hey, people. Das Boot is about to start. We're gonna play along with it. So we're gonna sing all our songs in German. We are iamis. You are iamis. Beer drinkers unite. We've been drinking all day, too."



-----



Saturday, sometime during the set:

A new acquaintance:

"New Albany? Hey man, I was over in New Albany a while back. Are you guys trying to get some alternative going over there?"

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Circus departs town, leaving acres of butts (some on the ground).

I’m preparing to walk down Spring Street and occupy a seat at the library as councilman Gonder convenes his rental registration and code enforcement committee.

Boss Hogg and the meaning of life.

Speaking only for myself, I look forward to seeing in attendance this morning the same passionate defenders of public health who spent the past few weeks (years?) advancing the topic of workplace safety through smoking bans: Dr. Harris, Mr. Aebersold, Ms. Adams-Wolf, Mr. Filler, Mr. Sodrel, and so on, and so forth.

Anything less than an equally passionate dedication to public health through slumlord abatement would be indicative of a certain inconsistency, wouldn’t you say?

Just don't spoil the afterglow by suggesting that their attention has already migrated to the next hot button.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Boss Hogg and the meaning of life.

While we may have been on opposite sides recently, at large councilman John Gonder is intelligent, well intentioned and conscientious. Saturday morning, he’ll be convening a meeting. As explained at his blog:

The committee formed to address the issue of rental registration and code enforcement will hold its first meeting this Saturday morning, August 23, at 10:00 A.M. in the Elsa Strassweg Auditorium in the Library.

This meeting is expected to be brief. It is intended to simply outline where the committee is headed.

Those interested are welcome, and encouraged to attend.


Of course, Gonder played a prominent role in the (perhaps) concluded smoking ban saga, which turned on a swing vote by none other than Dan Coffey. The extent to which Gonder cultivated this amazing turnabout is unknown, although it’s fair to surmise that all the council’s quasi-progressives were forced to grudgingly raid their comic book collections to achieve the elimination of workplace smoking through Coffey’s surreal swing vote.

The reason I muse aloud about these topics has much to do with my personal feelings about rental property registration, inspection, reform, and whatever other action is necessary to establish three simple facts.

Owning a rental property is a business

Rental housing is a matter of public health

This business is indeed the city’s business


I made several predictions with respect to the smoking ordinance, and the majority proved correct. Last evening Coffey was overheard commenting that the council was about to establish a strong rental property registration package, and in honor of this, I’ll make another prognostication (and hope I’m wrong).

When push comes to shove, Coffey will unceremoniously kneecap any meaningful rental property reform, and while doing so, he’ll laugh at – not with – Gonder.

Like I said, I hope I’m mistaken. But color me skeptical. I see the miraculous smoking conversion as a one-off, the true price of which we’ll never know. Now we’re going to get the real Cappuccino, once again … and to the detriment of all.

Just my 'pinion, dog.

After the loving: Long live the once and future King, and pity those bar owners who know so very little.

To fully and accurately document the reason why Jeff Gahan officiously ordained the removal of my considerable bulk from last evening’s shambolic city council proceedings, one would be compelled to chronicle at length Gahan’s recent inexplicable descent into legislative incoherence and his growing, almost medieval personal animus toward anyone with the temerity to note publicly that this particular successor to King Larry seems to be wearing ever fewer articles of clothing when appearing on the street.

Or, as I observed even as I was being removed, precisely how and why Gahan has traversed the territory between onetime relevance (now been there, done that, and swapped the t-shirt with Dr. Harris) and the vicinity of the dark side – where his political mail is now delivered and presumably going unread.

At any rate, it is a task that would require far more than a minute, which after a grand spanking total of one (1) public hearing on the matter of smoking within the New Albany was all the time accorded to the numerous sincere and cooperative residents crowding into a meeting room impossibly tiny in the best of times, and utterly unsuited to the three ring circus that Gahan knowingly permitted to devolve (and deprecate) on Thursday night.

If Gahan genuinely cared about the public, which convened to oppose the city's chihuahuan smoking ban (later approved by identical 5-4 votes) to the tune of around 40 speakers to 13 (by the council’s own past standards of selectivity, far more than the minimum needed to defeat the most rock solid of rezoning proposals), the meeting would have been held in a larger room on another continent, but then it would have been necessary to actually listen.

How unspeakably tedious that would have proven, hence proceedings as usual.

What struck me was that those in attendance opposed to the smoking ban for the most part graciously accepted Gahan’s one minute solution, when they really should have asked why an issue second only in vitriol to abortion and the sad history of Southern slaveholding deserved such short shrift, but nonetheless, good natured compliance was the norm.

Unfortunately, the same could not be said of the professional lobbyists in the room, those for-pay consultants that the flip-flopping ban proponent Dan Coffey formerly accused of being unreliable when comapred to his own vast reserve of knowledge on matters ranging from tobacco to kitchen utensils. Perhaps for this very reason, Coffey sat stoically and mostly silently last night, gently nuzzling his Bazooka Joe divinity degree and playing championship notepad dots while the paid pros droned far past Gahan’s purely random time length meter to the council president’s purely calculated obliviousness.

Yes, but wait. Who am I -- who are we -- to question any of Jeff Gahan’s strategies and tactics? Didn’t we get the council mantra memo, which decrees that freedom of speech in New Albany is dependent on running for office and being elected? Perhaps NAC’s loyal readers should share the frequent joy experienced by this blog’s editorial team, wherein elected officials berate us and dismiss criticism both from ourselves and the electorate in the same terms that most people denigrate houseflies or maggots, under the curious dictum that we’re mere annoyances and couldn’t possibly understand what it’s like to actually perform before the public for pay … or, as one of them recently put it, if a citizen has not run for office, said citizen should know enough to stay quiet, and barring that, ask for de facto permission before speaking aloud to the world.

Strange, isn’t it, how writing skill and the inability to respond in kind unnerves elected officials ... but, as always, I digress.

Meanwhile, understand that the straw finally breaking this camel’s/voter’s back was a five minute (at least) display of condescension from one of the paid lobbyists, who refrained from using science to illustrate the threat to workers posed by second hand smoke (award yourself a Gahan for Mayor '11 button if you dimly recall the time when SHS was the ostensible purpose of the ordinance, if entirely obscured by last evening’s theatrics), but instead aggressively attacked the pub owners present for knowing far less about the nature of their businesses than he and his statistics do.

Still wondering why I don’t blush when using terms like “health fascist”? Wonder no more.

I concede that this angered me. It still does. Had Gahan the simple courage to enforce his own rules (or, for that matter, the city’s), the lobbyist would have spoken far fewer words in a minute than in the five he was accorded, although to be honest, the words were tantamount to inadmissible, but then again, this is an illegally elected council that can’t or won’t redistrict itself in a city that can’t or won’t enforce its own laws, so what the hell: Consistency? That’s something they do over in them socialist countries after using the toilet, right?

There has been no eagerness to discuss the reality that those bar owners who stand to be hurt the most by the smoking ban are those who cater to a lower personal income strata, which itself is populated by more smokers than higher income levels. In short, the same people in need of protection from carnivorous slumlords are being told by Gahan and Co. that it’s more important to save them from themselves (save them from smoking in a bar) first and foremost, and then the rest of the public health issues will be addressed later – hey, trust us; we can’t pave the streets or resolve centuries-old sewer disputes, but we can publicly scoff at your vice even if it requires in excess of a minute … and, by the way, bar owners who have remained in business by knowing what their customers want mustn’t forget that an out-of-town dude in a bad suit always knows far more about the needs of their clienteles than they do.

One of our readers (I believe it was Ruthanne, but I may be mistaken) previously supplied the answer to the final piece of this bizarre puzzle in a blog comment. Bar owners, did you know that after this particular rug has been pulled from beneath your feet by the Ga-hanannies in local government, and should the unthinkable occur and your business actually close as a result of your no longer being able to cater to your customers, that when all is said and done, it was your own fault?

That’s right, guys and gals. According to the stats lovingly compiled by the suits from Indy, Atlanta and Tirana, you failed for one of two reasons. Either you were incompetent to begin with, or you were ready to retire, anyway. Get it? Before last evening, how many bar owners understood how very little they’ve ever comprehended about their own business matters? It’s a wonder you ever remained open in the first place, seeing how little you know. Must have been the conspiratorial nicotine in those butts, eh?

Don’t you feel better about yourselves now?

Sorry, but it’s all bullshit, plain and simple, and probably even Jeff Gahan and John Gonder – for that matter, even the saintly Jamey Aebersold -- know it, but in the end, science played next to no part in the smoking spectacle, which was about little more than creative sociological condescension and Gahan’s pathological eagerness to hang his political hat on it.

So, I snapped my fingers, King Jeff glared, and the animus was on. Rest assured, it will remain. I’ll let All4Word tell the rest of the story. His account is trustworthy. I was too busy trying to fathom the irony of the council president's empty seat to document the ejaculation.

----

For the early a.m. record: I suspect that Mr. Baylor knew he would be "ejaculated" from the meeting, but proceeded with his protest nonetheless.

A gentleman who is paid to advocate for public health (prohibitions of smoking in enclosed public spaces) attempted to squeeze in an encyclopedia-full presentation into the mandated ONE MINUTE limit imposed.

While almost no one complied, and while President Gahan wasn't particularly vigorous in enforcing his limit, this lobbyist not only presented much information quickly, but read aloud a letter from Lexington, Ky.'s vice-mayor - a man who owns 86 non-smoking franchise restaurants.

At long last, Mr. Baylor objected vocally to the filibuster. (I wanted to hear what he had to say, but I'll admit he went very long past the time limit.)

RAB, at first, politely inquired as to why this particular gentleman was being allowed to go on and on. Once Mr. Gahan identified the source of the outburst, the die was cast.

Roger escalated his complaint with each of Gahan's shoutdowns, accusing the council president of bias and favoritism and ultimately demanding of the speaker an answer to "Did you PAY for this (preferential treatment)?"

Perhaps the tipping point was when the speaker said, in effect, that the restaurateurs and tavernkeepers were gullible doofuses who were not just expressing their fears and honest opinions, but were rather the dupes of a cabal of their industrial lobbies and the tobacco companies, parroting cooked data sets as facts.

In fact, many were citing cooked or nonexistent data and expressing earnest fears and opinions.

IMHO, the speaker's accusations were permissible argumentative rhetoric - rhetoric similar to that often employed even here and more often at the trog blogs.

But to even imply that Roger was the dupe of a corporatist conspiracy (and though he was not named like other publicans, the implication/accusation was pointedly aimed a business owners opposed to the ban) was undoubtedly the last straw.

In effect, NAC's senior editor changed his game plan when the opportunity was presented. A more important point needed to be made, and he made it.

Roger dared Gahan to "ejaculate" him, and while it was unfortunate that it happened in the presence of Mrs. NAC, and more unfortunate that it meant the Publican would miss the official debate, it was Roger's choice.

Rest assured, our hero extracted every second of possible drama from the moment. The expulsion held the pomp and circumstance of a royal procession, with appropriate barbs disseminated throughout the recessional.

Roger was even accorded the honor of expulsion through the NORTH doorway, the hallowed ground of the privileged class.

I've always maintained that there is no shame in civil disobedience if you are willing to pay the price for it - arrest.

Fortunately, the disobedience was civil, so detention was not required, although I fingered my wallet for bail money, just in case.

Wife looks on appalled as senior editor ejaculated from meeting by President Gahan.

Yes, it's true. I was tossed, and the smoking ordinance passed by identical 5-4 votes.

Had I been permitted to speak, and managd to restrain myself by not pointing out that the council president's standard of fairness has sunk even lower than the subterranean bar of Larry Kochert's, I'd have said this. Note that I composed as the meeting progressed, and it's a bit sloppy. Still, for the record ...

---

Some of you may disagree, but I’m a fairly bright guy. You may dislike me, but you can’t deny that our business is a success. I think I know what my clientele wants. After all, I’m there. Paid anti-tobacco lobbyists aren’t able to make that distinction as well as I can.

Well, anyway, the council President has gotten exactly what he wanted. Why he ever wanted it remains a mystery for the ages, but there it is: Strife. Annoyance. Resident against resident. Person against person. Perhaps we might discuss abortion, or Islam, or maybe the prospects for the Kentucky Wildcats, or some other topic slightly less divisive than that of workplace smoking.

You know, it’s really crowded in this room. Apparently there was an absence of forethought on the part of the council. Perhaps it might have occurred to someone that this controversial of an issue might generate more than the usual number of people to comment.

It’s a shame, really. If the second hand smoking science is legitimate, is it really so simple that it can it be distilled into one solitary public meeting and minute’s worth of comments each from the public?

And yet a council that can’t accomplish other so-called progressive reforms – can’t even get started on matters ranging from street repaving to redistricting to rental property regulation and reform – can move this quickly on smoking in a barroom. It’s staggering.

Why this public health consideration, and not others?

Dr. Harris made a fairly good point about the voice of the people. According to the council’s own time tested precedent when it comes to zoning considerations, the biggest group in attendance always wins. By my account, we're somewhere around 40 against the ban and 13 for. That's enough to overturn any subdivision approved by the Plan Commission.

Let's see where it gets us tonight, and whether this council will be as hypocritical on this point as it is on public health.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

All this smoking hullabaloo, and Pat Harrison's tow-in lot, too.

Yesterday I noted in a comment that by pressing ahead with a smoking ordinance in spite of voluminous evidence that the community in general desires concrete action on real issues rather than the symbolic smiting of the Tobacco Menace, one thing is achingly certain.

Council President Jeff Gahan apparently sought a (more) bitterly divided community, and now, that's exactly what he has delivered.

Er, thanks for that, Jeff. Now that it's here, what should we do with it?

Why CM Gahan believes that a city divided stands to assist him in "progressively" resolving the immense list of more pressing matters remains a mystery for the ages, but at least the 42 out of 50 NABC employees who already smoke will be protected from themselves, leaving unanswered the question of who will protect us from a council with such an incredibly skewed perception of what might actually be done to further the cause of New Albany … and, furthermore, how Gahan’s prioritization remotely qualifies as leadership.

The bright side? We’re not listening to Dan Coffey pontificate on abortion.

As I predicted long ago, the Greatly Unnecessary Smoking Debate of ’08 has loosened the demons within and turned citizen against citizen.

We’ve seen a local doctor berated by ranking Indiana healthcare bureaucrats and his own hospital’s management because he had the temerity to exercise his freedom of speech and publicly differ with the smoking ordinance.

Like terminal cancer patients flying to Myanmar for cold papaya presses in the absence of hope, we’ve seen local hospitality operators scrambling for a fleeting glimpse of an exemption, an exception, a grandfather clause, or something that might enable them to stave off the indignity of chasing longtime customers into the street – where those customers stand in full view of the shambolic rental properties and the numerous public health issues pervasive within, which the council continues to ignore while pursuing the smoking chimera.

We’ve laughed aloud as local postmen berate the extravagant liberal nanny faction of the council and praise the "Price is Wrong" antebellum wing as truly representative of Democratic principles, then stop in mid-sentence to hastily qualify the assertion -- well, no, I reckon Dan Coffey doesn’t fit very well into that nasty liberal side of things, naturally avoiding the obvious question: Why is Coffey, a perennially nattering nabob of negativism, a paragon of everything opposed to the way of thinking that prefaces a smoking ordinance, now posing angelically as the Blevins Memorial Swing Vote on the side of the fives?

What sort of fix is this, anyway?

We continue to see unpaved streets, unkempt properties, unlimited caviar and champagne for the slumlords, understaffed police and unrequited demands for some semblance of action pertaining to the major building blocks of a civil society, all of them gahanly tossed to the wind in favor of the concrete action best designed to attract Louisville’s television crews.

A bit of eyeliner goes along way on the tube – trust me.

Little wonder that the smoking ordinance’s council proponents, with the sole noble exception of John Gonder, have remained mum throughout. Something so suddenly crucial … and yet precisely one (1) public hearing was provided. Something so essential to the economic growth of New Albany, and yet not a soul has yet been able to answer the question of how the council’s tactical choice of smoking abatement fits into an overall strategy for civic business redemption.

The entertainment value? Second to none.

See the mayor’s looming shadow in the corner if the vote remains 5-4. Watch the elected officials squirm as the requests for exceptions and exemptions come flooding in and the council members are asked to play God by deciding which employee’s health is worth protecting, and for how long, when measured against voting intentions and the inexorable hum of those video cameras whirling, whirling, whirling.

The ultimate question has yet to be asked.

Think back to the lessons of the past in New Albany (ignoring that they’re never, ever learned), and recall that no matter the topic – NASCAR, apple pie recipes, “American Idol,” science fiction novels, quantum physics or the sex life of 17-year cicadas -- residents can rest easy, safe in the knowledge that some one, somewhere, will find a creative way of linking the topic at hand to the sewer utility.

Forever and always, we return like pre-programmed lemmings to the waste products of the citizenry, coursing lazily through a system that numerous generations of local politicians seeking reelection above all else intentionally neglected, refusing to expend dollars and political capital, and inevitably transferring the day of reckoning to future generations.

How does workplace smoking impact the sewer utility? You just know that somewhere, somehow, there’s a connection. Me? I believe the next step in the gahanic master plan has something to do with defecation.

Wait – never mind.

He already been there and done that ... right atop the redistricting ordinance.

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Here’s Dick Kaukas’s C-J coverage:
New Albany City Council to vote on smoking ban; Backers, foes press New Albany council, by Dick Kaukas (Courier-Journal)

Photo credit: Chris D

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A random thought: After an evening's pints.

After reading today's comments, especially Jon's ( at long last, recognition), I've come to an epiphany.

I realize that it isn't a perfect analogy, but in large measure, the smoking ban ordinance debate has been to me what the Scopes Monkey Trial was to H. L. Mencken.

It may be good, and it may be bad, but it is what it is. I plan on speaking tomorrow night, something I haven't done since Dan Coffey attacked reading and education back in '05.

You'll see a list to the right of matters crucial to the city of New Albany. You'll note that workplace smoking is not among these topics. Readers, if you will, please let me know what I've missed on this list. I'll read the list aloud ... and see if maybe -- just maybe -- council president Gahan blushes.

Either CM Price or Yankees great Yogi Berra said, “A smoking ban is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical.”

As previously threatened, the Tribune recently conducted a phone survey about the proposed smoking ban.

Reporter Daniel Suddeath’s on-line story yesterday about the survey contained this management insight from his boss, Steve Kozarovich (publisher and executive editor).

Kozarovich said the survey is unscientific and the newspaper had no intention of generating support for one or the other.

Thanks for that clarification. Unscientific surveys seem somehow to symbolize every shred of the smoking to date, so the more the merrier, I guess.

Now, on to the link.

Phone survey reports residents favor New Albany smoking ban, by Daniel Suddeath (News and Tribune).

THE RESPONSE

• 369 people answered a phone survey conducted by The Tribune.

• 210 (57%) support the proposed ban

• 118 (32%) oppose the ban

• 41 (11%) are undecided

Results of a smoking ban survey conducted by The Tribune show a majority of respondents favor the proposed restrictions. Calls were made to more than 1,000 residents in New Albany, with 369 people agreeing to participate and stating they are a city resident and older than 18 years of age.


For an interesting (though bone dry) insight into the telephone survey business’s thought process when it comes to the prevalence of cell phones and the concurrent decrease in land lines, go here.

Meanwhile, Suddeath unfairly ignores our fervent eagerness to read gems of wisdom from Councilman Cappuccino, and instead interviews John Gonder and Steve Price, one of whom manages coherence.

See if you can guess which one.

Two council members on opposite ends of the spectrum shared confidence in the survey. “[The results] would kind of jive with what we’ve been told,” said Councilman John Gonder, who voted in favor of the ban on first reading.

Councilman Steve Price voted against the ordinance earlier this month and plans to do the same Thursday. He said the results of the survey aren’t surprising.

“You have to understand most people don’t smoke and don’t go to your clubs and bars,” Price said. “My point was the way it is now, I just like freedom of choice.”

Wow.

Wonder what he means by that?

Readers?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Local government as carpet burn remover?

I’m always suspicious of Internet testimonials from anonymous quarters. Nonetheless, here’s one from at-large councilman John Gonder’s blog ("Smoking Ordinance") that provides a bit more grist for the muddy scrum.

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I am writing to express my opinion and experience with the smoking ban in Louisville. I own a restaurant with bar and am thrilled with the ban.

I know that the focus of New Albany’s ban is worker protection and I believe we have taken steps to protect our staff and our customers. I know we have fewer sick days due to respiratory ailments.

I know too our customers still thank us for the ban. I don't worry about seating children near the bar because of the smoke cloud that used to be there. Older patrons who used to vehemently complain about the smoke no longer do so. No one else seems to mind stepping outside to smoke and there are no complaints.

I do not believe the ban has hurt my business and could say it has helped. I would continue no
smoking should the city do away with its ordinance.

An added bonus--I paint less often and wash windows less. There are no burns in my carpet.

If Dublin, Ireland and New York City can do away with indoor smoking, so can we. These cities have long cultural traditions of smoky bars and yet have seen the light. Even New Orleans prohibits smoking in restaurants. Are we not as forward thinking as these places? Are we less concerned about the health and safety of our employees?

Thanks for the forum and good luck in passage of the ordinance.

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When I first read these thoughts, there was an immediate and visceral reaction that I believe is quite relevant to the smoking discussion in New Albany.

Prior to the implementation of Louisville’s smoking ban, had there been a preexisting law requiring the restaurant owner quoted above to permit smoking?

Obviously not, but you’d be forgiven for thinking so by reading his or her account. To be blunt, why didn’t the owner in question act to eliminate the scourge of indoor smoking before the city intervened to make the action (or in this case, inaction) moot? There was no law against taking those carpet burns out of the equation. Why the timidity?

In fairness, the same question might be asked of me or any other restaurant/bar owner, with a crucial difference: I’m not publicly expressing gracious relief at finally being given governmental cover for something I might have done of my own impetus all along, if so resolved.

Note yet again that customer satisfaction is not the basis for proposed anti-smoking legislation here or elsewhere, but be aware that there is some measure of personal frustration in having spent the past three years reconfiguring my own establishment to please our customers (market forces -- remember those?) by providing expanded non-smoking seating, and in doing so, succeeding in large measure without recourse to the carrot-less stick wielded by a suddenly militant city council.

Small wonder, then, that to engage in debate about smoking is to be forced to reckon at some juncture with the concept of individual responsibility. It may not be the only angle, but it is one that matters. There is indeed a slippery slope to be navigated

I still haven’t received an answer to my query from the restaurant owner quoted here, although CM Gonder quickly responded with a deft defense of the writer's position that thoughtfully referenced virtue, freedom, Civil Rights and human bondage in a manner that would elude the understanding of at least two of his fellow council persons voting against the smoking ordinance. That is appreciated, though not in the same fashion as when coming straight from the horse’s mouth.

That's okay. I can easily guess where it came from.

Yesterday at work, we looked again at options for coping with a smoking ban in the sense of constructing comfortable “most weather” (i.e., rain and cold) outdoor smoke break facilities that comply with Indiana state alcohol laws and local fire codes. My co-conspirator Lloyd agreed to undertake the research, and what we learned is that our compliance expense in the short-term probably will be at least $2,000, and perhaps as much as double that sum. I’ll split the difference, and peg it at $3,000 for a temporary solution.

Multiply that by the number of establishments in the city (not in the county, which will be unaffected by the smoking ban), and you’ll arrive at a figure that hints at the cost of the legislation as incurred by at least some of my brethren in the business. I do not cite this as an objection, merely as a fact.

Too bad there is not a concept of carrot to accompany the stick in this matter. For some local operators, the money required to cope could well be a deal breaker.

Inaugural Volksfest coming to Clay Street in Louisville this Saturday, August 23.

From the press release:

VOLKSFEST 2008: Presented by BBC and The Taprooom, New Albanian Brewing and O'Shea's

Saturday, August 23, 2008 ... 2:00 p.m. - Midnight.

On Saturday, August 23, 2008 two great breweries of Kentuckiana come together to present a fest of the people -“VOLKSFEST” 2008! Festivities are from 2:00 p.m. -midnight and will include German food, a German theme movie plus live local rock n roll!

BBC & New Albanian Brewing will be blocking off Clay Street between East Market & Main and will be spicing up a usual sleepy Saturday downtown scene. This event is open to the public and is FREE, with proceeds from food and beer to benefit Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, St. Vincent DePaul Society and Louisville Film Society Educational Arm.

Drink, Drink Bier—beers to be served will include a strong line-up of five micro Oktoberfest brews, and other special craft beers hand-selected by Louisville's “godfather of beer” Roger Baylor himself. Food will be prepared and served by local favorites O'Shea's, Monkey Wrench and Café Lou Lou, featuring: Dogs, Brats, Kraut, German Potato Salad and Big Soft Pretzels.

The “VOLKSFEST” will also feature a movie awards ceremony hosted by 48 Hours Film Project, which, will take place at dusk and will be followed by a dual screen showing of the German classic “Das Boot” presented by Louisville Film Society. German entertainment will be from 2 pm to 4 pm, and then local bands will take the stage to keep the evening rocking.

All ages are welcomed so everyone will want to be downtown for a fest of the people … VOLKSFEST 2008!

For further info on the VOLKSFEST call BBC at 502-419-2412 or 502-584-2739

Monday, August 18, 2008

Quid pro quo: Just 'cause you feel it doesn't mean its there.

It's a new week, and there are waters in need of muddying. Fortunately, I'm just the right man for the job.

To begin, and speaking personally, I’ve not once differed with the science that prefaces the city council’s “out of nowhere” workplace smoking ordinance. Me? I accept it.

At the same time, I accept that numerous hazards exist in daily life, both at home and in the workplace. It is perfectly legitimate for us to discuss how these risks are to be prioritized for the greater good of the community, to discuss these matters aloud, and to expect our elected officials to periodically emerge from the bunkers of their own making to join the conversation. It seems like a minimum standard of accountability, doesn't it?

As such, I‘ve argued that in terms of prioritizing personal risks and the city’s needs, the pro-ban council bloc’s choice of workplace smoking as the opening salvo in a campaign (real or imagined) of quasi-progressive reform for the city of New Albany is misguided and borders on the tragic, especially since far more pressing issues await the council’s attention -- and the current council has shown no more coherence than the previous one when it comes to consistency in pursuit of goals.

Furthermore, I have made the case that when the observations of science (why second hand smoke is injurious) meet the customarily greasier imperatives of politicians (the iron necessity of re-election), standards of admissible evidence quickly morph into something far broader than those cherished by the stricter legal minds among us.

To wit, while anti-smoking advocates cite science, and pro-smoking defenders cite freedoms, I’ve chosen to cite politics and the observable political precedent ... and as such, contrary to the opinions of our visiting lawyers, when the discussion turns to politics and politicians, the previous history and inclinations displayed by these politicians are absolutely germane to the topic at hand.

Absolutely.

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Even after morning coffee and a brief perusal of the world headlines, for one to take an honest look at the political implications prefacing the city council’s Thursday smoking ordinance vote is very much like being compelled to watch one of the “faces of death” videos. You see it and are disgusted, and then you want to turn away in abject revulsion … but somehow cannot, and soon you're wondering when the liquor stores open for business.

With the first reading vote in favor of a smoking ordinance clocking in at 5-4, the unlikely swing voter becomes none other than Dan “Wizard of Westside” Coffey. That's only marginally less frightening than George W. Bush with his paw on the button.

Much has been made of the Wizard's seeming conversion to the anti-smoking ranks. I’ll only buy into it if the council chamber is thoroughly screened for raw onions and paring knives prior to any of Cappuccino’s future filibustering oratory.

Straight up: If you believe that Coffey isn’t playing his swing role for all it’s worth, and if you believe he is sincere in this sudden and unprecedented conversion to tenderhearted concern for the downtrodden low wage workers that reside in the district he congenitally neglects, all I can say is that you have not observed his council demeanor over the past few years.

Something about defecating like a duck -- and we're not talking AFLAC here.

Whatever the nature of Coffey’s current set of theatrically self-aggrandizing precepts, they’re vitally important in light of the fact that if we accept as gospel the at-large councilman John Gonder’s version of events – the smoking ordinance as a mere prelude to sweeping progressive legislation in the far more significant area of rental property regulation and code enforcement – then we must consider the circumstances and ask a perfectly plausible question.

If “progressive” reform is the strategic goal, and a smoking ordinance a chosen tactic toward that destination, in what way does the council’s smoking fixation further the ultimate aim (among others) of bringing slumlords to heel?

I’m afraid that as of yet, we have no coherent answer beyond Gonder’s own admission that he would not have chosen smoking as the “first” step along the path of progressive enlightenment. Who actually did choose it, and why? Gonder has this to say:

I never asked who brought this issue forward. My sense of it is that since the previous council had let this bill languish, Jeff Gahan wanted to resurrect it.

For the perpetually self-interested Coffey to be the swing vote in any piece of legislation styled as progressive in the barest of coherent terms surely foreshadows imminent doom, probably at the expense of something on the horizon that is far more progressive (and hence, meaningful to greater numbers of citizens) than a ban on workplace smoking.

That’s because in terms of political capital, Coffey’s cooperation on smoking undoubtedly comes at a steep price. What future consideration is being swapped in return for his crucial vote on smoking?

How does this further the cause of rental property reform, an isue of public health and safety that dwarfs tobacco?

To rely on Coffey, bar none the least principled of all local politicians, for anything at all short of crisply barbecuing the bologna is to echo the words of the Peter O’Toole character in the movie “My Favorite Year.”

You can depend on Dan Coffey – he’ll always let you down.

And yet, what amounts to the progressive bloc in city council (itself a debatable proposition, but offered here for the sake of the argument) now depends on Dan Coffey to pass the smoking ordinance – and to judge from long years of experience, Coffey will either renege on the payback or mutate it beyond recognition when the times comes to pass the basket.

The same is true of smoking ban proponents in the community. When the time comes to tackle a truly important public health issue – sub-standard housing and the reign of local slumlords – will any of the smoking ban proponents be there on the front line with good intentioned politicians like Gonder?

The Health Department?

The eccentric do-gooders?

The professional health fascism lobbyists?

Don’t hold your breath. They’ll get what they wanted on the one issue that matters to them, then melt away as fast as an April snowfall. At least it will free the council to abandon rental property reform quickly and then turn back to the sewers for another two to three years of impotence.

In short, the smoking ordinance is “one off” in council political terms, and as such, it is a grave tactical error indicative of sadly misplaced strategic priorities. It will not assist the prospects for rental property reform. It is having the effect of rallying against rental property reform precisely the same people who’d have to be brought on board to achieve the curtailment of the slumlord presence.

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Once again, due praise to John Gonder for coming forth and joining the discussion in the blogosphere.

Too bad the same can’t be said for Coffey, Pat McLaughlin, Bob Caesar and Jeff Gahan.

How’s that list of exceptions coming along, anyway?