Friday, June 10, 2005

Recognize Anybody?

“Fanaticism consists of redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.” -- George Santayana, in John Harris, The Survivor

Showdown over Section 215

It's happening a little sooner than we expected, but the showdown over Section 215 is coming up next week. Lord knows we can't count on Sodrel to buck the administration, but at least he won't be able to say he never heard anything from his constituents.

On Tuesday, June 14, or Wednesday, June 15, Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is expected to try again to pass his Freedom to Read Amendment, when the House of Representatives is due to consider the House Commerce, Justice, State (CJS) Appropriations Bill, which funds the Justice Department. The Sanders amendment would cut off funds for bookstore and library searches under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act.

There's no time to waste: The American Booksellers Association urges you to contact your representative immediately. Speak out strongly in support of the Freedom to Read Amendment. Please e-mail, fax, or call your member of Congress now! Tell them that Section 215 threatens free speech for all Americans. Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act eliminates several important safeguards that prevent law enforcement officials in foreign intelligence investigations from engaging in fishing expeditions in bookstore and library records. FBI agents can search the bookstore or library records of anyone who they believe may have information relevant to a terrorism or espionage investigation, including people who are not suspected of committing a crime.

ABA strongly recommends that you make calls to your representative's Washington and district offices. Contact information is easily available through the House of Representatives website,

In 2004, when Rep. Sanders joined Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) in introducing the Freedom to Read Amendment to the CSJ Appropriations Bill, the House voted in favor of the bill; however, House leadership succeeded in forcing enough members to switch their votes to create a tie, thereby killing the measure.
This year, ABA believes there is a good chance to win the vote. There are 126 co-sponsors of Sanders' Freedom to Read Protection Act, which restores the safeguards for bookstore and library records that were eliminated by the Patriot Act. Once again, many members of Congress who are not co-sponsors are expected to support Sanders. ABA hopes that the widespread criticism that was directed against the House leadership's tactics last year will act as a restraining force this year and members will vote their conscience.

Act now! Your help in this fight has brought us this far, and now victory is within sight. E-mail, fax, and call your rep today!

Nailing It

Economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has developed into one of the more incisive analysts of our politics; more specifically, Krugman takes on the "politics of greed" in a way that exposes the tactics and gives insight into the motives of the powers transforming our nation into one with gross inequality and falling real median incomes.

Read this excerpt and begin to see how it applies to our own situation in New Albany. As I see it, the problem with our city is a recurring failure to invest in the future. Far too many people want to preserve what they have, to lock in the status quo ante, cross their fingers, and hope for the best. But above all, don't DO anything.

New Albany and Floyd County can no longer afford to wait to invest in the future. For too long, we have abdicated our responsibility and made investments only at the point of a (judicial) gun. As for discretionary investments designed to bootstrap our local economy and transform NA from a fading backwater of Metro Louisville...well, you see the do-nothing faction at work right now.

Another local commentator likened the city to a family that, when faced with a tight budget, must take a second or third job to make ends meet. The creation of revenue streams is the job of the city. Good stewardship involves much more than collecting and spending fixed revenues. It requires investments that increase those revenue streams.

Scribner Place is precisely one of those investments. Opponents, including both those who are acting out of ignorance and those who are political opportunists, rail that the city's investment will result in an increase in property taxes. The exact opposite is true. While property taxes are certain to rise, this investment in the city's future will enhance the delivery of city services while limiting the tax increase. It will generate new revenues and allow the city to provide more services at a lower relative cost. Without it, and future projects like it, property taxes will rise and rise and rise, driving some of its opponents out of our city because they will no longer be able to afford to live here.

On the larger national scale, Krugman identifies part of the problem. See if you recognize any of the "partisans" he addresses. The link is active, if you want to read the entire article online.

Losing Our Country

...Since 1980 in particular, U.S. government policies have consistently favored the wealthy at the expense of working families - and under the current administration, that favoritism has become extreme and relentless. From tax cuts that favor the rich to bankruptcy "reform" that punishes the unlucky, almost every domestic policy seems intended to accelerate our march back to the robber baron era...

...It's not a pretty picture - which is why right-wing partisans try so hard to discredit anyone who tries to explain to the public what's going on...

...These partisans rely in part on obfuscation: shaping, slicing and selectively presenting data in an attempt to mislead. For example, it's a plain fact that the Bush tax cuts heavily favor the rich, especially those who derive most of their income from inherited wealth. Yet this year's Economic Report of the President, in a bravura demonstration of how to lie with statistics, claimed that the cuts "increased the overall progressivity of the federal tax system...."

...The partisans also rely in part on scare tactics, insisting that any attempt to limit inequality would undermine economic incentives and reduce all of us to shared misery...

...Above all, the partisans engage in name-calling. To suggest that sustaining programs like Social Security, which protects working Americans from economic risk, should have priority over tax cuts for the rich is to practice "class warfare." To show concern over the growing inequality is to engage in the "politics of envy..."

Randy Smith,

Thursday, June 09, 2005

When Enough is Enough

On June 9, 1954, Army counsel Joseph N. Welch confronted Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy during the Senate-Army Hearings over McCarthy's attack on a member of Welch's law firm, Frederick G. Fisher. Said Welch: "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

Welch exemplifies the long American tradition of standing up to tyrants, those in power who rely on demagoguery to maintain power. When you see it, speak out. When others speak out, don't try to muzzle them.

Tyrants rely on a docile public, a citizenry that will accept the easy lie and thus allow the tyrant to maintain a stranglehold on the facts. Those with access to the facts, but who continually throw up smoke screens and other irrelevancies to obscure them, are treating their constituents in arrogance and with contempt.

And the citizen or politician who tries to muzzle the truth-teller bears, perhaps, the greatest stain, for they enable the tyrant to no just cause.

It is clear that Messrs. Coffey, Kochert, and Schmidt are dependent on such enablers and emboldened to continue to obfuscate and obstruct progress in this city. Faction lapdog, 3rd District Council Member Steve Price, seems to admire this troika and follow their lead on every issue.

It is time for New Albany's people to stand up and declare their loyalties. Be a Joseph Welch and challenge the regressive faction by asking "Have you no sense of decency, sirs. At long last, have you no sense of decency?"

Randy Smith,

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

A Will Rogers Moment

As the Oklahoma humorist said, "All I know is what I read in the newspapers."

Demonstration of Demagoguery Breaks Out at Council

I wasn't there at the City Council meeting last evening, but it sure sounds like CM Kochert was scrambling to pass the buck.

We often use the term demagogue here at Volunteer Hoosier. It is shorthand for a certain type of politician, but it has a formal definition, too.

dem*a*gogue also dem*a*gog n. 1. A leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace.

Last night's City Council meeting, as reported in this Courier-Journal story by Ben Zion Hershberg, displayed the proverbial "use it in a sentence" demonstration of just what demagoguery is.

When the mayor informed the council that he would be asking the Sewer Board to fund repair work on Clark Street after our 25-year storm washed out the underground drainage system up off DePauw Av., CM Kochert bristled at the suggestion. Why, he asked, should the Sewer Board pay for this emergency?

Is this the same man who for the past six weeks has been screaming that the vast resources of the Sewer Board must be hoarded for emergencies? This road closure surely qualifies as an emergency, even in the Chicken Little world of the regressive faction of council. The area in question is full of VOTERS, and although I would quibble with the C-J's description of Clark as a "busy" thoroughfare, it sure sounds like something that qualifies as an emergency.

Kochert then called for "leadership" to address these problems. Apparently, "leadership" could have prevented this storm, which experts say happens about 4 times a century. Demonstrating the advisability of reading to the end of every story, we discover that "leadership" was indeed lacking.

First, we learn that City Council neglected to re-authorize a special annual drainage fund for just such emergencies. Because the council committee in charge of drainage issues failed to exercise "leadership," residents have been inconvenienced for more than a week now.

I expected Kochert to call for the resignation of that committee's chairman. One would think that a committee set up last year to manage drainage issues would have taken the time to introduce a routine measure to reauthorize the set-aside of money for drainage emergencies.

But never mind. Kochert is the chairman of the committee responsible for drainage. It was his responsibility to seek reauthorization for an emergency fund.

Guess the folks in the Fifth Council District can look forward to a new style of "leadership" and we can all be glad Kochert has promised to retire upon the expiration of his current term.

Randy Smith,

Monday, June 06, 2005

What We're Up Against

From an earlier Volunteer Hoosier posting:

"...You are the government. Be personally active in finding out the truth. Don't let anyone else tell you what to think."

A response, by e-mail, from my new friend at

"You are so full of crap!!!! You and baylor -is the biggest joke running in this town....... "

Golly! I stand corrected. I suppose the admonition to "don't let anyone else tell you what to think" is interfering with someone's plans. I'm still listening for the laughter, but am glad to be such a source of entertainment. Even in a city the size of New Albany, being the biggest joke is quite an honor, even if I have to share it with my uncapitalized friend. And the wife tells me I'm not really all that funny.

And on a personal note, I am proud to be linked in anyone's mind with my friend, the esteemed businessman, Roger Baylor, who performs a singular service to this community. When you get tired of whacking on Roger, feel free to take a few swings at me.

(GRAMMAR GREMLIN: It should have said "You are so full of crap! You and Baylor are the biggest jokes running in this town...")

Randy Smith,

Is This What They Voted For?

"Under the Bush tax cuts, the 400 taxpayers with the highest incomes - a minimum of $87 million in 2000, the last year for which the government will release such data - now pay income, Medicare and Social Security taxes amounting to virtually the same percentage of their incomes as people making $50,000 to $75,000. Those earning more than $10 million a year now pay a lesser share of their income in these taxes than those making $100,000 to $200,000."

----------------------- Last week in The New York Times.