Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Meta-blog

I've transitioned all of my blogging - show-related, political, books, and other - over to a new site. If you want to, check it out and add it to your favorites and blogrolls.

It is

I'll cross-post here, too, but you can get it all, including more than three years of archived material, at the meta-blog.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Volunteer Hoosier at NA Confidential

This Web log ceased publication on Monday, April 3, 2006. Volunteer Hoosier has been acquired by NA Confidential, where this writer is now employed. Please enjoy the archives.

Constantinople to Istanbul

Istanbul is widely recognized as the name of Turkey's most well known city, but it was not always this way, and even today some confusion over its proper name still exists. The confusion is rooted in the various names the city assumed under the Ottomans in the centuries after their conquest of the city in 1453. Although the Ottomans did not purposely change the city's name, they opted to make "Constantinople" into a more Turkish style name "Konstantiniye" (which loosely translates as "of Constantine"), however variations on Konstantiniye soon cropped up.

"Stanbulin," (Greek for "to the city") once commonly found on road signs directing travelers to the capital, was punned by devout Turks into Islambol, where "Islam abounds." The names Islambol and Konstantiniye were used interchangeably in Ottoman documents up until the empire's demise in 1923. Westerners continued to refer to the city as Constantinople well into the 20th century. In the 19th century, however, the city's large foreign expatriate community took to calling the old city Stamboul. Western accounts of the old city during this period make regular references to the name.
Foundation for the Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture

Effective this date, Volunteer Hoosier ceases publication. This blogger departs from "Constantinople" for a new home at "Istanbul."

The New Albanian and I have, in his words, consummated a merger of interests, and I will be joining him in the hope of making NA Confidential even stronger. It is already the premier Web log in the region.

The separation between us has never been as wide as the Bosporus, but we, The New Albanian and All4Word, have always marched to the beat of distinctly different drummers.

As for me, I early on decided that it would have been boorish of me to write at length as a commenter on NA Confidential. And yet, like The New Albanian, I’m not one to write in short bites. Thus, shortly after NA Confidential came online, Volunteer Hoosier was born. We hope you have found it stimulating.

In my judgment, The New Albanian offers strong insight and a wit that I appreciate. If anything can be said about our senses of humor, it is that he has the better delivery of it, and I have a greater appreciation of it.

I will say that I can think of no instance in which The New Albanian has taken his satire further than is appropriate. I would proudly sign on to his spot-on critiques.

Another distinction is that, between the two of us, I am clearly the “wonk” in the equation. In addition to my affinity for policy and financial detail, I’m more likely to consider the electoral strategies that underlie public policy decisions – at least, I’m more likely to speculate about them.

As mentioned above, Volunteer Hoosier ceases publication effective today. I have no regrets. I’m pleased to join the online platform at NA Confidential, and the acquisition price was sufficient incentive to surrender my single-author site.

We are of like minds about many matters, but don’t expect a monolithic front here. I will have the freedom to post on any topic at a moment’s notice, without prior restraint, and it is a given that agreement between us is not a requirement.

We do disagree from time to time, including recently, which makes this a fortuitous time for our “merger.” In short, we trust and value each other’s judgment.

One final note. It is our joint and fervent desire to encourage contributor Bluegill to “ramp up” his contributions and make this site even stronger.

The New Albanian is departing for a well-earned vacation road trip, sans Mrs. Confidential, and will be on enforced hiatus. NA Confidential has been a primary source for community news, like tomorrow’s Neighborhoods Summit. Be sure to copy me at
with such items, particularly during NAC’s hiatus. -- All4Word

Here is the announcement made today at NA Confidential:

The supreme end of education is expert discernment in all things - the power to tell the good from the bad, the genuine from the counterfeit,and to prefer the good and the genuine to the bad and the counterfeit.--- Samuel Johnson

“Good” and “genuine” are just two of the many words I’ve used to describe the quality of the writing and the advocacy at Volunteer Hoosier, a blog long included in NA Confidential’s sidebar links and often cited on these pages.

Today I’m pleased to formally announce the addition of All4Word, a/k/a Randy Smith, to the editorial board of this Web log. Randy is a fellow businessman arrived lately to these shores, and was the founder of Volunteer Hoosier in 2004. Readers will be familiar with his work, online and behind the scenes, in drawing attention to matters of public affairs.

After long consideration, Randy and I decided to consummate a merger of interests in the belief that together we can make NA Confidential a more comprehensive and useful site. With two primary reporters/commentators, each of us will be able to devote more time to making the site better without neglecting our other responsibilities.

NA Confidential, effective this date, has acquired the rights to Volunteer Hoosier, which will cease publication. However, the archival postings and comments will remain online.--- The New Albanian

Sunday, April 02, 2006

All Politics is Local

If you are a regular reader of The New York Times (and you should be) or an aficionado of the writings of Thomas Friedman (The World is Flat, Updated, $30), you will forgive me for taking a page from the Friedman playbook. That is, allow me to paraphrase today's column and apply it to the state of play here at home.

Friedman speaks of "venom unleashed" today, and the vast difficulty in putting the genie back in the bottle. I don't presume to equate his topic (Iraq's religio-civil war) to local politics. For one, the factions in Mesopotamia consist of enormous numbers of people who abdicate their own judgment to that of their leaders, a situation that does not, for the most part, apply here. Only minute numbers.

But it can be instructive to use Friedman's language to analyze the mindset of a vocal node infecting the body politic.

Don't get me wrong. I encourage the lunatics at Speak Out Loud New Albany to continue posting their screeds. With every day that passes, with every word that litters the pages of that blog, their credibility diminishes. More than a few have abandoned them out of sheer embarrassment at the muddled thinking on display, the total lack of concern for facts, and the hagiographical devotion to some of the worst offenders against the public weal. More than a few have come by my store to confess that they had once fallen for the game on display there, and to apologize for ever having equated that blog with any of the others in town - the ones that demonstrate credibility.

But back to the lesson. In the world of a few over-represented troglodytes (that is, the anti-progress faction, for at least the next 21 months, wields 4 of the 9 votes on New Albany's City Council), you enter a realm that is beyond politics, a realm where fear and revenge dominate everyone's thinking - and that is where the trogs are heading.

Once embedded, this cycle of fear and revenge (and cooked-up "outrage") is almost impossible to break. This is the place from which mass murderers erupt. A sense of aggrievement this severe cries out for release, and one can only hope that the outlet of a backwater blog can vent some of the steam. Theirs is a self-reinforcing atmosphere of self-congratulatory perception, generating sufficient RPM, but stuck in neutral and going nowhere. Were SOLNA a barge, it would be stuck firmly to the K&I Bridge, requiring the sludge to be drained from it before being refloated.

The half-dozen illiterates there succumb to the flattery of more calculating types who use their anger to push an agenda of destruction. Laura's people have concluded that the only thing that can save them from a world that refuses to stand still is to adopt a militancy guaranteed to divorce them from reality or any chance at effecting change. They will go on to develop and strengthen extortion rackets, feel the thrill of public attention and, as that happens, start to do all they can to prevent the government from moving with civilization toward a unified vision of the future.

Their office-holding and office-coveting handlers are now concluding that "they can gain more power and influence from building on sectarian loyalties than from appeals for unity." And make no mistake about it, the fight for New Albany's future lines up more along sectarian lines, of a sort, than it does along partisan lines, although partisans will try to harness the forces.

We'll be around to demonstrate (and prove) that those politicians are wrong. New Albany is progressive. The trogs are fighting a losing battle, and any politician who casts his or her lot with them will soon discover the mistake. For the forces for progress vastly outnumber the forces for the status quo. And the "troglobytes" seeking to roll back to a time that never existed pale in comparison to either of those.

A Baghdad blogger, the Mesopotamian, quoted by, gave a vivid description of his neighborhood: "The confusion and conflict between the Americans, the army and the Ministry of the Interior is producing a situation where the citizens don't know any more whether the security personnel in the street are friends, enemies, terrorists or simply criminals and thieves...Whole sections of the city have virtually fallen to gangs and terrorists." Hmmm.

Again, I don't want to diminish the chaos in Baghdad, nor to elevate the chaos in New Albany. But which "side" in this fight do you think is pushing toward chaos. Yeah, I thought so, too.

Give ol' Tom Friedman a few minutes of your time today. If nothing else, you'll educate yourself about the mess the Bush administration will leave for someone else to fix. But as you read, consider who is pushing for a unified vision of the future here, and who stands to benefit from creating chaos.

Here's the link: The Endgame in Iraq

Thursday, March 30, 2006


Blogs are traditionally derivative. That is, historically Web logs have been created by motivated amateurs who share the great sites they've come across during the course of a day. The political blogs common to this area tend to do more "original programming," but they still rely on primary news sources as a factual reference point (at least the reliable ones do).

During VH's existence, we've tended to shy away from linking to news stories and "cool" sites, but sometimes another Web site says more with a simple interface than all the commentary in the world.

May I recommend that you consult this brilliant piece of work by Tim at Be warned, it is a sobering encounter.

Step Up

The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as smart. -- Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. in The Sirens of Titan

A survey of the political landscape little more than one month before the national/state/county/township primary elections yields a startling conclusion about New Albany's 2007 city elections: Mayor James E. Garner is in position to secure re-election, becoming the first mayor in decades to do so in this city.

The possibility of a serious intra-party challenge grows increasingly remote. The usual suspects are tarnished, to put it lightly, and Garner seems all but assured of renomination. Were the mayor a mere seat-warmer, that wouldn't be. But that is not the case. Garner has earned respect across the state as a quick study and has strong support among Indiana party leaders.

The GOP will, of course, field an opponent, but the blood-feud bitterness expected to flow from that party's primary will reveal a series of flawed candidates drafted only for appearances sake. Some have speculated that Garner would stand an even chance of winning not only the Democratic Party primary, but of making a race of it among Republicans.

How did Garner reach this position? How did the mayor deflect the initial criticisms of this blogger (and for that matter, that other blogger, The New Albanian)? How did Garner outmaneuver the Gang of Four on the City Council so intent on kneecapping this administration, and by extension, this city?

First-Instinct Honesty

For his political advisors, Garner's lack of calculation can be a headache. His Honor invariably answers any question without guile, simply stating the facts as they are, and not as he would wish them to be. There is no trimming, no spin, no manipulation of language to make himself and his administration look better. He responds with the easiest answer - the truth.

That's not to say Garner isn't careful. At council meetings, he is the answer man, even when faced with an ambush scenario as has become increasingly common recently. The members of the council do so little preparation, so little homework in advance of their twice-monthly meetings that Garner, or his staff, must provide them with mini-tutorials on almost every issue facing the body.

Comprehensive Knowledge

When in that role, the mayor is exceedingly careful to give the facts as he knows them. That often results in the mayor losing eye contact with his audience (the council), lowering his chin and rolling his eyes upward to consult some virtual spreadsheet or memorandum to retrieve an answer. He'll do that even in other public forums, and it is a classic mistake for a politician to lose eye contact with his listeners.

Fortunately, once the fact-retrieval process is completed, Garner comes back to full engagement with the questioner and the audience. Compared to his obstructionist opponents, the mayor comes across as a literal fountain of knowledge.

The X-Factor

But what is the third element in Garner's political strength? That would have to be his effectiveness in pushing through his vision for the city.

Facing almost intractable problems, particularly with the city's 2005 finances, unfunded mandates, and deteriorating infrastructure, the mayor has managed to win passage of every single initiative he has put forward, including the Scribner Place redevelopment project and the reorganization of the city's sanitation operations.

Granted, these victories have often come by 5-4 votes, with four faux-Democrats voting reactively against any mayoral initiative, but victories they are, nonetheless, for Garner and for the city.

The Weakness

Communication continues to be the mayor's biggest weakness. Perhaps to keep from ruffling too many feathers among those whose perceive New Albany to be a sleepy little town (it never was, as Bluegill so ably points out), the mayor has failed to forcefully articulate his vision for the future.

The Garner program dribbles out piecemeal. It may be well defined in his own mind. It may be well known among his closest advisors. But there is no declaration, no white paper, no communications campaign to lay out that vision.

Only by laying out that vision in a series of position statements can the mayor cause the citizenry to coalesce around that vision. There's no upside in keeping it in your head, Mr. Mayor. And there's no advantage in trying to accommodate your enemies. For whatever reason, they are and will continue to oppose you.

But the survey shows that while there's no groundswell of "love" out there, there is a broad segment of the city, across party lines, that sees in this mayor the glimmer of hope for a resurgent New Albany.

Act now, Mr. Garner. It is not too early to campaign for your issues. By articulating your vision now, you can secure that re-election next year. As it stands today, the election is yours to claim. Don't let it slip away by being timid about telling us what you want for this city. Step Up and claim your prize.


Volunteer Hoosier will soon cease to be a regularly updated Web log. We are being acquired by a burgeoning, branded online operation. This blog will, however, remain as an archive of our previous postings and the comments thereon.

As we wind down this current incarnation, we invite you to share with us your favorite Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. quotes.