Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Competing Offer?

Negotiations continue with our original suitor, and I'm most likely to complete the deal, but this morning I received an e-mail from a more local media operation that wants to talk "turkey."

Now, despite the fact that a certain fact-challenged segment of our readership would agree that this blogger fits the description, I agreed.

We'll be meeting with this last-minute suitor over the next few days. I have informed the other party, as well. I choose to see this not as a glitch, but an opportunity, and who knows, we might be able to work out some type of synergistic accommodation.

(FYI, the new suitor scores on the influence index at more than 1800!)

On another topic, how many of you have clicked on the audiocast link? Is this something that would be useful to you? Is the sound quality sufficient? Would you be interested in a weekday "podcast," either via blog or by subscription feed to your inbox?

Measuring Web Influence

My e-mailbox is filling with inquiries about the upcoming changes here. I'm still not at liberty to discuss the new business arrangement and I'm trying desperately to get a handle on some of the new technology that will be made available to me once we complete this deal.

But here's a hint as to the magnitude of influence our new partner has in the blogosphere.

Gorka Julio has developed a metric to measure the influence each blog has. Our new partner weighs in with a measure of 275.8. In comparison, the New Albany anonyblog Freedom of Speech scores a 1.2 for influence.

This blog manages to approach the 100 metric; NA Renewal goes well past that point. I'll count it as a success if over the next several months we can boost the metric for our new partner up over the 300 mark.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I Thought I Recognized Him

Remember the whiny, insecure kid in nursery school, the one who always thought everyone was out to get him, and was always running to the teacher with complaints? Chances are he grew up to be a conservative.

At least, he did if he was one of 95 kids from the Berkeley area that social scientists have been tracking for the last 20 years. The confident, resilient, self-reliant kids mostly grew up to be liberals.

...from How to Spot a Baby Conservative in the Toronto Star.

And then there's the Washington Post story about this study, which revealed:

Studies presented at the conference, for example, produced evidence that emotions and implicit assumptions often influence why people choose their political affiliations, and that partisans stubbornly discount any information that challenges their preexisting beliefs.

Emory University psychologist Drew Westen put self-identified Democratic and Republican partisans in brain scanners and asked them to evaluate negative information about various candidates. Both groups were quick to spot inconsistency and hypocrisy -- but only in candidates they opposed.

Link of the Day

Managing perceptions is the death of good journalism, especially manufactured perceptions, and even more those manufactured for the easily cowed.

Read more at Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo

Merger Talks Hit Snag

Although there is little doubt the deal will still go through, our discussions with our acquiring partner have run into a hurdle. One small snag is how to make the announcement and whether to call it a merger or an acquisition. Our counselors will settle this, but with six figures involved, I'm not going to get hung up over terminology. We're still pushing for a clean new start beginning April 1, but the other side isn't prepared to close until later in the month.

I learned yesterday that the site is exploring a number of technology and interface upgrades, and we hope to lend some of our expertise to that project's rollout.

I do believe the deal is still sound and will go through. But in the interests of full disclosure, I wanted to keep you, our loyal readers, fully informed.

And now, a long-forgotten promise to this blogger is revealed:

Listen to the following in audio

Despite protestations to the contrary, our golf-cart wheeling, fist-wielding, litigation-prone, self-appointed burr in the mayor's saddle is a prolific e-mailer, blogger, and chat-room denizen. Valla Ann Bolovschak (or Vila, as her pal Danny calls her) cuts quite a swath through cyberspace, and seems to enjoy herself tremendously.

Valla Ann, who amazingly can be quite charming, even to men, when she chooses, takes particular pride in her sense of humor. Little of that has been seen in public lately, but you must understand that pot-boiling, language-twisting, and other general impishness is what Valla Ann considers humorous. That's fine. We all have annoying tendencies.

In late 2004 and again in 2005, Valla Ann and I corresponded. This was, of course, at a time when she believed I would be an ally in her campaign to ambush the mayor at every turn.

I asked the local cover girl and makeup model if she would make her proprietary tapings of the City Council meetings available to the public by depositing copies at the NAFC Public Library. She promised that she would do that.

More than a year has passed since that promise was elicited. A check yesterday verified that no such copies exist at the library or in any other repository available to the general public.

Volunteer Hoosier has refrained from calling the lady out on this promise until now. As we wind down our commentary and reporting in its present incarnation, now is the best time I can think of to ask Valla Ann either or both of two questions: 1. What's holding you up? I know it's not a technological problem. Has the library rejected your offer to deposit these historic records? AND/OR 2. Why did you lie to me when you never had any intention of making the tapes public?

Monday, March 20, 2006

From the Wayback Machine

If anyone ever had any doubt about who opposes progress (and citizen participation in government), this reprise of VH's report of the Feb. 8, 2005 New Albany City Council meeting is instructive:


Good morning, class. Welcome to our online seminar in applied civics. We are waiving the normal fee, but all participants are required to stay until the end of today's lesson. Potential candidates for New Albany's City Council are invited to audit the class. Take notes. Pay attention. You will be tested.


City Council met in executive session one hour before the scheduled public meeting, presumably to discuss the city's current litigation/settlement options in relation to the pending lawsuit in Federal District Court pitting the city against the First, Fourth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth amendments, otherwise known as City of New Albany vs. New Albany DVD.

It can be surmised that public business was also discussed (in violation of Indiana's open government statutes) as the council president, after calling the night's public meeting to order, announced that the council had decided to defer approval of the minutes of each of the last two meetings. Unless they are telepathic, they must have agreed to do that before the public session.


At 7:15, the council opened a public hearing on four matters, in accordance with legal requirements. Public comment was invited on three appropriations and a zoning matter. Greg Roberts, representing the East Spring Street Neighborhood Association, urged the council to approve an appropriation to purchase 2 garbage packers. One council member questioned Greg, asking if the choice came down to funding the packers (an agenda item) or funding the code enforcement/paralegal (not an agenda item), which would he prefer. Greg replied, without hesitation, "code enforcement."


After a perfunctory and less-than-reverent recitation of the Lord's prayer and pledge to the flag, CM Jeff Gahan announced the curious agreement to defer approval of the minutes and proceeded directly to the public communications portion of the evening.

Mass Communications 101

Valla Ann Bolovschak, beleaguered watchdog and confidant/patronage nominee of at least one CM, took to the lectern first to scold CM Gahan for meeting with the management of WNAS, the broadcast outlet for Valla Ann's videotaped presentations of council meetings. This observer admits to being somewhat confused by a discussion of the technical issues that befell the most recent cablecasts. For a moment, I thought we were going to hear about a Watergate-style covert operation to fuzz the tape. Alas, it all appears to have been an innocent technical glitch.

At the conclusion of Ms. Bolovschak's comments, she invited questions and CM Larry Kochert obliged, questioning why CM Gahan would be meeting with WNAS, the New Albany High School television station. Valla Ann then took up the interrogation of the council president, apparently receiving the answers she desired.

Soon enough, we got to the heart of the matter. Ms. B (or Viola, as CM Dan Coffey calls her) is tired of carrying the financial burden of hiring a professional videographer to tape all the council meetings and wants the financially strapped city to underwrite those expenses.A small contretemps erupted when CM Beverly Crump objected to the implication that non-taped meetings lacked integrity, but peace was quickly restored.

Public Relations 100

This blogger, who has previously contended that the council is under no obligation to entertain oral presentations, submitted a petition to the council president that invited all members of the council to attend the March 2 Public Affairs Symposium, "New Visions for Downtown New Albany." City Clerk Marcey Wisman read the invitation into the meeting record.

Logic 201

Recognizing the time pressures faced by members of the council, fellow blogger The New Albanian shared with council a summary of the discussions on NA Confidential over the past few weeks.

Among the highlights was his report that the consensus on the site supported the city abandoning its costly efforts to stop the opening of New Albany DVD.

The New Albanian has repeatedly called for the mayor and council to institute some forum for communication between citizens and their elected representatives* and reiterated that call during the public communications portion of Tuesday's City Council meeting.*

(NOTE: Henceforth, the default description will be representatives, not leaders; the faculty committee on semantics will continue to debate the legitimacy of the new terminology and will release its interim report shortly on whether to retain the term representatives or to downgrade the title to officeholder or occupants of office.)

Apparently, CM Coffey confused The New Albanian's grayish ballcap for my own pale forehead and began to berate our favorite pubmeister for the format of the 7 p.m. public affairs symposium being held at Destinations Booksellers on March 2.

Announcing that he "doesn't read (Roger's) blog" and wielding a thick envelope for effect (who knows what was in it?), Coffey asserted that he previously had every intention of attending the symposium until he discovered that he would not be allowed to speak. Gosh, the only place we've announced it is in the store and on a BLOG!

For the record, Mr. Baylor's involvement with the March 2 forum is expected to be limited to muscling a few bookshelves and pointing attendees to the necessary room in the event of emergencies. This symposium was in the works before I ever met The New Albanian. That he and his online Web log are helping to publicize it and supporting its objective of creating a community conversation about saving downtown does not make him responsible for its format.

Then it really got interesting. Among other things, this was the civics lesson of the night, courtesy of CM Coffey:

Point 1: He contended the "we" are the ones who know what can be done, what's legal, and what money is available. Presumably, he meant the council, but I can't be sure.

Point 2: He said he doesn't read blogs and that he "figures anyone can hide behind a keyboard."

Point 3: By Coffey's lights, if you want to criticize, question, or otherwise participate in the public discussion of civic affairs, you must run for office (and presumably win). Otherwise, shut the hell up.

Point 4: In all fairness, Danny C. claimed to have held six town halls during his current term, but undermined his claim by then disinviting anyone who doesn't live in his district.

The New Albanian, after a procedural question directed to the council president, simply smiled genuinely and said of his blog, "I think you should read it." As Roger returned to his seat, Coffey couldn't resist calling out, while patting his thick envelope of mystery documents, "I don't read," at least in the hearing of one observer.

Government 333

We refer you to The Tribune and City Editor Amany Ali's coverage of a fairly calm business meeting where routine matters were approved and a skittish council, in light of the unsettled cash balance calculations roiling the city, tabled all matters requiring new appropriations. The formerly ailing CM Bill Schmidt provided half a loaf in documenting all the borrowings approved by the council over the past 20 months or so. No information on repayments was provided while the state auditors comb the city's financial activities during the tenures of four controllers. Suffice it to say that the cops get no cars, the sanitation department gets no trucks, and the joint 911 dispatch office must wait another week-and-a-half for the authority to pay its bills.

Class recess

Until tomorrow...same time, same site, when we will address the fallacies inherent in Mr. Coffey's ridiculous comments.

Here's a little teaser...who says a symposium on "New Visions for Downtown New Albany" would address government action, anyway? If an elected representative wishes to unequivocally announce his opposition to citizens gathering to discuss matters of concern and interest to them, let him speak now.

Feel free to discuss among yourselves.

A VH Retrospective

We'll be posting snippets of commentary from the past year and more throughout this week and next as Volunteer Hoosier winds down.

If VH has a personality, a philosophy, these snippets should reveal it.

The conclusion we have drawn is this: the problems facing our community are not states of nature. They stem from an environment poisoned by actual individuals, individuals who devalue education, deride progressivism, and seek only to elevate their egos by jealously guarding the levers of power from any who might actually want to use them.

Our critics seem to shudder at what they call unfounded personal attacks. They miss the point. They are personal because Volunteer Hoosier believes it is the persons who are responsible for the mess we are in. So long as the citizenry averts their eyes from what is a fairly repugnant form of political knife-fighting, they will never know who those looters and destroyers are. Then, when election time comes and the voters see New Albany sitting by the side of the road with a flat tire, they'll assume the driver is at fault. We're here to show who is wielding the knives, who is spreading the tire-puncturing tacks, who is pouring sugar in the gas tanks.

In hoops-mad Indiana, I offer this little parable:

The basketball team wasn't putting up wins like it once did. Fans of the team, if you could call them that, seldom came out to watch the games, but a few tried to follow the team's progress in the newspapers. The team had frequently excelled, with stellar seasons, numerous awards, and even now it was often envied. But something had gone wrong. Bad wrong.

The coaches were disengaged, and paid little attention to what the players actually did during the games. In fact, all the coaches usually did was submit the lineup. The rest of the time they spent with their backs turned to the game, balancing their checkbooks, talking on their cell phones, flirting with the thought of coaching another team. In fact, the coaches spent more time watching film of other teams than in coaching their own, especially during the season.

Oh, the coaches would try to pay attention to their own team when it came time to fill out the lineup, but because they hadn't watched the team during the season, they were ill-equipped to make the necessary changes to the lineup. Weaker players continued to be inserted into the lineup each time, simply because the coaches didn't know any better.

Reporters seldom commented on the lack of attention by the coaches. Their jobs were to cover the games, and they did so with varying degrees of diligence. Sometimes, the reporters would figuratively phone in their reports, having developed personal ties with some of the players. Accordingly, readers of their reports would often find a game report elevating the importance of a few players' contributions at the expense of the real game stars.

You see, many of the players on the team had earned a nice living for many years without making any significant contributions. When the coaches were making out the lineups, they spoke glibly of their long tenures on the team and told the coaches how great they were. These players knew they had never had to SHOW the coaches how great they were, but they had become very good at TELLING how great they were. Having a reporter parrot those tidings didn't hurt, either.

One season (not so unlike some earlier seasons), some new reporters began to show up at the games. These new reporters had seen the game played, but never like it was played on this court. They began to report the games the way they were, and even asked the coaches to explain why this team played the game so differently from other teams.

For the most part, the coaches couldn't answer the reporters. Some of the coaches were mystified. "Isn't this the way all teams play the game?" they asked. "Not hardly," said the reporters.

With the coaches' attention diverted, the players ran the games, but each player had a different goal, and not enough of them had any interest in the team.

The coaches had named a team captain, but many of the players felt they were more deserving of the captaincy. As it turned out, the captain knew the game and played the game with more skill, more knowledge, and a greater sense of team than many of the players.

When the captain had an open shot, he sank it more often than not. But the captain knew a one-person team couldn't win as many games as the captain knew the team was capable of winning. So he tried to get the team to play together.

"No dice," said four of his teammates. When those recalcitrants were in the game, their resentment and envy of the captain's greater skill came out in spades. This "Gang of Four" made it their mission to stop the captain.

One game, the captain tried to give these other players a chance to show their stuff. Instead of taking the shots, he would hold back. Instead of driving the lane, he'd hand off the ball and try to set a pick. That game went miserably. When the captain would toss the ball to an open player, the player would jerk his hands away and watch the ball sail out of bounds. Instead of an assist, the captain would be charged with a turnover. Instead of an easy basket, the team would have to retreat to defend its own basket.

That wasn't always the case, since the team had enough players who understood the concept of team, and the captain led the team to many victories. But it wasn't easy.

When the players's shoes wore out, the captain said "let's buy new shoes." The gang said no, but the players voted to do so anyway. So the gang stole the laces, and the team's next game was a disaster. They slipped and fell and dropped balls. The captain pointed out that the laces had been stolen, but the reporter who was a pal of the gang somehow left that out of his story.

The coaches, naturally, turned to the captain when they read about the game (that was one where the coaches were flirting with the cheerleaders instead of paying attention to the team). "Coaches," said the captain, "we played a pretty good game, but without shoelaces it was pretty rugged."

The coaches said they weren't pleased with the ragged play. The gang piped up to point out that it was the captain's fault.

Game after game, it seemed, the gang found yet another way to sabotage play, and while the team continued to rack up wins, the quality of play suffered.

The season is still ongoing. It remains to be seen what the coaches will do. But the fans are watching, and they're yelling at the coaches to pay attention.

Tomorrow, we'll begin the retrospective as we wind up our affairs here at VH. We will maintain the archive, but beginning April 1, if all goes according to plan, VH takes its talents on to a larger stage. All that remains to close the deal is a slight wrinkle in the financial details. That should be settled sooner, rather than later. Thanks for reading and commenting all along the way.