Thursday, November 29, 2007

NOW on PBS Friday

Will the 2008 Elections Be Free and Fair?

NOW t r u t h o u t Programming Note
Airdate: Friday, November 30, 2007, at 8:30 p.m. EST on PBS. (Check local listings at
Will the 2008 elections be free and fair? This time on NOW.

How safe is your right to vote? On Friday, November 30, at 8:30 p.m., former Justice Department official and voting rights activist David Becker, who worked under both President Bush and President Clinton, alleges a systematic effort to deny the vote to hundreds of thousands, even millions of people. In a revealing interview with NOW's David Brancaccio, Becker openly worries that the 2008 election will not be free and fair. And is our own government part of the solution, or part of the problem?

Monday, November 19, 2007

93,000,000 Miles to Sustainability

The previous post presented a rather gloomy picture of the outlook for renewable energy, primarily solar. It is critical for the government to help bring this industry to the fore. It is myopic, barbaric and inexcusable to squander our soldiers and our legitimacy on the world stage fighting to protect the flow of oil. We should have evolved beyond this stage a long time ago. Oh, but some of us did. The oft-maligned Jimmy Carter installed solar panels on the White House during his too-brief occupancy of that place, during the latter part of the 1970s. This was both a practical and a symbolic act which should have signaled America's awakening to the perils of over dependence on oil as the basic fuel of our economy. Thirty years down the line we could have built upon this humble commencement and found ourselves inhabiting a healthier planet with a more stable geo-political script.

One of the first acts of Carter's successor, however, was to pull the shades and go back to sleep. Reagan, upon moving into the White House, promptly removed the solar panels from the White House roof. This suggestion was possibly proffered by Nancy's astrologer, who felt the panels might cause interference with celestial transmissions needed to accurately guide the first lady. Whatever the reason, the symbolism was clear. We are addicted to oil and we love the petro-monkey on our backs. From time to time we spout good intentions, but little has come of it. Just one more teensy weensy mall on the outskirts of town, and maybe just a lttle subdivision off the interchange and then we'll give it up.

Way back, even before J.C. came on the scene, someone here in New Albany took steps to build a sustainable energy future. Doctor James Nolan built the Nolan Solar Building on State Street in 1973-4. If you look up to the Northwest corner of his building, you'll see the solar collectors for his heating system. Doc Nolan, with help from plumber friends and other tradesmen, more or less designed the system himself. It contains ten manufactured solar collectors which heat a closed loop containing a glycol and water solution. That solution, in turn, transfers heated air to a duct system, providing a majority of the space-heating needs of his roughly 10,000 square foot office building. He says that the solar system supplies about 2/3 of his heating. The shortfall is provided by a natural gas backup system.

Doc Nolan's system was almost not built. Contact lenses required a longer process, over a period of some weeks, for testing and fitting than is required today. I was a patient and was interested in the hopeful technology. As I sat in his office undergoing tests for the lenses (the office was in the Elsby Building), Dr. Nolan would tell me about this or that bit of progress he had made concerning his solar project. It unfolded over the series of tests. Finally, he ran into a brick wall which seemed to doom the project. He persevered, however, and came into contact with a scientist in California who supplied names of people who got the project back on track.
His project received some attention while it was still new. Today, the rather modest building's heat system has been functioning efficiently for over thirty years.

As a nation, we have largely wasted those years. We are content with the Co2-choked staus quo. Why? Is it because we have too much invested in our current system? Is the political process so compromised that the will of the people can't influence it, but oil mongers can? Locally we seem predestined to build two bridges. We excoriate those who favor the 8664 project. And we continue building out, out beyond services, out where land used to be productive, out where we can keep going out some more, for space between us and "them", out where the air is fresh. Call me a crank, call me atavistic, call me naive, but I don't get the sense that there's any out, out there.

So are we going to waste the next thirty years as Lennon said, living with eyes closed, misunderstanding all we see? Can we provide the spinal support necessary to move politicians toward sustainability at the local level? (I'm under the distinct impression that breathing occurs at the local level, by the way.) New Albany is a city well-positioned to take advantage of environmentally appropriate choices. We already know that solar heating works in this locale. We can revitalize the inner city to rein in sprawl. We can benefit from the investment our predecessors left us by enlivening the older neighborhoods. We can exhort. We can motivate. We can, as Doc Nolan did, lead by example. Or we can pull the shades and go back to sleep. Maybe we'll dream of the Gipper.

Doc Nolan is alive and well, and still tinkers with his solar dream. So, if you see him thank him for his efforts. He has been a shining example.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

With Friends Like These...

What could they possibly be thinking?

a) How can we best insure that we'll continue to fight for oil?
b) How can we ignore the evidence that global warming is a real threat?
c) How can we simultaneously shoot our supporters the bird, while looking even more ineffectual as leaders?
d) We're not comfortable in the role of leaders, so how can we orchestrate a Republican victory and make this burden go away?
e) What kind of program will insure enegy independence, build high-paying American jobs, give hope for curing many of our nations ills; and how can we kill it?
f) If we do kill it will we really look like idiots or just stupid?
g) Where did I leave my spine?

So many questions, so little time.

The democrats, yes folks, the DEMOCRATS are considering the possibility of eliminating the tax incentives for renewable energy from the now-germinating energy bill. In some Carrollian reality warp the party of Mo Udall, Al Gore and Bobby Kennedy Jr. is kicking around the idea of throwing away the incentives for solar, wind, and geothermal energy in the interest of getting a bill delivered out before the Thanksgiving recess.

The tax incentives now in place favor the installation of solar energy systems in commercial and residential property with a 30% tax credit and up to a $2,000 credit, respectively. These incentives are favored by environmentalists and the solar energy trade groups (SEIA) among others. These kinds of incentives allow a fledgling industry to establish a viable base for the building of a dealer network and wider public acceptance of the technology. What's the rush in pulling the supports out from under them? Is it truly critical to have a bill by Thanksgiving? By Christmas?

It is more important to recognize that, as Alan Greenspan said recently, we are fighting in Iraq for oil. We do this because we have not made the necessary investments in the future, investments like solar and wind enegy. The building of this new technology would help bring specialized manufacturing jobs into the domestic economy. We do not need to rush a bill through. We need to take responsible steps to secure a clean energy future and begin putting oil on the back burner of energy sources.

Let our Congressman and Senators know what you think.

Baron Hill, U.S. House of Representatives, 223 Cannon House Office Bldg., Washington D.C. 20515-1409
Telephone (202)225-5315

Evan Bayh, 131 Russell Senate Office Bldg., Washington D.C. 20510
Web Form:

Richard Lugar, 306 Hart Senate Office Bldg., Washington D.C. 20510
Telphone (202)224-4814

Saturday, November 10, 2007

November 11

Make no mistake, Dylan directs his words not at the Bleeders but the Leaders. And this was before the time of Blackwater, Halliburton, and the scabrous team of Tweedle-Dumb and Tweedle-Dick.

To date there have been 3,862 Americans killed in Iraq,
almost 30,000 maimed and wounded,
with uncounted thousands of Iraqis killed and wounded.

Honor the fallen and the returned, they have earned our respect and gratitude, but hold today's Masters of War to account.


Masters of War--Bob Dylan, 1963

Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks
You that never done nothin'
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it's your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly
Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain
You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud
You've thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain't worth the blood
That runs in your veins
How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I'm young
You might say I'm unlearned
But there's one thing I know
Though I'm younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do
Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul
And I hope that you die
And your death'll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I'll watch while you're lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I'll stand o'er your grave'
Til I'm sure that you're dead

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Thank You

The day after the election was spent sleeping late, reclaiming yard signs and taking care of a few things that were set aside during the final days of the campaign.

I apologize for that delay in conveying my thanks to all who have read my posts throughout either of the two phases of the campaign. As Mike Myers used to say on Saturday Night Live, I'm "verklemft" in light of all the good wishes expressed to me.

To Iamhoosier, you are correct, I need to get at it sooner and harder. Therefore, I'll bring my sign back out and put it in your yard. You can landscape around it as you see fit. You'll grow to love it.

As the glow of optimism fueled by winning inevitably dims, the size of the challenge ahead will become more apparent. New Albany remains a city populated with people of competing views. Working through those differences is the goal of government.

Progressive ideas will meet the standard dodge of "we can't afford that". The real question of why we can't afford something is not always a lack of money, just as often it's a lack of vision and the selfish allure of the staus quo. I believe the voters chose to look beyond the staus quo. I can't promise a gravy train with biscuit wheels, but only to do my part in keeping this a city with hope.

Thanks again for the confidence people have expressed.

Monday, November 5, 2007


This one's in the can. The next move is yours. I hope we get enough of the government we need to balance out the government we've got.

To quote a toast offered by Soviet dissidents, "Here's to the success of our hopeless endeavor."