Sunday, February 20, 2011

Open Letter to Ed Clere

After my blood pressure ebbed a bit I sent the following letter to our State Representative, Ed Clere.

I know the man a little and I cannot believe he would be a party (possible pun) to such dangerous, irresponsible nonsense.

I would urge anyone who agrees to let Rep. Clere know how you feel.

Link to story

Dear Rep. Clere:

Regarding S.B. 292, can this possibly be why you chose to enter politics?

I have not seen the so-called logic behind this bizarre capitulation to a lunatic fringe.

Just imagine you are at a cafe in Paris and you read this in the International Herald Tribune. Would you believe it?

Do you want innocent people conducting business in any courthouse, or the workers in those buildings, subjected to the violence which will follow from such wanton pandering.

I will personally sponsor a resolution in the New Albany (your home) Common Council in opposition to this insanity.

And, I further hope that the law, if passed, soon faces a court challenge.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Look for the Union Label

I recently read about a guy who cries a lot. I believe the article pivoted off a discussion of John Boehner and his tendency to turn on the water works at the drop of a hat or the ribbon cutting at a Jiffy Lube. I'm not really like that, although I am prone to sentimentality. Perhaps I could be in a television show to rival CBS's hit, The Mentalist. My version would be called The Sentimentalist.

I say all that because I must confess that I kind of choke up when I see the commercial below. It is one of a series that was popular long ago in a different land. Leaving aside the obvious stylistic shortcomings in the wardrobe featured in the ad, it plucks my sentimental string because it evokes a time when people had faith in the ability of this nation to support itself and provide for its people. It recalls a time when we could believe that we were all in this together. We worked in different jobs but what one produced depended on what his neighbor produced or sold and so on around the circle.

The people in this ad were not likely "important people" in their communities. They were simply the backbone of the nation. They lived and worked in a time when the truth was still clear that capitalism serves democracy and not the reverse of that.

Come Monday, the Indiana General Assembly will consider action to place our state into the illustrious company of such states as Mississippi and South Carolina in becoming a Right to Work state. Although Mitch Daniels doesn't want the legislation to advance, that stance is for tactical reasons only. It in no way should be seen as the governor's support for his citizens' workplace rights. In rounding up the usual suspects of those who support the bill, look no further than the same group that opposed health care reform; the Indiana Chamber of Commerce supports the legislation. Really, why would the Chamber of Commerce concern itself with workers' rights? It is more concerned with owners' rights.

Me? I'm going to crack open a Union Made Blue Ribbon and watch the I.L.G.W.U. ad one more time. Where's my hanky?

Friday, February 18, 2011

On Wisconsin

Below is a video of former senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin discussing the current resistance to the tactics of that state's governor, Scott Walker, tactics which must be called union busting.

The same tactics are being used by Republican governors in New Jersey, Wisconsin, Ohio and even Indiana to varying degrees. Our Man Mitch is intent upon routing out teachers' unions to clear the path for his initiative on charter schools.

The assault is not always carried out through union busting. Sometimes it is a consolidation of power into the chief executive or his corporate allies. But the effect and the intent is clear: take power away from those who support Democratic candidates and traditional Democratic party values. Focus on the bogus. Highlight issues such as:

*the protection of marriage,

* the undue influence of unions, which comprise eight to ten per cent of the work force, but a significant share of Democratic boots on the ground in political campaigns,

* the shackles that hobble corporations such as effective environmental regulations,

* debunking climate change as a real threat

* touting the inefficiency of local government as an impediment to running government "like a business".

As the petite Chief Executive, from his camp along the White River, continues his war against his citizens' rights, in pursuit perhaps of higher office, I will not be one of his foot soldiers aiding those efforts. He may in fact succeed at abrogating workers' rights, building a national political agenda and dismantling local government, but he will do it with others' help.

We need to heed the lessons from Wisconsin as that war heats up in our own borders.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Blue Days

Yesterday my wife and I set out to see the Impressionism exhibit at the Speed Museum. It was a cold, dreary day, and looking at the magnificent outdoor scenes through the softened eyes of Monet and Pissarro seemed a good antidote to winter weather. On the way, we deviated from the direct path to look at the Dead Block Walking of the so-called Iron Quarter along Louisville's Main Street. We both expressed our consternation that a visionless dunderhead should hold the fate of such wonderful structures in his greedy hands. But he was aided and abetted by the newly elected Mayor of Louisville, so what could we do about it other than grouse? So, on to the museum.

While enjoying the paintings, the image of the buildings at the Iron Quarter drifted through my head as I realized that these artifacts on the wall before me, from the late 19th Century, are contemporaneous with many of the built artifacts slated for demolition.

A common theme of many of the paintings, at least to me, is the harmony of man and his environment. Field workers are shown drawing sustenance from the earth in an idealized vision. While right here in River City at the same time the earth's bounty was forged and shaped into structures to help that city grow and prosper. Both the paintings and the buildings are the valuable product of a time when talent, skill and sweat were dedicated not simply to function, but to the outward expression of an inner desire to bring beauty into daily life. Those statements are real and have stood the test of time. Those expressions should be allowed to speak to us today and to our children tomorrow, rather than grace landfills with their erstwhile beauty.

To give Louisville's mayor his due, he has crafted a solution to the impasse over the Iron Quarter which might save the facades of the structures. Such a tepid half measure is equivalent to placing a loved one's bleached skull on the mantelpiece to preserve and recollect "that lovely smile". It truly only reminds us of what we've lost.

While the decision to raze the significant concentration of iron-front buildings in Louisville jeopardizes the city's claim to be the "number two repository of iron facaded buildings in the U.S.", behind only New York, a much larger place, by the way. The razing allows our neighbor's riverfront to make room for more structures like the arena, which from the Clark Bridge to me, seems to resemble nothing so much as an answering machine or perhaps a wireless router.

And what of those who came before, and those who will follow? Do we stand arrogantly in the now to say that we will erase what has been, because we promise something aesthetically superior? Do we lack the skill and the imagination to take what our forebears have left us and keep it well, while building our own for those who follow us? Do we follow the dictates of good stewardship, both historic and environmental? Or, do we simply replace, because that is what we do to shuffle money around?

Gazing at the dreamy scenes hung on museum walls, I was struck by the fact that what we see there is static. It is a beautiful snapshot produced by skilled hands, it represents an impression filtered through what we now might see as a loving eye. While stasis is not possible, nor even desirable, can't we filter what we do today through a more loving eye to enrich tomorrow?

If one wonders what does this have to do with New Albany it is this: while Louisville, owing to its sheer size versus New Albany may have more extant structures of architectural significance, the same forces which treaten architectural treasures in Louisville threaten what we have left in New Albany. In fact, because New Albany has a smaller cache of significant structures and neighborhoods, it is even more important to look upon those buildings and areas with a loving eye.

Painting: Hay Makers Resting by Camile Pissarro