A perfect time to panic

I like movies. One of my favorite Westerns, “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly,” is not only a “good movie” because of its cinematography and excellent musical score; it manages to transcend the more banal aspects of the genre by offering an unflinching, amoral and John Wayne-free portrayal of human conflict in a way that documentaries, historical texts and editorials in The Courier-Journal often cannot.

The film also happens to feature a maxim that I cherish; one that I think is applicable to the Ohio River Bridges Project in lieu of this impending mayoral election. That quote is:

“You see in this world there’s two kinds of people my friend – those with loaded guns, and those who dig. You dig.”

The implied dichotomy between guns and digging is that, if one possesses the former (i.e., guns, capital, a very large stick), then the latter (i.e., digging, labor, voting for Greg Fischer) will inevitably follow. In other words: If I have a gun pointed at your genitals, you’ll pretty much do whatever I say. Got it?

In the context of two major dueling bummers — The Ohio River Bridges Project and the November mayoral power grab — yesterday’s C-J editorial imploring Louisvillians to “not panic” over the prospect of their imminent fleecing by state-backed corporate tolling interests is decidedly suggestive of a “guns” mentality: We know what’s best, keep your head down, fall in line, or we’ll put a bullet in you.

Why else would their editorial board imply that their readership is too dumb to understand the mechanics of the financing process?

One is that virtually no one who is actively engaged in the effort to build two new Ohio River bridges and reconstruct Spaghetti Junction believes a $6 round-trip toll for local traffic is acceptable. It will not happen. And that leads to the second point, which is that the political and business leadership and the larger community should remain calm, await more definitive reports in coming months and not be stampeded toward a panicky and bad alternative.

The danger is that political will may dissipate and that the public may misunderstand the  actual prospects. The worst case is that there would be a sudden rush to construct only one bridge — in the East End — and to delay downtown work indefinitely. That would be a terrible mistake, with consequences that would haunt this community for decades.


Pop a fucking Quaalude and chillax, Louisville. Don’t worry that the authority charged with overseeing the project is advocating a $6 round trip toll, which would effectively tax both poorer residents of Southern Indiana for access to Louisville’s non-existent jobs as well as urban Louisvillians for access to retail across the Ohio River. $4.1 billion investment in a dying form of transportation and the concrete-salad it requires, the destruction of Butchertown and decades of newly created downtown congestion shouldn’t alarm you. And let’s not even talk about public transportation, which other comparable and faster-growing cities have championed, because our navels have all the answers you’d ever need… Or have you, perchance, already flipped to today’s madcap installment of Marmaduke?

For something they laud as Louisville’s “most important civic undertaking,” the C-J alumni/operatives didn’t ask one question about the project during last night’s mayoral “debate,” which served as yet another opportunity to marginalize the views of independent candidate Jackie Green, who brought up the topic only during his closing remarks.

But then, if they’ve got the guns, then they ask — or refrain from asking — any goddamn question they want, end of story. We’ll be the ones charged with digging that hole while the elite, gun-wielding champions of the project, many of whom stand to personally benefit from the project’s never-ending bloat, allegedly intimidate the project’s opponents. Therefore we shouldn’t “burn too many mental calories” over this, and instead acquiesce to the controlling business interests that want to keep the Abramson machinery intact and push this gargantuan scheme into fruition. From the C-J’s point of view, this is not only the smart thing to do: It’s the inevitable thing to do. That’s why we should invite Wall Street to engineer a financing mechanism to “test pilot programs in how to raise revenue.”

They’ve got the guns, Louisville. Aren’t you ready to dig a better tomorrow?


  1. Chad
    Posted July 22, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Is there a link to the article the quotes came from? I tried to find it on the CJ site and had no luck.

    Great write-up by the way.

  2. Steve Magruder
    Posted July 22, 2010 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Here is a link to the C-J editorial in question:


  3. Steve
    Posted July 23, 2010 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    This isn’t the first time that the patronizing pedagogues of the C-J’s editoral board have told their unruly pupils to “remain calm” and not to panic.

    On Sept. 12 of last year, we were told that “Anger isn’t the right response” and, “More important, anger is not a strategy for moving forward” — in one paragraph!

    Whatever happened to “respect thy readers”? Critics of this wretched excess include some of the most revered, non-violent thinkers in Kentuckiana, from Bob Hill to Tom Owen. Whether we’re indignant or livid, the C-J’s attempts to conrol our emotions are as delusional and paternalistic as the project is overblown and obsolete.

    Is it the 1950s yet?

    Thou doth protest too much, editorial emperors. Why do you keep urging literate, genteel citizens (the kind who read editorials) to remain subdued if you don’t think we should be rabid or riotous?

    The only hostile parties I’ve seen are a Bridges Coalition bully and overzealous cops who sought to criminalize anti-boondoggle expression via chalk on a sidewalk.

    Where are their editorial sedatives?

  4. ct
    Posted July 23, 2010 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    I translate Don’t panic to lets delay some more.

    I think the following reveals the hidden agenda of the Bridges Coaltiion and the CJ (which is the not so well hidden agenda of River Fields)

    “The worst case is that there would be a sudden rush to construct only one bridge — in the East End — and to delay downtown work indefinitely”

    The real agenda all along has been to delay and block the completion of our Interstate Loop I-265 ie East End Bridge.

  5. Steve Magruder
    Posted July 23, 2010 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    I think we Louisvillians have too much of a habit of trying to quash indignant anger.

    Certainly, anger can boil over and lose its purpose, and sometimes even express itself in violence, racism, etc.

    But anger in and of itself is usually a useful tool of expression, especially when this anger comes from the frustration of a great many citizens who feel their voices are not being heard on a matter of incredible importance such as the bloated, destructive, crazy-expensive, largely unnecessary Ohio River Bridges Project.

    Citizens indeed have a right to express anger, and on top of that impatience, and in the concept of the River Fields, er, C-J Editorial Board, “panic”.

    Yes, we _should_ panic that our community is going to be effectively divided down the middle via tolls on bridges we’ve already paid for to fund a downtown portion of the bridges project that was a “political compromise” (with RF NIMBYists) and extremely overdesigned.

    Panic in this case is the right response.

  6. stu noland
    Posted July 23, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    The economy crushing boondogle known as the downtown ORBP is the biggest issue facing Louisville in its 200+ year history. The federal record of decision has been granted. An unelected board (over half of whom are not from Louisville) has been appointed to toll us starting in 2013. None of our major political, academic, business, or civic leaders has the cajones to speak out against the biggest urban planning mistake of the 21st century, even though many of them privately detest this project. For those of us who want to live in a Louisville with a functional economy now is the time to panic. Or should we wait until the trucks are lining up to start pouring concrete to make Louisville’s image defining waterfront and historical heart unmarketable to the world until the year 2120.

  7. Britt Walford
    Posted July 24, 2010 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Good article. The stupidity of the downtown portion of the ORBP, especially in the this day and age, is hard to deny. The CJ’s position seems so obsolete and offensive: “After this project is put on the rails, that’s when considering the cost to users should be decided by those who are profiting. The only way things work is when the wealthy and powerful get to playfully divide up whatever their portion of the calf ends up being FIRST, then the poor fight over the rest (aka tyranny). Accept it, it’s the only way.” Furthermore, the “studies and hearings” they site supporting their vision for the project have been contradicted and shown to be dubious.

    I think people should always be striving to be better, not cynically drawing a line. If people hadn’t thought to better themselves in the past, the CJ wouldn’t be able to write editorials at all! Don’t even remember the founding of America? Fourth Estate, anyone? The “newspaper” is supposed to be the voice of the people. Now the newspaper is the voice of the rich. This tendency must always be resisted, just like other unhealthy ones.