December 13, 2010

I remember my first ride on a new four-lane highway through the Kentucky countryside, and what a fine road it was: smooth, wide and uncrowded. We just floated along in our Chevrolet -- Mother, Daddy, my little brother and me, back home from Nigeria where roads were usually unpaved laterite, and we bounced through clouds of dust, moving over now and then to let herds of long-horned cows pass. It was 1956, and America was zooming full-bore into what looked like a bright future of suburban homes with two-car garages.

I think of that now as state surveyors move into Monroe County to chart the route of an interstate highway -- maybe the last interstate highway that will be built in the United States, if it is built at all, a question I hope still hangs in the air. As our town tries to dig its way out of the mess that 20th-century America has made of itself, we can hardly imagine that what we need now at the dawn of the post-oil age is a highway.

December 11, 2010

Duke Energy always rewards its creepy, disgraced executives, it seems. A couple of days ago James L. Turner resigned in disgrace after the Indianapolis Star revealed e-mails between him and his buddy David Lott Hardy, who was the chairman of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC).

Those communications may have been illegal as ex parte communications, but hey, it’s Indiana, where the line between the regulators and the regulated has been ill-defined for a long time, especially in the last six years as Mitch Daniels has strategically placed industry leaders in the position of regulating the industries they work for.

December 11, 2010

No, you're not going to find LeBron James on this list. The man did what any self-respecting capitalist would do: Take the money and run.

Curious, isn't it? Throughout the year, James was catching all sorts of shit for his decision to leave Cleveland for more lucrative, and winning ways, in Miami. Meanwhile, people in positions of real power and authority sold out this country at every turn. Where is the outrage?

Call James a sellout all you like, but this sideshow ain't nothing like the real thing.

December 10, 2010

Citizens Action Coalition

Citizens Action Coalition (CAC) celebrates the withdrawal of the Settlement Agreement with respect to the scandal-plagued Edwardsport coal gasification plant. Despite being a party to case, CAC was excluded from settlement negotiations. This proposed settlement was a bad deal for the ratepayers of Indiana and only promised to continue shifting the burden of cost and risk onto the public while Duke Energy realized all the profits.

December 9, 2010

At a time when the U.S. military is relying increasingly on unmanned aerial vehicles -- also known as UAVs or "drones" -- ever deeper connections between the drone industry and the Hoosier state have become apparent.

Newly uncovered documents show that an Indianapolis-based manufacturer of lithium-ion battery systems, EnerDel, has two multimillion dollar contracts with the U.S. Navy to develop batteries for minidrones.

December 4, 2010

If you think you're going to hike with Ron Habney, you'd better be prepared. The 6-foot-tall, 130-pound, 25-year-old treks an average four to six miles a day on some of the most challenging trails in Southern Indiana's Upland regions. Not everyday, to his chagrin, but multiple times a week. Last summer, on one 96-degree day, Ron hiked 9.4 miles through the Charles Deam Wilderness Area in two hours and 20 minutes.

So says John Willman, who knows. He's been Ron's hiking companion and caregiver for almost eight years now. "He's truly an athlete," John says of Ron. "His hiking skills are almost unmatched." Beneath close-cropped, thick, black hair, Willman's blue-green eyes beam proud-parent-like as he recounts Ron's on-trail achievements. But they're just a footnote to this rainy-gray November afternoon interview.

Ron has autism, and John, who is not Ron's parent, is preoccupied with his fate.

Indy Star reveals communications between Duke, state regulators
December 4, 2010

Drawing on hundreds of emails, the Indianapolis Star is providing Indiana with the most unsavory political drama it has seen for a while: the romance between Duke Energy officials and the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC).

While the IURC has been nailing electric ratepayers for spiraling construction cost overruns at Duke's Edwardsport coal gasification plant, state and Duke officials have bantered back and forth like schoolboys.

November 27, 2010

The biomass-combustion industry has southern Indiana under seige. The corporations are attempting to site biomass electricity-generating plants in Crawford, Scott, Dubois and Gibson/Pike counties. Those companies apparently don’t expect opposition from the residents of small towns in rural southern Indiana.

The industry touts biomass burning as a “green” technology; it’s anything but. Biomass plants are more polluting per unit of energy generated than coal-burning plants, which are the No. 1 cause of global warming. A 32-megawatt biomass plant uses 500,000–700,000 gallons of fresh water every day and regurgitates some 350,000 gallons of pollution-tainted waste water into the local river or lake.

November 26, 2010

In the aftermath of the midterm elections, politicians and pundits on either side of the partisan divide urged Democrats and Republicans to stop their bickering and get down to business. Sound advice, to be sure. But if recent history is any guide, such efforts are doomed from the start. As the saying goes, "The water is wide." And when it comes to putting the interests of everyday Americans before those of partisans and private interests, it's a bridge too far.

Saying this, I'm not being cynical, or partisan for that matter. A clear-eyed assessment of our political system reveals a twisted, shortsighted and self-interested logic that represents a far more ominous threat to our democracy -- and our whole way of life -- than any ideological differences we might have.

November 24, 2010

One of Indiana's largest educational institutions is connected to a controversial trend in modern warfare, as Purdue University's Research Park is home to a West Lafayette company that receives millions of dollars in U.S. military funding for the development of robotic technology for remote-controlled attacks, along with flying surveillance, which is promoted as the future of domestic law enforcement.

Several sites in Indiana host the development and use of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology, commonly known as "drones," which have been variously described as the United States' best response to global terrorism and as an illegal and counterproductive approach to military and law enforcement challenges.