Tuesday, July 31

Insert Giant Teabag Joke Here

$35.99 for a rented Colonial costume, but not one cent for tribute!

I'VE mentioned before how the Indianapolis Star was where I learned to read, and that in those days the only difference between it and the John Birch Society was the latter didn't have a comics page. My recollection of those days is that 98% of the Letters to the Editor which involved national or international affairs, and 60% of those that didn't, referenced Quemoy and Matsu, or Communist infiltration of the City Council, or the fluoride compounds the writer blamed for the cacophony in his head. The percentages might have been a little higher. I didn't actually read the Letters column all that often.

Still, I read it often enough--for a while, in my teens, it was a perverse delight--that I suspect it explains why today I can't approach an entire day's output at The Corner, or several hours worth of The Malkins, without fortification, and rarely even then. It's not that I had an unhappy childhood. It's that, for good or ill, I eventually grew out of it, yet the A Nuclear First Strike is Preferable to Enduring Repeated Commie Slurs on the Fine Character of Chiang Kai-shek crowd is still there, barely altered. It's slightly unnerving, like walking into your old grade school and seeing that all the water fountains are two feet off the ground.

When the Star passed from the Pulliam family to Gannett there was a seemingly remarkable reduction in the number of letters referencing Alger Hiss or the Last Testament of Peter the Great, although a number of the writers seemed to have developed a personal relationship with Jesus Christ around that time.

As it happened I was glancing through the Op-Ed pages last week when I felt this nostalgic tug:
In my 43 years I have not seen the government fix one problem. In fact, all it does is create more problems and lay heavy tax burdens on our backs as the final solution. The government has gotten us into this current property tax crisis where people are foreclosing on their homes.

Wally Dellenbach

Which, to my surprise, was quoted and answered by Dennis Ryerson, the Star's Editor and Vice President, in his Sunday column.

Ryerson took us on a little travelogue, except he did the driving instead of employing a cabbie, and showed us the Good Things and Necessary that government does: police and fire protection, community health, schools, parks, streets and highways. The only thing wrong with that is that it should need to be pointed out to Mr. Dellenbach in the first place. (Okay, the other thing wrong is it doesn't flat call Mr. Delllenbach a liar, but, hey, this is Old Media we're talking about.)

Okay, make that three: this is the sissy answer. Mr. Dellenbach is already in favor of the police and fire protection he receives, the public green where his children romp, the hospital he can rush the baby to when it swallows the Sore Loserman button it found under the sofa cushions. Mr. Dellenbach already discounts such things. He believes the things which benefit him but offer little opportunity for someone in a poorer section of town to get something for free, other than prison food, are legitimate functions of government whose bills should be borne happily by everyone else. The incompleteness of this view has rarely been challenged in that portion of his 43 years Mr. Dellenbach has been reading or listening to the news.

And eight of his formative years were spent with a man in the White House who routinely told bullshit anecdotes about government waste while he tripled its size. Ryerson takes the same approach: government does good things, things the public demands, it's just wasteful.

Exhibit A is the Indianapolis Central Library fiasco, wherein--we'll labor to be brief, with the usual results--an appointed board decided it could manage a multi-million dollar construction operation itself, thereby saving the cost of a construction manager right up until the time the new garage/foundation started, oh, collapsing into an enormous heap of substandard concrete work, resulting in a mess that will probably never be fully untangled but will result in several lawyers retiring better than they'd hoped. For those of you keeping score, this was not the work of the current board, which was disabused early of the idea it could pass on added costs to the public. It has tried to work its way out of it by budget cutting. Even so, when you wind up with a five-year construction delay and a $50 million cost overrun, taxpayers are going to foot the bill, no matter how much is recovered through the courts.

Poor or wasteful government? Waste of an enormous amount of taxpayer dollars, to be sure. "Better" government would have avoided the problem. So would "better" inspection, and "better" actions on the part of the contractors. Or "better" oversight by the City-County Council. Tell me how we get these things, Dennis. Please.

The joke here is that Ryerson knows the doubling of property taxes on his demi-manse isn't due to the library fiasco, or the expense of superfluous township government offices (for the record: the former was planned and approved at the tail end of thirty-five years of solid Republican control, while the latter was left in place at its beginning, when the city annexed the county, as a fiefdom-and-segregation-perpetuating payoff to the voters who would make that control possible. This is the party which--in public, anyway--loudly proclaims its devotion to the principles Mr. Dellenbach espoused at the beginning of this thing). Like the rest of us, Ryerson's on the receiving end of the elimination of the business inventory tax, enacted by the same Republican-controlled legislature, and signed by the same Republican governor, who fought and defeated the Democratic Indianapolis mayor's attempts to abolish township control. One does not have to be a particular fan of Bart Petersmith to acknowledge that. I do so not out of partisanship, but because, while I have no real answer to greed, stupidity, cupidity, hubris, graft, or political patronage, I do have an answer for the ideology that put them in power in the first place. Unfortunately it can't take effect until November of next year.

Sorry, there are actually two jokes. That same Sunday, three sections north of Ryerson's column, his political columnist, who's been doing his unlevel best to pin the whole mess on local government from the moment the first wealthy white person hand-lettered had the maid hand-letter a protest sign, wrote a column designed as a Clip-N-Send-In protest (including dotted-line-and-scissors graphic! No, really!) where the undersigned vowed to keep a close eye on Marion County politics (and this time, we mean it!), and which included five bold Wherases. My personal favorite, just for the pure poetry of the thing, being #3:
Whereas the importance of state and national matters notwithstanding...

and to which I can only reply I'd like to know how much we spend annually on road repair so that once-bright reporters can turn into hacks fifteen minutes earlier each morning. Oh, and I hope no one checks whether "Ura Toole" actually lives in the county, and pass along that she's sorry she didn't do a better job of cutting on the lines.


candy said...

Wow, Dennis Ryerson used to be editor at my local rag, The Des Moines Register. He was always sort of a "sensible liberal", as I recall. I didn't realize he'd gone to Indianapolis.

We had kind of an opposite experience when Gannett took over the Register. The Register was an independently owned, liberal paper. The editorial board struggled to keep it from drifting right, and also resisted the trend to info-tainment, but the paper's become a USA Today clone. Sad.

Heydave said...

Candy, you have my kudos for even acknowledging that rag. It is sad, isn't it, to have a state where Juice is hoping to be taken as an "alternative." Are we the only ones stuck with that thing?

candy said...

Cityview isn't any great shakes anymore, since they absorbed and ruined the other alternative paper, (the name of which I can't recall, wasn't it Pointblank or something?), and did away with Tom Tomorrow and Donald Kaul, but it still kicks Juice's ass, which is a fair indication of how much Juice is Teh Suck. (And isn't it sad that we live in a state where I can say "absorbed the OTHER alternative newspaper?")

Of course, the best reporter the Register had in the last decade died (Rob Borsellino) and although Rekha Basu is doing her best to hold the fort, the corroding influence of Yepsen hurts the editorial page. I guess we shouldn't complain... we could have the Omaha World Herald or the Chicago Tribune. Urp...

Heydave said...

Actually, as a native of Chicago, I am still able to glean through the ChiTrib and find enough to make me nostalgic at times. But the good is very certainly mixed in with the bad on that front.
As for Pointblank, it is sad that it got absorbed. I truly feel your pain when one talk about the other alternative. I just got back form Golden, CO, and immediately fell in love with their true local alternative. (Of course, it's at home and I don't remember the name.)
The good news is that the Register has stopped calling me pleading for another chance.
BTW, great of doghouse to let us hang around his lounge while he's off doing something or other...

candy said...

doghouse is a truly great American! :)

Woodrowfan said...

I feel your pain DogHouse. I grew up with the Dayton Journal Herald as my morning paper. Gad. Rookie-League wingnuttery. There was a guy who went to my folk's church who wrote letters all the time railing against "socialism" and hoping the CIA was spying on Americans (the old "if you've done nothing wrong" crap). He always signed his letters with his name followed by "Ph.D." Well yeah, he had his doctorate, in chemistry. Last time I checked, having a Ph.D. in science didn't make one an expert in politics or economics...