Thursday, August 21

Olio

• Accidental mayor of Indianapolis Greg "Know Whut Ah Mean, Vern?" Ballard hits a rough patch, what is known in other circumstances as "governance", when he was forced by his most formidable foe, Reality, to propose a city budget, like, with numbers in it an' stuff. At least this got him to stop blaming his predecessor for every public ill. Oh, wait. A GOP mouthpiece actually turned up hours before the budget release, blaming every public ill on Ballard's predecessor, the current (elected, Democrat) sheriff, and Bill Ayers.  And the local "news" not only let him do it, it seemed to be persuaded, as no Democrat ever turned up with a contrary opinion. Then again, it's Indiana; maybe there aren't any Democrats with contrary opinions.

Anyway, the guy who campaigned on his knowledge of "millions" to be saved in the city budget raised his own office's budget by $400,000 (in fairness, the downtown legal firm which actually governs the city now does not work cheap, but we think Ballard did negotiate a discount), pumps $20 M into the police department he made himself head off, slashes the (elected, Democrat) sheriff's budget, jails, schools, the arts, well, let's just say everything else.

Then he made a stupid, rookie mistake: he woke people up to it. Specifically by announcing that smaller parks were "a drain" on the city budget (less grass, more cash crops!), and hiring a real estate firm to provide a complete inventory of city park property. The same firm has graciously agreed to handle any sales of any "surplus" park land for us.

So, two things: one, we'd be a lot better off if nearly every Republican proposal, and almost as many Democratic, across the land, came supplied with pictures of the Cute Baby Ducklings it would hopelessly mangle. Or, perhaps more to the point, if voters would wake the fuck up before the plummeting anvil arrived. Indianapolis had eight years of Mr. Government Privatization, Stephen Goldsmythe*, and the attendant deterioration of city services. Yes, it's true, no one even knew Ballard was running for mayor until he won, but there's no excuse (in Indiana!) for imagining Republicans come in any other flavor. And this is a city which has been busy gawking at the new $1 B stadium it gave the Colts, and celebrating its successful Super Bowl bid, despite having voting, scant months earlier, to save a few bucks.

Two: how does this play out, over and over and over, without anyone seeming to get any wiser? What fucking insight, expertise, or even discipline does it take to slash away at stuff? This, older readers might recall, was in fact The One Idea that made the Republicans such a Party of Ideas that even some Democratic presidential hopefuls pucker up to smooch the pig. You wouldn't run a family budget that way ("Hannah, Ambrose V, I'm afraid we have to let you go."); why is it that we accept the premise, and never work backwards from the results? (Well, for one, there's local teevee, which yesterday ran a story on "how much our parks cost us", city funding of parks being a foreign concept to them until the mayor pointed it out.)

• The good news is that Ballard's La Police c'est Moi approach is reducing the crime rate. The bad news is that everyone being arrested is wearing a cop uniform.

Yesterday brought news of the officer whose (civilian police employee) girlfriend sideswiped another vehicle while driving his take-home cop car, with him riding shotgun, and then fled the scene, after which he filed a false report; a second officer who was conducting "unlawful activity" with a prostitute while on duty, and a third who flashed his badge at a 13- and a 14-year-old girl, and ordered them to lift their tops so he could determine if they were the ones reported to be flashing the neighborhood. They're added to the guy just resigned while facing his third DUI/property damage charge, the guy who was helping his wife out with her business, which turned out to be prostitution, the three who were arrested for illegal part-time employment selling confiscated marihuana, and, as the Gilligan's Island theme used to say, The Rest. Ten in all, so far. This is, of course, spun to the rubes ("Look, the new stadium's got a retractable roof!") as Weeding Out the Bad Seeds, despite the fact that, other than the Three Man Chronic Squad, none of it has required much, if any, actual investigation.

• ITEM: College Presidents Urge Lowering Drinking Age To Curb Binge Drinking

They include Butler's Bobby Fong, who, evidence suggests, actually said this:
"I learned to drink in the homes of professors and after church services. They showed me that drinking was part of a larger social fabric. We cannot provide that social fabric because serving alcohol is against the law."

So, lemme tell ya. Butler is a private school, mostly white, mostly wealthy, mostly Hellenistic. You can walk it in fifteen minutes, but most students choose to stagger it in thirty-five. My sister used to work for Butler, and her best friend there was the head of its police department. Butler's major effort in the fight against underage/binge drinking was to eliminate the keg deposit portion of its student fees.

You no playa da game, you no makea da rules! After four blocks any drunk-driving student is Indianapolis' problem; the only reason students have for getting in a car is to hit the bars or replenish depleted stocks, at which time they become the problem of people whose livelihoods, even personal freedom, depend on their enforcing liquor laws. Meanwhile, every non-collegiate 18-year-old in the city now has a (legal) reason to drive off in search of booze.

Aren't college students supposed to be educable? And isn't that your job?

(Those are rhetorical questions.)

• In the space of one week, Jack Shafer urges a Press boycott of the "long, boring, meaningless" national political conventions, and decries coverage of the "long, boring, meaningless" Veepstakes. Here's an idea: maybe you're in the wrong fucking business. Or maybe the Press could stop wasting energy on the Banal, the Trivial, and the Full of Shit, and save a little for real issues. Now and again I do enjoy my little joke.

• Elsewhere at The Journal of American Counterintuitive Pro-Anti-Reverse-Contrarianism, Whoops, Fooled Ya Again! Dahlia Lithwick, who is usually the smart one, blasts "Hillary Harridans":
These disgruntled women—whether they plan to vote for John McCain, sit out the election, or simply gobble up airtime—are tacitly working toward electing McCain; a candidate who claimed last week at a presidential forum at Saddleback Church that life begins "at the moment of conception" and who voted against legislation ensuring equal pay for women.

I'm sorry, but could someone explain what's supposed to be so fucking compelling about this argument? Lithwick has already dismissed her quarry as a hopelessly shrill micro-minority. So, if nothing else, why shouldn't they take advantage of that circumstance and push their own agenda? We might also note that it seems a helluva lot more politically savvy than Lithwick's binary code. Supposing the next President does turn out to be McCain (hell, supposing it turns out to be Dick Cheney) he is not going ban abortions or impose gender inequality, everywhere and for all time, in his inauguration speech. The President is not supposed to be the sole Decider, a concept Democrats used to agree on. There is certainly a case to be made that the shape-shifting centrist who signals at least some willingness to bargain over late-term abortions is a greater threat than the Right To Lifer who energizes the opposition (I'm not making it, mind you; I just say it can be made). The Republican party fell apart once it could no longer pretend to be run by its constituencies. It's funny how, over the period of GOP dominance, there was always some centrist Democrat, or his apologist, insisting their constituencies didn't understand the game and would do better to shut th' fuck up. Obviously, Democrats are better on such issues. Obviously, they're not perfect; obviously no politician should be trusted once out of sight. And, obviously, this is the election where Democrats must begin Putting Up in place of Shutting Up if they want to establish a working majority coalition again, one which is rightfully theirs; there's surely no harm in a few shrill losers reminding them of that, is there?

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*Not his real name, just the fake name he feloniously registered to vote under.

3 comments:

stAllio! said...

you forgot the cop who had sex with an arrestee in exchange for her freedom.

Hattie said...

You have no idea how much I appreciate your great writing. It's substantive and entertaining, too. Oh, and of course you are always right.
...your groupie
(I'm too far away to be a stalker, so don't worry.)

petefelix said...

Sigh. As a (until last week) Indy resident I've been a constant witness to the cronyism that makes the city run. It's a misnomer that there's no democrats with opposing views- it's just that media is (surprisingly?) unwilling to cover their voices equally or to do any real reporting outside of gathering soundbites from the normal talking heads. Ah well, maybe one of these days the city will get around to fixing the numerous failing city schools that have perpetuated these problems and many others.