Why hunting matters

Dateline: Sun 06 Apr 2014

Ryan Sabalow, investigative reporter at the Indy Star, photographer Robert Scheer and editor Steve Berta did sound public service by writing about the deer industry in Indiana and the Midwest.

Sabalow's bio says he is a hunter, which explains his expertise and ability to tell this story; the Star could not send your typical urban reporter out on this story. While it was hard reading for many of us who love and respect animals and nature, the reporting is absolutely necessary.

The Frankenstein deer, the pathetic huge horns, the disease, pens, breeding and money generated make this a compelling subject. 

The biggest problem I see is that Gannett cut its ties to rural areas ages ago; the people who should be reading this story live in the boondocks, and how much credence they give the Star online is unknown. Several friends who are city folk thought the series overly long; "it could have been told in one day," said one woman. But she does not realize what a huge deal hunting is in the bookdocks.

When we lived in Putnam County on acreage, we had hunters approach us incessantly to shoot whatever game was in season. My husband, not a hunter, always said yes, because he recognized that many rural hunters are feeding their families on venison, rabbit and even squirrel. (He drew the line at shooting coyotes for their fur).

But the men who hunted our property were sporting fellows. They placed salt licks, studied deer paths and sometimes sat for hours starting at dawn in a tree stand. It was not, for these guys, a trophy sport; they were not playing Jungle Jim with the deer. They simply wanted food in the freezer.

What a cruel turn that some Hoosiers and others beyond think deer deserve so little; they disrespect the animal, and they disrespect themselves.

But rural life is curel, and it's hard. I was shocked to hear one quasi-farmer explain to me one day that,  in his veiw, "The only livestock is dead stock."

Indiana should be ashamed to allow these ventures to continue. Bring back a hunting ethos.

Teddy Roosevelt's quote on penned hunting was therefore perfectly positioned in the series.


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Irsay: 'giving to others'

Dateline: Sun 06 Apr 2014

Fresh perspective in today's Indianapolis Star, thanks to excellent investigative reporting by Tim Evans and Mark Alesia, on Jim Irsay's many problems --- it seems the Colts owner's issues go beyond self-destructive drug use and into enabling another suffering addict, (who OD's March 1), and making questionable real estate purchases out of funds from the "Blue Trust" on behalf of his friend. The dead woman lived in the homes Irsay purchased, with money that the Colts say was for Irsay's personal use.

IU Law professor Gary Roberts cuts to the heart of the sordid mess, speaking of taxpayers' relationship to the team:

"It is one thing to subsidize a team so it can win on the field and to keep it in Indianapolis.

"It is another thing to subsidize an entity that uses its money to provide a home for the owner's (friend). That could turn public opinion."


There seems, however, to have been a plentitude of Hoosier good will towards Irsay in the past few weeks, based on letters to the editor in the Star and IBJ, as well as on-line comments. I quote from a letter to the IBJ, wherein reader Mark Winski of Denver praised IBJ publisher Greg Morris for his column detailing Irsay's good deeds and his appeal that we not judge. Winski says Morris put into "proper perspective a person's worth and contribution versus one's behavior. He aptly identified just some of the things Irsay has done in giving to others, and I'm sure he would agree that we know only a small portion of everything Irsay has done for others."

Too true! When this letter was published in Saturday's IBJ, we did not know that Irsay's generosity extended to providing three homes to a drug addict who OD'd March 1. Winski even praises attorney Jimmy Voyles who "stood up for and behind Irsay when the media reveled in a horrible invasion of Irsay's personal conflict." (!) How Winski fails to understand that Voyles is paid and paid well for his services as a criminal defense attorney is beyond me. Also, that Irsay is a public figure and woe to a press that would put Colts loyalty over coverage of Irsay's drug bust, driving while intoxicated, etc. (He has yet to be charged, according to Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana).

But the bigger point.

A friend who is a recovering alcoholic tells the story of the birth of his first child; the future father was not at the hospital with his wife and son, but in a bar, getting hammered.

He explained a mindset that most non-addicts do not understand: "There is nothing more important than using for the alcoholic (or addict). Everything is secondary to that." The enormous self-centeredness that powers addiction does indeed blot out principle, integrity, simple morality -- and of course, truth. 

Does this mean Irsay and other addicts are "bad people"? Of course not. But it does mean that in the throes of a raging addiction, which is in my view where Irsay has been for some time, bad choices are part of the scenario. In fact, there is almost nothing but bad, selfish, destructive, decisions being made.

Irsay has had a hard time getting re-habbed in the past. That also is not news -- relapse is common with addicts, just as enabling behavior is (speaking of him and the friend he put up in three homes).

We can all wish him recovery, but as others have said, this story deserves more reporting and more scrutiny. Frankly, I think we know enough already to determine that this guy deserves a lengthy suspension from football and a fine, and perhaps legal repercussions.

But that, in truth, is the least of his problems. 

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The Indianapolis Recorder

Dateline: Sun 06 Apr 2014

For years, I've been saying I would subscribe to the Indianapolis Recorder, a historical weekly "since 1895" that covers the black community in every aspect: current events, politics, features, business, sports, discrimination, crime and religion.

After buying it sporadically at the news stand at CVS Drugs, I took the leap in March and signed up for what is surely the best deal around economically: only $15 for a year online, with the option of getting the paper version delivered weekly (add $39, which I did).

I am so happy with the decision.

Amos Brown, best known for his 1310 AM radio show, is a regular contributor. His column is just like his personality: direct, peppery, curious, questioning and hard-charging. I love reading his stuff -- and geting an education about aspects of our community that are not getting  attention elsewhere. This week's piece by Brown details a youth lock-in at Light of the World Christian Church, which drew as many as 600 to 900 kids on a recent Friday night. Brown's larger point is that there are not enough acitivites for kids aside from movies and hanging out at two malls (Circle Centre and Castleton). He lays it on former Mayor Steve Goldsmith, who initiated tight curfews in Indy. Brown says that ever since then, "Indianapolis has actively harassed, discouraged and stamped out entertainment events for teens and youth."

Brown's real expertise is statistics, and his analysis of the 2013 Census data for Indianapolis is a story that I have not read elsewhere -- the Indianapolis/Marion County metro area surpassed all 92 counties, including Hamilton County, for population growth. He nails the Ballard adminstration for not being "excited over Indy's strong population growth so far this decade," and notes the indifference is rooted in the mayor's chief of staff Ryan Vaughn "who many think actually runs this city day-to-day."

Years ago, Brown came to the Star and lectured staff and editors about not ignoring Census statistics. Using demographics, he pointed out that it was Indy's black population who supported Downtown when whites had abandoned it, and it was blacks who kept the bus system going. Also, he said, blacks preferred the Indianapolis News -- the late Indianapolis News -- to the Indy Star. This fit with some of our own focus groups, which revealed the Star was perceived in pesona as a white, middle-aged man who drank martinis. 

Brown is a player, and anyone who wants to know the scoop on Indy should be reading both Brown and the competent editor Shannon Williams. They are both keeping score on Indy, and the Recorder deserves support from those who want to read analysis about Indy, not public relations or cheerleading.

With thanks to journalist/colleague Rebecca Bibbs, who gave me the nudge to subscribe to The Recorder. 



Jim Irsay

Dateline: Sun 30 Mar 2014

"How can you tell if an addict is lying?"

"Her lips are moving."

From 'Gia,' the movie, about a supermodel and drug addict.

In 2002, when Jim Irsay's problems with drugs first became public knowledge, I argued that, since he had entered into a rehab program, he had every right to keep running the Colts, once he was well and active in a 12-step program.

This time I am less inclined to believe that -- or rather, I am less inclined to believe that he won't relapse again and that the Colts franchise would not be well-served by having him at the helm or in any leadership capacity.

After reading these past couple weeks about Irsay's struggles with substance abuse, dating back publcly to 2002, we now all know he apparently has fallen off the wagon many times. Also, taking into account the experiences of a friend who is an addict, it seems that recovery will be very, very difficult for him --- and moreso if he is in the limelight.

We all know all the mantras: a day at a time, surrender, let go and let god. We also know, if we have read any of the literature on addiction and alcoholism, that it is an insidious disease in which relapse is sadly common if not downright expected.

Perhaps the best thing for Irsay would be to be released of the persona that makes him a football master of the universe and allowed to be simply a private human being.

But then, because he's an addict, that may not be possible...the nature of addiction is gradiositiy of personality. Hence journalists and fans have spoken recently with fondness for Irsay's pesona. He is not a buttoned-down type of guy, but a guy who lets his shirttails hang out -- when in fact, he needs to be buttoned-down and disciplined. In his case and in the case of other addicts, his personality, at least the gradiose aspects of it, are the very basis of his downfall. Some fans love him because of his ridiculous tweets and his generosity, some of which is hidden but much of which is public. My argument is that Jim Irsay needs to be a little less-than his egotistical self -- in other words, he is in dire need of humility.

Several letters to the editor of the Star have argued that Irsay should be left alone, that it's nobody's business that he was carrying $29k when he was found driving erratically in Carmel. The argument is that he is a suffering human being, an addict, and that he deserves privacy and respect as he struggles to conquer or at least control his demons.

Unfortunately, Irsay has been his own worst enemy n the publicity department -- he likes the sound of his own voice. And the fact that he is a public figure means, in theory, that he is fair game, especially since his addiction is potentially harmful to others as well as himself. 

Irsay is clearly not a happy man. He and his ex-wife were separated 10 years before their divorce last fall. He may not have true friends in his inner circle so much as enablers.

Yes, I agree we should give the man privacy to work through the program once again. The real question then, is this: once he is sober, or straight, will he choose a path of privacy and quiet in order to remain well, or will he return to his drama-seeking, empty, sad behavior?

Only Irsay can answer that. Wishing him well, and that he finds the right answer for survival.



Guns in schools

Dateline: Mon 24 Mar 2014

Eric Weddle and Maureen Groppe of the Indy Star delivered a good behind-the-scenes article on the controversial bill that would allow guns on school parking lots in locked cars in Indiana. The piece was published on Page 1 last Friday.


The bottom line is that Gov. Pence will certainly sign the measure, based on his support of the National Rifle Association and the amount he's received from that group in donations. Follow the money: he will listen to the gun lobby rather than the concerns of educators:

"Young people, schools, guns and all that is a mix for something inappropriate," says IPS head Dr. Lewis Ferebee, quoted in the Star. "Anytime you have firearms on campus you are at risk for compromising safety and that is something we definitely want to avoid."

Another educator, Todd Bess, says a better course would be to let each school district draw up its own rules, but that won't happen, he acknowledges.

This is all about how many bullets can spin on the head of a pin; the bill was born when a gun-toting dad was arrested last year in Greenfield for leaving his weapon in his vehicle. So as I understand it, the fact that one gun-owner's rights were somehow compromised in his view leads us to open the floodgates of weapons on school property. 

That is just nuts.

Thanks for the Star for going deeper into the background of this crazy bill.


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