The Happy Slave

This is my surrender to the Powers that Be, who wish we all were just happy little slaves, tooling along without a care in the world, doing what our better-educated masters tell us to do, not daring to step out of line. I'm so bad at surrender...

Name:
Location: Indianapolis, United States

I'm an old-fashioned Get-out-of-my-face-atarian. So long as the gubmint left me alone, I had no problems with it. Gubmint wants to run my life, so I'm doing something about it. (Not just blogging, either.)

Friday, November 18, 2005

We already tried it, okay?

(This piece has also been published, in a somewhat different form, on 90ways.com.)

"But Maaaaaaaaa! All the cool kids are doing it!" That's the sign of a kid who has a lot of growing up to do. Funny enough, it's also the only argument that was ever made in favor of Indiana adopting Daylight Saving Time. As so many of us think we "know", Indiana "changes time zones" twice a year. Of course, any non-cretin knows better. Indiana never changes time zones. No state in the Union changes time zones. What Indiana does is not officially observe Daylight Saving Time (DST). Of course, that isn't even true. Parts of Indiana near Louisville and parts near Chicago do observe DST (and there's that chunk in the southwest that even most Hoosiers can't remember). The parts in the southeast do Eastern Standard and Daylight times while the parts in the northwest and southwest observe Central Standard and Daylight times.

But that's going to change. Now, in a feeble mystical ritual, Indiana's state legislature has voted to adopt DST. The chief cultists assure us that it will magically guarantee prosperity and greatness to the Hoosier state. We will overtake all others in education and economic power. Yes, that's pretty much what was promised—in a politically appropriate weasel-word fashion, of course. We can't have accountability for elected officials, after all. The way it was done was an act of political diddling that could leave interns shuddering for years, but I'll get to that a little later. First, I'll explain how Indiana ran its affairs.

The parts of the state that do not screw around with their clocks twice a year are thought to not observe DST, and the law says that they don't observe DST—they're all officially on Eastern Standard Time all year around, so that's technically correct, but you've got to remember that this is the USA. This is the same country that has legally proclaimed that tomatoes are not fruits and legally considered the majority of its Black inhabitants to only be 3/5 a human being for nearly a century. In other words, legal technicality in the USA doesn't always match up with good sense, or even the faintest grasp on reality.

In 1949, Indiana officially put itself onto the Central zone. This included observing CST—although that wasn't enforced on counties that didn't want to play along. This kind of sensibly hands-off approach for government is exactly the sort of thing that gives busybodies and nanny-staters massive bed-wetting episodes, so it was not allowed to continue. The long and short of it is that, by 1966, the majority of the state had decided that Central Daylight Time all year around was the best time for Indiana. It was the zone choice that actually fit the scientifically-determined position of the sun at noontime, after all. However, when the country's time zones were nationally standardized in the Uniform Time Act, Indiana was changed to the Eastern Zone, even though its more appropriate time zone is Central. This was to accommodate Hoosiers. It was no skin off the coasters' noses at the time—although they started having appropriate hissy fits about it soon enough. Since the law permits a state to exempt itself from DST, Indiana, for the most part, did so. But to keep everything nice and official (can't be on the "special" time all year-round, can we?), Indiana was moved to EST, which is equivalent to CDT.

Now just why would we want such a thing? Contrary to the dimwitted blathering of ignorant coasters (as if non-ignorant coast-dwellers aren't vanishingly rare), it was not because Indiana had never been on DST and was "too backwards" to accept it. Quite the contrary, we had tried it and we did not like it. Why this might be true is painfully obvious to anyone with at least three firing cerebral neurons.

In an Indiana forced into the Eastern zone, sunrise stinks on ice. All winter long, Indiana wakes up to pitch darkness. That's right, since we're in the Eastern Standard zone, we have little sunlight for winter mornings. We drive to work in snow, wind, sleet, and near darkness. It is a testament to the power of caffeine that the Hoosier state has not died on the drive to work—Juan Valdez, we salute you! If we were in the Central Standard zone in winter, it might be better, at least we might get the glimmer of a dawn in morning, but the drive home would be in inky blackness. So we split the difference. In other words, winter on CST would be no picnic.

Summer on EDT would also stink in Indiana. Ignorant coast dwellers natter on and on about "long summer evenings". The Clue Fairy is here, and he's got an extra two-by-four for you: Indiana already has long summer evenings. There are parts of this state where sunset is around 8:30 pm in the summer without observing EDT. Put that an hour later, and it's goodbye to fireworks in summer—or at least any you could bring the kids to. It's hard enough getting children to bed at a reasonable hour in summer here, already.

So, that's why we are where we are—or where we were. And the reason I went through all of that is in the rather vain hope that someone will actually abandon dearly held prejudices about Hoosiers and why we've done what we've done. I want to be understood when I tell you what it is (soon to be was) like in Indiana—why we liked how we do (did) things.

What is it like not diddling our clocks twice a year? Didn't we get confused? Didn't we get lost? I must say, that this, among all other things, was the damnably funniest thing we ever heard about our way of keeping time. Over and over, idiots kept bleating about how stupid we were for not changing our clocks twice a year when they were the ones who were too damned stupid to figure out how we did things. We knew the drill. Once a year Chicago changed to be with us. Once a year Ohio and points east changed to be with us. No muss, no fuss, no dirty yellow buildup. We never felt like we suffered for not being just like everybody else—blind conformism is so sad, wouldn't you say? Indeed, we had a bit of smugness that we were bright enough to realize that we didn't need to screw up our clocks twice a year in order to survive.

And it's not like clock-screwing was a great thing for everybody. I lived for nearly a decade in Ithaca, New York. Not a single person there liked dinking around with the whole clock adjustment stupidity. They all went along with it, but only because it was legally mandated. Even the crazy people on the Commons couldn't be convinced that it was a good idea. Nobody liked it—everybody hated it. But the sheeple went along, because their Masters had dictated it. And that was it—the only reason that people switched to DST in spring was because everybody else did it. Like Berk Breathed once wrote: "If many people do a stupid thing, it is still a stupid thing." (And it is a stupid thing, switching to DST kills people, every year, and the difference is not "made up" when we switch back to standard time)

But in Indiana, we had it good. It's not as if ignoring DST killed our state's economy—that got axed when Detroit shipped its parts manufacturing entirely out of the country decades ago. It didn't stop FedEx from building its second-largest hub in Indianapolis. It didn't stop the Indy 500 from being the Biggest Spectacle in Racing (Tony George did that all on his own). No, Indiana managed to do okay without having to do stupid things with our clocks twice a year. And it's not as if non-observance of DST is equivalent to being culturally backwards—Japan doesn't do DST, after all.

The only people who were seriously upset were self-styled coastal "sophisticates" and those few pathetic Hoosiers who built their whole lives around what other people thought of us.

Okay, there was one other group—TV networks. Back in 1969, the Big Three actually sued the federal government for not enforcing DST on Indiana. You see, they were too lazy and stupid to tolerate any sort of broadcast time diversity. Well, the upshot of that was that most of Indiana was allowed to wiggle around that for a while, but the broadcast networks never forgot, and ever since have been major lobbyists for forcing all of Indiana to adopt DST. This is important.

So, for decades, we were living as we lived, doing not too badly at all. Riley Children's Hospital managed to be a world-class research facility without DST. Purdue University turned out engineers and astronauts without DST. The Kinsey Institute remained a center of human sexuality research without DST.

But some people cannot leave well enough alone. They noticed that Indiana had fallen far behind in general education. It never occurred to them that it might be because of our antiquated administrative system (our Commissioner of Public Education is elected, as a member of a political party). They noticed that our state was not attracting jobs. It never occurred to them that it might be because state government is still putting most of its effort into attracting low-skill heavy manufacturing to the state as our primary means of generating wealth. They noticed that Indiana has a brain drain. It never occurred to them that this is what happens when you make education a political post and put all your resources into attracting heavy industry over everything else. Nope, they decided that all of our problems were because Indiana didn't observe Daylight Saving Time.

So they started a crusade. They had extremely rich allies in all the network TV affiliates across the state, who were very careful to couch all the coverage to only favor DST. These advocates had tried several times under the previously elected governor (O'Bannon) but never made it through the General Assembly (GA). Finally, though, the DST-at-any-cost cultists hit on a perfect formula: Flat-out dishonesty.

Indiana's previous governor had died while in office, and his successor was as dynamic as a Jim Nabors album. The new guy (Daniels) was swept in on a rack of promises, and one of them was Daylight Saving Time, but only if the state as a whole wanted it. In other words, he'd have it brought to a vote and not do it as some kind of back-handed political move. Okay, fair enough. Hoosiers are willing to let any crazy old bill be debated and voted on. We even considered changing the value of pi before good sense returned to our legislators. But people who expected a fair representative shake were sadly fooled.

The original bill to bring about DST for Indiana was killed by means of a procedural act. In Indiana if a quorum is not present, bills cannot be brought to the floor for a vote in the GA. On top of this, the GA has a hardwired adjournment date between the two annual sessions. If a bill is not officially brought to the floor by this date, it is officially dead. It cannot be re-entered until the next year. This is to protect the voice of the minority party (the year this bill came up, it was Democrats) against a tyrannical majority (Republicans that year). The year before the bill to impose DST was put up, the Republicans had been in the minority and had used this tactic. The Democrats decided that turnabout was fair play.

The DST bill was not popular, and a lot of Republicans weren't too happy about voting for it, so they were relieved that it was dead, but GA leadership had a few tricks worthy of a Best Little Whorehouse governor.

In the resumption of the session, another bill was stripped of all of its content—every single line was taken out of it—and the text of the DST bill was read into it! To top it off, the Speaker of the House in Indiana then violated procedural rules in a way that only Gilbert and Sullivan once would have attempted to make sure that no messy little "deadlines" got in the way of ramming this one through. So at the end of it, the bill got passed by a very slim majority, and that only after a lot of backroom promises were made. Then it was signed and all the promises were forgotten.

You see, one of those promises was that, whatever would happen, all of Indiana would be on one time zone, forever and ever, amen. This was one of the things that sold Hoosiers on the bill—we'd no longer have to worry about close relatives living in the same state being on a different time zone. Gary to Indy to Richmond would all observe one time, as one state, and a wink and a nudge told us that, even though it would stink in winter, at least we'd have a nice, sane summer, just like we always have—on CDT. No such luck. Instead, the liar in the mansion deftly dodged the matter, refusing to petition the Department of Transportation to put us onto a single time zone. Since Transportation would rather not have to re-draw its maps, that means that most of Indiana will end up doing EST/EDT, a time zone that only pleases TV executives and some pathetic lickspittles who get wet at the idea of being just like New York. It means that the ordinary Hoosier, who liked the old system just fine, who knew that we had already tried DST, thank you very much, and it didn't work for us, it meant that ordinary people would once again get screwed by the system.

Now, David Crooks, a Democrat from Washington, IN, is trying to get a referendum on the ballot for the people to pick the time zone. He stands little chance of success. Indiana legislators do not like public input. They set aside "safe" districts and have no limit on special interest campaign spending. Nuvo—a weekly newspaper in Indianapolis—did an in-depth article on Indiana campaign funding. Only one legislator in office had majority funding from individual contributors. Otherwise, Democrat or Republican, it's all heavy special interest donations, very often from the same interests to both sides.

But that's not the punch line. The real nut-punch line is that it won't matter that Indiana adopts DST. Over and over, I heard the DST cultists hoot on. Adopting DST would improve Indiana's business. Adopting DST would improve Indiana's communications, and for them, the most important thing of all, adopting DST would improve Indiana's image. In other words, it all boiled down to one thing—Indiana had to do it because all the cool kids were already doing it. This, more than anything, proved that the supporters of DST were talking out their asses. As anybody who knows anything knows, when the dork tries to dress like the cool kids, talk like the cool kids, and act like the cool kids, the cool kids know it means that he's an even bigger dork than they thought he was.