Carl Levin and the ruins of Detroit

As Opening Day of the 2009 baseball season is tomorrow, it is fitting to note that no image better illustrates where our once-great nation is heading and why than the decrepit, half-standing former home of the Detroit Tigers, where a Major League Baseball game has not been played in nearly nine years.

To look at Tiger Stadium now -- if one can bear it -- is to imagine the scene in London the day after a visit from the  Luftwaffe. Twisted steel mingles with rotting wood over a field of barren grass, overlooked by ancient plastic seats and long-decayed dugouts. Tiger Stadium is the newest of what has come to be known as the "Ruins of Detroit,"  once-grand buildings of gleaming majesty that, because of the corruption, incompetence, and ambivalence of our "leaders" blot the cityscape on most every corner of town.
Tiger Stadium ruins
For those of us who knew it, Tiger Stadium will forever hold a special place in our hearts. Standing like a colossus on the corner of Michigan and Trumbull in the Corktown neighborhood, it is where Ty Cobb planted spikes into the abdomens of quaking shortstops; where Hank Greenberg regularly deposited anti-Semitism in the left field seats; where Al Kaline patrolled right field with aplomb. As it can be said in countless major league cities, it is where Detroit and Michigan fathers and sons walked hand-in-hand in its dank, narrow corridors and gaped breathlessly at the expanse of green in the middle of the city when emerging from the shadows.

Tiger Stadium - then Navin Field - was constructed in 1912 and the Tigers played baseball there until 1999, in favor of a brand-new stadium downtown built with the all-too-familiar combination of corporate donations and taxpayer funding. As the Detroit Lions had left it two decades prior, the stadium had no more viable reason for remaining. In an uncharacteristic fit of wisdom, the city of Detroit demanded the old stadium be immediately destroyed when the Tigers left. Preservation groups cried for some sort of museum or alternate use. For years the stadium decayed before the city decided to commence demolition last year and the outfield bleachers came tumbling down, providing an open window into the stadium from I-75. Unyielding to the last, the preservationists leaned on the city council (a more foolish and criminal element would be difficult to find, though that is another story) to halt the inevitable. The council ceased demolition provided the stadium-savers generate private money for a sensible purpose. They failed. The stadium would finally be coming down. At last one of the city's eyesores would finally be removed.
ruins
But in January, Teleprompter Jesus raised his hand and called for stimulus. Sen. Carl Levin, ensconced in the upper chamber since the Carter administration, became aroused.

In the Senate version of the omnibus spending bill a provision allots $3.8 million for "preservation and redevelopment of a public park and related business activities in the Corktown neighborhood." This earmark was inserted by Sen. Levin aimed directly at saving what is left of Tiger Stadium. When challenged by Sen. Tom Coburn, Sen. Levin actually argued during a Senate session that this money would help bring much-needed jobs to the area. A more laughable statement would be difficult to construct. But the provision remained. Sen. Levin won and the stadium is still standing, harsh against a steel-gray March sky, with no novel coda in sight or even on the table. In the meantime, the median home sale price in Detroit in December was $7,500.

fence

Sen. Levin may well indeed wish to preserve something of Tiger Stadium. He has spoken movingly on its importance in his own life, growing up a Jew in Detroit and watching with pride and awe as Hank Greenberg was lifted up as a hero of the city, so much so that after one important game the Detroit Free Press ran a headline wishing him a happy Jewish new year in Hebrew. Nobody wishes to diminish the personal significance Tiger Stadium holds for Sen. Levin, as it does for countless Detroiters. But he is an influential man, no? Could he not lead or organize a private effort that could raise double the earmarked funds? Or would it not be time to stiffen up a bit and acknowledge that nothing lasts forever?

But no. Sen. Levin's plea on the Senate floor for an earmark to try and preserve a half-demolished relic is perfect, really. It is the perfect summation of the mindset and actions threatening to turn the nation into a giant Detroit. Here is the power-mad, lordly Senator-from-on-high arguing for the necessity of further tax confiscation in a boondoggle spending bill to save a building that was last barely useful at the end of the previous century. The disfigured stadium remains as but the freshest gaping wound on a clinically dead patient. Such an earmark passed through with nary a thought, least of all from the president - the same man who vowed to eliminate such provisions with his exacting scalpel. And there it stands.

Take a good look, fellow citizens. If you like what you see on the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, you will love the landscape of Obama's America.
As Opening Day of the 2009 baseball season is tomorrow, it is fitting to note that no image better illustrates where our once-great nation is heading and why than the decrepit, half-standing former home of the Detroit Tigers, where a Major League Baseball game has not been played in nearly nine years.

To look at Tiger Stadium now -- if one can bear it -- is to imagine the scene in London the day after a visit from the  Luftwaffe. Twisted steel mingles with rotting wood over a field of barren grass, overlooked by ancient plastic seats and long-decayed dugouts. Tiger Stadium is the newest of what has come to be known as the "Ruins of Detroit,"  once-grand buildings of gleaming majesty that, because of the corruption, incompetence, and ambivalence of our "leaders" blot the cityscape on most every corner of town.
Tiger Stadium ruins
For those of us who knew it, Tiger Stadium will forever hold a special place in our hearts. Standing like a colossus on the corner of Michigan and Trumbull in the Corktown neighborhood, it is where Ty Cobb planted spikes into the abdomens of quaking shortstops; where Hank Greenberg regularly deposited anti-Semitism in the left field seats; where Al Kaline patrolled right field with aplomb. As it can be said in countless major league cities, it is where Detroit and Michigan fathers and sons walked hand-in-hand in its dank, narrow corridors and gaped breathlessly at the expanse of green in the middle of the city when emerging from the shadows.

Tiger Stadium - then Navin Field - was constructed in 1912 and the Tigers played baseball there until 1999, in favor of a brand-new stadium downtown built with the all-too-familiar combination of corporate donations and taxpayer funding. As the Detroit Lions had left it two decades prior, the stadium had no more viable reason for remaining. In an uncharacteristic fit of wisdom, the city of Detroit demanded the old stadium be immediately destroyed when the Tigers left. Preservation groups cried for some sort of museum or alternate use. For years the stadium decayed before the city decided to commence demolition last year and the outfield bleachers came tumbling down, providing an open window into the stadium from I-75. Unyielding to the last, the preservationists leaned on the city council (a more foolish and criminal element would be difficult to find, though that is another story) to halt the inevitable. The council ceased demolition provided the stadium-savers generate private money for a sensible purpose. They failed. The stadium would finally be coming down. At last one of the city's eyesores would finally be removed.
ruins
But in January, Teleprompter Jesus raised his hand and called for stimulus. Sen. Carl Levin, ensconced in the upper chamber since the Carter administration, became aroused.

In the Senate version of the omnibus spending bill a provision allots $3.8 million for "preservation and redevelopment of a public park and related business activities in the Corktown neighborhood." This earmark was inserted by Sen. Levin aimed directly at saving what is left of Tiger Stadium. When challenged by Sen. Tom Coburn, Sen. Levin actually argued during a Senate session that this money would help bring much-needed jobs to the area. A more laughable statement would be difficult to construct. But the provision remained. Sen. Levin won and the stadium is still standing, harsh against a steel-gray March sky, with no novel coda in sight or even on the table. In the meantime, the median home sale price in Detroit in December was $7,500.

fence

Sen. Levin may well indeed wish to preserve something of Tiger Stadium. He has spoken movingly on its importance in his own life, growing up a Jew in Detroit and watching with pride and awe as Hank Greenberg was lifted up as a hero of the city, so much so that after one important game the Detroit Free Press ran a headline wishing him a happy Jewish new year in Hebrew. Nobody wishes to diminish the personal significance Tiger Stadium holds for Sen. Levin, as it does for countless Detroiters. But he is an influential man, no? Could he not lead or organize a private effort that could raise double the earmarked funds? Or would it not be time to stiffen up a bit and acknowledge that nothing lasts forever?

But no. Sen. Levin's plea on the Senate floor for an earmark to try and preserve a half-demolished relic is perfect, really. It is the perfect summation of the mindset and actions threatening to turn the nation into a giant Detroit. Here is the power-mad, lordly Senator-from-on-high arguing for the necessity of further tax confiscation in a boondoggle spending bill to save a building that was last barely useful at the end of the previous century. The disfigured stadium remains as but the freshest gaping wound on a clinically dead patient. Such an earmark passed through with nary a thought, least of all from the president - the same man who vowed to eliminate such provisions with his exacting scalpel. And there it stands.

Take a good look, fellow citizens. If you like what you see on the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, you will love the landscape of Obama's America.