Friday, July 31, 2009

Proof of your magnetic personality, your Friday instant mind expansion.

Editorial: Kirkpatrick has long road ahead

Blah, blah, blah. It's so enervating to have to read the unnamed Courier editor going off yet again on "getting control of the border" and such (as if he were willing to pay the gargantuan cost of anything that might even approach doing that), that I almost missed him holding his nose and noting that our rep in Congress did several things that he likes. If ol' Ranger Rick Renzi (R - Military-Industrial Complex) had done exactly the same thing it would probably have rated a page-one story with a pic above the fold.

And do I read it right that the editor is proposing to subsidize the citizenship process for 20 million illegals? Somebody pinch me.

STATE BUDGET: 2 Prescott institutions on potential sale list

It's a telling event when the state proposes to pawn state buildings, including the House and Senate office buildings, several prisons and our own Pioneer Home and Sharlot Hall Museum. Joanna smartly includes the eventual cost of the proposal high up in the story -- it appears the state would be paying 1.2 billion clams for a loan of 735 million.

Is it just me, or does this seem more than a little insane?

None of our lawmakers has gone on record in favor of this Grover Norquist government-killing wet dream so far, but I'm reasonably sure that the Dept of Admin didn't just come up with this on its own, that's not how bureaucracies work. I'll be talking with Rep Mason about this on The People's Business this weekend, 2pm Saturday and Sunday on KJZA, 90.1 FM.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Busy Thursday

Not much to read in the Daily Disappointment today other than another opportunity for me to rant about the Elks, which I'll spare you, dear reader.

Do yourself and your community a favor, though, and show up at the League of Women Voters forum at Yavapai College Performance Hall at 6pm, meet the candidates and think about Prescott's future.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What the heck do I know about running a theatre?

I don't usually respond to anonymous challenges, but this commenter makes a fair point in response to Friday's post about the Elks debacle. I'm putting up a new post because Friday will soon scroll off the front page.

The commenter says:

You state previously, the editor gives no reason except they said so, yet you do the same thing on this piece. What is your expertise here?

You're right, I basically assumed that everyone knows how long I've been working this row.

I've been a technical theatre professional since 1972. I joined IATSE while still in high school, and after college I worked as stage manager to the Grand Rapids (MI) Children's Civic Theatre for three years as my first regular gig. Over the decades I've handled every job in theatre but makeup, from loading trucks to business and artistic management, to method training for actors, to the pit.

My last major gig was designing, building and managing the first two seasons of Arizona Classical Theatre, which involved building the largest temporary structures ever to appear on the Square and Granite Creek Park. Unlike most theatre operations, when I was managing everyone got paid. Not much, but everyone.

I've performed in and produced or helped produce many shows at the Elks, including the musicians' benefit for Katrina victims.

I got involved with the Elks issue when I was a board director on the Prescott Area Arts & Humanities Council, and we were invited into the discussion when Prescott College abandoned its lease and the Arizona Foundation was looking to unload the theatre. Along with other theatre and arts professionals, I looked into the integrity of the building and its economic viability, resulting in a PAAHC recommendation that the City reacquire the Elks and turn its operation over to a nonprofit to run.

The City Council under Mayor Sam Steiger took our ideas and tossed out the parts that would make it work. There's a long story there and since, but I'll skip that rant for now.

A few years ago I wrote an overview to help clarify the situation at the Elks for Read It Here, part of which is still online here.

I still work occasionals as a stagehand at Yavapai College Performance Hall, just to keep my hand in. It's not something you give up before you're dead.

I hope this answers the question.

Another Wednesday

What are you puttering around with today?

Editorial: Hurtling health care train needs to slow up

Some of the commenters have already pointed out that the unnamed Courier editor's "hurtling" train has been an awfully long time coming. But the editor knows that, of course. He's just transcribing the Fox News chyrons, which furnish everything a good Republican foot-soldier needs to know about anything.

Why are we in a hurry, editor? Because out here in the reality-based community we're impoverished, bankrupt, chronically ill and dying for the lack of a civilized health-care system.

Clear models have been in place and working since the 1940s. We know what to do and how to do it. What's holding up the train has always been the entrenched insurance industry and its corporatist soldiers, like the editor, who don't mind how much it costs our society as long as they get theirs.

Why does it have to be 1,000 pages, editor? I'd like to count up how many of those pages are in there to try to mollify you and your industry overlords with exemptions, loopholes and sweetheart deals demanded by the corporations, just because Democrats are determined to be inclusive, even though they know that in the end the Rs will vote against them anyway. The result is looking to be another hopelessly watered-down, ineffective waste of time, I fear.

So, editor, you're getting your wish. Your guys have derailed the train again. Be happy.

Letter: Barking dogs drive newcomers to brink

It's not really surprising that Wayne Holmes feels so besieged by barking dogs. I experienced something similar myself when I moved into my current neighborhood. It takes some work to find the relevant chunk of City code, and some hassle to prepare a complaint that the PD will attend to. Here's the code:

1. All dogs, hybrid dogs and hybrid cats shall be kept and maintained in such a manner so as not to disturb the peace, comfort or health of any person residing within the boundaries of the city. (Ord. 3026, eff. 12-24-92)
2. It shall be unlawful for any person to keep or maintain a dog or hybrid dog which is in the habit of barking, howling or otherwise disturbing the peace and quiet of any person within the boundaries of the city. For purposes of this section, a dog or hybrid dog shall be deemed to be in the habit of barking if it is proven that the animal barks, without justification, for five (5) or more continuous minutes on two (2) separate occasions within a thirty-six (36) hour period. (Ord. No. 3026, eff. 12-24-92)
The key point: you have to prove your complaint, unless you can get an officer to hang out for a few minutes and hear for hermself. It's a PIA, but you're not powerless.

I have to say that writing an LTE on something like this is a waste of energy, though. Wayne doesn't mention that he's even talked with his neighbors about it. Is he acting like a neighbor, or a victim?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Editorial: Closing P.O. isn't end of universe

The unnamed Courier editor poo-poohs the reader letters and comments about the proposed loss of service at the Goodwin Street post office on the square. We can reasonably infer that the editor doesn't go there, so he doesn't care. Typically, in his myopia he's glossing over several important considerations.

The square is the beating heart of our vibrant downtown area. Living here for a long time, it's easy to forget how unusual it is to have a historic city center that is healthy and thriving, and how fragile it is if neglected. Our downtown works because it offers a healthy range of business and government functions in a walkable space.

I expect that most residents don't realize that the Goodwin St building is more than a post office. Along with City Hall and the county courthouse, it's the third leg in the government tripod, the historic federal building, including the district court and other functions upstairs. It's also an impressive historic structure, its warm, woody interior embellished with WPA art and the subtle smell of brass.

In the context of other government functions, it just makes sense to look for the post office on the square, and the postal function is the building's biggest draw. It's a place where we can count on meeting friends and acquaintances in passing. Last I heard there was still a substantial waiting list for those quaint PO boxes with the 86301 zip code. Closing the office will reduce foot traffic on the square and for downtown in general. (And let's not forget that people work there who eat lunch.)

Then there's the question of what happens with the building if there's no post office in it. There's little danger that it'll be torn down, I'm sure, but an empty space there is unacceptable, and converting it for other use would destroy much of the building's historic character, also unacceptable.

No, editor, the sky won't fall. But losing the old post office would be bad for downtown business, bad for Prescott's historic district, and bad for the community as a whole. The Courier long since abandoned downtown physically, and it's clear the editors are willing to abandon it generally.

Update, 6:30pm: BearWhizBeer asks whether anyone actually asserted that losing the PO meant the end of the universe. I've gone through the comments on the original story, and found no one predicting either the end of the world, as the editor says, or the end of the universe, as the breathless headline writer gave us.

Column: It's time to stop runaway spending

Here's a second case of turning a longish LTE into a "Column," indicating a new category on the op-ed page. In it retired finance exec Paul Border as Jacob Marley rattles the chains of the old order to scare readers about the progressive agenda of the Obama administration, pushing the 'socialism' button repeatedly and prophecying doom and catastrophe if we actually start taxing him and his rich pals a little more.

It's a load of ectoplasmic hooey, of course, and you've heard it all before. But considering the health-care "compromise" (read: capitulation) that's making headway in the committee of Max Baucus (D - Health Insurance Industry) today, I'm not feeling hopeful that Americans will drop this smelly fear-mongering and stupidity into the toilet, where it belongs.

Pregnancy center moves, educates clients

Jerry Herrmann turns in a pleasant little story about nice people doing nice things for young parents, and manages to keep out any trace of the organization's religionist, anti-choice mission. Follow the links on its cagey website for proof.

I don't mind coverage of outreach by religious organizations per se, they're part of the community. But actively disguising a religious group's agenda is wrong, as this one does with young women seeking help, and it's doubly wrong for the Courier to abet the deception.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Editorial: Added bureaucracy counters plan's aim

The unnamed Courier editor may be right that the county is going in the wrong direction with its plan review, but from this there's no way for the reader to evaluate that opinion, because the editor simply asserts that the direction is wrong because it would add new committees. He does not tell us what the functions of the committees would be, who would be on them, or how they would go about their business. He would have us infer that the people working this issue and recommending this change are doing it for no good reason.

Newspapers are about communication: informing the voters about what's happening, to facilitate better decisions on public policy. That's why the press is in the Constitution. But rather than tell us the what, why and how of this and showing his reasoning, the editor simply states his conclusion based on a single arbitrary factor that he doesn't like.

Perhaps the editor has a reasoning process that led to this. But his editorial reads as if he would prefer to avoid that process and whip up his readers to oppose this idea in as much ignorance as possible. This is a base and basic propaganda technique that deserves nothing but rotten tomatoes.

The alternative is that the editor is truly expressing his entire thought process on this: he sees new committees, so the proposal must be bad. If this is really the case, I have to pity the poor fool.

Okay, so let's take a look and try to parse what the editor is talking about. It seems to derive from a June 7 story by Bruce Colbert about a Development Services proposal to the Planning and Zoning Commission. The July 22 (current) draft (PDF) is here.

I notice that the editor uses the Williamson Valley Community Organization to back up his objection. But it's clear in the preamble of an earlier draft of the proposal that the WV group's primary objection (keeping corridor plans exempt from community plans) is completely different from the editor's (more committees). Moreover that wall protecting corridor plans apparently came down before the current draft.

Here's the part the editor doesn't like:

4. Committee Structure
a. The community planning process shall be organized by a two tiered committee structure as follows:

(i) Plan Advisory Committee (PAC): The PAC is a permanent standing advisory committee appointed by the Board of Supervisors and acts as an overall steering committee for all community plans and a liaison between the County and the community. The PAC shall consist of two (2) DSD Development Services staff members and a representative from each Supervisor’s District, for a total committee membership of five (5). The PAC shall review recommendations from the Community Advisory Committee and provide recommendation on all draft plans or amendments submitted to the County. The PAC shall confirm the membership and organization of the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) for individual community plan processes. Committee members shall serve at the pleasure of the Board for terms of four (4) years and may be reappointed by the Board upon term expiration.

(ii). Community Advisory Committee (CAC): The committee members are suggested by the community and confirmed by the Plan Advisory Committee. DSD County staff shall be included in the CAC committee membership. Committee appointments shall be made with the goal of providing a representative cross section of interests within the community area. The CAC is responsible for conducting the community participation/input, developing the draft plan or amendment and providing recommendations to the PAC.
As I read this, one committee forms from the community temporarily to negotiate and write the plan. That seems pretty basic -- you don't want County P&Z writing your plan for you. The other committee is permanent and designed to oversee these CACs.

If we only have one CAC working at a time, I expect that the PAC would be unnecessary. P&Z could handle the oversight directly. But Yavapai is a large and growing county, and once things get rolling I can imagine three or four of these four-year processes going on at once, maybe more. That's a lot of added oversight work to a busy schedule, and I can see the argument for adding this layer. I'm not saying this is the best way to handle it -- I don't know enough about what goes on inside and the personnel proposal for the PAC could easily favor entrenched interests -- but I can see the argument.

It would rate a cookie if the editor had bothered to cover the issue with even this light a look. But he didn't. Readers have a right to demand more.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Another reason to avoid anonymous comments

I happened to see a little story on Think Progress this weekend that seems apropos of my continuing windmill-joust at anonymous commenting. The US Attorney for the western district of New York is investigating some comments, posted under fake email addresses to the website of the Wayne County Star, about a story involving an immigration raid on a local farm. Example:

“watcha doing to mi wifey, no checky her papeles. she no legal, but she havey benifit card. oh wait, take her and I get me a applehog till I go to Mexico. Viva la Raza!!!”
Someone looked at some source code, and it appears that this and several others, covering a weird racist exchange among commenters, originated in computers at the Department of Homeland Security.

This isn't a difficult hack, and it ought to make readers wonder whether some of the comments we see on the Courier site are similarly cloaked to avoid legal or political repercussions.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Fourier analysis for guitar players, courtesy the University of Nottingham, your instant brain expansion for the week.

Editorial: Common sense takes another hike

Once again the unnamed Courier editor trots out his expertise in traffic engineering, proving by mere assertion that he knows more about it than anyone actually involved and being paid to do it.

What's really interesting is the editor's emotional response to even having a proposal about bike lanes heard by Council. I doubt that anyone among the cycling advocates is even marginally hopeful that Council will approve this idea. But the editor is sputtering in anger that Council would even entertain it.

I wonder whether the editor ever noticed that we have bike lanes in regular use along MonteWhipple, a major artery carrying more traffic than east Gurley at higher speed through more complex terrain. We have lanes in use along Rosser, a much more complex and narrower roadway with entertaining obstacles and random parking. And we have a whole lot of streets narrow and wide all over town that serve bikes and cars at the same time with no separated lanes. Yet the Courier has apparently failed to cover all the blood in the streets that the editor so vehemently purports to fear.

Maybe the rest of us are just better drivers than the editor is.

Here's sometihing the editor hasn't read on bike-lane engineering.

Elks renovation contract up for approval

Surprise, surprise: hardly begun, the Elks project is overrunning its budget, and the City is tossing the object of the restoration over the side hoping to save the high-priced contract it failed to negotiate properly.

This is what comes of having people who know nothing about theatre operate one.

The City is trying to do a major renovation of an old but structurally sound specialized building with no money, no significant expertise, and no responsibility for the outcome. Every move it has made in the Elks has been wrong-footed and impeded the next. The socialites who are raising funds for it are good-hearted, but clueless about the actual cost of what they're proposing or how to make it work.

Mark me, this project will ultimately cost over five million clams, and at the end of it we'll have a pretty but essentially function-free white elephant. That will put the Elks in permanent danger of abandonment and demise.

Turning this around before it becomes completely hopeless will involve bringing in our community's theatre professionals and refocusing the project on creating a space that will serve real acts in a real economic context, not the cloud-cuckoo land that the foundationers imagine.

Finally, just to maintain my reputation for shouting at traffic: it is not, never has been and never could be an opera house. Gad, I wish people would stop calling it that, it's nothing but hick chic.

Reporter rates WYGC one of the top places to recover

This little celebrity piece points to something that I've always found interesting about Prescott: the healing and rehabilitation industry is huge here. From the Veterans' Hospital to the many alternative healers in private practice, we have healing going on everywhere. The rehab sector by itself is very big relative to the size of the town, attracting people statewide as well as out-of-staters, celebs included.

If this is something that Prescott is especially good at, I think we ought to do more to encourage it as an economic engine, which in turn will help mitigate the impact of the inevitable small percentage of failures on our streets, under our bridges and in our flophouses.

The rehab industry gets a bad rap for the people who fall through the cracks, but I think I'd rather have those impacts than the effects of more big-box retail, for example.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thursday featured comment

Re the non-coverage of the 'tea party' protest last Friday, Midge in Prescott:

"I have great respect for the Tea Party people at their grassroots level. Unfortunately, the Astroturf elements took over and used your legitimate protests for their own ends. You know who I mean -- the biased TV and radio personalities looking for ratings, the white supremacists who used your venues to try to increase their memberships, the birthers and other conspiracy theorists who garnered notice at your expense, etcetera ad nauseum. Your legimate complaints have been overshadowed and tainted by being associated with those others. The political blowback has been fierce. Hence, your own legimate movement has lost its good name and newsworthiness. It's a dam' dirty shame. Carry on your cause without the wingnut circus, and you will eventually be heard."

The radical rightists have yet to realize that their antics are driving people away from the whole side. They won't listen -- thankfully, for both their entertainment value and their political effect, i.e. pulling the respectable clothes off rightwing ideas and showing them for what they are underneath -- but you tell 'em, Midge!

Editorial: Let's stress light, not heat in races

Overall I can go along with the sentiments that the unnamed Courier editor expresses here. But there are a couple of subversive elements to the piece that I have to point out.

The first is his setting up the online comments as useful in indicating something about public opinion more generally, and giving himself a pat on the back for putting the facility into the site. I needn't say much about the logical disconnect there.

More subtle is his assertion that "The mike was theirs. They all said everything they wanted to say about themselves to make their case," and by implication the Courier is acting as a transparent conduit from the candidate to the voter. This is false. The editor or his writer has been injecting information into the candidate stories from outside the interview context, things the candidate is not saying, without identifying the difference. That skews the articles, in at least one case in favor of public controversy showing the candidate in a negative light.

I would have chosen a more investigative, fact-based "who-is-this-person" approach, but the Courier editor volunteered to do what amounts to electioneering for the candidates. To then go in and slyly undercut the ones the editor doesn't like is dirty pool.

Racetracks campaign for slots as budget solution

Rep Tobin wants permanent casino gambling at racetracks, including our own fairgrounds, to address the dearth of state revenues, and sets this up as the alternative to temporarily raising the sales tax. The industry estimates that this might bring in close to half a billion clams to state coffers in 2012. That of course does nothing about the problem we have right now, and Joanna's story leaves out the actual budget gap of over two billion and rising.

Expanded gambling looks like free money to Mr Tobin, and to a large extent I suppose it is, since local rather than state authorities will be left to pick up the tab for the resulting societal problems. But more to the point, it would allow the Legislature to look like it's doing something about revenues without taking on the structural problems that got us here in the first place. Neither gambling nor a temporary sales tax will fix the deficit, that's a false dichotomy. The gorilla in the room is residential property taxes, among the lowest in the nation, designed to promote unsustainable growth in housing.

Like any other homeowner I'm not wild about paying more in property taxes. But I'm also unhappy about what's happening to the state and my community as a result of our collective unwillingness to provide the funds necessary to maintain quality of life. More gambling and its social impacts reduce quality of life for all of us, and sends truckloads of cash out of state to shady interests. We should make a better choice.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wednesday open

Now it can be told.

Editorial: Honeymoon ends for Obama

The unnamed Courier editor writes, "it's heartening to see that he is no better or no worse than any of his predecessors." Read that again.

One might argue that the editor just isn't very good at communicating what he means, but on reflection I think this reveals an inadvertent truth: the editor does not want an extraordinary or effective president, and by extension does not want effective government. This reflects the fashion for radical libertarianism that weighs down this country so heavily.

This further reduces doubt that the editor will consider it victory if our president fails to win effective health-care reform, fails to get us out of Iraq, fails to bring bin Laden to justice, fails to repair our economy, or fails to rebuild our education system for the 21st century. Our editor is clearly more interested in cheerleading for a political team than contributing to addressing our very real societal problems.

For shame.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Police deploy Peacekeeper

The Prescott PD gets to roll out the new toy it unveiled last week -- to bust a nonviolent non-offender with an entertaining penchant for self-decoration (and, perhaps, because of it). This is clearly a case of having a new hammer and looking for nails. How much did this pointless exercise cost? What would it have cost last week? Who ordered this deployment of both equipment and expensive personnel? Has it become PD policy to roll a SWAT team for every apparent break-in?

This incident amounts to outrageous buffoonery that diminishes the credibility of the Prescott PD as well as us as a society. Will the Courier follow up with appropriate questions? I won't hold my breath.

Editorial: Good journalism died with Cronkite

The unnamed Courier editor leaps onto Walter Cronkite's descending coffin decrying the state of journalism today and setting himself up as the last bastion of goodness and light. I'm sorry, Editor, but Cronkite would take one look at your work and send you to the mail room.

The key to maintaining your ethics is constant self-examination. Ask yourself the tough questions, seriously, challenge yourself to be toughest on your own biases, and drive the snakes out of your own nest.

Short of that, and given the Courier's history of political favoritism, the headline reads rather like triumphalism.

Talk of the Town: Permit holders are not the threat

Matt and Sherrie Seibert deliver the NRA position in response to the editorials against the booze & bullets bill. Dismissing the objections to the new law more or less out of hand, the Seiberts, who make their living by certifying people to carry concealed weapons, spend the bulk of their column space pushing the paranoia button, attempting to convince the reader that people with hidden holsters are our only dependable defense against the crazies who are presumably out looking daily for knots of undefended people just to kill us all.

The illogic and fearmongering here speak for themselves, and are hardly worth the trouble to refute. What I'd like to focus on is the Bizarro world that these people and their followers live in.

Let's leave aside their financial interest for the moment and assume that they're sincere. They truly believe that on some random day there is a reasonable chance they will face a nut with a gun intent on killing them or others, and that their training and ready weapon will allow them to eliminate that threat with deadly force.

Ignore the actual likelihood of this scenario arising. Ignore the actual statistics on what happens to amateurs who pull guns on professionals. Ignore what happens to bystanders at gunfights. I just want to look at the psychology here, because while I think relatively few Americans buy fully into this John-Wayne mythology, many of us keep one foot in that world.

What they're describing is a world fraught with deadly danger. I dunno about you, but if I were to even suspect that I were in that much danger on a daily basis, my survival mechanism would move me out of there posthaste.

So I have to conclude that for these people survival is not at risk. Rather, they are attracted to the role of invulnerable hero, the white-hat cowboy who never takes more than a flesh wound in the left arm as he wipes out the black-hat gang. Many go further, seeing themselves as the reliable defender of American values against the forces of evil, particularly their own government -- meaning in my book, the rest of us.

In its essence this is the adolescent expression of powerlessness. But like adolescents, frightened, powerless adults with adolescent fantasies are dangerous to society. I'll agree with the Seiberts that most gun-owners will hurt no one. But a few of them, with the help of drugs or lack of drugs or emotional trauma or yes, alcohol, will become the very crazies they fear.

Or is it just fear? Perhaps for some it's the hopeful anticipation that one day they will be able to pull that weapon and become the flag-wrapped hero. Either way, I really don't want to be there when it happens, and to the greatest practical extent I want to eliminate that pathology from my community, because it is the gateway drug for school shooters, letter-bombers and fascists, most of whom, I notice, think of themselves as flag-wrapped heroes.

Eliminating guns won't eliminate this problem, but what we can do as a society is limit our exposure to it while we educate against it and treat the pathology.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Busy Monday

I got stuff to do. So you talk.

Editorial: Foreclosures still spreading

The unnamed Courier editor once again treats us to a rambling mumble about the macroeconomy, predicting dire consequences if the gubmint doesn't get out of the way and let the "free market" (stifled guffaw) solve all our problems based on a few gobbets of received wisdom from the rich guys who created the mess in the first place.

Editor, when you've actually studied some economics and have something credible to say, you'll be allowed to wear your pundit button. But you're not an economist, nor do you apparently have anything to say that isn't already a large-print headline on Fox News. No one reading you can do anything with what you say except get mad. Do you not see the childish futility in that?

PV police get statue

The scariest point in a deep recession is probably the worst time to roll out public art, whether it's ugly or not. People revert to their heritage of serfdom and see the king putting fancy gargoyles on his castle when they don't have enough food. It pisses them off. But TM's coverage anticipates that reaction and addresses it up front, pointing out in the headline and high up that the town commissioned the ugly thing last year with '07 money. Judging from the comments it's not enough to quiet the mob, but TM and the headline writer deserve a cookie for this awareness of community feelings, unusual in the paper.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Election: Katan

In the candidate coverage up to now, it appears that the articles have derived from interviews with the candidates. This time I smell a rat, and I've verified with Paul that Cindy's story includes information from outside that context, reference to his protest a couple of years ago that got some public attention but is probably seen in a negative light at the Courier. That was the only inserted information. From this I think we should be concerned about editorial interference with the election, and watch this coverage more closely for bias.

Verde Independent: Meteor Crater Staycation

I first saw Meteor Crater in 1970 amid a three week-death march around the Southwest plotted by my ambitious but largely clueless dad. It was cool then and it's still cool. It suffers a bit I expect from its roadside-curio image left over from the Route 66 tourist traps, but today besides the Really Big Hole it features a pretty good set of modern museum displays on astrophysics and space stuff. if you haven't been it's worth the trip, and thanks to Steve Ayers for this little feature on it.

Column: Rodeo can help drive economy

Something odd is going on here. Normally a piece like this will be labeled "Talk of the Town." Here it's just called "Column" to distinguish it from the letters. Is this a new idea for the editors, or is it some form of special treatment for George, who I'm sure is not on the editors' list of faves?

As to George's idea itself, I dunno. I would not like to see the middle school grounds turned into a baseball park, and while an equestrian center is more 'traditional' for Prescott, it's still devoting a lot of resources to a sport, exclusively serving the small number of residents who are into it. I gather George is imagining that businesses would lease the City property more or less permanently, and that's better than offering a big developer a sweetheart deal on public land to build something really awful, like say a hockey arena.

Update, 6:30pm: Mayor Wilson, in the comments, says, "With a new multi-use facility, the Prescott Rodeo Grounds could be used for many other functions, such as concerts and other events. The possibility of a permanent “Rawhide” type attraction has also been discussed." Oh, lordy.

Let's see, the City already owns an underused theatre that with some investment and commitment would be great for concerts, etc. There's also a really good facility at Yavapai College that can't draw enough people to break even, and a really big multi-use facility in PV that if it maintains its current success rate will likely be an antique mall in another ten years. Concerts are not turning profits here, Mayor. And a faux-cowboy show for the tourists? Are you serious? Completely apart from the lowbrow creepiness of the idea (sort of an update of the old Smoki shows, I suppose), are you saying you'd sell the fairgrounds to an attraction producer? I gotta wonder whether the voters might like to have word with you about that. With ideas like these floating around I'd just as soon see the whole place in weeds.

But we all ought to notice that the Mayor is describing a process in which the voters are apparently not considered stakeholders, working out what to do with public lands behind closed doors. I for one would like to hear a whole lot more about that.

Editorial: Fast-track tactic means no good

From the comments:

Could you smarten up? It's HENRY. Henry Paulson. As for the speed of legislation --you're probably among those who really don't get what a train wreck we've gone through in the last year, and how urgent was the need for action. None of us will ever know how much worse it might have been if the legislators had dithered. But I am quite sure that if they had, you would have written this very article, but inverted, bizarrely comparing their inaction to some other completely incomparable crime rather than the brutal murder of a civil rights worker. Perhaps those people in Queens who allegedly did nothing while Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death.
I couldn't have said it better. The editor is falling in line with the concern trolls, those who employ the tactic of faked and ignorant objections only to obfuscate, confuse, delay and obstruct. Stick to the local beat, Editor, where you still have a chance to project some credibility.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

What if you gave a party and no one came?

Isn't it a bit odd that after stumping up the tea-party protest yesterday, there was no coverage of the events in the Courier? Hmm.

Update, 5:45pm: Ah, there it is. The revolution!

That's the way it is

I grew up with Cronkite, and it's gratifying to hear this week that in the context of our culture of tearing down anyone who espouses higher values, he has maintained his reputation for relentless integrity as well as his public affection. We would all do well to keep him in mind as a model for journalistic professionalism. I'll miss him.

Local legislators get renewable energy, county savings bills signed into law

This brief rundown of what passed and got the Governor's signature is good, but it's a long way from enough. Voters really should get a lot more information about what's going on in the legislature, from the introduction of bills, through committee debates and changes to final votes, regardless of the advertisers' ideas about what sells. I think covering state and local governance should be the highest priority for any paper's resources, including the Courier.

I'll be talking about this and other legislation at length with Rep Mason this weekend on The People's Business, 2pm today and tomorrow on KJZA, 89.5 and 90.1FM.

Talk of the Town: We need to fix immigration laws

Robert Greybehl is trying to say something here. It seems like the editors could have given him a little more help in saying it, as it's pretty much coherency-free. That they stuck the Talk of the Town label on this rambling LTE indicates a certain disregard for both the writer and the reader.

Friday, July 17, 2009

TGIF Open thread

Remember what happened 40 years ago? I hope we still have the capacity to think that big.

New gun law makes bar owners first line of defense

Here's what I asked for yesterday, and I'll bet more than a few local residents will be surprised that bar operators are not pleased with the bullets & booze bill. I know and work for some of these people, and I know that many of them are very big on Second Amendment rights. But where the rubber meets the road, they agree across the board that public safety demands clear limits, and they apparently don't buy the idea that all CCW holders are cool, well-trained professionals who are just there to defend us from the bad guys with a dead-on hipshot across a crowded room.

Sorry to be a bother, but editors, where was this article when it could have done some good, when it was up for vote in the Legislature?

Now, about that headline: while I tend to agree with the sentiments, it's really more than a little over the top, reflecting the editorial position rather than the news. That's a reflex we must resist even when it favors our own opinions.

Editorial: State should back out completely

The unnamed Courier editor kites the idea that if the state won't fund Sharlot Hall Museum, it should give up ownership to an organization that will. It's a fair point in principle, but is that really the outcome we want? I don't think so. The museum offers greater value than its parochial local-curio and tourist-attraction aspects, and stepping it down from a successful professional organization into the hands of well-meaning local amateurs (where it started) would not bode well for its long-term future, even if it does continue to tick over in the short term.

I recognize that the editor may be exercising this logic to evoke exactly this thought process. But he also may just be reverting to his habit of seeing government involvement as bad, as the headline implies.

The positive response is to stand up for our important institutions when the legislature is making bad choices. The museum clearly deserves an unrelenting and vigorous defense.

Update: in response to BearWhizBeer: I checked. The museum is a small state agency by special legislation, and its staff is paid by the state.

Letter: Starting black church is an act of racism

Here's a great example of how privileged white racists convince each other that they're the real victims of racist conspiracy. Because they think about race in terms of exclusion, they infer that everyone else is too.

When I think of black Xtian churches, I just see a difference in style, a difference that devotees would clearly not be able to exercise in a white church, whatever their color. I mean, go on, try to imagine a bunch of Presbyterians doing some real singing and gettin' their groove on for the Lord.

Perhaps Mr Barry would think I'm being racist when I say I play black music.

Talk of the Town: Why Kirkpatrick opposes 'Cap and Trade'

The Representative gives her reasoning for voting against the first significant piece of new-economy legislation to cross her desk, citing possible impact on electric rates in rural and reservation areas. I'm not sure how it works on the reservations, but I know that in the rest of the state the Corporation Commission regulates rates, so we have a constitutional safeguard against the sort of hardship pricing she wants to avoid. We also clearly need strong incentives for all Arizona's energy producers -- rural co-ops included -- to get out of the coal and oil business and into sources that allow the planet to continue to support human life. That's the whole point.

Well, it passed without Rep Kirkpatrick's vote, and if the President gets to sign it we'll see whether her dire concerns were warranted. Right now it appears that she's more short-sighted than I'd like.

The contention that with this vote she hoped to curry favor with moderate Republicans is just hooey. There's no way she's that stupid.

Election: Blair emphasizes need for open space maintenance

Mr Blair regrets his vote to allow us to vote to tax ourselves to acquire open space. He thinks it should have included funding for maintenance of the land so acquired, but I'm not picking up what sort of maintenance he's talking about -- picking up the trash once in a while? The piece includes an interesting logical cul-de-sac, in that Mr Blair laments that city officials -- including, presumably, himself -- "never thought it through," yet he is clearly enthusiastic about having us return him who failed to think it through to the office, presumably so that we may depend on his not thinking things through further. You fumbled that one, Coach.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thursday Featured Comment

Under the announcement, which I mentioned previously:

"Hello! This is Gordon of the Prescott Arizona tea Party. I want to invite everyone to come on down and help us set America straight! Please bring your goodwill, signs, enthusiasm and your concealed weapon! See you there!"

And here all this time I thought this was a nice group of people who just like the same canned soft drink.

I'm agog.

Talk of the Town: Canadian health care is first-rate

Finally, an informed answer to the ignorant propaganda filling the letters box about public health care, and with the Talk of the Town imprimatur, no less! Will anyone listen?

Letter: Archivist needs help finding Smoki B-17

Here's another interesting story that the editors really ought to follow up. I've been rather heavily involved in the Smoki story in the past, and I encourage anyone with an interest in local history and a sense of humor to take a good look at what was the biggest thing going on in our little town for seven decades. That they bought the country a B-17 illustrates just how big.

Editorial: Local bars should post gun bans

Wow, the unnamed Courier editor is sticking to his guns on this and making some sense. Calling the booze & bullets bill a "potentially dangerous social experiment" is a fair bit more than I'd have ever expected on the op-ed page about anything the NRA has pushed. I'd have liked to see quotes from some of our local swilleries rather than Phoenix, but overall another cookie is definitely in order.

Most councilors, local mayors oppose Wilson action

Here comes the pile-on about the Mayor's letterhead malfunction from last week. Wilson deserves to take some heat for this, but I gotta wonder: if the signature read "Rowle Simmons" instead of "Jack Wilson," would the Courier have put two reporters on it?

Update, 6:45pm: In the comments it appears that the Mayor also suspects some slant in the editorial suite.

2010 Census committee fans out to spread the word

I like that we're seeing a positive take on the census, which has been under steady attack from the dark side as the vanguard phalanx of Obama's socialist jackboots. I'm disappointed with the emphasis on government funding, however, which in certain quarters will be read as government pork. The core purpose of the census is to ensure the correct balance of representation in Congress. Let's put that up front.

Popular climbing areas reopen to public

Remember that wonky AP story from three days ago? Here it is in our beloved Courier, transcribed with an added quote, but with the lead still wrong. Ayayai, it's like the editors have outsourced the newsroom to a call center in Bangladesh.

Tea Party protest here Friday

Bylined as "Special to the Courier" indicates that the paper endorses and embraces the source, and this is pretty clearly just a press release from the organizers. Maybe I'm blinded by ideology, but I don't recall seeing this sort of favorable treatment for a political protest in the paper before. I guess the editors are gettin' their tea on.

Election: Bell cites role as 'voice of reason'

I've known Bob Bell for a good long time, like him and consider him a friend, but I gotta say that the 'voice of reason' quote will probably raise some hackles among his fellow Council members, and the 'Fox News' quote was just a dumb thing to say. You need to work on your PR, Bob.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Boring Wednesday

I'm on a big project that will use up most of the blogging time today, and there's really not much to read other than the one on the refurbed SWAT contraption. Seriously, an '81? You want to depend on a Frankencar from that awful period in American automotive history? Plus it looks like a Mad Max camera truck.

I guess you get what you pay for, Mr Norwood.

Update: Being an old-car guy, I did a little background on the truck. There's apparently no Cadillac engineering here, as the story would have it, under the armor it's a Dodge one-ton truck. The confusion probably came in because it was built by a company called Cadillac-Gage, which also made stuff like this and this and is now part of Textron.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Editorial: Let's think past preconceptions

Hear, hear. The unnamed Courier editor gets a cookie today.

Letter: Sharlot Hall treasures start slipping away

This is an example of an opportunity missed by the Courier editors. A letter like this is a news source volunteering, and a couple of follow-up calls to, say, the museum director and a state representative could promote it from the letters box to the front page, or a talk with a group of volunteers could turn it into a human-interest story with larger implications.

The loss of the museum will have broad follow-on impact for the entire town, and I'd hope the Courier might take that seriously. I dunno what might be on the assignment board for this, but since the Legislature began the process of defunding the museum, it looks to me that the Courier's coverage has been somewhere between diffident and neglectful.

Chief Randy Oaks resigns

Well, here's a surprise. We just had the chief in the studio last week for a wide-ranging talk about his life and work, and it made some pretty good radio. He was enthusiastic and positive about the department, and never gave any indication that a resignation might be in the works. He also came across as a really good, stand-up guy. I'd like to know more about this, and look forward to the comments.

Governor predicts Legislature will change its mind

OK, so Joanna was supposed to be covering the Governor's talk here in town. But the Guv made some news previously in the day by signing 79 new laws and vetoing nine, and questioners at the talk brought up some of those bills, so it would have been a nice segue to the real news, like new restrictions that could effectively eliminate practical access to abortion for hundreds of thousands of Arizonans (thanks to our own Rep Tobin) and add to my professional worries about guns in bars. Maybe that's all just out of the Courier's league.

Scenic and historic route nominations

I'm not sure what this story is meant to focus on. The news seems to be that Cornville is asking for scenic/historic designation for a section of Page Springs Road, and that this is the first application to the county program. But more space is devoted to explaining the program, which became county policy back in April.

The thing is, with all this explanation I can't seem to tease out much about what this designation would mean in practical terms, other than that the county will put up some new signs. If that's the extent of it, what's the point?

At the bottom Bruce Colbert directs readers to the Public Works "homepage" on the county site, which turns out to be a couple of levels down if you know where to look. Here's the PDF on the program. It turns out that the policy does supposedly offer some protection for designated routes from things like power-line crossings, ugly and excessive driveways, and vegetation impact from development using a 'least disturbance' standard. But the Supes can revoke the designation at any time and go around the restrictions when they feel like it, so it's pretty much toothless.

You could have told us all of that, Bruce.

Monday, July 13, 2009

How things can go wrong

I happened to notice another AP story posted after deadlines this evening, telling us that the peregrines are gone and the climbing area -- singular -- "on the cliff face of Granite Mountain and Thumb Butte" will reopen. I wonder who supplied the story to AP ....

Birds cause more than 1,100 APS customers to lose power

Wow, the Courier follows its usual practice of printing the official press release, and the commenters are suddenly out for blood! Who knew that an errant fowl might touch such a hot button, so to speak? Are you getting this, editors? People want you to ask the basic questions, even about the small stuff.

Monday, Monday

Eight minutes on paper clips, elephants, white dwarfs and neutron stars.

Editorial: Humane Society should get job

The City wants to privatize one of its services. The unnamed Courier editor seems all for it, the only question is which nonprofit gets the contract.

Speaking as someone who has run a nonprofit that operates a service for the City, I notice something important missing from all the coverage.

This says the City will pay about $50K, but there's no mention of how that will change in the future. Is it a year-to-year contract? Is there an inflation or population component? And very important, how much is the City currently spending? My guess is that it's a lot more, and the City is following its usual practice of dumping responsibilities and providing less money that it really takes to support the service.

I'd also be inclined to ask someone inside the Humane Society whether the City threatened to cut off all service and dump Prescott pets in Phoenix or some such, putting pressure on the nonprofits to take over or see a lot of animals killed.

In any case my bet is that the HS will be needing a lot more community support to deal with its new responsibilities. $50K looks awfully small for this. I hope they understand what they're getting into.

Election: Kuykendall

About the same as yesterday's, although this photo is kind of scary.

News to come: Basha's closing

The AP story detailing the closure of ten more Basha's stores, including the one at Frontier Village, posted a little before 7am. Let's see how long it takes the Courier to get a story up on it.

11am: Nothing so far. Here's the story as carried on the CNBC site.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sunday open thread

I'm feeling a little edgy this morning. You?

Election: Gooding touts problem-solving skills in run for Prescott mayor

Heads up, voters -- this series will likely constitute most of the Courier's background election coverage. I'm glad Cindy Barks is doing it, and this first installment seems pretty clean, although very light on issues.

Letter: Does most important news make paper?

I don't think Ms Holt would have written her headline as a question. She has a good point.

Editorial: Plan on aging is a bad precedent

Okay, so I read Cindy Barks' Thursday story about this Commission on Aging thing, and today I read the unnamed Courier editor coming out against it. But nowhere in the coverage do I see anything about what this proposed commission would actually do.

So I went over to the Mayor's 2050 site to have a look, and, after some digging around, found these snips:

Recommendations (to Council)

• Create a Commission on Aging for Prescott to aide (sic) the Mayor and City Council in prioritizing the issues and driving solutions for problems of older adults.

• Develop and execute an ongoing Adult Information Campaign for adults of all ages to encourage planning ahead for future health, family, and fiscal requirements.

• Create a central information and referral system – a one stop repository of information about all the existing public and private adult & senior services available- to promote the general public’s access to these programs.

• Enlarge the workforce of caregivers and other employees of senior industries by appropriately training, paying, and efficiently supporting them with information.

Recommended Commission on Aging Duties:
• Advise the City Council, Chamber of Commerce, and other City agencies on senior issues and on intergenerational programs of benefit to the community.
• Identify, improve, and develop services and opportunities for the senior population.
• Create implementation plans for programs, utilizing available community resources including volunteers.
• Establish the Commission on Aging’s long-range goals.
• Advocate on behalf of older individuals, including legislative actions.

After he cribs most of his space allotment from Cindy's story, the editor offers this smackdown:
"But a commission on aging would have even greater standing - on and (sic) equal level with the Planning & Zoning Commission."

Leaving aside that the 2050 group apparently uses the Courier's crack proofreading team, from what I read in the 2050 report, I don't see this proposal seeking any real power for the 'commission,' nor even any money to accomplish anything. The goals of the proposal are clearly well-meant, but tepid and I have to say vision-free.

The actual proposal to form the 'commission' reads much like the original proposal to create the nonprofit that operates Access13, amounting to seeking the City's blessing on a volunteer group. The difference is that in that case the City actually gave the group some significant responsibility along with its utter lack of funding.

Perhaps the mistake was in calling the proposed group a commission, which would indeed imply a certain significance to people who infer the relative power of organizations from alphabetical lists.

Maybe I'm still missing something, and there really is a subtle plot somewhere within the 2050 organization to divert more public funds for senior issues, or perhaps frog-march everyone under 65 into reeducation camps that feature daily screenings of South Pacific. If you know, enlighten me.

Till then it appears to me that both the Council and the editor have blown the whole thing out of proportion and reacted reflexively to ideas that no one's proposing. That said, I agree the proposal is a dumb one, but primarily because there's just no vision here worthy of special attention.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Busy weekend

Here's another great image by Ross Hilmoe.

I'll get back to the blog on Sunday, probably. Have a blast!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thursday open thread

We all look at things differently. Share what you think.

Editorial: Increased pool fees better than closure

As I have in the past, I have to point out the unnamed Courier editor's habit of ripping copy from yesterday's front page, massaging it slightly, adding one or two original sentences and passing it off as an editorial. I appreciate that by staying within his comfort zone he doesn't do any damage, but I imagine that with a little more gumption he might be able to come up with something worth the read. Waste of time.

Letter: Innovative show sent Elks out with a bang

I don't imagine that anyone in the Courier offices remains unaware that Kim Kapin is the City communications director. So why does that title not appear on the letter? This is bald PR for the City, and the paper should inform readers of that.

If the City's PR flack feels compelled to pump up the event in this shady way, I suspect the event was another dud. Would any witnesses like to illuminate me?

Supervisors want to modify land-swap terms

I'd like to hear from anyone who knows more about this story, it seems like something important might be missing. The really odd thing here is the unexplained accompanying pic, a Remax promotional map of Prescott at resolution too low to read on the site. Is the Courier selling a new kind of ad?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Inside skinny on the Lowe's engineering?

One thing I love about open commenting is that sometimes someone who really knows something tells all. In a long comment under "the real truth," someone claiming to have worked inside City bureaucracy when the Lowe's deal was going through describes a series of shortcuts in the plan-approval process clearly designed to duck under the red tape and ram approval through quickly. Read it all.

It's unfortunate that there's no way to verify this story, since the commenter remains anonymous, but I got the impression s/he doesn't have that job anymore, and I think it would be a great public service if s/he were to stand up in a Council meeting and tell the story to the TV cameras. If this is true, it's explosive and it should get the City Manager (at least) relieved of duty.

I suppose it's too much to ask that the Courier assign a reporter to do the homework outlined by the commenter, check out those stamps and dates and verify this. It's work, but it'd be worthwhile.

Senate president taps Prescott rancher Pierce as president pro tem

This is interesting. I'd heard that leadership changes were coming because of the budget process collapse, but I didn't imagine that Burns might tap the utterly experience-free Pierce for anything like this. While there's not much real power in this position, it's an important statement in that it demotes Verschoor, who's been counted among the anointed for several sessions. Given the radical credentials of Gorman and Verschoor, this feels like a slight drift toward the middle, but it also might just be flailing. Burns has lost many allies over his handling of the session.

Keep an eye out, I have a feeling other important changes could be coming for the Legislature before the budget is in the bag.

Nice that the Courier continues to tag bigtime developer Pierce as a "rancher." I'm so fooled.

Verde News: Jerome declares urgent water shortage

Seems like Courier readers might like to know about this too. Maybe work it into an update on water conditions all over the area.

Hump day open thread

Now this is funny. And scary.

Council takes Lowe's to task

I can just see Cindy Barks struggling to keep a straight face while taking the notes for this. She was there when these same people were rushing through the infrastructure and engineering on the Lowe's boondoggle, so watching their ass-covering faux outrage now must have been pretty funny.

Editorial: Lion had a long life in 'big city'

So it appears I was wrong -- not one comment about the risk of the lion living in neighborhoods. Instead we see more criticism of Game and Fish for killing big predators around people, even this one, which was apparently already maimed beyond saving. I'm a little confused by those commenters who would have liked to see the bear caught, relocated and released so that amateur hunters would have a shot at it. Like stocking a fish pond, I guess. Brrr, it's weird out there sometimes.

The unnamed Courier editor hopes another cat moves into the vacated territory, lives long and prospers. He gets a cookie today.

Letter: How would lawmakers like RIF letters?

Steve Harbeck takes legislators to task, wondering rhetorically how they'd like to work without pay or knowing whether they'll have a job in the coming season.

Um, Mr H, that's exactly how it works for your state representatives every two years, when they have to go through the election process from scratch, putting their lives on hold again to work for you for a pittance. In this particular week the letter is particularly ironic because our supposedly part-time legislators have been working for over two months for nothing while a few power-crazed radicals have held up the process and left everyone else sitting on their hands.

Letter: Rodeo ceremony snubs non-Christians

I read John Lorant's letter and said, well, duh, you knew that was gonna happen when you bought the ticket. But I also knew at once that this would bring a hail of stones from hard-ass Xtians, and from the looks of the comments -- four pages so far, more than I've ever seen -- we can expect to see letters on this for at least a month. Now that's entertainment!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Open thread, Tuesday

A nice shot by Lesley from our recent trip to the Mendocino County coast.

Since you're reading this, so you're not vacationing, there are several gigs this week to check out: jazz jam at The Raven Thursday 8-10, the trio at Tlaquepaque Friday afternoon, the quartet featuring Susannah Martin at Ken's Creekside in VOC Friday 9-12, and Big Daddy in front of the PV Harkins on Saturday 5-9. Hope to see you out and about.

Scene from my window: Talking nonstop, holding his cellphone to his left ear, a driver tries to manhandle his street-sweeper with one hand through a U-turn among the parked cars in front of my house, wiping out some edging and narrowly missing my fence, backing up nervously, then sailing back down the street, leaving the usual dirt cloud and muddy trail behind him and missing the gutter completely. Who trains these guys?

And just for fun, a nine-minute instant mind-expansion on what this means to a physicist or mathematician.

Prescott's lion finally loses to urban perils

The story-under-the-story here is what really fascinates me. We learn that Game and Fish collared a mountain lion living inside the city limits and tracked it for three years to study its habits. What we don't see in Joanna's story is whether the City or Game and Fish informed the people in those neighborhoods about what most residents would see as a risk that little Janie might be plucked out of her sandbox and dragged into the bushes for lunch. I don't have any argument with the science, but I gotta wonder about the informed-consent part of it, and I look forward to the comments.

Editorial: Money gets more and more scarce

Today the unnamed Courier editor illustrates a couple of very basic propaganda/marketing techniques: oversimplification to confuse, and recasting events to fit the desired narrative.

Never mind that there's a whole lot more to understand about the budget situation, both fiscally and politically. The editor wants to spoon-feed you a simple good-guy/bad-guy story. The bad guy is the governor who wants to tax you and spend the money on stuff you don't need. The good guys are the noble anti-tax legislators who won't "break faith with their constituents." I'm surprised he didn't throw in a scene from High Noon to add some thrilling drama.

Readers who understand basic logic will notice that his argument is founded on a cracked premise. He writes, "Many of Brewer's fellow Republican lawmakers won their legislative seats on promises of no tax increases," implying that those Grover Norquist-inspired anti-tax pledges so adored by the extreme right have a real vote-getting effect. Since blind anti-tax zealotry is only shared by a small minority of voters (generously, 12-15%), and they have no one else to vote for, it's obvious that they can't really affect a close race, even a Rep primary. They take credit for what they didn't do just to puff up their importance, and it often works in the public mind, giving them more influence on legislators than they truly warrant. I've seen the threatening stuff the Goldwater Institute and its attack dogs circulate to legislators, and folks, I gotta tell you it's definitely ugly and I'm sure scary to spine-challenged pols.

The truth is that the radicals who 'signed anti-tax pledges' did so not because a significant body of their constituents demanded it, but because they truly believe, like Norquist, that the best government is a dead one, and they don't give a rat's ass about the majority of constituents who would prefer that politicians engage their brains before making law. These are the same pols who have been holding up the budget process (in the train-robbery sense) for months. Contrary to the Courier editor's narrative, they are really the black hats in this movie.

The white hats are the sensible moderates, including the Governor, who are trying to get through the hail of black-hat bullets before the deficit train runs down Little Nell Arizona. Ack, enough!

So why does the editor want you to accept his Bizarro recasting of the story? Because he's in the gang with the bad guys. He would happily deprive you of needed government services like infrastructure, education and health care because he's got his and he truly believes that he shouldn't have to pay for any more. It's a short-sighted, adolescent worldview, not conservative at all, but radically anti-government. And he'll wrap himself in the flag to pitch it to you.

So if his narrative is so twisted, what about his supposed paradigm-shifting point, that "states are out of money?"

It's easier to see in California, where in '78 the anti-tax zealots won the day and instituted tax rules designed to bankrupt the government. It took a couple of decades, but it worked. Meanwhile those darksiders got to work on financial and corporate deregulation to maximize profits, and we found ourselves holding the bag on a hollow, deindustrialized economy and a financial system looted by gangsters. The issue is not that the states are out of money. It's that the bad guys stole it. And they've got the gall to feed us D-Day's line from Animal House: "You fucked up -- you trusted us!"

This particular paradigm hasn't shifted. Our system is basically sound, but it needs repair, particularly a big hole in the wall of the vault. If we can reindustrialize based on clean energy production, play hardball against the corporations who demand to use our infrastructure for free while draining us of money, and keep the professional gamblers from playing high-stakes roulette with our financial system, we'll be able to get back on track. But we weren't insured for it, so we'll have to pay to fix that wall, no question about it.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Open thread, Monday edition

It's a great day out there, I hope you're having fun too.

Quote of the day:

"When I hear a statement like that coming from a woman candidate with any kind of perceived whine about that excess criticism or you know maybe a sharper microscope put on her, I think, “Man that doesn’t do us any good — women in politics, women in general wanting to progress this country.” I don’t think it bodes well for her, a statement like that. Because, again, fair or unfair, it is there, I think that’s reality, and I think it’s a given. I think people can just accept that she is going to be under the sharper microscope." -- Gov. Sarah Palin, August 2008

Editorial: Every agency needs scrutiny

As might be expected, the unnamed Courier editor is all over the idea of knocking over the Department of Education. Public schools have been a bugbear of the right since they began, and eliminating any chunk of the bureaucracy is attractive to the anti-tax and anti-government crusaders. Notice that he paraphrases (read: misquotes, adding grammatical error) the representative as saying, "diminishing if not eliminating the Department of Education could save a substantial amount of money as well as enhancing local control of schools," both consistent right-wing memes.

But as Rep Mason has laid out directly on The People's Business, her ideas are not as simplistic as either extreme will paint them. It's not really about saving money so much as spending less on administration and more on teachers and classrooms. It's not so much about enhancing local control, but rather about giving teachers more freedom to teach.

I think it's entirely possible, even likely, that there is a lot of redundancy and essentially useless activity going on in the DofE building. Rooting that out, eliminating it and moving the money into classrooms in a safe and useful way will be a massive legislative undertaking. I can confirm that Lucy's got the energy for it, but she'll be pretty much alone against an impressive bulwark of entrenched interests. In any case, the entire discussion is premature, as was the Courier's query to Superintendent Horne, because nothing will even begin to happen on this before next session, and then not without a great deal of work to gather allies and formulate some concrete proposals. Lucy isn't a hip-shooter.

I'm sure she'll thank the editor for his support, but it's looking like the Courier will be among her many fair-weather friends on the right trying to hijack her ideas for their regular agenda. With friends like these ....

Amster: Noise competes with information

As a professional propagandist I have to admire the establishment meme that the online world is all noise compared to the corporatist bunk that passes for big-market journalism. While I wouldn't say that Randall is totally falling for it here, readers might be excused if they take away that message, thanks to some cloudy writing and the ever-undermining headline writer.

The really amusing part is that the darksiders claim to believe that free-market competition can solve all problems, yet since the Internet began freeing our information market, they consistently denigrate it as worthless. That sorta smells of vested interest to me.

I look at it through the other end of the telescope. Just as more stuff to buy at big-box stores has generally reduced our quality of life, the vast expansion of information access we've experienced has had decidedly mixed results in terms of informing and educating the electorate, because so few people have the media savvy to separate jewels from junk. But it's inescapable that more choice has opened space for higher-quality writing and thinking, in large part because the lower overhead of the Net (you don't need a printing press anymore!) reduces the media's dependence on monied interests. That's truly independent thought. Darksiders hate that.

For me it's both positive and negative that just as anyone is allowed to get their message out, everyone's accountable now and anyone can throw bricks at it. This is the sort of lively media environment that would have been more familiar to readers of the yellow-journalism days early last century, when specialized political-issue papers multiplied like bunnies, sold on the basis of sensational headlines and their rhetoric was often over the top. Eventually government and corporate interests got a handle on that, just as now they're trying to get a handle on the Net. You'll want to keep an eye on that.

I'm sure the Courier isn't paying Randall enough to make him happy to bend over and take the regular tongue-lashings he gets from readers. But Randall, that's how it is now, you knew the job was dangerous when you took it. Whining does not help.

Sen. McCain talks about health care, Sedona effort

Joanna gets an interview with McCain, but like many other experienced journos she wasn't able to get him to say anything. It's no surprise to me, and you can't blame the reporter, but I don't see in the copy any reason to carry this non-story. Maybe it's just designed to add some front-page ballast to the puff piece on McCain's new campaign HQ, er, local office.

I'm struck that most of the commenters really excoriating the Senator seem to be coming from the extreme right.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Holiday open thread

Some cool summer imagery from the Cascades by Ross Hilmoe, who really needs to get out shoooting more often. Enjoy!

Editorial: Is sacred honor still within us?

The unnamed Courier editor treats us to a little unintended irony. Nuff said. I'm taking the day off -- if you don't count the radio show and a gig with Big Daddy D at the Raven tonight. Happy 4th!

Friday, July 3, 2009

TGIF Open thread

Thanks for helping me get this off to a great restart! Start your holiday weekend off right -- check out the Ahwatukee Concert Band on the square at six tonight, then have dins with the trio at 129 1/2!

Top comment of the week today from Darren, responding to the letter about over-coverage of Michael Jackson. Bravo, that's how it's done!

I think it's a great idea on this weekend in particular to go back and read the document we're celebrating, as well as some of the background. I'm also reminded that other peoples have declared their own sovereignty as well, before and since, and there are a lot of good, inspiring stories there too.