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.