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.