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.