Saturday, July 31, 2010

3 inmates escape from Kingman prison

"Armed and dangerous," last seen this morning at a truck stop in Flagstaff.


Tim Rutten: "Hysterical moral panic seems an apt description for our fevered political condition"

Friday, July 23, 2010

Wiederaenders: Technology, rules grow exponentially

Tim writes,

"My parents and in-laws are from the generation for which: TV was only a dream (come true); school buses were largely non-existent because farm kids hiked to school; seeing airplanes other than the WWI variety was a rarity; male teachers always wore suits, and women wore dresses - no slacks or shorts; air conditioning was a modern convenience - mostly for the rich; and WWII triggered many forms of mechanization."

Let me point out some other aspects of your parents' generation, Tim. TV was a dream come true that they simply turned over to commercial interests without a thought as to the damage it would cause for both the medium and society. Farm kids hiked to school, and not a few died on the way. Seeing airplanes other than the WWI variety was a rarity because they hadn't been invented yet. Male teachers always wore suits and women wore dresses because the pressure to conform was so intense, the women were paid a small fraction of the men's wages for the same or more work, and they both routinely pummeled the children in their charge with sticks, convinced beyond reason that it would somehow help them learn. Air conditioning was a modern convenience, mostly for the rich, and oddly enough it still is. WWII triggered many forms of mechanization, not least the mechanization of genocide, economic oppression, and nuclear war.

Tim's nostalgia for the halcyon past ignores the gulf between classes that kept the poor forever poor, the discrimination that kept everyone but white upperclass Protestant men out of any position of power, the grinding racism and sexism, the utter disregard for worker health and safety, the flu epidemics that wiped out millions at a stroke, the barbaric conquest of poor people the world over to steal their resources, and many other blindingly obvious aspects that characterized the prewar era in the US. Go ahead and live there if you like, Tim, but for gad's sake don't try to bring it back here.

This is the problem with nostalgia. Rose-colored glasses don't change anything but how you see things, sort of.

"For today's generations, the Internet and technology have changed much of what we do and how we do it." Change the word "Internet" and that was true for your parents, and for theirs, and for theirs, Tim. Along with technology, a constant in that has been increasing population pressure, the kind that makes ten motorcycles much louder than one. And that's why we have more rules.

As long as human society has existed, we've made and enforced rules of conduct, and where there are more people, there are more rules. Tim's parents chafed at new rules and were nostalgic for their mythical past, too. Rebelling against the idea of rules is characteristic of adolescence, but, thankfully, most of us grow out of that and set to work helping ensure that the rules are fair and make sense. That's called citizenship.

Conflict sells, I guess

Not long ago, in response to something I wrote in a comment on dcourier, an anonymous commenter wrote a personal attack on me -- one of a great many I've recieved over a couple of years. This time, rather than just ignore it, I posted another comment pointing it out to the editors and challenging them on whether they were enforcing their own policy. A few hours later my complaint was posted and the offending comment was taken down.

I thought this might alert the editors to the great many personal attacks that they allow through in the comments. It's important to enforce this code, since anonymous nitwits coming on and calling people names is enough to keep a lot of people with real lives from participating. But the attack level has not apparently abated. I hear and believe that the editors still often decline to post comments without indicating they have done so, leaving us in the dark about whether they're enforcing the attack ban selectively, occasionally, or not at all.

So as an experiment, yesterday evening I posted comments on eight or ten articles, simply pointing out to the editors the clear personal attacks of previous commenters. The offenders included people at both ends of the political spectrum (although those attacking people expressing rightward opinions were pretty rare), and I simply listed them by the "comment by" title. I selected only those comments that were clearly aimed at a single person as attacks and nothing else. Examples, all from yesterday's edition:

from "Hey, Honky,"
Why you keep posting is a real mystery. You are like a one trick pony with zero analysis in any of your posts. I could post on your behalf because your views are so predictable.

from "Keith T"
Phil, It sure seems like you have an opinion on everything when it comes to the town government. What have you done for your community?

from "Poor little put-put"
Poor little put-put-Putin. He's almost as bad as donkey burro or barfut t. babbler. Oh, wait, you don't suppose...? Naah, couldn't be, right?

from "Joe Pandoli"
Keep drinking that Koolaid honky.
I don't know, or care, what flavor it is, I just know it's Red.

from "NotA Cop"
Oooh! Honky Brujo! Are we feeling picked on? Boy, are you displaying your ignorance!

from "Write Right"
Mike Mike - Do you really have the ability to be a successful business owner with those poor writing skills?? I think I'd seek a little more education before I put my pitiful writing skills on public display like that. This is a classic example of a huge part of our problem in this country, folks.

from "honky brujo"
C.R. you fall for that Fox Noise stuff everytime. Grow up and check other sources before send another inane letter to the editor.

from "Just A Thought"
Wow, Honky and Christopher* sure are sensitive! They must be two of the few who still get their "gospel" from MSNBC. C.R. was just being sarcastic to make a point. The Tea Party movement sure must be worrying you two. Just a thought.

from "Brilliance to go"
Absolute brilliance Honky. As always, we can count on you to make a ridiculous, meaningless comment. Blaming others for your problems never fixes anything.

As of this afternoon none of my comments is posted, and all the attacks are still up. Other, later comments have been posted as well.

From this I can only conclude that the editors either do not define "personal attack" the same way I do, they don't care about enforcing their own policy, or they have an overriding policy that actually favors personal attacks because they think it draws more readers or increases hit rates and subsequent ad revenue.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I'm busy with another project, but thought I'd surface for a sec and pass this on from Candace, who's fished her limit of Courier LTEs this week:

July 20, 2010 -- Dear Editor:

Your story about the Clean Elections forum on July 15 was informative . . . as far as it went. But it only went as far as the Republican candidates! The headline, Legislative candidates debate top issues in Prescott, should have been preceded by the word GOP. As it is, you implied that those were ALL the candidates.

You could have served the public better with a complete explanation of why the Citizens Clean Elections Commission ran the forum the way they did. You stated that the Commission "requires all Clean Elections candidates to attend its forums. Candidate Noel Campbell of Prescott is the only Clean Elections candidate in the three-way LD1 race." And all of that would have been true if you'd put the word "Republican" in front of LD1.

There is a Democratic candidate in this race, Lindsay Bell. She's the only Democrat running; her primary run is uncontested. The Commission is required to hold a forum wherever a Clean Elections candidate runs in a contested election. There are two seats that are up for LD1, and there are three Republican candidates, one being a Clean Elections candidate. That's why there had to be a Republican forum.

And Lindsay Bell is a Clean Elections candidate, but since (with just one candidate) the Democratic primary is uncontested, she doesn't get to appear in a forum at this time.

Sometimes it feels like the Republicans consider themselves the only show in town, but I think as Prescott's newspaper of record, you owe your readership the full story.

Candace McNulty

Followup, Thursday: The Courier does it again today.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Prescott BBQ Days

Doug doesn't mention that the entertainment at Prescott BBQ Days will include Big Daddy D and the Dynamites, but no blame for that as it's difficult to find any reference to us or other performers in the event PR materials. FYI, we're playing on Saturday, 2:30-4pm.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

LWV registration event Sunday morning

The League of Women Voters, a rigorously non-partisan nonprofit dedicated for many decades to maintaining our political process by registering and informing voters, will stage a registration drive at Stepping Stones, 3343 N. Windsong in PV on Sunday, 9:30-11:30am.

The comments on the Courier's hamfisted entry about the event lead me to some concern that immigration peacocks and Tea-Party types will attempt to disrupt the process and intimidate Hispanic registrants. If you care about the integrity of our political process, you should consider showing up to provide some support for both registering voters and the League.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Dirty Water

This week the City Council takes up the issue of algae bloom in Willow and Watson Lakes as well as the state of the creeks that feed them, and following up on Cindy's story yesterday, the Courier weighs in with an editorial and an LTE from Paul Peterson.

It's not news to anyone who's paying attention that the creeks and lakes are in pretty rough shape. How anyone can think it's a good idea to swim in them is beyond me. It's also no surprise that in talking about weeds and algae, both Council and the editor are focusing on a surface symptom that speaks volumes about much bigger underlying challenges.

I forget just how long it's been, maybe thirteen or fourteen years, since the county allowed the lakes to go dry and buddy Ross and I hiked across Watson from the boat ramp to the dam. But I clearly remember how ugly it was and must remain down there. As we stepped carefully from one dinner-plate sized island of dried mud to the next, we could clearly see the black, oily muck that makes up the bottom, and we couldn't avoid the stink of sewage and noxious chemistry from decades of thoughtless dumping in the creeks and accidental discharge from the treatment plant just upstream. The sepulchral skeletons of trees stand yards deep in this filth, their crowns festooned with lost fishing tackle and garbage. There was no evidence of life till we got to the dam and its ring of dead fish. That anything at all can live and grow in that toilet of a lake still amazes me.

But rather than take that opportunity to dig out and clean up the disgusting mess, the county just filled it up again and kept taking parking fees from swimmers and boaters. Beyond making it cleaner and safer, removing what has to be between ten and twenty feet of toxic crap from the bottom would substantially increase the lake's water storage capacity in the face of chronic drought.

Upstream, as we saw after the last big winter storm, we have cracked, broken and poorly secured sewer lines crossing the creeks. We also have huge amounts of lawn and garden fertilizers washing off into them. In every other freshwater system in this country, this sort of pollution is the most important source of nitrogen feeding the algal blooms, but the editor fails to mention it. I mention it here as one thing every homeowner can do to help: ditch the chemicals (or, for you literalists, stop ditching them) and seek out healthier ways to make your home look nice. (Hint: It's cheaper, too!)

It bears repeating that Prescott has the largest concentration of regularly flowing creeks in the state, and they are a big part of what makes this such a beautiful place to live. It's long past time we as a community halted the abuse and began investing seriously in restoring and maintaining their health, and not just on the surface.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Editorial: Feds say one thing and do another

The unnamed Courier editor writes, "Often when a child "misbehaves" in the eyes of adults, it's because a real need is falling on deaf ears." What s/he doesn't write is that more often, the child is motivated to misbehave by imaginary fears, ignorance and immature thinking. That's exactly what's happening with 1070 and today's editorial.

"So, where have all these agencies been?" bawls the editor. Answer: Daddy has been working, honey, he can't pay attention to you right now. Our federal agencies have been working the real problem, not the imaginary ones. Southern border enforcement is getting more resources now than ever, by far.

"How many of their people have (set) foot in Arizona to observe firsthand the problems challenging the state because of illegal immigration?" Answer: They're doing it, sweetie, you just didn't notice them. Most of the decision-makers have indeed at least toured the border, and commanders on the ground are certainly reporting up the chain. Their top commander, Secretary Napolitano, was lately the governor here. If they don't see the problems you expect them to, isn't that a clue that maybe your ideas need rethinking?

"As for the one we know of - Janet Napolitano, our former governor - we can only wonder why what she says and does now is so different (from) what she did before becoming secretary of Homeland Security." Response: Don't fib, baby, Daddy doesn't like it. As governor she repeatedly vetoed previous versions of 1070 because they were equally illegal, and refused to deploy state resources illegally even as she repeatedly asked the Bush administration for more resources in response to the public concern whipped up by Republicans. Now she is allocating and managing more border resources as she advocates striking down 1070. The inconsistency escapes me.

"Why has it taken Arizona's measure to get the federal government's attention?" Answer: Daddy was already doing it, honey, you didn't see him. Responding to right-wing outcry dating back to early in the Bush years, the Obama administration was ramping up border enforcement long before Senator Pearce (R-Bizarro World) got his legislative temper tantrum signed by the Accidental Governor.

In the midst of all this crying and cracked framing, the editor pulls up a side issue: "What too many refuse to accept is the fact that Arizona is not a racist state. People here do not want to round up illegal immigrants, most notably Hispanics, and walk them down the plank." Sensitive about that, are we? I agree, Arizona is not a racist state. That should not be taken to mean that Arizona is home to no racists, either on our streets or in our houses of state. The editor can't pull the "some of my best friends are Mexican" ploy while supporting a law that specifically targets brown-skinned people both legal and illegal for harassment.

I'll bet the editor would have written that Prescott loved its many Chinese-American residents, too, as they were being run out of town in the '40s. You can't ignore the racist and political motivations for this phony issue, editor, and maintain any pretense of objectivity or maturity about it.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wiederaenders: Writing on the 1070 wall

It comes out: For Tim, the Constitution is a "technicality."

For no reason I can see, first Tim extensively quotes a press release by Speaker Kirk Adams that's nothing more than a clumsy political frame for the legal issue against 1070. Then he indirectly lays out the true purpose of 1070, which is not to pass court muster or do anything about the phony "immigration problem," but simply to stain Democrats and anyone else who rightfully stands against it as "immigration lovers" -- to win election points. But even though it's right there in print, I have a feeling that Tim doesn't quite connect the dots on this yet.

Yes, the federal court will strike 1070 down -- it's clearly illegal -- and yes, that may push some undereducated citizens to vote R in November. If voters were better informed about how our layered government works, this schoolyard ploy would fall flat, but there's no hope of it at this point. Whether it will be significant in federal-level polls is an open question, and we're already expecting more radical rightism in the statehouse, so I don't see it altering the political landscape much by itself. It may help balance those who come out to vote for medical marijuana, raising participation in the midterm overall.

As for embarrassing the President, Tim, I'm afraid Mr Obama has much bigger fish to fry than worrying about the antics of Jan Brewer, Russell Pearce and Sheriff Joe. Let's have a little perspective, shall we?

Editorial: Smoki People had good intentions

The Smoki kick just goes on, although I expect it's is a conscious effort to publicize the current exhibit at the Smoki Museum, which is not a bad thought. Perhaps the editor should spend some time at the exhibit himself. In writing today's editorial, he clearly hasn't read the literature closely.

In defending the intentions of the old Smoki, he kicks right off on the wrong foot:

"Laboring under the misconception that the Native American culture was vanishing, the group decided to put on a show mirroring Southwest and Plains Indian dances."
In point of fact, in the late teens and early '20s traveling, professional Wild West shows were popular entertainments, and the Prescott business community simply decided to try raising money by putting on an amateur version. The fake Indian dance was only one scene in the show, and there's no evidence that it was researched at all, or that it had any more to do with the idea of preserving Indian culture than the contemporary minstrel shows of the South were about preserving black culture there. For them it was just a goof, like the Kiwanis jug band.

Their intentions were not about the Indians, they were about money and having fun, and the Smoki maintained that tradition for almost 70 years. The high-minded 'preservation' idea came later, grafted on to create a paternalistic public face for the group, and eventually they all came to believe it. But to maintain that belief they had to willfully ignore the express wishes of the people they were supposedly honoring -- for decades.

Now, says the editor,
"The Smoki Museum is striving to make amends for slights the Native American people feel by incorporating their input in planning the exhibit "The Sign of Smoki: Art & Artistry of Prescott's Smoki People." ... a plan is in the works to bring together tribal leaders in a discussion that would conciliate any bad feelings that remain over the Smoki People"
The editor is about five years late to the party.

Under its first professional director, JT Tannous, in 2005 the Museum began reaching out to the native people of this region, adjusting its mission and practices, creating a native advisory board, cleaning funerary objects out of its collection, and putting together the permanent Smoki People exhibit, both as history and public amends. The museum now has a native director as well, and is well on its way to winning trust, expunging the stain of Smoki that spoils all of Prescott for natives across the region, and moving toward its goal of becoming a respected resource for Southwest anthropology and culture by directly involving the people who made that history.

And about those intentions the editor hopes to credit: pavers on the road to hell, as I recall. Let's focus more on actions, we'll get more good teaching moments that way.

"Let us hope that we can now lay to rest controversy over the Smoki People," says the editor in fatherly benediction. Sorry, Tim, you're in too big a hurry. Give it another 30 years, and try to keep the facts straight. Above all, avoid attempts to paper over and wish away the ugliness of the insult, which only makes it worse.

Again, readers, if you hope to understand this story with any degree of accuracy, go to the source.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Editorial: No certainty in double-dip talk

One of the unnamed Courier editor's most reliably comic riffs is when he attempts comment on economic issues without reference to any understanding of economics.

In lieu of anything useful, Tim (it has to be Tim, since he addresses his readers as "folks") gleans a pile of conflicting and mostly misleading bullet points from teevee pundits and throws them out in no particular order. Around this he wraps a few data percentage points from the City budget director's presentation, and concludes, if I may paraphrase, "Well, I dunno, but it sorta looks like things might be getting a little better."

I would love to see the Courier apply some resources to understanding and communicating the City's budget situation and strategies. I've about given up on that, I'm afraid. Instead we get uninformed surface coverage, uncritical stenography of City bureaucrats, and pap like this.

The reason Tim's seeing so much talk on his teevee about "the question of a double or second dip in the recession" is because both the US and Europe are following the same strategy the Hoover administration established in 1932, turning a cyclical recession into the Great Depression. Nobel winner Paul Krugman has been crying in the wilderness about this for a couple of years while politicians with no better understanding of economics than Tim has drive us all over the cliff with them. Krugman explains why, if you want to know, it's worth the read.

Smoki: The end

I didn't intend to comment on the second part of this piece, which the Courier should have written after we released the film and the Smoki Museum opened its Smoki People exhibit in 2006, but a graf near the end begs for clarification.

Along with most of the quotes and historical scenes in the the piece, Bruce lifted this scene from our film:

Ann Oudin wrote an Internet blog after reading a newspaper story about the Hopi protest in Prescott. "It (snake dance) is the most mesmerizing thing I ever saw," she wrote. "Once you see them, you will never forget them."
The scene shows a pair of hands typing on a text-only '80s computer as the quote rolls on its monochrome-green monitor. How Bruce managed to imagine this as a 'blog' is just embarrassing considering that Ms Oudin was writing in 1990, the word 'blog' wasn't coined till around 1998, and she wrote that letter to the Courier, which is where we got it.

Incidentally, Borrowed Dances is the title on the Museum's cut of Jerry Chinn's feature film Raindance in a Storm. The film is available for purchase at the Smoki Museum.

Kali Simpson's comment paints a sympathetic portrait of the Smoki as as "elite" who were "politically correct for their time." The old Smoki themselves tell a rather different story. They readily admit Smoki was a drinking club, with extreme frat-boy hazings for initiation followed by drunk driving home as cops looked the other way, and much partying year-round (with the exception of show day, a lesson learned the hard way). After dancing in the World's Fair parade, the club was thrown out of Philadelphia for excessive drunken rowdiness and never again toured the show. This behavior mellowed somewhat over the years, but the club's purpose was always primarily social. They collected Indian things, but there was never an Indian member of Smoki.

Ms Simpson also implies a sensitivity to the Hopi among the Smoki, but to the contrary I've seen the letters written to Smoki by the Hopi as early as the mid-'20s objecting to their desecration of the Snake Dance. Smoki "researchers," including Kate Cory and Sharlot Hall, frequently made stuff up and sold it as authentic. The "preserving Indian culture" myth was something the Smoki used to justify their behavior, but they were always insensitive in action and slapdash in execution.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Editorial: Double shot of witless propaganda

As Prescott's annual cowboygasm and animal-domination festival winds down, the unnamed Courier editor favors us with yet another pious paean to truth, justice and the American Way, managing to subvert all three in his obeisance to heroic myths.

His lead graf only infers that he hasn't done much international traveling. For those of us who have, the first impression of returning to our home shores is barbed wire, armed guards, bureaucratic hassle and suspicion, neatly expressing how most Americans view the world outside as both threatening and uninteresting (encouraged, of course, by their self-centered corporate media). If you've spent any time outside the wire, you know that America is generally regarded, with good reason, as a witless, greedy, bullying, self-absorbed hegemon, so seeing that flag is a far more mixed experience than the editor's teary relief on getting back safely from his weekend in Rocky Point.

Following the standard script written by the first modern propagandists to pump the first World War, the editor hops to the blood and treasure we expend to "preserve our freedoms" in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, where the only freedoms we uphold are those of multinational corporations to continue exploiting the resources of poor people and sell them crap they don't need, and those of our favored churches to continue marketing their superstitious crusades. The wars we fought for our freedoms ended in 1815, folks. Everything since has been empire-building, resource acquisition or blowback for same.

The Courier editors danced on the sidelines waving pompoms as the second Bush administration worked assiduously to dismantle the freedoms and rights that today's editorial purports to praise. To me this demonstrates a stunning cognitive disconnect, and the editorial provides an example of how this disconnect comes about.

Looked at overall, the editorial's message is that the editor worships the flag. A flag. A thing, a symbol. His fascination with the symbol allows unscrupulous people to manipulate him by manipulating the propaganda around the symbol. So an illegal, aggressive invasion of a country that cannot threaten us, or turning innocent people and children into fine red mist to prop up a corrupt but apparently compliant puppet state, becomes a "fight for our freedom," and questioning it becomes subversive, even treasonous.

If the editor were to see the hard reality of what this 'fight for freedom' means to the people whose freedoms we steal and whose lives we destroy for it, I believe, truly, that he'd be a lot less facile about what he writes around it. But, lacking any useful experience and thrust into the pundit's chair, he falls into the trap of cracked mental shorthand -- war equals the flag equals our values -- and he mires what could be a competent mind in the sticky cotton candy of unquestioned premises and sacred falsehoods.

If you hope to honor the principles on which this country was founded and the people who fought and died to secure them, read the whole document. In particular, absorb how our founders defined tyranny:

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Is this not exactly what we're doing in Iraq and Afghanistan? Having lived under it for generations, would our founders have considered prosecuting this sort of evil for a moment? Does this shed any light on why our misguided attempts to 'help' these countries only leads to escalating resistance and blowback? The Redcoats were patriots too, remember.

By all means, honor our founders and their struggle, but not by worshiping a flag. They didn't fight for a flag, they fought for a set of principles, a foundation for freedom and human dignity. These principles, these rights and democratic practices, are they only legacy they cared about. Wrapping up in the flag while we dishonor their sacrifice by emulating their oppressor is what's truly subversive and treasonous.

Smoki: The beginning

Bruce takes on a feature series about the amazing and ridiculous "Smoki people" in tones that promise authoritative history. Save yourself some trouble and confusion, don't bother with this, just go to the museum and study the exhibits there, including the permanent Smoki People room (which I helped build a few years ago).

It's a story that requires some research and background to tell properly. In working with director Jerry Chinn on the film mentioned here, I was exposed to the broad range of perspectives on the Smoki story and nuances essential to understanding what led these good-hearted people so far off the rails.

As we said in the marketing, if you don't know the Smoki story, you don't know Prescott. Don't let the Courier's loose accuracy and surface treatment impede your knowledge. If you're interested, go to the source.