Thursday, May 24, 2012

Editorial: Do what he says, he's got a gun!

I'm sure I'm hearing a dog whistle blowing, but after three readings it's still hard to put a finger on what the unnamed editor is trying to say today. The piece is pretty vague, so it's easy to read in what you want.

If there's a thesis here, it seems to turn on the idea that our individual prosperity depends on confidence in our national craps table, Wall Street. Yet he spends two thirds of the editorial explaining why people are sensibly staying away from the numbers game that so recently brought the world economy down, robbing individual investors blind along the way. He makes a lot of sense up till the old switcheroo:

"Keeping in mind that the stock market is not the economy, but a confidence game itself, restoring trust in the markets will be crucial."
As usual he offers no basis in reality for this article of faith, and I expect that he takes it so for granted that he can't imagine questioning it. But no, the speculative markets have only recently been significant to real economies, and their proper place is minor.

So after establishing this firm footing in the air outside his third-story window, he moves to his proposition: that the result of the presidential election will be the main factor in the health of the markets and therefore economic prosperity for all. The dog whistle whispers, "Make the right choice or we're doomed," and since Wall Street has to like the President to make money, the right choice is supposed to be the Republican, I'm guessing

Briefly glimpsing a path away from the insanity of the past thirty years, the editor retreats into the comforting groundhog den the corporatists have assigned him. Don't rock the boat, he tells us, just give the gangsters what they want and maybe they won't hurt us again.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Editorial: Franking frankers!

The unnamed editor is incensed that our Congressman uses his free mail privilege to send us campaign advertising disguised as constituent service information.
     I totally get it, and I agree that most of the time our public officials either don't know or don't care that they're supposed to be using the mail this way to genuinely inform voters about what they're doing. It's reached the point of absurdity, true enough.
     But let's step back for a sec. The franking privilege is one of the few facilities for members of Congress to communicate directly with constituents. Imagine for a moment a theoretical Congresscritter who, out of a pure sense of duty, truly wants to let me know how he's voting on issues and why, what legislation he's seeing, and that he wants my input. Then factor in the elimination of franking for that purpose. What modes of communication are available?
     Is he supposed to finance mailings, or buy broadcast time, or hire a telephone survey company out of his own pocket? Or is he to rely on the commercial media to spread the word? Few outlets are as compliant as Prescott eNews, for example, in printing an official's news releases verbatim (if you're a member of the right party). Fewer still are interested in carrying the dull details that build a useful picture of a complex issue. And there is no medium that reaches every voter other than the post.
     Shutting off the only useful means of communicating with constituents does not make sense in a democracy (or a republic, for all you selective pedants out there). Doesn't it make a lot more sense to look at the Congresscritter's communications and fully take them in as statements about the character and competence of the person we've sent to work for us? From that standpoint, even the most grossly abused mailing is eminently valuable, imho. And it costs us damn little.

Letter: City's price increases hurt local business

Philip Dixon wrote to let us know that the City's pricejacking of regular public events has cost us another one, this time the Contradance Festival, moved to Cottonwood. Responding to what could be read as skepticism in the comments, Warren Miller specified that the City fee for using the Armory had jumped sevenfold year-on-year, forcing the move.
     What my friend Warren didn't cover is why the City has jacked up use fees, not just at the Armory but at the Elks Theatre, at Watson Lake Park and other public facilities as well.
     During the tenure of Steve Norwood as city manager, the City moved increasingly toward the idea that City services should be individually revenue-neutral to the extent possible. Facilities and services that had traditionally been parts of the large basket of City responsibilities came to be seen as separate business enterprises and evaluated based on their narrow cash-in-cash-out balance sheets.
     Those services that cannot bring in cash — things like police, streets and City bureaucracy — have been arbitrarily exempted from this policy as "essential" services, creating a value distinction that pushes Council to lean more heavily on "nonessential" services to "pay their own way."
     Our once vibrant Parks and Recreation Department has been largely gutted. Now we're hearing rumblings about cutting the Library loose, and it seems that our City leaders will not be satisfied until everything that the voters of Prescott have built for quality of life in the past hundred years is privatized or vanished.
     The core purpose of incorporating a municipality is to create a means for a community to work together to ensure security and improve quality of life for all. Obviously the direct use of these services will vary from person to person (including police, fire and streets, of course), but the value they bring is to the community as a whole, not just in individual enjoyment, but in economic vitality as well. Our elected leaders should be looking at the big picture here, and worrying that we're being pennywise and desperately pound-foolish.
      A government, however local, is not anything like a profitmaking business, and cannot be run in the same way. If as a municipal official you find that your budget is not balancing, you can't just throw services over the side willy-nilly. Every one of those services was approved by the community as necessary enough to institute, and complex webs of dependencies build around them linking individuals, businesses, nonprofits and public agencies. I'm not saying you can't cut, but the first thing you have to do is seek the community's input on the continuing need for the service, whether there is majority support for it and, vitally, for paying for it collectively.
      Our problem statewide is that there's a new religion-like moralism holding that community action through taxation is bad across the board and must be eliminated. That attitude leads inevitably to fragmentation and an everyone-for-hermself attitude, chipping away at the bedrock of community. I don't care what your political perspective, I guarantee you really don't want to live like that.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Editorial: 'Nutty Arizona' goes national again

Lately I haven't felt compelled to write about the Courier editorial column. With a few exceptions, the unnamed editor has generally stuck with the sort of themes that suit a small-town monopoly -- fire danger, food drives, "Whiskey Row will rise again," traffic, etc.
     I guess that made today's the more disappointing, as from the headline I was expecting to see something sensible and unusually straightforward from the editor. But by the end of the first graf he's falling over his own shoelaces:

Now it's the "birther" issue again, and whether President Barack Obama is a legal US citizen who was born in Hawaii and, therefore, qualified to have run for the office in the first place and to seek re-election to another four-year term. Or is his birth place really Kenya, his father's homeland, and a birth certificate to prove otherwise is fraudulent?
     Yes, it's the birther issue again — meaning not that there's a real issue of whether the President was born American, but rather that a bunch of wackos we call birthers are making a ridiculous stink — and no, there is no question about the President's provenance. That's been clearly and publicly established. Even Governor Brewer is firmly distancing herself from this one with her signature elocution: "I talked to the governor, the previous governor of Hawaii, and she validated to me that the certificate was valid. And I put that to a rest."
     The headline fairly describes the issue as nutty, yet below it the editor feigns Pooh-like simplicity and accepts that as long as one nutcase continues to believe a thing, there must be a "fair" debate about it in the press.
     Here's the editor waiting for Superman in his conclusion: "We wait for the right person to come forward and settle the question once and for all." Who's that, editor, the disembodied Hand O' Gad writing in flaming letters in the sky, perhaps?
     It's not Arizona that's being nutty. Is it really so hard to commit to print your duh moment in realizing that the political party you identify with has come completely unhinged, hostage to insane terrorists and succumbing to Stockholm Syndrome?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The fire this time

I checked in on the aftermath of what will certainly be known as the Bird Cage Fire (no matter where it started), and grabbed a few pics.

From the top of the parking garage, you can see how the firewalls between the buildings contained the blaze. The added back rooms took smoke damage, but appear intact.
It looked to me that the fire was most interested in the BBQ place and the roof.
Anyone who's been onstage at the Cage will remember that Coke sign. I chatted with the owner's brother, who said that the stuffed birds in the cases were at least mostly hunted and mounted by his great-uncle, and some of them were quite rare. Witnesses said they saw birds floating down the gutter.

TV and other media crews were still working the site this afternoon.

It was a relief to confirm that the building fronts hadn't burned through. Essentially all the structure necessary for a relatively easy rebuild is there. The fire didn't even pop the paint on the fronts.

The owner's brother told me that the old Rex bar and backbar survive, including the mirrors, though they'll clearly need extensive refinishing. Here you can still see bottles up on the wall and stools awaiting customers.
With the street still blocked off and a ladder truck on standby, there were plenty of people on the street to take in the sights.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The crux of the biscuit

Today's letter from Kevin Goss has sparked a remarkably revealing discussion in the comments.
    Goss calls out the paper for regularly carrying the columns of Susan Stamper Brown either despite or because of the misinformation and disinformation she features in them to make her points. He then dismantles a couple of examples in one of the columns using straightforward facts.
    Commenters who have regularly demonstrated suspicion or animosity toward the administration that's been the target of Brown's attacks have piped up to defend Brown's right to lie in public, blasting Goss for asking that the paper stop buying her stuff, calling that "censorship." They seem to completely miss the importance of using lies to sell opinion.
    I'm continually amazed when partisans of any stripe blithely accept and support the use of disinformation in defense of their cause. It's so completely stupid. When you're in a game in which winning depends on reaching hearts and minds, above all you have to be trustworthy. Any kind of lie in your materials, even the little white variety, is guaranteed to turn your targets against you once they find out. And they will, more so now than ever. Ask Bill Clinton or Dan Rather.
    As a corollary to this, the paper that carries the lies, slugged as opinions or not, guarantees the loss of readers who discover them. It's not just stupid, it's bad business. Editorial integrity is all a news organization has to sell, really. From the editor's standpoint, cleaning this crap out of the paper isn't censorship, it's a survival imperative — or it should be.