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August 02, 2010


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I love this quote from the Harper's article:

“People who have swimming pools don’t need state parks. If you buy your books at Borders you don’t need libraries. If your kids are in private school, you don’t need K-12. The people here, or at least those who vote, don’t see the need for government. Since a lot of the population are not citizens, the message is that government exists to help the undeserving, so we shouldn’t have it at all. People think it’s OK to cut spending, because ESL is about people who refuse to assimilate and health care pays for illegals.”

Also, this passage:

"Despite passage of the sales tax in May, no one believes that Arizona’s financial crisis is over. But the state’s electoral system, which rewards extreme right-wing rhetoric, has allowed the political class to be as irresponsible and reckless as it likes. State residents seem content to cheer on the legislature for lowering their taxes—even as massive budget cuts pack their children into classrooms with more and more students, or force them to stand in line for a day to renew driver’s licenses at the gutted Department of Motor Vehicles. Arizonans will complain about their legislature—one recent poll showed that just 15 percent thought state lawmakers’ performance was 'good'—but keep sending ever more radical Republicans to office. It is much like the Tea Party nationwide, which will, quite sensibly, demand political reform and protest the bank bailout, even as it backs hacks like Hayworth who represent the most corrupt wing of the G.O.P."

I'm kind of tempted to run for an Arizona House seat as an Independent, saying the most batshit-crazy things in order to get elected, and then reversing my positions on my first day in office. I could really use that generous $24,000 salary.

Arizona's too-rapid growth resulted in a citizenry unanchored to history and continuity. Even in central Phoenix, there are only bits and pieces of traditional urban fabric left. The accelerating destruction of old buildings, the abandonment of others, and the interchangeable quality of retail strips have resulted in a city too forlorn for love. While a city may be clean and visually inoffensive, it's the lack of vitality that explicates the civic character. I started noticing this in Phoenix 20 years ago.

You can't separate the political neurosis from a built environment that is jerry-built and haphazard. Most other places in America are in crisis as well. We disguised this situation by moving to bigger houses and buying lots of things. Now that the boom is finally over, there's no disguising the anomie that afflicts this nation. We had a 60 year spending spree in which we squandered unthinkable wealth on junk. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/1a8a5cb2-9ab2-11df-87e6-00144feab49a.html

Arizona became Ground Zero for a radical new social experiment. It involved creating a community in the absence of any rootedness to the place itself. We could do this because money and mobility swamped the ordinary buffers real communities nurtured. And as a consequence, we now have a civic and political culture that disconnects past and future.

If you cherish the place you live in, you will do whatever it takes to preserve it. You won't strip mine it, strangle it with freeways, or auction it off for a quick score. You behave sanely because your environment supports sanity. Phoenix does not. Las Vegas, obviously not. Portland, yes.

The bitterness and irreality of late-empire America will be endured until we exhaust our resources and our best efforts. I think we're all aware of the approaching storm. I wish everyone the best of possible outcomes.

Portland provides an interesting contrast to Phoenix; however the unswerving resistance to enacting a sales tax has starved the education system, which ranks poorly. Here's the irony: the liberals in Oregon have inflicted their own kind of damage because the state has an inadequate revenue stream to support it. Once again, we're reminded that single party rule isn't a good thing.

Jim, I agree one-party rule is a terrible thing. Indeed, you can expand that idea to the national level and see what happens when there's only one functional political party (Democrats) and one politicized religion (Republicans). The result is that ideas don't get adequately debated. Liberals absolutely require conservatives (and vice versa) for the system to function rationally. President Obama ought to be the liberal president but he can't govern in a vacuum given Republican intransigence. He proposes Republican ideas (cap-and-trade, individual health-insurance mandates) in order to engage the other party but those ideas get stonewalled by them, I suspect, out of sheer nihilistic joy. The national political debate has become virtually insane as a result.

One reason why Portland is a jewel and not the kind of sprawling hellhole most people live in is that 40years ago REPUBLICANS like Governor Tom McCall helped create the urban growth boundary system that guided growth inward instead of outward. These Republican moderates are now nearly extinct in Arizona and most of the nation as a whole.

I'll assume that Oregon liberals don't want a sales tax out of a reflexive advocacy for the working class. If so, the political stalemate may result from the absence of a pragmatic class of Republican legislators in Salem to engage. I don't want to blame everything on Republicans (they might want to rebalance revenues by raising sales taxes and lowering property taxes), but absent further research I'll play the agnostic here. If you have some insights on the subject, I'd like to read them.

My take on Oregon is that the liberals have a rather mindless "no sales tax" catechism somewhat reminiscent of the Grover Norquist cult. They don't realize that you can't run this beautiful state on (oppressive) personal income taxes.

A lobbyist friend says there's not much meaningful dialog across party lines in Salem, which is quite a contrast to the culture associated with Gov. Thomas Lawson McCall. When I bring up my great respect for his legacy, some wrinkle their brow and wonder if I know he was a Republican! We need a helluva lot more Republicans like Tom. He cleaned his eyeglasses in his martini at his retirement dinner and I've loved him ever since!

Former Phoenix Suns Chris Dudley is running for Gov. and might just cut through the fog. Nowadays, I'd gladly settle for a moderate (and charming) Republican like Dudley vs. the arthritic old Demmicraps!

I don't yet know enough about the Northwest to write authoritatively. But...both Oregon and Washington are very divided states. One is the cosmopolitan western metropolitan areas, the other closer in political affinity to the Intermountain West.

Thus, if it weren't for the population of Seattle, Washington would be a red state, or very much in play. Even now, Patty Murray may be in trouble from a right-wing pol with no record of achievement -- but he is the darling of the developers, the white suburbs and the eastern part of the state.

Similarly, Bill Gates Sr. has an initiative on the ballot to raise taxes on the richest Washingtonians. Many rich progressives in Seattle support it. But it may well fail. Meanwhile, a rightwinger named Tim Eyman has made a cottage industry -- and living -- from floating Norquist-like initiatives that, among other things, have gutted what was once the nation's best ferry system.

So it's not as simple as "liberals" running Washington and Oregon, in a mirror image of the Kookocracy in Arizona. In addition, there are real stewards in both states, diverse economies, people who care passionately about the states' history and sense of place. Almost all lacking in Arizona. Both are pluralistic and diverse and talent magnets -- again, not AZ.

The tax situations here are not progressive. It's hard to change custom and history, whomever is in charge. But don't assume either of these states is a slam dunk for "liberals."

Having followed Oregon's fortunes since we first lived there in the 70's, mine is only an arms length perspective vs. Jon's "on the scene" involvement with Seattle. Anecdotal stories indicate that many Oregonians have a well-grounded sense of place and an abiding sense of environmental responsibility . . both of which are sadly lacking in AZ. There, the "legal immigrants" are often seasonal and typically disconnected, as we've all observed. The point remains, however, that (for many years) the legislatures have tried to run both states on a 4 cylinder revenue engine with no real rainy day strategy. Granted, the term "strategy" cannot be applied to those whose decisions are driven by catechism.

"the legislatures have tried to run both states [OR & WA] on a 4 cylinder revenue engine with no real rainy day strategy." - Jim Hamblin.

"rainy day" . . . a revealing metaphor. Having water is a great advantage. Water availability determines the economic foundation and allows for an entirely different economic strategy for OR & WA than Arizona's unsustainable, short-term ponzi scheme.

The metaphorical 'rainy day' of Arizona is an unending, terminal drought.

Mr. Rate Crimes: 'Scuse me! I was referring to OR and AZ apparently lacking a contingency strategy . . dunno about WA.

I intended no critique of your astute observations, Jim. I was simply pointing out the impossibility of Arizona even considering a contingency strategy because the foundation of its 'economy' is made of dry sand and parched criminal intent.

An Arizona republican political candidate recently called for disconnecting the utilities of illegal immigrants. Forgetting the fact that in the summer no cooling would kill some people, it is rumored that the only reason the candidate is an advocate for the idea is not because he believes it is an action he should take, but by stating such a cruel idea it improves his chance of being elected. Shameful opportunism is acceptable in Arizona.

SB1070 is nothing more than a GOP experiment in manipulation of voters, and if successful will disenfranchise many Latino voters.

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