Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy blows hard against the big government campaign line... ideology meets its match -- Conservatives to the East Coast: "Man up... do it yourself!"

As the sun rises on the East Coast, you have to wonder how those vocal legions of small government people will feel today about the use of federal dollars to rebuild their homes, neighborhoods, cities and states.

Millions without power, subway system flooded with salt water, debris everywhere, weeks of economic lethargy in the offing, the purpose of government -- big shouldered capable government -- has never been more clear.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Eight-plex protest draws at least one reporter -- alas not one from the city's daily newspaper... Guess neighborhood protest isn't newsworthy when you've got the Chiefs to cover

Residents in my neighborhood took to the streets, literally, Sunday to protest the construction of an 8-plex ‘condo’ the city zoning commission has apparently approved. The complex would sit on a busy street in the century-old Volker community.

I’m hazy on the details at this point because the newspaper I rely on apparently couldn’t bestir itself to cover the protest. The only ‘print’ report I could find came from Tony Botelo at Tony’s Kansas City. I searched the Kansas City Star Web site and came up empty. And why not? After all, the three stories in the Star which received the most comments were two about the Chiefs and one about Missouri football. Those three vital reports had garnered 947 comments by 11:26 a.m. Monday.

I guess there’s nothing particularly sexy about a group of citizens with placards standing in the street hoping to maintain the integrity of their neighborhood.

And, surprise, Botello actually showed up for the protest. That’s news. Botello is essentially and aggregator. His publication is fueled by the reporting of other people and a cadre of tipsters. It certainly serves a purpose for readers. But, if Botello’s favorite straw men, the Dead Tree Media, finally went under, it’s hard to imagine what he’d have to fill his site.

He’d have to do what he did Sunday and burn up a little old school shoe leather. And, you know what? He’s pretty good at it. The piece he wrote had information, but, more importantly, life. It gave his readers a genuine sense of the moment, of people standing up for their neighborhood in the middle of a narrow Kansas City street. It captured their argument… and their passion.

I’m not neutral on this. While I subscribe to Jane Jacobs’ prescient theory of urban planning – she rightly argued neighborhoods with the most diversity of use will be the healthiest -- I also think the issue of density weighs heavily on those neighborhoods. Too much density is just plain dangerous. Especially, in my opinion, too much density caused and maintained by people who do not live in the neighborhood.

Eight groups of people living in a space formerly occupied by two, can’t be good for any urban neighborhood. Imagine the hue and cry, the protestors chaining themselves to mailboxes and light poles, if this eight-plex was planned for Leawood South. No question the Star would be on that scene. As Botello argued, this can’t be the primary criterion of the Kansas City, Mo., zoning commission. If it was, the bulldozers wouldn’t already be at work.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Who won the first Romney/Obama debate? Not you... Was this Obama's rope-a-dope?

Obama almost roped-a-dope
Mitt Romney won the debate.

This is wrong on several levels, none of which is liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican.

What the challenger won was praise from those who chattered about the debate on television or wrote about it in print. Winning their approval may have some short term effect on people who pay attention to the media.

Allow me to deconstruct this idea.

Nobody actually wins a debate on substance because no one evaluates a debate on substance. Debates are evaluated on how the candidates appear. Are they confident in their facts? Do they seem to be in control? Are they aggressive? Are they combative? Do they seem to have the killer instinct? Do they appear presidential?

Certainly you’ve just recognized the majority of the reporting about this presidential debate. Yet nothing in those questions is particular to Romney / Obama. In a world dominated by entertainment, entertainment values are how a debate is judged.

Ask yourself what you know now -- that you didn't know before -- about the policies these men will follow in the presidency.

I rest my case.

Now, since we know 'won' mean’s 'performed better,' we need to ask performance questions. Why was Obama panned by the critics in the media? Because, simply put, he was too cool.

To argue against cool, is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of television. In television, cool wins. There is a reason Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck – or, if your memory is long, Joe Pine – are not on primetime television.

If you want to understand how to use a medium, you first have to understand where people partake of it. What people will tolerate coming through the radio speakers in their cars during their commute is a lot different from what they will tolerate in their living rooms.

Here’s an illustration. Your preacher may be all fire and brimstone from the pulpit on Sunday morning. But if you invite him home to Sunday dinner and after he reaches for another piece of fried chicken he goes fire and brimstone on you, pounding his fist on the table and shouting to the rafters about sin and damnation, well, that’s the last fried chicken he’ll get at your house.

When we watch a debate from the couch in our living room, we invite these people to sit on the rug in front of us and argue nicely. If they go fire and brimstone, they will not be invited back. Let me say it again: On television, cool always wins.

What President Obama had in mind was a sort of theatrical rope-a-dope, and it almost worked. He hung out cool on the ropes hoping Governor Romney would start throwing haymakers. Romney almost took the bait, but pulled back just in time. I’d call the fight a draw. When Steve Kraske said the same thing in the Kansas City Star, a storm of abuse nearly blew down the telephone lines at 18th and Grand.

Which is the final point. For Obama supporters, the debate was – at worst -- a draw. For Romney supporters, Romney won big, and -- if you read the Public Editor's column in the Star, you know they were enraged that the Lamestream media didn't recognize such. For those with minds made up, nothing changed. The question is not who won. It’s who managed to move the few people who aren’t already inoculated against anything that challenges their man. And those two or three percent of potential voters were either watching the Yankees demolish Boston or asleep. They won’t tune in, if at all, until much later in the campaign.

So, who won the first debate and who lost? Nobody won… and anybody who wanted to know what the candidates will do in office definitely lost.