Sunday, December 14, 2014

Tattler Post No. 2,000

A number, like any other.
I have been doing this blog since December 12, 2008, which means I have now been at it for almost exactly 6 years. An exercise in typing that I believe is unparalleled in Sierra Madre history. I think of it as an experiment. Nobody had ever done anything like this here, so how did we know what the effect could be?  We didn't, but how's that UUT increase working out for you? Plus it is a real good way to get down into the murky depths of things. And no depths were ever any murkier than those of the Foothill Village. I've been there. Bring special glasses.

In those 6 years this blog has drawn 2.8 million hits (or "page views" to use the Google parlance), with over 115,500 comments left by you the Tattler's readers. Which I think is also fairly unprecedented in this town. Where else around here have you ever seen that much public commentary about the affairs of a small town local government? In a time when most people don't even bother to vote anymore, that is a pretty good thing. Plus think of all the many adventures we've had together.

Remember when some people said you needed to have a print publication to actually reach people here, and that nobody reads blogs? I think it is safe to say that those tables have now been forever turned.

There are also those who say that public participation in the governmental affairs of Sierra Madre is abysmally low, and that people just don't seem to care. I would disagree with that. In comparison to other cities the public awareness and participation here is remarkably high, and the sophistication of those who do pay attention and participate is second to none.

Trust me, it is always a small group of inspired people that makes all the difference. A lot of cities don't have even that. They get by on a steady diet of obedient snotty bureaucrats, disingenuous self-serving politicians, special interests, gullible uninformed residents and, of course, lawyers. The results are rarely pretty.

Sierra Madre has a fairly good City Council right now. We had to beat the living daylights out of a few of the more deficient recent versions to get there, and chase off some of their odd candidates as well, but the guys we see going at it today are actually trying to get the old boat afloat again. A lot of people are impressed.

I know, I'm not sure I entirely believe it myself. Old habits die hard. But you have to admit, the results are there. At least so far. Credit where credit is due.

A good part of the reason for this is the people who care enough to troop down to City Hall when needed and pour their guts out at public comment. It is democracy at its finest, and I am proud to call you some of the best friends I have ever had. This will never get you rich, and most people couldn't give a damn anyway, but you do it for the best of all reasons. The truth. That and God will get you into heaven. A place where the choices are clear and everybody always remembers to vote.

One more thing before I move on to what is a typically idiosyncratic Tattler topic. People ask me how much longer I intend to do this blog. The answer is for as long as possible. After that I can't make any promises. I really enjoy this, it is so deeply in my blood right now that I can't imagine not doing it. For me Sierra Madre is a perfect metaphor for the ills and blessings of small city government everywhere. Not bad, hardly good, but not atypical either.

Just there where I can get at it.

Is Civility a Totalitarian Impulse?
An interesting article from a site called News.Mic that should resonate a little bit in Sierra Madre (link). Civility Party members kindly take note.

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Psychologists Have Uncovered a Troubling Feature of People Who Seem Nice All the Time In 1961, curious about a person's willingness to obey an authority figure, social psychologist Stanley Milgram began trials on his now-famous experiment. In it, he tested how far a subject would go electrically shocking a stranger (actually an actor faking the pain) simply because they were following orders. Some subjects, Milgram found, would follow directives until the person was dead.

The news: A new Milgram-like experiment published this month in the Journal of Personality has taken this idea to the next step by trying to understand which kinds of people are more or less willing to obey these kinds of orders. What researchers discovered was surprising: Those who are described as "agreeable, conscientious personalities" are more likely to follow orders and deliver electric shocks that they believe can harm innocent people, while "more contrarian, less agreeable personalities" are more likely to refuse to hurt others.

The methodology and findings: For an eight-month period, the researchers interviewed the study participants to gauge their social personality, as well as their personal history and political leanings. When they matched this data to the participants' behavior during the experiment, a distinct pattern emerged: People who were normally friendly followed orders because they didn't want to upset others, while those who were described as unfriendly stuck up for themselves.

"The irony is that a personality disposition normally seen as antisocial — disagreeableness — may actually be linked to 'pro-social' behavior,'" writes Psychology Today's Kenneth Worthy. "This connection seems to arise from a willingness to sacrifice one's popularity a bit to act in a moral and just way toward other people, animals or the environment at large. Popularity, in the end, may be more a sign of social graces and perhaps a desire to fit in than any kind of moral superiority."

The Nazi effect: The findings lend themselves even further to Milgram's original goal in the '60s: trying to understand the rise of Nazism. Milgram began his experiments in July 1961, three months after the start of the trial of German Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. He believed his findings might help explain how seemingly nice people can do horrible things if they are ordered to do so.

Does that mean the Nazis were just nice people trying to follow orders and be polite? You probably wouldn't want to go that far, but suffice to say, it turns out nice people just want to appease authorities, while rebels stick to their guns. 

I hope I didn't upset anybody.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

28 comments:

  1. Congratulations, John .
    Thank you for your service.
    Those of us who are you loyal readers appreciate your dedication .
    Those of us who are your personal friends
    love you.
    Merry Christmas to you and your wonderful family.

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    1. No one has worked harder to preserve Sierra Madre than Diane Shear.
      Thank you Diane, from a Tattler Research Team member.

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  2. what was the inspiration to start this blog?

    whatever it was, it is appreciated

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    1. So how long have you been in town, 7:31?
      Crawford started the blog just after the Mountain Views Observer newspaper was stolen by the con artist Susan Henderson.

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  3. Congratulations Tattler although I must say that as I was reading your post I was thinking, oh no, he going to say something at the end that this is his last blog. Thank god that's not the case. Although the Tattler has contributed to tremendous strides being made in Sierra Madre, it only takes one bad election to revert back to what we had before. We have to all remain vigilant. Thnaks Tattler for all that you have done. At the end of the day, let it be said, that you made a difference and we're just marking time.

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  4. Love your definition of heaven! The choices are clear and everybody votes. Amen.

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  5. Though his blog strays into Fox-Newsesque tabloid territory from time to time John can rightly pat himself on the back for being a leading citizen of Sierra Madre, even after having moved away. Thank you sir.

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    1. Actually I don't watch much cable news. They're all about opinion reinforcement and none really represent mine. But you are right about the tabloid thing. I modeled this site on the New York Daily News and New York Post I read growing up back east. I try to keep this from being a wonk site. I've never believed that a mastery of arcane bureaucratic detail makes one a member of any kind of elite. Here we try to talk with everyone.

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    2. Los Angeles really needs a tabloid.

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    3. Actually, slightly yellow around the edges is much better for an activist publication than the typical small-town rah-rah social news that feeds the climbers. The propaganda is strong with those rags, just PR flack reprints and get-your-face-in-there photography. Along with all the ads positioned at the wanna-be's.

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    4. The Mountain Views News seems to go back and forth from being a "happy news" rag to something approaching the social ethics of Ming The Merciless. The two are not really disconnected.

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    5. Crawford and the Tattler are the "Treasure of Sierra Madre"

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    6. Congrats John! I didn't know you grew up in the NYC area; me too!

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    7. One of the cool things about coming from New Jersey is when you leave everywhere you go things look great.

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  6. Mr. Tattler, most of the time your right on. I think we all drift off center some times in the eyes of our friends and family. Of course that doesn't mean our drifts are wrong it means everyone can not agree every time. You give minds a chance to see things differently, I respect a person who can look at a subject and be logical and look at the facts and can then change their minds. It is good to hear about the opinions that differ from ours, after all, no two of us has had the same life experiences. The good here is we all are concerned for preserving our town and the life we have here. Our town is lucky to have a blog such as the Tattler. T U

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  7. Congratulations to the Tattler and happy anniversary! Can't believe you started it during the holiday season, must have been an absolute low point. You managed to outlive the Downtown Investors Club and lead the defeat of Measure V.

    PS Thankyou for blasting that Captcha screen, wonder how Google is dealing with the issue now...

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    1. Yeah, the captcha disappearance is a mystery. I know Google was getting a lot of complaints about it, especially from some of the more high profile big traffic sites that use blogger. It isn't that hard to switch over to another service, and I think blogger became afraid they might lose some that they'd rather keep. Since the captcha box went away spam has begun to creep back into my inbox. The same sorts of nonsense I'd been seeing before. I guess we'll just have to see what develops in the Google Vs. Spammers War.

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    2. Oops 9:47, you mean lead the victory of Measure V. Measure V good, defeating it bad.
      We need a Measure V for the whole town.

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  8. Civility is interesting as you point out. I feel disturbed when friend or foe cant see through a phony lying smile, a smile that will stab you in the back without a second thought. Some times you just have to go along to get along, the truth is in our actions and the vote, oh how close that 2-30-13 vote was. The lies that were spread during measure V have tarnished many a friendships for ever. Respect is great for the person who admits an error in understanding.

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    1. The whole civility schtick was the inspired work of Joe Mosca. A person that injected quite a bit of poison into the body politic of Sierra Madre. His sudden disappearance has yet to be explained. He has since lacked the civility to even come and pay us a visit.

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    2. Be carefull, let's hope He never returns!

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    3. The biggest damage Mosca and his allies did to this community was delay the updating of the General Plan. The terrible result being Sierra Madre has become vulnerable to McMansion development. Hopefully the City Council can get this vital work done fast and undo that awful legacy.

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    4. Mosca leaves

      Noah Green arrives

      aren't we lucky

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  9. Mosca and others believed that MacGillivray was anti-gay, thus began the vendetta against her. Surprise of surprises she won her comeback to the council and the civility party was born. They were able to spread lies and smeared her and her supporters as well. Buchanan, Henderson, Walsh, and especially Moran were in on the smear. Lots of friendships were lost over that one in the subsequent election, maybe even more so than Measure V since this was a personal smear campaign. I know friends of Watts, Crawford and Alcorn are still smarting over Sierra Madre politics and the dirty way that election went.

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  10. Anyone out for drive this fine Sunday, be sure to check out the rising MacMansion MacCondos on Mariposa, half a block to the west from Lima.
    Amazing.
    North side of the street. Built to hide the mountains. Good luck to the suckers living south of it.

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  11. John,
    Congratulations on a job well done!

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