Saturday, September 22, 2007

Editorial: "Border control only way to stop tragedy"

First, thanks to the unnamed Courier editor for mentioning that "Not every illegal who makes it across the border" is a cop-killer. It would have been nice if the quote were more on the order of "Vanishingly few illegal immigrants are cop-killers or violent criminals of any kind," but the truth on this issue would be a lot to expect.

OK, editor, you and grandstanding Phil Gordon want to exhort the country to "secure our borders," and you malign every elected official in this country by implying corruption that keeps them from doing it. In your world, that's logical. So do your readers this respect: show, in detail, how that job can be done, with numbers and engineering.

A whole lot of very smart people have been working on this problem for decades and conclude that not only is it not practical in economic terms, it's not possible, period. You think you're smarter than all those experts, fine: put up or shut up. I think you're blowing smoke up the asses of your readers just to keep them stirred up and fearful enough to keep voting Republican. Prove me wrong.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Talk of the Town: "Defensible space code infringes on rights"

Carla Renak rails against the nanny-state idea of requiring her to maintain defensible space against wildfire. I'm with you, Carla, if I don't have to pay for the fire department to defend your home when the flames are coming.

This is the point. We have rules because people aren't sensible enough to be responsible with their freedom, and they wind up costing us all.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Editorial: "Democracy depends on voter participation"

Hmm, nice juxtaposition. ON A1 we find that the challenger squeaked past the three-term mayor, and on the editorial page we have the unnamed Courier editor complaining that only 53% of voters were involved. Could it be that the editor figures that more voters would have changed the outcome, since obviously the result was the wrong one? Interesting idea, since most cities are ecstatic to see 30% turnout for off-year council polls.

I'll say what would choke the editor: Good job, Prescott voters. You're more involved than most, no thanks to your "Agenda of Excellence" paper.

A1: "High school sex-ed play stirs discussion on drugs, pregnancy"

The lead -- did Shari Lopatin really write this?

PRESCOTT – Sex, drugs, pregnancy, abortion. It sounds like the recipe for a film festival in New York or Los Angeles.

I almost choked on my noodles. What a slap in the face to the high school and to the students who are working hard to help inform their fellows about really hard subjects, just to work in a jab at -- who? People who make films? People who live in big cities? Gack. A high-school paper wouldn't stoop to this.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A1: "Council pulls plug on traffic-calming barricade"

I was at the meeting because I live in the neighborhood affected by this issue. First I'd like to say that I'm pleased the Courier didn't feel the need to cover the excessive, racism-tinged ranting about the brown peril that we all had to sit through before Council could get to its agenda.

Cindy Barks' story focuses on the specific barrier on Prescott Heights Drive that focused discussion, but she apparently ignores the real issue that got Steve Blair hot and actually moved the Council to talk policy: that the advisory Traffic Control Committee was effectively setting policy on its own, and the barrier went up without input from Council or the city manager.

What's funny about this is that Blair admits that he and Council voted to set things up this way, assigning policy power to the committee by default if Council didn't object. They apparently didn't read the memo the TCC sent them, and everyone just did their jobs -- except Council, of course.

Cindy writes, "'When somebody closes a road down, it's not traffic calming; it's traffic closure,' said Councilman Steve Blair, who allowed that such measures had been 'a sore spot with me for a long, long time.'" Here she or the editor distorts what Blair meant. I remember him saying it, and the "sore spot" was the way the TCC is handling policy decisions. He doesn't like closing streets either, but let's try to keep the quotes straight. This concern will lead to a larger change than removing a street barrier, but the Courier story doesn't tell us that.

I'm not dead

I just needed some time off. I'll try to get back into the rhythm here, but it'll probably be gradual. Thanks for hanging in.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

A1: "Law enforcement issues arise at candidate forum"

In her second graph Cindy Barks mentions that water and growth dominated "much of the discussion," but coverage of these more important issues didn't make it into her story. Instead we get the non-issue of illegal immigration and the sexy-but-stupid idea of red-light cameras. Whether Cindy did this on purpose or not, or perhaps got a memo about it from the editor, it shows how editorial choices can insidiously influence the public discussion through omission and refocusing.

A1: "Council candidates split on city's handling of open space"

Cindy Barks again adds some good facts to supplement the responses of the Council candidates. I really don't get why these stories don't run together.

I just love how they all trot out the "willing seller" canard. Of course you have to have a seller, that's indisputable. It's just not relevant to the question. See, if it's a parcel that would qualify for open-space funding, it's by definition already open space and the City has no effect on the issue by trying to purchase it. The point of the funding is to acquire parcels that go up for sale to prevent development in important spaces. The question voters should be asking is: How many qualifying open-space parcels has the City failed to acquire that were subsequently lost to development?

PS, editors: The proper style for naming our community access channel is Access13, no space. I know: I named it. And I sent you style sheets twice.

Editorial: "Bridge collapse might prevent other tragedies"

The unnamed Courier editor comes up with a surprising scoop today: the revelation that "tens of millions of dollars" earmarked for New Orleans levees "in recent years ended up in politicians' pockets." That is one helluva story, and having it discovered and carried first by a small Arizona paper makes it Pulitzer material. I'm looking forward to the facts and substantiation on page one -- I'm just a bit puzzled because we usually run that story first.

Or could this be just another case of the editor using his op-ed space for a random rant more worthy of the breakfast chatter down at the Lone Spur? I guess it's a clue when he writes of "infrastructure" as a "fancy word."

Thomas: "Rupert Murdoch is not the media Satan"

Nutbar Cal responds to his own Bizarro interpretation of the Ignatius column yesterday, both pieces on something that matters not one whit to Courier readers. Do I detect a little media navel-gazing in the Courier editorial offices?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Heads up for this weekend

We have a commitment from the Governor to appear for at least a large chunk of "The People's Business" this week with Rep. Mason. You can look forward to some wide-ranging discussion of current state and local issues. That's Saturday and Sunday the 11th and 12th at 2pm on KJZA, 89.5FM.

If you can't get the show over air, contact me privately and I'll try to make you a copy.

A9: "County property tax rate will decrease while collections increase"

This is just the sort of boring, factual information that voters need most to understand if they're to participate positively in our system. It's what a local paper is for.

A1:"Candidates all voice strong support for public transit"

This time Cindy Barks adds some practical meat to flesh out the issue framed in the candidate question, good show.

Ignatius: "Heyday of Wall Street Journal is long past"

This is an inside-baseball piece of zero value to local readers. The editors could have run his column from last week, "Sept. 10 in Waziristan" (free registration required), but chose this instead. Y'all go ahead and tell me what that means.

Editorial: "Board has to go by what it approved"

Duh. Waste of space. Again.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Wiederaenders: "Terrorists win with atmosphere of fear"

Tim's got the right end of the stick today, but he fails to wield it with authority.

Yes, the public is unreasonably afraid of terrorism, and everyone needs to calm down. But Tim's analysis of why this is happening is a little soft, perhaps because his own industry carries so much of the responsibility, and the organization he helps manage is quite happy to sell newsprint on fear and facilitate official fear-mongers. So another opportunity for self-examination and positive change is wasted. If the Courier editors really see the problem here, they are in better position that most anyone in town to do something about it.

Parting shot, Tim: "UFO" is not a synonym for "alien spacecraft." If something is flying and the authorities don't know what it is, it's a UFO, that's the correct term. So the TV newscritters didn't report the "possibility of a UFO," they reported a UFO sighting. Failing to clarify this for your readers reinforces ignorance among those who don't know and undercuts your credibility among those who do.

A1: "Big Chino water: Chino officials, others concerned over rule changes"

Joanna Dodder has a big job to do here in informing the voters about the biggest, most acute problem we have in front of us. Her problem is that it's so eye-crossingly technical and has more characters than a Tolstoy epic. Hard reading, but important.

A1: "Candidates' opinions mixed on Big Chino pipeline"

Cindy's doing a good job with it, I just think the assignment is wrong. Why do we need a summary of what the Courier editor thinks is newsworthy on the front page when back on A7 we have the actual full-length responses from the candidates?

We still have to deal with how the questions are put and the way that wedges the responses, but in my view the more direct the communication between subject and reader, the better. Today's readers (the few that are left), especially younger people, require a lot less media hand-holding.

Editorial: "Grown-up 'water fight' is no laughing matter"

The unnamed Courier editor is at least consistent. Again today he repackages the front page and says nothing. Hint: Assign the space to someone who cares.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Another enervating Monday

Today's paper is so dull I don't even want to deal with it. Ack.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Editorial: "Street initiative was extreme micromanaging"

The unnamed Courier editor reluctantly admits that Rob Behnke's failed initiative was a bad idea, falling in line behind the Chamber of Commerce and every City Council candidate. Too bad he fails to mention that on April 18 he was all for it. Typical.

He can't resist a jab at our hard-won rules on spending for open space, the elimination of which was the hidden agenda of the Behnke campaign, and scores a touchback.

A1: "State rule changes would help Prescott's Big Chino water plans"

Joanna Dodder does some good spadework on the quiet little water war going on between Prescott and Chino Valley. Most of what you need to know is between the lines.

Short version: Prescott city officials are finding themselves increasingly isolated in defense of their stump-headed arrogance, and if they don't get it together and start following proper procedures they could wind up wasting huge amounts of money for nothing.

Talk of the Town: "Minutemen are heroes, not vigilantes"

Mel Oliverson puts his hand up as a proud member of our local self-appointed guardians of racial purity to address their acute PR problem. He shows just how big that problem is and how little he understands it by peppering his piece with disinforming fear sparks and codewords: "infectious diseases," "narcotics," "intellectual integrity," "ruinous effects," and "flood of illicit immigrants" in just three graphs, not to mention "the undesirable impacts on the long-term nature of our revered 200-year-old inherited culture" -- does anyone here have any doubt about what that means?

The Courier is doing its readers a service in providing Mr Oliverson a platform for showing his intellectual underwear, though I'm sure the editors see it rather differently than I do. Reading this further convinces me that there should be no tolerance in our community for these brownshirts, and eventually they will cause some serious trouble.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bugging out

That's probably it for this week and most of next, I'm headed north for some R&R. I'll look in now and then for anything really egregious. Enjoy!

Editorial: "Gulf between 'legal' and 'ethical' is vast"

I guess Paula Rhoden's story on taxes reminded the unnamed Courier editor that he's still mad at Vic Hambrick. This was disappointing because from the lead I was thinking I might read that the Courier is finally ready to walk away from the Bush fan club. (I really don't get how the editor can write this stuff without having his head explode from the dissonance.)

Anybody see anything new here compared to, say, this*? I don't.

* Don't try to use the link to the original story, it's gone.

A3: "Lamerson stresses basic services in bid for council"

Part four features an unusually ugly photo of the councilman and a lot more quotes.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A1: Tax revenues up; tax rate down

OK, remember back in April when we got our assessment cards and everyone was complaining about how taxes are going sky high? I wrote then that I wasn't reading anything about the actual pricing mechanism for property taxes, which vary from year to year at the whim of the Supes. Well, here it is at last, showing how all that gnashing of teeth was a little silly: tax rate down to its lowest in ten years. The Courier could have easily explained that at the time.

Of course, your property is valued higher than ever, so you won't likely be paying less. Still, the tax bite doesn't match the Courier's bark in its shameless attempt to disinform and stir up a 'taxpayer revolt' that would cost us all a great deal more.

A1: "Committee begins process to block Young's Farm rezoning"

Oops, did I say the Monogram saga was over? I don't suppose we can hope for a new script (Big Money gets its way, ragtag citizens group makes a stink, Big Money wins anyway -- you know, PV Wal-Mart, Williamson Valley, Verde River, etc.).

Maybe I should be selling peanuts in the stands. "GITcher goobers HEEERE!"

Talk of the Town: "We must tap into domestic oil to control costs"

Hold the phone, we've got another ringer. So to speak.

Once again the Courier is trying to pass off extreme-right DC propaganda as coming from a local writer. The "Talk of the Town" slug means, um, what was it, Tim?


Oh yeah, I remember now, thanks.

"Local" like the Heritage Foundation. By all means, look it up.

If you have any trouble parsing this BS, let me know, but I think anyone reading this probably knows the score on ethanol, on corn prices, and on ANWR. These bunnies just don't stop.

Missing: Kirkpatrick declares for AZ-1

So far the Courier seems to have missed the declaration of another candidate to replace Richie Rich Renzi, this one sitting state Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick. Maybe something from AP will filter in, since apparently the Courier staffers are all too busy watching cops out the windows.

Update 11:30pm: Ah, here it is, only a couple of days late. Can we hope to hear about the other candidates now?

Editorial: "Let's hope Wal-Mart ordeal is really over"

Yet more waste of editorial space. Note to the unnamed Courier editor: the top-left column is not your daily diary of non-events.

A3: "Katan pushes for policy changes in water, economic development"

The third installment in Cindy Barks' series on Council candidates is free of untoward characterizations, very good. I know Paul is given to saying unusual things, but even so I have to think that Cindy got at least one quote that was better than "I want to get elected." Oh well.

A1: "SWAT team terminates search, does not find gunman"

I read right through this piece wondering when the unfortunately named Joanne Twaddell would get around to telling the story that rates half the front page, only to find no story other than a bunch of PVPD guys got up in jackboot mufti made a big show of trying to arrest an empty motel.

Then, at the very end, comes the clue: all this happened next door to the Courier operation in PV, and during the search police placed the offices "in lock-down" (oooh, how dramatic). Courier employees were involved, so we get a simple failure to maintain proper perspective on what amounts to nothing.

Joanne doesn't tell us who reported the shots in the first place -- a Courier employee, perhaps?

Letter: "Only two ways to deal with water problem"

Franz Rosenberger gives us a nice lesson in framing the water issue.

Talk of the Town: "The words of historical leaders affirm faith"

John Perry responds to Al Herron's column on July 16 and staunchly defends his faith. Too bad he got Al's point backward: not that "faith in God leads to tyranny," but rather that would-be tyrants routinely use religion to advance their ambitions. In his way he reinforces Al's argument by demonstrating the common blind spot among the religious that allows them to be so easily manipulated. Moo.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Letter: "Celebrating guns in wartime irresponsible"

Hmm, here's a familiar voice. Go Miles!

Editorial: "Those who scam the elderly are detestable"

Now here's the unnamed Courier in fine form, standing manfully in the arena of public opinion, muscles flexed artfully, demonstrating his champion finger-wag at an opponent who's chained to the corner post.

I'm thinking I'll send a case of Wheaties down to the editorial office. Someone needs to buf up.

Editorial: "Mass transit almost as elusive as world peace"

I laughed out loud at this headline. World peace and mass transit. I mean, really.

In the weeds of the copy I get the sense that the editor read the A1 story, but didn't understand it at all.

This illustrates the downside of computers: you can take someone else's work, chop it up and spit it out as something new without passing it through any thought process whatever.

Editorial: "Ambivalence plagues Young's Farm site"

I'm a little behind, but I couldn't pass this one up. Someone, please, tell me what a 'plague of ambivalence' looks like. I feel like I'm reading Brautigan here.

The unnamed Courier editor gets a point for using for using 'fatuous' in a sentence (albeit a pretty clunky one), but loses it again for failing to note the irony.

A1: "Police make arrest for attempted murder charges"

It's not Mirsada Buric's fault. That headline writer has got to go. Grammar does actually matter. Here were your easy choices:

"Police arrest man, charge attempted murder"
"Police make arrest, charge attempted murder"
"Police charge attempted murder"

(Except they weren't actually police per se, they were sheriff's deputies. Ah well, details, details.)

These would have required just a bit more imagination:
"Attempted murder charge for Glendale man"
"Cafe shooting results in arrest"
"Glendale man arrested in BCC shooting"
"Abused bus passenger exercises 2nd-Amendment right"

OK, well maybe that last was over the top, but you get the picture. It's just not that hard.

A1: "Verde group struggles to get money"

Well. Republicans make a big show of addressing a problem, then fail to back it up with the necessary resources. I'm so surprised.

I've been reading that the McCain's Straight-Talk Express is wheels-off, in flames and over a cliff. Could it be, I dunno, his famed ego and arrogance, or might it be more about his talking about sober independence as he does nothing but pander to the extremists and toe the party line? What a loser.

Candidate profiles

The Courier started a series yesterday on our candidates for city office, and has so far managed two fouls off two pitches.

In yesterday's piece on Steve Blair, Cindy Barks is pretty careful to ensure that characterizations of Blair are left to the man himself, so the paper doesn't get involved in any qualitative judgment of what he's done. Unfortunately the headline writer tossed this professionalism out the window with glee. If you mean to quote someone, use quote marks.

Cindy chose a little drama for her lead today in the piece on Alan DuBiel, characterizing him as "persistent." I've seen him walking my neighborhood in the sun, and sweaty is not a good look for the man, so the adjective may seem inescapable, but it's still against the rules in a political piece.

No regular Courier reader will be surprised if the paper isn't completely circumspect about how it handles political candidates -- or even sitting officials. This time around, though, I'd like to be surprised at its professionalism.

What I've pointed to today are details many might consider niggly, but over time details build up in the voter's mind, and a monopoly paper's most important duty to society is to inform its voters properly, with facts, not bias. I intend to keep an especially close eye on campaign coverage.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A3: "D-H council approves commercial rezoning at Young's Farm"

I suspect Doug Cook is happy to file this report in hopes that the Monogram story is finally over and he can get on to something more interesting. Some analysis on how the plan has changed since it entered the approval process would be nice, but Doug seems to be touching all the bases with his quotes.

It would have been amazing if the council had approved anything other than standard California commercial development for that corner. The only questions were whether the town would let them leach wet waste into what's left of the river and whether people would be able to use the riverbank as a park. Maybe a last installment to sum up?

A1: "Feds urge regional plan to avoid hurting Verde species"

And our local representatives apparently don't care what our federal agencies think. As usual, we get a lot of talk and no action from those who can make a real difference.

I'm reading a little frustration into Joanna Dodder's piece as well, like she couldn't get a straight answer from anyone in public office here. You just keep after 'em, Jo, you're on the right side.

Editorial: "Dewey woman rises above meth addiction"

Heartwarming. Admirable. Waste of space.

Talk of the Town: "'F-shaped' barrier not a valid solution"

Tom Gilbert, who "bases his comments on 40 years of driving in California," offers a complete design for saving lives on 69, which seems to involve mostly traffic lights for the convenience of Diamond Valley residents. I expect I could come up with some sort of design as well, based on 35 years of driving all sorts of places. I don't imagine ADOT would take me any more seriously than they will Mr Gilbert. You see, Tom, the state hires people with actual training in traffic and highway design to do this sort of work. I wonder how you felt at ATT when amateurs were trying to tell you how to do your job.

In America everyone knows more about traffic than anyone else possibly can.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cartoon: What else can I do for you?

It wouldn't be a recognizable Courier Op-ed page without a little disinformation to play on the readers' fears and ignorant prejudices. This piece, featuring a guy on a beach towel who looks an awful lot like Iraq PM Nuri al-Maliki is particularly odd this week, after he publicly announced that it would be quite happy to do without American forces "anytime they want" and expressed that the our military is paying no attention to what Iraqis need as we shred them randomly in their homes.

Does anyone on this paper read the papers? Just askin'.

Editorial: "A drop in the bucket is still welcome"

Nice. Totally reactive and reactionary, of course, but mostly harmless, and the water-pistol simile is sorta cute. Mercifully short, as well.

More meta: I notice the editorials are all there today under the Opinions tab on the free site. Good job, IT.

Talk of the Town: "Will Young's Farm site be a blight or source of pride?"

I've met Frances Barwood and I like her. She's doing the right thing in trying to get people talking sensible needs and vision over fears. I'm not sure that she's right in betting on the Monogram horse, though, and she seems to be saying that D-H should take what's on offer because the only alternative is worse. The thing is, a working, assiduous P&Z system will help make the thing as good as the law allows.

I'm sure there are some people hopping up and down over there because they can't have the farm back. But those are not the people who should get first dibs on the public mic, and they don't make or break the issue. Let's concentrate instead on what works best for both the community and the owner long-term.

A1: "Prescott council supports fixed-route bus system"

I especially like Cindy Barks' lead here, which adds some historical context often lacking in these stories. As expected, Council has chosen the think-as-small-as-possible option, which will lead to a decade or less of patchy service that won't serve the needs of the community before it collapses and gets labeled as a pointless public boondoggle, thereby dragging down better ideas. The transit advocates are happy that something is happening at last, but the necessary vision and commitment to useful scale is nowhere to be seen. This will be a waste of public money, but not for the reasons its detractors assert. If you won't do it right, Council, leave it for a smarter group, who will.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A1: "Wednesday event highlights Verde River challenges"

Joanna Dodder covers a new report from the Sonoran Institute that further confirms what we all know about pumping the Big Chino -- that it threatens the base flow of the Verde -- and essentially (but not overtly) criticizes what we've allowed to happen over the last ten years. It's a good, clear story on what I'm sure is an eye-glazing document, and interested (non-working) readers should consider checking out the meeting tomorrow morning.

Here was an opportunity for some editorial context and analysis that could do some good. Tim even sidled up to it in his column, but ultimately only dropped a hint. We need to reject the false growth/no-growth dichotomy and start working with sustainability as the top priority, and the Courier should be out front on this rather than hanging back and worse.

Editorial: "Williamson Valley tussel heads to court"

Yup, there's a controversy in WV that's been in the news for years. The unnamed Courier editor is interested enough to fill the space, but not enough to actually take a position. Well, on the bright side, he's not disinforming the voters this time.

The only thing that make the piece entertaining is the headline writer struggling with the spelling of 'tussle.' Yikes.

Meta: Again today I had to run a search of the free site (on 'tussel,' fwiw) to get a link to the editorial. As of 10:30am today the only editorial under the Opinions tab is from the 14th.

Wiederaenders: "Drought plays major part in pumping"

Tim figured out that the water in his well is related to rain, and less rain means less water underground. Very good!

Parting shot: The 20-30-year drought idea is near the optimistic end of the projections, Tim.

A1: Lives claimed

Sunday plane crash claims two lives
Two crashes claim lives of Prescott residents

No particular complaints about the stories, but can we have a little more thought about the headlines? Or has the headline writer been replaced with an automatic cliche-generator?

And this on the free site
"Area finally gets some rain; storms bring lightning too"
is far better than the print version:

Did Joanna maybe take matters in hand when she posted to the site? Heh.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Herron: "Administration uses religion to justify tyranny"

I wouldn't normally have much sympathy for a columnist who turns one in built entirely of old quotes, but I like it that Al understands his place in the universe and gets (as I do about my own scribbling) that what he says on his own doesn't necessarily carry great weight. Quote juxtaposition is a tried and true method for drilling an idea into the reader's forebrain, and in this case its a big, entertaining dope slap to the dead-enders who still manage to find some tortured way of believing in the Bush junta. Would that the editors actually read his stuff.

Editorial: "Congress should enforce ethics"

Duh. So where has the unnamed Courier editor been for the past six years? Head down, grazing in a Fox News salad, that's where.

Meta: Why is this headlined differently on the free site and the print edition? And why, on the free site, are the editorials not showing up anywhere without doing a specific search?

A1: "Texas hold'em: Poker group plays for the fun of it"

You've got to be kidding: two thirds of the front page for a feature on last year's pop addiction. Imagine the reaction if Joanne Twaddell wrote a sunny, informative piece on cooking and enjoying meth. Once again our editorial team demonstrates its utter insensitivity to the import of its own actions.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Editorial: "Someone will always fill inaction vacuum"

Compare this with yesterday's A1 story and it's hard to avoid the conclusion that editorial ideas are distorting the news operation. The bias in the news story was blatant, and today's editorial confirms where that bias originates. The editor imagines himself as a revolutionary, and throws in with garden-variety mob-rule authoritarians playing comic-book cowboy.

It's a little sickening considering the very difficult issues our community and larger society will be facing before the current crop of editors retire to their walled communities and homeowner-association boards, where they belong.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Talk of the Town: "1960s water report on aquifer was accurate"

Ha! I'll bet Ed McGavock thought Win Hjalmarson was dead too, so there'd be no one to rebut him. Speaking fluent bureaucratese, Hjalmarson dismantles the critics of his work with cold precision.

Shorter-term residents may not have heard about the Holiday Lakes swindle. It serves as a simple, direct example of what happens to the Verde when you open the taps on the Big Chino too wide, and Hjalmerson was there measuring the effect.

Ediorial: "Principle prevails in zoning outcome"

I'm sure the county P&Z commission appreciates the unnamed Courier editor's patronizing tone, but beyond that there seems to be no point to today's bloviation other than "See how smart I am?" Here's a nice pat on the head. Now go eat your vegetables, sport.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Editorial: "Rapid area growth brings sticker shock"

Sticker shock for whom? It seems to me that those of us on the loony left have been warning about this kind of risk for decades.

I read past the first couple of grafs and once again I can't figure out what the unnamed Courier editor thinks he's saying.

A1: "Minutemen and Patriot Alliance find common ground"

I'm sure the entire community was deeply concerned that the brownshirts, 'scuse me, yellowshirts, had splintered over different interpretations of the secret handshake, and equally relieved to know that the self-appointed guardians of racial purity will be collaborating to give every available brown-skinned day laborer a hard time. But it's a pretty shameful display on the front page of the daily newspaper of Everybody's Hometown.

Letter: "Local firefighter finds roundabouts to be safe"

Who should know better?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Editorial: "Illegal immigration must be taken as seriously as drugs"

For once I can agree completely with a Courier editorial headline. The immigration non-problem and the War on Some Drugs are both trumped-up political issues designed to get reactionaries elected, and should be taken equally seriously -- not at all.

But then I read the piece, in which the unnamed Courier editor leaps a huge logical crevasse from the county budgeting more money for drug interdiction to his pet peeve about scary brown people, and I gather he doesn't take these issues very seriously either. It's so slapdash it seems he scribbled it out while watching O'Reilly on TV.

If you don't care about it anymore, give the job to somebody else, man. This is pathetic.

A1: "Former deputy worked while on probation"

Sheriff Waugh remains stuck up to his knees in the dung left behind by Buck Buchanan, and Mirsada Buric is doing a pretty good job of reporting the stink. Too bad it's got to splash all the deputies who aren't sex-crazed racist death-metal cokeheads.

A1: "EPA official asks governor to consider Iron King Mine, smelter as a Superfund site"

Anyone else remember the president of Ironite publicly drinking his own fertilizer product to demonstrate its safety? Now he's gone (elsewhere, not dead, as far as I know) and the EPA is finally getting to work on what to do about the mountain of orange arsenic-laced tailings overshadowing D-H, as well as the mess left by Kuhl's, I gather. Maybe the new town can pump it all up as job opportunities.

Here's what you get when you don't think about the future. The future eventually shows up and we all get stuck with the check. Does this teach us a lesson that might filter through into an editorial?

A7: "Prescott City Council unanimously approves Storm Ranch Project"

I've often defended Council against criticism that they just go along with what developers want because they're stupid or evil-hearted. I still don't think any of that is true, but this particular decision is a bit disheartening, in that Council has the example next door of the proposed Fann development that it could be using to set the bar higher. And as usual the City Manager seems much more interested in paving than water, but I wasn't there.

All good work by Cindy Barks.

Cartoon: More Clinton-bashing

Haven't we had enough of this nonsense yet? Amateurs.

Ignatius: "Running out of opportunities to avoid bloodshed in Iraq"

David Ignatius shills for the Bush administration by rolling out a standard talking point -- if we get out, there'll be a bloodbath! I guess half a million Iraquis already dead and who knows how many maimed doesn't qualify as a bloodbath in Ignatius' book. What planet are these people on, and where can I get some of that crack?

There was a civil war going on in Iraq long before the Bushites invaded -- the steady winners were just in charge of the government and had most of the firepower -- and there will be civil war there until the underlying issues are resolved. Our military involvement there is only making things worse, that's as plain as day.

But I'll look forward to the editors printing a proper rebuttal to this bonehead argument. Our town could profit from open and informed discussion of this issue. There's a national election coming up.

Originally headlined "A Consensus Waiting to Happen," July 12. (free sign-in newly required)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Editorial: "One's word of honor isn't worth what it used to be"

Oh, spare me. More glowering invocations of idealized cowboy culture from our resident wannabe, railing like a mustachioed melodramatist that this developer is acting, um, just like a developer. Puh-leeze!

We've been here before, of course.

You know what, Ben? A person's word has always mattered, and it's always mattered all over this country, not just the "West." You watch way too many cowboy movies on TV, it's time to grow up.

And your headline sucks.

A1: "Supervisors OK $248.9 million budget"

I can't really blame Paula Rhoden for trying to squeeze this information into the form her editor wants, it should have been designed better. We wind up trying to read a spreadsheet without the gridlines, with bits about the actual effects that matter to voters sprinkled among the wreckage. Ack.

Letter: "Cloke should check population trends"

Al West disputes Paul Cloke's figures in his June 27 ToT on doubling times vs 100-year water assurances. Even so, West agrees that 100-year assurances are so much BS. So why argue? Perhaps it's his attachment to a false equivalency between developers and 'environmentalists.'

Talk of the Town: "Forest project violates environmental policy"

I feel like I just walked into the middle of a meeting. Robert Grossman, a retired DoE environmental engineer who apparently ought to know, says that the Forest Service hasn't done due diligence on the environmental impact of the proposed cement plant in Drake. I can see how this would be a knotty problem considering how hard up the local construction industry is for cement. He ends with the reasonable statement, "This proposed project either should conform to regulations or officials should stop it." My question is: which officials? Nowhere in the piece do we get a sense of what can be done about this or who would do it if the Forest Service sticks to its decisions. Who do we call, Bob?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Editorial: "Barriers might not be pretty, but they are safe"

The unnamed Courier editor recycles Friday's A1 story in the accustomed manner, but towards the end he applies some unaccustomed bite.

Skip over the first few grafs of weird-uncle story, skim the middle bit since you read it last week, and focus on the almost-last graf, in which he calls the mayor and Council "asinine" for wanting something prettier on Prescott's boulevard main entrance than an LA-style freeway.


A1: "Reading fights uphill battle for attention"

Derek Meurer writes, "With television, the Internet, and many other forms of electronic media vying for attention, it is hard for people to make time to read." I'm confused. I'm reading what he's written, but apparently from his point of view I'm not actually reading, because I have no newsprint in my hands.

I know Alan Foster for years and his work for decades, and I'm sure he never meant to imply that online reading is not reading, as Meurer does on his behalf. Rather, he was clearly talking about reading physical books. Meurer or the editor pretty well passed over that qualifying noun, leaving the impression that the Courier does not understand the meaning of the verb "read." (I could be a lot snarkier about that, but it'd hardly be fair.)

I'm a little tired of old media crying crocodile tears about how new media are causing the death of the culture. Newsprint makes me sneeze, and Email has done more to revive the daily practice of communication through writing than a hundred years of penmanship classes. Get over yourselves, guys.

Letter: "Articles presume guilt instead of innocence"

Hmm. Vic Hambrick's campaign manager, Kathy Lopez, writes to protest the Courier's coverage, which first saw print on May 6 and tailed off over a month ago. Has the Courier been unusually slow to print her letter, or has Lopez been more than a little behind the curve on this? Jumping up and down about it at this late date only serves to keep the issue warm, and that better serves the Courier's editorial position than Hambrick.

Monday, July 9, 2007

A5: "Sunny Arizona to increase use of solar power "

Here's the story that should have been on A1 in place of the divorce feature. Of course, it has to be from AP because the Courier editors are not exercised to devote budget to the local angles of this important change in state energy policy.

This is the sort of thing that really affects all of us, now and more so in the future, and our local paper should be helping our community understand its implications and opportunities.

A1: "Divorce 101 leads people through dissolution process"

Paula Rhoden turns in what seems to be an installment in the Courier's continuing irregular series on county services that contrasts with the previous press releases and love letters in that she stays off the personalities and provides some substantial information. In fact it seems she experienced the divorce class, took notes and delivers most of the info the actual students get.

It's more like a magazine feature than a news story, probably rating layout on B1, and the Tammy Wynette reference makes me wince, but Paula gets a cookie all the same for assiduous public service on a tough subject.

A1: "Movie night: Arizona Mobile Cinema recreates old-time drive-in feeling"

Today's front-page photo box is an unabashed promotion of a commercial venture. It's particularly irritating given that the Courier largely ignored Terry Stone when he was showing free movies on the square with no commercial interest. But these out-of-towners looking for money from 'sponsors' get the red-carpet treatment. Typical.

Think business section, guys.

Amster: "Lesson for the day: Life cannot exist without water"

OK, Coleridge is a little cooler than Shane, but I still don't need a cultural cliche to start an opinion piece. I hope this is just a lapse and Randall's not being infected by the Courier's editorial stylebook.

Randall runs down a series of unhappy experiences related to water and ruminates on how it will feel to run out of it as we grow our communities into unsustainability. This is all good, though as usual I'd like to see less lamenting and more leadership to action.

Overall the structure isn't bad for delivering some good ideas. But let's not neglect the core craft here, and that's writing. That final mixed metaphor closes the column with the resounding thud of a falling elephant load.

Editorial: "Gun designers provide tools to protect freedom"

Well, well, I come back to the blog from a little break and the unnamed Courier editor comes up with a piece so stereotypically hackneyed it might be taken for satire if not for its top-left spot in the layout.

Right at the top we have the standard gratuitous reference to a cowboy movie, in a lame attempt to illuminate a hack idea that the editor apparently mistakes for sage insight. This is of course in defense of the expanding production and willy-nilly distribution of deadly weapons for all, on the occasion of the birthday of the AK-47. For me this model designation instantly evokes pictures of African child soldiers, and of course in unmodified form it is completely illegal within the US borders, but that doesn't phase the editor. The local angle here utterly evades me. The editor sees these weapons as tools of freedom, missing entirely that they are far more often tools of oppression and hate. Is this really appropriate use of a small-town editorial column?

The kicker is that all the while the editor is intoning stentoriously about the virtues of this death device, he lets slip just how much he knows about the subject by consistently misspelling "Kalashnikov." Way to go, man.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Editorial: "Water scarcity is causing ripple effect"

You won't find any "ripple effect" in the copy, that comes from the headline writer, who just couldn't resist.

I'd like to give the unnamed Courier editor some props here, as it appears that flying-brick-obvious reality may at last be bubbling up through cracks in the floor of the editorial suite. But then he applies witless characterization, apparently attempting to deprive all involved in the issue of public credibility, undermining the reader's hope for positive change.

No, no one involved wants to "stop growth cold," and if the editor had been paying attention he'd have seen that in the recent public comments on the proposed new Fann development near the airport, where the developer seems to be sincere about doing things differently. Similarly, there's no "camp" advocating growth at any cost, though Carol Springer would be happy to assemble one if she could find enough halfwits to carry her flag.

This sort of characterization says far more about the editor's lack of interest in what's really happening than the progress we're making toward solving our water problems. It's good that he's finally starting to connect the dots on a picture most of us have understood for a decade or more, and I invite the editor to start showing up at the meetings and listen. He's way behind the curve.

Talk of the Town: "Do the math: Local population explosion looms"

Paul Cloke turns in a geeky but pertinent perspective on what the current growth numbers would really bode for the future if they were to continue unchecked. It might have been useful to use the word 'sustainability' in here somewhere, but I'm sure it'll occur to anyone with the fortitude to slog through his prose.

The juxtaposition with today's editorial is interesting.

A1: Rodeo season

Every year at this time we get daily features on Prescott's annual indulgence in animal domination. As I've written before, I don't do sports coverage, I just wish this craven pandering to commercial interest was wasting space in the sports section rather than page one.

A1:"Council gets first look at Regional Transit Study"

Cindy Barks covers what was pretty clearly another dull meeting where the Council spent valuable time teething over information it's had for years. This gives me the old sinking feeling, that once again they'll take a visionary concept with huge potential and compromise it into meaninglessness and waste.

I've said it before: you don't build mass transit in baby steps. Extensive routes, hours and frequency are necessary to success, and the best way to sour people on the idea is to make them pay for something they can't really use.

A1: "Prescott Forest bans all fire uses, shooting Friday"

It's about time, I'd say.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Editorial: "Status quo preferable to immigration bill"

I have to give the unnamed Courier editor some points today for applying himself a little more than usual in terms of original writing, timing the issue properly for voter effect and avoiding any mention of cowboys or dated pop culture. Hooray. But he loses points again for trying to make voters dumber.

His use of charged buzzwords in place of thinking is obvious. Less obvious is his employment of poll numbers to support his preconceptions. A more nuanced and reliable analysis is easily available from the Pew Center, directly contradicting several of the editor's core points. The overall point that most people say they don't like the bill is true as far as it goes, but not because they have a considered understanding of the issues or the bill.

Here the editor is fulfilling only his chosen role as part of the right-wing echo chamber, where he should be getting past his personal prejudices to serve the interests of the community. A personal, bylined column is fundamentally different from an unsigned editorial in this regard, and this piece should have come with a byline.

A1: "Council cuts bed tax hike proposal by half"

Cindy Barks covers the basics pretty well, but I can't help feeling that something's missing from this story.

We have the major business players supporting a two-percent bed-tax rise to allow for more tourism promotion. We have an apparently small group of hotels resisting, and Councilcritters compromising as a result, probably in part because of ideological opposition to taxes.

What's bugging me is that if City-sponsored promotion is making the Chamber happy, why are some hotels not happy? Might there be some favoritism going on in the promotions? If investing in promotion is working, why don't the Chamber members just get together and invest the money that Council now says it won't extract in taxes? Might the tax regime be creating a market distortion that some businesses can use to advantage over others?

I'd like to see more on this.

A1: "School board member is at the heart of 9-1-1 dispute"

Anyone who's watched Tom Staley on the PUSD board will not be surprised at this story, in which his hot-headedness gets a little out of hand. This ran him straight into conflict with the ridiculous over-cautiousness of our lawnforcement policy today, in which overreaction is not just tolerated, it's required. Mirsada Buric went beyond summarizing the police report to get comments from Staley, all good. The recording of the 911 call on the free site is welcome too.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A1: "No water in a desert"

We semi-urbanites can take a lesson from our more rural neighbors on just how close we all are to the edge of survival these days. Joanna Dodder turns in a good story and informative sidebar on continuing problems with Wilhoit Water that ought to give us all pause, and don't think it can't happen in town just because our system is bigger and doesn't employ any ridiculous coin boxes.

This issue might also make for a more pertinent editorial, informing both urban and rural voters. Either our legal system is too weak to properly regulate these companies, or somebody in government is falling down on the job.

Editorial: "Method is ugly, results are the same"

Somebody needs more coffee. Today the unnamed Courier editor sleepwalks through yet another 250 words on the PV Wal-Mart aftermath, to no apparent purpose other than to fill the space. There's an amusing element in his working in a gratuitous cowboy reference by saying that he can't figure out how to work in a gratuitous cowboy reference, but nothing else worth the read.

I can picture this with the editor's picture at the top on B1 -- it's essentially the breezy commentary column that's been missing for a while. I'd say it's time for the unnamed Courier editor to move into the old-soldier role and turn the top-left space over to someone who's got the energy to do it right.

Wiederaenders: "Somebody must step up to transportation plate"

This is good. Tim gets hold of a local issue, applies some analysis and thought, takes a position and delivers it in a timely manner to have an effect on voters and our representatives. That I agree with his position on this is gravy. This is how a Courier editorial should look, and my only complaint is that it isn't at top left in place of the current waste of space.

Coming?: Kyl shills for rightwing talker

I'm looking forward to seeing what the Courier does with this hint from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on who's operating our Senator:

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., the key conservative negotiator behind the compromise bill, told reporters Friday that California-based radio host Hugh Hewitt “had several ideas” that “we are trying to include” in amendments to be offered in an upcoming series of crucial votes.
Hewitt, a conservative who has criticized many aspects of the bill, had Kyl as a guest on Thursday and asked: “Does the bill provide for any separate treatment of aliens, illegal aliens from countries of special concern?”
Kyl replied: “It’s going to, as a result of your lobbying efforts to me.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Amster: "'Sanctity of life' too complex for narrow views"

Randall's getting better at this. In today's effort he weaves some needed nuance into a national issue on which most people are rock-ignorant, and brings it home with a real local connection. Good show.

I appreciate Randall's assiduous work to calm the waters and get people talking on an adult level. It still ropes me off that we're dealing with this as any kind of controversy, though. We all know, if we're paying attention and honest about it, that this is an invented political issue directly related to the ongoing effort to assign human rights to blastocysts, which is a reactionary stratagem designed primarily to regain legal control over the sexuality of women. I'm really sick of it, we ought to be past this.

Editorial: "Congress disappoints again with ‘pork’ bill"

The unnamed Courier editor feels that $153 million in earmarked spending, in the context of a trillion-dollar budget that doesn't include funding for two ongoing wars, is something worth his morning finger-wag. OK, fair enough, how are we doing, relatively speaking?

Drawing from a comparative report by the Congressional Research Service (big PDF), I did a couple of sums. It appears that for '05, following a decade of consecutive increases, Congress earmarked over 1.2 billion bucks for over 16,000 individual projects. Took me about ten minutes, including downloading the 50-page report on dialup.

I can't say how the editor arrived at his number, so I don't know that it's directly comparable, but I'm sure that if he'd found a higher number he'd have used it. I'll walk right past the discussion we ought to be having about the good that's bound to be mixed in with the bad in the earmark pile. Just taking the editor's supposed point of view, it seems to me that in the context of his apparent desire to reduce earmarks, a drop in this category of spending by nearly an order of magnitude in two years ought to be cause for celebration rather than disappointment.

So which do we have here: a lack of interest in the simplest research, or a considered effort to make the voters dumber and slam Democrats? Either way, our community is poorly served.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Editorial: "Missing FTA deadline pushes back progress"

All right, I'll be nice and avoid dwelling on the amusing irony presented with the Courier editorial page warning of the dark implications should a public program that the editors have worked against for years miss its chance at a dip from the public trough. I agree completely, we need public transit, we'll need public money to make it happen, and we deserve Federal participation as much as any municipality in the country. Perhaps the unnamed Courier editor could help boost the profile of the CYMPO initiative, thereby building motivation and organization to hit the numbers and get it done.

Letters: Guns kill reason

Our pal Candace McNulty performs her trademark elegant slapdown of Bob Shimizu and his me-too chorus. Must read.

Talk of the Town: "Cheap tomatoes cost the U.S. $2.4 trillion"

Fellow blogger Tom Steele makes the case for the simple-minded approach to the immigration non-problem. There's not much here we haven't seen before, of course, and on this page at that, but it's a good example of how whipping people up emotionally can effect one's judgment about the facts.

I knew Tom was headed for trouble with his lead: "Most people know Latino farm workers have been part of our American picture since the 1940s." Most people also know that Mexican farm workers have been in the picture throughout the Southwest since long before there was an American picture at all.

But Tom's core argument is built on the idea that illegal workers receive more in services than they contribute in tax revenues. Here's a little of the research that Tom missed, as quoted by the National Immigration Law Center:

According to Alan Greenspan, Federal Reserve Board Chairman, in congressional testimony, July 2001, "undocumented workers contribute more than their fair share to our great country". He continued to inform Congress that immigrants, including undocumented workers, in essence donate $27 billion to state and local economies.

This is the difference between what they pay in taxes -- $70 billion -- and what they use in services -- $43 billion. Greenspan also testified that in Illinois alone "Illegal workers pay $547 million in taxes yearly, compared to $238 million in services used." This is a net "profit" for Illinois of $309 million.

A recent February 2002 study by the University of Illinois found that even as undocumented workers paid federal and state income taxes -- one study puts the amount of taxes paid at $90 billion per year -- they did not claim the tax refunds for which they were eligible. These unclaimed refunds amount to the donation of billions of dollars to the public coffers.

Another study by the Urban Institute found that undocumented workers contribute $2.7 billion to Social Security and another $168 million to unemployment insurance taxes. Because of their illegal status, these workers will not be able to access these programs even if they wanted to. In addition to the above tax donations, undocumented workers pay billions of dollars in local and state sales taxes when they purchase appliances, furniture, clothes and other goods.

According to The National Immigration Forum undocumented immigrants pay about $7 billion annually in taxes, subsidizing funds like Social Security and unemployment insurance from which they cannot collect benefits. In California, which accounts for about 43 percent of the nation's undocumented population, or about 1.4 million people, undocumented immigrants pay an additional $732 million in state and local taxes.

These are older numbers, but there's plenty more. This is an easy one.

Tom's big number in the headline is based on this idea: The (unimpeachably right-wing) Heritage Foundation "estimates the 'underpayment' of all taxes including the earned income tax credit, items previously mentioned and the projection of all Social Security benefits for life on these 20 million legal residents, is estimated at $2.4 trillion!" Hate to break it to you, Tom, but notice that this is about legal beneficiaries. Illegals can't get Social Security benefits. If they could, you might have a case, in the real world, no.

Tom is kiting large parts of his argument on his own prejudice that no one is paying attention to the real social costs incurred by illegals. It's just not true. These costs are well studied, well documented and available to anyone who can handle a Google search line. The social scientists and economists are in broad agreement that illegals are net contributors by a large margin.

Yup, and your tomatoes are cheap -- not because the illegals are being subsidized, but because their employers can more easily exploit them. You want a real scary story, look at what's happening with corn, what government subsidies of corn producers here are doing to the Mexican agricultural industry, and how that's affecting the northward flow of economic refugees.

A1: "Endowment equals more money for teachers, students"

We hear from the state treasurer and leading school-district administrators in this piece by Shari Lopatin about additional megaclams coming down from the state to the districts. For me as a voter I'd like to know how this will affect my kid, so what really matters is exactly how much of this money will wind up on the tax return of my kid's teacher (OK, I don't have a kid and I don't want one, just stay with me here).

We get a hint of that on the other side of the turn from Humboldt, estimating maybe $450 per year, but Prescott was pretty coy, as usual, and more focused on administrative staff. I'd expect rather more blunt language from a representative of the teachers union, but apparently that interview didn't happen. Any reason for that, Shari?

A1: "Municipalities release review critical of USGS water reports"

Joanna Dodder is pretty careful to separate fact from PR in this report on Prescott and PV going after the strongest basis for skepticism about what they're hoping to do with their rights to the Big Chino aquifer.

The strategy has become standard in our anti-intellectual age -- use the scientists' own acceptance that nothing is ever completely known against them (and us) and argue that since it's not completely true, it's therefore completely false. While this line of reasoning ought not to work on anyone over the age of seven, our education system seems to be allowing altogether too many people to graduate unequipped to deal with even this most obvious logical fallacy.

It'll be interesting to see what the editor makes of this on the op-ed page. Tomorrow, maybe, with a cowboy reference?

The sidebar notes that the USGS scientists have not been invited to the party as the PR campaign rolls out. I'm so surprised.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Reagan: "Republicans going down with the ship"

This is sort of funny. Reagan seems to believe that the Republican party is imploding because of the immigration bill rather than the gross incompetence of the Bush administration across the board.

Reagan seems to be forgetting that his industry -- ravening right-wing entertainment -- was invented in the early '90s to move the country's political discourse rightward, not to actually serve the wacky ideas the wingnuts and religionists put forward out there in reactionary Bizarro world. Reagan came to truly believe that the nutbar tail has been wagging the corporate dog, and now he's all hurt that the corporatists are abandoning the extremists faster than a Vegas escort dumps a crapped-out date. Life's tough when you're stupid.

"Going Down with the Ship," June 14

Meta: Link policy

I've been talking with the Web mavens at the Courier about how I can link to Courier stories without treading too heavily on the proprietary rights of the subscription site, and we've reached a happy agreement that I'll link to the free site unless I can't. They're still shaking the bugs out of the free site, and I know what a PIA that can be, so I've been keeping quiet about difficulties there until they're finished. This morning the free site has been really erratic and I couldn't get a link, so in the post below I linked to the sub site instead. I'll get that changed when I can, so don't be surprised if a link switches on you.

Editorial: "City-county land swap a win-win deal"

Repackage yesterday's page one, add a gratuitous reference to dated cowboy culture, and call it good. The unnamed Courier editor's job is easy.

OK, here's what really bugs me about this.

The constitutional role of the press is to inform the voter so that the voter is equipped to make informed decisions about public policy. An editorial is a position on public policy taken by the news organization as a whole, which is why editorials are traditionally unsigned. The purpose of a newspaper publicly endorsing what amounts to a political position is a call to action by the public, presumably informed by the editor's knowledge and analysis.

So the time to take a position is before the political decision is made, hopefully far enough in advance that voters have time to weigh in effectively. Editorials like this, reacting to the end of a long series of events and applauding from the sidelines, or like yesterday's, reacting to something on TV that has absolutely nothing to do with our community, demonstrate a weak grasp of the editor's responsibility to the community. The top left corner should never be treated as filler.

Update, 11:20: Relinked.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A1: "Williamson Valley Road design almost complete"

Paula Rhoden turns in a good, well balanced story on the runaway development project that Williamson Valley Road has become despite tremendous effort by local residents to get it under control. It may be that most locals favor the five-lane idea, as the Queen Bee claims, but I see nothing but her word on that. Maybe Paula can follow up with some investigation of this critical factor.

Editorial: "Nifong deserves whatever he gets"

Today's top-left rant is matched with a cartoon on the same subject, bringing a sort of Martha Stewart coordination to the editorial page. I seem to recall that I got a memo from Tim a while ago claiming "LOCAL, LOCAL, LOCAL" as his all-capped "mantra." Apparently he failed to distribute it in his own office. As with the recent editorial-page fascination with Paris Hilton, our editors are simply writing out the acid reflux of what they consumed from TV the night before. My advice would be to slug some Maalox and start paying attention to what's happening right here in everybody's hometown.

Goodman: "Politics: the red and blue of stem cells"

Considering the treatment Goodman was regularly getting up to some weeks ago, I suppose I really shouldn't complain that her columns have lately been coming through full-length and not much distorted by editorial depredation. Today's (originally titled "Tinting Science," June 14) is well in that trend. We have only to endure the editor's unaccountable fear of the passive voice.

Here's Ellen's lead sentence:
"By now you may be forgiven for suspecting that science is tinted -- if not entirely tainted -- by politics. "

And the Courier version:
"By now most will forgive you for suspecting that politics taint science."

Somebody please explain to me how this improves the column. To my eye it's hack work of the lowest order.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A3: "Council to reconsider Young’s Farm rezone"

I jumped at this headline, but then I read the lead. Standard usage of "reconsider" in this situation implies a change of mind about the issue. What's actually happening is that the council is meeting again to move the issue forward on the same track. The headline is misleading, probably just an ignorant mistake, but the sort that makes my teeth itch.

Editorial: "Reneging shows lack of integrity"

The unnamed Courier editor seems surprised and discomfited that a developer might do something other than he promised to gain commercially from public indulgence. References to turnip trucks and 'born yesterday' crowd in, but we needn't go there, because I just don't buy it. This is ass-covering.

Guys, you know how the business operates, and you knew that guy would turn around and raise his middle finger to everyone involved as soon as he got the chance. You could have been more skeptical when the controversy was happening, and you could have given more credence to the legitimately concerned neighbors rather than dismiss them as cranks. Your shaking a finger now insults the intelligence of your readers. You ought instead to be apologizing for your complicity in creating the problem.

Herron: "Sports salaries say a lot about our priorities"

The sky is blue, water's wet, and what Americans spend on sports is stupid. Tell me something I don't know. Al's narrative is completely predictable up to the last graph, where he makes the jump to his favorite angry-letter-generator:

"I sit here wondering why we humans are so crazy. I can explain it fairly well as a result of about 100,000 years of human evolution. Would someone please explain it to me as God’s handiwork?"
This is just calculated to draw amusing responses from people who are intellectually ill-equipped to defend themselves. It's hardly fair, Al.


Every year as July 4 approaches we see more stories like this one about animal-domination sports. Its prominent placement makes it clear that the editors are completely bought into the idea of the rodeo as a premiere cultural event. I think it's possible that they don't realize how many of us see the rodeo as a cultural embarrassment that ought to be in the same dustbin with cockfighting, bear-baiting, dwarf-tossing and pitting slaves against lions for entertainment, and see what happens to our town over that weekend as a huge pain in the ass.

What they do realize, I'm sure, is that the events of rodeo constitute sport, and commercial sport at that. If they feel it's worthy of coverage, fine, I'll just ask that they put it where it belongs: in the sports section.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A1: "Archaeologists relate challenges of border fence work"

Joanna Dodder turns in the only useful story today on the complications created by simple-minded conclusion-jumping (I almost wrote "thinking," but that doesn't actually apply here) about the border. Worth reading.

Father's Day issue

If you're into heartwarming tribute to the romantic ideal of the American father, you're in for a treat in today's Courier, which is chock-full of it. If you're not, the Sunday edition is a pretty nearly complete waste of time and paper.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Letters: Asphalt blues

Jim Finley makes a good point about radar, and Robert Reuillard bleats that his street isn't being treated with the privilege he thinks it deserves. Come see my street, Bob.

Editorial: "Mesa Air rekindles its Love connection"

The unnamed Courier editor waxes rhapsodic about the return of the provider of local air service that was always slow, spotty and too expensive, but not quite as bad as the current contractor. Live it up, rubes, and it's only a quarter to see the naked contortionist in the box.

Now can we talk about something important?

Gratuitous dated pop-culture reference: The Love Connection. I'll just go gargle some Drano now.

Cartoon: Iraqi Benchmarks

I can't read the signature online, but it sure looks like someone's ripping off Sergio Aragones. I guess I'm thick today, I don't get the point.

Talk of the Town: "Rodeo regulations ensure animals' welfare"

Katie Hill defends her sport against Phyllis Meyers' May 31 LTE (which I'd love to link in, but with the advent of the new Courier free site all the old links are dead). Shorter: We have all these rules we follow and we love our animals, so everything is OK, really.

My sister's a horsewoman and I understand the insider viewpoint. I also understand the viewpoint from outside the fence, which should not be dismissed as simply ignorant. That fence separates quite different values and the people involved are talking past one another, neither getting what the other is seeing at all.

This non-communication is important to Prescott in that the rodeo is such a big deal and taken for granted as such by its devotees and fans, ignoring the large and growing part of the population that finds it disgusting. I expect that there's eventually gonna be some trouble over this that the rodeo people won't see coming.

A1: "Undercover: Retailers smoke out underage customers "

This is a followup to Mirsada Buric's April 30 story about the sting operation, but I'm not clear on what exactly is new here (and my link to the old story is dead) or how the headline is true. It appears, to the contrary, that retailers are getting worse about selling dangerous drugs to kids. The 'when' component of the story is really weak, all plain present tense and no dates. I'm guessing the AG's office sent out a press release to confirm April's preliminary results and the editor didn't bother filling in the context.

A1: "Witness: Taskforce lacked training, info to properly raid home"

I'm a little confused by Mirsada Buric's story on the trial over the Prescott PD getting caught with its PANTs down. (sorry, irresistible) The lead says, "The final witness in Robert Howell’s civil trial testified Friday that the Prescott Area Narcotics Task Force’s training was deficient...." In the final graph, that witness actually testified, "I feel I was defrauded in this questioning (in the federal trial). They did indeed have the training." This is the key story point, crucial to public evaluation of the lawnforcement program, but the body copy seems to undercut the lead and headline. What gives?

What's up with the blog?

I've been heavily involved in a confidential project over the past couple of weeks that's been sucking a lot of the air out of my schedule. I hope to get back on track this week.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Letters: Rerun season

Haven't we seen almost all of these before?

Editorial: "Immigration law is smoke and mirrors"

The unnamed Courier editor is in rare form today, railing against everyone involved in trying to fix the immigration non-problem because, well, it's really so simple, you see, and those awful legislators are just too conniving to do the right thing.

That's not particularly remarkable, but the dark brutishness so proudly displayed in today's rant is breathtaking:

"Democrats are drooling over the prospect of a torrent of potential votes from a whole new dependent class. Republicans are loathe to give up campaign contributions from employers who want to keep the cheap labor. ... Do we want the folks who are driving most of the major crime stories of recent months and those who congregate at Lincoln and Grove avenues every morning not only increasing in number but also voting in our elections?"

("Loathe" is the verb, by the way, editor, you were looking for "loath.") Let's see, how many fear buttons can we push at once? Dems want dependent (stupid, shiftless) voters (for them), capitalists want cheapo labor (at public expense), all those nasty brown people are criminals, and your political representatives are only in it for themselves. It would be amusing if it weren't so embarrassing for our community.

Cartoon: Crumbling conservative base

I get that the artist's message is meant to be pretty simple. But seeing Bush holding aloft the torch of Liberty makes my head hurt from cognitive dissonance.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Editorial: "Authorities are to 'protect and serve'"

That's what I'm talkin' about. The unnamed Courier editor gets a cookie. Police officers who act like frat yobbos should be taken out and, I don't know, have their heads shaved or something.

Wiederaenders: "'Handle' it - just remember to smile"

Heartwarming, Tim. It would fit great between Angus and Heloise. On the op-ed page it's cheese whiz.

Letters: Grumble, grumble

Rowle made a big mistake in saying that he'd got no complaints about the roundabout, it was like a bugle call for volunteers. A little sensible balance comes from an out-of-state reader (why?).

A3: "PVPD suspends K-9 dog again, victim suffers minor injuries"

Police dog scratches handcuffed woman. From the story it seems like awfully small potatoes to rate a quarter page, but there's widespread public distrust of the dog program because the same dog mauled a jogger last year. It'd be really easy to conclude that PVPD is a little slack about handling its dogs. I just can't be confident we're getting the whole story, it feels incomplete and it feeds into public fear.

A1: "Principal resigns weeks after student protest"

You know, this story has been bugging me for weeks. Through the quotes we get lots of opinion -- all on one side since the now-ex-principal refused to play -- but I'm finding very few facts in the coverage. Should we be satisfied that a public high-school staff has just exploded, leaving a bunch of kids minus both a couple of teachers they apparently loved and a principal cast as the heavy, and we know next to nothing about what actually happened?

A1: "Wildfire report raises concerns of gun range neighbors"

Yeah, if the business next door was setting my neighborhood on fire, I'd be a little concerned too. Anybody else think the shooting range is getting kid-gloves treatment here? It's not like it hasn't happened before.

A1: "Campaign committee disputes complaint but willing to settle"

We have a huge fight going on right now over a state budget that will affect every one of us, with the potential for great good and great harm depending on how it shakes out, and nary a word about it in the Courier. But an offer of a $167 settlement in a political pissing match -- just an offer, mind, no actual news here -- rates page-one ink. What a world.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Light posting this week

What with some catch-up to do on major projects and recording for a new jazz album, I'm gonna be pretty busy this week. I'm also learning to find my way around the new Courier Website, and I won't say much about that until I get used to it. If something really egregious comes up, you'll hear about it.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Coming: Courier editor takes it back

Now that Rep. William Jefferson (D-Cash and Carry) has been indicted and Speaker Pelosi has indicated she's not down for shielding him from Justice (as Hastert did), we can expect that he's in for a slow media roasting and a relatively quick exit from his seat. We can also anticipate that the Courier editor will applaud the professional way it's being handled by the Dem leaders, and admit he underestimated them on June 1. I'm hoping to see some credibility-building on this one.

Editorial: "Prop. 400 groups take the low road"

I was sort of thinking that the unnamed Courier editor was doing all right today. He properly slags the Wal-Mart shills for their petty BS, expanding on the A1 story with some actual analysis. Then we get to the end, where he shoots himself in the foot with yet another gratuitous cowboy reference. Ecch.

Herron: "Embassy is proof U.S. not leaving Iraq"

Al's promised followup on his May 21 column enumerates a few of the many ways that the Preznit's awesome adventure in Iraq is a clusterfuck of monumental proportions, he almost says directly Get Out Now, and we should be grateful to see the majority view of the American people showing up on our local opinion page for once. Maybe that's why Al is doing it -- he knows that the editors are unlikely to print anyone who really knows what's going on over there, and he's got the opportunity, which in this situation amounts to a public responsibility.

All I'd ask for in addition, Al, is a pointer or two so that a less informed reader can find her way to authoritative, trustworthy sources.

Letters: Yes on roundabouts

OK, the letters aren't much today, I'm talking about the little "Online Comments" box, where we see three thumbs up for roundabouts.

John K mentioned in comments here that the roundabout story was heavily read, so I imagine it got a lot of comments. I wonder whether anyone did a tally on support vs. disaffection.

A1: "Public Fiduciary protects county's most vulnerable"

Paula Rhoden continues the series on county departments. This one requires more spelling out than usual, since few of us ever come into contact with it or understand what it does. That's fine, as far as it goes. Paula's coverage does not improve on the Courier's previous work in this series as steno to the government, no surprise.

There's a telling quote at the end, however, and I wonder whether Paula fully understood it when she put it in. The fiduciary says, "... In reality, a public fiduciary is the defacto client. We are the person we are protecting," managing with one sentence to be both patronizing to the people she serves and self-aggrandizing while she thinks she's expressing good public service. This is a cultural trait down at the county building that we all ought to pay a bit more attention.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Talk of the Town: "Q & A: The immigration reform bill"

Well, maybe I'm just more interested in "local, local, local" than the editors. For the second day running we have a "ToT" lifted from a radical-right doublethink-tank. Background here and here, have a look for yourself. Just do your homework and check out their numbers at the sources, these people are very slick.

And what might be the point of having a New Yorker comment on immigration policy in a local Arizona paper under a "local" slug? Consider the implications....

Editorial: "Survey says: People like photo radar"

Today we get the gratuitous reference to moldy pop culture in the headline, where it is thankfully brief. Other than that there's nothing new here on Friday's A1 dictation job, except perhaps a little more effort to cover up the holes in the methodology. Should readers take that to derive from simple ignorance of statistical science, or semi-conscious effort to prove out the Courier editor's bias?

Cartoon: War bill pork

I notice that the plane still seems to be flying OK.

Like most people outside of Congress, I agree that our rules for making legislation are way too permissive about unrelated amendments,and the culture that's developed is horrible. But it's not OK to only bitch about it when your favored team is out of majority.

Letters: The Kestrel walkout

Three views from a parent, a student and one of the founders of Kestrel High. Nobody's happy with the administration.

A1: "Frustration, low pay drive teachers away"

We knew this was happening, but I hadn't seen the alarming turnover rates before. It's really a strong indictment of how our schools are being run, and the blame can probably be widely distributed among the legislature, the various boards and education authorities, and school administrators. This also puts a slightly different spin on how less desirable teachers are getting into our classrooms.

Even though teachers cite pay as an important factor, Shari Lopatin didn't give us any numbers on that. It's been covered before to an extent, but it should have been here. According to the American Federation of Teachers, Arizona ranks 31st among the states in teacher pay, averaging just under $40K. That's not terrible, a little below the midline, until you compare with California at #1 and approaching $56K on average, with a comparable cost of living.

I was pleasantly surprised to see number agreement in the headline where it's been reliably out of sync before. Progress?

A1: "Townsend plans to sue assessor"

The various bits of information here add fun to a continuing story, but they're not really hanging together into anything informative.

The headline bit is that Townsend will sue Hambrick over $2.9 million that she says he owes and he says he doesn't, related to a Safford real-estate deal. But we learn nothing about why the sum is in dispute. Are both parties being coy about that, or is Joanna Dodder not asking the question? I expect the former, but as a reader I'd like to know that a question remained unanswered. Without that, the story does more backhand damage to both parties, and one of them is probably less deserving of that.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Editorial: "Local student leads by example"

In familiar style, the unnamed Courier editor squanders more than half the column on a simple-minded parable to illustrate that Ryan Erickson is admirable for trying to help fellow BMHS students with pocket-change grants, saying nothing that wasn't in the news-side puff piece. Must've been a slow day.

Boring, but essentially harmless.

A1: "Wal-Mart foes face campaign violation charges"

You probably saw this coming. Not content to bury the opposition at the polls, the well financed Wal-Mart shills have marshaled their lawyers to escalate the pissing contest. Perhaps the court will see it for what it is.

I think the editors could have hit this copy a little harder, though. As with previous stories on this legal battle, it's messy and confusing.

Letters: Round and round

Today we get a couple new angles on roundabouts, one from local celeb and blues fan Alan Dean Foster.

Talk of the Town: "For American taxpayers, the hits just keep on coming"

What was it Tim was saying about the Courier's editorial mantra? "Local, local, local," wasn't it? And "Talk of the Town" certainly implies a local source, right?

So I'm fascinated to find the "Talk of the Town" slug over a piece lifted directly from the Cato Institute's house organ, The American Spectator ("Free at Last," April 30), scribbled "special to the Courier" by well known media whore Doug Bandow. Having been forced out of Cato, a couple of years ago Bandow washed up on a desert island called Citizen Outreach to continue his radical libertarian ranting, subsequently expanding to the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

I admit to a brief flirtation with libertarian thinking back in the '70s, but I grew out of it. Since the Reagan era this market has been cornered by rich people taking advantage of weak, angry minds to push the idea that the only good government is a dead government, and they're pursuing that goal by any means necessary to make themselves richer. But scan their stuff yourself at the links, you don't need me to tell you how sophomoric and dangerous it is.

That the Courier editors are shoveling this insidious crap at us under their 'local' slug ropes me off, though. Go ahead, tell me this is an accident. Now tell me another one.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Scorecard: What hasn't been covered

Three important local stories that the Courier ignored in May:

May 2: Renzi calls for investigation of Justice Department "electioneering"

May 3: Dems back Renzi on DOJ probe

May 12: Mary Kim Titla declares candidacy for AZ-1

Add yours in comments.

Coming?: Flagstaff Sustainable Living Fair

I'm expect that the Courier has been getting the press releases from CAZREN and others about this event, and hope that it'll send someone to cover it. There'll be a lot of hopeful, positive stuff and opportunities for cool photos. Will the editors pass it up?

A1: "More woes for Wilhoit Water Co."

The subhead on Doug Cook's story of continuing private-sector incompetence with public monopoly is a little misleading. "Lack of water leads to warning" should instead read "Cascading fuckups piss off customers."

A1: "Intermediate programs for teen drivers aims to curb crashes and deaths"

Mirsada Buric's lead:

Obtaining a driver's license is perhaps the first meaningful sign of independence for many teenagers. However, motor vehicle crashes continue to account for the greatest number of preventable deaths of children in Arizona.
The real lead:
Motor vehicle crashes continue to account for most preventable deaths of children in Arizona, but Arizona is finally doing something about it.

Do we really need to further endorse the idea that driving is the "first meaningful sign" of maturation? I mean, really. That idea is why we have so many impatient, unprepared young drivers out there.

Beyond the first graphs we've got an OK news story. But it was tough getting past the beginning and the terrible headline. (Hints: A program can't aim, but if it could it would do it with number agreement.)

A1: "Phone survey shows 78-percent support for photo radar in PV"

PV paid a company to call 300 residents to ask about a few issues, then sent a press release to the Courier. Ken Hedler did ask a good question that I noticed at the end -- whether the company weighted the data -- but the rest of this is plain stenography.

Here's the actual story: PV paid a company to call 300 residents and not weight the data, which ensured a result that favors the opinions of retirees and stay-at-homes, who tend to be more fearful, knowing that this would favor the town's position on the issues, and it could then write up a press release that the Courier would dutifully print.

Because the story is engineered to reflect only PV's official line, it amounts to disinformation. Maybe most PV residents really do support photo radar, but by jacking the table the town and the Courier are preventing us from learning the truth.

Goodman: "Changing the world one garden at a time"

This week's column is full-length, on time and essentially verbatim, excepting the headline, of course, which should be "Collaborating with the Earth."

That's all good, and it's in strong contrast to what was happening before a few weeks ago. If this stays consistent, there's only one hurdle left to clear. Goodman's columns range pretty widely, regularly including coverage beyond the "women's" issues that the Courier tends to cherry-pick, and when I see the Courier treating those opinions with equal respect, I'll be encouraged that we're seeing real progress on the editorial page.