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.

Editorial: "Congress needs reforms, term limits"

Sorry guys, that horse ain't gettin' any deader.

Here's another great example of viewing the evidence through the filter of your own agenda.

Let's start with the unnamed Courier editor's assertion about Congressional approval relative to that of the Current Resident. Have a look at these trend graphs on Since the Dems have come into majority, public approval of Congress has turned around radically despite the unrelenting denigration of legislators and the institution itself by the mainstream media (clue: that's you, Mr. Editor). Meanwhile the Preznit's numbers continue to fall, admittedly at a lower rate as he approaches his statistical minimum -- that's where the only people left in his column are the completely clueless.

"Congress so far has been unable to make headway on such key issues as ..." only because of intractable Republicans in the Senate and White House. If those stubborn dead-enders were paying as much attention to public-opinion polls as the Courier editor pretends and doing their jobs responsibly, Congress would have already ordered withdrawal from Bush's adventure in Iraq, a radical restructuring of education and energy policy across the board and rebuilding of the Gulf Coast, and we'd be well on the way to a sensible national health-care system. If we keep the pressure on we can hope to sweep out most of the radicals in '08 and get moving forward in '09. But don't blame the Dems because a majority in Congress does not equal the dictatorial powers the editor seems to so admire. The system don't work like that, thank dread Cthulhu.

The editor gains a little cred for even mentioning the ethics problems of Richie Rich Renzi (R-Pentagon), but then squanders it by sweeping it under the smellier pile left by William Jefferson (D-Whirlpool Deep Freeze) -- as if that makes Renzi more ethical. That's a fourth-grade tactic, guys, and Renzi is our problem. You're right that the Dems haven't summarily tossed Jefferson out, but somehow you missed that the criminal investigation is continuing in the Republican Justice Department. Maybe the AG forgot about it, like everything else.

All this is designed to set up one of the editor's favorite canards, of course, the idea that term limits will make things better. Apparently the Courier editor believes that outlawing legislative experience and putting all the power of Congress in the hands of its bureaucratic staff is a vision of utopia. Ayayai.

The Courier continues to work to make you, the reader and voter, dumber about the political process that protects your freedom and maintains our society. Push back.

Cartoon: Empty tank

True enough, as far as it goes. But what action does it call for? None, as far as I can see. Nor is there really any indication that this is an urgent problem, say a low-fuel warning light. Pretty limp.