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.