Monday, August 31, 2009

Editorial: We need to start spending again

Just how out-of-touch with real life can the unnamed Courier editor really be? This takes the cake.

The editor seems to think that we're all sitting around in our "armchairs," presumably among greenback-stuffed pillows, waiting for a signal from him to return to the profligate ways of the last two decades, spending like sailors on leave and racking up unsustainable consumption debt.

Dear Editor, a large proportion of people across the economic spectrum are struggling to keep or find jobs and hold onto their shelter, praying they don't get sick and fall into the maw of the medical anti-insurance machine. That Chamber-cheerleader letter sweater looks completely ridiculous on you right now.

Prescott and the region are overbuilt with retail and services, and underdeveloped in terms of real value-generating industry. The business shakeout has been going on for over a year, and you've done pretty much nothing to report on that and its impact on City and county revenues. Spending has shifted to the cheap and the necessary. The ectoplasmic "success" of the automotive stimulus program didn't happen because of huge pent-up demand, rather because people are focused on price, and car prices are too high for the market. You can reliably predict that next month's car-sales reports will show the business flatlining without the subsidies. Every other business sector (save medical) is feeling the same pinch. People generally have more than they need already, and are trying to sell their stuff, not accumulate more.

What this area and the entire country should be focusing on is building up 21st-century, value-creating industry that will put our people to work and reconfigure our economy away from consumption and toward sustainable wealth. Our most obvious opportunity in that regard is renewable energy. Does the Courier care about that and other opportunities? It appears that the editor can't think of anything but rushing us back into a formula that has very clearly failed.

Prescott Valley assault results in temporary evacuation

This is another example of printing the police report (twice, in this case) without asking the most basic questions. For example: why did the cops evacuate the neighborhood?

Friday, August 28, 2009

"Quantum mechanics is so totally counterintuitive that it seems stupid to everybody." This Friday's instant mind-expansion is on the wave function. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Stenography vs. journalism

I invite the reader to compare two stories, one in the Courier this afternoon and the other on eNews this morning. You'll notice that they are almost exactly the same.

Here's what's happening: both publications are reprinting press releases, in this case a police report, more or less unedited. This happens all the time, on everything from community events to City policy announcements to major crime stories.

Sometimes it's a good thing. In the past I've always preferred that the Courier just print my releases, because whenever the editors took an interest in them they'd come out all garbled.

But sometimes it's bad, like when officials do something stupid, dress it up as a good thing and knuckleball it to the voters.

For a good editor what's important is to read every release and sniff out whether there are questions that need asking. Then make sure they're asked, and put the answers in too. Oh, and check that the typist got the names spelled right and the dates and times are still correct.

A little while back an anonymous Courier employee commented here trying to defend the paper as being above reprinting press releases. Just sayin'.

There's no question about whether it's happening, at any publication. The question is whether you're doing it right.

Ailing nurses: Initiative seeks to reverse profession's decline

Yet another example of a face-plant by the headline writer. The nurses aren't "ailing," and the profession is booming, not declining. The local program just needs better funding so local people can participate in that boom. So: Foundation stumps for nursing-program funding.

Keep it simple, stupid.

Editorial: Kennedy's death ends a dynasty

Everyone in the media seems compelled to write their own obit on Ted Kennedy, even our little local paper, which has done nothing but spit on the principles the senator espoused and advanced. It's silly. But it's also revealing.

The unnamed Courier editor's key concept is dynasty. He relies entirely on the standard media mythos, writing a little paean to what can only be read as a dead king.

Authoritarians -- what this country calls 'conservatives' -- love kings. The editor is harking back to his ideological roots in the 18th-century Tories who would have happily continued to labor under the yoke of inbred European aristocrats. So it's no surprise that he focuses on the celebrity and makes only passing reference to what the man accomplished for his country.

What has made this man remarkable is not his tabloid life, but rather what he did and how he did it despite his wealthy, aristocratic background and his unassailable, arguably hereditary, seat in our own House of Lords. I appreciate that the editor is trying to say something nice. But what made the man great was his dedication to public service and his ability to bring people together for the good of all. That's the sort of work that makes this country great, and we need to teach our young people that anyone can do it.

I hear that Mitt Romney may make a run to replace Kennedy in the Senate. Could there be any doubt that the editor would jump up and salute another scion of political dynasty? Of course not. He just loves his kings.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Editorial: Intelligent debate is health care reform's upside

I've read the unnamed Courier editor a couple of times today, and it seems like he's saying something good in there, but I can't quite find it. This bit is particularly confusing:

Reform opposition represents the flat-out American disbelief in any notion of a government involuntarily redistributing its citizens' wealth.

Few ideologies are more fiercely un-American. "The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction," said Thomas Jefferson, "is the first and only object of good government."
That paragraph break puts a little distance between the editor and saying that opposition to wealth redistribution is un-American, but I think he sort of meant to. While the statement is a bit impetuous and I wouldn't support it, the sentiment seems healthy.

Still, for the life of me I can't find a declarative statement in this piece laying out what the paper supports or opposes. So no cookie. But it's a start!

Ken Bennett opposes sales tax increase

Strike-all update, 11pm: I made a big mistake in reading this story this morning: I trusted the Courier to get the basic facts right.

As we discover in follow-up coverage -- a follow-up, no doubt, on an angry call from the Secretary of State to the Courier -- Ken Bennett is not in fact demanding that Gov Brewer cave in and bury the sales-tax referral. It's OK with him if we vote on it. He just wants the budget signed.

I notice he also gets his much-more-flattering official photo on this one than the kooky snapshot on the previous story. I'll bet someone got a whipping for this little screwup.

Trying to flog state land for 100K clams per acre is still a dumb idea for balancing the budget, though. Sorry, Ken.

Kinkade art auction money misses its mark

So we discover that the crap anti-artist the Courier has been happy to give unwarranted coverage for years took the money intended for the kids and happily banked it. Given the nature and tone of that business, pumping out pretend art and selling fool's gold to people who don't know any better, I'm not at all surprised.

It's easy to make clear to the crowd when not all of the proceeds can go directly to the charity, so I don't buy the 'misunderstanding' excuse for a second. An 80/20 split should be embarrassing, and substituting merchandise for cash in paying off the charity is just skanky.

Two things: I notice that the Courier continues to use the man's own PR to pump him up ("Painter of Light"), and there should be a quote in here from the true victims of this crime, the couple who paid 12,000 clams for a bad sketch and a promise.

Friday, August 21, 2009

City candidates combine to collect nearly $76,000 in primary campaign money

This is exactly the sort of piece that should be the core mission of a local paper, and it's done well -- facts that matter to the voter, clearly presented, without fear or favor. Cindy gets a cookie.

Six minutes on why the world is digital, your Friday instant mind-expansion on Planck's Constant.

Editorial: CAP sets itself up as easy mark

The unnamed Courier editor opines that getting caught cheating might cause some trouble for your team. (I dunno about you, but it's just this sort of sage wisdom and insightful analysis that keeps me coming back to the Courier.) But he can't quite bring himself to admit that what the CAP was doing was actually wrong. I have to wonder what he'd be writing if the initiative supporters were caught doing the same thing.

Drive the snakes out of your own nest first.

Today's Chuckle

I can't decide whether it's the guy who doesn't get the difference between "allowed" and "required," or the guy who wants a law against tree roots.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A satisfactory system of health insurance should provide:

1. That everyone should have access to adequate health and medical services.

2. That everyone should have the kind of services, and all the services, he needs to promote better health.

3. That everyone should be able to obtain these without regard for the level of his personal income.

-- Oscar Ewing, Director, Federal Security Agency,
The Nation’s Health, A Ten Year Program: A Report to the President, 1948

Flexible rules

Today on related articles I'm seeing a bunch of comments, including headings like "Vote yes for decent streets," clearly advocating a specific vote on the initiative. The Courier supposedly has a rule against using the comments for electioneering, and I've seen many comments deleted specifically for advocating a candidate. This sure smells like electioneering to me.

I guess some animals are more equal than others.

Fat Wednesday

What's eating you today?

Editorial: SRP shows good sense of irony

The unnamed Courier editor is amused that a large, complex, semi-public corporation is taking advantage of every possible means of increasing its bottom line. Wow how funny.

Would it not be more useful to discuss SRP's special constitutional status and how that gives it anticompetitive market advantages? Most Arizonans have no clue how we've been grabbing our ankles for SRP for decades, and how difficult it will be to change that. Legislators take heat for even thinking about reform, which would require a constitutional amendment and a statewide initiative.

Some joke.

ToT: Seek out real facts about health care

The headline writer provides a Freudian-slip clue about what we'll read here, urging us to seek "real facts," presumably as opposed to "facts." And Barbara Nelson does not disappoint, turning in a fact-free column. The bio says she used to be an attorney (I'm glad I never had occasion to hire her), and she has cats, which apparently qualifies her as an expert on health-care legislation.

I guess the editors have yet to figure out that this sort of mindless rant is causing backlash against the ranters, moving them into the same room with 'creation scientists' and flat-earthers, and in favor of reasoned debate on this vital issue at last. Since reason and facts favor sensible, civilized reform, it's OK by me if they keep printing 'em. Go on, Barb, knock yourself out.

Push-poll group unmasked

Group behind telephone survey reveals identity

Cindy Barks tells us that the push-poll against the "Taxpayer Protection Initiative" comes from the Central Arizona Partnership, punking Jason Soifer's Tuesday speculation. What she doesn't tell us is who's behind the CAP.

Not long ago a bunch of Prescott's more money-oriented good ol' boys came together because they didn't think the Chamber of Commerce was doing enough to make them rich. The CAP includes ex-mayors Simmons and Daly, former Senator and now Secretary of State Ken Bennett, and the big developers: the Fanns, the Fains, and Senator Steve Pierce. Their mission statement speaks of "a balance between economic and ecological sustainability in Central Arizona," which means to me, given their aggregate track record, less concern about the environment, and their method is to act as an alternate, more politically active Chamber. Check out the CAP site.

This is not the first less-than-appropriate act I've seen from this group in relation to the election. Jason Gisi stood up at the end of the Chamber candidates forum at Yavapai College and harangued the audience to vote for the street tax, which struck me as naked electioneering in what was supposed to be a balanced setting.

I have a feeling we're going to have to keep an eye on these people. It's clear they think they're above the rules.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

That pesky subordinate clause problem again

Pretrial postponed for cat-killing case

I skipped this story on first read today, and so missed Today's Chuckle:

PRESCOTT - The county has postponed a pretrial hearing for a 21-year-old Prescott Valley woman accused of killing her cat because her attorney had a time conflict Monday.
Quite a few commenters pointed it out, too, I see, and used up most of the obvious jokes -- but that's just gilding the lily, imho.

It seems like the editors should get a different prize for this sort of thing. A raspberry, maybe?

Another false alarm on Goodwin PO

I expected as much. It turns out that once again the USPS finds that closing Goodwin St is "not feasible."

Since the previous post I've heard that I was wrong about the PO boxes, them in the know say they're now about half empty. Maybe I should go get one.

BREAKING NEWS: Goodwin Street post office won't close

Editorial: Plane boardings are a bright sign

I knew on Friday that we'd see an editorial on this, but I got it wrong: the unnamed Courier editor is very happy to support socialized air service. I'm so surprised.

It occurs to me that the debate over public transit makes an interesting parallel. On the one hand we reject bus service because it would serve only a small portion of the public, people who have other ways to get where they're going, and it will never pay for itself. On the other we love air service even though it serves only a small portion of the public, people who have other ways to get where they're going, and it will never pay for itself. And the editor seems excited about spending another $150 million to expand Prescott's Aeroflot facilities.

I think this disconnect is all about economic class: in Dear Editor's mind, what's good for the rich must be good for all of us.

And don't get me started on bike lanes again.

This is how it's done

Barney Frank vs. the Nazi smear:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What are you smoking?

Lesley shot this photo from Jerome this morning. Tons of smoke over in the Verde from the Taylor fire.

Geez, who's running the show today?

In the editor's haste to get this critical midday story (from Sunday!) up on the Website, s/he apparently forgot to think about whether it was intelligible. The reader is left to consider whether this was written by someone at the Courier, or just passed through from the sheriff's report:

. . . deputies where able to located McCracken after he called the cell phone of a witness.

Editorial: Gun-toters hurt owners' rights

As the story of the nutbar with the AR-15 hanging around the Obama venue in Phoenix goes national, further confirming Arizona's reputation for adolescent behavior, the unnamed Courier editor gets it right for once and comes down hard on him and other irresponsible gun owners. Today the editor deserves a big cookie and my full support. (It's a point, though: what else could he do?)

We can hope that this will help inform the future debate on sensible gun restrictions that protect society while respecting individual rights.

Letter: How about 'clunkers' for low-income folk?

Carolyn Wiseman is taking some heat from the commenters, but she has a point: if the goal of the program is to move people into cleaner and more efficient cars, why don't used cars qualify? Given the same mileage differential, replacing an inefficient car with a more efficient used car would cost the government less, giving us more bang for our bucks, and reduce the overall carbon footprint substantially compared to making a new car. But one anonymous commenter is right to the extent that the program is clearly more for the car manufacturers than for consumers or the environment.

Man faces charges after he alleged assaults estranged wife

Today's chuckle: Another pitiful fail by the headline writer and the page editor helps make up for the lame cartoon page. Hint: It's really not that hard to proof your headlines, kids!

The answer to the puzzle: Peeples Valley man charged with assault

ToT: People need to get health care facts

Kathy Lopez contributes some fact-based reality and mature thinking to the sense-starved health-care debate, and the Courier wins a point for giving her the Talk of the Town banner.

Unfortunately, like other contributors she lacks pertinent credentials, and she gives us a whole lot of numbers without backing citations. Providing sources would help convince a lot of readers, and a good editor would have asked for it.

Update, 4pm: In the comments, "Truth Doctrine" offers us the anonymous blog post that started the Hitler-image-as-Dem-plant rumor. Click here to read a response from actual journalist David Weigel, who investigated the allegation for The Washington Independent.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Courier scooped again -- or just ignoring the story?

It seems there's some illegal election chicanery going on in everybody's home town. Funny we aren't reading about it in the Courier, innit?

Update, Tuesday: Three days later, Jason Soifer turns in a story that seems to assume everyone's already hip to it, and on reading it I'm left with the impression that the Courier thinks push-polling is OK.

Army Sergeant with Prescott ties shocks wife on return visit home

This is a pretty run-of-the-mill feel-good story, notable only for its headline, which is I'm sure drawing lots of eyes by implying something more interesting. I guess that's one way to sell papers.

From the reality-based community

Paul Krugman, writing in the NYT:

"Sure enough, President Obama is now facing the same kind of opposition that President Bill Clinton had to deal with: an enraged right that denies the legitimacy of his presidency, that eagerly seizes on every wild rumor manufactured by the right-wing media complex. This opposition cannot be appeased. Some pundits claim that Mr. Obama has polarized the country by following too liberal an agenda. But the truth is that the attacks on the president have no relationship to anything he is actually doing or proposing."
Read the whole thing. It's a challenge to all of us to get up on our hind legs and push back.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Mathematicians love it, physicists hate it. Your Friday mind-expansion on the difference between really, really big and infinity.

Guest column: Cap and Trade bill bad for Arizonans

Now it appears we have a third category for local op-eds, adding "Guest Column" to "Column" and "Talk of the Town." I've noted before the use of "Talk of the Town" for out-of-town right-wing propaganda, maybe the editors got the message. (I know, dream on.) But putting that propaganda under a new heading doesn't much improve it.

For those who have other things to think about, the Goldwater Institute is an extreme-right lobbying group which has almost no remaining connection to the thinking of Barry Goldwater. It's the local enforcement arm of the Grover Norquist government-killing machine, widely feared among Republicans at the capitol.

Byron Schlomach's assertion that cap-and-trade will wind up baking Grannie to death in her condo because she can't afford the AC is classic fear-peddling of the lowest order. While everyone agrees the regime would raise costs to energy consumers, the darksiders are purposefully inflating cost estimates beyond reason, and ignoring the benefits in terms of direct returns of revenues to consumers as part of the program, restructuring of our energy infrastructure for sustainability (jobs!), and reducing the severity of global warming and its economic and social costs. has plenty more.

Prescott Airport nears longtime commercial passenger goal

I can't wait to see the Courier editorial criticizing Commissar Wilson and City staff for supporting socialized air travel.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Prescott employee's discovery will save 2 million gallons of water per year

I think we can all applaud a hero of water conservation. I'm a bit put out that Cindy apparently didn't ask our City or County staff why it took so long to reach this dope-slap moment, but I guess I can understand it might be a little embarrassing, and we wouldn't want that. She gets a cookie, in any case.

Editorial: Line extensions hurt ratepayers

Today the unnamed Courier editor must make what he apparently sees as a Solomon-worthy decision between rural developers and electric utilities, and as the experienced Courier reader might expect, comes down on the side of I-me-mine.

Here's some background from, which differs with the editor on when the rule went away and on whose initiative. The editor failed to mention that this came up on the official request of Navajo County, which no doubt is as developer-driven as Yavapai, but it ought to matter, especially given that the editor neglected to publish a news piece on this issue.

This story has a pretty low profile, and I have to wonder why it rates an opinion. Maybe someone the editor knows is worried that someone else might build a house on a neighboring property?

From what I read, the developers and growth-fascinated county officials want free extensions in a big way, and the utilities don't seem to mind one way or the other, so the ACC will probably reinstate the rule regardless of the editor's professed concern that he might wind up paying a few more pennies a year to run Fox News and old Westerns on his big-screen teevee.

I'm a little divided on it myself. Anything that slows human encroachment into unspoiled land seems like a good thing to me, but this could also affect the spread of distributed energy generation as more rooftops go solar and more ranchers build wind generators.

A flurry of letters

The Courier is carrying no less than eight LTEs today, all on the health-care debate, which looks a lot like a stunt to me.

Patricia Brockert tries to set the record straight on end-of-life counseling. Bill Holmes swears he'll be civil at the meeting that no lawmaker plans to attend. In the comments, Craig Mathews provides some interesting background on both the meeting and Mr Holmes. Tim Welte demands a pledge from Rep Kirkpatrick that she read the bill. Larry Lawlyes (sp?) and Paul Lopez call it on the obstructionist town-meeting strategy. Bernard Cygan is butt-hurt because Speaker Pelosi thinks shouting down your representatives is un-American. Sherry Denecker thinks the health-care reform is about letting old people die. And Robert Graybehl is just mad at Demmycrats.

I count three in favor vs. five against, better odds than we get on Fox. I wonder how many the editors left on the spike.

Fair and balanced

Media Matters has the numbers on Fox News and the health-care debate. How anyone can see Fox as a credible news source is beyond me.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Meanwhile, over in the Verde

Compare John Kinnamon's LTE in the Independent to the Courier's "Talk of the Town" below. That's what I'm talkin' about. This should be the Courier's editorial.

ToT: Elected officials have done enough

Barbara Briseno, whose only credentials seem to be that she's "concerned" and retired, gets "Talk of the Town" status for her standard wingnut rant containing exactly nothing that could be useful or informative. Circumspect readers would be right to ask why the editors use their precious page space in this way.

Might it be to simply provoke lots of heated online comments, thereby raising hit counts and justifying online ad rates? After all, everyone seems to so love reading idiotic arguments peppered with the personal attacks that the editor claims are off limits. If this is the plan, most of the commenters are just facilitating the lies and thickening the smoke screen.

If you care about the quality of the paper and public discourse, call the editors to account for fomenting a pointless food-fight and using personal attacks as a marketing strategy when it suits them. But don't take the bait -- stay out of the fray. There is nothing to be gained from engaging idiots.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Letter: America still remains a Christian nation

Gag me, yet another Xtian supremacist waving his persecution hankie. It's a waste of the reader's time, of course, but in the comments I notice George Seaman, a normally reliable defender of free speech, begging the editors to stop printing such letters. What I'm not sure George is noticing is that most of the responses seem to be calling the writer on his historical lies and logical tangles. This is how it's supposed to work -- you can say what you want, but you get to be accountable for it.

PS to the awful headline writer: "still remains" is irredeemably redundant.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Editorial: Lots of people are really upset

Over the very busy weekend I didn't have time to take on this piece of disinformational crapola, and I wanted to be sure I could get into it in detail.

For once the headline is right, but that's about the end of it.

First off, the unnamed Courier editor pulls the 'enemies list' leg with the "White House website where people can report opponents of the plan." A good friend of mine and loyal Republican told me about this on Saturday, and I took a look at it. I'm certain I'm not the first to report that this is an antenna for picking up on disinformation about health care so that the White House can deal with it. They don't care who the source is.

He then warns darkly of the gubmint cutting off Grandma's medicine because she's too old. This and the 'enemies list' thing are both among the completely and demonstrably false ideas circulating in wingnut land designed to whip up uninformed, fearful people to vocally oppose the program. In this respect the editor happily joins the right-wing media in "organizing the opposition," which apparently means "lying to people to get them scared enough to do crazy things for your benefit."

The editor cites the recent Q poll asking whether voters approve of "the way Barack Obama is handling health care." I'm totally in favor of public health care, and expect I'll support whatever he can get passed, but I would have responded with 'disapprove' on this question too. "The way he's handling health care" is not the same as "public health care," yet the editor spins this poll result as disapproval of the whole effort.

The editor moves to WSJ poll results that show formerly undecideds lining up against "Barack Obama’s health care plan" -- which as far as I've seen does not actually exist. The editor fails to note that the next question on the poll was whether the respondent favors "a public health care plan administered by the federal government that would compete directly with private health insurance companies," and the results show the favorables slightly ahead. A little further down, we find this:

31. Now I am going to tell you more about the health care plan that President Obama supports and please tell me whether you would favor or oppose it.

The plan requires that health insurance companies cover people with pre-existing medical conditions. It also requires all but the smallest employers to provide health coverage for their employees, or pay a percentage of their payroll to help fund coverage for the uninsured. Families and individuals with lower- and middle incomes would receive tax credits to help them afford insurance coverage. Some of the funding for this plan would come from raising taxes on wealthier Americans.

Do you favor or oppose this plan?
Oppose ...............38
Depends (VOL).....3
Not sure ..............3

So when people are presented with the actual ideas involved, they overwhelmingly approve.

The editor writes that "respectful dialogue requires openness with the public about how the plan will work," implying that people at the town hall were mad because Rep Kirkpatrick wouldn't talk openly with them. The truth was quite the opposite -- the "organized opposition" was angry, raucous and determined to drown out what she had to say -- and they succeeded.

The Courier editor is actively participating in the nationwide campaign of disinformation designed to save the bacon of the pharmaceutical and insurance lobbies at the expense of every American, selectively twisting and spinning semi-facts into received wisdom, burying the truth under layers of deceit. This is the worst kind of evil in the newsroom, and he should be facing the same sort of criticism from Courier readers that he is sending against our elected representatives. From the look of the comments, he's getting it.

Letter: Community Cupboard needs donations, too

I kinda thought the Courier might get a little grief for favoritism in its food-bank coverage last week.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Editorial: Cyclists, city can reach a solution

Once again the unnamed Courier editor pats the little cyclists on the head and explains that they're really not yet big enough to go on the adult rides.

I have a bike, but I've used it three or four times in fifteen years. When I ride my moped I generally stay out of the bike lane, which is for slower traffic. My perspective on this issue is as a driver.

When there's a bike on the road, it legally owns the entire lane, just like a car. If cyclists really got exercised about this they could start riding according to the law -- in the middle of the lane -- and slow us all down.

Cities install bike lanes not to please the cyclists, but to improve traffic flow. The editor's idea that we'd be spending money on a "tiny percentage" of street users is exactly backward. It may be that the rhetoric of the cyclists encourages this misunderstanding, because for them its a huge safety issue. But that's no excuse.

The editor suggests Willis as an alternative to Gurley. I suggest the editor try driving his car (or his truck, more likely) from downtown to Yavapai College, or the Prescottonian, or the Peavine Trail using Willis.

Lost in this whole public debate is the proposal to place large landscape islands down the middle of Gurley St, eating up a lot of lane space and creating new opportunities for traffic entertainment. Have we learned nothing from the corner plantings around the square, or Rosser St?

Letter: It's time to speak up for local landmarks

Tom Cantlon was the Courier's token liberal columnist before Randall Amster, so I count this piece as a semi-column.

The core of it is rousing us rabble to stand up for Sharlot Hall Museum and the old post office. I want to confirm here that public involvement -- writing letters and email and making phone calls -- is effective in getting the attention of state legislators and shaping their views of public opinion. I'd suggest contacting not only Ms Mason, Mr Tobin and Mr Pierce for our district, but other rural legislators, legislative leaders and the governor as well. It really does matter.

A detail toward the end of the letter caught my eye, the idea of turning over the closed post office space to the museum. Readers who are paying less attention might conclude that Tom advocates moving SHM over there once the state sells off its land and buildings. Nothing like this will happen, of course. The state may pawn the museum, but the arrangement would be more like a secured loan (at high interest cost!) than an actual sale. Still wrong, but not so catastrophically wrong as to leave the museum homeless.

But speaking as a former museum professional, given its mission there's really not much SHM could do with the post office space other than turn it into an exhibit in front and storage in back and in the basement, and that only given enough money to staff it. Not really practical.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The New Socialism

Pursuant to an exchange we had earlier in the comments, here's an interesting perspective from Wired. It seems a whole lot of people besides me are coloring outside the dictionary lines in talking about socialism. Hint: by reading this, you're involved, comrade.

Hat-tip to MikeD for the link.

Leisure-time Wednesday

Are you getting some time off?

Letter: Kirkpatrick not ready to talk health care

Duane Mumper wonders why Rep Kirkpatrick is not planning any town halls on health care reform. Could adolescent teabagger BS be a factor?

Or maybe she's just too busy getting things done.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tax scam inundates county

Like many around the state, I got one of these bogus tax-reduction letters over the weekend. It's good that the Courier went after it, and apparently Bruce Colbert got in deep enough to talk to a hired call center as well as the county assessor.

One thing Bruce apparently missed, and which caused me to throw the thing on the junk pile unopened: on the front of the envelope, to the right of "PROPERTY TAX INFORMATION ENCLOSED," is a box saying, "THIS IS NOT A GOVERNMENT DOCUMENT." I'd call that "the most glaring clue."

Why so little capitol coverage?

It continues to surprise me that The Verde Independent is able to find space for news from the state capitol, but the Courier apparently can't.

Here are a couple examples from today's
John Pelander state's newest high court justice
Still no state budget: 16 votes needed to meet Brewer demands

While the Courier front page is padded with fluff like this:
Tim's Toyota Center offering week of public ice skating
What is it, where is it?

These papers share resources, ownership and even some personnel, but they're quite different in terms of editorial choices. Editor-ial choices.

Here's the sort of thing we might see if the Courier editors were more interested in statewide issues:
10 new laws that got lost in the shuffle
Renewable energy bill may resurface in special session

Editorial: Food Bank needs steady cash flow

The unnamed Courier editor gets a cookie today for stumping up some support for one of our local food banks. There are many programs operating here, of course, and we shouldn't neglect any of them.

Gittin' Yer Health Care On

We've got two bits on the op-ed page today related to health care, and that makes a nice jumping-off place for a little rant.

First, Tina Blake, billed as a "Yavapai County Community Member" (I think a hack of Yavapai County Community Health Services Member), urges readers to take a class and take control of their own health. In Prescott this is on offer Fridays at the YMCA.

Then there's the Talk of the Town column by Tom Bromley, credited as a retired NY state health care administrator, who sees the need for public health care, but can't quite see how we'll pay for it.

It's a fortuitous coincidence that these appear on the same page.

Bromley's thesis seems to depend largely on the idea that including 45 million uninsured Americans will incur enormous new costs, as if they're paying for it all out of pocket now and they'll pay nothing for it later. I think five seconds of thought about that pretty well dissolves it.

This is not to say that a "robust" public health-care system will cost nothing, of course. What so many of these commenters seem to miss or gloss over is that as a nation we're already paying for all of our health care, that cost grossly inflated by waste, excess bureaucracy, a strong bias for acute care over preventative care, and massive profit-taking. Reducing those costs is what makes these systems economically sensible, and it's also what scares an industry grown fat on the status quo.

What's a lot fuzzier is the huge potential for reducing costs simply by working to prevent health problems. This is practically impossible under our profit-motivated system, and that factor deserves a lot more scrutiny and thought from voters. The YCCHS program is a perfect example of what government is compelled to do that private industry simply won't. Imagine what's possible when reducing costs by making people healthier becomes a primary goal of the entire system.

Here's a smart, easy read today from the LA Times by a Canadian doctor comparing the US and Canadian systems and the lessons we could learn from Canada if we'd deign to take a look.

Lesley contributes an interesting list:

Countries with universal health coverage

Afghanistan*, Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Cuba, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iraq*, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Oman, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Ukraine and the United Kingdom

*Universal health coverage provided by United States war funding

PS: Props to Grundlecat in the comments for pointing out the headline malfunction on the LTE.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Editorial: Gasp! Breathing rests with Senate

The unnamed Courier editor urges readers to help get a cap-and-trade system passed through the Senate, something every other developed economy has done long since and proved worthwhile both environmentally and economically. I sure wouldn't have expected it, but I'll take it, and thanks. But he seems to go out of his way to undermine his objective.

The references to the refinery accident, "brown stuff" and "America's lungs" seem pretty well unrelated to the issue of atmospheric CO2 that cap-and-trade would focus on. Pollution would fall as coal plants phase out, yes, but that's beside the point of the legislation and bound to confuse the reader. The incompetent headline-writer's reference to breathing just aggravates the error.

I gotta wonder whether the editor has even a sliver of a clue what he's talking about. Thanks, editor, but no thanks -- this sort of thing does not help.

Column: Assertions cast religion in bad light

Here's the third op-ed piece I've seen labeled "Column," the first writ by a regular contributor. Does this signify that the editors take George Seaman as seriously as Randall Amster, or is it a demotion for Randall?

Randall attempts to call intolerant, absolutist Xtians on their anti-Xtian ways. But he tries so hard to be nice about it and sidle up to it slowly, I imagine most readers will have moved on before he even mentions his real topic. It's like he's taking the role of Aesop, talking slowly under an olive tree on a lazy afternoon, the reader lolling at his feet waiting for the clever twist that gets to the moral of the story.

You have to hit it harder, Randall. You don't lead a column about religious discourse with a reference to Social Security, it just confuses people. Get to what you mean, state your thesis clearly, then back it up.

If your editor was doing his job, he'd be giving you these tips himself and guiding you, because when the paper reads better, it sells better to readers.

Letter: Post office closure will speed USPS obsolescence

I have to mention this LTE from yesterday, in which the writer opines that forcing everyone in town to rely on the Miller Valley PO will likely lead to career problems for the persons making that decision.

It's all of four sentences long. So why couldn't the headline writer figure out what Mr Johnson was saying? How did we get yet another op-ed headline that says something quite different from what the writer intended? Idiotic.

Election Q&As

Today's is the second in this series, in which the Courier asks all the candidates to write answers to the same question in 65 words or less.

Now I'm not particularly wordy myself, but 65 words seems like an awfully tight restriction if you want the voters to learn anything worthwhile. One might infer that the editors are limiting the candidates for space if Cindy's background preamble to the question didn't take up at least half the story. I also notice that sometimes she includes candidate quotes up there too. So we have the form of a level playing field without the substance of allowing every candidate equal and sufficient space to answer the question.

I know the editors probably think they're making fair rules for these things. I just wish they would think through what they're doing, so that the result will be better for the voters and the paper. It's this sort of incompetence that makes people roll their eyes whenever you mention the Courier.

Update, Tuesday 3:30pm: I had the feeling that the answers given in the Courier sounded an awful lot like answers at the candidate forum last week, so I asked my neighbor Paul Katan about the Courier's process. He told me that his answers are indeed new and written entirely by him for this series, so Cindy was not cribbing from the forum recording.

He mentioned that part of his answer to the economy question was left out of the paper, and he complained. I see on checking the Web version of the story that the editor has gone back in to add the omitted section in bold, with a note that the omission was a mistake. I think this may be the first online correction I've seen.