Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Letter: Volunteer objects to non-citizen benefits

Interesting. I might be tempted to say that the 21st century has finally arrived at the Courier, as commenters call the writer out for what smells like a fictional, politically motivated letter. Check it out!

Editorial: Keeping the arts isn't cheap, but neither is its value

So the Courier's official position, as put by the unnamed Courier editor today, is that "We are a community that cherishes our arts and culture." That's great! It's also news, given the Courier's long history of short shrift and vanishingly small financial and political support for arts events and the art community.

Fine, anyone can change. I'll tell you what, editor, how about a corporate sponsorship for Tsunami, or PFAA, or PAAHC, or Sharlot Hall Museum, for that matter? How about getting involved in expanding, organizing, or at least promoting these events through your vast media empire? How about an ad discount for nonprofits, even? How about making an attempt to get the names and dates right?

Practice what you preach, I say.

And, please, I'm begging now, reassign the headline writer, huh? Garble, garble, garble.

Today's Chuckle

Here's a hoot-out to Tom Steele for brightening my day, from the comments on the letter from Coyote Springs school staffers in response to the Courier's story last week:

I am more concerned that teachers are indicternating children in political matters whenever possible. Since most teachers are liberial that is a long term danger. Communnity watch dogs should be reviewing text books and seeking permission to audit classed unannounced to keep check on "real" issues. Question. Can the principal listen in on classrooms via the PA system? They could when I was in school but that is probably "illegal" now thanks again to teachers unions and the ACLU.
Here we get a hilarious mix of paranoia, jackboot authoritarianism, hipshot thinking and amazingly creative spelling and grammar power-packed into just a few words. Good one, TS! I'm putting "indicternating" and "liberial" into my special lexicon of joke words. (At least he spelled "principal" right!)

As for the content, they're right, the Courier's treatment of the story was at least hamfisted, bordering on prejudiced against the school, and certainly insensitive to the damage it might inflict. I'll bet a dollar they went to press on little more than a call from the mom and a police incident report. See, the Courier editors believe that their job ends at reporting what people tell them, rather than taking on the effort of finding out whether what the people tell them is true.

Under fire: New law allowing guns in bars perturbs many

The ugly headline notwithstanding, Jason's exploration of opinions in bars ahead of implementation of the new booze-and-bullets law is at least the sort of exercise in journalism that the paper so sorely lacks. I'm not wild about the style, of course, mixing weak and often pointless quotes from random people with a few facts to give it some humint.

The facts are limited to the provisions of the law, leaving out, say, lawnforcement assessments of its likely effects (or assurances that there won't be any), or how the bouncers who will have to physically deal with these newly empowered gun-toters feel about it. But a little is better than nothing from the Courier.

That 41 states also allow this indicates that public opinion is at least neutral and the effects aren't huge, OK. But we have to admit that it's also an indication of the sort of people that Americans want to be and the sort of society they want to live in.

I wonder whether anyone's done a study on how many skilled professionals have emigrated elsewhere in the world because of our collective idiocy about guns.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Letter: If Obama said it, he should be ashamed

The Courier editors are taking a lot of heat in the comments about printing this letter from a sadly misguided reader with an impaired sarcasm response. What the commenters forget is that the Courier selects letters to publish not on the basis of useful information or informed debate, but on entertainment value.

I have to say it's more than a little tasteless to exploit the handicapped in this way, though. The editors really ought to have more respect for their less able correspondents.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Editorial: City should plan to avoid disputes

The headline is another 'duh' moment, of course, but the editorial itself is equally dull. The unnamed Courier editor understands that the project is another screwup and the people up here on the Heights are variously hopping mad and scratching their heads over what the heck is going on. But he has essentially nothing to offer but the usual ignorant armchair quarterbacking.

I don't know any more about what's going on with the project than anyone else who lives within earshot of it, but I can tell you what most ropes people off. It's when the backup beepers and rock loaders start up at 6am. It's when citizens come home from work to find that the contractor failed to draw the right lines and their trees have been cut down by mistake. And it's when nothing at all happens for days at a time, showing that the City isn't exactly on the ball about getting the mess cleaned up.

When these things happen, it tells us that the City doesn't care about its citizens. And for that attitude alone, heads should be rolling.

Similarly, the Courier should be doing more serious research, bringing in the facts and details rather than competing vague opinions, and calling for those heads where the facts show that incompetents are drawing public salaries. These lacks confirm for us that the Courier doesn't care about its customers, either.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Something else the Courier won't touch

From The Arizona Guardian (sub req) comes a story not reported elsewhere. I wonder why?

Goddard announces $900,000 settlement over inflated drug prices

(Phoenix, Ariz. -- Sept. 23, 2009) Attorney General Terry Goddard today announced a $900,000 settlement with Bristol-Meyers Squibb (BMS) over allegations that the pharmaceutical company set fraudulently inflated prices for certain drugs purchased by consumers, insurers and other payers.

Goddard filed a lawsuit in 2005 against 42 pharmaceutical companies, alleging that they engaged in deceptive trade practices by manipulating the Average Wholesale Price (AWP) of their prescription drugs, causing buyers to overpay.

This state's settlement is the third since the lawsuit was filed, bringing in a total of $1.97 million. Last June, the state reached a $930,000 settlement with 11 drug companies. In 1996, GlaxoSmithKline settled with the state for $140,000. The money goes into the office's Consumer Fraud Revolving Fund, which supports consumer fraud investigations, consumer education and litigation.

"These drug companies have broken the law and been grossly unfair to consumers," Goddard said. "Many of the people ripped off by these artificially high prices are seniors citizens living on fixed incomes and having to choose between expensive medicine or food and housing."

Drug reimbursement rates are based on pricing data supplied by drug manufacturers. The lawsuit alleged that the drug makers manipulated the prices, resulting in inflated costs to consumers taking chemotherapy and other drugs for serious illnesses. According to Congressional research, Americans pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.

The lawsuit also alleged that drug manufacturers provided financial incentives to physicians and suppliers to stimulate drug sales, such as volume discounts, rebates, off-invoice pricing and free goods, at the expense of Medicaid and Medicare programs.

Editorial: Jobless benefits have two edges

So I'm having a nice relaxed weekend (four gigs in three days plus home improvement work), and the Courier interrupts my endless leisure with with a brain-bending exercise in antilogic.

It fascinates me how ideologues can mentally remake the world to fit their ideas about it. Today the unnamed Courier editor asserts that extending unemployment benefits hurts businesses by adding costs, which could cause them to reduce employment further. This might be a concern, except that extending benefits does not change costs to business by a penny. The government offers extended access to the pool of money that businesses supply, reducing the pool, but the businesses pay at a constant rate. (With employment down by around ten percent, businesses are currently paying that much less in unemployment insurance, in point of fact.)

Businesses that have laid off personnel pay longer to assist those employees, true. But those are clearly not the businesses that might want to hire. They have reduced costs by reducing personnel, and the unemployment is a chip off that reduction. They're still ahead, cost-wise.

This is a laughable and truly desperate reach to find a way of blaming unemployment support for reducing employment. The editor is still fighting the advances in labor conditions of the 1930s.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Smoking bans work

Just to follow up on the debate over banning smoking in public places, particularly the bars where I work as a musician, it seems the science is panning out in up to 36 percent fewer heart attacks community-wide once smoking bans are established. So for all your friends who thought we were being a bunch of pansies for not wanting to live with smoke, here's how their right to smoke violates everyone's right to life.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Editorial: Debate already has enough colors

Today the unnamed Courier editor expresses his discomfort with the week's teevee tantrum about the race factor in criticism of the President, going out of his way to bash Jimmy Carter for speaking the truth and giving the teabaggers a slap on the wrist for their unsporting signs (while ignoring the really scary stuff).

To claim that there is no racism driving any of this is poppycock, of course, just as it's fallacious to say that racism drives it all, which is clearly not what President Carter or any other thinking being is doing. Across a nation so racially charged and full of empowered loonies as the US, it's inescapable that racists will be in the mix. This causes a problem for the right wing, because they want to present the teabaggers et al. as mainstream. The truth is quite the opposite. The people who are chanting and waving misspelled signs are in a small minority, as they always are, so the true-blue nutbars have disproportionate influence.

We on the left have always had to deal with the tiny red-star Mao-suit brigade that has always been in the mix, inviting characterization of liberals as socialists. And so the right has to deal with the snakes in its own nest, the white-supremacists, the greed-is-good corporatists, the nuke-all-the-wogs militarists and other extreme reactionaries. They exist, and they show up at the rallies. Pretending otherwise just makes you look dumb.

The editor is simply chiming in on whatever his preferred agitprop sources are telling him to say. In the Courier offices this somehow passes for "analysis." Again, I urge the editor to stick to local issues, which are better for the paper and its readers.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Brewer on religion

Just a quick note to point out a feature by Howard Fischer, carried on the religion page of the Independent today. For practicing Protestants this will probably seem eminently moderate and reasonable, but for me and I suspect a lot of non-religious people, it's a little creepy. See for yourself.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The basics of vectors, your Friday instant mind-expansion from the U of Nottingham.

Editorial diversions

As usual, Friday is the start of the extra-busy part of the week, but I just had to write a quick note on this silliness about ACORN, the gnat that the right-wing scream machine has been chasing for over a year now. If you buy on its face that a couple of Republicans dressed up as a pimp and a hooker with a hidden camera fooled employees of an urban nonprofit into helping them defraud the gubmint to open underage cathouses, I have to say you really ought to have your credulity meter checked out, it's broken.

The story is wacky, but what matters to me is that the unnamed Courier editor is wasting his op-ed inches on an issue that has no local component and matters not at all locally except as another political distraction.

Stick to your knitting, editor. We have plenty of important issues to consider here at home. Useful analysis of them will require more homework than this lift from Fox News, of course, but it's clear you have some time on your hands.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

On our poor benighted courthouse square

Every year our plaza is forced to put on cheapo bling and gaudy makeup to work the street, attracting tasteless tourists for her pimp, the Chamber of Commerce. We call this "economic development," and the businesses downtown depend on it like an annual balloon of strychnine-laced street heroin, buying completely into the most-wonderful-time-of-the-year junkie's delusion. The rest of us stay away, repulsed by the open displays of naked avarice and the simultaneous degradation of our city and the majority religion.

Well, fine. Willing seller, willing buyer, more or less victimless crime, all that. What I don't get is why this supposedly high-profit endeavor can't pay for the decorations itself. Every year we taxpayers buy the makeup, spikes and colorful thong for the square in return for a small cut of the proceeds in sales tax. Apparently we can't even hire local people to string the trees, instead that money fattens the economy in Mesa.

This is a business promotion, and the businesses that profit from it should pay for it. It does nothing for business elsewhere in town, and I hear often that it's negative for them. Where is Mr Lamerson now, thumping his Constitution on the table, demanding that we reserve our scarce public funds for essential services? Oh yeah, he was the one making the stink a few years ago over a City Hall sign that wasn't Xtian enough for him, while running one of those junkie downtown businesses.

The moneychangers have taken over the temple, folks. Why must we pay for their advertising?

Editorial: Selling buildings is a terrible idea

I agree with the unnamed Courier editor today, this part of the budget plan is dead stupid for a number of reasons. But he clearly doesn't understand them.

As I pointed out in July, where the budget seems to authorize selling the buildings, what the state would really be doing is pawning them. It would retain control of the properties in what would amount to secured loans with open repayment. (Notice that Treasurer Martin called it a "mortgage." That's more accurate, but still a bit misleading.) Eventually we would buy them back, paying substantial interest, and the "buyers" (lenders) would make a bundle on essentially no risk. I haven't been able to determine what would happen if a building is damaged in the meantime, say by fire. Presumably the specific contract would take care that, but I'll bet a buck the taxpayers wind up holding that bag as well.

So any deal like this would result long-term in a large net loss of state funds into the pockets of the bankers. Anyone with a lick of street smarts knows that once you're at the pawn counter, you're on the ragged edge of impoverishment, and those three balls mean it's two-to-one you'll never get your stuff back at all.

So what sort of dummy would write such a no-win provision into law? This came to the legislature from extreme-right elements in the bureaucracy, supported in the legislature by bottom-feeders who are working every angle they can to kill off government. They're also insisting on major business tax cuts, so it has nothing to do with fiscal responsibility.

Presumably the editor has more and better information resources than I do, and this isn't hard to figure out. Reading past someone else's headlines would be very helpful in putting together an editorial position that properly informs the voters.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Wiederaenders: Will Prescott voters follow habit?

Tim tries to place the primary results in retrospective context, and his best analysis is that the people who get the most votes tend to get the most votes, except when they don't. Now there's an insight.

Waste of space.

Editorial: People realizing water is scarce

Here's another one of those Courier editorials in which the unnamed Courier editor does a copy and paste of a front-page story, gives it a light massage and a little spin, and calls it good. He seems confident in the knowledge that no one reads his stuff anyway, so why bother?

It's another opportunity lost on an important issue. The key pieces missing in yesterday's story were the per-capita numbers on those top-end residential users and whether industrial users were included. Commenters pointed out these factors, and I know the editor reads them religiously. He seems to want to put a positive spin on this, yet he accepts the numbers at face value.

Does he call for investigation of excessive use? No. Does he think we should look into further disincentives for excessive use? Apparently not. Does he care? It sure doesn't look like it.

So why write this piece? I'm damned if I can say. It seems he didn't think much about it. Just filler.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Let's grow a pair on this

Editorial: 'No' and 'lie'? Try 'get back to work'

The unnamed Courier editor comes out in favor of clean energy, investment in mass transportation, respectful dialogue and the President's plan in general. Among his usual cheering squad, heads will explode.

Editorial: News search turns up horrifying results

Do you notice that the unnamed Courier editor, apparently newly aware of his website's search function, is astonished to learn that he's been frequently budgeting sex-crime stories? Is this a multiple-personality problem, or what? In any case it's pretty weak beer.

High water users consume disproportionate share of local supply

I think the headline here should be "A Few Hogs Suck Up 35% of Our Water." I've been talking to people for years about getting a handle on conservation and the really egregious overuse we see so often, but this just tears it: we clearly need some seriously punitive rates at the upper end.

The comparisons to the ridiculous waste of Scottsdale and Vegas are an obvious editorial diversion so high up in the story. What people do elsewhere is not pertinent to what we do here -- except what they're wasting in Scottsdale in large part comes from here.

The graphs say we're doing better, and that's all good, but look at the scales on those graphs -- on a zero-based scale, those changes would be pathetically shallow.

Cindy could have been more detailed in the section on pricing, but what's there shows just how weak our "incentive" system really is.

Retreading the TPI

Doug Cook describes the issue and reiterates the arguments on the "Taxpayer Protection Initiative" (gad, I hate that title). This may be boring stuff for those who are paying attention, but we have to keep in mind that most voters aren't, so an occasional rehash is a good thing.

Vision 2050 identifies challenges facing Prescott

Paula barely skims the surface of what's in the 2050 report, and from her description Council seems to have told the group to basically take a hike. It'd be nice if the Courier were to better inform the voters on what's really in the report, I'm sure it would provoke some interesting public discussion. You can read the executive summary here.

Eyes rolling

The AZ Republican confirms what I've been hearing about creepy old Fife Symington "considering" another stab at governor, "regardless of Brewer's plans," saying, "I would be very surprised if the Republican base sides with her in a vigorous Republican primary." Leaving aside his reelectability, which is low imho, I think he's getting a good reading of the political tea leaves. Ken Bennett has all but declared a challenge as well, and I think the odds are better than even that after the ugly spring session that's coming Brewer will cede the field.

The events of Brewer's tenure so far and a primary fight on the Rep side create a lot of room for a solid Dem candidate. Many are looking at AG Terry Goddard, who's sitting now where Janet Napolitano was before she became the most popular gov in living memory. But Symington beat him once before, and I'm hoping for a candidate with a little more horsepower.

There's a political aeon between now and the real campaign season, but that's what it'll take for any of these people to get in position for a credible campaign.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Red mud

No time for blogging, I'm in Sedona helping friends clean up after the flood. Here's a shot by Lesley from yesterday at Tlaquepaque.

Update, Sunday: Did anyone else notice that the Courier hasn't carried a word about this national story in our backyard, involving our friends and neighbors?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The President speaks

The Courier carries the full text of yesterday's speech on health care, hard on the heels of the speech to school kids on Tuesday. Tim Wiederaenders noted on his pseudoblog that it took reader "requests" to get him to publish the latter, so maybe this is all more reaction than journalistic sense, but I'm feeling generous today. Have a cookie, Tim.

Editorial: Border control remains the key

The unnamed Courier editor returns to one of his favorite themes: that amazing high-tech border wall that will keep the scary brown people out of Arizona. "Once we have that minimal control," he intones, then we can start dealing with the problem of illegal immigration.

Too bad the sort of "minimal control" he has in mind is so far beyond practical reality as to make it literally impossible.

With moon-shot priority he wants us to build a 500-mile physical barrier and staff it with enough guards to stop thousands of desperate people from penetrating it. Remember the 87-mile Berlin Wall. Now imagine six of them in a row, across rugged desert terrain. And that's just for Arizona.

No, he doesn't really mean it. Since it can't be accomplished by anything short of a police state, the whole "control of the border" meme is nothing more than a political protest sign that the right knows it can use over and over again to rile up Americans who are scared of brown people.

What the editor and his pals just don't seem to get is the inescapable logic that if 12 or 20 million people are living in this country illegally, there must be room for them in the labor force. Sure, a lot of legal Americans are out of work now. But we're also hearing that a lot of immigrants are going home. This is not a coincidence.

Almost everyone coming over the border would do it legally if they could. Our "illegal" problem is not one of enforcement, but rather an artificial scarcity of legal status imposed by our government in the form of quotas and delaying procedures, much of it rooted in racism.

Immigrants, by and large, are not looking for citizenship. They're looking for work. Forget the "path to citizenship" distraction, focus on the path to payroll taxes, and we'll clear up 90% of this issue in a jiffy.

How not to edit

So I'm reading along on today's "Special to the Courier" (read: press release) piece on the PV World Arts Festival, that annual "mecca of excitement" (koff), and out of nowhere I encounter,

"Musical entertainment will begin at 11 a.m., a half-hour after Persephone arrives at the main stage ...."
There was no previous reference to Persephone, so I had this vision of the hapless Greek queen of the underworld handing out plaques, and maybe a pomegranate or two.

A check of other lazy outlets for press releases found the full story over on Read It News, identifying Persephone ("and her special brand of family fun") as the event emcee, which isn't much, but it's better than the hack job the Courier did.

If a piece is too long for the space, by all means trim it. But do us all a favor and at least skim what you have left to see whether it still makes any sense.

Today's Chuckle

In a letter, Don Grise excoriates the Courier for not covering his event and accuses the paper of chronic "journalistic bias to the left." Humor is always based in a grain of truth -- almost everyone in the country is to the left of this guy, even the Courier editors.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wednesday Whirl

Here's one of this summer's best bits of crop art so far, shot by Steve Alexander.

Editorial: Those found guilty of DUI should pay rent

Here's another example of big-picture thinking in the Courier editorial suite, where a 3x5" snapshot is considered big.

In a one-day holiday sweep, backed by critical underfunding and lack of manpower, our lawnforcement agencies nabbed almost a thousand people on our roads threatening our lives. Given the majority that they had to have missed, and how many more they let get by every day, this ought to be hair-raising. All the unnamed Courier editor can think of in response is more fines for the perps.

These figures speak of a massive unaddressed social problem, combining our established culture of lawlessness with our most commonly abused addictive drug.

Treating alcoholism with punitive fines is a lot like trying to treat diabetes with whippings. It's stupid. Addicts don't have a choice about whether to drink, and it necessarily clouds their judgment about what they're doing. Ask Mayor Simmons. The possible penalties just don't enter the picture when it matters.

The only thing additional fines can accomplish is a little bit of state revenue enhancement, more impoverishment (and need for public services, eating that revenue) for the perps, and a lot of public revenge. This may be enough for the editor, but it's not enough for me. Has he noticed how our drug and alcohol treatment programs have lost funding and staff? Has he noticed that there are maybe two DPS officers working the highways of Yavapai County at any given time? Has he thought about how those factors might contribute to this danger? I sure don't see it in this piece.

Amster: Cable show lets all voices be heard

Randall uses today's column to promote a show on Access13, which all sounds very nice. The paper should have noted that he is a board director of the nonprofit that operates 13 and 15, and has been for years.

And when did he get the demotion from regular columnist to "Guest Column"?

The readers are laughing

Editor Ben Hansen has posted one of his occasional columns on his pseudoblog page, in which he describes himself as "a pit bull about spelling, grammar and usage" whose "staff often accuses me of being too manic about grammar and usage." Pity he can't even seem to proof his own column successfully. Perhaps that explains why the paper is daily so riddled with errors.

It's always good to start a speech with a joke, it gets the audience in the mood. He probably learned that at Toastmasters.

What he really wants to tell us is that the commenters on the paper are a bunch of ungrammatical, spelling-challenged boobs, and that he's a hero for getting it right on their behalf. He describes how he edits "an average of 200 online comments every day," "And, thanks to some recent changes in media law governing the web, we have the option of editing for spelling and grammar."

I don't know what Ben could be reading in law that allows him to imagine such extraordinary license, but just for the record, no. Just as it is unethical to alter a quote in print, it is unethical to edit a letter or comment posted by anyone who did not specifically submit it for editing. If it has a person's name on it, the reader should be able to trust that it's what the person wrote.

Rather than attending to his real responsibilities for coverage and quality of the paper, Ben is frittering away his time managing reader comments, a job that should go no higher than an editorial intern. For Ben this is the fun work, and it's really about power. In it he is exercising his long-held claim that he can change anything that comes to the paper in any way that suits him, and he gets to exert control over his critics in the bargain. In the past this has gone as far as altering the substance of columns by nationally syndicated writers to say the opposite of what the writer intended. That sort of practice and attitude, centered on controlling the message for political and personal reasons, is one of the primary reasons for this blog and at the heart of what's most wrong with our local daily.

The ordinary reader sees the spelling and grammatical errors that plague every page, left there by this "pit bull about spelling, grammar and usage." The subtler and more serious problem is control of the message and spin on the events that he stentoriously claims as his right, and it's for this that Sam Steiger long ago dubbed our paper The Daily Disappointment.

Update, 2:30pm: The column is no longer available under his blog title. How odd. The link above still works.

Update, Thursday 3:30pm: The piece is reposted in the proper place. I've relinked it above. I wonder whether my prodding had anything to do with it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

On the school-speech nonsense

Reading and listening to the childish taunting that passes these days for political discourse from the right, it's easy to get discouraged. Sometimes it really seems to me that the country is no longer governable, locked in a twisted mass version of the Stockholm Syndrome as our corporate abusers direct our thoughts away from freedom and civility.

Every thinking person knew that the President's back-to-school speech would be a benign pep talk, but the scream machine turned it into a national food fight over nothing. In a sensible world this would have shredded the credibility of every one of the screamers and sent them back to their caves in shame. Instead they stand up and scream louder, feeling vindicated that the benign speech they saw proves that there was a conspiracy. It's embarrassing to share a nationality with these nitwits.

But take heart: in the real world, as opposed to the media funhouse, most people are mature adults, capable of basic reasoning. Most Republicans are too, I'll venture, and the kooks embarrass them as well. It's really not as bad at it seems.

This graph from the end of June gathers a basket of public-opinion polls on support for "the public option," showing consistently high favorables. Those numbers are holding, whatever the media narrative you've been hearing. It was the same with the school-speech issue. A tiny, loud minority grabs the media attention and organizes phone calls to school authorities, who react, validating the kooks, who get more powerful and make more calls. Would that us commie liberals had undertaken as effective a campaign before the Shrub marched our boys and girls off to illegal war in Iraq.

The darksiders are focused, cagey, well-heeled and implacable. Their propaganda doesn't have to be subtle. They can count on the 11% of Americans who are pretty much certifiable anyway to carry their message as if it's the grass roots. They own and operate the corporate media, including little operations like the Courier. They've got you surrounded.

The thing is, they can only win if you give up, slide back into your Barcalounger, pop another cold one and continue channel-surfing. They know they haven't got the arguments, they don't care about that. They just want to wear you down so you quit caring.

So don't. Turn off the TV, laugh when you hear the amazingly absurd things their sock puppets say, and keep moving forward. We're getting there, and the gnat-brained screamers really don't matter that much.

Three events mark Sept. 11 anniversary

The comments say it all. The teabaggers will try to hijack the anniversary to push their conspiracy fantasies. And the Courier is right there to help. Notice that the other two event announcements include nothing like this. The teabagger press release probably included a lot of nonsense that the others didn't, but Paula should have known to leave it out and the editor should have redlined it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Editorial: Labor Day's purpose is not exactly clear

So the unnamed Courier editor is mystified about the meaning of Labor Day, huh? This is bunk. I know he's not that stupid.

He even seems to steal a few phrases and ideas from the Wikipedia entry, which provides a detailed account not only of the origins of the holiday, but its continuing reason for being as well. It's just not that hard to figure out.

So if there's clearly no mystery and the information is dead easy to find, the remaining explanation for the editor's feigned ignorance -- which, the reader should note, he has elevated to the official stance of the paper -- is that he wants to encourage doubt in the reader's mind about the value of the holiday. This has been a goal of authoritarians ever since the Labor Day and May Day traditions began in the labor struggles of the 19th century, rooted in the violent suppression of serfs and slaves by medieval aristocrats. These holidays remind people of the value of work and the advancement of working conditions we usually take for granted and identify as ordinary in the civilized world, all won by working people facing severe and often violent opposition from the forces of profit.

The editor, falling in with the corporatists and authoritarians he admires, wants you to forget, and instead sink into the couch of consumerism, giving away the little power and social justice that the non-rich have won from the rich over the last 200 years. Perhaps his employees, who work long hard hours for pittances, should take notice.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A weird inhabitant of intergalactic space, and how you can get involved in discovery. Your Friday instant mind-expansion on Hanny's Voorwerp.

Editorial: Council is right on Eco3 decision

I agree with the unnamed Courier editor that the sturm and drang over permitting an automotive business on a corner that has hosted automotive businesses for generations is not a problem. I even think it's a better decision than the exclusive million-clam condo complex that the owner hopes to build there when the economy improves. Prosperous non-tourist business downtown helps ensure the long-term vitality of the area.

But while he gets the issue right, the editor manages to work in Today's Chuckle:

And we have to ask the detractors, what would they do with the property that would be better? One commentator said leaving the building in disrepair surrounded by weeds would be better.
I read that comment. It was obviously sarcastic, making fun of other commenters, and even explained as such. But the editor didn't get it at all, failing to read beyond the heading. Yeesh.

What qualifies?

Today we have two pieces on the opinion page that have a lot in common, but they are treated quite differently by the editors.

The letter from AARP State Director David Mitchell seeks to dispel political myths previously seen on the page, as does the piece by Robert Ulrich. What I can't figure out is why one is published as a letter and the other as a Talk of the Town column.

The letter is from a person with clear credentials, weighing in on a broad public issue. The ToT is from a cranky regular guy taking issue with a single previous letter. Broad vs. narrow, credentials vs. none. It would have made more sense to me to promote Mitchell to ToT status (maybe inviting him to expand a bit) and publish Ulrich's worthy (if wordy) piece as a letter.

But so often it appears that this sort of editorial decision is being made randomly. It matters because readers use feature heads and page status to make decisions about the importance of what they're reading.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Editorial: State revenue still declining

More frequently of late we're seeing the editorial space filled with something significantly different from an editorial. What we have today is something like a blog post by a reporter on the legislative beat who has nothing substantial to file.

Okay, so the unnamed Courier editor has nothing to say, why does it matter? An unsigned editorial is (or is meant to be) a statement of position by the paper itself, as a whole. To me this flip treatment illustrates how little respect the editors have for their own product, for their readers and for the Fourth Estate itself.

Isn't it hard to come up with something new every day that matters enough for an editorial? Maybe, if you're not paying that much attention to what's going on. Perhaps the editors missed the election results that were coming in as the editorial deadline approached. Or maybe the editor had to get home in time for Glenn Beck.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Prescott council says earlier vote on initiative will stand

Whew. The Council took a good look at that big wet cow pie on the floor and decided not to give in to temptation and step in it again. You wouldn't think that sort of decision would take more than a few nanoseconds of debate.

The denials are silly -- of course Mr Lamerson and Ms Suttles were looking for every angle to scuttle the initiative. The attempts to change the rules in the middle of the game were obviously politically motivated. Any fair-minded person can see that once the City gave the initiative seekers a number, that should have been the end of it, whatever the constitutional technicalities involved. Once the City Council accepts the initiative as valid, it's legally binding and the legal challenge will have to be on substance, not signatures. Mr Lamerson knows this too.

The smart way to handle this would have been Mr Lamerson calling up the initiative committee, putting together a meeting and working out with them how to make any necessary changes to guard against constitutional challenge. Better still would be to avoid any talk of a do-over and think in terms of preventing constitutional errors in the future.

This deal is done, whatever you think if the initiative. I'll be voting against it, by the way. I don't like the broadness of its brush, which will likely lead to major unforeseen consequences.

But we have to respect the process, that is much more important than any given vote we make in the short term.

Pursuant to health ....

Once again we have a weekend full of letters about the health care, a few from people who understand what they're talking about, and the vast majority from those who don't. Good polling shows that over two-thirds of people admit to confusion about the substance, leaving a third who think they're not confused, and only a small part of those really get it. So here's a primer that I think could do some good if spread around: