Thursday, July 2, 2009

Marines exchange fire with Taliban in searing heat (update)

This AP story mysteriously dropped out of the sky onto the Courier website this afternoon. The paper's usual practice has been to use wire stories as inside filler and leave them off the site, since the site doesn't need filler to support the advertising on the edges. Maybe we're seeing a change in policy, and maybe someone just goofed up.

But this may spark up another round of controversy over local vs. general content, with some demanding that the paper furnish national news (with what pages? That takes ad revenue) and others demanding it keep the messy old world off their doorsteps.

I can't see how the Courier can either make any money with or do a useful job of national/world news, and there's plenty of that available already. (If you want that through the Courier site, think partnerships and sponsored links.) I think it could do a lot more with state news, particularly what's going on at the capitol and how it affects rural AZ. But hard local news should always be the main game.

5pm: I notice on just the sort of hard info I suggested above. We should see this in the Courier every week, at least. I notice some good original writing over there from the capitol as well. How is it that the Verde crew can afford this, but the Courier won't even carry it?

Open thread, Thursday edition

See anything strange today?

DeMocker remains in jail awaiting trial on one-year anniversary of Carol Kennedy's death

Something about this piece smells bad to me. First I notice that other than marking the anniversary of the widely beloved teacher's death, there is no actual news here. We get the all the news value from the ridiculously long headline. Nothing's happened, there's no new information. Then there's the defense attorney making assertions about the evidence or lack of it, while the prosecutors must follow the straight and narrow path and refrain from comment. I have to wonder whether the defense isn't playing the Courier for a mistrial. In any case it looks like a poor use of column inches.

Editorial: Let's behave like adults on budget

The unnamed Courier editor tells us that all politicians are venal and corrupt, then plaintively asks, "Is it too much to expect adult behavior from all concerned?"

As far as I've seen, and I watch pretty closely, the Courier neither wrote nor carried anything about the budget process until the session was already officially over. It failed to note that the legislative leadership ignored Gov. Napolitano's sensible and on-time budget proposal, thinking they'd get a better deal from her successor. It missed that Gov. Brewer refused to give the Legislature any budget plan other than press releases until a couple of weeks ago. It ignored the process in the Legislature, where a few radical rightwingers held everyone hostage to their idea that the best government is a dead one, and where both House and Senate leadership held up all other business while they worked out pointless deals in back rooms, leaving the bulk of both bodies twiddling their thumbs for months. It failed to share with us that the Legislature and the Governor were working on budget shortfall numbers that were a billion bucks different, predicting this cartoon train wreck over two months ago.

The editor's inclusion of the Dems in his broad slander of everyone down there is particularly idiotic, since the Dems have had exactly no input on the budget or anything else since Napolitano wisely moved on.

No, editor, it's not fair to smear the blame across all desks and both sides of the aisles. This mess can be very clearly laid to the proudly stupid radical rightists in the Legislature and our own Governor Peter Principle, who oddly enough is as close to an adult as we've seen down there in her clear understanding from the beginning that we aren't gonna get out of this jam without some new revenue.

It's supremely easy to say that we can solve a budget problem by "saying no to spending." What's not so easy is identifying exactly where to cut that won't hurt people we can't afford to hurt and create more problems and cost elsewhere. It's an article of faith that government spends too much, but like any faith, it's based more on myth than science.

The solid core of the budget collapse is that Arizona's economy has been based for decades on building new houses, stores, roads and infrastructure, neglecting the industrial and agricultural bases necessary to make that growth sustainable. Any 13-year-old Sim Earth player could have told us that this was coming 20 years ago.

Our collective failure to walk around this obvious hole in the road came about in large part because of our active discouragement of smart, visionary people from getting involved in the political process, leaving it instead largely to the zealots and egotists who don't care that people like the editor constantly accuse anyone in the game of corruption and venality. It's self-fulfilling.

If we want better government, adult government, we have to spend the effort to separate the wheat from the chaff, ignore party labels and encourage smart, competent and committed people to do this important work. It ain't for the money, that's for sure, so let's at least try to give them some respect.

But, almost as important, we need to pay attention to the process and insist that our elected representatives get the job done in a sensible way. Essential to that is good, factual information about what's going on, as well as good thinking and analysis based on that information, and that's where our news professionals have the most responsibility. That's you, Mr Editor. You failed to inform the boss that the employees were screwing around in the powder shed, after you egged them on for years to screw around in exactly this manner. Boom. Now you point the finger. Spare me.

Talk of the Town: 'La Raza' has land title backwards

Judy Dutko writes, "One of the precepts of La Raza, which means "The Race," is that the U.S. stole the American Southwest from Mexico." First I went to the la Raza website to check that statement, and found these:

The term “La Raza” has its origins in early 20th century Latin American literature and translates into English most closely as “the people” or, according to some scholars, as “the Hispanic people of the New World.” The term was coined by Mexican scholar José Vasconcelos to reflect the fact that the people of Latin America are a mixture of many of the world’s races, cultures, and religions.
(I work in the translation game, and deal daily with the misconceptions of amateur translators and resulting problems, so this doesn't surprise me a bit.)
Another misconception about NCLR is the allegation that we support a “Reconquista,” or the right of Mexico to reclaim land in the southwestern United States. NCLR has not made and does not make any such claim; indeed, such a claim is so far outside of the mainstream of the Latino community that we find it incredible that our critics raise it as an issue.

Ms Dutko, who claims to have been a high-school teacher, goes on to detail a version of the history of American acquisition of Mexican territory by settlement and war, asserting that it proves that the U.S. took this land legally. But on several readings of this account, I can't see how the reader could conclude anything other than that the U.S. took the Southwest from Mexico by force, not just by stealing, but by armed robbery. George Seaman gets it right in the comments. Then she tops it off triumphantly with "Contrary to La Raza's claim that we stole the Southwest, note that Mexico held title to it for only 27 years." Um, I suspect that if Ms Dutko owned a car for 27 years and someone came with a gun, threatened her with it and drove off in the car, she would likely conclude that she'd been robbed.

OK, so we have a writer who freely spouts untruths about a favorite right-wing whipping boy, then applies her historical knowledge to prove the idea she intends to disprove. Why should I care?

It's like this. Had the editors left the piece as an LTE, there'd be no foul. The reader could take it as the hamhanded rant it is. But by elevating this ignorant, radical-right harangue to Talk of the Town status, they give it the paper's endorsement as a worthwhile, professional view. Bad choice, guys. If you really want to promote these dumb ideas, at least pick someone who doesn't trip over her own shoelaces doing it. Columns are also subject to fact-checking, or at least they are in professional operations.

Oh, and could someone please go back through the records and find the kids Ms Dutko taught in school? They probably need some remedial help.