Sunday, January 31, 2010

Editorial: High-speed rail won't make enough impact

Today the Courier extends its reputation for hipshooting into the area of transportation policy.

The unnamed Courier editor poo-poohs the paltry 13 billion clams the President is proposing for high-speed rail as inadequate to the task of building a national high-speed rail network. Of course, no one has promised any such thing. From the WSJ:

"Building a high-speed rail network like the one in Western Europe would likely cost hundreds of billions of dollars, but Mr. Obama called the $13 billion effort 'a first step.'"

Perhaps the editor does not quite understand that a first step is necessary to getting anywhere at all. I'm sure he wouldn't be applauding the President if he proposed spending, say, $250 billion on high-speed rail over the next ten years -- a little less than we've already spent on the war in Afghanistan. But no, in the reactionary mind a step forward, if taken by Democrats, becomes a half-measure.

The editor is also miffed that the plan doesn't include us mountain states. (I have to wonder where the editor was when our genius city fathers decided it was a good idea to rip out our local rail line and sell off the land, but never mind.)

From The New York Times:
"The government has identified 10 corridors, each from 100 to 600 miles long, with greatest promise for high-speed development. They are: a northern New England line; an Empire line running east to west in New York State; a Keystone corridor running laterally through Pennsylvania; a major Chicago hub network; a southeast network connecting the District of Columbia to Florida and the Gulf Coast; a Gulf Coast line extending from eastern Texas to western Alabama; a corridor in central and southern Florida; a Texas-to-Oklahoma line; a California corridor where voters have already approved a line that will allow travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles in two and a half hours; and a corridor in the Pacific Northwest."
There's a reason it's called "mass transit" -- it's designed for lots of people to use. Look at the graphic, editor: the lines are where the people are. The city of New York by itself has half again as many people in it than the entire state of Arizona. You want bang for your tax buck, right?

Once again the editor parrots the talking points of the reactionary right without analyzing them or bothering to try to understand what he's criticizing. My best advice to him: stick to your knitting and keep it local, where you have at least a chance of knowing what you're talking about.

Side note: All the facts and a lot of the actual writing in the editorial are lifted from Mark Clayton in the Christian Science Monitor. (Note to editor: Unattributed copying of another's work is known in the trade as plagiarism.)

Update, 11:30pm: I sent part of this piece as a comment on the editorial, and it appears the Courier editor flushed it without a trace. Classy, boys. That sort of behavior is why I keep this blog.

Update, Monday night: Documenting my charge above before the stories roll off into the Nethernet:

CSM: President Obama’s $8 billion plunge into 13 high-speed rail projects nationwide has the potential to become either his “Eisenhower moment” – moving the US into a new phase of transportation modernization – or just a dead end “drop in the bucket."

Courier: On Wednesday, President Barack Obama spoke about a federal spending freeze, but not until 2011. The next day he unveiled parts of the second stimulus, including $8 billion toward high-speed rail projects. It will be either his "Eisenhower moment" - moving the country into a new phase of transportation - or just a "drop in the bucket." ... What Obama is doing as a substitute will result only in a dead end.

CSM: “It really is only a drop in the bucket of what the nation will need to get the kind of high-speed rail network it needs,” says Jack Schenendorf, who was vice chairman of the a blue-ribbon commission that studied the nation’s transportation needs in a 2008 study. “Obviously, for high speed rail, it is a good development. But it will take a lot more money to get these systems built out.”

Courier: "It really is only a drop in the bucket of what the nation will need to get the kind of high-speed rail network it needs," said Jack Schenendorf, who was vice chairman of the a blue-ribbon commission that studied the nation's transportation needs in a 2008 study. "Obviously, for high-speed rail, it is a good development. But it will take a lot more money to get these systems built out."

See where our editor even cribbed a typo? Cut-and-paste for sure. Naughty boy.

Update, 11pm Monday: Well, well, well, there are situations in which the editors will stoop to correcting mistakes online! An anonymous commenter alerts me that the editorial has been changed, sometime in the last four hours, adding attribution of the copied bits to the CSM. Pity he didn't get the typo while he was at it. Must've been in a hurry.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Letter: Equality must apply to everyone

Just read this great letter that cuts to the bone.

Editorial: Officials try to work around voters' will

I've been thinking about this one since it went up, but haven't had time to get to it.

The editor blasts legislators for having the unmitigated gall to try and walk back laws that "the people" gave us by initiative. He's talking yet again about term limits, his second editorial on the subject in three days. This writer wonders whether he'd be as protective of an initiative he doesn't like so much, but let's leave that aside for the moment. There's plenty of stupid here to deal with already.

His argument is that "the voters have spoken" on term limits -- 18 years ago -- and while he doesn't refute that "they deprive lawmakers of institutional knowledge and give too much influence to aides and lobbyists," to him that decision is carved in stone, apparently because it is infallible. Like the Pope.

He tries to reinforce this with Rep Tobin's aborted move to reintroduce as a bill the payday-loan industry's failed initiative of a year and a half ago. The editor sees a parallel there that evades me.

"A government by the people is supposed to be one in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them," says the editor, citing a principle of American civics that as far as I can tell he made up on the spot. Our system is not direct democracy, that doesn't exist anywhere. In representative government, supreme power is indeed vested in the people, but it is by design not exercised by them.

Our little direct-democracy option, the initiative process, was designed and built well over a century ago, and acts like it. It's primitive, allowing nefarious players to take advantage of us in many ways, and it's morphing into government by advertising. The idea that "the people" are behind most initiatives is either blindly naive or actively malicious. The idea that a few sentences scrawled on a bar napkin can pass through the initiative process and become good law is plain stupid, and most initiatives really are nearly that poorly vetted.

But the crux of the editor's argument is that "the people" can't be wrong in passing through these things. We've given term limits 18 years to prove out, and what we see is growing ignorance, disorganization, disarray and even corruption in our legislative bodies as a direct result. The state is functionally bankrupt, our Accidental Governor is trying to get her way by screaming at people, and our amateur Legislature is arranging duckpins on the poopdeck of the Titanic and thinking about a nice lunch. It's past time to repair this crucial mistake and start rebuilding our political culture.

The real 'duh' moment here is at the end, where the editor implies that the Legislature will pass this through the regular process and "the people" won't get to vote on it. The bill in process is a concurrent resolution, which if passed will result in a ballot measure. There's no other legal way to get around an established initiative. A newspaper editor ought to know these things.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Your political future

Mills sets up website in run for governor

It's funny, I must have missed the Courier stories about the candidacies of Dean Martin, Terry Goddard and the other front-runners for actual nomination. But we get the press release from our semi-local gun god verbatim as a news story. I have a feeling we know how this is going to go in everybody's hometown newspaper.

Embattled Obama declares in speech, 'I don't quit'

I've got just one thing to say about this AP story: In eight years of unending public controversy, the Courier never once associated the word "embattled" with George W Bush. Just sayin'.

Editorial: Are Olympics worth the cost?

Regular readers know that I was born without the sports gene and could not care less about the Olympics or any other spectator sports event. As a mediated pastime I consider sports less harmful than, say, eating bugs, but I'd still be happy to see the whole international-combat-via-sports thing dry up and fall off as we humans move through our social adolescence. I wouldn't bother to write an editorial on it, though. It's just not that important.

So when the unnamed Courier editor spends his daily inches to feign a question and opine clumsily that the Olympics are "so, so worth it," I have to laugh. So worth what, exactly? The games have never cost our community one thin dime, and the editor will get them for free on his teevee (albeit amid a relentless commercial assault that would melt my brain). It's just a non-issue.

So we come to the question: why did he write this? Logically all I can come up with is that the editor is so bored with our puny local issues that he's wrapping his brain in the primary opiate of the masses -- television -- and parroting its navel-gazing self-absorption, making its concerns his own.

So the editor offers an unintended public service here, exemplifying the danger in the same way a certain pan of frying eggs did some years ago -- this is your brain on teevee. Just say no.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Editorial: Term limits exist for good reason

The Legislature is considering a move to repeal term limits, and the unnamed Courier editor is predictably steamed that any politician might have the temerity to resist one of his favorite policies. He casts dark aspersions on their motivations, as usual, and farbles on about how we need a running clock to keep lazy pols from "wasting time" in office. Legislation is such an easy job, after all.

I've been there on a weekly basis through over seven years of legislative experience with Rep Lucy Mason, heard her stories (those we talk about on the radio and those we can't), and watched her evolution from fresh-faced, idealistic freshman to hard-bitten, tempered senior. I have no doubt at all that she is a far smarter and more effective legislator now than in her first term, and that no one comes into the job with much useful understanding of how the state works or any knowledge of the players involved.

Term limits shift institutional memory and organizational power to staff (who, if they're doing their jobs correctly, do not impart it to legislators) and lobbyists (who use it at least selectively and often strategically). A less-experienced Legislature overall means slower and lower-quality training for freshmen. A more tenuous institutional culture empowers newbies to reinvent the wheel with a square rim and call it innovation.

It's hard for people who are already convinced to understand, but the train wreck that we're currently experiencing at the Capitol is largely the direct result of inexperience in the Legislature and the Governor's office. And the Courier would have us not only maintain this as received wisdom, but extend it to Washington. As if our national politics aren't sufficiently dysfunctional.

Perhaps most convincing to me on this issue is that the freshman Rep. Mason was a true believer in term limits, and by her junior term she was completely convinced that the policy is idiotic, not because she will be unable to continue working 72 hours a week of constant frustration and flak from people who think she's a criminal for $25K a year, but rather because she really does care about effectively addressing the problems we face as a society. I don't always agree with her policy choices, but I'll defend to the end her sincerity and abilities in public service. She's better for her experience, and that's the sort of legislator I want working for me.

Term limits arbitrarily prevent me from voting for the representative I want.This I consider a substantial impairment of my most basic constitutional right. The editor makes his living on the First Amendment. One would think he'd be more protective of the body of that great document.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Editorial: No tax hike, even a 'temporary' one

The unnamed Courier editor is happy to spout off about refusing to raise taxes in any way. Why shouldn't he? What has he got to lose? Hating taxes is about as against-the-wind as hating bin Laden. It's too bad that public policy just isn't that easy.

Our state has a structural problem with its revenue policy. What I mean by "structural" is that the problems are built into the structure. What we're experiencing now is inevitable given the policies we've been using, and smarter people than I have been telling our leaders that for years. It's ironic that the editor quotes the old aphorism about insanity and in the same breath demands that we keep doing what we've been doing, which is blocking all necessary changes in tax policy except those that impoverish our state services and ultimately ourselves.

New ideas indeed, editor. And where are yours? I'm sure your state legislators would love to hear them.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Maybe the commenters were right ...

In today's NYT I notice an AP story on that jaguar who died at the hands of Game and Fish a while ago. It seems not everyone is convinced it was all on the up and up. Will the Courier carry this one?

Update: Here's the link to the story in March.

Stopped clock

I can't imagine that frequent over-the-top commenter Tom Steele is the best public face for the stop-the-prison group, but this time he's done his homework and happens to be right.

I'm persuaded by a contact inside the corrections industry that all the waving of arms is unnecessary, however. CCA's standard MO is apparently to get this sort of kerfuffle going on the local level, which sometimes leads to a local study, which sometimes leads to a state study, which sometimes leads to new state-supported business for CCA, usually someplace other than where it started. That's where I'll bet my five bucks.

Snow day

I'm out of town working on a major life-change project, so blogging's been light, sorry. It could be like this into February.

I have to say that while I can't vouch for their accuracy, I like the way the Courier has been keeping the weather-related stories flowing on the website. I imagine the newsroom is fairly jumping with people trying to get the latest and best information they can, and feeling the glow when they get it right and on time. For you hard-working Courier folks, a note: it should feel this way most of the time. Whatever the story, dig in, get it and get it right, and the job's way more fun.

Stay dry!

Editorial: Americans impatient for promised change

The headline is right, and the last line is right, both in ways the editor didn't intend. The rest is just horse hockey.

It's amusing to see most of the commenters doing just what the unnamed Courier editor is doing from their various political perspectives, and that is seeing what they all prefer to see in the Mass Senate election. The teabaggers see populist revolution, the Republican stalwarts see mass repudiation of Dems and Obama, and Dems see failure of Obama to deliver on campaign promises.

Near as I can tell, all of these may be minor factors, but all miss the obvious. The Mass Dems ran a campaign of entitlement with a candidate who largely didn't bother with voters, and lost. It was their seat to lose, and they did.

Nationally, neglect of the Dem base by the Prez and congressional leaders is becoming a serious problem. Reactionaries show up reliably to vote because they run on fear, but progressives need inspiration. Democracy is designed to operate by compromise, and I appreciate that principled people will try to work that way regardless of the tactics on the other side, but the unalloyed gutlessness of the Dems in pursuing vital change in our health-care system, failing to follow through on getting us out of Bush's military adventures and rescuing the investment portfolios of the Wall Street warlocks has caused widespread disgust among the base. I couldn't say from direct knowledge whether this was a significant factor, but the exit polls seem to indicate it was.

Be that as it may, the editor is playing out of his league again. Stick to your knitting, editor: keep it local. You don't generally have the gumption to research the stories that are near at hand, leave alone what's going on so far away.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Old Elks fire curtain reveals original artwork

Regular readers know that Courier coverage of the Elks is a regular feature here, and indulge me. This piece appeared over the weekend.

Cindy couldn't know that her lead --

For nearly 100 years, the asbestos fire curtain stood as a safeguard between the sometimes-combustible activities on the stage of the Elks Opera House and the people in the audience.
-- draws a chuckle from every theatre professional who's worked the Elks.

The fire curtain, known in theatre parlance as the asbestos, is a required system in every theatre since the 1903 Iroquois Theatre fire in Chicago, which in killing 600 theatre patrons brought in many new rules for theatre safety systems and procedures. Asbestos systems are designed to bring the curtain down automatically to contain fire on the stage. They can be triggered manually as well.

Until it was taken down a few years ago, the Elks asbestos had been frozen and inoperable for at least twenty years and probably a lot longer. The Elks Theatre (is not, never has been and never could be an opera house) was almost exclusively a movie house for many decades, and so didn't need a working asbestos until Yavapai College took it over in the late '80s. The college never provided the funding to bring the theatre up to code, and so this and many other systems remained in neglect through the Prescott College period (when I rejected it as a venue for the Shakespeare Festival as unsafe) and the City's takeover.

The City's plans for "renovation" have so far not publicly included the necessary equipment and safety-system upgrades to pass a state inspection and open legally. I hope the City's not going to be surprised by this.

County supervisors oppose pro-union bill

Linda (or her editor?) steps right off into deep doo-doo:

"Hoping to stop a bill that would require states and local governments to unionize some employees, ..."
The Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act, which passed the House in '07 with bipartisan support and remains stuck in Senate committee process, would not require any government to unionize anyone. Put it down to incompetence if you like, but this is exactly the wrong impression the radical corporatists would have you believe, and therefore the Courier is either taken in by the propaganda or complicit in it.

The bill's purpose is ensure the rights of police officers, fire-fighters and other specifically public-safety workers (hence the name) to form and join unions and to bargain collectively. If you don't think they should be allowed to do that, you should rightfully oppose this bill. The rest of us think it's perfectly OK, and that unions are not the threat to this country that the right loves to characterize. But allowing people to unionize, I'm sure every reader must agree, is not anything like the same as requiring employers to create unions.

I think the Courier ought to be getting a ton of letters and comments on this little agitprop move. It's ugly.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Feed-your-head Friday

The sun's low, but spring is ahead. At least it looks like it.

Editorial: HUSD should pick needs over wants

The unnamed Courier editor expresses just the right amount of ironic outrage over HUSD entertaining the idea of building a swimming pool instead of science labs.

This follows the the standard formula of rewriting yesterday's front page, but he covers the presented alternatives that I noted missing yesterday, as well as the astroturf controversy, and takes a firm stand on what he thinks the board ought to do. Much more solid and reasoned than usual. A cookie for you, ed.

Police urge people to lock cars to reduce burglaries

Lisa reports ten car burglaries in two weeks. She doesn't tell us where this is happening. We're left to wonder whether bad kids are prowling neighborhoods or the Row or the nasty dank parking garage or church lots or Wal-Mart or what. This failure makes the story both scary and useless. Ack.

Tourism study: If Prescott spends, people will come

The City Manager spends ten grand on a tourism consultant, who tells us that we need to spend more money on tourism promotion, presumably to some degree on more consulting. Cindy gets the facts right and seeks out more, that's all good. But the most fundamental question remains unexplored: what do we have to sell to tourists?

Everyone who lives here and didn't grow up here understands that Prescott is a great town in many ways, but that doesn't entitle us to any tourism dollars. The Courier inadvertently provides an example of what's wrong in its choice of a photo to accompany the story.

What the City bills as a "bluegrass festival" is one of the most amateurish hick-chic events I've ever seen in a city this size. The organizers take the path of least resistance and least cost, making an event that no one really cares about. Why should anyone come?

The rodeo is a reliable draw, but its demographic is pretty sharply limited, and the town takes on an exclusionary attitude when those people show up.

Meanwhile shows with more openness and vision, like Tsunami, are hobbled by lack of resources and forced to keep their goals attainable -- and second-rate.

If the City, PACT, PDP, the Chamber and our business community at large were to really get behind a quality arts-related event that spreads out over downtown and lasts for more than a couple of days, those advertising dollars could pay off in loyal repeat business. I've seen this work well in cities that had far less to offer than Prescott.

That missing baby case

Our 24/7 newstainment industry spits out hundreds of stories every day. What leads the editors to think that this particular one is more relevant to local readers than any other? There's no local angle, and from the looks of things it's already being covered pretty heavily on teevee (a drug I haven't touched in many years).

I recall a case a few years ago in which a Prescott man stole his child from his former wife, fled out of state, was eventually caught, tried and jailed, with nary a word about it in the Courier.

The only factor I see different here is that it's a woman doing the kidnapping, which leads to the conclusion that the editors are a lot more interested in the father's-rights angle. Gotta keep control of those women. y'know.

Fah. Waste of space.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Editorial: Project is a matter not of if, but how

The unnamed Courier editor says that there's no choice, we have to build it, even though home construction has crashed like an airliner through the City Hall roof, so we better pay for it. As if he had nothing to do with bringing us to this pretty pass. Shrug. Get over it.

Once again the build-or-die crowd hoists the community on its rank petard and fakes ignorance of a predictable outcome.

A responsible editor would be writing about how short-sighted Council and staff decisions over a decade forced the City into a legal corner it can't escape. About what amounts to an historic shift in City fiscal policy brought about by accident, for no useful purpose. About what this switch from conservative, pay-as-you-go spending to borrow-and-build bonding might bring, and how it fits in the context of the recent wildly popular Prop 400.

Instead, we have one of the genius cheerleaders for the uncontrolled, cancer-like growth that brought our economy low telling us that we just have to deal. Act of God.

Talk to the hand.

Mason: Making Arizona more competitive is key

I'll be asking Rep Mason about these business tax cuts this weekend on The People's Business (2pm Sat-Sun on KJZA/KJZP, 89.5 and 90.1 FM). I hope the Courier editors have something planned to follow up on this and explore how it makes sense to substantially reduce business taxes in the context of a crushing budget gap.

This idea came up in the Governor's negotiation with legislative leaders. The deal would have created a tax package to include new revenue through the temporary sales tax and expanded property tax base along with minor cuts in taxes on business -- a classic compromise. But apparently the radicals in charge of the Legislature decided they really didn't have to compromise anything, betting that the Accidental Governor will just roll over. They may be right.

PS: AZBlueMeanie has a very cogent take on Blog for Arizona.

HUSD Governing Board considering new aquatic center at Bradshaw

Yikes. Bond money (borrowed money) is available to use at BMHS, and the HUSD board thinks a swimming pool ("revenue flow"? Ack!) is the best way to spend it. Paula goes along with the gag unquestioningly, not even bothering to list alternatives presented to the board, leave alone what other schools in similar position are doing.

Here's a clue: We spend public funds on schools to make smarter kids. Neither swimming nor any other form of physical exertion for its own sake makes kids smarter. Waste of money.

The only person who seems to have his head even half in the game here is Richard Marks, in a quote near the end. Is Prescott Valley or the Courier smart enough to follow that rabbit trail?

Bobcat wasn't rabid, but ...

Joanna bases her story on a fact -- that the officially murdered cat's body tested negative for rabies. But pretty much the entire story consists of justification for killing it. Protesting too much?

The previous story included enough of that, but the editors felt compelled to pile it on here. It amounts to what feels like excess in defense of the PD action, which leads me to suspect that someone's afraid the PD really did overreact.

The context over the past year of an unusual number of rabid animal attacks and an even larger number of avoidable animal deaths at the hands of officials is inescapable. What with the followup editorial, I get the feeling the Courier is taking sides on the whole issue. Maybe that move out of downtown into the Prescott Lakes boonies wasn't such a good idea.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Editorial: It won't hurt to wait a bit longer

The Courier thinks we should hold off on more stimulus to see whether what we've done is enough to bounce the economy back. Historical note: that's what the Republicans thought in '33 as well, and they got Roosevelt to back off, putting the economy deeper in the toilet for another eight years. Just sayin'.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Editorial: Mayor's meeting plan makes sense

The unnamed Courier editor thinks it makes sense to cut Council study sessions. This is no surprise to anyone who's watched this column with half an eye open for over a week. Both the Mayor and the editor seem to have little respect for public process.

The Mayor is betting that the public generally doesn't care to know anything about the issues that come before Council, and won't miss the study sessions in which the issues and concerns are aired, giving a week for them to soak in and for affected people to respond. I expect he's underestimating the number of people who faithfully tune in to watch the meetings on access TV throughout the week.

He's betting that ordinary citizens, nonprofits and other players in the community outside City Hall really don't have that much of interest to bring to the table, and Council can do a fine job with just the analyses that staff provides and their own bodacious sit-upons.

This strikes me as just the sort of rookie mistake we were promised would not happen because Marlin is supposedly so experienced. Whether or not it's practical in some aspects, it's a really dumb public-relations move. In these more charged and complex times, Council should be doing more public meetings and outreach, not less.

This is a way bigger town than it was in Marlin's time on Council, there are a lot more interests and more at stake in Council's decisions. Moving immediately to reduce public input and deliberation bodes very poorly for the new regime.

Amster: The times, they aren't a-changin'

Randall's a teacher, not a pro writer, and for that may be excused if his columns are a little clunky, like today. He really wanted to write on the private-prison issue, which filled the letters pages over the weekend, but he felt compelled to try and make it an example of a more general condition, which got his first few grafs lost in the wilderness of weak research.

In the second half he does better, bringing some new perspective to the debate as well as an expert view. I particularly like the ethical points at the end. I just wish he'd gone beyond the Prescott College family to do it, though. There are a lot of great minds and great people working there, but way too many Prescottonians see PC as a politically charged egghead island about eight miles off the deck of reality. That's a lot of baggage to overcome in 500 words if you want to convince anyone.

Doctors, health center director see insurance problem, solutions

Ken takes on a view-from-the-trenches assignment, and all he proves is that the people in the trenches are uniformly clueless about the goals and specifics of health-care reform. Each person he interviews gets their own pet peeves off their chest, but few of their arguments and concerns are in any way related to the reform system.

The exception is the constitutional question, which I think is a pertinent argument. Orrin Hatch and a couple of pals lay it out in today's WSJ. (Rather than derail reform, if the courts agree I think there's a chance this will stop the individual mandate and leave political space for a public program.)

But the story amounts to almost nothing but more confusing chaff in the air. The comments are more interesting.

Crime coverage on hiatus, or what?

Shots fired in one of our local neighborhoods on Saturday, shooter still on the loose, and I have to read about it in The LA Times.

A YCSO detention officer no less is busted Sunday night for brandishing a gun and a knife in two bars on the Row, including pistol-whipping another patron, ditto.

Our local paper is AWOL so far. Neither perp is Latino.

Update, Tuesday: Both stories show up for today, although there's some disagreement over whether one happened on Saturday or Sunday. We also see the arrest story on the New Year's Eve stabbing on the Row. Is the Courier only running this sort of thing on Tuesdays, maybe?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Should medical marijuana be legalized? Pro and Con

Oh, this is rich. The Courier editors "debate" legalizing medical pot. Neither knows any more about the issue than what they've seen on teevee. They undertake a debate in which neither addresses the other's arguments. It amounts to a couple of kindergartners debating economic theory based on their knowledge of Santa and the Tooth Fairy.

On the con side of the argument, Tim can't seem to focus. He assumes that lawmakers might be interested in the taxable aspect as a budget supplement, but undercuts even this wild theory by comparing the paltry 300 million clams a medpot program might bring in to the 3.4 billion-clam deficit we're already not dealing with. Who might imagine that the money would be a significant factor here? Then he balances this non-issue against the non-issue of patient dosage, non-sick people maybe getting better pot (and paying taxes on it), the "purity" of a natural product that you can't overdose on, and pharmaceutical products that just have to be better, even though actual sick people can't stand them. In the end he reveals the extent of his reasoning abilities around this issue by chucking all his arguments in favor of the state "selling its soul to the devil" -- in other words, he just thinks pot is evil and that ought to be enough for anybody.

Ben does little better on the pro side. He starts off on familiar ground -- John Wayne movies (ack) -- and steps confidently off the cliff of complete ignorance. "Marijuana may be addictive," he intones, "but that is no concern for people who are dying or so severely ill they are incapacitated." Except that no good study has ever shown marijuana to be addictive, and no one has ever seen a clinical pot addict. Ever. No matter how hard they've tried. So even while he's trying to argue the point sympathetically, Ben can't help but reinforce acute misinformation and idiotic stereotypes.

What's really breathtaking is the hubris of these two in deciding that they are even qualified, let alone the best people, to write on this subject. The egotism here is palpable, the egotists make themselves ridiculous, and the paper's reputation accelerates on its toilet trajectory.