Wednesday, March 31, 2010

McCain coloring outside the lines again

This is the kind of total BS that our Senator is dishing out (video from Mar 13).

The necessary questions:

Does he really know so little about what he's talking about -- he's supposed to be an expert in this area -- or is he just flat-out lying?

How could either of these scenarios possibly do anything but disqualify him from yet another six-year term representing us in the Senate?

Why the heck was he doing a town hall in New Hampshire?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Editorial: Battle ends; war on health goes on

I'll try not to make too much of the unnamed Courier editor's headline fail here, although it's really hard to resist something so Freudian-slippish as "war on health goes on" from so dutiful a soldier in that cause. I'll even skip lightly over his reuse of the photo from yesterday that makes Speaker Pelosi look so bad. What we need to talk about, once again, is content and propaganda.

The editor tries to make it look like he's rising to the 50,000-foot level and standing above the grisly fray. What's he's really doing is reinforcing myths and unreasonable doubts to make political points.

The "unanswered questions" the editor alludes to are in the main well answered, but the reactionaries won't hear it. (This is not unlike to the inability among a small minority to accept that the president was born in the US.) He asserts that few in Congress have read the bill, which may be technically true, but the implication is that few "if any" understand it, which is certainly not true, and further that the language just dropped out of the sky from somewhere, rather than evolved in the fire of intense negotiation. And yes, there will be unintended consequences, but that's true of every piece of legislation ever passed. The editor's dark foreboding is just theatre, and you'll notice that he doesn't even try to back it up with a single fact.

The parliamentary "hurdles" the editor mentions were apparently only important to Fox News commentators, as the bill is expected to breeze through the Senate this week. The constitutional challenges being mounted by a small minority of state AGs ("aspiring governors," as I saw it put so well this morning) are political theatre as well, though given our Bush-packed Supreme Court, a few nuts might try with not unreasonable hope to get slavery declared constitutional again.

He waves the red flag of abortion, always good for a roar from a certain small constituency. That straw man has been knocked down so many times it should be in the same bin with the birther conspiracy.

"Polls showed a majority of Americans opposing the bill right up until Sunday night's vote," intones the editor. He was accurate about that until today, sort of, but not in support of his argument that the Dems are risking electoral losses for it, since the same polls he was reading found that 52% of respondents either supported the bill or favored something more liberal. Even that's moot today, as new polls are coming out showing even higher favorables, vindicating several pundits I heard weeks ago predicting that once the thing was in the bag, the majority would embrace it.

Finally, evoking the tea-party wingnuts protesting the bill as some sort of decisive political force while ignoring the many more who publicly gave thanks for its passage is just silly. The editor is looking for what he wants to see in the world, and seeing it. He's either trying to fool you, or fooling himself. This is absolutely not the sort of person that you want running any news outlet.

Health care reform: Legislation makes numerous changes

Joanna takes a stab at laying out what's in the bill, doing what a reporter should be doing. Then the editors come in and turn it into a political debate piece by running a sidebar with comments from McCain and Kirkpatrick.

They won't let it go, it all has to be about politics. This keeps voters confused and stirred up emotionally so they can't think with any clarity about what's actually happening. The photos are more than twice the size of the sidebar, top of page one: so what's the message?

Monday, March 22, 2010

The animals are growing bold

Yesterday we saw several particularly scary comments from a guy signing himself "1 of we the people" and identifying with the tea-party cult, expressing that "only white men are responsible enough" to carry guns and make public policy decisions, etc. The editor came in this morning and trimmed out the worst of it, but we still have part of his rant about the military being "out to get us" to justify violence.

This sort of paranoia is the inevitable result of whipping up fear over nothing and using it for political gain. Readers have to bear in mind that as we chuckle over the juvenile political antics of the Courier editors, there are serious consequences for allowing our media to jump off into extremism. "1 of we the people" is among a tiny number of sick individuals who eat this stuff up, and as they move deeper into it, eventually one of them goes over the line and starts hurting people.

As it can happen anywhere, it can happen here, and our only defense against it is prevention. A big part of that is moderating our public discourse and acting like responsible adults.

Update, Tuesday: Like I said.

News Analysis: Health care's political lift uncertain

Isn't it precious how the Courier editors found ways to undermine the news of the passage of health-care legislation?

The photo of Speaker Pelosi gaping in laughter is pretty bad, but this piece is a particularly egregious abuse of a news page in service to propaganda. Carried as news, it's nothing but political opinion, and obviously belongs on the op-ed page.

This is childish, guys, and your adult readers are generally capable of understanding it as such. Please make an attempt to grow up. You've got at least three more years of Democratic administration to suffer through. If you whine and tantrum like this over everything, why should anyone, left, right or center, trust anything in your paper?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

Happy anniversary, war fans

We get an editorial every Pearl Harbor Day, but Iraq Invasion Day is here again with no mention of it in the Courier. Maybe the editor would jump on it if we celebrated it with green beer. Or would red be more appropriate?

Update, Sunday:
An anonymous commenter asks how many other papers covered this story. Consider this list to start.

Editorial: Kirkpatrick vote surprises no one

I'm so surprised: the unnamed Courier editor is blaming Rep Kirkpatrick, a Democrat, for sometimes voting like a Democrat.

I must have missed the many editorials wherein the editor excoriated her predecessor, Rick Renzi, for voting too often like a Republican, as well for not voting at all after the indictments started coming in. Maybe the editor was out sick that decade.

See, here's how it works. Since the editor voted against her for Congress but she still won, in order for her to properly represent The People (= The Editor), she has to vote as the editor would. Doing otherwise obviously makes her a puppet of the evil California liberals who want to put the editor in chains, take all his guns away and give them to North Korea.

Never mind that Ms Kirkpatrick is among the small group of congressional freshmen demonstrating the most independence from the party line. If she votes against the editor, she's been bitten by Nancy Pelosi and become one of her army of liberal zombies.

I'm sure it's also very confusing to the editor that the Representative has failed to demonstrate her zombieness on issues the editor holds dear, like guns, congressional pay and deficit spending. Those initiatives couldn't possibly be anything other than a "smokescreen of conservative credibility." I tell you, nothing gets past this guy.

Seriously, editor, why can't you just write that you don't agree with Ms Kirkpatrick's vote on health care, using research to back up your argument on the issue rather than personal attack and innuendo?

Do you even care what's in the bill? Wouldn't it make more sense to help inform your readers on its merits and demerits? Or are you really only concerned about whether your team is winning?

ToT: Budgets should go onto Internet

No sensible person will argue against transparency in government. More information is generally a good thing, and in principle requiring government authorities to publish their budgets and spending details is the responsible thing to do. But a couple of things bother me about today's screed from the Goldwater Institute.

First, it's from the Goldwater Institute, the primary purpose of which is to help wrest government functions out of the hands of the people and into the loving care of corporations. The Courier is all too often a shill for this group, printing its press releases and pseudo-news uncritically and often unattributed to cover the source. GI is a highly skilled propaganda organ, famous for framing issues to look reasonable in support of its radical agenda.

Which brings me to the second problem. We all want transparency (except, apparently, when Republicans are in charge, since GI never demanded anything of the sort during the Bush regime), but consider the next step: you've got the data, so what do you do with it?

It's entirely reasonable to infer that reams of searchable data on government expenditures can help agencies identify redundancies and possible savings. That's all good. I would hope that we were hiring managers whose primary responsibility is to do exactly that, and if they're not I have to wonder what our state thinks a manager is supposed to be doing. But there's a lot to do, and more eyes on the problem can help.

What I don't want to see is a horde of angry, self-righteous right-wingers, whipped up by television fearmongers, peppering our government managers with ignorant, politically motivated demands and judgments.

All the data in the world is useless unless you know how to interpret it and understand its basis in context. How many of Goldwater's public-spirited citizens will sit down and do the research to understand what's behind a given expenditure before passing judgment on whether they like it?

I have a feeling GI hopes to employ the old government-as-sausage-making saw to its advantage in tearing down government, betting that showing people more details of government while keeping them ignorant of the whole picture and hammering on the government-is-bad button will fuel the torches-and-pitchforks mobs that help keep people divided and corporations running the show.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Editorial: Remember the life of St. Patrick

Yeah, sure, celebrate St Pat, a religious zealot who helped subjugate the last free Celts for the Roman Catholic Empire.

It's so easy to forget the history when there's green beer around, innit?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Editorial: Congress lawsuit matter of sense

The editorial follows up on Friday's story by Paula about a dust devil in Congress between the school district and four people who've demanded to see lots of documents and speak at board meetings, two of whom are mother and daughter.

Clearly there are two sides to this story. What concerns me about the news story and the editorial is that they seem to be based entirely on a press release from the Goldwater Institute, which is not only an extreme partisan organization, but is legally representing the people who've been bugging the district.

I'm not saying it's impossible for GI to be giving out the straight dope, but since there are no other news sources (including the Republic, which parrots the same release), we can't know any more about it than what GI wants us to know.

There's an important clue in Paula's story: The GI lawyer says, "If the lawsuit goes forward and the district gets an injunction, it could completely negate the public records law, negate the First Amendment right to free speech and eliminate public participation for fear of being sued." This is legal poppycock -- the injunction would be sharply limited, against specific people in response to specific behavior. By framing it this way, GI is setting up the idea that there can be no limits to citizen demands on government entities, including harassment. GI's kill-government history shows that it loves to see bureaucratic wheels grinding to a halt (outside the military and police apparatus, of course).

It could also be that the district board is being run by a few hotheads who can't stand people calling them to account. A lot of details in the story don't add up. But without a clear account from the other side, we're left to guess.

Given that the unnamed Courier editor saw fit to run with Goldwater and no new information, I'd probably bet that the story is largely BS and the school board has a reasonable complaint. Watch for a followup story on how the judge rules.

Governor's chief of staff to Cattle Growers: AZ's woes should sound familiar

From all reports I've heard, Eileen Klein is a smart cookie, one who is probably completely aware that her show for the cattlemen was all smoke and mirrors.

In mirror mode, she evoked St. Reagan to justify her boss' support for the sales tax hike, and blamed Gov Napolitano for allowing "the government to grow as large as possible," as Heidi describes it. Perhaps Ms Klein forgot that both houses of the Legislature were controlled by Republicans for both Janet's terms and most of living memory, and the Governor does not allocate the state budget. That's the Legislature's responsibility.

In smoke mode, Ms Klein talks about how California's finances were a "house of cards, a Ponzi scheme" necessitating new taxes, setting that in direct parallel to Arizona today, but we hear no mention of how the structural weaknesses in Arizona's financial policy that led us to this pass can or should change to be more dependable and stable.

Let's not forget that the Gov has declared for reelection, so this was an early campaign speech to an influential chunk of her base. Ms Brewer may be telling the truth, but clearly she has no ideas for correcting the problem. In other words, if Jan gets everything she wants, it could all come down exactly the same way in another five years.

Shorter Klein: We got it really wrong in the past, so we should keep doing that.

We need a much more serious approach than picking the pockets of poor folk to patch a system that has proved catastrophically deficient. Sensible structural change means moving away from sales taxes as the primary revenue source, away from construction as the primary industry, and toward real property taxes, as we have a more settled population and more established businesses in one of the most attractive environments for living and working in the western hemisphere. We have to move forcefully toward renewable energy and sustainable industry, and away from dependence on retailing and extractive industry. We have to spread the tax base to raise revenues and improve fairness. That's the sort of ideas I'll be looking for from this year's crop of candidates.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Editorial: City should shift money to needs

Today the unnamed Courier makes the case that elections don't matter and the City should just do what the editor wants.

We know, of course, that the editor vehemently opposed the open-space allocation of sales-tax funds in the 2000 initiative. He and most of the representatives on city councils since have complained continuously about that vote and worked diligently to subvert it.

Somehow it's impossible for these people to understand that in voting to allocate money to buy open space, the voters of Prescott defined purchased open space as a need. So for Council or the editor to turn around and say it isn't is just beating a still-opinionated but entirely dead horse.

People don't vote to tax themselves thinking it might be nice if we could have this. They decide that the thing is necessary to their community at cost to themselves personally. That's fairly persuasive, if you ask me. I'm not saying that voters can't or don't make mistakes in the process, but that's our system, like it or lump it.

The editor can argue all day that we should overturn that initiative and spend the money on streets. He can't argue that such spending is objectively unnecessary -- the voters said otherwise, explicitly, and it'll take another vote to change that -- and he can't argue for just using the money to repair streets instead -- that's not legal or ethical. Given that revenues from that sales tax have far exceeded projections at the time and actual open-space purchasing is far behind intended schedule, he can't say with any authority that open-space purchases have impeded the intent of the initiative in terms of street repair. If the editor believes we need more money for streets, he is arguing in favor of higher taxes to pay for them. He should be advocating a new initiative for additional sales tax to cover better projections of how much money will be needed, and specifically overturning the open-space allocation.

Somehow I don't expect we'll see him doing that. It's so much easier to call for ignoring the will of the people. Things were so much simpler when we had kings, huh?

The language of the 2000 initiative left sensible room for Council to to operate in terms of specific allocations of funds at a given time. The voters trusted Council to follow the clear intent of the initiative rather than bind the City to hard schedules. Council has instead taken advantage of that trust and sensibility to resist the initiative. This short-term political opportunism risks long-term loss of options if the voters decide they can't trust Council. I'd urge sitting Councilors and staff to be very careful about treading on that flag.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Feed-Your-Head Friday

Some very cool demonstrations here on how charges work.

Editorial: Aim sign anger to do some good

The unnamed Courier editor takes the opportunity afforded by the antics of Councilmen Hanna and Blair to polish his rightist immigration credentials, managing in a couple of hundred words both to characterize removing the Spanish banner as "an extreme reaction" and to urge readers to elect more extreme reactionaries.

Along the way he betrays his lingual chauvinism (or is it racism?), calling it "an unfortunate fact of life that many legal American citizens still speak primarily Spanish in their daily lives," as if speaking Spanish is some sort of developmental handicap.

But he really kicks it into gear when he demonstrates that he really doesn't get the issue at all: "we at the Courier don't like an expression that encourages illegal residents to participate in the census," as if it's an illegal act, or participation in the census confers some sort of legal privilege.

Editor, we, all of us, including you, really do want illegals to participate. If they do, we have a clearer idea of how to apportion public spending (like roads and infrastructure, say) for the actual number of people in our community, as well as ensure that we get enough votes in Congress to account for that real number. More illegals on the census is an advantage to our communities, and does not change their status or public benefits one bit.

But I gather that's really hard to see through race-tinted aviator sunglasses.

ToT: Corporations don't count as people

My good friend George Seaman posits that the expansion of corporate freedoms awarded recently by the Supreme Court is a danger that we should be able to see equally from across the political spectrum. He's right, we should. So why don't we?

I have to wonder whether a lot of people who identify with the right are enthralled by corporations in much the same way a battered wife continues to defend her abuser. They've deluded themselves that the abusers really love them, despite what all their friends tell them, and if they can just be loyal enough and do the right things, the abuse will magically stop.

You can't penetrate this sort of self-delusion by stating the obvious. George's argument is cogent and clear to those of us who already understand, but our problem is that a whole lot of us don't or won't buy it.

George sensibly asserts, "Most of us don't have to think very hard to find evidence of this kind of collusion in today's 'unfree' markets," but fails to provide any examples to back that statement and help lead unconvinced voters to water. "Presidents from Jefferson to Obama, and many in between, have warned of the dire consequences of elevating corporations to an equal footing with the people," true enough, but the people we need to persuade do not understand what those consequences are.

We have to more clearly articulate the very real danger inherent in giving corporate interests unfettered license to use their financial and propaganda resources to influence elections and public policy. Many, perhaps most, voters already think that corporate influence is so deep that this ruling won't matter. The predictable difference might be expressed as a little water in your basement once in a while against a flood taking the house away. But this is not an easy sell against decades of daily corporate propaganda. We must be persuasive, persistent, factual and elementary if we're to have any hope for change.

I got a chuckle in the comments from one that characterizes ol'-hippie George as a rightwinger trying to pass as a libertarian. It's funny, but also illustrative of how people can read all sorts of things in that not only aren't there, but are completely opposite of reality.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Editorial: Taxpayers might be out of money

The unnamed Courier editor notices that the Chino Valley school override failed, infers that voters simply can't afford the additional tax, and expands that into a victory lap for the idea that any new taxes are bad.

We've certainly been hearing an awful lot of noise lately from people who think they are Taxed Enough Already, and they have a point. But what they and the editor fail to notice is that there's an important group of citizens who draw benefits from our society out of all proportion to their numbers and who are certainly not taxed enough: the rich.

These well-heeled folks have the resources to deflect the media away from themselves and frame the tax debate entirely on their own terms. But informed voters know that during the Bush years the tax burden rose on the middle class to the benefit of the top 20% of earners.

The editor is surely not in the lofty brackets that would have to give up a couple of toys to restore even the gross tax inequities that Reagan brought down on us. But he's clearly bought into the idea that the rich have no responsibility to give back, even where it means less education for our kids.

Letter: Radio electioneering gives undue advantage

Today's letter from Steve Chontos is probably directed at Councilman Steve Blair and his daily for-profit AM show, but it's an issue for me too, since I've been producing a weekly public-radio show with LD1 Rep Lucy Mason for over seven years.

Until last year the FCC allowed elected officials to maintain regular broadcast appearances even during elections if the content did not involve direct electioneering. Last year the rules changed, and now candidates whether incumbent or not are not permitted unrebuttable airtime.

But even at the beginning, under the old rules, I have always been concerned about the perception that the show might serve for political gain, and careful to avoid that sort of conflict.

I designed the show specifically to provide vital public information in the form of regular reports on what our representative is doing at the Legislature. This inevitably involves political opinion as she explains her bills, votes and choices. When she's been up for reelection we have very deliberately stayed clear of any talk about the campaigns, opponents or future plans that might be taken as campaign promises to keep the show clean and, most important, credible and trustworthy. We can't disconnect entirely from the reality of electoral politics, but I think overall we've been very successful in maintaining a public-interest program of high integrity.

In considering this issue, voters should ask themselves what's more important -- direct information from your elected officials on what they're doing and why, or reducing the electoral advantage of incumbents by shutting them up. Carried to its logical end, Mr Chontos' argument would ban any public speech by an elected official that does not include equal time by a political opponent.

Spanish Census banner comes down after complaints

Councilcritters Hanna and Blair seem to be making all the news lately, this time by demanding the removal of a banner in Spanish promoting participation in the census.

Never mind the blatant racism inherent in their indignation over something so benign (and so required by law, by the way). Forget that this entire region of the country was wrested by force from a well established Spanish-speaking culture only 160-odd years ago. What I want to focus on is how this cultural cowardice affects us all in terms of lost funds.

Joanna applies some good research in noting that ten years ago only 400 Hispanic residents of everybody's hometown returned their forms. I'd bet that represents an undercount of around an order of magnitude. I expect that the census professionals were able to fill in some of that with sampling, but it still means a significant loss of funds for the city and underrepresentation for us in both state and federal government for the decade since.

So because a few whiny hotheads are threatened when they see signs they can't read, we all lose money and political clout. In a citizen that's just stupid, but in a public servant that has to amount to nothing less than official malfeasance.

Update, Friday: This is getting some national attention -- Crooks and Liars featured the Courier story today.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

ToT: Kirkpatrick 'Talk' feeds pablum

Dennis Duvall is a familiar name hereabouts for speaking out about our simmering wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today he excoriates Rep Kirkpatrick for voting with the majority to continue war funding while selling the idea of fiscal responsibility.

I have to agree that her bill to reduce legislator pay amounts to showboating without real substance. If it were a detail in a larger bill that would do more to reduce waste in government, say, or otherwise offer us more value for our tax dollars, it would be a nice gesture. Standing alone, it's nothing.

Dennis' point about the money we're throwing away in Iraq and Afghanistan is well taken, and while I understand that the nest of snakes we inherited from the Bush administration will not be easily sorted out, I share his impatience with the Obama administration for not living up to its campaign rhetoric and showing clear commitment to getting us off those tar babies.

I have to say, however, that if I were in Ms Kirkpatrick's place I would probably be doing much the same thing. The war problem belongs to the administration, and with plenty of public voices pointing the president in the right direction, it doesn't make sense for a Dem Congress to create more problems. Further, Ms Kirkpatrick has been generally correct in representing the majority of people in this district, a principle we should all care about in elected officials. She's a freshman in a very complex situation and has a fine wire to walk anyway. Don't forget that making policy happen takes a lot more than one vote.

That said, all of us who care should communicate directly (and respectfully) with the Representative about the wars, jobs, health care, energy, education and real effort to rebuild our economy in smarter ways. Every sensible voice with a name on it moves the perception of what the majority wants.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Wiederaenders: Close the parks? At what cost?

Tim turns in one of his very occasional pseudoblog columns today on the closings of state parks and how much this money-saving measure will cost in real terms.

Tim's idle musings only scratch the surface, and he passes up an important teaching moment. Many Arizonans, used to simple answers and instant gratification, think that cutting the state budget is a simple matter. They rarely see or hear about the web of interdependent factors that government holds together, such that anywhere you look to reduce funding, you cause new costs elsewhere. Most government programs are not simple spending measures, they are designed and built to reduce social costs to all of us.

Tim's example, Homolovi Ruins, is a case in point. Until the early '80s it cost the state -- us -- nothing. To most citizens it was a relatively remote pile of old walls. To the Hopis it was an ancestral home and sacred site. To archaeologists it was a trove of information about the migrations and lives of Hopis. And to pothunters -- thieves -- it was an unprotected treasure mine.

The social cost of doing nothing about Homolovi was daily desecration and the steady loss of artifacts and knowledge. The state began spending a little money to help prevent this loss and educate Arizonans about their heritage. Closing the park puts the site back where it was, forsaken and deteriorating. And there's a new cost on top of the old -- the businesses that have benefited from visitor traffic in the park have to look elsewhere to pay their rent. You can't find these sorts of costs and benefits acknowledged in the state budget, but they are very real.

Extending the example to other areas is easy -- kicking people off AHCCCS raises costs for families and hospitals, eliminating support for the seriously mentally ill raises costs on families and communities, cutting the Department of Juvenile Corrections raises costs for counties. Almost any cut you can name comes with a contingent cost, often greater than the savings. Some kinds of cuts also trigger losses of federal matching funds as well, compounding the revenue problem. It's a management nightmare.

This is why the Legislature's adamant resistance to talking about raising revenue through taxes and fees is dead stupid. You have to have those options on the table to prevent spiraling down into bankruptcy. I'd have liked to see Tim take a couple hundred more words to make that point. It needs saying in the Courier.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Editorial: Missteps abound in shooting trials

Predictably, given the paper's long history of gun love, the unnamed Courier editor comes out in favor of Steve Solomon, and faults the cops and County Attorney's office for failing to handle the evidence-gathering well.

Could lawnforcement have done a better job? So said the judge, and that's all we really know. But the editor uses that lapse to gloss over the real issue of public concern: the fusillade of AK-47 rounds that Solomon fired off his property and into the wild, which Solomon himself said he did "for fun." Whether he knew there were people in harm's way or not, this was grossly reckless and irresponsible and it was only his dumb luck that this wasn't a manslaughter trial.

The editor's sole observation on this idiocy: "Testimony alleged that Solomon could be more responsible as a gun owner ...." Thanks, editor, for standing up for public order and responsible citizenship. Yeesh.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Feed-Your-Head Friday

Speaking of cellphones, here's an eye-opener on how you're going to be using quantum mechanics to call your mom.

Editorial: Safety must wait until next year

I think we can safely say that everyone agrees that texting while driving is stupid and dangerous. Whether we need a specific law for that is a different debate, and the unnamed Courier editor's inclusion of the single-digit results in Phoenix pretty deeply undercuts his argument.

But readers should know that the editor managed to get it completely wrong here: Yesterday, before deadline, the Senate in fact passed the ban on texting while driving. The editor failed to check his facts before publishing, another victim of Senate President Bob Burns' hamhanded handling of procedure in the upper house.

You gotta keep your eyes on the road, editor.

Hansen: Let's elect a better Congress

Another window opens on the mind of Executive Editor Ben Hansen.

Ben kicks off his first pseudoblog post in over ten weeks with a scintillating quote from a dictionary, finally proving long-held reader suspicions that he does indeed have access to one in his office. (Having established that, perhaps Ben will go on to look up the definition of "blog" and start using the word less ignorantly.) But then he immediately goes on to demonstrate how reading a definition does not necessarily lead to better usage.

"The traditional paradigm for choosing members of Congress is to re-elect incumbents." No, Ben, "paradigm" does not mean "something that happens often."

This is of course to introduce yet another reiteration of Ben's slapdash prejudices against politicians. Then, having painted all pols as venal and corrupt, he sets out suggestions for electing better ones. I have to wonder what these better ones would look like, since in Ben's world, once they're elected, they're corrupt -- by definition (urk, sorry).

He does get the first point right: Pay attention. He doesn't cover how to go about that, but I'd infer that he expects readers to try to get their information from the Courier, conveniently filtered through Ben's political interpretations -- like the other four points he offers.

Contrary to what he promises, three of those points are focused on incumbents in office rather than electing anyone. Here's a better idea, voters: if you want to be heard by your political representatives, you have to treat them as real people with a serious job to do rather than unindicted co-conspirators. Communicate clearly, succinctly and respectfully.

Notice also how point four illustrates Ben's lack of imagination and inability to control his propaganda reflex: "On illegal immigration, if you're a Democrat make them take a stand on amnesty. If you're a Republican, make them take a stand on getting control of the border." Classy, Ben.

On the final point, Ben clearly assumes that everyone identifies with a political party and trusts it, demonstrating how out-of-touch he is with people in general.

We all want smart, skilled, energetic and dedicated public servants. We will never get them by disparaging the profession and disrespecting anyone who strives to serve. Here are some alternative ideas for encouraging better representation:

1. Pay attention to your whole community, not just your pet issues. Keep an eye out for people who know how to bring people together and get things done, and talk to them positively about getting involved in public service.

2. Spend some time and effort building some detailed understanding of the issues your community faces. Don't trust your prejudices, which are what most people think of as "common sense." More than skilled representatives, a community needs informed voters to operate sensibly. How? Ask open questions as close to the source as you can get. Representatives are real people with office hours, and they will meet with you, read your letters and respond.

3. Show up at the forums, talk with candidates and get to know them as people rather than test them for the 'right' answers on your favorite issues. Vote for people who care about consensus and against those who are married to specific ideas.

4. Turn off your teevee. You won't find any useful information there.

5. Show up and vote.

6. After the election, advocate respectfully for what you want the community to do -- this is another kind of voting -- and don't act like a whiny baby if you're not getting your way. No one wants to hear from non-adults.

Man accused of shooting 70 bullets toward equestrians acquitted

I'm sure our community is relieved to know that if you're walking on a public trail and bullets start flying around you, there's no legal problem.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Column: 'Birthers' didn't sway lawmaker

I'm sure the editors were very happy to print this stunningly weak response to Saturday's editorial.

If I were so generous as to allow that Rep Tobin is telling the honest truth here, I'd also be forced to accept that he's completely ignorant of long-established Federal law and process in this area, has no idea what's been going on for over a year with the 'birther' non-issue, and is as politically naive as a cinder block. Quite honestly, I've met the man and I'm confident he's not that stupid.

Given that, this column is nothing but smarmy political theatre, obvious to anyone with basic intelligence. I do think Andy's naive enough to believe that he can get away with dissembling this way, like a six-year-old trying his first magic trick for the aunts and uncles. Never underestimate the power of human self-delusion. And it plays well to the extreme-right base, who are similarly deluded. But out here in the reality-based community it ought to get him laughed right out of office.

What's sad is that it won't. He'll run again, and probably win again. Is there no Dem in District 1 smart enough and organized enough to stand up and take the easy electoral pickings represented by Mr Tobin? Get to work, people!

School budgets could be slashed

You have to be very careful when you've got a news story speculating about things that haven't happened.

Paula's story, sourced entirely from a talk by the director of government relations for the Arizona Association of School Business Officials, is all about opinions and analysis of future possibilities. Paula does a lot of paraphrasing outside quote marks of what the man said, and writes it as if she is saying it herself on the paper's behalf. This is a high-school-level writing error. Further, the lack of a contrasting view elevates these opinions to the status of fact. Wrong, wrong, wrong, especially when you're dealing with analysis from an organization with a clear vested interest, like this one. The editors should have sent this one back for further research and substantial rewrite.

In fact the Legislature has several available options for dealing with the budget lacking the sales-tax extension, and ought to be encouraged to explore them all seriously. Instead, masquerading as analysis we get a misleading political frame: sales tax vs. school funding. While many Republicans will want to play it that way, it's really not that simple.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Today's Chuckle

Page-one headline: Butte-ing Heads. Ewwwwww, that's a real stinker.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Editorial: Progress by inches hints of miles ahead

This one is so obvious I hardly feel it's worth the trouble.

The unnamed Courier editor briefly tries on his fourth-estate hat, dusty from long disuse, and goes after the Dems for Charlie Rangel's slightly shady junkets. Not, apparently, because this is such a big deal, but rather for the much bigger fish yet to fry in the editor's ironclad pan of dark implications.

It's a pity the editor's long and storied history of blindness to the egregious corruption of Republicans has eliminated any credibility he might otherwise have on this issue. You've been too partisan for too long, editor, for anyone outside your breakfast-club cronies to care what you think of Dems.

If, on the other hand, you'd like to start building some political credibility on the off chance that you might need it some day, look to the snakes in your own nest. You could write every day for six months on Republican corruption, vice and venality at the national level and never repeat a name.

Better yet, stick to your knitting. You have no experience with Washington and no sources there. You're a small-town editor. There's plenty of work to be done here at home. Senator McCain is up for reelection, for instance, giving you enough material for a book, let alone a 350-word editorial.