Thursday, September 30, 2010

You will vote

For anyone reading this blog who's thinking of skipping the vote this time, I'm invoking my Rasputin-like liberal thought-control. For the rest of you, don't look!

Listen to my voice ... you are slowly waking up ... you're almost awake now ... you're coming out if it ... now you're fully awake and you realize just how awful things could become if we let the nutbars win.

Make sure you're registered at your current address BEFORE MONDAY. Then vote. I recommend asking for an early ballot, so there's less chance something goes wrong to keep you away from the polls.

If you haven't had time or inclination to do your homework, I'll be writing about the candidates and propositions in the coming week. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mayor leans on commenter

Cindy's story today describes official fallout from last week's story on the old Antelope Hills clubhouse boondoggle and comments thereto. Specifically, PAAHC Exec Director Deb Thurston commented critically, and the Mayor summoned her to a meeting with him, Councilman Lamerson and the new tourism director to 'splain things to her.

During nine years as a director and chairman of PCAC Inc., a City-funded nonprofit, I carefully kept my mouth shut about most of the corruption and incompetence I dealt with almost daily in City Hall to protect the organization. I also did a three-year term on the PAAHC board, which has taken more than its share of abuse by Council over the years, and I have some familiarity with the terrain here.

So I fully understand Thurston's frustration over the issue as she watches arts funding diminish, and I admire her pluck in standing up to publicly call the City on its decisions. I'm sure many readers will find it appalling that the Council and City staff think they can push people around in this way, but be assured that this goes on in more subtle ways all the time. There's a culture of entitlement and authoritarianism in City Hall that runs deep, and even Sam Steiger couldn't crack it. With the exception of Councilwoman Lopas, the current Council members are all enthusiastic participants in that culture.

While there may be backlash against her organization, which Council has been steadily starving out for years anyway, this treatment by the Mayor confirms that speaking out publicly and, most important, using your real name in comments can have strong effect on public issues in Prescott.

So thumbs up to Deb Thurston, but don't let her stand alone in the heat. Keep up the pressure, and keep commenting.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

State: Case of Arizona deputy's shooting reopened

This AP story details followup on the claims of a Pinal Co deputy that he was jumped and shot by pot smugglers in the desert. Apparently there's some doubt about his veracity in this matter.

The story leaves out what may be an important factor. The deputy's boss is Sheriff Paul Babeau, who's been doing a lot of grandstanding about the new anti-Mexican law, lining up directly behind Joe Arpaio and running for reelection on the issue. The deputy's quite possibly self-inflicted bullet wound has put the sheriff on national TV and got him miles of ink in the local papers.

No one likes to think that a law-enforcement professional might do anything so corrupt and craven as to fabricate evidence to whip up hysteria and win an election. But we always have to bear in mind that any group of humans includes a small proportion of people who are self-absorbed, greedy and evil, so vigilance and caution are called for whenever someone benefits hugely from "happenstance."

Rock concert benefits fallen officers

Speaking as a working musician, this press announcement raises concern.

Recently we've seen a several local benefits for the families of the Camp Verde corrections officers killed on 69. Now another pops up for more general benefit to cops. But there are a couple of odd things about it.

This "benefit" at Moc's will distribute only 15% to the charity (a statewide aid org for cops and firefighters, with little local presence), and the "promoter" listed here apparently doesn't have a Website.

I've done benefits that held back outlay costs, but never on a percentage basis. If you're doing a benefit, you want to minimize costs and furnish every possible penny to the charity. Musicians usually do this sort of thing for free.

This smells like a fly-by-night operation trying to make a few bucks using the generosity of our community as a marketing tool, so I'd advise prospective patrons to ask questions ahead of the gig.

Followup, 7pm: In the comments, the promoter invites the public to call him to ask just the sort of question I had in mind. Have at it: 928-499-4116.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Editorial: Public education needs transparent accountability

The unnamed Courier editor pushes his professorial eyeglasses down his nose and snores, "Have we let our universities become sacred cows?" Who is he hoping to kid?

Conservatives love to beat up on public schools, whether it's teachers unions indoctrinating first-graders with proletarian class rage, textbooks that don't give quite enough preference to superstitious drivel or the heroic struggle of the Confederacy, or public universities stamping out commie elitists like Xmas cookies. It's a conditioned reflex: say "public education" and a good conservative will always burp out some form of "socialist boondoggle." This goes back to the invention of public education, when people decided they'd prefer to tax themselves for an education system to build informed citizens rather than suffer with the one provided by the churches to frighten children and build good little tithers.

Conservatives love "accountability," which in real terms usually means blaming employees for the decisions made at the top. In Arizona's case the big decision is decades of underfunding our schools, and the big lie is blaming teachers for the results.

Here the editor urges the reader to keep an eye on the Board of Regents to make sure that our public universities don't cost the student too much. Sounds great until you realize that the Board of Regents has almost no control over that in real-world terms. The people controlling tuition prices are our state legislators in the budget process, when they determine the base funding of the universities every year, and they've been doing everything they can to divert public funds away from the universities. In their reelection appeals they won't tell you that they raised your kids' tuition, rather they'll brag (and lie) about "balancing the budget" and obfuscate about how they just transferred the real costs of government to the schools, counties, cities and towns, which have little choice but to shut up and deal with it in usually vain hope of avoiding worse treatment next year.

So if the editor is truly worried about the rising cost of public tuition, he should be asking pointed questions of Arizona's legislative majority leadership, particularly Senate whip Steve Pierce and House whip Andy Tobin. As should readers.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

For politics junkies

For readers who care about the details of how things are shaking out nationally for the general election, I recommend, which monitors polling and provides an interactive map of state races as well as daily news for political geeks. It's mastered by an academic statistician and it's been operating since the 2004 cycle.

Elks Opera House shake-up prompts city investigation

Cindy's story on the blow-up at the Elks Theatre* carries about a quarter of what's circulating in the theatre community, and some of the 'facts' presented are in dispute. Tip: Dawn Castaneda is not necessarily the target of the City's legal "investigations," despite the implication in the story. If there's any justice in this process, Mic Fenech has some 'splaining to do.

(He's the Director of Administrative Services, a mini-empire created by Norwood just for him some years ago. It appears an editing error cut out his first reference.)

I love that the City Manager is quoted as commenting on a personnel matter, then says that City officials do not comment on personnel matters. This is just the sort of snaky/incompetent move that drives so many people crazy in dealing with Norwood.

As background, Castaneda had taken on a job that paid a part-time salary for the work of what would normally be five skilled full-timers. Everyone who's seen the RFP on the job and knows anything about theatre management agrees it's an awful deal that sets the employee up for failure. City staff has been living in la-la land for years about the theatre's revenue possibilities, and no one in City Hall has a clue about how theatres are managed since Bob Bell left the building.

*: Is not, never has been and never could be an opera house.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Editorial: What does future hold for fairgrounds?

Today the unnamed Courier editor uses the editorial space to give us a vague and lazy retrospective of years of failure at the Fairgrounds and advocate:


No solutions, no ideas, not much beyond a limp interest in the outcome. Great, editor, so you know all this stuff. Who has good ideas? What do we do about this mess? When can we expect real change? Where is the money gonna come from? And above all, why should we care, either about the fairgrounds as a facility for -- what exactly? -- or the editorial column while you're so ignominiously wasting it?

(Personally, I think we ought to turn the whole thing over to the Tea Party crowd. They're a great fit for the conditions out there -- constant hot wind blowing up chaff, with monster trucks.)

This use of the editorial box for personal windbaggery has just got to stop. It clearly indicates an impacted, self-referencing culture in the Courier editorial offices that readers can smell on every page. If you want your staff to step up and readers to rely on you, editor, you're gonna have to take your own responsibilities more seriously. Get someone in the room with you who's not afraid to tell you that your column isn't up to pro standards, listen to them and do the work.

Wish I'd written this

Gene Weingarten in WaPo:

The English language, which arose from humble Anglo-Saxon roots to become the lingua franca of 600 million people worldwide and the dominant lexicon of international discourse, is dead. It succumbed last month at the age of 1,617 after a long illness. It is survived by an ignominiously diminished form of itself.

The end came quietly on Aug. 21 on the letters page of The Washington Post. A reader castigated the newspaper for having written that Sasha Obama was the "youngest" daughter of the president and first lady, rather than their "younger" daughter. In so doing, however, the letter writer called the first couple the "Obama's." This, too, was published, constituting an illiterate proofreading of an illiterate criticism of an illiteracy. Moments later, already severely weakened, English died of shame.
Read the rest.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tip: Trouble at the Elks

I got some inside skinny today on a conflict between staff and management at the Elks Theatre over just the issues I've been warning about for years. I'll be looking for a news story in tonight's Courier deadline dump.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tim bobs and weaves on comments

Here's a good example of my experience in asking for reasonable treatment of Courier readers:

Q: * I'm still waiting to hear why you do not post all comments submitted on articles. I've talked to many people who have submitted comments only to never have them appear. I would think that a newspaper would believe in Freedom of Speech...

A: Editor Tim Wiederaenders answered: We try to post all comments that do not violate our Terms of Use agreement for the site. The Use of Service states, "If you use the Service ... you agree to abide by and be bound by the following:

1. You may not post, upload, or transmit any material or links to material that is libelous, defamatory, false, misleading, obscene, indecent, lewd, pornographic, violent, abusive, threatening, harassing, discriminatory, racist, vulgar, invasive of another’s privacy, illegal, constitutes hate speech, or harms minors in any way. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence will not be tolerated. Debate, but don’t attack. The Daily Courier encourages vibrant discussions and welcomes active debate in its discussion forums. But personal attacks are not tolerated, and are a direct violation of these Terms of Use."

To include as many comments as possible, we try to edit out the offending parts, but some comments are beyond help. We try to e-mail the people who post such comments, but their e-mail addresses are not always valid. If you have further questions about this, please call me at 928-445-3333, ext. 1095. Thank you.

Well, Tim, my personal, direct experience has included comments that are at least as compliant as others you routinely post being edited arbitrarily and simply disappearing without notice and without any attempt to contact me by Courier staff. I have read similar complaints by many other reliable commenters. Your response to this question is blatant hooey to anyone who's been doing this more than a couple of weeks, and I guarantee nobody's buying it any more than I am.

I maintain this blog as a safe place to speak for myself and for other readers. I recommend that commenters compose comments offline and keep copies for reference, including the day and time you upload them to the Courier. If your comment goes missing or is edited unfairly, I'm happy to host it here (subject to my own comments policy, at left) and call the editors on their behavior.

What would help build credibility on this issue is if the Courier appended the comments policy with a statement promising fair dealing, direct notification for the user and explanations of edits (seeking permission) and deletions, and editorial-side compliance with the policy banning personal attack, including user-on-user attacks. Everything's being handled far too capriciously as it stands.

PS, Sunday: A questioner asks about online content vs print.
"A: The printed Courier will always contain more by it's very nature."
There's no diverting the blame for this one, the Q&A section is clearly marked as written by the Courier editors. Pardon my geekiness, but an editor who doesn't know the difference between the possessive and the contraction, or who can't see it in his/her own copy, should be interning, not editing.

Editorial: Measures should stand on their own

Today the unnamed Courier editor condemns Congress for using longstanding standard procedures in an attempt to push through legislation that's favored by clear majorities of Americans.

The practice of using must-pass bills to carry other legislation goes back decades, and is a common tactic, made more so since the Republicans decided to start filibustering everything. I didn't see the editor complaining when the Rs have used it, but suddenly it's an issue for him. Why?

Could it be that he's more concerned that these bits of popular legislation might actually pass into law, fulfilling the promise of majority rule? Heaven forfend!

We'd all be better served if the editor would man up and just say that he wants to enforce exceptions on civil rights for homosexuals, reduce available manpower for the armed forces, and punish children for the sins of their parents and prevent them from becoming fully productive in the only country they know. These crocodile tears over Senate rules aren't fooling anyone.

For the record I would agree absolutely with the editor about eliminating bill riders if he would also accept the abolition of the other legislative rules that senselessly impede progress, like filibusters, imperial chairmanships and secret holds. Our state legislature is similarly bound by rules that ensure dictatorial powers for majority leadership. If voters in general knew the whole megillah on the nonsense that goes on as a result of ridiculous rules, there would be torches and pitchforks.

But bitching about a rule that just happens to not favor your minority argument at this particular juncture is childish, editor.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Editorial: Recession is over, but stress is not

If you haven't heard the recession is over, you probably don't read economic news and probably aren't real clear on what "recession" actually means. Most people think it's a synonym for "hard times." This widespread misunderstanding is the entire basis for a whole lot of snarky punditry as well as this editorial. It would help to try to educate on this, assuming the editor understands it himself.

At left is a graph from Japan's "lost decade," which many smart economists see as an example of what we're likely to experience here. This is not your ordinary recession. More on recession types here. Note that the recession is "over" when the numbers turn up again (1993), not when they return to positive territory (still hasn't happened). It's really pretty simple.

As far as the editorial goes, who can disagree that we don't accomplish much by "arguing and blaming each other"? But that's not the editor's real aim. See, once we're coming out of active crisis mode, people naturally start looking around for the factors that caused the crisis, hoping to learn and do better next time.

The editor's "arguing and blaming" is code for what most people see as reasonable research and learning from mistakes. That would be bad for the editor, who's been an unabashed cheerleader for the massive policy mistakes that brought us to this pass: deregulation, profit first, converting personal savings and mortgages to gambling stakes on Wall Street, "free trade" that outsources jobs, crippling public education, defunding government services, ridiculous reductions in taxes on the rich and large corporations, and not least by any means, terrible warmongering.

These errors in judgment and failures of sense will keep us in the economic doldrums for another eight or ten years, if the history of previous structural downturns is a useful guide, and at war with the millions of enemies we've created for generations. But the editor would prefer that we forget about them, not quibble about who was right and who was wrong, just face the future shoulder-to-shoulder and keep digging.

It is vitally important as we approach the midterm election that voters stay engaged and ask serious questions about why we're here and how the candidates intend to apply themselves to rebuilding our economic base, employment and retirement security. Dumping our experience down the memory hole will only ensure a continuing status quo that's bad for everyone but ideological peacocks and the very rich.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Editorial: It's lion territory: what do you do?

The unnamed Courier editor tries to educate the reader about what to do in the vanishingly small chance of a personal encounter with a cougar. Fine, but it should have contained authoritative quotes rather than bald personal assertions, and it should have been a sidebar to the Friday story, not an editorial three days later.

What this shows is a lack of ideas for editorials within the Courier's famed "editorial board," which I'm daily more convinced is actually a piece of wood on which the editor makes sandwiches.

Amster: Brewer brings only embarrassment

Randall's back after a hiatus of a few months, and going after the slo-mo train wreck that is our Accidental Governor. While I'm happy to agree with him that electing Ms Brewer to the job for four more years would be a very bad move, we're not gonna get any other result if we're loose with the truth.

Randall writes, "During Brewer's tenure, Arizona has moved to the bottom of the charts in education, health care, and economic vitality." Blaming her for any of this is simply unfair. Our Legislature has been working hard to spiral us in on all these measures for many years, and if anything we were headed for even worse until Brewer intervened with her own budget late in the session this year. (I won't give her credit for the budget, though, that's her staff, and it was still truly awful.) The Legislature would have slashed education funding further by an order of magnitude and sold off most of our parks and public buildings to boot. The economy is a macro problem that the Legislature aggravated by its failure to address our idiotic revenue structure. Blame Brewer for failure of ideas and failure of leadership, but not for the failures of others.

You can blame her for signing 1070 (which Gov Napolitano vetoed several times), but not for making Arizona a national embarrassment over it. That was a big team effort, including Sen Russell Pearce (currently a favorite for Senate President, be afraid), Sheriff Joe Arpaio, nutbars like Chris Simcox, the Corrections Corporation of America and many others. Brewer was essentially the bystander who gets to answer the media questions. Blame her for failure to stop it, don't give her credit for driving it.

What really ropes me off is Randall bending over backward to blame Dems in a misguided attempt at "balance" (or did the editors stick this in?): "Janet Napolitano didn't exactly leave us in an enviable financial position, nor has she been proactive in managing the border situation that has so many people up in arms." We would certainly have been far better off if Gov Napolitano had been able to get her own policies implemented by Legislatures full of hostile and idea-free Rs, but blaming her for their policies is wrong. As for the border, as I recall it she did everything legally within her power to increase border security and bring federal attention to the issue here. That Rs are willing to pursue illegal means does not make them better at it. "Brewer's gubernatorial opponent, Terry Goddard, has likewise been mostly missing in action during his tenure as Attorney General." By what measure, Randall? As I recall Mr Goddard has done more than any other state official to reduce cross-border traffic in guns, drugs and cash, and crime in our state is down substantially since he took office, due to several factors including the quality of our law enforcement efforts and policies -- set by Mr Goddard and Ms Napolitano before him..

Even in calling Brewer out, Randall has trouble getting it right. He writes that she "capitulated to extremists" over immigration and ethnic studes, but "capitulated" implies resistance. No, she was a partisan there from the get-go. "Cooperated" would be more descriptive, in the sense that she arranged the cookies while the principals wrote the bills.

Yes, Brewer is a disaster in the past and in our future if we don't wake up and get moving. But her critics have all the good ammo in the world and no need to resort to the sort of mischaracterizations and misdirections so emblematic of the right. If the left can't write clear, honest critiques, why should anyone trust us more than them?

Here's that opening statement again, just in case you missed it:

Country music legend inducted into Hall of Fame

The Greater Arizona Country-Western/Swing Music Association (an obscure org with a dormant Myspace page, the website is dead) inducts Ray Gardner into its Hall of Fame, but Bruce didn't get around to asking the association why they chose him, and gives no credits for Mr Gardner other than the Prescott Playboys, a truly awful local band (sorry, guys). Instead we get some sketchy biographical notes and a misspelling of Willcox. Sure, it's cool that an old guy is still playing music, but that's not enough for a news story, guys.

Better to run down Rob Carey, who recently parked his cornet under the bed after a seven-decade career, and ask him about all the truly great music he's been in on.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Casserly: Another flying-monkey takedown!

I was planning to simply ignore JJ's patthetic partisan rant today, but the extensive fact-checking and cogent rebuttals in the comments make this piece worth reading. This is exactly the sort of reader response that makes best use of the online model for newspapers -- instant accountability, clear and insightful responses from different, authoritative angles that help readers sort the wheat from the chaff. I hope JJ is reading them and reconsidering the joys of a quiet retirement. Big props to the commenters, you made my day.

Missing the point

In today's editorial the unnamed Courier editor lends support to the City Council's decision to hire a consultancy as expert witness in legal action over the Demerse St improvement debacle. The editor misses the crux of the issue completely and simultaneously from two angles.

The argument between the City and the contractor hinges on whether the City specified the job properly in the bid process. The contractor says it found a million clams' worth of surprises under the street. The City responds that the contractor should have known about that before it committed to a price.

I don't know what was in the City spec for the RFP, but we can be pretty sure it was more detailed than "tear up this street from here to here, put in curbs and drainage, and pave it." Lots of commenters seem to think it was the bidders' responsibility to do underground surveys before bidding, but I have a feeling that getting useful information that way would likely cost a lot of time and money you can't get back, and here's a detailed City spec showing utility lines and at least a certain amount of geology. From my own experience, I know that opening up old work always brings surprises and overages that are hard to predict, and I imagine a company that does this for a living probably knows that too. So there's certain to be a lot more to the argument than the editor's dismissive, "To dig here and think you won't run into rock is naïve." It's really more a question of how wrong the City spec was about that rock.

The other aspect of this, and the one that sets people's hair on fire, is hearing that the City will be blowing another wad of cash the size of a house on an outside consultant. The editor agrees with the Council that the consultant will bring valuable information to the table for the City. But that's not what people are against. They and I believe that the City, being far and away the largest construction contractor in the City, should have this expertise in-house working for us every day, and it's outrageous that when we need someone who actually knows something about an issue so clearly part of a normal business day, no one working in City Hall can be trusted to carry the ball.

As I say all the time, at the end of the day voters care less about how much they pay in taxes than how much value they get in return. On this issue, the problem is that it looks like we're paying through the nose for a City legal department staffed with chumps and second-raters who are unequipped to handle a simple, predictable job. This will never win trust among taxpayers.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Graphs help

Editorial: GOP's gain offset by credibility loss

The commenters aren't seeing the forest for the trees here. This is the first example in my recollection of the unnamed Courier editor acknowledging and disavowing a Republican dirty trick. This is progress, people.

What the papers, including the Courier, all seem to have missed is that Steve May's recruiting fake Greens in LD17 might have helped him personally, but it could easily be part of the larger plan for knocking Harry Mitchell out of CD5 -- Tempe is the primary population center of both, Mitchell is considered vulnerable in November, and there's a lot at stake nationally. A lone Green on that ticket could draw out a few idealistic Green-only voters to dilute the whole Dem ticket. Notice that May quickly jumped lightly off the bus as if he were expecting it. If I were a reporter down there I'd be sniffing around for trails to the RNCC on this imbroglio. Not saying that there's any evidence (yet) that any national players were in on it, but it wouldn't surprise me if this traces back to Karl Rove and that crowd. It's their style.

PS, editors: Better brush up on further/farther.

Where's Randall?

I notice that Dr Amster hasn't turned in a column since June. Is this the end of the token local liberal on the op-ed page, or what? Anyone know?

Rare bird: An outside column worth reading

Tina Dupuy gets it spot-on in a widely carried column also available on HuffPo.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Editorial: High reward, low risk in Chino Valley

The headline is correct as far as it goes. It's far easier and smarter to build public transit system with a municipality than try to graft one on after the need becomes acute.

I hate to be a wet blanket, but Chino Valley is probably the least likely municipality in the area to make a success of public transit, because its large-lot platting and intermittent commercial strip spreads its population and businesses much more thinly.

The likely best result will be an infrequent short-bus schedule specialized for group-home seniors and maybe a few hospital workers, leaving out kids and general riders. There just won't be the money to support a system that residents more than a block away from 89 can practically use. That's not my idea of success. (And I can only imagine how quickly the calls will rise to scrap it all when the first bus gets involved in a collision on 89.)

This is the problem for mass transit everywhere in this country: underbuilding the system with lowball schedules and few destination options inevitably leads to underuse and hasty accusations of failure. Doing it right takes real vision and massive commitment, qualities I fear Americans at large and Arizonans in particular no longer value.

Chino Valley police making shift to hand-held e-Citations

A couple of points in this story should have merited followup questions.

"... citation information is ... stored in a central data base with Brazos, the company making the device's computer program ...." These are public records and must be handled securely and economically. Why is a private company doing this, and how much does it cost?

"... the money to pay for the devices will not come from the General Fund but rather a special improvement budget, much like a capital improvement item, bringing a return in revenue for the Town." How much money does the Town expect as a "return in revenue," and how does the Town assure residents that the new technology won't be used as a cash cow rather than enforcement tool? The Chino Valley PD has long carried a reputation for excessive enforcement. Will this get worse, or better?

Districts let teachers decide if they will air Obama's 2nd back-to-school speech Tuesday

Correction, Paula: the president's speech last year didn't cause controversy, at best it triggered controversy. Better writing would be "The president's first back-to-school speech in 2009, which encouraged students to study hard and stay in school, was the target of criticism by political opponents throughout the country, as well as locally."

The story infers that the "controversy" anticipating the speech was justified, when in reality it turned out to be idiotic once everyone heard what the President had to say. By writing it this way, the editors feed the sort of ridiculous flames we see in the comments.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Graphs help

Ezra Klein:

"From December 2007 to July 2009 – the last year of the Bush second term and the first six months of the Obama presidency, before his policies could affect the economy – private sector employment crashed from 115,574,000 jobs to 107,778,000 jobs. Employment continued to fall, however, for the next six months, reaching a low of 107,107,000 jobs in December of 2009. So, out of 8,467,000 private sector jobs lost in this dismal cycle, 7,796,000 of those jobs or 92 percent were lost on the Republicans’ watch or under the sway of their policies. Some 671,000 additional jobs were lost as the stimulus and other moves by the administration kicked in, but 630,000 jobs then came back in the following six months. The tally, to date: Mr. Obama can be held accountable for the net loss of 41,000 jobs (671,000 – 630,000), while the Republicans should be held responsible for the net losses of 7,796,000 jobs."

This should make you nervous

Kansas City Star:

J.T. Ready, a neo-Nazi who recently began conducting heavily armed desert patrols in search of “narco-terrorists” and illegal immigrants in Pinal County, told The Kansas City Star that he was working on a proposal seeking state approval for his group, the U.S. Border Guard.
“I’m putting together a package and presenting it to the Arizona Legislature and saying, ‘Why don’t we go ahead and make the border rangers official, or completely reactivate the Arizona Rangers and we’ll work together,’” he said.
The Arizona Rangers were created in 1901 to protect the territory from outlaws and rustlers. The group was re-established in 1957.
But watchdog groups say Ready’s patrol illustrates why states should not sanction defense forces.
“We know that the neo-Nazis carry guns, but here’s an example of neo-Nazis with guns trying to position themselves to become an instrument of state policy,” said Leonard Zeskind, the president of the Kansas City-based Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights.
Ready, a neo-Nazi, says his border guard includes heavily armed militias that search for “narco-terrorists” and illegal immigrants in Pinal County.
“We have fully automatic weapons — legally registered — grenade launchers, night vision, body armor,” he said. “We’re definitely going out there fully armed and equipped. When you’re going up against people with AK-47s and grenade launchers, you don’t want to go out there with a slingshot.”

Betcha we don't see anything about it in the Courier.

And why should we care, exactly?

Today the unnamed Courier editor takes a big chunk of the editorial page to write up a story about a coming labor action in pro football. Somehow I missed it, but apparently Prescott has a pro football team, so this is relevant to our area, and sports is way more important than I ever imagined, which is why this piece didn't go in the sports section.

I'll say it again: I was born without the sports gene, and I could not give a rat's ass about physical combat as entertainment. So I don't read that part of the paper. If you care, be my guest and write your own blog.

But what creeps in here is the editor's inability to pass an opportunity to bash unions. See, the editor loves democracy, and the editor is devoted to the idea of market mechanisms, but when individual workers come together to employ those principles for their own betterment, somehow that's a bad thing.

In this case he doesn't quite take a side in the labor dispute (which, I notice, won't come to a head for six months). Rather, he seems peeved that the players made a gesture that forced him to think about the issue for a second, delaying his enjoyment of the violence and threatening the editor with withdrawal from his violence habit next year.

Pity the poor editor, esconced in his Barcalounger, remote in hand and beer and chips at the ready, channel-surfing in vain for his favorite entertainment as one of the few remaining American unions with enough clout to meet its management in a fair fight tries to make its members a little richer through nonviolent negotiation. What a nightmare.

Psst, Tim: "Local, local, local," remember?

Our national bugbear: "States' rights"

Since the creation of the idea of the United States we've been plagued by conflict and tension between our "one nation, indivisible" ideal and our fascination for pointless distinctions to separate us from one another. Reactionaries have always exploited this distrust of the guy on the other side of the invisible line to divide Americans and gather power for themselves. Sunday's editorial is a clear example of how the idea of "states' rights" is used selectively to block or promote change according to what the speaker happens to want politically.

The unnamed Courier editor sets up what s/he sees as a clever dichotomy between SB1070 and state initiatives allowing wider use of marijuana, saying that the federal government is selectively asserting the primacy of federal law by opposing one and not the other. This amounts to pure right-wing talking points.

As one astute commenter put it, the difference is apples and oranges.

In the case of 1070, the state is trying to assert a right to preempt federal enforcement policy in an area clearly reserved to the federal government. The feds have no choice but to injunct this action, and they will.

With widely enacted medical marijuana initiatives and California's Prop 19, the states are repealing their own blanket prohibitions. They are explicitly not attempting to prevent the feds from enforcing federal law, that would be stupid and counterproductive. Rather they are saying that it's up to the federal government to do its own enforcing and they're out of it.

We've seen this process before. The New York legislature, having suffered exponential growth in smuggling and gang violence as well as a doubling of its federal prison population, was first to break the wall of Prohibition by calling for a Constitutional convention and refusing to enforce federal law, starting the cascade to repeal in 1933. Now Arizona and California are similarly suffering the brunt of the effects of prohibition, and it should be no surprise that sensible people are saying enough is enough.

Rather than the feds, the editor is trying to have it both ways in support of reactionary political groupthink, and is unashamed to employ disinformation in pursuit of those goals. Again, our community deserves better.

The smell test

I'll let you make the call on the Courier's front-page Sunday banner graphic with the Fann logo, related to a feature on the company's 50th anniversary. Was it:

* Toadying to a powerful, well-heeled potential advertiser/patron?
* A not-so-subtle free plug for the Karen Fann campaign?
* Incompetent naivete about its political effect?
* All of the above?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering 9-11, appropriately

Susie Madrak:

The appropriate way to honor the people who died on 9/11 is to go on with your own life. And don’t turn on your teevee! Just don’t. Please. Don’t encourage them in pushing the myth of American exceptionalism, or the need to live your life as if we’re in the cross hairs, even if we are. (In fact, especially if we are.)

And I will feel exactly the same if – when – terrorists attack us again. I think they will. Working yourself into a paranoid frenzy in the meantime won’t change anything. And destroying our personal liberties and our way of life means that bin Laden is the one who really gets to say "Mission accomplished!"

Friday, September 10, 2010

Krugman: Things could be worse

Today's NYT op-ed by one of the world's most distinguished economists covers our economic dilemma from the perspective of Japan's parallel example starting in 1989. It's a worthwhile distillation of how policy choices affect a bust economy, lessons worth learning. It's also a stark warning that our votes this November will set direction for the near term, and that direction could be very much downward.

Editorial: Harsh consequences lead to better decisions

In which the unnamed Courier editor tries to play the tough-love mentor to teens about drugs. Have you ever read anything so fatuous?

Every reputable statistical and field study proves the headline's premise completely false. Punishment does not work. That's counterintuitive for most people, though, so we persist in treating drug abuse as a criminal problem.

I have a clue for you, editor: the cause of the recent "alarming number of juvenile drug arrests on Prescott Unified School District campuses" is not more kids doing drugs, it's more narcs in the schools. The results will be far more damage to the lives of the kids being arrested than they'd have experienced if we'd left them alone, and most of the the kids who haven't been caught will just get smarter about avoiding arrest, more loyal to the freak group and more alienated from community values and institutions.

Talking to kids like you're their dad is guaranteed only to make you look foolish, editor. One approach can help, and that's to speak clear, consistent truth about drugs. That starts with understanding the truth yourself. You don't.

Kids hear so many lies about drugs through their lives that the smart ones are naturally cynical about what adults have to say about them. Our crazy drug laws effectively prevent responsible adults from teaching kids how to handle and safely use illegal substances, so they generally learn from other kids who don't know. The results are predictable, with kids creating and maintaining myths of their own and learning everything the hardest way.

As long as ignorant, reactionary mythology about mind-altering substances drives otherwise sensible people into frenzies over drug use, many more kids will get involved with drugs than otherwise, with a broad range of motivations. The editor's pious admonishments based on that mythology just aggravate teenagers and reduce the paper's credibility further.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Casserly: It's high time to cut the fat

Now I'm completely convinced that JJ is a personal favorite of someone powerful at the Courier. The suddenly regular frequency of his columns, their general lack of content, the weird, scattershot writing and apparent absence of editors indicate a protected writer who's getting a paycheck as an indulgence. I'm afraid he's offering less value to readers than the wacky rants of Cal Thomas, and for me that's saying something. Waste of space, and an insult to the op-ed page.

Editorial: Getting on the same county page a challenge

The unnamed Courier editor seems more than a little distracted in today's editorial. We have the headline confusion, of course, but more telling is that the editor seems to have forgotten to write up the point s/he intended to make.

The piece starts out with the Board of Supes taking "no action" on a couple of infrastructure plans, and ends with an accusation that " the board members cannot seem to get beyond their turf wars and work together." In between the editor provides no justification for saying this. Very sloppy, and I'm sure it makes no friends among the Supes, who no doubt are being justifiably careful about capital plans right now.

On top of that, we get this little gem on the Sheriff's request for improvements at the jail: "The sally port, another name for a prisoner holding area, could hold as many as 80 prisoners awaiting their court hearings or trials." Clearly the editor misunderstood what the Sheriff was talking about and didn't bother to check the technicals.

"Sally port" is a very specific term referring to a passage through a fortification for troops to venture outward, and it's been adapted in the prison context to describe double-door passages for prisoner control. It's a door, not a room or enclosure or area. I imagine the Sheriff presented a plan for improvements to the prisoner holding area that include a double-door security passage, and I see with a quick Google search that at least one maker of security doors is using this fanciful term to describe its products.

The editor, as a communications professional, should have checked understanding of the term and then translated it into understandable parlance (e.g. "security passage") rather than apply a mystifying term like a kid showing off a shiny new toy.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Call the fouls

In today's editorial, the unnamed Courier editor calls for the right ideas, but in doing so contributes to the problem and ducks responsibility.

Yes, absolutely, we need representatives in government who will bury their egos and work together for the greater good. But the editor does us all a disservice by pretending to stand on the lofty mountaintop, saying both sides are equally at fault. It only takes one obstructionist to halt a negotiation, one criminal to steal your purse.

The primary constitutional responsibility of the press is to inform the voters so that we may make better decisions about what we want government to do and who we want to represent us in doing it. So when one party is trying to get something important done and the other is telling lies and obstructing that work only to gather more power, it's the editor's responsibility to tell us that.

Instead it's become the fashion for the commercial press to pump up the conflict and cast the contenders as equal in everything, like sports coverage. With no sustained interest in the integrity of the process, the ideas put forward or the real consequences of previous decisions, the only value left is who is winning the fight today. That's pro wrestling, not political analysis.

Here's the truth right now: the Republican minority in Congress is preventing the healing of our economy, the creation of vitally needed jobs and a sensible solution to our health-care disaster because they calculate that voters will blame the Democrats and vote for Republicans instead. Neither side can claim perfect integrity, but the Rs are playing a dirty game. At the state level, the Republican majority, which could easily be focusing on the state's economy and jobs for Arizonans, are instead cementing their hold on power by whipping up fear of Mexicans, without reference to truth or reality. All this is being covertly manipulated by very rich men for their own gain at the expense of the vast majority of us. None of this is conspiracy theory. All these statements have been extensively and carefully documented, and that reporting is easy to find. But the commercial press in the main will not tell you about it. It doesn't fit the narrative.

One factor in this is that people seem to prefer to hear sports coverage over boring old facts and careful analysis. I think that's chicken and egg -- they watch it because that's pretty much all there is to watch, and it molds expectations. The other, far more important factor is that the commercial press is owned lock, stock and smoking barrel by those large corporations whose political interests run counter to ours. The descent of news to where it's indistinguishable from entertainment is no accident.

The editor is one of the few people in our community who has the power to buck this trend and do some real good. He could bury his ego and his political agenda, and be the fair umpire dedicated to a clean game rather than the sports promoter trying to sell more tickets. But that requires watching the players closely and being unafraid to call the fouls. To do that fairly, he can't bet on the game. Passing over fouls by one team indicates the fix is in.

You're reading this blog, so you know all this and I'm preaching to the choir. But every day you talk to people who don't get this, and, lacking a trustworthy fourth estate, the respected word of one person to another is the only avenue left for communicating these things. Please, speak up.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Debate: Governor Brewer's opening statement

Every Arizonan should see this performance. Repeatedly.

Update, 4pm: Take 2

And for those of you who are doing your homework, here's the full debate, sans snark.

Casserly: Court rulings complicate police work

Today's column by JJ reads like a pile of random notes from incomplete research for a story on local police work. It's a real test for the reader to figure out what points he intends to make. Perhaps he got off an a rant and sidetracked himself. In any case it's rambling and incoherent. The editors should not have let it go out like this.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Purcell: There's a Sucker Born Every Minute

I don't always look at the midweek outside columns (not on dcourier, sorry), as they're generally so predictable. This one fooled me.

Purcell goes on and on about his dumbass performance in selling a car. But rather than admonishment to readers to have more sense than a fence post in dealing with strangers, he winds up with a completely gratuitous and unsupported swipe at the President.

It just astounds me that any literate person, leave alone the editor of a newspaper, would lend any credence to this sort of thing. I don't care what political point of view it espouses, it informs no one and only aggravates public hostility. Bad choice, editors. Worse than Mike Reagan.

(Here's the column as carried in the Ironton Tribune.)

Editorial: Misplaced 'Days Past' feature

The unnamed Courier editor loves these paeans to wars past. And why not? They're so easy to write and so unlikely to draw criticism. What's next, a tribute to the heroes of the Spanish-American War? Give Jerry this stuff, it's a bit mouldy for the editorial page. For this, the first Barcalounger of the post-Hansen era. Waste of space.