Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Editorial: Speeders likely to kill photo radar

One of the oldest tricks in rhetoric is to characterize your opponent in a certain way, then argue against that caricature, avoiding a more difficult contest over facts. It's called the straw-man argument, and we see it used extensively (albeit amateurishly) in yesterday's editorial.

In this case the unnamed Courier editor characterizes everyone who opposes photo radar, particularly those working the initiative process to ban it, as heedless speed demons who are only trying to avoid paying tickets. This of course completely sidesteps the very serious issues of due process, habeas corpus and community character that are the hard core of this issue. The editorial is clumsy and an embarrassment to my profession, regardless of its political intent.

In his flailing the thought-free editor manages to squash his own argument: "The safety advantages of the system became obvious early on, however. Phoenix television stations frequently showed film snippets from the cameras of people going through the camera at 120 miles per hour." Does anyone else notice that in this example, the criminal speeder does not at any point slow down? He'll get a ticket later, maybe even a summons if the court allows it, but the actual improvement of safety in the moment is nil. Frequently. on the other hand, put a patrol car in that situation and watch what happens.

This is just one more example of the editor's schizophrenic political philosophy: libertarian for himself, authoritarian for everyone else.

Sales tax followup

I've noticed a few comments accusing the Courier of favoring passage of the temporary sales tax boost in its coverage. Looking back, it appears that apart from letters, the op-ed page has carried only pro-tax comments since Senator Pierce's TOMA on April 30. News-side coverage has been about predicted impacts of non-passage, and I have to reiterate that writing about things that haven't happened yet is not news, it's opinion. So, strictly speaking, those commenters have a point.

I'm not sure how the editors could change the coverage to satisfy the anti-tax crowd other than to come out against the tax editorially and carry nothing about the possible consequences. But if you're going to wade into a political question, you've got a responsibility as an editor to balance your coverage, even on questions far clearer than this one. A few more guest columns against the tax would be apropos.

Blogpause for new album

Blogging's been slow to none recently while I work on other projects, including producing a new album by Big Daddy D and the Dynamites. That's about to go to pressing, so keep an eye out for the album release party at the band website.