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Traffic Watchdogs

Tucson's road congestion is getting worse, according to the Texas Transportation Institute, which recently released an annual survey of U.S. cities. According to the group's data, Tucson commuters in 2002 were delayed, on average, 29 hours in rush-hour traffic, up from 26 hours the previous year and 17 hours in 1996.

It sounds terribly appalling, at least until you do some basic math. Figure the average employee drives to work five times a week, 46 weeks a year. (We'll be generous and give six weeks of vacation, holiday and sick time.) That's less than 38 minutes per week wasted in traffic. Divide that by two commutes a day, and you get a whopping 3.8 minutes wasted on each commute. A minor inconvenience, sure, but it doesn't strike us as a call to action, especially since we can yap on our cell phones to pass the time.

The Texas Transportation Institute also breaks down the cost of all that wasted time per commuter, which it puts at $507 a year. Hey, why not calculate it in Japanese yen? That comes out 55,721.40 per motorist at Monday morning's exchange rate.


From the Fox Hole

Following a week in Iraq that saw more than 300 people killed by car bombs, beheadings and old-fashioned gunfire, straight-talkin' Arizona Sen. John McCain popped up on Fox News Sunday to say that the Bush administration had made "serious mistakes" in the war effort.

Among those mistakes: abandoning areas in the Sunni triangle, such as Fallujah, to enemy forces that have taken control of urban areas through terror and intimidation.

"Allowing those sanctuaries has contributed significantly to the difficulties that we're facing, which are very, very significant," McCain said.

McCain, who described the war effort as a "noble cause," also warned that in the effort to take back areas under enemy control, "We're going to have to sustain, tragically, some more casualties."

Meanwhile, The New York Times uncovered a National Intelligence Estimate produced over the summer that predicted that violence in Iraq would continue to escalate for at least another year, and could degenerate into full-on civil war. But then again, an earlier National Intelligence Estimate assured the president that Iraq had a continuing program to develop weapons of mass destruction, so can we really believe such a pessimistic view? None of Your Business

A group of right-wing Republican state legislators, including lame-duck Rep. Randy Graf of Southern Arizona and Rep. Russell Pearce of Mesa, gathered at the Arizona Capitol this week to express their support for the Protect Arizona Now initiative, which will appear on the November ballot as Proposition 200. Supporters of the initiative say it will put an end to voter fraud and welfare fraud by illegal immigrants, while opponents say it will cost a fortune to implement and tie the state up in court for the foreseeable future.

Some of the GOP lawmakers supporting the initiative showed their deep support of the business community by suggesting that people boycott members of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce who oppose the initiative. But, because the lawmakers can't actually identify the members of the chamber that are laundering their contributions against the initiative through the chamber's political arm, they focused their attention on Bank One, because the bank's chamber representative made a statement opposing the initiative.

Republicans vs. the business community--what's next? Democrats against unions? Libertarians for welfare? Alt-weekly staffers who love America?


Flunked!

Arizona colleges got a big fat "F" for affordability from the awkwardly named National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, which released Measuring Up, a report card comparing universities across the United States. The group also gave the state a "D" in preparing students for college; a "B-plus" in having Arizona high-school students go on to attend college; a "C-plus" for the rate of students who complete college; and a "B" in the benefits the state receives from having a higher-educated population.

Affordability is evidently like the math portion of the AIMS exam; Arizona was among 36 states that failed, while another 10 earned "D's."


Special K

Arizona Diamondback pitcher Randy Johnson got his 4,137th strikeout to surpass Steve Carlton as king of the left-handed K last week. Johnson, who finished the game with 4,139 strikeouts, is now third on the list of all-time strike-out leaders, behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Roger Clemens (4,287 as of our press deadline), according to mlb.com.

The Diamondbacks continue to suck big-time, having lost 103 games as of Sunday, Sept. 19.

In other sports news, the UA Wildcats narrowly missed an opportunity to upset the Wisconsin Badgers, losing 9-7 after a 47-yard field goal went wide with 43 seconds remaining in the game. But the Cats, who were 11-point underdogs, did cover the spread.

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