The news out of Kansas is bad and then it gets worse and worse yet before turning disastrous.
No, it's not about a tornado carrying away a little girl and a dog named Toto. It's even worse than that.
It involves Arizona and our standing in the latest rankings of states in four categories by a Kansas-based independent private research and publishing company called the Morgan Quitno Press.
Each year, the good folks at Morgan Quitno study and then rank states according to how dangerous, healthy, livable and smart they are. As you have probably guessed by now, Arizona didn't fare all that well in the 2002 results.
In the Most Dangerous State category, for example, we ranked No. 5 trailing only Louisiana, Florida, New Mexico and Maryland. For the sixth straight year, North Dakota was the safest state in the study, which is based on six categories of crime statistics.
As you might deduce if you are a logical person, those states that scored exceptionally high on the danger meter would not do well in the competition for Healthiest State. If you so deduced, you would be correct.
Arizona ranked 35th in this study, which is based on 21 health-related factors including infant mortality rates, teen birth rates and percent of adults who smoke. The five healthiest states are Vermont, Minnesota, Iowa, New Hampshire and Nebraska, while the five unhealthiest states are Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, Alabama and Nevada.
Turning to the competition for Most Livable State, Arizona ranks 40th despite the fact that everyone and his first cousin and pit bull are moving here. The study attempts to rank states according to their "quality of life," and includes such categories as affordable housing, safe streets, good employment opportunities, strong education system, spending for the arts, and daily mean temperature.
The five most livable states are Minnesota, Iowa, New Hampshire, Virginia and Massachusetts. Bringing up the rear as least livable are Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas and New Mexico.
And finally, the new new category added for the first time this year Smartest State. And the winner is ... Connecticut, followed by Vermont, Montana, New Jersey and Maine. Ranking is based on test scores and teacher salaries among some 400 education categories.
Oh, oh, if we're talking education here, Arizona (where we spend a buck-nineteen on each student) better duck. So which are the dumbest states in this great nation of ours? New Mexico, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Nevada, Hawaii, and checking in at number 44, or sixth dumbest state our beloved Arizona.
And that concludes the annual presentation of the Morgan Quitno Awards. Before you put down your Rim Review to lick your wounds, please indulge me while I ask the Morgan Quitno people a few questions in defense of the state we collectively call home.
What is it with Minnesota coming out so livable and healthy. Haven't you Morgan Quitno people ever seen "Fargo," by golly?
If Arizona is such a bad place to live why are we growing so darned fast? And if your answer is that all the losers are moving here, we don't want to hear it.
How much would we go up in the Smartest State rankings, if we sent Valinda Jo Elliott to Minnesota?
Why don't you guys level the playing field? How about a ranking for Meanest Daily Mean Temperature? Down in the Valley, they've been laying asphalt and inverting their air for years in anticipation of this competition.
And in conclusion, I have a few observations:
To heck with locking up spray paint in the Valley. In a state this dumb we ought to be locking up those ubiquitous Bic lighters that are so convenient for setting signal fires in the middle of a drought.
Exoneration will be ours when we come in first in a new Morgan Quitno study: Most State Legislators and Other Politicians in Hell.
Things could be worse. We could be New Mexico or Louisiana.
Maybe we should put signs up at the Arizona border that read:
Dear Morgan Quitno:
We do not want to participate in your studies anymore.
P.S. If you have a problem with that, we would like to remind you that you're not in Kansas anymore.