Monday, December 31, 2007

What if IA & NH settle nothing for Dems? Feb 5 will

Obama, Richardson and Clinton in Iowa

TUCSON -- Interesting perspective in NYT today about the Iowa caucuses on Thursday.

Early states Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina are important, but won't decide the race.

The big 'super-primary' on Feb 5, which includes Arizona, will.

Happy new year and best for 2008!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Iowa: Vote Bill Richardson in caucuses Thursday

Richardson remains my choice for President

TUCSON -- I send this message to my fellow Americans in Iowa, and ask you to support Governor Bill Richardson for President.

As a Governor and the candidate with the deepest most relevant experience, Richardson is the most electable Dem.

He has the best energy plan, is firm on getting our troops out of Iraq right away, and is even solid on second amendment gun rights.

I've worked with Governor Richardson on public-interest issues in New Mexico, and he's been trustworthy and responsive.

As one of the most influential Democratic bloggers in the west, I urge Iowans to caucus for Bill Richardson Thursday night.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Pakistan's bloody week scares people worldwide

Pakistan is a mess we must help solve

UPDATE, 12/31: Doubts about official Pakistani gov't line on Bhutto murder.

UPDATE, 12/30: New leaders appointed.

TUCSON -- We're back from SoCal at the end of a bloody Christmas week in world politics.

My family and I are deeply disturbed and saddened by the killing of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan.

The situation there now is looking very desperate for democracy hopes.

Pakistan must hold free and fair elections very soon. Bhutto's party should nominate someone else in her place, and win the power back. Musharraf has been a dangerous failure and must go.

The Taliban must be defeated. Bush & Cheney's unwise Iraq war is taking too much attention off keeping the Taliban out of power, risking a situation where terrorists could get control of Pakistan's nukes.

Serious concerns weigh on our minds. We're hoping for a more peaceful and prosperous 2008 for all.

We need a President like Bill Richardson, with solid and strong leadership and diplomacy skills to help lead us toward world peace, and away from world war.

Monday, December 24, 2007

We wish you merry Christmas and happy new year

SoAZ mountain bikers pause at desert Christmas tree

NEWS, 1/2: Editorial agreeing with me on downtown cameras.

NEWS, 12/28: Downtown doesn't need surveillance cameras.

NEWS, 12/26: I was on the John C. Scott radio show today talking about desert quality of life and my LD29 State House campaign. Thanks, John, Mark and listeners.

NEWS, 12/25: More protection upcoming for Sonoran Desert National Monument.

TUCSON -- The family and I are in the sunny southwest chillin' at home over the break.

Best to everyone this Christmas and New Year, especially loyal smart readers of this blog. I'm honored to say that in 2007 you've helped make Daniel's News & Views one of the most influential sites in Arizona.

2008 will be a good year. I ask for your vote and support in my campaign for the State House in LD29 (south downtown and entire area south of 22nd St. to Houghton Rd.).

There may be less new posting here until Jan 7.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

SW desert town favors quiet fun, turns down ORVs

Western town says yes to clean and quiet fun

UPDATE, 1/8/08: NYT editorial on 'Nature Overrun' by off-road vehicles.

NEWS, 12/30: NYT on off-road vehicle problems in the West.

TUCSON -- There was some good news earlier this month from Escalante, Utah, a small Garfield County town in the southern end of the state, where I and a beautiful woman lived in the summer of 2000, working to protect the adjacent BLM Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Escalante said no to expansion of off-road vehicles in and around the town. This decision is wise and important in a time when BLM and some other Utah towns have made mistakes to encourage more off-roading, which brings in more landscape destruction, trash and crime.

The people of Escalante were wise to say no to more polluting, loud ATVs and instead focus on quiet recreation. This story is a sort of holiday gift for people working to protect America.

My family and I, and likely many other greens, will now make it more of a point to visit, enjoy and spend money in Escalante, Utah.

*

holiday sports news: MSU bball looking good.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Happy solstice; Dem future needs less 'blue dogs'

Northern lights

TUCSON -- In the northern hemisphere, today is the shortest day and longest night. I can feel it here in Tucson as it is quite cold this morning with ice on the water barrel.

Welcome back, sun. With our good fall rains it seems we'll have a rich season for annual plant growth and wildflowers later this winter and spring. Good news for wildlife, and desert lovers.

Interesting political column in this weekend's Washington Post about the future of Democratic control in America. More good news, as long as we have less 'blue dog' Dems in the future.

The 'blue dog' conservative Dems in Congress, including Giffords and Mitchell of Arizona, hosed America again this week with bad votes to spend big and give Bush/Cheney $70,000,000,000 (billion) more for the failed Iraq war. Shameful.

I am proud to say my Congressman, Raul Grijalva, got it right and again voted against Bush's war.

Today we will celebrate the return of the sun, and think less about politics over the holidays.

Friday, December 21, 2007

NOLA housing should be lived in, not wrecked

People need housing now

TUCSON -- I've been following the news from New Orleans about the controversy over government moves to bulldoze housing for at-risk people.

The government should get new housing built, I agree, but don't tear down a place so fast when people in need want to live there, and maybe even fix it up.

It makes no sense to bulldoze public housing when people are living in the streets. There are many homeless people still in NOLA after Hurricane Katrina.

I'm on the side of the vulnerable people of New Orleans here. Until everyone has a home, homes should not be destroyed.

Tucson and other Arizona cities would be wise to offer more basic housing for homeless people, like New York and other places are. Housing is far more compassionate, humane and will even save taxpayers' money when compared to our expensive current 'jail and hospital' approach.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Rich bizman's Gila NF ranch baited wolves to kill

The Miller family at their home in Catron County, New Mexico. JOHN DOUGHERTY
Ranch hand Mike Miller (center), wolf baiter, Catron County NM

UPDATE, 3/5/08

UPDATE, 12/21: More coverage in the ABQ Journal.

UPDATE, 5pm: Five prominent conservation groups, including PEER and Western Watersheds Project, today asked the Gila National Forest and BLM's New Mexico State Office to immediately cancel Mr. Vallina's public lands grazing permits.

*

TUCSON -- A very important story broke today in High Country News which reveals how a ranch hand on the Datil NM-based Adobe-Slash ranch of rich Mexican businessman Eloy S. Vallina -- mostly your public lands grazed by permit -- unethically and intentionally used cattle to bait endangered Mexican wolves so they would be killed and removed from the wild.

Vallina's Magdalena NM-based ranch hand, Mike Miller, hates wolves. Last summer when he saw one he didn't try to scare it off, he did the opposite. On June 21, he branded cattle less than a half-mile from the wolves’ den, the enticing aroma of seared flesh surely reaching the pack’s super-sensitive nostrils. Miller was, in essence, offering up a cow as a sacrifice.

Miller also intentionally left a pregnant cow near wolves with hope they would attack it.

"We would sacrifice a calf to get a third strike (and take out a wolf)," Miller said.

Because the wolf took Miller's pregnant cow bait, Bush/Cheney US Fish and Wildlife Service officials issued an order to kill her on July 3. Federal hunters shot the wolf on July 5, moments before a New Mexico Game and Fish officer arrived with orders not to kill her. The New Mexico Game and Fish employee said federal gunmen pointed a rifle at her that day, and told her she had no business there and should leave.

The killing of this wolf rightly outraged New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who directed the state Game and Fish Department to exercise its authority as a member of the consortium of agencies managing the reintroduction program and suspend the killing of wolves in New Mexico. But Richardson’s power is limited, because the Fish and Wildlife Service ultimately makes the call on how and when wolves are removed from the wild.

John Morgart
, the Fish and Wildlife Service's Mexican gray wolf recovery program coordinator, said he has never before heard or seen evidence of ranchers using cows to bait wolves so they would be killed or removed. Morgart, who is largely seen as a ranching apologist, says he has asked federal criminal investigators to look into Miller’s actions in the matter. Good for him, but let's see if anything comes of it.

Baiting endangered wolves so they can be killed or removed from the wild is completely immoral and unethical. Miller and Vallina should be fully investigated by law enforcement and prosecuted, and the Gila National Forest should immediately cancel Vallina's grazing permit.

Wolves are not the problem. Unethical ranchers, poor animal husbandry and political, uncaring bureaucrats are to blame for the deep problems in the federal Mexican wolf program.

FWS is taking public comments until Dec 31 on the Mexican wolf program. Please take a minute and speak for the wolves.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

US energy bill a small step toward sustainability

The new US energy bill is a small step, but nowhere near what's needed to cut global warming pollution 80% by 2050, as scientists say is needed

TUCSON -- Today in DC, President Bush signed a new energy bill passed by Congress.

My Congressman, Raul Grijalva (D-AZ7) had these comments when the house passed the final bill yesterday:

"Although I believe we should go much farther in promoting renewable power and moving our nation toward a more sustainable energy future, I voted in favor...

Negotiations over the course of the year resulted in a much more modest bill than I would have preferred, but the bill does move us a few steps forward in energy policy.

Provisions that I strongly support include an increase in fuel efficiency for cars and light trucks, as well as incentives for energy efficiency and a focus on creating 'green' jobs in the renewable energy sector, which will create good-paying work opportunities for our youth.

Among other things, I do not support provisions to increase the ethanol mandate to the extent this bill does, as we are already beginning to feel the unintended consequences of increased ethanol production from corn, including higher prices for food. Other unintended results from this focus on ethanol could be damage to our lands and our waterways.

Nevertheless, I feel the good outweighs the negative in this bill, and I voted to support it. I hope that next year Congress will again take up the issue of energy and global warming, taking further steps to reduce our dependence on unsustainable fossil fuels."

I largely agree with Mr. Grijalva here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ethics problems get worse at Bush Interior Dept.

Cheney, Bush and Kempthorne: anti-science, dishonest and unethical

TUCSON -- An ethics initiative unveiled with great hype this summer by Bush/Cheney Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has been quietly scaled back, according to agency documents released today in Washington DC by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Other elements of the Secretary's "10-point plan" to transform the scandal-ridden agency into "a model of an ethical workplace" remain in limbo.

The plan's centerpiece, outlined in a June 27, 2007 all-employee e-mail, was the creation of a Conduct Accountability Board "for ensuring consistency and fairness in the management of conduct and discipline cases." This step, however, turned out to be less significant than touted:
  • Jurisdiction of the Board was limited to cases involving "Executive Level" employees - well less than 1% of the Interior workforce;
  • On July 25th, about a month after he commissioned it, Sec. Kempthorne amended its charter so that the Board could only review matters "referred to it by the Deputy Secretary and Chief of Staff." This means that if former Deputy Secretary Steven Griles, now serving time in federal prison, was still at Interior he could have determined whether his own egregious ethical lapses would be eligible for Board review; and
  • Initially, the Board was chaired by Mark Limbaugh, an Assistant Secretary whom Kempthorne described as a "person of impeccable integrity," who promptly resigned to become a lobbyist. It is now chaired by the Park Service Director.
"Dirk Kempthorne proclaimed ethical fidelity like a lion but has pursued it like a lamb," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "The Department of Interior has not been so tainted since Teapot Dome."

Another plank of the ethics plan was incorporating "best ethics practices." The Secretary claimed that Interior already had 60 out of 80 best ethics practices in place but had "an action plan to implement the remaining 20 practices and also to enhance existing practices." On July 13th, PEER submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Secretary's office for the "action plan." In a response dated November 7th, Interior withheld the action plan as "pre-decisional," suggesting that the matter is still undecided.

Ironically, a list of ethics "model practices" compiled by Interior includes "publicizing the outcome of ethics program reviews, describing what actions the agency plans to take to correct any deficiencies." It also lists "explaining to employees, and when appropriate the public, how specific agency determinations were made." Both prescriptions apparently do not apply to Interior's own ethics policies and practices.

One huge blind spot in Interior's ethics program is the growing political manipulation of agency science as exemplified by the case of former Deputy Assistant Secretary Julie MacDonald, who resigned in April. Last month, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reversed a number of MacDonald's interventions to prevent listing of animals under the Endangered Species Act. Federal courts are striking down still other scientific alterations made by MacDonald, a non-scientist. Despite the notoriety and seriousness of MacDonald's transgressions, the Secretary's plan does not address the issue, nor has he commented on her actions.

According to congressional testimony on July 31, 2007, the Interior Inspector General had urged Kempthorne to address the issue of political interference with science. At that time, Sec. Kempthorne would not commit to act on this recommendation from the Inspector General - and still has not.

"As long as Interior continues to condone, if not encourage, scientific fraud, it is hard to take any ethics pronouncements from the Secretary seriously," Ruch added, noting that the Secretary's leadership team approved a cash bonus for MacDonald during the period she was inappropriately rewriting scientific findings. "Unfortunately, Julie MacDonald is not an isolated case; she is only one of a pack of ethics elephants in the living room that Interior will not discuss."

Monday, December 17, 2007

Pima Supes should OK gas pump vapor systems

Vapor recovery systems help reduce pollution and should be approved, but it is essential that we all drive less and buy less gasoline.

TUCSON -- After many years of hard work from many agencies and individuals, we are very close to getting safer gas pumps in Pima County.

Tomorrow the Pima County Board of Supervisors will vote on whether to require local gas stations to make use of "Stage II Vapor Recovery Systems," which prevent the release of toxic vapors into the ambient air. More information about Stage II.

These safer gas pumps will reduce smog levels in Tucson. The hydrocarbons in gasoline vapors react in the air to form ground level ozone, a principle component of smog. Vapor recovery pumps are in use in Phoenix, California, the East Coast, and anywhere with poor air quality.

Gasoline vapors contain harmful substances like benzene, a Group A carcinogen known to cause leukemia. The gasoline odor you smell while fueling is harming your health and our air.

To defeat the BS claims from oil/gas station lobbyists and some bureaucrats, please contact the Board of Supervisors at 740.8126 and ask them to support the resolution requiring Stage II Vapor Recovery Systems. It's the right thing to do.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

World shames US into weak global warming deal

Look closely to see Polar Bears stranded and starving on melting Arctic sea ice. Arizona and the Southwest are getting hotter and drier due to global warming.

TUCSON -- Despite all efforts of the Bush/Cheney administration to block any real action on global warming, a worldwide chorus of boos yesterday at the talks in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, shamed the US delegation in to a quick reversal.

As an American, I say 'thank you world citizens.'

As reported in today's LA Times: U.S. delegate Paula Dobriansky said that the United States could not accept the compromise language and argued that developing countries were not offering enough to curb their emissions.

The room erupted in a chorus of boos.

Marthinus van Schalkwyk, South Africa's minister of environmental affairs and tourism, called the U.S. comments "most undeserved and without any basis," given the developing world's concessions during the talks. He added: "We would have liked to see a much stronger commitment from the United States."

Kevin Conrad, a delegate from Papua New Guinea, drew applause when he told the U.S. delegation: "If you cannot lead, leave it to the rest of us. Get out of the way."

In a stunning and unexpected reversal, Dobriansky backed down moments later.

"The United States is very committed to this effort and just wants to really ensure that we all will act together," she told the gathering. "And with that, Mr. Chairman, let me say to you, we will go forward and join consensus today."

All this does not mean the US will do anything to curb our global warming pollution, but this is a significant step. The agreement only means there will be more negotiations, concluding in late 2009 at the earliest, during the next US administration.

Pushing it to late 09 means Bush has totally failed to protect people and the economy with his head-in-the-sand approach to global warming. The American people are way ahead of the President and many in Congress on this, and want action now.

We'll all have to watch and keep pushing on this in Washington until we get solid commitments to cut global warming pollution 80% by 2050. We can do it. Our future depends on it.

Watch for the states to keep up and increase the pressure on DC in support of curbing global warming.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Napolitano should slow down on national ID card

The idea of a tracking device national ID card seems un-American

TUCSON -- I'm back in the Old Pueblo after a week in Washington DC, a great place that makes me a more patriotic American every time I'm there, but also a place where under the Bush/Cheney regime, government surveillance and lack of privacy are excessive and extreme.

I am a progressive Democrat, and supporter of Governor Napolitano, but I am also a strong believer in civil liberties and protection of personal privacy. For those reasons, I cannot support the Governor's current push with the US Dept. of Homeland Security for tracking national IDs.

In some ways, I see the Governor trying to be responsive to an unwise Bush-era big government federal mandate for 'big brother' tracking IDs, as called for in the Real ID Act, a poor law. But the government has made no compelling case that these tracking IDs are needed.

Congress should take a new hard look at the Real ID Act and reconsider some of its over-the-top provisions, such as high-tech national IDs and the border environmental law waiver. There is no good reason to require people to use invasive IDs or passports for domestic flights or entering public buildings, as the Bush/Cheney DHS seems to be moving towards.

As a state and a nation, we must be on guard about security, but we also must always defend our privacy rights as law-abiding American citizens.

Too much power in the hands of the government is almost always a bad thing. DHS has not done much to earn the trust of Americans, and there is no reason to trust them here under the current circumstances.

With all due respect to our honorable Governor, concern over this issue is hardly a 'fringe' position, as she reportedly called it. Arizonans take our freedom and privacy very seriously.

The Governor should slow down on this issue, and work closely with the Legislature, ACLU and others starting in January for a solution to valid privacy concerns.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Strong week fighting in DC for landscape protection

Rangers, hunters and others are fighting off-road abuse on American lands

WASHINGTON -- I've been here all week working with congress and the Rangers for Responsible Recreation toward ending reckless and illegal off-road vehicle crime and abuse of our public lands.

It has been a very successful trip.

A great political cartoon about off-road excess ran in today's Salt Lake Tribune (update, 12/14, the cartoon also ran in the Arizona Daily Star today).

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Rangers say off-road vehicles 'out of control'

Off-road vehicles are the #1 threat to public lands


WASHINGTON -- Reckless off-road vehicle abuse of public lands is spinning out of control, say federal law enforcement rangers in a first-ever survey released today during a Congressionl briefing by Rangers for Responsible Recreation. Tougher penalties and a new enforcement emphasis are critically needed, according to vast majority of Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rangers polled in the five-state Southwest region.

This survey of federal rangers’ views on off-road vehicle (ORV) issues leaves little doubt that law enforcement officers on the ground perceive the situation as extremely serious and worsening:

More than nine out of ten (91%) of respondent rangers agree that “off-road vehicles present a significant law enforcement problem in my jurisdiction”;

More than half (53%) feel “off-road vehicle problems in my jurisdiction are out of control”;

and Nearly three out of four (74%) say that off-road abuses “are worse than they were five years ago” while fewer than one in six (15.2%) believe the situation is improving.

In the essay portion of the survey, a Forest Service ranger conveyed the scope of impacts by noting: “The numbers of off road vehicles on public lands, especially National Forests, are creating resource damage at an alarming rate.” One BLM ranger wrote bluntly, “User attitudes are atrocious. They are the single biggest destruction on public lands these days, far worse than grazing or energy development.”

The mailed survey sent to federal rangers in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and the southern desert area of California found widespread agreement that there isn’t a meaningful deterrent to violators on off-road vehicles. The surveyed rangers strongly support much stiffer penalties and enforcement:

Nearly two out of three (65%) think current penalties for ORV violators are not tough enough; and

A similar proportion (65%) agrees that “loss of hunting and fishing licenses” would be a effective deterrent for violators; and

More than two out of three (67%) feel they lack or are uncertain if they “have the authority to confiscate ORVs used in violations of ORV use rules.”

One BLM ranger said “90% of ORV users cause resource damage every day they ride. Most will violate a rule, regulation or law daily.” Another added “Possibly the greatest weakness in the ORV enforcement program is the lack of bite in judicial penalties. There is often little penalty in not paying tickets.”

Rangers found that their agencies are unequal to the task of controlling ORV abuse:

Nearly two out of three (62%) believe their agency is not “prepared to deal with the ORV problems we are experiencing”; and

More than three out of four (78%) do not think their department “devotes adequate resources to cope with ORV problems.”

“This survey reflects the overwhelming nature of ORV problems on public lands – vast landscapes, a deeply entrenched pattern of abuse, far too little enforcement, and soft penalties,” stated Jim Furnish, former Deputy Chief of the Forest Service, who is appearing today at a congressional briefing to present the survey results. “Agencies like the Forest Service are making belated progress, but still lack the leadership and will to reverse the runaway crisis.”

Rangers for Responsible Recreation is a coalition of retired federal and state law enforcement and land management professionals. The coalition mailed nearly 300 BLM and Forest Service rangers and supervisors a 21-question survey plus two open-ended essays. More than one in five (23%) replied, exceeding the national standard for success among professional opinion researchers.

“The rangers are all saying the same thing – there's no meaningful response to the reckless use of off-road vehicles,” added Daniel Patterson, Southwest Director for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), who coordinated the survey. “Congress needs to get a handle on this problem before it spins further out of control.”

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Mr. Patterson goes to Washington and will report

WASHINGTON -- I'll be reporting this week from our nation's capital.

I'm there working on issues of politics, crime, safety and the environment.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Giffords unwise to oppose green card for hero

Is compassion dying in America?

TUCSON -- I applaud my Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ7) for trying to get a green card for the Mexican man who saved a young American boy's life in southern Arizona on Thanksgiving.

It's the right thing to do.

What I can't understand is why Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ8) is taking a more anti-immigrant position here than anti-immigration hardliners.

From today's Star:

Even though he is a staunch opponent of illegal immigration, former Border Patrol supervisor Dave Stoddard said he has no problem with making an exception.

"...as an American citizen, I have no objection to him joining American society," said Stoddard, who retired in 1996 after 27 years with the agency and lives in Cochise County. "He has demonstrated some degree of moral character by sticking around and helping that boy."

Giffords doesn't support the private bill, said her spokesman, C.J. Karamargin.

"...the congresswoman does not support making exceptions to immigration laws."

With all due respect, as a Giffords supporter who worked very hard to help get her elected, I am sad to say she seems to have lost her way on border issues.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Media should stop Lute Olson feeding frenzy

Lute deserves privacy on personal issues

TUCSON -- The media here is going nuts about Lute Olson, the UA basketball coach on leave this season for personal reasons.

Mr. Olson is a coach, not the President. The team is in good hands with Kevin O'Neill. It's time to get off Olson's back and give this story a rest.

It's disturbing that Lee Corp. fires 11 reporters at the Arizona Daily Star this week, but still finds it a priority to assign several reporters to dog Lute Olson, while other real news is ignored.

People deserve privacy in their personal lives, but sadly they get it less and less these days.

If there should be any more pressure, it should be toward UA management on the paid leave issue. Some reporters say, 'Lute is a high paid state employee,' and they have a point. But if Olson has built up a lot of paid vacation/personal days off, then he is allowed to use them now.

Lute and UA could put a lot of this to rest by agreeing to stop pay after his vacation/personal days are used up.

If Lute is truly coming back next year, he should have enough money in the bank to make it until next season. If he doesn't, perhaps Jim Click could give him a donation?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

House passes OK energy bill, solar promoted

Millions of solar rooftops should be a bigger part of US energy independence. Bulldozing the desert for huge solar and wind projects is not 'green'.

WASHINGTON -- Today, by a vote of 235-181, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass an energy bill with provisions to increase fuel economy standards for cars and trucks to 35 miles per hour by 2020, require utilities to acquire at least 15 percent of their power from renewable sources, and increase incentives for renewable energy like solar, wind and biofuels.

Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ7) voted in favor of the measure and says:

“This bill will utilize both carrot and stick approaches to increasing our country’s use of clean, renewable energy. On the one hand, the bill will provide incentives for families and businesses to use energy efficient appliances, install solar on homes and office buildings, and purchase plug-in hybrid vehicles. But the bill will also force utilities and automakers to begin to address their impact on the environment and on our security.

“While I support many of the bill’s provisions, I am disappointed that this version deletes important provisions approved by the Natural Resources Committee that would have made modest improvements to the 2005 Energy Policy Act, a bill which originated in secret talks between energy industry lobbyists and Vice President Cheney. Provisions which were deleted would have helped ensure balanced management and protection of natural resources in the quest for energy development on public lands. Other provisions would have restored the public’s right to participate and comment on energy development proposals and a provision to help America’s fish and wildlife, public lands, coasts, and oceans adapt to global warming.

“Without these provisions, the bill is not all it could be, however, given the extent to which it does go to promote clean, sustainable energy; I was willing to offer my support.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to restore protections of our natural environment in the development of energy sources.”

A key element of the bill was tax legislation authored by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ8) that will help solar energy become more affordable for homeowners and businesses.

“Harnessing the sun’s power offers us one of the best solutions to the great energy challenges confronting our country at this critical time,” said Giffords, a member of the House Science and Technology Committee. “It will help us create a clean, independent energy future.”

In the Arizona delegation, all Dems voted for the bill, all Republicans voted against it.

Bush FWS hurting endangered bighorn recovery

More bad politics from the US Interior Dept. put bighorn in jeopardy

SAN DIEGO -- To please mining and development lobbyists, the Bush/Cheney-run US Fish and Wildlife Service wants to ax critical habitat protections for the Peninsular Bighorn Sheep by more than half, from 815,000 acres down to 385,000 acres. This would be a very unwise move that would lessen the chances for survival and recovery of one of the southwest's most beloved endangered species.

Worse, the proposal would remove some of the most important and threatened bighorn habitat left in the western Sonoran Desert, and divide the rest into three separate units, violating the basic principles of wildlife biology that bigger connected habitat is most important for endangered species.

Endangered species need protected critical habitat to survive and recover. Hacking critical habitat protections will severely undermine bighorn recovery, which will benefit no one.

Please speak out on behalf of the Peninsular Bighorn, for good science, and against more bad anti-wildlife politics. Please act by Monday, December 10.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Off-road abuse wrecking National Monument in AZ

Volunteers work to repair off-road vehicle damage, only to see reckless off-roaders wreck it. DRP photo

PHOENIX -- The Sonoran Desert National Monument is considering banning off-road vehicle traffic altogether because of the resource damage and user conflicts, according to internal memos released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Agency officials cannot cope with the "exponential" increase in recreational demands on the nearly half-million acre federal preserve south of Phoenix - particularly abusive off-roading by excessively large groups.

Minutes from an internal "Emergency Resources Protection Meeting" of the Sonoran Desert National Monument staff held on March 5, 2007 and other agency records, obtained by PEER from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under the Freedom of Information Act, indicate that -
  • Growing problems prompted the official Resource Advisory Council to recommend a total ban on off-road vehicles entering the Monument;
  • Attempts to restore damaged areas are being thwarted by repeated improper off-road intrusion. One BLM staff member noted that "volunteers are not enough to restore all the damaged areas. Volunteers are also getting tired of seeing their work destroyed…"
  • In 2006, there were 73 illegal off-road "incursions" into the three congressionally designated wilderness areas inside the Monument (the North and South Maricopa Mountains and Table Top). All told, Arizona BLM recorded 280 wilderness violations last year by off-roaders.

The Sonoran Desert National Monument is an increasingly popular recreational destination in between the burgeoning populations of Phoenix and Tucson. One of the fastest growing components of Monument visitation is off-road traffic, allowing ever bigger groups to damage remote and sensitive areas.

"Reckless off-roaders are trashing Arizona's natural heritage," stated Southwest PEER Director Daniel Patterson, adding that the Sonoran Desert is the most biologically rich of the world's deserts. "America's national monuments must be protected from vandalism and environmental destruction, even if that means keeping off-road vehicles out of monuments." Patterson is an Ecologist who formerly worked with BLM.

The BLM documents cite a wide range of growing headaches arising out of off-road groups, from improper disposal of human waste to the intensive law enforcement presence needed. Unfortunately, the deteriorating situation at Sonoran Desert National Monument is becoming prevalent on public lands across the Southwest, where off-road vehicles are now, by far, the number one law enforcement problem, according to agency statistics compiled by PEER.

"Due to the abuse, it is not surprising that BLM managers are considering an off-road vehicle ban for the Monument," concluded Patterson. "Without effective enforcement it appears doubtful that abusive off-roading on our public lands can be stemmed."

- from PEER

Seattle pays victims of 1999 WTO police attacks

Seattle forced to pay for attacks on non-violent WTO protesters

TUCSON -- The City of Seattle has paid about $3600 each to nearly 500 victims of unjust government aggression and brutality -- including some Arizonans from the Sonoran Justice Alliance -- during the fall 1999 'Battle in Seattle' protests against the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Following orders from WTO bootlicking politicians, Seattle police attacked and unjustly arrested people just for being on the street, and held them in jail for several days.

In the end, Seattle's extreme unconstitutional police crackdowns didn't work.

The WTO was shut down, shamed and had to sneak out of Seattle with its tail between its legs. Most people in Seattle and worldwide cheered the protesters as heroes.

The WTO hasn't been the same since, and now meets on islands controlled by brutal dictators.

The money does not make up for the suffering of abused protesters, but least now there is some bit of justice for those who had their rights violated.

I'm sure the WTO will never try to meet in Seattle again.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Forest Service spends $600k on tasers it can't use

Chief Gail Kimball's agency wastes money in arms race

TUCSON -- The U.S. Forest Service has bought $600,000 worth of "Electronic Control Devices" without any training program, rules for use or even a written explanation as to why the devices are needed, according to agency records posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The devices, known as Tasers, are sitting in storage and cannot be issued because the agency has yet to develop a training course.

Due to an intense fire season, the Forest Service is now staggering under a more than a quarter-billion dollar deficit, causing it to begin jettisoning core programs. At the same time, the Forest Service law enforcement program is hobbled by more than 200 vacant positions, leaving only one officer to cover each 300,000 acres of National Forest and 750,000 annual million visitors.

In late September 2007, the Forest Service purchased 700 weapons and "related accessories" from Aardvark Tactical, Inc. of Azusa, California, a subsidiary of big GOP corporate supporter Scottsdale-based Taser International, at a cost to taxpayers of $600,001.52, according to agency records obtained by PEER under the Freedom of Information Act. This represents enough to equip every single Forest Service special agent and law enforcement officer with an Electronic Control system at a cost of $857 apiece.

The reason for this purchase is unknown since the Forest Service was unable to produce any document justifying the need for these weapons. John Twiss, the Director of Law Enforcement and Investigations and the official who made the decision to buy the Tasers, wrote PEER in a letter dated November 7, 2007:

"[I]n the interest of customer service, we can tell you that the Forest Service is currently developing the required training and law enforcement officers will be required to attend prior to the issuance of, or authorization to carry or use, an Electronic Control Device."

"There must have been a fire sale on Tasers, otherwise why would an agency buy 700 of them without a program, protocol or need?" asked PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the federal fiscal year ended September, around the time of the hurried single source purchase. "The Forest Service has many more pressing law enforcement priorities that should have received any end-of-fiscal-year surplus."

Big cop abuses woman repeatedly with dangerous high-voltage taser shocks

In addition to the cost of training its entire law enforcement staff, the Forest Service may be assuming significant financial liability for injuries and deaths. In October, Amnesty International released a study estimating that 290 civilians have died from police use of Tasers since 2001.

Tasers are touted as a non-lethal alternative to the use of deadly force. Since the Forest Service rarely is called upon to apply deadly force, the role of these electronic devices on national forest visitors is problematic. Nonetheless, Taser International now also equips the National Park Service.

"The proliferation of Tasers within federal land management agencies has all the earmarks of a mindless arms race that has eluded any thoughtful public or congressional review," Ruch added. "As a result, in addition to the howl of the coyote and the hoot of the owl, the plaintive cry of 'Don't tase me, bro' may soon echo through the forest night."

- adapted from PEER

Monday, December 03, 2007

Nationally important election integrity trial starts

Vince Rabago, Chairman of the Pima Dems

TUCSON -- Trial begins Tuesday in the Pima County Democratic Party's lawsuit to obtain public records to verify the integrity of elections: 8:30 a.m. in Judge Michael Miller’s courtroom, Pima County Superior Court, downtown.

Arizona law gives political parties oversight of elections. To fulfill its statutory role of ensuring secure and transparent elections, the Pima County Democratic Party first asked for and then had to sue to obtain public records – in this case, the electronic database of votes cast and counted.

If the Pima Dems are successful in their lawsuit, this will be the first national ruling that the public (through its political parties) has the right to look inside the “black box” of electronic voting and have immediate access to records that may show tampering in the electronic recording of votes or in the electronic counting of votes.

Show your support for secure and transparent elections – attend trial Tues., Wed. and Thurs., December 4 – 6.

- adapted from Pima Dems

Romero & Glassman bring young energy to council

Congressman Grijalva and Regina Romero

TUCSON -- The City Council kicked off a new era today with the swearing in of new Democratic members Rodney Glassman and Regina Romero.

I supported both for election, so I'm quite pleased.

Outgoing Council members Jose Ibarra and Carol West both went out with class at an emotional ceremony downtown in the beautiful Fox Theater.

Look for a reliable progressive voting bloc to evolve between Leal, Uhlich and Romero, with Trasoff, Glassman, Scott and Mayor Walkup as swings.

As a Planning Commissioner and Neighborhood President, I look forward to working cooperatively with the new council to solve problems and improve quality of life.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Protect bats when securing dangerous old mines

Bat-friendly security on old mine adit in Colorado

TUCSON -- Across the west, old mines are a safety hazard that need to be secured.

Due to a loss of natural habitat, old mines are also often essential habitat for dozens of bat species, including some endangered bats.

As Arizona speeds efforts to secure old mines left open by irresponsible mining companies, bats can and must be protected.

Endangered Lesser Long-Nosed Bat in Arizona. Photo by Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International

Instead of filling all mine entrances, bat-friendly security grates should be installed where bats use mines.

Bat grates work to keep people out of dangerous abandoned mines, and keep ecologically important bats safe at the same time.

When, with your support, I'm elected to the Arizona Legislature, I'll work with the public, mining companies, State Mine Inspector Joe Hart (R) and other officials to be sure old mines are secured in a conservation-minded way.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Go Arizona Wildcats, beat ASU! Maybe next year

Mistakes cost Wildcats victory, again

UPDATE, 12/2: Congrats, ASU Sun Devils on the 20-17 win. Another weak season overall for UA football. Can Coach Stoops do the job? I think he gets one more season to win or leave.

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TEMPE -- There's a big football battle here tonight with Arizona v. Arizona State.

This game is very important to both teams, for bowl hopes and statewide bragging rights.

The line is ASU by 7.

UA has been playing better and has a decent shot at upsetting the Sun Devils.

Good defense, special teams, and avoiding turnovers and penalties is critical for victory.