Monday, May 31, 2010

Obama & leaders must punish Israel for killings

UPDATE, June 1: Obama administration sounds kinda like GW Bush as it blocks international investigation of Israeli government in Gaza flotilla killings, criticizes activists.

Israel has imprisoned hundreds of Freedom Flotilla activists, including many Americans, and is not allowing them outside communications. Where is President Obama on Israel's outrageous violation of human rights?

S.E. MEDITERRANEAN SEA (May 31) -- The Israeli military has shot and killed at least 9-19 humanitarian activists and wounded more as commandos stormed the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara and others in the Freedom Flotilla this morning in international waters.

Turkey is a critical long-time US ally in the middle-east.

The civilians were on safe customs-inspected boats bound from Antalya, Turkey, carrying hundreds on their way to bring humanitarian aid to the very poor and needy people Israel has blockaded on the Gaza Strip near the Egyptian border.

I and millions worldwide are outraged against Israel's military attack on civilian humanitarians in international waters. These killings are a big blow to peace efforts in the middle-east.

President Obama and other world leaders should swiftly and strongly punish Israel for their unjust aggression and unnecessary killings. It seems Israel must be forced to become part of a peaceful solution with their neighbors, and likely only the US can do that.

Thank & remember war dead on Memorial Day

Never forget the millions who have died.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day about fallen troops, not just party

Never forget

TUCSON -- Enjoy this long Memorial Day weekend, but don't forget this national holiday is about remembering people who died in wars, not just partying.

Friday, May 28, 2010

US warns AZ on park closures; could lose funds

Oracle State Park near Tucson still closed.

TUCSON -- The National Park Service has served notice on the State of Arizona that its plan to close more parks purchased with federal dollars could cost the state dearly in future federal aid according to a letter released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Arizona had planned to begin a new round of park closures next week, starting on June 3, 2010, but new short-term local agreements may delay some additional park closures.

The April 29, 2010 letter from Acting National Park Service (NPS) Intermountain Regional Director Mary Gibson Scott to Governor Jan Brewer and other state officials notes that the state “has received $58 million in Federal Financial assistance to aid in the acquisition and development of numerous local, county, and state parks”, including “11 Arizona state parks which have received LWCF {federal Land and Water Conservation Fund] financial assistance [that] we understand are proposed for closure by no later than June 3, 2010.” Ms. Gibson warns that:

“The purpose of this letter is to alert you that the closure of any state park or historic site that has received LWCF assistance would be viewed by the NPS as being in noncompliance with Federal requirements. Noncompliance will jeopardize LWCF funding and reimbursements and potentially impact other Federal grant programs.”

"If Gov. Brewer closes parks, the National Park Service must quickly move to take over parks created or supported with federal funding. The people of Arizona want parks open and would applaud,” stated Southwest PEER Director Daniel Patterson who is also an Arizona State Representative who has been working with State Parks employees and advocates to try to keep the parks open. "Gov. Brewer's reckless ‘shut it down’ attack on Arizona's state parks violates conservation agreements that are important to the future of the state.”

In her letter, Ms. Gibson Scott invites state officials to work with NPS to explore “measures that can be taken short of total park closures” that still would “provide as much flexibility as possible to deal with funding shortfalls.” In any federal-state park deal, a key player will be Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva, Chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forest and Public Lands. Rep. Grijalva has been working with NPS and PEER to help avoid the Arizona State Parks shutdown.

In addition to loss of federal funds, park closures will bring a host of liability and public safety problems due to the state’s inability to secure park lands from spreading wildfires, drug cultivation, violent crimes and injuries. “Last year, California proposed to close state parks as a budget cut but figured out that the resulting lawsuits and other losses could cost taxpayers much more in the long run than any short term savings,” said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch pointing to an extraordinary legal analysis by California Department of Parks & Recreation attorneys detailing a litany of legal headaches from shuttering parks. “Even California has learned that closing state parks is the epitome of a penny-wise-pound-foolish economy."

- from PEER

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Daniel's News & Views now The Arizona Eagle

TUCSON -- This blog is 5 years old this month, and we've decided to update the name.

Daniel's News & Views is now The Arizona Eagle, and still watching out for the common good.

Let us know if you like it or not.

LD29 team sets legislative wrap up town hall Jun 5

Historic Arizona Capitol, Phoenix

TUCSON -- Rep. Daniel Patterson, Rep. Matt Heinz, and Senate Democratic Whip Linda Lopez, invite the public to a town hall next week.

When: Saturday, June 5, 2-4pm
Where: Eckstrom-Columbus Branch Library, 4350 E. 22nd St., Tucson

The town hall will be a wrap up of the 2010 legislative session. It is the seventh town hall Lopez, Patterson and Heinz and have hosted since 2009.

"This is a critical time for Arizona and it’s time we sit down for a talk, now more than ever," Patterson said. "Arizona is on the wrong track — Gov. Brewer and Republicans at the legislature cut $1 billion from education and thousands of jobs, including taking police officers off the streets."

"More than 400,000 kids, adults and seniors will lose their health care thanks to Gov. Jan Brewer and Republicans," Heinz said. "This is one of the many issues Arizonans face and I’d like to discuss our state’s future."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Did feds actually read BP's oil spill response 'plan'?

The 'boot on neck' should be Congress & Obama's on troubled Interior Sec. Ken Salazar

WASHINGTON -- BP's official response plan for oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico is studded with patently inaccurate and inapplicable information but was nonetheless approved by the federal government, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Most notably, the response plan contains no information about how to cope with a deep water blowout but is littered with outright inanities, suggesting that no regulator seriously read it.

The "BP Regional Oil Spill Response Plan - Gulf of Mexico" dated June 30, 2009 covers all of the company's operations in the Gulf, not just the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon. The plan:
  • Lists "Sea Lions, Seals, Sea Otters [and] Walruses" as "Sensitive Biological Resources" in the Gulf, suggesting that portions were cribbed from previous Arctic exploratory planning;
  • Gives a web site for a Japanese home shopping site as the link to one of its "primary equipment providers for BP in the Gulf of Mexico Region [for]rapid deployment of spill response resources on a 24 hour, 7 days a week basis"; and
  • Directs its media spokespeople to never make "promises that property, ecology, or anything else will be restored to normal," implying that BP will only commit candor by omission.

More seriously, the plan does not contain information about tracking sub-surface oil plumes from deepwater blowouts or preventing disease (viruses, bacteria, etc.) transmission to captured animals in rehab facilities, which was found to be a very serious risk following the Exxon Valdez spill. It also lacks any oceanographic or meteorological information, despite the clear relevance of this data to spill response.

"This response plan is not worth the paper it is written on," said PEER Board Member Rick Steiner, a noted marine professor and conservationist who tracked the Exxon Valdez spill, noting that the plan is almost 600 pages largely consisting of lists, phone numbers and blank forms. "Incredibly, this voluminous document never once discusses how to stop a deep water blowout even though BP has significant deep water operations in the Gulf."

The chapter on "Worst Case Discharge" features wildly optimistic projections of the maximum size of any crude spill and bland assurances that within hours of any incident "personnel, equipment, and materials in sufficient quantities and recovery capacity to respond effectively to oil spills from the facilities and leases covered by this plan, including the worst case discharge scenarios" will be deployed.

"Pointing out our gaping incapacity in spill prevention and response is not just an exercise in hindsight," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that, according to the soon-to-be-defunct U.S. Minerals Management Service, there are approximately 4,000 producing platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, nearly half of them are "major platforms" with nearly 1,000 of these manned by personnel. "We ought to be losing sleep that there is still no sane spill response plan for the Gulf.

"The BP oil spill disaster in the gulf shows the bad risks America faces from government reliance on privatization & corporate control," said PEER Ecologist Daniel Patterson. It's clear the feds are still way too cozy with big oil and that must change now."

See supporting documents, including Interior Sec. Ken Salazar ignoring warnings of poor spill prevention and response capacity. adapted from PEER

Monday, May 24, 2010

1 in 5 states improved whistleblower laws this year

Cash-strapped states see whistleblowers as assets in fighting waste and fraud. New Mexico takes action. GOP-run Arizona does nothing.

SANTA FE -- During the past 12 months, ten states have measurably improved legal protections for state employees who blow the whistle, according to a new analysis released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Many states now afford their employees stronger statutory shields than those covering federal workers, as a continuing Congressional stalemate has stalled federal whistleblower reform legislation for more than a decade.

The most dramatic changes came in two states, New Mexico and Vermont, which previously had the two weakest laws in the country. As a result of comprehensive legislation enacted in recent months, New Mexico now has the 4th strongest and Vermont, the 6th strongest, according to a rating scale devised by PEER. The other eight states making substantive expansions of whistleblower coverage in the past 12 months include Alabama, Alaska, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Utah (these latter two states, however, still have among the weakest laws overall).

Read today's full news release from PEER

Friday, May 21, 2010

Feds want more lions killed for bighorn 'game farm'

Feds want to continue unethical trapping, collaring and killing of rare desert lions

UPDATES: Yuma Sun article, May 31.

AZGFD killed another GPS-collared Lion RM01 (Regional, Male, #01) northwest of Gila Bend on April 20. The state did not notify the public until 14 days after the kill on May 4 in a Kofa website update, the first update since June 29, 2009 or over 10 months ago.


YUMA AZ -- The US Fish & Wildlife Service, an agency in embattled Sec. Ken Salazar's Interior Dept., has issued a very bad decision today to continue kill more rare desert lions so the State of Arizona can manage the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge as a bighorn sheep game farm.

Today's decision by the Obama administration continues Bush administration anti-wildlife policy.

Out-of-touch FWS refuge manager Susanna Henry has a conflict-of-interest with the Arizona Game & Fish Department and should be investigated and possibly removed. Her bosses, FWS Southwest Regional Director Ben Tuggle in Albuquerque and Kofa Complex Manager Mitch Ellis in Yuma also are to blame for this on-going debacle.

Southwestern conservationists are very angry and disappointed with the fed's final unsupportable decision, which ensures the conflict will only get worse and likely force litigation. And I'm not a vegan animal-rights activist, I'm an Arizona big game hunter.

I love desert bighorn and I've worked as an ecologist for nearly 20 years to protect and recover bighorn, but America's National Wildlife Refuges are supposed to be managed to conserve all native species, not to unethically kill carnivores in a failed attempt to 'grow' more bighorn primarily to serve rich trophy hunters.

More on the history of this issue and the troubled Kofa refuge and likely more coverage here later.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

BLM faces complaint on NV off-road race, bones

BLM managers have poorly handled the damaging 'Vegas-Reno' off-road race

Las Vegas Review-Journal article, June 4.

Follow up to Abuses prompt call for reforms of BLM-Nevada, May 17

by April Reese, E&E reporter

LAS VEGAS -- Bureau of Land Management officials in Nevada violated agency protocols by allowing a Las Vegas-to-Reno off-highway vehicle (OHV) race to cut through sensitive areas and failing to address the resulting damage, according to a complaint filed last week by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

The complaint, based on claims made by a former BLM employee, argues that the agency's Tonapah, Nev., field office mismanaged natural resources in its handling of the three-day race through western Nevada's high desert region.

The race attracted 270 OHV enthusiasts last year. The 1,000-mile route, which required approval from BLM, crossed public lands in five counties, including endangered desert tortoise habitat in the Mojave and Great Basin deserts, according to the complaint. PEER also alleges that BLM field office manager Tom Seley ignored federal law and OHV permitting stipulations in approving the race route.

The former BLM employee, Stacey Antilla, joined the Tonopah office in March 2009 to oversee recreation planning for the area, a job that primarily involved preparing for the annual August OHV race -- the longest OHV race in the country. But she resigned in March after a series of disagreements with Seley over last year's race route and a later incident involving the removal of skeletal remains by a tourist at another site.

"There were a lot of things I was being told to do that in my opinion were illegal and not right," said Antilla, who now manages a restaurant in Dallas.

In a May 17 letter to BLM Director Bob Abbey, PEER Southwest Director Daniel Patterson, also a former BLM employee, said the Tonapah field office had committed "serious violations of environmental and cultural conservation requirements on the Vegas-to-Reno ORV race and at the Rhyolite ghost town."

He asked Abbey to investigate the incidents, take steps to correct the alleged violations, and review "the quality of the management" in the Tonapah field office.

According to PEER's complaint, BLM allowed the OHV race to be routed through ecologically sensitive desert areas instead of keeping it on established roads. The agency also allowed heavy equipment into a desert river that harbors endangered species and did not address the resulting damage after the race was completed.

In an interview, Antilla said she became concerned about OHV impacts to natural and cultural resources after analyzing the route proposed by race organizers to the Tonapah field office. The course was designed to avoid roads that local landowners wanted to keep free of OHVs. As a result, Antilla said, the route was set to traverse large areas of open desert, potentially causing significant damage to wildlife habitat and vegetation.

But, she said, her concerns fell on deaf ears.

"The regulations and the policies that we're supposed to follow weren't followed," she said. "I don't feel that I was able to do my job. My professional opinions were not respected in Nevada."

None of her recommendations were heeded, Antilla said.

Seley declined to comment on Antilla's allegations. "I'm in the middle of preparing a response," he said.

But Seley noted that the design of last year's racecourse, which included more loops and more mileage than in past years, was to help planners "shift the race around" to limit resource damage in the future. "It gives us more options," he said.

Seley said BLM made some revisions to the route before the race, but he would not disclose what the changes were or the reasons behind them.

He said this year's Vegas-to-Reno race route is being reviewed by BLM's Carson City district office.

Casey Folks, who owns Best In The Desert Inc. Racing in Las Vegas and organizes the race each year, said he received the required event permit and the race route he designed took into account potential resource impacts.

"My course was environmentally sound," he said. "It was on roads. In this day and age, there is no virgin country."

Laura Cunningham of Basin and Range Watch, a Nevada-based environmental group that has been monitoring impacts from the race for years, said the 2009 route "was not well designed." It crossed through mule deer and pronghorn habitat in a mountainous area in central Nevada and traversed a wetland and left deep ruts in some trails, she said.

"The intense type of road use leaves these routes in degraded shape for other outdoor users," she said.

Skeletal remains

The PEER complaint also alleges that a BLM official in the Tonapah office allowed a tourist to dig up and remove an arm bone found at the ghost town of Rhyolite near Death Valley National Park.

According to Antilla, who was not in the office when the incident occurred, a BLM official instructed a volunteer at the Rhyolite site to give the bone to the tourist after deeming it was probably a fake. Antilla said she asked BLM law enforcement officers to look into the matter, but they declined.

Soon after that incident, agency managers threatened Antilla with suspension, she said.

While Antilla declined to speculate on whether politics were involved in BLM's handling of the OHV race, which generates revenue for local businesses in the rural counties it traverses, local landowner Kevin Emmerich said he believes BLM officials are under political pressure from local supporters of the annual race, which draws hundreds of ATV, dune buggy and Jeep riders to the area each summer.

"It can get really political," said Emmerich, a former National Park Service employee who lives in the Mojave Desert near Beatty, Nev., about two hours north of Las Vegas. "It seems like some BLM employees are really frustrated. I think sometimes there can be political pressure in the state of Nevada."

Emmerich said he does not have a problem with Seley, who he said has been "very upfront" with landowners in discussing concerns about OHV use in the remote area.

Antilla said she would like to see OHV riders and BLM work to create race routes that are challenging for participants but also protect resources.

"I'd like to think they could continue their activity out there without damaging other resources," she said.

- from Land Letter

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

AZ House Democrats expose Brewer’s ‘two faces’

Brewer's mixed messages & broken promises

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX -- Gov. Jan Brewer has exhibited two faces when it comes to critical Arizona issues in the last two years, and Proposition 100 is no different, House Democrats said Wednesday.

“I think what we see every day are the two faces of Jan Brewer,” said House Democratic Leader David Lujan. “She can’t seem to keep her promises, and in this type of economic climate, Arizonans need real leadership.”

Brewer has a history of mixed messages and broken promises:

-- Brewer promised not to “decimate” education. She then cut more than $1 billion from education — the largest cut to education in Arizona history.
-- In January, Brewer raved about job creation in a speech to business leaders. She then cut thousands of jobs during an economic crisis, including taking police officers off the streets. (See speech)
-- Brewer said she would “hold harmless” the most vulnerable Arizonans. She then eliminated federally mandated and funded health care for nearly 40,000 kids, making Arizona the only state in the nation to do so. (Democrats then restored health care for kids.)
-- Brewer said she would protect seniors. She then kicked nearly 400,000 seniors and adults off of health care.

“Clearly Gov. Brewer has failed to be a leader with her wrong priorities,” said Assistant House Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema. “It makes it hard for Arizonans to trust such a loose cannon on issues like the economy, education and health care.”

And while Brewer pushed for an increase in the state sales tax, she continues to send mixed signals on using it to fund tax breaks for big corporations and the rich:

-- Just eight days ago, Brewer followed Attorney General Terry Goddard’s call for no corporate bailout package as she originally promised, saying in The Arizona Republic that there was “no way” she would “do the business tax cuts.” (See story) On Monday, Brewer’s chief of staff, Eileen Klein, told The Arizona Guardian that another shot at the corporate bailout package is still possible before the Aug. 24 primary: 'We're working on it, but there's nothing definite yet,' Klein said. (The Arizona Guardian, May 17, 2010)

"Brewer and GOP lawmakers forced Arizona into this difficult choice with their massive budget cuts, instead of working with Democrats for a real solution to improve our state’s ranking of last in the nation in education funding," said Representative Daniel Patterson of Tucson. "Brewer continues to send mixed signals on using Prop 100 to fund a bailout package for corporations and the rich, another example of her failure to lead."

“Gov. Brewer continues to push Arizona down the wrong track as she continues to break the trust of all Arizonans,” House Democratic Whip Chad Campbell said. “Prop. 100 is not a solution to the state’s economic woes and it certainly fails to serve any purpose if she gives it away to big corporations and the rich. It’s time for a change.”

My quick takes on AZ Prop 100 sales tax hike

Brewer & GOP failed to lead and pushed biggest cuts to schools, healthcare & public safety in state history. Vote them out in Nov.

UPDATE, May 20: I thank all who worked on AZ Prop100 for trying to help our state despite big GOP failures & their flawed revenue option offered. (from @RepPatterson on twitter)

TUCSON -- In the State House I voted against referring Prop 100 to ballot, instead preferring a real budget solution, such as what I and House Democrats offered. I stand by that vote.

People want to help AZ, but don't necessarily like Jan Brewer or AZ Republicans, or see sales tax increases as best option, but it is all they could do right now. I respect the decision of voters.

Below I offer some other quick takes on Arizona Prop. 100, quotes from @RepPatterson on twitter and facebook.com/RepPatterson:

AZ sales tax hike & Prop 100 passage nothing to cheer about, says Mark Evans of TucsonCitizen.com He's right.

Sales tax now 9%+ in Tucson/Pima, 10%+ elsewhere in AZ, hurting mid-class & poor as Brewer & Rs favor tax breaks to corpos & rich.


People try to help AZ kids hurt by Brewer & Rs worst school cuts ever. Brewer/Rs won't work w Ds for real budget/econ solutions.


Arizonans want a better state, so we need to vote out Brewer & Rs who made devastating cuts to schools, healthcare & public safety.

AZ needs new revenue, but Prop100 sales tax not solution. Brewer & Rs failed to pass fair balanced budget. More big cuts coming.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Abuses prompt call for reforms of BLM-Nevada

BLM managers in Nevada push 'wreckreation' at all costs, including ignoring and abusing their own expert staff. Kevin Emmerich & Laura Cunningham photo


OFF-ROAD ABUSES PROMPT CALL FOR PROBE OF BLM-NEVADA
Planner Resigns in Frustration After “Body Part” Incident in Ghost Town

LAS VEGAS -- Federal authorities need to investigate mismanagement of cultural and natural resources, including off-road vehicle environmental violations and theft of skeletal remains from a historic ghost town by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Nevada, according to a complaint filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) with Robert Abbey, the BLM Director.

The PEER complaint was prompted by the resignation of Stacey Antilla, a BLM Outdoor Recreation Planner at the southern Nevada BLM station. Ms. Antilla resigned in frustration, after her efforts to properly plan and mitigate the damage resulting from the thousand-mile “Vegas-to-Reno” off-road vehicle race across endangered Desert Tortoise habitat in the Mojave and Great Basin Deserts. BLM Tonopah manager Tom Seley refused to address documented problems from past races and ignored violations of agency policy, permit stipulations and resource law, including:
  • Routing the race though sensitive desert areas rather than keeping the course on already established roads;
  • Allowing heavy equipment into a desert river that is habitat to endangered species; and
  • Refusing to survey and correct post-race damage.

Off-road issues were compounded by cultural resource desecration this winter. Ms. Antilla learned a tourist at the ghost town site of Rhyolite, near Death Valley National Park, found what looked like skeletal remains in one of the buildings. Despite objections from BLM volunteer site steward, BLM managers in Tonopah allowed the tourist to dig up the bones and take them away. Ms. Antilla called BLM law enforcement with the information and requested an investigation. No investigation occurred, however agency managers threatened Antilla with suspension.

“Stacey Antilla did the right thing as a BLM planner by trying to reduce the impact of the off-road race and protect cultural resources. She should have been rewarded, not run out of the agency,” said Southwest PEER Director Daniel Patterson, an Ecologist who formerly worked with BLM. “BLM should take a close look at the big problems with its management in Tonoaph.”

Prior to serving in Nevada BLM, Stacey Antilla spent years working for the BLM in Colorado, where her experience was positive. After a few years out of federal service, she wanted to return, expecting a similar experience in Nevada. Ms. Antilla was asked to sign a two-year contract, as the Nevada BLM office seemed to have a hard time retaining employees. But she resigned after one year.

“BLM needs to be able to attract and retain conscientious workers. What happened in Tonopah should not be tolerated in a public resource protection agency,” added Patterson. “We are looking to the leadership of Director Abbey to look into and correct this situation.”

Click here and scroll down for all supporting documents, etc.

- from PEER

Friday, May 14, 2010

Proud to earn 100% A+ pro-kids voting record

Dana Naimark of CAA

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX -- I'm proud to earn an A+ 100% grade for my pro-children voting record as Rep. for Tucson's LD29 in the Arizona legislature, 2010.

Visit the Children's Action Alliance at azchildren.org for their important legislative report card.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Coolers best energy efficient interior chill in desert

Just a box with aspen pads, pump, motor, fan and water

TUCSON -- I scrambled up on my roof the other day to put our trusty old evaporative cooler back in to service for the coming hot season. But I quickly found out this wet winter had been especially hard on the old box and major rust had taken over. After many years of cooling, our old cooler had blown it's last chilled breeze in to our older adobe house near Santa Rita Park.

We could switch to A/C, but we're not. I'm getting a new cooler. I've lived in Tucson 16 years now with no house A/C and only coolers and have been cooled been fine. The air quality from coolers seems better than A/C. A/C also uses much more power than a cooler, racking up high electric bills, and A/C units are a lot more expensive. Coolers are much cheaper and easier to maintain and fix. So why bother with A/C in the desert?

During the height of monsoon season coolers can be less effective on some rainy days, but these days are cooler outside anyhow and a few well placed fans in your house make up the difference.

I'm old school and favor appropriate technology. I'm proudly avoiding energy-hogging home A/C and chillin' under the swamp box.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Embattled Salazar: DoI science still at risk, says IG

All hat and no science

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Interior still lacks any policy to ensure the integrity of its scientific data, according to a new Inspector General report. As a result, agency scientific findings remain susceptible to alteration or suppression in support of pre-determined political positions, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The report by the Interior Office of Inspector General (IG), dated April 2010, was quietly posted without announcement on the IG website late last week. In recent days, Interior has been reeling from reports that it ignored both internal and external scientific warnings about the risk of oil spills and the lack of response capacity before Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a major expansion of offshore drilling, just days before the disastrous BP explosion and spill.

"The problem is not the scientists but their managers who are actually rewarded for filtering information to serve the announced agency agenda," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the slim 12-page IG report only skims over root causes. "Political skewing of science became a major cause for complaint under Bush but it remains just as bad under Obama because nothing has been done to stop it."

By way of example of ongoing scientific dysfunction within Interior, PEER points to -

  • Continued efforts inside the Minerals Management Service to stifle scientists who raise environmental concerns about offshore drilling, as documented in an April 2010 Government Accountability Office report;
  • Endangered Species Act positions taken by the U.S. that fly in the face of the overwhelming weight of agency science, on issues ranging from the Florida panther to the sage grouse. As under Bush, conservation groups are able to prove in court that Obama agency stances are "arbitrary and capricious" for ignoring the best available science; and
  • Interior's ongoing hostility toward whistleblowers and continued reliance on "gag orders" and other restrictions on specialists candidly discussing problems or sharing data.
"In March 2009, President Obama promised new policies that would both protect agency science from political tampering and scientists from retaliation for doing their jobs but those policies never were promulgated," Ruch added. "Compromised scientific integrity is not just a problem inside Interior; it is a government-wide phenomenon whenever technical data carries heavy policy implications."

Contrary to the IG report, Interior claimed that it did adopt a scientific code of conduct back in 2002, but the agency did so via a press release and never put it into its official manual. That code applied only to the scientists and not to managers and political appointees who remain free to alter technical documents for non-scientific reasons.

Links to relevant supporting documents, etc.

- from PEER

Monday, May 10, 2010

US whistleblower agency OSHA buried; DC event Tu

Obama's Labor Secretary Solis

WASHINGTON -- Over the past decade, Congress has charged the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration with enforcing far-reaching new whistleblower laws, including this year's health care law, consumer product safety rules, and corporate malfeasance safeguards, but has not provided funding or staff to protect millions of workers from retaliation for reporting violations, according to an analysis released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). As a result, OSHA's whistleblower program is hopelessly overwhelmed, lacking in programmatic leadership and adrift.

Since 1970 when it was created, OSHA has been mandated to police the prohibition against employers retaliating against workers who report health and safety violations and dangers. Over the next 40 years, Congress enacted 17 other whistleblower provisions covering complex pollution, energy production, and transportation laws, among others, for OSHA implementation and oversight. Recent examples include:

  • The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, covering 12 million health care workers;
  • The Consumer Protection Safety Improvement Act of 2008, covering 20 million workers involved in manufacture, labeling, distributing, and retailing products; and
  • Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 to control corporate fraud, covering 42 million financial workers.

Altogether, OSHA's whistleblower jurisdiction has grown by a staggering 75 million workers in just the past decade, nearly doubling its previous coverage. These numbers exclude the estimated 115 million workers already covered by the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety & Health Act of 1970 - OSHA's main responsibility.

By contrast, the number of OSHA staff assigned to investigate worker reprisal complaints has remained virtually static: 69 investigators, 8 supervisory investigators and 1 manager, according to a 2009 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that faulted oversight and management of the program.

"OSHA has no hope of competently executing these vast duties with fewer resources to cover the nation's entire workforce than those available to a typical big county prosecutor's office," said PEER Policy Director Erica Rosenberg, pointing out that OSHA whistleblower coverage has grown by more than 1 million workers for each investigator just since 2000. "This yawning disparity inevitably leads to unconscionable and illegal delays, shoddy reviews, unmanageable caseloads and poor outcomes for workers. Thus, workers who risk their jobs to report serious dangers and major violations will, in effect, find nobody home at OSHA."

Unfortunately, the whistleblower protection program does not appear to be on the radar of the agency's leadership. A 2010 draft strategic plan for OSHA makes no mention of whistleblower protection, even in the summary of the agency's mission statement. In its report, GAO also noted that the whistleblower protection program does not even have its own budget but is subject to the whims of regional administrators who divvy up an enforcement budget for an array of labor violations.

"Whistleblower protection at OSHA is not just on the back burner, it has fallen off the stove," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that for workers without access to lawyers, these OSHA investigations are usually the only shield against unemployment and blackballing. "Clearly, additional resources are needed but so are vision and commitment from OSHA's leadership."

Tomorrow, May 11th, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels will speak on this topic at a forum entitled "Whistleblowers and OSHA: Strengthening Professional Integrity" sponsored by Professionals for the Public Interest at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1200 New York Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. beginning at 12:30 pm.

- from PEER

Friday, May 07, 2010

Patterson files petitions for re-election as LD29 Rep

Yvette Lopez, manager of AZ Sec. of State office in Tucson, accepts Patterson's petitions.

TUCSON -- Today we filed our nominating petitions to be on the ballot later this year for re-election to the Arizona House of Representatives for district 29.

Big thanks to all our great supporters!

Visit our campaign site at DanielPatterson.net

Thursday, May 06, 2010

R.I.P. Cele Peterson, Tucson leader dies at 101

Cele Peterson at 100

TUCSON -- Rest in peace Cele Peterson, a long-time Tucson leader who died today at 101.

She once named me 'person of the day' on her radio show.

I was very honored.

1000s march on capitol for fair immigration policy

PHOENIX -- Thousands of Arizonans march Wednesday night from Los Suns NBA playoff game to Arizona State Capitol in protest of SB1070. View photo from Border Action Network.

For late breaking news and views, please follow me on twitter and facebook.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

AZ's veteran sheriff on liberty & immigration

Sheriff Dupnik says no to SB1070

Arizona's Immigration Mistake
Those who look suspiciously like illegal immigrants will find their liberty in severe jeopardy.


By CLARENCE W. DUPNIK

I have spent over 50 years in the law-enforcement profession in the Tucson community, the past 30 of which I have served as sheriff. I have seen relations between our community and law enforcement personnel shift with the times: sometimes challenged when the actions of a few police officers cross the line, and often improving when there is a sense of partnership. But in the past few weeks Arizona became a model for the rest of the country of what not to do.

The immigration reform law that was signed by Gov. Jan Brewer on April 23 effectively requires that immigrants be able to prove their legal presence in the state of Arizona. I have argued from the moment that this bill was signed that it is unnecessary, that it is a travesty, and most significantly, that it is unconstitutional.

Pima County, where I am sheriff, shares 123 miles of border with Mexico. Patrolling this area for illegal immigrants is like trying to keep water from passing through a sieve.

I have always believed that the federal government, charged with the task of regulating immigration into the United States, bears the responsibility for this task. However, it has also never been the policy of my department to ignore the existence of those that are in this country illegally. That's why my deputies are instructed that if they come in contact with an illegal immigrant they should detain him, contact Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and turn him over to federal authorities.

My deputies have referred more illegal immigrants to Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement than any other state or local law enforcement agency in Arizona. But this new law will pass the burden of immigration enforcement to my county department. This is a responsibility I do not have the resources to implement.

The more fundamental problem with the law is its vague language. It requires law enforcement officials to demand papers from an individual when they have a "reasonable suspicion" that he is an illegal immigrant. The Preamble to the Declaration of Independence states that "all men are created equal" and that "they are endowed . . . with certain inalienable rights" including "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Those who look "suspiciously" like illegal immigrants will find their liberty in severe jeopardy and their pursuit of happiness disrupted—even if they are citizens or have lived, worked, paid taxes, and maybe even have served in our Armed Forces for decades.

When used in a law-enforcement context, "reasonable suspicion" is always understood to be subjective, but it must be capable of being articulated. In the case of identifying illegal immigrants, the ambiguity of what this "crime" looks like risks including an individual's appearance, which would seem to violate the Constitution's equal protection clause. Such ambiguity is especially dangerous when prescribed to an issue as fraught with emotion as that of illegal immigration.

I have an enormous amount of respect for the men and women of my department—the deputy sheriffs who respond to calls for assistance throughout Pima County every day of the week. I have no doubt that they make intelligent, compassionate and reasonable decisions countless times throughout their shifts. But no one can tell them what an illegal immigrant looks like and when it is ok to begin questioning a person along those lines. This law puts them in a no-win situation: They will be forced to offend and anger someone who is perhaps a citizen or here legally when they ask to see his papers—or be accused of nonfeasance because they do not.

There is a horrible problem with illegal immigration in this country, and it affects the citizens of Pima County every single day. Because of our proximity to the border, our county population demographic is heavily Hispanic (both legal and illegal). That means we must interact with witnesses and victims of crime in their times of need, regardless of their immigration status. Though this legislation states that inquiry into a person's immigration status is not required if it will hinder an investigation, that's not enough to quell the very real fears of the immigrant community.

Law enforcement did not ask for and does not need this new tool. What we do need is assistance from the federal government in the form of effective strategies to secure the border. Additionally, the federal government must take up this issue in the form of comprehensive immigration reform policy. If any good is to come from this firestorm, it is that our legislators will finally recognize that a problem exists and that they are the only ones with the authority to address it.

Mr. Dupnik is the sheriff of Pima County, Ariz.

- from Wall Street Journal, 5/5/10

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

PHX to wear 'Los Suns' jerseys to protest SB1070

Los Suns beat Spurs 111-102 Mon. night

PHOENIX -- The Suns will wear their 'Los Suns' jerseys tomorrow on Cinco de Mayo for game 2 v. the Spurs to show support for Arizona Latinos and protest SB1070.

Go Suns!

Border agency whistleblower appeal tests Obama

Bush holdover Bill Ruth should be removed from International Boundary and Water Commission

EL PASO -- A major test of whether the Obama administration will protect whistleblowers is arising out of an obscure border agency which fired its General Counsel just three days after he reported waste, fraud and abuse, according to an appeal filed today with the Merits Systems Protection Board by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The agency, the United States Section, International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), based in El Paso, Texas, has hired the nation’s top union-busting law firm to defend its actions, costing taxpayers approximately $100,000 thus far, at rates ranging up to $450.00 an hour.

Robert McCarthy
, the IBWC General Counsel, had warned the agency about an array of financial abuses, including a $220 million Recovery Act flood control project which threatened the safety of millions of border residents. McCarthy also reported improper expenditures, illegal manipulation of payrolls, secret surveillance of IBWC employees, and other abuses to the Office of Special Counsel, State Department Office of Inspector General, Office of White House Counsel and the Government Accountability Office.

On July 28, 2009, McCarthy informed Bill Ruth, the holdover IBWC Commissioner appointed by President Bush, that he had disclosed these concerns to oversight agencies. Three days later, Ruth ordered McCarthy’s termination. Ruth’s removal letter cited McCarthy’s repeated warnings, stating the memos demonstrated McCarthy’s “failure to support me…in a constructive and collegial manner....”

On April 9, 2010, an administrative judge upheld McCarthy’s termination finding that McCarthy’s whistle blowing “coincided, either by chance or by design” but were not the cause of the removal. On behalf of McCarthy, PEER is asking the presidentially-appointed Merit System Protection Board (MSPB) to reverse that ruling, as a matter of law, and restore McCarthy.

“In this case, Robert McCarthy was told orally and in writing that he was being fired because he raised legal violations, safety concerns and rampant misconduct. If he is not protected by the Whistleblower Protection Act that law is a dead letter,” stated PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein, noting that in addition, several key documents were admitted as evidence even though computer metadata showed they were backdated and, therefore, falsified.

For its defense in the whistleblower case, this summer IBWC retained the high-dollar law firm Jackson Lewis LLP, which specializes in “union avoidance” or “preventive labor relations.” Documents obtained by PEER under the Freedom of Information Act reflect nearly $100,000 in billings by the firm, at rates ranging from $375.00 to $450.00 per hour. There are several tens of thousands of dollars more in billings that PEER is still seeking. PEER is still trying to learn whether the IBWC accounts used to pay the firm came from Recovery Act funds.

“The irony here is that by reporting waste, fraud and abuse, Robert McCarthy induced his agency to waste even more taxpayer funds,” commented PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “The larger issue is whether anyone in the Obama administration is paying attention to what this small but pivotal agency is doing."

View documents and other links on this issue from PEER.

- from PEER

Monday, May 03, 2010

After 2 years, Rs still forcing AZ down wrong track

Dump Brewer in Nov. Vote Goddard & Democratic.

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX -- Two years after Arizona entered a recession and after Gov. Jan Brewer took office with a Republican legislative majority, Arizona is still on the wrong track, House Democrats said.

Republicans eagerly made massive cuts to jobs, education, health care, public safety and state parks and succeed in destroying the state.

"Arizona is suffering and adrift after 44 years of Republican rule at the capitol," said Representative Daniel Patterson of Tucson's district 29. "People need jobs, a better economy and quality of life, not the divisive, harmful and embarrassingly reckless policies forced on us by the out-of-touch GOP. Arizona needs a change for the better."

This year, Republicans and Brewer:
• Cut 400,000 people off of health care, causing emergency rooms to overflow even more.
• Cut another $765 million from K-12 education on top of the largest cut to education in state history last year, causing class sizes to grow larger, more teacher layoffs and businesses to not even consider moving to the state.
• Cut public safety jobs when we’re already missing police and firefighters from our neighborhoods.
• Closed the majority of state parks that bring vital tourism dollars to Arizona’s rural and small town communities.
• Failed to get Arizona back on track.

Too many Arizonans still are losing their jobs, and Arizona’s schools are under funded, but Republicans eagerly cut education, jobs and public safety. Big corporations and the rich aren’t paying their fair share in taxes, but Republicans continue to give away tax breaks to big corporations and the rich, while middle-class families pay for it. Republicans massively cut health care during tough economic times and now many Arizona families and children can’t afford to go to the doctor.

“It’s embarrassing to explain to people in and outside of Arizona that Republicans have destroyed our state,” said House Democratic Whip Chad Campbell. “Republicans have shoved Arizona down the wrong track. Republicans have failed to lead. Republicans have been in office too long. It’s time for a change.”

- adapted from House Dems PIO

Sunday, May 02, 2010

2010 political campaigns heating up in Arizona

TUCSON -- The 2010 political campaigns are picking up in Arizona, a critical election year, and we enjoyed a solid weekend of campaigning in the community. Here's a photo of me with a young supporter Saturday at south downtown Armory Park in LD29. Thanks!

LD29 voters please give a $5 clean elections donation to our campaign and join our fun volunteer team. We ask for your vote again in August and November.

Please visit our website at DanielPatterson.net or call 520.305.9828