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Archives for January 2014

Nothing much

I suppose in principle I shall miss the online presence of the Tucson Citizen. Can’t say I was a constant reader; can’t even say I was an occasional reader.

It appears that Gannett made a five-year commitment to maintain the site, throwing the Justice Department  a bone to keep its Pekingese-ish yap shut. The department reviews anti-monopoly events when exemptions to the Sherman Anti-Trust act are involved. Makes it seem like it’s all according to Hoyle, which I am certain it was. The newspaper industry got its Newspaper Preservation Act and anti-trust exemption fair and square: It stomped its sizable foot, splashed ink by the barrel and Congress said aye. Nothing much to be done about it now except to witness the Citizen go the way of the Edsel, Geritol and peace on earth.

It’s sad to think about it. But the act give years ago of  closing the Citizen was more like a mercy killing. In those days it was much like Gertrude Stein’s view of Oakland. The story goes that when she was touring San Francisco, her guide pointed across the bay and said, “Oakland is over there.”

Stein shaded her eyes and looked for a minute or two. She said, “There? There is no there, there.” The Citizen then was much like the Star of today, a starving emaciated prisoner of war suffering from scurvy, all skin and bones, most of the life sucked out of it. So Gannet played Kevorkian, thereby saving a heap of money in personnel and newsprint expense. All the more to the bottom line.

Which is what counts. Nothing like freedom of the press without a press. Nothing much at all.


I don’t remember Jack Sheaffer without a cigar in his mouth, lit or unlit. He was also memorable for his speech. To Jack, “chingadero” was a pronoun, adjective and conjunction. Odd that a photographer should be so well known for his use of language.DSCF1090

Once a year he put on pink tights and a tutu and did a dance for patrons of the annual press club gridiron show. Jack was in line with several men in pink tights and tutus. I remember instructions from the show’s director Marge Hilts was “grab your balls.” And then I think it was pirouette.  It brought the house down.

His everyday costume was a suit. I have no idea where it came from, but it always looked like his tailor was a Russian with a Stoly problem. It likely was  because of his build. He was a big man, a bit overweight. He drove a big car.

Jack owned a bar out on Mission Road on the edge of the Tohono reservation. Ted De Grazia had painted the side with typical De Grazia stuff he did in those long ago days of more wine than roses.

The liquor store building is still there on Mission. The art was painted over, but I am told it’s beginning to show through, demonstrating in more than one way the power of spirits.

Jack had a way getting in the middle of things. He loved gossip. He had more tips than a crooked stock broker.DSCF1091

In 1982, a great electrical explosion rocked the newspaper building at 4850 South Park Avenue. Four people suffered burn injuries. Frank Delehanty, the Star’s business manager, died from his burns. Frank Johnson, the managing editor, and production exceutive Wayne Bean received less serious injuries. Jack suffered the worst burns, took years to recover.

Jack was born in 1929 in Southern Arizona. His family had a ranch at Amado. He died in Tucson in March 1999.

It was after the accident that he produced his book of photos with the late Steve Emerine, who worked for both daily Tucson newspapers, taught journalism at the University of Arizona and even served a term or two as county assessor.

Here is one Jack Sheaffer story as recalled by Bill Waters who was city editor and then ombudsman at the Star. He retired a couple years ago after a couple decades at the Santa Fe New Mexican:

 Chingadero stories, caray — so many.DSCF1092

 My first contact with Jack was when Hubert Humphrey came flying into Tucson, and I’m at Channel 4, John Paul at 9 in those days, and Hubie comes down a staircase onto the field; Jack does his Jackie Gleason/Reggie Van Gleason act with his 4×5 Press Graphic, and woops, his glass plate goes flying 15 feet away, and all’s on hold until he can replace it.

 Not long later, during the strike against the Star/Citizen, Jack shows up to shoot the strikers, who give him the blanket-toss into the air and his jaw strikes a parking meter; undeterred, he gets a shot, bless his big heart; better than what I got for Channel 4.

Jack was one of the biggest-hearted guys I ever knew. Couldn’t make a deadline to save his soul (“It’s just coming off the dryer, was his sister Lucille’s standing instruction to tell me when I’d call for the umpteenth time — a great and dear individual), and one evening Jack came in with a loada bull about his delay, and I sent him to a typewriter to write the cutline since the rest of the staff was gone, and Jack sat trying to make out what to do — borderline illiterate — until Rippey, that grand individual, says “I’ll do it” and I said BS, Tom, about time he learns to do something, anything, on time. Tom ended up writing the cutline.

Earlier, there was a time when I was on sports desk and we’re on our way to interview Bobby Hull down in Tubac; Jack hasta stop at his bar out on Mission Road, and we’re going 80-90 along a back road along the mines when a pickup truck comes rooster-tailing dust from the west; I alert Jack that he ain’t gonna stop at his stop sign, so Jack gases his Chrysler 300 and we get hit — on the very tail of his Chrysler. Both drivers finally get to a stop, back up, and all that’s dented is some chrome on Jack’s back bumper. Jack magnanimously forgives the lout, since we’ve got an intvu coming up …

Jack was given to calling this or that a chingadero, as you well remember, or a chingaderito, depending on circumstances. He and I went to an interview with Barry Goldwater, who quickly greeted Jack as “Chingadero,” to the chagrin of various GOP fatbacks …

But most memorable was when Ford and Echeverria met in Nogales, like in ’75: Jack and I were walking down the center of Obregon, which was blocked off — only way to get to the theater where the presidents were meeting. From a block and a half north came the shout of one of Jack’s billion friends, this one with a gringo accent: “Hey, Chingadero!” Deadly silence. Jack spins around with a wave to acknowledge the guero, to whom it might not have occurred that he was in Mexico … truly one of the greatest characters you or I ever knew …

At a Gridiron Show visit to Phoenix, he took off with our daughter to buy some candy bars, to Julie’s and my alarm, not knowing where she was, Jack coming back with a hangdog look and a bag of candy …

Jack, unwittingly, was a great reporter, having the ability to overhear and pass on all kinds of  stuff; , some worthwhile, some, well, nice try; probly a better reporter than photographer. A wonderful human being.

Jack was born down, or up, in Amado. I think he was a war photographer, which got him his start as “Jack Sheaffer, Star Photographer,” the sign on his office on Stone Avenue half a block north of the Star.




Pete Seeger

I do not know if ever there was a greater performer than Pete Seeger. Many more, even hundreds have had better voices. Many more could play a guitar or banjo better. But as a performer, committed to justice and equality, none come close to this man. Seeger’s greatness is on display in his 1967 Carnegie Hall Concert album, the best folk recording I have.

The Carnegie Hall concert was performed during the time of protest music, and Seeger was at the forefront, seeking justice, singing “We Shall Overcome.” From time to time, I like to listen to Seeger’s version of Dylan’s “Hard Rain.” It is a small punctuation mark of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a time we should remember but one we all avoid as a miserable little cockroach of history.

There’s “Little Boxes,” a wonderful tune of social satire written by Malvina Reynolds and featured by a long list of artists on the TV series, “Weeds.”

And then there is the ballad of a war fought for freedom and equality, played by Seeger as “hillbilly flamenco,” a song all the much sadder because it was a song of the Spanish Civil War, a victory for fascism, “Viva La Quince Brigada.”

Seeger entertained with a tenor voice that did not often ring with power (he could easily make it do so), but with a gentle kindness. To listen to him was to hear the legacy of Woodrow Wilson Guthrie and the so many other voices this country has produced seeking justice.

I am tempted to say those voices are lost and simply history, but that would deny the sort of people we are. We seem to tolerate a great deal of injustice, but then there comes a point that Americans say enough.

When they had, Seeger always wasin the forefront, first in the faith that we shall overcome. We will miss that.

Moolah Gap

Took a ride last Thursday up Gunsight Pass in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson. The DSCF1083sky island sprawls north and south east of the quaint village of Green Valley.

There is a road that goes west from Arizona 83 that leads through much of what is the Rosemont Ranch and soon to be Rosemont open pit copper mine. The mine site sits on the east slope of the Santa Ritas. Two great requirements for the mine — electricity and water — are on the other side of the Santa Ritas. A power and water line will have to be built leading from the west side of the mountain and mostly over Gunsight Pass, a peak of about 5,600 feet. The pass is toward the northern end of the mountain range just above Helvetia, the site of another mine and ranch.

Took the ride now because most likely will not be able to do so in near future. Once the Forest Service approves operation of the Rosemont, construction will begin and the road will be closed off to four-wheel traffic.

There’s little doubt that the project will be approved. The mine’s owner, Augusta Resources — a Canadian company — has been patiently doing what is required, managing jots and titles, courteous when jeered by opponents, contributing to the community as a good corporate citizen and praising the positives of copper mining while putting a smiley face on nasty mining byproducts like tailings and contaminated water.

The basic reason the project will be approved is that a 19th century law governs mining in America, and makes it mostly a holy writ and unqualified right to mine the land: The General Mining Act of 1872 signed by Ulysses S. Grant, my personal favorite alcoholic head of state. I like  Grant as much as anyone with a $50 bill, but he was a bit of a spendthrift with natural treasure. Of course the Congress of the United States merits direct blame, then as now rife with those who did not hesitate to ravage the land.DSCF1075

Once Augusta receives official approval, Tucson Electric will build a power line. Augusta will add a waterline. They will be built together, following generally the Santa Rita Road.

It is an easy trip going up the east slope. The dirt road poses no obstacles until you reach the summit. Beyond this point, the track is less a road and more a rocky gully. It is easy to slip-slide away. Sharp rocks dot the track like thumbs. My Forester, which would well be named Rocinante, came down the treacherous west side with only slight travail. It would be much more difficult climbing, the rise is steep, and the track is seriously narrow at various points.

Thus, the construction of the power and water lines will not be a walk in the park. It will be necessary to pump the water up and over the mountain. I once thought that the sight of a power line running up the north end of the Santa Ritas would be an ugly blemish seen from 1-19. But not to worry. It will be seen only by a few present and future souls in  Sahuarita.

Green Valley residents won’t see it. Which is only fair because the gentle folk of that unincorporated town have already contributed a generous portion of their water allotment to the cause of Rosemont copper mining, at a price of course. And are already treated to an enormous open pit copper mine right next to them — the Sierrita Mine operated by Freeport McMoRan.

I have heard that it will cost Augusta Resources a billion or so dollars to build the mine. A few years ago when I took the mine tour, our tour leader, who was a mining engineer, said it would take only a couple years to pay back that cost. The supposed 20-year life of the project allegedly would produce $10 billion. That is, of course, an estimate based upon the current price of copper, a commodity subject to marketplace caprice.

Someone has argued that billions in revenue and 450 high-paying jobs over 20 years amounted to too little money to justify construction of the mine. Seems odd, that reasoning. Reminds me of a story variously attributed to George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill and W. C. Fields: Guy asks a woman if she will sleep with him for a million. She says oh yes!  He then says how about for a dollar. She says what do you think I am? That, he says, has been established; now we’re just haggling over price.

When it comes to money, Augusta seems a bit of an odd duck. For years it has produced little or no revenue, mostly none. According to Yahoo Finance, it has a debt of more than $92 million. Its stock price hovers at $1.25 per share. A little less than half of the company’s stock is held by institutions or mutual funds. “Show me the money,” does not apply to Augusta, ain’t none. But no one questions that there will be lots of cash when Augusta gets its green light. Nonetheless, it seems a keen shell game; company makes no money, stock’s hardly worth spit and is half-owned by a bunch of distant corporations who don’t even tap their feet, waiting to get paid. But billions will come. How does you get in this game? My dog can blow on the dice as well as the next guy.

It’s a burning question, how to get in on the Big Moolah? There is a certainly a Moolah gap, between those who have created the odd duck and us little people who get to stand by and watch very big shovels scoop the earth.

For example, I notice a fellow calling himself a mining engineer has written an article that appeared last week (January 17, 2014) on the editorial page of the Arizona Daily Star. He contends a whole lot of us little people are going to cash in on the Rosemont action. He crows loudly. Here is what that mining engineer Dave Elfor says is how little people will clean up:

“What waitress wouldn’t want a $20 tip from a Rosemont employee taking his/her family out to dinner? And will that waitress spend her $20 tip? Absolutely, and someone else gets a piece of the action. And how many local government employees will receive income from the $19 million a year received as tax revenue?”

Now there’s a boon if ever there was one! Great glorious happy Andy Jackson, $20 for a happy flush waitress. But there is answer to that rhetorical question, “What waitress wouldn’t want a $20 tip”?. The answer is: the waitress who served a customer that ran up a bill of more than $600. That $20 amounts to a 3 percent tip. Not a whole lot of goody-goody gumdrops in that notion, is there. You might expect the waitress to spit some epithets and tear up the $20 and throws it in the tipper’s copper-tainted face. So instead of the grateful waitress, she’s hopping mad that Mr. Rosemont employee is a rich and miserable cheapskate. The $19 million a year that Mr. Elfor considers such a munificent sum of money amounts to a 2.77 of Augusta’s anticipated yearly revenue. It’s no secret how little people remain little.

The trip up and down the mountain did not take long. Stopped for lunch on the way down. Sat on the edge of the mountain like rich waiters with $20 tips, the vast Sonoran Desert looming before us, the Sierrita Mine in the distance rising like Ozymandias, a sprawling enormous pile of dead dirt.

I dined on bottled water, cold chicken and chocolate chip cookies. A four wheel truck came by going up the mountain, two young men in the front with a couple kids in the rear cab. It was not too long before we saw the truck coming down, but in reverse, backing down. Must have run into an impassable obstacle. The driver found a wide spot to turn around and came by on his way down. I waved. They nodded.

It’s good that it’s not a popular route. When the Forest Service finally gives its approval, this place will be overrun with construction crews, lots of workers with jobs and 20-dollar bills for tips. After they’re gone, the open pit Rosemont Mine will operate much out of sight and out of mind. And for 20 years, the big tips will just roll in.

It was a beautiful winter day on the western slope of the Santa Rita Mountains, high above the Moolah Gap.


There but for fortune

About a week ago I watched a Sunday Morning lead story I had taped on a whim. It aired on Dec. 22. The story is about counterfeiting wines. Back in the day, I knew quite a bit about wine so I was interested. You can see it here: (It did not play when I used Safari, but did fine with Chrome.  Also, you have to watch a commercial because it’s CBS.)

The story centers on Bill Koch, the younger Koch — His older brothers spend millions to promote and elect very conservative politicians.

To say that Koch the Younger is a wine aficionado understates the case. He has collected 40,000 bottles. He was swindled by a couple people and the story tells how he was bilked, who did it, how much it cost and how pissed Koch is — spending millions to seek revenge, yada yada yada, breaks my heart.

As you watch this video, take note of the priceless art in his Palm Beach House, the fact that he has all this billionaire stuff scattered over who knows how many homes. Check out the freaking wine cellar. Take a good gander at the old wine bottles supposedly issued by Thomas Jefferson. Koch the Younger makes Croesus seem a pauper.

Then you can consider the real story not told in this video. The man is an American who lives among more than 40 million fellow citizens who use and need food stamps. Some 1.3 million of Koch the Younger’s fellow Americans lost their jobless benefits this month because some members of Congress think they’re just shiftless sonsabitches and need a prod to get to work.

Since 1979, the top 1 percent wage earners in the U.S. saw their income increase 256 percent. At the same time, the tax on that income dropped from about 75 percent to less than 40 percent. These numbers come from the book, “Winner Take All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer — And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class” by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson. They are political scientists, Hacker at Yale, Pierson at Cal Berkeley. You can watch a Moyers interview with them here

In any event, that Koch video made me wonder. Then it made me kind of sick as I tried to remember the lyrics to “There But For Fortune.”


Bighorn sheep and thick-headed bureaucrats

The Arizona Daily Star today said (Jan. 18) that Arizona Game and Fish officials refused to comment on the report that yet another bighorn sheep is dead. A spokesperson said G&F will wait until its press conference on Jan. 24 to confirm or deny whether a sixth bighorn sheep has died and how. One suspects a mountain lion as the culprit.

The G&F procrastination is like the cops telling you to wait a week or so and we’ll tell you about the burglary in the neighborhood, or the shooting down the street or the rape around the block. News apparently is a matter of convenience insofar as the G&F is concerned. This is an agency that should expect the wrath of the gods for this hubris. Alas, there are too few gods in state government to unleash their wrath.

So far the G&F bighorn experiment isn’t going well. After releasing 31 sheep into the Catalinas a couple months back, the score is discouraging: five are dead, one of which may not have been supper for mountain lions. If there is a sixth dead sheep as an online group has reported, the future looks dim. The sheep will all be eaten by November, and G&F will have no licenses to issue for hunters to kill bighorn. What’s more, the agency won’t get much in license money for chubby mountain lions either. The time is fast approaching for G&F to gather up the remaining bighorn and take them back home.

You have to hope G&F doesn’t start shooting more mountain lions. It’s already killed a couple. But who knows how many more this thick-headed bureaucracy could kill before it has to speak up at two press conferences a month.

Hiding from the press and the taxpayers of Arizona won’t do much for G&F. You can run, but you can’t hide. Sooner or later G&F will have to account. Sooner is always better. The longer the wait, the shorter the tempers.

I used to think this relocation experiment was a good idea. I was thinking it would answer the question of what happened to the previous herd. Now I have the answer — mountain lions are a greater threat to the bighorn sheep than two-legged developers.

PS A note to Bunny Fontana: Feel free to say you told me so.





David Fitzsimmons

Note: I wrote this little tribute to Fitz in the fall of 2011. Recently when my website went fubar, it was dropped from the database by a company that cost me lots of misery and money, HostGator. In any event, this piece is as I wrote it. There is an album of Fitz photos that you will find here.

David Fitzsimmons has raised millions for Tucson’s charities for a quarter century. He has not given money, but his time and talent. He has been the provocative and entertaining master of ceremonies at thousands of charity-raising event, from chicken dinners to overflowing   auditoriums Fitz is there — thick black drawing pen in hand, big pad of paper and easel at his side and a joke at the ready.

Unless he is already booked, he will not say no. Fitz will stand and amuse. For free. Any time as long as the cause is noble, the audience tomato-free and there are a few big names in attendance that can besmirch, belittle, beguile and charm.

He has been the evening’s entertainment since he returned to Tucson in 1986 and began his career as the editorial cartoonist for The Arizona Daily Star. He was born in Merced, but was but a few months when his parents brought him. He went to Rincon High School and then to the University of Arizona where he majored in several subjects, but mostly he was cartoonist for the Wildcat. He graduated and found a job as an artist for the Oklahoman of Oklahoma City.

He migrated east, finding gainful employment as an artist with the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, which was then piloted by a mutual friend, William G. Connolly.  Bill was previously with The New York Times. Eventually, he returned to the Gray Lady as an editor and co-wrote the paper’s style manual.

After his stint with that paper, Fitz landed his first full-time cartoonist job with the Daily Press of Newport News, Va. His boss at that paper was the late Tony Snow who went on to become press spokesman for George W. Bush. He died of colon cancer in 2008 at the age of 53.

I interviewed Fitz and his daughter sometime in 1985 in the coffee shop of the Sheraton Hotel in Reston, Virginia. She was active, climbing steps. He said he was anxious to get back to Tucson.

Since then, Fitz has been a part of what critics still call the “Red Star,” his cartoons poking fun at, praising, satirizing and annoying. That is the chief reason, I believe, he has never been selected as Tucson’s man of the year. When I was at the Star, we waged a serious campaign to make it so. Alas, we were not successful.

But Fitz nonetheless charges onward, pen in hand, masterfully conducting the ceremony and raising the money — battling breast cancer (he is a cancer survivor), promoting books or paying tribute to long-time heroes such as Big Jim Griffith. He has given many times over his fair share to the community.


Christie: Politics of loathing by the loathsome

It appears that Gov. Chris Christie emerged from his Washington Bridge cesspool smelling like a plump blushing rose.

It might be said that anyone who would tie up traffic on the world’s busiest bridge because a mayor of a city didn’t endorse him was one mean, nasty-ass son of a bitch, a low, petty politician. But after the governor spent two hours contending he was victimized by his staff and didn’t know the gun was loaded, he was given the benefit of the doubt. That is to say, no one said it amounted to a very big pile of rose fertilizer. Here’s how the New York Times viewed all those gubernatorial mea culpas:

“What makes Mr. Christie’s claim of victimhood hard to accept is his own history of vindictive behavior. For instance, a Rutgers professor lost financing for a project because he voted against the governor on a redistricting commission. A Republican colleague who had a disagreement with Mr. Christie was disinvited to an event in his own district. Mr. Christie has denied that he sent signals to his staff to punish anyone who crossed him. ‘I am who I am, but I am not a bully,’ he said Thursday. But he has set a tone that makes abusive actions acceptable.”

“I am who I am..” What do you suppose that means? And she is who she is; and he is who he is. And you are who you are. And this explains what? It rings hollow, off key, doesn’t set right — like heart burn. Look at the e-mail correspondence between his aides. One person has a smile. The other knowingly approves. This is self congratulations, the equivalent of chest-bumping NFL, high-fives, some air-pounding fists. Whoo-whoo, you lose!

Politics today is a lot like football. There may be some politicians who play the game to make things better, but they are as rare as the Hope Diamond. It’s become a contact sport. It’s not just winning, but in-your-face victory, romp and stomp, beat hell out of the other guy. It’s the politics of loathing by the loathsome. Some of it borders on hate. We have come to the point that it is necessary to have organizations that promote civil discourse/behavior because there are so many bullies and nasty creatures infesting the nooks and crannies of this country. New Jersey is no exception.


To split or not

A reader writes: “In re the preposition, I keep hoping you will take up the cause of the infinitive, which used to be a sacred whole and is now routinely split.  To rare advantage.”

The writer is June Caldwell Martin, book maven, notable person of letters a contributor to the Arizona Daily Star. And an impressive font of knowledge concerning authors of the Southwest having not only written about them, but crossed their paths as well.

These days the effort to preserve the sanctity of the infinitive ranks with the crusade for world peace through the League of Nations and the movement to establish Esperanto as the mother tongue of the planet. Certainly it has not been for want of trying.

I once attended a conference that featured James J. Kilpatrick, a former editor and opinion purveyor for the Richmond (Va) News-Leader. He fancied himself an authority, and spent much time arguing the inviolate sacrament of the undivided infinitive. He spoke as a true believer as his face grew crimson and he pounded his lectern and pronounced:

“What God hath brought together, let no man tear asunder!”

The other side of the issue contends, as this article from no less an authority than the oxforddictionaries.com:

She used to secretly admire him.

You have to really watch him.

What’s wrong with split infinitives?

Some people believe that split infinitives are grammatically incorrect and should be avoided at all costs. They would rewrite these sentences as:

She used secretly to admire him.

You really have to watch him.

 But there’s no real justification for their objection, which is based on comparisons with the structure of Latin. People have been splitting infinitives for centuries, especially in spoken English, and avoiding a split infinitive can sound clumsy. It can also change the emphasis of what’s being said. The sentence:

You really have to watch him. [i.e. ‘It’s important that you watch him’]  doesn’t have quite the same meaning as: You have to really watch him. [i.e. ‘You have to watch him very closely’]

The trouble with splitting infinitives is that when they are split, it is done with adverbs. One should manage adverbs with care because they are like mashed potatoes. If one is sloppy, one’s potatoes turn lumpy, and so it is with prose. A lumpy sentence is wordy. Thus if you want a sentence that says, “It’s important that you watch him,” it is advisable to be rid of “really.” Thus the infinitive remains unsullied, and the sentence reads: “You have to watch him.” And if you want the sentence to say it’s important to watch him closely, why on earth wouldn’t you just say it, as in, “You have to watch him closely.”

I agree with the contention that avoiding split infinitive may sound clumsy. But clumsy prose is not the result of fooling with infinitives, split or pristine. The rewrite from the wise guys at Oxford: She used secretly to admire him is not necessarily the best alternative. It is better in my opinion to cast the “secretly” at the end, thus: She used to admire him secretly. If you have a sort of innate dislike of the adverbial “ly,” which I do because they wimpy laggards and do little work, you can resort to this: She used to admire him in secret. This avoids the adverbial wimp and places the emphasis on the secret stuff because “secret” resides at the end of the sentence, to linger longer in the narrative. The period requires pause, the pause creates a bit of a punch.

The key lies in June’s observation that violation of the split infinitive rule rarely results in silky prose. That is not to say the rule is absolute or that there never are good reasons to split. Like most of life’s little quandaries, it depends.