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A robust, life-enhancing EVENT

There was a time in this country when retailers held “sales.” There are no more “sales.” There are “events.” I do not know where the sales went, possibly to visit grandma and got eaten by a big bad wolf. I believe it happened at about the same time “robust” replaced “strong” and “improve” gave way to “enhance.”

It offends my ears to see “Labor Day Event” in a newspaper or television ad. It sounds like the reference should be to a track meet. I have robust objections to such abusive language. The language could be greatly enhanced if fewer euphemisms were used by advertisers. I might even find closure. And why, “find closure”? It’s not as though I lost it. Moreover,   if there is closure, was it preceded by openure? Surely openure precedes closure just as cases opened are then closed, thus resulting in open and closure cases, which were once open and shut. But one cannot find closure when already shut. That would be “shuture,” as in shuture face.

There once was a very good word used before “closure” reared its offensive head. It was used well and often, with resolve and often with resolution. If only we could return to those golden days of yesteryear. Or is it yesterure?

MLK, a half century later

imagesIt’s good to think about 50 years ago and how we have come a long way since King’s “I have a dream” speech. It’s good to know that we now live in a country where race no longer matters, that everyone has an equal chance, that freedom and equality are the realized ideal in this society, that the principles for which MLK stood and died are etched forever on the American psyche and culture.

It’s good that the voting rights act, that pinnacle of justice and equality for all, has been preserved through the years and will stand; and no political party shall seek to thwart its intent. It’s good that civil rights in American no longer requires constant vigilance, that the poor and the rest of the nation’s underclass are protected from exploitation and injustice.





Linda Ronstadt

cropped-Screen-Shot-2013-08-26-at-3.42.40-PM.jpgLinda Ronstadt is not a regular pop diva.

You might have thought so when you heard “Different Drum” in the 1960s. Back then Ronstadt was the lead singer of the Stone Ponys. She had a good string of hits after that. I can still hear, “you’re no good, you’re no good” in my mind’s ear and my favorite, “It’s So Easy,” written by the immortal Charles Harden Holley (cq).

But she was not content with just pop and rock and roll. She ventured as few pop singers would. She sang Gilbert and Sullivan, old fashion American standards with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra and stood on stage to do duets with the magnificent Lola Beltran at the Tucson Mariachi Conference (1986). Few, if any, pop singers have demonstrated such range. She not only recorded Mexican standards based on her father’s favorites, but also albums with Dolly Parton and Emmy Lou Harris with amazing harmonies.

She is 67, not ancient by today’s standards. So it was a sad and melancholy moment to read that she has Parkinson’s and will not sing again.

She is Tucson born and bred, homegrown with a long family history to boot. It was fun over the years to watch her career develop because her roots are here. That made it doubly sad.

Lacey Jarrell’s Shrine

I know of no more heart-rending roadside shrine in this state than Lacey Jarrell’s. It lies at the side of a hill along River Road. It’s easy to miss except for the red flower bouquet on a thin green post. This is where she died. She rolled her car coming round the bend on River west of Swan. Her story was superbly told by the Star’s Tom Beal in an article that appeared seven years ago. To read it is to weep. She was 16.

Jarrell was driving. Much too fast. She missed the big curve.

It was a mistake.

When you reach a certain age, the mistakes pile up. And when you think about them, they begin to resemble Everest. When you put them in a greater context, they can seem like blessings.



Caro Quintero

The only surprise in the government’s release of Rafael Caro Quintero’s release from prison is why it waited so long to let him go. Perhaps Caro Quintero had to wait until the right president from the right party got elected. Or maybe he’s sick and needed to leave the palace they called prison for treatment.

At any rate, it’s academic. The article by Elaine Shannon in the Los Angeles Times put it in perspective. Drug lords come, and drug lords go. The only things that change are the names.

Murder With Impunity

The (alleged) Justice Department announced last week that it would not prosecute the Border Patrol agent who shot and killed Carlos LaMadrid. The incident occurred in Douglas in 2011 as LaMadrid was reportedly attempting to cross the border into Agua Prieta.

He was 19. And an American.

The (alleged) Justice Department press release on the decision not to prosecute is an exercise in justifying an obvious homicide committed by a government official. It says LaMadrid, who allegedly was smuggling marijuana, deserved to be shot four times — THREE bullets in the back —  because rocks were being thrown at the Border Patrol officer, Lucas Tidwell.

Here is the paragraph that pardons the murder:

“While a civilian witness who climbed up the ladder behind the victim stated that he did not see anyone throwing rocks at the time of the shooting, his account is contradicted by the physical, testimonial and video evidence.  A law enforcement officer who witnessed the shooting stated that he saw a man on top of the fence throw three rocks at the agent, forcing the shooting agent to duck down behind his vehicle for cover.  The videotapes of the incident, although poor in quality, show an individual on top of the border fence making an overhead throwing motion as the victim ascends the ladder.  Crime scene investigators recovered several brick-sized rocks at the scene, including one that shattered the windshield of the USBP agent’s service vehicle, which the agent was standing or stooping next to when he fired five shots. ”

Here is the (alleged) logic that guides the (alleged) Justice Department decision not to prosecute:

“Under the applicable federal criminal civil rights law, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that an official “willfully” deprived an individual of a constitutional right, meaning that the official acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids.  This is the highest standard of intent imposed by the law.  Neither accident, mistake, fear, negligence nor bad judgment is sufficient to establish a federal criminal civil rights violation.  After a careful and thorough review, a team of experienced federal prosecutors determined that the evidence was insufficient to pursue federal criminal civil rights charges.”

This excrable reasoning places a stamp of approval on murder with impunity.


Jeff Smith, in memoriam

Jeff Smith ranks among the most talented writers you could find in Tucson’s  newspaper history. Some stories about his work are the stuff of legend.

It is said that Frank Johnson, the Star’s managing editor, stopped the presses and ordered many copies destroyed when he read a review by Smith, who test-drove cars and wrote a Saturday column. Smith said one car — a very fine one, evidently — was “auto-erotic,” a phrase that unpleased Johnson.

There is another story about a particularly attractive woman who was summoned to give evidence in a trial. Smith, the story goes, wrote that so-and-so testified in court “wearing a hound’s-tooth skirt three teeth long.”

The report that Smith, 67, died this week at his home just outside Patagonia reminded me that I had heard from him last year about a piece that appears elsewhere in the amalgam of flotsam rippling across this site. It was regarding a heavily researched piece on Abe Chanin, a long-time Tucson newspaperman for the Arizona Daily Star. Smith and I worked for Chanin in the 1970s on the Star’s editorial page. Chanin was our friend, and a great teacher.

I did not thank Smith for the comment. I regret that. Here is what he wrote:


jeff smith says:

November 28, 2012 at 2:31 pm

as a friend and employee of abe’s at the star editorial page in the founding day’s of the ‘red star’ i can only thank you for this stroll down memory lane. a job well done. i think the best that can be said of a print journalist is that day-to-day, week-by-week he left his town a better place to be. sounds common, is common, but what could be better? i never knew a more thoroughly moral man than abe chanin. i loved working for him, with him, loved him then, loved him still.


Abe Chanin will be 91 this year. He lives in Albuquerque.

Blow out

Grant Road killed a tire this week. It was mine.

Now it’s gone, the victim of a pothole the size of East Texas. Poor thing never had a chance. It went WHUMP! Then KERFLEWEY. She blew.

I would like to know how the town ranks in per capita tire sales. I’d bet it tops the list.

Be careful. Grant Road is not the only tire killer in this town.

Tires today, axels tomorrow.

The unglory of the Washington Post

How is it that the Washington Post was worth three times the Boston Globe? That is, the Post sells for $250 mil, and the Globe for $70 mil. Or are the Sulzbergers just chimps rather than publishers? Granted, you often need a program to tell the difference, but really, what gives?

Why would an otherwise sensible person like Bezos want the Post?

And, finally, let’s hear it for Donald Graham. He should cash the check quick before his Bradlee explodes and he gets his tit caught in a ringer. On second thought, that could never happen to Donald. His mother had all the balls in that family.

A great relief

I am greatly relieved to read the news story on the front page of the daily newspaper today that there are remedies for unsightly sofas in the street. It has occupied my mind from the time of the ottoman. It is good to take a load off. I cannot divine what divans have diverted my attention so. It must be a matter of deep-seated (or pillowed) anxiety. Perhaps we should have an old fashioned sit-down and discuss davenports (not in Iowa). It would bolster sagging spirits and lumpy souls.