February 29, 2008
Century Old Ban On Firearms in National Parks May Be Rescinded
First, before you tighten your sphincter and notch your voice up to hysteria-level, let me tell you that this would have NO effect on the ban on firearms in national parks in California. You readers in the other 49 states, the District of Columbia and the territories will have to do your own research, god help you. The Department of Interior is considering new regulations that would conform federal restrictions on firearms in parks with state and local laws. IOW, in a state like Montana (or Texas, I daresay) you would be able to bring your firearm with you into a National Park.
I digress here to establish my credentials. I have none. I don't like people who state who or what they are before they give their opinion. "As a Registered Nurse I think..." or "As a war veteran I think..." et cetera, et cetera. If the validity of your opinion is based on who you are, then you need to think it through a bit more. That said, I think the second amendment to the Constitution is SECOND only because SOMEthing had to be first, and I think speech and religion can call rank on guns. And those readers who think the second amendment only protects the right of the militias to bear arms, need to get in touch with their local community college to sign up for English 101 and re-study basic grammar.
If I am still unclear, let me just say: Yay for the right to own and bear firearms! Yay!
Now that I'm clear on that point, let me say this proposed change of regulations is fucked fucked fucked. The two reasons given to support this change (other than to respect the second amendment) are (1) protection from wild animals, and (2) protection from criminals in National Parks.
Let's take that first one. Maybe not everyone is aware that somewhere in the invisible fine print of the regulations that you agree to when you enter a National Park is this one: "You are a peer with nature and you may die at any time by any means." One of the great things about visiting a National Park is that the descendants of those wild animals who killed the first fool humans to visit the area are still around and eagerly awaiting the opportunity to imitate their forebears. IOW, you have agreed, implicitly, to be bear food - or cougar food or wolf food or whatever predator is in your favorite National Park. Yes, you can defend yourself...with all the weapons that the predator has available: rocks, screaming, running, punching, biting. But, until the day we can teach alligators and wolves and bears and cougars to carry firearms, you don't get to use a gun to defend yourself against the hungry, territorial locals. The only advantage humans have is their intellect, which means, obviously, that members of the Republican administration don't stand a chance.
As for the second reason, crime by humans, the park service reports these statistics for 2006: "11 killings, 35 rapes or attempted rapes, 61 robberies, 16 kidnappings and 261 aggravated assaults." To get a real handle on those numbers, we need some info on how many people were entering or in the parks, so that we could get a rate to compare with big cities. But my gut feeling is that 11 killings and 61 robberies compares pretty favorably to countries like Great Britain where gun ownership is restricted. I don't think those numbers could possibly justify the inevitable increase in poaching, vandalism and accidental shootings that would come about if gun possession in National Parks were to be allowed.
I would like comments from National Park Service employees, current or retired.
Yet Another Choice For President
Little did I know that Boston's Mayor Tom Menino was also running for President! Of the USA! Here is a video celebrating his vision and aplomb. And here's a video in which he denounces Mitt Romney for what he is.
When the snowbirds begin arriving every autumn, one of the places you can view them is at any store selling gardening supplies. They'll line up to buy grass seed, lawn fertilizer and desert-inappropriate annuals like marigolds and petunias. Obviously, they want to make their little bit of the desert look like home - even though home for them is Manitoba or Oregon or some other place cool and wet.
It seems that landscape architect Michael Buccino is willing to put his job on the line to make those snowbirds feel like they haven't even left home when they arrive at Palm Springs airport. "Despite three meetings of the Architectural Advisory Committee and two Planning Commission meetings, where he was advised to add more native plants, Buccino said people want to see flowers and lie on the grass." His design includes 2,200 annuals that would have to be replanted three times a year, just like they are in those developments with bloated gardening budgets.
While it seems obvious from his own website Mr. Buccino knows how to design rich, desert landscaping, he just won't do it at the airport:
"In good conscience, I won't do it," said Buccino, who designed the landscaping at the Palm Springs Convention Center. "You may have to fire me."
UPDATE: Here's part of the report from Architectural Advisory Committee member Paul Ortega who met with Michael Buccino this afternoon:
I've just returned from my meeting this afternoon with the airport's landscape architect. He made some minor tweaks to the plant palette but nothing significant. He completely ignored the Planning Commission's directive to change the design (primarily the hardscape, planters and reflecting pond) to fit a mid-1960s modernist architecture. After some discussion we determined that we would not be able to reach a compromise.
Therefore, it appears that they will once again appear before the Planning Commission with basically the same plan that they have presented for architectural review at least three times, with a heavy emphasis on tropical and subtropical plants from Asia and only a slight nod to desert plant materials, while making no attempt to follow the Planning Commission's mid-century modernist directive. As an applicant, it is their right to do so, just as it is the right of the Commission to either approve or reject it. Should the Commission reject it, it is quite certain that the applicant will appeal to the City Council, which is also their right.
The Planning Commission meets again to consider this issue on March 5 at 1:30 PM in Palm Springs City Hall.
You've Saved $7.5 Million
The asking price for the 70-acre Suzanne Somers estate in Palm Springs has been cut to only $27,500,000. Here's the official real estate agent's website for the house [VIVALDI WARNING!]. Interesting house, dating back to 1938, but I'd like to find the interior decorator and get his or her first-hand opinion on waterboarding.
John Lautner - "Lethal Weapon 2"
I'm not too sorry to say I've never seen Lethal Weapon 2, but if you have, you might be interested to know that the house Mel Gibson pulls down a hillside is a still-standing John Lautner-designed house at 7436 Mulholland Drive known as the "Garcia House."
Development in Tejon Ranch
Tejon Ranch is the "largest contiguous expanse of land under single ownership in California." It covers 0.4 RIE (Rhode Island Equivalencies), or 426 square miles.
There are plans to build Centennial, a new town of 23,000 homes at the southern end of the ranch along Route 138. I know some people who use Route 138 as the shortcut from I-5 to I-15 when traveling from northern California to the Palm Springs area. I tried it a few times, but the little two-lane has too much traffic on it, and gives you a very winding descent to I-15 without guardrails. The last time I did that it was raining and dark. Never again.
Anyway, as to Centennial, advocates say this is the way to handle the millions of additional people that will come to southern California over the next two decades. Opponents hold forth the horror of an urbanity that covers a gigantic swath from Tijuana to Bakersfield.
California Sues U.S. to Protect Forests
The state of California is suing the U.S. Forest Service "over plans that would open more than 500,000 acres to roads and oil drilling in the state's largest national forests." The four affected National Forests are Cleveland, Los Padres, San Bernardino and Angeles. The Roadless Area Conservation Rule from the Clinton administration is still in effect and two regional foresters assured California Secretary for Resources Mike Chrisman that the rule would be honored.
[California Attorney General] Jerry Brown said in a telephone interview. "I find it kind of ironic that the federal government won't let us clean up our cars and they now want cars going through these forests. Once they build these roads, cars come, then they go in and chop down trees. Roads are the first step."
Somebody please drop a line to Attorney General Brown alerting him to the fact that there's a Republican administration in Washington.
L.A. Murder Suspect Arrested in Saipan
An interesting story of murder, Japan-USA relations, double jeopardy, self-promotion and where-the-fuck was Homeland Security? Kazuyoshi Miura has not yet been convicted, so it's still "alleged murder," but here is a simplified chronology. In 1981 Mr. Miura and his wife Kazumi came from Japan to visit Los Angeles. Mr. Miura, who may have arranged earlier attempts on his wife's life, arranged to have his wife shot while doing the Japanese tourist thing on the street near the LADWP building. He stood to receive $655,000 in life insurance. His wife lay in a coma until November 1982, when she died. Back in Japan Mr. Miura's accomplice in one of the earlier attempts had confessed and Mr. Miura was tried and convicted in 1986 for attempted murder and sentenced to six years.
In 1988 he was tried in Japan for the murder of his wife. He was convicted, but his accomplice was not. This led an appeals court to overturn his conviction in 1998. In 2004 California repealed a law that provided protection from double jeopardy for those tried overseas. In 2005 police began monitoring Mr. Miura's weblog where he promoted "himself as a human-rights advocate who helps those falsely accused of crimes." He also promoted his book, DVD and seminars. In 2007 "he mentioned international travel plans, including a possible trip to Saipan, a U.S. territory and popular tourist destination north of Guam."
...detectives alerted Immigration and Customs officials in Saipan to be on the lookout.
They apparently missed his arrival, but immigration agents on the island nabbed Miura, now 60, last Friday when he attempted to leave for Japan.
He will now be tried for his wife's murder in Los Angeles.
All very interesting, and worthy of a movie. But what I wonder at is that Immigration and Customs (i.e., Homeland Security) in Saipan had been alerted to watch for this guy who wasn't trying to sneak into the country. He waltzed in using, presumably, his own passport with his own name and his own photo. And nothing happened. So, is this how to sneak a dirty bomb into this country? Pose as a wanted felon with known travel plans, fly into Saipan and then go wherever you please?
February 28, 2008
WSJ on Obama
Throughout his campaign, Reagan fought off charges that his candidacy was built more on optimism than policies. The charges came from reporters and opponents. John Anderson, a rival in the Republican primary who ran as an independent in the general election, complained that Reagan offered little more than "old platitudes and old generalities."
February 27, 2008
Hiking From Sky Valley to Thousand Palms
Today Pat and I went to try to find what Judy Shea calls the "little Grand Canyon." We're not entirely sure where it is, but we did find a canyon that goes from the end of Skyridge in Sky Valley through the Indio Hills to that industrial area above Thousand Palms. In the process we crossed over both branches of the San Andreas fault, the Banning fault and the Mission Creek fault, so the canyon bore many signs of seismic stress. Round trip distance is about 9 miles. The complete set of photos is here. These are some samples:
Our route on a topo map.
A seismic feature. We've got the rocks on the right and the rocks on the left, and then there's ths weak, dried muddy stuff between.
Even Rep. Jerry Lewis Opposed To Green Path North
The Hi-Desert Star reports that Representative Jerry Lewis has raised his head long enough from his legal problems to announce his opposition to LADWP's outlandish plan to construct new power lines from DHS across Lucerne Valley to Hesperia.
The congressman's objections were made to Nick Patsaouras, president of LADWP, in the form of an official letter dated Feb. 6. While lauding the department for its commitment to renewable power, he denounced the planned route of the transmission lines through unspoiled desert when other corridors designated by the Bureau of Land Management are available.
"To disregard these carefully planned routes would be irresponsible of the department and disrespectful to Los Angeles’ neighbors in San Bernardino County," he wrote.
The author of this article, BTW, was Jutta Biggerstaff.
February 26, 2008
ORV in the High Desert
As he patrolled in Pipes Canyon recently, a rider on an open, four-wheel vehicle commonly called a quad came ripping up the side of the canyon. Oram recognized him and drove alongside the rider, documenting the offense with a digital video camera.
After narrowly missing another law breaker in a dune buggy recklessly riding in the opposite direction, the quad rider disappeared into a Flamingo Heights neighborhood. Oram took the evasion in stride. "I don't take it personally. They've got to get away every time. I've only got to catch them once."
But I really wanted to point out the article because its author is called "Jimmy Biggerstaff."
It's the Desert Sun. There are two hikers lost...or stranded (stranded suggests more complications than just being lost) on the Bump & Grind Trail...or near St. Margaret's in Palm Desert. No matter which trail they're on in that area, being "lost" seems unlikely. It would be hard to find a spot on those trails where the city isn't obviously lying there before you. Follow a trail heading for the city and you'll get there eventually. OTOH, if they're injured or ill or maybe out of water (it was warm today), then "stranded" is the word.
The Desert's Abloomin'
Clinton vs. Obama in Pennsylvania
In Collegeville, Pennsylvania, brothers-in-law Jose Ortiz and Sean Shurelds live together and got into a warm conversation on the comparative merits of Obama and Clinton. Mr. Shurelds favors Obama while Mr. Ortiz supports Clinton, despite the fact that he is a registered Republican. Mr. Shurelds, attempting to make a point, began to choke Mr. Ortiz. In retort Mr. Ortiz grabbed a kitchen knife and opened Mr. Shurelds's guts.
Mr. Ortiz is now being held in Montgomery County prison, while Mr. Shurelds is in good condition at Hahnemann Hospital. Neither of the men was wearing "Arab garb" and no superdelegates were harmed.
Desert Hot Springs Postcards
February 25, 2008
Judgement Against Enzyte
A federal court jury on Friday found the owner of the company that sells Enzyte tablets "for Male Enhancement" guilty of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, bank fraud and money laundering. The judgement, however, had nothing to do with the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of Enzyte itself, for which product you may have noticed they make no actual claims. Just that it's "for Natural Male Enhancement."
Red Cloud Mine
This past Saturday I went with Great Outdoors on a Jeep exploration of Red Cloud mine and remains of other mines in the area that is just east of Chiriaco Summit. The complete set of photos is here, and these are some of them:
Jesus, it's like watching tumescent-cocked schnauzer try to fuck an unwilling tiger. There's a point where you just stop feeling sorry for the little bastard and realize it's gonna get what it deserves.