Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Day Off and a Land Grab

Greetings Earthlings.  Today was a rest day.  Neither of us slept well, and so the day was devoted to things like dumping the black tank, and going to Camping World and Trader Joes.  And lunch - there was lunch out.
We have not been by this intersection of the freeway off ramp and Irvington in the recent past.  While we were not looking, a vast swath of desert has been cleared.  One wonders what will be built there.  It's right across the road from an enormous shopping mall.  The south end of Tucson lay dormant for as long as we've been wintering here.  Unfortunately growth is coming to this area.  I liked it better the way it was.

The Gem Show is in town.  Those white buildings in the background are temporary buildings.  It's amazing how much work goes in to setting up for a three week event.  Traffic has really picked up in the areas where the tents are.

My favorite church.

This is why we never enter an intersection immediately after it goes green.  So many people drive too fast and run red lights in Tucson.  I always wonder how people get up enough speed to do this to their vehicles.

It was a bad head on.

Today's news from the swamp is  predictably horrific.
The new piece of legislation would direct the interior secretary to immediately sell off an area of public land the size of Connecticut. In a press release for House Bill 621, Chaffetz, a Tea Party Republican, claimed that the 3.3m acres of national land, maintained by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), served “no purpose for taxpayers”.
The 10 states affected are Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. Residents can see how much acreage is earmarked for “disposal” in their counties by checking a PDF on Chaffetz’s website.
The recently designated Bear's Ears Monument is part of the land to be sold.  The full article is here.   Call your representatives, let them know that this is not ok with you.  Send the Sierra Club money for lawyers. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Warm Weather Riding and Day Ten

We ran the air conditioner today.  Yay!  We rode the 32 mile loop, with a tailwind and then a headwind.  It was good.

The executive order signed today will remove two existing regulations for each one new regulation imposed.  This probably will not be good for us, the animals or the environment.
Today Sally Yates, the acting Attorney General has told the DOJ not to defend the legality of the Trump Muslim ban.  It will be very interesting to see what happens next.  Update to post - he fired her.
Also today, Iraq has banned Americans from entering their country.  The 6,000 US soldiers currently on the ground there can't be feeling good about this. Iraq was an ally in the war against ISIS before the president said we should take their oil, and banned their people from entering into the US.
On Saturday, Steve Bannon was been given a permanent seat on the National Security Council.  Michael Flynn, another right wing conspiracy theorist will have a permanent seat, as well.  General Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will not have a permanent seat, nor will the Director of National Intelligence.

Steve Bannon is one of the scariest people I've seen.  Salon did a good article on him.  Having him and Michel Flynn on the National Security Council without adult supervision is just giving me the willies.

It took him ten days, but we're now on our way to a constitutional crisis. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Upper Javelina and Day Nine

It was a windy morning, but way warmer than it has been.  We headed out to Dove Mountain at the Ritz Carlton for a walk in the Tortolitas.  Today's route was Upper Javelina.  It's steep in places.  We walked out to where the trail intersects Wild Mustang, and then returned to the truck via the hotel spur.  I can't decided which is worse, the spur or doing an out and back on Upper Javelina.  Both have boulders and loose rocks.  It was a glorious day.

It's day 9 of the new administration.  A blogger I read often said, "It took nine days to break nearly everything this country stands for."  She's right.
The executive order to ban Muslims was signed Friday at 4:30 pm, despite its illegality.  Illegal since 1965.  People from the seven banned countries were either summarily deported, or detained.   Lawyers swarmed the airports and the courts.  A seven day stay was put in place by Judge Leonie Brinkema of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on Saturday.  As of Sunday night, Homeland Security's Customs and Border Patrol is still defying the order and will not allow lawyers in to see some of the detainees.  This is called breaking the law.  Without the rule of law, we get dictators.

Citizens are back in the streets protesting.  The Republicans are not condemning this.  It's disgraceful.  It's also important to write it down and remember it.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Cold Biking, Rock Chip Repair, Tubac and the Administration

It's been cold this week.  Wednesday, Thursday and today we were able to force ourselves to bundle up and get out on the bikes.  Wednesday really sucked, we were under dressed for the weather.  Thursday was better because we unearthed some of our cold weather clothing, such as undershirts, head socks and full fingered gloves.
This is how you prepare your ice cold clothing, fresh from the cold drawers for wearing.  A few minutes in front of a space heater makes the lycra tolerable.

Thursday morning we had Safelite out to repair a rock chip in the windshield.  Again they did not bring a ladder.  Again they put the machine that injects the glass goo into the windshield on top of the ladder.  This time, they employed a new technique and banged on the windshield with a tool to enlarge the chip.   I think next time we are not using Safelite.  The chip they repaired last year, when they broke our ladder, looks like it has not been fixed, a year later.

Yesterday we wussed out on the weather.  Since we had to do something, we decided to drive down to Tubac.  It's about 42 miles south of Tucson.  It's an artsy fartsy tourist trap.  If you go, this is a good place to eat.  Yelp really likes Elvira's, but our experience was that service was glacial and surly, and the food sucked.  We liked this place.

We had a turkey, swiss, hummus, avocado, mango, cucumber and etc. wrap.  It was very good, and did not leave us feeling poisoned as is so often the case with restaurant food.  The decor is eclectic.

After lunch we walked on a trail for a bit.  It was not particularly interesting, and we were freezing.

For more on Tubac, the old posts are here and here.

These are mine tailings.  They stretch for about 20 miles along the freeway.  They are from open pit copper and gold mining.  It's hard to give an accurate photo of just how large they are.
These will never be cleaned up.  Year after year, they will sit here, depositing who knows what in to the ground water, or blowing dust when the wind is up.  The environmentalists have been fighting a new mine to be built north of Tucson.  They want to deposit the tailings on National Forest Land.  Now that we have a new administration, the mine may very well be approved.

The mines.

Close up of one of the mines

Enormous mining vehicle.

Now for the politics.  I can't help myself.  We're one week in.  So far, he's been signing executive orders written by Steve Bannon.  Yesterday it was the Muslim ban.  You'll notice that the three countries that supplied the 9/11 terrorists are not on the list of countries that are banned.  Medical students - banned!  Families from refuge camps - banned!  There have been no terrorists on US soil from the banned countries.  I guess it was the lack of Trump branded hotels that made them good targets.  Pence and Ryan have walked back their previous condemnation of this, and now are just fine with it.  

Today the Washington Post did an article about how Bannon, a right wing conspiracy theorist has been placed on the National Security Council.  (Italics mine)
In a separate presidential memo, Trump reorganized the National Security Council to, along with other changes, give Bannon a regular seat on the principals committee — the meetings of the most senior national security officials, including the secretaries of defense and state.
That memo also states that the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs will sit on the principals committee only when the issues to be discussed pertain to their “responsibilities and expertise.” In the previous two administrations, both were included as regular attendees.
This is bad.  Who makes the decision about whether an issue pertains to the DNI or the Joint Chiefs?  Bannon?  Trump?

In other news, Chaffetz (R-Utah) has released the following.
“It’s time to get rid of the BLM and US Forest Service police. If there is a problem your local sheriff is the first and best line of defense. By restoring local control in law enforcement, we enable federal agencies and county sheriffs to each focus on their respective core missions. “The long overdue disposal of excess federal lands will free up resources for the federal government while providing much-needed opportunities for economic development in struggling rural communities.”
He has introduced two bills to accomplish his stated goals.  The article can be found here.  These moves to give away public lands have gone back in Chaffetz’s Utah for a few years now, and they’re funded by American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and therefore the Koch brothers. I do not understand why this is not receiving more attention that it is.  Once public lands are sold and developed, they're gone.

We keep wondering just how bad it's going to get.  After week one, it appears that it's going to get very bad for the animals, the environment and us.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

HIking, the Blue Ox and the South Dakota Legislature

Sunday was cold, we were weak in spirit and did not ride.  We parked at the Genser Trailhead and walked up Rock Wren trail.  When you reach this sign, one continues on up the hill.  See the hill in the background?  We went behind that hill, then a ways north.  Some day, I will have a better way to express distances.

One continues on, following the trail.  One does not take the right turn, one keeps to the left.

Then there is the giant slab of rock to be crossed.  The trail picks up on the other side of it.

Eventually, after much more uphill, one reaches the top.  The views are pretty good.  The oval shape in the middle, lower third of the photo is the expanded reservoir the city is putting in.  It's large.

It's nice up there.  If there are no planes, there is no noise.

Yesterday was really windy, but warmer.  We walked out into the low part of the Tucson Mountain Park, hoping to get some shelter from the wind.  Hah!  Double hah hah hah!  It was really tedious, the brim of my hat kept hitting me in the face, or flying backwards.

The reservoir is dumping water again.  This stretch has been bone dry since we returned.  Now it is wet.  The bees have not returned to the big tree, so bushwhacking along the edge of the water is not fraught with peril.

Later, clouds moved in and there was a spectacular sunset.  It also rained like heck most of the night, drumming on the roof like a crazed thing.

Today we went to pick up our NEW Blue Ox tow bar.  After about 30,000 miles, the holes that two large bolts go though have stretched.  As you no doubt recall our previous experiences with stretched holes in the frame rails, we take no chances with towing equipment.  Anyway, the bolt going in towards the guy's hand was loose.

The bolt about mid-photo was also loose.  They're loose because the holes have elongated.  Applying new bushings would tighten them up for an undetermined amount of time.  Then the tow bar would fail.  So, we traded in our old one, and bought a new one.  It sort of boggles the mind that it only made it 30,000 miles, and that's with replacing one arm while it was under warranty.  However, the guys at the shop said they see a lot of this. 

How many of you are South Dakota residents?  Do you remember the anti-corruption bill that was on the ballot last November? The bill that was approved by the residents of SD?  The gist of the bill is this.
The South Dakota Government Accountability and Anti-Corruption Act makes it illegal for lawmakers to receive more than a total of $100 annually from lobbyists in the form of “any compensation, reward, employment, gift, honorarium, beverage, meal, food, or other thing of value made or given directly or indirectly.
The lawmakers did not like this bill.  So they did this.
In an unprecedented maneuver, state lawmakers are planning to declare a state of emergency so their repeal of the Anti-Corruption Act would take effect immediately, and deny voters their right to another vote on the measure through a veto referendum,” the statement explained. “The bill guts all of the Act’s provisions, including creation of an independent ethics commission, limits on lobbyists gifts to politicians, tougher penalties for bribery, stronger transparency, and a two-year ban on politicians becoming lobbyists when they leave office."
The article I have just quoted can be found here.  Washington Post also covered the story and it can be found here.  It makes me wonder why we bother to vote on anything, anywhere, for any reason. It also makes me wonder why elected officials feel that they can ignore the will of the people.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Women's March in Tucson

We went to the Women's March in Tucson today.  It was unfortunate that the weather was so uncooperative.  It was cold.  It rained.  The wind was unbelievable.  The plaza where the march ended was exhibiting the Venturi effect.  There was a good turnout despite the climate.
We met Raul Grijalva and his wife, Mona.  He was thanking the police for being there.  We then thanked him for his service.

Images from the day.

The crowd did a call/response of "Show me what democracy looks like."  "This is what democracy looks like."  It perhaps had a few too many syllables, but the crowd liked it a lot.

The dog on the left was very interested in the little dog on the right wearing the pink sweater.  His gaze was intense.

There were many good signs being carried.

This is our neighbor - we like his sign a lot.

So in other news of the day, the president dispatched his press secretary to the White House today to inform the reporters that the crowds yesterday were the biggest crowds ever; the most yuuuuuge crowds of any inauguration.

I don't think so.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Days Leading to the Inauguration

Wednesday was the last good weather day.  We took advantage of it and did the 32 mile loop that goes through the University.  It was a cool,  but glorious day.  Jim and I both believe we're making progress on getting strength back in the legs.

Here are a few gratuitous pictures of humming birds to lighten the moods of those of us who are teetering on the edge of the slough of despond.

This is a female, who has been  successfully defending the feeder today.  Look closely at the end of her beak, her tongue is out just a bit.

Today we are under a winter storm warning.  So far the skies are just ominous with wind.  It's befitting the day.  
I am still incredulous about the complete and utter abdication by the Republicans of their responsibilities to vet the cabinet nominees.  Ethics breaches that are worse than those that tanked appointments in previous administrations are just glossed over. 
  • Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s pick to head the White House Office of Management and Budget, had failed to pay over $15,000 in taxes for a household employee. 
  • Wilbur Ross, the billionaire private equity investor who is Trump’s pick for secretary of commerce, opened his confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee by admitting that, unbeknownst to him, one of his “dozen or so” household workers was an undocumented immigrant. Ross stated that he fired the employee of seven years after finding out their status in December.
  • Tom Price, Trump’s pick to run the Department of Health and Human Services, owns stock in drug companies, medical device companies and biotech.  He has introduced legislation that has benefited these entities.  Somehow this is not a breach of ethics.
  • Steven T. Mnuchin, President-elect Donald J. Trump’s pick to be Treasury secretary, failed to disclose nearly $100 million of his assets on Senate Finance Committee disclosure documents and forgot to mention his role as a director of an investment fund located in a tax haven.
The enabler in chief, by refusing to release tax returns or divest, has created an environment where rules no longer apply for the wealthy.  Republicans didn't need to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics, they're just ignoring it as well as the Office of Government Ethics.  Nothing good will come of this.

I'm sure you've all read the text of the inaugural speech by now.  It was predictably awful.  We didn't watch it, a person can only tolerate so much.  Twitter reports that the White House pages regarding climate change, LGBT rights and civil rights have been taken down.  So, in my current state of depression, I leave you with this, which I think sums it up nicely.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Return to Lower Javelina Trail

It was cold again today.  We wimped on bicycling and went back out to the Tortolitas at Dove Mountain.  We hiked the Lower Javelina trail.  We saw three real live javelinas out for a stroll, as well as a covey of Gambel's quail.  They are so cute.  They make sort of a muttering sound as they move along the desert floor.   It was just a spectacular day.
Lower Javelina climbs up the side of the canyon and then back down into the wash.  On the other side of the wash, it once again climbs up the side of the canyon.  It's a pretty good workout with large rocks to step up and down, as well as elevation gain.  We're both a little whooped.

It was good to go and get outside.  Tropical storm Kori will be arriving Tuesday in the GPNW and will probably hit Tucson sometime Thursday.  Sigh....  Still waiting for that snowbird rebate.