The Range

Law and Disorder

As if a mess of a war, an ongoing southern border fiasco and the conviction of a chief aide to the vice president weren't enough, there's more trouble brewing for the Bush administration in the form of hearings about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, including Arizona's Paul Charlton. It sure looks like Attorney General Alberto Gonzales lied about why the U.S. attorneys were fired--and some of them may have gotten the ax because they didn't go after Democrats aggressively enough, or went after Republicans too aggressively.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee want to dig deeper to see if Bush adviser Karl Rove can be roped into the scandal, and even some Republicans appear concerned about the overt politicization of the Bush Justice Department and have called for Gonzales' resignation.

U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, told The Arizona Republic that he didn't believe the firings were politically motivated, but he found the handling of Charlton's dismissal "ham-fisted."

Deadbeat Uncle Sam

Six of Arizona's eight members of Congress--Republicans Trent Franks and Rick Renzi, and Democrats Raúl Grijalva, Gabrielle Giffords, Ed Pastor and Harry Mitchell--told the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies that the federal government needed to fully fund the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which reimburses state and local law enforcement for the big bills they run up while locking up illegal immigrants. Although federal law calls for 100 percent reimbursement to state and local agencies, SCAAP funding has traditionally fallen far short.

The Arizona delegation reckons that the feds would have to cough up $950 million to fully fund SCAAP next year. You know how much President George W. Bush proposed spending on the program? Not one miserable dime. Just like he has every year--which should tell you something about how much you can trust those plans to cut the deficit in half, or whatever he's lying about these days.

But we digress. The SCAAP program has been traditionally underfunded by Congress. For the last couple of years, Gov. Janet Napolitano has been sending invoices to the Department of Justice, to little avail. The most recent bill, sent last month, estimated that the federal government owed the state $357 million for costs since 2003. Oh, plus interest.

On the plus side of federal border funding: U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl announced that the General Services Administration had agreed to spend more than $55 million to improve the ports of entry in Nogales and San Luis.

Highway Blues

A nightmarish traffic jam erupted near Picacho Peak last Wednesday, March 14, when a car got tangled up with a truck hauling sodium hydroxide, sulfuric acid and phosphoric acid. No one was killed in the accident, which shut down traffic on eastbound Interstate 10 for hours and hours. The Range felt the pain of the drivers trapped in a line of cars and trucks miles and miles long on the highway as we made our way to the Flagstaff bureau. Our horrifying realization: This is the likely future of our megapolitan region.

Buy This Book!

The Range was lucky enough to receive one of the very first copies of Twin Study, the terrific new collection of tales of heartache and longing by our pal Stacey Richter. Sometimes Stacey writes about kids with alcoholic moms, and sometimes, like a modern-day Rod Serling (but way prettier!), she takes us on journeys into wondrous lands whose boundaries are that of imagination. Either way, it seems like people are sad and lonely and dumb and frak'ed-up. And don't tell her this, but her voice is so dazzling and witty that it makes us hate her just a little bit.

You gotta pick this up--and we're not just saying that because Stacey takes care of Weekly newshound Cricket when we're on assignment. Head to your local bookstore, or order yours at Amazon today!

Noted in Passing

Dean Prichard, longtime editor of the Tombstone Epitaph and a former reporter for the Arizona Daily Star, Kansas City Star and Detroit Free Press, died last Sunday, March 18. Prichard, who also taught at the UA journalism school and wrote novels, had been living at Buffalo Bill Cody's High Jinks Ranch in Oracle for more than three decades.

"He was a great old-school journalist," says Leo W. Banks, a frequent Weekly contributor who took a magazine-writing class taught by Prichard in the 1970s. "He knew what a story was."

One and Done!

Our prediction that the Arizona men's basketball team would emerge as national champs went a bit awry when the Wildcats were bounced in the first round by the Purdue Boilermakers, who beat the Cats 72-63 on Friday, March 16. That's really going to screw up our brackets.