The Range

Checkpoint, Charlie

Looks like we're gonna get a border inspection station on Interstate 19, whether we like it or not. (And it appears as though a number of area residents most certainly do not like it.) The U.S. Border Patrol, no longer handcuffed by regulations crafted by former Congressman Jim Kolbe, is moving ahead with plans for a permanent facility near Tubac.

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords recently released a report from her "community workgroup" that stresses the need for more agents, more technology and a baseline report on the current conditions so that the effectiveness of a permanent checkpoint can be measured. In response, Sector Chief David Aguilar said the agency would deploy sensors and cameras, as well as 11 agents on horseback to help the surrounding community.

A subcommittee on options expressed three concerns about the permanent checkpoint: (1) Permanent checkpoints have been in use in border communities for three decades, yet illegal immigration continues to increase. (2) Permanent checkpoints push illegal immigrants and smugglers into the surrounding communities. (3) The Border Patrol has never done any kind of study to determine whether the checkpoints are effective.

Solar Culture on the Skids

The killjoys at the Arizona Daily Star on Sunday, Aug. 26, did a big ol' exposé on the structural problems of Tucson's downtown warehouses with cherry-picked phrases from government reports that included "imminent danger of collapse" and "deathtrap." Note to Star reporters: Keep up the fine work! You'll drive the last nails into the coffin of the Warehouse District in no time, and we can get busy bulldozing those eyesores.

Steven Eye of Solar Culture, an art gallery and performance space on Toole Avenue, has already canceled his upcoming shows. Although Eye believes Solar Culture is safe, he can no longer guarantee it.

"It's a very sensitive issue," Eye says. "We need to own the building, and we need to raise the money to fix it to modern standards. We need a sympathetic architect and structural engineer to check out the building and see what we need to deal with."

Back to School

Ah, the first few weeks back to school: New friends, old faces, the excitement of a fresh start in a rich academic environment and, at the Tucson Unified School District, broken air conditioners and the threat of a teacher strike. The union is incensed that the TUSD board has only offered a 1 percent raise, despite receiving more money from the state and increasing your property taxes. Way to boost morale, gang!

TUSD is also awaiting a court decision that could end the district's desegration program--possibly along with the millions in special taxes that fund deseg.

Bottoms Up!

Good news if you're one of those people fooled into believing that Sparks Plus is going to give you superpowers: Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard has joined with many of his counterparts across the United States (if you count Guam as part of the U.S.) to demand that the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau do something about those wicked, wicked advertisements for energy drinks containing booze.

The AG's letter states: "Unfortunately, alcoholic beverage manufacturers have taken advantage of the youth appeal of these drinks by engaging in aggressive marketing campaigns for pre-mixed alcoholic energy drinks. These campaigns claim that such beverages increase a person's stamina or energy level. However, they do not mention the potentially severe, adverse consequences of mixing caffeine or other stimulants and alcohol." Think about that the next time you order a Jâger bomb!

Goddard and company suggest that the feds investigate some of the advertising claims, such as Bud Extra's suggestion that the drink "is infused with more of everything you never knew to expect. It's flavored with ginseng, powered by caffeine and charmed with ... guarana? Some call this tropical fruit a magical herb; the Guarani tribe in Brazil believe it's a way to regain strength." Other slogans of concern: "Who's up for staying out all night"; "Say hello to an endless night of fun"; and, "You can sleep when you're 30."

Hasta la Vista, Baby

Speaking of attorney generals: U.S. AG Alberto Gonzales--best known for his spotty memory, his ability to pressure John Ashcroft in his sickbed and his willingness to lie to Congress--called it quits earlier this week after nearly destroying the upper management of the Justice Department.

Perhaps unaware that some of Gonzo's loudest critics were GOP senators, former Justice Department officials and former Bush-appointed U.S. attorneys, President Bush said Gonzales was the victim of Democratic attack politics. Bush told reporters: "After months of unfair treatment that has created a harmful distraction at the Justice Department, Judge Gonzales decided to resign his position, and I accept his decision. It's sad that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person like Alberto Gonzales is impeded from doing important work because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons."

Despite his appalling appearances in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee (where Republican Arlen Specter ended up so exasperated with Gonzo that he asked him at one point: "Do you really expect us to believe that?"), the outgoing AG retained the support of U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, who press-released: "As the highest ranking Hispanic ever to serve in the federal government, Alberto Gonzales should be commended for his achievements and service." Is that the soft bigotry of low expectations rearing its ugly head?