It's like a classic good news/bad news joke. First, the good news.
Governor Jane Dee Hull has finally replaced Russell Rhoades, that canker of a director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. Rhoades was a laughable leader, an obstructionist who, had he been marginally competent, might have accomplished his goal of entirely paving the state and completely curdling the air. Under Rhoades, DEQ was hostile to the public, callous to its mandate, servile to industry.
Now the bad news: Hull has named Jacqueline Schafer to fill the post.
Schafer looks like she's got every chance of continuing down Rhoades' road to ruin.
Schafer is a recent escapee from California's Department of Fish and Game--one of "a long string of political dependents who never should have gotten the job in the first place," according to the San Francisco Examiner. A survey of her resume shows she should fit right in with the other regulators in Arizona who either don't know how to regulate, or simply refuse to. Schafer's highlights:
* Schafer botched a multimillion-dollar fish kill in Lake Davis, with expensive results. As director of Fish and Game, she spent $2 million in tax money to "cleanse" a lake of a predatory fish, despite the objections of nearby residents worried about the water supply. Then Schafer's department hosed the job so badly that it broke water and air pollution limits, illegally killed more than 4,600 trout along five miles of the stream below the river, and tried to cover up the problem rather than fix it. At one point, a secretary was in charge of monitoring the levels of toxins in the water. The city of Portola lost its main source of drinking water and tourist income as a result. Schafer's department was fined about $500,000 by the state water board, and the state spent $9 million to settle lawsuits from damages caused by the poisoning.
* In 1996, Schafer caved in to her boss, former governor Pete Wilson, on legislation that eased criminal penalties against companies that pollute state water.
* The largest decline in the California striped bass population in the history of the state occurred on Schafer's watch, due in part to political deals struck by Wilson over pumping water to Southern California.
* In 1997, Schafer supported golf courses over bighorn sheep habitat.
On the up side, the former wildlife steward also drew criticism for failing to communicate with the public. That's good news for DEQ flack Amy Rezzonico, who's known for not returning phone calls.
At least someone will be happy to see Schafer show up for work. But those interested in actually keeping the water and air clean are, shall we say, up the creek.
Gaffe of the Week
Last week, the Flash actually went looking for the Arizona Republic's weekly entertainment tabloid, The Rep, after seeing an apology printed on Page 2 of Friday's Republic.
It seems TR, as it's known to scenesters, had done an April Fool's parody (how juvenile!) that had employed a wire photo containing the image of 15-year-old Julie Sund. The photograph depicted Sund on ice skates at Yosemite National Park, with an image of Chelsea Clinton superimposed in the foreground.
Julie, her mother and a friend had disappeared near Yosemite. Their bodies were found in a charred rental car recently. The photo, taken the weekend before the three disappeared, was developed and given to news organizatons by investigators who found the roll of film near the auto.
"The use of the photograph was inappropriate," the apology said. "The Arizona Republic extends its sincere apologies to the Sund family and to all of our readers."
One of those readers of Julie Sund's aunt, a Valley resident who saw the photo and was understandably upset by it.
An item in the San Francisco Chronicle quoted Republic editor Pam Johnson as saying, "There was no purpose to using this other than to illustrate the idea of ice skating. It's a very regretful situation. We just hope the family can put this aside. They've got enough to deal with."
Subscribers get The Rep inserted into the Thursday Republic. But the tab also is distributed free from news racks.
The Flash watched a Republic distribution contractor last Thursday as he hustled to take all free-distribution copies of The Rep, which he had just delivered, out of those racks for destruction. The fact that Republic management recalled the publication from the street is extraordinary -- but not remarkable enough to warrant mention in the Republic itself.
All John, All the Time
War is hell, unless you're U.S. Senator John McCain, wanna-be president. If you're him, war is a splendid marketing opportunity.
McCain's military career, prisoner-of-war experience and seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee have rendered him a simply radioactive commodity on the TV news/talk show circuit. On Friday, he was on three such shows. Take a gander at Humble John's schedule of appearances for Monday, April 5, as released by his office:
7:30 p.m. EDT, CNBC, Upfront Tonight.
8:30 p.m. EDT, MSNBC, Equal Time, hosted by another fabulous war hero, Oliver North.
9 p.m. EDT, CNBC, Rivera Live.
9:30 p.m. EDT, CNN, Larry King Live.
10 p.m. EDT, FOX, The Crier Report.
11 p.m. EDT, PBS, The Charlie Rose Show.
11 p.m. EDT, ABC, Nightline.
(Wonder how he managed two shows at once at 11 p.m. Could he be two-faced?)
USA Today reported Tuesday, "News media outlets have shown a seemingly insatiable appetite for McCain's message, which boils down to this: The United States must take whatever steps are necessary to win this war, even if that means sending in ground troops. . . .
"CNN gave him its 'political play of the week' award Friday. This week's Time magazine declared him a winner: 'Former POW looks like a man with a plan. Does neat impersonation of a commander in chief.'"
Although predisposed during the Monday John-fest--the Flash was watching tapes of the new Late Late Show, featuring the deliciously narcissistic Craig Kilborn--this Strobe has seen some of our Snowy Haired Senator's recent chat-ups, and is at this time advising him to lose the happy, shiny act. His handlers obviously have told him he needs to reshape his reputation for churlishness, and have advised him that the best way to do this is to SMILE. So McCain will respond to Larry's or Ted's or Ollie's question in a reasonably cogent manner, and then end his spiel with a silly little chipmonkesque grin. It's insincere and mechanical. McCain is a vision of intensity--nay, controlled rage--until he realizes he's done talking for the moment and it is now time to SMILE! The subject matter is not exactly grin-friendly. The Flash suggests that henceforth, Humble John end his sound bites by saluting.
Why is it that a network like A&E, which appears to seek credibility with its excellent Biography and Investigative Reports series, gladly abandons all journalistic integrity when it comes to things like UFOs? The Flash recently received a letter that contained a clue.
Last year, documentary filmmaker Kevin Barry called the Flash to pimp his A&E show about the Phoenix Lights, which he excitedly reported would present compelling evidence that the V-shaped object seen over much of Arizona the night of March 13, 1997, was of alien origin. Barry got upset when the Flash asked about his methods. In a huff, the filmmaker admitted, incredibly, that he'd done an entire "investigation" of the Lights without even hearing of Mitch Stanley, the Scottsdale amateur astronomer who viewed the V-shape through a powerful telescope and saw that it was a formation of five high-flying jet planes. Also, Barry's film featured Jim Dilettoso after the Phoenix UFO guru was shown by New Times to be a UFO evidence faker going back decades.
Still, A&E wants more from Barry, and he sent word that he has yet another film coming out with a UFO theme. Barry says that in his latest epic he interviews "UFO believers, scientists and religious theologians" about "the possibility of making contact with other life forms in the new millennium." He even sent along a photograph of himself with his panel of UFO experts which included, naturally, the dubious Dilettoso.
Barry writes that he had titled his project Is There Life Out There? when he began it, but A&E insisted that he change the title to UFO's--Testing the Evidence.
Why? Barry writes: "A&E changed it because anything with UFOs in the show title gets great ratings!"
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