Beyond City Limits

Democrat Bill Dingus (l) will challenge Craddick (r) in November
Democrat Bill Dingus (l) will challenge Craddick (r) in November (Craddick photo by John Anderson)

• Longing for another war? The clock continues ticking on a possible U.S. assault on Iran, as Seymour Hersh reports at length in The New Yorker ("Preparing the Battlefield," July 7). Amplifying earlier reports by Andrew Cockburn in the political newsletter CounterPunch (May 2 and 30), which broke the story of a March Bush "Presidential Finding" enabling covert action against Iran, Hersh describes ongoing U.S. actions ranging from intelligence-gathering to funding anti-government terrorist groups to potential assassination of "high-value" Iranian targets. Congressional Democratic leaders have approved the funding supposedly "reluctantly," but the strongest administration voices raised against war with Iran apparently come from military sources. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates reportedly told the congressional Democratic Caucus last year that should the U.S. pre-emptively attack Iran, "We'll create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America." – M.K.

• Embattled House Speaker Tom Craddick is facing a three-way race in November, as Democrat Bill Dingus has cleared the last legal hurdle to join Libertarian Sherry Phillips in challenging the 19-term Republican incumbent for his Midland seat in the House. The three-term Midland City Council member at-large and president of oil and gas investment firm Dingus Investments Inc., resigned his council seat on April 21 to challenge Craddick. But there were concerns that, since he was still in office when he filed to run, Dingus' candidacy violated Texas rules about holding one lucrative office while running for another. However, on June 30, Travis Co. District Judge Margaret Cooper ruled Dingus eligible, after his attorneys argued that his council term and any potential House term would not overlap. Craddick, who first took office the same year that Richard Nixon became president, has not faced a general election challenge since trouncing Midland Co. Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Garcia 78% to 22% in 2000. – Richard Whittaker

• Anti-border-wall activists are lamenting the apparent futility of federal documents they've just obtained showing that as early as December 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency had blasted the Department of Home­land Security's draft Environmental Assessment of the wall's anticipated environmental impact along the Rio Grande. Though the assessment contained what the EPA called "insufficient information and analysis to enable informed review," DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff issued a "super-waiver" of numerous environmental laws on April 1, paving the way for additional wall construction. According to a letter signed by EPA Region 6 Planning Chief Cathy Gilmore, and including attached comments from EPA employees, DHS released its assessment "prematurely" before all stakeholders could comment on "data gaps" identified by the EPA, including guesswork based on "intuitive" data regarding the potential impact on wildlife and water quality. "Using an electronic database and concluding that there is no significant impact because there was no data in the database does not lead to specific mitigation measures being developed," comments one employee. Another notes that "the biological survey relies on animal species sighted as surveyors performed 'intuitive controlled investigations'" – eyeballing done mostly during the daylight. One remedy, one of the employees writes, would have been rigorous, systematic sampling of species from California to Texas. – Patricia J. Ruland

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