Saturday, May 30, 2009

Never ask a Canadian to do what you should do yourself ... eh?

...poster seen plastered all over Toronto as Canadians welcome George W. Bush to their country!

Yes, for the second time since he officially became our former president, George W. Bush decided to venture out of the U.S. And yes, it was again to Canada that Mr Bush fled on his so-called foreign excursion tonight under the apparent delusion that Canada is not a hostile country.

In advance of his arrival, the Canadians prepared a little welcoming party, including various protests and a formal letter from "Lawyers Against War" to the Canadian PM and other members of the Canadian Parliament. In that letter of May 26th, L.A.W. argues that in view of the war crimes committed by Mr Bush, the Government of Canada has no legal option except either:

1. to bar George W. Bush's entry into Canada ... or ...
2. to arrest George W. Bush and either prosecute him for torture or extradite him to a country that will do so.

It's clear from the tone of their letter, that L.A.W. does not consider the U.S. to be a country capable of prosecuting a war criminal.

We could prove them wrong! We could arrest Mr Bush as he attempts to cross back into our country from his 50-mile cross-border jaunt! Some justice-hungry border guard could follow his conscience and start us down the sweet road toward national salvation tonight, right? Don't we, like Canada, have laws about not allowing war criminals to enter the U.S.?

Isn't this something we really have to do ourselves? Just because we relied on foreign countries to handle renditioned prisoners does not mean we can rely on them to properly prosecute our War Criminal in Chief. True, we'll never get Cheney or Rumsfeld this way because they'll never be stupid enough to travel out of the country and then try to cross back into the U.S., but ya gotta start somewhere, so why not with Mr Ivy League Brain (which we all now know is inferior thanks to Karl Rove's innuendo) himself?

However, our neighbors to the north should not think we don't appreciate the thought! Thank you, Canada, for at least trying! Thank you for always being there, perched above us and pointing the way toward sanity and justice. I know it must be hard to watch us down here always bragging about how America (which in our egocentricity only includes the U.S.) is the best country in the world because our system of law and justice are equally applied to all, but then politely coughing and looking the other way when we have a real chance to put our grand theories into practice. I know you mean well, but really, this is something we are going to have to do ourselves.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti's "unfinished flag of the united states" ...
...Here is a link to a recent Ferlinghetti poem, Totalitarian Democracy, which you might care to read sometime when you feel like thinking! Want more?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day Music

"Shelter from the Storm"
Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks album:

I was in another lifetime, one of toil and blood,
When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud.
I came in from the wilderness a creature void of form.
"Come in" she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm".

And if I pass this way again, you can rest assured,
I'll always do my best for her, on that I give my word.
In a world of steel-eyed death and men who're fighting to be warm,
"Come in" she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm".

Not a word was spoke between us, there was little risk involved.
Everything up to that point had been left unresolved.
Try imagining a place where it's always safe and warm.
"Come in" she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm".

I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail,
Poisoned in the bushes and blown out on the trail,
Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn.
"Come in" she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm".

Suddenly I turned around and she was standing there
With silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair.
She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns.
"Come in" she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm".

Now there's a wall between us, something there's been lost.
I took too much for granted, got my signals crossed.
Just to think that it all began on a long-forgotten morn.
"Come in" she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm".

Well, the deputy walks on hard nails, and the preacher rides a mount.
But nothing really matters much, it's doom alone that counts.
And the one-eyed undertaker, he blows a futile horn.
"Come in" she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm".

I've heard newborn babies wailing like a mourning dove.
And old men with broken teeth stranded without love.
Do I understand your question, man, is it hopeless and forlorn?
"Come in" she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm".

In a little hilltop village, they gambled for my clothes.
I bargained for salvation and they gave me a lethal dose.
I offered up my innocence and got repaid with scorn.
"Come in" she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm".

Well, I'm living in a foreign country, but I'm bound to cross the line.
Beauty walks a razor's edge, someday I'll make it mine.
If I could only turn back the clock to when God and her were born!
"Come in" she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm".

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sub-Tropics to Mars and back

I'm baaack ... at least for awhile! Been battling some computer problems but at least it's up & running (more like limping) for now.

When my computer blew up, I began to panic about not being able to blog about anything on my mind. But the days slowly crept by and now I find I'm too disgusted with politics to blog about that. Every time I turn on the TV I see Elizabeth Edwards reminding me why I was a fool to believe in her husband, or Dickhead Cheney being a dickhead, or the congressional dems compromising (don't elections have consequences any more?), or Obama being Obama!

Besides, I've been wanting to post some photos of a fun little camping trip to Mars we took a few weeks ago, so this will be a good test post. If the computer dies on me again, it may be awhile before I can get back online, so here goes ...

The title of this post is a bit misleading. I don't live anywhere near the Tropics (sub or otherwise). Just the opposite, in fact. But during the brief spring interlude between frigid winter and broiling hot arid summer, something wonderful happens ... the desert blooms! Here are a couple pics around my yard just before we left on our camping trip to Mars ... Yellow Lady Bank's Rose vine and Purple Robed Locust tree:

Click on any pic to enlarge.

Our camping trip was actually not to Mars, but to The Valley of Fire in Southern Nevada, although the difference might not seem that great. Warning: don't attempt to camp there in the summer months! It isn't called Valley of Fire for nothing! The week we were there the temps were pushing 90, but it was overcast, so not too bad. Nights were windy & chilly. It can be 120 on summer days!

Valley of Fire contains brilliant formations of eroded red sandstone more than 150 million years old. As you'll see in my photos, these features often appear to be on fire when reflecting the sun's rays. The sandstone formations were originally huge shifting sand dunes during the age of dinosaurs and subsequently shaped by complex uplifting and faulting of the region, followed by extensive erosion. I don't pretend to understand the geology, so I'll just let the photos speak for themselves. Don't worry, I'll only post a few!

Descending into The Valley of Fire:

Approaching from the rear, do you see the tall thin-headed elephant?

How about the little chubby-trunked elephant with ears flat against his head?
Wouldn't those rock elephants be a fun accurate representation of the repub party? Old, dry and worn out!

Just a pock-marked cliff face or scrapings from John McCain's sunburnt jowls? Lots of bats live in the cliff face. What lives in McCain's jowls?
Our camp site will give you a perspective of the size of these rock formations:

Odd Shapes: an alien or a ninja turtle?

Interesting beehive formation:

Arches are always fun! This one is pretty typical of the Southwest:

Of course we made the obligatory hike to Mouse's Tank (a natural desert rainwater collector forming a cistern or pond). It's a short trek with lots of petroglyphs along the way...

Dancing with Pop Tarts?

many Big Horn Sheep to see if you click to enlarge!

This whole wall is covered with petroglyphs (worth enlarging, but don't be expecting any porn). The Native Americans etched them hundreds to thousands of years ago. They obviously liked the black patina canvas:

Now for Mouse's Tank itself. Heaven help the desperate bastard who had to survive on this yucky water! It's a 50-ft drop straight down to the slimy scummy pond. Mouse would've had to devise the world's longest straw or rapel down there, swatting away bees and scorpions and who-knows-what-other biting stinging creatures that patronize the rare and precious water:

OK, now that you've seen a bit of Mars, or Mars as it might have been before it died, here are the "tropical" blooms we came home to (tropical in comparison to Mars):

Desert Bird-of-Paradise and Red Oleander ... both are pretty, but very poisonous!

Hope you enjoyed a little flavor of our trip to Mars and back!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

WHCA and Alzheimer's and Mom's Day weekend

Some seemingly unconnected events occur this weekend...

The White House Correspondent's Annual Dinner will be broadcast live tonight. MSNBC is starting coverage at 9PM Eastern Time. C-Span is supposed to be covering it, but my local guide is being vague about it. It'll be shown on C-Span online beginning about 8PM ET.

Click here for the official WHCA site. Wanda Sykes is the entertainer this year which should be interesting since she "came out" last year and fought to defeat Prop 8 in California. The WHCA site has links to access C-Span's coverage of previous years. Recent past entertainers have included Craig Ferguson, Stephen Colbert, Lewis Black and Al Franken. Although Colbert was famously funny, it was the first time I'd ever seen him nervous and sweaty.

Sunday is Mother's Day! If you are not spending the day with your mother and/or your children, then I hope you celebrate the day with complete joy, focusing on good family memories. Mothers are special, no matter what your specific relationship with yours was. HAPPY MOM's DAY!!!

On Sunday night, HBO will begin The Alzheimer's Project , a 4-part documentary by Maria Kennedy Shriver. Maria's father, 93-yr old Sargent Shriver, suffers from Alzheimer's Disease. He no longer recognizes her or remembers that he was the first director of the Peace Corps. In fact, he no longer knows what the Peace Corps , established by JFK in 1961, is. In addition to Alzheimer's impact on families, the program will explore the medical and scientific aspects of the disease.

photo: mom and dad in the 1980's...
Now you might think this strange, but I think Mother's Day is the perfect day to begin watching The Alzheimer's Project! My own mother was afflicted with Alzheimer's and died 11-yrs ago at the age of 68. A once vivacious, personable and humorously gifted woman, still youthful and vigorous at the onset, she suffered excrutiatingly frustrating mental decay for years, losing every part of her personality by the time of her death.

At the beginning of her decline, my mom would say things like, "my mind, I can feel it going." At first she got angry, then she forgot to get angry. The family attempted to joke with her about her forgetfulness until one day it became obvious that she didn't even know what she had forgotten. Her once wide world contracted to her house and yard with my father and brother providing daily care. Even then, she managed to wander away late one night, wearing only a thin nightgown, after my dad had fallen asleep watching TV on the couch. He searched everywhere in the house and yard for her, walked around his neighborhood waving a flashlight calling her name and had just decided to call the police when he saw a spectral figure gliding toward him down the middle of the road. Yup, it was my mom wandering around the dark neighborhood, her thin white nightgown blowing in the breeze! She had no idea where she was or how she got there. In fact, as he guided her toward safety, she asked my dad what HE was doing out in the street! After that incident, he installed childproof doorlocks that her alzheimer-brain could never figure out.

Most of our final family get-togethers revolved around mom asking the same questions over and over (and over) for hours (and hours and hours)! We were advised to answer her as if every time she asked was the first time. This was supposed to help keep her from getting too anxious. Anxiety is a rarely-mentioned side effect of Alzheimer's. On some level, her brain was still able to worry over things. She did this with a vengeance, having panic attacks that lasted forever since she lived totally in the present moment. Her being unable to sit still or sleep normally was a real challenge to family home care. Afterall, when are the care-givers supposed to sleep or even just go shopping and take care of everyday things when the patient requires round-the-clock vigilence?

Toward the end, when she didn't recognize most of us, my mom was talking to pictures in magazines as if they were her friends. She couldn't go to the bathroom by herself because she was afraid of the "old woman in there" (glimpsing herself in the mirror). She thought my brother was her daughter. She thought her husband was her father. She thought her granddaughter was her sister. But she always recognized her tabby cat!

During her final death coma, mom became verbal for a moment and announced, "I don't want it!" -- I have no idea if she meant Death or Pain or what. She then looked right at me and asked, "Are you real?" ... Those were her last clear words. Such metaphysical questions from a person whose mind has turned to mush!

Although she technically died of ovarian cancer (without realizing she was even ill), my mom's mind was already dead. If it hadn't been for the cancer, she was otherwise so physically healthy, she would've shortly reached the total vegetable stage. For families who don't have the resources of Maria Kennedy Shriver or Nancy Reagan, that stage brings heartwrenching problems for which there are no real solutions. I do hope The Alzheimer's Project program on HBO will be addressing these.

Many baby boomers have been in denial about Alzheimer's for decades. Until you go through it with a family member or close friend, it's hard to imagine how awful it is. It is NOT just a case of cute forgetfulness. As the baby boomers age, we are looking at 1 in 8 of us being affected. While we all hope for a medical break-through, until then, we live with the real possibility that we or our loved ones will become prey to this mind-destroying disease. I wonder if many people have the same attitude as I do ... that once you've seen what Alzheimer's does and without any real way to combat it, it reinforces why we as a society need to provide more meaningful end-of-life alternatives ?!?

And so it is, on Mother's Day I find myself thinking about her a lot ... sometimes it's like my mom is still here when she isn't here ... which is fitting because for her last years it was like she wasn't here even though she was. I can still visualize and hear her laughing -- she always laughed with her whole body. Maybe that's why I'm so looking forward the White House Correspondent's Annual Dinner tonight! I want to hear people laughing ...

****OMG, big PS ... I just realized in that pic, my mom is the same age I am now! Yet she was still vibrant and happy, totally oblivious of the mental deterioration that would take hold of her brain in a couple more years. If you click to enlarge the pic, you'll see what I mean. Scarier than my dad's leisure suit?****

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


The very humble D.K. has been given this prestigious blog award by the lovely Annette whose blog, "Just My Little Piece of the World", has become a regular reading habit. These blog award things always come with rules about which I am giving immediate notice I will eff-up. I'm so sorry, Annette. I'll try it my way and see how it goes.

For the record, here are the award rules:

1.You must brag about the award.
2.You must include the name of the blogger who bestowed the award on you and link back to the blogger.
3.You must choose a minimum of seven (7) blogs that you find brilliant in content or design.
4.Show their names and links and leave a comment informing them that they were prized with Honest Weblog Award.
5.List at least ten (10) honest things about yourself.
Then pass it on with the instructions!

I'm not complying with Rules #3 and #4 mainly because I waited so long that by now everyone I would bestow the award on has already received it. I realize that's not in the spirit of the award so I will completely understand if Annette decides to take it back and whack me on the head with it. Ouch, that hammer looks like it could do some damage! The way I'd like to do it is to say that anyone who reads this can automatically consider themselves awarded and proceed accordingly.

But, what does "Honest Scrap" mean? "Honest" is easy ... anything revealed must be truthful. "Scrap" is another matter. To me, "scrap" is leftovers, this & that, odds & ends, bits & pieces. It's what's leftover after everything with obvious value has been removed. It still has value, but not much. The key to "scrap" is that it is non-essential but still useful in some form or another. With that in mind, I don't know how useful any of this will be, but here goes my list of 10 non-essential truthful bits & pieces about me (in no particular order):

1. Coming from a large family of FDR-democrats, I still managed to end up with one sibling who is the complete opposite (i.e., a ditto-head repuke), which naturally causes me to wonder WHO is the Black Sheep? See, even when the odds are long, I assume it must be ME.

2. When Bush was handed the Presidency, I honestly thought, well what's the worst he can do? I had NO idea how far he could exceed my expectations in the "worst" department. If I ever visit his $300million non-historical library, I will write that comment in the guest log.

3. Not prone to many phobias, I am amused that driving over long high bridges causes me such distress. I still get butterflies thinking about Coronado Bridge in San Diego. I can walk or bike ride over them just fine. I have the same reaction when driving UP steep mountains with no shoulder or guard-rails. I have to hide my face to fool my brain, which is nonetheless unfooled, thus causing me to yell at the driver the whole way UPHILL to keep their damn eyes on the road and let me know when it's over! If the driver is me, we are all in deep trouble as I feverishly hunt for a safe place to pull out and relinquish the steering wheel to anyone with a driver's license; otherwise we go back down and find another route. Driving DOWNHILL provokes no similar reaction. What's up with that?

4. After an episode of Atypical Meuneire's (you do not know how typical it is that I would get the atypical form) a few years ago, I can no longer endure loud noise. Opening up a soda can sounds like a shotgun blast. As a result, I've had to start listening to more acoustic type music. I just spent the entire weekend listening to Coffee House-Acoustic on Sirius FM which brought back great memories of all the rock concerts I went to back in the 60's, even though I don't think songs like "Smoke on the Water" or "Black Dog" should ever EVER be performed acoustically!

5. I absolutely positively undeniably HATE to be cold. I don't understand people who say it's refreshing or bracing. If it's cold enough to snow, it is far too cold for me. I also hate humidity. That's why I live in a desert where the dry summers regularly reach 115 ... and yet even then I still have to wear socks and sweaters to go shopping or eat in a restaurant because of the damn near freezing air conditioning which is downright ree-effin-diculous! In the summer, I will flip the temp up on every thermostat I can get my hands on, even public ones with signs that say please do not adjust temperature. I tell myself I am helping the environment by reducing air conditioning use!

6. Before he was a rich and famous Las Vegas casino/hotel mogul, control-freak Steve Wynn once fooled me into eating raw steak (what can I say, it was dark and I was hungry). I can still taste the blood 30-yrs later even though I no longer eat cow ever since I found myself parked next to a cattle car in some desolate two-bit Texas hellhole. Gaahhh ... I can still hear their plaintive cries of distress! I also have to say the Palin Turkey-whacking incident permanently turned me off to eating turkey. Recent stories of the horrendous factory hog farming conditions have turned me off to pork. But I do still eat chicken and fish, especially in taco-form. I am not perfect.

7. I'm a baby boomer so my school years were most notable for overcrowded classrooms and frazzled teachers. Integration was forced on my high school through mandatory busing. I found it was a good thing to be exposed to such diversity ... it saved me from absorbing the distorted narrow worldview of too many other middle-class white kids. This was an example of "activist judging" that accomplished much good by forcing society to move forward, kicking and screaming all the way! The empathy-impaired should take note.

8. My mom was a good seamstress who made most of my clothes as a kid so I never had to confront ill-fitting store-bought clothes. In high school, I started sewing my own clothes since nothing on the rack ever fit properly. Mini-skirts, empire dresses and what might be described as pre-goth-style were my metier. We still had a dress code in my high school. I can't tell you how many times I was hauled into the school administration office and given the "ruler test", but it was a lot! The "ruler test" required kneeling on the floor while some faculty member held a ruler up your legs. If your dress or skirt exceeded the height of the ruler (12") off the floor, you were in trouble. I got to be an expert in kneeling forward and stretching fabric so it met the "ruler test". The dress code was abolished the year after I graduated. I no longer sew, but that's alright because my current clothing taste is, shall we say, less rigorously stylish.

9. As a former broomstick, I am totally amazed seeing what menopause has done to my body. Is that really me in the mirror? I look so ... matronly ... so at odds with how I feel. The facial changes are more endurable, but I can clearly see it now ... I am slowly becoming ... my mother! AIEEEEEEEEH !!!!!

10. Last but by no means least, I feel that most family pets I've met are far better than their "owners" ... including my own!

OK, I think that all qualifies as non-essential "SCRAP". Whether it has any residual value remains to be seen. I only hope it wasn't too painful to read. And please, if you want to participate in this meme, consider yourself awarded and have some fun with it!

ps, as I re-read this, I am detecting a distinct lack of respect for rules. Sorry, Annette, it seems to be a theme in my life.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Vanguard spoils my post-vacation bliss

Yes, I'm back from the vaca (more on that later)! My post-vacation bliss was spoiled while sorting through my backlog of accumulated mail and finding an interesting proposal included in a Vanguard Notice of a Special Shareholder Meeting. Usually I just throw away these Proxy-Vote things because my vote doesn't matter and I don't care about the arcane things mutual fund shareholders are normally asked to vote on.

Vanguard is probably the largest of the no-load mutual fund companies and is a common choice of many individual, corporate and institutional pension plans. If you are a Vanguard customer you will be getting the same notice asking you to vote. I urge you not to just throw it away this time, or worse check the box that casts your vote "in accordance with the Board recommendations". Please carefully read Proposal #3:

3. "Shareholder Proposal that the board institute procedures to prevent holding investments in companies that, in the judgment of the board, sustantially contribute to genocide or crimes against humanity, the most egregious violations of human rights."

No brainer, right? Vote Yes, which is to say, FOR this proposal!

But the Vanguard Board does not agree. If you cast your proxy-vote to follow their recommendations, you will be voting AGAINST this proposal. If you don't vote at all (my usual procedure, but not this time), you will be enabling the Vanguard Board to implement its desire to defeat this proposal.

note: this is the first time in 7-yrs Vanguard shareholders are being allowed to vote ... hmmm ... 7-yrs ... has to be related to all the deregulation that was going on because we used to get these vote-by-proxy things every year.

That this proposal is even on the ballot is thanks to certain shareholders who are concerned that Vanguard is making investment decisions based soley on financial and legal considerations, even in the face of the most egregious violations of human rights, such as genocide. Thus, ordinary individuals like you and me may be inadvertently investing in companies funding genocide. The problem is not theoretical since many mutual funds hold shares of PetroChina and/or China National Petroleum Company, which is providing funding that the Govt of Sudan uses to conduct genocide in Darfur.

Given a choice, investors would probably not want their pensions and family savings connected to genocide. Reasonable people may disagree about what constitutes socially responsible investing, but few people want their savings to be complicit in genocide.

The Vanguard Board does not agree, stating that Vanguard's goals are "to maximize returns in order to help shareholders meet their financial goals". They believe "mutual funds are not the optimal agents to address social change". However, they do "acknowledge that there may be instances when it is appropriate to assess such issues", and are therefore directing Vanguard to implement a procedure for reporting to the Board about such investments that might warrant disinvestment.

Prior to this proposal, Vanguard's oversight was limited to "considering important social issues". Those considerations have never been publically revealed. Do you trust the Board to suddenly adequately review and "disinvest" in companies that are earning profit for the shareholders if they happen to be involved in crimes against humanity? In this current investment climate of lost shareholder equity, I think that is highly unlikely.

Per the Proxy Notice, Vanguard® funds will hold a Special Meeting of Shareholders on July 2, 2009, at Vanguard’s offices in Scottsdale, Arizona, to vote on shareholder issues.

Vanguard's Scottsdale office address is 14321 N. Northsight Blvd, Scottsdale AZ 85260. The meeting commences at 8:30 AM local AZ time. It is open to all Vanguard customers.

Proposal #3 will be presented and voted upon at this meeting. Part of the discussion is expected to involve future vs existing investments because Proposal #3 calls for corrective action. If the threat of Vanguard's "disinvestment" does not effectively influence the violating company's practices, then the security should be dumped.

If you don't attend in person (Scottsdale in July? could they have picked a more hellish venue?), cast your proxy-vote by mail, by phone, or online. Instructions are in the Information Packet sent with your ballot. I just cast my vote FOR Proposal #3, and if you are a Vanguard customer, I hope you will, too.

To read what Investors Against Genocide has to say about Vanguard's lack of transparency on such an important issue, click here.

For a personal piece by IAG's Susan Morgan about Darfur and why Vanguard customers need to exercise their voting rights, click here.

If you want some info about the connection between the Darfur Genocide, Oil and China, click here.