Tuesday, August 31, 2010

And We Think Arizona Has Illegal Immigration Problems?

The following was sent from a friend. Boy, things are scary all over!
The Manitoba Herald, as reported by Clive Runnels
August 1, 2010

The flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada has
intensified in the past week, sparking calls for increased patrols to stop
the illegal immigration. The recent actions of the Tea Party are prompting
an exodus among left-leaning citizens who fear they'll soon be required to
hunt, pray, and to agree with Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck.

Canadian border farmers say it's not uncommon to see dozens of sociology
professors, animal-rights activists and Unitarians crossing their fields at
"I went out to milk the cows the other day, and there was a Hollywood
producer huddled in the barn," said Manitoba farmer Red Greenfield, whose
acreage borders North Dakota. The producer was cold, exhausted and hungry.
He asked me if I could spare a latte and some free-range chicken. When I
said I didn't have any, he left before I even got a chance to show him my
screenplay, eh?"

In an effort to stop the illegal aliens, Greenfield erected higher fences,
but the liberals scaled them. He then installed loudspeakers that blared
Rush Limbaugh across the fields. "Not real effective," he said. "The
liberals still got through and Rush annoyed the cows so much that they
wouldn't give any milk."

Officials are particularly concerned about smugglers who meet liberals near
the Canadian border, pack them into Volvo station wagons and drive them
across the border where they are simply left to fend for themselves. "A lot
of these people are not prepared for our rugged conditions," an Ontario
border patrolman said. "I found one carload without a single bottle of
imported drinking water." "They did have a nice little Napa Valley
Cabernet, though."

When liberals are caught, they're sent back across the border, often wailing
loudly that they fear retribution from conservatives. Rumors have been
circulating about plans being made to build re-education camps where
liberals will be forced to drink domestic beer and watch NASCAR races.

In recent days, liberals have turned to ingenious ways of crossing the
border. Some have been disguised as senior citizens taking a bus trip to
buy cheap Canadian prescription drugs. After catching a half-dozen young
vegans in powdered wig disguises, Canadian immigration authorities began
stopping buses and quizzing the supposed senior- citizens about Perry Como
and Rosemary Clooney to prove that they were alive in the '50s. "If they
can't identify the accordion player on The Lawrence Welk Show, we become
very suspicious about their age," an official said.

Canadian citizens have complained that the illegal immigrants are creating
an organic-broccoli shortage and are renting all the Michael Moore movies.
"I really feel sorry for American liberals, but the Canadian economy just
can't support them," an Ottawa resident said. "How many art-history majors
does one country need?"

In an effort to ease tensions between the United States and Canada,
Vice-President Biden met with the Canadian ambassador and pledged that the
administration would take steps to reassure liberals. A source close to
President Obama said, "We're going to have some Paul McCartney and Peter,
Paul & Mary concerts. And we might even put some endangered species on
postage stamps."

"The President is determined to reach out," he said.

The Herald will be interested to see if Obama can actually raise Mary from
the dead in time for the concert!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Your Sunday Poem

The reference to this sly, witty Tony Hoagland poem comes from Henry Louis Gates, Jr, the black Harvard professor who was arrested while trying to get into his own home by a white cop, and after the usual race-fueled kerfluffle, both of them ended up having a beer at the White House with President Obama.

Gates had a PBS series wherein he’d trace ancestry via DNA and other historical documents for “famous people.” He also had done his own. The program wonderfully illustrated the perils of this country’s constant fear of The Dreaded Other by reminding all of us to be careful who you hate and fear (and arrest) because they’re probably your second cousin.

From Hoagland’s book, “Unincorported Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty.”


Last night on TV the light-brown African-American professor
looked at the printout analysis of his own DNA
and learned that he was mostly Irish.

I can’t go back to Africa now, he thought,
controlling the expression on his face,
his big moment onscreen already turning out
different than he had imagined.

Nor would he ever be able to say the sentence,
“I be at the crib”
with the same brotherly ease as before.

I was tired from work, and I wanted to
turn off the television and go to bed,
but I couldn’t stop watching that transformation,

the bones in his face rearranging,
his freckles becoming explicable

thanks to the hinge on a 18th-century door
between the kitchen of a Massachusetts merchant
and the southernmost room where a slave-woman slept;

thanks to the macramé of chromosomes, and the electron microscope
and the longing for knowledge
which sometimes makes things more
confusing than they were before.

That’s how I feel while I watch, as if
eavesdropping on the family next door, --
pressing my ear to the wall

slowly starting to make out the words,
not certain why I am so interested.
My ear glued to the wall.

The merchant raising a tiny oil can, and tilting it
to squeeze three drops
into the hinge to keep it quiet.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Run Away, Everybody! Run! Run!

Gaaagh, IT'S THE GAY.  It's catching! Run away!

Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman just came out -- at 43 years of age? -- and announced he's gay.  Yep, the guy who helped George Bush get elected, who helped carry out Karl Rove's usual gay-baiting, "wedge issue," anti-gay marriage, "Family Values" Republican campaigns that would deny equal civil marriage rights to gay folks, and to keep Don't Ask/Don't Tell military personnel in the closet even longer, you know, that guy, suddenly decides to announce his gayness? 

Now?  After the damage is done? And he still is not the least remorseful about his role in fanning the flames of bigotry towards a certain segment of our society, all in the name of getting Family Values Republicans  elected?  You know, all those guys who kept having mistresses and prostitutes popping up out of nowhere, or putting family members on the payroll, or running away to Argentina for asignations, not to mention all that foot-tapping in airport bathrooms.  Ah, so much family value, so little time! And no remorse for his actions.  All from a Party of Accountibility guy?

Oh, wait, I guess the party of Accountability and Responsibility has devolved into the Party of Wedge Issues (remember the good old Southern Strategy?), then into the Party of Fear and 24/7 War, then into the Party of No, now The Grand Old Party of Hypocrites & Fox News.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Run, Annie, RUN!

Oh, Lordy, the Annie The Dog story took a turn for the weird when Kitty Crockett of Atascadero submitted a California Public Records Act to find out who adopted the dog, Annie, formerly owned by Chuck Hoage. The document had been redacted but one reference to the new adopters slipped by so, according to the Tribune, only three people outside officials, that is, now know who the new adopters are – Chuck Hoage, Dave Congalton and Kitty herself. And she has promised not to tell anyone else.

So, good luck with that. Knowing how crazed people have become over this matter, precious police resources are now being used to beef up patrols in the new owner’s neighborhood, and County Counsel Warren Jensen is warning the public that “any member of the public who uses or disseminates the information we inadvertently disclosed could be held liable for civil damages for doing so.”

Is it time for Annie’s new owners to enter the witness protection program?

No SLO High

Aw, too bad. people suffering with cancer who want to use doctor-prescribed marijuana will have to settle for calling local providers and getting home deliver because there will be no medical marijuana clinics in Nipomo.

What tickled me about the Trib story was this: a parade of local residents screaming about all the crime they say will arrive with the dispensary – O Gawd! Hide The Children! The Children!! – coupled with testimony from Sheriff Pat Hedges that there are no studies showing that clinics are “crime magnets” and Supervisor Bruce Gibson noting that he could find no evidence of that linkage either. But he was worried that there was a gymnastics studio near to the proposed dispensary and he was undoubtedly worried about the young people in the gym being lured into a life of crime and sin, forgetting, of course, that I’m betting all those young kids in that gym likely already know how to score pot on the street. Don’t need no fuddy-duddy dispensary.

Ah, and so our drug insanity persists: No evidence needed, just fears and, of course, the children! the children!

Dear America, Drop Dead

What is it about Americans that make them hate themselves so much they want themselves and each other to get sick and/or dead? Case in point, New York Times story, “U.S. doesn’t require vaccine for egg salmonella.”

“Faced with a crisis more than a decade ago in which thousands of people were sickened from salmonella in infected eggs, farmers in Britain began vaccinating their hens against the bacteria. That simple but decisive step virtually wiped out the health threat.”

Let’s repeat that: Britain wiped out salmonella in eggs as a health threat ten years ago. Apparently, the English don’t hate themselves and don’t want to get themselves sick get sick or die. Very strange.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. the FDA decided there wasn’t “enough evidence to conclude that vaccinating hens against salmonella would prevent people from getting sick” so decided “not to mandate vaccination of hens – a precaution that would cost less than a penny per a dozen eggs.”

One penny per dozen of eggs? Nope, not for Americans. Let us get sick and die. We don’t want no regulations on our food. We’re Americans and we hate ourselves, especially that guy over there! So, eat up America! It’s breakfast Russian roulette time!

Who Is That Guy, Again?

Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck has organized a Lincoln Memorial gathering ostensibly in support of military families (fine print on the website notes that all donation moneys will FIRST be used to pay for the rally, then what’s left over – if any – will go to the “military families.”)

Noted the L.A. Times, in June, on his radio program, Beck announced “The government is trying to now close the Lincoln Memorial for any kind of large gathering. This may be the last large gathering ever to assemble at the Lincoln Memorial. Historic, historic,” he intoned dramatically.

Said the National Part Service, “There is absolutely no attempt or move on the government’s part, nor specifically on the National Park Service’s part to close off or to restrict free speech or any 1st Amendment activities on or below the step where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood to give his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech on Aug, 28, 1963,” National Park Service spokesman Bill Fine said.

“Asked to explain the pundit’s statement, a Beck spokesman declined to comment.”

Translation? Glen Beck is a big fat liar.

And if you want to get a good look at perfect examples of “gullible fools,” tune in to the media coverage of this event. And keep a close eye on the “donated” money. You know, the money that’s supposed to go to “military families?” Right. That money.

Yowsa! Yowsa! Step right up.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Your Sunday Poem

This from Ants on the Melon by Virginia Hamilton Adair.

Now You Need Me

When the rains come
you remember
our old closeness
humping along
in the wet.
You grope the dark
where I hang
by my crooked neck.
You pull off my cover
shake me till my
ribs jiggle
and a moth flies out.
Your hand reaches under
my black skirt
and up one leg
thin as a cane
until I open wide
with a rusty squawk
hovering above you
like a dark and loving
raven, said the old
umbrella, her night
full of holes.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Burning Time

Calhouns Ca(n)nons for August 20, 2010

All politics is local
              Tip O’Neill

The Rogers Red grapevine has gone all rogery red well before it’s time. Nearby the Great Grapevine has started to give up the ghost for the season. Its leaves are yellowing and spotting as it shuts down for its winter sleep. All this in the middle of August in a year with no summer.

At least not here in my small corner of the world. While the rest of the country boils with record high heat and people flee in a desperate search for somewhere cool to hole up, Los Osos has turned into Joe Btfsplk, Andy Capp’s Li’l Abner cartoon character who always walked around with a cloud over his head. In Los Osos, it’s as literal as that cartoon. Drizzle-mist in the early morning, and the rest of the day spent with a lowering cloud cap overhead but one with a perfectly circular edge and a clear horizon line all around letting we bearish folk know that the sun is shining, well, over there and there and way over there, but not here.

And it’s unseasonably cool, throwing all my plants into a muddle. Is it spring, yet? No? Now? No? When? But I have no answer. Our local weatherman talks about coastal up-wellings and the vast ocean mysteries of La Nina and El Nino but that doesn’t explain the Joe Btfsplk cloud.

Moscow is also under a cloud, but this one is made up of deadly smoke from an out of control forest fire, aided and abetted by vast peat fields that were drained years ago to serve as an industrial fuel source and never re-flooded when the country switched to gas and oil for fuel. The abandoned peat and the vast forests, tinder dry from a heat wave that was the worst in Russia’s recorded history, are but a terrifying glimpse of Things Yet To Come. Imagine the vast pine woodlands that stretch from Moscow all the way to Sarah Palin’s house. Imagine them tinder dry from drought and heat. Imagine a match.

Our own Rocky and Sierra mountain ranges are facing similar conditions; drought and heat are already starting to weaken the trees for the pine pitch beetle to finish off. With no way to stop the process, the dying trunks will eventually stretch for thousands of miles. It’s the stuff of nightmares and is on our doorstep now.

Meanwhile, a 100-square mile chunk of ice just broke off from a Greenland glacier. That’s a hunk four times larger than Manhattan that’s now free to move across the Arctic Ocean. We now wait to see if it will head south to threaten the north Atlantic shipping lanes and huge North Sea oil rigs. The BP oil spill as preview to what may come?

And in Pakistan, millions have been left homeless by massive flooding and with so much farmland washed away, famine will follow after.

The majority of climate scientists agree that global warming is likely the culprit behind these weather extremes and also predict that the extremes will get even wilder the higher the overall global temperature climbs. To a sane person, the future coming into focus is not a welcome one. To a sane person, it would make sense to switch as quickly as possible to an energy plan that didn’t contribute to global warming in order to lessen the worst of what’s coming. But to our corporate-owned politicians, especially those owned by the coal and oil companies, it is critical to lie about and block all efforts to switch to “new” energy sources until every last dollar can be extracted from burning through our “old” energy sources. And if that worsens our future, too bad. Money for a few takes precedence over life for the many.

And, sadly, too many Americans can’t seem to connect that Moscow fire dot to the floods in Iowa dot to the heat wave in DC dot to the break-away glacier dot. But if, as Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local,” then surely all weather is local too. And perhaps that’s our last best hope.

When misfortune hits someone half-way across the globe, it’s unfortunate. When the same misfortune hits your own house, it’s a Great Tragedy and Something Must Be Done! Which means that only when the dots get personal do people tend to take them seriously enough to connect them. And there’s nothing more personal than unusual weather events directly overhead to get one’s attention. I mean, it’s hard to argue with your own dead lawn or that washed out road down the street or a tornado that hits your house in a town where no tornadoes have ever hit before, ever, or the community’s water well that runs dry again because for three years in a row there wasn’t enough snowmelt to replenish the aquifer, or the price of bread just went up because the wheat crop in Kansas failed from a new strain of wheat rust that’s never appeared that far north before, or a plague of malaria-bearing mosquitoes that is normally limited to hot, wet climates shows up in your town after a bizarrely wet year of rain and heat and fogs and unseasonable damp.

Ding, ding, ding. Local alarm bells. Time to wake up. And grab an umbrella. It’s a hard rain of our own making that’s coming to Our Town.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hey, Get a Job!

Went to see the new, very, very long Julia Roberts movie, Eat, Pray, Love.

Based on the memoir by Elizbeth Gilbert, it is what it is – thirty-something, middle-class rich white writer (with a book advance) travels to Italy (eat), India (pray) and Bali (love) looking to get over a failed marriage, looking for spiritual enlightenment and looking for good food. She also finds true love with Javier Bardem and sails into the sunset (in real life, she sailed into a huge bestseller and pots of money).

But the triteness of this lady’s search (Oh, Dear God, get over yourself!) wasn’t the most annoying thing about the movie. The most annoying thing was that the movie was made by another obsessive Julia Roberts stalker. Most Julia Roberts movies are made by obsessive Julia Roberts stalkers – directors sooooo in love with that face, that face, that face (i.e. the money shot) and that smile, ooooo that smile, and wait for it, wait for it, that burst of laughter.

Wash, rinse, repeat. Endless. Julia’s face being sad. Julia’s face being happy. Julia’s face being puzzled. Julia’s face eating pasta, Julia’s face being angry. Julia’s face laughing, Julia’s fine teeth in that face, that face, that face. All in claustrophobic close-up with no room for her character to breathe let alone exist. It’s all about . . . that face.

Which I get. I understand. She’s lovely, but, c’mon, she’s also a fine actress when she’s working with a director who’s not an obsessed stalker.

Plus, be warned, this film is 133 minutes long. One hundred and thirty-three minutes of Julia Roberts’ teeth constitutes extreme punishment. But there is a really nice elephant that appears towards the end and walks over to Julia. It’s suppose to represent serendipity and the unexpected beauty and magic in life which our Julia is now ready to understand and accept. Personally, I figured it was just looking for a good dish of pasta.

Oh, and a cute little old Balinese shaman who says, “See you later Alligator.”

You have been warned.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Grover Norquist Wins State Senate Seat!

Good old “get government small enough to drown in the bathtub” Grover Norquist won Tuesday’s election for state Senator for our district. So, unless there’re other changes in the Assembly or Senate, we’ll see more gridlock as the state slowly sinks in the west. But that’ll be o.k. Last year, Grover, when facing a choice of compromising on some budget issues or seeing California crash and burn, chose crash and burn. I’m sure the same thing will happen again. But, that’s what the voters wanted, so that’s what they’ll get.

Oh, wait, did I say Grover Norquist? I meant Sam Blakeslee, but same difference.

The Russians are Coming!

Great photo on the front page of today’s Tribune. A “yacht” looking like a battleship parked outside the Morro Bay breakwater while the owner, a 38-year-old Russian tycoon billionaire visits the central coast and has a private tour of Hearst Castle.

Looking at the photo I could only think of Tolstoy’s observation that behind every great fortune is a great crime. And “business tycoon” involved with Russia’s recent “experiment” in “capitalism,” involving oil pipelines and coal and gas producers & etc. are no exception. That gang of enterprising cronies that rose after the fall of communism made our own historical robber barons look like pikers. Ah, God bless the child .

Annie Time Again

The saga of Annie, the dog that was lost, got adopted, original owner arrives, new owner refuses to give her back, continues anew with a new column by the Tribune’s Bill Morem and another spate of letters-to-the editor. The consensus seems to be that maybe Animal Services screwed up, [previous] owner Chuck Hoage and the [new] owners did everything by the book but things still got messed up and now it’s up to the new owners to “do the right thing” and give Annie back to her “real” owner.

That his hasn’t happened and instead there has been absolute silence as to WHY this hasn’t happened, is likely what keeps this story going. A mystery into which, Rorschach-like we can pour our own concerns and values. But there also seems to be a overlying larger issue best expressed by Carol Tell of Santa Maria’s letter to the editor asking “Why is it so hard for people these days to do the right thing?”

That simple question is certainly reflective of our zeitgeist – all around us we see evidence of People Behaving Badly, from sleazy, greedy, selfish Wall Street thieves, to sleazy, selfish demagogues flogging phony issues just for their political gain, and ugly Nativist Know-Nothing bigotry spilling all over the body politic, sleazy cost-cutting corporate greed whose results have oozed all over the gulf coast, while good people who have always tried to do the right thing lose their homes, lose their jobs and go broke. Our present reality is a vision filled with fear and greed and lust for power, none of which can even vaguely be described as “doing the right thing,” or even behavior that speaks to our better natures.

And then there’s Annie. A small four-footed symbol of so much that has gone so wrong in our world. With so many people asking, How can we make this right?

And only one family can answer that question. And, to date, their response is . . . silence.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Oh, Dear, How In The World Did THAT Happen?

Eight off-road race fans were killed and five others seriously injured during a “Mad Max” type road race out in the Mojave Desert. This made the front page of the L.A. Times. Front page. Huge news. Or as the Times puts it, “Fans of desert racing say nothing beats the danger, dust and noise of watching 3,500 pound trucks roaring past – close enough almost to touch – and then rocketing into the air over treacherous jumps with nicknames like tthe rock pile.’”

Until the 3,500 pound truck flies into the air, lands then rolls over and smashes into those folks standing close enough to lean out into the path of the truck to take photos of airborne trucks, heck maybe get a few shaky shots of a truck rolling over directly towards them. Such fun! Until it isn’t.

And now some of those who enjoy leaning out into the path of roaring-by trucks are whining that it’s the promoters of this race who are at fault. They should have put up fences, ignoring the high probability that drunken fans would simply tear down fences to get closer. It being a macho, racy thing, sorta like running with the bulls. Or there’s the usual default fault – blame the Bureau of Land Management for not overseeing things better. “The feds have allowed a ‘Mad Max’ atmosphere to develop with too many people and too many machines crammed into too little space,’ said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit environmental protection group that has had previous clashes with off-road enthusiasts. ‘The feds don’t have the resources and apparently not the interest, to regulate off-road vehicles properly.”

Is Suckling kidding? Try to regulate off-road vehicles properly? Try that and thousands raise such a ruckus that timid Congresspeople and understaffed BLM folks back off very quickly. Has Suckling paid no attention to our regular whoop-ups at the Oceaneo Dunes whenever some kid gets killed? Getting killed is part of the deal when 3,500 trucks fly through the air right next to crowds of people. Noted Bryant Layton, an off-road racer and friend of the driver who crashed, that  “The crowds have been getting progressively worse every year. It’s known to be out of control, with lots of people drinking .”

Yup. Flying trucks, booze, Mad Max. It’s no wonder the poor desert tortoise is endangered. And as for the front page story? Slow news day. Pointless, stupid death is always a great way to gin up circulation.

How Much Is That Governor’s Job In The Window?

Again from the Times: Billionaire Meg Whitman donated "an additional $13 million of her own money to her effort to become California’s next governor, bringing the Republican nominee’s personal state in her election bid to $104 million.”

Guess that’s our future: Being ruled by wealthy oligarcs who can buy their offices outright. Or, since the recent Supreme Court ruling, being ruled by corporations, including foreign-owned ones, who will simply buy the office outright then install a puppet in the chair. Nice.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Your Sunday Poem

Interesting snippet from the Aug 2 L.A. Times, “E-poems? A wait o’er font, integrity issues.” Seems that poetry and the new e-books won’t be an easy fit because “publishers and e-book makers have not figured out how the integrity of a poem can be guaranteed. “A three-line stanza might be expanded to four if a line is to long or a four-line stanza compressed into three if the second and fourth lines have sharp indentations . . . and a displaced word, even a comma can alter a poem’s meaning as surely as skipping a note changes a song.”

“The critical difference between prose and poetry is that prose is kind of like water and will become the shape of any vessel you pour it into,” poet Billy Collins says. “Poetry is like a piece of sculpture and can easily break.”

So, for now, there may be limited e-poetry work available as technology tries to catch up this ancient form. And many people think poems are just words arranged weirdly on a page, any page. Nope. Which is why book designers are so critical for any printed work, and why a well designed book is just a joy to look at while turning each page over and over and over. This is especially true for a book of poetry. Which is why I keep reminding you to support your favorite (and some new) poets; buy their (real) books.

And now for Tony Hoagland, from his latest book, “Unincorporated persons in the Late Honda Dynasty.”

The Loneliest Job in the World.

As soon as you begin to ask the question, Who loves me?,
you are completely screwed, because
the next question is How Much?,

and then it is hundreds of hours later,
and you are still hunched over
your flowcharts and abacus,

trying to decide if you have gotten enough.
This is the loneliest job in the world:
to be an accountant of the heart.

It is late at night. You are by yourself,
and all around you, you can hear
the sounds of people moving

in and out of love,
pushing the turnstiles, putting
their coins in the slots,

paying the price which is asked,
which constantly changes.
No one knows why.

Friday, August 13, 2010

How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?

The Saga of Annie continues on the front page of the Tribune. Proof positive that it’s August, a slow news month when stories about ice cream appear on the cover of Time, and we get heavy news coverage of minor “human interest” news.

Poor Annie, an Aussie who jumped out of her owner’s truck in Nipomo and ran away back in June. Owner Chuck Hogue searched for her for weeks. Apparently she turned up at the Animal Shelter about a week later, unbeknownst to Hogue. It’s not clear from the story how Hogue came to discover Annie had been at the shelter, but she had been at the shelter for some time, and her description had been put on the call-in dog line three times. Still, no Hogue. And by the time he did realize she was there and showed up to get her back, she had been adopted by a family from Arroyo Grande.

The wrinkle in this story is that the adopting family refused to give her back to her original owner, so the “human interest” part of this story kicked into high gear, with daily updates and then outraged letters to the editor. Of which, Jeff Hamm, director of the county Health Agency, which oversees the Department of Animal Services (DAS), likely made worse when he “called the subsequent complaints to the county seeking to have Annie returned to Hogue a ‘feeding frenzy.’”

An unfortunate phrase that likely will cause more dismay and anger from “the public” which has been active and vocal in calling out Hogue (didn’t tether his dog safely in the back of his pickup truck, didn’t microchip Annie, had no i.d. tags on her, no evidence he came to the shelter or files a lost dog report & etc.), DAS (screwed up policies, past problems on similar adoption problems, mixups resulting in dead dogs, etc.) and the new adoptive family (selfish, heartless pond scum who would keep a dog from reuniting with his “real” owner.

And this morning, he saga has now ramped up to include talk-show host, Dave Congalton, Supervisor Adam Hill, who offered to “pay any expenses incurred by the new owners for adopting Annie, including the cost of a microchip and to buy them a new puppy” (buy them a puppy? Not adopt another pup from DAS?). And now there’s a planned meeting “with Jim Grant, county administrative officer, Jeff Hamm, director of the county health agency, and County Counsel Warren Jensen, in case the county decides to explore legal options for returning Annie to Hogue.”

So the big guns are threatening to bring on The Law, and/or offering money and a new puppy to the horrible, terrible, evil pond-scum AG adoptive family, while a group of Annie fans were going to hold a rally at SLO’s Farmer’s Market. And, to date, the horrible, terrible, evil pond-scum AG adoptive family has remained off the radar, likely hiding under the bed and ruing the day they ever went to DAS to get a dog for the kids.

But this story did have some great elements that helped turn it into a sad, cautionary tale. First, there’s no evidence that Hogue was a terrible, abusive, evil, terrible abusive dog owner. If he had been, the new owners would be ethically justified in keeping Annie from such a terrible person. Yes, Annie should have been collared and I.D. tagged and tethered safely, but accidents can happen and dogs can get loose from even the most secure situations, run off and remain lost for weeks from even the most loving and caring of homes. And, unfortunately, too many people who find stray dogs don’t turn them in to DAS, or notify DAS that they have the dog, fearing the dogs will be taken away and killed, and instead, keep them for weeks, often months, while the owners are checking with DAS daily. Then, after futile weeks of checking, the owners give up the search and when the dog finally does turn up at DAS, it’s too late.

And, yes, DAS is too often beset with problems due to understaffing, being underfunded, and overwhelmed at times with too many animals being dumped by too many irresponsible owners. They also have to rely on hard-working volunteers and in the past lack of time and training for the volunteers has resulted in problems. Add in the difficulty of properly describing/identifying dogs for the hot line and the problems are only magnified. As a DAS certified “Basenji Rescue” contact, I’ve gotten several calls or emails over the years claiming that there’s a basenji in the shelter. Only once has that been correct. The other dogs weren’t even close. True, very few people have ever actually seen a basenji, and basenji-mixes can be tricky, at best, so it’s easy to see how any small tan and white dog with a curled tail might be worth calling me about. But that information on the phone call-in line would flummox an owner looking for their tan terrier/retriever mix. Even the photos that were taken and sent me didn’t much match the dog when I came to the shelter for a look. So, proper identification even by photo can be hard.

Add in the fact that, believe it or not, a lot of people have no clue where DAS is or how to access it. In this case, Annie was lost in Nipomo and I’m betting her owner likely never thought to drive daily up to a shelter as far away as San Luis Obispo. And, for all we know, Annie may have been kept in somebody’s home while they tried on their own to post flyers around the neighborhood until finally turning her over, thereby confounding Mr. Hogue’s search. In short, an awful lot of people simply don’t know where to begin to look for a lost dog.

And, finally, in this story, we have to add in the adoptive family, whose story we know nothing about, except they refuse to return Annie to her “real” owner, and so-far have refused to say why they refuse. Which makes them look like evil, horrible, terrible pond-scum. And raises an interesting ethical issue: Who “owns” dogs and when?

Legally, (at this point, unless Warren Jensen can find some new wrinkle) Annie is legally “owned” by the adoptive A.G. family. They filled out the forms, paid the fees, followed the DAS rules.

But who really “owns” Annie? The A.G. family who has had her for a few weeks, or Hogue, who has “owned” Annie for 8 years? One letter-to-the-editor writer suggested we all let Annie decide. Invite Mr. Hogue over to the A.G. family home, open the door and let’s see.

And, ethically, is it right to keep someone’s dog when there’s no evidence that the owner is abusive, indifferent, cruel, etc? When the only problem may have been a lack of knowledge of how to search for and find a lost dog? When the owner has known and loved his dog for 8 years and the adopter has only known the dog for a few weeks?

When does me-first trump doing the right thing? Has Finders keepers, losers weepers become the ethical norm? Well, until we hear from the family in question, we’ll be left with a lot of questions and likely this saga will continue. After all, it’s August – Dog Days – and this is one of those slow-news-day stories. Stay tuned.

Also Stay Tuned

The Republic is safe for another week. Instead of allowing gay marriages to commence, Federal Judge Vaughn R. Walker has allowed the Prop 8 supporters to delay and appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which should rule next week. The question before the 9th Circuit has now turned into an interesting one: In federal court, in order to have standing to sue, a person/group has to show that they have suffered an actual injury, and in the trial over which Judge Walker presided, the Prop 8 folks couldn’t muster any rational, credible, factual evidence that people had been injured by gay people getting married.

And since Governor Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown, as the losing parties who do have standing have refused to appeal Walker’s decision, it’ll be up to the Prop 8 folks to find and present all those injured straight people to the 9th Circuit Court. If they can’t, that’ll apparently be the end of it in California, at least, and we’ll see a lot of gay weddings happening all over the state.

Meanwhile, DOMA (federal Defense of Marriage Act) still stands and still discriminates against gay folks who are legally married in states where that’s allowed, so that case has yet to proceed on that issue. And, of course, the military – which has apparently forgotten that it’s fighting two wars – is still kicking out fully trained gay soldiers, including combat veterans. And they’ll apparently continue to do so until either President Obama signs an executive stop-order and/or the year-long “study” is completed and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is rescinded.

Such bigotry and stupidity never ceases to amaze me. But, hey, it’s sooooo American.

Monday, August 09, 2010

And Now, A Comment From One In The Know

This email came in response to my previous posting of Ron Crawford’s latest “letter to the RWQCB.” It is posted with permission, but sans name, to avoid possible blowback, but I can vouch for its authorship and vouch that it’s someone very involved with the Hideous Sewer Wars. And the author is correct: The WMH breach of contract lawsuit really should have been persued – really. It is an absolute tragedy for the residents of Los Osos that what really happened will be buried and the cost for that “breach” will eaten by the residents. And had Roger Briggs and the RWQCB and SWB, with lots of help from Pandora & The Etcs, “Fine Them Out Of Existence!,” not lost their marbles, all of this misery for the Los Osos 45 and all the rest could have been avoided utterly and we could have been well on our way with the October Compromise & etc, to having the exact same sewer system that we’ll be getting now – without the wasted years  and wasted millions of dollars. Thus, Ron Crawford correct in understanding how government agencies can act without accurate information while the citizens pay the price for their screw ups.

“The recent posts forget one thing and it is a big thing. The project was not stopped by the Post Recall Board. The State did this by refusing to engage the new Board and withholding funds. All of this was in the claim against MWH and the State. It is very disturbing that the new Board dropped those claims as MWH dodged a big one. I do understand the cost to continue that fight would have been a huge continual drain on the CSD. This is exactly one of the huge faults of the structure of the appeals processes of both the regional and state boards. Appeals should go directly to the courts.

That said the one glaring issue that the TW [Tri-W] supporters forget is that the current project is EXACTLY what we agreed to under Blakeslee in October 2005. This is what is so disturbing. Also the experts that finally looked at TW, including the most recent county consultants, absolutely confirm that the post recall board was spot on with that October 2005 compromise. this is the glaring indictment of both the TW folks fraud and the malfeasance done by both MWH and the State. The county's current project exonerates the post recall board, ENTIRELY. Those that don't get that are deniers. They are incapable of admitting that the post recall board got it right all those years ago and that the project would have been completed now, yes now, had the Briggs (the [redacted]), the state and MWH lived up to their duties. As for Young he is simply an arrogant [redacted].

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Your Sunday Poem

Tony Hoagland, a new (to me) poet, is described on the book jacket thusly: “It’s hard to imagine any aspect of contemporary American life that couldn’t make its way into the writing of Tony Hoagland or a word in common or formal usage he would shy away from. He is a poet of risk; he risks wild laughter in poems that are totallyheartfelt, poems you want to read out loud to anyone who needs to know the score and even more so to those who think they know the score. The framework of his writing is immense, almost as large as the tarnished nation he wandered into under the star of poetry.” And as a writer whose work is “Funny, combative, intimate, and public, these poems advocate that we must fight for clarity, reinvent our affections, and remain, as best we can, unincorporated.” From his new book of poems, Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty.

Sentimental Education

And when we were eight, or nine,
our father took us back into the Alabama woods,
found a rotten log, and with his hunting knife

pried off a slab of bark
to show the hundred kinds of bugs and grubs
that we would have to eat in time of war.

“The ones who will survive,” he told us,
looking at us hard,
“are the ones who are willing to do anything.”
Then he popped one of those pale slugs
into his mouth and started chewing.

And that was Lesson Number 4
in The Green Beret Book of Childrearing.

I looked at my pale, scrawny, knock-kneed, bug-eyed brother,
who was identical to me,
and saw that, in a world that ate the weak,
we didn’t have a prayer,

and next thing I remember, I’m working for a living
at a boring job
that I’m afraid of losing,

with a wife whose lack of love for me
is like a lack of oxygen,
and this dead thing in my chest
that used to be my heart.

Oh, if he were alive, I would tell him, “Dad,
you were right! I ate a lot of stuff
far worse than bugs.”

And I was eaten, I was eaten,
I was picked up
and chewed
and swallowed

down into the belly of the world.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Yup, That's How It's Done Here In Chinatown

Poor Ms. Sherrod isn't the only person to be the victim of Officials Acting Badly Without Complete Facts.  See Ron Crawford's post, "How the Water Quality Control Board "Sherroded" 45 Los Osos Property Owners," at

Yup, that's how it's done.  Bankrupt and/or bury the victims, then walk away.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Just Asking

So Senator Lindsey Graham has now joined with others to propose changing the 14th Amendment so somebody born in the U.S won't automatically be a citizen unless his parents are citizens, which caused Screaming "Hardball" Chris Mathews to holler at the bill's co-sponsor, "SO HOW WOULD THAT WORK? LET'S SAY AN AMERICAN WOMAN WHO'S A CITIZEN GETS PREGNANT BY AN ILLEGAL ALIEN, IS HER BABY A CITIZEN??" To which the co-sponsor could only mumble things about having to work out the details, mumble, mumble, mumble.

Our citizenship rules haven't kept up to 21st century realities and through the years, by fits and starts, were changed and modified depending on the prejudice du jour ( No Irish! No Catholics! No Italians! No Chinese! No Mexicans!) and our tolerance of "illegal aliens" also depends on our (wink-nudge) economic benefit from their cheap labor, but this muddle does create problems from time to time, especially during econcomic downturns.

So a serious (stop the faux outrage and wink-nudges, please) discussion is in order and we, as a nation, need to take a serious look at our demographics, our national (real) business policies and practices, and our economic and social realities, then decide on a sane, fair, practical immigration policy, then enforce it. 

But changing the 14th amendment?  Now?  That only begs a question:  Would Lindsey Graham be proposing such a radical measure if the illegal aliens in question were white, English speaking, blond, blue-eyed Evangelical DANES?

No, I thought not.

Well, Never Mind 

Happily, there's no use worrying about any of this stuff since the nation is finished anyway, totally doomed, done, kaput, run out of string, over, dead. A federal judge has ruled that (No Gay Marriage) Prop 8 is unconstitutional since it denies equal protection to gay people by denying them a fundamental right to marry and by doing so sets up a second-class citizenship status for a certain group of people based on no rational, compelling state reason for doing so.

So, it's pointless to worry about immigration since all straight married people will now be so busy getting divorces (remember, gay marriage will destroy straight marriage), their families all in turmoil, children weeping, wives and husbands turned out on the street, bereft, divorced, their marriages destroyed because that gay couple down the street may now have a chance to get married. 

Can Armageddon be far behind?  No, I thought not. Unless, wait, maybe the courts can declare gay people Illegal Aliens, deny them citizenship and either boot them out of the country or put them to work picking carrots for $8.00 and hour with NO OVERTIME PAY until they've worked a 10 hour day.

And a final question: 

Can we stop being stupid and get our addled wits about us?  There's so much to do and so little time to do it in we really can't waste time mired in fear and bigotry and indulging in irrational, fraidy-cat hissy-fits, with too many of us stuck in the Sad Slough of The Dim Bulb Dumb.  Pluuueeeeze.  Snap out of it, America.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Read This Book!

If you’re looking for something more substantial than just a “summer read,” but something so well written and so compelling you can’t put it down? Try, “Empire of the Summer Moon; Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History,” by S.C. Gwynne.

Sounds like a snoozer, you say? Not a bit of it. The writing is superb and the story is compellingly, masterfully told, in part because Mr. Gwynne doesn’t fall into the “Dances with Wolves” trap of sentimentality. Comanches were a savage, brutal warrior culture that lived on the buffalo and lived for the joy of raiding and killing neighboring tribes and stealing their horses (Comanche wealth and tribal status depended on the number of horses one had, not to mention the number of scalps taken.) They enjoyed killing and took great delight in torturing their victims. They often captured and kept their opponent’s young children to raise as their own (or later marry) or kept them as slaves. They gave no quarter to anyone and expected none for themselves. They were the finest horsemen the world has ever seen.

And that extraordinary skill, plus the remarkable western mustang, gave them the ability to strike deep into enemy territory then disappear back into the trackless plains. As a result, they were absolute rulers of the southern buffalo plains from Kansas down through the high plains of the west Texas Llano Estacado, to the fertile hill country near Austin, and down into New Mexico and northern Mexico. The Comancheria was their domain, nobody entered it without deadly risk, and anybody foolish enough to live near its border (and own cows and horses) was always at risk. The term “Comanche Moon” was no romantic Hollywood notion. Their war parties covered vast distances at night and on the frontier a full moon was not a time for romance and wonder; it was a time for sick dread, bolted doors and nightmare fear. And by such tactics, they stopped the westward movement of Americans in a bloody 40-year-old guerilla war.

They also loved their families, went to extraordinary lengths to protect them when attacked, and grieved terribly when they were killed. And killed they were, meeting often equally brutal settlers, savage Texas Rangers, and revenge-fueled Army units. Both sides in this brutal war of attrition were equally duplicitous, often equally savage and equally uncomprehending of the other’s reality.

Then came the buffalo hunters, who for both economic reasons and with support of Washington Policy that understood that a buffalo culture couldn’t survive without the buffalo, wiped the plains clean of the great beasts. And then sealed their fate as a culture at the hands of Captain Ranald Slidell Mackenzie (who Gwyne refers to as “the anti-Custer”) under orders to take the fight to the heart of the Comancheria to carry out the policy of pacification that was, in effect, the final solution.

Into this history, in the last dying years, came Cynthia Ann Parker, captured as a child, raised by and later married to Chief Peta Nocona, she gave birth to three children, one of them, Quanah Parker, who would later become famous as a leader of the last battles of the dying Comanche nation. Cynthia, re-captured as an adult and returned to her white family, spent many of her last years trying to escape and return to the plains. In her was to be found the American trope of the “White Squaw,” a theme of miscegenation, “savage” sexuality, and titillating incomprehension layered over with romantic nonsense. Add in her “half-breed” son, a tall, handsome, skilled warrior and you have the stuff of American legend.

Like all stories of the meeting of indigenous cultures with more technically advanced ones, this one is ultimately a tragedy. But, in the case of the Comanches, one with a terrible irony: Being a brutal raiding warrior culture resulted in making blood enemies among the surrounding tribes. When the whites came, there was no end of equally skilled Indians to serve as trackers and scouts and guides for the Army. The movies have often portrayed these Indians as “traitors” to their own kind. It was nothing of the sort. It was payback. And it ultimately proved to be permanently lethal.

And ultimately elegiac: “Who was she, in the end? A white woman by birth, yes, but also a relic of old Comancheria, of the fading empire of high grass and fat summer moons and buffalo herds that blackened the horizon. She had seen all of that death and glory. She had been a chief’s wife. She had lived free on the high infinite plains as her adopted race had in the very last place in the North American continent where anyone would ever live or run free. She had died in deep pine woods where there was no horizon, where you could see nothing at all. The woods were just a prison. As far as we know, she died without the slightest comprehension of what larger forces had conspired to take her away from her old life

“One thinks of Cynthia Ann on the immensity of the plains, a small figure in buckskin bending to her chores by a diamond-clear stream. It is late autumn, the end of warring and buffalo hunting. Above her looms a single cottonwood tree, gone bright yellow in the season, its leaves and branches framing a deep blue sky. Maybe she lifts her head to see the children and dogs playing in the prairie grass and, beyond them, the coils of smoke rising into a gathering twilight from a hundred lodge fires. And maybe she thinks, just for a moment, that all is right in the world.”

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Sunday Movie Alert

If you’re heading off with a few bucks in your pocket to see Steve Carell’s new movie, “Dinner With Schmucks” because the clips you saw of it on TV or the movie review you read made it look like a laff-a-minute “Dumb & Dumber,” you might want to rethink your plans.

Like so many comedies, the filmmakers seemed to have gone off the mark. Or, perhaps the movie was hijacked right out from under their noses by Steve Carell. The film dragged endlesly through the set-up, had a few chuckles during the final dinner-of-the-title sequence (which, instead of building with unrelentless comic mayhem, remained unfocused, often becalmed and flat, whhich was a singular failure of direction considering the amount of goofy talent that was in the scene), then just dribbled off into the typical boy-helps-boy-get-girl schmaltz.

And I suspect all of that happened because the writers and director thought they were dealing with Jerry Lewis in full crazy-meltdown mode. They weren’t. They were dealing with Inspector Clouseau, who never played a schmuck or a fool or an idiot. Instead, he was deadpan serious, which is what made him so funny.

Ditto Steve Carell’s character in this movie. He’s not a schmuck to be laughed at but a true “innocent” naïf-- Dr. Plangloss with stuffed mice-- who inadvertently causes chaos all around him but who has enough moral sense to constantly try to fix the things he’s ruined, thereby making them again all snowball into a much, much worse state.

While the premise of the film, a remake of a French film, was intended to be cruel (rich amoral Wall-Street types compete to see who can bring the biggest idiots to dinner so they can all laugh at them), Carell hijacked the whole premise by making his character so likeable (hard to hate puppies and small babies who make messes) and so well-intentioned that you didn’t laugh at him so much as laugh at his bumbling, then held your breath, then cheered him on as he attempted to set things right. Plus, as played, he was heroic – a genuinely nice guy in a hard world who still dreams his wonderful dreams and triumphs in the end. (Think of the comic possibilities if Carell had had the courage to make his character so disagreeable that the audience would pray for somebody to toss him out a window. ) Meanwhile the Wall Street Mean Guys were so unfunny they weren’t really even mean. Just annoying.

Thus the mismatch. I think the filmmakers thought they were serving satiric hot chili, which the movie ad boys mistakenly peddled as comic mayhem, while their star Steve Carell switched the menu on them and served up a deliciously sweet piece of pie completely at odds with the stated menu.

Well, that happens when you don’t keep a sharp eye on the cook or the soup.

Heading for L.A.?

Check out  (look for LACMA at night or LACMA light forrest clips) for a gander at Chris Burden’s art installation piece in front of the L.A. County Museum of Art on Wilshire Blvd. The piece is accessible from the street all night long and it’s absolutely beautiful. A giant piece of “sculpture” that invites a childlike interaction with your body within the space. Come dance! Come dance! It’s too cool. And is now on my "to do" list.

Speaking of which  . . .

El Chorro Dog Park (at El Chorro Regional Park off Hwy 1 across from Cuesta College, at the back of the park, past the beautiful new Botanical Gardens) now has a new entryway. Made possible by a donation from Chris Boyle in memory of her Aunt, Lee Boyle, it was constructed by Richard Barrett, R.J. Barrett Construction, with help from dog park volunteers. There’s still some detailing to be done and the dog park sign to be finished, but grab your pooch and come check it out. Like Burden’s “Urban Light” installation, the gateway just feels good to walk through and under.

The dog park will be having its annual fund-raising party Sunday, Oct 3 for the formal ribbon cutting, but meantime, bring your dog out for a visit and a walk though the new gateway.

Finally, here’s Your Sunday Dog Poem

This poem by Karen Shepard from “Doggerel; Poems about Dogs” Everyman’s Library Pocket Poems, Alfred A. Knopf, 2003


You gonna eat that?
You gonna eat that?
You gonna eat that?

I’ll eat that.