Saturday, June 05, 2010

Beatlick TR: Grand Canyon 2 & 3

Date: May 23, 2010 3:09 PM

Our first full day here in Tusayan we popped for an expensive IMAX movie about the Grand Canyon. After that we were pumped. It is so much fun to wander in the Visitor’s Center and listen to all the languages spoken. I heard Germans, British, a few other Western European accents I can’t identify and a swirl of Orientals. I can’t tell the Japanese from the Chinese, I’m ashamed to admit, but a line of about 30 folks, let’s say they were from Japan, were in a double line along with Beatlick Joe and I heading into the IMAX theater. I really go out of my way to smile big at people and give them eye contact. So I shot off a few smiles.

All of the folks I did give a friendly grin to looked beyond me with their shy eyes as if not to notice me at all. Oh well. As we all entered the theater, with ample seating I want to emphasize, all the people therein filtered out past the front seats to access the aisles on the left and right of the theater. There was no middle aisles.

In the upper rows there were about five more Oriental people waving to their friends below. At this point two of their lady friends in the lower level decided to make a beeline up to them and commenced climbing over the seats through the middle of the theater. It was over a dozen rows to the top. I don’t know if they were afraid other people would sit by their friends and leave them out, or what, as I said there were plenty of seats. Everyone else was using the aisles.

But at that moment when the two ladies started climbing over those seats like they were scaling Mount Fugi, their entire contingency of friends followed them. Every single one of them put the seat down, stood on it and hoisted a leg up and over the top to the next level, a dozen times each until they were all recongregated as a single unit at the top of the theater. It was the darnedest thing I’ve ever seen.

Happy Trails
Beatlick Pamela

Date: May 26, 2010 11:23 AM

You see so many people at the Grand Canyon, it’s a game to try and figure what language is being spoken, what country someone is from.

Our young British friend Sam just fell into step with us and we enjoyed his company so much. He’s lucky, too, and extremely observant, as any good traveler should be. When he moved to our campground and wanted to heed the call of nature, Beatlick Joe handed him our Boy Scout shovel, some toilet paper and pointed him up the hillside. Up there he found a huge stash of beer and other flavored alcoholic beverages – almost a hundred dollars worth of drinks – all stashed behind this big log. We split the cache up between the three of us and me being “Miss Know It All” speculated “Somebody stole all this and then got caught after stealing something else and never got to come back for their stash.”

After Sam had left, on Saturday night and well after dark, a string of about five cars circled our campsite and formed a circle like a wagon train. Half a dozen teenagers started up the hill in the dark and I knew immediately what they were doing there. They had come for that stash of alcohol. Well, of course, they came back empty handed. Everybody just jumped back into their vehicles and peeled out of the camp. Thanks kids! Honor your elders!

The wind is really beginning to pick up and it’s harder to enjoy the Canyon trails. We walked down the South Kaibab Trail about one mile just to soak up the trail experience. One woman passed us with those hiking poles, dressed in little more than a swim suit. She said she had hiked from the North Rim, about 20 miles. She was obviously an accomplished athlete by the appearance of her body, but she was breathing hard.

“Oh come on,” she gasped, when she saw the last tiers of switchbacks still ahead of her. “You’re only five more minutes away,” I encouraged her.

“Finally!” she exclaimed.

We spent about an hour on the trail and then headed up to the Yavapai Observation Station for a lecture from one of the rangers. The wind got so cold and strong that I opted out and waited for Joe at the observation point there. That’s when I learned that someone jumped off of Mather Point yesterday. Apparently it’s becoming a popular place to commit suicide, like Niagara Falls, I assume. A park worker also fell to his death this week also and the flags are flying at half mast this week. The ranger had a black ribbon on her badge as well to honor a fallen park worker.

Such a pity, but the hustle and bustle of the park never stops and apparently the park never closes. We hope we have our definitive shot of the van by the Canyon. I sneaked in a restricted road early on Sunday morning to get the best shot and skedaddled out quick before we got caught.

It’s truly a dream come true for many to get here and at $500 a pop the helicopter are constantly competing with the condors for air space. On the tarmac over at the airport about five out of seven keep their rotor blades going as the passengers shuffle in and out.

The huge old log hotel, El Tavor, seems packed and the buses are certainly packed bringing in large group tours. Mostly I have seen Orientals and Germans; I guess they have the most money these days to travel. East Indians pull a close third, Brits, Mid-Easterners next and I haven’t really heard any French spoken or seen many Africans, but a small percentage of African Americans.

The lodges inside the park by the rim seem to attract some really dead-serious athletes. A number of hikers crash around us on the ancient leather seats in the lobby of the El Tovar Hotel along with a wedding party. All manner of taxidermed animal trophies line the upper reaches of the big lobby, their glassy eyes rest upon us all.

Happy Trails,
Beatlick Pamela

Beatlick TR: On the way to the Grand Canyon

Date: May 21, 2010 9:17 PM

Well we sped out of Organ, NM, with the most power I guess I have ever had in this engine. I blew a valve, whatever that means, right in Michael’s driveway. Convenient. So he broke down the whole engine and things are up and running again.

We made a stop in San Rafael to visit Andrew again. He is an old friend from my days in Alaska. Old friends are such luxuries. He took one look at my hair and put me in his chair and gave me a much needed haircut. We wined and dined each other and laughed unceasingly for two days. Then it was time to head out to the Grand Canyon.

We retraced I40 and saw big changes as soon as we crossed the state line to Arizona. Back in 2003 we came this way and visited a new state park for the Homolovi Ruins. Now it is already closed down. Plus all the rest areas on the interstate are closed and barricaded. What a mess.

We drove straight to Flagstaff and pulled off some awesome “urban camping.” It was a Sunday afternoon and we wound up parking high on the hill downtown by the courthouse. We ignored the 2-hour parking signs because it was Sunday and left the van parked right there on the corner all day.

Later that night we backed up a few spaces to get out of the glare of the street lamps so we would blend in a little better in the shadows. Then we pulled all the curtains and settled in for the night. Joe’s clairvoyance woke him up about 2:30 am. He punched me and said, “Look.”

Through the curtains we could red lights flashing outside. I got up to step outside and volunteer to move along, but Joe said, “Wait, maybe it’s not us they are looking at.” So still as little church mice we waited and sure enough the cops passed us on by. So we went back to sleep but I was wide awake at 6 am so went on and found another spot for a few hours more.

Flagstaff is a great little town reminding me of those other picturesque small Arizona mining towns like Jerome, Globe and Bisbee, which harken back to another era. It was especially fun to see an AmTrac train station too, see all the passengers disembarking, scurrying off to the loud clanging of the signals.

We went to the old Monte Vista Hotel for internet access and again somebody asked Joe if he was Willy Nelson. I guess it’s that headband he’s been wearing. This guy was really drunk and soon after the bartender rescinded his drinking privileges.

On Monday we headed to Williams to stock up for the Canyon. Lord knows I still have plenty of beans from that 20 pound bag I bought back in Fort Stockton. We drove to the town of Tusayan where the Grand Canyon bus stops are located and found an awesome place to park in the forest nearby. We can walk to the bus stop and into town.

Happy Trails

Beatlick Pamela

[Note: The Beatlicks are Pamela Hirst & Joe Speers.]

Thursday, June 03, 2010



By Jack Random

When one considers statewide initiatives to amend the constitution, the fallback position and natural predisposition should be skeptical. It costs a great deal to put a proposition on the ballot in the great state of California. The people gathering signatures outside your local grocery or drug store are not volunteers. It costs real money to gather enough legitimate signatures to cover five percent of the latest gubernatorial election.

If someone goes to the trouble and expense of putting a proposition on the ballot through the initiative process it is rarely for the public good. It is rather for the benefit of the sponsor. There may be exceptions but they are rare.

On the June 8, 2010 ballot we have five statewide propositions. Three are the work of the legislature. Of these three, one is uncontested and of minimal consequence and two are worthy of passage. The remaining two, whose true sponsors and intent are cleverly disguised, are clear examples of what is wrong with the initiative process. Reminiscent of the infamous Prop 13 of 1978 that more than any other single act or event set the stage for California’s eventual financial collapse, they are the work of con artists. In plain language, they are lies and deceptions.

The following is a voting guide for those of similar political and policy views.

Legislative Initiatives:

Proposition 13: Elimination of Seismic Retrofitting Disincentive. As the ballot guide states, passage would enable property owners to upgrade buildings for earthquakes without incurring property tax penalties. Vote Yes.

PROPOSITION 14: Relatively Open Primaries. Enables voters to vote for any candidate in primary elections regardless of party. The top two face a runoff in the general election.

Any measure that lessens the major party stranglehold on the electoral process is a step in the right direction. The opposition is disingenuous in its objection that the candidates would no longer be required to state their party affiliation. They protest that candidates will charade as “independents.” Is that really a problem? I have no problem with a candidate “pretending” to be independent as long he or she votes as he or she pretends. Is that the best the opponents can do?

Mark it: If the polls show this one is close, the big money from the major party machines will come in to knock it down.


PROPOSITION 15: FAIR ELECTIONS, PUBLIC FINANCING. Repeals the ban on public funding of political campaigns. Provides equal financing for qualified candidates who refuse to take corporate or private contributions.

When did we ban public funding of elections? Whose brilliant idea was that? Were we insane or did we like having our politicians sold to the highest contributor? Repeal the ban and restore some semblance of sanity and fair play. The opposition is obviously the same lobbyists who are required to pay the cost of public funding under this initiative. How’s that for justice? The opposition says it “raises taxes” but the voter’s guide says it actually increases revenues by imposing fees on lobbyists. That’s the kind of “tax” we can all live with.


Voter Initiatives:

PROPOSITION 16: PROTECTING THE PG&E MONOPOLY. This one is the biggest lie and deception of all. Does anyone out there still remember the energy crisis of 2000-2001? It effectively transferred $50 billion from the California economy to Texas oil and energy corporations through fraudulent manipulation of energy prices. The only localities protected from the manipulations of traders were those who contracted their own energy supply. This proposition would be an open invitation to do again what they did in 2000-2001. The California corporations that hold near monopoly control now and want to secure their dominance through this initiative are Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric. They are not public entities. They are private corporations out for a buck. The claim that they represent the people’s right to vote is laughable. I would actually consider voting for such a proposition if they called for a vote of the majority. That would be democratic. That they call for a two thirds vote to overrule their dominance is a clear giveaway. This is a hustle and a scam.


PROPOSITION 17: THE MERCURY INSURANCE STING. This is a proposition with one sponsor: Mercury Insurance. Not known for their ethical or generous practices, they have connived to offer some of us a discount maybe under certain circumstances as long as we allow them to punish our friends and neighbors with outrageous surcharges for allowing our car insurance to lapse at some time in the past five years. Read the fine print and figure it out. It’s a hustle. When was the last time an insurance company put a measure on the ballot so it could lower rates?



Funding Data according to “Politics and Society” (University of Southern California):

Primary Sponsor of Proposition 15: California Nurses Association.

Primary Sponsor of Proposition 16: PG&E $35 million.

Primary Sponsor of Proposition 17: Mercury Insurance $10 million.


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

And the Oil a river rising


(And the Oil Flows on Like a River Rising)

By Jack Random

It is not just the Gulf of Mexico.

I hoped but never really expected this president to be the architect of a second New Deal. I hoped but never expected Obama to pull our troops out of foreign wars in Iraq and Afghanistan before the end of his first term. I hoped but never expected this administration to champion the universal right to healthcare. I hoped but never expected the Obama White House to turn its back on the elite of Wall Street and the financial aristocracy. I hoped but never expected Obama to christen the age of clean energy and universal mass transit.

I realized long before the election that Obama was not an ideologue and if he fell on the left of the political spectrum it was more rhetorical than real. Barack Obama was and is a pragmatist in the Clinton mold of triangulation and compromise.

What I did expect was bureaucratic competence and efficiency. I expected every do nothing administrator from the Bush era, those who never believed in the jobs they were assigned to do, to be replaced post haste with serious and experienced individuals intent on fulfilling the mandates of their positions.

It should be obvious by now that nothing of the sort took place in the Department of Interior where the fox guarding the henhouse principle was in play for the Minerals Management Service. Nothing of the sort took place at the Mine Safety and Health Administration under a Department of Labor that failed to hold Massey Energy to code prior to the latest coal mining disaster (another 29 miners died).

It has become clear that the Obama administration rather than working to reform government has merely responded to crises. The lesson of the ongoing gulf catastrophe is that the stakes are far too high to simply wait for the inevitable. In that sense, the Deepwater Horizon disaster is comparable to both the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the wizardry on Wall Street that nearly toppled the towers of the financial empire.

In all three cases, the convergence of events that resulted in catastrophe and/or near catastrophe was absolutely predictable. The Army Corps of Engineers knew with absolute certainty that at some point a storm would topple the compromised levees protecting New Orleans. They either didn’t care because the likely victims were poor or the folks in charge gambled it would not happen on their watch. The same gamble took place on Wall Street where the CEO’s and high-stake rollers built their paper fortunes on fraud and deception knowing they were as phony as an accountant’s sympathy. They gambled it would not happen on their watch and even if it did they hedged their bets by investing in the same politicians that would consent to bail them out.

The experts in both government and the petroleum industry knew full well that a disaster was coming. A similar event happened off the shores of Australia as recently as last summer. Then as now there was no failsafe and no effective means of capping the leak (a euphemism for an open gash) or effectively mitigating the damage.

(Even now as the oil spews into the gulf in untold quantities a report from Esquire suggests that the Saudis effectively employed super tankers as vacuums to clean up a massive spill in the Gulf of Arabia circa 1994. If the Obama administration has not thoroughly investigated this report and applied its lessons as warranted, then it is guilty of negligence. If it has failed to act because of the economic costs then it is guilty of complicity in one of the most horrendous crimes against the environment in modern history.)

This administration may or may not have reacted quickly and decisively to this latest catastrophe. On that I will not stand in judgment. I do not have access to all relevant information but the fact is: They should have acted long before the crisis. There were numerous reports about the suspect agency collaborating with the very personnel they were supposed to hold accountable. In the Bush tradition, they were not regulators at all. They were in the pocket of the industry. They were cheerleaders skimming profits while they polished their resumes for jobs in the industry when their terms in government finally expired.

How many other agencies remain unchanged since the days of the anti-regulators? How many more Deepwater Horizons will we witness before the Obama administration decides it can move forward and clean house before a crisis hits?

Disappointed? Yes. I fear that this administration cares more about losing the friendship and loyal contributions of the industries and corporate institutions engaged in unlawful and egregious practices than it does about the working, tax paying, public-school-attending people that invested their hopes in him. I fear that Obama more resembles Lyndon Johnson in his fear of being blamed for losing a war than he does for the real interests of the nation. I fear he cares more about electoral politics than the long-term consequences of inaction.

We should have left Iraq lock stock and barrel years ago. The civil war between the Shiites and the Sunni (with the Kurds in the middle) awaits the day of our departure and nothing we can do will change that. The situation in Afghanistan is untenable. The Afghans like the Iraqis will ultimately hold sway with the Pakistanis serving as power brokers and us on the outside hoping for the best. We can debate what should have been done years ago until we’re exhausted from the exertion but the truth will remain it is far too late to salvage anything in the national interest.

We recently learned that the number of soldiers in Afghanistan for the first time exceeded the number in Iraq. We also passed a milestone in casualties: One thousand American soldiers have died in the Afghan War. (Number one thousand on the casualty list was Corporal Jacob Leicht. He was twenty-four years old and he was born on the fourth of July.) As in Iraq we have only a vague notion of how many Afghans have died in the war but we can be assured the number far exceeds any estimate the military will provide.

We elected Obama in part to clean up the mess that Bush left. We have a right to expect that much. We are growing impatient. We are beyond impatient. The damage to the Gulf of Mexico and indeed the vast interconnected ecosystem of the seven seas far exceeds a legacy any president might have earned.

We have only one expectation now: Stop the spill. Stop it now or spend every penny and every waking hour trying to stop it. Do not tell me the best minds in the world would allow this open gash in the gulf floor to spew oil without restraint for over six weeks no less another four months!

If that is the case and this is the very best we can do then this gamble was so completely reckless and ill-advised that everyone with a hand in it should be held criminally accountable. Let the dopers, dealers and swindlers out and put these corporate and bureaucratic crooks in jail for as long as the oil remains in Gulf waters and on Gulf shores.

Think that might speed up the process? You betcha!