Sunday, November 30, 2008

Uhhhh, . . . .

So, O.K. I are real dumb. Here's the Tribune (NYT) story, "To Fight Somali Pirates, the West must first defeat red tape," wherein it it says that the pirates who have been hijacking huge, ginormous oil tankers in international waters and on the high seas and holding them hostage for ransom have a bunch of people in a tangle. "Bureaucratic and legal hurdles facing internaitonal institutions and national governments have so far defeated most efforts to deal with the nimble crews of pirates in speedboats, whose tactics have grown bolder as their profits have paid for better weapons and equipment.

"While the pirates have been buying GPS devices, satellite phones and more powerful outboard motors, officials in Europe have been discussing jurisdictional issues surrounding the arrest of pirates on the high seas and even the possibility that the pirates might demand assylum if brought onto Europen Union shores."

Uh, I thought piracy in international waters was illegal, and I thought that if somebody in a small boat sent an RPG across your bow or onto your bridge, it was reasonable to assume that they were intent on killling or kidnapping you or stealing your boat and cargo (Arrrrgggg, mates, it's wot we pirates do! Arrrggghhhh) and you had a perfect legal right to defend yourself, up to and including blowing said pirates out of the water?

So, why hasn't the Saudi Gov and other transshippers of valuable pirate-worthy cargo called Dick Cheney up and said, "Hey, since your Iraq war is winding down, ya got some extra mercs from Halliburton you can send over? Oh, and put me in touch with some arms dealers, we'll be needing some laser-guided rockets and such like that can lock onto fast, zippy little boats filled with guys with guns who are, even as we speak, zooming towards our ginormous oil tanker looking like the evil penguins from 'Madagascar'."

The story continues, "Germany this week announced that as many as 1,400 military personnel might take part in a European Union mission in the region. . . . If it gets approval, the German military is planning to send a frigate, the Karlsruhe, to join the European Union's first naval mission, expected to include as many as six frigates and three to five airplanes for maritime patrols. The European Union hopes to coordinate actions with other navies operating in the region, including those from India, Russia and the Unites States."

Woa. Why should the taxpayers of the U.S. pay to have navy ships in international waters protecting private tankers who are perfectly capable of arming themselves with all the latest toys (heck, if impoverished Somalis can buy all these cool weapons, why not Saudia Arabia?) in order to protect their product?

Think Wells Fargo and the grizzly guy riding shotgun on top of the stagecoach. Only after that failed (like suddenly the Somalis showed up with a dreadnought of their own -- highly unlikely, given the state of their economy) should the cavalry be called into to accompany the gold-laden stagecoach.

Uhhhh, I don't get it.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Your Saturday Poem

While you're saving the American economy, take a few moments to stop by your local bookstore and pick up a few books of poetry. American poets are an endangered species and, like Detroit auto workers, need our support. The few shekels they receive when you buy their collected works or new works is a big help and the payoff for you, dear and gentle reader, is priceless.

"Summer At Blue Creek, North Carolina" by Jack Gilbert

There was no water at my grandfather's

when I was a kid and would go for it

with two zinc buckets. Down the path,

past the cow by the foundation where

the fine people's house was before

they arranged to have it burned down.

To the neighbor's cool well. Would

come back with pails too heavy,

so my mouth pulled out of shape.

I see myself, but from the outside,

I keep trying to feel who I was,

and cannot. Hear clearly the sound

the bucket made hitting the sides

of the stone well going down,

but never the sound of me.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Good. And While She’s In Jail, Have Her Take Parenting 101 Classes

A Los Angeles jury convicted 49 year-old Lori Drew of three counts of misdemeanor computer crimes for her role in the suicide of a 13 year-old schoolmate of her daughter. The case may be thrown out on various technicalities, but if it isn’t Ms. Drew could spend up to three years in the slammer.

Her crime, according to the Times was “to intentionally perpetrate a cruel Internet hoax on a vulnerable teenage girl . . .” by pretending to be an on-line boy who first “courted” the 13 year-old, then shared her emails with the world in an effort to embarrass her, then had the pretend boy dump her with a message saying, “The world would be a better place without you.” The distraught 13 year-old committed suicide.

Ms. Drew was 49. Her daughter was 13. Her daughter’s classmate, the now dead girl, was 13. Ms. Drew apparently forgot she was suppose to be the adult in this case and if her daughter was complaining about mean kids at school saying mean things about her on FaceBook and etc, she should have behaved as an adult. Instead, she conspired with her 13 year-old daughter and an 18 year-old friend to set up this hoax. I have no doubt they laughed their heads off while they were doing this.

You see the problem here. Yep. In order to parent kids, parents have to behave as adults. When they don’t, kids suffer and in this case, die.

The case is being watched carefully because the internet is still, in many ways, a lawless place and the law is trying to find its way towards holding users responsible for their actions without trampling free speech issues and such like. And determining just who is responsible in a medium that is often “anonymous” and faceless, is tricky.

As commentors on this site have proven time and again, “anonymous” encourages a multitude of nasty sins that the perp would never, in a millions years, be caught dead doing, if the lights had been turned on and everyone knew who “anonymous” was in “real” life. In dealing with adults, “anonymooses” who lie and/or hurl nasty comments at others most often find their comments turning into boomerangs that actually end up defining their own character, (or lack of same) with no harm, no foul except to themselves.

However, in the case of vulnerable 13 year-olds, sticks and stones can indeed break bones, which is why God invented adult parents who can act like adults. Unfortunately, too many parents have never bothered to grow up. Maybe Ms. Drew can use her jail time to take parenting classes.

Yes, Once Again, It’s the Department of Duh

The L.A. Times reports that the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, has issued a report that concludes that, “The United States’ war on drugs has failed and will continue to do so as long as it emphasizes law enforcement and neglects the problem of consumption . . .” . . . “Contrary to government claims, the use of heroin and cocaine in the U.S. has not declined significantly, the report says, and the use of methamphetamine is spreading. Falling street prices suggests that the supply of narcotics has not declined noticeable, and U.S. prevention and treatment programs are woefully underfunded, the study says.”

“Current U.S. counter-narcotics policies are failing by most objective standards,” the report says. “The only long-run solution to the problem of illegal narcotics is to reduce the demand for drugs in the major consuming countries, including the United States.”

“Zedillo [former president of Mexico] cited skyrocketing violence in his own country as an example of the damage done by these policies. More thatn 4,000 people have been killed in mexico this year in drug-related warfare between government troops and traffickers, and among rival drug gangs. Many of the weapons confiscated in raids and shoot-outs came from the U.S.”

Hahahahahah. Weapons coming from the U.S. Yep, business as usual. More irony: drug use overall has remained stable as a percentage of population, except for small up and down ticks of drugs du jour. In short, drug use, like everything else falls on a bell curve. X% of any population will be addicted to something, Y% will use then get clean and Z% never use. That’s why the “war” will never be “won,” and a smart policy would try to mitigate the overall harm X can do while focusing on Y getting clean, so their combined impact on Z – the vast majority – is limited.

But that approach makes too much sense (not as much money as all that gun running and prison building and staffing) so what will happen to this latest Drug Policy Failing Report? Yep. Right into the trash can. Let the shooting commence. It’s the Department of DUH, again.

Speaking of Which

Kathleen Parker ‘s recent Commentary cited a “new report from the intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) on the nation’s civic literacy [and] finds that most Americans are too ignorant to vote. Out of 2,500 American quiz-takers, including college students, elected officials and other randomly selected citizens, nearly 1,800 flunked a 33-question test on basic civics.” . . . . “America’s report card may come as little surprise to fans of Jay Leno’s man—on-the-street interviews, which reveal that most people don’t’ know diddly about doohickey. Still, it’s disheartening in the wake of a populist driven election celebrating joes-of-all-trades to be reminded that the voting public is dumber than ever.”

The usual suspects in this Dumbed Down America are, of course, too much TV and other trivial pursuits , but, interestingly, a failure of schools to teach civics courses. Those used to be standard: How does your government runs. What’s the Constitution mean? Why do we have three branches of government? And so forth.

Concludes Parker, “Who will govern a free nation if no one understands the mechanics and instruments of that freedom? Answer: Maybe one day, a demagogue. “

In George Bush/Cheny and their “unitary presidency,” and their War on Terror, backed by a spineless, lock-step Congress that failed to do their job, we came awfully close to Ms. Parker’s answer. That is always the peril of democracy. Not only is vigilance required, but INFORMED vigilance. Which, clearly, is in short supply.

Have a nice Friday After Thanksgiving. Go shopping. It’s an American tradition and now more than ever, we need to spend our way out of the recession and back into the poorhouse, which is The American Way.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving.

There is much to be thankful for. Dogs. And cats. Friends and family. And the little chutzpah-filled hummingbird who comes to the feeder in the breezeway. But not both feeders equally. He sticks to the one on the right until he greedily sucks it dry, then reluctantly goes to the one on the left, even though I’ve switched the feeders. It must be the location. Or maybe it’s just that he’s a Republican. And flowers and trees and sky and shrubbery of all sorts. And cactus. But be careful of the kind with white fuzzy looking “hair” on it. It isn’t hair, it’s tiny spines that will break off inside your skin and cause you no end of problems. And crows. They gather every day in the tall eucalyptus and mutter and spread vicious rumors about the seagulls who often show up too, looking for kibble. The seagulls pay them no mind. Seagulls are impervious to insult. I mean, look at their ridiculous yellow flappy feet. It takes a being of insult-imperviously strong character to go through life with feet like that.

I hope you’ll have a happy Thanksgiving. And, if you already haven’t done so, one day I hope you’ll consider having a Thanksgiving without killing a turkey. As a sort of discipline and remembrance that there’s enough killing and death in the world without having to add another turkey to the list. It's an instructive that it’s possible to have a fine feast without a death. Except for dead vegetables, that is. A meatless Thanksgiving can also be a way of reminding ourselves that without being mindful of such things, we run the risk of become Sarah Palin, on camera and mindlessly yakking on and on and on about absolutely nothing while behind her a hapless turkey is suspended upside down in the killing cone patiently waiting for it’s neck to be slit, and even when it finally is it takes forever to quit twitching and so it hangs there forever with Palin’s purile nattering, prattling nasal whine going on and on and on and on the last thing the poor thing hears on this precious earth. You betcha!

Waterboarding couldn’t possibly be as grim a death as that.

A Thanksgiving Poem

“Late September” by Ted Kooser, from “Sure Signs, new and selected poems”

Behind each garage a ladder
sleeps in the leaves, its hands
folded across its lean belly.
There are hundreds of them
in each town, and more
sleeping by haystacks and barns
out in the country – tough old
day laborers, seasoned and wheezy,
drunk on the weather,
sleeping outside with the crickets.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Prop 8, More Talk

Aaron Ochs, over at has some additional important comments on Prop 8. Yep, we all gotta talk and really think about what Prop 8 really is all about.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Prop 8 Supporters, We Gotta Talk

O.K., all you folks who voted for Proposition 8, to take the right to marry away from your fellow citizens here in Calif. We, gotta talk. Enough with the vague code words and undefined terms. Please, ya gotta answer – specifically – some of my questions.

1. In a Tribune letter, Neal O’Hagan of Arroyo Grande noted that Prop 8 didn’t remove any rights. He said, “Often the example is the right town property with a partner and visit in hospitals. Surely anyone with motivation can find a courthouse and the appropriate forms to address those issues without forcing the rest of us to redefine a word that the entire planet has agreed on for a thousand years.”

In civil law, the term and the legal document – a marriage license – creates a whole set of rights and responsibilities and benefits all under one roof, so to speak. One stop shopping and ka-boom, you get a whole list of things denied to single people (and now gay people since they are denied the right to EVER get them wherein singles can actually get “married.”) Now, Dear Neal, please explain to me why California citizen X can get a bundle of benefits in one fell swoop, while citizen Y has to chase all over town, from lawyer to bureaucrat to court to and county, state and federal departments, pay extra fees and be swamped by a raft of separate paperwork? What compelling state interest is promoted by Citizen Y having to doing that?

2. Back to Mr. O’Hagan again. Please tell me – exactly – why and how letting gay citizens “marry” will force you to redefine the word marry? When Citizen X is born a chromosome male and later in life decides he wants to undergo a gender reassignment process and become a “woman,” is that suppose to force me – a chromosome female – to “redefine” the word “woman?” Or get all huffy and say, “AW, GAWD, that Chromosome Citizen X over there is calling himself a “woman.” Eeeeuuuu, as a “real” woman, I’m outraged and so will start a constitutional amendment to forbid anyone but a “real” chromosome woman to call herself a “woman.” I don’t think so.

So, Mr. O’Hagan needs to ‘splain how having a gay couple say they’re “married” changes the meaning of the word “marriage.” In the state of California, marriage is marriage. Same for citizen X as for Y. The meaning of the word stays the same. No need to redefine anything, unless Mr. O’Hagan is afraid someone might think he’s gay? If so, he can always say, “I’m married, but I don’t have one of those “gay marriages,” MY marriage is the REAL marriage, see? I’m not gay. No, I’m not. Really, I’m not. Why are you looking at me funny?”

3. Once again, Prop 8 supporters, ya gotta ‘splain how letting Gay Citizen X’s marry will destroy marriage. I don’t get that part. If you’re a married straight couple and some gay folks across town get married, are you gonna have to go into marriage counseling? Do you think the state will suddenly come in and say, “Oh, you’re not gay? Sorry, you can’t remain married. Only gay citizens can get married, not YOU?” What?

4. Mr. O’Hagan again, “I applaud the Mormon church for taking on the issue. I encourage other people of faith to stop being afraid to defend traditional biblical values. There is room for more than one value set to coexist and overlap.”

Uh, Mr. O’Hagan, I hate to be the one to inform you, but you will need to define – exactly – just what “traditional biblical values” you’re talking about: polygamy? Stoning to death of adulterers? No divorce? Keeping slaves? Marrying your brother’s widow? What? Also, are you aware that there’s a whole lot of folks in this secular, multi- cultural, multi-religious, multi-racial country who don’t believe in “biblical values.” Your statement makes it appear that “biblical values” are a given? They’re not. Weirdly, you also add, “there is room for more than one value set to coexist and overlap.” Not for supporters of Prop. 8, clearly. Only ONE VALUE SET there.

5. And you have to get honest about bringing kids into the mix. Using the usual scare tactics about “teaching gay marriage in the schools,” is really dishonest – not a biblical value. First, if you so hate and fear gay folks that you don’t want’ your kids even knowing such people exist, you really will need to isolate your children from society in general – homeschool, no TV, no movies, no popular culture (and better check the classics since some of those books were written by EEEEUUUUU, gay people.) The state gives you, as parents, that right.

As for trying to foster the notion that marriage is about “family,” please be aware that gay couple have kids, many of them genetically their own, (i.e. “real” kids), adopted kids and/or blended kids from previous marriages, & etc, just like straight married couples do. So trying to make people think that anti-marriage initiatives are an effort to “protect the family,” just don’t fly in the real world. Even more troubling for the straight “values crowd,” the straight world has now got a huge variety of different ways to constitute “family,” that it’s hard to even define that word any more. Which means, the Prop 8 supporters need to be careful: the “family” sword they try to wield as a weapon against gay folks can turn and cut their own supporters to the bone as well. Two divorced straight people re-married and living in a blended family are NOT upholding “traditional biblical values.” We need to stone them.

One of the most interesting moments in this whole debate came on the Dr. Phil show. He had the usual high-profile pro/con spokespeople up on the stage, but the truly fascinating moment came when he did a video profile of two couples – one gay, one straight. Except for gender, they were identical and spoke of the same concerns and issues – raising their kids, living a good life in peace, committed to their partners & etc. When the film clips ended, the gay man turned to the straight woman and very movingly said how he totally respected her religious beliefs but pointed out that he and his partner were “married” in their synagogue by their rabbi, their union WAS holy and blessed, they, like the straight couple, were religious folks, good folks who loved their two daughters, had a regular family life, doing regular family things and simply wanted the same treatment as the straight couple.

Suddenly, a look crossed this woman’s face as she looked at the young man and you knew, suddenly, she “got it.” Their “marriage” was no different than her “marriage,” except for gender. Their life was no different from her life, except for gender. And at that moment, her poorly defined “values” arguments fell apart and you knew she’d be left to think about what her real objections were. Which gets to the heart of this whole matter.

Dear Prop 8 supporters, before this battle heats up again, you need to ‘splain -- exactly – what it is you really object to here. What’s really behind the fear? Once you can get honest about that, then it’s possible to have a discussion about “marriage” in general and “gay marriage” specifically. But until you can separate all of the buzz words and code words and hidden fears and muddled beliefs and clearly define each, what we’ll end up with is irrational action and a dangerous blending of church and state, separate but equal citizenship, and the tyranny of the majority over the minority, all things this country’s constitution was designed to protect against.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Uh, Ron Over At Sewerwatch is having Too Much Fun

"Hilarious Dynamic on Display in Los Osos," a new posting over at Yep, Ron's having waaaayyyy too much fun.

Meantime, Your Sunday Poem

Museum Piece
by Richard Wilbur, "New and Collected Poems"

The good gray guardians of art
Patrol the halls on spongy shoes,
Impartially protective, though
Perhaps suspicious of Toulouse.

Here dozes one agains the wall,
Disposed upon a funeral chair,
A Degas dancer pirouettes
Upon the parting of his hair.

See how she spins! The grace is there,
But strain as well is plain to see.
Degas love the two together:
Beauty joined to energy.

Edgar Degas purchased once
A fine El Greco, which he kept
Against the wall beside his bed
To hang is pants on while he slept.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Deck The Halls . . .

Yes, I know, it isn't even Thanksgiving yet, but if you're making your Christmas list and checking it twice, may I suggest a wonderful story by Dawn White, in the the Nov 20 Tribune about Nurse Karen Randolf, a Morro Bay resident, who's raising money to train Ugandan women for nursing careers.

As it notes in the story, "a single Ugandan nurse could treat as many as 400 patients who travel to get help each month. . . . In Uganda, nurses play a vital role in villages, where they host clinics, pass out vitamins and prescribe medicine to those with HIV, AIDS or other diseases. Without the assistance of nurses, many communities have no other means of fighting disease. . . the nurses are the only health care that many of these people receive. "

The money Ms. Randolf is raising is sent to "a group of Ugandan nuns, who then choose the recipients [for training], which means the money goes directly to pay for scholarships (no wasteful "administrative/overhead" costs). Best of all, because Ms. Randolf is doing the fundraising by herself, with help of some friends, "All the money goes directly to [the nurse/fund] for their training . . . Each nurse has the potential to touch thousands of lives. "

If you want a perfect Christmas gift that goes on giving, doesn't need dusting and isn't fattening, consider sending a donation to: "Ugandan Nursing Scholarships, c/o St. Timothy's Catholic Church, 92 Piney Way, Morro Bay, Ca 93442.

Then make up a nifty little card outlining the story of what Ms. Randolf's up to, tuck it into an envelope and from thence into a Holiday Stocking and know that one small gift will help send some goodness and light and kindness and help out into the world. Which is what this Season of Light is all about, isn't it?

Think global. Act local. Deck the halls . . . .

Friday, November 21, 2008

Calhoun’s Cannons, The Bay News, Tolusa Press, SLO, CA for Nov 21, 08

I Do! I Do! Not You! Part 8

On November 4th, California voters helped put a black man into the White House then voted to remove equal civil rights from gay citizens, thereby returning them to a second class closet.

The State Supreme Court had previously ruled that to deny gay citizens the fundamental right to marry, just like their straight fellow citizens, was unconstitutional. After the ruling, thousands of gay people happily got married.

Apparently those weddings so threatened the republic that several religious groups funded a huge war chest and ran a constitutional amendment campaign full of the usual “Save the Children” fear and smear tactics, always a sure sign that everyone had better hide the silverware. It didn’t matter that the media debunked these lies. Such fear-based campaigns appeal to already existing prejudices and cannot be countered by mere facts.

While California took a step backward in this country’s difficult struggle to live up to its stated ideals, this campaign was not without some astonishing ironies and a touch of absurdity.

First, the absurdity. Many supporters of Yes on 8 claimed that if this initiative failed, they’d start teaching gay marriage in school. How to you “teach gay marriage?” Marriage is marriage, unless you plan to set up lessons in Stereotype 101. “Now class, ‘Gay Marriage’ is when gay people get married they register at Macys and ask for Broadway Show Tune CDs.” Oh, pluueeeze.

And then there were the ironies. The media reported that “Blacks strongly voted for the ban while whites leaned slightly toward opposing it. Latinos and Asians were split.” My guess is that bias was based on the traditional Christian church teachings in the black community, but how ironic that the one people who know first hand the worst ugliness of being denied full civil rights would vote to impose the same fate on a group of their fellow citizens. And irony of ironies: Traditional Christian church scripture had once been used to justify slavery and uphold anti-miscegenation laws, among other past atrocities.

As for pots and kettles, the campaign was heavily funded by the Mormon Church. Mormons are another minority who have felt the lethal consequences of being denied their civil rights. They were driven out of their homes by howling, bigoted mobs. If ever there were a minority who understood what being denied full civil rights meant, and how fearsome bigotry can be, it should have been them. Not to mention that, given their own historical “peculiar” marriage traditions, they above all others should have been the last people on earth who would lead the charge to define “marriage” for others.

It’s not known just where this will go at this point. Lawyers have been called. At issue, however, is a critical overriding principle: Can a majority of the electorate vote to remove or deny equal civil rights and protections for any disfavored minority du jour?

Frankly, I think the state should simply put an end to this attempt to impose certain religious beliefs on secular/civil issues and short circuit the latest run-of-the-mill, anti-gay bigotry by getting out of the “holy matrimony” business altogether. Instead of issuing “Marriage Licenses,” the state should rename them, “Civil Domestic Partnership Licenses,” and issue them to all people who qualify. The CDPL’s could be signed and the deal sealed at the (civil) County Clerk’s office, just like many “marriages” are today. Or couples taking out CDPL’s could take them to a church or synagogue of their choice and engage in whatever religious ceremony is offered or wanted, after which they would have the documents witnessed and signed, just like they now do with their civil “marriage licenses.”

Then they can call themselves anything they want. It will make no difference. But what will make a huge difference is that all citizens will be treated equally, under civil law. In a secular, multi-cultural, multi-religious civil society, removing rights from citizens based on the beliefs of certain religious groups is never a sound policy. The founders of this country understood that far better than the voters do today. They knew first hand how critical it is to keep the line that separates church and state bright and shining. That line protects each from each, and ultimately protects the citizens from the excesses of both. It’s a civics lesson we forget at our own peril.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What I Learned At Last Night’s County EIR Sewer Report Meeting

1. The draft of the EIR report is at
2. Hard copies are at the library, at the SLO Public Works Office.
3. CD’s are available and you can watch on your computer or take it to a copy center for $90 and have a hard copy printed off, or just have them print off certain chapters, whatever.
4. The EIR report was complicated, a difficult job, the team worked very, very hard, the final document with all appendices will give you a hernia if you try to pick it up.
5. You have until Jan 30 to make written comments. Send them to:
Mark Hutchinson
Environemntal program Mgr.
SLO Dept Public Wroks
County Gov. Center, Room 207
SLO, CA 93408
Comments need to focus on the environment, be factual, support any opinions with facts. They’ll be answered in writing and both questions and replies will be added to the draft document as part of the record.
6. Four projects were picked and all of the parts of them are interchangeable, sorta like the game of Clue. Instead of Miss Scarlet in the library with a pipe wrench, you can have STEP/STEG with Oxidation Ditch at Branin property with Tonini sprayfields. Or Gravity with Falcultative ponds at Giacomazzi with Tonini sprayfields (the spray fields remain the same no matter what system is combined as does the disposal field at Broderson.)
7. At this point the environmentally “superior’ project was Gravity, facultative ponds with both treatment plant and spray fields all at Tonini. This was chosen for several reasons, including the isolated site, lowest greenhouse gas issues, can consolidate faculties, have room for large winter storage ponds, well located for future ag exchange & etc. All of which is considered in Chapter 7.
8.Economic viability is NOT part of the EIR. There is no environmental link between sewer/economy that impacts environment. Yes, an abandoned town with foreclosed houses sitting empty because people couldn’t pay the sewer bill and in today’s economy not enough people could afford to buy a house could result in some environment damage, but the link is too weak to be considered in this report. Plus, recent real estate figures show, SLO County isn’t in that bad a shape, foreclosure-wise. And there will likely be enough rich folks still able to move to the “Gold Coast” no matter what. So people supposedly referred to by at least one person in town as “the riff-raff”) driven out of Los Osos by the sewer price will be replaced by people who can more than afford the sewer price. Hence, no environmental issues.
9. The project will return enough water to stop salt water intrusion. Conservation measures (i.e. mandatory low flow everything) will help. However, the project will NOT deal with overall water issues since the county does NOT have control over the water. Water issues will also NOT be stuck on the backs of sewered PZ residents. Instead, all water purveyors will have to work together to solve water issues separate from wastewater issues, and charge water customers the rate necessary to solve water issues instead of hiding water in “sewage” and having the PZ residents pay for it all.
Furthermore, the plant and system is designed at a carrying capacity for proposed “ build out” so if anyone wants to build any more, they’ll have to come up with a new plant and new water, which effectively locks Los Osos into a kind of permanent moratorium, thereby jacking up the value of the homes already here since old Will Roger’s daddy had it right: Son, buy land, they ain’t making any more of it.
10. The “community survey” will be out in January but, alas, the community still won’t have any idea of the cost differences between STEP or gravity. They’ve been lumped into a vague “guestimate” right now of bout $250 a month. Because of the proposed design/build plans, the County is stuck with a chicken/egg problem: can’t get hard numbers before a project is identified; can’t really fairly pick a project until you get hard numbers. So the residents will still be buying a pig in a poke.
11. Which means, any “survey” asking whether you want STEP or Gravity will remain questionable because the county will have no way of knowing what the public’s “break point” is. That is: How much MORE are you willing to pay to get Plan X over Plan Y? $10 a month? How’s about $40 a month? $6.95? What? Without that number, it’s impossible to know just what the community wants to buy, unless the survey has a box asking: (1) Is overall cost (including OM&R) the MOST important issue for you? Yes- No. (2) Do you want the county to go with whatever turns out to be cheaper, either STEP or Gravity, doesn’t matter which, cheaper price is the key? Yes-No.
That question should get to the heart of the STEP/Gravity matter pretty quickly. (The last survey seemed to break pretty evenly between the two with a big chunk of people not bothering to even return the form, so we can assume they also don’t care one way or the other?
12. A question was raised whether Ag zoning at Tonini would be “broken” by putting in a wastewater treatment facility and, No, those are still allowed in Ag land. So there’s no fear of suddenly rezoning Tonini so there’d be a land rush to build high end homes next to the sewer plant. Plus, there is a mitigation cost which will come in the form of land-banking to mitigate for taking the spray fields out of a certain type of ag production, so those land-bank pieces could be formed into a greenbelt, joining the other greenbelts around Los Osos, further reducing the temptation to “sprawl.” (And further increasing the value of the homes already here.)
13. Walking into the auditorium of the Los Osos Middle School to listen to a County presentation for a sewer treatment system was an amazing experience of déjà vu: About 23 years ago, if memory serves, a cold Jan? Feb night, 1985, I was at an identical meeting, same place, same players, same issue. Told a friend last night that this community is beginning to feel like one of those medieval towns wherein town folks worked whole generations on building their town cathedral; father to son to grandson, season in, season out, chip-chip-chip, hammer, haul, dig, generation after generation, this community’s life-work. Instead of a stone cathedral, we’ll end up with an unnecessarily damaged community . . . . and a wastewater plant.

There will be further workshops and public input meetings, a presentation to the CSD, and plenty of opportunity to comment as The Process chugs along. Taxes won’t be collected until the Board “accepts” the project, guestimated sometime in 2009, maybe. Real costs remain up in the air. Design/build, value engineering, grants, SRF extendo-loan time and other such may help bring the cost down.

If costs on the new project get down to where Tri-W would have been (final, real-world costs) we’ll end up with a terrible, tragic irony. We could have had a sewer treatment plant out of town without nearly destroying the town to get it. Sad.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Another View, Another State

The essay below was originally posted on a friend’s blog. Sandra Nielsen was a SLO resident, serving for a time as a SLO Coastal School Board Trustee, who later moved to Las Vegas. She was actively involved with the Nevada Obama campaign and her blog, has some other very interesting observations and comments about the recent election. Not to mention other postings about the “real” Las Vegas . . . off the strip. My thanks for her sharing this with my readers.

With the election of Barack Obama, America selected not just a black President, but a visionary President with grand ideas for social reform and a better future. Alas, although there was some crossing of party lines and a general acceptance by independents of the more progressive Democratic platform, rural whites held fast to their GOP loyalties and favored McCain-Palin with margins of 70-30 across the country, especially in the South and Midwest.

A month before the election, I made a quick visit to my parents' home on 200 acres of pristine Ozark woods, overlooking the man-made river-lake that rises and falls like an unpredictable ocean tide with the demands of the two hydro-electric dams that created it. In the Ozarks of my childhood, whites aligned themselves to the conservative Democratic Party and the few blacks who could vote did so for progressive Republicans. No southern white Democrats today in this staunchly and proudly Republican corner of the world. I'm told that, if there are any Obama supporters in the area, they would be found in Sedalia where the blacks and Mexicans live.

I was confused by my relatives' and their neighbors' adamant opposition to what they sneeringly called "socialism." Weren't the older ones living on social security and taking full advantage of Medicare? Many locals have served in Iraq, mainly called up through the National Guard, a service they joined "part time" to receive government benefits. They hadn't reckoned on actually going to war, but when it happened, they went and left small children and financially-struggling wives (and husbands) behind. Although they display proudly the American flag and staunchly defend the war, they quietly, and their mothers openly, count the days until their commitments are over - and pray fervently that they won't be called to serve again.

They worry sick about getting sick and medical costs. Few aspire to more than a high school diploma because of the prohibitive costs of community college. Quality childcare for the working parent is not part of their lexicon. The only support system is family. They work low-paying jobs, and spend evening and weekends doing odd jobs, second jobs or truck-framing to survive. Living far from services such as grocery stores, doctors and work, a gas increase of $0.50/gallon can wreck havoc with the family budget. They drive 50 miles one way in their gas-guzzling trucks to shop at Walmart to make their pennies stretch.

I was puzzled by their adoration of Sarah Palin and their belief that a socialist Obama heralds the death of America. Convinced that the Republican Party is the only true representative of God and country, they fear the very changes in society that could vastly benefit them and ease their daily, anxious struggle to eke out a life for themselves and their children. Why do rural whites vote to protect the wealth of the upper-class Republican? How is the GOP underclass persuaded by appeal to patriotism, racial pride and religious belief to vote against their own self-interest?

Fiercely independent (how else could you live so far from every convenience?), their non-conformity does not extend to criticizing or questioning country and flag when there is war or perceived threat. "My country right or wrong, my country." But when you have sacrificed time, suffering, blood and even life to the battle your country called you to, it is not easy to entertain the idea that it could all have been for naught. Who wants to admit that their son or daughter is just canon fodder for the paranoid ambitions of Republican powers in Washington - Republicans that they have so faithfully supported?

The rural GOP still clings to the feeling of god-given superiority that a white, "real-American" skin bestows. It's an emotional buffer from the harsh reality of their ever-diminishing status in the socio-economic hierarchy. Threatened by the advancement of "others" and feeling estranged from a new American culture they do not understand, the concept that every American who achieves contributes to a greater America escapes them. Largely isolated by their geography and ideology, they don't get that "All boats rise with the tide."

It seems strangely medieval that a political philosophy could be so entangled with religious dogma that the interpretation of words in a book compiled millennia ago would dictate politics and social mores in 2008. It defies logic to allow the belief that a soul enters the egg at fertilization, or marriage may only be between man and woman, to condemn you to a life of anxiety and economic struggle. It's quite incomprehensible that a religious and political belief would idealize living at the mercy of fate and bad luck, with no safety net to catch the precipitous fall of your family when your strength fails. But so it is for those 70-30 supporters of the Republican agenda.

Yet the Republican Party, even enjoying tremendous backing from strongholds like the Ozarks, will not survive as a political party based on religion, no matter how it tries to wrap itself in the flag and dress up its message in the American spirit of individualism and work ethic. The question is whether the rural white GOP will continue to oppose social reform once its benefits are made available to them.

Barack Obama's message spoke to the millions of Americans who sense that the American Dream could be better, must be improved upon, and that the promise of everlasting life in an unproven paradise is not adequate compensation for the fall from paradise Americans are experiencing today. If President Obama succeeds in moving this nation into a new era, he might just convince everyone who needs help, including some of those who need it most - the Republican underclass.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Hell With Waldo, Where's Tri-W?

Today's Tribune, writing about the recently released Environmental Impact Report for the proposed Los Osos Sewer, notes that "The environmentally superior project is locatd on the 645-acre Tonini property, which is bounded on its north and east sides by Turri Road."

Also, "This location was given a slight environmental edge because its large size would allow the sewer plant to be upgraded to the higher tertiary level of treatment at a future date."

And also, "A third of the effluent would be piped to the Broderson property off Highland Drive, where it would go into leach fields that would allow the water to seep back into underground aquifers." "But Public works planers devised the spray field option for the bulk of the effluent in order to alleviate concerns in the community that disposing of all of the effluent at the Broderson site would cause localized flooding in town because of high groundwater levels and other problems, [project manager Mark] Hutchinson said."

And that "The document also examines the contentious so-called 'Tri-W' parcel in the middle of town, but gives it a much lower environmental ranking." "As we say in the (environmental report,) we don't think the Tri-W site is feasible from a community acceptance perspective,'Hutchinson said. 'But people may have different values.'"

Oh, and this: "A gravity system would collect the sewage from homes and pumps would carry it to the Tonini property." Interesting, apparently, STEP systems need not apply?

And this, "It is estimated to cost $165 million, said Mark Hutchinson, project manager." [That estimate I presume is before the value engineering is done?) And again, no STEP estimates or comparisons listed in this story, at least. And also missing from this story, any mention of the "community survey," you know, the one wherein the County would present several options and let the community weigh in on which they wanted to "buy." Well, maybe that'll show up later . . . .if at all?

Well, the project will be discussed, 6 pm., Wednesday, Nov 19, at the Los Osos Middle School. Do arrive with your questions. The EIR will be posted on the county's website on Tuesday, there'll be printed versions in the library, and compact discs available as well.

Start yer engines. The Hideous Sewer Wars can, once again, commence. Chugga-chugaa

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tribune Viewpoint:

Below, the Nov 12, 08 “Viewpoint” by Julie Tacker, CSD board member, printd n the Tribune under the headline, “Setting the record straight in Los Osos.” Posted with permission. (A poster on this blogsite calling himself Richard LeGros (recalled CSD board member?) noted in the comment section of a previous post, that the courts have just decreed that the CSD’s insurance company is supposed to pay the legal fees of the CSD members to defend against this latest Tax Payers Watch lawsuit (the one suing 5 CSD members personally.) If correct, for now, that particular tax-payer bleed-out has stopped. For now . . . . )

“A Sept. 23 article by David Sneed describes the “daunting challenges” facing the Los Osos Community Services District election, as water, financial and sewer woes.
I disagree with several statements in the article.

It states that the sewer responsibility “has passed from the district to the county.” In fact, residents in Los Osos and countywide are anxiously watching the county process as general fund monies are floated ($6 million so far) in the pursuit of a wastewater project. County supervisors have yet to pass a resolution (required by AB2701) to formally accept the project — expected sometime next year.

Once passed, the $127 million or $25,000 per household tax can begin to be collected to recoup the county’s investment. It is only then that the district can proceed with its Chapter 9 bankruptcy, where claims and most litigation have been stayed.

Furthermore, the article states that the sewer is a “key component” in “helping the district get out of bankruptcy.” Bankruptcy protection only applies to old debt (brought on by the recalled board’s reckless decision to break ground on the project just days before the election). Bankruptcy debt will be divided among creditors; funds will come from available assets left from that failed project.

Frozen SRF (state revolving fund loan) funds and real estate related to the project, i. e. easements and pump station sites (including the Tri- W site if the county chooses another treatment site or chooses a STEP collection system) will be sold.

The article also suggests a nexus from taking over the sewer after its construction to “restoring the district’s solvency.” Law requires sewage treatment fees to be treated as enterprise funds (only enough can be collected to cover the cost of services provided). Simply put, there will be no “profit” from a sewer system to pay old debt.

Also, while the article correctly states, “Injecting treated wastewater into the aquifer is one way to prevent seawater intrusion,” it fails to mention that the current county proposal will not achieve this objective. The use of treated wastewater to recharge the basin will be left up to the purveyors to analyze and engineer and pay for in a shift of financial burden from the sewer to the water bill. Those who trust the county’s process are enjoying a dog-and-pony show that likely will not resolve seawater intrusion issues.

The article barely mentions the real crisis issue facing the district today: litigation brought on by vindictive recalled board members (aka Taxpayers Watch). The cost to defend lawsuits levied against current board members, including myself, is eating away at district reserves. This litigation was relieved from stay because it did not necessarily involve the district. The district is obligated to defend its directors; consequently the district is involved. Funds to defend are coming from property taxes paid throughout the district and rates and special taxes paid by properties within its water and drainage districts. This seriously jeopardizes the quality of service provided to residents. The current tally on expenses surrounding this single lawsuit is expected to top $500,000.

Taxpayers Watch was unable to dissolve the district in 2006. Its recent legal antics may accomplish it by bleeding the district into insolvency.

Julie Tacker “

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

And Now, From The Department of Bwa-hahahah.

This from the Nov 11th New York Times. It’s long but truly wonderful! America! Doncha love it! And in Mormon Utah, who ya calling strange and odd and offensive nonsense?? Ah, the perils and pitfalls of mixing church and state.

From Tiny Sect, Weighty Issue for Justices

By Adam Liptak

PLEASANT GROVE CITY, Utah . Across the street from City Hall here sits a small park with about a dozen donated buildings and objects , a wishing well, a millstone from the city’s first flour mill and an imposing red granite monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments.
Thirty miles to the north, in Salt Lake City, adherents of a religion called Summum gather in a wood and metal pyramid hard by Interstate 15 to meditate on their Seven Aphorisms, fortified by an alcoholic sacramental nectar they produce and surrounded by mummified animals.
In 2003, the president of the Summum church wrote to the mayor here with a proposal: the church wanted to erect a monument inscribed with the Seven Aphorisms in the city park, similar in size and nature to the one devoted to the Ten Commandments.

The city declined, a lawsuit followed and a federal appeals court ruled that the First Amendment required the city to display the Summum monument. The Supreme Court on Wednesday will hear arguments in the case, which could produce the most important free speech decision of the term.

The justices will consider whether a public park open to some donations must accept others as well. In cases involving speeches and leaflets, the courts have generally said that public parks are public forums where the government cannot discriminate among speakers on the basis of what they propose to say. The question of how donated objects should be treated is, however, an open one.

Inside the pyramid, sitting on a comfortable white couch near a mummified Doberman named Butch, Ron Temu, a Summum counselor, said the two monuments would complement each other.

“They’ve put a basically Judeo-Christian religious text in the park, which we think is great, because people should be exposed to it,”Mr. Temu said. “But our principles should be exposed as well.”

Su Menu, the church’s president, agreed. “If you look at them side by side,” Ms. Menu said of the two monuments, “they really are saying similar things.”

The Third Commandment: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
The Third Aphorism: Nothing rests; everything moves; everything vibrates.

Michael W. Daniels, the mayor here, is not the vibrating sort.

Sitting with the city attorney in a conference room in City Hall, Mr. Daniels deftly drew several fine lines in explaining why the city could treat the two monuments differently.

“Only donations concerning the citys history are eligible for display in the park as a matter of longstanding policy,” he said, and only when donated by groups with a long association with the city. The Fraternal Order of Eagles, a national civic organization, donated the Ten Commandments monument in 1971.

“The donations,” Mr. Daniels went on, “are transformed when the city accepts them. Monuments on government property become government speech,” he said.

Under the First Amendment, the government can generally say what it likes without giving equal time to opposing views; it has much less latitude to choose among private speakers.

Asked what the government is saying when it displays the Ten Commandments, Mr. Daniels talked about law and history. He did not mention religion.

Pressed a little, he retreated.

“The fact that we own the monument doesn’t mean that what is on the monument is something we are espousing, promoting, establishing, embracing,” Mr. Daniels said. “We’re looking at, Does it fit with the heritage of the people of this area?”

Brian M. Barnard, a lawyer for the Summum church, said the city’s distinctions were cooked up after the fact as a way to reject his client’s monument. “The local chapter of the Eagles, “Mr. Barnard added, “had only been in town two years when it donated the Ten Commandments monument.”

“We have a city that will allow one organization to put up its religious ideals and principles,” Mr. Barnard said. “When the next group comes along, they won’t allow it to put up its religious ideals and principles.”
Last year, the federal appeals court in Denver sided with the Summum church and ordered Pleasant Grove City to erect its monument.

Although the case appears to present questions under the First Amendment’s ban on government establishment of religion, the appeals court said the case was properly analyzed under the amendment’s free-speech protections. That distinguishes it from most cases concerning the display of nativity scenes and the like on government property.

The city, supported by more than 20 cities and states, along with the federal government, has told the Supreme Court that the upshot of affirming the appeals court decision would be to clutter public parks across the nation with offensive nonsense.

“A town accepting a Sept. 11 memorial would also have to display a donated tribute to Al Qaeda,” the briefs said. “Accepting a Statue of Liberty,” the city’s brief said, “should not compel a government to accept a Statue of Tyranny.”

The brief for the Summum church said the relevant dispute was much narrower. “The government,” it said, “may not take sides in a theological debate.”

“Governments seeking to avoid accepting donations they do not want have several options,” the Summum brief contended.” They can choose to display nothing. They can speak in their own voice by creating or commissioning their own monuments. And they can adopt the messages conveyed by donated monuments as their own, but only if they do so expressly and unequivocally.”

The Ten Commandments monument here stands in Pioneer Park, which pays tribute to the city’s frontier heritage, one that is mostly Mormon. The two sides differ about how best to honor that heritage.

Mayor Daniels said the monument broadly reflected local history. Mr. Barnard, the Summum lawyer, said the Ten Commandments did not play a central role in the Mormon faith.” If they wanted to quote from the Book of Mormon,” he said, “that would, at least, relate to the pioneers.”
“Mormons came to Utah because of religious persecution,” Mr. Barnard added.” The pioneer heritage in Utah has to be escape from persecution.”
The Summum church was founded in 1975, and it contains elements of Egyptian faiths and Gnostic Christianity. Summum, derived from the Latin, refers to the sum of all creation.

Followers of Summum believe that Moses received two sets of tablets on Mount Sinai and that the Ten Commandments were on the second set. The aphorisms were on the first one.

When Moses came down from the mountain the first time, he brought the principles of creation, Mr. Temu said. But he saw the people weren’t ready for them, so he threw them on the ground and destroyed them.
Summum’s founder, Corky Ra, says he learned the aphorisms during a series of telepathic encounters with divine beings he called Summa Individuals.

Mr. Barnard has represented the Summum church for many years. “They’re odd,” he said of his clients, with an affectionate smile. “They’re strange. They’re different.”

Bernie Aua, the church’s vice president, said the court case should not turn on how his religion was viewed.

“We have this thing called the Constitution,” Mr. Aua said. “The fact is, it’s a public park. And public parks are public

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hey, It’s The Stealth Septic Management Plan For SLO County!
Remember some time ago the Regional Water Quality Control Board was stealthily upgrading the re-writing of its onsite rules for the whole County (You’re All Los Osos Now! Bwa-hahahah!) for all things septic. Well, there’ll be an EIR scoping workshop on the matter:

Friday, Nov 14, 20087 1-4 pm.
RWQCB Hearing Room
895 Aerovista Place, Suite 101
SLO, (near airport.)

Any questions, call Sorrel Marks @ 549-3695 or email at or view a draf t stealth report at

If you don’t comment now, you’ll be stuck with whatever the Board decides to vote in and you’ll permanently lose any say in the matter. Remember what happened to Los Osos. If you live in this country and you’re on septic systems, you’d better pay attention. This one’s for YOU!

Ah, I See My Previous Posting Got Somebody All Riled Up.

It’s like Pavlov. Ron rings the bell and, kavoom! Out of the box. But I’m serious. Let’s have the bankruptcy judge and or the CSD’s bankruptcy lawyer or the CSD’s regular attorney or the new CSD Board Majority (Joe, Maria, Marshall) write a formal letter to the state AG, good ol’ Jerry Brown, and ask for a ruling IN WRITING as to the legality of using SRF monies for playground amenities & such like if they’re next to a sewer plant. Or whether , if those “amenities” weren’t kosher but they were run through anway by somebody even though it wasn’t kosher so maybe somebody needs to check into the matter to see who did what and where and how it all happened? Otherwise, every darned community in the state will start applying for SRF monies to build tot lots and playing fields located next to THEIR sewerplant upgrades. Plus, formally getting a legal ruling in writing from the AG would scotch ol’ Ron Crawford for sure, wouldn’t it? And that’s sure to make some folks happy.

And Now, Something Amazing

This from the October 13 New Yorker, an article Thomas Mallon, that discusses all things Linconish, and, among other things, the Lincoln Memorial. It notes that, “In 1909, the Reverend L.H. Magee, the pastor of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Springfield, Illinois, voiced his disgust at the exclusion of blacks from the town’s centennial dinner, but imagined that by the time of the bicentennial, in 2009, racial prejudice would be “relegated to the dark days of ‘Salem witchcraft.’” Next year’s Lincoln commemorations in Washington will include the reopening of Ford’s Theatre, restored for performances for the second time since 1898, when it’s interior collapse, killing twenty-two people. Congress will convene in a joint session on February 12,th, and on May 30th the still new President will rededicate the Lincoln Memorial. . . . "

While the Reverend L.H. Magee was only half right about Salem witchcraft being relegated anywhere (alas) , even he couldn’t possibly have imagined just who would be officiating at that bicentennial rededication of Lincoln’s memorial. Pretty amazing.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Is That A $6 million Illegal Loan, or are you just glad to see me?

Yep, It's Ron Crawford over at with a new posting -- Tri-W's Dead -- Now, Behold, as I, the Amazing SewerWatchini, Magically Make Governor S's "Signing Statement" disappear.

One of the newly elected LOCSD board members is a lawyer. Think he should take a look at Ron's paperwork and start asking some "legal" questions both of CSD attorney Seitz and the good attorneys up in the State Water Board. Maybe even call Sam Blakeslee and get some answers? Or, better yet, get an official ruling IN WRITING, instead of dead silence? After all, isn't that what LOCSD board members should be doing if they're elected to protect the interests of the taxpaying citizens of Sewerville?

As they say, does somebody lawyerly need to check this out? Paavo from the county? County council? Mr. Seitz? Marshall & Maria? Joe Sparks?Aaahhhnold? Should we get a ruling on "mitigation" versus illegal SRF $ playgrounds in a sewer plant before we chug ahead? Wallll, that'll be fun.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Attend The Tale of Sweeny Todd . . .
Well, not exactly. This tale involves Los Osos resident Anne Allen who went into her local Rite-Aide store to buy a toothbrush only to find that the toothbrush racks had little red locks on them requiring you go find store personnel to come unlock them so you could get the one you wanted. (And if you’ve ever shopped in Rite-Aide, finding store personnel can be a daunting prospect.) She further complained that the store manager was behaving towards her as if she were some kind of common criminal (I know Anne, she’s a writer, not a thief, although I know many people confuse the two professions.) and in her letter, she suggested a boycott of Rite-Aide for implying that Los Ososians are all shoplifters with teeth issues.

Well, that letter sent me immediately down to the Los Osos Rite-Aide and sure enough, there were those little red locks on the ends of some of the toothbrush display hangers, but not on others. So I scanned the display to see if I could make some sense of it all. Clearly, the high-end electronic type toothbrushes priced at $34 bucks had little locks, while those priced at $3.99 didn’t. But there were some muddlements as well. For example, a battery powered model costing $7.99 was all locked up, while a 4-Pak set of manual brushes priced at $9.99 wasn’t. Neither was a waaayyy cool battery operated brush for kids that played a little tune. That was priced at $11.49, unlocked and free for the filching, likely by grubby little fingers since the brush was put at kid’s eye level.

So I asked a nice young “associate,” who looked rather sheepish and said that yes, the lock-up instructions came down from “Corporate.” And, so far as he knew, the idea was that maybe toothbrushes costing $10 or more, be locked up. When I pointed out the discrepancies, he said that likely some mistakes had been made.

What was odd as well was that there are thousands of items in Rite-Aide that are more than $10 that are not locked up, which raises an interesting question: Are Los Osos thieves, foot-pads and cut-purses particularly concerned with the health of their teeth and gums that they would shoplift a sufficient number of toothbrushes to cause Corporate to notice the huge losses and start locking up dental hygiene products? Or is the store in the process of locking up everything over $10, in which case they’ll be doing a great service for the economy since they’ll have to hire thousands of employees to chase all over the store unlocking stuff for customers.

Or maybe enough people in the market for a toothbrush will simply go buy theirs at Vons next door or down the street at Ralphs, at which Rite-Aide “Corporate” will notice that their toothbrush sales in their Los Osos store has dropped markedly and they’ll have to send some suit guy down here to find out why.

When he comes, I’ll suggest he call Anne.

AB885 OWTS Draft Regulations
Got an email noting that the draft regulations for State wide AB885 (which has been in the pipeline for years) and concerns state-wide rules for all onsite wastewater treatment systems, draft statewide conditional waiver, and draft environmental impact report is now posed on the State Water Board’s website at (I hope):

For people living outside the Los Osos PZ and for all people in the state who are on septic systems, this one’s for you!

Book Signing Today
Remember, Sue McGinty will be at the Coalesce bookstore (chapel) in Morro Bay today from 1 -4 for the launch of her new book involving a murder, a nun and a small California coastal town with a hideous sewer plant proposed for the middle of its town. Coincidence? Ah, now there’s the mystery.

Your Sunday Poem
From Sure Signs, New and Selected Poems by Ted Kooser

There Is Always A Little Wind

There is always a little wind
in a country cemetery,
even on days when the air stands
still as a barn in the fields.

You can see the old cedars,
stringy and tough as maiden aunts,
taking the little gusts of wind
in their aprons like sheaves of wheat,

And hear above you the warm
and regular sweep of wheat being cut
and gathered, the wagons creaking,
the young men breathing at their work.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Mark Yer Calendars

First up: An Evening With Waste Water Contractors, National, State & Local Firms, etc. Presented by Citizens for Affordable and Safe Environment, Central Coast Green Corp, Surfrider Foundation, San Luis Bay Chapter, & etc.

Friday November 21st
6-9 pm

South Bay Community Center, LOVR

6-7 pm refreshments

7-8 pm Presentations

8-9 pm Questions and answers.

There'll be equipment there, various experts on hand, chance to ask questions & etc. If you missed the last evening, you can catch up with this one.

Next up, what a lot of people have been waiting for: The County's EIR report.


Wednesday, Nov 19, 2008

6-8:30 pm.

Los Osos Middle School

1555 El Morro

Los Osos

6-7 pm Open House, multiple table areas on multiple project topics

7-8 pm County Presentation on Draft Environmental Impact Report

8-8:30 pm Q & A

For more info, go the the project website at

Friday, November 07, 2008

Calhoun’s Cannons, The Bay News, Tolosa Press, for November 7, 08

Spilled Milk, Barn Doors and Chairman Louie

It was an astonishing confession. Here’s former Fed chief Alan Greenspan testifying before Congress on the present financial crisis we’re in:

“I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms.”

Apparently Mr. Greenspan, reportedly a fan of Ayn Rand’s “libertarian philosophy” to be found in such novels as “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged,” believed that Rand’s world was a real one. That people will always act in their self interest and that governmental rules and regs aren’t really necessary since self interest will guarantee they won’t do anything self-destructive.

In short, Mr. Greenspan was running the Fed and advising our leaders and manipulating our economy as if it were 1952 and bankers and CEOs of vast corporations were sober, cautious men of probity, men who would never do anything rash that could damage their reputations in the community, jeopardize their own jobs or endanger the solvency of the companies they were running. And now, like “Casablanca’s” Inspector Louie, he’s shocked – shocked!-- to find gambling going on in this establishment!

But here’s what Mr. Greenspan clearly overlooked: While he was still stuck in the middle of Ayn Rand World, the real world had turned into a Financial Demolition Derby run by genetically modified high-risk takers with high adrenalin-rush thresholds who were armed with vast golden parachutes. These people had one mandate: make as much money as fast as possible by any means available. And if the companies they were running went broke doing it, they would simply jump ship with their booty and soon be welcomed aboard another corporate ship, given another golden parachute, twice the salary and standing orders to repeat the process.

Their self interest was amply rewarded and protected and they acted accordingly. Thanks to Greenspan and our elected officials, we had ironically created and allowed a pure Ayn Rand World, with one component missing: No penalties for bad choices, no consequences for anything. Imagine Howard Roark given a promotion and a huge sack of money instead of being put on trial as a common criminal.

Most people read Ayn Rand’s novels in high school. Howard Roark is the perfect adolescent fantasy – genius only answerable to itself in a purified fantasy world where nobody real actually gets destroyed. Most people grow up after high school and realize that the real world is a far more complicated and interconnected place of actions and unintended consequences.

Unfortunately and apparently, our former Chief financial guru never did. And we are now paying the price for our failure as a nation to ignore the siren song and the ultimate consequences of this freebooting. In the November New York Times Review of Books, Benjamin Friedman notes from James Gailbraith’s new book, “The Predator State,” that “. . . . financial firms and their leaders . . . have neither the desire nor the ability to ensure that the business they now control are productive or honestly run – and still less interest in whether they deliver benefits to their customers, their workers, their communities or anyone other than whoever controls them.” while “ . . . The government rushes to bail out big firms, and to protect their creditors (and their executives’ pensions), but declines to help ordinary citizens, including those bilked by questionable lending practices or even outright deceit. The government awards rich contracts to companies either owned or run by political supporters and former colleagues, often in violation of rules requiring competitive bids.”

It’s a system we have voted for, lived under and tolerated for years and now we’re reaping its harvest.

As I write this, I have no idea how this election will turn out. We have been a sleepwalking nation for far too long, believing patent nonsense, denying fiscal reality, running on lies and fear, allowing a new class of Guilded Age predators to abscond with our silverware. We have the methods and means to turn everything around to reconstruct an America that brings real benefit, not just to the Fortune 500, but to a very real main street. We have the means, but do we have the will? That’s the compelling question of Nov. 4th .

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Design Build Preliminary Meeting for Sewer Project

This just in from the county:

Attention Design-Build Contractors, Designers, and Sureties:


Information for Design-Build Contractors, Designers, and Sureties

Design-builders interested in the Los Osos Wastewater Project are invited to attend a non-mandatory informational meeting which will provide an overview of the Project and allow time for questions and answers. The meeting will be held at the following time and location:

Friday, November 14, 2008 at 10:00am
San Luis Obispo County Government Center
1055 Monterey Street, Room 161
San Luis Obispo, CA

The County intends to procure two separate Design-Build contracts for the Los Osos Wastewater Project. The contracts will be for the following:

• Collection System Design-Build Services: Design and construction of a community-wide collection system, consisting of approximately 45 miles of pipeline, plus service laterals and appurtenances, to serve approximately 4,800 properties. The estimated construction budget is approximately $80 million.

• Treatment Facility Design-Build Services: Design and construction of a
1.2 MGD secondary wastewater treatment facility, with optional tertiary processes, on a greenfield site. The estimated construction budget is approximately $25 million.

The County of San Luis Obispo is currently developing the Design-Build procurement documents for the Project. In accordance with Public Contract Code §20133(d)(3)(A), the County is making Draft RFQ’s available for comment from the construction industry, including representatives of the building trades and surety industry. A formal Request for Qualifications has not been issued.

Go to the Project website at to view the draft RFQ’s or contact John Waddell, Project Engineer, at (805)788-2713 for more information. Comments are requested by November 21, 2008.

Also on line

Final technical memo on Decentralized Treatment. (at the same website link above), though I have no idea why they wasted time (and money) with a Decentralized memo since it’s clear from the above that they’ve already settled on a particular type of project.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tradition! Tradition!

It’s nice to see, with this “change” election, that the Tribune is still up to their old tricks: Headline for the LOCSD winners, “Kelly, Ochylisky back county plan for Los Osos,” like the other CSD candidates didn’t? Yep, same old spin. To the winners of the CSD, congratulations! You have my deepest sympathies. For the poor citizens of Los Osos, I will continue to keep my fingers crossed. And to all the candidates who ran, my thanks.

Tradition! Tradition!

As of this morning, the Gay Marriage Initiative was still not called, though I won’t hold my breath. Irony of ironies, the Tribune reports that “blacks strongly voted for the ban,” which is sad. Black people, who know first hand the evil done when some citizens are treated to second class status, nevertheless voted to keep some of their fellow citizens in those second class, back of the bus seats. That’s really too bad.

The L.A. Times reported that while polling seemed to favor the No vote, “Perhaps more powerfully, the Proposition 8 campaign also seized on the issue of education, arguing in a series of advertisements and mailers that children would be subjected to a pro-gay curriculum if the measure was not approved.” Never mind that Superintendent of Schools, Jack O’Connell, went on the air to say that was a lie. Waste of time because one can never underestimate the power of the big lie. Or hypocrisy either. Or fear, or ignorance, or bigotry. Mix all those in with religion, and it’s always a step backward.

And not answered in many of the ads is this: Don’t all the religious groups financing the Yes on 8 campaign believe that lying is a sin?

Yet to be seen is what now happens to the thousands of gay couples who are legally married. Will the state force them to get “divorced?” Will they be kept in some legal museum somewhere? Will we end up with three classes of citizens? Straight Marrieds, Gay Marrieds and Constitutionally Not Allowed To Marry Gay Folks? Will somebody sue in federal court? Is that where this is all headed?

UnTradition! UnTradition!

Chickens now get a better shake than gay folks. Hmm, fairer, more humane treatment for chickens, but back of the bus to gay people. Hmmmm. One step forward, one back. Wait, that IS Tradition! Tradition!

Tradition! Tradition!

American voters changed leaders as they are allowed to do every few years and did so very traditionally -- without tanks in the streets. But this time, it was a time for Untradition: For the first time, a U.S. president who isn’t a white male. Amazing.

Some notes:

--Obama’s daughter’s will now get a new puppy when they move into the White House. Let’s hope they set a tradition and adopt one from a local animal shelter?

--At the McCain’s modest sized farewell rally, McCain mentioned Obama and his crowd BOOOOOOED. Obama mentioned McCain at his enormous rally and his crowd applauded. That spoke volumes about character and karmic wheels. McCain’s farewell address seemed a return to the old McCain, the man before he sold his soul to Karl Rove in his lust for the White House. Had the “old” McCain not sold his soul, it’s just possible he could have won. Irony again.

--The ghost of Martin Luther King was evoked in Obama’s speech, talk of mountaintops and rising and falling as one nation. Yes we can. It was a strange déjà vu of John Kennedy’s election, the same young man with his young family, the same young crowds turning out to vote for the first time, the call to a new generation, a falling away of the old BOOOOOOOers, the old, ugly divisive politics slipping away into the past, the clarion call and challenge to the nation to look forward together. Much work to be done, many sacrifices to be made, but to be made together.

What also kept going through my mind was this: When we, as a nation, look back on this period, how can we possibly ever explain George Bush and all that he stands for? For eight years this nation clung so ferociously to it’s self-created dead zone, sleep walking while our elected officials made torture official, dismissed the rule of law and the courts and “disappeared” suspects into the black hole of Guantanamo, where even their appointed Navy lawyers quit in protest, wiretapped citizens, incompetently bungled saving a flooded city, created a culture of branding the loyal opposition as traitors, promoted and protected their cronies while they made off with the silverware and through it all, this country repeatedly said, Yes! Yes! More! More!

How can that possibly be explained? Or at the very least, understood as the danger signal it was. America is not and has never been an exceptional shining city on the hill. Its ideals are veneer thin and its people as easily corrupted as any other nation. It too can be turned into dangerous waters. We ignore that at our peril.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Murder in Sewerville!

I saw you, your head started swiveling around, “Finally! Who? Where? Whaaattt?” I saw. I know. Well, sorry, this is something even more fun than the dead bodies of your mortal sewer opponents strewn all over the Tri W property. A book launch and signing! Meet the author! Tell her the REAL names behind her roman a clef! Give her ideas for a sequel: “Mayhem in Sewerville, Part Duh!” The autographed books will make great Christmas gifts for all your out of town friends. Finally, Los Osos is on the mystery-writing murder map. Wheeee!

Book Launch Gala!


Sue McGinty,

Los Osos Mystery Writer

Murder most foul in a strangely-familiar Central Coast town.

Sunday, November 9th, 1-4 PM

Coalesce Garden Wedding Chapel

behind the bookstore at

845 Main Street

Morro Bay , CA


Food, spirited beverages, signings, readings

Monday, November 03, 2008

Aw, What’s In A Word, Anyway?

Lori Anderson of Los Osos had a letter in the Nov 2 Tribune that’s an indication of how muddled people are concerning Proposition 8. Lori states that he was first opposed to the passing of Pro. 8 until she saw a political sign that said “Vote no on 8 protect our civil liberties.” She wasn’t sure if marriage was a civil liberty but checked a bit and according to her, it wasn’t. So she’s decided to vote for Prop 8, thereby supporting unequal civil rights for a group of people here in Calif.

What Ms. Anderson overlooked is something that the supporters of Prop 8 keep overlooking: Marriage in the state of California is only an official marriage IF the couples have an official marriage license issued and processed by civil authorities, not by a church or synagogue, but by CIVIL, SECULAR, NON-RELIGIOUS authorities and registered by same. Religion has nothing to do with it. A couple can go on to have a religious ceremony wherever they want, if they wish, but it’s not necessary. The ceremony can be done at the county clerk’s office, but before anything can be declared a “marriage” you first need that piece of CIVIL paper properly filled out. It’s a secular, legal, civil document that has to do with property, inheritance, taxes, offspring, and other civil matters. (A priest, minister, rabbi can “marry” a gazillion people but none of them are “married” unless they have that civil-issued piece of paper in the first place.)

So, no, Ms. Anderson, “marriage” may be an “institution and tradition,” but it sure as heck IS a civil operation and as such needs to adhere to our evolving notion that in this country all citizens should be treated equally in all matters CIVIL, while leaving private religious matters up to personal choice.

This Prop is also really odd since a good chunk of funding is coming in from Mormons, which, considering their own “alternative marriage traditions,” shall we say, is rather funny, when you think of it.

There’s an excellent editorial in the L.A. Times Sunday that refutes all the lies that have been promulgated by the supporters of this measure. It concludes thusly: “Californians must cast a clear eye on Proposition 8’s real intentions. It seeks to change the state Constitution in a rare and terrible way, to impose a single moral belief on everyone and to deprive a targeted group of people of civil rights that are now guaranteed. This is something that no Californian, of any religious belief, should accept. . . . “

I hope the good people of California are paying attention. When you fail to examine the meaning of words you often get into trouble. But it never pays to underestimate the power of old fashioned bigotry when it combines with religion. And when those two uglies combine with the power and might of the civil state, then it’s a sure way to make sure that some citizens will go into the barrel and we will end up with a two-tiered state – Us and . . . them, those second class citizens that we . . . tolerate . . . but. . . eeeeuuuuuuu….. .

Wait, Wait, Comic Strips Are Now Whaaaaattt???

Nov 1 L.A. Times again, “Comic strip jumps the gun; ‘Doonesbury’ predicts an Obama win, leaving newspapers across the U.S. split on whether to run the installment.”

Seems newspapers are all in a dither whether to run the panel in their funny papers because they’re concerned about the “accuracy” of the strip. “At the Chicago Tribune, ‘we are reserving the option of running the strip on Wednesday, but we of course would not typeset until we confirmed the result of the election,’ said Tim Bannon, one of the paper’s feature editors.” . . . The L.A. . . “Times editors have decided that in the interest of accuracy it would be best to wait to see the results of the election. If Obama wins, the comic will run on Thrusday. If not, the paper will run repeats until the story line ends on Friday.”

“The possibility of inaccuracy is not something [Trudeau’s] syndicate is concerned about. ‘If he’s wrong about this, then he’s wrong about it,’ Kerr said. ‘It’s a comic strip.”

It’s a comic strip? Apparently not. Apparently, comic strips are now expected to be factually accurate? Which mean, Rex Morgan, M.D. actually was a real doctor! Who knew?

How do you spell “N. U. T. S.”

Sail on! Sail On!

And finally, the Department of Life Is Sure Amazing, from the AP: As many as one in 17 Mediterranean men might be related to the ancient Phoenicians. Yep, by tracing the markers on the male-only Y chromosome, it seems that those amazing sailors were busy leaving behind little Phoenicians in every port and after their kingdom was defeated by Rome at Carthage, the survivors likely scattered throughout the Mediterranean.

Well, DNA markers are turning up some amazing muddlements in what we think we know about countries and races. So it’s always wise to be careful who you hate because he likely will turn out to be your cousin.

Election Day Tomorrow

In a word, go vote, if you already haven’t.

Garbage Can’s Back!

For regular readers and posters on this blog, the website burped somewhere along the line (I didn’t change it and Greg the web master didn’t change it so who knows? Gremlins. ) and it became open to all anonymous posters and the little “garbage can” icon disappeared and some of you wanted it back so you could dump your own postings (which, considering some of the “Anonymous” uglies who log on and “comment,” who might then sober up and reread what they posed and think, “Eeeuuuu, I’d like to remove that posting because it was particularly stupid,” and so forth. Well, make a long story short, Greg, the site master, has re-configured the blog back to where it was (I hope, will check now) which means you have to sign up for a free account and log on before leaving a comment. You can still be “anonymous” by making up a “handle,” but the little garbage can icon should be back so if you post something really stupid and ugly, you can go back and remove it yourself since only you have access to your “account” and your own postings with this exception: I can dump any comments on this site and have and will if some of you people start threatening people or get beyond stupid.

So, we’re back to the log-on system. Comments welcome, but remember: ANONYMOUS posters have no credibility, so caveat emptor. And all opinions belong to those who make them and may have absolutely no relation to facts or truth, so more caveat emptor. And try to mind your manners or Mother Calhoun will spank.

Thank you.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Uh, Oh, Don’t Tell Ron

Letter in the Tribune yesterday touting the candidacy of Maria and Marshall for LOCSD and signed by, among others, Pandora Nash-Karner. Plllluuueeeze, nobody tell Ron Crawford of [correction, sorry, it's]: or else he’s sure to log onto this blog and start in on the long, long list of people he cites as coming to grief by listening to Pandora.

Speaking of Letters

This time in New Times yesterday, a news brief on the new storm water collection standards and rules recently adopted by the Regional Water Quality Control Board. Seems that Paso Robles city officials are worried because the standards “. . . will require a truckload of environmental studies and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.” And “city officials worry whether the new rules are even achievable for small governments. ‘We don’t know how to do it and we don’t know how to pay to figure out how to do it,’ Paso Robles City Manager Jim App said.”

“Builders and city officials said they agree with the ends, but the means are tricky.
We really believe that the water board is sincere but doesn’t fully understand the ramifications of what its trying to do,’ said Jerry Bunin, public affairs director of the Home Builders Association of the Central Coast.”


As the story goes on, “If the water board doesn’t change the current language, cities within the Central Coast region will have to adhere to the standards or will not receive a stormwater permit and could face daily fines. . . . City managers in the district will meet with the water board and county officials to try and hammer out a compromise in mid-November, but so far board members have stuck to their water guns.”

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH, ah, poor Central Coast Cities. They have no idea, either.

Oh, Thanks so Much Richard

Recalled LOCSD board member, Richard LeGros (or somebody claiming to be him) logged on the blog comment section (of the previous posting) and posted what he gleefully says are tentative agreement numbers determined by the arbiter of the debt that the CSD owes. (If you’ve heard of the term Crocodile Tears, well, Richard’s posting voice in these matters often combines Crocodile Tears with triumphant, overbrimming glee. The overall effect reminds me of the late Heath Ledger’s stunning performance as the Joker in the last Batman movie: Oxymoronically & Creepily amazing.) I can’t attest to the accuracy of the posting since Richard has posted stuff here, then crowed about it only to have to back track and say, oops, sorry, posted the wrong info, heh-heh. So, be warned. But according to Richards latest posting:

The Arbitor has determined that the following debts are owed by the LOCSD for stopping the Tri-W project:Monterey Mechanical: $4,600,000(reduced from $8,876,000)
Barnard Construction: $5,540,314(reduced from 12,000,000)

So, right there, the community may owe over $9,000,000, but please note how Richard describes that as money lost by stopping construction of Tri W. But here’s the puzzle. Wasn’t that money actually lost by STARTING construction of Tri W? Nine mil pounded into the ground, a total, unnecessary waste? He and the other recalled Board members might as well as just had a big bonfire and tossed all those dollars on it. At least the community could have brought weenies and had a party.

According to Richard’s figures, all the various debts owed add up to an average for each homeowner of about $3,880. Hmmm, can that be right? Only $3,880? Well, if so, and if the new project comes in slightly cheaper than TriW (or even slightly cheaper on lower long term OMR costs) then that $3,880 wasted might well wash out. Which would be ironic, since that might end up being the “price” the community was forced to pay to move their sewer plant out of town. I say “forced,” because a good chunk of that cost was totally unnecessary had the recalled three simply waited until after the election to begin work.

Well, if this does turn out to be a wash or a near wash, I know that’d make Richard very, very unhappy. But, we need a shout out to Richard and the other Recalled Two. Hey, Thanks for the parting gift, it’s one that wasn’t needed or wanted and but is sure one that keeps on giving!

Your Saturday Poem

From “Sure Signs," new and selected poems, by Ted Kooser
(Living in sandy Los Osos, on a dirt road, this one’s especially apt)


“There’s never an end to dust
and dusting,” my aunt would say
as her rag, like a thunderhead,
scudded across the yellow oak
of her little house. There she lived
seventy years with a ball
of compulsion closed in her fist,
and an elbow that creaked and popped
like a branch in a storm. Now dust
is her hands and dust her heart.
There’s never an end to it.